Crash Go the Chariots, by Clifford Wilson (1972, Word of Truth [Box 2, Burnt Hills, N.Y. 12027] and Lancer, 128 pp., $1.25 pb), is reviewed by Barry H. Downing, pastor, Northminster Presbyterian Church, Endwell, New York.

One example of space-age spin-off is a new kind of literature arguing that the biblical religion was influenced by beings from another world. The angels in the Bible are sometimes treated as ancient astronauts from another planet, or another universe.

The best known book in this field is Erich von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods? (1968), which was made popular in the United States as the basis for Rod Serling’s NBC-TV documentary “In Search of Ancient Astronauts,” first shown January 5, 1973. An evangelical archaeologist, Clifford Wilson, wrote Crash Go the Chariots in an attempt to refute von Daniken.

It is easy to understand why a Christian would want to attack von Daniken’s thesis. He is a self-proclaimed agnostic—he thinks there may be a “God,” but he certainly does not believe that God revealed himself in any special way to the Hebrew people. He does think, however, that many of the biblical stories of contacts with angels are true, except that the angels were not angels; they were really ancient astronauts who flew to our earth in “heavenly chariots” and carried out some type of breeding experiments with the Jews! These beings saved Lot when they bombed Sodom with nuclear weapons, and led Moses in the Exodus with the help of an electrified ark.

Von Daniken’s work ranges far beyond the Bible, however, taking note of archaeological oddities such as the giant stone carvings on Easter Island, the pyramids of Egypt, the unusual Piri Reis maps, and an apparent ancient airfield in the Plain of Nazca. He cites dozens of pieces of evidence to suggest that the earth may have been visited in the past by civilized beings from outer space.

Wilson sets out to shoot down von Daniken’s chariots. A trained archaeologist, Wilson is able to cast doubt on some of the claims of von Daniken, who is an inn-keeper by profession, and self-taught in archaeology. Wilson points out that one of the Piri Reis maps that resembles a photograph of the earth taken by an Apollo rocket “is not as accurate as claimed by von Daniken.” He goes on to argue that ancient civilizations on earth could well have built massive structures like the pyramids and the Easter Island statues. He suggests that the destruction of Sodom was more likely by earthquake and burning sulphur gases than by nuclear weapons in the hands of space visitors.

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Generally one has to agree with Wilson that von Daniken has not proven ancient space visitation to earth. But I am basically troubled by Wilson’s work. I agree with him that the Bible must be the authority for Christians in dealing with the issues von Daniken is raising, but I do not think Wilson has really faced the issues squarely. For instance, he vigorously attacks von Daniken for suggesting that Enoch was taken off to heaven in a “fiery chariot,” but he fails even to mention the parallel incident concerning Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) or to say anything of the fact that Jesus ascended into heaven in a strange “cloud” (Acts 1:9).

I believe the space age calls us to take a closer look at many of the things recorded in the Bible, and to wonder about them. Should we not wonder where heaven is, and who the angels are, and how the angels travel between earth and heaven? Wilson does not wonder about any of these things at all. What are the unusual UFOs in the Bible, like the pillar of cloud and of fire that led Moses during the Exodus, the chariot of fire of Elijah, the wheels of Ezekiel, the “bright cloud” hovering over Jesus at his transfiguration and ascension, the “clouds of heaven” on which Jesus will someday return with his angels? It seems to me that Wilson’s approach can push the Church toward the same kind of box it was in when it “knew” that Copernicus was wrong, that the sun went around the earth, not the earth around the sun.

We must be very careful about what the Bible says and does not say. The Bible does not say that man is alone in the universe; the biblical doctrine of angels leads one to believe just the opposite. The Bible does not say that beings from other planets cannot travel to our earth. I do not believe that heaven is on another planet, but I cannot prove from the Bible that it is not! Can we prove from the Bible that some of the angels do not come from other planets?

We may want to believe that angels are supernatural beings, and probably some of them are, but are all of them? What about the devil and his angels? Wilson argues that Jesus taught that angels “are without sex.” To prove this he refers to Matthew 22:30, but Jesus did not say that angels have no sex, only that they do not marry. Perhaps angels have no sex, but is there conclusive proof of this in the Bible? The Apostle Paul may even have thought angels could be sexually tempted (1 Cor. 11:10). Angels may be more human than we would like to think!

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Could angels come from another planet and still serve God’s purpose? The answer lies in a proper understanding of the Holy Spirit. What qualifies an angel to speak for God—being supernatural, or having the Holy Spirit? The early apostles were ordinary men, yet as Paul says they were accepted as angels (Gal. 4:14). Erich von Daniken would be interested to know that after Paul and Barnabas healed a lame man at Lystra, the people offered sacrifices saying, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men” (Acts 14:11). Neither the apostles nor the angels from heaven ever claimed to be God, but they did claim to have God’s power. If von Daniken changed his thesis to Chariots of God’s Angels, he might not be far from the biblical view. I think it is possible to believe that God’s angels, inspired by his Holy Spirit, came from another planet, and still be within the boundary of biblical teaching.

As we move into the space age, we need to be open to any possibility that is not clearly ruled out by the Bible. Is it possible that beings on other planets have the Holy Spirit? I hope we will not be surprised to find that they do, as the early Jewish Christians were surprised to discover God had given his Holy Spirit to unbaptized Gentiles (Acts 10:44–48).

The wide range of literature dealing with speculation concerning space travel and the Bible may be divided into three types. Type 1 deals with archaeology and space travel, as do von Daniken and Wilson. Another book of this type is Jean Sendy’s Those Gods Who Made Heaven and Earth (1969), which argues that the Garden of Eden was a space station established on earth. Type 2 relates the modern UFO problem to the Bible, and includes my own book, The Bible and Flying Saucers (1968), in which I argue, among other things, that the pillar of cloud and of fire of the Exodus may have caused the parting of the Red Sea. Type 3 borders on occult literature, making it very difficult to sort out fact from fancy, as in Daniel W. Fry’s work The White Sands Incident (1966). Dr. Fry relates a personal experience of meeting a landed UFO at the White Sands testing grounds and going for a ride in it, while receiving wisdom and instruction from a “voice” in the UFO.

In his article “UFOs and the Bible: A Review of the Literature” (The A.P.R.O. Bulletin, September–October, 1971), Dr. Robert S. Ellwood of the University of Southern California lists fifteen books in the general area of space visitation and the Bible, and his list is not complete. He quite rightly observes that in most of these books “the general level of scholarship is so low” that much of the material is almost a waste of time for an educated person to read.

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Certainly this field invites wide speculation, hoax, and sensationalism. Furthermore, as Wilson has shown, men like von Daniken may use the space age to try to discredit the biblical faith. But I think the space age has also given us a wonderful opportunity to proclaim the Gospel with new power. Maybe the day has come when more people can believe that God’s angels are still watching over us in their heavenly chariots!

Glad To Have Both

The Gospel According to Luke, by Anthony Lee Ash (Sweet [Box 4055, Austin, Tex. 78751] 1972, two volumes, 167 and 156 pp., $8.50 each), and Commentary on Luke: Jesus, the Universal Savior, by Ray Summers (Word, 1972, 338 pp., $8.95), are reviewed by Edmon L. Rowell, Jr., minister, Lee Street Baptist Church, Danville, Virginia.

Here are two verse-by-verse expositions of Luke based on the Revised Standard Version that combine good evangelical scholarship with a concern to interpret for today the theological meaning and message of this Gospel account. They are distinguished by style, format, and intended audiences.

Ash’s commentary is part four of The Living Word Commentary on the New Testament which, when complete, will consist of twenty-one volumes (Ash is a member of the Churches of Christ, non-instrumental). The series, intended for the “non-professional” reader or the “average church member and Bible student,” is non-technical. His crisp writing together with an especially clear page format (small pages, short paragraphs separated by white space, and the judicious use of bold type) make this commentary readable. This is not, however, a watered-down interpretation of Luke; both “professional” (preacher, teacher, student) and “non-professional” will benefit.

Summers’ volume evidently is intended for at least the semi-professional (perhaps for the college student and the pastor). (Summers is a Southern Baptist.) While Ash is two small volumes, Summers is a hefty, packed volume. (Although the number of pages in both is almost the same, Summers has written at least three times as much as Ash). He deals more at length with every passage, particularly with such knotty problems as the destruction of the temple and the coming of the Son of Man at 21:5–36, the redaction of 22:19–20, and the appearances of the risen Christ at Luke 24 as compared with the rest of the New Testament. While Ash generally is just as thorough on the text of Luke and does relate Luke to the whole of Scripture, Summers often considers Old Testament backgrounds and New Testament parallels of Luke. Summers’s somewhat technical discussion will not overwhelm pastor or Bible teacher with such problems as textual and redaction criticism.

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In general, then, Ash is intentionally simplified while Summers is more detailed. Ash, for example, cites parallels in his treatment of the appearances of the risen Christ in Luke 24, without leaving the Lucan account. Summers on the other hand gives a detailed account of the appearances as occurring in all the Gospels and Paul, suggests reasons for the differences in the various accounts (to be explained, he suggests, by the different theological interests of the individual writers), and then offers his own hypothesis of the number and order of the appearances in all the accounts. Also, both think verses 22:19b–20 (relegated to a footnote in RSV) should stand in the text. Ash says “the longer reading has better manuscript evidence”; Summers lists the manuscripts. Further, Summers goes into some detail as to what is gained or lost if these verses are omitted or allowed to stand. While Summers spends almost a page on this particular problem, Ash gives only a short paragraph. Ash, as thorough as Summers in his recognition of the problem, provides the reader with less information.

One might wish that both authors had given the reader a fuller introduction, a better outline of their positions with regard to the purpose and methods of Luke the “salvation-historian” and a clearer statement of their purpose and methods as interpreters. Ash’s introduction might stand had he not teased the reader with the mention of Conzelmann and alluded to the current debate concerning whether Luke invented, modified, or simply continued within the church’s “salvation-historical” perspective.

Summers also alludes to this current issue in Lucan studies, but neither writer gives a clear statement of the issue or of their position. While it is always a temptation to dwell on what the author did not write, here this omission is crucial.

Evidently Ash believes that the very early church’s expectation of an imminent parousia was never an overwhelming concern and that the basic concern of the very early church was the same as in Luke’s day, a “salvation-historical” concern that resulted in an emphasis of the church’s mission in the world (an emphasis Luke carried over into Acts). Luke’s emphasis on the time Jesus said would elapse before his return in glory reflects the gospel writers’ concern to modify the early church’s interest in an expected imminent parousia, Summers implies. The differences between the two may be related only to the place they assign the book of Luke in the early church and in the New Testament.

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Ash finds three major emphases in Luke: Luke’s concern for salvation-history (the fulfillment of God’s purposes in history, especially in Jesus); his emphasis on the universality of God’s concern for man (particularly the acceptability of the Gentiles); and his stress upon the work of the Spirit and prayer in Jesus’s ministry. He also lists eight “special” themes, citing those passages where they occur.

Luke, according to Summers, emphasized the church’s present mission to present Jesus as the universal saviour on the basis of God’s redemptive purpose for all men. Summers also points out Luke’s emphasis on the place of the Holy Spirit and prayer in Jesus’s life (see 3:21). Both men accept Conzelmann’s main conclusion that Luke’s primary theological concern in his account of the history of Jesus is the place of Jesus’s life in God’s “salvation-history.”

While one might wish for a clearer interpretation of the overall meaning and message of Luke, both these commentaries are excellent verse-by-verse expositions.

Let the reader choose whether he needs a commentary aimed at the “non-professional” (Ash) or a more detailed one that deals at length with the various problems involved (Summers). I am glad to have both.

A Challenge To Christians

Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America, by Robert Ellwood, Jr. (Prentice-Hall, 1972, 334 pp., $8.95, $3.95 pb), is reviewed by J. Gordon Melton, director, Institute for the Study of American Religion, Evanston, Illinois.

Robert S. Ellwood is emerging as one of the nation’s foremost scholars in the history of religions and has in this work done himself credit and the public a great service. The book basically is a survey of a wide variety of modern movements on the fringe of the better-known religions, principally those movements gaining ground among the counter-culture. Accompanying the survey is a lengthly theoretical section offering an approach to understanding historically the alternative religious tradition in the West.

In his chapter on “The History of the Alternative Reality in the West,” Ellwood spells out what is becoming more and more important as psychic-charismatic phenomena become the focal point of a significant segment of the Church. This alternative reality is the monistic, psychic, mystic, experience-centered tradition inherited from Plato, the East, Plotinus, and the Hermetic writings. Continuous with the dominant tradition in the West (which is based on the “one who brings a message” or emissary tradition exemplified by the Jewish prophet) is this mystical, experiential tradition. Both may be more or less orthodox. The later tradition grades from the mysticism of a Thomas Merton, to Pentecostalism, to witchcraft and ritual magic, with all shades in between, and may be traced in a somewhat unbroken line to the ancient Mediterranean basin.

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The central figure in the alternative tradition is the shaman. The shaman is the one who embodies the mystical “supernatural” reality around which a group can function. He makes things happen and serves as a “mediator” with the unseen.

The primary movements that Ellwood writes about are those that find expression in southern California and the west coast, but almost all the groups have become national bodies. Some, like Theosophy, The Church of All Worlds, Scientology, and Transcendental Meditation, have “congregations” across the country. Others have built mailing lists on a national basis and offer a primal expression through the mails. In almost all instances, the groups or very similar ones are represented somewhere close to you.

The variety of religious expression in America today is astounding. Besides some eight hundred “Christian” denominational bodies there are some four hundred non-Christian expressions that are making a major challenge for the allegiance of the young. Wherever they appear, it is a challenge to the Church, a challenge to present the Gospel in its fullness, with clarity, and as a manifestation of the Greater Reality that is the core of its existence. In this light, Ellwood’s work will be a source of information, a stimulus to theologizing, and a tool for ministry.

Majoring On The Minors

Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, by Joyce Baldwin (Inter-Varsity Press, 1972, 253 pp., $5.95), and A Commentary on The Minor Prophets, by Homer Hailey (Baker, 1972, 428 pp., $6.95), are reviewed by Robert Alden, associate professor of Old Testament, Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado.

Joyce Baldwin, dean of women at Trinity College, Bristol, England, has contributed a very worthwhile addition to the growing series of “Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.” As series editor Donald Wiseman explains in the preface, the aim of this series is “to provide the student of the Bible with a handy up-to-date commentary … with the primary emphasis on exegesis.”

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“Additional Notes” are scattered through the otherwise verse-by-verse commentary. For example, the term “the Lord of hosts” receives special treatment since it appears fourteen times in Haggai, fifty-three in Zechariah, and twenty-four in Malachi. The divine jealousy is discussed for two pages in connection with Zechariah 1:14 while another extended note focuses on Zechariah’s horses.

Baldwin evidences a breadth of reading and research in her abundant allusions to opinions of others and in the extensive footnotes. However, she seems unable or unwilling to show her preference on many questions, such as the date of Zechariah or whether Malachi is a name, a title, or a common noun. She is not opinionated, but she is basically conservative in theology. On the other hand, some will be unhappy at the paucity of references to the New Testament. For example, in connection with Zechariah 9:9 and 12:10 Baldwin shows considerable reserve in associating the prophet’s words with the gospel writers’ allusions.

Somewhat universal is the emphasis on chiastic structure. Individual verses are cited (e.g., Zech. 8:2, 9:5, 10:6, 12), but most noteworthy is the outline for Zechariah as a whole. The case for introverted parallelism is made very strong, particularly in chapters 9–14.

This commentary should give the serious Bible student considerable insight into some of the more interesting intricacies as well as into the knotty problems that the three prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi have.

Homer Hailey is an administrator and teacher at Florida College. His commentary on all the minor prophets is written much less technically than the one by Joyce Baldwin. He writes as a pastor to people with many more applications of God’s Word to everyday life. By and large the critical questions are dismissed with a simple statement that this or that suggestion seems more clearly accurate.

Apparently Hailey is explaining the English text only. The infrequent allusions to Hebrew are transliterations lifted from some other commentary such as Keil and Delitzsch. The ASV serves as the basic translation with textual criticism limited to its marginal alternates. There is no reference, for instance, to the variant reading of Amos 6:12 offered by the RSV. There is no hint of the two-donkey problem at Zechariah 9:9.

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Although the position of the commentary is soundly and unquestionably conservative, there is absent any detailed search to interpret the future. The comments are mostly centered on how the prophets came across to their own people. The author deals only with those phophecies that were definitely fulfilled in the New Testament. There is certainly no elaborate preconstruction of eschatological events. An example is his treatment of the closing verses of Amos: “The prophecy looked to the present dispensation or era, and not to a future millennial reign of Christ on earth.”

The commentary is most valuable for the aid it renders in understanding the prophets themselves, their books, their times, their audiences, and their problems.

His background in the literature is not nearly as extensive as Baldwin’s, and he makes almost no reference to recent studies on these books. Most of the comments grow out of years of studying, teaching, and preaching these ancient prophets. Although the commentary is not a homiletical one, it will be valuable to pastors. It is simply a forthright explanation of the English text of the twelve minor prophets.

Newly Published
A Translator’s Handbook on the Letters of John, by C. Haas, M. DeJonge, and J. L. Swellengrebel, and A Translator’s Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, by Barclay Newman and Eugene Nida (American Bible Society, 171 pp. and 325 pp., n.p., pb). Volumes XIII and XIV of the “Helps for Translators” series. The formats differ somewhat. The Romans volume includes a more efficient presentation of the Scripture text and reflects the book’s expository nature by a larger emphasis on problems of discourse structure. Both volumes aid the translator in the proper grammatical sense of the Greek as well as in potential problems with receptor languages. Valuable tools that can be an asset to preachers and teachers too.
I Don’t Feel Called (Thank the Lord), by Don Hillis (Tyndale, 128 pp., $1.25 pb). Honest, scripturally based answers to the most frequent arguments against responding to a “call” to the mission field. Shows insight into the reasoning behind objections to going and deals with them in a warm, humorous fashion. Great for the young person desiring God’s will for his life.
It Only Hurts When I Laugh, by Ethel Barrett (Regal, 260 pp., $1.25 pb). An exposition on First Peter. Warmly written and amusingly illustrated.
‘His’ Guide to Life on Campus, by Stephen Board and others (Inter-Varsity, 127 pp., $1.50 pb). Collection of articles first published in His, dealing with adjusting, as a Christian, to life on a secular college campus.
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Creative Handcrafts, four volumes, compiled by Eleanor Doan (Regal, c. 120 pp. each, $1.25 each pb). Very useful ideas for workers with pre-schoolers, primaries, juniors, and youth.
God’s Statesman: The Life and Work of John Owen, by Peter Toon (Zondervan, 200 pp., $5.95). A scholarly biography of a prominent English theologian of the Puritan era who was an influential associate of Oliver Cromwell.
Marjoe, by Steven Gaines (Harper & Row, 238 pp., $6.95). The incredible story of Marjoe Gortner: his training as an “evangelist,” ordination when he was four years old, nationwide preaching tours, “retirement” at fourteen, and the intervening years up to his return to sidestream Pentecostal revival circuits. Marjoe is presented openly and sympathetically in a manner that exposes the willingness of his parents to prostitute their children for self gain. A troublesome portrayal of religious charlatanry exploiting gullible innocence and sincerity on the part of his audiences.
I Once Spoke in Tongues, by Wayne Robinson (Forum [1610 LaVista Rd. N.E., Atlanta, Ga. 30329], 144 pp., $4.95, and Tyndale, 144 pp., $1.95 pb). A former Pentecostal evangelist relates how he sought, found, and eventually gave up speaking in tongues. Includes brief exegesis of related Scriptures as well as a question-and-answer section.
The Coming Crisis in Israel, by Norman Zucker (M.I.T., 282 pp., $10). A scholarly examination of Israel’s political system and the growing tension of an ongoing religion-state controversy. Diverse pressures within Judaism itself as well as demands of secularists threaten government stability with a possible Kulturkampf. Objective and well written.
Audio-Visual Media in Christian Education, by Gene A. Getz (Moody, 236 pp., $5.95). An excellent “how-to-do-it” survey of audio-visual tools, designed for Christian-education directors. Covers everything from maps to movies and slides to flannel boards, and is loaded with pictures, graphs, and step-by-step instructions. Should be on every C. E. director’s bookshelf as well as in the church library.
The Enemy: Satan’s Struggle For Two Boys’ Souls, by Jim Grant (Tyndale, 107 pp., $1.95 pb). A true, compelling story of two boys’ struggles with Satan and the concern of a Christian couple to defeat the demons. Stresses the reality of demon possession.
A Theology For Artisans of a New Humanity, Volumes 1 and 2, by Juan Luis Segundo (Orbis, 172 and 213 pp., $6.95 each, $3.95 pb). The first two of five volumes by a Latin American Catholic and his collaborators that approach theological issues in the light of Vatican II and seek to grapple with contemporary social problems. Volume one, The Community Called Church, is not a traditional work on ecclesiology but a thoughtful exploration of the Church’s responsibilities to its members and the total society. Volume two, Grace and the Human Condition, touches on the Pelagian controversy but moves to discuss the personal freedom meant for all through maturity in Christ. Designed for seminar or classroom use.
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The Parish Development Process, by Marvin Judy (Abingdon, 207 pp., $5.75). A professor of sociology of religion at Southern Methodist outlines advantages and specific methods for widespread cooperation among congregations that are in the same localities. Stresses best and most efficient use of human and other resources. Well developed.
Baptism in the New Testament, by G. R. Beasley-Murray (Eerdmans, 422 pp., $4.95 pb). Reprint of a thorough and scholarly study of baptism. Traces historical antecedents, the gospel accounts, development in Acts, and apostolic writings, and concludes with a discussion of the rise and significance of infant baptism. Practitioners of infant baptism who don’t wish to reconsider their views had best avoid this book.
For Those Tears, by Nora Lam and Cliff Dudley (Creation House, 178 pp., $4.95). Autobiography of evangelist Nora Lam, telling of her escape from Red China and her relationship to Jesus Christ. Interesting pleasure reading.
Methodism and the Irish Problem, by Frederick Jeffery (Christian Journals [27 Chichester St., Belfast, N. Ireland], 40 pp., n.p., pb). A valuable summary of the politico-religious problem of Ireland today.
Hope in Time of Abandonment, by Jacques Ellul (Seabury, 306 pp., $8.95). Exposes, in the French Calvinist pundit’s familiarly incisive way, a host of false hopes common to our age, and, warning against false optimism, still urges confidence in God’s grace and providence. Slightly jaundiced, but challenging and stimulating.
Orthodoxy: A Creed For Today: Plain Talks on the Orthodox Faith Based on the Nicene Creed, by Anthony M. Coniaris (Light and Life [Box 26421, Minneapolis, Minn. 55426], 268 pp., $4.95). A clear, readable, and straightforward interpretation of the historic Christian beliefs embodied in the Nicene Creed, only slightly colored by the author’s deep commitment to Eastern Orthodoxy. Interesting.
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I’ll Quit Tomorrow, by Vernon Johnson (Harper & Row, 168 pp., $5.95). An excellent, clearly written book for persons who are counseling alcoholics and their families. It is not aimed at Christian counselors or the typical situations a pastor would encounter, but the psychological insights and suggested means to treat addiction deserve serious consideration.
The Flight of Peter Fromm, by Martin Gardner (William Kaufmann [One First St., Los Altos, Cal. 94022], 272 pp., $8.95). Clearly labeled on the cover as fiction, but then the introduction seems to present the book as a factual biography. (Confusing.) Anyway, this is the narrative of a foolhardy young evangelical attending the University of Chicago Divinity School to prove the errors of modernism. Instead a genial non-theistic Unitarian professor wins him over, but in the process the author also demonstrates no reasonable stopping point (such as neo-orthodoxy) between historic theism and atheism. The portrayal is striking.
Family Camping, by Lloyd Mattson (Moody, 141 pp., $1.95 pb). A practical handbook that includes addresses and bibliography for further reference. A must for the novice camper.

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