How To Kiss A Frog
Ask Me to Dance, by Bruce Larson (Word, 1972, 126 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by William F. Luck, graduate student, McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.
Anyone who comes away from this book without warts on his lips may count himself fortunate. For, as Larson himself has said, “a good title for this book would be ‘How to Kiss a Frog.’ ” But this is no mere manual on “frog-kissing.” No, the book itself is “froglike.” It spends more than half its life under existentialist water. And when it comes to ethics, the frog never surfaces. The evangelical who wants to draw out the “enchanted prince” from this book must be prepared to kiss his way through a myriad of warts. For example:
The scriptural wart. Dance continues the seeming “policy” of Larson and others to support their teachings with a minimum of Scripture and a maximum of their own experiences and anecdotes of their friends and acquaintances. These are baptized “modern parables” and seem to carry the same weight as Scripture. Larson seldom misuses the Bible because he seldom uses it. “God” and “Christ” can be found in abundance, but serious exegesis is almost totally absent. When the Bible is used, it is often eisegeted. Dance seems to be based upon an eisegesis of John 11:44.
At one point Larson sees Paul as an inconsistent writer. When Paul speaks of the submission of women, we are reminded that he wrote (as did all writers of Scripture) in an age when people tried to placate God by sacrificing animals. When Paul speaks of male/female equality, we are told that Paul is an inspired prophet (who probably didn’t realize what he was saying!).
Jesus, we are urged to believe, only affirmed and loved people. It was his cousin, John, who condemned people and stressed their sin. Larson concludes that we are to follow the “Jesus style.” Later on, this principle becomes concrete in the case of known homosexuals. Objections are sure to be raised when Larson further explicates this “Jesus style” to mean we should not attempt to change people (homosexuals) but rather accept them as they are.
The psychology wart. Dance furthers the Larson practice of “pop-think” psychology. We are told that the body is a “spiritual barometer.” Colds, obesity, and sore hips reveal spiritual problems. Honesty (confession) with one another is our salvation from guilt. We are assured that it is “impossible” to pry secrets out of one without his implicit permission. Reformed faith is responsible for closing the confessional, which, in turn has caused much mental illness.
The ethical wart. Perhaps most objectionable in Larson’s book is his section on sex. (The book purports to be an explication of the way to achieve “wholeness” in what he calls the six areas of life.) Pornography is desirable reading material for a passive spouse. Adultery is always wrong and against God’s best plan, but is not as serious as some people make it out to be. Premarital sex is wrong because intercourse with several or more people would violate the rights of the persons involved. (Premarital sex with only one or two seems to be a more open question.) Divorce is not God’s best, but perhaps the “way out” for a couple who cannot live together “creatively.”
This book makes it abundantly clear that a closer look needs to be taken at Larson and his Faith at Work. Perhaps there never has been any prince, only a frog.
Christ and the Bible, by John Wenham (Inter-Varsity, 206 pp., $2.95 pb). An English scholar argues that Christ’s view of Scripture must be the Christian’s view. He develops the former from the Gospels and then evaluates major attacks against Scripture as well as questions about the extent of the canon and textual reliability. An excellent, up-to-date apologetic.
Breaking the Stained-Glass Barrier, by David Womack (Harper & Row, 167 pp., $4.95). A former missionary outlines coherent and persuasive principles for today’s missions by analyzing Paul’s ministry of Ephesus. Emphasizes need for well-trained, indigenous lay evangelists. The missionary is to be catalytic and teach to form a nucleus of national leaders.
Abortion II: Making the Revolution, by Lawrence Lader (Beacon, 242 pp., $7.95), Abortion Counseling and Social Change, by Arlene Carmen and Howard Moody (Judson, 122 pp., $2.95 pb), The Abortion Controversy, by Betty Sarvis and Hyman Rodman (Columbia University, 222 pp., $8.95), and Unwanted Pregnancy: The Medical and Ethical Implications, by Robert Bluford, Jr., and Robert Petres (Harper & Row, 116 pp., $4.95). The author of a 1966 breakthrough book, Abortion, follows it with Abortion II, a lively, insider’s account of the abortion movement since that time. In the 1966 book Lader suggested that clergy get involved in abortion referral, and one result was the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion in New York City. The senior minister and the administrator of the controversial Judson Memorial Church tell the story of the CCS in Abortion Counseling and Social Change. Bluford and Petres are a Virginia minister and a gynecologist who have done a lot of abortion counseling. Their book is a rather folksy (“shake the hand of a gal with a lot of courage,” one “case study” begins) survey of the options available to the woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Promotes abortion and denigrates other options. The Sarvis-Rod-man book, by contrast with the other three, is balanced and relatively objective. It is a sociological research study of the state of abortion in the United States today, with many statistics, many references to the literature, and a bibliography of nearly 300 items.
Key 73 Congregational Resource Book Supplement (Key 73 [418 Olive St., St. Louis, Mo. 63102], 116 pp., $2 pb). Further aids on such topics as summer fair ministries, impact weeks, and new-life missions.
The Story of Faith Healing, by Sybil Leek (Macmillan, 179 pp., $6.95). A self-proclaimed witch discusses faith healing as a broad phenomenon that includes participants from Christianity, Christian Science, and occultism in a manner suggesting the validity of all such world views. Useful to confront those who think non-medical healing proves the truth of their doctrines.
Which Way?, by John and Karen Howe (Morehouse-Barlow, 136 pp., n.p., pb). A helpful guide for new Christians. Frank and relevant questions (“Why do I keep sinning? What can I do about it?”) are given careful answers from Scripture and personal experience.
The Text of the Septuagint, by Peter Walters (Cambridge, 419 pp., $37.50). A detailed study of the grammatical corruptions and Semitisms in the Septuagint with an eye to producing a new critical edition.
A Theology of Love, by Mildred Wynkoop (Beacon Hill, 372 pp., $6.95). In a review of Wesleyan theology the dynamic of love is stressed as the essence of Wesley’s concept of holiness. College or seminary level presentation.
God At My Elbow, by Harold Leestma (Word, 84 pp., $2.95). A minister shares the meaning of conversion to Christ in a simple and conversational style.
Soundings In Satanism, assembled by F. J. Sheed (Sheed and Ward, 236 pp., $6.95). Nineteen substantive essays, mostly by Europeans and/or Catholics, on the portrayal of the devil in the Bible, Dante, Dostoevsky, and others, and on devil worship from medieval times to the present.
Critical Issues in Modern Religion, by Roger Johnson et al. (Prentice-Hall, 472 pp., $10.95). Five professors of religion at Wellesley College evaluate the impact on religion of issues raised by thirteen Enlightenment thinkers. The epilogue extends a vaporous hope for a truly transcendent post-modern religion.
Heavy Bread, arranged by Elizabeth and Nancy Kauffman (Keats [212 Elm St., New Canaan, Conn. 06840], 210 pp., $1.25 pb). Two young people have compiled under appropriate topics Bible verses from many versions to help their peers live life as it should be. The topics range from “abundance” through “getting even” and “messed up” to “worship.”
From the Mountains of L’Abri, by Betty Carlson (Key Publishers [Box 991, Wheaton, Ill. 60187], 167 pp., $1.95 pb). Warm, humorous, uplifting book of short subjects by a neighbor of Francis Schaeffer.
Luther: A Profile, edited by H. G. Koenigsberger (Hill and Wang, 234 pp., $7.95). Twelve scholarly selections from diverse viewpoints. Luther’s theological and historical significance is considered along with interpretations by a Marxist and a psychoanalyst. Even includes an article on Luther the musician.
Paul Tournier’s Medicine of the Whole Person (Word, 207 pp., $5.95). A compilation of thirty-nine essays honoring Paul Tournier on his 75th birthday. Brief thoughts or tributes by a wide range of admirers and colleagues, the majority Europeans, most of which relate directly to Tournier’s emphasis on the “whole person.”
A Return to Christian Culture, by Richard S. Taylor (Beacon Hill, 94 pp., $1.50 pb). An intriguing and challenging book; calling on Christians to conform to the highest standards of culture, to enjoy culture as a gift from God, and to eliminate pagan elements. Provocative.
Prophecy Made Plain for Times Like These, by Carl Johnson (Moody, 272 pp., $5.95), and A Survey of Bible Prophecy, by R. Ludwigson (Zondervan, 187 pp., $2.95 pb). Two introductory surveys. Evangelist Johnson presents at length, and replete with quotations, the pre-trib pre-mill position. Ludwigson, former president of Trinity college and seminary, revised and updated his “Bible Prophecy Notes” to provide not only an excellent discussion of the above position, but also of its alternatives.
Memoirs, by W. A. Visser’t Hooft (Westminster, 379 pp., $15). The former general secretary of the World Council of Churches, who served from its earliest stages until his retirement in 1966, briefly reviews his personal background and more fully develops his role in the ecumenical movement and his perceptions of that period.
The Living Bible, paraphrased by Kenneth Taylor (Holman, 1,226 pp., $12.95). The best selling loose translation of the Scriptures is now available from another publisher with 550 full color illustrations plus maps. A good edition for one’s living room.
Studies in Richard Hooker, edited by W. Speed Hill (Case Western Reserve, 363 pp., n.p.). Six scholarly essays and an annotated bibliography on Hooker (1554–1600), English theologian and political philosopher. Discussions of his political views include the evolution of his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity followed by essays on his hermeneutics, relation to Anglicanism, and his writing style.
The Story of My Life, by Aimee Semple McPherson (Word, 255 pp., $5.95). A dramatic autobiography by the founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. It was discovered, incomplete, many years after her death in 1944, and was completed by a sympathetic associate using excerpts from other McPherson writings and sermons.
The Case Against Pornography, edited by David Holbrook (Open Court [La Salle, Ill. 61301], 294 pp., $8.95). A good anthology for those concerned with the rise of pornography in our culture. However, there is no religious—to say nothing of Christian—orientation.
Introduction to a Theological Theory of Language, by Gerhard Ebeling (Fortress, 221 pp., $6.50). A complex and somewhat opaque study of language as communication, proclamation, and event by a disciple of Bultmann. Attempts to get at the meaning of the Christian message, but seems preoccupied with the linguistic and psychological mechanism of communication rather than with the objective validity of what the message is saying.
Break Down the Walls, by Johannes Verkuyl (Eerdmans, 166 pp., $2.95 pb). Drawing from anthropology, biology, and, most extensively, the Bible, the author argues against racial inequality. The largest chapter criticizes South African apartheid. Strong statements on a vital issue.
Personalities Around Paul, by D. Edmond Hiebert (Moody, 270 pp., $5.95). A New Testament professor introduces more than twenty-five associates of Paul, from Apollos through Lydia and Mark to Tychicus. Useful to Bible teachers.
Religions of the Ancient Near East, by Helmer Ringgren (Westminster, 197 pp., $7.50). A well written, scholarly overview of the religions of the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and West Semitic cultures. Emphasizes some elements of particular interest to Old Testament studies, to which this book can serve as a useful background.
The Kingdom Seekers, by Merle Allison Johnson (Abingdon, 144 pp., $3.75). The Christian life should be worship but often is a spiritual “high,” sort of a substitute for drugs. Brings solidity to the current revival.
The Two Sides of a Coin, by Charles and Frances Hunter (Time-Light, 127 pp., $1.45 pb). A “how-to” approach to speaking in “tongues” by a couple who begin by relating their own introduction to the experience. Too subjective.
Generative Man: Psychoanalytic Perspectives, by Don Browning (Westminster, 266 pp., $10.95). The author sees and endorses a shift in Western ethics from Calvin and the “Protestant Ethic” to psychoanalytically oriented ethics rooted in Freud. He discusses in particular the contributions of four spokesmen, Philip Rieff, Norman Brown, Erich Fromm, and Erik Erikson.
Cardinal Newman in His Age, by Harold L. Weatherby (Vanderbilt, 296 pp., $11.50). The place of Cardinal Newman (1801–1890) in English theology and literature is examined, concentrating on his efforts to synthesize dogmatic catholic orthodoxy with key elements of modern thought. Scholarly and well written.
Bias and the Poor, by James E. Dittes, Bridging the Gap, by Merton P. Strommen, and I Hurt Inside, by Ralph C. Underwager (Augsburg, 100 pp. each, $1.95 each pb). Based on the extensive research of Lutheran religious, social, and personal beliefs published as A Study of Generations. The ideas are valuable for those in other denominations as well. Strommen suggests that the differences between the generations are smaller than supposed but that the loneliness of youth is growing. Loneliness can be overcome through Christian community. Underwager and Dittes rely more on the most noted conclusion of A Study of Generations, that a grace rather than a law orientation makes a positive impact on the churchgoer. Dittes applies this to prejudice; Underwager deals with self-acceptance. Both books have rewarding observations and suggestions. Each book has a useful guide to facilitate group discussion.
Martin Bucer, edited by David Wright (Sutton Courtenay [Appleford, Abingdon, Berkshire, England], 520 pp., £ 8). Selected writings on a wide range of topics by a prominent Protestant theologian and diplomat of the Reformation. Bucer’s role as a conciliator of various disputes including attempts at agreement with the Catholics is discussed in an extended introduction.
An Exodus For the Church, by William F. Keucher (Judson, 126 pp., $2.50 pb). An appeal to reexamine Christian traditions in the light of the Bible in order to offset stagnation. Raises doubts about some “traditions” that should be preserved, however.
A Christian Handbook on Vital Issues, edited by Herman Otten (Leader Publishing Co. [Box 168, New Haven, Mo. 63068], 854 pp., $4.95 pb). The controversial but often embarrassingly accurate editor of Christian News presents in handbook form many of the most noteworthy articles arising from a decade of struggle against theological vagaries in the Missouri Synod and elsewhere.
Kingdom of Darkness, by F. W. Thomas (Logos, 158 pp., $1.95 pb) and Strange Things Are Happening, by Roger Elwood (David C. Cook, 127 pp., $.95 pb). Still more evangelical surveys of occultism.
In the Presence of Mine Enemies, by Howard and Phyllis Rutledge (Revell, 124 pp., $4.95). Commander Howard Rutledge’s seven-year ordeal as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. Relates his spiritual awakening in the midst of extreme physical and mental hardships. His wife briefly tells her struggle during the separation. Dramatic and moving.
The Bible: A Modern Understanding, by J. Lindblom (Fortress, 197 pp., $3.95 pb). An Old Testament scholar at the University of Lund, Sweden, gives an explanation of the canonicity, translations, interpretation, authorship, literary and cultural merit, and religious meaning of the Bible. Accepts modern critical methods; does not specify orthodox beliefs.
Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, by Augustine (Fortress, 196 pp., $3.75 pb). One of the earliest works of the great theologian was a series of sermons on the great sermon. This is a contemporary translation (based on a recent critical edition of the text) published under the overly general title The Preaching of Augustine, with a good introduction by Jaroslav Pelikan.
Theology of Evolution, by Ervin Nemesszeghy and John Russell (Fides, 96 pp., $.95 pb). You can believe in certain types of evolution and still believe in God, Creator of the universe. Some thoughts on evolution and its relation to theology, including a chapter on Teilhard. Provocative, well-organized.
When Jerusalem Burned, by Gerard Israel and Jacques Lebar (Morrow, 177 pp., $6.95). A journalistic survey of the era of Roman rule in Palestine. Digested largely from Josephus’s account of the period, it is an engaging reconstruction. The view of Jesus as a frustrated war leader, however, is unacceptable.
The Black Muslims in America, by C. Eric Lincoln (Beacon, 302 pp., $2.95 pb). Revised edition of a classic case study on the history, ideology, and present influence of the Black Muslims. The author is founding president of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and teaches at Union Seminary (New York). Thorough, well documented, objective, informative.
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