Healing the Wounds: A Physician Looks at His Work, by David Hilfiker, M.D. (Pantheon, 1985, 209 pp.; $14.95, doth). Reviewed by John K. Testerman, M.D., Ph.D., a biologist and family physician who practices in Glendale Heights, Illinois.

It is one o’clock in the morning at a tiny rural hospital in Minnesota. David Hilfiker, family practitioner, one of only four doctors in a county larger than the state of Rhode Island, has just been called to the emergency room to see Mr. Murphy, who is having a severe heart attack. It is unsafe to send him on the two-hour ambulance ride to the nearest cardiologist, so Dr. Hilfiker will have to do his best right here. But his best is not good enough. Six hours later Mr. Murphy goes into cardiac arrest and dies.

Facing Mrs. Murphy with the news, he can see the reproach in her eyes: Shouldn’t you have tried to send him to Duluth? Couldn’t you have done more?

Emotionally numb and physically exhausted, Hilfiker realizes he has an office full of patients waiting, four hospital patients still to be seen, and he hasn’t yet showered and shaved. There is no time to deal with the feelings of personal failure and guilt that will overwhelm him during the next few days.

Also reviewed in this section

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, by Neil Postman

The Mystery of Marriage: As Iron Sharpens Iron, by Mike Mason

Jesus through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture, by Jaroslav Pelikan

The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity; Satan: The Early Christian Tradition; andLucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages, by Jeffrey Burton Russell

The Authentic Jesus: The Certainty of Christ in a Skeptical World, by John Stott

A Calvin Reader: Reflections on Living, edited by William F. Keesecker

Africa: A Season for Hope, edited by W. Dayton Roberts

China: The Church’s Long March, by David H. Adeney

In Search Of Perfection

Healing the Wounds tells the story of what it is like to be human—yet expected (by yourself and others) to meet everyone’s needs and to exhibit godlike perfection in dealing with life-and-death questions. Physicians like the author, pastors, counselors, and believers who try to love their neighbors as themselves—anyone who feels called to help others—can contract an acute case of perfectionism and inappropriate guilt. Hilfiker’s story is thus instructive for us all.

In the first half of the book, Hilfiker examines the stresses built into the nature of any doctor’s work. He writes: “The impossibly broad range of knowledge necessary to daily practice (from taking care of heart attacks to delivering babies), the everpresent uncertainty in diagnosis and treatment, and the ubiquitous possibility of making life-threatening mistakes are brutal emotional facts of the doctor’s life.”

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But the built-in stresses are not all. Hilfiker shows how physicians inevitably develop coping mechanisms that become stresses in their own right and interfere with patient care.

One such response is clinical detachment, or the emotional distancing from an emotionally charged situation. This detachment is indispensable for making rapid, accurate decisions in an emergency. Yet the doctor is expected to be warm, empathic, and compassionate in one crisis after another. It seemed to Hilfiker that the only way to deal with this emotional roller-coaster was to harden himself to it. But the result was detachment from the very people he was trying to help.

Another area of deep frustration was being caught between the desire to serve and the constraints of an inflexible office schedule. A patient with unexpectedly complex needs forced him to choose between putting the patient off or having a waiting room full of angry patients. The need to be “efficient” tended to depersonalize his relationships with both patients and staff.

Money is another way doctors cope with stress and distance themselves from patients and staff. Hilfiker bases his discussion on the controversial assumption that “a high salary is incompatible with a career of service.” He argues that a doctor who makes more money than his patients or his staff will be unable to understand the life situations of his patients and will lose a sense of collegiality with the nurses. He suggests cutting doctors’ salaries in half to make their services more affordable. True, cutting his $40,000 salary in half would enable him to cut his office charges by 22.5 percent. But since doctors’ fees average only 19 percent of total medical expenses, this would result in a less than 5 percent saving on his patients’ medical bills.

Dr. Hilfiker’s days turned into a procession of great needs running up against limited time, energy, and emotional resources. He was unable to find a personally acceptable way of defining the limits of his response, and swung back and forth between the extremes of brutal efficiency and openness to meeting every need. Part of the problem was in his expectations: “Early in my career,” he writes, “I was heady with the prestige and power that came from the feeling that I would be able to fulfill everyone’s expectations.” The realities of practice crushingly brought home to him the impossibility of his dream.

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This book is really not so much about the stresses of medicine as it is one man’s inability to cope constructively with them. Most doctors have compulsive personalities and therefore suffer from self-doubt, inappropriate guilt, have difficulty setting limits, and an exaggerated sense of responsibility for events beyond their control. Hilfiker had a bad case. He was overwhelmed with self-doubt and guilt when a patient died. He felt guilty when he had to leave a patient who was medically stable, but frightened, to sprint down the hall to a patient who had just stopped breathing. He felt guilty when a full waiting room kept him from spending all the time he wanted with a troubled patient. He felt uncomfortable asking for payment and guilty about his $40,000 annual salary. Basically, he felt guilty because he was not God.

The Disabled Healer

With no specialists to back him up, having to work the emergency room on the weekends, and doing his own deliveries, there was no time to develop perspective and coping skills. Hilfiker’s emotional responses to the stresses of practice finally destroyed his ability to practice. He became so conscientious that the healer himself became disabled. Ironically, by trying to meet all needs he ended up meeting none, and he left his practice in 1982.

However, God did not forget David Hilfiker. He called him to service in a place that uniquely suited his skills and temperament—two free church-sponsored clinics for the homeless and unemployed in Washington, D.C., at an annual salary of $26,000 (still not low enough for Hilfiker; it was more than twice what the receptionists made).

This is not just David Hilfiker’s story. It is the story of how any person in a helping profession faces conflicting pressures, and how the responses that we develop to cope with these pressures become problems in their own right. Hilfiker’s dilemmas will be recognized by any idealistic person who undertakes to minister to human needs and runs up against the limitations of his finiteness and sinfulness—and that includes Christians.


Healing the Wounds contains hints of David Hilfiker’s Christian faith and of his association with Washington, D.C.’s small, but highly committed, Church of the Savior. Associate Editor David Neff called Dr. Hilfiker to find out more.

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Does practicing medicine with a group of Christians who are committed to servanthood help you cope with the stresses of being a physician?

Very much. It is one of the things that makes work here possible—whereas it wasn’t before.

I’m just coming to understand that in traditional American, Western culture, the posture of servanthood often seems just plain stupid—like you’re being taken advantage of, like you really haven’t thought things through, like you’re not using the strength and resources that you have. In those moments, when you know you look silly, it is important to remember that Jesus was crucified for us in a posture of servanthood, and that we are called to be like him.

How do your clinic’s staff worship times affect staff relationships?

First, when we are in worship, we are in a circle. The worshipers are all peers, so it helps bring down the hierarchical relationships in the staff.

Second, and even more important, worship—by reminding us that our work is an expression of our faith—teaches us that results are less important than obedience.

How does your personal faith help you cope?

It’s difficult to separate my personal faith from my faith as a member of the Christian community—largely because of the pragmatic ways that we support each other.

But our faith helps me cope. Feeling guilty and impotent is one of the inevitable results of trying to be faithful. And our faith helps me see those feelings, not as a part of my disobedience, but as a part of my obedience.

And I’ve learned that results are a distant second to obedience. God is in charge of the results; it’s my responsibility to be obedient.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, by Neil Postman (Viking, 1985, 184 pp.; $15.95, cloth). Reviewed by Reed Jolley, pastor of Santa Barbara Community Church, Santa Barbara, California.

Neil Postman is concerned that entertainment has become the American way of life. And in Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book for “culture watchers and worriers,” he examines the effect television in particular has had on our society: Serious discourse, politics, religion, sports, education, news, and commerce have all been transformed by our insatiable thirst for amusement.

Postman, who is professor of communication arts and sciences at New York University, contends that different forms of media favor particular kinds of content. He laments that in our time the medium of typography has given way to the medium of television. The written word encourages rationality and analysis. A typographical society is a society of coherence, dialogue, and interaction with ideas. Television, on the other hand, encourages passivity, irrelevance, and impotence.

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Postman faults television because it is a “present-centered” medium. Everything is presented without a past or future. Consider, for example, the sterile refrain of television newscasters: “And now … this.” Regardless of the weight of the news story (murder, poverty, warfare, the Academy Awards), the newscaster erases our thoughts and moves on to an advertisement for Burger King. The average news story lasts 45 seconds, and the average length of a camera shot on network television is 3.5 seconds. Inappropriate juxtapositions and brief coverage damage our sense of the world as a serious place. Postman quotes television personality Bill Moyers, who thinks that his medium is producing a generation of “agitated amnesiacs” who know everything about the past 24 hours but nothing of their real history.

An Excerpt

Offer People What They Want

“The executive director of the National Religious Broadcasters Association sums up what he calls the unwritten law of all television preachers: ‘You can get your share of the audience only by offering people something they want.’

… This is an unusual religious credo. There is no great religious leader—from the Buddha to Moses to Jesus to Mohammed to Luther—who offered people what they want. Only what they need. But television is not well suited to offering people what they need. It is ‘user friendly.’ It is too easy to turn off. It is at its most alluring when it speaks the language of dynamic visual imagery. It does not accommodate complex language or stringent demands. As a consequence, what is preached on television is not anything like the Sermon on the Mount. Religious programs are filled with good cheer. They celebrate affluence. Their featured players become celebrities. Though their messages are trivial, the shows have high ratings, or rather, because their messages are trivial, the shows have high ratings.

… Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.”


Postman devotes the second half of his book to arguing that “serious television” is a contradiction in terms. Due to the power of the medium and its inexorable bond to visual images, television speaks in only one voice—the voice of entertainment. Whether the program is religious, political, or educational, the viewer is encouraged merely to watch. The golden rules of programming (even for educational television) are: (1) “Thou shalt have no prerequisites,” (2) “Thou shalt induce no perplexity,” and (3) “Thou shalt avoid exposition like the ten plagues of Egypt.”

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Television tries to portray itself as a serious enterprise, but “what we watch is a medium which presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, nonhistorical and noncontextual; that is to say, information as entertainment.” Postman, therefore, has little difficulty with “The A-Team” and “Cheers,” but he is deeply concerned about “60 Minutes” and “Sesame Street.”

The author, who is a member of the Commission on Theology, Education and the Electronic Media of the National Council of Churches, is particularly troubled by the way television presents religion. He does not criticize Schuller, Swaggart, and Falwell much for what they say and do, because it is not the weaknesses of television preachers, “but the weaknesses of the medium in which they work” that is “the enemy of religious experience.” Television presents religion, like everything else, as entertainment, and strips it of everything that makes it historic, profound, and sacred: “There is no ritual, no dogma, no tradition, no theology, and above all, no sense of spiritual transcendence. On these shows, the preacher is tops. God comes out as second banana.”

Postman knows that Americans will not stop watching television. Therefore the solution is found in how we watch. To watch television habitually with mindless inattention is the greatest danger. To analyze the medium, being aware of its inherent limitations and world view, is a sufficient if not perfect solution.

In the end, Postman’s analysis of American culture shows that Aldous Huxley may have been a better prophet than George Orwell. In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, there were “those who would ban books.” But in Huxley’s Brave New World, the population would be so distracted by trivia that “there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.” Our love for information technology has destroyed our rational capabilities. Concludes Postman: “When a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk, culture death is a clear possibility.”

The Mystery of Marriage: As Iron Sharpens Iron, by Mike Mason (Multnomah, 1985, 185 pp.; $10.95, cloth). Reviewed by David Neff.

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One should normally avoid a book whose dust jacket proclaims it to be “an inevitable classic.” But Mike Mason’s The Mystery of Marriage may be just that. It is at least what J. I. Packer’s foreword called it—“a crackerjack.” There is definitely a prize in this package.

It all began on the Masons’ honeymoon. They stopped at a Trappist monastery where Mike knew the guest-master. “The stillness clamored, echoed all over the building like shouts,” writes Mason. “It was reflecting my heart, echoing back to me my own confusion.”

Mason’s confusion was his own peculiar brand of bridegroom’s panic. All men secretly doubt their wisdom when they become engaged and again when they are married. Christian men sometimes doubt that it was God’s will. Mason, however, thought he should perhaps have been a monk.

At the end of the long, treed lane that led from the monastery to the main road, Mason’s questions were settled. A vision of two hawks dancing and diving together in the air told him he did not belong in the cloister, that he would have to work out in marriage the deep conflict he felt “between a yearning for solitude and a yearning for companionship.” Marriage is, Mason says, “an invasion of privacy. No one has ever been married without being surprised, and usually alarmed, at the sheer intensity of this invasion.”

An Excerpt

The Wager

“Marriage is to human relations what monotheism is to theology. It is a decision to put all the eggs in one basket, to go for broke, to bet all of the marbles. Is there any abandonment more pure, more supreme, more radically self-abnegating than that of putting one’s entire faith in just one God, the Lord of all, in such a way as to allow that faith to have a searching impact on every corner of one’s life? On the level of human relations, there is only one act of trust which can begin to approach this one, and that is the decision to believe in one other person, and to believe so robustly as to be ready to squander one’s whole life on them.”


Mason, an Anglican lay preacher and former Regent College student, has worked on this conflict in a manner opposite to that of our society of self-realization. Instead of the grammar of gratification, we find the language of urban renewal: “A thirty-year-old man is like a densely populated city: nothing new can be built, in its heart, without something else being torn down. So I began to be demolished.”

Mason paints a painful picture of marriage: Love “is our solar plexus.” Yet the pain he portrays is not foreign to us. As we involuntarily suck in our breath when we see a movie idol take it on the chin, so we resonate with his descriptions of his demolition and rebuilding.

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Marriage is not all masochism for Mason. He trumpets its glory as well: Eve was not just Adam’s alter ego, she was his “alter id”; love is not just “the way we practice for the world to come: it is the world to come”; and sex is not just sex, it is “sacred ground … where men may turn themselves into animals as effortlessly as a magician waves a wand, or else may begin to be transformed into the children of God.” Yet when the trumpets fall silent, Mason’s leitmotif sounds clear: Marriage is hard work, but its rewards are sweet.

Mason’s divine vision keeps his book from clenched-jaw stoicism. He gave up his dream of the monastery for the daylight realities of marriage, but he did not abandon his call: “Holy matrimony, like other holy orders, was never intended as a comfort station for lazy people. On the contrary, it is a systematic program of deliberate and thoroughgoing self-sacrifice. A man’s home is not his castle so much as his monastery.” The divine intent and the experience of the divine presence in marriage are always in sight.

The most curious omission from this meditation on marriage is children. They appear only once in Mason’s message, as “the human race’s only satisfactory means of hurling an insult at death.” Yet, if Mason experienced marriage as an education in the art of sacrifice and an invasion of privacy, we can only speculate what parenthood will mean—perhaps Pearl Harbor.

Mason’s meditative style is a parade of metaphors—some are mere pasteboard similes, some brooding archetypes, others palpable realities. The result is an alternation of tedium and lyricism. Yet the sheer richness of the imagery compels one to keep reading, searching for the next spark to ignite fresh thoughts.

Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture, by Jaroslav Pelikan (Yale, 1985, xvi + 270 pp.; $19.95, cloth). Reviewed by Paul Merritt Bassett, professor of the history of Christianity, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.

Jaroslav Pelikan has given us another superb book. This time, rather than looking into “what the church of Jesus Christ believes, teaches, and confesses on the basis of the word of God,” as he has been doing in his masterful historical theology, The Christian Tradition, Pelikan studies history at large to see how humankind, Christian or not, has perceived Jesus of Nazareth. He reports on 18 cultural “images” developed in the last two millenia.

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Among the images developed within the boundaries of historic orthodoxy are those that present Jesus as “The Light of the Gentiles,” “The King of Kings,” “The Cosmic Christ,” “Christ Crucified,” and “The Mirror of the Eternal.”

Four other images that have their sources in orthodoxy have taken what contemporary evangelical Christians would think were mildly eccentric or even aberrant forms. Jesus as “The Monk Who Rules the World,” “The Bridegroom of the Soul,” “The Teacher of Common Sense,” and “The Poet of the Spirit”—these images were nurtured by monasticism, mysticism, the Enlightenment, and Idealism-Romanticism respectively.

And one image has often generated greater devotion outside the faith than within it: Jesus as “The Liberator.”

Birth Of An Image

Pelikan, who is Sterling Professor of History and William Clyde DeVane Lecturer at Yale, helps us see how these images, each so different from the others, have come into view and how each has both shaped and been shaped by culture. He does this by discussing the persons and cultural factors that gave birth, or at least clear form, to the image. Then he works with the image’s immediate cultural influence—both sacred and secular literature and art, economics, politics, and other elements that together constitute a culture.

For instance, Pelikan anchors his discussion of the image of Jesus as “King of Kings” in Pilate’s question: “So you are a king?” He proceeds to outline early Christian attitudes toward civil government as they were affected by their commitment to the sovereignty of Christ and their citizenship in the heavenly kingdom. He then turns to the new situation created when heads of civil administrations, beginning with Constantine, confessed Christ. Their confessions were profoundly influenced by the image of Jesus as “King of Kings.” And through their confessions, this image revolutionized the image of earthly rulership.

Another example: Pelikan’s treatment of the image of Jesus as “Christ Crucified.” He begins with words and experiences from Paul, the Gospel of John, Isaiah 53, Tertullian, Julian the Apostate, novelist Nicholas Monsarrat, and composer Gustav Mahler—all to point to the pervasive influence of the Cross in human culture. He considers its power as the ultimate symbol of ultimate power. Helena, mother of Constantine; Popes Leo I and Gregory I; church historians Socrates and Eusebius; theologians John of Damascus and Rabanus Maurus, Abelard and Anselm, Athanasius and Aulen; the musician J. S. Bach; and poets Fortunatus and Abbot Odo of Cluny—all speak again, in their very diverse ways, of the wisdom and allure, the might and the release wrapped up in the crucifixion of Jesus. Superstition and credulity mingle with praise and brilliant theological reflection in this image. And Pelikan has captured it stunningly.

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Common Sense

The Enlightenment’s image of Jesus as “The Teacher of Common Sense” irritates evangelicals. As Pelikan says, “It was either too much or too little—or perhaps both.” But Pelikan notes what often gets overlooked: the religious intention of many of those who helped to create this image was to “rescue” Jesus from what they thought to be the wreckage of orthodoxy and to save him as the moral guru of the new world of rational and natural religion. Pelikan has no interest here in either excusing or condemning the cast of characters. He simply shows how Tindal, Newton, Hume, Gibbon, Reimarus and Lessing, D. F. Strauss, Priestly and Jefferson, with varying degrees of reverence and appreciation, transmuted the biblical record to make it square with their understanding of the universe. At most, Jesus was made the great example of humanity; at the very least, he stood among the world’s great moralists. That image is still with us.

Any of these three discussions alone is worth the price of the book for thoughtful lay people and pastors who know that effective Christian witness entails understanding the religious images already at work in people’s hearts and minds. Pelikan generally refrains from explicit comment on how the images affect our time. Yet, he writes with our time in mind, and his images—even those at considerable chronological or emotional distance—evoke long thoughts about the here and now.

Christians and non-Christians alike can appreciate this work as a study in cultural history. But much more profoundly and importantly, the book transports us to Caesarea Philippi and compels us to ask again Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”

The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Cornell University Press, 1977, 276 pp.; $27.50, cloth); Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Cornell University Press, 1981, 258 pp.; $27.50, cloth); and Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages (Cornell University Press, 1984, 356 pp.; $24.95, cloth); by Jeffrey Burton Russell. Reviewed by Richard Kenneth Emmerson, professor of English, Walla Walla College.

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Real, absolute, tangible evil demands our consideration. It threatens every one of us and all of us together. We avoid examining it at our grave peril.”

Thus insisting on the significance and seriousness of his subject, Jeffrey Burton Russell begins Lucifer, the third volume in his history of the concept of evil from antiquity to the modern world.

Like The Devil and Satan, Lucifer is marked by its author’s forthright personal concern with the persistence and formidable power of evil. Throughout his latest volume, Russell grapples with various attempts to explain the existence of evil in a world created by an omniscient and omnipotent God of love. He writes “as a human being as well as a historian,” explaining in his preface that “it would be presumptuous and futile to deal with so fundamental a problem as evil without confronting it personally.” Such intellectual and personal honesty characterizes all three volumes, making them unusually refreshing as works of scholarship—and particularly relevant for contemporary Christians.


Russell is most concerned that even though the twentieth century has witnessed countless manifestations of evil, an increasingly secular society trivializes the Devil or denies his existence. Addressing this modern attitude in all three volumes, Russell brackets the detailed history with introductory and concluding chapters in which he writes not so much as a historian but as a contemporary Christian.

In Lucifer, for example, he counters both secular rationalists and Christian theologians who ridicule, or are embarrassed by, belief in the Devil. Against those who consider “belief in the Devil outdated and superstitious,” he contends that it is more important to ask whether an idea is true than whether it is fashionable, and that as long as a belief “fits into a coherent world view” it is not superstitious.

Russell particularly challenges theologians who wish to purify Christianity of its belief in the Devil and who “blandly excise from Scripture and tradition any element they find embarrassing or unpopular.” Such theology slights history, for “belief in the Devil has always been part and parcel of Christianity, firmly rooted in the New Testament, in tradition, and in virtually all Christian thinkers up into very modern times,” so that “the burden of proof lies on those seeking to remove the Devil from Christianity.”

He further charges some contemporary theologians with evading or trivializing evil and warns that “any religion that does not come to terms with evil is not worthy of attention.”

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Mixed Blessing

Russell’s concern that his subject be taken seriously not only as history—that is, as a way to understand an important aspect of our religious and intellectual heritage—but also as it applies to the contemporary human situation and theological debate, is a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, it infuses these volumes with a powerful sense of urgency. Russell makes his purpose clear: “A work of scholarship should be more than an exercise. In writing, the writer should himself change; and his best hope is that, in reading, the reader may change also.” I applaud his awareness of a large audience beyond the specialists and his desire to affect his readers.

On the other hand, the personal element makes for a somewhat eccentric history and occasionally even affects the objectivity of the historical account. Particularly troublesome is Russell’s tendency in Lucifer to move too quickly from describing a particular medieval attempt to explain the problem of evil into a personal critique of its assumptions and shortcomings. Such critiques may mislead the general reader into discounting the medieval position before giving it a fair hearing.

Nevertheless, one must admire the breadth, balance, and lucidity of these volumes and their author’s erudition and commitment to this task. No one knows the subject better, nor is more qualified to write its history. An eminent medievalist, Russell studied at Berkeley and Emory and is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of nine books, including general histories of medieval civilization and Christian thought, and specialized studies of medieval religious dissent, heresy, and witchcraft. These reflect a rare talent that combines thorough scholarly research with the teacher’s knack of synthesizing and explaining.

The Devil is the best example of Russell’s ability to make sense of a wide range of material. Satan is the most specialized, least varied, and most difficult of the volumes because of its strict chronological and sometimes repetitious treatment of theologians from the apostolic fathers to Augustine. Yet it is an important book for understanding the essence of the Christian concept of evil, and at least its concluding chapter on Augustine should be required reading for all Christians.

As a medievalist, I find Lucifer the most interesting. Tackling a series of issues central to Christian theology and reflecting an impressive command of a wide range of sources, Russell traces the medieval concept of evil as it developed from monastic through scholastic and nominalist theology. Like the earlier volumes, Lucifer is generously illustrated with art work depicting the Devil.

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History Of Perceptions

Russell’s concern with the popular as well as the intellectual perceptions of evil exemplifies his “history of concepts” approach. This approach goes beyond traditional intellectual history by defining a concept to include “the affective as well as the analytical” and “unconscious patterns as well as conscious constructions.” Because these may be reflected in art, poetry, hagiography, folklore, and mythology, as well as in sacred texts and philosophical treatises, Russell takes account of a wealth of information often ignored in traditional histories of theology.

The object is to create a history of perceptions of the Devil, because that is all that can be objectively verified. As Russell proclaims in Lucifer, “The Devil is what the history of his concept is. Nothing else about him can be known.” Whereas empirical observation seems impossible, and many will question appeals to Scripture, ecclesiastic authority, logical argument, or personal experience, “everyone ought to be able to agree on the historical definition of the Devil.” Russell acknowledges that many will disagree concerning specific details, but what really matters is the large issue: the necessity of understanding the figure of the Devil—the personification of evil—if we are to think seriously about the problem of evil. These three volumes are invaluable contributions toward that understanding.

Book Briefs

The Authentic Jesus: The Certainty of Christ in a Skeptical World, by John Stott (IVP, 1985, 96 pp.; $2.95, paper).

According to John Stott, much of today’s skepticism can be traced to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, which “attempted to replace revelation by reason, dogma by enquiry, God by nature, and priest by scientist.” Stott, director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity and well-known Christian apologist, here responds to doubters who water down key biblical doctrines because of their supposed incompatibility with modern thought.

In the clearly reasoned, concise prose that is his trademark, Stott argues that the Gospels are reliable; that Jesus was born of a virgin, is both man and God, and was raised bodily from the dead; and that Christian evangelism is necessary and important.

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Although The Authentic Jesus sets forth basic Christian teachings, it is not primarily evangelistic. Rather, it is a book for believers who need reassurance that their faith is not irrational, as well as for would-be believers who find straight Christian doctrine incredible. Using an Enlightenment method—rational discourse—to combat Enlightenment limitations and denials, Stott not only gives reasons for his hope, but shows that the stumbling blocks are the very cornerstones of Christianity.

A Calvin Reader: Reflections on Living, William F. Keesecker, editor (Westminster, 1985, 144 pp.; $9.95, paper).

How does a busy pastor of a large urban Presbyterian church order his life? By daily Scripture reading, of course—but also by reading daily at least 15 pages of Calvin’s works. That is what William Keesecker, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City and past moderator of the general assembly of the former United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., has done through his long ministry.

Now he has selected and edited an anthology of Calvin’s thoughts—succulent tidbits for searching hearts.

After an introduction by John H. Leith of Union Theological Seminary (Va.), the book begins with excerpts from the Reformer’s tracts and letters that give us insight into his personal life as well as the commitment and philosophy that motivated his writing.

A meaty chapter containing some of the Genevan’s edifying comments on personal and corporate prayer is followed by approximately 100 pages of topical excerpts (Abraham to Zeal) from a broad spectrum of the Calvin corpus—a treasure house of spiritual wisdom and commentary from one of the Christian church’s greatest minds.

The wisdom of the past is a guide to the future, and for laity and pastors alike, this new anthology will give spiritual direction for life and ministry. Not just the Reformed, but Christians of all traditions will benefit from it.

Africa: A Season for Hope, W. Dayton Roberts, editor (Regal, 1985, 100 pp.; $5.95, paper), and China: The Church’s Long March, by David H. Adeney (Regal, 1985, 250 pp.; $7.95, paper).

Despite fund-raising efforts by Western rock bands, African famine persists. Africa: A Season for Hope (copublished with World Vision International) details the reasons—unwise government policies, lack of farmer incentives, depressed market prices, poor resource management, and inadequate transportation.

The book is an updated summary of World Vision’s 1983 task force, which interviewed 70 African leaders and international agency personnel. The result includes a realistic look at relief and development projects, some of which have been more successful than others.

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China: The Church’s Long March (copublished with Overseas Missionary Fellowship) is a much more personal book. In August 1978, after an absence of 28 years, veteran missionary David Adeney returned to mainland China. Six additional visits followed, most recently in 1985. Adeney has blended his personal observations with reports of other China observers to produce a moving, yet densely factual, account of the life of Chinese Christians—which is being transformed at breakneck speed under the banner of Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernizations.

Regal plans to copublish a series of books with organizations whose personnel work in the various regions of the world. Africa and China are the initial volumes. Future titles include Afghanistan, Middle East, and Lebanon: The Roots of Conflict.

Book briefs by LaVonne Neff, special projects editor at Youth for Christ; John E. Wagner, an attorney in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and David Neff, CHRISTIANITY TODAY associate editor.

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