Book Reviews for June 1991

PORTRAITS OF CREATION: Biblical and Scientific Perspectives on the World's Formation by Howard J. Van Till, Robert E. Snow, John H. Stek, and Davis A. Young. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990. Paperback; $14.95.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 120.

This book is one of the best resources that is currently available defending the middle ground position between creation-science and evolutionism. Indeed, as chapter 5 of the book explains, the position of the authors (and probably of most ASA members) should not be considered a middle ground composed of a compromising mixture of creation and evolution, so much as a recognition that science and religion have distinct "domains of inquiry for which each is appropriate. Science and religion offer different (but not contradictory) perspectives, or portraits, of creation. Chapters include: the historical development of the tension between science and theology; an overview of geology, and of astronomy; how scientists do their work; a critique of creation science; and an examination of scripture.

Portraits of Creation is in many respects a continuation of work begun in the earlier book, Science Held Hostage, which was reviewed in Perspectives (June 1989). Both books were produced by the authors' participation in the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship. However, the present book differs from the earlier in several important respects:

1. The earlier book was structured as a critique of the creation-science movement and of nontheistic naturalism in separate sections. The present book has a chapter entitled "Critique of the Creation Science Movement but contains no separate chapter devoted to the criticism of evolutionism.

2. The earlier book contains numerous references, mainly to the scientific literature and to the creationist literature. The present book (especially Chapter 7 by Stek) contains many more references, not only from the literature of astronomy, geology, and creationism but also from theology, philosophy, and the history of science. This makes it a valuable resource to keep around: if I ever need to find a reference in any of these areas, I will probably come here first to look it up.

3. The earlier book was mainly a critique of scientific creationism and was not intended to include a study of scripture. The present book contains a pretty thorough overview not just of the commonly cited "creation verses but of what the Bible as a whole says about God's activity.

4. The earlier book focused mainly on the current state of affairs regarding creation-evolution controversies. The present book contains a whole extra dimension, as it extensively examines the historical development of the disciplines of geology, astronomy, and Biblical studies. This is an antidote to historical myopia: not only to the tendency of scientific creationists to make it sound like everybody was creationist until Darwin, and then came Henry Morris to the rescue, but also to the general ignorance of history that plagues the modern mind.

At the same time, there is some inevitable overlap in material. In both books Van Till criticizes creation scientists for their championing of the discredited shrinking-sun legend. In both books, Van Till outlines the requirements for competence, integrity, and sound judgment within acceptable scientific practice. In both books, Young provides extensive description of the geology of the Grand Canyon, providing evidence that the "missing layers of rock are missing because they were eroded away.

Even though this book is intended more specifically than the earlier book as a critique of young-earth creationism, its wording is considerably more conciliatory, calling more for a prayerful resolution of differences than for judgment against young-earth creationists. The authors are very careful to describe young-earth creationists as well-meaning zealous defenders of scripture. This book is if anything too respectful of the proponents of scientific creationism who defend their viewpoints vigorously but carelessly. For instance, on p. 1 Young says, "When interpreted in a woodenly literalistic manner, [Psalm 24:2] appears to claim that the earth rests upon water, and mentions that seventeenth-century Christians in fact believed this. He very graciously does not mention that some modern creationists (see Creation Research Society Quarterly 15: 141-147, 1978) still believe this. This graciousness undoubtedly has been partly the result of the recent controversy experienced at the institution that sponsored the study group. However, it also results from the acknowledgement that there really are some very good creation scientists (see pp. 184-185). This does not prevent them from reaching two very clear conclusions, however: scientific creationism "has become a `sectarian' distortion of science, and is "not solidly grounded in the [Biblical] text (p. 12). Indeed, Snow presents a closely-reasoned argument that creation-scientists have formed a religious sect (pp. 176-179).

In the past, creation scientists have dismissed most criticism of their work as attacks against true Christianity, and they will probably dismiss this book in a similar fashion without reading it carefully or at all. Was so much careful scholarship (with footnotes that sometimes were more extensive than the text) really needed just to prove the creation scientists wrong? For instance, p. 72 notes that "the sandstone [in the Grand Canyon] is composed almost entirely of quartz grains, and pure quartz sand does not form in floods. This one statement should clinch the argument, making most of the fifty-five pages of basic geology unnecessary for the narrow purpose of argumentation. However, the fifty-five pages is not extraneous; I learned a lot about geology. For polemic purposes, it is an overkill; for educational purposes, it is very good.

The authors admit at the outset that the book is narrow in its scope because its scientific aspects are limited to geology and astronomy. It is, of course, understandable that they had to limit their task to manageable proportions. But I think the book would have been not just broader but might have reached some different conclusions if it had included a treatment of biology. This is the reason: Stellar "evolution is inevitable because it is caused by the very same processes that make the stars glow. Geological "evolution is inevitable because rain falls and soil erodes. To a certain extent, it can be said that Darwinian organic "evolution is inevitable: natural selection follows inescapably from the occurrence of mutations and from population processes. However, major evolutionary changes in organism structure are not inevitable. Red giant stars have to collapse but angiosperms and birds did not have to evolve. Certainly life did not have to evolve from prebiotic chemical systems. Ontogeny, the development of organisms from the fertilized egg, might be a better biological counterpart to stellar and geological "evolution than is Darwinian natural selection. The authors are undoubtedly correct that no competent astronomer or geologist doubts the evolutionary view of the formative history of the universe and the planet. There is no need to go outside the network of scientifically investigable processes to explain anything in these formative histories; there are no inconsistent discontinuities. An astronomer, then, can say "the entire empirically accessible universe [is] coherent in the sense of entailing no inconsistencies or contradictions (p. 143). Many competent biologists, however, do doubt that evolutionary processes by themselves can completely explain the origins of all biological phenomena. Here are found what seem to be discontinuities. Van Till seems to suggest (p. 273) that it is "methodologically inconsistent [to allow] continuity in the formative history of inanimate structures...while insisting on discontinuity in the genealogy of life forms, but such discontinuities may just be there anyway. Here, then, is a challenge that would make a future book from the CCCS team, a book dealing mainly with viewing biology as creation, much more than just a "part two of Portraits of Creation.

Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Department of Biology, Huntington College, Huntington, IN 46750.

KNOWING THE TRUTH ABOUT CREATION: How it Happened and What It Means for Us by Norman Geisler. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1989. 162 pages.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 121.

At first we would expect that any book with a title like this one would have to be presumptuous, not because an author should not presume to know the truth, but because the whole truth about creation could not possibly be contained within a book. Most of us would feel more comfortable with an approach more like Portraits of Creation, as Van Till and others have done. However, Geisler does a good job seeking out fundamental truths about creation, something which actually can be accomplished within the confines of a small book. He partly fulfills the expectations created by the subtitle; he does a good job telling us what creation means for us, but has not clearly told us (perhaps because it cannot be done) precisely how it happened.

Geisler's descriptions of the natural world are those of the theologian or artist rather than the scientist, but not less valid. Unlike many scientists writing about creation, he does not neglect "spiritual creation, e.g., angels and "the purpose of Heaven. Geisler does a good job explaining, in simple and interesting terms, concepts that seem so obvious to us that we do not even notice them, and which we have so much trouble putting into words. Examples are: "Once a creature, always a creature: the created can never become the uncreated (p. 9) and "When [God] created finite beings, there was not more being; there was simply more who had it (p. 9).

First, consider Geisler's discussion of "how it happened. As one would expect from Geisler's other writings, such as Origins Science, he begins with a distinction between origins-science and operations-science, which he here calls (p. 9) originating vs. conserving causality, or (p. 30) God's direct vs. indirect action, resulting in singularities vs. regularities. Geisler makes it appear that this distinction is absolute, the categories nonoverlapping. "Rarely ... does the Bible refer to God's work at present in sustaining the world as `creation'  (p. 27). However, Geisler admits that there are exceptions. He further develops his distinction between origins and operations-science (p. 85). The overall idea is clearly presented and believable but difficult to put into practice. Where do you draw the line? Genetics is an operations science, yet must we use origins science to study the origin of each genotype? And we must remember that forensic sciences, to which Geisler likens origins science, uses uniformitarian principles to reconstruct past events, events that are assumed to not be singularities.

I have been repeatedly frustrated by the unvarying tendency in many creationist books to categorize all views of origins as either Special Creation or Atheistic Evolution. It was gratifying to see Geisler take, instead, a three-model approach: Materialism, Pantheism, and Theism, each with subcategories and with clear concise summaries and a helpful chart (p. 65). Theism implies creation, in the broad sense, and Geisler then presents his evidences for creation. Again in a manner different from most creationist books, he distinguishes philosophical from scientific evidences. And, again unlike many other writers, Geisler admits Darwin's success at explaining at least the operation of the biological world.

However, some of Geisler's scientific arguments are inadequate, which does not mean that his conclusions are incorrect. For instance, the analogy of the progressive series of cooking pans with the progressive series of organisms in the fossil record (p. 104) will not work, because organisms, unlike pots, reproduce and have genetic variation within species. And (see p. 102) it is not fundamentally impossible for natural selection to explain the origin of an animal's ability to make preparations to cope with future events.

Second, the consequences of our creatureliness. According to Geisler, such consequences as male authority within the church (p. 121) follow from the acceptance of humans as created beings. But his conclusions do not always follow as simply as he presents them; and he does not tackle Paul's arguments that "nature itself teaches that men should have short hair or that women are naturally gullible.

However, Geisler's description of the ecological implications of the fact of human creation is good. Mankind was created with the ability to choose, and, Geisler implies, this cannot help but give mankind rulership over the rest of creation. Human dominance is therefore not arbitrary but inescapable. To Geisler, the responsibility for the stewardship of creation is tied in with the very basic facts of human creation (p. 17, and chapter 7). "The question men should ask themselves today is this: `Am I my earth's keeper?' For if I am not the earth's keeper, then ... neither am I my brother's keeper. For it is my brother's earth (p. 128). A quote good enough to put on your wall.

Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Departments of Biology and Natural Resources, Huntington College, Huntington, IN 46750.

BIOLOGY THROUGH THE EYES OF FAITH by Richard T. Wright. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989. 298 pages. Softcover; $9.95.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 124.

This book has been produced by the Christian College Coalition in an eight-volume supplemental textbook series. An association of 77 evangelical Christian liberal arts colleges, the Coalition has conducted hundreds of seminars and conferences on curriculum, exploring more effective ways to relate biblical teachings to the academic disciplines. Books in this series, oriented toward entry-level students, parallel information covered by introductory textbooks. From a biblical worldview, each volume examines presuppositions and issues within its discipline. An advisory board, chaired by Yale professor Nicholas Wolterstorff, brings together a committee of scholars in each field. They interact with the author in the light of the manuscript's critique by dozens of faculty at the Coalition's national disciplinary conferences.

Richard T. Wright is professor of biology at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, with a special interest in ecology. In Biology Through the Eyes of Faith, Wright explores the biblical message of creation, relating it to our current understanding of origins and to human responsibility for stewardship of the earth. Brief and clear, each chapter ends with a page summarizing its main points.

The opening six chapters lay a foundation for discussion of biological issues within the framework of four major revolutions: Darwinian, biomedical, genetic and environmental. The concluding chapter spells out activities that should result from understanding biology through the eyes of Christian faith.

The book begins with a cogent treatment of biology in the context of worldview, "a guide to life, a basic set of values that we acquire primarily from our culture. Sketching several current worldviews, Wright shows how every person brings one to the study of science.

Two prevalent philosophies are naive positivism and New Age subjectivism. The former claims that science provides the only real knowledge and holds the key to solving all our problems. The latter, increasingly popular, links science with elements of eastern religions that stress human oneness with nature. The author notes that many scientists misuse science to promote their own philosophy; for example, Carl Sagan opened his popular TV science series with the pronouncement, "The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.

Wright defines the biblical perspective on God and his world. God is the Creator and Governor of nature; he is constantly at work in what we call "natural laws," our explanation of the forces of nature. The scientific method with its concepts, theories and models, and their limitations are then sketched.

In "Perspectives on Genesis One," the author recognizes two different approaches to the natural world: scientific method and biblical description. He notes the purpose and limitations of each. Genesis One is God's word in nontechnical, nontheoretical language, the way things appear in everyday experience. The narrative, unlike science, is not concerned with means or mechanisms God used to create.

Four models relating Scripture and science are presented: Concordism, Substitutionism, Compartmentalism and Complementarism. Sensitive to faddism in biblical interpretation as well as in scientific theory, the author gives reasons for choosing the last. It would have been helpful, however, if he had made it clearer that any attempt to discover scientific data and explanations in the biblical records is fundamentally misguided. Six pages devoted to discussing variations of that approach could better show how Genesis One radically affirms monotheism versus every kind of false religion (polytheism, idolatry, animism, pantheism and syncretism); false philosophy (naturalism, ethical dualism, materialism and nihilism); and superstition (astrology and magic). When we import into a biblical text our own agenda, e.g., scientific questions, we muffle the author's message and its application to current issues.

After dealing with problems concerning the origin of life, the author sketches the Darwinian Revolution of the last century and its current status. In describing the Biomedical and Genetic Revolutions he outlines problems created by the success of research, and the components of ethical systems for the control of its use. Christian biologists need to work out biblical ethical guidelines in this area and apply them consistently. The Environmental Revolution, involving interdisciplinary study, raises two critical questions about the future of the earth: What needs to be done? Why should we do it? Christians need to discover and apply biblical truths regarding human responsibility toward the creation.

The final chapter offers a challenge to understand biology through the eyes of faith as more than an intellectual exercise. A Christian worldview, based on commitment to justice and peace, undertakes to reform the culture and care for the creation.

Reviewed by Charles E. Hummel, 17 Worcester Street, Grafton, MA 01519.

DISCIPLESHIP OF THE MIND by James W. Sire. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1990. 200 pages, notes, bibliography, index. Paperback.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 125.

Jim Sire is campus lecturer for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a senior editor for the InterVarsity Press, and the author of previous books, of which The Universe Next Door is of particular relevance for this new book. The jacket says,

"Christians who are serious about their faith want to love God with all that they are - heart and mind and strength. Books abound on the devotional life, on commitment, on evangelism and practical Christian living, but few take up what it means to love God with our minds. How do we learn to honor God in the ways we think?

The book is aimed particularly at college and university students, but its content has value for every Christian who has thought about this question, or who would like to begin thinking about it. It works from the realization of the importance of one's worldview and encourages the reader to think about a variety of issues "worldview-ishly."

The book is organized around the answers to seven questions, whose answers require some thought.

1. What is prime reality - the really real?

2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?

3. What is a human being?

4. What happens to a person at death?

5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?

6. How do we know what is right and wrong?

7. What is the meaning of human history?

Throughout the book the author provides suggestions and guidelines for the development of an appropriate attitude for truly living out a Christian life in the midst of adverse culture and surrounding. There are many practical issues that the book does not address at all, or deals with in ways that do not reveal some of the complexities or conflict in different views. What Sire gives here is a valuable way to think about thinking. It is not the end of the road, but the beginning.

Along the way Sire treats us to a review of worldviews; the interaction between individualism and community; a foundation for the possibility of human knowledge; the relationship between knowledge, belief, and obedience; a Christian basis for ethics; a detailed analysis of technology and a Christian response in a technology-dominated day; integration of Christian faith and academic disciplines; understanding culture through literature, television, newspapers and other print media; the significance of the full Gospel and the role of the Church in it. In an Appendix, Sire offers 18 suggestions for Christian students in a secular university.

As might be expected of any book of this scope, a few questionable remarks appear here and there in usually peripheral places. The father's answer to his son's question, "The law of gravity holds the world in place (p. 37), is not a very good answer since physical laws are the causeof nothing. A remark linking pantheism and the defense of the lives of baby seals and whales (p. 46) might be interpreted as a criticism of the environmental movement. Care must be taken in describing the universe as "a uniformity of natural causes in an open system (p. 50), or a "system in which God himself may act (p. 142); it is a system that exists only because of God's continuous action. Although it is true that "The structure of the relationship between a falling body and the earth was not invented by Newton when he formulated the law of gravity (p. 87), his description in terms of the law of gravity was his invention. Advice to students No. 18, "Don't worry about grades (p. 199), may be easily misunderstood by students; there are educational environments in which grades are a reflection of genuine education.

But these are only aberrations on a stimulating text. Sire is at his best when he says,

"The gospel is not a stripped-down message of personal sin and salvation. It announces the kingdom, the reign and the sovereignty of God over all nature, all nations and all human lives. Jesus Christ is Lord over all. His kingdom values should permeate our political, social, educational, entertainment and business networks and systems." (p. 189)

I hope to use the book in teaching and recommend the same to you.

Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.

VITALITY THERAPY by Dennis L. Gibson. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989. 189 pages. Paperback.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 126.

Most of us have acquaintances and coworkers who periodically face crises in which we would very much like to offer meaningful assistance. Writing as a seasoned counselor, Dennis Gibson has provided us with an engaging and valuable resource. This book should appeal to a wide readership of concerned people who are educated and sensitive, but who lack specific training in counseling methods.

In one sense, the book is very focused. The author unapologetically endorses a cognitive approach to therapy, one which while widely used, is by no means the exclusive choice of experts. Further, he makes it clear that he is not speaking to professional colleagues. The fact that there are relatively few scholarly references in the book (the entire list of sources fits on a single page) suggests that this work will probably cover ground familiar to most therapists, having apparently grown out of the author's own training and experience. Rather, the book is directed to the concerned person wanting to assist someone grappling with moderately serious adjustment difficulties.

Given the audience to which he writes, the author has wisely incorporated many concrete examples of the techniques he discusses. This inclusion of a generous supply of illustrative applications, culminating in the final chapter of the book with a complete and annotated transcription of a typical counseling session, is a major strength of the book. It will enable those with little or no training in psychology to readily grasp the principles advanced and the reasons for their value. In small but effective ways, such lay counselors can begin to experiment with the simplest of these methods in daily interactions with people, and can thereby deepen their understanding of the techniques and sharpen their skill in applying them.

The author begins by presenting basic approaches such as building up the person's confidence and optimism through encouragement and communication of esteem, helping the person to identify a solution strategy already in use in another area of life, and expressing the problem in terms of a different and more positive verbal label. Later in the book he introduces more sophisticated techniques which would best be implemented by someone with considerable counseling experience. These include dealing with unfinished grief processes, challenging the illogical assumptions in back of a person's refusal to take appropriate action, and using visualization to facilitate healing. This last method is probably the most controversial of the techniques the author proposes, and it is also the one he takes the most trouble to defend. Along with making a good case for its legitimacy, however, he discretely acknowledges that not everyone will be comfortable with this approach. The reader is invited to make his or her own decision.

I have two reservations about this book. The first relates to the relative scarcity of references to the existing literature on counseling. While this is perhaps understandable given the intended audience, it leads me to question whether the author's unique experience (as portrayed in these insights) will prove valid for someone else. Secondly, while there are numerous references in the book to passages of scripture, some of these seem to reflect an attempt to justify the technique under discussion to a Christian audience rather than to hammer out a uniquely biblical perspective on short-term counseling.

Having raised these concerns, I want to make it clear that I very much appreciate the author's tone. He comes across as someone simply desiring to share with another the methods he has found useful. Furthermore, the book's contents are highly practical and very clearly presented. As one lacking explicit counselor training, I have found it valuable, and would recommend it to any pastor or educated layperson who finds himself called upon to function in a counseling role, advising, encouraging, and confronting others during their times of difficulty. I fully expect that application of the insights presented will equip such people to more effectively serve the troubled individuals they encounter.

Reviewed by Harold Faw, Associate Professor of Psychology, Trinity Western University, Langley, B.C. V3A 6H4.

THE VOICE FROM THE WHIRLWIND: The Problem of Evil and the Modern World by Stephen J. Vicchio. Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, 1989. 239 pages, bibliography, index. Paperback; $19.95.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 133.

The author is Professor of Philosophy at the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore, Maryland, and this book is based upon his Ph.D. thesis. He tackles the ancient question of how moral and natural evil can exist in a world created by a God who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. He is clear at the beginning to state that he provides no simple answer.

A major portion of the book is taken up with critiques of traditional answers that have been already offered. He offers three major criteria for an acceptable response to the problem: (1) it "must be true to the tradition from which the problem originates, (2) it "should be one that is logically consistent, and (3) it "must take the individual sufferer seriously. One of the purposes of the writing is to show how difficult it is to find any position that is consistent with all three criteria.

The book is often hard reading on a hard subject, but it appears to be extremely thorough. Bearing the marks of being a Ph.D. thesis, every chapter ends with notes, giving a grand total for the book of over 400, the bibliography included at the end is 23 pages long, and the style of the presentation involves extensive quotes (over 200 of them, many a full page in length) from other authors. Since the argument is detailed, intricate and complex, the reader would be helped immeasurably by a more ordered structure of presentation, rather than simply a complicated set of cross-references between disagreeing authors. The book has five chapters: the first describes various forms of theodicy, the second produces a clarification of terms, the third analyzes traditional theodicies, the fourth deals with seeing God as the answer to the problem of suffering, and the last proposes a "prolegomena to Christian theodicy.

The flavor of the book, as well as an excellent summary of much of its content is best given in the following extended quote:

"In chapter three we attempted to make a distinction between theodicies prohibited by reason and those allowed by reason. We have discovered that in the first group we find the punishment and warning theodicies: retributive justice and the free will defense; the unreality of evil theodicies: the amount of evil is insufficient to create a problem, evil is an illusion, and evil is privation of good; and the evil is logically necessary theodicies: certain versions of the free will defense and the contrast perspective. Because of one or more logical flaws, all of these responses fail as logically consistent answers to the problem of evil."

"Those theodicies that are allowed by reason include both the classical Hindu and Hinayana Buddhist versions of monism, the dualistic responses to the problem of evil offered by Plato, Zoroastrianism, process thought, and limited God theories such as that offered by J.S. Mill and the various possibilities suggested by David Hume in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. We have also seen that despite some logical problems, John Hick's version of the teleological theodicies can be numbered among those responses to the problem of evil that are allowed by reason. All of the members of this second group are logically consistent and therefore possible candidates for the job of answering the question: "Why does evil exist?" (p. 208.)

These have all been discussed only with respect to the second criterion of logical consistency; they must yet be tested by the first and third criteria.

In chapter 4 of the book, the author takes a detailed look at the Book of Job in order to lay a foundation for the proposal that he is to advance in the final chapter. He concludes that "Job is not left with particulars of a philosophical theodicy. In the end, what he does have is trust that God does have a teleological view by which evil will be overcome (p. 199). Such a position is found to be consistent with the three criteria.

In chapter 5 he starts with the fundamental Christian assumption "that our teleological theodicy is somehow bound up with the incarnation and atonement of Jesus Christ. These are certainly not empirical propositions. But they are foundational principles on which the Christian faith is based (p. 267). Then he becomes more specific, saying, "That God had to die on the cross becomes for the Christian the problem of evil, and this realization totally recasts the way in which the victim approaches theodicy (p. 279).

What, then is Vicchio's conclusion?

"The experience of "seeing God leads the victim not in the direction of a theoretical theodicy that answers all our questions about natural and moral evil, but rather it sets the sufferer in a new life and provides the basis for a practical response to the problem of evil. As Forsyth puts it, the Christian theodicy he is advocating is "not really an answer to a riddle but a victory in a battle." (pp. 279, 280)

"At the heart of the Christian message we must find a God who identifies himself so thoroughly with his creatures that he becomes one of them. ...We must trust that at bottom level the prima facie Christian paradox of evil is merely apparent." (p. 281)

This is clearly a book for detailed and careful study, with much taking of notes, cross-checking of conclusions, and discussion among committed Christians. The quest for an acceptable theodicy may seem hyperscholastic at times, but for those whom God has called to delve into the truth in faith, it could have consequences of benefit to many.

Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.

THE EVANGELICAL MOVEMENT: Growth, Impact, Controversy, Dialogue by Mark Ellingsen. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988. 496 pages, indexes. Hardcover.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 134.

Ellingsen is an evangelical Lutheran and associate professor at the Institute for Ecumenical Research, Strasbourg, France. In this opus he continues his specialized interest in theology to the end that Evangelicals may come to grips with the need for dialogue with mainline denominations. His previous book, Doctrine and the Word, anticipated this present effort. He has also written numerous articles in this vein for professional journals.

In what I see as a magnum opus, Ellingsen divides his material into parts. He fleshes out major issues with in-depth, at times almost an encyclopedic wealth of information derived from recognized scholars who have followed (in my case, for nearly five decades) the discussions about Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, Orthodoxy, Liberalism, Secularism, and related schools of though. Thus, in his brief history of the Evangelical movement, he defines Evangelicalism; he finds its American roots in Fundamentalism, with the rise, fall, and revitalization of that religious phenomenon; he traces events and thinking leading to the emergence of Evangelicalism, with its features outside North America, and the coalition with the "glue that holds it constituents together in spite of diversity.

Appropriately, Ellingsen applies his definition and historical development of Evangelicalism in Part II to a comprehensive review of the Movement's presence across the formidable spectrum of churches - Reformed, Mainline Pietist, Holiness, Pentecostal, Restorationist, Dispensationalist, Radical Reformationalist, Free Church Traditionalist, Lutherans, and other mainline churches. But that is not all. To him Evangelicalism is linked with educational institutions, parachurch and mission agencies, and cooperative groups.

As in any scholarly work which seeks to maintain orthodox Christianity in the contemporary world, Ellingsen finds that "Evangelical Themes maintain orthodoxy in "Modern Dress. That is, the reader discovers that recent, external forms of basic Scriptural principles maintain these theological tenets of Christian faith. He finds a continuation of faithfulness to the Word of God in Evangelical Theology, in Scriptural and Theological methodology, in reference to traditional Creeds, in views on the "Work of Christ, in "Justification and Christian lifestyle, in the Church and its ministry, in "Social Ethics, and the witness within ecumenical movements to present the "Gospel in Contemporary Society.

Hence, in summarizing Evangelicalism today, Ellingsen envisions the "Essence of Conservative Evangelicalism to be comprised of seven components shared among Protestants who:

(1) assume a critical viewpoint towards Roman Catholicism and the ecumenical movement;

(2) insist on or at least remain in dialogue with the concepts of plenary inspiration, verbal inerrancy, and the Scripture's propositional character;

(3) affirm the Bible's importance for Christian life;

(4) prioritize the experiential dimensions of becoming and being a Christian (conversion and Sanctification) over the sacraments (which we Baptists insist are "ordinances), the ministry, and ecclesiastical structures;

(5) emphasize evangelism and foreign missions;

(6) understand Christian ethics in terms of law rather than situationally; and

(7) resist formal institutional ties with persons or churches not sharing the preceding commitments.

Having succinctly summarized components of Evangelicalism, the author is "tempted to add yet two more, which are:

(8) the expectation of Christ's imminent return, realistically interpreted; and

(9) a stress on the personal appropriation of the atonement understood in some way as a substitutionary sacrifice.

For those of us who have lived through acrimonious days with harsh accusations and counter charges of a Fundamentalism contra "liberalism at its apex between World War I and World War II, with the "evolution controversy often generating much more heat than light, it is a pleasure - nay, delight to find someone with erudite articulation and conservative presuppositions in theology to compile what I think is a rare and vitally needed examination with reasonable i.e., (Biblically justifiable) statement of what we conservatives can and should believe.

For us in the American Scientific Affiliation, here is a must book to which I think we will turn again and again (at least I will) to consult the array of competent scholars; names like Carl Henry, Orlando Costas, James Orr, Peter Beyerhaus, John Stott, Jacques Ellul, Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer, Harold Lindsell, Bernard Ramm, John Warwick Montgomery, Donald W. Dayton, J. Gresham Machen, et al. who have given profound thought for us evangelical scientists to consult as we probe inherent theological and ecclesiastical issues bearing on our assumptions in fields of science, whether natural or social.

This is indeed a balanced study, though at times it has to be almost encyclopedic to encompass all relevant views by numerous scholars, for evangelical-ecumenical dialogue; it is basic to recognize our stance within the larger field of Evangelicalism. Although some mainline denominational scholars will chafe unde, even reject, Ellingsen's conclusions about evangelism, sanctification, and Biblical revelation, I think it will serve as shock treatment so needed in theological therapy to rekindle smoldering fires of apathy and "business-as-usual lethargy.

In my continuing research in cultural/psychological anthropology, I will repeatedly consult this book from an accessible shelf in my library. For what? For reliable reference about critical issues intrinsic to ecumenical positions shared among my conservative colleagues. I heartily recommend this thorough and even-handed presentation.

In format, binding, print, and related features, the book is in keeping with Augsburg's excellent publishing tradition of scholarly books meant to last through long usage and frequent consultation.

Reviewed by George Jennings, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology (Geneva College), P.O. Box 632, Le Mars, IA 51031.

A NEW AGENDA FOR MEDICAL MISSIONS by D. Merrill Ewert (ed.). Brunswick, GA: MAP International, 1990. 135 pages. Paperback; $6.95.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 135.

In his introduction, the editor of this book says (p. 2): "This is a book for practitioners, written by practitioners. However, I am a nonpractitioner, and as I read this book I quickly became convinced that this is a book that should be of interest to every Christian who has any interest in missions, in Third World health, or in the need to reassess our medical technologies in terms of justice and compassion. Consequently, I would recommend this book to every PSCF journal reader with concern for the interaction of science and faith in the area of the ethics and the methods of health care.

After the introductory chapter by the editor there are four chapters outlining the "Conceptual Framework. The main emphases here are that: 1. in contrast to the thinking of much of Western medical technology, health is more than the absence of disease; 2. health care should be more than the sophisticated offering of health as a commodity in large, urban medical centers (and hence more and more limited to the rich); 3. health care should be community-based with local, nonprofessionals as the primary agents for health education, immunizations, water and sanitation, and other parameters of health that do not require the high technology of the modern medical center; and 4. such community-based health care is much more intimately related to evangelism as the local Christian workers share their knowledge of good health and the gospel.

These chapters are followed by seven chapters of case studies in Asia, Africa, and South America. The seven reports illustrate the challenges and the advantages of working in the local communities and training the people to see the problems and to work out their solutions to these problems. Lest we think that such concepts are only for the "Third World, one of these chapters describes a similar successful program in rural Mississippi, U.S.A.!

The concluding three chapters summarize and re-emphasize the basic principles: community-based health care, the congregation as a healing community, the concern for justice in health care, and the need for a comprehensive, holistic approach to health. There are also reasons to consider that the principles discussed are not only applicable to "foreign missions, but they need to be considered in the developed world where our health care has become almost completely dependent upon health professionals, hospitals, and medicines. This is supported by a comment from the U.S. Surgeon General who reports "that eight percent of illness and death is due to what people eat, smoke, and drink; they are preventable (p. 121). At the same time: "There ensued both a popular and professional fixation on institution-centered health care which offered `a pill for every problem' or a `needle for every need.' It raised the expectation that medicine could solve every health problem (p. 42).

This is a book to remind us of the health challenges in the world today, especially that our sophisticated medical technology is not the answer to most of our health problems. Christians in the sciences should find this a challenging area in which to relate their science and their Christian faith. As an aid to developing such a relationship, each chapter closes with a series of "Questions for Reflection. In short, this is a book for practitioners and for nonpractitioners.

Reviewed by Wilbur L. Bullock, Professor Emeritus of Zoology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824.

TAKING SIDES: Clashing Views on Controversial Psychological Issues by Joseph Rubinstein and Brent Slife. Guilford, CT: Dushkin Publishing Group, 1990. 376 pages. Softcover.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 135.

This is a nifty book. Just the thing the doctor ordered to stimulate the mind, arouse the emotions, and activate the will. Using a debate-style format, the editors have assembled 18 controversial topics with an article supporting both sides of each issue. The liveliness and substance of each viewpoint makes for rousing good reading. The debate framework is guaranteed to inform the naive layperson who thought psychologists agreed on most things and to entertain the sophisticated professional who knows better.

The presentations distill the arguments of psychologists and commentators on a variety of interesting subjects. Many of the questions which are discussed will appeal to readers of PSCF. These include: should animals be used in experiments; is behavior determined primarily by biological factors; can suicide be rational; is psychotherapy effective; has science discredited ESP; and is pornography harmful. The last question is answered in the affirmative by Christian psychologist James Dobson who served on the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography. Other authors whose names will be recognized in this volume include Stanley Milgram who argues that deception in research can be justified, Herbert Fingarette who argues that alcoholism is a disease, Arthur Jensen who argues that intelligence cannot be increased, and Thomas Szasz who argues that involuntary commitment to mental hospitals cannot be justified.

This is an ideal collection of articles to challenge students to analyze well-argued opposing views. Each issue contains enough unresolved ideas to provoke further examination. Critical thinking skills can emerge as a result of looking closely at the pros and cons of these important subjects. For those who do not find psychology their cup of tea, 13 other Taking Sides volumes are available on a variety of subjects. Of interest to readers of this journal are the volumes on controversial bioethical issues, environmental issues, moral issues, and social issues.

Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.

INERRANT WISDOM: Science and Inerrancy in Biblical Perspective by Paul H. Seely. Portland, OR: Evangelical Reform, Inc., 1989. 216 pages, index. Paperback.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 136.

Paul Seely, graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and ardent student of the Bible and the milieu in which it was written, presents a well-argued case for holding the Bible to be "inerrantly wise. He deftly and sometimes ruthlessly dismantles the hard-line case for inerrancy. Seely examines science and revelation and their encounter in the life of Jesus including exegesis of gospel texts dealing with the authority of Scripture (Matthew 5:18, John 10:35). He then looks at the epistles which are purported to teach strict inerrancy before applying both logical and empirical analysis to find the "doctrine of classical inerrancy false. Seely then goes on to sum up points he has made earlier to establish a view of Scripture more in line with Scripture's own self-attestation. Moreover, this more modest view of inerrant wisdom still enables Christians to dwell within the house of biblical authority, as against the Scripture deniers within liberal theology, and ensures that dwelling to be a fruitful abode as well.

A classical or strict formulation of inerrancy holds that all details of the original text yield true information not only in matters of faith but also in terms of science (broadly construed to include biology, astronomy, historio-graphy, hermeneutics...). Theologians such as Clark Pinnock, upon considering all the biblical data fairly,have moved away from this to more modest formulations of inerrancy as espoused by the Chicago Statement and other evangelical theologians (Bloesch and Erickson). The author does not intend to overthrow the authority of the Bible in order to be free to develop a new "Christian theology (Bultmann), but to defend the reliability of the Bible in its primary function to enable us to trust God and grow in faith and love. Thus, one honestly deals with difficulties and refrains from a docetic tendency to claim a higher view of Scripture than its own text attests to.

Furthermore, Seely provocatively explores the consequences of a rationalistic inerrantist deity who could not deliver words of (spiritual) life because of the necessity of explaining facts or delivering absolute immutable propositions. Thus, the parable of the mustard seed would involve digressions into smaller seeds or distracting disclaimers in order to proceed to the point actually intended. Or God would promote further rebellion and social chaos by outlawing divorce for the heart-hardened Israelites Moses led out of Egypt. Seeling asks the pointed question, "Why should God bother telling us mundane facts?, when we can discover them for ourselves. Why can't a God who created a historical world and saves us within history temper truth with love? Wouldn't our own peculiar post-Enlightenment technical concerns overshadow the real purpose of God's revelation: that He is a God of love and mercy seeking to save the lost and perfect the found? Furthermore, the timeless spiritual message in the story of how God works in history would become enigmatic to peoples who have not developed the requisite scientific knowledge to understand the text (including the original authors and audience!).

A bulk of the book consists of a two-fold process: exegesis to show that inerrancy is not taught in Scripture (as many inerrantists themselves admit) and details of the text which contain "errors (albeit irrelevant to the point or "divine intention). Seely examines these "errors in historical details, scientific claims and presuppositions, and also within religious and ethical domains. He points out Matthew's confusion of the two Zechariahs, Jesus' overturning of Moses' law on divorce, the abolition of cleanliness laws, cud-chewing hares in Leviticus, Jacob's bed/staff in Hebrews, anachronisms and more. Gleason Archer wrote An Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties to "explain or solve these puzzles or errors but unfortunately he would need to expand his work by many volumes to cope with the data. Seely's proposal is much simpler; simply abandon the effort.

Seely concludes his book by dismantling the syllogisms and other arguments said to require strict inerrancy from an understanding of God's character and the inspiration of Scripture. Seely does not spend much time defending his own proposal from critical attacks on the authority of Scripture (see Pinnock's Scripture Principle for this) but is content to demolish the logical and exegetical grounds for strict inerrancy. Along the way he makes helpful comments about the roles of science and biblical revelation which will receive a welcome ear among ASA readers.

Reviewed by Marvin Kuehn, Hamilton, ON L8S 1M9, Canada.

EVOLUTION: The Great Debate by Vernon Blackmore and Andrew Page. Batavia, IL: Lion Publishing Corporation, 1989. 192 pages. Paperback; $19.98.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 137.

This looks like a coffee-table book: thick, glossy paper; many brilliant color photographs, some chosen more for their appearance than for their relevance to the text; numerous supplemental essays boxed apart from the main text in a second color. To my surprise, the book turned out to be the fairest treatment of the evolution question that I have found.

The book deals with evolution historically, inserting scientific discussion where required to understand the historical debate. We meet all the major contributors to the debate, from Linnaeus to Richard Dawkings, and the authors are careful to present the cultural and philosophical climate within which each scientist worked. Fairness and understanding sympathy characterize the entire discussion.

The authors shun the "warfare metaphor in discussing the dialog between religion and science on the evolution question. They emphasize that many scientists involved in the debate were deeply religious, and that many churchmen were early champions of evolution as God's means for creating the diversity of life. And when they come to scientists who speak out of a non-Christian or even anti-Christian framework, the authors make this clear as well.

Blackmore and Page maintained a balanced, neutral stance so well that I kept wondering throughout where they stood. Only in the last few pages do they reveal their personal statement of faith. They affirm that Christian faith is grounded primarily on God's addressing us historically and personally, and not on questions of scientific truth. Most Christians believe that God is Creator, whatever the means or time scale, because they know God through Jesus Christ, whom God raised from the dead. Thus, the evolution controversy can never be central to the truth of Christianity.

I am occasionally asked to recommend a book for the scientific layman that introduces the evolution question. Blackmore and Page will be my recommendation in the future.

Reviewed by J.R. Cogdell, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712.

RELIGIOUS POSTURES: Essays on Modern Christian Apologists and Religious Problems by G.A. Wells. LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, 1988. 269 pages, index and notes. Hardback, $28.95; paperback, $14.95.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 138.

The author here develops a thesis which he began in his previous books: that the Old and New Testaments are untrustworthy. In this work he focuses on the methods that believers in general use to defend a religious world view. Quoting extensively the work of theologians whom he concludes have destroyed the "credibility of much in the Old and New Testaments, he claims that "the fundamentalist position [is] untenable, although this is not appreciated even by many educated persons today. The author also critically evaluates the evidence for the existence of God, finding it wanting. He concludes that a primary means to demonstrate God is to show that the universe has both design and purpose, and science has shown it has neither. A second major difficulty of the God belief is the enormous amount of evil and unhappiness in the world which, he concludes, is difficult to explain from a religious position.

The writer begins his critique with the group he believes manifests the most extreme fundamentalist mentality, the Jehovah's Witnesses. If they were merely a fringe minority, they could be ignored, but they are a powerful, world-wide movement which is rapidly becoming one of the largest religions in the world. The Witnesses, Wells concludes, provide a good example of what is wrong with religion in general. Their success is partially due to their requiring strict separation from the "world. They are discouraged from associating with any non-Witnesses except as necessary in the daily transactions of life. Their already strong esprit de corps is strengthened by the enormous persecution that they have suffered in both totalitarian and democratic countries, including both the United States and Canada. In the latter they were once banned and during World War II many were put in Canadian and American concentration camps.

Although much discussion is on science and religion conflicts, the main orientation of the book is philosophical. Among the many creative hypotheses discussed is the following: the reason for the enormous level of evil is to satisfy God's perverse pleasure. Humans flock to movies that are filled with great tragedies, and we are very attracted to reading about, or watching the pain of others on television. Thus, God has likewise created his personal show by producing a situation in which most of us are sure to spend much time suffering. Regardless of our life situation, it is full of sorrow, and the final frustration for all is the cessation of life. The purpose of life on earth, this philosophy says, is to satisfy a sick God who delights in watching evil just as His children on earth do.

Wells also concludes that religious teachings often do not correlate with moral behavior, and that religion often produces hatred against those not part of the religious orientation of the hater. Those who subscribe to a religious world view may try to rationalize the conflicts, wars, and hatred engendered by religious beliefs, but they cannot deny the enormity of this problem. It does not take a great deal of knowledge of history or current events to realize the enormous role of religion in motivating foul deeds. Wells also reviews the historical and modern persecution of individuals who have questioned various aspects of Christian faith and belief.

The author states that he is writing more for those who have not yet made their minds up and realizes that he will not convince many true believers. A semi-militant agnostic, he concludes that many major problems in our world stem from religion, and that the religious world view is at best unnecessary, and at worst harmful and should be openly opposed. Most of his arguments are familiar to those who have read agnostic and theistic literature. This work does not objectively examine the evidence, but uses the logical fallacy of stacking the cards to argue against the validity of the Christian canon. Nonetheless, much useful information is included and Wells clearly displays much knowledge of both the scriptural record and contemporary biblical criticism.

The author argues that wide acceptance of the New and Old Testament by many highly informed, intelligent people parallels the acceptance of the William Tell legend. He concludes that both are historical fiction but were accepted as historical fact close to the time that the events allegedly happened. Wells then documents that it takes enormous long-term efforts to discredit popular fiction, even when the evidence is against it. This, of course, is true not only in religion, but also in science and other fields. On the other hand, one must be cautious about too quickly surrendering the historically tried and tested. If an idea is found valid in practice, the why it works is often a secondary concern.

As the author notes, the flimsiest of beliefs can be linked to the strongest of emotions. This applies not only to those with a religious orientation: as Wells himself shows, atheists are often as emotional as religionists and as determined to defend their view and insure that it becomes public policy.

The author also argues strenuously against miracles, concluding all such claims do not stand up to scrutiny. He concludes that science has shown that all life is a result of the outworking of natural law, chance, time and a number of fortuitous, but unlikely conditions. From this he concludes that life has no purpose except that which we give it and no absolute meaning except that which we believe it has. It is futile to search for absolute truth because "truth is never final, always subject to revision. The limitations of humans are such that the best they can do in many knowledge areas is to guess from tenuous and limited evidence.

Wells' discussion of many issues which relate to biblical Christianity is a useful summary and integration of existing literature from a wide variety of areas to show why the author concludes that Christianity is not a credible world view. Wells usually maintains a fairly rational dialogue, descending to name-calling primarily in discussing Jehovah's Witnesses and Fundamentalists. He illustrates well the incredible, capricious selectiveness that many religious groups use to bolster their own belief structure, proving the old cliche that the Bible is like an old fiddle on which one can play any old tune. To understand its message is no easy task. Once a religious view is internalized, one tends to emphasize certain scriptures to prove one's point, explaining away or ignoring the passages that contradict it.

 The author is also critical of the liberal theological position, concluding that they accept the modern biblical research that he quotes, yet "try to rescue something from the ruins. To Wells, the proper response is to reject the ruins and move on to the scientism world view. The author concludes that an ethical system can properly develop only from an atheistic world view and that modern intellectual scholarship must replace the illusions and palliative emotion of theism. He noted with approval that his view is increasingly being presented as the only valid one in school textbooks from the earliest levels through college.

Reviewed by Jerry Bergman, Instructor of Biology, Chemistry and Physics at Northwest Technical College, Archbold, OH 43502.

TERMINAL CHOICES: Euthanasia, Suicide, and the Right to Die by Robert N. Wennberg. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989. 229 pages, bibliography, index. Paperback; $13.95.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 139.

Wennberg is Professor of Philosophy and Department Chair at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. His insightful analysis of ethical problems is already well known from his earlier book, Life in the Balance: Exploring the Abortion Controversy (Eerdmans, 1985). The present book is a worthy complement, as the author carefully explores the many different facets of the ethical issues surrounding suicide, and active and passive euthanasia.

He recognizes that such issues as the possibility of mercy killing, the use of painkilling drugs that incidentally accelerate dying, or the decision to terminate life-extending treatment "force us deeply into the very heart of our Christian faith as few issues do. The book is written "from the perspective of the patient, not from the perspective of the physician or health-care professional. The questions asked concern "What should the patient do or have done? Only voluntary euthanasia is considered to be even morally debatable. While recognizing that there are many and diverse problems for the Christian with euthanasia issues, Wennberg is sensitive to the fact that "the fundamental appeal on behalf of euthanasia is an appeal to mercy and compassion.

The book is divided into seven major chapters: Euthanasia: An introduction, Suicide: What Is It?, The Morality of Suicide, Surcease Suicide and Voluntary Active Euthanasia, Passive Euthanasia and the Refusal of Life-Extending Treatment, The Permanently Unconscious Patient, and Legalizing Voluntary Active Euthanasia.

Anyone who seriously tackles a Christian approach to ethical issues soon discovers that a major part of the communication problem lies in the area of semantics: what do specific words mean and how do people use them? Wennberg recognizes this fact and is careful to be specific in definitions throughout the book. In the case of "suicide, for example, he proposes that the term be used only if death is intended, not if death is foreseen but not intended, and taking account of the possibility that death may be desired without being intended. The complexity of the issues is illustrated by his proposal "that rejecting life-extending treatment should not be called suicide when one is irreversibly dying, even though one intends death (p. 30), and by his observation that in the Bible "nowhere is there a direct prohibition of suicide, nor is the issue of suicide even broached (p. 45).

Wennberg is sensitive to the issues raised by the development of modern medical technology. "Such technology has enabled the physician to prolong the dying process, on occasion actually increasing the suffering that the patient has to undergo; it has also enabled the physician to keep the patient biologically alive even when he or she is not capable of rational existence and is functioning only at a vegetative level (p. 109). He sees withholding and withdrawing treatment as morally equivalent (p. 116), endorses neo-cortical death as a valid concept of death for the Christian (p. 175), and opposes the legalization of voluntary active euthanasia (p. 222).

The reader may wish that certain aspects of the book could be rethought and perhaps re-emphasized. In dealing with arguments related to suicide, Wennberg simply assumes the falsity of the "pacifist position. In another place he simply assumes the correctness of the "just war position and hence finds no moral problem with taking innocent life if a military target is involved in warfare.

There also seems in general to be a neglect of the possibilities inherent in interpreting the moral acceptability of acts of suicide that fall into the category of "laying down one's life for one's friends, presumably a central consideration for Christians. These possibilities are mentioned briefly in later sections of the book, but are not given the prominence they seem to deserve. Voluntary ending of one's own life under conditions of terminal illness and suffering may be motivated primarily not by concern for one's own sufferings, but for the sufferings and financial exhaustion visited upon one's loved ones. At the very end of the book, Wennberg summarizes by saying, "To end one's life in order to further overall human welfare may seem noble, even Christian, but in fact it is not consistent with the Christian perspective on human existence" (p. 227). "Suicide therefore, would rarely be a legitimate expression of love for one's neighbor (which is not to say that it could never be) (p. 228). One could wish for the opportunity to explore this further, perhaps even citing the significance of John 10:17,18, "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.

Anyone concerned with thinking through the many intricate issues related to the topics treated in this book will want to have a copy for personal study and group discussion. Wennberg has provided another valuable service to the Christian community in carrying out this study.

Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.

THE TREE OF HEALING: Psychological & Biblical Foundations for Counseling & Pastoral Care by Roger F. Hurding. Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, Zondervan Publishing House, 1988. 463 pages, indexes. Hardcover; $18.95.
PSCF 43 (June 1991): 140.

Hurding effectively illustrates the confusing tangle of theories and unifies his book with a simile of the "trees of pastoral care, secular psychology, and other therapies forming a dark and seemingly impenetrable forest. Obviously, the uninitiated needs a guide, and he sets the following pathfinding goals in his preface: 1) to determine the validity of the "bewildering range of approaches to counseling psychotherapy for Christians (p. 9) and 2) to "explore Christian reaction, assimilation and dialogue in relation to secular modes of caring for the needy (p. 10).

The second goal is accomplished; he does a very commendable job of systematically covering the range of psychological therapies and the Christian therapies that react to them or employ them in one form or another. Given the necessity of being selective in the coverage, he has done a good job of representing the "Christian reaction, assimilation, and dialogue.

Unfortunately, the first goal is left unmet; he assumes the validity of psychotherapy rather than verifying it. The early copyright date of 1985, even the 1988 date of the edition under review, precludes his consideration of the prominent, recent challenges to the whole enterprise of psychotherapy raised by such popular books as Psychoheresy by Martin and Deidre Bobran and the writings of Dave Hunt. However, he does raise the issue, himself, by citing the similar opinions of such counselors as Martin Bobran (p. 291). Also, he acknowledges the criticism that psychoanalysis is not scientific (e.g., pp. 100-103) but fails to meet the attacks head on. This is a pity because the issue needs to be addressed and Hurding's training, practice, and conservative theological stance puts him in an excellent position to do so.

I fear that his aim, "where possible, to find a common bond with the views of others, while very commendable, comes in conflict with his goal of assessing the validity of psychotherapy for Christians. Science and scholarship certainly have the task of finding common ground and synthesizing general principles from apparently disparate data. However, they also have the task of analyzing and separating entities that are essentially different in spite of all their apparent similarities: a whale is not a fish, a bat is not a bird. In short, does psychotherapy's atheistic, occult, and Eastern religious roots, acknowledged by Hurding in his discussions of the various theories, so fatally flaw the very foundations of psychotherapy that Christians cannot use its methodology and must develop their own system? For those who do not believe in the reality of the spiritual world and who doubt the existence of Satan and the demons, there may not be a great dilemma. However, Hurding does appear to recognize the basic problem that a great many Christians insist must be answered. At various places in his book, he tacitly or explicitly accepts the concept of demonic influence, e.g., speaking of "strange bed-fellows of "psychic phenomena, yoga, Oriental religions (p. 174). He then warns that the "dangers of opening up ourselves to `the powers of this dark world' and `the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms' (Ephesians 6:12) are well documented (p. 175), but he does not address them. A book that purports to guide us through the tangled thicket of the counseling and pastoral care forest is doing us a disservice if it does not insure that we start on the right path.

This is not to denigrate the very real value of the book. He draws on a thorough background in psychology and a career as counselor, educator, and author (Restoring the Image and As Trees Walking) to bring us a clear, orderly, and comprehensive survey of the field. Part one covers "the rise of the secular psychologies, in the areas of behaviorism, psychoanalysis, personalism, and transpersonalism. Part two covers the "Christian reaction and response in the areas of biblical counseling, relationship counseling, inner journey, and healing the past. He traces the development of each theory and, depending on the material to be covered, discusses each therapist's assumptions, aims, and methods, and then he critiques the therapy.

There are extensive end notes to assist the reader in going deeper into the scholarly literature for any area, an Index of Biblical References, and an excellent General Index. Anyone looking for an introduction to the broad range of psychotherapy and formal philosophies of Christian counseling would be well served by this book.

Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian, James A. Michener Library, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639.