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October 1975 · Vol. 4 No. 4 · pp. 391–92 

Book Review

King Jesus' Manual of Arms for the 'Armless

Vernard Eller. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1973. 205 pages.

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

Despite its zany style—or perhaps because of it—King Jesus’ becomes an extremely rewarding treatment of the biblical perspective of war. Eller, a member of the Church of the Brethren has contributed several other unorthodox titles to the publishing field, titles which thinly disguise good theologizing (e.g., Sex Manual for Puritans).

In the present work he sketches a basic approach to war, starting with the creation account and moving through Israel’s history, the prophets, Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus’ teaching, and Revelation. His beginning thesis is that God has made men for fighting, but fighting on God’s terms: man is to control and master his environment. The ‘other’ (i.e., people) is not an object of his mastery. Fallen man, however, begins to fight for his own end, “against enemies and according to strategies of his own choosing” (p. 24). A second thesis Eller develops is the Zion-theme, the attempt to see God’s presence acknowledged by people: “Zion seems to stand for true loyalty to Yahweh” (p. 68). It is this theme that occupies most of the book.

Eller’s work emphasizes several perspectives. First, the refusal to fight on man’s terms is not a guarantee of success. “Defenceless love” does not always work. “The way of love is very unreliable at best and completely ineffectual in many situations. . . . It is not the technique that is being tested but (man’s) trust and loyalty” (p. 157). Second, not all who reject fighting are doing so on God’s terms. The refusal to use violence sometimes operates from motives as “Adamic” and counter-God as the promotion of violence. Third, there is a clear emphasis on the collective nature of the atonement, that “the Messiah’s victory also includes the nations” (p. 121). {392}

Oh, yes. An example of the zany writing: “His trust in Yahweh makes him willing to lie quietly in the quiver without a quiver” (p. 103). Okay?

Vern Ratzlaff
Mennonite Brethren Bible College

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