Apologetics: Strong And Weak

Judge For Yourself, by Gordon R. Lewis (InterVarsity, 1974, 127 pp., $2.25 pb), and Reason to Believe, by Richard L. Purtill (Eerdmans, 1974, 166 pp., $2.95 pb), are reviewed by Milton D. Hunnex, professor of philosophy, Williamette University, Salem, Oregon.

In Judge For Yourself Gordon Lewis gives us an “apologetic workbook” that identifies “questions Christians are most frequently asked on college campuses.” He also tells us where scriptural answers to these questions can be found.

As a compilation of the questions of non-Christians and the locations of scriptural answers, this is a very useful handbook. But Lewis says that his book deals with questions asked by “non-Christians who do not presuppose the finality of Christ or the authority of Scripture, but are willing to examine the evidence,” and notes that his efforts “focus primarily upon justifying the claims” (italics mine). Non-Christians will find here, however what Christians believe rather than what justifies that belief. Scripture can be used to validate its own claim if one includes a premise asserting its authority, and Lewis has said that the non-Christian he addresses does not acknowledge the authority of Scripture, though he is “willing to examine the evidence.”

Lewis’s method of dealing with the questions of non-Christians is to identify a number of options for example, mysticism or secular theology—and then ask, “Which of these views fits the greatest amount of relevant Scripture with the fewest difficulties?” Now of course the Christian view fits Scripture best because what the Scriptures say is the scriptural or Christian view. Lewis confuses the elaboration and persuasive power of a view, in this case the scriptural view and especially the Gospel, with reasons for accepting it.

Moreover, he cites a variety of non-biblical sources as though they support the biblical position in some way when it isn’t clear whether his intention is to identify reasons for believing the Bible or reasons for encouraging its study. For example, Bonhoeffer is cited in the preface as claiming that “one who will not learn to handle the Bible for himself is not an evangelical Christian.” Yet if the inquirer were impressed by the best of Bonhoeffer that Lewis quotes on behalf of evangelical belief and decided to read the prophet of secular theology for himself, he might run into puzzling things like, “Our coming of age … is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without him [i.e., God],” and, “Individualistic concern for personal salvation has almost completely left us all.… There are more important things than bothering about such a matter.” Whatever being an evangelical Christian may have meant to Bonhoeffer in Life Together, it probably doesn’t mean what Lewis has in mind by the time of Bonhoeffer’s last writings, collected as Letters and Papers From Prison.

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In contrast, Richard Purtill’s Reasons to Believe does provide independent logical grounds for belief. Purtill uses logically sound and readable arguments to show that Christian belief not only is reasonable but is the only reasonable belief if one is to preserve “confidence in the understandability of the world.”

In a striking chapter entitled “The Accusation of Credulity” Purtill identifies four basic views of the universe: the Christian view, the chance view, the determinist view, and the mixed view. The problem reduces to the question of how to account for the credibility of our thought about the world. “If our thinking is caused by nonrational forces of any kind,” Purtill argues, “there is no reason to suppose our thinking is valid. It might happen to be valid, but we could have no way of knowing that it was.” Non-Christian alternatives “are self-defeating,” he continues, because “even if they were true we could never have any good reason to think that they were true.” Any truth claim a non-Christian would want to make could be justified only by the conviction he happened to have that things are really as he happens to think they are. The result of non-Christian theory is that it “destroys our confidence in the validity of any reasoning—including the reasoning that may have led us to adopt these theories!” Hence even if we allow that mindless forces could have produced our thinking about these forces, we could not know that they had. Purtill is led to conclude that “every view except the Christian view destroys our confidence in reason, and therefore science (itself).” This kind of apologetical argument that exploits the rich potential of C. S. Lewis’s arguments as well as contemporary philosophy is one that commends itself to any evangelical who would like to be reassured that what he believes on spiritual or other grounds can also be justified by rational argument.

Purtill’s book divides neatly into three major sections that deal first with the objections to belief, then with the reasons for belief, and finally with the special problem of Christian revelation. Although somewhat abbreviated, the arguments are clear and persuasive. They deal with fundamental metaphysical issues that must be confronted if any soundly argued philosophical case is to be made for evangelical Christian belief.

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God And Women

All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation, by Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty (Word, 1974, 233 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Cheryl Forbes, editorial associate, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

This is one of the finest books to come out on the controversial subject of women’s liberation. Among its strong points are that it deals in a balanced way with the concerns of both married and single living and that its authors do not shirk exegetical study of some sticky Scripture passages that seem to deny equality between the sexes.

Scanzoni and Hardesty want to waken more Christian women to the possibilities and responsibilities of fully using their God-given talents and gifts. With their serious, exegetical approach to the Bible, thorough research into attitudes and actions in our society, and personal observation and experience, they stand a good chance of succeeding. Even those who disagree with some of their biblical interpretations—e.g., that Scripture does not prohibit the ordination of women—will find in All We’re Meant to Be encouragement, inspiration, and discussion-provoking material.

This book attempts to dispel some traditional misunderstandings about Scripture. Is God always spoken of in masculine terms? In both the Old and the New Testament one image for God is maternal. In Isaiah 42:14 God says, “I will cry out like a woman in travail, I will gasp and pant.” Then there is Christ’s familiar statement about Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37: here Christ uses a feminine figure of speech. The same is true of Luke 15:8–10. We readily accept the image of God as father waiting for the prodigal son, but, Scanzoni and Hardesty tellingly ask, “how often do we think of God as the woman who swept out her entire house in search of one precious coin?” The point is not that God is feminine—or masculine—but that God is neither.

What of Jesus’ attitudes toward women? Some evangelicals think Jesus did not free women from the home, but Scanzoni and Hardesty cite several passages that contradict this view, among them the well-known episode with Mary and Martha. They also use Dorothy Sayers’s statement in “Are Women Human?”—women were first at the cradle and last at the cross—to explain that “Jesus’ life on earth from beginning to end outlines a paradigm for women’s place.”

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The chapter “Your Daughters Shall Prophesy” explores such “proof texts” as First Corinthians 14:34 and First Timothy 2:11, 12. “From the beginning [of the Christian church] women participated fully and equally with men,” and throughout the chapter Scanzoni and Hardesty list women named in the Bible who taught, prophesied, and administered in the early Church. Such women traditionally have been overlooked by some commentators.

Perhaps the best chapter is one dealing with a subject that is difficult to treat sensitively and practically: “The Single Woman.” Many books or essays on that subject offend and even repel, but Nancy Hardesty, single herself, handles the topic with understanding. Without offering any easy answers she gives concrete suggestions on how the single woman can fill her needs for love and sharing. She points out that married and single people have in common needs for sex, touch, and affirmation. Single living has its advantages and joys, and this writer does not overlook them.

Although All We’re Meant to Be wants to encourage women to use their gifts and is primarily written for women, men, too, should read it. Many women who long to use their gifts in God’s service find male-created barriers blocking them. For some readers perhaps the authors’ examples of such barriers will seem like overkill rhetoric, but those women who have struggled against male prejudices will disagree. As CHRISTIANITY TODAY has stated editorially and this book reaffirms, the churches are wasting a good portion of the resources available to them by refusing to make full use of talented, creative women.

What, then, is the “women’s liberation movement” all about? According to Scanzoni and Hardesty women want to be regarded and treated as full human beings:

We ask for the right to make our own choices, to define our own lives, not out of selfish motivations but because God calls us and commands us to develop the gifts he has given us.… God does have daughters as well as sons; Christ does have sisters as well as brothers. Now is the time for the church to recognize this—and to act upon it. That’s what the Christian woman’s liberation is all about.
Resisting Seduction

Christians Under the Hammer and Sickle, by Winrich Scheffbuch (Zondervan, 1974, 214 pp., $4.95, $2.95 pb), is reviewed by Paul D. Steeves, assistant professor of history, Stetson University, DeLand, Florida.

The high school fellowship was planning the worship service for youth Sunday. In the wake of the publicity attending Solzhenitsyn’s arrival in the West, the young people decided to stage a “Russian church service,” and summoned me, as one who had studied in the Soviet Union, for consultation. The highlight of the service was to be the police raid, complete with clubs and “arrests” of worshipers, to cause us to reflect on the contrast between the situations of believers in the two countries. Plans were scrapped when the teenagers learned, to their great surprise, that every Sunday morning, hundreds of thousands of evangelical believers across the U.S.S.R. gather to worship and to hear the Gospel preached openly, legally, and without hindrance, and that this is repeated on Sunday evenings and several nights during the week.

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It is understandable that many American Christians, like these young people, are unaware of this situation. A virtual deluge of books from Western publishing houses leaves the overwhelming impression that truly biblical faith is ruthlessly suppressed by the Communist government throughout the Soviet Union. From the misunderstanding begotten by such books arises the appeal of well-known Bible smuggling operations and even more drastic and bizarre attempts to defy the authority of the Soviet government under the pretext of evangelizing an otherwise unreachable field. Unless it is read with critical caution, the work under review here, which in its own right is a responsible presentation of the suffering borne by a few believers in the Soviet Union, will do little to balance the distorted impression.

The German author, Winrich Scheffbuch, provides a useful update of reliable information concerning dissident Baptist activity, the origins of which have been well described by Michael Bourdeaux’s studies, particularly his Religious Ferment in Russia. Extensive translations of Russian documents are skillfully woven together by thoughtful and competent interpretation. In the course of describing the repressions and restrictions being endured by a fractional proportion of Soviet evangelicals, Scheffbuch eloquently spells out lessons that those who have suffered for their religious activity can teach to Western believers. The seriousness with which he explores the meaning of persecution gives this book a value much greater than that of recent books that, in my judgment, irresponsibly sensationalize and misrepresent the religious picture in the Soviet Union (for example, Nick Savoca, Roadblock to Moscow; Myrna Grant, Vanya; Sergei Kourdakov, The Persecutor; and books by Richard Wurmbrand).

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A superficial, frequently inaccurate and incoherrent introductory chapter describes the past century of Soviet evangelical activity. This section is best ignored. The rest of the book, dealing with the latter part of the 1960s and the early 1970s, gives a considerably more trustworthy account of the activities of evangelicals who have raised a revolt against the legal Protestant union in the U.S.S.R., and have suffered for it. This union, which includes Baptists, Plymouth Brethren, Mennonites, Pentecostals, and other evangelicals (usually designated simply “Baptists” for convenience), continues to bear a vigorous witness to biblical faith in a society whose leaders pursue the elimination of religion. One may raise some legitimate questions about the specific ways in which the union has chosen to express its submission to the powers ordained by God. Unfortunately, when a study such as this focuses upon those who, whether courageously or unwisely, dissent from the policies of the union, the value of the witness that the legal church bears is easily overlooked.

Scheffbuch’s own statistics show that fewer than one thousand of the nearly five million Soviet evangelicals have suffered judicial penalties in the past fifteen years. It is true that even one Christian’s suffering for his faith should inspire our prayerful sympathy. Nevertheless, when only one-fiftieth of 1 per cent of the evangelical believers endure harsh reprisals for their Christian witness, it should be clear that the common view, reflected by the youth group above, fails to appreciate the work that God is doing through his church in the Soviet Union.

The excellent article by CHRISTIANITY TODAY managing editor David Kucharsky, reprinted as an appendix, can provide some guidance for the reader who desires to acquire a balanced view of the Russian situation. It will, for example, help him to identify the significance of Scheffbuch’s easily overlooked statement: “Church groups enjoy, for the most part, considerable freedom.” This perspective should reveal the error of a claim, such as that made by Brother Andrew, that only the “sanctified brutality” in which Western adventurists have indulged will maintain the gospel witness in the U.S.S.R.

This book can be recommended to those who want accurate information about persecution of believers in the Soviet Union if they will remember that the situation is fraught with complexities and ambiguities. The translation from the German by Mark Noll is both accurate and lucid.

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We surely need to be aware of the plight of our brethren in Communist lands, whether they are suffering under judicial measures or the psychological pressures of living under a hostile, atheistic government. Our prayers for them and public notice of their situation may lead to an easing of their burdens. But we should resist the seductions of the glamour and sensationalism that distort the picture.

Marital First Aid

Cherishable: Love and Marriage, by David W. Augsburger (Herald Press, 1973, 159 pp., $4.95), and Marriage Is For Love, by Richard L. Strauss (Tyndale, 1973, 116 pp., $2.95, $1.95 pb), are reviewed by Robert E. Weinman, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Columbiana, Ohio.

Problems in marriage are inevitable. Children, finances, sex, and inlaws are common areas of conflict. Pastors find themselves being asked for help in troubled marital and family situations as never before, and it is important for them to build up their resources and competence in this area. But pastors also need a “first aid kit” that can help revive a marriage through simple dynamic principles. These two helpful little books contain the right spiritual equipment to give insights and provide resources to enrich any marriage.

Cherishable: Love and Marriage is an excellent conversation starter to use with couples in exploring creative relationships within marriage and in examining potential areas of conflict. In a fresh, challenging way, Augsburger capsules some of the frequent areas of stress in marriage and family living. His fearless exploration of the joys and hurts of living together as husband and wife probes the reader to think through his own feelings, to respond, and when necessary to act again in a different way. A couple who really desire happiness, understanding, and maturity in their relationship can find here the right kind of spiritual and mental equipment. If they react to Augsburger’s pithy suggestions in the right way, they can find a new quality in their marriage, a new power to cope with the inevitable problems. A pastor would perform a tremendous service by giving a copy of this book to every couple he counsels.

Richard Strauss’s Marriage Is For Love is a more prosaic approach to the problem of marriage enrichment. Beginning with the premise that most marital discord is rooted in personal spiritual problems, Strauss presents a simple, down-to-earth solution to the spiritual disorders of the persons involved. In dealing with such subjects as “What every husband needs to know,” “Grow up!,” and “In step with the Spirit” Strauss offers principles that are neither new nor original. Their source is the Bible, and when couples obey God’s Word their marriages take on fresh significance. Although the reader may differ now and then with the author’s application of spiritual truth, a careful reading of this little book will provide a treasure of resources by which any couple can enrich their marriage and make it not only a bearable state but a fulfilling relationship.

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The Literature of the Bible, by Leland Ryken (Zondervan, 370 pp., $7.95). A Wheaton College English professor surveys the Bible from the viewpoint of modern categories of literary criticism (such as epic, tragedy, poetry, and satire). He also gives special attention to books of distinctive literary form such as Job, Psalms, and Revelation. Very well done.

Ecumenical Directory of Retreat and Conference Centers, edited by Philip Deemer (Jarrow Press [29 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Mass. 02116], 232 pp., $15). Guide to hundreds of camps, schools, monasteries, and other places of various denominational ownership where one may attend or rent facilities for religious gatherings.

The Idea of a Christian Philosophy, edited by K. A. Bril, H. Hart, and J. Klapwijk (Wedge [229 College St., Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R4], 232 pp., n.p. pb), The Dooyeweerdian Concept of the Word of God, by Robert Morey (Presbyterian and Reformed, 53 pp., $1.50 pb), and Power-Word and Text-Word in Recent Reformed Thought, by Harry Downs (also P & R, 144 pp., $3.50 pb). The first contains thirteen essays, in English translation, in honor of Dirk Vollenhoven, a cofounder of the contemporary Calvinist school of thought often called Dooyeweerdianism. The last two are strongly critical of that school.

The Heritage of the Early Church, edited by David Neiman and Margaret Schatkin (available from the latter at Box C-35, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass. 02167; 473 pp., $13 pb). Published by Rome’s Pontifical Institute of Oriental Studies, this volume contains twenty-four essays in honor of Georges Florovsky, one of this century’s foremost Orthodox scholars. Will be appreciated by students of early church history.

Andreas Bodenstein von Karlsadt, by Ronald Sider (Brill [Leiden, Netherlands], 323 pp., 80 guilders). Karlstadt was at first, an ally of Luther but later was bitterly opposed by him. Sider studies the development of Karlstadt’s thought from 1517 to 1525 from the sources instead of from the perspective of Lutheran critics. Corrects much calumny.

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Walking and Leaping, by Merlin Carothers (Logos, 129 pp., $2.50 pb), and Beyond the Cross and the Switchblade, by David Wilkerson (Chosen/Revell, 191 pp., $5.95). About what has happened to two best-selling authors since their first books appeared.

The Family Guide to Children’s Television, by Evelyn Kaye (Random, 194 pp., $2.95 pb). Though not written explicitly with Christian values in mind, this is a very helpful guide to an important aspect of responsible Christian parenthood. Brief evaluations (usually critical) of most of the current TV shows for all ages.

Sunday: A Minister’s Story, by John Harper (Little, Brown, 238 pp., $6.95). Reflections of the pastor of the Episcopal church across from the White House, which President Ford now frequents.

Disciples Are Made—Not Born, by Walter Henrichsen (Victor, 160 pp., $1.75 pb). A Navigators leader gives a very practical guide to discipling for Christ.

The Gospel and the Land, by W. D. Davies (University of California, 521 pp., $15). A leading scholar’s study of territorialism (Palestine and Jerusalem) as a doctrine in the Old Testament and how the early Christians, as recorded in the New Testament, came to terms with it. Though historical, the book has obvious implications for the current Middle East conflict.

Translating the Word of God, by John Beekman and John Callow (Zondervan, 399 pp., $5.95 pb). A valuable tool not only for those who would translate the Bible into another written language but also for those who would translate its meaning through teaching in their own language.

The Octavius, by Minucius Felix (Newman, 414 pp., $10). Originally written (probably) early in the third century, this is a delightful defense of Christianity in the time of its persecution by the empire. G. W. Clarke has provided annotations that are longer than the text itself. This is volume 39 of the “Ancient Christian Writers” series, which began in 1946 and belongs in all major theological libraries.

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