Biblically Based Behavior
The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, by Harold Lindsell (Canon, 1973, 227 pp., $4.95), The Letter and the Spirit, by Robert I. Kahn (Word, 1972, 93 pp., $2.95), The Morality Gap, by Erwin W. Lutzer (Moody, 1972, 125 pp., $1.35 pb), Free to Do Right, by David Field (InterVarsity, 1973, 111 pp., $1.25 pb), Come! Live! Die!, by George Verwer (Tyndale, 1972, 96 pp., $.95 pb), and Dynamic Discipleship, by Kenneth C. Kinghorn (Revell, 1973, 157 pp., $4.95), are reviewed by John E. Wagner, attorney, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Here are six recent books dealing with morality, ethics, discipleship, and commitment. They represent a broad spectrum of approach to the serious matters of applied Christianity. If evangelicals have been noted for their emphasis on personal decision-making for Christ, they perhaps have suffered in the eyes of the non-Christian public for a kind of taboo mentality that has strained at gnats of personal behavior and ignored the elephants of evil. These books, therefore, represent a growing awareness of the need for moral theology and ethical analysis in applying the precepts and teachings of Scripture in all of life.

Five of the books are written by evangelical Christians, the sixth by a Jewish rabbi who adheres to a high view of the Old Testament Scriptures and their relevance for current ethical guidance. These are not ground-breakers in Christian ethics. There have been good books of a related nature in circulation for years—especially on the Spirit-filled life, victorious discipleship, and the like. More recently we have seen the publication of some books in which evangelicals address themselves to social ethics, the most current of which is The Dictionary of Christian Ethics, edited by Carl F. H. Henry (see review, February 15 issue, pp. 38–41).

Nevertheless, the six books under consideration are a part of the continuing trend toward intelligent analysis of moral and ethical questions in the light of scriptural authority, and five of them are signs of the continuing increase of scholarly reflection among evangelical authors.

First, Harold Lindsell’s The World, the Flesh, and the Devil deserves special attention—not because he is the editor-publisher of this magazine, but because of its scholarly depth, theological acuity, and breadth of biblical perspective. Lindsell deals with specifics in the realm of personal behavior, as well as current moral controversies such as abortion and pornography. He also discusses broader questions relating to society: war and peace, poverty and racism. But he sets all of these in the theological frame of Reformed orthodoxy, and this means that he takes the Bible seriously on all these questions. His theological perspective spans the whole biblical account from the creation to the parousia, and includes introductory chapters on creation and redemption, on evil and the devil, and the role of the Christian believer in the present world. This, he says, is to witness to the grace of God in Jesus, and to be as the salt of the earth, making the presence and power of God known among men.

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Not only does Lindsell spell out the specific scriptural answers on various courses of action and behavior, but he is broad enough to leave some matters optional for the Christian. This is, of course, because the Scripture leaves some matters open; these matters are therefore to be dealt with within the context of the broader principles of love and obedience to God, and concern for one’s neighbor. While he speaks resounding condemnation of behavior specifically proscribed by Scripture (for example, lying, stealing, and adultery), he accentuates the positive and tells us in a powerful chapter that life in the Spirit is the antidote to worldliness.

He deals rather lightly with some of the social issues, and gives business ethics and political morality hardly a word, but this is, I think, because some of the social issues are by their very nature ambiguous, and do not lend themselves to dogmatic and specific scriptural answers. Moreover, he has not failed to deal with some of these issues in editorials in this magazine. My one criticism is that Lindsell seems preoccupied with problems created by human sexuality—and though these are very real and pervasive on the American scene, they are not to be overstated in comparison with other serious ethical and moral questions facing the Christian, and the public at large. On the whole, this is an outstanding volume, and gives a balanced, biblical view of how a Christian should conduct himself this side of heaven.

Somewhat similar to Lindsell’s book is Rabbi Kahn’s The Letter and the Spirit, which is subtitled, “contemporary biblical ethics.” Dr. Kahn takes the Jewish Bible as authoritative and as relevant to modern man. The book draws on the Old Testament for its illustrations, and deals with such matters as crime, sex, unfair trade practices, public welfare, and ecology.

Kahn’s book is short and the chapters are brief. He states in capsule form the Old Testament word on the various relationships of man. His chapters are interestingly titled: “Man to Woman” for the ethics of sex, “Man to Earth” for the ethics of ecology, and so on. In his closing chapter he calls the Bible a time bomb that cannot be defused. Sooner or later, he says, it will explode in the minds and hearts of men.

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Erwin W. Lutzer’s The Morality Gap is an evangelical refutation of situation ethics. It does not purport to be a guide to specific issues in the ethical realm, except insofar as the author cites hypothetical situations in developing his theme. It is well reasoned, tightly woven, and packed with scholarly insight and incisive argumentation.

Lutzer opts, of course, for the ethics of biblical absolutes and refutes the situation ethicist’s view of love as the sole law, seeing it as an inadequate guide in specific matters. He also rejects a related ethical option called “hierarchicalism,” which holds that there are higher and lower ethical norms. These norms exist as universals in a quasi-absolutist sense, but when a conflict develops between a lower and higher norm, the advocate of the hierarchical system of ethics would choose the higher norm. When this choice of lesser evils is made, then the hierarchical ethicist would hold that no sin has been committed. But even this methodology falls before the logical onslaught of Lutzer’s argument.

This book deserves a thorough reading by biblical Christians who take seriously all of the commands of Scripture. Ultimately, Lutzer’s position drives us to the realization of the pervasiveness of sin even in Christian choices. Thus it points up the saving work of the cross as well as the cleansing power of the blood of Christ. There are no easy outs for Lutzer, or for Christians who hold to the absolutes of Scripture. Repentance, confession, and reliance on the work of the cross are brought into bold relief—if not explicity, at least by way of implication—for the Christian caught between conflicting scriptural precepts.

Since The Morality Gap is not a reference to specifics of behavior but a philosophical-theological treatise on ethical systems, it may not appeal to the average layman, but it is important reading for teachers, pastors, theologians, and lay persons who want to know why they should reject any ethical system that tends to dilute or oversimplify the plain commandments of the Word of God.

Next we turn to a book that is a kind of overview of Christian ethics and morals. David Field of Oak Hill Theological College in England has given us a good essay on making moral decisions in his Free to Do Right, part of the continuing outflow of good books on Christian life and growth from Inter Varsity Press. I recommend this book wholeheartedly as a companion to Lind-sell’s volume—not that they are necessary complements, but because they present essentially the same kind of moral theology through the fertile minds of two fine, analytical thinkers who write in quite different styles.

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Fields enters the realm of apologetics in answering questions that have been raised against Christian ethics, and gives cogent answers to troublesome queries about the authority of the Bible for the twentieth-century believer. He tells us why we should obey God’s word in Scripture, and he applies this to both the personal and the public dimensions of life. Moreover, he insists that the Bible is realistic in its approach to morality. He reiterates the radicalness of Jesus’ ethic of the converted or changed man as the basis for right relationships in all of life. He also endorses the hierarchy of relationships spelled out in the Bible as normative for Christ-centered living and for a stable society.

Field admits that some problems are left unanswered or are given apparently conflicting answers in Scripture. But he urges a middle course between casuistry on the one side and situationism on the other. He gives a modest consent to the “choice of lesser evil” theory of ethics in dealing with moral conflicts within the ambit of biblical authority. But he cautions that in seeking the proper course, the Christian must do it with his Bible open, fortified by the promise that the Holy Spirit will direct the minds of those who are open to his instructions.

In the abstract, Lutzer is logically right in rejecting hierarchicalism. But in the particular, Field, I think, gives the practical biblical answer. There are indeed conflicts, and when they cannot be resolved by an appeal to the total revelation of Scripture and prayerful consideration of the deeper meaning of the troublesome passages, then the Christian must be open to the leading of the Word and the Holy Spirit in his decision-making. While we must sometimes seek guidance beyond the pages of the revealed Word, we never seek guidance in basic contradiction to it, nor in scorn of it.

Finally, Field deals with the power to make the choice—and that power is Christ in us. In obedience to him we find our freedom.


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The Young Evangelicals, by Richard Quebedeaux (Harper & Row, 157 pp., $2.50 pp). A major article on this book appears on pages 4–8 of this issue.

The New Jews, by James C. Hefley (Tyndale, 158 pp., $1.45 pp). Accounts of fourteen contemporary Jews who have accepted Jesus as the Messiah; among them is Moishe Rosen, founder of the Jews for Jesus group.

Help Wanted: Faith Required, by William Proctor (Revell, 158 pp., $2.95 pp). A Christian perspective for facing secular jobs. Deals constructively with boredom, frustrations, and temptations involved in the working world. For anyone who works.

Ways to Spark Your Church Program, by Frank A. Kostyu (Abingdon, 141 pp., $2.95 pp). Collection of 174 ideas for church programs. Suggestions cover topics from novel ways of visiting the aged to new means of presenting stewardship. Helpful for spurring the imagination.

Believing, by Eugene C. Kennedy (Doubleday, 216 pp., $5.95). General survey of the elements of faith and the role that religious and non-religious belief plays in life. Includes interviews with Ann Landers, Eugene McCarthy, B. F. Skinner, and others. The author is a Catholic psychology professor.

Electric Love, by Dennis C. Benson (John Knox, 118 pp., $3.95 pp). Chatty, autobiographically based suggestions on using various electrical (that is, audio-visual) aids to enhance corporate Christian life.

Alive, by Piers Paul Read (Lippincott, 252 pp., $10). Account of the sixteen survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash who had to resort to eating the flesh of their dead colleagues in order to survive. Emphasizes the moral and religious struggle in their decision. A sensitive and relatively objective recounting.

The Pope’s Jews, by Sam Waagenaar (Open Court, 401 pp., $9.95). Account of the relation between Jews in Rome and the Catholic Church, especially the papacy, from the first century to Hitler. Recounts repeated shameful injustices. Created a considerable stir when published in Europe.

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Volume 9, edited by Gerhard Friedrich (Eerdmans, 684 pp., $22.50). After forty-five years of labor, the famous dictionary of New Testament theology begun by Gerhard Kittel is now complete, the English and German editions of the final volume appearing almost simultaneously. Volume nine covers words beginning with the last four letters of the Greek alphabet. This will be a standard work for several generations to come and should be not only in the libraries of every college, seminary, and Bible institute, but also in the personal libraries of all Bible teachers and serious students who have a working knowledge of Greek.

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A Catholic Looks at Billy Graham, by Charles W. Dullea (Paulist, 149 pp., $1.65 pp). Thorough examination of the man, his theology, and his organization by the head of Rome’s Pontifical Biblical Institute. Defends Graham on the most controversial issues. Worth reading.

How the Holy Spirit Filled My Life, by Bertha Smith (Broadman, 144 pp., $3.95). A Baptist missionary recounts her struggle to accept Christ and to accept being filled with the Spirit. Explains Spirit-filling apart from charismatic gifts.

Search For the Beloved Community, by Kenneth L. Smith and Ira G. Zipp (Judson, 159 pp., $6.95). Study of the thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., as it is revealed through the men and theological systems that King studied.

Taylor University: The First 125 Years, by William C. Ringenberg (Eerdmans, 184 pp., $5.95). Fairly objective history of one of the better-known evangelical colleges.

Encounters Between Judaism and Modern Philosophy, by Emil L. Lackenheim (Basic Books, 286 pp., $10). A foremost Jewish thinker examines the works of modern philosophers to evaluate their contribution to contemporary life and to the fate of Judaism.

The Ten Commandments For Today, William Barclay (Harper & Row, 205 pp., $5.95). Exposition by a widely respected writer on each of the Commandments and its contemporary applications.

Cross and Crucible, by John Warwick Montgomery (two volumes, Martinus Nijhoff [P.O.B. 269, The Hague, Netherlands], 557 pp., 144 guilders). A definitive study by a leading evangelical scholar of the life, writings, and influence of Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654). Includes a highly annotated English translation of The Hermetic Romance, which Andreae issued under the pseudonym Christian Rosencreutz. Undermines, by examining the sources, the repeated assertions regarding a “frozen” Lutheran orthodoxy that allegedly was indifferent to piety, social concerns, and wider intellectual horizons. Especially relevant in the light of resurging interest in occultism because of Andreae’s opposition to some of its expressions in his time.

The Presence of the Future, by George E. Ladd (Eerdmans, 370 pp., $4.50 pp). Revision of Jesus and the Kingdom, a balanced exegetical study of the biblical data by a leading evangelical scholar.

Models of the Church, by Avery Dulles (Doubleday, 216 pp., $5.95). Yet another prominent Catholic’s evaluation of his church in the post-Vatican II era.

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Divorce and Remarriage, by John R. Martin (Herald Press, 136 pp., $4.95). A helpful study for the counseling pastor. The first section is a theological examination of the Scriptural teaching on divorce and remarriage; the second offers practical suggestions for effective counseling as seen from the author’s Mennonite position.

Belief, Language, and Experience, by Rodney Needham (University of Chicago, 269 pp., $10). A rather different approach to the traditional problem of “God-talk,” making use of philological studies in an African language and coming to the conclusion that one cannot be at all sure.

While It Is Day, by Elton Trueblood (Harper & Row, 170 pp., $5.95). Autobiography of one of the best-known religious writers of our time.

What Does Judaism Say About …?, by Louis Jacobs (Quadrangle, 346 pp., $7.95). Discussion of 110 contemporary subjects such as abortion, divorce, hijacking, nuclear warfare, and ecumenism from the Jewish perspective.

This leads to the last two books. George Verwer’s Come! Live! Die! calls us to a radical, no-holds-barred commitment to Christ. He hammers home his theme on every page: we must lay our lives on the line for Jesus. And this involves a revolution in our prayer life, in Bible study, in our discipline, and ultimately, a revolution of Christian love in our lives. Verwer touches on random specifics of ethics, but the book as a whole is pitched toward commitment. Ethical decisions are, after all, not made by the Christian in the scholastic forum of an ethics class. They are made in the heat of the battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and Verwer tells us to put on the whole armor of God. If Fields and Lindsell tell us how to live the Christian life—ethically and morally—Verwer’s book is the pep talk for getting on with the task.

Finally, to Kenneth Kinghorn’s Dynamic Discipleship. Well organized, interesting, dealing with growth in grace and the specifics of following Christ, this book is written from the spiritual perspective rather than from the strictly ethical or moral. It is typical of other books long extant in the literature of evangelicalism, but it nevertheless comes across with an honesty, contemporaneity, and scriptural authority that make it delightful and edifying reading. It is also potent reading—not primarily for ethical instruction, but for understanding the dynamics of Christian living. Kinghorn combines the insights of the new relational theology with the more traditional evangelical theology of the Word, but he does so unostentatiously—perhaps even unintentionally. He writes well, and he writes with a fine grasp of the Bible and of the realities of living. I like his book. It suffers not in the least from overly introspective side trips, but focuses clearly on surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the growth that comes from wearing his light yoke and from walking in the illuminating guidance and enabling power of his Spirit.

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I am not entirely uncritical of these six books. But there is so much to be learned in each of them that I would not waste your time by nit-picking at any deficiencies that I noticed. We must give the authors credit, I think, for knowing more than they sometimes say, and petty arguing would be sophomoric or pedantic. Here, in fine, are some instructions that will help all of us to follow the basic readings on the biblical compass.

How Trustworthy?

Scripture, Tradition, and Infallibility, by Dewey M. Beegle (Eerdmans, 1973, 332 pp., $4.95 pb), is reviewed by Clark H. Pinnock, professor of theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

Although the title is new, this is not a new book. It is the second edition of a controversial volume first published a decade ago, The Inspiration of Scripture. Almost all of the old book appears in the new one unchanged, together with a generous amount of additional material. The additions do not substantially alter the original thesis. Beegle believes that the Bible errs in numerous places and recommends that evangelicals abandon their complete confidence in the text.

In place of the biblical and historic high view of inspiration, Beegle puts forward an essentially neo-orthodox theory that attributes inerrancy only to God and considers Scripture to be flawed by various mistakes. Its deficiencies notwithstanding, the Bible is sufficiently trustworthy to accomplish God’s purpose because the Spirit drives home its message with authority. Beegle arrives at this low view of Scripture by persisting in the old mistake of method set out in the first edition. Instead of determining the Christian doctrine of inspiration by a careful induction of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles on the subject, and moving on to consider the critical phenomena of the Bible in the light of this firmly established principle, Beegle continues to treat Christ’s view and the phenomena as if they were somehow on the same plane, with the result that he adjusts the biblical doctrine of inspiration to the difficulties that have not yet been solved, and concludes that the Bible is errant. There are better guides to this terrain than Beegle; for example, John W. Wenham, Christ and the Bible (InterVarsity), and B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Presbyterian and Reformed).

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Beegle is fond of one particular ad hominem argument. He claims that proponents of the historic view of biblical infallibility suffer from a psychological problem, namely, fear and insecurity. His evangelical readers will not appreciate this unrespectable line of non-argument, when their motive for holding fast to an inerrant Bible has been nothing other than the desire to be faithful to their Lord. No doubt the psychology of evangelicals is easier to criticize than their theology, and that explains the author’s shift to that key.

Beegle’s challenge, while nothing new, is still important. There is, he believes, demonstrable errors in the text of Scripture that invalidate belief in its complete trustworthiness. They consist of a sprinkling of inaccuracies in the Old Testament historical books, in Acts, in Jude—about ten in all. Rather than differentiating between difficulties and errors, which would seem both theologically and critically wise, Beegle digs in his heels and insists that the “errors” overturn the historic high view of inspiration. Presumably he thinks that the problems will never be solved, however hard Bible believing scholars work on them.

What evangelicals are likely to say to Beegle about the yet unsolved difficulties in the Bible is that we prefer to stand with Jesus and the historic Church in their view rather than with him and many other critics today of whose infallibility we are not convinced. In these matters, which, though they touch only the margins of Scripture, remain troublesome, we prefer to walk by faith and not by sight, a faith not at all blind or unjustified but deeply settled in the person and doctrine of our divine and risen Lord.

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