Liberal Leader
The Living of These Days, by Harry Emerson Fosdick. Harper and Brothers, New York. $4.00.

Harry Emerson Fosdick’s friends have prevailed on him to write his autobiography, and he has done so under the title, The Living of These Days. It is part of a prayer, taken from his hymn, God of Grace and God of Glory: “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, For the living of these days.” The title is apt, for not only was Fosdick strongly influenced by the events of the last seven or eight decades, he also exerted a considerable influence on that period of human history. To this reviewer, who is not a great many years younger than Fosdick, the reading of this biography seemed like a review of the history of his generation.

No one who has heard or read Fosdick needs to be told that his style is superb. This does not indicate one that is flowery and certainly not one that is wordy. Fosdick’s style excels in precision, simplicity, directness, forcefulness and ruggedness. His humor is as wholesome as it is natural. One of the most pleasing features of this volume is the author’s humility. To cite but one of numerous instances, concerning his teaching of homiletics at Union Seminary, he says, “I hope that I helped the students, but I am unable to express how much they helped me” (p. 119). Another laudable characteristic of the book is its candor.

Harry Emerson Fosdick received his formal education at Colgate University and Union Theological Seminary of New York. He has been pastor of the First Baptist Church of Montclair, New Jersey, and the First Presbyterian and Riverside churches of New York City. He has served Union Seminary as part-time professor of homiletics and practical theology. He has preached and lectured in several lands and has written some twenty-six books.

The aforesaid salient facts derive most of their significance from his theological pilgrimage. He informs his readers that he began as a fundamentalist. However, as a young man he found fundamentalism incompatible with intellectual honesty. His problem was how to retain Christianity without committing intellectual suicide. Theological liberalism, or modernism, proved to be the answer. He accepted many of the conclusions of the so-called higher biblical criticism and rejected the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of Holy Scripture. He felt that the doctrines of historic Christianity were but the temporary, and hence changeable, framework for abiding truth. That formula he applied to certain explicit teachings of the Bible as well as to teachings deduced by the church from the Bible. He denied such supernatural events as the virgin birth of Jesus and his bodily resurrection. He deprecated the orthodox formulations of such dogmas as the Trinity, the deity of Christ and the satisfaction of divine penal justice by Christ’s death on the cross. He came to base his theology, not on the Bible as the infallibly inspired Word of God, but, after the manner of Schleiermacher and Ritschl, on religious experience. He taught his students to base their preaching on the Bible as the record of the religious experience of certain saints of antiquity rather than the authoritative Word of God. Withal he fell under the spell of the social gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch. The fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. of the nineteen-twenties centered about his teaching. When a general assembly asked him to subscribe to the system of doctrine contained in the confessions of that denomination and to its principles of church government, he declined in the interest of honesty to do so. He wanted the membership of his churches to be inclusive, not only in the sense of embracing all races and strata of society, but also in the sense of “a liberal fellowship ready for an adventure into unrestricted interdenominationalism” (p. 183). To be sure, after the Second World War he saw, with others, that modernism was in need of several adjustments. For instance, it had been too optimistic about human nature and hence about the future of the human race, it had stressed the divine immanence out of due proportion to the divine transcendence and it had accommodated itself too much to the prevailing culture instead of challenging that culture. But Fosdick did not cease to be a modernist. Even the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, particularly in its early expressions, was not nearly liberal enough for him. Now that Brunner has mellowed in his attitude toward liberalism, Fosdick is hoping for a synthesis of liberalism and neo-orthodoxy.

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What struck the reviewer perhaps more than anything else in his perusal of this autobiography was the author’s slighting of orthodox scholarship. He denounces fundamentalism scathingly for its “obscurantism,” and in so doing he takes to task especially William Jennings Bryan. Now Bryan, sincere Christian layman that he no doubt was, did not rate as a theologian. That there are fundamentalists who cling tenaciously to foolish notions is beyond dispute. For instance, the notions that the human authors of the Bible were mere robots, that each and every statement in the Bible must be interpreted literally and that man was created in the physical image of God do indeed fall under the head of obscurantism. But pray, what orthodox theologian of any note holds to such nonsense? This reviewer cannot suppress the question whether Fosdick has ever made a serious study of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, of such protestant confessions, to name but two, as those of Augsburg and Westminster and of the works of contemporaries as B. B. Warfield and Herman Bavinck. And why does he completely ignore the man who proved to be not only the most militant but also the most scholarly defender of orthodoxy in that Presbyterian conflict in which Fosdick himself was so deeply involved—J. G. Machen? Here seems to be a most serious lacuna in Fosdick’s education. Or is it possible that he would brush aside as unscientific the noblest literary products of orthodoxy? But that would be so preposterous as to be well-nigh unbelievable, for their authors excelled in erudition and it may be said without in the least belittling Fosdick that in point of theological scholarship he does not deserve to stoop down and unloose the latchet of the shoes of any one of them. To refer again to Machen, even the most extreme liberals being his judges, he was a scholar to be reckoned with. In A Preface to Morals Walter Lippmann stated that Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism was more convincing than the reasoning of his modernist opponents, and H. L. Mencken in his characteristic way eulogized Machen shortly after his death in 1937 by saying that he was to Bryan what the Matterhorn is to a wart.

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This reviewer intends no insinuation that this biography is wholly devoid of good ideas. We must all assent to the improvements Fosdick advocates on the older liberalism. But even here Fosdick does not give historic orthodoxy the credit due it for those ideas. A few examples follow. Says Fosdick: “Static orthodoxies are a menace to the Christian cause” (p. 230). But orthodoxy has always said that. One of its tenets is the progressive guidance of the church by the Holy Spirit into the truth. Therefore it ever seeks to bring forth new things as well as old out of the treasure of the Word of God. Such a conservative church as the Christian Reformed has in recent decades drawn up a tentative formulation of the doctrine of common grace, and the Presbyterian Church in 1788 amended its Westminster Confession of Faith to eliminate Erastianism. Baptist Roger Williams, no doubt, deserves some credit for that change. Fosdick insists that the preacher must deal with social problems. While it is true, on the one hand, that orthodoxy rejects the modernist brand of social gospel and, on the other, that dispensationalists would preach an exclusively individualistic gospel, many conservatives have long insisted that the social implications of the Gospel must be stressed in the pulpit. Professor Louis Berkhof of Calvin Seminary did that in a lecture on The Church and Social Problems, delivered in 1913. The undersigned did likewise in an article, The Christian Pulpit and Social Problems, published in the Westminster Theological Journal. Fosdick declares: “Faith and reason are not antithetical opposites” (p. 258). But what orthodox theologian of any stature ever thought they were? Paraphrasing a saying of George A. Buttrick to the effect that “there is only one thing worse than a devil and that is an educated devil,” Fosdick comments: “That emphasis is a newcomer in America” (p. 271). But this reviewer had it impressed on his soul by the advocates of Christian day schools when he was yet a mere boy. Fosdick has come to the conclusion: “Neo-orthodoxy is right in stressing the necessity and primacy of God’s self-revelation, if we are to know him” (p. 256). But why credit neo-orthodoxy with a truth which has been obvious to orthodoxy for ages? Fosdick agrees thoroughly with Brunner “that man’s wickedness is a dreadful, desperate fact, and that man, left to his own unaided devices in a materialistic universe empty of the saving grace of God, is doomed” (p. 252). But that is the very essence of historic orthodoxy—provided, of course, the term “grace of God” be taken in the Augustinian sense, not the Pelagian. In short, in later years Fosdick has moved in the direction of orthodoxy, yet he keeps insisting that he is a modernist. No doubt, basically he still is.

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As good a way as any of stating the point at issue between Fosdick’s modernism and historic orthodoxy is this: the latter acknowledges God’s infallible Word as the test of truth; the latter makes experience the norm. Of course, it does not follow that Fosdick casts the Bible overboard; according to him it is itself the record, albeit a fallible one, of the religious experience of great saints of old. But in seeking solutions for such problems as that of God and immortality Fosdick does not rely on any authoritative statements of Scripture but turns to human experience. For that reason he cannot but flounder about, much as a vessel without rudder or compass. Small wonder that his attitude toward war has changed so radically. Nor is it altogether strange that in spite of his high regard for Jesus of Nazareth he rejects his teaching of hell. If truths are divorced from their formulations, they become vague indeed. Besides, many truths simply cannot be experienced. At best theology of experience will lead to probabilities, never to certainties. Fosdick himself so much as grants that and even more when he writes: “Concerning every human experience theories of explanation and interpretation are essential, but however confidently they may be held, their probable insufficiency must be assumed and their displacement by more adequate ways of thinking positively hoped for” (p. 230).

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Is modernism Christianity? Fosdick is sure that it is Christianity at its best and he defines it thus: “For me the essence of Christianity is incarnate in the personality of the Master, and it means basic faith in God, in the divinity revealed in Christ, in personality’s sacredness and possibilities, and in the fundamental principles of life’s conduct which Jesus of Nazareth exhibited” (p. 269). But that definition is quite inadequate. For one thing, it makes the incarnate Son of God a Christian, which he certainly was not. A Christian is a sinner saved by grace; a sinner who, conscious of his need of salvation and realizing that he cannot save himself, abandons himself to the Christ crucified; and a sinner who loves the Lord who bought him with his blood and lovingly serves that Lord. Such is the Christian, and Christianity is first of all God’s solution for the problem of sin—its guilt and penalty as well as its power and pollution.

In his early work, The Theology of Crisis, Brunner vigorously denounced modernism as “a religion which has nothing in common with Christianity except a few words” (p. 261). But Brunner was not then and is not now an exponent of the historic Christian faith. In 1924, the very year in which Fosdick delivered at Yale the Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching under the title The Modern Use of the Bible, Machen wrote his Christianity and Liberalism. The point of that book was that Modernism is not Christianity. Five years later Lippmann observed that Machen had not been refuted. That still holds true today. This reviewer thinks his argument irrefutable.

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Christianity is based squarely on the Bible as the Word of the living God. Modernism is based on religious experience. Christianity is history, doctrine and life—all three; and they stand and fall together. In that history such supernatural events as Jesus’ virgin birth and bodily resurrection loom large. Modernism denies them. But the apostle Paul said, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). At the heart of Christian doctrine lies the Pauline teaching that, being justified by Christ’s blood, believers will be saved from wrath through him (Romans 5:9). Modernism preaches another gospel. In his sermon Shall the Fundamentalists Win? Fosdick spoke with disgust of those who believe “that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alien Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner” (quoted in Christianity and Liberalism, p. 120). The Christian ethic is rooted in Christian doctrine, notably in the doctrine of the atonement. Paul has enjoined Christians to glorify God in their body and their spirit because they are “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). That price was the precious blood of Christ. The ethic of modernism disdains blood-theology. Inspired Paul being the judge, modernism is not Christianity.


Full Commitment
Christian: Commit Yourself: By Paul S. Rees. Revell, $2.00.

Paul Rees is pastor of the First Covenant Church of Minneapolis. The influence of his Christian ministry, however, has extended far beyond the confines of his own parish; it has been felt throughout the entire nation. His books on stewardship, evangelism and the Holy Spirit have blessed many lives.

The 10 messages in this volume are all directed toward securing from the listeners a full commitment to Christ and his cause. Decisions at depth constitute the major thrust of each soul-probing sermon. Thus, the paramount aim of this preacher is to recapture the dedication, devotion and discipline that gave such irrepressible fervor and undaunted daring to the early Christian movement. Following the announcement of each subject, Dr. Rees stipulates the kind of commitment he seeks from the particular message. For example, in the sermon on “The Supreme Surrender” he begins by summarizing the commitment he desires: “I will seek to know and do the will of God in every area of my life.” After announcing the subject “The Badge of Royalty” the commitment sought is “I will accept responsibilities for service in my church.”

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Dr. Rees quotes General Omar Bradley as saying, “The most completely committed person I have met is a convinced Communist.” Recognizing the challenging truth in a statement of this kind, Dr. Rees has dedicated himself to the holy task of activating and mobilizing Christian people to a more drastic and ardent commitment to Christ and his cause in this world.

The Christian minister will find here new illustrations and perhaps new insights expressed in new ways. The new Christian who reads this book will be able to learn more about the nature of the deeper Christian life and the clarification of many of his own embryonic thoughts.


Render To Caesar
The State in the New Testament, by Oscar Cullman. Scribners, New York. $2.50.

That the New Testament has something to say about the State will come as a surprise to many people. Secularists have assumed that politics have nothing to do with piety; sectarians have imagined that piety may be divorced from politics. But the New Testament has much to teach us on this subject. We are indebted to Cullman for his careful exposition of the Christian view of the State.

In the various chapters of this book the author discusses, “Jesus and the Resistance Movement of the Zealots,” “Jesus’ Condemnation by the Roman State,” “Paul and the State,” “The State in the Johannine Apocalypse.” There is also an excursus dealing with “the powers that be” mentioned in Romans 13, viewing the State as the effective agent of invisible (angelic) powers.

According to Cullman, the attitude of the New Testament to the State is one of “neither denial nor affirmation.”

The State is to be accepted rather than denied since it has been ordered of God for our own good. The State is intended of God to be his servant in the administration of justice, and that is why Jesus refused to go along with the Zealots who renounced the State unreservedly and sought to overthrow it.

Nevertheless, the State is not final. There are some things that are not Caesar’s. The totalitarian claims of the State must be resisted. For this reason Jesus refused to agree with the Sadducees whose religious indifference gave the Romans unlimited submission.

Some have regarded the question of the political world order within the framework of the sovereign Lordship of Christ (cf. “The Declaration of Faith Concerning Church and Nation” approved by the Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1955).

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Cullman’s emphasis is on the eschatological. In the New Testament witness concerning the State he finds a unity rooted in the tension between present and future. Ordered of God for the present, the State must be recognized by the Christian citizen. Yet in the end, it will pass away. The State is not a final institution with divine authority; therefore the disciple of the Lord will ever be ready to warn and resist when the State transgresses its limits. Only the Christ of the cross, the coming King, is Lord of all.

We have seen the State threaten the Church by political tyranny (Communism), and ecclesiastical forces seek to dominate the State by pretensions to power (Romanism). It has also been disturbing to note the indifference of many professing Christians to political problems and the attitude of the worldling that Christianity is irrelevant to the situations of our time. Most welcome, therefore, is this volume by Cullman. While one may not always agree with the author, no one can fail to profit from his serious and stimulating exposition of the New Testament on the subject of the State.


Able Commentary

I and II Thessalouians, by William Hendriksen. Baker, Grand Rapids, 1955. $4.50.

This able commentary, one of a series called New Testament Commentary (upon which the author is at present engaged), covers in a semi-popular fashion Paul’s two letters to the church at Thessalonica.

Dr. Hendriksen is fully abreast with modern scholarship in the realm of New Testament literature and exegesis. However, there is no parade of learning in these pages. The difficult problems of interpretation are usually relegated to footnotes (which do not average one a page). A selected bibliography lists the major works on these epistles, and a more extended bibliography adequately covers the larger literature on this subject.

The book is definitely evangelical and conservative in viewpoint, The Pauline authorship is defended with adequate scholarship. All the arguments against Paul’s authorship are fairly stated and persuasively answered. No one can accuse our author of obscurantism.

One of the most valuable features of this commentary is found in the extended prior to Christ’s parousia. Although there is no precise treatment of the various eschatological views as such, the author’s interpretation naturally leads to a millennial conclusion. This is what we would expect from the author of More Than Conquerors.

In general the reviewer agrees with the theological and eschatological views presented in this excellent commentary. The flaws are few and hard to find. We found a Greek preposition misspelled and incorrectly accented (p. 21). On the same page another Greek preposition is incorrectly accented. A participle appears without accent (p. 48). The Greek word parousia is accented incorrectly (p. 76). A smooth breathing is omitted (p. 135). A present participle is called an aorist participle (p. 142). A Greek infinitive is incorrectly accented (p. 168). The English word “personal” is misspelled (p. 137). “Of repent” should be “to repent” (p. 185). “So that” is always spelled as one word except in two places (pp. 68, 103).

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Conservative scholarship cannot be entirely satisfied with the republication of learned and evangelical works that were produced by orthodox scholars of the nineteenth century or earlier. It is good to see an increasing number of conservative books on biblical and theological subjects appearing in our day. We feel confident that Dr. Hendriksen’s contribution to this swelling list of evangelical literature will do much to restore confidence in the orthodox position concerning the New Testament literature. A more useful commentary on Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonica could hardly be found.


Reliable Introduction
Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls, by F. F. Bruce. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1956. $2.50.

This is just the book to give to the layman who wishes a trustworthy introduction to the now famous Dead Sea Scrolls. The interest which these scrolls has aroused in the public mind is nothing short of remarkable. It is probably no exaggeration to say that they are the most significant archeological discovery of the last thirty years. Inasmuch as this is so, many of the books (and the number of such books is rapidly growing) which discuss the scrolls may tend to overemphasize their importance for the study of the beginnings of Christianity. It cannot be denied that much that has been written on the subject borders on the nonsensical.

If there is any one word which can characterize the present work it is the word “sane.” Professor Bruce gives a remarkably clear and valuable survey of the whole field, and in all his discussion seeks to abide by the facts. He goes as far as the facts allow and no farther. He makes it clear that he is acquainted with the various interpretations of disputed points which have been advanced, but he himself is not interested in pressing them. He is fair in his discussions, and seeks to withhold judgment when judgment must be withheld. For this reason primarily that his work is dependable.

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The book is written in a pleasing style, and is well adapted to the layman who is not acquainted with the various technical questions which a proper study of the scrolls involves. One who reads through this work carefully will have a good understanding of the principal points in debate in connection with the scrolls, and he will be prepared for further study. To produce such a book is no easy task, and it is this reviewer’s opinion that the author has done his job in a first-rate fashion.

The principal point at which we are constrained to disagree with the author is in his evaluation of the importance of the Isaiah manuscript with respect to the question of the origin of the prophecy. Professor Bruce thinks that this newly discovered manuscript proves nothing that was not already known. For our part we believe that the manuscript is of unique significance. It makes clear that the book of Isaiah existed in its present form as early as the second century before Christ. Thus it stands as a monumental NO to the views of Bernhard Duhm, the influential German scholar who held that the prophecy did not receive its present form until the first century B.C. This is not a minor point, but one of tremendous importance. For, if there is a first and a second Isaiah, as the overwhelming majority of modern biblical critics affirm, then the witness of the New Testament to the authorship of the prophecy is clearly in error. The Dead Sea manuscript supports the New Testament, and it also renders more difficult attempts to explain the origin of the book of Isaiah on any view other than that of the Bible itself, namely, that Isaiah was himself the author of the entire prophecy.

If the reader wishes a clearly written, accurate, informative introduction to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this is the book to obtain.


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