Powerful Book

The Preacher’s Task and the Stone of Stumbling, by D. T. Niles, Harper, 1957. 125 pp., $2.00.

In this review I am doing what I have never before brought myself to do, viz., recommending a book for its vital message that contains theology with which I cannot possibly agree. The author is a thoroughgoing Universalist. He denies a historical Fall of any kind. He affirms that the Cross did not enable God to forgive sins, it was only the place where Christ “exposed” sin. But he has written the most powerful book on Gospel preaching, against a missionary background, that I have ever read. His heresies seldom appear and in almost every instance could have been left out without affecting either the theme or the continuity of the book. And I found myself saying, as I read it, O that someone could edit no more than three or four pages of lines throughout!

These are the Lyman Beecher lectures for 1956–57. They take as their text the scriptural references to the “stone of stumbling” and the “rock of offense.” Examining primarily the missionary task of the Church (and the author is a great-grandson of the first Tamil convert in Ceylon), these lectures deal with the objections of a Hindu, a Moslem and a Buddhist to the Gospel.

Jesus Christ, of course, is the stone of stumbling in every case, and men stumble because they must take him as he is and not as they would like to receive him. But men stumble over him for different reasons. The Hindu would like to fit Christ into his own culture. But Christ cannot be made ours, we must become his. The Muslim would accept Jesus as a prophet, not as incarnate God. But the nature of sin demands the Incarnation, though the Muslim (including many of us) would make sin something that man can ...

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