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July 1972 · Vol. 1 No. 3 · pp. 102–3 

Book Review

The Ethics of Revolution

Martin H. Scharlemann. St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1971. 56 pages.

Reviewed by Abe J. Dueck

Scharlemann’s purpose in this brief volume is to evaluate the contemporary situation in terms of the revolutionary forces that are at work in society. The book therefore does not so much attempt to set forth a “Christian” ethic for effecting social change as to expose the demonic aspect of much of what goes under the guise of a new theology.

Scharlemann makes very few concessions to the proponents of revolution, either in terms of their methods or their ideals. He recognizes the major factors which produce unrest in our society, such as the plight of the poor and the depersonalization and dehumanizing of life in a technocratic society. Nevertheless, the awareness of the depth of alienation that these factors have produced seems rather superficial. Very frequently Scharlemann simply appears to be seeking to reinforce the values of western society. He speaks very favorably about the efforts of the U.S. to solve some of the major world problems (e.g. “The United States is working at the problem of national sovereignty with its attendant divisiveness,” p. 13; “The social and political effects of the Gospel let loose in society and converting individuals to Jesus Christ as their Savior can be illustrated very dramatically by the recent decision of the United States to take the {103} initiative in a proposal that the riches of the world’s ocean beds, beyond the depth of 400 meters, be placed under an international authority. . . .This is by far the most revolutionary proposal for advancing the cause of peace. . . .” p. 50).

Much of what Scharlemann says by way of criticism of the revolutionary movements and their ideology is to the point. The perspective from which this is offered (Luther’s Two-Kingdom Theory) and the direction this gives for a Christian’s involvement in social change is quite inadequate, however. “Biblical realism” for Scharlemann is an attitude of pessimism regarding the present world which leaves little incentive for Christian action to alleviate suffering and injustice.

Abram Dueck
MB Bible College

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