Atonement By-Passed

The Theology of the Sacraments, by D. M. Baillie. Scribners, New York, 1957. $3.00.

These kindly and facile lectures by the late D. M. Baillie on The Theology of the Sacraments have a deceptively earnest air that almost covers the gaping lacks in content. A theological study of the sacraments is much needed at this present time, but it seems incredible that a book can be offered on the subject which by-passes the events and the meaning of the events celebrated and commemorated in the sacraments.

With regard to baptism, Baillie is aware only in passing “that in New Testament thought baptism was closely connected with the death and resurrection of Christ” (p. 74), and that “in the Patristic Age circumcision was regarded as having foreshadowed baptism as the ‘seal’ of God’s people” (p–83 ftnote). Almost nothing more is said. He neglects, moreover, all mention of baptism as a sign of regeneration, its relation to regeneration, its significance in terms of the atonement, and, beyond a bare citation of the Westminster standards, any account of the significance of baptism in relation to the doctrine of the covenant. As a result, to say that baptism has from the beginning meant “incorporation into the new Israel, the Body of Christ which is the Church” (p. 79), is merely to say that it constitutes the ritual of initiation into membership without any regard for the meaning of that fact. That it involves cleansing and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is true enough, but these results are understandable only in terms of what baptism is in itself, and the manner in which we relate the covenant and regeneration to baptism will condition our concept of cleansing and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Baillie’s theological waywardness is even more apparent in his treatment of the Lord’s Table. Here he deserts completely the Protestant, and especially the Reformed, faith by separating the doctrine of the table from the death and resurrection, i.e. the atonement, and interpreting it in terms of the incarnation (p.58). In view of Baillie’s disregard for the doctrines of propitiation and substitution, it is not surprising that the atonement is bypassed. By relating both sacraments to the incarnation, it follows inevitably that instead of creation and redemption, immanence and incarnation become the orbit of his theology, an orientation which destroys the biblical sense of the incarnation. The consequence of such thought has always been the concept of a sacramental universe (pp. 42 ff.), with immanence swallowing up the transcendence of God. Such a view regards the sacraments then as a continuation of the incarnation rather than a setting forth of the death and resurrection, of atonement, preservation, sanctification and union. Thus Baillie is drawn to this Roman, Orthodox and Anglo-Catholic view (pp. 61 ff.) of the sacraments. Although, under the impact of Newbigin’s thinking, he rejects this extension view without surrendering it, he cannot adequately replace it with a Protestant view but must speak of a continuity or “extension of the incarnation wholly dependent on the Word and the Spirit” (p. 66). The tie, thus, with the incarnation is made tenuous but not broken. Inevitably, such thinking must be faced with the problem of the Real Presence, and Baillie is, although irresolutely. He has no awareness of the very different conceptions of the Real Presence that develop from immanence and incarnation theology as opposed to the Real Presence of a high doctrine of the atonement. Calvin’s belief in the Real Presence is based on the atonement and transcendence, not on immanence, and in the Calvinist tradition there is a greater sense of the corporateness of communion, as Brilioth has seen and Baillie notes. This greater emphasis on fellowship and corporateness is due to the drawing together of the redeemed in Christ, whereas the Roman concept draws the participants closer to creation and its drama of life and infusion.

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Moreover, the concept of a sacramental universe, seemingly so respectful of nature, actually implies that nature is something which must at least be overcome or supplanted by grace, whereas nature is rather restored as nature by grace. Nature, even fallen nature, witnesses to God and gives Him glory; even the wrath of man praises Him. There is no need to make nature over into sacrament, thus robbing both nature and sacrament of meaning.

It is not surprising that Baillie, when he does finally speak of Calvary as sacrifice, regards it as “an eternal sacrifice” (p. 116) and then confuses Christ’s present intercessory work as priest with sacrifice and calls it “a continual offering of himself to God on behalf of men” (p. 117). When the one act of Calvary lacks full validity, the Roman doctrine of the continuing sacrifice of the mass and Baillie’s “eternal sacrifice” become necessary.

In his brief article, “Philosophers and Theologians on the Freedom of the Will,” Baillie has a happy grasp of certain aspects of the question, as he deals, for example, with “the paradox of hedonism,” i.e., that “the quest of happiness defeats itself,” and then draws attention to the similar “ ‘paradox of moralism,’ the fact that the quest of goodness defeats itself. It is not precisely by trying to make ourselves into good men that we become good men.” Moralism defeats itself and produces Phariseeism, while “the best kind of living, or the finest type of character, does not come through sheer volitional effort to realize the ideal, but in a more indirect way, as the fruit of a life of faith in God” (pp. 136 f.).

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Approaching Footsteps

When Christ Comes Again, by Jac. J. Muller. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, London. 7s.6d.

The author grips our attention at the outset when he says that those who have received grace spiritually to diagnose the present age “cannot fail to hear in the mighty upheavals” of our time “the approaching footsteps of the returning Saviour” (p. 13). But in discussing the Signs of the Times he wisely eschews the dogmatism of those who place the end immediately ahead.

Discussing the rise and dominion of the antichrist, he says this will be the most outstanding sign of the approaching return of Christ. Precursors of the antichrist have appeared, but the antichrist is yet to appear out of the midst of the universal falling away—“an individual of unique personality—a genius with almost supernatural gifts and talents—a superman—the perfected product of a culture and civilization devoid of God—a prodigy among men by reason of which he will exert his powerful deceiving influence” (p. 29). Dr. Muller indicates three portents in our present-day world from which a godless dictator may arise (p. 32).

Christ’s visible coming on the clouds of heaven will terminate the history of this sinful world, delivering His people out of the great tribulation and ushering in the judgment of mankind and the transformation of the earth. Dr. Muller rejects both pre-millennialism and post-millennialism. He characterises the optimism of the latter as “evolutionary optimism”. This seems rather hard on post-millennialists like Dr. B. B. Warfield.

In the chapter on the Resurrection, Dr. Muller states that “the expectation of all the peoples of the world” looks for the resurrection of the body and life everlasting (p. 43). Later he reverts to the witness of the human heart (p. 77). But the human heart is more inclined to suppress the truth than publish it. Dr. Muller only turns aside momentarily; he speedily has recourse to the real basis of belief in the resurrection—the explicit testimony of the Bible. Dealing with the nature of the resurrection body, he shows himself a sound expositor.

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A pleasing feature of the three chapters on the Judgment, Hell, and Heaven is that Dr. Muller appears not only as a faithful interpreter of Scripture, but as an earnest evangelist.

In the last chapter—on “The New Earth”—the tree of life bearing twelvefold fruit (Rev. 22:2) is not understood as merely spiritual, but also as conveying an indication of the glorified state of nature. The saints will enjoy both material and spiritual blessings on the new earth; heaven and earth will intermingle, and God will fill both with His glory.

This is a fine book from the pen of an able theologian. It has passed through many reprints in its original Afrikaans. May this English translation have like success!


Touchy Problem

One Marriage Two Faiths, by James H. S. Bossard and Eleanor S. Boll. Ronald Press, New York, 1957. $3.50.

Professor Bossard needs no introduction to the sociological world. He is the author of numerous works in this field and his co-author in this book has worked closely with him for a number of years. The purpose of this volume is to answer the innumerable questions and problems of men and women who are puzzled about interfaith marriages. The answers to these questions are based upon case histories for a quarter of a century or more which involves information from parents, relatives, children and grandchildren as well as from the couples themselves. This methodology, of course, gives an authoritative ring to the whole study.

Few young people contemplating marriage have understood the real meaning of interfaith marriages. Rarely do they stop to think that interfaith marriage involves the union of two distinctive personalities, two differing ways of thinking and living in life’s most intimate relationship. These differences manifest themselves in attitudes and actions at every level of experience especially in the patterns of sexual behavior.

The authors go on to point out that not only religious differences but national variations within the religious group and social class differences can pose real problems in marital adjustment.

As for the prevalence of mixed marriages we have no adequate data. Available sources consist of special restricted studies which, when combined, give us only a relatively reliable answer. These data indicate that marriage across religious lines is large and is increasing in volume. Studies made of Lutheran mixed marriages indicate that from 1936 to 1950 Lutherans have been increasingly marrying outside of their church. At present more than 58 percent marry into other communions.

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A chapter is devoted to the churches and mixed marriage. From the inception of Christianity the church has frowned upon interfaith marriages. The Roman Catholic position is fairly well known. This church has sought to secure its control over marriage between a Catholic and a non-catholic by the use of the Antenuptial Contract and Promises instrument. Selected Protestant attitudes and policies indicate that the major denominations in the United States are opposed to interfaith marriages, especially with Roman Catholics and Jews. Reasons given for opposition to mixed marriages are as follows: (1) they are a threat to the membership strength; (2) they interfere with religious observances; (3) most churches look upon marriage and the family as a special province of their interest and control; and (4) mixed marriages are a threat to family unity and stability as well as the general cultural heritage of the church. It is interesting to note that lay people in the church are not as strong in their opposition to mixed marriages as the clergy.

All persons contemplating an interfaith marriage should study carefully chapters six through eight which deal with the husband-wife, parent-child relationships and solutions which have worked in interfaith marriage adjustments. Young people who are deeply in love feel that they can iron out all of their marital problems by intellectualizing. But if the records of this book are accurate, they indicate “that parental feeling supersede romantic love and individualism” (p. 114). When a baby comes both parents feel protective and possessive about it. Both families try to raise the child and as a result he is tom in choosing his religion and philosophy of life between two sides of the family. This results not only in “taking sides” with the family but in inner conflict for the child. Nor does the matter end here. The divisiveness extends to brothers and sisters as well as parents and tends to divide them into opposing camps. This is the basic tragedy of many interfaith marriages.

Professor Bossard is too wise to offer simple and naive solutions to interfaith marriages. But on the basis of case studies he discovered that mixed marriages sometimes work out successfully when the following principles are followed: (1) where one of the mates accepts the religious culture of the other; (2) when the couple withdraws from most social contacts and live in relative social isolation; (3) when each one goes his own way with relative freedom; (4) when couples agree that there shall be no children in their families; (5) when both have a common bond of indifference to the church and what it stands for; and (6) when there is a compromise between intelligent persons who both give and take on the issues involved in a mixed marriage. Professor Bossard hastens to add, however, that the above observations gleaned from case histories are used to illustrate, not to indicate finality of judgment.

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This book tackles a touchy problem with real insight and frankness. It is based upon the solid facts of sociological research. Ministers, social workers and marriage counselors will find it invaluable in helping young people to choose wisely a mate. The book admirably supplements, from a sociological point of view, the more religious approach to the problem of interfaith marriages by Dr. James A. Pike in his book If You Marry Outside of Your Faith.


Advanced Liberalism

Beginnings in Theology, by Jack Finegan. Association Press, New York, 1956. $3.00.

The writer of this book is Professor of New Testament Literature and Interpretation, in the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California and is a minister in the Disciples of Christ Church.

The viewpoint presented is that of advanced liberalism. There is but little reference to or scant sympathy for the great historic doctrines of the Christian faith as these have been held by practically all branches of the church until comparatively recent times. Such doctrines as the full inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the fall of man and his redemption through the sacrificial death of Christ on Calvary are scarcely mentioned. For the most part these are simply passed over.

The fall of man, recorded in Genesis three, is referred to as, “a poetic story of early beginnings” (p. 48), designed to teach than man is no mere automaton, not governed by habit and instinct as are the animals but rather a free agent able to make final choices. We believe, however, that the fall was an actual, historical event. Our belief is strengthened to the point of certainty when in the New Testament salvation is declared to be through Christ on precisely the same representative principle as was the fall in Adam (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22).

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The theory of evolution is advanced as the explanation of man’s origin. We are told that in the course of time “man stood up on his two feet, and attained an erect posture, and was able to see farther and to have his hands set free” (p. 81) and so attained a position higher than that of the animals.

But the evolutionists always have a difficult time fitting Jesus Christ into their scheme. His appearance in the course of history nearly two thousand years ago, when the world still was quite primitive and backward, rather than at the end of history where, according to their theory, he logically belongs, has always been an embarrassing problem. But when he is held to be only the fairest flower of humanity, rather than deity incarnate in the historic sense of that term, the problem is not so difficult. That is the writer’s solution, and on three different occasions we are told that “Jesus Christ stands at the height of human development” (pp. 79, 81, 87).

In a chapter entitled, “Christ and the Other Religions,” the writer rejects the view that Christianity alone can be classed as true and the other religions false. Rather, much truth and much good is said to exist in the various religions. The philosophy of the Greeks is likened to Judaism as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (p. 103). Other religions, we are told, are not primarily false but only immature, and the religion of Christ is described as “the religion of maturity,” the ideal, which is to be held up so that all may come to mature manhood. This, of course, ignores the fact that the pagan religions have utterly failed to find a cure for sin, and that nations and civilizations under their influence for centuries or even millenniums have virtually stagnated, while only where Christianity has gone has there been real progress. So great has been the contrast that it does not seem possible that any informed person should hesitate to declare that Christianity is true and the others false.

The incarnation of Christ is discussed. But the term is used in a sense quite foreign to that in which it has been used in traditional theology, which is, that Christ, the second person of the Trinity, came to earth, took upon himself human nature and so was both God and man, one person in two natures. Rather it is here made to mean: (1) that Christ was a real historical character, as contrasted with the mythological characters in the religions of the Philistines, Greeks, and Egyptians (i.e., Baal, Demeter, and Osiris); and (2) that the teaching of Jesus is for everybody, that is, universal in its application, rather than restricted within narrow boundaries and intended only for limited groups, as was that of Judaism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, etc.

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This kind of reasoning should hardly pass a theology. It offers no adequate explanation as to why such a death as Christ died on Calvary was necessary, or how his death can be of any particular benefit to us other than as a vague example of unselfish service. The Scriptures represent Christ as going to the cross purposefully and voluntarily. No mere man in his right mind would offer himself for crucifixion merely to make an impression on his fellow men. Such action would amount to suicide, and would produce revulsion and disgust, not admiration. Unless the suffering of Christ was designed to make atonement for sin, it can have no special value for us. Furthermore, the claims that he made concerning himself—in regard to his deity, and his coming again to be the judge of all mankind—cannot be fitted into the liberal view. We are forced to the conclusion that either he was God in human flesh, or he was not good; either he is our Lord and Master to be worshipped, or he was an imposter. Liberalism has never been able to solve these problems. They are not solved in this book.


Hebrew Literature

The Wisdom of the Torah, by Dagobert D. Runes (editor). Philosophical, New York.

This book deals with the Hebrew Bible in toto and not with the commonly accepted idea of the first five books as the Torah.

One or two short paragraphs are devoted to the background of the men whose writings the author has used.

The book is arranged around the themes of ballad, poem, parable, elegy, vision, lament, ethic, and aphorism.

The value of this book is in its anthological nature. Dr. Runes has drawn together into one volume the choicest types of Hebrew literature. An evening spent reading this book will help one to define in one’s own thinking the various types of Hebrew wisdom evident in the Torah.


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