Philosophy Shifts From Religion To Science

A History of Philosophy in America, two volumes, by Elizabeth Flower and Murray G. Murphey (Putnam’s, 1977, 972 pp., $30,00), is reviewed by Erling Jorstad, professor of history and American studies, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota.

In this massive work, the first survey since Herbert Schneider’s A History of American Philosophy (1946), two University of Pennsylvania scholars chart the major currents of American philosophical thought from the Puritans to C.I. Lewis (1883–1946). Unfortunately, this leaves out the contemporary scene (including A.N. Whitehead). But the rich, thorough text is reward enough.

Christian readers will applaud the fairness and accuracy with which the authors document their major contention that “the most striking characteristic” of American philosophy “is the complexity and intimacy of the relationships among science, religion, and philosophy.” But they may be less than persuaded by the authors’ contention that these three fields have such intimate and complex ties “that it is often unclear what if any distinction can be made among them.” If anything, this study documents what we know so well: the slow but pervasive decline of interest in theological foundations for philosophical thought after Jonathan Edwards, a decline that by the middle of the twentieth century, led philosophy to regard natural science as its paradigm.

But the several virtues of this work must be commended. Rather than serve up an exhaustive encyclopedia, the authors carefully present their choices of significant movements, dominating figures, and leading academic institutions: the Puritans, early scientific thought, Edwards (a particularly outstanding chapter), the Princeton Scottish common sense school, philosophy in the middle Atlantic and Southern schools (often neglected), Transcendentalism, the St. Louis Hegelians, evolutionism, Peirce, James, Royce, Santayana, Dewey, and C.I. Lewis. Together with Bruce Kuklick’s recent study of the philosophy department at Harvard, we now have exhaustive evidence of how that discipline moved away from its religious roots to its preoccupation with empiricism.

The authors point out (despite their dedicatory loyalty to Perry Miller) that the Puritan world view was not the basis for all subsequent American thought. Instead, they argue, it was the Scottish school of philosophy (whose gifted writers were suspicious of speculative metaphysics) that became the impetus for an American philosophy freed from dependence on either theology or European sources.

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Flower and Murphey have also treated the long-neglected subject of American idealist thought as decisive in American philosophy. In the most exciting portions of the book, the authors analyze the searchings by Royce and his school for sophisticated arguments to counter the antireligious claims of science concerning the relationship of God to the world, proofs for the existence of the soul, and the knowledge humans have of the soul. With this work, Royce may be restored to university reading lists, at least in church-related schools.

Less convincing is the authors’ contention that “the central role of philosophy in American thought has been that of a mediator between or synthesizer of science and religion.” It depends, of course, on what you mean by “religion.” What the authors have in mind is more a noble ethical idealism than the encounter between God and man in the Scriptures and the manifestation of that in daily life. The authors do not say that science made religious thought obsolete or quaint. Rather, they lean toward the Jamesian penchant for understanding and endorsing religious belief largely in psychological terms.

Yet the accuracy of the authors’ narrative is unquestionable; the transition from religion to science in philosophy (at least the mainstream described here) did occur. By carefully reading this book, we may learn more fully how and why this transformation took place. And the book should challenge us to rethink our own assumptions about the perennial questions of faith and reason.

The writing style here is eminently readable, the personal judgments of the authors are at a minimum, and the index is unusually helpful. I highly recommend the book.

A New Standard On The Apocalypse

The Book of Revelation, by Robert H. Mounce (Eerdmans, 1977, 426 pp., $10.95), is reviewed by Alan F. Johnson, professor of Bible and theology, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

We have not lacked for commentaries on the book of Revelation. But we have lacked, until now, an up-to-date, conservative commentary of the quality of Swete (1906) or Beckwith (1922). Mounce’s treatment, part of the nearly complete New International Commentary on the New Testament, is a model of a good critical commentary. The style is irenic and sensitive; the treatment is balanced, informed, nonspeculative, and lucid. Although the author is currently dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at Western Kentucky University, the commentary shows that he has sharpened his thought through teaching.

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Mounce presents no detailed tableaux of the future; rather he attempts to ground the revelation given to John (actual visions, rather than mere literary effect) in the historical, cultural setting of the first century. He views the book as a genuine prophecy, disclosing the future in terms of the time when John wrote it. You can discover the general interpretive position in any commentary on the Apocalypse by turning to the discussion of the beasts. Mounce adopts a futurist view (appearing as early as Irenaeus-second century), with a recent refinement of that position increasingly being adopted by evangelicals called the preterist-futurist viewpoint (similar to F.F. Bruce, Leon Morris, George Ladd, and G.R. Beasley-Murray). The beast is first-century Rome but more than Rome because it embodies the yet future anti-Christ. A typical remark (from chapter 17) runs: “The woman is the great city which rules over the kings of the earth. For John, the city is Rome … Yet Babylon the Great, source of universal harlotry and abomination (vs. 5), is more than first century Rome … John’s words … sketch the portrait of an eschatological Babylon, which will provide the social, religious, and political base for the last attempt of AntiChrist to establish his kingdom” (p. 320). Although Mounce generally follows this view, he also appreciates and draws from other major approaches.

Theologically the author is thoroughly evangelical in his view of Scripture. He adopts a mild and unoffensive premillennial understanding of chapter 20, while at the same time favoring a posttribulational view of the church and the tribulation. Although Mounce admits that his thought has been stimulated especially by Austin Farrer and G.B. Caird, and the preterist-futurist writers mentioned above, the footnotes reveal many views he has accepted from Kiddle, Swete, and Beckwith. The noncanonical Jewish apocalyptic literature widely quoted throughout enriches the historical and literary depth of the treatment, but he often does not make clear whether this material was in John’s mind, or what weight or authority Mounce attaches to it.

I can only mention a few details. The rider on the white horse (6:1) is “military conquest in general” (p. 154; contra Ladd). Both groups in chapter 7 (the 144,000 and the great multitude) are identified with the church; the first represents the believers who live in the last generation before the trumpet judgments, while the second refers to “all believers when in the presence of God they realize the rewards of faithful endurance” (p. 164). Even though he holds that there will be a final series of woes identified with the “great tribulation” (7:14), Mounce still argues that the second group who explicitly are described as “those who have come out of the great tribulation” refers to all the believers of all ages.

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I commend Mounce for his judicious handling of the most difficult chapter in the Apocalypse, chapter 11. He identifies the temple, holy city, and so forth, as a reference to the faithful church (contra Ladd who sees here the restoration of the nation of Israel), and concludes that the two witnesses are not individuals but represent a symbol of the witnessing church during the tribulation period.

Following Ladd and others, the trumpets and bowls are on the one hand sequential, or telescopic, rather than systematic recapitulations of one another. On the other hand, the visions are not strictly chronological in sequence: “obviously there is progression, but not without considerable restatement and development of details” (p. 178). Thus Mounce wisely attempts to organize the structure of the book primarily along literary lines rather than chronological sequence.

The glorious woman of chapter 12 is the “messianic community, the ideal Israel,” which in the mind of John is both the historic faithful Israel from whom the Messiah comes and also later the church. Following Charles and other preterists the second beast of chapter 13 is “the priests of the imperial cult or the provincial council” of Asia but is also “the role of false religion … the universal victory of humanism” in the final days (p. 259). Mounce grapples with all the explanations of the number 666 (13:18), and argues that while it likely refers to an historical person, “it seems best to conclude that John intended only his intimate associates to be able to decipher the number” (p. 265). The beast of chapter 17 is Rome and is also the future personal anti-Christ: “He is not a human ruler through whom the power of evil finds expression—he is that evil power itself … Yet he will appear on the stage of history as a man” (p. 316).

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Mounce and other preterist-futurists think that the interpreter can throughout the book read Rome into the descriptions of John and also “more than Rome.” Can this really be done? (Certainly 17:9 does not refer to Rome, contra Mounce and other preterists and futurist-preterists.) Have not Mounce and others ignored the almost certainly correct criticisms of Barclay Newman (1963) and Paul Minear (1968), who have pointed out that the recent interpretations of the Apocalypse have turned the original theological treatise of John into a political “tract for the times”? Does not this mixture of preterist and futurist views partially fall under the same judgment and obscure the actual message of John at numerous points from chapter six onward?

Mounce’s handling of the difficult millennial section (20:1–4) has much to commend it. Yet I think portions of the treatment are needlessly ambiguous. Neither premillennialists nor amillennialists will be entirely happy. For example, on one page Mounce concludes that the millennium, though literal, is nevertheless not the messianic age foretold by the prophets, but a special reward limited to the martyrs who gave their lives in loyalty to Christ, which will be realized “in something other than a temporal fulfillment” (p. 360). Elsewhere he says that the millennium is “an earthly reign which follows the second coming of Christ” (p. 351). I find Mounce’s position much closer to Berkouwer’s amillennial interpretation of the same passage than to a premillennial exegesis (cf. The Return of Christ, pp. 291–322). Unfortunately the fine historical study of early millennial ideas by Jean Danielou in The Theology of Jewish Christianity (Westminster) was not mentioned in the discussion.

Date, authorship, literary genre, structure, and so forth, are briefly but expertly discussed in the opening pages. Mounce wisely concludes that either the authorship must be left open or we should accept John, the apostle, as the probable originator of the book (under the reign of Domitian, A.D. 81–96). However, Mounce tends to underestimate the negative linguistic evidence advanced against the view that the author of the Apocalypse could be the same person who wrote the Gospel and Epistles (no reference is made to the unfavorable evidence cited in the exhaustive study of the grammar of the Apocalypse by G. Mussies, The Morphology of Koine Greek as Used in the Apocalypse of John. His discussion of the symbolic language with its affinities and dissimilarities to apocalyptic literature is quite good and sets the tone for his more historical-literary approach to interpreting the book. The journal bibliography is one of the best available, second only to Minear’s in I Saw a New Earth.

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Although there is little that is new in the book in either general interpretive option or interpretations, Mounce has brought together in a masterly fashion the best of recent discussions. No one needs to follow the author in all his conclusions to agree that this is an excellent work filled with valuable information and worthy of wide and long use. I predict it will become the standard evangelical commentary on the Apocalypse.

A Reason For Your Hope

The Faith That Persuades, by J. Edwin Orr (Harper & Row, 1977, 150 pp., $1.95 pb), is reviewed by Gerry Breshears, student, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

J Edwin Orr, a widely traveled lecturer and professor at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary, again displays his skill at writing popular books on apologetics. He covers such topics as unbelief, theistic proofs, moral evil, experience, and revelation, by a “method of analogy,” or instruction by anecdote.

Orr introduces his study by tackling “pseudo-scientific fallacies.” In a series of stories, he shows that nothing in science contradicts the hypothesis of God, that science by its very nature cannot explain why anything happens, and that there is evidence for God in witnesses to the resurrection of Christ and in the new birth. He continues with the anatomy of unbelief, challenging the atheist to show the hypothesis of God to be incompatible with the evidence, the skeptic to show that it is inferior to alternative hypotheses, and the agnostic to admit that by professing his lack of knowledge he has already disqualified himself from the debate.

The theme of the book is that “knowledge of God comes to us through divine revelation; it is congenial to reason; and it may be verified through personal experience.” He regards theistic proofs as “persuasive hypotheses,” arguments that are compatible with such scientific theories as the big bang theory of cosmogony. Revelation is couched in verifiable history. Further, a Christian finds support for his faith in experiences of every kind. Our knowledge of God, Orr argues, comes through the inspired Scriptures, which are supported rather than contradicted by science. Faith is not a leap into the unknown “but a confident step into a bright reality.”

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Orr’s anecdotal style makes this book an interesting alternative to most apologetic studies. His approach is quite similar to E.J. Carnell’s hypothesis verification and serves as an introduction to more comprehensive works. This helps overcome the inevitable brevity of a wide-ranging, popular treatment. This book is similar to Orr’s 1960 title, Faith That Makes Sense, reproducing some material, but expanding the arguments for God and revelation. The Faith That Persuades is an enjoyable guide for those who wish to learn to give a “reason for the hope that is in you.”

The Visual Dimension Of Religion

Iconography of Religions, by Albert C. Moore (Fortress, 1977, 337 pp., $25,00), is reviewed by William A. Dyrness, associate professor of theology, Asian Theological Seminary, Manila, Philippines.

This is an ambitious book. Moore, a professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand, seeks to present a “systematic approach to the types and meaning of images used in a representative range of the religious traditions of mankind.” That is, he approaches the great religious traditions through a study of their imagery—to empathize through their images, as he puts it—rather than through their rites and writings alone. Yet Moore insists that language is primary in the interpretation of images. Also, language and imagery must be seen in the culture of a people.

This is a promising approach to the study of religion. People are paying more attention to the visual aspect of religion, which has often been slighted in the Protestant tradition. Moore points out that man orients himself in his world through the use of symbols. In the case of religion, he says man needs ritual and images. Moore lists the questions that ought to be asked concerning iconography (the study of images): What are the sacred powers of gods? How are they portrayed and experienced by the worshiper? In what setting? In what relation to the worshiper’s own body?

After an introductory discussion of these questions, the author proceeds to a fast-moving survey of major religious traditions: primal religions (traditions preceding the major religions, but presenting elements basic to all religions), in which he discusses Australian aborigines, Melanesia, and Polynesia; ancient polytheism, including the eternal mythical landscapes of Egypt and the humanized gods of ancient Greece; the spiritual-mystical Hindu traditions with its near relations of Buddhism and Jainism; the East Asian assimilation and development of Buddhism; Judaism and Islam, which he calls prophetic iconoclasm; and finally, Christianity. In each case he notes how major imagery grew out of and reflected the specific religious tradition.

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Simply to list these traditions gives some idea of the difficulty of properly introducing the material. Moore had to be selective, but even at that, I found myself overwhelmed with the sheer volume of material. There are more than 600 footnotes and 248 illustrations in the 289 pages of text. Still, he covers the major points in a helpful manner. But a few things call for comment.

Moore, to correct the assumption that “visual images have an independent life of their own,” insists on the priority of language. However, you can agree with the importance—even the priority—of language but still allow images a life of their own. His perspective leads him to focus the discussion on the literary and cognitive aspects of images to the exclusion of their formal and intuitive impact. Of course, he does not avoid all formal references, but he often fails to point out how the images communicate as images. He does not provide for the aesthetic philosophy that the various traditions have engendered, wherein formal qualities communicate in their immediate way what the worshiper feels in his faith but may not be able to put into words. Interestingly, this weakness is most apparent in his discussion of Eastern religions, where the nonrational and intuitive factors are so important. Images function differently here than in Western traditions.

Although there are many illuminating comments on the relation between image and life, Moore applies no consistent, coherent theory of the place of images in the symbolic universe of religion. Here the most interesting chapter is that on primal religions. He describes the idea of dreaming as the key to the aborigine’s sense of time and space and diagrams his symbolic universe around this concept. Why didn’t he follow a similar approach with the other religions? He mentions Clifford Geertz’s discussion of the structure of religion and Berger’s and Luckmann’s on the sociology of knowledge, but he does not apply their views (or any other) consistently.

I found some questionable interpretations. He claims to see Islamic iconoclasm as rooted in its historical position vis-à-vis Christianity and its highly-developed iconography, rather than in the basic Islamic view of religion as absolute, unmediated submission to the will of God, which is symbolized by prayers, fasting, and almsgiving.

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The book contains pen and ink drawings, with a few copies of famous works of art, and some photographs. Drawings of simple motifs are satisfactory, but copies of Michelangelo and Rembrandt are not. The very aesthetic qualities that we should note are the first to be lost in a pen and ink reproduction. Moore claims that this book is for students—and not a coffee table book. Fair enough. Why, then, did the publisher use a large artbook format at a connoisseur’s price? I hope that Fortress will print a cheaper edition just for students.

The book is well worth the reading. It would be valuable for missionaries and be good supplemental reading in comparative religion courses. The areas Moore opens and the vistas he offers are so vast and bristling with promise that you can forgive the imperfections.

Books On Praying In The Bible

This evaluation of seven books is by Cecil Murphey, pastor, Riverdale Presbyterian Church, Riverdale, Georgia.

Several recent books have turned to prayer in the Bible as their method of learning more about the subject. John White’s Daring to Draw Near (InterVarsity, 1977, 162 pp., $3.95 pb) is subtitled, “People in Prayer.” He selects ten biblical incidents of people encountering God. It’s a devotional-type, highly readable approach. He moves easily from the biblical setting to contemporary readers. His honesty is impressive—a willingness not to be the final authority on every question he raises.

Although written in the form of meeting some Bible characters—Moses, Abraham, Hannah, David, for example—he neatly inserts teachings about prayer, along with serious questions.

When you see the title Prayers That Changed History by R. Earl Allen (Broadman, 1977, 127 pp., $2.25 pb), you immediately think of Augustine, Luther, Knox and.… But you’d be wrong. Allen writes about thirteen biblical prayers and people who prayed them. Although Allen is not equal to White, it’s brief, sprightly, good reading.

I have mixed thoughts on Praying Jesus’ Way (Revell, 1977, 156 pp., $5.95). I applaud the task author Curtis C. Mitchell set out for himself. He examines all the times Jesus prays in the New Testament, and from that extrapolates principles of prayer for Jesus’ disciples.

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The danger in isolating Jesus’ teaching on prayer is that we don’t always get the full impact of the situation. Mitchell sets up “rules” about prayer from these instances. He seems to assume that everything we need to know about prayer can be learned from these verses. He declares, for instance, that we know both what Jesus prayed about, as well as what he never prayed about. He states, for example, that “Aside from the fourth petition of the Lord’s prayer, our Lord never taught us to pray for material things. In actual practice, Jesus rarely, if ever, prayed for material things, either for Himself or for others” (p. 128). Mitchell quotes Paul, and says that he, too, never prayed for material needs. After all, we can’t find that in his epistles. I can’t accept that kind of reasoning.

Or Mitchell also says that “almost shockingly is the fact that Jesus never taught His followers explicitly to pray for the salvation of lost souls! Actually, little of Jesus’ praying pertained directly to the unsaved” (author’s italics, p. 132). If we assume that the prayers the gospel writers included are all he prayed, then I’d agree, but my view isn’t that restricted.

Thomas Corbishley’s purpose in The Prayer of Jesus (Doubleday, 1976, 119 pp., $5.95) is to “get behind the utterances of Jesus to his own spirit of prayer.” A noble task, but I’m not quite sure he pulled it off. Divided into three sections, the first stresses the value and need for prayer. The next section discusses prayer in the light of the “Jesus of history” and not the “Christ of faith.” Finally, he has a brief exposition of the recorded prayers of Jesus. I wish the first two sections had been condensed and the last portion expanded.

The title of Praying the Psalms (Fortress, 1977, 119 pp., $3.50 pb) may mislead readers. This is a collection of meditations on twenty-six selected psalms. Following the ancient tradition of reading and reciting the psalms as well as meditating on them, Leslie E. Stradling produced this little volume. He divides the chapters into three categories: prayers for praise, for times of stress, and for other occasions.

I used a large portion of this book as a devotional aid, along with reading the psalms themselves. I especially appreciated his letting the culture of the ancient Mideast speak for itself in the psalms.

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I wish that all his chapters matched the one on Psalm 139, where he rephrases the entire psalm in contemporary language—and does it admirably well. But he consciously rewrote Psalm 30 from a Christian viewpoint. I found this an overall, helpful book.

Paul Coke in Mountain and Wilderness (Seabury, 1978, 146 pp., $3.95 pb) attempts to survey worship and prayer, beginning with ancient Greece, moving to Abraham, to the New Testament, and then to the early church. He starts with Greece, because the New Testament was written in Greek, and presupposes many of the religious traditions of Greece. I wonder why he didn’t start with the dual concepts of prayer and worship in the ancient pre-Abrahamic world, for the story of early Israel also presupposes such religious traditions.

The book is elementary and Coke quotes endlessly. It would have been more helpful, particularly in the biblical sections, to have summarized more and quoted less. It reads like an adult church school curriculum and might be helpful on that level.

At first glance Jacques Loew’s Face to Face With God (Paulist, 1978, 191 pp., $6.50) seems like White’s Daring to Draw Near or Allen’s Prayers That Changed History. But it isn’t. Loew begins with Old Testament saints Abraham, Moses, and David, and then jumps to the New Testament for Jesus and Paul. But he doesn’t stop with biblical characters. He discusses Teresa of the Child Jesus from the last century, paints a broad stroke of the Middle Ages, and concludes with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

His selections seem to have no pattern, other than that each person met God through prayer, in one fashion or another. For Loew, prayer doesn’t mean speaking or meditating, but being aware of God in “a kind of” face-to-face relationship. His emphasis isn’t upon the quality of prayer or great answers, but more tuned in toward those who lived prayer.

Counseling Body, Soul, And Spirit

Christian Psychiatry, by Frank B. Minirth (Revell, 1977, 224 pp., $10.00), is reviewed by David G. Benner, associate professor of Christian ministries, Wheaton Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.

Here is another attempt to provide what the author calls “an integration of sound theology and valid psychiatric knowledge.” Minirth has a private practice as a psychiatrist and also teaches at Dallas seminary. He introduces several aspects of psychiatric practice with a brief theological perspective on counseling. This falls far short of the claim on the dust jacket that the book will “allow the reader to utilize God’s principles effectively in coping with every trial life has to offer.”

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Minirth begins by summarizing basic principles and concepts of Christian psychiatry and counseling. However, his approach is more correlative than truly integrative. That is, the concepts of secular approaches are put into biblical categories and then comparisons are made. For example, the Parent, Adult, and Child ego states of Transactional Analysis are translated into the biblical categories of conscience, soul, and flesh.

In the middle and longest section, “recognizing emotional problems,” Minirth provides a standard, fairly extensive discussion of the major psychopathologies, along with a brief excursion through the diagnostic process. This may interest the reader who has had no previous exposure to traditional diagnostic categories, but it does not integrate psychiatry and theology. He comes closest when he provides biblical examples of many of the diagnoses. However, this has limited usefulness and is sometimes questionable, as when he calls Paul an obsessive-compulsive.

In the final section, Minirth discusses the treatment of emotional problems. The reader who wants to learn about counseling, however, will find the presentation of four- and five-step treatment plans for various types of problems much too brief. Similarly, the listing of characteristics of the good Christian counselor needs further development. To state that a good counselor is “suggestive and confronting” or “one who interjects Scripture” without extensive discussion of what this means in practice is too superficial.

Minirth’s attempt to present a treatment approach that responds to what he calls the “whole man” is important but is weakened by his unqualified dependence on a tripartite model of man. He simplistically assigns problems as being spiritual, psychological, or physical, depending on whether body, soul, or spirit seems to be the problem.

Although these categories, along with a great number of other biblical and anthropological concepts, have value in identifying important characteristics, it seems inconsistent with the bulk of modern theological and psychological scholarship to treat them as distinct components or parts. Minirth’s allegiance to them is such that he explains why Christians have psychological problems by saying that “the mind is part of the soul, not the spirit.” Explanations of this sort do not help anyone.

One of the best parts of the book is a too brief discussion of New Testament verbs that relate to the counseling process. The five Greek verbs found in First Thessalonians 5:14 (paraceleo, neuthetio, parmutheomai, antechomai, and makrothuneo) provide the evidence for Minirth that no one type of counseling is appropriate for all people. This flexibility is a welcome strength of his approach.

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