Rx For Perplexed Parents

Several books on parenting are reviewed by Gary H. Strauss, associate professor of psychology, Rosemead Graduate School of Professional Psychology, La Mirada, California.

Everyone wants to be a good parent. The nine books reviewed here are examples of what comes off the press to help us. Though for the most part they reflect an evangelical orientation, several are included that represent useful material written from a secular point of view. When read and used in keeping with the authoritative standards and principles of the Bible, they can prove beneficial to the discriminating parent.

Judy Brown Hull’s When You Receive a Child (Abbey Press) presents a challenging stimulus to those looking forward to having children as well as to those who are already parents. She has a two-fold approach to living with a child, as she works from New Testament passages that characterize the relationship between Jesus and children. She shares through her own experience how she has come to see children—disruptive as they can sometimes be—as presenting us as parents with the creative presence of God himself. In referring to the parent’s role as modeling the image of God, she contrasts nonreceptive responses to children with hospitality as the key to receiving children to their good and our gain. No pithy effort, Hill’s “reflections” provide a fresh perspective on being a parent as well as on a person’s spiritual life.

Recognizing the universal need of all children for love, Marie Frost admonishes the parent or teacher to Listen to Your Children (Standard). Drawing on years of experience as parent and teacher in Sunday schools, preschools, public schools, and day-care centers, she sets forth three basic principles: (1) listen to the child; (2) having listened, remember you, the parent/teacher, not the child, are the authority figure; and (3) deal with the child in the light of Christian, scriptural truths. In an illustrative, problem-solving format, the author provides 22 examples of how the firm hand of parenting that is infused with love can both communicate sincere caring to children and restore to the parent/teacher a sense of security in the exercise of these roles.

A further challenge to those looking forward to children as well as to the rest of us who are concerned with the welfare of the “little people” is the strong profamily statement advocating full-time parenting by Paul D. Meier and Linda Burnett, The Unwanted Generation (Baker). Combining the expertise and concerns of a practicing psychiatrist and a young mother, Meier and Burnett begin by pointing out some of the dangerous trends in current society. They go on to treat both “do’s” and “don’ts” from a solid biblical foundation, showing how to provide our children a strong sense of being wanted and lovingly cared for. Two interesting features of the book are the liberal use of quoted material, providing illustrations and thought-provoking views of others, and a “psychiatric perspective” section that balances Burnett’s views with a professional’s. Another helpful feature is the bibliography that encompasses the issues of day care, abortion, marriage and family, and the role of women.

Kay Kuzma is a child development specialist and an associate professor of health services. Combining both professional and maternal perspectives in her writing, she thoughtfully notes that the key to successful parenting is the quality of the time spent with children. She discusses a number of problems encountered by the working parent and makes some very useful suggestions for handling these. Shrinking from clinical verbiage, Kuzma draws many entertaining and illustrative examples from her own experience. In contrast to Meier and Burnett’s strong statement urging that mothers should remain at home with their children, Prime Time Parenting (Rawson, Wade) is a substantial and practical aid for the working parent.

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Problems arising from expecting too much from children is helpfully addressed by John M. Drescher in What Should Parents Expect? (Abingdon). Focusing primarily on the issue of moral development, the author begins by noting the problem that arises in our society when parents demand their own fulfillment through the high-level performance of their children. He expounds upon the damage that can potentially occur both to the child’s sense of adequacy and to his or her moral perspective within the context of three developmental stages: the “age of regulation”—birth to 7; the “age of imitation”—8 to 12; and the “age of inspiration”—13 to adulthood. He notes the needs, special problems, and the rights and wrongs of parenting at each stage. The book concludes with a helpful chart that notes the stages of physical, social, spiritual, and sexual growth. There is a representative bibliography for further reading as well.

At the onset, Hans W. Zegerius specifically notes that his book, Christian Parents (Guardian Books), “is not a handbook or ‘how-to’ manual.” Perhaps this is its strength because it allows for a broader outlook on such a difficult subject. He shares knowledge and insights gained from the Scriptures and his experience in helping parents be people their children can come to trust as a refuge “where they can find forgiveness, healing, and a new start.” The author writes from the heartfelt belief that only when the God-given order of Christian marriage and Christian family are followed will there be the “delights of love” and the “joys of parenthood.” He treats the various issues and challenges of parenting, including the innocence of children; the ignorance and immaturity of both parent and child; experiences involving play, decision making, reward and punishment; and the effects of cultural influences. This is a thoughtful book with a significant spiritual challenge to the reader.

A strong contrast is seen in The Young Child as Person (Human Sciences Press), by Martha Snyder, Ross Snyder, and Ross Snyder, Jr. This work is grounded in our Judeo-Christian system of values, but it portrays a somewhat humanistic slant. The book draws heavily from existential philosophy as well as sociological and psychological theory. Rather than shunning the work, the careful Christian parent and teacher can derive much that is helpful, and learn to respect the individuality of children. Other benefits to be gained from this book include ways to help young children break out of fears and conflict; learn self-regard; and develop healthy social skills in the areas of sharing, communication, and problem solving.

The book is aimed more at the preschool teacher than parents. It provides, therefore, many examples of communication with young children at their level. It also offers suggestions for helping them deal constructively with the challenges they face as they develop their individual perceptions and approaches to life. A reader’s solid personal grounding in biblical truths can help him apply useful observations and suggestions within a Christian context.

The most narrowly focused of these books is the one by Malcolm MacGregor, Training Your Children to Handle Money (Bethany). Having earlier directed his comments toward the adult audience, MacGregor takes principles of money management a step further. Using a framework of the things parents say and do that make an impact on their children emotionally and teach them ways of thinking about themselves and their world, he offers good suggestions for training youth in responsible and appropriate earning and handling of assets that are consistent with biblical injunctions. He concludes with several useful aids for keeping records, something that is critical for becoming the “good stewards” God desires us to be.

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Finally, we have How to Make Your Child a Winner (Walker), by Victor B. Cline, an experienced parent (of nine children), behavioral scientist, university teacher, and for 26 years a practicing clinical psychologist. Using as a springboard a fascinating study of personal competency reflected under combat conditions during the Korean War, the author discusses the essentials necessary to help our children to develop into competent adults. In Part I, he presents a number of “how to’s” for providing a successful family life. He includes such issues as self-esteem, social skills, the capacity to love, conscience and moral values, and responsibility. Part II consists of solutions to “the fifteen most common problems parents face in raising children,” a very helpful series of discussions. Part III sums up, presenting “ten keys to rearing successful children.” While it is neither written from an evangelical point of view nor incorporates biblical content, Christian parents will find this volume very helpful and consistent with scriptural values and principles.

Understanding Northern Ireland

Challenge and Conflict: Essays in Irish Presbyterian History and Doctrine, edited by J.L. M. Haire (W & G Baird, Belfast, 1981, 188 pp., $10.00), is reviewed by S. W. Murray, session clerk at Ravenhill Presbyterian Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

This volume honors the recently retired John Barkley, professor of church history in the Presbyterian College, Belfast, for 27 years and principal for 5. Colleagues in the Union College (its new title) and others have contributed essays that outline aspects of the story of the church for the past three-and-a-half centuries.

Presbyterianism in Ireland followed a very confused pattern, much like the pattern of Irish history; it did much to shape the direction of the Reformed faith there. The earlier settlers from Scotland were organized into the Synod of Ulster, followed in the mid-eighteenth century by the Secession Synod, which was influenced by the secessions in the Church of Scotland. The Synod of Ulster was rent by two controversies, the first in the 1720s, and the second a century later. Each was followed by secessions on the question of subscription to the Westminster Confession. These two events are noted by essays on the respective controversies and the personalities concerned. The eighteenth century was marked by the migration of the Ulster-Scots to North America, a migration that had a strong influence on the early history of the U.S. The two synods united in 1840 to form the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The concluding chapter, “The Church in Tension,” deals with the main stresses in the present century. Critical and ecumenical issues are much in evidence, as are the tensions produced by an increased conservative influence in recent years.

Anyone interested in this complex and interesting history would do well to read this book. It makes the current unrest understandable, even if not acceptable.

How Soon Is Armageddon?

Four books on eschatology are reviewed by Robert G. Clouse, professor of history at Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana.

For many years the study of eschatology that focused on the return of Jesus Christ was limited to extremist groups and cults. That this situation has changed is demonstrated by some books produced by responsible individuals from the Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, and Mennonite traditions.

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Christian Hope & the Future (IVP), written by Stephen Travis, a Methodist theologian educated at Cambridge who teaches at Saint John’s College, Nottingham, England, is a helpful survey of recent liberal eschatological thought. He discusses the opinions of Gerhard von Rad, P. D. Hanson, Ernst Käsemann, Jürgen Moltmann, Carl E. Braaten, Rudolf Bultmann, C. H. Dodd, J. A. T. Robinson, Oscar Cullmann, John Hick, and John Macquarrie on topics such as the second coming of Christ, life after death, and divine judgment. A major section of the book explains the significance of the apocalyptic for Christian theology.

Travis discusses the theological views of these scholars in a kindly, critical fashion. An example of his enlightened outlook is his statement about the relationship between the conservative “literalist” and the more liberal “demythologizer.” He suggests both sides must participate in “a more careful and sympathetic assessment of the nature and extent of myth, image and metaphor in the New Testament” (pp. 91–92). The literalist ought to take the nature of prescientific language and thought forms more seriously, while the demythologizer must not impose an alien philosophic framework on the New Testament.

The author explains the abstruse material of individuals like Moltmann in a clear, concise manner, although at times his treatment of some of the issues is rather brief. He closes each discussion section with his own evangelical reaction to the material. Those who wish to understand scholarly work on eschatology during the last few decades will certainly be aided by reading Travis’s work.

The second of these books, Fear, Faith and the Future (Augsburg) is the work of Ted Peters, a Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary professor. His purpose is to show that eschatology need not foster the social pessimism expressed by many premillennialists. The book introduces the Christian to secular thinking about the future and takes into account “seven calamities” the author believes are about to come upon our planet. Peters admonishes readers to apply their faith to present-day problems since many difficulties can only be surmounted by those who have faith in Christ. Believers are to think “future” while acting in the present, because the coming kingdom is to be anticipated in the actions of Christians at the present time. Peters’s book is an excellent study guide for those who lead group discussions.

Harold Lindsell, well-known evangelical writer and former editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, is the author of the third book, The Gathering Storm (Tyndale). He feels that such signs of the times as the return of the Jews to Israel; the importance of Middle Eastern oil; and the increasing incidence of war, moral chaos, natural disasters, and economic crises seem to indicate that the second coming of Christ is near.

Lindsell is concerned, however, about many who emphasize the return of the Lord because they accept a pretribulation Rapture without question. He indicates that such hopes are based more on a desire to escape the persecutions of the Tribulation than on a careful exposition of what the Bible teaches. To support his position, he analyzes the scriptural evidence against an “any-moment Rapture.” He also cites problems in the writings of those who teach pretribulationism: H. A. Ironside, C. I. Scofield, M. R. DeHaan, I. M. Haldeman, and John Walvoord among others. Lindsell concludes that “the data, in my opinion, seem to lean more in the direction of the post-tribulation position” (p. 160).

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While I had misgivings about some of his opinions—such as identifying capitalism with God’s will—it is refreshing to see someone of impeccable evangelical credentials who uses the Bible in an effective manner to question the closed system of dispen-sationalism.

And Then Comes the End (Herald), the last of these volumes, is by David Ewert who teaches Greek and New Testament at Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California. Influenced by the Anabaptist tradition, he demonstrates that the second coming of Christ and related eschatological themes give strength to believers who are called upon to suffer for their Lord. Although the forces of darkness will strengthen as the end comes, those who follow Christ will ultimately triumph over evil. However, Ewert warns his readers to avoid speculation about signs of the times and takes issue with those who make rigid schemes of end-time events. In popular language he explains the Scriptures that touch on eschatology, but he constantly presents his material in a nondogmatic fashion. The book is divided into 13 chapters, each of which is followed by discussion questions. This is an excellent volume for use by study groups because of its solid scholarship, readable style, and helpful outline.

Rarely does one review four volumes and find each one to be very helpful. I believe others interested in eschatology will also profit from reading these books.

Making The Bible Relevant

Scripture in Context: Essays on the Comparative Method, edited by Carl D. Evans, William W. Hallo, and John B. White (Pickwick, 1980, 328 pp., $13.50), is reviewed by James C. Moyer, professor of religious studies, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri.

The great desire to make the Bible relevant often leads to reading and interpreting it as though it were written in America during the twentieth century. However, to do so is to divorce it from its historical context. Everyone needs help at this point, and Scripture in Context provides this by concentrating on the Old Testament and its ancient Near Eastern background.

This collection of 13 essays had its origin in a 1978 summer seminar directed by William W. Hallo, chairman of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at Yale University, and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The topic was “Biblical History in Its Near Eastern Setting.” Each of the 12 professors from various colleges and universities wrote an essay relating to the seminar topic. Two of them, Carl Evans from the University of South Carolina and John White from DePauw University, joined with Hallo to edit and publish the essays.

The opening essay by Hallo deals with methodological issues relating to the contextual or comparative approach. T. L. Thompson and J. Van Seters, among others, have challenged this approach, especially in relation to Genesis. Hallo answers these challenges, and demonstrates the validity of comparison and contrast as the “twin components in a contextual approach to biblical literature” (p. 18). This chapter is essential reading for any serious student of the Old Testament.

Five of the essays will be of special interest to readers of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. Neils-Erik Andreasen seeks to illuminate Genesis 14 with ancient Near Eastern itineraries. George Saint-Laurent gives Ugaritic background material to Elijah’s contest on Mount Carmel. Max Polley compares the council of Yahweh to the assembly of gods in ancient Near Eastern thought. Carl Evans surveys Judah’s foreign policy from Hezekiah to Josiah, using the recent studies of Cogan and McKay that show the Assyrians did not require the Judeans to worship their gods. Carl Schultz discusses postexilic tensions between the returning exiles and those who remained in the land, and endeavors to show that the tensions were essentially political and not religious. Other essays of lesser interest range from Mesopotamian oral poetry to Antiochus Epiphanes.

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The book is well edited and quite readable, though extensive footnotes and interaction with recent scholarship will make it more appealing to scholars and serious students. However, busy pastors and religious leaders should make the effort to use it, even if only as a handbook or reference tool. Such use is possible because of the almost 40 pages devoted to indexes of subjects, authors, and biblical references. Whatever the use, this book will help any reader to understand the Old Testament in its context better.

BRIEFLY NOTED

The following is a selection of recent material on the general topic of God and his relation to the world.

God. Two new attempts to understand the Trinity are: The Vision of the Trinity (Univ. Press of America), by George H. Tavard, arguing that the Trinity should be the central concern of theology today; and The Trinity and the Kingdom (Harper & Row), by Jürgen Moltmann, a major new work that looks at the Trinity as community based on freedom.

The Passionate God (Paulist), by Rosemary Haughton, is a wonderful book about God and incarnation. Three books dealing with God as active (sometimes covertly) in the world are: The Back of God: Signs of His Presence (Tyndale), by Bill Austin; The Difference God Makes (IVP), by Peter Haile; and A God Who Acts (Servant), by Harry Blamires (the 1957 The Will and the Way, redone). Blamires’s book is highly recommended.

Our God (Accent), by Russell G. Jones, looks at some of the traditional attributes of God, and Theology of the Love of God (John Knox), by George M. Newlands, considers specifically the love of God.

Three books deal with God as problematic: Taking Leave of God (Crossroads), by Don Cupitt, ends up with “God is a myth we have to have”; Robert P. Scharlemann’s The Being of God (Seabury) has “God is experienced as false, ambiguous, both true and false, depending on what level is in view”; The Problem of God: A Short Introduction (Prometheus), by Peter A. Angeles, is a denial that God exists.

Apologetics. The problem of suffering is the concern of six new books: Evil: The Shadowside of Reality (Crossroads), by john A. Sanford, ajungian look at the reality of evil; Why Does God Allow It? (Master/CLP), by A. E. Wilder-Smith, a more traditional analysis of evil; Till Armageddon (Word), by Billy Graham, an excellent and biblical study of suffering; The Traces of God (Cowley), by Diogenes Allen, a look at the redemptive possibilities of suffering; God Who Dares to Be Man (Seabury), by Bonnell Spencer, presenting a theology for prayer and suffering; and an excellent survey of attempts to understand evil as a theological problem, offering a new way of looking at it, Theologies and Evil (Univ. Press of America), by John S. Feinberg. It could be the best one to date.

Four new books cover apologetics proper, although with differing approaches: Dimensions of Belief and Unbelief (Univ. Press of America), by john R. Connolly; The Justification of Religious Belief (Oxford), by Basil Mitchell; Crucial Questions in Apologetics (Baker), by Mark M. Hanna; and The Case for Christian Theism (Baker), by A. J. Hoover.

The Case for Christianity (Eerdmans), by Colin Chapman, covers all the bases in defense of Christianity, consisting of over 1,000 quotations for key areas of concern. It will help many doubting seekers. The Humble Approach: Scientists Discover God (Seabury), by john M. Templeton, is a marvelous book that all should read. The 100-page bibliography alone is worth the price.

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