Christian Business Ethics

The Christian Entrepreneur, by Carl Kreider (Herald Press, 1980, 214 pp., $7.95), is reviewed by Eldon Howard, international treasurer, Sudan Interior Mission, Cedar Grove, New Jersey.

Yes, sound economic principles and scriptural principles can go hand in hand. Carl Kreider, a professor at Goshen College, has provided a very thought-provoking study for the serious Christian businessman.

Kreider’s treatment of the problems surrounding wealth and capital, their acquisition, allocation, and application, is very useful. He is especially helpful in discussing the need to reevaluate our North American business scene and the various “capitalistic,” “socialistic,” and “Marxist” countries that we work in, putting into Christian perspective a scriptural theoretical, economic framework from which a small businessman or mission executive can view the world around himself.

Christian ethics in business receives special treatment. Knowing Mennonite terminology is helpful, but not a requirement for the reader. The years of background in business and lifestyle applications of the Mennonites provide insights that most evangelical Christians have not faced, but they will find them useful.

Beginning with principles from economics and the Scriptures, Kreider builds examples to illustrate specific applications in business ethics, standards of living, the joy of giving, and the unique gifts the entrepreneur brings to the church. One probably will not agree with everything Kreider has written, but he himself states: “I must confess that I am still not sure of the correctness of all the judgments I make.… The book is intended to stimulate dialogue and through this process yield practical conclusions which are more valid than my initial tentative statements.”

The survey of alternative forms of business organizations was thought-provoking. It forces reflection on alternative structures other than the usual private, not-for-profit, or governmental ownership models. Some of the case studies he cites are new and stimulating.

Kreider’s insights on payment and benefits for employees, owners, professionals, pastors, and full-time Christian workers will require some reflection. The Christian Entrepreneur is not a book to be lightly skimmed, but rather savored and analyzed. It is a book that could make a difference in one’s life.

Nature And The Christian

Earthkeeping: Christian Stewardship of Natural Resources, edited by Loren Wilkinson (Eerdmans, 1980, 325 pp., $10.95), is reviewed by Martin LaBar, professor of science at Central Wesleyan College, Central, South Carolina.

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Earthkeeping is a well-written, serious attempt to view our use of resources from a Christian perspective. The book was a production of the Fellows of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, Calvin College, with Wilkinson and six others doing the writing. It is written clearly enough that any interested person could read and understand it. It is also thorough enough that it is under personal consideration for use as a college text.

There are some problems with the scholarliness of this book, however. Though there are adequate notes, and a 30-item annotated bibliography (including such diverse items as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and two books on John Calvin), there is no mention of Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer, Ecology Crisis by John W. Klotz, or anything previously published in such periodicals as CHRISTIANITY TODAY or the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation. Wilkinson et al. are not the first persons who take the Bible seriously to have written about these matters.

That there are advantages to multiple authorship is apparent. Earthkeeping deals with the philosophy, political economics, and theology of mankind’s relationship to natural resources, and his interactions with other people with respect to natural resources. The authors do not seem to fit any particular political or economic pigeonhole, but they do raise thought-provoking questions about the way many things are done by individuals, corporations, and countries. I found their analyses of theories of justice, historic views of the relationship of man and nature, of the nature of man, and of the Hebrew of Genesis 1 and 2 especially helpful. The lists of suggested practices and the 30 Bible-based guidelines for action surprised me in that they are both considerably more than an average intelligent Christian could come up with in two hours, and relatively noncontroversial.

Earthkeeping is printed on recycled paper—in keeping with responsible use of our resources. Thoughtfully read, it proves to be a valuable book, clearly showing a Christian perspective on such problems as hunger, exploitation, scarcity, and pollution, and pointing toward the time when the statement “… there is little to indicate that the Christian vision has improved the generally destructive human attitude toward the rest of creation” (p. 26) is no longer true.

Spiritual Help

The Will of God, by Morris Ashcraft (Broadman, 1980, 149 pp., $3.95 pb); Liberating Limits, by John A. Huffman, Jr. (Word, 1980, 155 pp., $5.95); and The Concordia Pulpit, 1981 (Concordia, 1980, 296 pp., $11.95 hb), are reviewed by David Sorensen, intern pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, Duluth, Minnesota.

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New England fishmongers of the eighteenth century pushed carts about town peddling their “fresh fish” to all within earshot. Their product was always fish, you can be sure, but was it always “fresh”?

Peddlers in the Christian book market are vying for our business with calls of “fresh insight, fresh insight.” All three books reviewed here contain insight, to be sure—but is it “fresh”?

Morris Ashcraft, professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary of Kansas City, Missouri, offers a nice day’s catch in his book, The Will of God. He begins by posing some simple questions: “What does the will of God mean to me? Where do we start in seeking this insight?” That is simple enough—until he shares the pain behind the questions: the tragic death of an older brother, a plane crash when he flew off the end of an aircraft carrier, the death of his baby boy. His beginning is intensely personal, which is a real necessity for such a subject.

From this beginning he moves into several chapters of careful scholarship. His study of the Scriptures is certainly strong in exegesis and rich in historical perspective. Yet I am not sure he succeeded here in his stated goal: “To translate technical study into the language of the lay reader.” To the biblical scholar, these chapters are “exhaustive”; to the general reader, they may be “exhausting.” Nevertheless, certain “fresh insights” emerge from his survey of Scripture.

Notably, Ashcraft introduces the idea of “community” to his study. “I cannot know God’s will or do it except in company with other persons. God’s will is such that it brings us not only to him but also into a closer relationship with one another. We understand his will and do it only in community.”

With broad insight, he takes the reader beyond merely a desire to know God’s will “for me.” His bigger picture includes a concern for God’s will for families, for communities, for churches, and even for the church of Christ through all ages.

He closes the book with two very practical chapters. The first contains a thorough overview of some popular misconceptions of the will of God. Almost anyone could find a hint of himself here. The last chapter brings the book to an appropriate conclusion: that knowing God’s will and doing it must go together like a two-sided coin.

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The author never offers “10 easy ways” to discover God’s will, nor does he escape the hard questions by claiming, “It’s all a mystery.” Ashcraft has no quick answers. Instead, we find him to be a man willing to seek God’s unfolding will through life’s journey. “We can come to know more about it along the way.”

As excellent books often are, this book will be welcomed by Christians across denominational boundaries.

Another sort of fish altogether is John A. Huffman, Jr.’s book, Liberating Limits. Pastor of Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California, he writes in the popular style that Ashcraft occasionally lacks. The illustrations generally hit the mark, too, though they are not as intimate as Ashcraft’s.

But there is a fundamental problem. Chapter one promises to deliver “fresh insight” into the Ten Commandments. Huffman claims that “the person who thinks he is truly free may find that he is in bondage. The person who is willing to accept certain negatives as guidelines for his life, and who approaches them with the correct attitude, will find that he is actually free.”

What follow are 10 chapters of well-written thoughts on how the Ten Commandments are abused in today’s world. Useful, yes; insightful, sometimes; liberating, not really. The bulk of the book deals with limits, to be sure, but the idea of liberation was left behind somewhere in chapter one.

In the last chapter, Huffman’s writing fairly sings of Christ’s liberating powers. “In our fast-moving technological era, death is right around the corner for all of us. Jesus doesn’t keep us from dying. Through his death and resurrection, he does keep us from staying dead.” But for all his evangelistic enthusiasm, we still don’t learn much about “liberating limits.”

I found myself wanting to like this book, but it never seemed to deliver what I was led to expect from the title and the opening chapter. “Liberating limits” in the Ten Commandments? This volume served only to spark my curiosity.

The third book, The Concordia Pulpit, 1981, is a collection of sermon aids contributed by 38 different writers. The biblical scholarship seemed good throughout, but the sermon outlines and illustrations showed both the advantages and disadvantages of having so many contributors. On the positive side, one could say the contributions were varied and diverse. On the other hand, they were also spotty and of varying quality.

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This book is designed for use in the pastor’s sermon preparation and would be of interest only to the rare lay person. As a helpful resource, occasionally useful, it is worth having around for some “fresh insight” as needed.

Making It Work

A Theology of Church Leadersmp, by Lawrence O. Richards and Clyde Hoeldtke (Zondervan, 1980, 352 pp., $12.95), is reviewed by George Mallone, teaching elder in Emmanuel Christian Community, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Larry Richards has once again spoken to the renewal of the church. If this time he is more specific in his criticism of the “institutional church,” it is for good reason: with his long-time friend and associate, Clyde Hoeldtke, Richards has tackled the subject of leadership in the local church.

Richards and Hoeldtke suggest that much of the malaise of today’s church stems from an inadequate view of Jesus Christ as head of the church. Jesus is more often treated as the “titular chairman of the board” or “head emeritus” rather than the dynamic head of his body. To lead us out of this confusion, the authors begin with a series of biblical word studies (e.g., head, body, growth). The conclusion of this research leads us to see the church as a growing organism, functioning under a living head, rather than as an institution laboring under a hierarchical managerial structure.

With a proper understanding of the church, it is then possible to describe the nature of leadership needed for this growing organism. In chapters 6–10, Richards and Hoeldtke suggest that leaders are essentially committeed to serving the body by both modeling and teaching the truth. Their overriding concern will not be for self-fulfillment or advancement, but for the edification of the body.

While admitting that management techniques and organizational systems are neither morally right nor wrong, they do maintain that these approaches are in conflict with the church as an organism. Organizations tend to focus upon planning, directing, controlling, and staffing (chapter 13), but this approach, say the authors, conflicts with both the nature and priority of the church.

If the standard tools of the secular leader are denied to the church leader, how does that person perform his or her ministry? Richards and Hoeldtke suggest that if we are going to build and strengthen a living church we must focus upon allegiance in relationships (chapters 15–23). By allegiance the authors mean total loyalty to Jesus Christ as head and to our brothers and sisters in the family of God. Our loyalty is not to the church heritage or to charismatic or noncharismatic experience, or even to pastor X rather than pastor Y. It is to the body in which Christ has placed us. The hurdle to overcome is then not ideological but relational. Are we living in loving and caring relationships within the body?

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Dissociating themselves from movements that teach that every believer needs a shepherd to tell him how to act and what to do, Richards and Hoeldtke encourage the personal responsibility of every believer to interact with the head of the body. In what is probably the best section of the book, the authors reject both “authority-centered” leadership as well as “team-centered” leadership in favor of “body-centered” relationships. Elders become responsible for “the decisions that affect the life style of the body” (p. 313), but at the same time they do not attempt to control the ministries of the congregation. Each member of the body is accountable to the head for the ministry vision and to the body for ministry support.

When pastors are bombarded daily with promotions for managerial leadership, why are Richards and Hoeldtke so committed to such a contrary position? Because they believe it is biblical and alone honoring to Jesus Christ (p. 399). If they are correct, the church has compromised with the world more than we might have imagined.

War And Peace

War and Peace from Genesis to Revelation, by Vernard Eller (Herald Press, 1981, 232 pp., $8.95), is reviewed by Peter C. Craigie, dean, faculty of humanities, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Vernard Eller, professor of religion at the University of La Verne in California, has published 10 books in the last 13 years, ranging from biblical studies and theology to ethics. War and Peace is a thoroughly revised version of a book first published in 1973: King Jesus’ Manual of Arms for the Armless. The subtitle of the 1973 edition has become the title of the 1981 edition.

The book embraces all three of the disciplines that are within Eller’s sphere of interest. It is biblical study, not of a technical kind, but in the sense that the major substance of the book emerges from detailed study of certain key portions of the biblical text. It is theology, not for the professional theologian, but for the ordinary person who wants to work out a biblically informed theological position. And it concerns ethics in that it treats a major ethical issue of our time: war and violence.

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This is one of the most deceptive books (in a positive sense) that I have read for many years. The language is popular (for Eller is aiming at an audience ranging from high school students to adults), so that one can easily be misled into thinking that the substance and argument are at the same level as the style. The writing is racy and colloquial, as implied by the original title, and current subtitle, of the book. It is deceptive precisely because it is packed with solid teaching, careful thought, and real wisdom.

Eller examines the subject of war and peace, taking into account the difficulties of the Old Testament military material, the meaning of Jesus with respect to violence, and the significance of the Book of Revelation. Throughout the study, he integrates the ancient text with contemporary thought and practice, and thus executes biblical study and theology at its best in a style relevant to the modern world. And though easily read, this is a book that will reward rereading, for the argument in places is subtle and highly significant. Eller draws no simple conclusions, does not side too easily with either militarists or pacifists, and brings out clearly the profundity of the biblical insight on war and peace. Most of all, this book is characterized by wisdom and balance—rare commodities in a debate in which even pacifists may become violently aroused; it is highly recommended. The topic, sadly, is perennially relevant and one on which informed Christians must have some clear understanding.

Briefly Noted

Marriage. David L. Hocking writes a clear, sensible guide to fulfillment in Love and Marriage (Harvest House). More elaborate and very informative is Marrying Well: Possibilities in Christian Marriage Today (Doubleday), by Evelyn and James Whitehead, written from a Roman Catholic Christian perspective. Your Marriage Has Real Possibilities (Here’s Life), by Cyril and Aldyth Barber, offers “biblical principles of marriage,” primarily drawing on Old Testament characters. Marriage Is for Two (Augsburg), by Omar Stuenkel, is a bit generalized, but sound in its advice. R. C. Sproul stresses communication as the key in Discovering the Intimate Marriage (Bethany Fellowship). Communication: Key to Your Marriage (Regal), by H. Norman Wright, also stresses (needless to say) the same thing. It is now in its twelfth printing. Geoffrey Bromiley, in God and Marriage (Eerdmans/T & T Clark), offers a competent, insightful theology of marriage. Marriage in Today’s World (Herald), by H. Clair Amstutz, looks at the problem areas in marriage, offering helpful suggestions.

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Two excellent books dealing with sex in marriage are: The Gift of Sex (Word), by Clifford and Joyce Penner, and Intended for Pleasure (Revell), by Ed and Gaye Wheat. Both are thoroughly Christian and decidedly helpful.

Family Foundations (Baker), by Paul and Richard Meier, offers clues to how to have a happy home, and Beloved Unbeliever (Zondervan), by Jo Berry, shows how to love your husband into the faith.

H. Norman Wright has written a superb book for pastors and counselors in Marital Counseling: A Biblically Based Behavioral Cognitive Approach (Christian Marriage Enrichment, 8000 E. Giarard, Suite 601, Denver, Colorado).

Divorce/Remarriage. A basic research tool is Divorce in the 70s: A Subject Bibliography (Oryx Press), by Kenneth D. Sell, which contains almost 5,000 entries.

It is hard to classify the point of view in the following books because there are shades of agreement and difference, but the first group is more stringent, the second group less so.

The more stringent books are: Divorce and the Christian (Tyndale), by Robert J. Plekker; New Light on Divorce and Remarriage (Select), by Preston W. Snowman; and The Divorce Myth (Bethany House), by J. Carl Laney. Less stringent are: Divorce and Remarriage in the Church (Zondervan), by Stanley A. Ellisen; Remarriage: A Healing Gift from God (Word), by Larry Richards; and Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible (Presbyterian & Reformed), by Jay Adams.

And I Say Unto You (Bookhouse, Box 11655, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), by James O. Baird, is a study of eight positions regarding divorce and remarriage in the light of Matthew 19:3–12. It clearly presents the options.

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