It is hardly surprising that a nation wracked by Watergate was ethically unproductive in 1974. Given time to reflect, ethicists may produce substantive works in ’75, but for the time being the national conscience seems enervated. Those ethical views commonly denoted as situationism were dealt such a blow that they are not likely soon to regain the prominence they enjoyed in the sixties, although the broader strain of relativism still thrives. A dazed inconclusiveness characterizes many of the general ethical discussions, such as James Gustafson’s Theology and Christian Ethics (Pilgrim), where theology is seen not as uniquely authoritative but as equally significant with areas such as the social and natural sciences and the humanities for developing a Christian ethic. Offsetting this book is Millard Erickson’s perceptive analysis, Relativism in Contemporary Ethics (Baker), which effectively counters relativism with biblically based directives.
In a highly theoretical work, Process and Permanence in Ethics: Max Scheler’s Moral Philosophy (Paulist), Alphons Deeken explores the notions of relativity and absoluteness in the work of one of the twentieth century’s seminal thinkers. Vision and Virtue by Stanley Hauerwas (Fides), another theoretical work, makes a creditable attempt to do Christian ethics (with a Roman Catholic emphasis) while focusing on the nature and moral determination of the self. William Barclay writes more practically in The Ten Commandments for Today (Harper & Row), of the centrality and applicability of God’s laws for any system of ethics.
POLITICS What was certainly ’74’s most notable spate of paperbacks had to do with the Christian’s attitude toward politics. From insights gathered as a principal UPI reporter for the 1972 McGovern campaign, the Agnew resignation, and the Watergate case, Wesley Pippert delineates potential political stances for the Christian in Memo For 1976 (InterVarsity). Politics For Evangelicals by Paul Henry (Judson) and Politics Is a Way of Helping People by Karl Hertz (Augsburg) offer constructive suggestions for taking one’s faith beyond the ballot box. In Political Evangelism (Eerdmans), Richard Mouw goes so far as to couple two concepts that for many believers are irreconcilably polarized. The Chicago Declaration edited by Ronald Sider (Creation House) elaborates on events leading up to the 1973 Thanksgiving Workshop on Evangelical Social Concern, giving verbatim some of the major addresses buttressing the conference statement.
Using Reinhold Niebuhr as a springboard, William Coats attempts to persuade us that by changing existing political structures we can avoid the twin perils of Marxism and capitalism, ushering in the kingdom of God on the wings of theological socialism. His book God in Public (Eerdmans) is a confusing mixture of bad theology and naïve politics. A superior proposal is outlined in Religion and Political Society (Harper), a collection of essays by Jurgen Moltmann, Herbert W. Richardson, Johann Baptist Metz, Willi Oelmuller, and M. Darrol Bryant. Using the methodological principle of Enlightenment criticism, these writers espouse a conception of politics based on plurality and diversity, rejecting both Marxism and capitalism because they are ideological. The writers also concur in their refusal to identify utopian thinking with Christian eschatology.
Jose Miranda has written a provocative work that deserves a wide reading among evangelicals. Marx and the Bible (Orbis) is a critique of the philosophy of oppression especially where the Church has been the ally and authority of the oppressor. Although Miranda’s biblical exegesis slants noticeably toward his “liberation theology” (particularly in the Pauline Epistles), his rigorous methodology exposes the enormous contradictions between the Church’s typical stance and biblical injunctions.
At the other end of the spectrum, Arlington House published three books that subsequently became selections of the Conservative Book Club. Christ and Revolution by Marcel Clement, a prominent French layman, gives a well-reasoned rebuttal to the notion that Christianity and radical politics go hand in hand. In Pagans in the Pulpit Richard Wheeler argues forcefully that Christianity is a doctrine of individual salvation and not of social or political reform. The Cult of Revolution in the Church by John Eppstein weighs religious revolutionaries and finds them lacking in theological balance.
Countering Arlington House is a deceptively slim paperback called Responsible Revolution (Eerdmans) by Johannes Verkuyl and H. G. Schulte Nordholt of the Free University of Amsterdam. These well-informed thinkers propose a theology of transformation with “justified revolution” replacing the just-war theory.
Paul Bock’s collection of the social teachings of the World Council of Churches entitled In Search of a Responsible World Society (Westminster) confirms the prevalent notion that the WCC speaks for so many that it can say little of significance. An evangelical spokesman from the Third World, Orlando E. Costas, has contributed a fresh perspective to the growing body of work in the area of missiology. Though lacking a seasoned maturity, his book The Church and Its Mission (Tyndale) performs the valuable function of shattering some of the West’s most comforting illusions concerning the future of world mission.
DISCIPLESHIP Only a few of last year’s many self-help books merit attention. Larry Christenson, author of the widely read volume The Christian Family, tells how to bridge the gap between what we are and what we ought to be in The Renewed Mind (Bethany Fellowship). Walter Henrichsen, personnel director worldwide for The Navigators, writes a stirring challenge to a stronger commitment: Disciples Are Made—Not Born (Victor). Best-selling author Catherine Marshall points the way to bedrock principles in her search for a deeper faith entitled Something More (McGraw-Hill).
Thomas Nelson issued two substantive books: the first, Why Live the Christian Life? by T. B. Maston, is a systematic apologetic for the Christian life, and the second, Christian, Be a Real Person by Carl Franke, is an invitation to make that life exciting. Dwight L. Carlson, medical doctor and brother of the martyred Paul Carlson, makes an excellent analysis of the problem of fatigue in an overscheduled life and how to overcome it. Run and Not Be Weary (Revell) should be on every busy person’s shelf. One more self-help book published by Zondervan deserves reading: Putting It All Together, a guide to emotional security by Maurice Wagner.
MARRIAGE Typically, the subjects of love, sex, marriage, and divorce received wide attention, and just as typically only a minority of the books on these subjects were substantive. His magazine collected various articles into a light but readable Guide to Sex, Singleness and Marriage by C. Stephen Board and others (InterVarsity). Dwight Hervey Small follows his two well-received books about marriage with Christian: Celebrate Your Sexuality (Revell), a solidly based affirmation. Revell also published Two to Get Ready, a guide for emotional maturity by Anthony Florio. Two humorous but hard-hitting paperbacks designed to refresh marriages are How to Manipulate Your Mate (Nelson) by John Drakeford and Communication: Key to Your Marriage (Regal) by H. Norman Wright.
A helpful little prerequisite to selecting child-rearing books is Diane Kessler’s Parents and the Experts (Judson), in which she analyzes the psychologies behind the experts’ advice. Two practical guides to understanding and raising children were James Dobson’s Hide or Seek (Revell) and Evelyn Duvall’s Handbook For Parents. Five Cries of Youth (Harper & Row) is a research-backed study of five persistent youth conditions: loneliness, family trouble, outrage, closed minds, joy. The author, Merton Strommen, treats such interesting questions as “Are church youth significantly different in attitudes and lifestyle from non-church youth?” and “What are some of the mistakes that churchgoing parents make that unchurched ones might not?” You Can’t Begin Too Soon is a valuable aid to instructing children in godliness, written by Wesley Haystead and published by Regal.
OTHERS Joseph Fletcher unleashed an appalling book entitled The Ethics of Genetic Control (Anchor) that pushes his infamous situationism to a new nadir. Two weighty hardbacks, Death by Choice (Doubleday) by Daniel C. Maguire and The Gods of Life (Macmillan) by Neil Elliott, plead for death with dignity, unencumbered by artificial life-prolonging devices.
After watching her mother die slowly of cancer, Joyce Landorf wrote Mourning Song (Revell), which escapes the maudlin and will surely provide solace and understanding for many bereaved. B. W. Woods combines substance with clarity in his illuminating book Understanding Suffering (Baker). This study should disabuse many Christians whose inadequate view of suffering intensifies their misery. The Last Enemy (Canon) by Richard Wolff surveys attitudes on death, concluding with the Christian perspective.
William J. Petersen of Those Curious New Cults fame has issued a slim but enlightening study of a much ignored problem: What You Should Know About Gambling (Keats). Where Do You Draw the Line? (Brigham Young), a collection of essays edited by Victor Cline, is of uneven quality but takes a hard look at the thorny issues of media violence, pornography, and censorship. As a research tool, the book is helpful.
Finally, two books deserve mention because they treat the much touted subject of the woman’s role from opposite poles within the evangelical framework. The first, All We’re Meant to Be (Word) by Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty, is a well-informed, scholarly, if at times arbitrary analysis of multifaceted womanhood. The other book, The Total Woman (Revell) by Marabel Morgan, regrettably a best seller, takes some sound principles, bows them before the great god sex, and wraps them in pink baby-doll pajamas for delivery to the unsuspecting as an alternative to hard-core Women’s Liberation.
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