Freedom Of Religion For Extremists
Let Our Children Go!, by Ted Patrick (Dutton, 1976, 285 pp., $8.95), is reviewed by Dean M. Kelley, staff associate for religious and civil liberties, National Council of Churches, New York, New York.
Let us recognize, to begin with, that this is a well-written book about an absorbing subject. Ted Patrick comes across clearly as a dedicated crusader, a (black) man on a white horse leading the charge against what he believes to be the hosts of evil. Known to a small but enthusiastic coterie as “Black Lightning,” the “deprogrammer,” he has gained some local notoriety for “liberating” young people who joined religious movements of which their parents disapproved. In less enthusiastic circles, this activity is known as abduction, imprisonment, or kidnapping. If you or I were to do it, we would soon find ourselves in jail. But Ted Patrick seems able to avoid, or at least postpone, that fate.
In this book he tells how he got into the “deprogramming” business, and how he has barely managed to keep up with the myriad demands for his services, scarcely finding time for his family or money to pay their grocery bills. Let us be more gracious to him than he is toward his opponents: I don’t believe he is in this harrowing activity for mercenary reasons, any more than his opponents are. I don’t believe he’s in it for publicity or power per se, any more than his opponents are. I think he really believes he is holding off the hosts of Satan (or, as he puts it, of communism), fighting the fore-battle of Armageddon—or something like that. I only wish he would give his opponents credit for equally principled (ir)rationality.
His targets, in the main, are five: Hare Krishna, the Children of God, Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, the New Testament Missionary Fellowship, and Brother Julius (whoever he is). In Patrick’s view, they (and many other groups) are not really religious; they are simply clever covers for insidious, power-hungry mass movements attempting to gain followers by methods of thought-control, hypnosis, and “brain-washing.” According to his account (and accounts attributed to former members “liberated” by him), these movements simply sweep up unsuspecting adolescents like a demonic vacuum cleaner. One minute they’re walking innocently along the street/beach/airport concourse, and the next—Zappo!—they’re in the movements, never to return to real life unless he “rescues” them. His simple apologia is the noblest there is: he is setting them free from heinous bondage to unscrupulous exploiters using “religion” as a stalking horse. He reports how often law-enforcement officers assist him and support him; he laments how seldom mainline churches and public prosecutors appreciate his selfless service.
It is a tragedy that Ted Patrick and his supporters (and many, many other people) have so shallow an understanding of what religion—in its purest (or strongest) form—is like. It is not neat or gentle or palsy-walsy or meek or mild; it is intense, driving, insistent, all-or-nothing total-demand stuff. No wonder that people encountering the real thing—or at least its intenser forms—are repelled; it is so much more in earnest than most of us care to be about anything.
When you consider that most of us are ignored most of the time by everybody, including our family and “friends,” what an intoxicating experience it is to be the object of attention, of group-sharing, of “togetherness” for hours and days on end, exhausting and disorienting as that may be. Who can resist that kind of injection of the most precious commodity there is—human attention! The only way
Ted Patrick can counteract it is by an equal expenditure of attention. If half that intensive human concentration and energy had previously been devoted to the adolescents in question, their “conversion” might never have happened. But whom could you pay to lavish that much interest on rather uninteresting adolescents? Teachers, pastors, social workers, and other busy adults can hardly see them, far less give them the interest and interaction they crave. How irresistible it is, then, when total strangers seem solicitous of them—and not just for minutes but for hours and days! This is a dimension few have appreciated, but I think it is the key to why “programming”—or “deprogramming”—works.
I would not undertake to refute what Patrick says about the Children of God or the “Moonies” or Hare Krishna—I simply have no personal information about them or acquaintance with them. But I do know personally several of the members of the New Testament Missionary Fellowship described in the book—they form a house-church centered a few blocks from where I work: Hannah Lowe, John McCandlish Phillips, Calvin Burrowes, and Dan Voll. I can testify (and did so in court, along with President McGill of Columbia University) that they are good citizens, reputable people to whom I would entrust my fate, if need be (though I would not care to join their group). They are entitled to the free exercise of their religion without forcible interference by self-appointed deliverers like Ted Patrick. If Patrick is as far off on the other groups as he is on the NTMF, then his allegations are not worth much.
That is really what they are: allegations. If people are being held in captivity against their will by self-styled “religious” groups, that is an actionable offense, the First Amendment notwithstanding. But I know of no complaints filed—far less proved in court by hard evidence—against the Children of God or the Unification “Church” for abduction or false imprisonment. However, Ted Patrick admits to such offenses, justifying them on the ground that they forestall a worse (but unproved) outcome, captivation by a religious group whose evils are asserted but not evidenced. That has been Patrick’s defense thus far: he is saving young people from a Fate Worse than Death. Though the evidence of that “fate” has thus far been mere allegation, the charge has the effect of putting the religious group on trial instead of Patrick: it must prove its right to exist and attract converts, or Patrick goes free! (President McGill and I were so persuasive in defending the NTMF that Patrick was immediately acquitted!). That is the reverse of religious liberty; it is, instead, “open season” on unpopular religious groups as long as Ted Patrick and others like him are free to oppose them.
The National Council of Churches recently adopted a resolution calling for “Religious Liberty for Young People Too,” which concluded: “The Governing Board of the NCC believes that religious liberty is one of the most precious rights of humankind, which is grossly violated by forcible abduction and protracted efforts to change a person’s religious commitments by duress.”
This book makes the best case possible for “deprogramming.” I look forward to the book that will do as well for the other side—the victims of Patrick’s rough stuff and those who live in constant fear of being seized and having their most precious beliefs and commitments ridiculed, distorted, “refuted” for hour after hour until they capitulate and return to the “normal” life of self-gratification, apathy, indolence, cynicism, and greed. There are worse things in this world than being caught up in a high-demand religious movement, and after reading this book I still believe that deprogramming is one of them.
Acts From Calvin To Bruce
A History of the Criticism of the Acts of the Apostles, by W. Ward Gasque, (Eerdmans, 1975, 344 pp., $20), is reviewed by Richard N. Longenecker, professor of New Testament, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.
New Testament scholarship has been indebted to Albert Schweitzer, Werner Georg Kümmel, Reginald H. Fuller, and Stephen Neill for their histories of various aspects of the discipline. Now to be added to that list, and deserving a similar reception, is the work of W. Ward Gasque, who teaches at Regent College, Vancouver, and is an editor-at-large for CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
Gasque’s purpose is to provide “a critical history of Actaforschung comparable to Albert Schweitzer’s histories of Gospel criticism and Pauline research.” And this is what, in large measure, he has done, not only in his perception of issues and his chronicling of movements but also in his provocative challenges and his lively literary style. Gasque covers a broader range of scholarship than Schweitzer, however, and seeks to redress the imbalance of treating only radical critics; while unlike Neill, on the other hand, he depends more on original investigation than on secondary reports. “In short,” as the author himself describes his work, “I have attempted a fresh, independent study of the history of the criticism of the Book of Acts. This has led me to emphasize the work of some scholars whose writings have been largely neglected by some of the subsequent schools of critical thought and to attempt to correct many mistaken assumptions concerning the history of criticism.”
By criticism Gasque means what has traditionally been defined as “higher criticism”: questions regarding the purpose of the author in writing, the occasion for his writing, the theological leitmotiv of his work, the historical veracity of the narrative, the historical authenticity of the speeches, the date of composition, and the identity of the author. Source criticism is treated to some extent (largely through the work of J. Dupont) and textual criticism is touched upon, but these are not Gasque’s main interests.
What Gasque is concerned with is chronicling the history of research on the traditional topics of the purpose, occasion, theological stance, historicity, date, and author of Acts. He does this by highlighting the contribution of individual scholars to the discussion, grouping these contributions into movements, isolating the crucial issues involved, and commenting from the perspective of history and exegesis upon these issues during the course of the presentation. Thus he deals in successive chapters with “Pre-critical Study of the Book of Acts,” “F. C. Baur and the Tübingen School,” “The Critics of the Tübingen Reconstruction,” “Radical Descendants of the Tübingen School,” “German Criticism at the End of the Century,” “Nineteenth Century British Work on Acts,” “Luke the Historian Defended” (focusing on William Ramsay, Theodor Zahn, Adolf Harnack, Alfred Wikenhauser, and Eduard Meyer, whose studies are foundational in Gasque’s own approach), “The American Contribution,” “The Influence of Martin Dibelius,” “Luke the Historian and Theologian in Recent Research” (wherein a variety of modern redactional and historical approaches are presented, with the work of F. F. Bruce held in highest esteem). Then in a brief “epilogue” he sets out five observations about the course of scholarly research on the Acts.
Such a recital may at first glance appear to offer rather difficult reading, and indeed there are necessarily many details of biography, history, exegesis, and theology. However, Gasque writes not only with accuracy and precision but also with verve and grace. The result is an account that is not only informative and evaluative but also rather exciting, provocative, and pleasurable.
In effect, Gasque lays out the history of criticism of Acts along three lines of approach: (1) the more radical and speculative treatments of such men as F. C. Baur, Franz Overbeck, Martin Dibelius, and Ernst Haenchen; (2) the more conservative and historical treatments of such men as J. B. Lightfoot, William Ramsay, Theodor Zahn, Adolf Harnack, and F. F. Bruce; and (3) the more mediating approach embodied in the five-volume Beginnings of Christianity, edited by F. J. Foakes-Jackson and K. Lake, and epitomized particularly in the work of Henry J. Cadbury.
His criticism of the first approach is that it bases its understanding of Acts more on certain alien philosophical presuppositions and a history of interpretation than upon solid historical research and unbiased exegesis, and that it has a tendency to work de novo and in vacuo, ignoring much of the most significant work on the subject under a pretext of redefining the issues. His attitude toward the third is much more favorable, particularly with regard to the care with which historical and exegetical matters were treated and the caution with which pronouncements were made. Nonetheless, he faults Foakes-Jackson, Lake, Cadbury, and company for often giving away too much in the desire to mediate and for at times allowing alien presuppositions to determine their reading of the evidence, and he observes that despite their worthy endeavors “critical orthodoxy” has taken little cognizance of their work. As for the second line of approach, Gasque applauds and advances it, updating it somewhat with a moderate use of redaction criticism.
There is much in this history of Actaforschung that is of great value. Of special importance, I believe, is the repeated demonstration of the fact that source criticism, form criticism, and redaction criticism are literary tools that have been employed by both conservative and radical scholars (though, of course, with widely differing presuppositions and conclusions) and that it is the task of the biblical scholar not just to glory in his tools but also to check his presuppositions and to relate his methods to the wider world of historiography. “Critical Orthodoxy” and “Theological Orthodoxy,” though far apart in other matters, have in common the need for humility and for openness to the evidence from other areas.
There are also, perhaps inevitably, a few blemishes in the work. I could wish, for example, that Gasque had interacted with the contributions of men like Ethelbert Stauffer, Gregory Dix, Leonhard Goppelt, and David Stanley in his survey of treatments up through 1969, and that pages 296–305 had dealt more adequately with the situation in the seventies (including, for example, the work of A. Ehrhardt, R. F. Zehnle, M. Hengel, and J. D. G. Dunn on Acts and the early Church as well). At times Gasque becomes a bit carried away with his own rhetoric, as when he speaks of “the Stygian darkness of source criticism,” which at best is redundant, at worst is unfair. But the blemishes are minor. A History of the Criticism of the Acts of the Apostles is a significant work. It is accurate, perceptive, informative, provocative, and readable. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that it is published not only by Eerdmans in America but also by J. C. B. Mohr in Germany (though in the English language) as Number 17 in the prestigious series Beiträge zur Geschichte der biblischen Exegese.
The New International Commentary series is almost complete on the New Testament, but the Old Testament is just being launched (under the general editorship of R. K. Harrison) with Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah by Leslie Allen (Eerdmans, 427 pp., $9.95), who teaches at London Bible College, and with Deuteronomy by P. C. Craigie (407 pp., $9.95), of the University of Calgary. (The three volumes on Isaiah by Edward Young that were issued 1965–72 originally began the series but are now considered too long for it and will be marketed separately.)
God’s Word and God’s People by Lucien Deiss (Liturgical Press, 347 pp., $9.95) is a refreshingly creative exposition of the highpoints of biblical theology that, as its title indicates, focuses on the close connection between God’s revelation in Scripture and the community he calls into existence. Despite the Roman Catholic orientation of the author, the Word of God clearly takes primacy over church and sacraments. Recommended for Bible teachers and libraries.
The Minor Prophets by Charles L. Feinberg (Moody, 360 pp., $7.95) and Ezekiel by Ralph Alexander (Moody, 160 pp., $1.95 pb) exhibit an admirable combination of learning and devotion in commentaries designed for the general reader. Both are dispensational in orientation, but Bible students of other theological persuasions will find them edifying. Feinberg’s work is a new edition of a series of studies published earlier for a more limited audience.
The latest annual issue of the Wesleyan Theological Journal (Number 11) includes studies by holiness scholars on carnality, perfection in Wesley and Fletcher, the origins of Old Testament ecstasy, and three other topics (96 pp., $1.50 pb; order from Box 2000, Marion, Ind. 46952).
Splendors of Islam by Wilfrid Blunt (Viking, 152 pp., $10.95) and Introduction to Islamic Civilization edited by R. M. Savory (Cambridge, 204 pp., $17.95, $5.95 pb) seek to introduce readers to one of the world’s major civilizations. Blunt’s work lays stress on the art and architecture of Islam and is lavishly illustrated, while the volume edited by Savory is more scholarly and is intended as a handbook for students. A Christian’s Response to Islam by veteran missionary William M. Miller (Presbyterian and Reformed, 178 pp., $3.50 pb) is a needed evangelical counterpart to the other two.
Most books on the person and work of the Holy Spirit fail to offer much solid biblical study. Two recent exceptions are The Holy Spirit; Growth of a Biblical Tradition by George T. Montague (Paulist, 374 pp., $8.50 pb) and The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament by Leon J. Wood (Zondervan, 160 pp., $3.95 pb). Both combine scholarship and devotion, though Montague’s approach, which takes the idea of progressive revelation seriously, seems more satisfactory than Wood’s, which forces the biblical data too much into the categories of later systematic theology.
Shades Of C. S. Lewis
Screwtape Writes Again, by Walter Martin (Vision, 1975, 150 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Michael MacDonald, associate professor of German and philosophy, Seattle Pacific College, Seattle, Washington.
Walter Martin, director of the Christian Research Institute in San Juan Capistrano, California, has long been a student of modern cults and the occult; his book Kingdom of the Cults is now in its twentieth printing. In Screwtape Writes Again he draws upon his considerable knowledge of the satanic, the Bible, and human experience.
Martin deals with a broad spectrum of contemporary topics, ranging from doubt and faith to abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and the modern charismatic movement. His purpose is to categorize “much new data” that has accumulated since C. S. Lewis’s death. As in Lewis’s Screwtape book, published in 1942, these letters from a senior to a junior devil on how to tempt man to sin show humor and introspection, and one can recognize oneself in the young patient who is the central character.
Martin is quite successful in places. Particularly penetrating is chapter six, in which the devil tries to keep the liberals’ emphasis on “social gospel” from being joined with the fundamentalists’ commitment to evangelism. His distinctions between giving thanks in everything and giving thanks/or everything and reading and studying the Word, as well as his remarks on gluttony, are also perceptive and helpful.
I find him less sensitive and too opinionated in the areas of abortion, “Basic Youth Conflicts,” the charismatic movement, and women’s liberation. Martin distinguishes less well than Lewis between God’s truth and his own opinion.
Martin stands firmly against the “new morality,” for as any devil knows, there’s nothing new under the sun. The devil has convinced many that morality “is to be governed not by the lofty pronouncements of the Enemy’s Training Manual [the Bible] but by the particular situation in which they find themselves!” While I agree that we don’t want “to pursue evil under the guise of good,” we may have to make a choice, in certain situations, between the lesser of two evils (see the lead editorial in CHRISTIANITY TODAY, April 23, 1976).
Moreover, there is a certain tension in Martin that smacks at times of anti-intellectualism. Martin has no kind words for “modern theologians” who thrive because “humans love complexity of thought.” Psychology, sociology, and philosophy have largely become infiltrated by the devil. “There can be no agreement between Athens and Jerusalem.” Yet we do not want to foster the opposition between faith and reason, religion and science, theology and philosophy. There is no need for a polemic against secular learning. No gulf exists between the sacred and the secular; all truth is God’s truth.
Martin uses Screwtape Writes Again to pontificate against the sins of the “now” generation. The book is generally well written and will be of value to persons interested in contemporary issues. However, Martin is more a clever theologian than a first-rate artist. He lacks Lewis’s universality, subtlety, imagination, compassion, and power of language. Lewis’s impact on religious thinking, and indeed on the religious imagination, has been perhaps unequaled by any other twentieth-century writer. Much of Lewis, including The Screwtape Letters, will undoubtedly become a permanent part of our literary and religious heritage. Screwtape Writes Again is worthwhile reading, but measured by the standard of Lewis’s work it falls quite short.
Moral Law And The Founding Fathers
A Nation Built on God, by Edward J. Melvin (Our Sunday Visitor, 1975, 223 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by John A. Tinkham, doctoral student, Department of Politics, Catholic University, Washington, D.C.
What would the American founding fathers say about the abortion issue if they were alive today? Edward J. Melvin, a Roman Catholic historian, philosopher, and theologian, believes they would be outraged by the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that permit abortions and by the recommendations of the 1972 Presidential Commission on Population Control in favor of more liberal abortion-control laws. He sees a big contrast between liberal abortion policies and the beliefs expressed in the Declaration of Independence, that “all men … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Abortions not only violate the right of the unborn child to life, argues Melvin, but also remove liberty and the pursuit of happiness from the bounds of moral law so that they become excuses for license and pleasure.
The argument is interesting. It uses the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in place of the Bible to answer a question that has become political and legal as well as moral. Melvin recommends a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to life to all unborn persons. Abortions would thereby be prohibited under all circumstances, without regard to the needs of the mother.
The book is more than an argument against abortion. Melvin delves deeply into just what the founding fathers meant by such expressions—familiar to all but rarely defined—as “unalienable rights,” “endowed by their Creator,” “pursuit of happiness,” and “created equal.” These words were grounded in a faith in God and a belief in natural law. Melvin provides a generous assortment of quotations from the writings and speeches of early Americans to give the reader insight into the attitudes toward their fellow man and government that are expressed in the founding documents. Their religion was a form of deism, which Melvin prefers to call theism. This is a belief in God as Creator and as Providence, who intervenes in the affairs of men and their governments. They accepted the ethical teachings of Jesus but rejected him as the Son of God. Their belief in natural law and natural rights was grounded in their faith in God. God created man along with universal laws of nature that govern his social life and include natural rights to find human fulfillment in life. God enables man to know his laws through the gift of reason. So any government that contradicts these laws and violates human rights is immoral and will fail. One can thus claim the truth of statements about inalienable rights and equality of men on the basis of God’s will and natural law.
Melvin believes that Christians today can and should support the reasoning of the founders because the God of their theism and of Christianity are the same, and because it has provided a Constitution built on Christian ethics. But he argues that arguments for abortion must be rejected because they deny the existence of God and natural rights.
I found this discussion of the thinking of the founding fathers well worth the reading of the book. Some readers may find the description of human nature to be too optimistic; The Federalist Papers, which the author disregards, show a concern about man’s sinful nature and the need to control his “passions” as well as to protect his rights. Nevertheless, it is clear that the concept of human nature shown here does reflect the ideas of a wide cross section of the men whose “faith” brought about a liberal democracy under law that has survived for two hundred years.
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