Barth’S Election Explains Too Much
Alpha and Omega: A Study in the Theology of Karl Barth, by Robert W. Jenson (Nelson & Sons, 1963, 175 pp., $4), is reviewed by James Daane, Editorial Associate, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

This book is deceptively simple. It’s short; its language is clear and uncluttered, and not without a touch of easy-going, straight-faced humor. Yet it exposes and evaluates the core of Barth’s theology. It demonstrates that Barth’s theology is truly systematic—ruled throughout by a single motif—so that it can be neither identified with any traditional theology, nor accepted or rejected in part. One can, however, without doing either, learn much from Barth’s thought, and I suspect that Jenson has.

The current slogan, “Christianity is a historical religion,” says Jenson, is a tired cliché; yet its very relevancy has made it a cliché. The slogan means that God has acted redemptively in history and thus disclosed that true reality which determines our lives and the meaning and goal of history. He then smokes out the central core of Barth’s theology by asking it three questions: How does God do this? In what sense does God have a history? And, What is that historical reality that God has wrought, and to which the Church bears witness?

Barth’s answer to all three questions is: Jesus Christ. With this, every traditional theology would agree. But Barth defines Jesus Christ in a quite new way. According to Barth, Jesus Christ is God’s eternal decision, the beginning and end of all God’s ways and works. Jesus Christ is the form in which God wills to exist, namely, as man, with man, and for man.

But this divine decision involves a negative aspect. It posits not only what God wills, but also a negative shadowy existence to what he does not will, i.e., what he rejects. By saying “yes” to creation, God says “no” to chaos, to the threat of nihility; yet thereby chaos has negative reality as something which God does not will. Similarly, when God says “yes” to the good, i.e., to his purpose to live with man in covenant fellowship, he rejects the possibility of the opposite, namely, sin; yet thereby sin obtains a negative reality as that which God rejects.

Yet God, according to Barth, has made provision from eternity that chaos be defeated and sin rendered an ontological impossibility, for his eternal decision to exist for and with man in Jesus Christ, means Jesus Christ as crucified. Thus, Jesus Christ exists eternally both as creator and as reconciler. Indeed, Christ is first reconciler and then creator, for God’s eternal decision is gracious; sin is always opposition to redemptive grace, even creation is an act of such grace (the eternal ground of God’s gracious covenant), and grace is the internal purpose and presupposition of creation.

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Thus Jesus Christ is God’s history (Urgeschichte). What then is revelation? It is the disclosure of this transcendent divine history in our time and history in Jesus of Nazareth. And faith is the knowledge of his transcendent, divine history, a knowledge which occurs by the action of the Spirit and through the witness of the Church.

Whereas in the traditional view of Christ, God acts through Christ in our time and history, in Barth’s view, God’s redemptive and creative action occurs within Christ; it occurs not so much between Jesus Christ and mankind, but between God and Man as they eternally exist in the form of Christ.

Thus, the disclosure in history of God’s history with man in Christ constitutes the decisive reality within our history, and the determination of history’s goal.

From this it appears that Barth is a predestinarian, more specifically, a supralapsarian—but of a new variety. The weakness of traditional supralapsarian thought is its seemingly engrained notion that reprobation is the equally valid counterpart of election, and its seemingly inbuilt tendency to account for the fact of sin as something God willed, in order that.… It appears to this writer that Barth has not escaped the essential weakness of traditional supralapsarianism. Reprobation, i.e., what God rejects, is in Barth’s thought the necessary opposite side of the coin of election as it relates to Christ as both elect and reprobate, as it relates in him in this double fashion to all men, and even as it relates to chaos and sin. Each of these is a counterpart of God’s electing choice and as such has a negative, though finally defeated, reality. In Barth, as in traditional supralapsarianism, election via rejection accounts for too much.

Traditional supralapsarianism, moreover, has never been able to find a place in its scheme of sequence for a genuine historical moment of transition from wrath to grace. The same problem emerges in Barth, as Jenson clearly points out, for in Barth’s thought redemption precedes creation and sin; indeed, the very purpose of creation is to provide a finite, temporal external ground for the covenant of God’s gracious redemption. Barth, urges Jenson, has no genuine moment of “before and after” for either creation, sin, or redemption.

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Similarly, it is Barth’s understanding of Jesus Christ as God’s eternal decision of election to be for and with man which accounts for the fact that this Urgeschichte, this Word of God, can never be more than a secondary, broken witness in our ordinary time and history.

Jesus Christ is God’s act of election, but the revelation of this in history is always refracted and enmeshed in that which God rejects (namely, chaos, the threat of nihility, sin, wrath) by the very fact that is revealed in history; the very purpose of history, according to Barth, is redemptive, i.e., to reveal in a progressive movement that God’s non-election—that is, what God rejects—is overcome and defeated.

Jenson has made a worthy contribution to our study of Barth. He appreciates many aspects of Barth’s contribution to Christian theology, but he finds Barth less than acceptable at the very center of his theology—and that center is Barth’s unique understanding of Jesus Christ as God’s act of election.


Rich In Promise
The Idea of a Secular Society, by D. L. Munby (Oxford, 1963, 91 pp., $3), is reviewed by C. Gregg Singer, Professor of History, Catawba College, Salisbury, North Carolina.

This book presents the thirty-fourth series of the Riddell Lectures delivered at King’s College in the University of Durham in March, 1962. The author, an economist and a fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, has attempted to set forth what he feels is the meaning and significance of a secular society for contemporary Christians. The title of these lectures is rich in promise, but the lectures themselves fail to live up to the promise. Munby frankly repudiates the concept of a Christian society as it has been propounded by T. S. Eliot in his The Idea Of A Christian Society and the earlier views of Coleridge on the proper relationship which should exist between church and state.

The author clearly feels that a secular society is highly desirable and that the Church has nothing to fear from such a situation; however, this reviewer could not escape the impression that Munby means that the Church has nothing to fear from a society which gears its economic life to the teachings of Lord Keynes. Whether he does or not is not important. He fails to prove his point, and the book suffers from a lack of any real appreciation of the Church as the Body of Christ, and of the role of the Scriptures and theology in its life and work. Its social values are seen too much in terms of the role of the clergy and what the author regards as the failure of the clergy of the Church of England to adjust to the demands of life in twentieth-century England. In short, the book is most disappointing.

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A Heritage Under Survey
The Work of the Holy Spirit, by Lycurgus M. Starkey, Jr. (Abingdon, 1962, 176 pp., $3), is reviewed by Harold B. Kuhn, Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.

It is refreshing to read a work which professes to be inductive and objective, and which then proves to be true to its stated task. Professor Starkey has surveyed the literature of the Wesleyan movement as that literature touches the person and work of the Holy Spirit and has, in most points at least, both understood clearly and stated objectively what has been historically taught upon this vital subject.

Several points are made clear: the Holy Spirit is a person, and is divine, is a constituent in the triune Godhead, and is the one who “applies the work of Christ to the soul of man and initiates and administers the Christian life” (p. 37). This summary statement is followed by a breakdown of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in personal redemption, in the assurance of the believer, in the inspiration and application of the Holy Scriptures, in his application of the “means of grace,” and in his empowerment of the Christian. Least incisive is his treatment of the historical Wesleyan conception of Christian Perfection as taught by John Wesley in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection.

Dr. Starkey seeks, within the context of the major purpose of the work (to survey the Wesleyan literature), to relate the Wesleyan message to the total Reformation tradition. He feels that the areas of affinity between Wesley and George Fox and the Quakers were numerous and significant, and he relates the two traditions at both the doctrinal level and that of empirical righteousness. His final chapter, “Wesley and the Contemporary Theological Enterprise,” seeks to relate the work of the Holy Spirit to “the unity which we seek” in today’s Christendom and lays down a pattern which, if followed seriously, would without doubt bring a “new Reformation” into today’s Protestantism. The emphasis upon social sanctification is quite other than that “easy sanctification of society” against which Niebuhr has warned us so eloquently.

This volume spells out no social creed nor specific social program. Rather, it pleads that men make a place for the inner dynamic of the Holy Spirit within their own lives as they share in the common life of man. Avoiding the modalism which so frequently vitiates such studies, this work has a great deal to say to those segments of the Church that would reconsider their heritage.

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The Roots Are Deep
Roman Hellenism and the New Testament, by Frederick C. Grant (Scribner’s, 1962, 216 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Glenn W. Barker, Professor of New Testament, Gordon Divinity School, Beverly Farms, Massachusetts.

The publication of this very fine little book on Hellenistic backgrounds of the New Testament has once more placed the serious student of New Testament exegesis in the debt of Dr. Grant. Again, with the style which has marked his more than thirty volumes, the author has succeeded in sorting through a voluminous accumulation of technical data and ordering it in such a way that it becomes readily available to the seminary student and minister of the Gospel. The readability of the material and the application of certain facets of the investigation to twentieth-century conditions are doubtless due to the fact that the book’s contents served as substance for extensive lectures given at numerous institutions both here and abroad.

In the first three chapters the book surveys the Hellenistic heritage of the first century, particularly in terms of religion, education, and philosophy. Chapter IV gives a vivid picture of Hellenism as the first Christians found it in the Early Roman Empire. The next chapter presents the unique and all-important function of the Septuagint in the emergence and spread of Christian doctrine. Chapter VI deals briefly with the documents of the New Testament, which Dr. Grant holds must be understood primarily as the “sacred writings of a religion read in its liturgy.” Chapter VII has to do with the Apostle Paul, who, he asserts, “was a Pharisee—always.” The last chapter is largely a presentation of the author’s own philosophy of the origin and validity of Christian truth. The book concludes with a note on Religio Licita, a helpful chronology of the Hellenistic world with more than 200 entries, and twenty-one pages of valuable bibliography carefully subdivided according to subject matter.

Reading for Perspective


* The Last judgment, by James P. Martin (Eerdmans, $4). A historical study to discover whether respect for biblical authority—or something else—determined the understanding of the Last Judgment in Christian thought.

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* Faith Victorious, by Lennart Pinomaa, translated by Walter J. Kukkonen (Fortress, $4.75). An assessment of Luther’s view of major theological themes supplemented by resumes of other recent leading studies.

* The Church’s Use of the Bible, edited by D. E. Nine ham (S.P.C.K., 21s.). Eight English scholars investigate the way the Bible has been viewed and handled at various periods in the history of the Church.

The publication of this book is timely on two counts. First, since the advent of the Dead Sea Scrolls Jewish studies have dominated New Testament research. This book will be a useful reminder for students that a serious interpretation of the New Testament should take into account also its deep roots in Hellenism. Secondly, the book is dedicated to the late Arthur Darby Nock. It is fitting that Harvard’s great Hellenistic scholar should have been so honored prior to his sudden death.


New Framework?
The Theology of the Older Testament, by J. Barton Payne (Zondervan, 1962, 554 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by David W. Kerr, Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, Gordon Divinity School, Beverly Farms, Massachusetts.

Originality is often refreshing. It is particularly so in the work of a conservative biblical scholar, since much of the effort of conservatives has been spent on defending old positions rather than defining new ones.

Dr. J. Barton Payne, associate professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School of Theology, has presented many older views within a new framework. He not only advocates using the term “testament” in the place of the theologically time-honored “covenant,” but he also uses the later Greek or western concept of a last will or testament to provide the structure for his work. The word “covenant” is reserved for the relationship between God and man prior to the fall into sin, which was, according to the author, more synergistic than the later dispositions of divine grace. The reviewer feels that in modern usage “testament” is subject to just as much misunderstanding as “covenant” and that the use of the Greek term diathēkē in Hebrews 9:15–17 to mean a will or testament does not justify its wholesale application to the divine dealings with men.

Chief among the other original features of this work is the devotion of a final chapter to the “testament of Peace,” a period to follow the second coming of Christ which most Christians would call the millennium. The biblical reference for the use of this distinctive term is Ezekiel 34 and 37. A study of Ezekiel seems to show that the covenant of peace and the everlasting covenant described by the prophet refer to the same situation and that both of them point to the period of the new covenant or testament foretold in Jeremiah 31:31 ff. The Epistle to the Hebrews describes the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ as the blood of the new covenant and also of the everlasting covenant. A premillennial eschatology may be defended from a more solid bastion than Ezekiel.

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The very detailed presentation of certain topics may at times leave the lay reader with a sense of bewilderment. The initiated, however, will discover in this book a fine breadth of acquaintance with all the important writings on Old Testament theology and a keen discernment of the issues involved between orthodoxy and views which are less biblical. The author supports his own positions ably and is anxious that these positions agree with the revealed Word of God.

The book closes with a series of appendices, most of which are polemical in character, and a complete bibliography in which each title listed is evaluated on the basis of its theological viewpoint. The Theology of the Older Testament is the only work of its kind to be produced by an American conservative scholar in two generations.


Useful And Usable
The Family in Christian Perspective, by C. W. Scudder (Broadman, 1962, 167 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Glenn W. Samuelson, Associate Professor of Sociology, Eastern Baptist College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania.

As the title indicates, this book on the family is written from a theological frame of reference. The nature of man and the purposes of God are the two main concerns throughout the study.

The author, professor of Christian ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, utilizes the information and insights from the fast-growing disciplines of sociology, psychology, and anthropology which are in harmony with the Christian ethic.

Thus the first chapter, “A Theological Approach,” sets the stage and is followed by chapters on “Sex and Marriage,” “Preparation for Successful Marriage,” “Responsible Parenthood,” “Responsible Family Relationships,” “Provision for the Elderly,” “Ruptured Family Relations” and “The Church and the Home.” Careful thought, clear expression, definite convictions, and short quotations from the theologians and social scientists characterize this stimulating volume.

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It will be valuable for use in marriage and family courses and beneficial as a sourcebook for pastoral counseling and preaching. Also, young couples planning their marriage can profit from this book.


A Philosopher’S Lament
The Spirit of American Philosophy, by John E. Smith (Oxford, 1963, 219 pp., $5), is reviewed by Carl F. H. Henry, Editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

The chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Yale University laments the predicament of American philosophy since pragmatism fell from its dominant position. In the aftermath philosophy has been widely viewed as simply a matter of technical analysis using a technical vocabulary for problems far removed from life, and American thinkers have become overly dependent on the British (particularly in respect to analytical thinking) at the expense of originality and independence.

Dr. Smith makes no prediction about the future of American philosophy, which has traveled far afield since the theism of Jonathan Edwards. He finds signs of hope in a revival of interest in the perennial problems, in widening student interest in philosophy, ethics, and religion, and in the relating of philosophy to practical concerns. But he thinks American professional philosophers will recapture their independence only if they insist that (1) experience comprehensively defined is a genuine and trustworthy disclosure of reality, and (2) reason is an actual power in the world, with its own constitution, and is irreducible to a mere conjunction of facts. These emphases on broad definition of experience, and on the role of reason, are welcome; what would be equally welcome would be more of Jonathan Edwards’ comprehension of the larger context which makes both human reason and human experience intelligible.


The Place Counts
The Architectural Setting of Baptism, by J. G. Davies (Barrie & Rockliff, 1962, 192 pp., 42s.), is reviewed by Henry R. Sefton, Minister at Newbattle, Midlothian, Scotland.

There is a close connection between the architectural setting of Baptism and the place of the sacrament in the life and thinking of the Church. This is the conviction of the author of this profusely illustrated and richly informative book.

The greater part of the work is given to a survey of the different settings in which Baptism has been administered through the centuries. During the apostolic age, Baptism was performed in natural surroundings, but in the third century baptisteries made their appearance. Professor Davies shows how the doctrine and practice of Baptism in the early Church can be inferred from the archaeological remains of baptisteries, fonts, and inscriptions. The survey is continued down to the present time and includes the main Reformed traditions in both Europe and America. The author outlines the way in which differing ceremonial needs and doctrinal emphases have been reflected in the accommodation provided for Baptism in sanctuaries of the various communions.

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Professor Davies rejects the assumption that a church should be built primarily for the celebration of Holy Communion with only incidental provision for the administration of Baptism. He puts forward three principles to be borne in mind when planning a church: (1) Provision should be made for congregational part-participation in the ministration of Baptism. (2) The setting of Baptism should be given a visual importance that accords with the celebration of the first Gospel sacrament. (3) The setting should have a shape and décor symbolizing the meaning of the rite.

This is a closely argued and stimulating book.



Meditations on the Psalms, by Bernard C. Mischke, O.S.C. (Sheed & Ward, 1963, 298 pp., $4.95). Warm, spiritual meditations by a Roman Catholic father, based on the Psalms which are addressed to God.

The Idea of the Church, by B. C. Butler (Helicon, 1962, 236 pp., $4.95). The author traces the history of the Church’s idea of herself from New Testament times to establish the thesis that the Church is not an invisible, but a visible single community, and gently suggests that on the basis of history there can be no doubt that history points to the Roman Catholic Church as the one. Good reading.

Beyond Tomorrow, by Raymond F. Cottrell (Southern Publishing Association, 1963, 380 pp., $1). Seventh-day Adventism’s missionary book of the year, though not identified as such.

The Pastoral Epistles, by C. K. Barrett (Oxford, 1963, 151 pp., $2.50). A volume of the New Clarendon Bible series—a commentary concise and broadly evangelical on the pastoral epistles in the New English Bible. An introduction challenges the Pauline authorship.

Thirteen for Christ, edited by Melville Harcourt (Sheed & Ward, 1963, 271 pp., $5). Interesting verbal portraits of men for Christ—some so designated rather for their lives than for their theology. Peter Kirk does the sketch of T. S. Eliot, J. S. Bonnell that of Billy Graham, J. H. Griffin that of Martin Luther King, and Alan Paton that of Trevor Huddleston. Good reading about interesting people.

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Guidelines to Courageous Living, by Arnold H. Lowe (T. S. Denison, 1963, 178 pp., $3). Homespun Christian observations about life and its problems by a Christian minister who speaks to his reader with an over-a-cup-of-coffee directness.

Difficult Sayings of Jesus, by Gordon Powell (Revell, 1962, 119 pp., $3). Simple but provocative and perceptive explanations of some of the difficult, paradoxical statements of Jesus. Good reading.

Reflections, by Harold E. Kohn (Eerdmans, 1963, 190 pp., $3.95). A Christian muses on the world of men and nature; pleasant reading for that hour with no demands. With restful drawings.

Encounter with Spurgeon, by Helmut Thielicke (Fortress, 1963, 283 pp., $4.75). The enthusiasm of Thielicke (German university professor and Lutheran theologian) for Spurgeon brings selections from the latter’s homiletical lectures, and two of his sermons, back into the stream of our homiletical thinking. With a fine 45-page introduction by the author.

Love and the Facts of Life, by Evelyn Millis Duvall (Association, 1963, 352 pp., $4.95). A detailed discussion of the whole gamut of teen-age sex, with no religious orientation, and a sometimes too-relaxed morality.

Master Sermons Through the Ages, edited by William Alan Sadler, Jr. (Harper & Row, 1963, 228 pp., $3.95). Sermons by 30 of Christianity’s famous Protestant preachers, including Calvin, Spurgeon, Wesley, Jowett, F. W. Robertson, MacLaren, and H. S. Coffin.

Power for Witnessing, by A. F. Ballenger (Bethany Fellowship, 1963, 256 pp., $3). More an exhortation to do than an exposition for intellectual comprehension. First published more than 60 years ago.

Family Living in the Bible, by Edith Deen (Harper & Row, 1963, 274 pp., $4.95). A kind of catalog of whatever the Bible says directly or indirectly about family life. With little theological interpretation—which is good, because much of what little there is, is bad.

Wounded Spirits, by Leslie D. Weatherhead (Abingdon, 1963, 173 pp., $3). Actual case histories of people spiritually and physically ill; related by an author who believes God’s will for his children is health of body, mind, and spirit, and who becomes “angry as well as sad when some poor soul is told that illness is the will of God.”

The Idea of Prehistory, by Glyn Daniel (World, 1962, 220 pp., $4.50). The jacket claims the book is the first real history of prehistory; the book claims that no authoritative history of prehistory has yet been published. Some discussion and philosophizing about origins on the basis of archaeology, fossils, and the like.

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Meet the Bible, The New Testament, by John J. Castelot, S.S. (Helicon, 1963, 240 pp., $4.95). The third and final volume of Father Castelot’s popular introduction to the Bible. A highly readable, scholarly, yet uncluttered treatment of the composition of the books of the New Testament.

Despotism: A Pictorial History of Tyranny, by Dagobert D. Runes (Philosophical Library, 1963, 269 pp., $12.50). An angry exposé of persecution and cruelty by any and all, including the Church, with almost total silence about that inflicted upon Christ, the apostles, and the early Christian martyrs. The book reveals the bias out of which persecution comes.

Jesus As They Saw Him, by William Barclay (Harper & Row, 1963, 429 pp., $5). A sustained study of the names and terms (Lord, God, Door, the Lamb, and many others) applied to Jesus in the New Testament. The “as they saw him” of the title is significant in view of the author’s insistence that in only one biblical text is Jesus said to be God; for the rest the New Testament, he contends, saw Jesus’ unity with God not in metaphysical terms but only in terms of personal love. Barclay contends that we may say Jesus is God in devotional language but not in precise theological language.


What We Can Do About Communism, by Russell V. DeLong (Avon Book Division, 1963, 94 pp., $.50). Lightweight, pocket-size version of the history, goals, and techniques of Communism, and some suggestions on how to arrest it.

The Heidelberg Catechism with Commentary, by Allen O. Miller, M. Eugene Osterhaven, and André Péry (United Church Press, 1963, 224 pp., $3). 400th anniversary; a new translation, plus a commentary for laymen.

Sex in Childhood and Youth, by Alfred Schmieding (Concordia, 1963, 149 pp., $1.50). A guide for parents, teachers, and counselors. First published in 1953.

Christianity and Sex, by Stuart Barton Babbage (Inter-Varsity, 1963, 59 pp.,

$1.25). Competent, readable discussion that is far better than most. Recommended, especially for college students.

Church and State in the New Testament, by J. Marcellus Kik (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1962, 46 pp., $.75). An exposition of church-state separation deploring ecclesiastical concern with civic, social, and economic matters.

Our Mission Today, by Tracey K. Jones, Jr. (World Outlook Press, 1963, 158 pp., $1, cloth $3.50). A simple yet scholarly little book which concentrates on the problems facing the mission of the Church in a day of world revolution.

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Principle and Practice, by Henry Stob (Calvin Theological Seminary, 1962, 30 pp., $.50). A discriminating, lucid essay which seeks to relate principle and practice properly and avoid both practice without principle, and an abstract application of principle without concern for the actualities of life.


Education for Christian Living, by Randolph Crump Miller (Prentice-Hall, 1963, 462 pp., $10.60). An author dissatisfied with a Christian education which serves up morsels of moralism, tidbits of theology, and hors d’oeuvres of biblical texts, contends that Christian education should train the young “to be the Church.” This is a provocative book for professional educators (they will need a dash of theological sensitivity). First published in 1956.

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