Supplement Volumes

Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge; an Extension of the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Editor-in-Chief, Lefferts A. Loetscher. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1955. 2 volumes. $15.00.

By adding these two volumes to the famous Schaff-Herzog, the publishers have performed a great service. A few years ago they reprinted the thirteen original volumes in an excellent format, with which the supplementary volumes are uniform. There is nothing in English to compare with this important encyclopedia. The price of the entire set of fifteen volumes is at present only $68.50.

It should he understood, however, that the two additional volumes do not stand alone. They are planned as a supplement. The original volumes, published in 1908–1912, have been reprinted unchanged; these two extra volumes seek to bring the original articles up to date by adding developments of the last forty years. In instances of new discoveries (Dead Sea Scrolls or Lachish Letters) the articles are fresh and complete in themselves. There are also other materials not touched upon in the earlier volumes. Nevertheless, perhaps half the articles give only partial information by way of additional details. We are told, for example, that such-and-such a scholar (who was treated more fully in the original work) died in 1918 and also published certain other books. The supplementary character of these articles needs to be emphasized, for there are instances where the reader will receive a misleading or even false impression if he turns only to the supplement without referring also to the original in volumes 1–13. An example is the article on the Westminster Assembly; if this alone were to be consulted by an inquirer he would be given no inkling that this Assembly had drawn up the notable Westminster Confession and Catechisms; he would gain the impression that it was an intolerant, abortive group which failed to accomplish much of importance. The article on Becket adds Roman Catholic sympathy; that on Charles I never mentions an armed Revolution; that on Henry VIII is gossipy and vague. To sum up this point; if only the two supplementary volumes are purchased the buyer should realize that at many places they do not profess to give a balanced account.

On the other hand, while the whole set should be obtained if possible, there is much to be said for the two extra volumes in themselves. There is a great body of strong, scholarly articles: Papyri, by Allen P. Wikgren; Archaeology, by W. F. Albright; Hittites, by H. G. Guterbock; Calvin, by John T. McNeill; Apostles’ Creed, by Robert M. Grant; Ras Shamra, by H. L. Ginsberg; Syriac Literature, by Arthur Voobus; Wyclif, by Matthew Spinka; and a vigorous and lucid advocacy of Crisis, the Theology of, by Paul L. Lehman. Perhaps the most honor among the contributors should go to Bruce M. Metzger. His articles are clear, informed, and of balanced judgment. As editor of the New Testament department he has supplied the most useful single group of articles in these volumes, such as: the 17-page Bible Versions; Bible Text (N.T.); Canon of Scripture (N.T.); N.T. Studies, Twentieth Century Trends in; and also Hymns in the Early Greek Church; Mystery Religions, and many more. Along with Dr. Metzger there is another scholar who has made an exceedingly valuable contribution, and that is Georges A. Barrois. He has written apparently at least 130 articles about Roman Catholicism, which come with authority from one who, now converted, was formerly a scholar and teacher in that communion. They are summed up in an article, Roman Catholic Church, but they cover separately such subjects as Assumption, Dogma of the; Concordats; Humani Generis (and other recent encyclicals); Implicit Faith; Marriage, Roman Catholic Laws on; Secrecy of the Confessional; Vows of Religion, and all manner of other Roman operations.

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There are other excellent articles which may be evaluated in respect to the deficiencies and lack of balance in these two volumes. There is by no means general agreement as to Christian doctrine. The most widely different opinions are expressed. There is a striking contrast between the articles by Cornelius Van Til on Calvinism, Common Grace, and Covenant Theology, and the article God, by Holmes Rolston; the latter is not so much about the doctrine of God as about Barthian theology in general. One of the best features of these volumes is the article Liberalism, by Andrew K. Rule. It is an objective and devastating analysis. Liberalism in religion is shown to be the result of humanism, rationalism, naturalism and negative biblical criticism. And yet this very liberalism is exhibited in many other articles. Ovid R. Sellers says in the article Cultural and Social Conditions, Hebrew, that the Hebrews under Joshua brought “no art and no written literature” into Palestine. R. B. Y. Scott in his article on Daniel declares that the book comes “from the period of the Seleucids.” And Otto A. Piper says, in Myth in the N.T., that “the use of mythical terminology in the Bible is a necessary corollary of historical revelation. It does not detract from the truthfulness of its message.”

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It may be asked, but what else should we expect in an encyclopedia which seeks to represent all views? It is true that contradictions must occur. But there is actually a failure to represent all views. This is most striking in the Old Testament articles. They exhibit an outspoken, almost uniform adherence to negative, naturalistic criticism. There is again and again at crucial points no reference to conservative scholars of the present day. It is only by the most diligent search that any reference may be found to such scholars. It is also remarkable that although Dr. Loetscher of Princeton is the editor-in-chief, there are no biographical notices of the Princeton authorities of the past generation, such as B. B. Warfield, Geerhardus Vos, C. W. Hodge, John D. Davis and Francis L. Patton or of the great Herman Bavinck whose Stone Lectures have recently been reprinted.

No doubt such inequalities are to be explained by the fact that independent departmental editors have had large powers in their choice of contributors. The New Testament department, under Dr. Metzger, is far more conservative than the Old Testament under Elmer E. Flack. The department of Systematic Theology, under Andrew K. Rule, contains a number of articles which can only be described as orthodox. Yet such is the multitude of opinions from dialectical theology and humanism and such is the frequency of mere expression of opinion rather than information, that these volumes must be characterized as very much a mixed bag.

There has been, apparently, a lack of overall policy and control, with consequent lack of proportion. There are numerous, lengthy articles about relatively obscure medieval mystics, while only short and inadequate articles appear on Aulen, Barth, Brunner, Bultmann, Niebuhr, Schweitzer and Tillich; and Kierkegaard receives no single article and no bibliography, although he is treated under such heads as Existentialism and Dialectical Theology. As for bibliographies, these supplementary volumes have failed to come up to the standard set by the earlier volumes. Dr. Metzger and certain others have been very full at this point but in many cases the bibliography is either lacking or exceedingly weak. There are articles on German cities, continuing the tradition of an originally German encyclopedia but none on American or British cities. In many instances there are biographical notices which give no indication whatsoever of the position, or viewpoint, of the person in question: this is true for Henry Sloane Coffin, C. S. Lewis, Clarence E. Macartney and Paul Tillich. To sum up again: there is a lack of relative proportion in these volumes. A comprehensive policy, clearly understood by all contributors, with constant exercise of editorial authority, is the only approach which can insure balance in an encyclopedic work.

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Contemporary Liberalism

The Message of the Fourth Gospel, by Eric L. Titus. Abingdon Press, New York. $3.50.

This new commentary on the Gospel of John is a representative expression of contemporary liberalism written by the Professor of New Testament Literature at Southern California School of Theology in Los Angeles. The volume breathes the spirit of the new liberalism which tends to concern itself with biblical content. The Fourth Gospel is considered as an early second-century interpretation of Jesus, and it is assumed that the beloved disciple of the Fourth Gospel is not the Apostle John but one who is close to apostolic traditions. No supernatural inspiration was employed in the writing of the Fourth Gospel, according to the author, and at best it is historical fiction used as an interpretation of the life and ministry of Christ.

Key to the commentary are three chapters of introduction in which an elevenfold analysis of the literary techniques employed by John is presented. The commentary itself analyzes the gospel by sections, using these literary techniques. A serious attempt is made to determine the precise thought of the writer of the gospel in each section. It is assumed that the author of the gospel is “a popular religionist, not a philosopher” and that he is indebted principally to the synoptic gospels and the Pauline epistles for his sources of information.

Typical of the approach of this commentary is the suggestion that the story of the miracle of Cana in John 2 has its inspiration in the story of Pentecost in Acts 2 with the “good wine” of John 2:10 comparing with the “new wine” of Acts 2:13. A similar comparison is made between John 4 with its story of the Samaritan woman and the account of the gospel going to Samaria in Acts 8:5–25.

In illustrating John’s literary method, frequent reference is made to “literary opportunism,” “the use of individuals whose stupidity creates an opportunity for teaching,” “use of the dramatic technique,” and “use of words with double meaning.” For instance, “The Jews, Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman and the disciples all fulfill” the role of “stupid” persons described as “one of the most frequently employed devices” (p. 35). The author of the Fourth Gospel is described as “a literary opportunist” (p. 97). The story of Lazarus in John 11 is the product of the “creative mind” of the author of the gospel who decides to carry the story of Lazarus and the rich man who is in hell (Luke 16) one step further and to have Lazarus actually rise from the dead. In like manner, the prayer of Christ in John 17 is interpreted as actually a sermon of the writer of the gospel cast in the form of a prayer by Christ. The commentator also holds that John 21 was not part of the original gospel and like the pericope adulterae (7:53–8:11) was a later addition.

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Though well-written and representative of contemporary liberal interpretation, this commentary is far removed from the evangelical conservative position. Its value to conservatives will be to inform them on recent liberal interpretation of the Fourth Gospel.


Conservative View

Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, An Historical and Exegetical Study, by R. Laird Harris. Zondervan, Grand Rapids. $4.50.

Harris’ study, First Prizewinner in Zondervan’s Third Christian Textbook Contest, has a general interest as a commendable presentation of the conservative view affirming the verbal inspiration of the Bible. As such, it is an important work, in that it not only gives an able discussion of inspiration but devotes the major share of attention to the too often neglected matter of canonicity. Harris gives anew the older, and at present neglected, view of the fluid nature of the threefold classification of the Old Testament, law, prophets and writings, pointing out that originally this “division was not so rigid as is usually supposed” (p. 142), and that a twofold division into law and prophets has ancient testimony in its favor. More than that, “the entire collection could be called the word of ‘the prophets.’ Also the entire work could be called ‘the law’ ” (p. 144). Recognition of this fact has, Harris points out, considerable significance in establishing the conservative view of such books as Daniel, inasmuch as the critical construction of the development of the canon assumes the threefold division and gives a late date for the canon of the writings (p. 140).

Important also is Harris’ study of the relation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, first, to the problem of the divisions of the Old Testament (p. 171 f.), and, second, to the problem of the inspiration and canonicity of the Old Testament (p. 145 f).

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Harris’ book is thus in the line of Gaussen, Green and other defenders of the orthodox position and ably so. And this is precisely its weakness. While scholars may disagree with the details and points of Harris’ argument, in the main they will recognize the calibre and ability of the book. Its shortcoming is that it is written in terms of the approach of a previous era, an able approach, but one failing to take into account two recent basic challenges raised by adversaries to the doctrine of inspiration. One is the problem of authority, and the other is the charge of circular reasoning which are basically the same. Harris briefly mentions and denies, without answering, the charge of circular reasoning (p. 45 f.). He shows no awareness of the important work in this area by Cornelius Van Til, not only in his introduction to the recent reprint of Warfield’s Inspiration and Authority of the Bible but in many other works. All reasoning is circular reasoning, but reasoning from God to God-given and God-created data has the validity of conformity to the nature of things. The opponents of inspiration reason from autonomous man’s reasons, through brute factuality which has no meaning other than man’s interpretation, back again to man’s basic presupposition. In other words, all reasoning moves in terms of its basic presupposition, either God or autonomous man, interpreting all reality in terms of the presupposition. The only way to answer the charge of circular reasoning is to challenge the authority of man and to expose the barren circularity of all his reasoning and to point out that Christian thinking has a full circle of meaning in that God as the creator is also the only interpreter of reality.

Until this frontal attack on the critics’ charges is made, the conservatives will be talking to themselves.


Reformed Worship

Presbyterian Liturgies; Historical Sketches, by Charles W. Baird, Baker, Grand Rapids. $3.00.

Many contemporary Reformed theologians and pastors have acknowledged that in matters of worship, our churches have been conspicuously weak. Although attempts have Seen made to improve this condition, ignorance of liturgical worship is still great. Some think that if the church furnishings are moved around, responses added or the service “dressed up” in general, then the liturgical revival will have matured. Others resist any change at all and point with pride to the central pulpit as the symbol of non-liturgical worship.

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A hundred years ago the first important American Reformed liturgical scholar, Charles Baird, published his history of Reformed worship. The present edition is a reprint of this important work. Although much has been written upon the subject since the appearance of the first edition, I know of no better introduction to the study of Reformed liturgical worship in the English language than this valuable little work.

The thesis of the book is clearly defined by the author in his introduction, “To ascertain from the history and teachings of the Presbyterian Church, what may be considered the proper theories of its worship, and to compare that ideal with our prevailing practice.” His secondary aim is “to demonstrate, first, that the principles of Presbyterians in no wise conflicts with the discretionary use of written forms; and secondly, that the practice of Presbyterian churches abundantly warrants the adoption and the use of such forms.”

The construction and usage of the various forms of worship on the continent and in Great Britain are carefully traced. The book leaves no doubt that the Presbyterian and Reformed churches possess a rich and copious devotional heritage in the liturgical forms and prayers of the past. The neglect of this heritage has not only divided the church but has robbed it of its theological witness in the services of worship.

Although Calvin may be quoted as opposed to “external discipline and ceremonies,” he nevertheless gave much time and thought to the order of service in the Reformed churches. In this attempt he did not innovate. He formulated a liturgy, “selon les coutumes de l’Eglise ancienne,” that is, according to the practice of the church in the first centuries of our calendar.

This book, therefore, commends itself as worthy of careful study and prayerful attention. The formulation of the services of worship in the family of Reformed churches would become a sloppy business if reverent thought were not given to the worship of the past. The order of worship cannot begin in a vacuum; it always begins in the concrete situation of the contemporary church. This contemporary church, however, has a definite history. The church is one holy catholic church throughout all ages. Consequently the past cannot be ignored. If in this we fear the tyranny of tradition, let us not forget that the local churches and the universal church stand in a relationship to all the saints of every age. Permit me to put it in the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, “… with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.”

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When this book was first published, it was welcomed by none other than Charles Hodge as a work worthy of study and consideration. Although he was not converted to the advisability of introducing liturgical worship, he did commend many of Baird’s recommendations.

Certainly every minister in a Reformed or Presbyterian Church ought to be acquainted with this book.


Medical Opinion

Some Thoughts on Faith Healing. Edited by Vincent Edmunds, M.D., M.R.C.P. and C. Gordon Scorer, M.B.E., M.A., M.D., F.R.C.S. Tyndale Press, London. 2s. 6d.

In Christian circles today—and not only amongst Christians who would be termed ‘Evangelicals’—there would seem to be a growing conviction that the Church is slowly and painfully recovering the gift of healing which was one of the marks of the apostolic age. It is contended that this gift was lost through the gradual weakening of faith, hope and love, and that the Spirit of God is showing the church of the 20th century how to recapture the gift. Stress is laid upon salvation as “wholeness”, affecting spirit and mind and body. It is unhesitatingly affirmed that faith should “give us as clear a title to the healing of our bodies as to the salvation of our souls.”

The writers of this valuable booklet are medical men who present the findings of a study group, consisting of Christian doctors, who have made a careful, sympathetic investigation into the thesis thus advanced and the facts which are adduced to support it. Over and over again they make it clear that if they question the validity of the claims sometimes made for individual faith-healers, if they are cautious in accepting the evidence for certain miraculous cures, this must not be “taken to imply any lessened conviction on their part that God has in the past caused, and can at any time cause miracles to happen.” These men, therefore, are not sceptics but reverent believers in a God who “can and does intervene as and when He pleases”.

But an examination—necessarily brief but not therefore careless or cursory—of, first, the Scriptures commonly quoted in favour of spiritual healing as the normal method of God’s working and, second, the history of the Church in the first three centuries and, finally, the claims made in many quarters today, leads these writers to certain tentative conclusions, which are stated with the moderation one would expect from trained investigators.

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These are, briefly, that God normally works by ‘natural’ means, that miracles recorded in the Scriptures “occurred mostly during the epochs when God was giving a new and special revelation of himself in word and deed,” that such healing powers as were possessed by the apostles and other Christians (e.g. at Corinth) were not intended to be permanent in the Church and that a passage such as James 5:14,15 which illustrates the “privilege and duty of believing prayer” for sick Christians but cannot be adduced as justification for “healing missions” to which non-Christians are invited. It is emphasized that cases of the “spontaneous regression” of organic diseases such as malignant cancer are not unknown.

We commend this booklet particularly to all those whose minds are disturbed by the confident but baseless assumption that sickness is never “in the will of God” for the Christian.


Perfectionist Activity

Revivalism and Social Reform in Mid-19th Century America, by Timothy L. Smith. Abingdon Press, New York. $4.00.

This is an important work with major defects. Smith’s study, the major portions of which were the Brewer Prize Essay for 1955 for the American Society of Church History, attempts to show that the social gospel, the American doctrine of manifest destiny, feminism, Christian Socialism, abolitionism, church union, the emphasis on ethics over dogma and many other like movements had their origin in America from the Arminian and perfectionist revivalism of the mid-19th century. Smith gives emphasis to the urban leadership in revivalism and in this makes an important contribution to the subject. Revival was not essentially a frontier manifestation but urban in its leadership and having roots in the highest places in church life and educational and theological tradition. Moreover, he traces ably the extensive Unitarian support of revivalism, with major opposition coming from the Old School Calvinists. One of the most interesting and most important sections deals with the problem of slavery, wherein he traces the similarity of the church’s position, under the impact of revivalism, to Lincoln’s views (p. 201). The church’s seeming vacillation has often been caricatured, but Smith points out that for Christians the problem was not easily simplified. They could condemn slavery but still feel an obligation to love Christian slaveholders (p. 215). They could not readily decide between slavery and union; they felt a compulsion to oppose slavery and yet manifest a redeeming bond of peace, without sacrificing in their love of union the moral issues involved. Thus, like Lincoln, they were ready to condemn slavery and fight to preserve unity. Smith has made a major contribution in his discerning analysis of this dilemma.

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Smith’s great weakness, however, is that he writes, not as an historian but as a professional genealogist, not to trace the history of the perfectionist revivalism in all its ramifications but only to give the pleasing lines of the family tree. Thus Smith disposes of the ungodly seed and the black sheep and assumes that perfectionist revivalism had only good seed. Source books and studies which point to the contrary are dismissed as bigoted or unrewarding. We are, for example, constantly warned against heeding or reading Old School Presbyterians and other Calvinists. He briefly recognizes in his preface (p. 7), that perfectionist revivalism, instead of being followed by the marriage supper, led to what Parrington has called the Great Barbecue, with good churchmen leading the vicious exploitation of a continent, but he says no more of this aspect. The sexual communism born of the same perfectionist revivalism is again overlooked in this genealogy. No note is made of the fact that perfectionist revivalism, denying the reality of sin in the redeemed, obliterated the old forms and restraints, as well as laws, and tried to re-order society in terms of perfection, i.e., sexual communism, socialism, equality of sexes, church union, etc. Moreover, in actual practice it often led to neglect of present realities, such as sin in their lives, they being now perfect, and sin in the elect United States. This blindness with regard to reality is seen in Finney’s Albany practice of pairing men and women for prayer, supposedly conducive to higher spirituality and certainly to enthusiasm.

Nowhere does Smith deal with the theological issues involved, i.e., a confusion of justification and sanctification, so that perfectionist activity became, in Blaikie’s words, a means “where men keep themselves in a justified state, and consequently justify themselves.” Blaikie’s Philosophy of Sectarianism (1854) Smith regards as “residual bigotry” and mocks him for belonging to a small church (p. 43), but Blaikie aptly criticized perfectionism for claiming to be for church union while creating further divisions, as witness the Campbellite history, and for placing minor “peculiarities as at par with the word of God.”

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Smith’s study is further marred by blind prejudice against Calvinism. He is gentle and understanding of pro-slavery arguments and compromises in perfectionist and revival circles and harsh with Old School Presbyterians, impugning their motives. Old School Calvinists did not think a-millennially; they “spawned” their “variant of the beliefs which Miller’s demise had discredited” (p. 236), bad motives and associations being implied here. Their arguments are “fabrications” (p. 202), although at times “even the most orthodox of Old School men did not escape the tide of human sympathy” (p. 174); these men are “reactionary” (p. 166), and “dour” Warfield’s definitive study of Perfectionism is dismissed summarily (p. 238). He speaks of something being “as dry as Jonathan Edwards’ bones and just as sterile of saving compassion” (p. 92), revealing both bigotry himself as well as an ignorance of Edwards. He cites Toplady’s “Rock of Ages” (p. 113) as epitomizing the holiness movement, apparently unaware of Toplady’s militant Calvinism and hostility to perfectionism. He notes in passing the pragmatic and hedonistic element in perfectionism (p. 93) but says no more of it. He rejoices in the Unitarian role in perfectionist revival without seeing its essentially humanistic concern in perfectionism. He expects us to rejoice in this birth of the social gospel from the holiness movement, to accept the identification of the Kingdom of God with America and the fulfilled social gospel as a great result. It is not surprising that modernists today are so respectful of the perfectionist revivalism of the mid-19th century. But evangelical Christianity cannot hope for a true revival today unless it assesses the full nature of the movement Smith so uncritically portrays and frees itself from these sins.


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