Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish, by D. Elton Trueblood (Harper & Row, 1973, 140 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Harold B. Kuhn, professor of philosophy of religion, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.

Biographies of Abraham Lincoln exist in abundance, but analyses of his spiritual life are relatively few. In Lincoln’s Religion William J. Wolf covers many aspects of the question but leaves a number of vital points unresolved. D. Elton Trueblood’s volume is the result of studies over a period of eight years, during which he left no significant literary source unexamined. It will without doubt be normative in its area for a long time.

Professor Trueblood deals with Lincoln’s religious thought as a lifelong pilgrimage; he finds that boyhood experiences set up a tension in Lincoln’s thinking that was resolved only under conditions of extreme stress and crushing responsibility. Two elements struggled for supremacy within the person of Lincoln: that of the hard-headed rationalist (which enabled him to meet the general demands of the presidential office), and that of the man with a heart open to his Maker (which gave him the spiritual qualifications for that office).

These two elements coalesced to form what Trueblood calls “political mysticism,” indispensable to one faced with the anguishing decisions of a wartime chief executive. Through years of apparent failure, and through four years of concentrated uncertainty, Lincoln was, the documents tell us, sustained by an unwavering confidence in divine providence. This confidence seemed to spread in his thinking until it became an articulated theology—a theology not detailed enough to satisfy some of the professionals, but certainly not a mere veneer.

This volume points out with clarity the difference between genuine public religion and a merely cultic use of religion. Trueblood shows that with Lincoln the use of the Christian religion in public life was not incidental; it was the expression of central convictions that had gripped not only the soul of the President but his mind as well. His allusions to Scripture were not studied phrases but integral parts of his thought that simply appeared.

The element of anguish that underlay Lincoln’s inner development was objectified by the events of 1861–65. Being commander-in-chief during an unpopular and divisive war, he faced untold personal abuse and endless pressures to end the war immediately at any cost. “Days of rage” are nothing new in American life. Certainly Lincoln faced them, minus only the electronic media that enable the few to manipulate the many. Supporting evidence for the vitality of Lincoln’s Christian faith is found in the manner in which he endured abuse quietly and gracefully, in the meantime doing his duty as God enabled him to see that duty.

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The volume provides incidental answers to many questions, such as, Why did not Lincoln unite with one of the denominational churches?, and, How did he deal with the serious objectors to this war? But its major contribution to our understanding of our sixteenth President is the chronicling of the pathway by which a great-minded and freedom-cherishing man was led by God’s Spirit into a measure of “all truth” that enabled him to be adequate in one of the major periods of American agony.

If ever commitment to long-range principle clashed with the demands of instant compassion, it was within the heart of Abraham Lincoln. He was evidently willing to leave it to history to decide whether his resolution of the tension was correct or not. His genius seems to have been in his ability to apply the disciplines of faith to the crises of anguish.

Assessing The Social Scene

One Way to Change the World, by Leighton Ford (Harper & Row, 1970, 119 pp. $3.95, $1.95 pb), The Unheard Billy Graham, by W. David Lockard (Word, 1971, 166 pp., $4.95), The Christian and Social Concern, by Clifford V. Anderson (Harvest, 1971, 166 pp., $1.95), The Christian and Social Action, by Charles Y. Furness (Revell, 1972, 254 pp., $8.95), The Great Reversal, by David O. Moberg (Holman, 1972, 132 pp., $5.95), Is Revolution Change?, edited by Brian Griffiths (Inter-Varsity, 1972, 111 pp., $1.25 pb), Revolution and the Christian Faith, by Vernon C. Grounds (Holman, 1971, 240 pp., $4.95), and Christianity and the Class Struggle, by Harold O. J. Brown (Zondervan, revised edition, 1971, 223 pp., $1.25 pb), are reviewed by Paul B. Henry, assistant professor of political science, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

These volumes bear ample testimony to the surge of interest among evangelicals in the social and political consequences of Christian commitment. Two of them reflect the impact of this awakening upon the evangelistic endeavors of the Billy Graham organization. Leighton Ford’s One Way to Change the World is an outgrowth of his address to the U. S. Congress on Evangelism (1969). Ford speaks forcefully against racism, and pleads for Christian sensitivity to social need. But his insistence that “political pills cannot solve our problems” suggests that in the end his ethic is still victimized by an excessive reliance on pietistic individualism.

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In The Unheard Billy Graham W. David Lockard tries to show that the evangelist’s calls for personal repentance have been and continue to be linked with calls for a new life in Christ that has social consequences. However, Graham, like Ford, tends to see social sin as “merely a large-scale projection of individual sins” that must be rectified largely on an individual, one-to-one basis. Accordingly, Graham is hesitant to see the Church become institutionally involved in social and political questions.

Lockard fails to deal with the implications of Graham’s increasing ties to the political establishment and the danger that in the public eye evangelism through him will be linked to the nation’s civic religion. And he sees no inconsistency when Graham cautions against legislating morality in race relations but advocates legislating morality in the area of pornography and obscenity.

Conflict and Conscience by Senator Mark Hatfield is a collection of a dozen speeches in which the Senator attempts to relate his Christian faith to political issues. Of particular merit are the 1970 Fuller Seminary commencement speech, in which Hatfield challenges the evangelical community to show as much zeal for social justice as it has for dogma, and his 1969 speech before the “Moratorium Day” audience at the Pentagon, in which he relates peace between man and God in Christ to the matter of peace between nations. In a speech entitled “Authority vs. Love,” Hatfield makes some fine ethical distinctions: “Authority without love becomes authoritarianism, the futile attempt to rule by brute force. Love that ignores authority becomes mere sentimentality, the naïve belief that responsibility is the result of permissiveness.”

Hatfield shows sensitivity to both the individual and corporate dimensions of morality and responsibility. However, I take issue with his assertion that “Christianity is a relationship, not a dogma.” Christian faith is, of course, more than intellectual assent to dogmatic propositions. But without dogma, how do we ascertain that our faith is “Christian”?

In The Christian and Social Concern, Clifford Anderson begins with a brief review of the different approaches Christian bodies have taken in attempting to relate the city of God to the cities of men. He then focuses on specific areas of moral import such as peace and war, nationalism, affluence and want, race, politics, and sex. Each chapter concludes with a set of review and discussion questions; the volume would lend itself well to high school and adult Sunday-school discussion groups.

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Charles Furness’s The Christian and Social Action is a broad discussion of the role of the Christian community in alleviating social problems. Noting that Jesus ministered to the basic human needs of man as well as to his spiritual needs, Furness insists that his followers must do nothing less. He shows how tendencies toward separation from a post-Christian culture together with reactions against the liberal humanism of the social-gospel movement have caused many evangelicals to abandon their historic commitment to social action.

Furness refuses to relinquish the extreme individualism that has characterized twentieth-century evangelical thought and insists that “the entire Scripture focus on the individual.” He resolves the problem of applying moral absolutes to diverse cultural traditions with a pietistic insistence that “culture traits in violation of God’s moral law will be eliminated as souls seek the Lord in truth.” Distinguishing social action from evangelism, Furness nonetheless insists that they belong together in the life of the Church. While the book is bland and verbose in style, it contains a great deal of common sense garnered from the author’s many years of experience in social work and would be useful to the pastor seeking practical direction for extending his congregation’s involvement in the community.

None of the five books discussed thus far would be indispensable to the person with a serious interest in evangelical social ethics. Their chief value lies in showing that the evangelical social consciousness is at long last being awakened from its slumber; by and large they contribute little to the development of a systematic social ethic or strategy for the evangelical community. The next four volumes, however, do much more. Each merits a place in the library of the student of evangelical social ethics.

David Moberg’s The Great Reversal is a sociologist’s study of the dichotomy in contemporary Protestantism between the advocates of evangelism and the advocates of social activism. Moberg examines not only the theological differences that contribute to this dichotomy but also the sociological consequences.

Reviewing several major survey research studies showing strong correlation between those who hold to a conservative theology and those who hold to conservative social and political views, Moberg cautions against a hasty conclusion suggesting that a conservative theology leads either logically or sociologically to indifference to social need. In fact, he cites several studies that show that a strong personal religious commitment (generally found more often among theological conservatives), while correlating with a conservative social ethic, nevertheless breeds sympathy, compassion, and liberality at the interpersonal level.

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The task for conservative Christians, as Moberg sees it, is to develop a more thorough understanding of the social dimensions of sin and righteousness, and to overcome the individualism and Social Darwinism that so strongly influence the American consciousness. Recalling Timothy Smith’s reference to evangelicals’ abandonment of social action as “the great reversal,” Moberg concludes with a call for “reversing the great reversal,” and briefly surveys the evidence that this is now occurring within the evangelical community. Moberg’s book occasionally suffers from awkward sociological jargon—but perhaps he is simply trying to give the theologians a taste of their own medicine!

Harold Brown, Vernon Grounds, and the writers in Is Revolution Change? take as their starting point the need to speak out against the fantasy of revolution with which the modem mind is so enamored. Is Revolution Change? consists of five well-written essays geared to the current academic and theological debate on the merits and demerits of revolutionary action. The opening essay, by the editor, Brian Griffiths, shows the integral similarity among revolutionary socialism, anarchism, and “hippie dissent” insofar as each builds on the assumption that man is fundamentally good, therefore viewing evil as the result of outside forces.


New Strides of Faith, by Carl F. H. Henry (Moody, 140 pp., $2.25 pb). Sixteen lectures delivered to widely varied audiences by the first editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY in which he shares his convictions about the future of the Church and the Christian in modern society.
Why Churches Die, by Hollis L. Green (Bethany Fellowship, 219 pp., $1.95 pb). Thirty-five hindrances to church growth in the areas of programs, personnel, organization, fellowship, and renewal, together with creative biblical solutions. Sound and optimistic.
Religion in America, by Winthrop Hudson (Scribner, 463 pp., $12.50, $5.95 pb). The many developments since the first edition in 1965 call for a second edition of this introductory historical survey.
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Preacher Aflame, by Donald E. Demaray (Baker, 87 pp., $1.25 pb). An inspiring series of messages by Asbury Seminary’s dean of students on the qualities of the Spirit-filled preacher as prophet, pastor, listener, and expositor.
The Man Who Shook the World, by John Pollock (Victor, 244 pp., $1.95 pb). Paperback edition of the author’s widely respected The Apostle: A Life of Paul.
God’s Irregular: Arthur Shearly Cripps, by Douglas V. Steere (Pendle Hill Publications [Wallingford, Pa., 19086], 158 pp., $5.75). The biography of an Anglican missionary who became a beloved Rhodesian poet and statesman through his devotion to that country 1901–53. Rich in historical insight.
Historical Sketches of the Missions of the American Board, by Samuel C. Bartlett (Arno, 186 pp., $11). Originally written in 1876 as a survey of the ministry of the predominantly Congregational mission that was one of the pioneers of modern Western attempts to evangelize non-Western peoples.
Come to the Party, by Karl Olsson (Word, 178 pp., $4.95). The director of leadership training for Faith at Work discusses personal and church renewal, using as a pattern the parable of the Prodigal Son.
The Religion of Israel From Its Beginning to the Babylonian Exile, by Yehezkel Kaufmann (Shocken, 486 pp., $4.95 pb). The abridged and translated version of a significant multi-volume work is now available in paperback.
On Duty in Bangladesh, by Jeannie Lockerbie (Zondervan, 191 pp., $1.25 pb), and Christ in Bangladesh by James and Marti Hefley (Harper & Row, 109 pp., $4.95). The first is a missionary nurse’s personal story of ministry during the Pakistan civil war. The second is an account of missionary and government relief efforts after the war, written by two American free-lancers who visited the land.
The Learned Doctor William Ames, by Keith Sprunger (University of Illinois, 289 pp., $10). Ames (1576–1633) was a major thinker in the shaping of Puritanism in Old and New England. Part of his life was spent in exile in Holland. This is a well-done, important contribution to intellectual history.
Writer’s Market ’73, edited by Lynne Ellinwood and Jo Anne Gibbons (Writer’s Digest [22 E. 12 St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45210], 895 pp., $9.95). Some 5,000 annotated listings of periodicals, book publishers, greeting-card companies, and the like that pay for acceptable material.
Truth on Fire, by Clark H. Pinnock (Baker, 94 pp., $1.95 pb). Section-by-section commentary that brings out the practical message of salvation by grace from the Book of Galatians.
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The Sociological Interpretation of Religion, by Roland Robertson (Schocken, 256 pp., $3.45 pb). A fairly thorough and always intelligent introductory work. Offers extensive footnotes that invite the reader to further in-depth study.
The Book of Job in Its Time and in the Twentieth Century, by Jon Douglas Levenson (Harvard, 80 pp., $3.50 pb). This prize-winning essay is well worth its price. A readable comparison of the works by Wells, MacLeish, and Frost with the biblical account of Job. Reveals the misconception modern writers propound on the Job theme and the difficulties involved in rewriting Job for modern man.
Smile! God Loves You, by Lavern G. Franzen (Augsburg, 128 pp., $2.95 pb). Fifty-nine excellent visual sermons for children, to be used as a part of the adult worship hour. Gospel-centered and not at all shallow.
Learn to Grow Old, by Paul Tournier (Harper & Row, 248 pp., $4.95). The well-known Swiss physician considers retirement from professional, personal, and Christian perspectives.
The Morality Gap, by Erwin W. Lutzer (Moody, 125 pp., $1.95 pb). An articulate and well-documented rejection of situation ethics that sets forth an ethic based on biblical absolutes.
Religions of the World, edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Grosset and Dunlap, 440 pp., $14.95). Sumptuously illustrated, with articles by leading authorities on both extinct and extant religions. The wide variety, rather than artificially contrived similarity, of religious beliefs and practices is portrayed.
Luke and the People of God: A New Look at Luke-Acts, by Jacob Jervell (Augsburg, 207 pp., $8.50). A valuable addition to the literature, especially for scholars who defend the accuracy of Luke.
Original Sin: The Patristic and Theological Background, by Henri Rondet (Alba, 282 pp., $4.95 pb). A historical survey by a French Catholic, together with proposals to make the traditional teaching more palatable today.
The Jesus Kids and Their Leaders, by Glenn D. Kittler (Warner Paperback Library [Box 3, Farmingdale, N. Y. 11735], 237 pp., $1.25 pb). Interviews with groups and personalities from the Jesus movement. Not well documented; lacks discussion of doctrine.
Notable Personalities and Their Faith, compiled by Claude Frazier (Independence Press [Box 1019, Independence, Mo. 64051], 136 pp., $3.50). Statements by twenty-nine persons, including Nixon, McGovern, Lester Maddox, and Miss Georgia.
The Person Who Chairs the Meeting, by Paul Madsen (Judson, 95 pp., $1.95 pb). A helpful book on effectiveness in group meetings. Concentrates on building relationships. Many practical tips.
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The Five Points of Calvinism, by Edwin H. Palmer (Baker, 109 pp., $1.95 pb). A concise summary and discussion by someone who thinks each of them of vital importance.
Chance and Life, by Marc Oraison (Doubleday, 103 pp., $4.95). In an oblique attack on biologist Jacques Monod’s Chance and Necessity, this psychiatrist and Roman Catholic priest attempts to carve out some room for personality and meaning, but himself accepts most of Monod’s naturalistic views.

Frederick Catherwood attacks the extremes of both the Protestant monastics and the theological revolutionaries. Alan Kreider argues that for the Christian to resort to force is always unbiblical, whereas René Padilla suggests that “there may be occasions when the balance of power, necessary for justice, demands violence as the comparatively lesser evil.” But Padilla clearly cautions against viewing violence as the “norm of history” and rejects the possibility of ever accepting revolution as “an event that originates in the will of God.” Samuel Escobar writes on the social implications of the Gospel, and criticizes evangelicals for allowing their belief in Christ’s imminent return to result in social passivity.

Revolution and the Christian Faith by Vernon Grounds is an outstanding examination of the impact of revolution (technological, social, and political) on the modern world and the problems of relating a revolutionary psychology to Christian ethics. Although “middle Americans” in general and evangelical Christians in particular are uncomfortable with revolutionary concepts, Grounds shows that historically revolution has been a foundational principle of this country. Since both third-world movements abroad and counter-cultural movements at home justify their actions in part on the American experience, Grounds asks how contemporary American evangelicals can reconcile their predilection for order with their own historical experience.

Searching for an answer, Grounds reviews the development of the revolutionary theologies of Metz, Cox, Moltmann, Lehmann, Novak, Morris, and Brandon. He shows that these contemporary theologians have simply capitulated to the current surge of interest in revolution in the quest for immediate relevance. The result, Grounds finds, is reductionist, one-dimensional theology that is largely irrelevant to the needs of modern man.

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Grounds then surveys the literature that attempts to establish criteria for a just revolution, but concludes that the risks of revolution always outrun the expected gain. His final chapter is a plea for evangelicals to overcome their bourgeois self-complacency and become actively engaged in the cause of social justice. Citing instances in which conservative theology has buttressed social pessimism and conservatism, Grounds envisions a genuinely biblical social radicalism that will speak to men living in the age of revolution.

In Christianity and the Class Struggle Harold Brown attempts a diagnosis of modern social upheaval from the viewpoint of orthodox Christianity. Brown uses the term “class struggle” to encompass the multiple social and political antagonisms of the contemporary Western world—bourgeois and proletariat, black and white, young and old, male and female. Basically, his contention is that modern social alienation is symptomatic of the more fundamental alienation separating man from God.

At the theoretical level, Brown’s argument is an eloquent example of how the Christian world view can expose and remedy the rival secularist philosophies of modern man. But when Brown seeks to draw practical applications, he reveals such an overwhelmingly conservative bias that many readers will undoubtedly be moved to dismiss his entire argument as nonsense. Indeed, Brown’s temperament and wit as revealed in this volume suggest that he may be on his way to becoming the William Buckley of Protestantism! But so much more the reason to read his book, for it represents the best of its kind.

Contending For Eternity

Strettam, by Elva McAllaster (Zondervan, 1972, 231 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Cheryl Forbes, editorial associate, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

The seven deadly sins. Not taken seriously by the sophisticated twentieth-century mind. But men of the Middle Ages recognized their power and struggled against sin’s obsession. Elva McAllaster, professor of English at Greenville College, reflects the medievalist’s understanding in her first novel, Strettam. A quote from The Ancrene Riwle on the frontispiece tells us she knows that the lion of pride, the serpent of venomous envy, the unicorn of wrath, the bear of deadly sloth, the fox of covetousness, the sow of gluttony, and the scorpion of lechery are still very much alive. Strettam is in every town, village, or city, and its inhabitants are every man.

Dr. McAllaster tackles the difficult art form of allegory with an unpopular end in mind. Her exactly drawn morality, however, seldom interferes with the interesting stories of Strettam’s residents. Some of her best, most realistic dialogue comes when the town’s ministers compare sermon notes over coffee. She varies story-telling style from straight narration to stream-of-consciousness, suiting the style to each character’s situation. In a manner reminiscent of C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, she juxtaposes her various tales (the unity of the book is found in location, not in the interaction of characters) with strategy sessions held by the “seven deadlies.”

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While Dr. McAllaster does not convey sin’s horror as does Charles Williams, for example (there is some evidence of literary indebtedness to him), she presents a true picture of the sins most of us commit—rather petty, perhaps, but sins nonetheless. She makes the reader realize anew that it is not only the grotesque sin that separates man from God, and that even the most ordinary town “is also vassal and outpost for contending eternal cities.”

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