Shortage Of Man Power

Vocation and Ministry, by F. R. Barry (Nisbet, London, 1958, 184 pp., 12s6d), is reviewed by Talbot G. Mohan, Secretary of Church Pastoral Aid Society, London.

The established Church in England is facing a grave crisis through the steady decline in the numbers of its ministry. The author describes the ministry as “just dying on its feet” and gives some impressive statistics to prove his statement.

During the last half century the number of clergymen on the active list has dropped from 19,000 to 15,500, while the population has increased by several millions. In 1886 there were 814 ordinations; in 1956 the number was 496, and that was the highest for 15 years. Of this number 25 per cent were over 40 years of age. The average age of the clergy today is not less than 52. To maintain our present inadequate ministry requires 600 ordinations every year. In 1957 there were 478. This phenomenon is, of course, not confined to the Church of England. The free churches, the missionary societies, and the interdenominational missions are all facing the same problem.

The author is an English diocesan bishop with unique qualifications for writing on this subject; for throughout a long and distinguished ministry he has been closely concerned with the training of candidates. He reveals a transparent sincerity and earnestness. He is no sacerdotalist with a tractarian theory of apostolic succession. He longs to ‘declericalize’ the church. The laity must have their scriptural place—indeed the laity are the church and he praises the English Reformers for restoring this conception.

This book is full of wisdom, and, like everything that Bishop Barry writes, arresting, challenging, and of absorbing interest. It would seem unkind to criticize this valuable contribution to the consideration of a problem of such universal importance. But one wonders if the fundamental cause is understood, and if he concentrates on symptoms rather than on the root cause. The writer acknowledges that the majority of the population are being conditioned in an atmosphere which is less than pagan. But has the author taken into account the fact that the church itself has not escaped infection, and that its spiritual quality has been seriously debased by the substitution of conventional Christianity for an individual committal to the claim of Jesus Christ? Spiritual destitution could be the real cause of the lack of man power.

“The church in the Victorian age,” says Bishop Barry, “was rich in man power beyond dreams of avarice.” This was true because the nation could then be described as one of the most religious the world has ever seen. We were a people of one Book—the Bible which was accepted as the Word of God and was expounded in the churches Sunday by Sunday. Within living memory it could be said that in many factories and workshops the main topic of conversation on Monday was the Sunday sermon. Here surely is the answer to the problem of vocations for ministry; not how we can persuade men to offer themselves, but how we may create the conditions in which they will offer themselves without much persuading. We are told that it takes 20 parishes to produce one ordinand. But there are many parishes where an evangelical ministry (which would be frowned upon as ‘fundamentalist’) is producing a steady stream of ordinands. A diocesan Bishop said recently, “Just when we need more and more women workers, the number offering is getting less and less,” but the Evangelical College of St. Michael’s at Oxford is increasing its numbers year by year. It has already added to its accommodation and is seeking further expansion.

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The author’s brilliant intellect makes it hard for him to accept the doctrine of assurance. He described it to the present reviewer as “wanting something to take home in a bag.” His conception of ‘salvation’ is that of man in the mass. “Anaemic idealism has no place in the theology of the incarnation. Drains and public health matter greatly in man’s pilgrimage to the Ideal City.” The redemption of the social order is surely an ideal which can only be reached through the redemption of individuals. Drains are important, but if the church is busying herself with drains and neglecting the eternal welfare of the souls for whom Christ died, it is failing miserably. The first task of the church is to persuade men to be reconciled to God.

The idea that contemporary society is different from any which has gone before can blind us to the fact that the human heart is the same in every age. Only the background is changed, but we must not be too obsessed with the background. Men and women in every age look for something authoritative and assured. A religion which is not sure of itself makes no appeal. When the author writes of the “myth of Christ’s ascension” it is abundantly clear that he is not denying its reality but describing the fact that it is beyond our conception. But the ‘man in the street’ associates ‘myth’ with something unreal and untrue, a fairy tale. Is it not just here that we must begin to examine the problem of the shortage of man power? Our English Reformers recovered the authority of Holy Scripture in the Church of England: we are steadily drifting back towards the pre-Reformation position. A church without an authoritative word will confirm the ‘outsider’ in his view that religion is all right for those who like that sort of thing. It will leave the churchgoer without any compelling motive to offer himself for a ministry which provides him with a brief cheery word about nothing in particular each Sunday.

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The Bishop has some trenchant things to say about the use (or misuse) of the Church’s manpower and in a valuable chapter sets forth his plea for a ‘supplementary ministry,’ for example, the full ordination of men who would continue in their present occupation and be available to give help to the churches where it is most needed.


Diagnosing The Church

The New Church in the New Age, by C. O. Rhodes (Herbert Jenkins, London, 1958, 256 pp., 21/-), is reviewed by S. W. Murray of Belfast, Ireland.

This survey of the Church in action is a diagnosis of the present predicament of religion as it affects the Church of England primarily. Written by one who combines the editorship of the Church of England Newspaper and the secretaryship of the Modern Churchmen’s Union, the volume shows how the influence of the Christian religion has declined to an alarming extent over the past half-century.

It is perhaps in diagnosis that Mr. Rhodes is best. Comparing the comparatively poor church attendance figures for England generally, he points out that there is a large listening population for religious programs. On the other hand, he confesses that in his lifetime he had only come across one person who attributed to broadcasting a decisive influence in the spiritual life.

Mr. Rhodes has some pertinent things to say about the Church of England—its organization, the theological college (he pays tribute to the evangelical colleges for their training and intellectual vigor), the Anglican communities, the power of the bishops, and marriage and divorce.

He has strong criticisms to make of the Billy Graham campaigns in London which he describes as a “spectacular failure.” He seems to have devoted his inquiries to the industrial masses primarily and quotes a newspaper survey taken some months after which revealed that the campaigns “were as good as forgotten and the permanent results statistically negligible.” He does not seem to have heard of churches which were revived and have been exercising a vital ministry since, or of the increasing evangelical influence in the universities and colleges. It is doubtful if Billy Graham claimed, as he asserts, either the Harringay or Wembley campaigns to be “the start of a great religious movement that would change the face of the country.” Redemption in the view of the author will be wrought through a “prophetic community.” The Church, he believes, “must be the home of advanced ideas.” Whether such a church will bear any relationship to the Church of the Apostles or of the Protestant Reformation is doubtful.

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What, Then, Is Man?, a Symposium of Theology, Psychology, and Psychiatry (Concordia Publishing House, 1958, 303 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Theodore J. Jansma, Chaplain, Christian Sanatorium, Wyckoff, New Jersey.

This is the third in a series of “Graduate Studies” sponsored by the School for Graduate Studies, Concordia Theological Seminary (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod). It is the product of five authors, with a common religio-philosophical basis, who worked together as a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Paul Meehl, head of the department of psychology at the University of Minnesota. This gives the book considerable cohesion in distinction from the loose collection and often opposing views one finds in symposia. It also differs from the general run of current books on religion and psychiatry in that it is frankly confessional (Lutheran) and specific in its theological orientation. It abounds in quotations from the Bible and doctrinal standards. At the same time it is sophisticated in modern psychology and psychiatry.

The committee set itself a fonnidable task—“to explain Christian doctrine to non-Christian psychotherapists; to explain psychology and psychiatry to pastors; to examine critically some of the relationships existing between these two systems of concepts” (p. 295). In the opinion of this reviewer they have succeeded remarkably well. They cannot be charged with obscurantism or one-sidedness which often mars the attempts at rapprochement between theology and psychiatry, and yet they have held firmly to the biblical view of man and the basic truth about man’s troubles—his alienation from God. In an area, so alive today, where evangelicals have been either indifferent, incompetent, or even hostile, this book is a valuable contribution.


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Critical Reconstructions

The Date of Ezra’s Coming to Jerusalem and The Building of the Second Temple, both by J. Stafford Wright (The Tyndale Press, London, 1958, 1s.6d), is reviewed by L. E. H. Stephens-Hodge of the London College of Divinity, North-wood, Middlesex.

Since it became fashionable to decry traditional views of the Old Testament, critical reconstructions of the history have acquired an aura of sanctity which makes them tend to resist further investigation.

Believing this to have happened in the case of the chronological sequence of Ezra and Nehemiah, Mr. Stafford Wright, principal of Tyndale Hall, Bristol, took as his thesis for the 1947 Tyndale Old Testament Lecture “The Date of Ezra’s Coming to Jerusalem.” First published in 1947, this has now been reprinted in a revised form which takes into account the comments of reviewers and others who have made reference to it, notably Professor H. H. Rowley. Mr. Wright ably maintains his position and shows that the traditional view, which makes Ezra and Nehemiah arrive at Jerusalem in the seventh and twentieth years respectively of the reign of Artaxerxes I King of Persia (464–424) agrees better with the known data than the view of C. C. Torrey that Ezra was a “creation” of the Chronicler who wanted a priestly figure to offset the civil leader Nehemiah, or the view of L. W. Batten in the International Critical Commentary by which it is stated that the Persian king in whose reign Ezra arrived was Artaxerxes II (403–359) and that therefore the two men were not contemporaneous. But the prominent position of two such men as Ezra and Nehemiah in a small, close-knit community like that of post-exilic Judaism militates against any theory of their being wrongly dated by the Chronicler 150 years later, even if our records do“show so little trace of any real contact between the two men” as demanded by the traditional theory.

Another problem raised during the period after the Exile is that of the date of the building of the Second Temple. According to Ezra 3:8 ff., the foundation stone was laid very soon after the return in 536 B.C. under Zerubbabel and Joshua. Was Zerubbabel actually in Jerusalem 16 years before? And if so, how are we to account for the mention of Sheshbazzar as the leader of the returned exiles in Ezra 1:8? Were Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar the same person? When did the rebuilding really begin? These and kindred questions formed the subject for a further lecture by Mr. Wright under the Tyndale Foundation given at Cambridge in 1952 and now published under the title “The Building of the Second Temple.”

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Both these pamphlets should be carefully studied by those who are troubled by critical reconstructions which appear to do violence to the text of Scripture, and who wish to have a clear statement of conservative lines of defense presented in a reasonable and scholarly manner.


Religious Psychotherapy

The Psychology of Religion, by Walter H. Clark (Macmillan, 1958, 485 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Orville S. Walters, Psychiatrist, Urbana, Illinois.

There is a basic contradiction implied if not expressed in this title—a title that has been used several times in older books. How can a discipline that claims to operate within the canons of scientific method explain an aspect of reality that is supra-empirical?

The author has the important qualification of a thorough acquaintance with both sides of the dilemma. He is dean of the Hartford School of Religious Education and, although he writes as a psychologist, the ambivalence of his position is continually apparent. Concessions to the validity of Christian experience alternate with frequent reassertions of objectivity.

Clark draws heavily upon recent literature, including studies of his own, to extend the observations and opinions of older writers in the field. Conversion, mysticism, prayer, and worship are considered in separate chapters following a broad survey of psychological methods and the successive phases of religious growth.

In his treatment of conversion, Clark continues William James ‘sick soul,” a term that has laid a heavy taint of psychopathology upon much religious experience. In a chapter on “Religion and Abnormal Psychology,” Clark has made this association more explicit by elaborating Anton Boisen’s thesis of linking schizophrenia and religion. The inner activity of schizophrenia, says Clark, is essentially religious (p. 348), and the disease may actually favor the facing and thinking through of issues (p. 344). There is little clinical evidence for this view.

The author’s alternation between religionist and psychologist leads him into some surprising positions. His effort to identify religious experience with psychotherapy produces such statements as these: “Prayer has served to some degree as an inexpensive substitute for the psychiatrist’s couch” (p. 324); “One or two of the (conversion) case studies … will illustrate religious experience serving also as psychotherapy” (p. 366). One might as soon say something like this: “If you can’t afford psychiatry, don’t overlook religion as a low cost second choice.”

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Surprising, too, is his acceptance of the Freudian concept of the death instinct. It is probably no less controversial when it is renamed the “death urge.”

Clark occasionally lapses from his scientific neutrality in displaying impatience with revivalism. His adjectives and metaphors seem to carry more animus than the statistics and his own more restrained conclusions seem to warrant (pp. 204, 213, 217). His term “conversion shock” is another tautological coin of little value. Nevertheless, Clark does make a fairly impartial appraisal of conversion, and it is apparent throughout the book that he is trying to put into practice the obligation he lays upon the student of religious experience—that is, to “be as scientific as he can.”


Catechetical Lectures

Is It True?, by Martin E. Hollensen (Wartburg Press, 1958, 197 pp., $2.75), is reviewed by E. P. Schulze, Minister of the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Peekskill, New York.

The contents of this solid, useful, and sprightly volume consist of a series of catechetical lectures delivered by a talented and experienced pastor to prospective members of Emanuel Lutheran Church, Marion, Ohio.

The lectures cover the five chief parts of Dr. Martin Luther’s original Catechism, namely, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, and Holy Communion. Pages at the end deal with liturgical matters.

Is It True? is, of course, written from a Lutheran point of view, and Lutheran pastors might well adapt some of its materials, methods, and illustrations to their own adult classes. But, perceiving its logical and lucid argumentation, one suspects that almost any evangelical pastor could cull pointers from it for his own instruction periods. Then, too, its lively and brilliant style makes for exceedingly pleasurable reading. Because of its elementary exposition of doctrine, its stress upon real life situations, and its popular idiom, the book should also appeal to the layman who wishes to find out what Christianity is and how it works, or even to know more about the basic teachings of Lutheranism.

Perhaps notice should be taken of a few flaws. On page 167 Hollensen cites the use of the Greek verb baptizo “in Mark 7:3” as an argument against immersion. But the word used in that verse is nipto. Apparently he means Mark 7:4, where some manuscripts do have baptizo; but others in that place have rhantizo which is the reading preferred by Nestle in his editio vicesima. The noun baptismos, to which he also alludes in this verse, and baptizo in other passages better serve the cause of those who hold immersion to be unnecessary.

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Expository Helps

The Great Texts of the Bible, (Matthew, Volume 8) by James Hastings (Eerdmans, 451 pp., $4), is reviewed by the Rev. Cecil V. Crabb of the Rock Island Presbyterian Church, Tennessee.

Many preachers and students of the Bible are turning today to the older commentaries and expositors. To meet the demand this publisher has brought out a new edition of an older work called The Great Texts of the Bible. In this particular volume on the Gospel of Matthew, the author selects 27 outstanding texts from 18 different chapters which are largely representative of the thoughts in each chapter. In every study he gives a good discussion of the introduction and context, a sound exposition of the given verse, and then presents copious homiletical and illustrative material of a highly cultural literary order gleaned from many sources.

A work like this, if used properly, should be of great value to the average minister and Bible student. It should not be used, however, as a mere crutch but as an example and challenge to the reader in selecting great texts and themes, exercising sound exegesis, and adorning one’s messages with fitting illustrative material of high literary and biblical caliber. It is well to keep in mind that in any such selection of great texts, the personal element inevitably plays a large part. A work like this should inspire the minister to select other outstanding texts from other chapters and verses in Matthew that are in line with his own theological, homiletical and other religious needs.


Know Thyself

A Genuinely Human Existence, by Stephen Neill (Doubleday, 1959, 312 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by James D. Robertson, Professor of Preaching, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.

Here is a provocative study of man’s search for self-understanding, a study rich in insights from history, philosophy, and the modern psychological sciences. The author sets forth the complex emotional dynamics underlying human behavior, the frustrations and perversions that prevent man from living a “genuinely human existence.” Supporting his analysis with case histories from life and literature, he leads us to a sympathetic understanding of the human predicament. In so doing, he discusses the contributions resulting from the newer scientific approaches to the problem, yet at the same time reminds himself of the limitations of the scientific method in coming to assess human personality.

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The thesis of the book asserts that Christ is the greatest revelation of man to himself. Jesus is the key to the understanding of human nature and destiny. “In him for the first time the full stature and reality of human nature was made manifest, and therefore he can serve as a criterion for the measurement of the normal and the abnormal, the sound and the unsound in human nature as we see it and as we experience it in ourselves” (p. 305).

But man in the process of thus measuring himself is never free from tension. Is not tension, counters the author, after all an inevitable part of adult life? When a living thing fails to react with its environment all tension is removed and life is no longer there. The significant thing is, the Gospels never fail to speak at these points of tension, whatever they may be. “The life and words of Jesus prove themselves effective as pointers to the accurate diagnosis of the ills from which man suffers. They serve also as indications of the way in which fulness of life may be recovered” (p. 306). The author makes a convincing case for the Gospels as the only fully satisfactory manual of mental health ever written.

On two pertinent questions Dr. Neill has little, if anything, to say; yet they are much in the reader’s mind. The book gives an excellent diagnosis of man’s struggle to know himself, it presents Christ as the key to a genuinely human existence; but it does not cast in bold relief the very natural question, What has God been actively doing about all this? It merely cites the fact that the life and death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are not just events among other events—but the Event, “the central happening of human history.” The other question is this: If a man concludes that Jesus was in fact the act of God in history, that he came from God, how should this knowledge affect his understanding of himself and of life as he experiences it? The author, who himself raises these questions in his concluding chapter, feels that they are of such magnitude that they must form the theme of further writing. One hopes for the appearance before long of another volume from his pen.


Power Of The Gospel

Adventurers for God, by Clarence W. Hall (Harper, 1959, 265 pp., $3.75), is reviewed by Horace L. Fenton, Jr., Associate General Director, Latin America Mission.

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There is no overabundance in our day of good missionary stories, well told. And oftentimes those that are written have a very limited circulation. It is good, therefore, to know that stories like those which comprise this book have first had wide dissemination through the pages of the Reader’s “Digest, and then have been given expanded treatment and a more permanent form in the book under review.

It is author Clarence W. Hall’s conviction that the popular conception of the missionary has changed greatly in recent years, and that the work of missions is more fully appreciated today than it was in former years. In this connection, he quotes a statement by Franklin D. Roosevelt, written shortly before his death: “Since becoming President, I have come to know that the finest type of Americans we have abroad are the missionaries of the Cross. I am humiliated that I am just finding out at this late date the work of foreign missions and the nobility of the missionary” (pp. 16, 17).

The author of this book has traveled to far places to track down these stories, and they speak the truth. The evangelical motivation is more evident in some than in others, and now and again readers may wonder at the inclusion of a particular story. But the overall impact of the book is great, and the reader continually has a feeling that he has been given a fresh understanding of the power of the Gospel, and of the great variety of ways in which it is being made known. There is human courage and endurance on display here, but above all, one sees the power and the grace of God. The book seems to reach a fitting climax in the story of the Aucas, and of the five missionaries who gladly yielded up their lives to make Christ known among them.

Well written, attractively illustrated by a great number of photographs, the book carries a real message. It may well be read by many who, like our ex-President, will confess that they have waited long before recognizing what is being done throughout the world by men and women worthily called “adventurers for God.”


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