With Surprises For Many
Ecumenical Beginnings in Protestant World Mission: A History of Comity, by R. Pierce Beaver (Thomas Nelson, 1962, 356 pp., $5), is reviewed by William J. Samarin, Assistant Professor of Lineuistics, Hartford Seminary Foundation, Hartford, Connecticut.

An evaluation of this book is affected by whether one takes the title or the subtitle as its real subject. As a history of comity in Protestant world missions during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this work is unquestionably a major contribution to the literature on missiology; as a demonstration that comity is “the first concrete step in the evolution of the ecumenical movement,” however, it never makes its case. Demonstrating Christian unity in one field is not proving its causal relations to organizational ecumenism.

The modern missionary movement was characterized from its inception by interdenominational cooperation. News was shared. Funds from different branches of the Church were used to support missionary endeavors. And abroad, policies were hammered out to permit each missionary body to devote itself to the paramount concern—evangelizing the world.

Denominationalism did not characterize the work of most missionaries; many even envisaged the establishment of truly indigenous churches, Christian but not necessarily replicas of the churches of the missionaries. This is the part of modern missions which Beaver very carefully describes, first in general and then in detail for each of the major areas of the world. (The book concludes with a good bibliography and index.)

A book as well documented as this one is provides the reader with many surprises—unless he happens to be as well-read as its author. (Dr. Beaver is professor of missions and director of the Center for the Study of the Christian World Mission, Divinity School of the University of Chicago.) For example, J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, conceived of the C.I.M. not as simply interdenominational, but also as an instrument by which any of the existing church orders could be established in China. Thus Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans affiliated with the C.I.M.

In the final chapter, “Stress, Strain, and Problems,” the author reveals that all is not well. With strong words he decries the unfortunate results of the “colonial mind” (more about which one would have enjoyed reading), of “missionary imperialists,” of “denominational imperialism,” and of denominational “follow-up.” And even ecumenism, paradoxically enough, seems to have dealt a serious blow to unity and union because membership in the World Council of Churches is not by national or local councils of cooperation, but by churches.

Article continues below


Bitter Laughter
Letters From the Earth by Mark Twain, edited by Bernard DeVoto (Harper and Row, 1962, $5.95), is reviewed by Roderick H. Jellema, Instructor in English, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.

It is something of a literary event to find a new book by Mark Twain still holding its own after months on the best-seller lists—52 years after Twain’s death.

What happened is simply this: Since 1910 Twain’s heirs have suppressed the papers which make up this volume; they have now withdrawn their objections, and the world has a fresh volume by one of the greatest of American writers.

No one is going to suggest that Letters From the Earth is a great book. It is all too apparent in these fragments that Twain, for all his sly wit and satirical intensity and puckish insight, is out of control. Well, let him be out of control. His sharp eye and his pungent wit are still magnificent; his abandoned projects reveal more about that vain creature, man, than nine-tenths of the polished and finished projects of any publishing year. The book will alternately amuse and horrify the reader. But it will always engage him, and engage him significantly.

The book has a peculiar significance for the Christian reader. For the most part it is an attack on Protestant Christendom and its interpretation of the Bible as Twain saw them. Now mischievous or broadly mocking, then suddenly fierce and stinging and slashing, the book speaks an eloquent anger and anguish. Twain is not fooling; he is not offering idle diversion to his reader. The bitterness which seethes underneath Huck Finn’s view of a corrupted world and Pudd’nhead Wilson’s epithets, the bitterness which threatens to break loose in “The Mysterious Stranger” and “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,” here erupts—directly and personally and in religious terms. The question this book can raise is a frightening one: How is it that the Church, the very Body of Christ, conceived in love, can project into so keen and so hungry a mind as Mark Twain’s a mangled image of little but smugness, cruelty, pride, stupidity, and selfishness?

The simple answers will not do. It is not, for example, that Twain is a humanist who regards man as self-sufficient, without need of redemption, evolving towards perfection. His chapter on “The Damned Human Race” is misanthropic enough for a Swift or the popular caricature of an Edwards. In part of it he ridicules Darwin’s theory of the ascent of man from lower animals and works out, with chilling blandness, his own substitute for it: “the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.” It is not that he lacks seriousness, either; no worthy humorist does. Nor is he blocked by some proud inability to accept a supernatural realm of omnipotence; his style can hit lyrical pitch as he pictures God the Creator:

Article continues below
He lifted his hand, and from it burst a fountain-spray of fire, a million stupendous suns, which clove the blackness and soared, away and away and away, diminishing in magnitude and intensity as they pierced the far frontiers of Space, until at last they were but as diamond nailheads sparkling under the domed vast roof of the universe.

The implicit need that Twain felt for bringing God and man together is as strong as his sense of man’s evil and of God’s transcendent goodness. And yet, as himself or in his disguises as a letter writing Satan or a diary-keeping Methuselah, he can only laugh bitter laughter at Christendom.

This is not the place to analyze the deficiencies of Twain’s views. (One interesting paradox might be suggested: Had Christendom shown Twain more of the sense of guilt and original sin and less of the notion that men deserve or earn God’s love, we might have fared better at his hand.) But this is the place to suggest that reading Twain in all his painful irreverence can be an enobling experience. His book reminds us that theological constructions are not enough; that we often communicate the accidental and not the essential in the Christian faith; that scoffers do not always fit the stereotypes of pride and haughtiness which too many sermon illustrations ascribe to them.

This is not a book for the faint-of-heart or the easily shocked. It is an excellent book for the venturesome Christian who can swallow his pride, laugh at his own folly, and sharpen his Christian apologetic against a great, honest, and tragically formidable opponent.


Reform Or Uniformity?
Baptism in the New Testament, by G. R. Beasley-Murray (St. Martin’s, 1962, 424 pp., $12; Macmillan [London], 50s.), is reviewed by Cullen I. K. Story, Instructor in New Testament, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey.

The author of Jesus and the Future (1956) and A Commentary on Mark Thirteen (1957) has now written a full treatise on baptism. The main part of this book began to appear over three years ago as lectures which the writer, a Baptist, delivered to numerous Baptist institutions in the United States, in England, and on the Continent. Interestingly, the writer often reaches conclusions which run counter to the symbolic view of baptism prevailing in his own denomination.

Article continues below

The book has two main values. First, it opens up a rich exegetical study of all possible references to baptism in the New Testament. In true scholarly fashion, the writer always seeks to elucidate the text. Thus one discovers rich detail in his 19-page study of Romans 6:1 ff. Less certain references to baptism such as 1 Timothy 6:12, 13 and 2 Timothy 2:11, 12 likewise receive serious attention. In all of his exegesis, the author evidences complete acquaintance with the best of modern scholarship contained in commentaries, periodicals, and separate Works. Second, the author stresses the doctrinal importance of Christian baptism. In it he finds that the redemptive grace of God is at work in a unique way. He notes, “The baptismal act is his [the convert’s] ultimate response to the grace of God manifest in redemption” (p. 144), and “Baptism is rather the divinely-appointed rendezvous of grace for faith” (p. 273). The exegetical material throughout the main part of the book deserves careful attention.

Obviously a book on baptism will provoke questions. From chapter I a somewhat minor question arises: Does the baptism of John, as the author indicates, belong with antecedents of Christian baptism (e.g., the Qumran washings and Jewish proselyte baptism)? I think not. The united evidence of all four Gospels show that John’s baptism belongs to the very beginning of the Messianic ministry of Jesus.

Reading for Perspective


Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, by Karl Barth (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $4). Popular lectures, including the five given in the United States, showing the task, place, and wonder of theology, and Barth’s hope that America will develop a theology of freedom.

Preaching for Tethered Man, by Theodore Heimarck (Augsburg, $3.75). Twelve sermons which show the path of freedom to men tethered by fear and darkness.

The Natural and the Supernatural Jew, by Arthur A. Cohen (Pantheon, $6). Author defines the theological Jew as one aware of his divine calling, and searches for him in the writings of such men as Martin Buber, Will Herberg, Abraham Heschel, and Mordecai Kaplan.

Article continues below

A more basic question, however, grows out of the writer’s 80-page chapter on infant baptism. The question is: Can Christian unity through the Holy Spirit allow for differences in the administration of the rite of baptism? The reviewer believes that it can and should make such allowance. Our oneness is in Christ, the Lord of the sacrament of baptism. But, says Dr. Beasley-Murray, the sacrament today is often misunderstood and abused. Hence he calls for baptismal reform which will cut across denominational lines. Few will demur at this. But the ritual reformation which he envisions means both an increase in the number of baptisms of responsible (adult) believers and the rejection of the validity of infant baptism. Does this ultimately mean reform or uniformity? Is the Holy Spirit here with us to break down confessional loyalties or to manifest his rich and varied ministries which, it is true, often spill over those loyalties? Compare the provoking article by Vilmos Vajta, “Confessional Loyalty and Ecumenicity,” in the October 1962 Ecumenical Review. The New Testament insists that there is a rich variety of operations of the Spirit through both grace-gifts and divinely-appointed offices (1 Cor. 12:4–6). According to Acts (cf. 8:14–17 and 10:44–48 with 2:38) the Holy Spirit is free to work as he will in relation to baptism. Does not this evidence suggest that oneness through the Holy Spirit and differences in the administration of baptism did coexist in the first century and can coexist today?

One final word. The book unfortunately is priced out of range ($12). The reviewer suggests that author and publishers go into a huddle and discover some way to bring the price of this worthwhile work down into the salary bracket of the ordinary student of the Word, in the seminary or in the pastorate.


Emil Brunner
The Theology of Emil Brunner, edited by Charles W. Kegley and Robert W. Bretall, “Library of Living Theology,” Volume III (Macmillan, 1962, 395 pp., $7.50), is reviewed by James Daane, Editorial Associate, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

The first volume of “The Library of Living Theology” presented Paul Tillich, the second, Reinhold Niebuhr, and this third, Emil Brunner. Seventeen men present as many essays on various aspects of Brunner’s thought. The men include, among others, W. Pauck, H. V. White, A. Nygren, G. Florovsky, N. H. Söe, T. A. Gill, and D. Moody.

The book is a treasure for those interested in Brunner the theologian and Brunner the man. Except for one or two essays, all are good, and some excellent. All in all, they are a tribute worthy of the man. Although there is a bit of repetition, the recurrence of themes only indicates that the essays cut to the basic motifs of Brunner’s thought. The essays make it clear that in a world in which political totalitarianism and the disciples of Marx, Darwin, Freud, have developed a doctrine of man that denies human freedom, Brunner was bent on presenting the Christian view of man, a being addressed by God, and thus responsible to God. This motif runs not only through Brunner’s anthropology, but through his personal-social ethic, his epistemology, his missionary theology, and particularly through his conception of the “point of contact.” While this “ethical” aspect of Brunner gets full treatment, one could wish for fuller treatment of Brunner’s idea of “truth as encounter”—the concept he himself regards as his most important contribution to Christian epistemology. This conception of Christian epistemology is after all the crux of Brunner’s theology.

Article continues below

Brunner himself presents two interesting chapters. One is a sketch of his intellectual autobiography which throws considerable light on the world in which, and for which, he did his theologizing. He confesses that he regards himself first and primarily as a preacher, and that all his theological and philosophical thinking and writing has been subservient to presenting Jesus Christ to the world. The whole of his authorship makes it clear that he desired to carry on a Christian dialogue with the men of his time. His decision to teach in the International Christian University of Tokyo was a confirmation of his personal confession and of the practical intent of his theology.

In the concluding chapter Brunner expresses his reactions and appreciation to the tributes paid him and his thought and answers some questions and criticisms, all with Christian humility and courtesy. Brunner praises White for spelling out with great clarity something he himself had done little more than hint at: the unbeliever in becoming Christian must recapitulate the Old Testament history of Israel. He pays Dale Moody the tribute of knowing his theological authorship better than others, and then admits to some embarrassment apparently caused (Brunner’s script gets a bit muddy here) by a fundamentalism which allegedly peeks through Moody’s article. Brunner also expresses some reservations about Moody’s Baptistic idea of the Church and the critical use he made of it. (It appears to this writer that Professor Moody sees more in Brunner’s idea of the Church that is congenial to a Baptist than Brunner himself is prepared to admit.)

Article continues below

The book’s first chapter is of the quality one has come to expect when W. Pauck writes on historical matters; in one of its final chapters T. A. Gill, in his startling, jab-them-and-keep-them-awake style, gives a warm portrait of Brunner as a man and as a preacher.


Sunday School Materials
Reviewed by Milford F. Henkel, Associate Professor and Chairman of the Division of Social Science, Malone College, Canton, Ohio.

Year after year the International Sunday School Lessons have retained their popularity with adult classes. Graded lessons of different types and subjects have increased in popularity with young people and children but only in a small measure with adults. A Sunday school commentary is a good buy; the publishers are to be commended for keeping prices low (generally between $2.95 and $3.25).

No one commentary examined excels in all areas. With the exception of The Gist of the Lesson, however, all of the commentaries furnish more than ample material. The selection of a particular commentary is a personal choice, but the following factors should be considered: Who is to use the commentary? What are his particular needs? How does he study his lesson? What is his theological position? How important is teaching methodology to him? Some may desire to purchase two commentaries—one for exposition and one for methodology.

Is a Sunday school commentary necessary with the improved teacher-pupil lesson manuals offered by many publishers? Some of the better teacher-pupil quarterlies are as extensive as, if not more extensive than, the commentaries. However, many quarterlies are not of this type. These commentaries could supplement the regular lesson material, or in many cases could be adopted by a class in lieu of quarterlies.

The Gist of the Lesson, edited by Donald T. Kauffman, originated by R. A. Torrey (Revell, 1962, 128 pp., $1.25), is the smallest and most inexpensive of the commentaries reviewed. Its advantage is that it fits into a pocket or purse. It is evangelical and includes the King James text of the lesson, the outline, the historical background, Bible study, and application. All of this is found in 2½ pages for each lesson. Its aim is to suggest, to be a “book of seed thoughts.” It is so brief that it is not adequate by itself for most teachers.

Article continues below

Rozell’s Complete Lessons, by Ray Rozell (Rozell and Co., 1962, 322 pp., $2.95), is a general commentary which suggests aims, approaches, pupil needs, and personal applications. It begins with several pages of suggestions, including hints for using the chalkboard but no other audio-visual materials. The late Rev. Mr. Rozell was a Baptist, but his book is not strongly Baptistic. There is emphasis upon teaching from the Bible and upon reading books of the Bible in their entirety. The commentary could be used by either the teacher or class members. It suggests techniques to the teacher, but is rather weak at this point. Each lesson is six pages long; the biblical text is from the Revised Standard Version.

Arnold’s Commentary, which has Donald M. Joy as executive editor and Lyle E. Williams as editor (Light and Life, 1962, 332 pp., $2.95), is not strictly denominational although published by the Free Methodist Church; it is Arminian in its theological interpretation. It distinguishes between such theological views as “sanctification” and “entire sanctification” (p. 256), and refers to Clarke’s Commentary more than to any other. There is a good discussion of different versions of the Bible. Like the other commentaries reviewed thus far, this one does not stress a literal 24-hour-day interpretation of the days of Genesis. It differs in that it does not print the Scripture texts, possibly assuming the teachers could find these in the Bible. Written by various authors, it varies greatly in quality, from outstanding articles by the editor to mediocre ones by others. At times the different parts of a lesson overlap. Each lesson includes a section on how to conduct the class, illustrated material entitled “Lesson in Life,” and a section entitled “Looking Ahead.” This commentary is of comparable merit with Rozell’s and is of particular interest to those desiring an Arminian interpretation. Each lesson is six pages. The audio-visual aids proposed are largely limited to the chalkboard and maps.

Peloubet’s Select Notes, by Wilbur M. Smith (Wilde, 1962, 447 pp., $2.95), will have lasting value on a minister’s shelf and will be referred to time after time. It has the most complete collection of expository notes of any of the commentaries. Dr. Wilbur Smith, its editor, is one of America’s great bibliographers, and this work reflects his extensive knowledge. At the same time, such bibliographical references are designed more for preachers than for the average Sunday school teacher; few teachers will buy a 1200-page commentary on Genesis, even if Dr. Smith suggests it. Good features include excellent outlines of the biblical passages and a set of free maps that can be obtained from the publishers.

Article continues below

Teachers using this book are almost forced to use the lecture method; there is hardly any information on how to teach. There is a list of audio-visual aids, but the teacher is told neither their price nor how to fit them into the lesson. The attempt to show how to introduce the lesson to different age groups is forced and unnatural. An example of this: in one lesson the teacher of the older classes is told, “The older classes should follow the suggestion above for the younger classes” (p. 1).

The book is thoroughly evangelical, though some may be unhappy with the rejection of the gap theory in Genesis 1:1, 2 and the support of the epic day theory. This is the best commentary for exposition.

The Douglass Sunday School Lessons, by Earl L. Douglass (Macmillan, 1962, 478 pp., $3.25), is the most extensive of these commentaries, yet is very moderately priced. It prints the lesson text from the King James Version, a lesson plan for the teacher, a detailed exposition of the texts, teaching hints, and illustrative materials. It is evangelical and interdenominational. Although it sees valuable contributions from all branches of Christendom, certain beliefs are stressed that all Christians must accept. These include a belief in God as Creator, authority and inspiration of Scripture, and Jesus Christ as the divine Saviour of the world. “Of these beliefs there can be no compromise” (pp. 370, 371). It gives the prices of audio-visual materials; films and filmstrips are included, though the list is very similar to those in the other commentaries. Its strength lies in its aids for teachers and its illustrations. It is a good commentary for the teacher who desires to do a better-than-average job.

Tarbell’s Teachers’ Guide, edited by Frank S. Mead (Revell, 1962, 384 pp., $2.95), is “widely recognized and accepted as the best lesson text and teachers’ guide to the International Sunday School lesson,” according to Daniel A. Poling, having “just about everything that the Sunday School teacher or student could desire” (Christian Herald, Dec., 1962). This reviewer must take exception to this glowing tribute. Of all the commentaries reviewed, this is the most liberal. Tarbell accepts the J, E, P sources for Genesis (p. 201), speaks of “all need conversion over and over again” (p. 24) and many other liberal interpretations. Tarbell’s does excel in illustrative material for pastors and discriminating teachers. As a rich source of illustrations it is worthy of a permanent place on the pastor’s shelf. Its teaching methodology is good, but not so good as that of The International Lesson Annual. It includes the lesson text in both RSV and KJV.

Article continues below

Higley Sunday School Lesson Commentary, edited by J. A. Huffman (Lambert Huffman Publishers, 1962, 525 pp., $2.95), is a dependable evangelical commentary, probably the largest seller today. The reviewer has often wondered why the materials found in annual commentaries were not also issued quarterly, making it possible for a Sunday school class to use this material for its regular lesson. Higley has done this; the commentary is issued in several ways: hardback, four parts with paper cover, loose leaf, and deluxe leather-covered. The most unique feature is the “pump primer,” which is designed to stimulate class discussion. Other features include the Scripture section, daily Bible reading, teaching outline and suggestions, exposition, evangelistic and missionary application, object lesson, illustrations, seed thoughts, and review questions. These widely varying features are not always closely integrated; some object lessons are forced, and it is perhaps not necessary to print the Scripture section and then repeat each verse in the exposition. A list of films and filmstrips is not included in the quarterly but may be obtained by writing to the publisher.

The International Lesson Annual, edited by Horace R. Weaver (Abingdon, 1962, 447 pp., $2.95), is one of the best commentaries for methodology. The teaching plans, especially the alternate ones, are based upon the concept that the student should be an active learner. Methods of teaching include forum, symposium, panel, discussion group, buzz group, role playing, and debate. The commentary includes an explanation of the biblical text, mention of audio-visual resources with some discussion on how to use them, application, teaching suggestions, and daily Bible reading. In this commentary (as in several others) the text is printed in both the KJV and RSV for easy comparison. In all cases the commentaries which did this made little comparison between the two texts. Is this a wise use of space, especially since the teacher should have several versions of the Bible available to study? Many publishers of the Sunday school quarterlies print both texts in these, so that it is of doubtful value to list both texts with each lesson in the commentary. In some cases a comparison of the texts would be fitting and very helpful.

Article continues below

In spite of the excellent teacher material the book will be rejected by some because of its rather liberal theological position. Theistic evolution is assumed (the process of evolution was orderly, not accidental or whimsical, pp. 231, 232), and a rather modified critical position is attributed to the Scripture in places such as the two accounts of creation; writing compiled by Moses sometime “previous to 250 B.C.… was divided into five parts” (p. 231). It is, however, an excellent commentary for those holding a modified liberal position and of great value to conservatives who can use it with discretion It has eight or nine pages per lesson.

Standard Lesson Commentary, edited by John W. Wade (Standard, 1962, 448 pp., $2.95), is of modern type and layout. It includes suggestions on lesson plans and teaching techniques. There are sections on explanation of the text, lesson outline, suggested prayer, “quotable” quotes, pithy points, truth for daily living, proposed lesson aims, lesson quiz, audio-visual aids, and a selected bibliography. It is evangelical in tone. Other commentaries have special features that excel particular features in this one, but this has the best all-round approach for the average teacher.


British Baptists
British Baptists: A Short History, by D. Mervyn Himbury (Carey Kingsgate Press, 1962, 143 pp., 8s. 6d.), is reviewed by James Taylor, Minister of Ayr Baptist Church, Scotland.

Within a short compass the author has given us a valuable history of the development of Baptist churches, outlook, and doctrine in the British Isles, the Americas, and Australia and New Zealand. The growth of the Anabaptist movement on the Continent is traced and its relationship shown to the Baptist churches which began to rise in England. Adequate treatment is given to the successive confessions of faith which indicated the consolidation of Baptist doctrine and practice. The chapter on “Baptists and the Secular World” reveals that although Baptists have produced few men who have plotted violent social change, the churches have always possessed a strong social conscience. The problems which faced Baptists in the past with regard to their own communion and the surrounding secular society have a strangely modern ring!

The author is at his best when he deals with the “outreach” of Baptist churches. He writes: “Wherever a Baptist church has been planted in the modern world, it has itself become a centre of missionary activity.” This is a book that will be of profit to more than just British Baptists.


Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.