Power Ethics

The Organization Man, by William H. Whyte (Doubleday, 1956, 456 pp., $1.45), is reviewed by R. Richard Searle, assistant minister of First Presbyterian Church, River Forest, Illinois.

The panorama of the ages is designed to show that man, individually and collectively, is inadequate to his predicament as a sinner. Supernatural aid is prerequisite to the effecting of any salvation of the soul or of society. It is the purpose of God to make himself experimentally indispensable to righteousness. He says, “Come unto me all ye that labor …” But man will not heed. He hears other voices beguiling him into a pseudo-security. They are all more dangerous to his soul when they pose as economic or social systems benevolent to his welfare. In fact they are really horizontal religions. Modern man is currently caught in the throes of one of these redemptive systems. His predicament is quite thoroughly analyzed in the 1957 non-fiction best seller by William H. Whyte, Jr., entitled The Organization Man.

The organization man is identified as the man in the middle. He is married to his job and the ideology thereof. But like most systems its adherents appreciate its pragmatic value more than its theoretical intricacies. The junior executive, the corporation “dog-face,” the collectivized man lives in the context of an otherwise free environment. The business trainee, the seminary student, the Ph.D. on the science lab team, the clinical physician are each representative of his clan. He may talk in terms of the rat race, the treadmill commuter, laughing at the description because he’s afraid not to. For the organization man is theoretically unable to control his economic destiny, and is therefore forced to believe in the ultimate harmony between the organization and where it is going and his own destiny as irresistibly swept along by it. At least this is what he is led to think through company “retreats” and seminars.

Whyte’s thesis is a critique of the attitudes which have generated a deification of this modern system as utopian though it sacrifices the rights of the individual. To believe that society is the soul of the individual and not in basic conflict with him is utter delusion according to the author. He affirms that it can’t bring the “peace of mind” that it seems to offer, although he conceded that it may be a necessary step to that which ultimately will do so.

Organization man, then, is the victim of his material environment. But he is also the spiritual victim of a naturalistic fatalism which is a philosophy of life for the here and now. How did this come about?

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To understand the historical perspective Mr. Whyte outlines certain basic economic principles which are identified as the Protestant Ethic. Included are free, individual enterprise in which survive only those best fitted by the rigors of competition; hard work, by which one inevitably achieves that economic and social stature which he so richly deserves; and thrift, through which the individual by sheer power of the fact that “money talks” is able to control his circumstances.

This Protestant Ethic “produced” that which the author identifies as the Social Ethic, the present system in which organization man lives and moves and has his being. Mr. Whythe is not clear, however, in pointing up that it was not the logical evolvement of the Protestant Ethic but the illogical denials of its basic tenets that produced the Social Ethic. When the “breaks” were handed out to the favorite rather than to the worthy, the fawner rather than the fittest, when it mattered more whom one knew than what one knew, a major shift in the economic climate was inevitable.

Organization man had to live with himself and with his family. He had to explain in a plausible manner the reason why he did not make the next rung on the ladder. The shift then, is marked by an escapism—a shifting of the responsibility from the individual and his free will to the society as the imposing source of his destiny. When hard work no longer brought its recognition and rewards, man would continue the Edenic pattern of passing the blame to another.

The curious phenomenon of the day is that our economic leaders talk about the new regime in terms of the old. Whyte states, “Few talents are so sought after as the knack of describing departures from the Protestant Ethic as reaffirmations of it” (p. 19).

To point out the basic parallel in the religious realm, we see that the old-fashioned Gospel is indicted as the sire of a new, social gospel, not for adhering to its principles but for neglecting them. Now that the strictly liberal approach must be redefined in conservative terms, churches, too, strive for that pastor who has the knack of describing departures from the faith as reaffirmation of it. The shift from emphasis on man’s free will to the sovereignty of Another is also in keeping with the whole cultural trend.

The tenor of our times is characterized by group pressure, frustrated creativity, and the anonymity of accomplishment. Mr. Whyte raises the question: Are these virtues or vices? Can the individual live with himself under these circumstances? If so, he must have certain basic underlying assumptions as a framework or a rationale that will justify the individual’s self-surrender. The author points out three axioms of the new “faith,” the inevitable hand-maiden of organization man’s social ethic.

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The first is scientism. It is assumed that an exact science of man can be achieved. The behavior pattern of men can be calculated by formula. Hence, personality tests are used to determine who shall go up the ladder of success. (Whyte tells how to cheat on these tests in a later chapter. Actually, he analyzes what is wanted from these tests—the ascertaining of an adaptability index.) Who will fit into the picture of success? By a process of social engineering modern man will be ushered into a redeemed utopia. But what about the moral norms of such a society? These, say the experts, are to be scientifically determined by the concept of “equilibrium”—we’re all in the same boat so don’t rock it. But who determines what this state of equilibrium is? A group leader, a peace planner, an integration therapist, a social diagnostician? Whyte states, he is to be “a person empowered to dominate society, but so disciplined by a scientific code of ethics from using his knowledge in any but good ways” (p. 33).

Hence, the real impact of scientism is on our values. The point at bay is that we in the U.S.A. are not in danger of being dominated by values imposed upon us by the state, but we are in danger of being dominated by values to which we have wittingly or unwittingly unreservedly surrendered ourselves. The scientists really are afraid it can work.

Belongingness is the term applied to the state of emotional security to be derived from total integration within the group into which so-called skilled leaders will guide us. Since man has an incurable urge to belong, and since he wants this group solidarity even though he doesn’t realize it, the organization man must be willing to make sacrifices by adjustment to his environment so that there will come to him the ability to enjoy it. The goal, then is an adaptive society in which there are no maladjusted people, a group purged of conflict.

The third element of this economic ideology is togetherness. Whyte on page 52 says, “He is erecting what is almost a secular religion.” Togetherness is that which can give coherence to the system. It is a theory widely believed but only tentatively proved that the group is superior to the individual, the totality of society greater than the sum of all its parts.

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Record Of Salvation Army

The House of My Pilgrimage, by Albert Orsborn (Salvation Army, London, 1958, 294 pp., 15s.) is reviewed by Frank Houghton, Bishop at St. Marks, Warwicks.

This is the autobiography of the sixth General of the Salvation Army. The title, taken from Psalm 119:54, “Thy statues have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage,” is particularly appropriate because General Orsborn has been a prolific writer of “songs” which are sung by the Salvation Army throughout the world, and at least one chorus which is current among evangelical Christians of all denominations—“Let the Beauty of Jesus be Seen in Me.”

Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe the book as the General himself describes it—“some of my memories of Salvation Army service and leadership in the first half of this century”—rather than as an autobiography. For while we are given fascinating details of his early life, they are not so much personal as typical of the upbringing of thousands of children who were born and reared in the Army. His parents were Salvation Army officers. “Ten times,” he says, “I had to change schools,” because his father was posted elsewhere—and all this between the ages of four and thirteen. After that he began to earn the equivalent of one dollar a week. It was in a Sunday night meeting “following a resounding open-air attack and a lively singing and shouting march to the citadel” that he was saved. It was a vital experience which “has stood the test of over half a century of strenuous living.”

The second important experience—God’s call to join the Salvation Army—came to him in a crowded suburban train. He had a vision of “struggling, suffering humanity, parting and dividing into two turgid streams, one trying to get into the light and the other going hopelessly into the darkness.” From that moment it has been his one increasing purpose to help men “get into the light,” and his story becomes more and more an impersonal record of men of note in the Salvation Army, beginning with General Booth and his son Bramwell (who is clearly his hero), and then of notable people whom he met after his appointment as General in 1946. There are stories, and in some cases pictures, of his interviews with Pandit Nehru, President Truman, King Haakon of Norway, Queen Juliana of Holland, King George VI of England, and others.

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But General Orsborn is at pains to explain that these contacts came solely through his position in the Salvation Anny, apart from which he himself “would be relatively unimportant.” For all who wish to arrive at a correct appraisal of the world-wide work of the Army today, which is striving (as it always has) to justify its title while engaging also in social work on a vast scale, this book provides valuable material. The “authentic purpose and passion” for the souls of men which was so marked a characteristic of William Booth has been transmitted to each of the succeeding Generals of this great organization.


God’S Revelation

The Study of Old Testament Theology Today, by Edward J. Young (Clarke, 1958, 112 pp. 10s. 6d.), is reviewed by David W. Kerr, Professor of Old Testament, Gordon Divinity School.

The opening chapter of this little book might well be read by those who study Jacob’s Theology. Young indicates that the Old Testament presents itself as a revelation of God to men, rather than a record of what men thought about God. To some this may be a distinction without a difference, a matter of semantics. The author validates his point, however, in his discussion of the nature of Old Testament theology. As a study, it must do justice to the historical and progressive character of revelation. It may not evaporate the revelation into the atmosphere of today’s secular culture.

As for the content of Old Testament theology, the relationship of Israel to her God was convenantal from the beginning, and the covenant is regulative of God’s dealings with his people. It is impossible to do justice to the Old Testament without recognizing this fact.

Because the four chapters of the book are four lectures given at the London Bible College, they are of necessity not as detailed as certain literary studies might be. Some may feel that an attempt has been made to annihilate the Goliath of form critical theology with a somewhat doctrinaire pebble. The reviewer, however, feels that the truth is on Young’s side and that be has emphasized the points where many modern discussions of Old Testament theology are weakest.


The Apostolic Idea

Preaching to Meet the People’s Needs, by Charles N. Pickell (Exposition Press, New York, 1958, Bibliographies, 82 ff., $3.00) is reviewed by Andrew W. Blackwood, author of Leading in Public Prayer.

The sub-title, “The Meaning of the Arts as a Guide for Preaching Today,” accurately describes the contents and the purpose of this little book. It opens up a field that has been strangely neglected. Preaching bulks large in the Book of Acts, but there is in print no adequate discussion of the preaching by Peter or Paul, as an example of what to preach today, as well as how and why.

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The author has read the appropriate literature by C. H. Dodd and others. The book reaches sound conclusions about the preachers and the preaching of apostolic times as ideals for today. In his Boston ministry, according to my friends there, this young man’s pulpit work follows these ideals. His book will serve any student or class as a suitable guide for a fresh and rewarding way of dealing with the Acts. The subject deserves fuller development and discussion of the good ideas in this book.


An Eternal Excellency

Shadow of the Almighty, by Elisabeth Elliot (Harper, 1958, 249 pp., $3.75), is reviewed by Marian J. Caine, Editorial Assistant of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Shadow of the Almighty is a good deal more penetrating than a popular devotional book; it is even more uncommon than a first rank piece of literature. I would suggest that in God’s providence it might be His conspicuous answer to a prayer which one young missionary martyr prayed about nine years before his death. His words were, “Lord, make my way prosperous not that I achieve high station, but that my life may be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”

For this reviewer, this life of Jim Elliot is eminently that exhibit. Elisabeth lets her husband speak for himself here in letters and diaries which she has edited into a story—a depiction, that is, of a man in his relation to the Almighty. It is a poignant presentation, different from Through Gates of Splendor because of its more personal and less dramatic nature. But what it is not in drama, it is even more in profundity. Isaiah speaks of a trusting child of God as “a spring of water whose waters fail not.” There seems to be a clear likeness of this image to Jim Elliot, and one remembers the words of the Almighty that he makes of such saints “an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.”

He was tall, well-built, and amazingly energetic with a personality that fairly pulsated with animation. To him Christianity was no conservative way of living. It meant a life sold out to Christ—a venture every bit as radical, fragrant, and exciting for the twentieth century as it was for the first. “The world cannot hate us,” he said once, “we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous.”

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At Wheaton College he earned top honors with a Greek major, and along with that he proved himself a champion wrestler, as well as one who could captivate audiences with his speaking. He wrote unusually well, even poetically as one sees in these journals. But the book, as an exhibit, reveals simply and forcefully a young man who was intensely honest with himself before his Bible in the presence of the Almighty. Indeed, a powerful transparency of soul in the face of God is what marks the genius of this whole biography. Jim valued nothing whatever aside from getting to know’ God and walking in obedience to Elis will. “Not a long life,” he would pray, “but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” And a full life embraced a many-sided personality “lived to the hilt” for the eternal glory of God.

It was his desire to reach the Auca savages of Ecuador with the Gospel when he first learned of them in college. And many of his personal records at that time, and shortly before he reached the mission field, were frankly prophetic of his early death. For instance, he wrote, “Father, if Thou wilt let me go to South America to labor with Thee and to die, I pray that Thou wilt let me go soon.” At another time he said, “Father, take my life, yea, my blood if Thou wilt … I would not save it, for it is not mine to save. Have it Lord, have it all. Pour out

my life as an oblation for the world. Blood is only of value as it flows before Thine altar.”

Often he would remind himself that one “is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” And about five years before his death he said, “I have had all that a young man can have, at least all this young man can have. I am ready to meet Jesus.”

As Elisabeth observes in the preface: “Some who pick up this book may make no claim to know God. Others may make the claim but be victims of self-delusion [profession without obedience] … Yet others may know Him, obey Him, but wonder sometimes at the value of this knowledge and this obedience.” In the reviewer’s mind, there is a compelling testament here to the heart situation of any reader in these three categories. And it should prove an awakening to cynics that genuine Christianity, as gloriously Real and surpassing the temporary lusts and pride of life, is actually lived in the world today. In the life of Jim Elliot, one is brought face to face with “the salt of the earth.”


Valuable Contribution

Egypt in Biblical Prophecy, by Wilbur M. Smith (W. A. Wilde Company, Boston, 1957, 256 pp., $3.50) is reviewed by Horace L. Fenton, Jr., associate general director of the Latin America Mission.

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With the thoroughness so characteristic of his writings, Dr. Smith here sets forth the prophetic teaching of the Word concerning Egypt. He tells how he turned to this study at the time (1956) when that land was so constantly in the headlines, and he admits that six months before making his investigation, he would have failed to pass an examination on this prophetic subject, “even if the questions were not of a technical nature” (p. 5).

The result of Dr. Smith’s research represents a valuable contribution to biblical literature, and doubly so because this theme has so largely been neglected by other scholars. He finds in the Book three great collections of prophecies concerning the nations, and as he gives himself to a careful study of these portions, he discovers much of interest and value. The author does not dodge the difficult passages, and does not hesitate to point out that in areas of prophecy which he examines, earnest students of the Word have not been able to come to agreement. Neither does he withhold the expression of his own opinion concerning these passages, albeit given with a refreshing lack of dogmatism.

While God’s dealings with Egypt in history (both biblical and secular) are of interest, readers will undoubtedly enjoy especially the chapters which deal with prophecies yet to be fulfilled. The idea that God will cause a second exodus of Jews from Egypt at the end of the age may well stimulate further study, and the prophecies of Egypt’s ultimate blessedness will also challenge the thinking of many readers.

Dr. Smith’s work has been well done, and it is documented with the care and exhaustiveness which we have come to expect of him.


Theism And Science

The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, by John Clover Monsma (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1958, $3.75), is reviewed by Stuart C. Hackett, Professor of Philosophy, Louisiana College.

The overwhelming impact of this compilation of testimony from 40 American scientists is that belief in theism (in many cases specifically Christian biblical theism) is in no way incompatible with a whole-hearted commitment to the genuine implications of mathematical and empirical science, but that, if anything, scientific considerations definitely tend to support such a theistic faith. This sort of insight is by no means new: but it is always relevant in an age dominated by excessive preoccupation with scientific progress.

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In asserting the reality of God within the context of scientific data, our authors embody certain recurring emphases in their attempt to draw a line of continuity from such data to theistic belief. The most frequent appeal is to the teleological argument for the existence of God: an argument which urges that the order and design of the known universe are so intricately complex and so well-adapted to the fulfilment of significant functions or ends that a chance explanation of the universe is virtually unthinkable and that therefore the ultimate ground of such an ordered world must be a Supreme Intelligence. Again, this argument is an ancient one: but the present work is of particular value because it supplies a wide exemplification of the types of intelligent adaptation throughout the whole natural order in areas ranging all the way from chemistry and physics to astronomy.

The next most frequent appeal is to the cosmological or causal argument which insists that the mere existence of a finite space-time universe, because it is characterized by change and process and therefore must have had a beginning, requires an infinite and transcendent First Cause for its adequate explanation. In this causal appeal, the numerous writers emphasize especially the principle of entropy (and in particular, the second law of thermodynamics) according to which the amount of available energy in the universe is constantly diminishing so that the universe could not have had an eternal past, since in such an infinite time all available energy would long since have been expended. Less frequent appeals are made to personal spiritual experience (encounter with God), special revelation in the Bible, and even the universality of belief in an ultimate Being.

While such an array supports the basic intention of the book as explained by the editor (p. 12)—namely, the documentation of the fact that science and theistic religion are compatible; there seem to be certain inadequacies that in part detract from the positive impact of the discussion. The most serious defect is the absence of any adequate discussion of the whole relation between science and philosophy (or theology) from an epistemological standpoint. On the one hand, for example, there are recognitions of the limitations of science in dealing with ultimate questions such as the existence of God (p. 31, 63, 71, 87, 207–208); on the other hand, the editor himself, as a spokesman for a different emphasis, asserts that “science can establish, by the observed facts of Nature and intellectual argumentation, that a super-human Power exists” (p. 12). Tensions of this sort extend through the whole book; and the question of the epistemological basis of the entire discussion should therefore receive extended treatment in such a work.

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Several other criticisms deserve brief mention: first, a number of the appeals to detailed scientific data would be nearly unintelligible to a scientific amateur (see p. 39, 101, for examples)—a definite weakness in a work intended for the general public. Again, the inferences from scientific observations to an ultimate Intelligence or First Cause are frequently not explained with any degree of clarity or detail (see p. 53, 88, 104–105)—only persons already thoroughly familiar with the theistic arguments would be in a position to follow the inferences. Finally, there frequently appears in the articles the implicit assumption that a scientific explanation of certain effects, in terms of proximate or secondary causes, would render appeal to an ultimate Cause unnecessary (e.g., p. 89—though this idea is also opposed, but far less frequently: p. 123, 124). This assumption, so frequent in naturalistic literature (and therefore questionable in the present context), seems to me to be utterly false—the understanding of intermediate causes (even if exhaustive and complete—which is never the case in empirical science) in no way eliminates the necessity for an ultimate cause. If, for example, the theory of creative biological evolution were a completely adequate explanation of the origin of the various forms of life (a point which we need here neither grant nor deny), that would not eliminate the necessity for appealing to an ultimate Intelligence: evolutionary process itself would involve a complexity of means in the achievement of ends and would still be ultimately explicable only by appeal to Intelligence. It is not the unknown and scientifically inexplicable that provides evidence for theism: instead, it is precisely the known and understood evidence that requires such a conclusion.

These criticisms, nevertheless, should not deprive us of the main thrust of the book with its implication of the validity of natural theology (an implication which I fully accept): however understood and interpreted, the conviction that theism and science can mutually and intelligently grant each other their full weight, is a welcome emphasis in an age which has still not recovered from “the warfare between science and Christendom.” In an age dominated by an emphasis on scientific progress, the testimony to Christian theism fills a definite need.

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Unfulfilled Prophecy

The Alpha and the Omega, by Paul Erb (Herald Press, 1955, 153 pp., $2.50) is reviewed by Robert Strong, Minister of the First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia.

The 1955 Grebel lectures, delivered to Mennonite gatherings, are embodied in this book. Dr. Erb is a bible believer and, therefore, insists that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth in person and power. He is mildly premillennial but lays his main emphasis upon the eternal order that Christ our King will usher in at last. There is value here for the layman who seeks an easy introduction to the study of unfulfilled prophecy.


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