Historical Apologetic

Thales to Dewey, a History of Philosophy, by G. H. Clark. Houghton Mifflin, 1957. $5.00.

A sound scholarly text on the History of Philosophy in the light of the Word of God has long been desired by Christian teachers and students. The present work by Professor Gordon H. Clark is admirably suited to meet this need. Solid scholarship and biblical faith appear in this volume, not in juxtaposition, but fused into a unified whole. Chapters five and eleven, titled respectively “The Patristic Period,” and “Contemporary Irrationalism,” are representative of the book as a whole in this important respect.

The discussion of the Patristic period opens with the drawing of a clear-cut contrast between Paganism and Christianity. A careful analysis of the logic of the terms “transcendent” and “immanent” serves to clarify the contrary opposition between Greek Immanentism and Hebrew Transcendence. The Scripture doctrines of Creation and Revelation stand out sharply against the background of Greek Philosophy even at its best in Platonism and Stoicism. Alleged resemblances between the latter philosophy and the New Testament are exposed as superficial and attempts to find Pauline theology in Paganism are weighed and found wanting. The cogent argument brought against the claim that Paul taught ascetic dualism is the apostle’s opposition to the heretics at Colossae who lived by the evil maxim “Touch not, taste not, handle not”. Equally pertinent in relation to the assertion that Paul was a mystic is the observation that Paul’s visions, unlike those of Plotinus, were full of subjects and predicates. “And the things known, the doctrines revealed are not echoes of Greek philosophy or mystery religions” (p. 194).

The distance between the first and the twentieth century may appear immense. Yet modern irrationalism re-enacts the “failure of nerve” that marked the closing centuries of antiquity. Professor Clark sketches the line of development from Hegel the last great Rationalist of modern times, to Marx and Kierkegaard on the one hand, and on the other, through French positivism to Pragmatism culminating in the Instrumentalism of John Dewey.

No attempt is made to present an exhaustive account of the development since Hegel. Any presentation of living philosophers is disclaimed, although an exception is made by way of a reference to the dialectical theology of Emil Brunner and its kinship with the atheistic Existentialism of Sartre and Heidegger. Heidegger, incidentally, disclaims this label which Sartre vaunts. A future edition of the book would be enriched by a fuller discussion of Existentialism as the most radical expression of Irrationalism. At the same time, many contemporary readers would appreciate some reference to a more rationalistic thinker, Ludwig Wittgenstein and the movements of linguistic analysis dependent on his work which exercise a predominant influence in the English speaking philosophical world today.

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A sacrifice of breadth was no doubt required for the achievement of a measure of depth in a necessarily limited study of a number of difficult thinkers. Post-Hegelian German thought is illustrated by the views of Schopenhauer, Strauss and Feuerbach. In reference to Strauss, the mythologizing theory is timely in view of the discussion of de-mythologizing the New Testament stirred up recently by Bultmann under the influence of Heidegger’s philosophy. Unbelief can attach itself as readily to an irrationalist as to a rationalist philosophy.

More detailed treatment is reserved for Marx, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, as befits the stature and influence of these thinkers. Hegel’s dialectic with its repudiation of fixity in the world or in thought profoundly influenced the three notwithstanding their violent antagonism to Hegel’s rational absolute. Marx shares Hegel’s collectivism, which is anathema to Kierkegaard and also to Nietzsche, whose Superman is explained to be a type of superior individual such as Caesar of Napoleon. Marx and Nietzsche are avowedly anti-Christian, while Kierkegaard champions Christianity to the extent of condemning the established Church for its satisfaction with externals without the life of the cross. Yet Kierkegaard’s intensely Christian feeling embodied itself in the language of Hegel’s dialectic. The result was the extravagant identification of truth with subjectivity which has inspired dialectical theologians and existentialist philosophers in the twentieth century. The logical incongruity of such sceptical subjectivism is pointed out together with the religious consequence that an idol would be as satisfactory as God, if objective truth were indifferent in relation to subjective feeling. The critique of Kierkegaard’s subjectivism is an application of a general principle which Dr. Clark wields against every form of Scepticism. The principle is that as soon as Scepticism makes any assertion, it destroys itself, since its essence is the refusal to assert anything. Dialectical materialism is thus refuted by pointing out that if thought is the natural product of the brain, there is no reason to believe that ideas of dialectical materialism are more natural or more true than others. Nietzsche’s theory of evolutionary rationalism is disposed of by showing that if it is true, it must be false.

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The logical law of non-contradiction likewise discredits Pragmatism as developed by James, Schiller and Dewey. Yet, the reader will find himself spared any sense of monotonous repetition. The same principle is variously applied in accordance with the variety of forms that irrationalist thought assumes and the argument is rendered charming by ironical turns, of which the remark that “solipsism is pragmatically indistinguishable from pragmatism” (p. 512) appears to be one of the most subtle instances.

The analysis of John Dewey’s philosophy is an appropriate termination to the work, not because of any reason for holding Dewey to be the ultimate in the history of philosophy, but rather because of the uncanny influence for evil that his philosophy has exercised in education. Dewey’s disciples have been superficial in comparison with their master, but Dewey himself, despite the delicacy of his dialectic, is as devoid of foundations that endure as any other irrationalist thinker.

This chapter reminds the reviewer of the late J. Gresham Machen’s analysis of the anti-intellectual character of modern liberalism in philosophy and religion. In professing Protestantism today, Modernism and Neo-orthodoxy alike rest on philosophical foundations which are destructive of the intellect. Conservative theology which subjects man’s reason to the authority of the infallible Word stands alone also in ascribing to the intellect its God-given dignity. The present volume, therefore, is no mere textbook of the history of philosophy. It is a masterpiece of historical apologetic for the faith once delivered to the saints.


Five Martyrs Of Acua

Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot. Harper Brothers. $3.75.

“September, 1955, was the month in which Operation Auca really started, the month in which the Lord began to weave five separate threads into a single glowing fabric for His Own glory. Five men with widely differing personalities had come to Ecuador from the eastern United States, the West Coast and the Midwestern States. Representing three different faith missions, these men and their wives were one in their common belief in the Bible as the literal and supernatural and perfect word from God to man. Christ said ‘Go ye’; their answer was ‘Lord, send me.’ ”

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So begins chapter nine in this moving portrayal of the lives of the five young missionary martyrs of Ecuador. Through the first eight chapters, Elisabeth Elliot (herself one of the five missionary widows) has skillfully traced the events in the lives of these consecrated young men that led up to this time when the “five scattered threads” began to draw together to form the picture that, in January, 1956, focused the attention of the world on a little sandy beach in Ecuador beside a river called the Curaray.

In the 10 chapters that follow she describes the careful, prayerful preparations leading up to the first personal contacts with the savage Aucas; the encouragement that came when the Aucas responded with gifts to the friendly overtures of the missionaries; and finally the “Silence” (chapter 18) of that fateful day when radio contact ceased.

Skillfully written, fast-moving, Through Gates of Splendor is more than just a book; it is a spiritual experience. Writing with dignity and restraint, never descending to a level of self-pity or excessive adulation, Mrs. Elliot draws on her own intimate knowledge of the details of Operation Auca, along with that of other widows, as well as the heart-outpourings from the diaries and letters of martyred missionaries Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian. One almost feels that he stands “on holy ground” as he is allowed to look into the diaries—and indeed into the hearts—of these missionary heroes and see their devotion to Christ, their utter death to self, their compassionate desires to reach those who have never heard the Gospel.

Complete with 64 pages of pictures, sparkling with vivid descriptions of native speech, dress and customs, Through Gates of Splendor is 256 pages of engrossing reading. But always the reader is gripped with its deep spiritual message. Between its lines and behind its pages there seem to ring out five strong young voices with the words they sang only a few hours before they laid down their lives for Christ and the Aucas for whom He died:

“We rest on Thee, Our Shield

and our Defender,

Thine is the Battle, Thine

shall be the praise

When passing through the gates

of pearly splendor

Victors, we rest with Thee

through endless days.”


Fertile Ideas

Prayer and Life’s Highest, by Paul S. Rees. Eerdmans, 1956. $2.00.

The six chapters of this slender volume by the Pastor of the First Covenant Church of Minneapolis discuss prayers of the Apostle Paul under the headings of Mastery, Excellency, Consistency, Sanctity, Expectancy and Serenity. These are not ordinary devotional readings, designed to preface periods of prayer but solid materials which ought to be read and reread by those in quest of the deep things of the Spirit of God. Nearly every page suggests fertile ideas for sermons or discussions concerning prayer, but not in the neat outline form that can be utilized with scant preparation. Rather by suggesting fresh interpretations and applications, the chapters will stimulate the reader to further study by which he can develop his own exposition of these important topics. Though the reputation of Dr. Rees as a preacher and writer has long been an enviable one, this book even surpasses his usual excellence. It may well have taken form during the London crusade, when the author as special preacher to British pastors, witnessed anew the great power of prayer. At least it reflects a liberty and freedom that a pastor seldom enjoys to this degree within his own parish. A master in the use of the English language, Dr. Rees writes with facility and spiritual power, revealing a breadth of knowledge and penetrating insight into the best literature, both sacred and secular. The volume abounds with fresh and telling illustrations, choice quotations and exegetical and expository passages, all presented without the moralistic or didactic tone that mars so much writing in this field.

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To indicate the intellectual and spiritual vigor of this book one paragraph is quoted from the initial chapter, dealing with the prayers of the apostle for the Ephesians:

“Prayer for masterful living—that’s what we have here. Prayer for Christians that they may find in Christ, since they cannot find it anywhere else, the ability to cope with life, to beat down the ‘principalities and power,’ to turn back the onrush of temptation, to outwit the machinations of the devil, to subdue and regulate the instinctual drives of human nature, to fasten to the Cross the false ego that so stubbornly resists its doom—what prayer for mastery this is!”

This is a book that should win an honored place in prayer literature. To the present reviewer, at least, it seems destined to become a classic and perhaps some day to be numbered with the writings of Alexander Whyte, Andrew Murray, A. J. Gordon and John Henry Jowett.


Pulpit Master

500 Selected Sermons, by T. DeWitt Talmadge. Baker, 1956. $4.50.

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A reading of the sermons of great pulpit masters of the past serves forcibly to remind us that timely preaching is always that preaching which is concerned with the timeless themes.

Though preached during a stirring period of great conflict and change, the sermons of T. DeWitt Talmadge still today seem to be speaking to our contemporary situation. Some of the themes of the sermons in this volume under review are “The Gospel of Health,” “Surgery without Pain,” “A Helpful Religion” and “The Dangers of Pessimism.” These sound almost like some of our “peace of mind” and “power of positive thinking” sermons today, yet they are all presented within the framework of real, solid, enduring theology.

In Talmadge’s heyday evolution and the new critical views of the Bible were to the fore in the thinking of the popular man. Talmadge took up his cudgels and went to work in behalf of the “splendors of orthodoxy.” How he fought the battle in his day is seen in such sermons in this volume as “The Monarch of Books,” “The Guess of Evolution,” “Revision of Creeds,” “Expurgation of the Scriptures” and “Slanders Against the Bible.” Something of his approach can be understood from these words with which he opened his sermon, “Splendors of Orthodoxy”:

A great London fog has come down upon some of the ministers and some of the churches in the shape of what is called ‘advanced thought’ in biblical interpretation. All of them, without any exception, deny the full inspiration of the Bible. Genesis is an allegory, and there are many myths in the Bible.

Still relevant to our day of revolution in biblical theology, is it not?

One of the great problems facing us today is the matter of communication. How shall we communicate the truth of God to modern man? The scholars are seeking to find a new vocabulary that can speak in the dimension of revelation. These sermons of Talmadge unveil the secret of communication. It is not in new words, but in preaching the old words in a down to earth, practical, everyday way that will help people. Rather than preaching in precise theological terms, Talmadge painted word pictures of truth that impressed themselves on the hearts of men.

T. DeWitt Talmadge was one of America’s most influential preachers around the turn of the century. He preached to great crowds in “The Central Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, N. Y. and millions more were reached through the printing of his sermons in the newspapers. Five hundred of his best sermons are now being printed in ten double volumes by Baker Book House so that Christians of today may be guided and inspired by the successful pulpit message and methods of this great preacher of the last century. This double volume III–IV contains 54 sermons of the series and the themes with which they deal are all very much to the fore in the Christian life of our day.

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The rhetoric of this pulpit master loses something by being printed rather than preached, and the style is not what our newspaper type minds are used to, but these messages still have meat and will nourish us in our stirring times which are not so far removed from those of Talmadge.


Scholarly Commentaries

The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, by Lightfoot. Zondervan, $3.50. St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, by Lightfoot. Zondervan, $3.50. St. Paid’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, by Lightfoot. Zondervan, $4.50.

Scholarly commentaries on the Greek text of the letters of the Apostle Paul are not being produced by British and American scholars today. Because of this the serious student of the Scriptures is forced to turn either to the works of German and Dutch scholars (if he is able) or to the works of past generations. It is to supply this latter type of demand that the Zondervan Publishing House has reprinted these three commentaries of the Cambridge scholar, J. B. Lightfoot.

Dr. Lightfoot was a colleague of the well-known New Testament scholars Westcott and Hort, and his commentaries in the “Macmillan Series” on the books of the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers have been in constant demand from the time they first appeared 90 years ago right down to our own day. In the books before us we have a good deal more than just a commentary, and this is perhaps what has made them so valuable to serious students. The questions of Introduction are made to live. Exactly who were the Galatians, where and in what condition was Paul when he wrote to the Philippians, what was the nature of the heresy at Colossae? Lightfoot’s style is energetic, arresting and lively as he considers these matters that in some commentaries are as dry as dust.

In the body of the commentaries there is full and ample discussion of the exegetical problems involved, and the thoroughness of the author’s acquaintance with the Greek classics, as well as the language of the New Testament, is soon apparent. If one is interested in knowing what the Greek text of the Apostle Paul says, he won’t find many who know and sympathize with the language and thought of the apostle better than Lightfoot.

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But not the least interesting part of each commentary is the appendix where one finds in the Commentary on the Galatians two long dissertations, one on the Brethren of the Lord, and one on Paul’s relationships with Peter, James and John. In the Colossians and Philemon is an appendix on the Essenes and their relationship to Christianity, a subject that will be increasingly discussed in the light of the new knowledge of the Qumran community. And in the commentary on the Philippians there is a brief comment on the relations of Paul to the Stoic philosopher Seneca, and then a 90 page essay on, “The Christian Ministry.” This latter has been bound separately in past years and has been highly prized by those whose persuasion in matters of church polity is Episcopalian. It is definitely of a “low-church” character and could be read with profit by all those who seek light on the nature of the ministry and priesthood in the early church.

It should be clearly stated that Lightfoot’s commentaries are not of the homiletical, sermon-starter variety. But the student of the New Testament who is interested in knowing exactly what the Apostle Paul had to say will find these books invaluable.


Splendid Tool

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, translated and edited by W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich from W. Bauer’s Griechischdeutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen Urchristlichen Literatur 4th ed. 1952. University of Chicago Press, 1957. $14.00.

The publication of this lexicon will make a major contribution to the study of the Greek New Testament text among present-day scholars. For many centuries earnest students of the scriptures have felt compelled to go back to the original text to ascertain their true meaning. To do this the best possible tools are essential. Basic to the study of the Greek text is a sound lexicon. The older lexicons leaned heavily on the classical lexicons to find their meanings. But the inspired authors of the New Testament did not write in the same vein as the classical authors. The Greek of the New Testament is the language of the people, the so-called koine Greek of every-day life and usage.

Those contributing to this lexicon have availed themselves of the vast archeological discoveries which have thrown so much light on the meaning of New Testament Greek words. In addition to giving a competent translation of Walter Bauer’s Greek-German Lexicon, they have extended it and revised it. There has been some re-arrangement of entries, corrections and the inclusion of more irregular verb-forms—all to render this work a splendid tool for every student who wishes to “search the Scriptures” in the original.

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Practical Epistle

Make Your Faith Work, by Louis H. Evans. Revell, 1957. $2.50.

The Epistle of James is the least technical of all the Epistles. It is full of strong, practical sense and has a message for Christians of every degree of attainment. James insists that the Christian’s religion must show. There are certain marks by which people can recognize a Christian. With remarkable skill Dr. Evans shows us that if we want to be real followers of Christ, the Epistle to James is a good guide.

There are many theories as to the authorship of the Epistle of James. Dr. Evans is persuaded that the best evidence favors the view that the author was James, the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this assumption, Dr. Evans writes,

If the brother of Jesus was the author—and we proceed on that well-established premise—then the Epistle he wrote becomes something more than merely interesting, for it contains the conclusions of a brother about a divine brother. What could be more intimate, more revealing? Brothers are always hypersensitive to what their own think and say about them. ‘What does your brother think of you?’ is a question that goes into your heart like a knife. So what James says about Jesus, about his faith and works, would go deep.

After the Resurrection James became an ardent believer in the deity of Christ. He served as the pastor of the Church at Jerusalem, and it was to him that the Christians of the day flocked for fellowship and counsel. James, says Dr. Evans, saw in the life of Christ not only a faith but a force. As a result of what he saw he has given us a practical way of living and realistic power to match the problems of the day.

The nine chapters in this book all deal with soul-searching questions. The topics are, “How Do You Face Life’s Trials?,” “Is Your Religion Words or Works?,” “Are You Prejudiced?,” “Is Your Tongue Converted?,” “Do You Own a Peaceful Heart?,” “Are You Conceited?,” “Is Your Money Converted?,” “Can Your Faith Heal?” and “Are You a Soul Winner?” The author tells us that if the reader can answer these questions in the proper way, then his brothers and family may catch the vision of the divine brother, too. Many a doubting Thomas may be arrested by the evidences of the reader’s Christian life, filled as it can be with workable, practical power.

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While in no wise minimizing the value of the healing of the body, Dr. Evans shows in this book that men are far more interested in the healing of the body than in the healing of the soul. With this observation, he comments,

Would to God it were possible to arouse as much interest in the healing of a man’s soul as we have in the healing of his body! Regrettably, it has never been thus, in human society.… People flock to the spectacular. They come with little urging to pray in intercession for the healing of physical man. But suppose you tell these same people that ‘the prayer of faith will save the sick’ and inform them that you are using this word ‘save’ in a strictly spiritual sense—how many will flock together for such a purpose? To promise to heal the body brings crowds; to promise to save the soul brings a blank stare. We spend millions on hospitals, on medical research, on efforts to cure cancer, polio and tuberculosis—and who would not thank God for that? But in comparison we spend pennies for the cure and salvage of the human soul.

With a high sense of final values, Dr. Evans calls Christians to regain a Christian interest in the spiritual equation of human beings. To see what happens to the soul of man is of supreme importance in the mind of God.

Dr. Evans is a wise counsellor. His style is unpretentious and pungent. The inescapable conclusion that the reader reaches as he comes to the end of this book is that in all the major areas of human interest, the Christian faith works. This is evidence that no clever unbeliever can rule out of the court of honest judgment.

The pastor will find this book of value to make practical applications of the Gospel message. The layman will find inspiration to manifest his Christian life that it may exert an influence over those outside of the church.


Tools Or Crutches

Master Book of New Illustrations, by Walter B. Knight. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids. $6.95.

The publication of a volume of sermonic illustrations is always both an asset and a liability for the preacher. On the one hand, it provides him with a wide assortment of materials to which he can turn for the purpose of illuminating most any propositional truth of Scripture. And only an insignificant few would challenge the value of illustrations wisely selected and used with discretion. They add to the impact of a sermon and often make a lasting impression upon the minds of the audience, thus aiding the memory in recalling the principles they elucidate. On the other hand, a book of this kind by its very nature is a common storehouse. When employed by a large number of preachers the freshness of the materials is lost to congregations through repetition. For this reason certain classic illustrations have merited the label “canned.”

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While insisting that the best illustrations are those which the preacher personally garners from a great variety of sources, we also admit the desirability of publications of this sort. Whether in an individual case they become tools or crutches depends entirely upon the manner in which they are used.

This is the second massive volume of illustrations to come from the pen of Mr. Knight. It consists of 760 double-columned pages. One finds it difficult to name any major topic overlooked by the author. The materials are arranged according to subjects, which in turn appear alphabetically. The one weakness at this point is the omission of an index with cross-references. Many illustrations admit of several applications, but, except in the few instances where Knight records them under several classifications, this factor has been neglected.

On the whole, the illustrations are lucid; however, occasionally one meets with obscurity and ambiguity. As for quality, one must allow the right of personal taste. In the opinion of the reviewer more than one-half of the materials are unsuitable. Some have long ago lost their novelty. Some seem pointless. Some are stereotyped. Many others lack polish, hut can be made effective if the minister rephrases them, drops old cliches and dresses them up in more dignified language. Notwithstanding these defects, preachers, teachers and Christian workers will profit from the purchase of this book. The ordinary layman will find inspiration, instruction and delight of soul in its pages. We therefore commend the author for his contribution to this field, a contribution horn of much reading and research.


Challenging Call

James, Your Brother, by Lehman Strauss. Loizeaux Brothers, 1956. $3.00.

The warmly devotional and practical meditations on the Epistle of James in this recent book by Dr. Strauss provide a fresh and challenging call to Christian living. The Epistle of James is itself, of course, an eminently practical book which should be an unfailing stimulus to the performance of the duty which God requires of man. But to be best understood and most profitably used it should be interpreted in the context of the whole revelation that God has given us in the Scriptures. Dr. Strauss constantly endeavors to bring the light of other parts of the Bible to bear on the understanding of his text. A most welcome and wholesome feature of his approach is his high view of the Bible as the inspired and infallible Word of God and his consequent realization that the part has relevance to the whole and the whole to the part.

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The author’s experience as both pastor and teacher has unquestionably made a contribution to the clarity, simplicity, directness and effectiveness of his presentation. He is concerned to reach his reader; he is not averse to addressing him in a warm-hearted, earnest, pastoral way; he labors that the practical Epistle of James may bring forth practical fruits in the reader’s faith and life.

The reviewer does not agree with all the positions taken in the book but is grateful for its devout and heartening summons to the service of our great God and Saviour.


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