EVANGELICAL ETHICS, ISSUES FACING THE CHURCH TODAY, by John Jefferson Davis: Puritan and Reformed Publishing, 1985; 299 pp., $13.95. (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)

The blurb on the cover of this book explains its contents.

The Christian today is confronted with ethical questions of unprecedented magnitude. Are nuclear weapons justifiable? Does world population growth make the widespread use of contraceptives imperative? What attitude should Christians have toward homosexuality? How should we respond to the practices of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia? Is civil disobedience ever an option for believers? What does the Bible say about artificial insemination, or about sterilization?

Never before have such issues pressed upon the church with the urgency they do now. To equip believers to respond to the ethical challenges of our time, John Jefferson Davis has written this highly informative and thoroughly biblical volume—an excellent resource for the student, the pastor, and the concerned layperson.

On the whole, the author succeeds well in giving guidance to God’s people on what are surely difficult ethical questions with which the world confronts the church. Of particular value in the book is a great deal of resource material on what the church in the past has said about many of the issues raised, and on what current legislation in this country and abroad has been passed on various matters of ethical concern. While the law is in a state of flux at present, this book brings one up to date on what current law has to say.

As I was reading the book, one thought especially occurred to me. The author does not, in my opinion, always present all the relevant Biblical data on an issue. I do not want to sound too harsh in this criticism, for some of the issues raised and discussed in the book have no easy answers—the Bible does not present us with a clear-cut “Yes” or “No” in many instances; and the book reflects carefulness in dealing with these difficult problems. But the Bible does present broad principles oftentimes in the context of which many of today’s problems have to be faced; and the author does not always, in my judgment, deal with these principles.

Perhaps an illustration or two will make this clear. In his treatment of the use of contraceptives, the author does not deal sufficiently with the teachings of the Bible concerning the believer’s attitude towards children; i.e., that children of believers are children of the covenant. The whole matter of bringing forth covenant seed must be considered in this problem. The same is true to some extent when the author treats such matters as in vitro conception, surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination, etc. It seems to me that these matters have to be treated within the broad principles of Scripture which define the marriage relation, the physical union of husband and wife, the love which prevails in the whole marital relation, etc. I do not want to suggest with these criticisms, however, that the author fails in treating these matters from a Biblical perspective. He does this, and often does it well.

One element of the book is to be deplored: the author, under certain limited circumstances and within certain well-defined perimeters, supports revolution against constituted authority. He cites especially the examples of the judges in proof of his position, but fails to take into account the difference between our day and the Old Testament theocracy, and the relation between the New Testament Christian and the State. I do not agree with the author at all in his conclusions in this matter, and warn God’s people that the New Testament absolutely forbids revolution, and that those who engage in it, for whatever reason, bring down the wrath of God upon them.

The book is highly recommended. We urge our readers who are interested in these important ethical questions, which touch upon their own life, to get this book and make it part of their necessary reading. God’s people must be informed on these matters, for sooner or later the church will be confronted with these questions in concrete form. This book gives valuable guidance through a very dense thicket.

The author is professor of Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.