Book Reviews for September 1971
From: JASA 23 (September 1971): 11-120
SPACE: A NEW DIRECTION FOR MANKIND, by Edward Lindeman New York: Harper and Row, 1969, 158 pps. $4.95.
"Man has achieved the ultimate in flight. He really is free from Earth. What will his next craving be? The answer is coming clear: it is man himself. Man must conquer himself." With these words the author, a management planner for North American Rockwell's Space Division and a former national president of United Presbyterian Men, U.S.A., introduces a plea for a "midcourse correction" by contemporary man. He urges a critical survey of man's progress in space, and adaptation of the many technological advances which have resulted, to the betterment of mankind's lot on earth. Knowledgeable predictions are made, involving such as conversion and use of wastes and litter, orbiting hospitals and health resorts, world-wide weather forecasting, and crop and mineral surveys.
The entire presentation is framed in conservative Christian ideology and is highly recommended reading for any one concerned with the future course of science and its use for the improvement of man's environment and living conditions.
Reviewed by Stephen W. Calhoon, Jr., Deportment of Chemistry, Houghton College, Houghton, N.Y.
COSMIC MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE by Adrian V. Clark.
This is both interesting and provocative. The author's approach to the scripture is described on page 9.
There is no intention by the author to disagree with, add anything to the Bible or change the Bible. On the premise that the Bible is true the author has over a period of some twenty years considered, pondered, investigated, and sought practical answers to how God dfd unusual things recorded in the Bible, and how they relate to our daily experience as of the present.
The book gives me the impression that the author is an evangelical
wishes to show how nature and Christianity are integrated with one another. On
page 113 a formula is given for "Universal Communication." These are
actually basic directions for becoming a Christian. The theology of
is definitely evangelical.
The book is filled with facts and is written in an interesting manner. The author appears to be oriented in his thinking much like the scientists of advanced projects or advanced systems engineering variety. His thinking is definitely of the "think tank" genera. However, it is also highly speculative and while he does not back up his speculation with facts, the various possibilities are interesting, granting his original assumptions.
As is well known, the scientific method has two classes of truth: hypothesis and theory. In order for a hypothesis to become a theory it must be corroborated by various facts and tests. Mr. Clark's book is in the realm of hypothesis, not of proven theory nor of demonstrable facts which can be presently verified. In his preface he states, "theories or probabilities in this book are stated only one step beyond known laws or scientific facts." However, in this book he never clearly differentiates between the two.
The book is to be criticized mainly for including scientific hypothesis and scientific theory side by side without mentioning which is theory and which is hypothesis. For example, the proven theory, the Doppler effect, is mentioned side by side with "the fatigue of light" a hypothesis. For example, in Chapter One, subsection, "Can Matter Be Created from Nothing," it is mentioned that the red shift may not be caused by the Doppler effect but rather by "a fatigue of light". I thoroughly object to speculation being used as proven fact. What the author demands would be similar to the Compton and Ramau effects but actually neither the Compton nor Raman effects could be an adequate explanation here. The Doppler effect has been verified as the legitimate explanation for the red shift in spectral lines of stars as well as an explanation of Olbers paradox. The explanation of both these phenomena by the fatigue of light is highly improbable and is not accepted by the best authorities.
The author believes in UFO's. The study by Edward Condon and his team under sponsorship of a government agency refutes the existence of UFO's. Good hypothesis-yes. Proven theory or fact-No!
It is a recognized fact that other stars have planets revolving around them, not all stars but some. However, whether life exists upon them is a much smaller possibility. Barnard's Star, a star within six light years of earth has one or more companions which in the opinion of Peter van de Kamp of Sproul Observatory are planets. The author believes in the existence of extraterrcstial life of a form superior to men on earth.
To conclude, the book is both theologically and scientifically controversial. It is definitely esoteric and those uninitiated in either science or Christianity would have difficulty in ascertaining the validity of its claims.
Reviewed by J. Don M. Bubeck, Consultant: Astronautics and Astronomy, Schuylkill Haven, Pa. 17972
THE RATIONALITY OF BELIEF IN GOD. George I Mavrodes, Editor, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970. Bibliography, no index.
Dr. Mavrodes has placed the college student and professor in debt to him for collecting these essays and providing a stimulating introduction to the question of the rationality of belief in God. The purpose of the book is not to be comprehensive, but to place before the reader material with which he can wrestle intellectually as preamble to belief, confirmation in belief, or chastisement in unbelief. Honesty and transparency are asked for, so that intellectual dialogue might take place between the reader and the great minds who have treated the question of God's existence.
The book probably would be better titled The Rationale for Belief in God since a rational approach is not taken throughout the book nor is one intended. Kierkegaard, Aquinas, Kant, and James make strange companions in the field of reason. Interesting omissions are noticeable; why not include Gilson on the possibility of not believing in God, or Barth on God's self-attesting revelation, or Bertrand Russell's dialogue with Father Copleston (who is represented) or some exponent of logical positivism or language analysis? Yet in a collection, such as this, a boundary must be drawn somewhere.
In his introduction, Mavrodes sketches his purpose as editor and attempts to speak to some of the issues involved. Should not more emphasis have been placed on the question of the ontological argument being the presupposition of all other "theistic proofs" which seem to be corroborations of such an innate knowledge? It is interesting to compare Mavrodes on the possible role of contemporary evolutionary thinking in the current formulation of the classical "proofs" for a personal, purposive God with Father Copleston, who clearly states that he thinks Thomas would have used evolutionary thought as a welcome aspect of his teleological argument. Mavrodes gives a cogent criticism of logical positivism as ruling out many statements of supposedly empirical modern science and hence overstepping its hounds, but the point would probably be clearer for the beginner if it were illustrated. The editor may be subject to correction or criticism when he seems to make Kierkegaard as much an irrationalist as he does. It might be wise to point out that there was rational structure in God for the Dane (and also in man). His problem was the mediation of the rationality of God to estranged man.
To interact with the essays would be doing the reader's work for him. It is good to see Copleston, however, making clear that Aquinas did not claim that the use of reason is the only and necessary way that men come to know God. It is nevertheless, a valid way open to all.
The reviewer noticed five misprints in the book which always mar such a reputable volume. Many, perhaps, will look upon the main virtue of the book as evidence that the classical, evangelical perspective is being listened to once more. Mavrodes, himself, has written in such journals as The Evangelical Quarterly and in his "Bibliographical Essay" five evangelical names are listed. This is the kind of work and thought that evangelicals must do if a re-awakening is to continue within their sphere of scholarship. Would it not be wise to include VanTil's ontological presuppositinnalism here or Hackett's revival of classical theism in his The Resurrection of Theism?
It is a pleasure to commend the work to sincere seekers, honest thinkers, doubting believers, beginning students, and weary professors.
Reviewed by Irwin Reist, Department of Bible and Theology, Houghton College, Houghton, New York.
TOO MANY: A STUDY OF EARTH'S BIOLOGICAL LIMITATIONS by Georg Borgstrom, The
Macmillan Co., (1969).
Too Many by George Borgstrom, Professor of Food Science and Economic Geography at Michigan State University, was written as a sequel to his earlier book The Hungry Planet: The Modern World at the Edge of Famine (The Macmillan Co., 1965 and Collier Books, 1967). The author's concern in Too Many is that we are already living outside of our global budget from a comparison of the world population needs with its resources and ability to produce food.
Borgstrom points out some areas in which the world is presently overextending itself. Deforestation, induced by population pressure, decreases the productive capacity of tilled soil and leads to arid wastelands. He maintains that the needs of modern society are such that Europe is using water at three times the rate at which it is being replenished yearly by the hydrological cycle, and that the annual loss from the North American land mass is twice the rate of replenishment. This reflects the rate at which groundwater sources are being tapped. Increasing crop yield means an increasing rate of reserve water use. Multiple cropping and overgrazing, both prompted by more mouths to feed, also extract their price from the soil.
The author describes limitations of some foodincreasing techniques and resources. Large scale irrigation, for example, is accompanied by the difficulties of dam fill-up with silt, salinixation of soil, production of marshlands, and the increased spread of diseases such as malaria and bilharzia. The productivity of tropical soils in various locations is limited due to atmospheric clouding, low mineral content of soils, thermal destruction of soil microbes and humus, the liability of the soil to heavy erosion or to extreme desiccation, and mass invasions of crop lands by pests and diseases.
Measures suggested in Too Many for bringing the available food supply into line with the world's requirements include the indispensible need for population control, a better distribution of the world's production, a reduction of pest and spoilage losses of the present world supply, and recycling of wastes back into food. Especially notable is the author's observation that economic pressure causes the two continents most critically short of protein, South America and Africa, to ship to the affluent, protein-rich, Western world the largest quantities of protein feed flowing in commercial channels. This protein is largely used for feeding dairy cattle, hogs and poultry of Western Europe and North America.
Borgstrom's burden in Too Many is centered upon adjustment to the finiteness of the world's physical and biological resources, whereas the concern of other leading discussions of the world food problem such as the Report of the President's Science Advisory Committee, The World Food Problem (U. S. Government Printing Office, 1967) and Williard W. Cochrane's The World Food Problem (Thoms Y. Crowell Co., 1969) are heavily weighted toward encouraging economic growth in developing countries. All authors recognize the prime necessity of population control.
With regard to the hunger gap which exists between the hungry and well-fed nations, Borgstrom states: "We need revival of the basic Christian creed of Universal Brotherhood of Man, far too little heard in recent decades." This deficient condition he attributes to "a serious emasculation of all religion". There is no doubt that we evangelicals need to do some harder thinking and louder speaking forth on the application of the Christian Gospel to this important and potentially ever more critical need of mankind.
Reviewed by Robert F. Hayes, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Olivet Nazarene College, Kankakee, Illinois 60901.
COME, LET US PLAY GOD by Leroy Augenstein. Harper and Row, New York 1969. 150 pp. $4.95 in hard cover.
What, another book on the ethical considerations of the population problem, genetic control, abortion, mind control, and organ transplantation? Yes, but fortunately not just another book. In this case the book is not an attempt to exploit the sensational nor is it intended to make one feel comfortable. The author asks many serious and heart rending questions that are followed by a look at some of the alternative answers. From the outset, it is the author's conviction that although we can never truly play God, we have been given dominion over the earth by God and therefore we must make decisions in matters of life and death-"humbly and prayerfully, but above all responsibly".
Throughout the book, Dr. Augenstein expresses a deep faith in God and acknowledges Him as Creator. One of the surprises in the book is the statement that the author's own belief forces him to think that abortion done at any time in development is the taking of a life and should be carried out only after much soul searching and under the gravest of situations, such as the discovery of a very serious genetic disorder present in the fetus. He particularly does not favor abortion as a way to solve the population problem, but does favor the widespread use of birth control methods and increasing research in contraception. The strong position that he takes on the population problem and his statistical knowledge of it would lead one to take for granted that he would favor any method to quell the problem. Thus the surprise in his moral stand against abortion.
There are a number of provocative statements in the book that are too numerous to review here but a few will be mentioned in brief. Dr. Augenstein uses a short historical review to try to show that ongoing societies must have their philosophic thought and technological advances proceeding together in harmony or otherwise the society will decay rapidly. In the present world situation, he thinks that our technology has far outstripped our philosophical advances especially in the United States. In another area, Dr. Augenstein discusses the rights of the unborn child. Should a child who will live a life of misery because of his inheritance have a right never to be conceived? This is a new question since the technology needed to discover what the unconceived child's inherited problems might be had been woefully inadequate even ten years ago.
The book is written so that it can be easily understood by nonbiologists or even nonscientists. At the same time, the reviewer who is trained in biology, has read some sections of the book several times and always seems to find something fresh and excitiing to stretch his mind. Pastors and students alike have reported to the reviewer that it was difficult to stop reading the book once they started. The chapters are actually various talks given to church groups, college students, or educational groups but the book is not choppy and fits together very well. There are some catchy chapter titles like "Am I my fetus's keeper?". At the end of the book is a compilation of 46 critical questions that were asked in the body of the text and the reader is asked to answer them-yes, no, or undecided. These questions are designed to cause one to do some hard thinking and to face up to the issues.
It is sad to report that this book is one of Dr. Augenstein's final legacies to us since he was killed in an airplane crash about a year ago while in his early forties. He was chairman of the Biophysics Department at Michigan State U., a member of the Michigan State Board of Education and had once been a candidate for governor in Michigan. In view of his firm religious convictions and insight, it appears that a void has been left and that his torch of moral understanding in some modern biological problems needs to be carried by some of us to light technological advances with the undergirding of our Evangelical world and life view. His book is a start in that direction.
Reviewed by Donald Munro, Department of Biology, Houghton College, Houghton, New York.
YOUR GOD IS TOO WHITE by Columbus Salley
& Ronald Behm, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois (1970)
Many white evangelicals may be startled that a book with such a provocative title would be written by real evangelicals and published by a sound evangelical press. This is the case with Your God is Too White under the perceptive biracial authorship of Salley and Behm. The book is not only religiously provocative, but it is meticulously written with documented historical and sociological information followed by logical conclusions and practical recommendations for "attitudinal change" and institutional "restructuring and reorganizing."
The historical documentations are vividly demonstrated in the chapters on "Christianity and Slavery," "Segregation," and "Ghettoization" followed by the unfortunate fact that "the role of Christianity has been firmly established with these oppressive institutional forces."
For the white evangelicals who have not seriously read black authors on psychology, political philosophy, sociology and theology (however strange views such as those of Albert Cleage's book, Black Messiah may seem) Chapter 5 is compact yet carefully documented and contemporary.
In the books, Black and Free by Tom Skinner and We Shall Overcome by Howard Jones, both black evangelicals, the authors challenge the "Negro church" to become Christocentrie in its activities from the pulpit to the pew. Their appeals, however, are less compelling and profound in confronting the black militant and the black intellectual with the relevant and logical claims of Christ than are the appeals in Chapter 6 of Your God is Too White. This imposing challenge is maintained to the very end of the chapter:
Therefore any black man who now rejects the Christ of true Christianity cannot reject him because of his
'whiteness' and his supposed association with forces of oppression.
His rejection of a "redefined" Christ is a refusal to
accept Him "who
is willing and able to enter into the struggle of black people in
The reference to "practical recommendations" earlier in this review is concisely and relevantly enunciated in the final chapter by Salley and Behm. Some white evangelicals may find the indictment of "racism" and the unequivocal, "'de-honkify (dc-whiten) your church ...'" hard to take, but if they reject this recommendation, it may be that their God is not only too white but too small.
As a black evangelical educator reviewing this refreshing, probably new, kind of rather objective book by a racially integrated evangelical authorship, my perception is probably too selective to find fault with its form or content. About the only place I experienced psychological apprehension was in part of the quotation by Eldridge Cleaver on page 113.
Reviewed by Abraham Dacis, Jr., Department of Speech, Houghton College, Houghton, New York.
BRAIN, MIND AND COMPUTERS by Stanley L. Jaki, Herder & Herder (1969).
In this technology oriented age, we are daily reminded that electronic computers far surpass the human mind in ability to speedily assemble and process data. This has led to the supposition that computers might someday be superior replacements for our brains.
Professor Jaki thoroughly refutes such shallow thinking in this well-foot-noted presentation. Contrary to popular belief, there is little comparison between an electronic computer and the workings of the physical brain. Furthermore, when dealing with topics such as the Psyche or thought, it is absurd to suggest that computers could possibly take over such functions.
A careful study of this work exposes many shortcomings in a mechanistic philosophy and reinforces the Christian's viewpoint that we are a part of a very astounding creation.
Reviewed by Richard A. Jacobson, Department of Mathematics, Houghton College, Houghton, New York.
CRISIS IN EDEN: A Religious Study of Man and
Environment, by Frederick Elder, Abingdon, N.Y. 1970. 172 pp. cloth $3.95.
Frederick Elder, a Presbyterian minister, carefully discusses the attitudes that other contemporary thinkers in several disciplines have expressed on man's position in nature.
Two major attitudes evolve: inelusionism and cxelusionism. The first attitude considers man to be an intrinsic part of nature from which he must not or cannot separate himself without dire consequences. The author draws upon thinkers from a variety of disciplines who express this view: naturalist Rachel Carson, botanist Edmund Sinnot, landscape architect Ian MeHarg, conservationist Aldo Leopold and anthropologist Loren Eiseley. This group is not formally organized but it is intellectually distinguishable by its wholis tie approach, that is, by its awareness and elucidation of the interrelated web of all life. Eventually Elder also identifies himself with this group.
In contrast, exelusionism, the dominant view of nature held by historic Christianity, which is the most anthropocentric religion the world has ever seen (Lynn White, Jr. The Historic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis. Science Mar, 10, 1967 p. 1205), holds man to be sharply separate and superior to the rest of nature over which he must have dominion and subdue. For support of this view Elder has drawn from professedly Christian scholars. Teilhard de Chardin, for one, presents the view, perhaps difficult to understand, that eventually man may emerge out of the web of life into a noosphere (a sphere of the mind) where man is in a state of forming "an almost solid mass of hominised substance". Man, continuing in the same direction as he is now going, is seen as transcending his present nature. Theologian Herbert Richardson (Toward an American Theology. N.Y., Harpers, 1967, p. 18) sees the coming of "socioteehnics" where man and machines will actually control one another to a point where the whole society will be accurately predictable and thus subject to rational control. Finally a wholly artificial environment will he created where man will be extricated completely from the natural environment. Another theologian, Harvey Cox (On Not Leaving It To The Snake. N.Y. Macmillan. 1967, p. 101) suggests that a new city is rapidly enveloping the world where only islands of uncharted nature will remain. In this city man must work toward the desaeralization of nature and adopt a pragmatic approach; he must emphasize solving problems rather than understanding life. For
authority for the desaeralization of nature Cox leans on Genesis 1:28 and on the Yahwistie account of creation in Genesis 2:4 to the end of Genesis 3, claiming that this Hebrew view of creation separates nature from God and distinguishes man from nature. However, this view may lead to problems in the concept of miracles and of God's sustaining power in nature.
Other authority for the exelusionist's view is taken from the order of creation where man, in the Yahwistie account, is spoken of first, followed by vegetation, animals and finally woman. Man's predominance is further enhanced by the fact that God brought all the beasts and birds to man who, in turn, named them (Genesis 2:19). However, Elder points out several weak points in the interpretation of the biblical account and goes on to list the biblical support for the inclusionist view.
The closing chapters present the seriousness of the population and ecological crises and propose a reorientation of our present attitudes based on a new environmental theology. This theology would consider the Genesis command "be fruitful and multiply" and "have dominion over" as fulfilled injunctions. It would encourage the development of a new asceticism based on three changes in attitude: (a) restraint in man's dealing with nature and in his own reproduction, (h) an emphasis upon quality existence and the possession of a few quality items rather than many items of poorer quality, and (c) a new reverence for life where an act is judged to be right by it's ability to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the living world.
This new environmental theology should be seriously considered by those Christians who are all too ready to admit to the guilt of the Christian church for the ecological crisis. It should also he considered by the remainder of society as practical attitudes for the relief of this crisis and perhaps be used as the basis for laws to retrain the selfish and indifferent. This book is easy to read, can be understood by college students and scientists alike, and should he of interest to all in the Christian community.
Reviewed by Marlin B. Kreider, Department of Biology, Worcester State College, Worcester, Massachusetts.
A second review!
Because the environmental crisis is a serious matter, Elder's book must be viewed as more than a scholarly exercise. In his assessment of the crisis, the author ranges into theology, ecology and the course of history, and one must ask, how accurately does he read these arenas? This is critical, because Elder's action proposals follow directly from the way he sees things.
His view of the crisis itself-the pollution, population explosion, and hunger-is on target. The approach is pragmatic-around the corner lies disaster, not just a diminution of aesthetic concerns or a loss of values. The Inclusionists, as those who have been speaking out in warning, are also accurately represented, with one notable exception. Elder assumes that life scientists will be against abortion as a means of population control because of their involvement with life (it begins with the fertilized egg cell). If anything, the life scientists are in the forefront of the pro-abortion movement-because of their involvement with life, but quality of life rather than quantity (cancer cells are also alive).
In his analysis of theological issues Elder is anxious to separate the two accounts of creation because one (the J account) favors an anthropocentric view and the other (P account) a more biocentrie interpretation. Elder's approach is to emphasize those passages supporting a "right" view of man and nature, and play down the others. Thus, the Genesis command to have dominion over the earth and subdue it is seen at best as now fulfilled. This and other anthropocentric themes are considered by Elder to be detrimental because they have fostered a Christian arrogance and dominance towards nature which is the heritage of Western civilization.
This whole thrust misses the mark and is the source of a most serious flaw in the book. Elder, and his source, Lynn White, make the mistake of assuming that Western man's exploitive attitudes towards nature are unique and can therefore be traced to Christianity. It can be easily shown that other civilizations uninfluenced by Christian beliefs, such as China, have carelessly and thoroughly devastated their environmental heritage, indicating that there must be a common denominator for human exploitation of nature that is independent of geography and religion. This common denominator can be found quite readily-human greed, carelessness and ignorance. Seen this way, the environmental crisis is removed from the theological arena, and therefore so is the solution. If, indeed, survival and quality of life are at stake, the logical basis for a solution is an appeal to motives of self interest, not aesthetics. What is needed is a direct attack on exploitation and misuse of the environment.
Elder's book, then, becomes an impassioned plea for the wrong solution to an extremely important problem. There is nothing wrong with developing a school of environmental theology-eeotheulogy, as it is being called. It may even contribute to dealing with the environmental crisis, by appealing to some who are still influenced by the churches and their teachings. Fortunately, the solution of the crisis does not depend on the ability of the churches to agree upon and then bring effective changes of attitude to large segments of our society through religious and ethical persuasion. Education, use of the mass media, political action, and wise use of current technological processes would seem to be a more viable attack on the complex problems summed up in the term, environmental crisis. There are encouraging signs that this action is well under way.
Reviewed by Richard T. Wright, Department of Biology, Cordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts.
A third review!
• . . The major contribution of Elder's hook is to offer an alternative to blaming another of the world's problems on Christian theology. The evangelical would probably state the ease even more strongly since it seems to this reviewer that the causes of our current environmental crisis have not been taught as moral precepts by historical Christianity. It is true, however, that a Christianity that is more cultic than Biblical could be blamed for many of our American attitudes toward the environment. Elder's training, both for the ministry and as a research assistant at Harvard's Center for Population Studies, have prepared him well for his task.
In comparing the two viewpoints, Elder feels that the exelusinnists always interpret source material (Scripture) so as to verify the man-centered earth and the inelusionists do not bother to alter or correct the interpretation. At this point Elder places himself in the inelusionist camp and adds Biblical data to the ecological data already marshaled. He points out that Biblical data for a bioeentrie view is available and cites writings of John Calvin and H. R. Niebuhr. He says that "a theology with God as the unity of systems is a very definite possibility for those with an inclusive outlook, provided that it is understood that there will be a comprehensive inclusion of all systems, and that stress will be put upon the responsible individual." As pleasant as these things are to one who is both a Christian and an ecologist, Elder has not treated the knotty tangles posed by the historical otherworldliness of much of Christianity, the importance of the eternal and spiritual above the present and material in Christianity, and the possible eschatological implications of population growth and pollution. Nevertheless, this reviewer is very much indebted to Elder for significantly advancing his thinking in regard to man and nature, and for citing many valuable references in his footnotes and bibliography which provide food for thought in the Biblical-theological realm.
The final chapters of the book contain conclusions and proposals based upon previously established principles. His conclusions center around the wisdom of man controlling nature. The current environmental crisis would tend to make one think that man should not control nature completely since the success of that control is based upon comprehensive knowledge. His proposals call for many minor emphases of western culture to become major emphases, and for certain value-orientations to have much lower priority than at present. These proposals are probably somewhat unrealistic in that it seems unlikely that extensions in human morality are forthcoming. Environmental cleanup and maintenance will probably require specific laws with painful economic consequences for irresponsible individuals and industries.
Reviewed by Kenneth K. Tuinstra, Department of Biology and Chemistry, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California.
THEOLOGY AND MEANING: A Critique of Meta'theological Scepticism by Raeburne S. Heimbcck, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California (1969) 276 pp. $7.50
GOD AND OTHER MINDS: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God by Alvin Plantinga, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York 1967) 277 pp. $8.50
Here are two books for the logicians and linguistic analysts among us. Not intended for light reading, they tackle some of the deep problems of meaning and significance in the Christian faith in a thorough and careful way.
Dr. Heimbeck, Associate Professor of Humanities at Central Washington State College, defines his work as "a treatise in philosophical logic pure and simple," and sets as his purpose to "argue as vigorously as I can for the intelligibility of religious discourse." He is not concerned dirctly with such a question as, "Does God exist?" but rather with the question, "Is the sentence 'God exists' used to make a statement which is verifiable?" He gives the name of metatheology to this kind of study and defines the term to mean "the logical analysis of the nature of religious language,...philosophical theology in the age of analysis." Dr. Heimbeck chooses as the theological system to be discussed in his treatment, 'classical Christian theism,' although he is careful to insist that this choice does not necessarily imply his own conviction that this system is the best modern option.
Dr. Heimbeck examines the whole question of checkability (verifiability or falsifiability) of statements, and then turns to examine the claims and arguments of some of the foremost metatheological sceptics: Anthony Flew and R. B. Braithwaite, in particular. His treatment of Flew centers around the famous "Parable of the Gardener" advanced by Flew to argue that an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differs not at all from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all, He argues that Flew is a victim of both a criteria-evidence and a falsifiability-incompatibility conflation. Later chapters deal in more depth with falsifiability, verifiability, and cognitive meaning.
Dr. Plantinga, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, takes a hard look at the principal arguments for and against the existence of God. He concludes that all attempts to construct a logical argument either for or against the existence of God are unsuccessful and draws a corollary between belief in God and our belief in the existence of other minds (i.e., that my mind is not alone in existence).
As arguments for the existence of God, Dr. Plantinga considers the cosmological argument of Aquinas, the ontological argument of Anselm, and a general form of the theological argument. He discusses the problem of evil as the prime argument against the existence of God (both good and all-powerful) and the "free will defense" proposed to counter this argument. In a subsequent chapter Dr. Plantinga considers a number of other arguments against the existence of God, including problems of verifiability (much like those treated by Dr. Heimbeck), omnipotence, and what he describes as an ontological argument for the non-existence of God.
Finally Dr. Plantinga develops the analogy between our belief in the existence of other minds and our belief in the existence of God, and then treats the objections that have been raised against this perspective. He shows the similarities that exist between the analogical position and the teleological argument for the existence of God, and how the objections that can be raised against the latter can also be raised against the former. He concludes that "belief in other minds and belief in God are in the same epistemological boat; hence if either is rational, so is the other. But obviously the former is rational; so, therefore, is the latter."
BELIEF IN GOD: A Study in the Epistemology of Religion, by George I. Mavrodes, Random House, New York (1970) Paperback. 117 pp. $3.25
Chosen by Christianity Today as one of the top 46 evangelical books of 1970, this little gem by Dr. Mavrodcs, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan, doesn't try to give answers for the tough problems of theological epistemology, but sets forth instead some guidelines as to how to recognize an answer if you come across one. After a preliminary chapter on what it means to "know" something and how one comes to "know" something, Mayrodes tackles the three big questions of proofs of God's existence, the experience of God and the problem of evil.
In treating proofs for the existence of God, Mayrodes raises three questions that may be quoted here to indicate the kind of material to be found in this book. (1) "If it is possible to prove God's existence, would it be worth doing so?" (2) "If it should happen that God's existence cannot be proved, would that be any cause for regret or disappointment?" (3) "Is it possible that someone has proved the existence of God without anyone (even the man who did the proving) knowing that he had done so?" Similar searching and not commonly encountered questions are to be found in other sections of the book.
Mavrodes concludes his book with a summary section, which in turn ends with the conclusion that epistemological questions after all must be considered secondary. "In the end we must stop examining and discussing epistemic activities and we must begin to use them and to engage in them. Hopefully, our reasoning and our experience will lead us to the truth. They will do so, however, only if we finally turn our faces outward, away from the reasoning and the experience itself, and toward the truth that we seek to grasp."
WHOSE WORLD by A. N. Triton, Paperback, 191
CHRIST THE CONTROVERSIALIST by John B. W. Stott, Paperback, 214 pp. (1970) Inter-Varsity Press (London)
PHILOSOPHY AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH by Cohn Brown, Paperback, 319 pp. (1969) Tyndale Press (London) All available through Inter-Varsity Press in the United States.
These are three general interest recent publications available through Inter-Varsity Press in the United States. The first, Whose World, treats the Christian's attitude to the material world, culture, politics, technology and society, and appears mysteriously over a pseudonym which the author says is made necessary because of his job. Affirming that "a God who is only the Savior of His people is too small for the Bible," the author argues that everything God has made belongs to Him and hence to us in Christ.
If we realize this we shall also be jealous for a proper use and development of God's gifts. We shall care for health and wealth and education and culture and science. We shall care that they are developed and used as they should be and that they are not prostituted and squandered.
Biblical redemption includes but transcends social amelioration, and the benefits to society of Christ's redemptive work are to be found in terms of reformation according to God's law, not in terms of redeeming society as a whole by Christ's death. Thus the author argues that the individual Christian, as well as groups of Christians, should be involved in political action, but that the Church, as an official church, should not.
The task of the Christian with respect to a society which does not acknowledge God is set forth as (1) to work for the acknowledgement of the basic moral law as the necessary basis for a beneficial society, (2) to get this law embodied in law and custom as far as possible, since God's law is the law of the universe and hence beneficial for all men, and (3) to make it plain that a rebellion against this law is not a matter of personal preference but a rebellion against the Creator of the world.
He emphasizes the valuable principle that the distinction between good and evil on one hand, and right and wrong for an individual to do in a given circumstance, must be maintained. To kill is always evil; sometimes however it may become necessary to kill in order to prevent a greater evil. The principle of the lesser-of-two-evils, which the Christian will knowingly choose in recognition of the reality of a sinful world and then will ask forgiveness for having chosen that which is not absolutely right, is an important one for Christian relationship to the world.
The author argues that "the Christian can never ignore the moral and philosophical content of a work of art." Or again
An artist who has no respect for the way people actually are is as bad as an architect who builds his ceilings ten low for comfort just because he thinks it looks nicer.
He wonders in a footnote if perhaps the art form of fiction is intrinsically
unsuitable for the presentation of a positive Christian witness.
He responds favorably to science and says that "the Christian is called upon particularly in this situation to speak up in favor of science and technology." The book can be recommended as "a plea for a positive assessment and use of God's creation and providential gifts."
In Christ the Controversialist, Dr. Stott takes eight incidents in the life of Christ, discusses them in the historical situation, and then uses them to treat the analogous contemporary situation. The eight areas are (1) should religion be natural or supernatural? (2) is authority to be found in tradition or Scripture? (3) is Scripture an end or a means? (4) is salvation obtained on the basis of merit or mercy? (5) is morality outward or inward? (6) is worship of the lips or the heart? (7) does responsibility call for withdrawal or involvement? and (8) is our glory or God's glory to be our ambition?
These eight topics are preceded by two introductory essays; one on a defence of theological definition, and the other on a plea for evangelical Christianity. The eight topics are followed by a postscript on Jesus as teacher and Lord. 'Regrettably there is no index.
The first section on naturalism or supernaturalism is the most directly related to the issues of science and Christian faith. The author considers that scientific materialists are today's counterparts of the Sadducees who questioned Jesus on the reality of the resurrection. He stresses the Biblical picture of man as a creature made by God as "a body-soul, whose destiny could not be fulfilled in the soul's immortality, but only in the body's resurrection also." Likewise he emphasizes wisely that "natural law is not an alternative to divine action, but a useful way of referring to it . . . . The scientific and the biblical ways of looking at nature do not contradict each other; they are complementary." This book is particularly well suited for small group reading and discussion for those who wish to dig into the Biblical nature of Christ, his teachings, and their relevance today.
In Philosophy and the Christian Faith Cohn Brown attempts the impossible and is very nearly successful in bringing it off. In 267 pages he discusses the thought of about 450 philosophers from Augustine to Sehaeffer (or alphabetically, from Abelard to Zwinghi). Treatments range in depth from a mere mention to more than five page spreads on such leaders as Barth, Bonhoeffer, Bultmaun, John Robinson, Sehaeffer, Schleiermacher, and Van Til, to name only a few examples of a widely diverse group.
The book is easy reading and avoids as far as possible the "next philosopher please" syndrome, of which the author is well aware. The Christian particularly can benefit from this treatment, as the author not only reports but also comments to keep the various thinkers in Christian philosophical perspective.
Sometimes the grouping of philosophers produces some strange bedfellows. Under "The New Radicalism" are discussed Bonhoeffer, John Robinson, and the Death of God school. There may be some historical justification for this, but Bonhoeffer is singularly out of place in this company. Although the author comments that Bonhoeffer's radicalism has probably been exaggerated, he nevertheless includes him in this section. Another curious grouping is called "Philosophy of Reformed Theology," and contains Cornelius Van Til, Karl Barth and Francis Schaeffcr. The first and last are certainly closely related but probably would not wish to admit the affinity with Barth.
The discussion of the various philosophers is followed by a helpful section on "The Christian and Philosophy" which summarizes major themes from the past, and then considers the value and task of philosophy of the Christian religion. Finally there is an 18 page Note on Books for further reading.
CHRISTIAN COLLEGIANS AND FOREIGN
MISSIONS: An Analysis of Relationships, Paul F. Barkman, Edward R. Dayton and
Edward L. Gmmann, Missions Advanced Research and Communications
Calif. (1969) Paperback. 424 pp. $4.95
A 99-question questionnaire was sent to the 8,747 delegates of the 1967 Inter-Varsity Conference on Missions at Urbana Illinois. The responses from 4,900 delegates are analyzed and tabulated in this book published by MARC. The goal of Inter-Varsity was to obtain from the questionnaire a better understanding of the students interested in its work and an expression on the operation of the Urbana Conference. The goal of the School of World Mission of Fuller Seminary and of MARC was to obtain further information for the mission community that would be helpful in leading young people into professional Christian service. This paperback edition of an earlier hard-cover printing makes the results of the survey readily available to researchers and students.
WHAT IS HUMAN? by T. M. Kitwood, Inter-Varsity
Press (London), 1970. Paperback. 142 pp. (Available in USA through
The Rev. T. M. Kitwood, a Cambridge graduate now teaching Chemistry at Busoga College, Jinja, Uganda, considers three views of man: that held by the humanist, the existentialist and the Christian. These are the three options he sees as viable for the free West, to be joined in the total world spectrum by the view of man held by Communism. In a sense he concludes that humanism cannot deal with the evil in the world and that existentialism cannot deal with the good.
He describes the four great ideals of humanism as tolerance, wholeness or balance, cooperation and generosity, and self-reliance. In addition all humanists "are agreed that invocation of God or the supernatural is to be ruled out." Kitwood faults humanism for not evoking a response from the whole person but only from the intellect, and for failing to reckon with the facts about human nature.
He traces the thought of existentialism through Kierkegaard and concentrates on the influence of Nietzsche. He shows how existentialism leads to the conclusion that there is no ultimate meaning or purpose to he found within life itself, and that moral values that derived from belief in God no longer exist. Recognizing that "existentialism has been a necessary corrective to the scientific approach to life," Kitwood faults existentialism for stressing the personal so much that it has become a philosophy of extreme subjectivism open to great abuses, and for calling for a pessimism which does not ring true with common experience.
The antidotes to humanism and existentialism Kitwood finds in the Christian position that man was made in the image of God, and is therefore capable of love and self-giving, possesses a will of his own, and exercises authority over the rest of creation under God. The meaning of life for the Christian is love; the purpose of life is service. Unlike humanists, who are likely to view themselves as hosts in the universe, Christians see themselves as guests with the responsibility of stewardship. Unlike existentialists who view the absurdity of life as a necessity, Christians recognize the apparent absurdity associated with the effects of sin, but affirm that life need not be like this.
This is a helpful little hook suitable for starting discussions with friends who perhaps do not recognize the philosophical grounds for their positions.
ENCOUNTER WITH BOOKS: A Guide to Christian Reading edited by Harish D. Merchant, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 1970. Paperback. 262 pp.
Sixty-five Christian scholars have cooperated under the editorship of H. D. Merchant of the University of Toledo to produce a volume with annotated listings of over 1600 books on Christianity, the arts and the humanities. The bibliography is arranged under seven main section headings: (1) Bible, (2) Christian Doctrine, (3) Christian Witness, (4) Christian Life, (5) Christian Ethics, (6) Defense of the Faith, and (7) Humanities and the Arts. Each of these sections has a specific introduction, and each of the subsections (a total of 63) has an introduction by the particular scholar responsible for that subsection. It would probably be difficult to name a topic of interest that is not covered in this bibliography, e.g., would you have thought of urban society, journalism, cartoons, or jazz and pop?
THE RETURNS OF LOVE: Letters of a Christian
Homosexual by Alex Davidson Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove,
93 pp. $2.10
Written under a pseudonym and using the literary device of written letters to replace actual spoken conversations, this book traces some of the thought processes of a Christian homosexual as he communicates with a second Christian homosexual to whom he is sexually attracted. The prose is frequently a good deal more literary than would be found in most letters, but the anguish of the situation comes through in such outpourings as
This is the impossibility of the situation-what I may have I don't want, and what I do want I may not
have. I want a friend, but more than a friend; I want a wife. But I don't want a woman...
The author is thoroughly convinced that "the homosexual condition is to
be classified with disease, weakness, death as an evil," whereas homosexual activity is to he condemned
outright and under any conditions as sinful.
One of the lessons to be learned in dealing with the question of homosexuality is that to think of "homosexuality" as synonymous with "gross indecency" is as false as to think of "heterosexuality" as synonymous with "fornication." The homosexual is a human being who responds to personal relationships, can accept Christ as his Savior, and enter into the process of Christian sanctification; he differs from the heterosexual person only in that his sexual attraction is for members of the same sex rather than for members of the opposite sex.
The author is certain that the Bible categorically condemns homosexual conduct as sinful. He argues that the Bible condemns adultery, fornication and homosexual practices because they all violate the proper context for sexual relationships, namely procreation and companionship. Procreation in homosexual alliances is obviously impossible, and he argues also that the companionship "is not really of the right sort, since the helper that God says is fit for man, in this context, is woman." He believes that Leviticus 18:22 and I Corinthians 6:9 are to be interpreted as showing that "homosexual acts are wrong, with an intrinsic, unqualified wrongness," and that the Biblical teaching on human responsibility shows that no one can offer the excuse that because he is a homosexual he cannot help expressing himself homosexually. He argues that present studies indicate a much higher probability for a psychological or environmental basis for homosexuality than an inherited genetic basis. He denies that "selflessness" can play a major role in homosexual alliances where the sources of attraction are animal, aesthetic and emotional; it is not clear that on these same standards the author would be able to rate heterosexual alliances as any more satisfactory.
One consequence of the author's position is that he is led to reflect rather strongly on the joys of the future life as compared to the pain of this one, and to associate his own "sin" almost completely with the homosexual body in which he now finds himself. For example, he says
It is an antidote against my own tormenting experience of the perversions of this world to dwell on the perfections of the next.
It argues that the eternal life bestowed by Christ when He enters a man's heart is for the time being life for his spirit only, and not life for his body, which because of its sinfulness remains "dead," that is mortal.
There is perhaps a thesis which can be advanced contrary to the approach of
the author, which it seems cannot be refuted except on rather
grounds. This thesis can be developed Biblically in the following way. As set
forth in Romans 13: 8-10, we can see the law of God as a guideline for what
it means for truly human beings to act in love. Such action can likewise be
described in terms of interpersonal relationships in which the
identity of the
participants as persons is fully realized. We may then define a
sexual relationship between two persons as a relationship based on a loving
lifelong commitment of one to the other.
In this light, the Biblical condemnation of fornication, adultery and ceremonial or irresponsible homosexual practices can be easily understood. In all of these it is most likely that the second party to the sex act is regarded as an object, as a thing useful for gratification, and in all of these the possibility of a loving life-long commitment is ruled out by definition. Inasmuch as the Biblical condemnation of fornication does not imply a condemnation of sex within a loving life-long commitment, the question remains as to whether the Biblical condemnation of homosexual abuses implies a condemnation of homosexual practices within a loving life-long commitment.
We can be certain that the fullest expressions of sex will be achieved in a loving life-long heterosexual relationship, and that rescue or cure from the homosexual condition is very much a goal to be sought. It is difficult, however, to find Biblical support for the condemnation per se of a loving life-long homosexual relationship involving sex-if indeed it is possible for such a relationship to exist. And this is an empirical question.
SUBDUING THE COSMOS: Cybernetics and Man's Future by Kenneth Vaux, John Knox Press, Richmond, Virginia (1970). 197 pp. $5.95.
Kenneth Vaux is Associate Professor of Ethics at the Institute of Religion and Human Development and Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Medical Center, Houston. The book is based upon a doctoral thesis under Helmut Thiehicke in Hamburg, Germany, and some of the signs of its origin show through in the style. Throughout the book, Vaux speaks as if man's visits to the moon were indeed the sign of a great new development in human history, and a Foreword by astronaut Edwin Aldrin, Jr. emphasizes this perspective.
The working definition offered for the often-repeated term "cybernetics" is "the total theoretical and practical process of changing environment through control and communication utilizing the feedback principle." The purpose of the book is to reflect "on the ethical significance of electric technology and man's use of that power to control environment," and to "establish criteria of responsibility as these are formed in the life situation shaped by cybernation."
The author sees the "cybernated era" as a direct product of an increasing secularization in Western civilization. The Biblical revelation contributes to this process through its disenchantment of nature. At the same time desacralization of society, i.e., the giving up of unchangeable divinely-ordained societal structures, contributes to secularization, but Vaux sees Biblical roots for this process also in "the universalization of the servant role of Israel," and in "the Apostolic release of the gospel to the Gentiles." Such secularization can lead to the devaluement of man, but Vaux argues that while we must affirm that man is a cybernetic system, we must also affirm that man is more than a cybernetic device.
In subsequent chapters Vaux considers the possibility of cybernation leading to greater opportunities for humanization as it releases man from the noncreative aspects of work to more creative expressions of his humanity in interpersonal and spiritual activity, the possibility of cybernation leading to dehumanization if man allows himself to be dominated by his machines or suffers depersonalization, and the interpretation of man's participation in the cybernated age as his assuming the role of co-worker with God in the task of subduing the earth. Two final chapters explore the themes of Technology and Hope, and a Reconsideration of Labor and Leisure. Based on the assumption that "Christian faith has a peculiar hope for a future earthly society that is very much shaped by the technological enterprise of man," Vaux expounds a oeo-post-millennial eschatological interpretation of man's future in the cybernated era. He argues also that work "must be liberated from the necessity of visible productivity leading to personal or national aggrandizement to the free awareness that all creativity' contributes to the common good." Leisure must be seen as the opportunity to he freed from one activity in order to pursue another, not as the cessation of all meaningful activity.
Seldom have I read a book, presumably written for a general audience, that was so completely difficult and frustrating to read. It would benefit in communicability tremendously by being translated from modem theologese into English. In writing this review I have fallen back on using Vaux's same style of terminology in order not to run too great a risk of misinterpreting him. Let me cite just two examples to indicate the nature of the problem. Contrast the language of the Ten Commandments with Vaux's description,
The fundamental threat in the idolatrous situation emerges when one gives personality or power to an object, transferring obeisance from God. The Old Testament speaks of the perpetual tension in the dynamics of faith, tension arising from the subjectification of an object. The first commandments relate the idolatrous situation to the fabricating work of man's hands. The graven images are derivative from his handiwork, his carving. So intense was the iconoclastic impulse of the deuteronomic spirit that the very act of fabrication was dangerous even before man located power in the artifact.
Or consider the following discussion of humanization,
Humanization is here related to decision-making and the action-response cycle which is the result of a new communicative relationship to one's environment. A new interior-relatedness or integrity is given man as he stands over environment in control and communication . . . . The partial emancipation of man from his work-relationship with matter and the aversion of many aspects of the delimiting and debilitating effects of matter on his well-being are two dimensions of humanization carried in the release from tyranny.
The chapters lack any sub-headings, which would be helpful. Three
pages of Bibliography
fail to give the publishers for any of the books cited.
What does Vaux have to say? I think he says that increased use of machines has the possibility for both good and a had effect on men, and that if men understand their proper relationship to God they can make this use a good one. In several places he effectively contrasts the Christian with the Marxist position.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.