Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 23:4 (December 1980) p. 343
On Defining Death. By Douglas N. Walton. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 189 pp., $15.95.
The secular world is now prepared to talk of death in public, and many studies of the subject are appearing. This one is described as “an analytic study of the concept of death in philosophy and medical ethics.”
At the beginning of his discussion the author quotes the ancient materialist, Epicurus, to the effect that since death is simply annihilation, man can be rationally freed from the craving for immortality. When he concludes the book he suggests that on a secular basis there is no reason to have any great fear of death—though he admits that this is not the way most people feel. Then he quotes the celebrated anti-Christian, Bertrand Russell, to the effect that death is simply the loss of individual being, and that is all there is to it.
So for the Christian this volume offers very little of value, unless he is a professional philosopher. Then it reveals the sheer logical difficulty of talking about anyone who is dead, since on the secular assumption we would be talking about a nonexistent. Thus it appears that unless one believes in immortality of some kind, even discussion of the dead may make no strict sense. In another area Walton shows the ethical importance of realizing the distinction between killing and letting die. In the former case, one acts to “bring about a state of affairs to ‘ensure’ its occurrence, to not allow possible outcomes that do not include that particular.”
The overriding value of this study is to reveal the kinds of problems the secularist faces because for him all truth and knowledge must come from man alone.
Lloyd F. Dean
Community College of Rhode Island
Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective. By Stephen A. Grunlan and Marvin K. Mayers. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979, 309 pp., $6.95 paper.
Designed as an introductory textbook in cultural anthropology for Bible colleges, Grunlan’s and Mayers’ book deserves an audience beyond the classroom. The authors’ underlying rationale is one of Biblical absolutism and cultural relativism. In chapter after chapter they hammer home the point that anyone entering another culture, particularly a missionary, must be prepared to abandon his own cultural prejudices in order to communicate effectively.
In the mode of a traditional textbook this work provides a topic-by-topic survey of major issues in anthropology. Marriage and family, technology and economy, social control and government are among the topics dealt with. Where a Biblical observation is relevant it is interjected. Each of the 14 chapters is followed by a sho...
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