Education Gone Existential
Theory and Design of Christian Education Curriculum, by D. Campbell Wyckoff (Westminster, 1961, 219 pp., $4.50) and The Role of the Bible in Contemporary Christian Education, by Sara Little (John Knox Press, 1961, 190 pp., $3.50), are reviewed by G. Aiken Taylor, Editor The Presbyterian Journal.
The first book is the outgrowth of the findings of the Curriculum Study Committee of the Christian Education Division of the National Council of Churches. It is billed as “the best theory upon which major Protestant denominations can build their curriculums for the foreseeable future.”
The viewpoint turns upon what modern theology calls “biblical theology.” Now “biblical theology” is not to be confused with an interest in the biblical text as an object of study. Dr. Wyckoff distinguishes between biblical theology and systematic theology in that the former guides the student to experience his religion as well as to understand its subject matter.
Now this identification of experience with biblical theology rests upon the presupposition that in a careful study of the Bible it becomes the Word of God to the one studying it. As it becomes the Word of God it says something of spiritual significance to the one studying it. What it says, under the circumstances (a sort of existential apprehension of truth on the part of the student), is the content of “biblical theology.” And the process of learning by responding to the Bible as a witness to and instrument of Revelation (“biblical theology”) is Christian education.
The context of Christian education is the worshiping, witnessing, working community of persons in Christ.
The practice of Christian education is the development and use of group and individual goals that will link together in a vital way personal ends and the great concerns of the Christian faith and the Christian life (probably via topics and problems), held together and focused by the basic objective (that persons at each stage of their lives may know God as he is revealed in Jesus Christ and serve him in love through the church). These group and individual goals will be specific aspects of the learning tasks of Christian education.
If all this doesn’t make much sense, then neither does the book, although it has been hailed and quoted as the foundation of all modern curriculum planning.
The book avoids being dogmatic. Whether talking about subject or method, there must be “variety according to individual, community, and cultural differences.” The only consistency of viewpoint seems to appear in the implication throughout that anything, anywhere may some time in some way contribute to the achievement of the “basic objective.” The field is “relationships;” the program is one of “engaging in the activities and seeking the goals that are characteristic of the community of worship, witness, and work.”
The second book is a clear and significant analysis of what modern theology and therefore modem Christian education conceive Revelation and the Bible to be, and of what bearing these concepts have on their view of what Christion Education ought to be.
The work begins with a survey of Christian educational theory of the past 50 years from Coe through Bower to Vieth and Shelton Smith. It proceeds through theological considerations of Revelation and the Bible as found in William Temple, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Emil Brunner, and Richard Niebuhr. Then it discusses the theological considerations developed as these affect the thought of three representative educators: James D. Smart, Randolph Crump Miller, and Lewis J. Sherrill.
Dr. Little points out that what the Church understands Revelation and the Bible to be determines what the Church means when it says that “God speaks” out of the Bible. Her study of the contemporary theologians and educators named provides a significant compendium of thought on the various theological presuppositions governing different theories of Christian education.
It is in her conclusion that the importance of the book emerges, for the synthesis she detects in theology today is doing more to influence the development of new curricula now under way in a dozen major denominations than anything else. In this synthesis the influence of Barth is dominant. It consists of a view of Revelation as event, and of the Bible as a witness to and instrument of Revelation.
Christian education is once again turning to the Bible. But it is turning to a “content” which is not to be identified with the words of the Bible, for the words are but a witness to this “content.” Christian education today turns to the Bible not for subject matter but for a dynamic which comes to man out of the words of the Bible, bearing the power to change persons. Dr. Little calls this neither a content-centered view nor a process-centered view but rather a “Gospel-centered” view of the relevance of the Bible to education.
The book would have been greatly strengthened if room could have been found for the traditional views of orthodoxy, both of the Bible as the objective Word of God and of its use as a means of grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. This, to the author, however, is the “fundamentalists” view “outside” the stream of relevant contemporary thought.
G. AIKEN TAYLOR
As Matthew Saw It
The Coming of the Messiah, by David Baker (The Spenba Company, 1961, 69 pp., cloth $2, paper $1), is reviewed by Ludwig R. Dewitz, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary.
These concise expository studies of the first two chapters of the Gospel of St. Matthew are a timely contribution to the general discussion of the Virgin Birth and Incarnation. Dr. Baker endeavors to let his readers view these Scripture passages within the perspective of the writer of the Gospel rather than from a twentieth-century point of view. The facts reported by St. Matthew are seen as part of the historic process in which God himself brought his purpose to fruition. While Dr. Baker realizes that the subject of the Virgin Birth is “exceedingly difficult and very delicate,” he succeeds in presenting it in such a manner that, within the context of Scripture, it appears not so much as a baffling problem but rather as the most adequate vehicle for implementing the Incarnation. In reading the book one enjoys the warmth with which the writer desires to make the truth of the Word to be heard, even though, at times, a particular point is overstated. Thus it can hardly be maintained that in the Septuagint “the name Jesus Christ often appeared exactly that way in the text,” nor can the famous prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 be properly discussed without reference to verse 16. Also in his explanation of the respective terms ‘almah and betulah, he appears to underestimate the force of betulah.
There is no doubt, however, that the author has succeeded in elucidating the early chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel in such a way that both theologian and non-theologian, Jew as well as Gentile, should profit by reading this book.
LUDWIG R. DEWITZ
The Vestments Controversy, by John H. Primus (Kok, 1960, 176 pp., f. 6.90) and Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation, by Francis Clark (Longmans, 1960, 582 pp., 50s.), are reviewed by Gervase E. Duffield, London manager, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
Dr. Primus deals with a controversy among Protestants during and immediately after the Reformation. And the issue has recently become topical again due to the revision of Anglican Canon Law. The first section of this doctoral thesis deals with the dispute between Hooper and Ridley in 1550–1551, and the second deals with the tensions among the Protestant exiles on their return after the reign of the Roman Catholic Queen Mary. Quotations are often set out in full, and of special interest is the different advices given to Hooper by his Continental friends a Lasco, Bucer, and Martyr (on the first Primus has new evidence). But the discussion is vitiated by the writer seeing the dispute as a clash between conformity and nonconformity (e.g., p. 28). This is to read history backwards and ignore the question of obedience to the godly prince, a tenet which caused Cranmer such a dilemma of conscience. Several quotations mention this idea (e.g., p. 40), but Primus never sees its basic importance. The second part also contains a fundamental error, for the writer has swallowed uncritically the Anglo-Catholic propaganda on the Prayer Book Ornaments Rubric. It was never intended to legalize vestments. Dr. Primus’ work is thorough and well documented, but his use of the split infinitive at least shows he is no Puritan stylistically! He does, however, follow none too reliable guides for general background to the English Reformation (R. W. Dixon and Father Philip Hughes generally), and the thesis illustrates the peculiar dangers of going from one country to another to study the church history of a third.
Dr. Clark’s book is undoubtedly one of the most important on the Reformation period. I say this after due consideration, though it is a strong statement, and Protestants naturally dissent from some Jesuit conclusions. Evidence is adduced to show that Lutheran, Calvinist, and Episcopalian scholars have in recent years accepted some conception of sacrifice involved in the Eucharist (pp. 4 ff.). Ecumenical leaders and Lambeth bishops have hailed the passing of eucharistic disputes, and at last feel agreement is ahead. Like Bishop Neill before him, Dr. Clark thinks otherwise, and he has given us a thorough and fair survey of the evidence including index, bibliography, and extended quotes in two appendices.
The fundamental issue is whether the English Reformers protested against the whole doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass, as their continental friends undoubtedly did, or whether they merely protested against certain late-medieval abuses of the mass, as the Tractarians and more recently Dr. B. J. Kidd and Dr. Eric Mascall hold. Dr. Clark traces the development of this Tractarian idea, and then gives an exhaustive survey of the late-medieval and Reformation evidence, and concludes for the former view. He thinks the case is parallel to that of Anglican orders. The Reformers were not concerned, as modern Anglo-Catholics are, with a continuity of priests in a tactual apostolic succession, and so they made a clean break with Rome in the Edwardine Ordinal. Dr. Clark asks us to face issues squarely (p. 522), and we may be grateful to him for stating the fundamental change at the Reformation so clearly. Perhaps this book will enable ecumenical leaders to see the real cleavage rather than stick paper over the cracks.
G. E. DUFFIELD
The Lord’s Supper in Methodism 1761–1960, by John C. Bowmer (Epworth, 1961, 64 pp., 6s), is reviewed by A. Skevington Wood, Minister, Southlands, Methodist Church, York, England.
The Wesley Historical Society Lecture delivered at this year’s British Methodist Conference well maintains the scholarly standard of the series. Mr. Bowmer has already dealt with this subject in the period prior to 1761 in a definitive study and, though slighter in content, this further survey forms a useful sequel.
After an opening chapter on “Wesley’s Legacy,” Mr. Bowmer proceeds to indicate the complexities which the Plan of Pacification in 1795 attempted to resolve. He is careful to do justice to developments amongst non-Wesleyan bodies as well as in the mainstream of tradition, and seeks to assess the position since Methodist Union in 1932.
The doctrinal summary is compendiously presented and gathers up the stresses of men like J. Ernest Rattenbury and Vincent Taylor in the realm of eucharistic theology. More attention might have been drawn to the characteristic Methodist interpretation of the sacramental through the evangelical.
A. SKEVINGTON WOOD
Faith And History
The Way of Israel, Biblical Faith and Ethics, by James Muilenburg (Harper, 1961, 158 pp„ $3.75), is reviewed by Edward J. Young, Professor of Old Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary.
Whatever Dr. Muilenburg writes on the Old Testament is significant, and the present volume is no exception. It is an attempt to set forth the faith and ethics of ancient Israel. “Israel,” claims the author, “has a story to tell to the world” (p. 28). Part of the story is the exodus from Egypt. This exodus is “a meeting and a revelation” (p. 48). “The deed (i.e., the exodus) was revelation and the meaning of the deed was revelation, which Israel appropriates by faith” (p. 39). Yahweh triumphed in the redemption from Egyptian bondage; indeed, for Israel the exodus was what the death and resurrection of Christ are for the new Israel (p. 49).
All of this sounds very biblical, until Dr. Muilenburg raises the question what actually happened at the Sea of Reeds. To this the historian must give an equivocal answer because “he really does not know” (p. 49). The historian does not know, but the answer of faith is that “our God delivered us from bondage” (p. 49). The author is to be commended for his candor in thus presenting his position, but it is a position which is opposed to what the Bible itself teaches.
Either God—the one living and blessed Jehovah—did deliver Israel from Egypt or he did not. The Christian faith says that he did. The Bible says that he did. But we cannot say both that he did and that he did not. “Faith” has no warrant for saying that God did deliver Israel from Egypt, if historical study shows that we really do not know what happened.
The Bible teaches that God did deliver Israel from Egypt, and the Christian, believing the Bible to be the Word of God, accepts what it says about the exodus just as he accepts what it says about the Trinity. And the facts of history, insofar as they bear upon the question, will be in conformity with what the Bible says, for God is the God of all truth.
If the faith and ethics of Israel are only the faith and ethics of Israel, they may conceivably have some value for purposes of antiquarian research. If, on the other hand, Israel was actually chosen by the holy God to be His people (as over against the idea that Israel may merely have believed that she was so chosen) and that in the fullness of time Christ came, then the darkness of night has gone. Then truly the burden of sin has been rolled way, for the Dayspring from on high has visited us.
EDWARD J. YOUNG
From The Inside
Had You Been Born in Another Faith, by Marcus Bach (Prentice-Hall, 1961, 186 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by E. Luther Copeland, Professor of Missions, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In many ways this is a remarkable book. It transports the reader—by narration in the second person—on a descriptive journey through each of the principal religions as one born in the particular faith. The reader is able to identify himself with the devotees of each religion. This affords a most delightful and charitable introduction to world religions.
There are a few inaccuracies and typographical errors.
From the standpoint of the reviewer, the one serious objection to the book is its encouragement of a kind of religious relativism which is not consonant with essential Christian commitment. The author concludes that “the spirit inherent in religions is found to be one spirit when we truly put ourselves in the other person’s place” (pp. 183–184). Possibly the religions, humanly speaking, do share the same spirit because of our common religious consciousness, though even this may be debatable. But do they convey to us in like fulness and authenticity the truth?
The real desideratum is the combining of the empathic approach of this hook, which is essential to the Christian spirit, with the forthright, robust Christian witness which is equally essential.
E. LUTHER COPELAND
Flair For Farfetchedness
Acts of the Apostles: The Unfinished Work of Christ, by August Van Ryn (Loizeaux Bros., 1961, 256 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by John Van Ryn, Minister, Second Christian Reformed Church, Prospect Park, New Jersey.
This book is a compilation of comments on the stories and some of the doctrines found in Acts. The many remarks about Christian living show the author to be a very practical man. The way in which these remarks are expressed evidences a warm sincerity, but the way in which they are sometimes derived from the Scriptures is open to serious question. Profound implications are found in small details which are incidental in the narrative. Some entire stories are allegorized. Paul’s voyage and shipwreck are regarded as “a graphic pictorial record of the descent of the church of God from Jerusalem (where it had its inception) to Rome where eventually the church will find its sad end.” Some of the remarks made on the basis of this approach are interesting but what gives anyone the right to take that approach? The author anticipates criticism but excuses himself by saying he likes this “farfetchedness.” I do not. It opens the door wide for mysterious exegetical excursions which while they may be intriguing can lead one far from the message intended by the Holy Spirit.
JOHN VAN RYN
Calvary’S Blinding Light
The Novelist and the Passion Story, by F. W. Dillistone (Sheed and Ward, 1960, 128 pp., $3), is reviewed by Calvin D. Linton, Professor of English Literature and Dean of Columbian College, The George Washington University.
Having felt his imagination flame up at the Christmas season, the young John Milton produced his magnificent “Nativity Ode.” At Easter, he confidently undertook a poem on the Passion. But even his massive genius was not up to the subject, and the poem, one of his few fragments, appears with this frank note by the author: “This subject the author finding to be above the years he had, when he wrote it, and nothing satisfied with what was begun, left it unfinished.”
Small wonder, then, that lesser writers have found their imaginations incapable of enriching, embroidering, extending, or (least of all) deepening the majestic simplicity of the Gospel accounts. Efforts in modern literature have ranged all the way from the sentimentalizing and Holly-woodizing of Douglas’s The Robe to the shriekingly blasphemous passages of Joyce’s Ulysses. Even with the most pious will in the world, inadequacy is inevitable. The work of an artist is limited by the horizon of his comprehension, and only the divine mind encompasses the dimensions of divine love. The light from Calvary blinds merely human eyes, and comment is as futile as Peter’s urge to “say a few words” at the Transfiguration.
This book (somewhat largely titled for its limited scope) picks four writers and novels, two European (Mauriac’s The Lamb and Kazantzakis’ The Greek Passion) and two American (Melville’s Billy Budd and Faulkner’s A Fable), and examines the way in which each writer allows the underlying form of the Passion sequence to control his narrative and the way each interprets the divine reconcilement. Dr. Dillistone (Dean of Liverpool) brings to his task not only the requisite writing skill and critical ability, but also a deep reverence for his theme. He actually identifies the basic problems facing the novelist (shall he write a frankly historical tale? put the Passion story in modern dress? allegorize it? invent as well as embroider? etc.), and he most ably uses the different religious and philosophical points of view of his four authors to sketch in broadly the contemporary spiritual and intellectual climate.
CALVIN D. LINTON
A Minister On The Ministry
The Christian Ministry, by Charles Bridges (Banner of Truth Trust, 1961, 383 pp., 13s 6d), is reviewed by John Gwyn-Thomas, Rector, Illogan, Cornwall, England.
There must be strong reasons to justify republishing a book written over a hundred years ago. Such books are dated and naturally have nothing to say directly about the present situation in the Church. It is apparent from reading this book that the pace of life in the writer’s day was leisurely compared to the rush and tear of our day. However, its intrinsic worth is such that the minor details which date it are swallowed up in the richness of its value.
We are told that this is “A book for ministers by a minister.” The five divisions outline its scope: (I) A general view of the Christian ministry, (II) General causes of the want of success in the Christian ministry, (III) Causes of ministerial inefficiency connected with our personal character, (IV) The public work of the Christian ministry, and (V) The pastoral work of the Christian ministry. No Christian minister can fail to be interested in the subject matter. Every aspect of the minister’s life is scrutinized. Judgments forged from long experience and wide reading are freely given in each section, and help may be found on almost every page. The godly wisdom of this Anglican pastor who has such a deep sense of his office “of so great excellency and of so great difficulty,” is such that it should rebuke, challenge, and inspire any minister who is mindful of his calling. It comes, therefore, as no surprise to learn that this book was highly valued by the great Murray M’Cheyne. One quotation will indicate the perception of the author. “The kindness of the world is far more formidable than its enmity. Many who are prepared to stem the torrent of its opposition have yielded with compromising indulgence to its paralysing kindness.”
In a day of religious apostacy when the ministry is falling so far short of its high calling, this book is both timely and appropriate. We who so often urge others to consider their condition need to be compelled to face our own state of heart and mind. Here is a book with clear print, at low cost, which is worthy of such a vital task. Even the footnotes provide the reader with some of the choicest pearls of pastoral example and experience.
Reaching For Relevancy
Christians and Power Politics, by Alan Booth (Association Press, 1961, 126 pp., $3), is reviewed by Lester DeKoster, Librarian, Calvin College.
This is a book which promises much in its title, and that in an area in which much is required this day. It is well that the relevance of Christianity to power politics be stressed; and the author truly says that the voice of the Church is too little heard and still less heeded in the power struggle of our time.
To give the Church his own voice on these critical issues, the author proposes a challenging approach to a Christian view of the three major problems he chooses to discuss, namely, the Great Power Conflict, Military Power, and Europe and Africa. The approach is this: instead of enunciating “general Christian principles and then seeking to apply them to particular cases,” Mr. Booth intends first clearly to display the “questions put to us by events” and then to apply Christian principles to answering these.
This approach, I repeat, promises much. And the author’s delineation of the problems, while not always logically pursued, is informed. But his results are disappointingly meager.
Now, it is no reflection upon the author to chide him with coming short of his mark; this he anticipates, and he well might suggest that a critic he spurred then to go him one better. No, the burden of this reader’s disappointment is not shortcoming on a large assignment, but futility. One is not minded to send the book to his Congressman.
Because Mr. Booth is the victim of his own interesting approach. He takes first the problems all right, but he becomes so hypnotized by their complexity that he loses much of his own Christian decisiveness. In contemplation of the ambiguities of history, Mr. Booth comes so to balance off virtues and defects among the contesting sides in the current struggle that his Christian affirmations become little more than widely-accepted platitudes. To the power struggle, for example, he commends (1) positive government, (2) rights of minorities, and (3) religious freedom. To the military he proposes (1) an end to nuclear testing, (2) arms control, (3) a U. N. police force, and (4) defense for man, not man for defense. For Africa he advises (1) patience, (2) effective government, and (3) rural community development. And to the world he offers the example of Christian ecumenicity as evidence that those who disagree can, under God, agree enough to live together.
That all these proposals merit Christian approbation, no one, probably, denies. That, however, they together exhaust, or even adequately adumbrate, the meaning of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over history is at least an open question. Is this then the Christian specification of its answer to “power politics”?
The politician, Mr. Booth maintains, must live by compromise. The politician seeks the possible and is happy to settle when he can for the golden mean. The question is, however, whether Mr. Booth manages much more. As a political “realist,” does the author apprehend political issues as a Christian, or does he hold Christian principles as a politician?
While it is indubitable that the Church must speak to the world as it is; and while it is undeniable that more offense than conviction is, as Mr. Booth warns repeatedly, harvested from callous and proud proclamation of Christian truths; it is equally true that these Christian truths themselves are not altered by the circumstances to which they are addressed, and they are not themselves diluted by the charity in which they should be held and spoken. Such a distinction Mr. Booth does not seem to have clearly before him.
He is justly fearful of the high-handed pronouncement of Christian principles, spoken in arrogance and uttered in meaningless ignorance of the real states of affairs. He justly calls upon all to recognize themselves as sinners, no less in need of redemption than are their enemies on world frontiers. But he carries this becoming modesty of assertion into the structure of the principles he asserts. One looks for far more than he finds in Mr. Booth’s book of an invasion of compromise by the absolutes of the Gospel.
This means that the chief value of Mr. Booth’s book is this: it raises again the question whether the Lordship of Christ can minutely be applied to the crucial questions of the day, in ways so distinctively and appreciably characteristic as to merit the title of this volume; and it challenges the Church to keep at this vital quest with all urgent speed.
Bull Sessions Without Beef
Companion of Eternity, by W. Gordon Ross (Abingdon, 1961, 240 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Emile Cailliet, Stuart Professor of Christian Philosophy Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary.
There ought to be a law to regulate the use of titles. While the Food and Drug Administration sees to it that each product be labeled with the correct formula, authors and publishers still freely indulge in the use of enticing headings which may have little, if anything, to do with contents. The present work is a case in point, even as page 192 amplifies the title to mean, Man as the companion of God’s eternity.
Actually the book is a set of variations on the theme, what is man, in terms of potential and worth? These are said to be the two poles of a vast span of possibilities amid which hundreds of questions swiftly proceed back and forth, unhampered by authorities, or ever slowed down by any concern for a possible consensus of basic works. While a number of illustrations are borrowed from the Old Testament and the name of Jesus is mentioned on occasion, Christianity is left out of consideration. And so are prayer, worship, significant institutions, and ethical imperatives. The reader is only taken as far as the idea of God, and that of “a principle of the worth of persons” which science may have taken over “from some other enterprise, such as religion?” (p. 227) How all this adds up to man as the companion of God’s eternity remains a mystery to this reviewer.
The clue to the book must be looked for in another direction. The author teaches philosophy and religion at Berea College, Kentucky. Much of his time is spent in counseling. We need hardly be told that his students speak easily and with confidence to him. Judging from his pages, his brilliance and forbearing kindliness are likely to draw around him circles of debaters anxious to show forth the skill of youth, as if debate was a rehearsal for some Olympian festival. On such occasions, theses and hypotheses are likely to be hotly debated with reference to fictitious situations. However ill-kept the ancient type of sophistry, it will pursue the old lines of a rhetoric which puts everything in question, as is bound to be the case in the midst of a widely-diffused culture such as ours. Once more, Lucian’s Tyrannicide in some kind of new garb puts in a reappearance in the philosophic banter of a campus “bull session.”
What we have in the present book may well be described as the record of a succession of such “bull sessions” extending over 230 pages. Hence the looseness of chapter headings such as, “Questions and Questioning,” “Language,” “Statements,” “Definition and Meaning,” “Science,” “Approach and Method,” “Psychology,” “Personality,” and so forth, together with a great deal of telescoping and overlapping. For instance, although religion is said on page 15 to be “peculiarly relevant to man,” and henceforth becomes a subject of conversation throughout the volume (especially in chaps. IV, V, VII, X), the question as to what it is once more comes up for consideration in Chapter XI. Not that an inductive method of discovery has been used to lead up to the characterization obtained. The same is quite independent of what has been said before. It is as though each “participant” had his say. Religion accordingly is “defined” (?) as 1. loyalty, 2. acquiring or receiving the dynamic to “do,” 3. caring, 4. relationship, 5. the perceiving of distinctions, 6. perfection, 7. love. Yet, one may ask what of the witness of key works on the subject? To which the answer, I suppose, is that a “bull session” is not a research seminar. As the author has already explained on page 157, “There has been a veritable flood of books during the past few generations dealing with various aspects of the story of religion or religions …” but, as Fromm suggests, are not such primitive forms as ancestor worship, totemism, fetishism, ritualism, the cult of cleanliness, and so on, just ancient names for what we now call neuroses? No wonder such basic works as those of E. B. Tylor, R. R. Marrett, E. Durkheim, L. Levy Bruhl, or R. Otto—to name only a few—are ignored in that eleventh chapter “What is religion?”—documentary references being to The American Mercury, F. A. Spencer’s Beyond Damascus, and W. A. R. Ley’s Ethics and Social Policy. In the same setting, no effort is made to trace back problems to their origination. For instance, the Parmenidean critique of Heracleitus and the subsequent sharpening of the original argument from language by Cratylus of Athens, are sacrificed to the spirit of a live “bull session.” And this is what we get:
“Nothing” is a noun, isn’t it?
And a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing, isn’t it?
Then if “nothing” is a noun, and if a noun is the name of something, “nothing” is therefore something.
In a work like this, debate at the contemporary level is hardly conducive to a structure in depth, and so, attempts at exposition again and again have recourse to the artificial method of enumeration: In the first place …, In the second place …, sometimes up to the seventh place. A more regrettable consequence still, is that entire sections suffer from a lack of historical perspective. This is true, for example, of the oversimplified section on The (!) method of science (pp. 113–117) where the modern ways of mathematical construction do not come within view.
The comforting impression left by the present book is that of having spent a few hours with a born teacher whose warmth and versatility animate many a page. Withal, however, there lingers wonder as to why intellectual honesty need be equated with near hostility to any kind of positive assertion, and this to the point where a man no longer knows on what to base his belief. Yet, somehow, many campus “bull sessions” in America today have a way of ending on such a note, as a Western world without radiance increasingly loses ground to an Eastern world with a false radiance.
The Need Of The Church
Learning to Live, by Alan Redpath (Eerdmans, 1961, 132 pp., $2.25), is reviewed by John R. Richardson, Minister, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, Georgia.
The pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church presents 15 biblical sermons in this volume. The messages, says Mr. Redpath, have been preached from his pulpit. They were prompted by church problems arising out of situations which are inevitable in the life of a metropolitan church. The dominant motif pervading all the messages is that the Lordship of Christ is the one solution to congregational problems and the essential step to a revival in the local church.
Here we see a warm-hearted pastor pleading for consistent Christian living in the lives of his hearers. The Christian life is not portrayed as something easy, but as something great. Difficulties are honestly faced and intelligently handled. Great truths are set forth in beautiful simplicity, but never superficially. For example, the preacher says forthrightly, “I would remind you that there is only one ground of approach to God, and that is through the shed blood of Christ, the Cross, the Atonement.”
Redpath’s messages reflect splendid natural endowments, a burning desire to know the mind of God in the passage under scrutiny, and a strong conviction that biblical truth is supernaturally adapted to human requirements. Those who recognize the great need today for expository preaching of the right kind will soon discover that this book performs an important service in this field.
JOHN R. RICHARDSON
Where Lie The Roots?
How the World Began, by Helmut Thielicke, translated by J. W. Doberstein (Muhlenberg Press, 1961, 308 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by Editor Carl F. H. Henry.
Professor Thielicke’s sermons on beginnings are a rebuke to the wide tendency to avoid preaching the early chapters of Genesis in a scientific era. His 18 life-situation sermons fall under six general subjects: “The Beginning,” “The Creation of Man,” “The Story of the Fall,” “The Story of Cain and Abel,” “The Story of the Flood,” and “The Building of the Tower of Babel.” There is power and relevance, and rewarding insight as well. Thielicke identifies himself with his message and the text soon grips readers and listeners.
A “postscript for theological readers” announces his decision to preach in the name of the “redactor” (of Genesis) and not of the actual narrative “sources,” and to make man’s spiritual predicament rather than harmony with science the main concern. Yet sources and science cannot, it seems to us, be permanently sealed off this way, any more than the Communist Jugendweihe could be detached from religious loyalties.
Thielicke at least goes beyond the minister who airs nothing but doubts and fails to proclaim as much spiritual truth as he can, and the preacher as well who finds Genesis only an opportunity to contrast or to harmonize modern scientific ideas with the text. But beneath existential relevance and driving power one finds many a well-worn mediating motif: “We have our roots in the animal kingdom” (p. 64) and are “higher animals … related to the fishes, the dogs and the cats” (p. 65); the fall of Adam is “the mystery of our humanity” (p. 166); and so on including the still-relevant speech of the “mythical” serpent (p. 123). Yet our spiritual relationship to God uniquely defines us (p. 75), and the conflict between evolutionary science and Christianity is unreal: “Faith and science do not contradict each other at all—simply because the assertions they make lie upon completely different levels” (p. 82).
But some of Professor Thielicke’s “faith” assertions seem garnered from The Origin of Species rather than from the Scriptures. What of Paul’s “there is one flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, another of birds” (1 Cor. 15:39)? Does science have no bearing whatever on the virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Christ? More than once these moving sermons will leave the hearer impatient for some firmer word on the historico-scientific significance (as well as spiritual-moral import) of the text.
CARL F. H. HENRY
Charles Simeon: How Tall?
Charles Simeon: Essays Written in Commemoration of his Bi-Centenary, edited by A. Pollard and M. Hennell (SPCK, 1959, 190 pp., 21s), is reviewed by John S. Reynolds, Rector, Dry Sandford, Abingdon, England.
It is difficult to be wholly enthusiastic about commemorative essays, even when they celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of so great a man. Almost inevitably much that has been said before is re-said in a different way. In Simeon’s case it seems nigh impossible to avoid well-worn quotations. It is also difficult to view his work objectively, as the definitive history of the evangelical party in the Church of England has yet to be written. Nevertheless we have here seven chapters by competent writers, and some have original contributions to make. In any case it is always worthwhile to be taken afresh to meet Charles Simeon as a man, and as a devoted Christian, his character still draws one as it attracted those who were his followers.
Religious movements have usually tended to be thought of in connection with “father figures,” whose influence has been exaggerated as the years have gone by. To some extent this is the case with Simeon and with this book. Allowing for qualifying observations, Simeon is still made to stand out as the man but for whom it is thought doubtful whether the evangelical majority would have remained in the Church of England. Closer attention to the history of Cambridge evangelicalism (or of Oxford evangelicalism, or of that of the country as a whole) in the years before and after Simeon’s emergence hardly suggests such a conclusion. There is room for further research on the limits as well as the undoubted extent of Simeon’s influence.
J. S. REYNOLDS
The Upward Calling, by Reginald E. O. White (Eerdmans, 1961, 202 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Robert Strong, Minister, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.
Here are 37 meditations on the Christian life by a British author of established reputation. The essays are well written. The treasury of Scripture is extensively drawn upon. One’s spirit is stirred. Christian piety makes helpful contact with life’s practical business. Appealing beyond all the other sections were the discussions on illuminating metaphors: son, scholar, pilgrim, athlete, soldier, slave. This book would make an excellent gift.
An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians To Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen, by William Carey (New fac. ed., Carey Kingsgate, 1961, 87 pp., 10s 6d) and An All-Round Ministry, by C. H. Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1960, 396 pp., 10s 6d), are reviewed by Robert M. Horn, Universities Secretary of The Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London.
Carey’s still very readable Enquiry was first published in 1792, and although it had no wide sale then, it stands at the head of the modern missionary movement’s literature. After a brief introduction stressing that those who pray “Thy Kingdom come” should be concerned with his subject, Carey makes enquiry into the binding nature of the Great Commission, into what has been and can be done overseas, and into the numbers of those in various parts of the world who had not then heard of Christ.
While this is a plain and sober statement, yet it has an element of the prophetic. His desire for the formation of missionary societies and his suggestion (hinted at here, explicitly made to Andrew Fuller elsewhere) that “a general association of all denominations” should be held every 10 years, have now become facts—though perhaps not in exactly the way Carey meant. Some of his suggestions still await full implementation, that is, concerning the religious views of missionaries, and the encouragement of spiritual gifts in national Christians.
The 12 addresses given by Spurgeon between 1872 and 1890 at his annual conference of ministers represents him addressing what he regarded as his most important audiences. They survey the whole range of ministerial responsibility, and are of interest for at least three reasons.
First, because they reveal a man of unique gifts and spiritual stature, with the courage to match a full faith in the power of God and in the ultimate triumph of His word.
Second, because they arise from Scripture rather than from a passing situation. No Christian worker can fail to benefit from his insight into the demand and dangers of a minister’s life—insights pressed home with touches of humor and a gift for illustrations. His counsel on preaching, evangelistic practices, and ministerial training still is relevant.
Third, because these addresses help in measure toward an understanding of how the present church situation arose. The theological and ecclesiastical situation then and now is, of course, very different, but in reading Spurgeon it becomes evident that the differences are more of degree than principle, and that we are reaping what his generation sowed. It is most apparent in the last three addresses, delivered in the years of the Down-grade controversy. This arose through the widespread departure from the historic evangelical faith within his own denomination. That alarmed Spurgeon, who sought in vain for reassurance on this matter from the denomination as a whole, and consequently had regretfully to withdraw. “For my part I am quite willing to be eaten of dogs for the next fifty years; but the more distant future will vindicate me” (p. 360). These addresses evidence his remarkable ability to foresee from its germinal form the final development of a theological trend or a practice in church life. They still have their lessons, for Spurgeon’s fears have proved since not to have been without justification.
ROBERT M. HORN
Story Of Formosa
Christianity in Taiwan, by Hollington Tong (China Post, 1961, 250 pp., $1.75), is reviewed by Margaret Sells, Presbyterian (U. S.) Missionary in Taiwan.
Dr. Hollington Tong, recently Taiwan’s ambassador to the United States, has written a well-documented history of Taiwan, Free China’s stronghold.
Dr. Tong, journalist and writer, weaves unique facts into his history: (1) When the Pilgrim Fathers were settling in New England, Chinese history in Taiwan began. (2) At that time a Chinese patriot, Koxinga, prepared from Taiwan to attack the Manchus. The attack failed, but Taiwan became known. (3) Christian growth and Taiwan history are inextricably linked. (4) Few other places have survived so many foreign invasions.
How these polyglot people, former head-hunters, tribal people, Hakkas, Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese are now being welded together makes fascinating reading.
No one can read without a thrill how brave Chi Oang, risking her life, carried the Gospel through the mountains. We read of Chang Hong, a modern Stephen, who was stoned to death for his faith; and of Lim Kiam Kin, a tribal Paul, who led whole villages to Christ.
So, despite persecution, the Church has grown on plains and mountains. The missionary is still needed, however, and the door is wide open.
Fountain Of Vigor?
Is Christ Divided?, by Lesslie Newbigin (Eerdmans, 1961, 41 pp., $1.25), Evanston to Delhi, 1954–1961 (Report of Central Committee of World Council), 288 pp., Geneva, and The Ecumenical Movement, by Norman Goodall (Oxford, 1961, 240 pp., $4.50), are reviewed by William Childs Robinson, Professor of Historical Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary.
The volume by Bishop Newbigin abounds in evangelical sentiments, such as, “The Christian knows that he is a condemned sinner who has no title to life, much less to glory.” “[He] dare not glory in anything save in the Cross of Jesus Christ.” “We shall not ask, what is coming to the world, because we know who is coming.” In missions, “the one essential is the Gospel of the saving power of Jesus Christ.” We fear, however, that having gotten into the organizational merger of the Church of South India, the author has almost come to a better than thou attitude in this book. That is, every denomination which is not in some kind of a merger is ipso facto in the wrong. In the United States the Campbellite attack on the denominations issued in adding three new denominations; and it is not evident that the Church is less vigorous here where there are sundry denominations than in countries where there is (or was) a state church.
The Report of the Central Committee of the World Council is a responsible account of its doing and an invaluable reference book. Secretary W. A. Visser’t Hooft shows that since Evanston the council has become more truly a world council in the addition of churches of the Soviet Socialist Republic and in conversations with the Roman Catholic church, that the missionary dimension has come to the fore, a renewed emphasis has been put upon “the calling of the churches to concrete, visible unity,” and that it has struggled for just and peaceful human relations. The spokesmen have difficulty in asserting for the world council a “plus” beyond the sum total of the individual churches without at the same time affirming a super church. The secretary defines the voice of the council as being both a voice of the churches and a voice to the churches.
Secretary Norman Goodall gives a condensed account of the story of the ecumenical movement for those who do not have time for the Rouse-Neill History of the Ecumenical Movement. Milestones are traced in the London Missionary Society, the Evangelical Alliance, Edinburgh, John R. Mott, J. H. Oldham, Faith and Order, Life and Work, and the World Council of Churches. The stress here, as in the other books, is on witness, service, and unity. The question is the how of that unity. We rejoice in the conviction of “a given unity in Christ,” and in the growing realization of a unity in baptism and in the proclamation of the Word. Why not agree that we are to express our oneness in Christ by a mutual sharing in the means of grace which he has ordained rather than in some structural solidification in a monolithic organization of man’s ordering? The reviewer concurs with the leading Methodist preacher of Atlanta, Dr. Pierce Harris, in preferring the ecumenical fellowship to an ecumenical union of churches.
WILLIAM CHILDS ROBINSON
No Sacred Cows
Man’s Peace God’s Glory, by Eric S. Fife (Inter-Varsity Press, 1961, 144 pp., cloth, $3.50; paper, $1.95), is reviewed by Horace L. Fenton, Jr., Associate General Director, Latin America Mission.
Mr. Fife, missionary director of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, has written a book that could be read with pleasure and profit by great numbers of Christians. His subject matter—the relation of the individual Christian to God’s great purpose in the world—is anything but new, yet he presents it with a freshness that commands attention, and with an urgency that insists on a response.
The author has no respect for “sacred cows.” He does not hesitate to challenge ideas which have been long accepted by Christians, but which may well be more popular than biblical. He insists on a solid biblical motivation for missions, and on the utter inadequacy of any other kind of motivation. He has a gift for words, and he uses it effectively to stab us awake. In helpful fashion, he deals with the practical aspects of the missionary enterprise. The book is well worth reading.
HORACE L. FENTON
Ecumenicalism and Romanism, Their Origin and Development, by Peter J. Doeswyck, (Knights of Christ, 1961, 158 pp., $3), is reviewed by C. Stanley Lowell, Editor of Church and State.
There can be no doubt that Peter J. Doeswyck has read prolifically in the field to which he devotes his attention in this book. The claim on the jacket that he “has read every available book from the time of Christ till the Reformation” is interesting. His training at the University of Freiburg for orders in the Roman church which he served as a priest was also helpful to his scholarship in medieval studies.
Dr. Doeswyck knows the Bible. He knows the early Fathers. He knows Romanism from the inside and he knows Protestantism from the inside. He is a gold mine of information. He is factual and accurate. Less can be said for the arrangement of his material which is set forth somewhat jerkily rather than in an even flow. The material fascinates but does not seem to get where it ought to be going.
There is, now and then, a disposition to oversimplify. On page 145, for example, Dr. Doeswyck comments: “As there is no Ecumenical Church today, it cannot hold an Ecumenical Council. The Council proposed for 1961 must be termed a General Council of the Roman Church.”
This is technically true. Indeed, it is precisely true. But it overlooks some considerations. The Roman Pope will allege that his Roman council is an ecumencial council. Such is his organization’s influence over mass media that his council will attain billing as an ecumenical council of the Church. In millions of minds, Protestants among them, it will be so regarded. It will convey certain implications and effects of an ecumenical council even though it is not one. With this fact we have also to reckon.
Some will find Dr. Doeswyck rough hut not without ingenuity. Witness his observation that “such (church) councils have no higher motive than the assembly of the Mafia at Appalachin, N.Y., which discussed its penal system, proper jurisdiction and rights to the spoils!” (Exclamation mark mine.) There are few dull moments in this book despite the weight of its subjects. Convinced Protestants will profit by it. I would imagine that all Roman Catholics will be directed to let it strictly alone.
C. STANLEY LOWELL
In His Image
God’s Great Plan for You, by Richard R. Caemmerer (Concordia, 1961, 90 pp., $2), is reviewed by Armin R. Gesswein, Chairman, Spiritual Life Commission, National Association of Evangelicals.
Digging from the heart of the Bible, Dr. Caemmerer presents this grand theme from a fresh angle of interest and with keen insight in six well-written chapters.
The whole plan centers in “God’s image” for man. Man mirrors God. Not only is man like God, but God is like man, originally. Man then lost his image. But it reappears in Christ, who by his redemption restores it for fallen man. In pages 51 and 53 the author deals very succinctly with the sin barrier in every form. But there is much more, for as the plot thickens with the exciting interest of full discovery (p. 50 ff.) Christ becomes our very Life. The Spirit, using the Word as his tool, refashions Christ within. So, the pattern “ultimately is not a re-shape of ourselves” but according to Christ—in both likeness and life. By the same miracle we discover ourselves to be in a oneness with others who are so re-made. Further, God’s people (the Church) are not only the repaired, they are the tools for recapturing the image of God for themselves as well as for others.
The book is provocative and practical. At the end he shows how the restored image is at work in all that man deems highest on earth, including love, knowledge, and making the invisible God visible. Life turns out to be Christ’s life, love his love, and so forth.
Each chapter leads us up a golden stairway of logical thought to God’s ultimate meaning for man, and provides illustrations apt and luminous. The style is that of an instructor talking to an adult catechumen class.
It is a fine treatise for ministers, and provides refreshing thought for any reader. The final recapture of the chapter is a distinctive and useful addition.
ARMIN R. GESSWEIN
The Free Act Of Grace
The Doctrine of Justification, by James Buchanan (Banner of Truth, 1961, 528 pp., 15s), is reviewed by Colin Brown, Tutor, Tyndale Hall, Bristol, England.
Justification by faith has become a debased concept these days. In some circles (those of a Ritschlian coloring) it has come to mean little more than realizing one’s mistake in thinking that God is angry. In others (and here we must include the Barthians) justification is treated as synonymous with atonement so that mankind as a whole is justified by the Incarnation, culminating as it does in the death of Christ. Furthermore, there are voluble sections of the theological world which claim that the category of justification is hardly relevant to the religious needs of modern man.
Buchanan’s work was first published in 1867. His definition follows the Puritan Westminster divines: “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone” (Shorter Catechism, Q. 33). Hence it is not surprising that Buchanan expounds justification in the context of the Law and in terms of the Covenant. What will be surprising to some is the massive evidence and cogent argument which he brings to hear on his case. In an exposition lasting close on 200 pages, Buchanan offers an exact analysis of the biblical concept together with an account of its place in biblical thought. All this is prefaced by a judicious survey of equal length which traces the doctrine in the history of the church.
Like any other book, Buchanan’s bears the marks of the age in which it was written, and his age was not noted for the terseness of its style. No doubt his biblical and forensic vocabulary will jar readers in some quarters. His refusal to divorce devotion from doctrine may be deemed a vice by theologians interested only in technicalities and preachers who want their sermons pre-packed. But for all that, Buchanan’s hook remains a classic, and his teaching has yet to be refuted.
The Homiletics Of Thomas
Outline Studies in the Gospel of Matthew, by W. H. Griffith Thomas (Eerdmans, 1961, 476 pp., $5.50), is reviewed by Ronald Ward, Professor of New Testament, Wycliffe College, Toronto.
In a generation that now largely “knows not Thomas,” it is good that his writings should consistently be brought before the public. In the year of his centenary, his daughter has gathered together her father’s notes in systematic form. Dr. Thomas came up the hard way, studying in his spare time and far into the night. But for all that, he gained a first at Oxford, became minister of St. Paul’s, Portman Square, and Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. In 1910 he accepted a Professorship at Wycliffe College, Toronto, and nine years later he crossed the border for a wider teaching and preaching ministry in the United States and England and China.
The present volume is exactly what it claims to be—outline studies. For the preacher or teacher who, like Alexander Maclaren, feeds his people with a threepronged fork, reading this book will be a joy. The analytic method reminds us of another giant, Graham Scroggie. There is scholarship here, scholarship mediated to the masses, and experience. In one instance we are given the notes of a sermon first preached when Griffith Thomas was 24. One would judge that they exhibit an amazing early maturity or the notes “grew” with the author. Occasional obiter dicta offer a sermon outline thrown in as an extra, or a suggestion to he followed up. “N. B. This prayer was ignorant prayer, and reminds us of futil prayer (Deut. 3:26).”
Here is an example of homiletic art and of evangelical exposition—a useful servant for the man who keeps his soul alive!
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