Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS, by C. B. Eavey (Zondervan Publ. House, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1958, 283 pp., $3.95).
This is a disturbing book to those familiar with the field of ethics. In this day several systems of ethics are prominent on college campuses, most of them pragmatic, utilitarian, hedonistic, altruistic, socialistic, etc. Over against this scholarly recognition of ethics in secular schools, Christians expect to find strong convictions and clear thinking among born-again people working in the same area. Unfortunately, this book does not satisfy such expectations. Rather, it gives the impression of being a current secular development, expressed, whenever possible, in Scriptural terminology.
One of the areas of ethical consideration is the identification of the Summum Bonum, the highest good, the true goal of life. One is thus shocked to read on page 24, “Law exists for one purpose: to guide man to his final goal, which is happiness.” A dictionary defines “hedonism” as “The doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life and that moral duty is fulfilled in the gratification of pleasure-seeking instincts and dispositions.”
Pietism has been well characterized as a system based on the primacy of human experience instead of on the primacy of the Word of God. This author approaches the extreme of “Let your conscience be your guide” on page 78 in saying, “If we are in complete harmony with God, we can rest assured that we will be guided aright.” He does pay lip service to the Word of God, but seems to a-void giving primary place to an authoritative revelation. Discussing “Means Used by Christian Ethics to Find What Is According to God’s Will” on page 145, he says, “Christian ethics makes use of all available means for determining what is right and what is wrong.” He mentions customs, laws, legends, maxims, sayings, traditions, personal experiences; and considers the Bible something the Christian has added to these others that all men have. Such interpretation is far from considering the Bible the only rule of faith and practice, which has been the Baptist emphasis through the centuries. Yet this is the development of the author, “Christian ethics, it is true, accepts, with ethics in general, whatever light nature and reason bring to bear upon ethical problems. But it adds to this the clearer light that comes from divine revelation” (page 14).
This is a disturbing book because it comes from a campus evangelical Christians have long considered to be sound; because it comes from a publisher Christians have learned to trust: and because it is written in a style and language attractive to the reader unable to discern the subtle dangers, of the author’s presentation.
Dean Warren Vanhetloo
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