400 Jahre Mennoniten in Altona und Hamburg: 25. Mai bis 19. August 2001, Altonaer Museum in Hamburg, Norddeutsches Landesmuseum. Matthias H. Rauert and Hajo Brandenburg, eds. Hamburg: Altonaer Museum in Hamburg, Norddeutsches Landesmuseum. 2001. Pp. 52.
400 Jahre Mennoniten in Altona und Hamburg. Matthias H. Rauert and Thomas Schamp, eds. [Bolanden-Weierhof]: Mennonitischer Geschichts-verein, 2005. ?11.50, CD-ROM.
On May 25, 2001, the Altonaer Museum in Hamburg, Germany opened an exhibition, ?400 Jahre Mennoniten in Altona und Hamburg? (400 Years of Mennonites in Altona and Hamburg), as the third part in a series of exhibitions around the themes of toleration and emigration. The creation of this exhibit on the history of Hamburg’s and Altona’s Mennonites was a collaborative project of the museum, the city’s Mennonite congregation whose history is the subject of the exhibit, the Mennonitische Geschichtsverein and Dr. Matthias Rauert. Its opening date commemorated the four centuries since a nobleman granted Mennonite refugees from the Low Countries a Privilegium to settle in the newly established port of Altona. In 1605, Hamburg, Altona’s economic competitor on the Elbe River, issued the Niederlandervertrag, or Netherlands Agreement, which granted several families the right to settle in that city. The descendents of these first immigrants would eventually contribute disproportionately to the economic and cultural life of the two cities. The book catalogue and its expanded CD-ROM counterpart provide readers with a sampling of the exhibition and an excellent introduction to the history of one of the most important congregations in the history of northern European Mennonites.
The 2001 book catalogue does not contain a clear chronology or overarching argument; instead, the thirteen short essays leave the reader with the pleasant feeling of wandering through the exhibit’s rooms. The layout of the displays may have influenced the organization of the catalogue. For example, a chapter that contains a biographical sketch of Menno Simons and discussion of his portraits precedes Matthias Rauert’s introduction to the Reformation and the Anabaptist movements. The essays cover such diverse subjects as a painting by Ludwig Dettmann, the Altona church building, country homes, Mennonite material culture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the Mennonite artists Balthasar Denner (1685-1749) and Dominicus van der Smissen (1704-1760). All the articles emphasize the astonishing economic accomplishments of the tolerated Mennonites in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Several chapters highlight the Mennonites? contributions to the shipping, whaling and manufacturing trades. The Linnich, Roosen, van der Smissen, de Voss and Willink families dominated these industries and hence appear frequently in the narratives of the exhibit and catalogue. In comparison, the lives of the majority of the congregation remain relatively unexamined until the sections that discuss the twentieth century.
The economic opportunities of Mennonites on the Elbe developed out of their extensive trading networks across northern Europe. A joint essay by Dennis Slabaugh and Matthias H. Rauert illustrates how the merchants? connections also exposed them to increasing contact with the intellectual influences of Quakerism, Pietism and the Enlightenment. From 1766 to 1768, the parents of the cousins Jacob Gysbert and Hinrich III van der Smissen sent them on a ?grand tour? to educate them about the family trade and to establish personal connections with the family’s trading partners in the Dutch Republic and England. During their journey, the young men met some of the leading figures of English Methodism and German Pietism. This type of worldly engagement led to the congregation’s increased acculturation and integration in the nineteenth century, which the catalogue covers in two paragraphs. The final three essays briefly describe the congregation in the twentieth century, picking up the narrative in 1945, when some of the old families had withdrawn from congregational life and the influx of Mennonite refugees from East and West Prussia following World War II transformed the congregation’s character.
The catalogue’s chapters provide interesting vignettes from the congregation’s remarkable history. Most chapters are explanatory or descriptive; only a few authors attempt either to analyze why Mennonites in Hamburg and Altona enjoyed such an astonishing success or to place their toleration and emigration in a larger context. Matthias Rauert theorizes that the Mennonites were so successful because of the skills and connections that they brought with them from the Low Countries, especially their contacts with their Dutch coreligionists. In their chapter on Mennonites in the eighteenth century, Sylvia Jodat and Rauert find that the Mennonite elites maintained a distinctively somber and simple dress, raising the question of whether there were other aspects of the Mennonites? material culture or business practices that set them apart from their neighbors. Perhaps it is unfair to expect a museum catalogue to explain satisfactorily the congregation’s economic success and subsequent acculturation, but its fascinating stories will lead readers to ask for more.
The release of the 2005 CD-ROM catalogue commemorated the 400th anniversary of the Niederlandervertrag. The disc’s editors did not include all the displays from the 2001 exhibit; however, they expanded several topics and added several new sections. The CD-ROM’s additions, which are too numerous to discuss comprehensively in this review, include photographs from the exhibition’s opening, the opening address by the historian (and former pastor of the congregation) Hans-Jrgen Goertz, and photographs and description of contemporary church life. The CD-ROM fleshes out the congregation’s history by expanding the sections on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although still disappointingly brief, the chapter on the nineteenth century is strengthened by an excerpt from Michael Driedger’s Zuflucht und Koexistenz (2001) that partially attributes the assimilation of the Mennonites on the Elbe to the loss of their connections to Dutch Mennonites and the economic decline of the Dutch Republic and Kingdom of the Netherlands. The section on the twentieth century acknowledges the altered postwar composition of the congregation by adding photographs of former Mennonite homes and churches in Prussia.
The disc’s greatest strength is its photographs of sixteenth-, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts and objects, many of which come from the congregation’s own library. The digital medium allows the reader to zoom in on selected passages of the texts or to see close-ups of the dresses, silver or wardrobes of wealthy Mennonites. For this reviewer, the disc’s highlights include a copy of the Niederlandervertrag, a 1550 edition of the Schleitheim Confession from Hungary, excerpts from the travel journal of the van der Smissen cousins, a 1736 map highlighting the Mennonites? presence in Altona and an expanded discussion of the influence on the congregation of Pietist authors such as Philip Jakob Spener. In fact, the disc’s compilers have included so many points that navigating through the CD-ROM can be frustrating. An index or search engine would have made it easier to revisit an item or page, since the section headings do not always intuitively describe their contents. Nonetheless, projects like this CD-ROM and the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online show the potential that digital media will play in reshaping the way that Mennonite history is told.
The broad scope and richness of this project indicate that the Hamburg-Altona congregation is justifiably proud of their vibrant history. In addition to creating an interesting exhibition and a CD-ROM overflowing with information, the contributors have commendably asked questions about the role that their history should play in the twenty-first century. In his opening speech, Goertz uses the phrase ?conforming nonconformity? to describe the process by which the seventeenth-century Elbe Mennonites navigated a course between the Anabaptist inheritance of the first immigrants and the changing context of the considerable economic fortunes of their descendents. As the final chapter of the book shows, the Hamburg-Altona Mennonites continue to ask questions about the relationship between their Anabaptist-Mennonite legacy and contemporary congregational life. Although the contributors only skim the Imperial, Weimar and National Socialist periods, they find something to celebrate in a context that changed from persecution, to toleration, to acculturation. By not focusing on the original Anabaptists? separation or opposition to the world as models for congregational faithfulness, these works add to the growing lay and scholarly awareness of the important role that political toleration and economic expertise played in the history of Mennonites in northern Europe.
Gustavus Adolphus College TROY OSBORNE
Der Weg in das Tuferreich von Mnster. Ein Ringen um die Heilige Stadt. By Hubertus Lutterbach. Geschichte des Bistums Mnster, vol. 3. Mnster: Dialogverlag. 2006. Pp. 376. ? 29.80.
The author, a professor of Christianity and cultural history at the University of Essen, has written the most recent scholarly study of the Anabaptist regime in Mnster, 1534-1535. The series on the history of the Bishopric of Mnster celebrates its 1200th jubilee; and the author’s viewpoint is irenically, rather than polemically, Catholic. Lutterbach’s approach to church history follows the cultural history methodology now widely accepted among German historians, according to which political, social, economic, intellectual and religious factors are regarded as interrelated and interacting. However, this book places greater stress on the weight of theology and religious motivation than would be the case in a work by a secular historian.
The overarching theme of the work is the relation of the Mnster Anabaptists to medieval Latin Christianity, the Lutheran Reformation and the broader Anabaptist movement. Roughly 140 pages are devoted to a well-informed and reliable account of the historical development of the Anabaptist regime to the time of its collapse; then 90 pages are focused on the comparison of the religious ideas and behavior of the Mnster Anabaptists to medieval and early modern Catholicism and the Lutheran Reformation. This approach results in a heavy emphasis on the ideas and writings of Bernhard Rothmann, the reformer of Mnster, 1531-1533, and the chief spokesman of the Anabaptist regime, 1534-1535. Lutterbach’s treatment of Rothmann has both merits and defects. It is certainly desirable to take Rothmann’s sincerity and religious motivation seriously, which often does not happen in the literature on Mnster Anabaptism. But even though the author is well aware that Rothmann’s ideas were in continuous transition, he nevertheless tends to present Rothmann’s beliefs as though they were definite standpoints on believer’s baptism, the Lord’s Supper, scriptural interpretation and religious community. This approach unavoidably produces a degree of distortion, since in the period of the Anabaptist regime Rothmann was not in control of events and regularly had to alter his rhetoric and presentation so as to address himself to different readerships.
The second section of the book, which carries the weight of its original interpretation, depicts the break with the externalities of medieval Christian tradition and the rejection of clerical mediatorship by the Lutheran Reformation and Anabaptism. The Anabaptists appear to the author as a radical expression of the Lutheran Reformation’s tendency to inwardness and individualization: thus their stress on adult believer’s baptism is the ultimate form of the individual decision of faith, their spiritualization of the Lord’s Supper, their rejection of any kind of clerical authority over the interpretation of Scripture and their rejection of any external authority, clerical or lay, over the life of the Christian community. However, for Lutterbach all of this radical Christian inwardness collapsed into its opposite in Anabaptist Mnster. Adult baptism, rather than an individual decision of faith, was forced upon all adult residents of Mnster during the sixteen months of the Anabaptist regime. Biblical exegesis became the prerogative of self-anointed prophets who interpreted Scripture in accordance with unverifiable revelations. And the claim that Christian community was independent of outside authority made it subject in Mnster to the self-proclaimed King David with his pretensions to world domination. In the middle ages of the Christian West each community was a minature Jerusalem; under the Anabaptist regime Mnster was the sole Jerusalem, pending descent of the heavenly Jerusalem and the return of the Lord in 1534 or 1535. Seemingly, Anabaptist Mnster was the reductio ad absurdum, not only of Anabaptism in general but of the Reformation as a whole.
The polemical conclusion just stated is not drawn explicitly; Lutterbach’s tone is irenic. He makes important distinctions among the ancient, early medieval and late medieval expressions of traditional Latin Christianity. He knows that Luther’s theology does not sum up the Reformation, and he is well informed about the different varieties of Anabaptism. Nevertheless, he schematizes in order to make his broader points. This is a book stronger in its particular insights’such as the formalized character of the iconoclasm of the Mnster Anabaptists, the vicissitudes of the late medieval struggle between laity and clergy in Mnster, or the tripartite construction of lay power in Mnster during the Reformation’than in its generalized contrast of the old Latin faith, the Reformation and Anabaptist Mnster. It is learned and instructive to read, fair-minded, and yet somewhat flawed in its larger architecture.
Queen’s University , Kingston, Ont. JAMES M. STAYER
Sound in the Land: Essays on Mennonites and Music. Maureen Epp and Carol Ann Weaver, eds. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press. 2005. Pp. 220. $25, Can.
In May 2004, Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo hosted a three-day music festival, Sound in the Land, exploring the traditions, innovations and possibilities of new paths of music and musical practices among Mennonites. Concerts demonstrating a wide breadth of musical styles complemented papers presented by scholars. Sound in the Land: Essays on Mennonites and Music contains essays from those presentations, along with several others written after the festival.
This event occupied the space between a denominationally sanctioned conference and a music festival sponsored by a community with no religious commitments. Some participants were Mennonites in faith and culture. Others were culture-based Mennonites, adhering only to certain Mennonite social values, but having deep arguments with the church. This betwixt-and-between social space, and the freedom it granted, is important for understanding the issues and questions these essays raise.
Fourteen writers contributed to this collection: five musicologists, five ethnomusicologists, one folklorist, one historian, one composer and one professor emerita in English. Editors Maureen Epp and Carol Ann Weaver grouped the essays in four sections: Hymnals and Identity: Past and Present; Voices at the Edges; Voices of Performers, Composers, and Singer-Songwriters; and Experiences of Singing Today. Poems by Cheryl Denise, Di Brandt, Jeff Gundy and Leonard Neufeldt introduce the sections.
Mary Oyer’s essay, based on her keynote address, explores North American Mennonite hymnals published in the past 200 years to gain perspective on who Mennonites have been, what they believe and how their culture is changing. She cites examples of ?ecumenical? borrowing, changes in theological emphasis (particularly with regard to communion) and evolving patterns of worship (with Hymnal: A Worship Book as an example). Oyer identifies ethnic diversity and the expansion of musical styles’with attendant differences between oral and print-based cultures’as two trends that will change the future of Mennonite hymnody.
Maureen Epp describes how a well-known Lutheran and Roman Catholic tune, which the Ausbund assigns to two Anabaptists texts, would have signaled multiple layers of meaning for Anabaptist singers. Mark Jantzen situates three hymns in the ?Love of Enemies? section of the Gesangbuch fr Mennoniten-Gemeinden in Kirche und Haus (1869) in the context of church conflict over nationalism in the Vistula Delta. Katie J. Graber reports her survey and interview findings from the Madison (Wis.) Mennonite Church on the complex social construction of Mennonite singing, identity and use of the hymnal.
Opening the second section, Doreen H. Klassen narrates Benjamin Horch’s musical influence and vision for Mennonite music. Horch conceived the idea of the Mennonite Piano Concerto based on the well-loved Kernlieder of the Russian Mennonites. Victor Davies, composer of the Mennonite Piano Concerto, describes his relationship with Horch and the composition of the work. From their correspondences E. Douglas Bomberger explores the friendship between Noble Kreider (a piano teacher at Goshen College) and Arthur Farwell, a relationship strengthened both by their love of composition and by a mutual sense of isolation. Judith Klassen uses the television ministry of Abram M. Friesen, host of the Happy Home program, which was broadcast in Manitoba and the U.S. for twenty-five years, to examine how music can be experienced locally and globally. Drawing on the 1999 and 2004 Manitoba Mennofolk festivals, Allison Fairbairn demonstrates how the binary categories of ?Mennonite community? and ?worldly community? create a middle ground of study and interaction for Mennonites with varying commitments to organized religious structures (a construct borrowed from Hildi Froese Tiessen).
Anna Janecek interviewed Esther Wiebe, J. Harold Moyer, Larry Warkentin, Leonard Enns and Carol Ann Weaver, seeking to discover whether there is a distinctively Mennonite compositional style (there is not). Jonathan Dueck uses the theme of geography to locate the various personal, economic and social influences that shape the music of Cate Friesen and J. D. Martin.
In the final section, Stephen Jacoby reports findings from a survey he conducted of 104 Mennonite Church USA congregations (68 percent use Hymnal: A Worship Book, but only 8 percent of these congregations use it exclusively). Anna Janecek’s second essay examines how six congregations in southern Ontario use the African, Asian, Hispanic and Native American songs from Hymnal: A Worship Book. Stephanie J. Krehbiel contrasts the positive and negative approaches of using contemporary worship music in two Freeman, South Dakota, congregations in light of the external threats to this farming community’s survival. Laura H. Weaver’s testimony places the joys of a cappella singing right up with the physical pleasures of food, drink and sex.
These essays are succinct, fresh, fascinating and engaging. They offer insights into local practices and into the deeper issues of individual and corporate Mennonite identity-formation through music-making. As a set they are an emerging mosaic of twenty-first-century musical sounds and practices among Mennonites, however that term is owned by the musicians and their observers. No theologians, pastors or church representatives contributed essays, which keeps this collection open to a gray space for examining a variety of Mennonite music practices, and the issues they inevitably present.
The limitation of this essay collection is one that plagues many Mennonite endeavors. All the contributors are white, educated, middle-class and seemingly ?ethnic? Mennonite (Allison Fairbairn is the only declared non-Mennonite). Epp and Weaver cannot be held entirely responsible for this one-sidedness. No doubt, they worked with whoever submitted proposals for the festival and followed through with essays. But it is incumbent on readers to remember that the mosaic of Mennonite music will not be complete until the sounds of Mennonite Native Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians are added. In her preface Weaver imagines that at the next Sound in the Land festival Mennonites from Jamaica, Kenya, India, East Asia, Latin America and First Nations will be present. May this be so, along with brothers and sisters closer to home whose Mennonite identities are shaped by the music they create.
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary REBECCA SLOUGH
Why Psychology Needs Theology: A Radical-Reformation Perspective. Edited by Alvin Dueck and Cameron Lee. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans. 2005. Pp. 206. $24.
This book stems from the 2003 Integration Symposium held at Fuller Theological Seminary School of Psychology. The Fuller symposia, which started in 1971, feature an annual lectureship and conference designed, in the words of the editors, ?to encourage creative conversation between our theological convictions and our work as mental health professionals? (xi). Nancey Murphy, a professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller, presented the lectures, to which a panel of scholars from other institutions wrote responses. The book is organized into three parts and has a helpful introduction written by the editors.
Part 1, ?Integration from a Radical Reformation Perspective,? contains three chapters by Nancey Murphy, based on her original symposium lectures, in which she seeks to (1) convince psychologists that their work is ?theology-laden,? whether they mean it to be or not; (2) persuade Christian psychologists about the ways in which their overt theological commitments may conflict with the assumptions embedded in their research; and (3) call attention to issues surrounding an ethic of nonviolence (76). Murphy’s contribution is actually an extension of work she has done in collaboration with Quaker cosmologist and activist George Ellis (On the Moral Nature of the Universe: Theology, Cosmology, and Ethics [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996]).
Chapter 1, ?Philosophical Resources for Integration,? explores an abstract (formal) model for understanding the proper relationship between theology and psychology. Murphy draws from the scientific methodology proposed by Imry Lakatos and from Arthur Peacocke’s hierarchical model of the sciences, concluding that theology ought to relate to psychology in the same manner as any higher-level science does to those below it. Theology answers boundary questions that inevitably arise within psychology (e.g., what constitutes human flourishing? what is the ultimate goal of human life’) but cannot be answered by psychology alone.
In chapter 2, ?Theological Resources for Integration,? Murphy, continuing to draw on implications from her work with Ellis, lays the theological and ethical groundwork for a constructive proposal of a research program in psychology (described in chapter 3). Murphy and Ellis have formulated the ?hard core? of Anabaptist theology in terms influenced by John Howard Yoder: ?The moral character of God is revealed in Jesus? vulnerable enemy love and renunciation of dominion. Imitation of Jesus in this regard constitutes a social ethic? (29). Murphy thus responds affirmatively to the twofold question of whether a Radical Reformation perspective makes any difference to the way one approaches the relations between theology and science, and whether interfacing Radical Reformation theology with science has any implications for pressing social issues.
Chapter 3, ?Constructing a Radical Reformation Research Program in Psychology,? presents some implications of the kenotic ethic principle’self-renunciation for the sake of the other is humankind’s highest good’inspired by Simone Weil and applied according to Alasdair MacIntire’s understanding of ethics. Murphy discusses the contours of a Radical Reformation-oriented research program in psychology, while addressing three key questions: What is the character of untutored/ungraced human nature? What is the character of ideal human existence? and What are the means by which a transition from the former to the latter can be made? She briefly considers existing psychological research on altruism and forgiveness as empirical illustrations of a research program compatible with her vision and concludes by suggesting further directions for future research on nonviolence in light of the fundamental claim of her core thesis’that empirical investigation of the conditions that facilitate development toward humankind’s telos is possible (70).
For this reviewer, Murphy has clearly achieved her three goals. She has made a significant contribution to the discussion of: (1) how to creatively and responsibly relate psychology and theology; (2) to the place and role of ethics in that endeavor; and (3) to the relevance of a Radical Reformation perspective. At the same time, however, some criticisms and questions are in order.
First, it is disappointing that Murphy’s essays do not include a critical consideration of the problematic notion of ?integration,? widely used throughout the volume and among many evangelical psychologists. Psychology and theology are logically and epistemologically distinct. They cannot be integrated into a single, unified whole. Each discipline has its own integrity and intellectual trajectory, language and linguistic conventions, aims, subject matters and methodologies. (It follows that the title of the book is misleading in that psychology as such does not ?need? theology!)
Second, it would have been helpful for Murphy to demonstrate how her model of interfacing psychology and theology differs from, or is more adequate than, other models already established (e.g., Harold Ellens, God’s Grace and Human Health or Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Theology and Pastoral Counseling: A New Interdisciplinary Approach). Further, there is abundant documentation of fruitful interdisciplinary work in practical theology involving empirical-descriptive, hermeneutical, normative and pragmatic-strategic dimensions of research, as demonstrated by several Integration Symposium lecturers in the last several years.
Third, the kenotic ethic proposal is significant and arguably necessary from an Anabaptist or Radical Reformation perspective. However, one wonders if it is sufficient to inspire and guide research, let alone actual practical involvement, in nonviolent ?pro-social? action, for example, as an expression of love for the oppressed neighbor. Does ?self-renunciation for the sake of others? define the whole content of ?imitation of Jesus’? How does ?self-renunciation? connect with emphatic care and compassion in the face of injustice? Is this ?kenotic ethic,? primarily the key to a non-resistance peace theology, really sufficient for a peace theology that includes nonviolent confrontation of evil?
The four essays included in part 2, ?Extensions of the Model,? substantially follow the orientation set by Murphy. Mari L. Clements and Alexandra E. Mitchell assert that the meaning and effects of coercion, violence, and sacrifice in families must be understood contextually, but that in each case, ?research supports striving for interactions that involve respectful uses of power that balance individual and communal needs to achieve desired ends through the least coercive methods available? (81). Cynthia Neal Kimball shows ways to understand how the ?loss of self? based on gendered roles and rules affects women and men differently, and how such loss can be properly redeemed. Kevin Reimer qualifies the value of self-renunciation, defining it as a moral principle that must be understood ?realistically,? that is, with appreciation for the natural character of ambivalent altruists. J. Derek McNeil highlights the challenge presented by the narrow frameworks of Western theological traditions and Euro-American psychology and proposes a more inclusive understanding of culture and context.
Part 3, ?Alternatives to the Model,? has two essays critical of Murphy’s proposed methodology, both articulated from a hermeneuticist perspective. Brent D. Slife argues that:
her method is incompatible with her theology, which illustrates the incompatibility of reductive naturalism and theism more generally. . . . The natural science methods of psychology’underlaid as they are with the philosophy of reductive naturalism’cannot be compatible with the theism of theologians such as Murphy . . . [whose] own theism violates the objectivity, materialism, and reductionism of this understanding of scientific reasoning (184).
Frank C. Richardson contends that, instead of the basic project of ?integration? of theology and psychology, dialectical hermeneutic dialogue is called for’that is, ?dialogue and mutual influence between seemingly incommensurable viewpoints, leading to deepened insight and greater understanding? (203).
This book is a very valuable resource for all those who work at the interface of spirituality and religion, theology and psychology: college and seminary professors, pastors and other professional caregivers, and specialists. The usefulness of this volume would have been enhanced, however, had the editors included an index, a selected bibliography, and, given the stated purpose of the publication, some additional suggestions, questions or guidelines for further reflection and dialogue.
Alvin Dueck and Cameron Lee are faculty colleagues in the School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary. Dueck holds the Evelyn and Frank Freed Chair of the Integration of Psychology and Theology; Lee is Professor of Family Studies.
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary DANIEL S. SCHIPANI
Viewing New Creations with Anabaptist Eyes: Ethics of Biotechnology. Roman J. Miller, Beryl H. Brubaker, and James C. Peterson, eds. Telford, Pa.: Cascadia Publishing. 2005. Pp. 306. $23.95, U.S.; $35.95, Can.
Anabaptists do not all have the same ?eyes? when it comes to looking at emerging biotechnologies. This message is clear from this compilation of presentations given at a 2003 Eastern Mennonite University conference. The diverse perspectives in this book include those of research scientists, medical professionals, ethicists, historians, agricultural workers, pastors, public policy makers, a poet, students and conference audience members. Most of the contributors are Anabaptists, but presenters and respondents from other faith traditions join the dialogue as well. Such a variety of perspectives within one volume is effective because it creates and models constructive dialogue, and because the editors helpfully provide extensive author introductions that also clearly state each presenter’s task. The aim of the conference, as stated by James C. Peterson in the book’s conclusion, was to start a discussion of the biotechnologies that will affect us and our children in the years to come. For this reviewer, the arrangement and content of the book go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.
The ?new creations? these essays consider fall into three categories of technologies of genetic modification: stem cell and cloning research; human genetic therapies and manipulations; and the genetic modification of plants. Active researchers John D. Gearhart, Leslie G. Biesecker and Carole L. Cramer introduce each area, respectively, and show a clear interest in understanding the ethical implications of their work. They successfully introduce science that is often quite hard for nonspecialists to understand and fraught with misconceptions in public discourse. Although the ethical questions that arise from their work’and their ethical reasoning for encouraging this type of research’shape their presentations, their discussion of the science involved does not generally suffer from oversimplification. Each scientist explains his or her own research, moving the discussion from abstract issues to concrete questions asked by involved and concerned people. At times the detailed research description, especially Cramer’s, may lead nonscientists to wonder if they are being asked to accept something they cannot understand, although Cramer’s style may simply be an indication of her enthusiasm for her subject.
Two responses by theologian and ethicist James Peterson emphasize the need for positive action in ethics instead of only negative reaction to perceived ills. This emphasis encourages dialogue rather than a simple reaction to specific points raised in the three science talks and is quite helpful in a book such as this. The book also includes edited transcripts of audience question-and-answer sessions. Unfortunately, the book does not include the ?small group discussion questions? referred to by some of the audience members.
The dialogue continues in part 2 of the book, entitled ?Perspectives,? which begins with essays by a biologist and two ethicists. Roman J. Miller defines ?an evangelical Anabaptist, bioethical perspective? (85) based on Anabaptist interpretation of scripture, historical and contemporary, that emphasizes the countercultural example of Jesus Christ. Conrad G. Brunk discusses the contemporary ethics of biotechnology and how an Anabaptist commitment leads one to challenge this common system of ethics. He especially concentrates on examples from the talks by the three scientists in part 1. LeRoy B. Walters adds to the dialogue by discussing how different nations view the status of a five-day-old embryo, the source of embryonic stem cells, and indicates that the Anabaptist tradition supports several of these views. His declaration seems to stand in contrast to the conclusions of the previous two essays but raises an important idea for further discussion. The movement from the categorical point of view’that a fertilized egg is a human and therefore should not be ?used? for any reason’to a discussion of the different stages of development is helpful in a field where the lines between ?natural? and ?unnatural? have been blurred for some time. As a Mennonite molecular geneticist and professor at a Catholic college, I found all three of these essays both informative and informed’in contrast to so much of the discussion of these matters in the media. For example, when I hear reports about support for supposed adult stem cell research that is designed to create an embryonic stem cell with the same potential as a ?naturally? occurring embryonic stem cell’and, therefore, technically with the same rights and privileges’I find the popular arguments for and against embryonic stem cell research more than a little ill-informed. It was refreshing to find informed dialogue in this book among these three experts, even when they disagreed.
The dialogue continues in part 2 with fifteen brief perspective essays from the diverse set of eyes mentioned above. Each is a helpful addition to the dialogue, but I will mention just three. Historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan investigates the surprisingly positive aspects of eugenics in the case of mandated genetic screening in Cyprus for the blood disorder ?-thalassaemia, the treatment of which is prohibitively expensive in communities committed to providing accessible health care. This presentation is powerful, whether you agree with its conclusions or not, as it reports historically on what has happened and how people have dealt with these overpowering questions, rather than speculates about what might happen. Barbara Graber’s poetry illustrates the power of art to inform our contemplation of age-old questions about apparent changes to our humanness and our understanding of nature. Kabiru Kinyanjui, a Kenyan international development researcher, gives a short but jarring presentation of how a profit-driven North American biotech industry increases the gap between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. His concerns must receive greater attention. If one of the major Mennonite questions of biotechnology is its relevance in a world where distribution of food and medicine, rather than increased production, could conceivably solve many problems of hunger and disease, then it is a little disturbing that the only Southern hemisphere presentation is less than three pages long. To be globally relevant, the next conference like this one must seek better representation of a group so largely affected by North American initiatives.
The book concludes (part 3) with five critique and synthesis essays. The first, by ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, boldly critiques most of the presenters by name and the title of the conference itself. Though it may seem that this is a move from dialogue to monologue, I find his and the other critique essays welcome additions, when considered in the context of the book’s other perspectives. Peterson’s concluding essay especially adds to the dialogue, as he tries to identify the synergies to be explored further rather than to provide a final word. Taken together, this book contains a good explanation of the science involved, a variety of Anabaptist and professional perspectives, and a grounding for what we think theologically and practically about the effect of these technologies. In short, it will provide a forum for discussion and an excellent resource for continuing dialogue.
Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind. DON W. PAETKAU
Scott Barge, 2 Oak Terrace, Apt 5, Somerville, MA 02143. E-mail: email@example.com
Derek Hatch, University of Dayton, 300 College Park, Dayton, OH 45469-1530. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Kauffman, 2917 San Joaquin Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106. E-mail: email@example.com
Laura Neufeld, 1917 Ashcroft, Clovis, CA, 93611. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Seiling, 329 St Clarens Ave, Toronto, ON, M6H 3W2, Canada. E-mail: email@example.com
Rebekah Trollinger, 420 S. Fess, Apt. 6, Bloomington, IN 47401. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mennonite Quarterly Review
MQR 81 (Oct. 2007)