Maurice Restated

Reconciliation in Christ, by G. W. H. Lampe. Longmans, London, 120 pp. 6s.6d.

This book by the Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology in Birmingham University contains an expanded version of the Maurice Lectures delivered in London in 1955. It is a study in the Bible doctrine of salvation, and is a much more learned and important volume than its small size, paper cover and almost entire freedom from footnotes might suggest. Prof. Lampe’s earlier book, The Seal of the Spirit, made him known as an erudite and vigorous champion of Protestant and biblical sacramental teaching; the present volume sets before us the broader basis on which he conceives that teaching to rest.

His main thesis is that what fixes the perspective and determines the interpretation of New Testament soteriology is the thought of personal union with Christ by faith. It is an error„ he says, “to try to interpret St. Paul’s teaching on the atonement in isolation from the real central point of his thought, namely, the idea expressed in that phrase ‘in Christ’ which is the true heart of his religion … Man is reconciled in Christ. This is the heart and essence of the Pauline gospel. It is also central in the Johannine teaching … It is in Christ that the sinner is justified … he is given the status of a son because he is in Christ, standing within the scope of the reconciliation that Christ effected” (pp. 61 ff). The author reviews the doctrines of sanctification, the Church and the sacraments in the light of this principle. Sanctification, he insists, is “a life of continual dying and rising in Christ” (p. 65), a process energized by the Holy Spirit as man exercises faith Christ-ward. The “virtues” of Christian character must therefore be conceived as “modes of the operation of the Holy Spirit, working in and through (the believer) because by grace he is in Christ” (p. 66). They are God-given, not man-made, and only exist where faith is active in humble dependence on God. Christian behavior is “the expression of the personal relationship of Christ, and so of the believer who is ‘in Christ,’ to his fellow men” (p. 67). The sanctifying process must be viewed eschatologically; throughout this age it remains incomplete, and Romans 7 depicts the present condition of the Christian man as the law of sin in his members wars against the law of God in his mind.

The state of the Church in the world is precisely analogous. Its “virtues,” its holiness and unity, are gifts of Christ by the Spirit, and it is not in man’s power to achieve them by his own unaided efforts; they are, indeed, eschatological qualities, which means that “neither (the Church’s) holiness nor its unity can ever be fully and completely realized in the present order” (p. 71). Prof. Lampe briefly suggests the bearing of this important truth upon current thought about reunion. Then he issues a protest against mediaevalizing views of sacramental grace as “an impersonal force, like a charge of electricity” or “a dose or injection of medicinal tonic,” and pleads for a return to the Reformed and confessional Anglican conception of the sacraments as “effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will” to believers, whereby Christ is exhibited for the evocation and confirmation of faith. The author’s scriptural demonstration of these contentions is brief but wholly admirable.

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The polemical slant, however, which Prof. Lampe seeks to give to his exposition of saving union with Christ, is less happy. He wants to detach it altogether from the historic Protestant view that Christ’s saving work in us is founded upon his saving work for us, in making satisfaction to his Father for our sins, and that the ground of our justification is the imputation of Christ’s merits to us. What Prof. Lampe is trying to do is to rehabilitate the atonement theory of F. D. Maurice. This theory consisted of a catena of what we judge to be false antitheses, thus: God is the author of propitiation, therefore he is not the object of it; Christ died to save us from sin, not from the punishment of sin; Christ is man’s representative, but not his substitute; his obedience unto death was vicarious, but not penal; and we are saved, not by his satisfying God’s holy law for us, but by his reproducing his own holy life in us; Christ saves us, not by dealing with God on our behalf, but by dealing with us on God’s behalf. Prof. Lampe more or less explicitly echoes all these antitheses. He speaks as if such categories as debt, penalty and imputation were somehow inconsistent with all that he has said about faith-union with Christ, and seems to think that jettisoning the one will help to conserve the other. This too, however, is surely a false antithesis. The real reason why Prof. Lampe is unhappy with ideas of satisfaction and merit becomes plain when he tells us that he does not believe in the necessity of satisfaction for sin. “God’s forgiveness is really free; it does not have, as it were, to be compensated for by the satisfaction of his holiness through the merits either of men in general … or of Christ as man. In Christ, God brought man out of his sin into the scope of the divine forgiveness; he did not have to make it possible for himself to forgive” (p. 110 f). This, of course, is Maurice over again.

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Does the Bible warrant such statements? We are sure that it does not. The Bible represents sin as guilt, and God as Judge; it interprets man’s slavery to sin, and death in sin, as penal, the first fruits of “the wrath”; and it undoubtedly represents the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as the objective ground for the removal of the subjective penal consequences that Adam’s sin has brought upon his posterity. The crucial passages here are Romans 1:18, 3:20 and 5:12–21. But Prof. Lampe devotes no attention to either; and there is no treatment of the guilt of sin anywhere in his book.

We welcome, then, Prof. Lampe’s positive emphases; but we think that a closer study of the biblical evidence will reveal that the “not-but” of himself and Maurice should be replaced by the “both-and” of the historic Reformed faith. The biblical doctrine of the covenant union of the redeemed with Christ is broader than Prof. Lampe here recognizes; Christ saves his people from the guilt of sin no less than from the power of sin, and there is no inconsistency between these two aspects of his gracious mediatorial work.


Bultmann’S Myths

Scripture and Myth: An Examination of Rudolf Bultmann’s Plea for Demythologization, by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Tyndale Press, London. 30 pp., 1s.6d.

One of the more curious phenomena of British theological scholarship is the almost obsequious respect it tends to pay to critical theories which emanate from Germany, however destructive of the Christian religion or intellectually unsatisfactory they may prove to be. Rudolf Bultmann’s book, Die Geschichte synoptischen Tradition, published in 1921, was described by Vincent Taylor in 1933 as “one of the most important contributions to Gospel criticism of our time,” though he admitted that it was “radical to the point of scepticism.” Many of us were under the impression that Bultmann’s combination of an extreme form-critical analysis of the Gospels with an existential philosophy, which found expression in his book Jesus published in 1925, had proved unacceptable to the majority of British scholars by the time the second world war began. It has become evident however during the postwar years that some British scholars are most anxious by radio talks and English translations of Bultmann’s works to give wide publicity to his views.

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In view therefore of the revival of “Bultmannism,” Dr. Philip Hughes has rendered a most valuable service in this Tyndale Biblical Theology Lecture in submitting Bultmann’s plea for the demythologization of the New Testament to a critical philosophical examination. In thirty lucid pages Dr. Hughes shows that a careful scrutiny of Bultmann’s postwar books—particularly those known in English as Kerygma and Myth and The Theology of the New Testament—makes it abundantly evident that so much is thrown away in Bultmann’s demythologization that Jesus is reduced to a figure so puny that he has no claims to the attention, let alone the allegiance, of mankind. And yet by the aid of existentialism Bultmann brazenly asserts that this Jesus, who is not the incarnate Son of God, who is unknown and unknowable from the only records that we have about him, who is neither risen nor ascended, nevertheless becomes through preaching a living, challenging reality to the individual, confronting him with the opportunity and the necessity for making a decision of ultimate significance. No explanation is given why this man Jesus, any more than any other mere man, should have this power—for the very good reason that no explanation is possible.

As Dr. Hughes convincingly shows, a theology which can truly be described as “a faith without hope,” which “robs the Christ-event of its crucial uniqueness,” which is preoccupied with the present at the expense of the past and the future, which bows uncritically to the authority of “modern science” and to a large degree a demoded modern science which views the whole natural order as a closed system, does not deserve the name “Christian” in any recognizable meaning of that word, and in the last analysis is antitheistic. “Nowhere,” Dr. Hughes penetratingly observes towards the end of his lecture, “does Bultmann seek to call into question the being of God; but this, so far from being a merit, is in fact the crucial inconsistency in his system. For throughout, by setting up the knowledge of ‘modern man’ and ‘modern science’ as determinative of what is and what is not possible in our world, he proclaims that the knowledge of man is authoritative and thereby pronounces against the knowledge and authority of God. That means that in effect, though not in intention, he pronounces against the being of God. It is hardly surprising that in his writings God has the appearance of being an unexplained ‘foreign body.’ Can he not see that the logic of his position cries out for him to take the one last step of declaring ‘God’ to be the ultimate myth that has to be eliminated?” Not the least interesting part of Dr. Hughes’ lecture is his demonstration with special reference to Genesis 3 of the truth that, “the God of the Scriptures is the ground not only of all being but also of all knowledge.”

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In thinking of Bultmann we ought to remember what is not mentioned in this lecture, that his theology is to no small degree conditioned by the political tensions in Germany in the prewar years. As Ulrich Simon observes in the Church Quarterly Review for March 1957: “Can any reader take Bultmann’s ‘Jesus’ really seriously without hearing, so to speak, the threatening Horst Wessel Lied in the background? The historical Son of God, born of a Jewish lady, Saviour of the whole world, had become totally inacceptable at the time … I remember only too well the swastika imposed on the Cross, in slogans, on posters, even in school classrooms while religious instruction was being given. I am not charging Bultmann with such excesses, but I do not believe that his work should be read apart from a realization that these and later events were happening at the same time.”


Proven Worth

Commentary on the Gospel of John, 2 vols., by Frederick Louis Godet Zondervan, Grand Rapids. $11.95.

This commentary is one of the nineteenth-century reprints in Zondervan’s current series, The Classic Commentary Library. The book’s jacket quotes an opinion that Godet on John is “… from a theological standpoint and for going to the uttermost depths of the profound teachings recorded in the Fourth Gospel … the supreme work [containing] some of the finest pages of Christology to be found anywhere.” It is likely that few authorities would agree with this statement. M. C. Tenney, for instance, says of Westcott’s commentary that it is “probably the greatest single commentary on John ever published” (John: The Gospel of Belief, p. 318). But if Godet on John is not without peer, he is certainly one of the best commentators, particularly in his exposition of the devotional riches of this Gospel.

Godet’s theological and critical conservatism is well known. John, the son of Zebadee and our Lord’s disciple, is the author of the Gospel (I, p. 203). For a further example, John 3:16–21 is not the comment of John but is based on what Jesus himself said (I, p. 395).

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But some of Godet’s positions reflect a freer air often breathed by nineteenth-century evangelicals but not shared by some of their would-be twentieth century heirs. While Thiessen (Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 139) and Berkhof (Systematic Theology, p. 94) contend for the omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence of the incarnate Son of God, Godet flatly denies that Jesus possessed these attributes (I, pp. 270, 292–294). Nor does he falter in such a matter as the rejection of the Johannine authorship of John 7:53–8:11 (I, p. 71, and II, pp. 83–89; cf. the indecision of Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 176).

On the relation of the Fourth Gospel to the Synoptics, Godet’s nineteenth-century position is out of touch with the contemporary viewpoint. In his hands John becomes the primary historical document among the four gospels. He refers to John as correcting “an inaccuracy of detail” in the Synoptics (I, p. 79; with Godet this is compatible with inspiration). In explaining why John places the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and not at its close as in the Synoptics, he declares that John knew that the event had “a much more serious part [in Jesus’ ministry] than that which was attributed to it in the synoptical narrative” (I, p. 83).

An interesting contrast with current ideas is also evident in Godet’s claim that the prophecies of the Suffering Servant and of the Messiah were clearly united in messianic interpretation prior to the time of Jesus (I, pp. 311–312, f.n. 1; ct. H. H. Rowley, The Unity of the Bible, pp. 133–134).

But these are matters largely confined to Godet’s introductory section. So far as the commentary itself is concerned, it has continued to prove its worth. In addition to its devotional richness, its great strength is its positive evangelicalism. Godet faithfully portrays from beginning to end the eternal life which is the possession of all who believe in Jesus Christ.


Study In Apologetics

Christian Commitment: An Apologetic, by Edward John Carnell, Macmillan. $5.00.

This book on Christian apologetics by the president of Fuller Theological Seminary is divided into two unequal parts. The last third or fourth of the volume is a statement of the Christian position; the much longer first part consists of arguments by which the author recommends to his readers the theology of the conclusion.

The theology begins with a fine statement of the need of propitiating an offended God. If you and I require propitiation after someone despises the dignity of our person, God does so all the more. Christ is the propitiation—Christ’s death in the stead of sinners. “Only Jesus Christ can lead a sinner from moral ruin to judicial restoration … We can determine our place in God by simply naming our federal head.”

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This biblical emphasis on propitiation and federal headship is a needed one today when so many have weak notions of God’s righteousness and sovereignty. Unfortunately some later phrases are confusing. “Let no one caricature this by saying that only those who contemplate the atonement can be saved. Abraham did not know the cross, yet he was justified. The Scriptures say that all who believe in God will be saved … Men prove their respect for God by repenting” (p. 296).

Does this mean that faith in Christ is not absolutely necessary to salvation? Will faith in God suffice? And would a Mohammedan’s faith in God suffice, as least if he repents? The precise meaning of the paragraph is not clear, yet evidently the words bear a sense that can be taken as disparagement of foreign missions, for the author tries immediately to justify missions on the ground that generic repentance is perilous and uncertain. “The Apostle Paul [limited] repentance almost (!) exclusively to the active preaching of the gospel. Not that men cannot repent without being confronted with Christ after the flesh, but that they do not repent without such confrontation” (p. 297).

However, since the book is a book on apologetics, the main interest lies in the arguments by which the author attempts to recommend his theology to his readers.

As may be expected a large part of the earlier chapters deals with epistemology. “Ultimate reality cannot be grasped unless rational knowledge is savored by spiritual conviction” (p. 13). President Carnell does not deny the need of rational knowledge, but he denies its sufficiency. But what “savoring” ultimate reality is, and how “spiritual conviction” is distinguished from rational knowledge are not explained.

The author begins by placing some emphasis on knowledge by acquaintance. He contrasts it with knowledge by inference (p. 17) and seems to identify it with presentational immediacy. A number of contemporary philosophers make use of the notion of knowledge by acquaintance. It is usually immediate awareness of sense data completely apart from interpretation. It is not knowledge by description. As Bergson says, a quality “inscribes itself automatically in sensation.”

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Unhappily, after contrasting acquaintance with inference, the author confuses the reader by stating that all knowledge is inferential. Even “knowledge by acquaintance is the passage of the mind to a conclusion without the aid of a middle premise” (p. 17). This statement brings to mind chiefly what the logicians call immediate inference. For example: All triangles contain 180 degrees; therefore some triangles, equilateral triangles, contain 180 degrees. This inference has no middle term and no middle premise. But it is not the customary notion of knowledge by acquaintance.

It is in fact difficult to grasp the author’s concept of knowledge. He defines knowledge as “man’s systematic contact with the real.” He explicitly notes that this does not require consciousness. “I assert that man can be systematically in contact with the real without knowing it. But this want of awareness in no way alters the reality of the knowledge” (p. 29). This quotation contains a self-contradiction. If systematic contact with reality is knowledge, then a man cannot be in such contact with reality without knowing it, for the contact is the knowledge. Furthermore, if consciousness or awareness is not necessary to knowledge, then breathing and digestion are forms of knowledge because these are systematic contacts with reality. Here one must question whether such unconscious “knowledge” is a contribution to epistemology.

Another and more emphasized factor in Dr. Carnell’s epistemology is his theory of moral self-commitment. There are certain truths that become immediately clear as soon as we take ourselves seriously. If we stop making philosophy a mere academic game and examine our own sincere reactions to the concerns of life, we shall have insight. In one place the author states as a self-evident truth so obtained, “Whenever people receive us because of a respect for rational self-consistency, we are offended” (p. 67). This somewhat pontifical dictum is one which the reviewer is not so willing to accept. Really, I am not offended when people accept me because of rational self-consistency. I might even be flattered. But I am not flattered when it is said that my lack of insight into this truth is the result of my insincerity. In another place the author dismisses a conflicting opinion as “ossified” (p. 151).

In addition to these criticisms in detail something should be said about the general method. While the book cannot be accurately styled a form of the cosmological argument, yet it is an attempt to understand God by observations of man. “If the meaning of God’s character cannot be anticipated by information drawn from our own conception of decency … [and] unless we can meaningfully anticipate God’s standards of rectitude, it may turn out that the book, church, or priestly caste that is least moral on human standards is most moral on divine standards” (p. 142).

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This line of reasoning will commend itself to those who believe that the cosmological argument is valid. It also commends itself to those who like Kant believe that theology should be founded on ethics rather than ethics on theology. In fact, it is standard procedure of those who wish to oppose the theology Dr. Carnell stands for. Did not Mary Baker Eddy write that anyone who accepts the concept of a substitutionary sacrifice has failed to understand the character of God? Have not many others opposed historical Christian doctrines on the ground that they are immoral? And in view of the noetic distortions caused by sin, is it not likely that men should fail to anticipate God’s standards of rectitude? Would it not therefore be better to appeal to revelation rather than to anticipation? Must we not conclude that theology is basic to ethics and that ethics is derivative?


Fresh Viewpoints

Certainties for Today, by Lehman Strauss, Loizeaux, New York. $2.50.

This is an unusually provocative book of sermons with the ideas involved presented in clear, simple style. The reader feels at times, in fact, that he is being personally confronted with the words of a prophet. Orthodoxy here goes far beyond the mechanical use of proof texts, for fresh interpretations are coupled with the skilfull use of pointed illustrations which challenge the reader to search his own heart. The author also shows wide acquaintance with scriptural symbolism, which is so essential to correct interpretation of the Word of God. It is refreshing indeed to find the sublime truths of the Christian faith presented so interestingly and so remarkably free from the threadbare phraseology too often found fundamentalist writings.

Dr. Strauss’ frequent employment of alliterative headings is not artificial and helps the reader to remember the main points of each message. A carefully prepared index of texts has increased the value of the volume for reference purposes. A book of this quality deserves wide circulation and should be particularly well-adapted for use in discussion groups.


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