The Virtue Of Simplicity
The Simple Life, by Vernard Eller (Eerdmans, 1973, 122 pp., $2.25 pb), and Beyond the Rat Race, by Arthur G. Gish (Herald Press and Keats, 1973, 192 pp., $1.45 pb), are reviewed by David Gill, instructor in church history and ethics, California Center for Biblical Studies, Culver City.
Jacques Ellul’s lament that “there is no life-style, neither individual nor collective, which is showing forth the Christian faith” (False Presence of the Kingdom) is regrettably still applicable, at least on the whole. If Vernard Eller, Arthur Gish, and others now moved to write on the subject have their way, however, the problem may yet be solved. Eller, a religion professor at LaVerne College in California, and Gish, an itinerant preacher and member of an intentional community in Philadelphia, have in common theological education at Bethany Theological Seminary of the Church of the Brethren. Both speak from a perspective that mandates a life in the world, yet a life-style radically not of the world.
For both Eller and Gish the point of departure in developing an authentic Christian life-style is this text: “Set your mind on God’s kingdom and his justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well” (Matt. 6:33, NEB). The central motif in the Christian life-style is “simplicity.” The two books make a good pair as Eller gives us the theoretical/theological constructs and Gish forges ahead with the applications.
Eller’s The Simple Life is really an extended commentary on the Matthew text quoted above. In the first half of his book Eller examines hedonism, service to the poor, ecology, asceticism, and dissociation from society as possible motivations for the simple life and finds them of value only ...1