Toynbee Reconsiders—But Critics Remain

Reconsiderations, by Arnold Toynbee (Oxford, 1961, 740 pp., $10), is reviewed by C. Gregg Singer, Professor of History, Catawba College.

In this volume Dr. Toynbee is to be highly commended for the serious effort which he has made to meet the objections of his many critics. Few historians have so openly and so fully stated the criticism leveled against their positions as has Professor Toynbee. Of course, many of these criticisms were contradictory and it would have been impossible for him to meet them all.

Just how much, if at all, has Professor Toynbee changed the position which he enumerated in the earlier volumes? In the opinion of this reviewer his basic conception of history remains essentially as it was. This is not to say that it has not been modified, or that he has not made important concessions to some of his critics. This is far from the case and there is much evidence that Dr. Toynbee has taken the criticisms to heart.

If the essential structure of his philosophy of history remains unchanged, then in what areas has he made the concessions? It would seem that he has lessened his insistence on forcing all other civilizations into the Hellenic mold, and hence some deviations at this point would be allowed. He has also recast the structure of previous cultures and regrouped them (see pp. 546, 561).

Furthermore, Toynbee has definitely changed his view concerning the higher religions. In his earliest volumes he tried to account for higher religion in terms of civilizations, seeing such religions as a mechanism by which civilizations provided for their own reproduction. He now sees that this was in error and that no longer are the higher religions the “chrysalises” into which disintegrating civilizations enter in the last stage of their dissolution and from which a new civilization would subsequently emerge.

Of particular interest is Toynbee’s chapter on the history and prospect of the Jews. And it is here that many will continue to take issue with him, particularly his Jewish critics. His characterization of contemporary Judaism as a fossil type of culture does not in itself place Toynbee in the rank of anti-Semitism, but it is susceptible to great misunderstanding in the hands of those who do not understand his basic position. His refusal to see Judaism in perspective lies at the heart of his difficulty at this point.

Actually Toynbee’s weakness in regard to Judaism as a community and culture stems from an even greater weakness in his refusal to recognize that the Jews were God’s chosen people and that they hold a unique place in history. For Toynbee, they represent no more than an ancient culture which has had its day and which gave birth to two other religions, Islam and Christianity.

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In the opinion of this reviewer the fundamental weakness in Toynbee’s whole approach is theological. Not only does he take a radical attitude toward the Scriptures and refuse to recognize their inspiration or authority, but he also rejects supernaturalism in regard to Christianity. He even goes so far as to admit that he has a preference for Jewish beliefs as against those of Christianity and openly states his opposition to any claims of deity for Jesus Christ. There is no specific biblical point of view in Reconsiderations. There is no interpretation of human history from the point of view of the Word of God, and for the Christian this latest book by Dr. Toynbee must be a tremendous disappointment. Whether or not he sets forth a philosophy of history, he certainly does not set forth a theological (much less a Christian) conception of history.

Nevertheless this book is rewarding for the Christian scholar, minister, or layman who would understand how modern man would interpret his own past without the aid of the Word of God. We may not agree with Dr. Toynbee, but we must be fully informed of what he is thinking for his position has many adherents.


To Chart A Course

Bible Guides, edited by William Barclay and F. F. Bruce: No. 1, William Barclay, The Making of the Bible; No. 7, George Knight, The Prophets of Israel (1) Isaiah; No. 11, John Paterson, The Wisdom of Israel; No. 13, C. L. Mitton, The Good News (London: Lutterworth Press, and New York: Abingdon Press, 1961, 96 pp. ea., $1 ea.), is reviewed by William Sanford LaSor, Professor, Old Testament, Fuller Seminary.

Bible Guides endeavors to present in 22 volumes the “total view” of the Bible, presenting “the purpose, plan and power of the Scriptures” (Vol. 1, p. 6). The work does not aim to be a commentary but a guide for nontheologically-equipped readers to help them understand the component parts of the Bible. The contributing scholars seek to examine, explain, and give expositions of the respective portions of Scripture for which they are responsible.

To judge from the first four volumes to be published, the authors are doing a commendable job. The writing is clear, nontechnical, and set in up-to-date terms. The reader, though he may have been ignorant of the Bible at the beginning, will certainly know something of its form, composition, and message, and he will not find the reading tedious.

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In Volume 1, Professor Barclay tells of the making of the Old and New Testaments. The general conclusions of source criticism are accepted, and the Pentateuch is “D+JE+H+P” (p. 21). The description of the emergence of Scripture (or canonization) is well told. In the case of the New Testament, Barclay works his way through oral tradition, a bit of “Form Criticism,” the writing of the books, and the process of canonization, finally to discuss the decision to retain the Old Testament as part of the Christian Scriptures. He closes with a presentation of the authority and Christocentricity of Scripture.

In Volume 7, Professor Knight opens with a discussion of the purpose and the plan of Isaiah, with references to “Second-Isaiah,” “Third-Isaiah,” and the “Little Apocalypse.” The “unity” of Isaiah is “a unity of revelation despite its diversity of origin, period and style” (p. 38). The exposition that follows is filled with fine insights. Concerning the “Servant” passages, and referring specifically to Isaiah 43:22–23, the author says, “That is why we can declare with conviction that the fourth Servant poem, that passage which we call for convenience ‘Isaiah 53,’ coming as it does at the end of Second-Isaiah’s long and intensive argument, is a picture, not so much of Israel, as of God Himself!” (p. 90).

Volume 11, by Professor John Paterson, is an enlightening work on the Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament, specifically Job and Proverbs. The general introduction to this genre is much too short (pp. 11–12), but contains the fine statement that “Wisdom Literature represents the effort of the Hebrew mind to understand and explain all that exists.” Of the expositions, I find that of Proverbs more stimulating. References to “serious dislocation of the text” (p. 21), and to Elihu’s speeches as “an intrusion in the work” (p. 43), will cause some eyebrows to lift, as will the statement that Proverbs 22:17–23:14 is “clearly indebted to” and “seems to have been ‘lifted’ straight from” the Wisdom of Amenemope (p. 61).

Volume 13, by Principal Mitton, is the only one of the New Testament volumes to appear thus far. His approach is interesting and revealing: first he presents Jesus of Nazareth, then the faith of the Church, and then the written records. But what, after all, do we know of Jesus or the faith of the Church except from the written records? The author uses Mark for the outline, and adds details from the other Synoptics. He discusses the message of Jesus, the parables, and the miracles, and concludes with an evaluation of the person of Christ. Concerning the healing miracles he takes a strong position supported by “incontestable evidence” (p. 87), but his position on the nature miracles seems to beg the question (p. 91).

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The presence of critical theories with which we may not agree should not lead us to deprive ourselves of the rich values we can find in these works.


They Live Again

Makers of Religious Freedom in the 17th Century, by Marcus L. Loane (Eerdmans, 1961, 240 pp., $4), is reviewed by W. S. Reid, Professor of History, McGill University, Montreal.

This work recounts the lives of four men who fought for religious liberty against an overbearing episcopacy in the seventeenth century: Alexander Henderson, Samuel Rutherford, John Bunyan, and Richard Baxter. Bishop Loane has already shown his ability to make historical characters live in his writings and these studies reveal the same facility of pen. No Christian can read this work without receiving encouragement and inspiration.

In some places, however, the accounts suffer somewhat from compression, as for instance when the author deals rather cursorily with the Resolutioners and the Remonstrants in Scotland (p. 86). Also the writ of habeas corpus was enacted in 1679, long after Bunyan was imprisoned in 1661 (p. 131).

These, however, are mere details. This book attracts interest not solely because of its story, but because an Anglican bishop is its author. If his attitude to nonepiscopalians had prevailed in 1661 and even prevailed now, a very different story could today be told concerning English-speaking Protestantism the world over.


Hungary’S Real Church

The Lean Years: A study of Hungarian Calvinism in Crisis, by Gyula Gombos (The Kossuth Foundation, 1960, 131 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Bela Vassady, Professor of Systematic Theology, Lancaster Theological Seminary.

The life and death issue of the Church of Jesus Christ behind the iron curtain is whether she can remain the Servant Church of the Servant Lord without at the same time being degraded into a servile Church. The book of Gyula Gombos gives a dramatic description of political and religious events in Hungary after World War II. It describes how the East gradually took over political control, how a “new theology” was developed in order to justify the servile attitude of the church leaders, and how the divine warfare of the Church was more and more given up by subjecting it to the interests of a God-defiant and self-reliant totalitarian welfare state. “The brave confessors of 1956” were crushed by Russian tanks, and the Church today is again under political control—in fact, much more than ever before. Yet the real Church, the Servant Church of the Servant Lord is still alive awaiting her political liberation.

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Today we cannot have free contacts with that real Church. Her official delegates to international and ecumenical church conferences are men rubber-stamped by the Communist government. The voice of these men, however, is not at all identical with the silenced voice of the real Church. Gombos’ book makes this clear to the reader at many points. Nevertheless the declaration of this silenced Church could be heard at least in 1956! And it is spiritually enriching to be made acquainted with the basic principles of that declaration. Members of the free churches in a free country should avail themselves of it. Such reading will make them more appreciative of their precious heritage and more devoted to the cause of liberating their captive Christian brethren with weapons of a nonworldly warfare.


History Plus A Theology

The Life and Teaching of Jesus, by Edward W. Bauman (Westminster, 1960, 240 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by George Eldon Ladd, Professor of Biblical Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary.

The purpose of this book is “to discover what can be known of the life of Jesus of Nazareth and his message” (p. 11). However, this is not a purely historical study. Bauman frequently raises the question of the theological meanings of the historical events. At points, he is very helpful. He acknowledges the centrality of the Incarnation. “God took on flesh in a particular person who became the center of a particular event that is his supreme revealing act in man’s life. This revealing act is the center of history because it gives meaning to all of history and reveals God’s purpose for history” (p. 223). These words, if they reflect Bauman’s own views, could not be made by a Bultmann. Again, Bauman faces squarely and at points helpfully the question of the Resurrection. Although he does not know what happened to the dead body, he insists upon the necessity of Bodily Resurrection. Any theory of visions does not fit the facts. However, Bauman only creates confusion by saying that Mark’s Gospel belittles the importance of the Empty Tomb (p. 113) without explaining what he means.

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Having admitted the reality of these suprahistorical events in history, Bauman nevertheless boggles at other lesser events. Jesus’ miracles of healing are explained not as acts of the incarnate God but as due to Jesus’ insight into the nature of healing which modern medicine has yet to attain (p. 70). Nature miracles are explained either rationalistically or as a result of Jesus’ unsurpassed insight into the ways of nature (p. 71). The question of the manner of Jesus’ birth is not interpreted as a creative act of God but is left unresolved in “Christian agnosticism” (p. 53).

Bauman’s discussion is superficial when, in favor of a moral theory, he dismisses the possibility of a substitutionary view of the Atonement as unworthy of God (p. 105 f.). He confuses the Messianic terminology by leaving the “Son of man” without definable content and substituting “Messiah” for “Son of man.” He creates a false impression in saying that the statement “Jesus is God” “is nowhere made by Jesus or by any writer in the New Testament” (p. 201; cf. O. Cullmann, Christology, chap. 11: “The Designation of Jesus as ‘God’ ”). He leaves the problem of the Fourth Gospel in confusion by stating that it is “a synthesis of traditional Judaism, Hellenism, and sectarian Judaism” coming from the second century (p. 209) which nevertheless records the inner consciousness of Jesus (p. 213). In view of John 12:25, it is difficult to see how one can say, without qualification, that “eternal life is present and not future” (p. 215).


House Divided

Thy Brother’s Blood, by Larry Ward (Cowman, 1961, 227 pp., $3.75), is reviewed by Henry W. Coray, Author of Son of Tears.

Here is a Civil War saga from the pen of the editor of World Vision Magazine and vice president of Information Services of World Vision, Inc. The plot is intriguing. Out of a Baltimore family one brother representing the North finds himself pitted against another brother marching with the Confederate forces under Stonewall Jackson. You might know that the two would meet on the field of battle—with a surprising result. One could wish that the writer had narrated his story with a smoother flow, fresher expression, and had sheared away the clichés. The vignette of Stonewall Jackson stands out as the book’s best feature.


Zen, Symptom Of Crisis

Zen Comes West, by Christmas Humphreys (George Allen and Unwin, 1960, 207 pp., 21s.), is reviewed by Lit-Sen Chang, Lecturer in Oriental Religions, Gordon Divinity School.

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The author is not unknown to those in the West who are interested in Buddhism. He is Founder-President of the Buddhist Society in London and author of Zen Buddhism which appeared in 1949. The present book is for the most part a hodgepodge of the author’s letters to the society members and notes of his talks to the Zen class about themes, problems, and aspects of Zen teaching. In addition there are several short articles which first appeared in The Middle Way, the organ of The Buddhist Society. Because the book lacks systematic presentation, the reader may readily note its overlappings and confusions, although the author has “to a small extent graded the sections from simple to more advanced in theme or treatment” (p. 17). The book may well serve as a report about the way in which Humphreys’ Zen class works; it is not, however, relevant to nor deserves wide hearing by the ordinary reader. Moreover, there is nothing original in Zen teaching, either in practice or theory.

The position of the book is so deceptive that it would require a volume to criticize its perverse teaching and slanted thesis. For instance, the author says: “Zen practice has no use of God. Zen finds no use for that concept.… Look to no person or Person or God for help” (p. 74). “In the West it is necessary … to remove the personal God-concept and all that it implies of salvation by faith alone” (p. 203). Obviously, he is entirely blind to the desperate need of a Saviour to break down “the middle wall of partition between us” by his precious blood. Thus we perfectly agree with him when he considers himself as “the incompetent but blindly courageous leader of the blind” (p. 17). But “can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6:39).

Strange to say, after World War II, Zen found its place in the West as a study of serious interest and has a peculiar fascination for minds weary of conventional religion and philosophy. This is surely the symptom of the spiritual crisis of modern men. The Light is come into the world, and men, being deceived by the plausible teachings of Zen, comprehended it not, loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil. From this book, one sees a miserable picture of a Zen follower probing in the darkness while alleging attainment of so-called enlightenment (Wu, in Chinese; Satori, in Japanese). (The reviewer is speaking as a convert from Zen to Christianity.) Even Carl G. Jung, Western scholar and psychiatrist who is sympathetic to Zen, wrote these words: “We can never decide definitely whether a person is really enlightened or whether he merely imagines it, we have no criterion of this” (cf. his forward to Dr. Suzuki’s Introduction to Zen, p. 15). Thus as there is no criterion, man can in no way test his inward impulse and determine which is of God and which of evil. To tell him, therefore, to look within, to discipline the Mind itself, to make it its own master through insight into its nature, is to engender not only a spirit of mysticism but a guide which will lead man to destruction. This is why the author declares on the one hand that “Zen is the One creative life in a new form”; but on the other hand that “the difficulties ahead are enormous” (p. 202); “as it becomes more popular and the quantity of literature increases, the quality will steadily deteriorate” (p. 206); “in the U. S. A.… it has already degenerated … into a foolish and rootless cult” (p. 201).

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Methodism And Missions

The Christian Mission Today, a symposium (Abingdon, 1960, 288 pp., $3), is reviewed by Harold B. Kuhn, Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, Asbury Theological Seminary.

This volume embodies a series of studies, written by 21 contemporary writers who seek to assess the world mission of the Church of our day, with special reference to the manner in which Methodism is seeking to fulfill that task. It is intended as a guide to ministerial training, as that training is directed toward the goal of acquainting the candidate with the extent and nature of Christian activity.

The opening chapter, “Contemporary Theology and the Christian Mission,” is designed to afford, we suppose, a general orientation for the series of studies which follow. Its author deals at some length with the several theological approaches, particularly of “neo-orthodoxy” (a term lacking in precision) and liberalism. Historic orthodoxy receives little attention, and the reader is left with the feeling that it has little in the way of constructive word to speak to the contemporary missionary situation. The author seemingly is of the persuation that some form of “neo-liberalism” offers the best all-round approach to the non-Christian world.

Chapters two and three deal, respectively, with the relation of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit to the world-mission of the Church. The two writers seek to present a form of “Christian Realism” in their respective areas. One is tempted to wonder whether both chapters are not limited by a lack of preciseness in definition. The 11 ensuing chapters set forth, in area by area, the conditions which confront missionary activity in the world of our time. As such, they are what they were projected to be, quite informative surveys, combining suggestions for challenges which face us in the days ahead.

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The reviewer found himself intrigued by a number of paragraphs in the chapters of Part D—that is, in chapters 15 to 20. The authors, particularly of chapter 15, “Materialism and Secularism,” and of chapter 18, “Younger Churches and New Nations,” have made some exceedingly penetrating analyses of the contemporary scene, and have probed into sore areas in Western culture. Equally instructive is Dr. Stephen Neill’s chapter 21, “The Urgency of This Mission Today.”

Read as a survey of what is, this volume has merit for readers beyond the boundaries of the church which has sponsored it. As a critique of much of the world scene, the book has much to offer. If it has any overall weakness, I would say it is in the absence of precision at the point of what should be the essential content of the Christian Evangel.


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