Monthly book reviews by various authors

Adventists and Labor Unions in the United States

Robert C. Kistler, Review and Herald, Hagerstown, Maryland, 1984, 127 pages, $8.95, paper. Reviewed by Gordon Engen, associate director, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Dr. Kistler has prepared an objective view of the development of Seventh-day Adventists' relations with labor unions. He begins with the turbulent early years of the labor movement in the United States, tracing its development into the present-day mature structure.

Dr. Kistler attempts to present the development of the Adventist position on labor unions from a neutral perspective, examining the views of early Adventist leaders and writers as well as modem critics of the position. The author also examines the basis for the church's position from theological and practical viewpoints.

Several pages recount the efforts of church leaders to develop a conscience exemption from compulsory unionism. Special emphasis is given to strikes and violence, an earmark of labor's developmental years. But Kistler points out that even where violence has not occurred, the basic principle of unionism, which is the appeal to selfishness and love of power, goes against Christian principles.

Divorce and the Faithful Church

G. Edwin Bontrager, Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1978, 191 pages, $7.95, hardcover, $4.95, paper. Reviewed by Ron Flowers, associate director, Home and Family Service, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

How should the church relate to divorce and divorced persons? Bontrager argues that not to take them seriously is, in our culture and times, to fail to minister to a third or more of those for whom Christ died. The author's central theme might be simply stated, "Divorce is a forgivable sin." He examines the main Old and New Testament passages and concludes that while permanence in marriage is God's ideal, the Lord has been flexible and long-suffering in His dealings with man's fail ures.

This is a serious study of the issues facing Christian congregations who wish to be Bible-centered, to uphold God's ideal without compromising, and yet be sensitive to human needs. One cannot read this material without pondering perhaps more carefully than ever before the central heart and role of the church. What is the meaning of the church as community? What is its responsibility to those who falter and fail in their covenant of marriage? What is the role of God's law with respect to the covenant of marriage? What is the role of grace? Are there more effective ways of maintaining Biblical standards of marriage and family without dealing negatively and harshly with couples?

While you may not agree with all of Bontrager's conclusions, you won't be able to dismiss lightly his challenge to lift high God's grace and make it foremost in dealing with those who have known the emotional trauma and hurt that comes from the death of their marriage.

Biblical Ethics

T. B. Maston, Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1982, 300 pages, $13.95. Reviewed by Reginald N. Shires, associate pastor, Sligo Seventh-day Adventist church, Takoma Park, Mary land.

This book, which carries the subtitle A Guide to the Ethical Message of the Scriptures From Genesis Through Revelation, is a valuable tool for sermon preparation and Bible studies. Maston has put together in a systematic way the ethical content of each book of the Bible. He also includes the ethical issues of the Apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, and Dead Sea scrolls.

The author's examination of the Synoptic Gospels is a good example of his treatment of ethics. For example, under the heading "The Kingdom of God" he asserts that "the kingdom, realm, reign, or rule of God was the central theme of the preaching (Matt. 4:23; Luke 4:43) and ministry of Jesus. . . . All the ethical teaching of Jesus is simply an exposition of the ethics of the kingdom of God, of the way in which men inevitably behave when they actually come under the rule of God."

Maston concludes that "Biblical ethics has been neglected in a great deal of Bible study." He calls upon students of Old and New Testament theology to include the ethical themes of the Bible books in their study. Understanding these themes, he says, will give us "a clearer insight into the revelation of the character and will of God."

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