What Are We To Do?

Dictionary of Christian Ethics, edited by Carl F. H. Henry (Baker and Canon, 1973, 726 pp., $16.95), is reveiwed by Stephen Charles Mott, assistant professor of Christianity and urban society, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

The social concern of the Evangelical is now receiving public attention unprecedented in this century. Positively, over the past quarter century, and especially in the past decade, there has been a slow but steady increase in expression and actions of concern for political and social problems. Negatively, some recent observers see evangelicals as the religious core of a projected new conservative political majority.

The appearance of this first dictionary of ethics to be written by evangelicals is therefore timely. Fittingly, the volume is edited by the man who twenty-six years ago most effectively called for a renewed social conscience of evangelicals—Carl F. H. Henry.

Contemporary evangelical ethics has a marked diversity, and the editor has obviously sought to reflect this diversity in the approximately 260 authors he has chosen. Scholars who have taken a strongly critical political stance appear beside others who tend to defend national policies and economic institutions. Calvinist and Arminian, Covenantal and Dispensational, Lutheran and Anabaptist traditions are represented. Unfortunately, to my knowledge no black or female authors appear. Some foreign authors make helpful contributions; the volume would have been strengthened further by representation from the vigorous Latin American evangelical social thought.

Even more commendable is the comprehensive span of topics. The volume should lay to rest any impressions that evangelicals are concerned only with personal and interpersonal vices and virtues. All areas of ethics are covered and are covered well. The direction of the book as a whole and of most of the writers is to deal with the contemporary problems. The editor has been so thorough in his coverage that one has to think hard to come up with any possible additions.

Some of the longer articles that most impressed me with their fine, balanced presentation and helpful bibliography were: anthropology; Bonhoeffer, Dietrich; contextual ethics; drugs; environmental pollution; evangelism, ethical aspects; genetics; juvenile delinquency; language, ethical; person and personality; poverty; rights; social ethics.

Other articles were equally solid but lacked bibliographical suggestions. In a volume whose purpose is to introduce the reader to a subject, too many articles fail to suggest where to go for further information.

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In the face of its diversity, characterizations of evangelical ethics must be general and somewhat problematic. From the dictionary we can say, and the conclusion seems valid from other evidence, that evangelical ethics, while affirming the necessity of the ordinary institutions of society, is strongly supportive of the individual. This support is expressed in two distinct and often opposing ways. One expression is the defense of the freedom of the individual from formally organized controls. The other expression is the control of environmental factors that limit individual growth and expression.

This characterization, of course, corresponds to the basic division in American political thought. Evangelical ethical beliefs are consciously grounded, however, in the religious roots of Anglo-Saxon cultural values, at a time when the increasing secularization of these values carries a threat to their future. The ethic is highly principial. Evangelicals derive their sense of justice, realistic caution, respect for the sanctity of life and the dignity of the individual, and transcendental reference from the Scriptures, which play such a direct role in the evangelical religious experience. This ethic directs a great deal of attention to personal motivations and self-control; increasingly, however, attention is being given to responsibility for the social environment and collective behavior (cf. the article on “Social Ethics”).

Because of the constant biblical reference in evangelical ethics, the dictionary provides a bounty of materials on biblical ethics. Fine articles are written on the biblical perspective, such as the articles on animals, Babylonian ethics, Egyptian ethics, the golden rule, law, slavery, and virtue. Articles appear on ethical topics rising specifically out of biblical concerns, such as interim ethics and wisdom literature. Major topics of biblical theology are covered, and a discussion of the relevant biblical material forms a significant portion of many of the articles.

The strength of the biblical material in these articles often lies in a comprehensive synthesis rather than in a presentation of helpful material from cultures that are background to the Bible, a reference to source, form, or redaction considerations, or a sensitivity to socio-economic perspectives in the biblical material. This latter lack, however, is not uncommon in non-evangelical scholarship. In this volume, this lack is seen, for example, in a neglect of the radical social stance in the Beatitudes as the Lukan beatitude on the poor is elided into a spiritual interpretation of the Matthean form. Jesus’ ethical teaching is presented without a perceived continuity with the Old Testament prophets. Second Corinthians 8 and 9 do not enter the discussion of Pauline ethics. Isaiah and Old Testament ethics are discussed without reference to justice or poverty.

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The stereotype of the evangelical as a superpatriot, blindly following his government into whatever war, injustice, or corruption it may be involved in, should be dispelled by this dictionary. One article after another—civil disobedience, demonstration, genocide, military service, patriotism, war, murder, protest, nationalism, conscientious objection—speaks of the duty to work against acts of government that violate God’s claims upon the Christian.

The volume shows a maturity of thinking by evangelicals in the areas of medicine, biology, and psychology. The several specialists writing in these areas reveal a critical apprehension of scientific theory, a balanced reflection on the ethical issues, and a sensitivity to individual and social welfare.

One characteristic of the dictionary is the lack of professional ethicists among the authors. Out of the 260 authors, fewer than twenty are professors of ethics or belong to the American Society of Christian Ethics. Of course, not all professional ethicists can be identified by these criteria, and the editor also makes use of experts in many fields tangential to ethics. The count does reflect the relative youth of evangelical ethics and the lack of priority that the teaching of ethics has in the curriculum of evangelical colleges and seminaries. Nevertheless, the articles on the whole clearly evidence scholarly care and solid ethical reflection.

There are occasional articles where the lack of day-to-day involvement in ethics has led to omission of some points that are customarily of concern in contemporary ethical discussion. In some articles (e.g. “Adiaphora,” “Asceticism,” “Self-control”) the essential background in Greek ethics was missed. Augustine is discussed without reference to the influence of The City of God in Western realism. Barth’s use of analogies between church and state is not noted, nor is the alleged weakness of the social dimension of his thought owing to its radical transcendental character. The concept of the neutrality of the scientist is discussed without reference to the fears that it can lead to the use of his work for anti-social purposes. John Bennett’s contributions miss his conception of “middle axioms.” The biblical doctrine of the wholeness of man is noted for understanding the body but not the resulting social implication in terms of responsibility for alleviating suffering. The alleged difficulty of forming a social ethic out of Bultmann’s theology because of its individualism and de-historicism is not noted; a similar criticism is not considered in the otherwise fine article on existentialist ethics. The great political significance of Calvinistic ethics is not disclosed out of the implications that the Reformed tradition has drawn from the doctrines of the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man. Finally, the listing of Walter Rauschenbusch’s works does not include his most evangelical work, The Righteousness of the Kingdom, which not published until 1968 and is a fine treatise on personal, biblical faith and social concern.

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The articles pertaining to labor unionism indicate a continuing separation between the labor movement and conservative Protestantism. The expression of this separation in the volume is atypically conservative, but even evangelical activists in general have more contact with the poor and minority groups than with the labor unions. Under “Employment” it is stated that apart from law or contract the employer has the right to determine exactly how service is to be performed; the relationship is that of master-servant, differing from that of master-slave in that it is voluntary (cf. the cross-reference under “Master and Slave” to “Industrial Relations”; “Labor Relations”). Minimum wages are characterized only as creating unemployment. Inflation is attributed to wage pressure on profits without acknowledgment of the controversy on this point or the inapplicability of the claim to our current inflation. An article, “Right to Work,” is written by a member of the National Right to Work Committee.

On the whole there is a lack of Christian realism about the significance of power along class lines; and there is a neglect, in favor of concern for “monopolistic unions,” of weak unions, racial discrimination in unions, and the lack of unionization in many needy parts of the work force. There is a basic neglect of treatment of the responsibility of the worker to his fellow workers.

In general the dictionary would imply that evangelicals are less critical of current economic practices than of political and social practices. This impression reflects more the selection of authors for many of the articles than evangelical ethics in general. Some articles take a more critical approach. The article on socialism, however, is written by a leading Christian defender of capitalism; and he presents a distorted description, separating socialism from its historic concern for the individual and the democratic character of many of its forms. The articles on property and wealth force a foreign discussion of the “right to private possessions” onto the biblical materials. Several references are made to a normative “work/eat ethic” although no attempt is made to exegete the context of Second Thessalonians 3:10. While one certainly agrees with indictments of Stalinist and Maoist societies, the articles on Communism and Marxism freely mix Marx’s ideas with Stalinism with the effect of hiding the inner Marxist tension regarding the individual and also the powerful inner Marxist “ethic” despite external denouncements of morality. However, a moderate criticism of capitalism is raised in several places, and the editor acknowledges a move away from an uncritical championing of capitalism.

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The dictionary is written from an evangelical perspective and for evangelicals. Its application of evangelical faith and its attention to biblical data merit a place for it on library shelves beside The Dictionary of Christian Ethics (Westminster, 1967), edited by John Macquarrie, also a fine volume but written from another theological perspective. The Baker dictionary also has some additional topics and is printed in a more attractive and readable form. Only an evangelical framework could account for the selection of the articles on contemporary Protestant ethicists. The impressive social achievements by evangelicals in the first decades of the industrial revolution are duly, if uncritically, noted. An historical apologetic note appears more than once, explaining the decline of concern in the twentieth century as a reaction to the extremes of the liberal social-gospel movement. There also at times is a tone of ecclesiastic harping against the right and especially against the ecumenical left. The late Samuel R. Kamm contributed several sound articles on constitutional questions. “Suffering” is approached with the honesty that its author, the late Addison H. Leitch, subsequently brought to his own suffering.

Evangelicals, in their efforts to reach a renewed world-life view, are surprisingly neglectful of their Puritan forebears. The Puritans’ significant contributions to Anglo-Saxon social and political institutions are missed in many articles.

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Despite the qualifications, I heartily recommend this dictionary of Christian ethics to the educated lay person, the pastor, and other non-specialists. A widespread reading of its contents will lead to a fuller development of evangelical ethical understanding and social action. The more I read through its pages, the more my respect increases for it and for my fellow evangelicals.

Not Quite What It Claims

Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, by J. Barton Payne (Harper & Row, 1973, 754 pp., $19.95), is reviewed by John F. Walvoord, president, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Spurred by rapidly moving world events, including the return of Israel to its promised land, scholars as well as lay students of Scripture have turned to prophecy as the key to understanding our times. In no preceding century of the Church has there been such a revival of the study of prophecy by both conservatives and liberals. During the last century, congresses on prophecy have been held featuring as many as thirty speakers, and countless books have appeared on prophetic themes. The changing world situation in the twentieth century has given many evidences of preparation for the end of the age.

This means that J. Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy is keyed to our times, and should appeal to a wide variety of readers. Almost half a million words are crowded into its 754 pages. The author is a competent, conservative Old Testament scholar, known for his defense of the inerrancy of the Bible and for his own brand of historical premillennialism interpreted from the post-tribulational rapture point of view.

The publisher’s claims are extravagant. The book is billed as “the complete guide to scriptural predictions and their fulfillment.” It is said to discuss “every verse” of prophetic matter in Scripture, to identify “every probable point of fulfillment whether in the past, present, or still in the future,” and in its 1,817 entries to cover “all the biblical predictions in both the Old and New Testaments.” As 8,352 verses are declared to be prophetic, in volume more than the New Testament, such claims cannot be fulfilled, though the work includes fourteen tables, four summaries, four statistical appendixes, five complete indexes, and a bibliography.

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Although the work has many commendable features, it does not live up to the publisher’s claims. I made a spot check of its treatment of difficult prophetic passages. For Ezekiel 38–39 there is less than a page of discussion, placing the battle at the end of the millennium, which is one of five common premillennial interpretations. The promise that the book “identifies every probable point of fulfillment whether in the past, present, or still in the future” is clearly not fulfilled.

Revelation 17–18, another hard prophetic passage, is interpreted as fulfilled in the fall of Rome in A.D. 476 and also to be fulfilled at the end of the age. This interpretation is typical of the author’s treatment of many passages: he finds both historic and prophetic fulfillment. The discussion falls far short of dealing with every verse or presenting all possible interpretations.

A page is devoted to the important Abrahamic promise given in Genesis 12, the key to premillennial interpretation, but the discussion is considerably less detailed than the footnote in the New Scofield Reference Bible on that passage. In claiming millennial fulfillment of the promise of the land, Payne’s later discussion of Genesis 15 (pp. 161–63) is more extensive and helpful.

Readers will find the introduction—150 pages—well written and. in fact, worthy of separate publication. However, its organization is rather complex. Many principles of prophetic interpretation are given, and laymen will find it hard to grasp the author’s point of view. The importance of literal interpretation in prophecy, while mentioned, is not given sufficient prominence, possibly because Payne tends to spiritualize prophecies that are not necessary for his particular point of view.

Payne is hampered by his peculiar view of eschatology. Broadly, he is characterized as a premillenarian and a post-tribulationist. However, unlike most who follow this point of view, he also believes in the possibility of Christ’s return at any moment. This necessitates a spiritualization of all the prophecies that deal with the end of the age leading up to the second coming of Christ, in sharp distinction to the fact that he takes the prophecies concerning the millennium as literal. In his spiritualization of end-time events he goes far beyond what is normal even in amillennialism, and it seems to me that he is inherently inconsistent in his application of principles of interpretation to prediction in general.

Taken as a whole, the work is a mine of information. But it lacks ip a central, unified approach. Unless one consults all the fourteen tables, the four summaries, and the other statistics, he cannot be sure he has all the author’s material on any given point. Accordingly, the work will be far more helpful to the scholar who already understands the subject than to the novice.

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Payne is to be commended for his attempt to be irenic and fair to all parties. This sometimes leads him, however, to approve more than one interpretation of a passage. His interpretation of the chronological events in his chart on the Book of Revelation is presented as historical premillennialism as held by the early Church. However, it is the author’s own peculiar brand of historical premillennialism, which views Revelation as largely history.


The Birth, Care and Feeding of a Local Church, by Donald J. MacNair (Canon [1014 Washington Bldg., Washington, D. C. 20005], 212 pp., $4.95). Practical suggestions on starting and nourishing new churches. Thorough presentation of all facets.

The Kink and I, by James D. Mallory (Victor, 224 pp., $1.45 pb). A Christian psychiatrist’s guide for dealing with a variety of personality problems common to most of us. Filled with warm illustrations and sound biblical and psychiatric advice.

A Manual of Demonology and the Occult, by Kent Philpott (Zondervan, 191 pp., $2.95 pb), and Chains of the Spirit: A Manual For Liberation, by Tim Timmons (Canon [1014 Washington Bldg., Washington, D. C. 20005], 86 pp., $1.25 pb). Biblical studies of the occult. The first dwells on defining the demonic and tracing it in Scripture, while Chains focuses on biblical dealing with the occult as it applies to today. The first is a handy reference book, the latter a practical aid in dealing with Satan.

Conflict and Resolution, by Paul A. Mickey and Robert L. Wilson (Abingdon, 160 pp., $4.50). Presents conflict as a healthy means to an end when it is handled properly. Series of case studies that attempt to set forth constructive means of dealing with the conflicts that arise within the Church. Questions to ponder. No solutions.

Sex Education in Home and School: A Guide For Parents and Teachers, by A. Vandermaas (The Norris Place [P.O. Box 931, St. Catherines, Ontario], 140 pp., $3.50 pb), and The Sex Thing, by Branse Burbridge (Harold Shaw, 124 pp., $1.25 pb). Guides to sex attitudes and training from a basically Christian perspective. The first is for the adult, written by a physician. The second is for the older teens. Sound advice, non-innovative.

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Building Town and Country Churches, by Harold Longenecker (Moody, 122 pp., $1.95 pb), and A Guide to Church Planting, by Melvin Hodges (Moody, 85 pp., $1.50 pb). Both set forth the need for establishing new churches. The first then suggests briefly many plans for developing the suburban and rural church. The second focuses on evangelizing for a church’s beginning. The first is more broad-ranging and practical, the second more theological.

Vox Evangelica, Volume VIII, by D. J. Wiseman et al. (London Bible College [Northwood, Middlesex HA6 2UW, England], 80 pp., n.p., pb). The five essays that make up the eighth in a biennial series include “Law and Order in Old Testament Times,” “Micah’s Social Concern,” “The New Testament Approach to Social Responsibility,” and “Some Contemporary Evangelicals and Social Thinking.” Very worthwhile.

Sparsa Collecta, Volume 29 in Supplements to Novum Testamentum, by W. C. Van Unnik (Brill [Leiden, Netherlands], 409 pp., 148 guilders). Essays on New Testament subjects by one of the most distinguished Dutch scholars of the present day. More than half of them focus on Luke-Acts, where the author has sided with the conservative critics. Should be in every university, theological seminary, and Bible college library.

The Day the Dollar Dies, by William Cantelon (Logos, 149 pp., $2.50 pb). A hard look at money in relation to the Second Advent with the prophecy that all will have a number on their flesh. Somewhat misnamed because Cantelon deals with other questions, but holds out hope of a brave new world when Christ comes again.

Intelligible and Responsible Talk About God: A Theory of the Dimensional Structure of Language and Its Bearing Upon Theological Symbolism, by Robert Allen Evans (Brill [Leiden, Netherlands], 237 pp., 64 guilders). A concise, thorough, and technical study dealing with the problems of language in several modern theologians and philosophers, including Bultmann, Tillich, and Cassierer.

Protestants in Modern Spain, by Dale Vaught (William Carey Library, 153 pp., $3.45 pb). Factual study of the growth of Protestantism in the last thirty years.

Caged Light, by Jerold Savory (Judson, 96 pp., $2.50 pb). A modest but intelligent study of themes in the Book of Job and comparable themes in other literature throughout the ages (from Dante to Shakespeare to MacLeish). The author deals insightfully with the inner conflicts in Job—the problems of suffering, piety, challenging God, rebellion, and others—and their counterpart motifs in later works. Although Savory presents Job as either a folktale compiled by several authors or an epic poem, this confusion does not diminish the value of his literary comparisons.

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The Feminine Factor, by Eric Mount, Jr. (John Knox, 190 pp., $6.95), The Unique World of Women, by Eugenia Price (Zondervan, 245 pp., $3.95), and The Creative Homemaker, by Mary LaGrand Bouma (Bethany Fellowship, 185 pp., $2.45 pb). Three distinct views of woman. The first, a man’s observation, establishes the rights of the Women’s Lib movement, and applies the principles of “I’m OK—you’re OK” to the movement. The second, from a single woman’s view, is an imaginative survey of the lesser mentioned women of the Bible, with application drawn to today. The last is a married woman’s view of the challenge and fulfillment of marriage with biblical guidance. The first is rather radical theorizing, while the latter two have more practical application.

The New Face of Missions, by Edgar Trexler (Concordia, 96 pp., n.p., pb). Foreign missionaries are increasingly working, as they must, in cities, but many home-base supporters still have a rural image of missions. This book tries to bring them up to date.

Do I Have to Be Me?, by Lloyd H. Ahlem, (Regal, 202 pp., $2.45 pb). A study in self-acceptance and growth from a Christian perspective by an eminent California psychologist. Biblically based and most practically presented.

Resurrection!, edited by Edward Fudge (C. E. I. [Box 858, Athens, Ala. 35611], 131 pp., $4.95). Seven essays in honor of Homer Hailey upon his retirement from thirty-three years as a professor of Bible, including treatment of the evidence for Christ’s resurrection and its relation to his deity, Christian living, modern theology, and the Old Testament.

Portrait of a Shelter, by Sylvester Jacobs (InterVarsity, 128 pp., $9.95). Those who have read about L’Abri and have read the books by Schaeffer and others can now see this spiritual shelter in Jacob’s sensitive collection of photographs.

Shaping Your Faith: A Guide to Personal Theology, by C. W. Christian (Word, 254 pp., $5.95). Attempts to help the reader understand what theology is, how to formulate his own, and what tools are necessary for evaluating it and that of others. The idea is good, but the author’s explanations of the backgrounds and problems of various doctrines are more likely to confuse the reader than to prompt him to theologize for himself.

Myths About Missions, by Horace L. Fenton (InterVarsity, 112 pp., $1.50 pb). The director of the Latin American Mission has written an insightful and much needed corrective for some misconceptions about missions. Excellent for college students and as a mission-study book for the local church. Could be used as a study book in preparation for a church missionary conference.

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How to Find Time For Better Preaching and Better Pastoring, by Joseph McCabe (Westminster, 112 pp., $4.50). Based upon actual experience, the key proposal involves preparing fewer sermons each year by exchanging pulpits, repeating, and borrowing (with acknowledgment). Worth considering and adapting.

How to Talk With God, by Stephen Winward (Harold Shaw, 149 pp., $1.45 pb), Plain Talk on Prayer, by Manford G. Gutzke (Baker, 182 pp., $2.95 pb), and Prayer in the Spirit, by William Doty (Alba, 154 pp., $4.95). The first two are general guides for the beginner, providing basic “how to” explanations. The last is a more theological “how to” view of the Catholic charismatic involvement in prayer, by a priest within the movement.

To Rule the Night, by James B. Irwin with William A. Emerson (Holman, 251 pp., $6.95). Astronaut’s account of a trip to the moon and his life-changing realization of God. Although the writing style is not polished, the book makes interesting reading.

Peter Parker and the Opening of China, by Edward V. Gulick (Harvard, 282 pp., $12), and To China With Love, by Pat Barr (Doubleday, 210 pp., $7.95). For the missionary-story enthusiast. The first is the biography of a medical/theological missionary to China. The second traces the careers of several Protestant missionaries in China from 1860 to 1900. Both are well documented.

The Last Third of Life Club, by Jerome Ellison (Pilgrim, 157 pp., $5.95), and Religion After 40, by John C. Cooper (Pilgrim, 124 pp., $4.95). Opposite views of the years after forty. The first, concurring with Carl Jung, sees this as a time to mentally prepare for death. The second is a call for those over forty to see worth and significance in their positions, to reject the youth syndrome rampant in America, especially in religion, and to assert themselves.

Theologically, the work differs considerably from the premillennial, pre-tribulational view normally advanced in popular conferences on prophecy and usually held by those who specialize in prophecy. Even his post-tribulationism differs from contemporary post-tribulationism, such as is advanced by George Ladd, which regards the tribulation as a literal future period. Payne’s spiritualization of the tribulation in order to make possible the imminence of Christ’s return conditions his exegesis of many passages about the end of the age.

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It is rather unfortunate that what is intended to be a standard work on prophecy is more of an exposition of the author’s peculiar point of view than a presentation of what is normally found in conservative prophetic works today or expressed in prophetic preaching as heard in evangelical pulpits. Carefully used, however, it can provide a great deal of useful information. It will undoubtedly be consulted by students of all points of view as a significant contribution to prophetic interpretation today.


The TSF Bulletin from Britain has long been one of the best evangelical scholarly journals. Now with the formation of a Theological Students Fellowship for America (as another branch of InterVarsity) this thrice-yearly periodical is available from an American address. Although TSF is primarily for religion majors in universities and for seminarians, pastors and teachers can profit greatly from affiliating with it and receiving the bulletin. As an incentive for new subscribers, Kenneth Howkins’s outstanding book, The Challenge of Religious Studies, will be given as a bonus. An American supplement to the bulletin will also be provided (233 Langdon St., Madison, Wis. 53703; $3/year).

The Near East Archeological Society is composed of evangelical scholars who are interested in the light that archaeological research can shed upon the Bible and early Christianity. A recently expanded publishing program now brings two newsletters plus a larger bulletin each year. The 1973 newsletters include annotated bibliographies and reports of excavations at Tell Hesban. Recent annual bulletins have included major articles on evidence from artifacts that supports an early date for the Exodus, and a discussion of the problem of the three walls of Jerusalem (12262 Conway Rd., St. Louis, Mo. 63141; $5/year [$3 for students, $15 for institutions]). The society’s publications deserve wider circulation than they have had.

A major new journal has recently been launched on the sea of American scholarship, The Journal of Religious Ethics. The first issue (Fall, 1973) contains eight articles, including “The Virtue-Obligation Controversy,” “Jewish Ethics and the Virtue of Humility,” “Nonviolent Resistance,” and “The Metaethics of Paul Tillich.” Seminary and Bible-college libraries as well as specialists should subscribe (order from CSR Executive Office, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C5; $8 for the first three issues [$10 for institutions]).

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