March 1991 Book Reviews
CONTEMPORARY INTERPRETATION by Moises Silva, (Series Editor). Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Academie Books, Zondervan Publishing House.
(Vol. 1) HAS THE CHURCH MISREAD THE BIBLE? by Moises Silva. 1987. 129 pages, index.
(Vol. 3) LITERARY APPROACHES TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION by Tremper Longman III. 1987. 154 pages, index.
(Vol. 6) SCIENCE AND HERMENEUTICS by Vern S. Poythress. 1988. 171 pages, index.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 43.
These are three books in a seven-book series, edited by Moises Silva, Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, dedicated to working "toward a clarification of the basic problems of interpretation that affect our reading of the Bible today." The other authors above are Tremper Longman III, Associate Professor of Old Testament, and Vern S. Poythress, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, both at Westminster Theological Seminary.
What these books have to say is particularly significant because they arise out of a conservative theological tradition. All of the authors are "committed to the divine authority of Scripture," and "assume from the start that a right relationship with its divine author is the most fundamental prerequisite for proper biblical interpretation" (iv). They are well worth reading for several reasons, not least of which is their significance for those seeking to maintain a dialogue between authentic science and authentic biblical theology. The individual volumes in the series approach the subject from the points of view of philosophy, literary criticism, linguistics, history, science, and theology.
The subtitle of Silva's introductory book is "The history of interpretation in the light of current issues." He recognizes at the outset that "The truth of scriptural authority does not automatically tell us what a given passage means.... The common insistence that we should approach the text without any prior ideas regarding its meaning becomes almost irrelevant" (pp. 4, 6, 7). His discussion deals with the tensions implicit in such key issues as "Literal or Figurative?," "Clear or Obscure?," "Relative or Absolute?" His perspective is summed up in one place in the words, "It may well be that the one great aim in our own interpretation of Scripture must be that of resisting the temptation to eliminate the tensions, to emphasize certain features of the Bible at the expense of others" (p. 38).
Longman develops the framework of a literary approach to the Bible and then describes the analysis of both prose and poetic passages, with suitable examples. He echoes the theme introduced by Silva, "We must remember that no one can approach the biblical text objectively or with a completely open mind. Indeed, such an approach to the text would be undesirable. Everyone comes to the text with questions and an agenda. One's attitude, however, should be one of openness toward change" (p. 40).
Poythress writes from the unique position of one who holds a Ph.D. in mathematics and a Th.D. in Pauline theology. He asks whether we can learn anything from science about "how to enhance our knowledge of the Bible" (p. 11). He does not address himself in this book to whether theology should be scientific, to specific questions of fact, or to whether science can be used legitimately for the development of a worldview, but instead asks "whether the growth of knowledge in science can tell us something about how knowledge grows in biblical interpretation and in theology" (p. 12).
The paradigm for his central task is provided by Thomas Kuhn's book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In fact, Poythress goes so far as to say that, "Even if he (Kuhn) is wrong about science, he may be right when we apply his claims to biblical interpretation" (p. 52). One of the key concepts is the use of complementary models and analogies. "Suppose ... that we approach Scripture expecting to find a number of analogies making complementary points. Since each analogy is partial, the various analogies may sometimes superficially appear to be at odds with one another" (p. 96). This theme is developed with examples drawn from the Bible.
This book concludes with a statement that appears to characterize the series as a whole.
"The common thread through all our discussion has been the theme that world views, frameworks, and overall context influence knowledge and discovery in all areas. Knowledge is always qualified by its context. ... Our background of knowledge colors any particular bit of knowledge and colors our expectations about what we will discover when we look at something new or when we look at something for a second or third time." (p. 159)
While such an approach does not compromise our conviction of the authority and reliability of the Bible, it does make us more keenly aware of a number of pitfalls if we take a more naive and sometimes traditional approach to biblical hermeneutics.
This series shows considerable promise and should be of particular value to anyone involved in biblical interpretation or teaching.
Reviewed by Richard H. Babe, Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
SCIENCE AND THE
CHRISTIAN FAITH by Samuel Ramirez. Nashville, TN. Graded Press, 1985. 64
pages. Paperback; $2.00.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 46.
By and large, mainline denominations have not done a very good job of providing educational resources dealing with the science-theology interface for use in congregations. Thus, it is worth noting the present six-unit adult study from the United Methodist Church which attempts to remedy that lack. The author is a former professor of Bioethics who now heads a consulting firm. Each unit has a discussion of the subject material, a "Practical Application" section for the learner during the week, and material for the group leader.
The presentation is at a level appropriate for adults who have no special training in science or theology. There are no technicalities to scare away the uninitiated. Thus, this could be a useful resource for parish pastors or other educators who want to begin a study of the relationships between theology, science, technology, and ethics. But this relatively low-level approach also means that there is no real discussion of the ways in which modern science pictures the world. None of the mind-stretching aspects of quantum theory or modern scientific cosmology, for example, are introduced. The emphasis is on the impacts which science-based technology has on people's lives.
Ramirez' opening chapter emphasizes the rapidity of change in today's world and suggests some working definitions of science, technology, and religion. An emphasis on stewardship of creation is also introduced here from Genesis 1:28. Succeeding chapters deal with technology and the Bible and the relationship between science and technology, the latter topic being approached as a question of values. Chapter 4 addresses the use of technology in terms of "quality of life" concerns, Matthew 22:27-39 and John 10:10 providing biblical views of what constitutes a "quality" life. The final two sessions of the study address the questions of whether or not there need be conflict between science and religion and how a person can honestly be both a scientist and a Christian.
This study is clearly from the United Methodist tradition, with quotations from John Wesley, reference to that denomination's statements, and an emphasis on pluralism of understanding. This gives a clear, albeit broad, theological orientation. At the same time, it is sufficiently catholic to be useful in other Christian settings as well.
One always has the blunt reality that many adult learners in a parish setting are not going to "do their homework" between Sundays. A leader can't assume that a book like this actually will be read by all. But it can, at the least, be a useful resource for the leader, especially one not an expert on the science-theology interface. It can suggest ways to organize presentations and discussions, and give some useful insights on some (though not all) of the topics in which people in a class dealing with science and faith would be interested.
Reviewed by George L. Murphy, Pastor, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Tallmadge, OH 44278.
JUST DEFENSE: The Use of Force, Nuclear Weapons, & Our Conscience by Keith B.
Payne and Karl I. Payne. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1987. 331 pages, indexes.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 46.
Nearly four years ago I moved from a hub of nuclear pacifism to my present home, a place where the livelihood of many people depends on the production of nuclear missiles. Living in these extreme environments, I have often wondered if a moderate, rational view of nuclear weapons could be found. Therefore, A Just Defense, which considers this complex issue in a temperate fashion, was refreshingly welcome reading.
In the introduction, the authors assert that many of the positions held by Christians concerning nuclear weapons are based on more fundamental views regarding the use of force by a government to protect its citizens. Six of these foundational views, including (1) non-resistance, (2) historic pacifism, (3) radical pacifism, (4) nuclear pacifism, (5) preventive war, and (6) just war, are presented in the first five chapters of the book. Each view is critiqued on a Scriptural basis, an approach that underscores the Christian perspective of the authors. The Paynes also acknowledge the crucial role that hermeneutics plays when Scriptural directions for issues such as this one are not expressly mapped. Indeed, the reader's hermeneutic will probably be the determinant by which he accepts or rejects the book's ultimate conclusions. The Paynes use a hermeneutic that appeals strongly to the traditional church interpretation of passages such as Romans 13:17. Like the historical hermeneutic, it concludes that government is mandated by God to use necessary force to defend its citizens (the innocent) and leads the authors to espouse the traditional "just war" view.
The latter five chapters of the book, comprising twothirds of the text, address practical strategies which have been developed for preventing nuclear war. Critical evaluation of "deterrence," "disarmament," "arms control," "nonmilitary defense," and the strategy proposed by the writers--a "just defense"--is based upon the congruity of each strategy with the tenets of the "just war" view. The relationship between the five strategies and the six fundamental views is presented well.
As part of the Critical Concern Book series, A Just Defense is written clearly, if at times repetitively, and follows closely the objectives outlined in the introduction. It is especially recommended for those seeking a singletext overview and critique of the primary solutions proposed to the dilemma posed by nuclear weapons. The book has a useful Scriptural Index and a short Subject Index. The notes collimated at the end of each chapter will be useful for those desiring a more in-depth study of the issue. The credentials of co-authors Keith Payne (recognized authority on domestic and foreign policy) and Karl Payne (pastor/theologian) are complementarily strong.
Reviewed by John W. Haas III, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN37831-6113.
BIBLE AND ETHICS
IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE by Bruce C. Birch and Larry L. Rasmussen. Revised and
expanded edition. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989. 239 pages, Scripture index. Paperback;
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 65.
The rationale for this collaboration between a scholar of Old Testament and a Christian ethicist may be easily summarized on the basis of the authors' own conclusions: (1) "Christian ethics is not synonymous with biblical ethics"; (2) "the Bible is nonetheless formative and normative for Christian ethics." And the difficulties of the task implied by these propositions may be readily perceived from the authors' own examination of the various issues attending (and in a sense prior to) the use of the Bible in Christian ethical reflection.
With clarity and precision Birch and Rasmussen examine the central concepts which chart the moral life. They invite the reader to approach moral problems in the manner of the early Christian communities--to consider the moral life within the life of the community of faith. Indeed, their examination of the concept of moral agency and its communal context is reason enough to commend this book as an introductory text. It is lucidly written, with obvious sensitivity to students who are new to these issues.
There are, however, certain weaknesses of this book which should prompt teachers considering it to seek supplementary readings (Oliver O'Donovan's demanding Resurrection and Moral Order comes immediately to mind).
1. The authors express their appreciation for recent trends in theology and biblical studies, most importantly the hermeneutical theories associated with feminist and liberation theologies. Yet they fail to examine the many criticisms which may be made of these positions (e.g., a "hermeneutics of suspicion") and, in particular, fail to consider their implications for theology as a science.
2. The authors observe that our decisions are necessarily informed by a variety of extra-biblical and nonreligious sources, most notably the natural, human and social sciences. And they recommend that we remain open to these authorities. Yet they fail to examine the claims of these secular authorities and so neglect the serious difficulties which attend them. How can such sources determine our moral obligation, for instance, to the human fetus or to the urban poor?
These difficulties are remarkable in view of the authors' professed confidence in the power of the Bible to form the Christian community and inform its actions. The implication is that Birch and Rasmussen are bound by certain assumptions of modern scholarship which prevent them from mending the divide between biblical studies and theology. Indeed, they advance their own proposals on the use of the Bible only by ignoring their warrant in theology. They object, for instance, to some theories of inspiration on the ground that they restrict the freedom of God; their concern is that such theories may blind us to the activity of God in the present. But how is divine agency intelligible? How does the God of the Bible speak to us today? Of course, there are no easy answers to these questions. The difficulties will only pass when the wall that divides theology from biblical studies is surmounted.
Reviewed by Cregory A. Bezilla, Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027.
& OMEGA: Ethics at the Frontiers of Life and Death, by Emle W. D. Young.
Menlo Park, California: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc, 1989. 2100 pages, index.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 65.
Medical ethics is focal point for the living out of the Christian faith in this imperfect and fallen world. The author of this book is Chaplain to the Medical Center and an Associate Dean of Memorial Church at Stanford University. He left South Africa, the land of his birth, in 1973 under ban by the government for his activities toward an integrated society. As Chaplain, Young has the unique opportunity of being a personal participant in many challenging case histories, the only way to develop a relevant and responsible perspective on medical ethics. This is not a theological treatment of the issues and there is little if any reference to the Bible, God, Jesus Christ or the Church. The author makes it plain that it is his purpose to appeal to reason, not to any special revelation, and assures the reader that he "need not be concerned that this book is a pretext for some thinly veiled evangeiical enterprise or that it will claim to settle complex moral questions, once and for all, by appeal to revelation from some supernatural authority" (p. 12).
On the other hand the perspectives developed and discussed certainly have their base in a Christian worldview, and they serve to illustrate the great complexity in attempting to express such a worldview in the midst of the real problems of the real world. The Bible does provide us with guidelines, not simplistic solutions, but how to live out those guidelines in specific cases is frequently an enormous challenge. The evangelical Christian reader, who might not agree completely with the author's disclaimer concerning revelation, will still, therefore, benefit from the challenges summarized in this book. It is written for a general audience, with or without a medical background.
In Part I of the book, "Setting the Stage," the author lays the foundation for dealing with issues in medical ethics. In Part II, he considers issues particularly relevant to the beginnings of life, and in Part III those issues related to the end of life. Here are the basic topics discussed: genetic engineering, new reproductive technologies, abortion, perinatology, critical and terminal care, assisted suicide, and the AIDS crisis. In a final Part IV, the author considers the reasons that these medical issues tend to proliferate with time, and then the directions that medicine should be taking to help meet some of them. Young begins by rejecting the question, "Are we playing God?" as the most important one to ask, in view of the fact that in all areas of life human beings are constantly exercising their creativity and responsibility to do things that in past years might have been attributed to God alone. He prefers a perspective in which "The crucial question is not about limits to human inquiry and action, but rather about how responsibly to use what freedom we have."
A major emphasis of the book is the exposition and testing of the four major ethical principles that guide the physician and others involved in medical ethics: "beneficence, which requires the physician to do everything possible to preserve life; nonmaleficence, imposing on the physician the duty not to harm and to alleviate suffering; autonomy, which allows patients or their surrogates ... to be party to the decision-making process; and justice, distributively understood, which mandates the equitable allocation of our limited resource" (p. 28). These are certainly the major practical foci in a system of medical ethics based on a Christian worldview.
The author develops the challenge that is encountered in being faithful to all four of these principles in a number of different situations, including a number of case histories, to provide a sense of the personal and specific rather than only the abstract and general. One of the lessons learned is that "no moral principle can or should ever be absolutized ... But principles have to be balanced against one another" (pp. 36, 37). As part of a case history in the chapter on critical and terminal care, the author summarizes the variations that may be desirable: "Beneficence does not require physicians to attempt the impossible. Nonmaleficence does allow for the introduction of compassion and choice into an otherwise sterile and highly technological environment. And justice would not have been served by expending close to $ 2,000 a day on intensive care to prolong the process of Jerry's inevitable demise," which Jerry had already accepted and desired to realize.
It is unfortunate that the author continues the misleading convention, in speaking of the fetus, of asking whether or not the fetus is human or potentially human, and almost ignoring the fact that the actual issue is whether or not the fetus is or should be treated as if it were a human person. He is certainly not alone in this practice, and it is a constant source of amazement how many of our skilled and trained ethicists persist in confusing the issue with language misuse at this point.
This is an excellent book for a Christian study group, who would like to come to a better understanding of the intricacies of medical ethics in our day, to prepare for the possibilities of such issues in their own lives, and to trace out the implications of biblical guidelines in the actual situations encountered.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor of Materials Scienceand Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
THE SEARCH FOR CHRISTIAN
AMERICA, by Mark A. Noll, Nathan O. Hatch, and George M. Marsden. Expanded
edition. Colorado Springs: Helmers & Howard, 1989. 199 pages, index. Paperback; $8.95.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 69.
How Christian is America's religious past? Was early America a distinct source of Christian values? How much Christian action is required to make a whole society Christian? Is the "Christian nation" concept harmful or helpful to effective Christian action in society? What are appropriate and inappropriate appeals to the Bible's authority in the arena of public policy? How should history inform our response to the challenges of our age? For these questions, and many others, the authors, distinguished historians of American religion, provide a careful and sensitive study of the issues.
The early chapters of this study center on a series of case studies of the early Puritan settlements, the Great Awakening of the colonial period, and the early years of the American nation between the Revolution and the Civil War. The authors conclude from their analysis that "early America does not deserve to be considered uniquely, distinctly or even predominately Christian, if [one means] by the word 'Christian' a state of society reflecting the ideals presented in Scripture. There is no golden age to which American Christians may return." However, they are careful to stress that the historical record "justifies a picture of the United States as a singularly religious country," insofar as there has been much commendable Christian belief, practice, and influence in the history of the United States and the colonies which formed the new country. The history of America, the authors seem to sug gest, reveals a tension between the ideals of religion and the errors of the religious.
In the second half of the book the authors examine the implications of their inquiry for Christian action in a secular society. They argue that a "careful examination of Christian teaching on government, the state, and the nature of culture shows that the idea of a 'Christian nation' is a very ambiguous concept which is usually harmful to effective Christian action in society." In place of this ideal they propose that Christians pursue a course of action that concentrates on building and strengthening institutions for which there is a biblical mandate, including schools, universities, and the family. In their emphasis on Scripture the authors are firm. No course of action, however popular or prudential, should persist against that which transcends culture and which is the rule of faith and life.
It is the conviction of the authors that responsible historical study is essential to theological argument and positive Christian action. A distorted or overinflated view of America as a distinctively Christian nation carries the temptation to national self-righteousness and the danger of national idolatry. It is on this point that the consequences of this inquiry become most apparent to the evangelical tradition in America. The uncritical appropriation of history for our own purposes prevents us from establishing an independent scriptural position over and against the predominant values of the culture, a position which allows for selective approval and disapproval of the culture's various values. In the end we cannot avoid the conclusion that these temptations also have been our tendency: we ourselves are often partly to blame for the spread of secularism in American life, in that we have been prone to identify public institutions and partisan policies with Christian ideals.
It is precisely this thoughtful attention to the dangers which attend the abuse and neglect of history that recommends this work to the college curriculum. Teachers of American religious history will find it to be a cogent survey text and an impressive bibliography of primary and secondary materials; teachers in other fields will find in it an exemplary analytical framework for approaching a variety of moral and political problems. This new edition, which remains unrevised from the first edition (published in 1983 by Crossway Books), is augmented by an afterword and bibliographic note by Professor Noll. The publisher is to be commended for making this outstanding resource available once again for classroom use.
Reviewed by Gregory A. Bezilla, Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York, NY 10021.
AND JUSTICE IN THE SCRIPTURES OF THE WORLD RELIGIONS by Denise Lardner Carmody and
John Tully Carmody. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1988 Paper; $9 95.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 55.
If the peoples of the world are to live together in peace and justice, they must share at least some fundamental ethical principles. Do the major religions contain shared ethical principles that will allow diverse peoples from many nations to live in peace? The authors of this book are convinced that they do.
The authors explore these major world religions: Hinduism; Buddhism; Confucianism; Taoism; Judaism; Islam. They are writiny to a Christian audience, and they presuppose a knowledge of what the Bible says about peace and justice. They explore the following scriptures: the Bhagavad- Gita; the Dhammapada; the Analects; the Tao Te Ching; the Talmud; and the Qur'an (Koran). I found their summaries of the history and major tenets of each religion very helpful to the non-expert.
For each of these scriptures, the authors selected a few passages they believed to be relevant to peace and justice issues. Often these passages deal with spirituality or with personal interactions, for instance, Buddha's injunction to "...overcome anger by mildness, ...overcome evil by good..." They then explain the relevance of these passages to the promotion of peaceful interactions among people. In many cases, such as the one I just cited, the relevance of the passage to peace issues is obvious. In many other cases, however, I believe the authors have to really stretch the meaning to make it render a peace-and-justice message. For instance, they cite the saying attributed to Confucius, "When you have offended against Heaven, there is nowhere you can turn to in your prayers." From this they conclude, "...this text represents a Confucian conviction about the primacy of one's relationship with Heaven. Get that relationship straight and you will have cleared the deck of the idols that spur most wars, that create most injustices." This is a permissible conclusion, but not necessarily one that a devotee of Confucius would think to draw.
I believe this book can, given the opportunity and put properly to use, make a major contribution to cross-cultural peace efforts. If people around the world pay close attention to some of the fundamental principles of their own religions, they will all be able to agree on at least enough things to keep the world from blowing up. If even one war can be prevented because the combatants reexamined their scriptural heritages, the effort of such people as the Carmodys will have been fruitful.However, there are a couple of problems that we must face honestly. First, most people in the world do not study and understand the scriptures of their own religions. Even Christians in the United States have a poor knowledge of the contents of the Bible. In order for the authors' objectives to be realized, the scholars and clerics within these religious traditions need to be convinced that their scriptures do in fact promote peace and justice. Then these ideas can perhaps be passed down to the multitudes.Second, in most cases, the scriptures are ambiguous with regard to peace issues. For instance, the phenomenon of warfare is incorporated into Krishna; how then can it actually be considered wrong? "Allah loves those who act in justice," but the Qur'an also approves of jihad, holy war. Thus, although all of these scriptures will bear interpretation the authors have placed (perhaps forced) upon them, they have not actually proved their case in any instance.
The Bible stands in stark contrast to all these scriptures. It appeared to me that the authors of this book had to really search to find passages with relevance to world peace in the non-Christian scriptures. None of these passages had the intensity of the Biblical statements that demand peacemaking and just treatment of the poor. None of these other religions can produce scriptural passages like "...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 3:4; Micah 4:3) or "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy" (Ezekiel 16:49) or "Put your sword back in its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52).
While the Carmodys' effort to find peace messages within non-Christian scriptures is laudable, I think it might be a better service to world peace to actively promote the Christian gospel of peace rather than to try to find a few pale glimmers of peace within the other world religions.
Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Huntington College, Dept. of Biology, Huntington, IN 46750.
OF DEATH: The American Tobacco Industry by Larry C. White. New York:
William Morrow, 1988. 240 pages, index. Cloth, $17.95.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 56.
Many of us, as we grew up, were exposed to information about the dangers of smoking. I remember how appalled I was upon readiny a Reader's Digest article, "What the Cigarette Ads Don't Show," when I was a child. We wonder what insane compulsion causes people to begin and continue a practice whose lethal consequences have been amply proven. Is it really just due to the collective stupidity of smokers? Larry White's devastating examination of the practices of the major American tobacco companies reveals that a great burden of guilt for tobacco use, and the deaths caused by it, lies with these companies. Here is an exposee in the best tradition, not only of sinister business practices but of the helplessness of our legislative and judicial systems to cope with them.
The link between tobacco use (including smokeless tobacco) and diseases such as cancer and heart failure has been amply established by the vast majority of over 50000 published studies. In contrast, one seldom encounters references to the dangers of tobacco use, despite the numerous articles about health and lifestyle in today's major magazines. Why? As White explains, the tobacco companies provide a major portion of the advertising revenues for the major magazines, and refuse to advertise in these magazines if any negative references are made to tobacco.
Some magazines, most notably Reader's Digest, have a tradition of valiantly publishing anti-smoking articles despite pressure from the tobacco companies. However, recently these companies have begun diversifying into other products, especially food (R. J. Reynolds bought Nabisco, Philip Morris bought General Foods), and now even Reader's Digest has begun refusing to print articles critical of smoking, lest they lose advertising revenues from Nabisco and General Foods. The Loews Corporation owns both Lorillard tobacco company and CBS, which compromises the freedom of the networks to speak out against the dangers of tobacco.
Tobacco use has consistently declined, but tobacco profits have continued rising even for those companies with diversified investments. More money is spent to advertise tobacco than any other product in our economy. Tobacco companies continue aggressively promoting a product which, when used as directed, can cause sickness and death. More recently, these companies have begun relying more heavily on tobacco imported from Brazil and Zimbabwe, which is raised by people living in conditions of abject squalor. The tobacco companies have therefore not only victimized the American consumer but also the third-world farmer.
White also examines the history of the tobacco companies, of research into tobacco-related diseases, and gives a detailed description of the lawsuits currently being brought against tobacco companies by the families of cancer victims. As I was reading this book on January 5, 1990, the evening news reported that a federal court reversed a judgement that had been made against a tobacco company. White's book, it appears, is not the least bit out of date on this front.
White's proposals are wisely thought out. He suggests: l)that tobacco companies pay for the medical costs that lung cancer and heart failure incur for Medicare and Medicaid, costs which they and not public funds should cover (this would raise cigarette costs to three dollars a pack); 2)that tax deductions for cigarette advertising be eliminated; and 3)that each state be allowed to decide what sorts of restrictions and warnings be required. White describes how the extreme proposal of banning all tobacco advertising would not only fail to be "the magic bullet" but would actually serve to increase tobacco company profits!
This is one of the most fascinating books I have read recently. White concludes, "Like a cancer that has metastasized, the cigarette companies have spread throughout the American economy. Until now they have managed to escape the consequences of selling products that cause disease and kill. The time of reckoning has got to come. We know too much to let this man-made plague continue unabated."
Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Huntington College, Biology Dept., Huntington, IN 46750.
PSYCHOLOGY OF HUMAN FREEDOM by Malcolm R. Westcott. New York:
Springer-Verlag, 1988. 227 pages, index. Softcover; $34.00.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 57.
Human freedom is usually taken for granted as a given when most dis- cussions about it are presented. There are three assumptions which usually unite such discussion and literature: first, commitment to some form of free will doctrine; second, that life goes on in the context of social organizations; third, the belief that free will is desirable and society should inhibit its expression as little as possible. The implication is that when this is done, people have the opportunity to be creative.
This rather comprehensive book is divided into five main parts: I. Context; II. Psychological Studies: the Natural Science Variations; III. Ethical Considerations; IV. Psychological Studies: the Human Science Variations; V. Further Facets of Human Freedom.
Westcott states that he has three goals to pursue: The first is to describe what has been learned about human freedom through psychological research. The second is to provide a conceptual and methodological critique of the large body of that research which has been conducted within the framework of a positivistic natural science experimental psychology. The third goal is to offer a contrasting human science approach to the study of human freedom and illustrate its use in empirical study.
Considering the enormity of these goals, the author presents information about each. Each chapter follows a similar format: the plan, issues and conceptions, review of literature, and an overview or summary. Wescott lists 10 full pages of references.
It is impossible to give a comprehensive review of the author's work in a short review. but some of the flavor of his attitude becomes apparent in Chapter 9, "Loose Ends, Missed Opportunities, and Possible Futures." In this chapter, he discusses some of the implications of cross cultural effects and concepts of human freedom, privacy, and individualism. As these aspects strongly influence western cultural practices, they also influence concepts of freedom. Gibbs concept of "optative freedom," meaning the capacity to be the organ to choose what to do, implies that decisions are possible only in situations where there is both time and resources to allow such choices. If people spend all of their time taking care of themselves, they have few choices to make. Thus third world concepts of free will can become very different from ours.
Political philosophies likewise affect what a person feels is free will. Whenever there is a rigid pattern of thought that forces evaluation of all aspects of life to be explained or justified accord ing to that pattern, concepts of free will are distorted.
To give some understanding of the frame of reference of the author in discussing all of these topics, this summary may help. Wescott suggests three levels of questions about free will. First, metaphysical, concerned with universal truth about free will and the consequent relationship between it and responsibility, usually the arena of philosophers, who have spent much time discussing it. Second, the role of free will in expression of human behavior, the arena of psychologists, who have not done much in this area, either by design or neglect. The third relates to the origins and consequences of experience, another area of empirical psychology that has not received much attention.
Lines of argument about free will relate to several questions, namely, theological conceptions about the nature of God and man's relationship to Him; a second view relates to morality, for if there is not free will, there can be no judgment about behavior; the third view relates to reflexivity, that determinism must itself be determined. Limitations and explorations of each of these areas are presented.
This book is one which is stimulating and helpful to anyone interested in the human condition. While it is abstruse in some ways, it is quite understandable to anyone with a degree of background in the history of philosophy and psychology. I would suggest that it is aimed at the serious reader, and the high cost ($34) of the paperback would deter others from purchasing the book!
Reviewed by Stanley Lindquist, Professor of Psychology Emeritus, California State University, Fresno, 93710, and President, Link Care Foundation.
AFTER AUSCHWITZ: THE RADICAL CHALLENGE OF THE NAZI ETHlC by Peter J. Haas.
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988. ix, 257 pages, index. Hardback; $19.95.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 58.
The author of this book, a Jewish professor of religious studies at Vanderbilt University, studies the Holocaust as a problem in moral theory. He asks "how it was that a whole society could participate in an ethic of mass torture and genocide for well over a decade without any significant or sustained opposition from political, legal, medical, or religious leaders." And he answers by challenging our understandings of the problem of evil and the nature of morality: "What is reflected in these people is not the banality of evil but the human ability to redefine evil. Europeans committed what we judge to be heinous crimes under Nazi rule not because they were deficient in moral sensibility, and not because they were quintessentially evil and brutal people, but because they were in fact ethically sensitive. They were fully aware of what they were doing and displayed principled acquiescence. The difference is that for them such deeds were simply no longer understood to be evil."
In successive chapter, Haas traces the intellectual background of the Nazi ethic; shows how this ethic was articulated as it moved from its sectarian and partisan context to reign over an entire continent; examines how such an ethic took on institutional expression; and finally, draws our attention to the reactions of military adversaries, survivors of the persecutions, and dissenters such as rescuers. Haas does not provide new historical evidence; rather, he reconsiders previously published materials and studies in a different light. His most siginificant accomplishment, then, is to suggest a new theoretical perspective on the nature of morality and the problem of evil for students of a variety of social phenomena.
From his study Haas draws the conclusion that evil and good, immorality and morality alike, are defined by and relative to their social and cultural context. This context, he insists, is so extensive and comprehensive that it determines individual actions. He seems, in other words, to depict both support for and opposition to Nazi authority in fatalistic terms as simple acquiescence to one's circumstances. By implication, he suggests, any ethical evaluation from outside of a particular moral context becomes problematic (e.g.the Nuremberg trials). But these conclusions are simply not warranted by empirical evidence and by Haas' own theoretical perspective. There is no reason to conclude that the process by which evil was redefined by the Nazi ethic precluded the operation of alternative ethics. And so the ethical relativism which he presumes is a mistaken implication of this otherwise insightful study in the social and cultural origins of human evil.
In truth, the author fails to seriously consider these contentions in the light of the presence of altruistic activities even in those societies and regions in which the Nazi policies received a high measure of popular support. In their study of gentile rescuers of Jews, Samuel P. Oliner and Pearl M. Oliner (The Altruistic Personality) discovered, in addition to ethics of concern and care, an ethic of universal regard for human life which moved these people to help those in need and to resist their persecutors. These ethics, they insist, operated in the same social and cultural context in which the Nazi ethic was defined by its partisans. It seems, one may conclude, that moral agents have an integrity which makes possible the imputation of moral responsibility. It is the same integrity that makes possible theoretical, ethical, and theological reflection, both by those who are proximate to and those who are distant from the objects of their concern. Indeed, this study, and the lives of those who struggled against the evils it portrays, stand in testimony to this very possibility.
Reviewed by Gregory A. Bezilla, Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027.
GOD IN WASHINGTON: The Role of Religious Lobbies in the American Polity by Allen
D. Hertzke. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1988. 216 pages. Softcover;
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PRAYER, POLITICS & POWER: What Really Happens when Religion and Politics Mix? by Joel C. Hunter. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988. 202 pages. Softcover; $5.95.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 59.
How effective are religious lobbies in securing the legislative programs and administrative personnel that they want in Washington? That was the question Allen Hertzke, professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma, sought to answer. His research included original interviews and case studies as well as data analysis. His research included Catholic, Jewish, Mainline Protestant groups, evangelical, fundamentalist, and pacificist.
Hertzke concluded that the effectiveness of lobbies is more in directing attention to the issues they think important rather than in securing legislation or administration appointments. Many religious leaders seem more concerned about being "prophetic" in having a national forum for their arguments than in successfully facing the political realities in Washington today. They would rather make a point than get a part of their program and some of their personnel in key positions. There is a tension, Hertzke states, "for some religious leaders between 'witnessing' to their religious values and making a political impact."
In other cases the religious stance seems subordinated to one's political alignment. An unidentified "legislative director" characterizes some of the "mainstream Protestants" as "totally secularized people who could not give a damn about religion. They are shadows of a religious past, echoes without authority. Secular liberals would agree with everything they stand for, but the nagging question: "why are they religious at all?" With the Catholics you have a real sense of debate. But in the mainline churches there is no sense of debate. They are thoughtless, predictable fools."
Joel Hunter's book is more limited to evangelicals but discusses other forms of religious political action as well as lobbying. A key thrust of his book is a plea for more realism and intelligence and less shrillness and emotionalism on the part of politically-active Christians. The media tend to focus on the bizarre and colorful and ignore the quiet buildup of political alliances and reasonable persuasion.
Hunter offers evangelicals wise counsel. Does "your" candidate offer "a stable and predictable philosophy" and record, or is he a political opportunist who says what you want to hear? On the importance of integrity and character, Hunter points out that the problem is not "person" vs. "issues," but that "the person is the issue." "A morally good person can make a poor official," but "we can't expect the opposite to be true." Hunter warns against the emotionalism of demonstrations and counsels the "separation of confrontation and thinking." American society has become so accustomed to the politics of confrontation that Christians can offer a contrast in quiet, persistent reasonableness. What this country needs more than pressure politics, according to Hunter, is a demonstration of a Biblical life style.
An important stress of this book is that there is no "Separation of Sin and State." We live in a fallen world and should expect sinful people to act according to what they are. Do Christians wish to exercise political power or are they merely seeking to fulfill their civic responsibilities?
"Christians have a distinct worldview that has its basis in a purpose beyond this world. The people in the world and of the world will not agree on this basis, so there will be conflict (John 16:33). The conflict is legitimate. In a world where people search for meaning and answers to that search are different, disagreements are inevitable. The conflicts, though, can be opportunities to witness. They are also our opportunities to model restraint in the use of power."
Reviewed by William H. Burnside, Professor of History, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
FAITH AND DOUBT IN AN AGE OF CERTAINTY by Richard Holloway. Grand Rapids, MI:
Eerdmans, 1988. 175 pages. Paperback; $10.95.
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Religious faith can have no objective certainty. Religious claims can have no naturalistic or rationalistic explanation. We cannot know the truth of God outside the circle of faith since it is self-attesting and self-authenticating. The data of religion is always mediated through individuals who are not directly accessible to us. Therefore, we must accept a large degree of mystery and uncertainty about God; hence, the role of faith.
Faith is essential to any religious belief and is inevitably accompanied by doubt. Doubt cannot be eliminated without eliminating the need for faith. Thus, a tension exists for the Christian, a tension which finds expression in many ways. It may be expressed as the paradox of a God who "places impossible demands upon us, yet offers us full acceptance." It may be expressed as the two different ways of seeing the world: "objective consciousness" (which is detached, clinical, and neutral), or "contemplation" (which is passionate and attached). There are two kinds of good, two ways of acting within the world, two ways of handling the "conflict created by the demands of Christ and the insistent pressures of human culture."
Holloway sees Christians caught in a crossfire between belief and doubt represented by two extreme responses to Christ, those of fundamentalist Christians and of accommodationist Christians. Fundamentalists "exalt revelation against reason, authority against free consent, accommodationists do the reverse." Fundamentalists "cut themselves off from Christ's impact on history," accommodationists "cut themselves off from Christ's abiding presence in revelation" (p. 151). Holloway's main point seems to be that we must learn to live with less certainty than do either the fundamentalists or the accommodationists.
Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh since 1986, is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and previously served in Boston's Church of the Advent. Other books written by Holloway include Beyond Belief and The Killing. Quotations used in the book suggest that Holloway was positively impressed by the writings of Albert Schweitzer and Richard Niebuhr. I found this book difficult, perhaps frustrating is a better word, to read and to review. This is most probably because Holloway appears to have a worldview significantly different from mine. He appears to develop his arguments from an existential perspective with a strong emphasis on experience.
My primary problem is our strongly differing views of Scripture. For example, Holloway says, "it is dangerous to claim uniqueness for Christianity...it is possible to affirm the unique nature of the experience for those who have entered it (God revealed through Christ) without engaging in corresponding denials of other avenues of revelation" (p. 52). In several instances, Holloway appears to deny the obvious interpretation of Romans 1:19-20. On sin, Holloway states that the Bible gives us many examples of human sinfulness but "does not really give us an explanation for it" (p.93). Concerning the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, Holloway describes Peter as a "self-righteous and sadistic bully" who caused Ananias death due to a heart attack because of his verbal assault (p. 130). As a final example, Holloway says "there is practically no real evidence for the life of Jesus outside the New Testament" (p. 48).
Holloway has written a book which certainly stimulated my thinking. I read the book three times before I decided to review it. The book certainly has some important points worth thinking about. I would suspect that Crossfire might prove frustrating to many Perspective readers because of Holloway's view of Scripture and his existential worldview.
Reviewed by Bernard J. Piersma, Professor of Chemistry, Houghton College, Houghton, NY 14744.
The Story of the Creation and Evolution of the Universe by Barry Parker. New
York: Plenum Press, 1988. xiii + 295 pages, index. Hardcover; $22.95.
PSCF 43 (March 1991): 60.
Acclaimed science writer and physicist at Utah State University Barry Parker has now published his third book on modern physics. This expository essay traces the history of our present cosmology from Hubble's discovery of the expanding universe to present attempts to solve stubborn problems in cosmology. While amply illustrated with black and white diagrams, charts and even photographs of physicists and their labs, it is the quality of Parker's prose which lifts the material from deadening detail or boggling complexity. Consequently this lengthy survey of the history of cosmology is both quite informative and still makes a "good read"-even for a non- physicist.
The weakest and briefest chapter, "The Emergence of Life" attempts to conclude the story of creation by sketching out the formation of life on earth and even the possibility of "extra-terrestrial intelligence." He acknowledges that the jump from a primordial soup of nucleic acids and protein to cells is speculative but reasonable and "most scientists accept it." He then states that the "rise" (I take some objection to this phraseology) to intelligence took another three billion years, presumably because we are now here. Parkers account here does not in any way reflect the skepticism of recent critic such as Robert Shapiro (1986) or Thaxton et. al (1984).
However, in more familiar grounds Parker has an uncanny feel for describing the scientist's search for consistent mathematical solutions to theoretical problems, as well as experimental support for such theories that enable the reader to share the excitement of the pioneers in the field. Yet, the book does not glibly pass over difficulties which remain. Parker contends that larger accelerators and telescopes are needed to further understand the related problems in particle physics and cosmology, but for the most part he allows proponents of various theories to speak their views without editorial criticism.
Despite its title, this book is largely about the history of physics, its discoveries, personalities and the difficult quest for theoretical and experimental congruence. Two sections deal with larger religious/philosophical questions. The "reflection" at the end of the triumph of the standard model...including Hawking's quantum "solution" to the singularity problem of cosmology...asks what existed before time. Or did even "time" exist? Parker does not delve into these difficult issues (mysteries?) except to note that these remain problematic in even modern cosmology and to note that "a creation of some sort is forced upon us." Finally, Parker's concluding paragraph of the book addresses the question of the lack of reference to God in a book about creation. Despite the fact that some physicists are theists their scientific explanations must deriguur endeavour to function without a God-hypothesis. But even if scientists were "someday able to to explain creation itself in an entirely satisfactory scientific way...there is still something that is left unexplained...the basic laws of nature ...who created these laws? There is no question but that a God will always be needed."
But is this really the Achilles heel of secular cosmologies, or its only fundamental susceptibility to the need for a deity? Differing answers to this thorny issue need not detract the profit this book repays to its readers.
Reviewed by Marvin Kuehn, 48 Carling St. Hamilton, Ontario L85 1M9.