It is a sign of Christian vitality that religious books continue to come out in large numbers, and that more diversified publishing houses display a strong interest in theological literature. From another standpoint, however, the wealth of titles is an embarrassment, since it makes discernment difficult, threatens to reduce any general review to a mere catalog, and poses a particular problem for those anxious to pick out the main trends. The most that we can do in this appraisal is to select some of the more interesting works, take account of any trends that seem to be emerging, and estimate the thrust of evangelical writing.
A first point is that there is no abatement of interest in the great theology of the past. Among important additions in this area are the new volumes of Luther’s Works (Concordia and Muhlenberg), and the Luther volume, Early Theological Writings, in the “Library of Christian Classics” (Westminster). The Banner of Truth Trust continues its good work with Sermons of the Great Ejection, in commemoration of the expulsion of Puritans in 1662, and The Early Life of Howell Harris, the Welsh evangelist. The year 1662 was also the date of Pascal’s death, and it is thus fitting that there should be a new English edition of the Pensées (Harper). During the year there have also been new editions of some of Kierkegaard’s works, including his Works of Love (Harper) and Philosophical Fragments (Princeton). In the main, the influence of these reprints is wholesome from an evangelical standpoint.
In purely historical studies one of the most encouraging developments is the church historical series jointly produced by Paternoster and Eerdmans. During the year G. S. M. Walker has added The Growing Storm on the medieval period, and the basic volume, F. F. Bruce’s The Spreading Flame, has been reissued. Dr. Latourette’s great series on Christianity in a Revolutionary Age has now been concluded with The Twentieth Century Outside Europe (Harper), and it is hopeful that the author remains optimistic for Christianity in spite of present difficulties.
The area of historical theology has produced some good works, with Reformation theology well to the fore. Those interested in biblical authority in Calvin might do well to consult H. J. Forstmann’s Word and Spirit (Stanford University Press), and much the same question is discussed in respect of the Anglican Jewel, though not without a certain bias, in W. M. Southgate’s John Jewel and the Problem of Doctrinal Authority (Harvard). Indeed, we are in much the same area in the Luther study, Grace and Reason, by B. A. Gerrish (Oxford). A more general work on grace in the Reformation period is by W. Childs Robinson’s The Reformation: A Rediscovery of Grace (Eerdmans). Ranging rather farther afield, Matthew Spinka has given us a fine survey of thinking from the Reformation to our own day in his new volume, Christian Thought from Erasmus to Berdyaev (Prentice-Hall). Another valuable survey is K. Cauthen’s The Impact of American Religious Liberalism (Harper), though we are not to follow the author in his more appreciative sections. From the evangelical standpoint we welcome the first of a four-volume assessment of Augustine by A. D. R. Polman of the Netherlands. The first volume on The Word of God in the Theology of St. Augustine (Eerdmans) is an acute and learned study.
Augustine is also the subject of a more biographical work which also comes from Europe. This is Augustine the Bishop by F. van der Meer (Sheed and Ward), and it deals with the more pastoral and practical aspects of Augustine’s ministry. Another stimulating biography from a very different period is Zinzendorf, the Ecumenical Pioneer (Westminster), by A. J. Lewis. Among other things this book reminds us that whatever we think of the ecumenical movement as it now is, it has in evangelicalism its deepest and its healthiest roots.
In the ecumenical world the Vatican Council tends to dominate the scene. Two works are particularly important here. The first is The Council, Reform and Reunion (Sheed and Ward), by Hans Küng, which represents more progressive opinion in the modern Roman Catholic Church. The second is the symposium, The Papal Council and the Gospel (Augsburg), in which we have a sympathetic but cautious appraisal by some leading Protestant scholars. Regrettably, nothing outstanding comes from evangelical theologians, though Roman Catholicism is a theological and ecclesiastical force we cannot afford to ignore. Preoccupation with the Vatican, however, should not cause us to lose sight of other works, which include Bishop Newbigin’s A Faith for This One World? (Harper). Even more important are two books which take us deep into the theological issues, namely, Gustav Aulén’s Reformation and Catholicity and W. Niesel’s The Gospel and the Churches (Westminster). Here again it is unfortunate that there are no comparable evangelical works, for it is at this dogmatic level that evangelicals might well be making a critical and constructive contribution.
By contrast, we welcome two significant volumes in dogmatic theology. The first is the composite Basic Christian Doctrines (Holt, Rinehart and Winston), which gives more permanent and coherent form to the recent series in CHRISTIANITY TODAY. For all the unevenness of multiple authorship, this is an effective presentation of essential Christian truths. The second is G. C. Berkouwer’s latest addition to his dogmatic monographs, Man, The Image of God (Eerdmans). Those who are not already familiar with this series are advised to consult it without delay. Among other works, the first part of a two-volume Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion (Zondervan), by J. O. Buswell. will be much appreciated. From England comes a group of essays by the faculty of the London Bible College under the title Vox Evangelica (Epworth), and Anglican evangelicals have contributed to another series in Eucharistic Sacrifice (Church Book Room Press). The latter series’ title is simply a title for discussion and does not indicate its positive thrust.
Looking out to the wider world, we may note five other doctrinal works of distinction. Just before his death the late John Baillie completed the manuscript of his Gifford Lectures, and as these are now published under the title The Sense of the Presence of God (Oxford) they represent his final dogmatic testimony. The theology of James Denney finds fresh presentation in J. R. Taylor’s God Loves Like That (SCM). For an authoritative survey of Roman Catholic dogmatics we may now turn to the English translation of L. Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Mercier Press, Cork). J. McIntyre gives us a new and acute discussion of the divine love in his book On the Love of God (Harper). And, finally, Emil Brunner has at last published the third and concluding volume of his Dogmatics (Westminster), and those who, while they disagree with him, nevertheless admire the richness and conciseness of Brunner’s thinking, will turn with profit to what may well be his last major work.
Mention of Brunner reminds us of Barth, whose British and American visits have naturally stimulated fresh interest. Among evangelical books on Barth we may refer to the detailed study, Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Holy Scripture (Eerdmans), by K. Runia, and C. Van Til’s more general Christianity and Barthianism (Presbyterian and Reformed), which works out more comprehensively the author’s earlier thesis that Barth succeeds in reaching the very opposite of his avowed intentions. For an excellent survey of Barth’s development between 1910 and 1930 readers are advised to study Karl Barth (Harper), by T. F. Torrance, a sympathetic admirer but by no means slavish disciple. Many of Barth’s own works have appeared during the year, including a reprint of Credo, the American edition of Gollwitzer’s selection from the Church Dogmatics (Harper), and the early essays, Theology and Church (Harper). Volume IV, 3 of the Church Dogmatics was also published in two halves in 1962 (T. and T. Clark). With this massive account of the ongoing prophetic work of Christ, the English translation catches up with the German, though IV, 4 on the ethics of reconciliation is now almost ready in German.
The lectures given by Barth in America are printed in the larger work Evangelical Theology (Holt, Rinehart and Winston), which comes out early in 1963. This book falls into a valuable category of reflection on the pursuit of theology, and in this category we may well include H. Thielicke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (Eerdmans) and H. Vogel’s Consider Your Calling (Oliver and Boyd). Perhaps our own theologians might be well advised to do some of this fundamental reflection on their task.
Little space remains for the great field of practical theology. In devotion, we may commend John Baillie’s Christian Devotion (Scribner’s), and also the account of Anglican piety between the Reformation and the Oxford Movement in J. C. Stranks’s Anglican Devotion (SCM). In worship, Horton Davies has added another volume to his Worship and Theology in England (Princeton). For a real theological assessment of the pastoral ministry, in which the minister is not reduced to the rank of somewhat inferior psychoanalyst but is assessed in terms of his own task, we recommend the basic substance of The Theology of Pastoral Care (John Knox), by E. Thurneysen. In sermons, the series by W. Fitch on The Beatitudes (Eerdmans) and the powerful messages of H. Thielicke in The Silence of God call for notice. But here we may fitly end, as we began, with the voice of the past, for not only has W. R. Mueller drawn our attention to a great seventeenth-century figure in his John Donne, Preacher (Princeton), but after years of patient work by G. R. Potter and E. M. Simpson a ten-volume edition of The Sermons of John Donne has now been completed (University of California Press, 1953–1962).
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