Yale’S Historic Role

Yale and the Ministry. A History of Education for the Christian Ministry at Yale from the Founding in 1701, by Roland H. Bainton. Harper and Brothers, New York, 1957, 297 pp., $5.00.

The title, Yale and the Ministry, does not do justice to the scope of this book. It is that—but it is much more. Virtually everything connected with Yale’s theological education, even before the school was formally organized in 1701, is here included. Attention is paid to libraries, curricula, costs, faculty and students. Nor are the theological emphases neglected. But, in addition to all that, which could properly be expected, it is a veritable history of New England theology and its effect on Yale as well as Yale’s on it. For example, Bainton acknowledges that Horace Bushnell, though a minister fifty miles away, influenced Yale students more, probably, than any of the faculty. Nor is the literary influence of Jonathan Edwards ever dropped from sight throughout this work.

Two things have come to be associated with Professor Bainton’s writings which are well illustrated in the present work. First, there is his anecdotal, interesting presentation of the subject matter without his becoming shallow or losing touch with great thought. Fluent and facile in his brief summarizations of the systems of various thinkers, he is sometimes inaccurate, but generally is amazingly deft. And, secondly, there are his delightful line drawings, which exceed thirty in Yale and the Ministry. Many of these have the slightest hint of caricature which gives an interpretive twist to them. An incidental feature of this volume is that the author is himself the Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale Divinity School as well as a graduate, and many of his observations are from the inside.

In general, Yale has suffered the vicissitudes of most theological institutions. It has had its ebbs and tides—at present it is at its all-time high, being obliged to limit itself to 400 students—and having one professor for every 13 of them, being well-integrated with the great university and attracting men and women from all branches of the church and nations of the world. Its graduates are shown to hold prominent ecclesiastical and educational posts. Bainton sees as the three constituent elements of the Yale tradition through the centuries: the Reformed emphasis on sin and grace; the Renaissance faith in free criticism; and the Pietistic strain of emotional warmth. He does not point out—perhaps he would not even admit—that since the latter half of the nineteenth century Yale has not been teaching the gospel with which it began; but the evidence for this is in these pages. Perhaps the best single summary of this book and the Yale it presents is this, in which the author contends that the school has been neither reactionary nor radical: “There is perhaps a historic vocation in the role of an institution sufficiently in advance of its constituency to exert a pull and not too far ahead to occasion a snap.”

Article continues below

There are several typographical errors such as “exhalt” for “exalt,” “impell” for “impel,” “arleady” for “already.” The second quotation mark is sometimes missing in citations and we noticed at least one period written for a comma. Sir John Davie is wrongly written “Davies” in the Notes, and the fiancee of David Brainerd was not “Jeshura” but “Jerusha.” William Ames’ latin original of the Marrow was written before 1648, and Jonathan Edwards did not spend two years in a pastorate between his graduate studies at Yale and his tutorship there. There is one important error of interpretation: the common notion among non-Calvinists that Calvinists in maintaining divine decrees teach that “man can in no way contribute.” Because of this, Professor Bainton is naturally perplexed about Calvinistic evangelism, although, fortunately, he does not deny the fact. Calvinists, believing that God decrees the means no less than the ends, are active evangelists not in spite of, but because of, their theology. Again, it makes interesting reading to draw a parallel between the arch-Calvinist, Edwards, and the arch-anti-Calvinist, Servetus, on the doctrine of the fusion of God and man, but a fairer depicting of Edwardean individualism would dispel the tale.


Authority Of Scripture

Inspiration and Interpretation, by John W. Walvoord, Ed., et al, Eerdmans, 1957. $4.50.

The paramount theological problem of our age is that of the full inspiration and complete authority of the Bible. The Church that relinquishes the historical concept of the truthworthiness of the Bible has nothing of supreme importance to offer hungry souls. It is because of this reason that this book under review is freighted with such tremendous significance. Our finest Protestant theologians have always recognized the central place of the Christian doctrine of inspiration in theological thought. They have been willing to expend their energies in the explication and defense of this doctrine.

Article continues below

This work is a contribution of ten contemporary theologians and produced under the auspices of the Evangelical Theological Society. Originally published for the benefit of the members of the society, it was deemed helpful to offer these papers in book form in the hope of casting new light on the basic problems of revelation and inspiration in relation to contemporary theology.

J. Barton Payne discusses the Biblical interpretation of Irenaeus. Dr. Payne shows that Irenaeus, successor of the apostles, equated the words of the Bible with the words of God and that this identification holds for the New Testament as well as the Old. Documentary evidence is presented to support this affirmation. The author’s deduction from the study of Irenaeus is that when Christ and his apostles committed themselves to a view of inspiration equal to that of the most strict rabbis or, as Irenaeus puts it, when Christ accepted the words of Scripture as his own, the question of any lower form of inspiration ceased to be one which could legitimately be entertained. Irenaeus’ view of the Scripture was that of a true supernaturalism.

The views of Augustine on inspiration are examined by David W. Kerr in Chapter 2. Here we see that with respect to inspiration of the Bible Augustine declared that the canonical Scriptures are “the revered pen of Thy Spirit.” Again Augustine wrote, “the Holy Spirit … with admirable wisdom and care for our welfare arranged the Holy Scriptures.” Augustine’s doctrine is that of verbal inspiration. This conclusion is beyond dispute.

The well-known Lutheran scholar, Dr. J. Theodore Mueller, discusses “Luther and the Bible.” For Luther, the fact of verbal inspiration was a source of triumphant rejoicing. Dr. Mueller gives a number of quotations from Luther showing his high doctrine of inspiration of Scripture. He also quotes Reinhold Seeburg who affirmed that “to Luther the words of Scripture are the real words of God for the Holy Spirit has comprehended his wisdom and mystery in the Word and revealed it in Scripture for which reason he (Luther) distinguishes the ‘manifest external Word.’ ” Summarizing his study of Luther’s writings, Seeburg wrote, “Scripture, therefore, is the very word of the Holy Spirit.” Thus we see in this study that according to Luther the Bible is the inspired divine truth just because in it the Holy Ghost speaks through prophets and apostles. In Luther’s own words he affirmed, “No other doctrine should be proclaimed in the Church than the pure Word of God, that is, the Holy Scriptures.” Again, with insight into the human heart, Luther wrote, “It is our unbelief and corrupt carnal mind which does not allow us to perceive and consider that God speaks to us in Scripture or that Scripture is the Word of God.”

Article continues below

“Calvin and the Holy Scriptures” is the subject of the paper prepared by Dr. Kenneth S. Kantzer. Here Calvin is pictured as supremely the “Doctor of Sacred Scripture.” Dr. Kantzer’s study of Calvin’s 59 volumes also puts the Genevan Reformer in line with other ecumenical theologians in holding to the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. Concerning the extent of inspiration, Calvin goes all the way and insists that it is the part of wisdom to embrace all of the Bible in gentle docility and without any exception because “the Scriptures are the school of the Holy Spirit in which nothing is omitted which it is necessary and useful to know and nothing is taught except what is of advantage to know.”

The chapter on John Wesley by George A. Turner shows that Wesley believed in the full inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. To Wesley, says the writer, the different books of the Bible were all equally inspired and hence, authoritative.

The mediating view of William Sandey is discussed by Dr. R. Laird Harris in Chapter 6. It is pointed out that Sandey did not believe in a verbally inspired text, though Sandey admitted that this view was held among the early fathers.

The views of H. H. Rowley and the “New Trend in Biblical Studies” are evaluated by Dr. Merrill F. Unger in Chapter 7. While expressing gratitude for the recent tendency toward more conservative views, especially toward the Old Testament, the writer feels that this change for the better has not gone far enough to satisfy evangelical Christians.

Dr. Paul King Jewett has a penetrating chapter on Emil Brunner’s doctrine of Scripture. This is followed by a chapter appraising of Reinhold Niebuhr’s view of Scripture, by Dr. Edward John Carnell.

Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, closes the symposium with a chapter on “Divine Revelation and the Bible.” Dr. Henry insists that the biggest obstacle to faith, as the evangelical view measures the modern scene, is the hardness of men’s hearts in relation to the Word of God revealed and written.

This reviewer considers the volume to be one of incomparable value for our day. It is of superlative worth, especially to young theological students who may be confused on this subject. Read carefully and thoughtfully, this volume can serve to clarify and strengthen the thinking of many on the ecumenical doctrine of Holy Scripture.

Article continues below


Central Point Lacking

No Cross, No Crown: A Study of the Atonement, by William J. Wolf, Doubleday, New York, 1957. 216 pp. $3.00.

Professor Wolf’s discussion of questions pertinent to the Atonement is well informed on the various currents of thought, both of the past and of the present, as these are concerned with this central tenet of the Christian faith. For that reason, if for no other, Wolf’s contribution offers both stimulus and challenge to more disciplined thinking on this all-important subject. For example, how much we need to insist, in Wolf’s words, that “unless we can know some definite things about the life and teaching of Jesus, the claim of the Church that he was the Incarnate Son of God and that he brought salvation by his Cross is bound to wither on the vine. For a generation or two it may have the beauty of cut flowers, but severed from its roots it must die” (p. 54). Or, again, we must appreciate Wolf’s emphasis upon the organic relation of the life of Christ to his death, and upon the death as the climactic expression of radical obedience (cf., p. 41). Throughout the volume there are therefore insights that are to be deeply appreciated and gratefully endorsed.

Wolf’s weaknesses are, however, no less conspicuous. These cannot be dealt with in detail. One sample, since it is distinctly prominent and pervasive, will have to suffice, and it lies at the center of the theme with which this book deals. It is that concerned with vicarious penalty-bearing. The viewpoint of Wolf is expressed in such terms as the following: “It is monstrous to picture the Father deliberately inflicting punishment on his beloved and obedient Son as a scapegoat” (p. 87); “From the biblical point of view it is monstrous to think of God as inflicting punishment on Christ because God was angry with him as a sort or substitution for being angry with sinners. How could God be angry with his only-begotten Son who alone among men is guiltless of wrongdoing?” (p. 111). And referring to the Old Testament ritual of sacrifice as that by which sin was covered he says: “This means that sacrifice was not propitiatory, but expiatory” (p. 122). Although Wolf has worthy observations to make respecting the reality and necessity of holy wrath and of its relations to love (cf., pp.194f.), yet his rejection of the propitiatory aspect of the Atonement reveals the failure which is so characteristic of much modern theology.

Article continues below

It is indeed true that much scholarship has been devoted in recent years to show that propitiation as applied to the Atonement is not a biblical concept. It must also be related that the meticulous work of men like Leon Morris and Roger Nicole has served to expose the fallacy of this contention. In any case the statements of Wolf evince a rather cavalier dismissal of the implications of what is focal in the biblical witness. It is not that we are ready to accept Wolf’s way of stating the doctrine he assails. But if we are to take seriously the fact of Christ’s vicarious sin-bearing and the witness of Scripture to the effect that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6), that God made him to be sin (2 Cor. 5:21) and that he became a curse (Gal. 3:13), then the notion of penalty inflicted is inescapable. Implicit in sin-bearing is the whole judgment of God upon sin. This is the only explanation of Gethsemane’s agony and the abandonment of Calvary. And if we change the perspective just a little, the judgment of God against sin is epitomized in his wrath. If Christ bore sin vicariously he must have borne that which sin inevitably evokes, the holy wrath of God. To the idea of such wrath-bearing the New Testament witness points (cf., Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). It is shallow thinking that finds incompatibility between Christ’s vicarious wrath-bearing and the fact that he was himself the sinless, well-beloved, and only-begotten Son of God. It was only because the Father loved the Son supremely and immutably as the only-begotten that the Son could be subject to the wrath of God and bear it vicariously on behalf of his own to the end of effective and complete propitiation. And nothing more truly certifies to us the security and invincibility of the Father’s love and grace (cf., Rom. 8:32; 1 John 4:10).


Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.