A Genealogy Of Violence

When the Word Is Given …, by Louis E. Lomax (World, 1963, 224 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Glenn W. Samuelson, associate professor of sociology, Eastern Baptist College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania.

The subtitle, “A Report of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and the Black Muslim World,” summarizes the contents of this book. The purpose is set forth in the introduction: “The summer of 1963 saw the Negro Revolt move into full view; it also saw the Black Muslims reach an almost incredible peak of public concern and notice. The intent of this work is to provide information and insight as companions to that concern.”

The movement centers around three personalities: W. D. Fard, the founder; Elijah Muhammad, the present leader; and Malcolm X, the recently deposed spokesman for the Black Muslims.

Part One, “The Coming of the Prophet,” presents the historical development and the practices of this extreme segregationist Negro sect. It all began with W. D. Fard in the Negro ghetto of Detroit in the 1930s. Paid sold his silks and satins from door to door during the day and held house meetings at night. He skillfully described the black man’s history and the white man’s destiny, and expounded an amazing brand of Islam.

His followers hired a hall, the Temple of Islam, to accommodate the growing movement. Fard, “The Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” believed that he had been sent to alert “the black people of America to the unlimited possibilities of the universal black man in a world now usurped, but temporarily so, by white ‘blue eyed devils.’ ”

The movement became formalized, and prospective members were put through rigid examinations. Four years after the first temple was formed, the University of Islam, a combination elementary and high school, was founded. To put down any trouble with unbelievers and the police, Fard organized “The Fruit of Islam,” a quasi-military organization.

The second personality whom the author describes is Elijah Muhammad, one of Fard’s Detroit converts. Elijah Poole, a Negro from Sandersville, Georgia, was born in 1897 into a Baptist minister’s family of thirteen children. Years later, with only a fourth-grade education, he moved to Detroit with his wife and two children. But the lure of Detroit proved a nightmare. Poole worked in factories at several different jobs until the Depression hit in 1929. Then in 1930 he heard Fard at one of the house meetings. In Poole’s words, Fard took him “out of the gutters in the streets of Detroit and taught me knowledge of Islam.”

Article continues below

Elijah Poole was tapped by Fard as the first chief minister of Islam and was given the “original name” Muhammad. Soon Elijah Muhammad assumed a growing role of leadership. He went to Chicago and established what has since become known as Temple Number Two, which is now the headquarters of the Black Muslim movement. Trouble in Detroit caused Muhammad to return there to assist in the situation. Mysteriously Fard disappeared, and in 1933 Elijah Muhammad became the leader of the movement.

Muhammad shared with Fard an affinity for getting into trouble with the law. However, like other men with a messianic complex, Muhammad seemed to grow both in stature and spirit behind bars. After his prison experience, Elijah Muhammad began to shout bold statements to his throng, calling the white man a snake, a devil by nature, evil, incapable of doing right. But despite his boldness, the movement stagnated under Muhammad’s leadership.

Then in the mid-forties Malcolm Little, later elevated to Malcolm X, rejuvenated the movement. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925. His father, a Baptist minister, was a follower of the Black Nationist, Marcus Garvey, who felt that all Negroes should return to Africa to escape the oppression of the white man.

Malcolm X reports that the Ku Klux Klan burned down the family home when he was six. Shortly after Malcolm’s father set out to enter business he was found “with his head bashed and his body mangled under a streetcar.” Malcolm X believes that his father was lynched by white people who resented even the prospect of a Negro’s gaining some economic independence.

After the death of the father, the eleven children had to be separated. Malcolm was sent to an institution for boys, where he was a good student. He had difficulty, however, because he was the only Negro in the school. Leaving school, he went to New York City and became involved in underworld activities. His income often reached two thousand dollars a month.

Eventually Malcolm X went to prison for burglary. It was in 1947, in the maximum security prison at Concord, Massachusetts, that he was converted to the teachings of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad by one of his fellow prisoners who was a member of the Detroit temple. From that moment Malcolm neither smoked, cursed, drank, nor ran after women.

Five chapters are devoted to Malcolm X’s appearances and spellbinding speeches at various university campuses, such as Harvard, Queens, and Yale.

Louis E. Lomax, one of the nation’s best-known social critics and lecturers and author of The Reluctant African and The Negro Revolt, has written this impressive third volume. In his appraisal of the Black Muslim movement are these words: “Chilling though it may be, the Black Muslims have erected their teaching on a group experience common to all American Negroes. Few of us concur in their conviction and sentencing of the white race. But none of us can question the accuracy of the indictment on which that conviction rests. These men are waiting for integration to fail. They will … make us continually aware of what can happen if white men don’t learn to love before black men learn to hate.”

Article continues below

Here is a well-written book on a timely subject. An extra chapter should be added giving details of Elijah’s suspension of Malcolm X for making critical statements of President Kennedy following his assassination, and of Malcolm X’s new movement, known as Muslim Mosque, Inc.


Missions Reassessed

Missionary, Go Home, by James A. Scherer (Prentice-Hall, 1964, 188 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Peter C. Moore, associate director, The Council for Religion in Independent Schools, New York, New York.

The decline of western colonialism and the rise of militant nationalism to most analysts have spelled doom to the present structure of Christian missionary enterprise. Not all see this handwriting on the wall as unfortunate. Among those who do not is James Scherer, dean of the School of Missions at Chicago Lutheran Seminary. In Missionary, Go Home he views the twentieth century as the time for synthesis. The eighteenth-century pietistic “mission church” was the thesis, the nineteenth-century “indigenous church” its antithesis; and the twentieth century is the occasion for a synthesis of the best elements of each in a rebirth of genuine apostolic witness. This penetrating analysis of the virtues and vices of missionary activity from Paul to the present should be read by all who take the Great Commission seriously.

Scherer traces the history of missionary vices from the imperialistic mass conversions by early Christianized pagan rulers to the use of colonialism as a protective cloak for the reproduction of Western denominationalism, clericalism, and institutionalism on heathen soil. Today the false prophets and false apostles of these distortions are being told to go home by articulate non-Christians who view them as Western imperialists at prayer, and by emerging Christian leaders who view them as a hindrance to the task of evangelism.

Article continues below

A complete reappraisal of missionary motives and methods is needed, Scherer says. The scriptural pattern of witness to the Lordship of Christ through the life and words of Spirit-filled Christians has been replaced by the establishment and maintenance of impressive church-owned institutions. Foreign missionaries become the administrators, responsible for perpetuating the institutions, and local leadership is thus prevented from developing. The Spirit is quenched, and evangelism is replaced by “church work.” “The new situation summons us to return to Biblical and apostolic categories” (p. 151).

To some extent the eighteenth-century pietists, progenitors of modern missions (p. 85), and their successors in the evangelical awakening were on the right track. It is surprising that Scherer does not make more of this than he does. They were spiritually rather than institutionally oriented. They were genuinely ecumenical (e.g., The Royal Danish Mission to Tranquebar, which was authorized by the King of Denmark, staffed by German pietists, and supported by ranking Anglican bishops through the S.P.C.K.). But pietistic missions, he says, maintained a paternalistic attitude, fostered the illusion that mission was the responsibility of a spiritual hierarchy rather than of the Church as a whole, and for the most part fell into the denominationalism of the nineteenth century. The author seems unaware of the existence of interdenominational mission societies such as the China Inland Mission and the Africa Inland Mission.

Indigenization, generally considered to be that process whereby independent native churches become self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating, has largely been corrupted into institutionalism, professionalism, and sectarianism. True indigeneity for Scherer and the Willingen conference (1952) involves relatedness to the local culture, an adaptable and trained ministry, an inner spiritual life, and oneness in witness and obedience with other churches.

Three areas of criticism might be mentioned. First, Scherer finds the unity of the Church to be essentially that of a spiritual organism rather than that of an institutional organization but is unable to see grounds for encouragement in the very real interdenominational cooperation that does exist in many places. Secondly, in his reaction to the churchy activism and institutionalism, he makes the dangerously Nestorian assertion that “true Christian witness is always a divine work and never a human activity” (p. 24). The biblical pattern, for which he is such an able champion elsewhere, is rather the divine through the human. Thirdly, one wonders whether his plea for an international pool of missionary personnel and funds would not encourage more of the sort of over-bureaucratization to which he is so vehemently opposed.

Article continues below

The book does, however, deserve a wide audience. Its sensitivity to the critics of Christian missions, its description of the missionary needed today, its excellent reinterpretation of “to all nations,” its plea for a serving church, and above all its willingness to re-evaluate even the most cherished of missionary assumptions in the light of Scripture, make it a solid piece of work. It is unfortunate that there is no index.


Sit Down With Luther

Luther and the Reformation, by V. H. H. Green (Putnam, 1964, 208 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Paul Woolley, professor of church history, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Vivian H. H. Green is a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. So was John Wesley in his time. Three years ago Green published an attractive study of his predecessor, The Young Mr. Wesley. Now he has returned to the scene of his 1951 Renaissance and Reformation with this study of Martin Luther. It is a crashing success. One rises from it feeling that he has been sitting in the same room with Luther, listening to him talk and watching him work. He is here as a fellow human being, more penetrating, more vigorous, more courageous, more comprehending than we. Yet he is one of us—one who sees the abuses of life, who deplores the chicaneries and deceptions, but who, unlike the rest of us, is ready and willing to do something about it.

Fourteen years ago we had a great life of Luther in Bainton’s Here 1 Stand. Green does not tell us as much about Luther. He does not stand on Luther’s side as Bainton did. He does not commit himself to Protestantism. But he does something great. He puts us in a post of observation just above Luther’s shoulder at his desk, and as we watch Luther work he tells us what all this means in terms of the politics and economics of the day. Luther and the Reformation are put in column four, page one of the morning paper; and we can read all the other columns, too, and realize just what the problem is.

The book is written for the ordinary intelligent man. It is not encumbered with apparatus; there are, I think, three footnotes in the whole volume. Instead there is a glorious set of plates. Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Holbein, Titian, del Piombo are there. They say something about these actors of the Reformation in thrilling line.

Article continues below

Green has read the Freudian commentators on Luther. He uses them from time to time. He is not dogmatic about accepting their comments, and it is right to hear what they have to say. Life needs to be looked at whole.

Luther’s failure on church organization is not improperly excused or omitted. He was a genius, not a deity. He had not attained perfection. Green says so. Good.

If you want to know what it was like to live in Germany at the time of the Reformation and to cheer Luther on at his work, put this book under your arm, go to the fireside some evening, and start reading.


Matthew, The Theologian

Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew, by Günther Bornkamm, Gerhard Barth, and Heinz Joachim Held (Westminster, 1963, 304 pp., $6.30), is reviewed by Robert H. Mounce, associate professor of biblical literature and Greek, Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew is the joint publication of two doctoral dissertations by German pastors Gerhard Barth and Heinz Joachim Held, together with the reworking of two previously published essays by their professor, Günther Bornkamm. It is part of a series edited by Alan Richardson, C. F. D. Moule, and Floyd Filson called “The New Testament Library,” in which they intend to publish scholarly works on the background and interpretation of the New Testament.

Beginning with the established conclusion of Synoptic research—that the first three evangelists were collectors and editors of the tradition—the investigations go on to show that Matthew treats the material in such a way as to reveal a specific point of view and theological understanding of his own. The entire work is a movement beyond the present position of form-critical research and develops a deeper understanding of the contributions of each of the Synoptists. The writers would agree that the “theologies of the Synoptists” are modest in comparison with the Fourth Gospel, but insist that the interpretative element is far more pervasive than has heretofore been recognized. In a sense the book does for Matthew what Conzelmann has done for Luke and Marxsen and Robinson have done for Mark.

In “End-Expectation and Church in Matthew,” Bornkamm shows that the link between the two consists in the understanding of the law. The motive for the series of antitheses in Matthew 5 is to break through a law that has been perverted into formal legal statements and at the same time urge obedience to the radical demand of the divine will. Matthew is held to deliberately insert his understanding of law as love of God and neighbor into the Jewish scribal tradition. The short essay, “The Stilling of the Storm in Matthew,” is offered as an example of Matthew’s independent treatment of the tradition.

Article continues below

Barth’s contribution centers in “Matthew’s Understanding of the Law.” Here we learn that in opposition to the anti-nomians, Matthew maintains the abiding validity of the law, and against the rabbinate he argues that the law must be interpreted from the principle established in the love-commandment.

Held writes on “Matthew as Interpreter of the Miracle Stories.” By showing how Matthew uses both abbreviation and expansion, Held demonstrates that the Synoptist must be understood as an interpreter of tradition who has a definite goal in mind. The leading thoughts of Matthew’s retelling of the miracle stories are found to be the themes of faith and discipleship, and the purpose is the instruction of the Church. An interesting discovery is that in Matthew the miracle stories take on the form of the paradigm rather than narrative—a conclusion that tends to break down the unreal categories of form criticism.

It is not easy to criticize a book of this nature. That it is the work of painstaking scholarship cannot be denied. While at a number of minor points one might like to restate the questions, few would be so bold as to argue against the conclusions in broad outline.

The translation, by Percy Scott, is well done, although the German shows through in such places as the 115-word sentence on page 37. It is distinctly a work for the Neutestamentlicher but would offer a fine challenge to the pastor who would like to become involved relatively early in a movement back to understanding the Synoptist as theologian rather than mere compiler.


Thielicke’S Ethics

The Ethics of Sex, by Helmut Thielicke (Harper & Row, 1964, 338 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Orville S. Walters, director of health services and lecturer in psychiatry, University of Illinois, Urbana.

The realm of physical sexuality has been left largely without Christian guidance or has been put in a false light by traditional theology. Under the influence of Hellenistic hostility to the body, Paul was insensitive to eros. In a calamitous way, his attitude was handed along with the kerygma and became a mark of what Christianity was thought to be. In a new hermeneutical endeavor, the kerygmatic kernel must be separated from its original husk and be translated into our situation rather than transferred legalistically. Our historically changed situations, which cannot be found in direct form in the Bible, can be brought into relationship with the kerygma if we recognize that the original will of God is refracted as it passes through the medium of this aeon.

Article continues below

This is the groundwork upon which Thielicke has constructed his system of sexual ethics, a segment of his four-volume Theological Ethics, now in press. He acknowledges that this view of the kerygma became possible only through the breakdown of the doctrine of verbal inspiration and that Christianity is still suffering from this traumatic shock. He affirms, however, that such a concept enlarges both theological knowledge and the pastoral potential.

The Reformation disparagement of eros was overthrown by Romanticism. The awakening and vitalization of the individual eros is a realized fact in our time. Shall we give theological validity to the normative force of the factual, or denounce eros as the patron saint of eudaemonism? Unquestionably, when this development of individuality becomes idolatrous, the Christian pastor must oppose it. On the other hand, people in difficulty seek out secular counselors because they fear that the Church does not have sufficient flexibility to deal with the problems brought by modern individuality and eros. Pastoral care must be undergirded by a theology that will reach the person where he actually is today.

Thielicke begins the formulation of such a theology by contrasting eros anti agape. Eros is always egocentric, seeking self-fulfillment. Agape has as its object the imago Dei in one’s fellow man. He may not be worthy of love, but agape is a creative cause that produces loveworthiness. Where agape permeates the relationship, the happiness of the other person is sought in the whole breadth of common existence. Monogamy is the natural result of this attitude of “existence-for-the-other-person.”

Turning to the New Testament for guidance on the difficult problems of marriage and divorce, Thielicke finds Jesus declaring that in the sense of God’s original order of creation, marriage is indissoluble. Only two exceptions are allowed: the porneia of the wife and a mixed marriage in which the pagan partner takes the initiative. These provisions are not contradictory, in Thielicke’s view. Jesus’ citation of God’s original order is a call to repentance upon this age. The exceptions are allowed as an order of necessity, taking into account the real condition of man and the world in which he lives. Wrong is always inherent in the breakdown of a marriage, and divorce can never be looked upon as legitimate, even in historically changed situations. However, at times it may be necessary to conclude that it was not God who joined together two persons and that therefore the marriage itself was contrary to the order of creation. But even such a “justified” divorce violates the injunction of Jesus, which is immediate to every age.

Article continues below

Birth control is the first of several medical-ethical problems considered in the closing section on “Borderline Situations.” The order of creation demands that man act in responsible freedom rather than blindly follow the order of nature. While parenthood is intrinsic to the order of creation, personal companionship is the central emphasis of marriage. Either the large-scale adoption or rejection of birth control would naturalize the human relationship in marriage, rather than permit it to transcend nature as need might require.

Medical interruption of pregnancy, artificial insemination, and homosexuality conclude the section. Thielicke himself, in speaking of the “constitutionally predisposed” homosexual, exemplifies the doctrinaire prejudice that he deplores in this area. He pronounces the person with “endogenous homosexuality” as unsusceptible to medical or psychotherapeutic treatment and declares that the great majority of homosexuals belong in this classification. Building upon this doubtful premise, he reaches the grotesque conclusion that the person in this “irreversible situation” who cannot practice abstinence should “structure the man-man relationship in an ethically responsible way.” The Wolfenden report, which Thielicke quotes frequently, offers no support for such a view of homosexuality.

Despite a skillful translation, the book is beset by a difficult style and involved, discursive amplification. Thielicke constantly finds it necessary to “relativize” the sayings of Jesus and Paul to avoid transferring them “legalistically” to a changed historical situation. The modern worldview determines hermeneutic method.

The ethics is that of Thielicke, but the hermeneutics is the demythologizing of Bultmann.


Unpleasant Story

Race: The History of an Idea in America, by Thomas F. Gossett (Southern Methodist University, 1964, 512 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Tunis Romein, professor of philosophy, Erskine College, Due West, South Carolina.

Article continues below

Perhaps the outstanding feature of this volume is its extensive documentation. Fairly bulging with paragraph-length quotations from original sources, it is a scholarly work of considerable magnitude (a final fine-print summary of references runs to forty pages).

The author’s aim is to give a running account of the development of the idea of race in America, and to show the close relation between theory and practice in this developmental picture.

What seems surprising is the present-day vigor of the theory that races are basically equal in the light of a solid historical conviction that they are unequal. And it is also interesting to note, from the author’s long-range picture of the problem, that the race issue is almost as old as America itself and that a great deal of the story, historically speaking, involves race relations other than Negro-white.

Nor are the complexities and paradoxes and inconsistencies associated with the present-day race problems new. The great Jefferson, for example, constitutional propounder of equality for all men, did not seem to believe that this principle applied in any practical way to the Negro. Another interesting paradox is seen in the account of a prominent slave owner’s arguing from scriptural authority that all men came from a single source, and Charles Darwin, the agnostic, proposing the same view from a scientific bias; this seems to support the conclusion that fundamentally all men are equal. Yet neither the theologically minded nor the followers of Darwin seemed inclined to come up with this conclusion. Both the Church and science shared the prevailing view that for practical purposes men are basically unequal. And by inequality was meant that the white American, especially of English or Northern European origin, was superior to the Negro, the Indian, the Mexican, the Japanese, and even to certain nationalities from Southern Europe who had migrated to America.

This was the unfortunate story, according to the author, until almost the middle of the twentieth century, when a first significant breakthrough occurred. This was led by the secular anthropologists of whom Dr. Franz Boaz is credited as “doing more to combat racial prejudice than any other person in history.”

Race: The History of an Idea in America tends to concentrate on the bigoted and negative aspect of race relations, and this is a justifiable contribution. But surely there must be another side: a story worth telling about the less newsworthy but tremendously important constructive contributions to better race relations in our history, without which there would be no breakthroughs today, scientific or otherwise.

Article continues below


Book Briefs

From Purge to Coexistence: Essays on Stalin’s and Khrushchev’s Russia, by David J. Dallin (Regnery, 1964, 289 pp., $6.95). Essays that deal with the issues of Soviet foreign policy by an author who was a Menshevik, not a Bolshevik.

To Pray or Not to Pray!, by Charles Wesley Lowry (University Press, 1964, 250 pp., $5; student edition, $2.75). The author posits his arguments against the recent Supreme Court decisions on religion in public schools and against the retired Bishop Angus Dun’s support of them.

Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, Vol. I, by Hilda Graef (Sheed & Ward, 1963, 371 pp., $5.95). For Protestants who wonder about the place given Mary in Roman Catholicism.

Mastering Life with the Master, by Wesley H. Hager (Eerdmans, 1964, 105 pp., $2.50). How the Christian can live on a note of triumph and overcome sorrow, discouragement, doubt, loneliness, and other troubles of life, through faith in Jesus Christ.

365 Meditations for Teen-Agers, by Walter L. Cook (Abingdon, 1964, 222 pp., $2.50). Interestingly written, but religiously very lightweight, even for teen-agers.

The Eucharist in the New Testament, a symposium (Helicon, 1964, 160 pp., $3.50). For Protestants who want to know how Roman Catholics interpret the New Testament’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper.

Family Story, by Will Oursler (Funk & Wagnalls, 1963, 309 pp., $4.95). The story of the family of Fulton Oursler (author of The Greatest Story Ever Told, convert to Catholicism, onetime senior editor of Reader’s Digest, playwright, radio commentator), by a son, Will, who has written extensively on religion and crime.

Reformation Bible Pictures: Woodcuts from Early Lutheran and Emserian New Testaments, compiled by Kenneth A. Strand (Ann Arbor Publishers, 1963, 104 pp., $3.75). Woodcuts, story-telling pictures, found in Reformation-era Bibles, reflecting both the art and theology of the times.

Christoph Blumhardt and his Message, by R. Lejeune (Plough Publishing House, 1963, 242 pp., $3.75). Sermons and conversational-style essays by Christoph Blumhardt, with an eighty-seven-page introduction by R. Lejeune. Blumhardt played a significant role in the post-World War I theological development and deserves to be much better known.

Article continues below

Mind If I Differ?: A Catholic-Unitarian Dialogue, by Betty Mills and Lucille Hasley (Sheed & Ward, 1964, 210 pp., $3.95). Two women, one a Roman Catholic and one a Unitarian, without thought of publication exchanged letters expressing what their religion meant to them. The correspondence is extraordinarily lively, witty, and informative.

Revolutionary Theology in the Making: Barth-Thurneysen Correspondence 1914–1925, translated by James D. Smart (John Knox, 1964, 249 pp., $5). Selected correspondence from the 300 lively letters and cards that Barth and Thurneysen wrote each other discussing theology, sermon-making, parish work, and their early writings. The letters convey the warm friendship of the two men and open an intimate window, particularly on the development of Barth the man and Barth the theologian. Of considerable interest.

Christians Can Conquer: Challenging Messages for Challenging Times, by Robert Edward Humphreys (Exposition, 1964, 112 PP., $3).

Henry Sloane Coffin: The Man and His Ministry, by Morgan Phelps Noyes (Scribner’s, 1964, 278 pp., $5). The story of an outstanding liberal preacher and president of New York’s Union Theological Seminary, seen in the context of his times.

Great Sermons on the Resurrection of Christ, compiled by Wilbur M. Smith (W. A. Wilde, 1964, 289 pp., $4.50). By celebrated preachers of the past; with biographical sketches and bibliographies.

Religion Ponders Science, edited by Edwin P. Booth (Appleton-Century, 1964, 302 pp., $5.95). “Religionists” little known, and little identified in the book, speak their mind on the place of religion in a day of science, under the editorship of a man who believes the Decalogue should be rewritten according to demands of science, and that Nicea and Trent, Calvin and Luther should disappear in the mists of the past. A more apt title: The Blind Look at the Blind

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.