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God's Wrathful Children: Political Oppression and Christian Ethics
By Willa Boesak
264 pp.; $18.99, paper
In 1973, Willa Boesak's family home in South Africa was bulldozed and the family removed to a reservation set apart for blacks. Now, after theological and ethical training in South Africa and North America, after further years of humiliation because of the blackness of his skin, but also after the remarkable breakthroughs in his country, Boesak is asking a powerful question: Is it possible for a kind of vengeance to exist that does not destroy the avenger and violate the norms of God? Or, in his own words, "Can the wrath of God's children legitimately reflect divine anger?"
Boesak, who teaches theological ethics at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, works at this pressing issue by studying several relevant historical cases: the zealots of the biblical period, Thomas Mntzer (who led a peasant revolt in the Reformation period) and Malcolm X. He draws as well on the experience of blacks in South Africa, who for generations were given the choice between systematic human degradation or state-sanctioned coercive violence.
The thought-provoking conclusion of this learnedly impassioned study is that an "ethic of vengeance" is necessary in order to channel black rage into constructive action and so promote the reconstruction of South African society after apartheid. As is only natural, this is a book deeply embedded in the recent history of South Africa. Yet its realism about human pain in the face of inhuman oppression, as well as its willingness to seek scriptural standards for understanding both the pain and the oppression, makes this a book for many other regions of the world as well, and some very close to home.-Mark Noll
The American City and the Evangelical Church:
A Historical Overview
By Harvie M. Conn
232 pp.; $15.99, paper
Harvie Conn, who has served as a missionary in Korea and more recently taught missions at Westminster Theological Seminary, ...