The Glory And The Shame

The Brazen Serpent, by Poul Hoffmann, translated by David Hohnen (Fortress, 1964, 288 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Kenneth E. Williams, assistant professor of English, Trenton State College, Trenton, New Jersey.

The Brazen Serpent is the final volume of a trilogy on the Exodus by Poul Hoffmann, a Danish lawyer. It begins with the arrival of the Israelites at Hazeroth and concludes with the death of Moses.

This novel is not simply an expanded or imaginative version of the biblical narrative intended primarily for devotional use. Instead, it is a theologically oriented attempt to portray the forces at work in the history of Israel and its changing relationship to God. It uses the two wives of Joshua, Judith and Tamar, whose names are the titles of the two halves, as a mirror to reflect the changes brought about when the desert wanderers enter the Promised Land. As a book presenting part of the history of salvation, it begins with a curiously sensuous description of the cosmos and presents our planet as a dark star, “sick, doomed, pregnant with its own destruction.” The author uses the sense of mystery created by his description to suggest that what was happening at Hazeroth in the camp of Israel was related to Jahveh’s cure of the blighted world. The book ends by stating that the life and resurrection of Christ were a continuation of the work God had been doing in the days of Moses.

One of the ways the author captures vividly the passions and motivations of some of the people whose names dot the history of the Exodus is to echo various religious ideas from non-biblical sources. For example, the book begins with the dispute between Moses and Aaron and Miriam concerning the presence of Gentiles in the Israelite camp, especially Moses’ wife, Zippora. By a skillful use of dialogue the author creates an atmosphere that points up how severe the crisis was for Moses.

The most important character in the book is really Joshua, the military commander of the people. In a chapter written as a letter from Joshua to Moses during the visit of the spies to Canaan, Joshua is presented as a man of strong passion who falls into sin through a pagan orgy only to feel such a sense of revulsion that he feels compelled to wipe out such a depraved race. Later Joshua dreams of Adam and Eve in a way that is filled with countless Jungian overtones; this occurs just before Israel is confronted with the plague of the snakes, to which Joshua himself nearly succumbs. The author tries to show later how Joshua suddenly sensed that Moses was now a very old man who was about to leave Joshua in command of the people, and the effect this awareness had on him. He does it fairly convincingly.

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One of the virtues of the book is the way it attempts to fit into some consistent pattern some of the various minor events and to capture the spirit of some of the secondary characters. By presenting the spies as virtual buffoons, the author is able to make their dissuading of their countrymen from invading a truly ironic event.

In summary, the book captures well the sense of mystery that must have pervaded the camp of Israel during those days when the cloud and the pillar of fire led them onward. Readers who are used to thinking of God in terms of the fuller revelation of later Old Testament history and the final revelation in Jesus Christ may find it hard to accept the almost irreverent attitudes of the Israelites, to whom he seemed to be less than the High and Holy One. Most of all, readers may find it difficult to accept the strong sexual drives that seem to be the basic motivation for Joshua’s deeds unless they are used to thinking in such a Freudian frame of reference.


Philosophers On Parade

Faith and Philosophy, edited by Alvin Plantinga (Eerdmans, 1964, 225 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Arthur F. Holmes, associate professor and director of philosophy, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

Philosopher W. Harry Jellema retired last summer at the age of seventy, after thirty years of teaching at Calvin College, plus twelve years at Indiana and visiting professorships at Haverford and Harvard. A number of his former students and colleagues have collaborated to produce a Festschrift in his honor. That he should have occasioned a volume of this caliber is both a sterling contribution in itself and a significant reminder of the lasting influence of the Christian teacher and scholar.

All of the contributors are professional philosophers in their own right, and their essays are a credit to Christian scholarship. There are two historical studies. Jesse DeBoer of the University of Kentucky provides fascinating insights into the mysticism of the Upanishads, while Henry Stob of Calvin Seminary presents a careful exposition of Jonathan Edwards’s ethics in the light of his idealism. The remaining seven essays represent the constructive role of philosophy done from a Christian perspective.

Nicholas Wolterstorff of Calvin College keynotes the volume with his analysis of the relation of faith to philosophy. “Few, if any, philosophical arguments are proofs—strict, rigorous, deductive proofs,” because in the final analysis a philosophical position is the elaboration of a perspective, a way of seeing things, “an interpretation of our human condition.” Moreover, man’s faith, whether or not directly religious, also affects his outlook on life. Consequently, “there is every likelihood of conflict between one man’s philosophy and some other man’s faith, and between one man’s faith and some other man’s philosophy.” Just as the loyalties of a philosophical outlook keep it from being neutral with respect to faith, so the loyalties of faith keep us from being neutral with respect to philosophical outlooks. Consequently the choice we face is never ultimately between rationality and irrationality, between philosophy and faith; it is a choice between faiths, a choice between philosophies. Christian faith does not inhibit philosophy, and need not be inhibited by it. Rather it provokes philosophic endeavor, and can be enriched thereby.

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This is clearly seen in the remaining essays. Francis Parker of Haverford College argues for the traditional view of reason stemming from Aristotle, as against the epistemological cul-de-sac of British empiricism. If these are the only alternatives, his point is well taken; but an overgeneralized classification is apt to leave the impression that we have to be pure Aristotelians or nothing at all. Editor Alvin Plantinga of Wayne State (currently on leave to teach at Calvin), who has previously published on other aspects of philosophical theology, analyzes the use of the phrase “necessary being,” and concludes that its function is to set forth “the unique role played by the assertion of God’s existence in the conceptual scheme of theism.”

The last four constructive essays are on ethics. Henry Veatch of Indiana rejects the contemporary stress on meta-ethics engendered by G. E. Moore in favor of a cognitive approach to normative ethics. Dewey Hoitenga of Juniata College considers the place of Christian ethics in the debate between motivational and deontological theories, and Fred Brouwer of Washington and Jefferson College develops “a restricted motive theory.” Finally Michigan’s William Frankena appeals to proponents of theological ethics to take into account the best philosophical thinking of the time. Agapistic ethics, he believes, has not done so. He accordingly enumerates alternative kinds of rule-agapism, act-agapism, non-agapism, and mixed agapism, and urges theologians to think through Christian ethics in this light. This would be an exciting and rewarding bridge between faith and philosophy.

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Few Dull Pages

Global Odyssey, by Howard A. Johnson (Geoffrey Bles, 1963, 435 pp., 45s), is reviewed by Oliver R. Barclay, secretary for international relations, Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London, England.

Canon Johnson from the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral in New York began a two-year tour of the Anglican communion in October, 1959. This book records what he saw, heard, and experienced. There are very few dull pages in this lively compound of travel journal, anecdote, and comment upon the political and religious situations of the countries visited. Its aim is to give a fresh vision of the Anglican communion and to describe its situation all around the world.

Although the book is very interesting reading, it is in many ways disappointing. The author has some shrewd summaries of the political and psychological situations of the churches in different countries (e.g., a good survey of the Church of Ireland), but he has almost nothing to say about the spiritual strengths and weaknesses. Evangelistic outreach, supply of men for the ministry, missionary concern, devotional and practical Christian living, are hardly mentioned. Inevitably, perhaps, institutions and the work of bishops and a few other leaders steal the canvas. One sees the churches as organizations rather than fellowships of believing people. The result is an apparent preoccupation with efficiency, organization, and public status. He admits at one stage that he described his outstanding impression of the church by the word “ineptitude.” This is not fair to himself or to the book, but it describes the kind of judgment he most often makes.

Nevertheless, if one accepts the relative superficiality of all judgments of this kind, there is much of interest in the broad sweep of these descriptions, which cover every continent. The writing does give a fresh impression of a great worldwide communion and a fresh humility as one contemplates the vast missionary efforts of the past.


Popular But Unplanned

Christian Belief and Christian Practice, by William J. March (Eerdmans, 1964, 219 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Robert G. DeMoss, consultant, DeMoss Associates, Inc., Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

This new book by a prominent Canadian minister seeks in impassioned tones to awaken the Church to the present low state of our religious life and to motivate it to a more vital expression of the faith to which it is committed. Gibbon’s description of the moral corrosion of Rome that prefaced its “fall” is cited as having a modern-day parallel in our own private and national lives.

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March understands both the cause and the cure of our present plight to reside in two simple truths: (1) We must go back to the actual teachings of Jesus as foundational to an understanding of the moral basis of individual and societal living; and (2) an understanding of Christian doctrine is without value unless it is practiced in daily living.

It is healthful and indeed necessary that every generation be reminded of this simple but foundational concept, in season and out of season. Dr. March’s sincere and impassioned words are therefore welcome. However, as a book this one leaves much to be desired. The almost complete absence of any structure or development in the more than two hundred pages gives evidence of lack of planning. The hortatory style is rambling and verbose, and lacks precision. There is a great deal of repetition; the contents of the book could have been expressed in less than half the words used.

The work is popular not only in the sense that the language and style are simple or that there is no index or footnotes, but, more importantly, in the sense that almost no cognizance is taken of any current theological or exegetical discussions. Although the author’s sincere desire to awaken the Church is commendable, a written expression of this desire cannot be effective if it exhibits such shortcomings as these.



The Vocabulary of Communism, by Lester De Koster (Eerdmans, 1964, 224 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Harold B. Kuhn, professor of philosophy of religion, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.

In his earlier volume, Communism and Christian Faith, Professor De Koster sought to present the visible structures of the Marxist system. In this present volume he sets forth the anatomy of the Communist movement, utilizing the method of carefully written and closely articulated definitions. About 170 pages are devoted to clear-cut expositions of the major themes, historical phenomena, and clichés relating to the Sino-Soviet system(s). Three extended and highly useful bibliographies complete the volume.

A survey of the definitions, some of which occupy from one-half to a whole page, reveals that the author has done a massive piece of research, covering not only the theory of Marxism but the political embodiment of the movement as well. There can be noted, of course, significant omissions. For example, one sees no entry for Molotov, nor for the infamous pact between him and Ribbentrop.

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Two particular features of the work commend it to the reader. First, the articles are non-epithetical, and as objective as can reasonably be expected. It goes without saying that the author avoids the “good God, nice devil” attitude toward the movement which was fashionable in the thirties. Second, the meticulous cross-referencing makes its systematic use easy. The work is likely to stand unique in its field for some time.


Genesis And Science

Creation Revealed, by F. A. Filby (Pickering & Inglis, 1964, 160 pp., 17s. 6d.), is reviewed by Alan Millard, librarian, Tyndale House, Cambridge, England.

The “conflict” between the Creation account in Genesis and science does not cease to inspire in earnest Christians a desire to harmonize the two. Dr. Filby, a lecturer in chemistry, has not followed the usual pattern. He takes Genesis 1 verse by verse, endeavors to establish its meaning, then investigates the results of scientific discovery bearing upon the topic, not insisting upon one to the exclusion of the other, for often the two sides are seen to be complementary.

This book can be criticized in sections not concerned with the author’s specialty; the Hebrew words are not always represented, and too literal an interpretation is pressed upon some. That the Babylonian Creation stories actually refer to the Flood and Babel rather than to Creation is implausible. The existence of chaos at the beginning of Creation is assumed in several places; but did God “progress from disorder to order”? For pp. 121–139 in note 1, p. 57, read pp. 21–24, 34–37.

This book should be of help to those Christians who find in scientific discovery a stumbling block, while others will gain a stimulus to more abundant praise of Him in whom “all things consist.”


Symbol And Ceremony

Liturgy Is Mission, edited by Frank Stephen Cellier (Seabury, 1964, 159 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by John T. Malestein, pastor, Richfield Christian Reformed Church, Clifton, New Jersey.

Gather at a liturgical conference such men as the Rev. W. Moelwyn Merchant, Shakespearean scholar and head of the Department of English, Exeter University, England; the Rev. C. Kilmer Myers, director of the Urban Training Center, Chicago; the Rt. Rev. James A. Pike, former lawyer, now Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of California; the Rev. William G. Pollard, executive director of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies and priest-in-charge at St. Albans Chapel, Clinton, Tennessee; the Rev. Massey H. Shepherd, professor of liturgies at the Church Divinity School—together with the pastor of the Roman Catholic parish, Galena, Kansas, the Rev. Joseph T. Nolan—and you will indeed have, as the editor describes it, a conference “addressed by men of singular distinction, all of them with the invigorating wind of the Liturgical Movement blowing full in their faces.” The six chapters of this book contain an address, a sermon, and several papers that were delivered at the third National Liturgical Conference in Wichita, Kansas, in 1962.

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In the introduction the editor makes the somewhat startling claim that the liturgical movement, though “much less spectacular … [is] in many ways as significant as the Reformation of the sixteenth century.” By the time one has finished this book he is likely to concede that within the Church there are stirrings that possess the potential of a mighty leaven. Cellier is quick to allay the hasty judgments of those who might dismiss liturgical renewal as being concerned only with meaningless symbols and empty ceremonies: “… the Liturgical Movement has its roots very deep in the soil of … ecclesiology … and in the soil of sacramental theology” (p. 21). Though one encounters on succeeding pages a modest disavowal of theological capabilities, there is to be found, nevertheless, a profound theological concern for arriving at answers to the question: How can liturgy, resting foursquare on biblical foundations, continue to be the supreme channel of God’s grace to the individual?—and further, how may the individual reflect the efficacy of his reception of God’s grace by the way he confronts the society in which he lives?

Both Shepherd and Myers confront a society that is fragmented and hungry for unity. The sacrament of baptism, avers Myers, is the sacrament of unity and therefore the “beginning of the divine strategy” in the Church’s mission to urban society. Shepherd cautions that before the Church can effectively mend the breaches in a society “out there” she had better heal the wounds of division within. The irrefutable existence of racial division in the Church is a denial of the Gospel, a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and a mockery of holy liturgy; for racial division “rejects the divine grace that works to make us one Body and one Blood in the Lord” (p. 47). In the almost hopeless fragmentation of the Church, Shepherd finds one of the great obstacles to an effective mission throughout the world.

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In the sermon-chapter the Rt. Rev. James A. Pike contrasts “two different meanings of life and work, depending on whether one is caught in the time-space continuum—in a secular view of reality—or whether one is caught up into the eternal view of reality and purpose and calling” (p. 128). Pike, like Pollard, sees real meaning and finds a way out of this time-space continuum through worship, but he seems to allow a more significant place for the Word: “We adore God in both his Word and his Sacrament.… Christ is truly and really present in the Word of God; and the Service of the Word is something that, having its own authenticity, can stand on its own feet” (p. 129).

An ecumenical dimension is added to the book in the chapter submitted by Father Nolan. His presentation includes a brief but valuable historical summary followed by an analysis of the present status and significance of liturgical renewal in the Roman Catholic Church. His proposal that Catholics, Anglicans, and other Christians publish a joint hymnal as well as a joint Bible translation expresses a wholesome irenics. His observation—“It seems obvious that as Catholics get more scriptural and Protestants more liturgical, they are bound to meet each other”—embraces more than a modicum of ecumenical truth.

Although primarily of concern to liturgical churchmen, this book merits wide reading by all churchmen. Liturgy Is Mission alerts the universal Church “to the one test by which all worship and prayer is laid under judgment, namely the sense of mission that they evoke among the faithful.” To those who would like to be initiated into the thinking of the proponents of liturgical renewal, to those who would like to engage in a bit of mental sparring with the sacramental theologian, to those who would like to gain deeper insights into the Church’s mission, this book is recommended. The reader may be jolted by some frank criticisms. It would seem, however, that ecclesiastical and theological torpidity demand this very kind of rude awakening.


The Changing Family

What’s Happening to Our Families?, by Wallace Denton (Westminster, 1963, 222 pp., $4), is reviewed by Andre Bustanoby, pastor, Arlington Memorial Church, Arlington, Virginia.

According to Denton, our families are being swept off their feet by the changing tides of social and psychological forces, and he discusses these forces in the first part of of his book. The second part covers “some emerging problems of the family that have been provoked by these changes.” But there are signs of hope: part three discusses “some areas of strength in the modern family.” The final section gives some “conclusions for the church and family.”

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Denton’s approach to the family is basically “socio-psychological,” and this approach produces a good discussion on “Longer Years of Retirement.”

The last part of the book is its weakest. Two paragraphs are devoted to the relevance of the Bible (pp. 204, 205). Denton admits that the Bible is relevant to family problems. But although he speaks of “an underlying truth [that] is applicable to the modern couple,” he doesn’t say what this truth is. This weakness permeates the entire book. The author writes on the assumption that the patriarchal pattern of family life is a vestige of a past society rather than a divine pattern that transcends all societies. He misses the significance of the primacy of man’s creation and woman’s deception in the Fall.

While the book’s approach is socio-psychological, any attempt to relate the Church to family problems raises the expectation of a sound biblical rationale. This is disappointingly absent.



The Eternal Legacy from an Upper Room, by Leonard Griffith (Harper & Row, 1963, 192 pp., $3), is reviewed by C. Ralston Smith, minister, First Presbyterian Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Successors to notable men usually have difficult times. They so often have to dwell in the shadow of their predecessor and endure the odious comparisons so easily made. Here in the man who follows Leslie Weatherhead we have a splendid exception. Leonard Griffith in this devotional treatise of the pre-arrest events gives ample evidence of his own stature. What is immediately significant is his strong yet simple belief in the Gospel. Noting the various bypaths well worn by seekers, he nevertheless stays on the main road of the biblical teaching.

Direct style, vivid language, and comparatively simple wording all combine to make the book readable. The illustrations are of some substance, drawn from a wide variety of experiences. None of them seems awkward or “dragged in by the heels.” It is also refreshing to find an author who does not feel obliged to have numerous long involved quotations from contemporaries to make his point authoritative.

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Tough subjects are touched, and existing problems are probed. A stronger note might have been sounded on the singularity of Christ as the only Way. And one could disagree with the author’s conviction about the necessity of organic union among the churches. However, these items require lengthier treatment than the compass of the book intends or permits. It is an attractive volume in both makeup and content.


Book Briefs

In Sight of Sever, by David McCord (Harvard, 1963, 287 pp., $5.95). For Harvard alumni, particularly those whose college days are several decades in the past, this book of essays by one who has spent forty years in the service of his alma mater brings with its reading a gentle nostalgia. Non-Harvard readers will glimpse through Mr. McCord’s well-bred prose something of the ineffaceable charm the oldest of American universities holds for its sons.

The Uses of the University, by Clark Kerr (Harvard, 1963, 140 pp., $2.95). The president of the University of California devotes his Godkin lectures at Harvard to a discussion of the “multiversity,” such as that over which he presides in California with its 58,000 students on seven campuses. The book is of interest to all who are concerned with higher education. Dr. Kerr writes with precision and prescience about the forward movement of university education in America.

The Age of the Scholar, by Nathan M. Pusey (Belknap Press, 1963, 210 pp., $4.50). The subtitle, “Observations on Education in a Troubled Decade,” describes this book of essays by the president of Harvard University. Included are Dr. Pusey’s famous address at the Harvard Divinity School shortly after his inauguration, when he said of the moralistic religion of his great predecessor, Charles William Eliot, “… this faith will no longer do,” and also his widely quoted baccalaureate sermon of 1958, taking issue with secularism (“Secularism and the Joy of Belief”).

The Destruction of Dresden, by David Irving (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963, 255 pp., $4.95). On February 13, 1945, Allied bombing of Dresden took about 135,000 lives—almost twice the toll at Hiroshima. A specialist in modern German history gives here the results of his three-year research on the subject, seriously questioning this Allied action, and showing to the new nuclear generation the appalling tragedy of man’s inhumanity to man. Introduction by Gen. Ira C. Eaker.

The Christian Book of Mystical Verse, selected by A. W. Tozer (Christian Publications, 1963, 152 pp., $3). The selections are mystical in a wide sense of the term.

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Pathways to Happiness, by Leonard Griffith (Abingdon, 1964, 128 pp., $2.50). The Beatitudes explained as “pathways to happiness.” Very readable.

Devotions from a Grateful Heart, by Sybil Leonard Armes (Revell, 1964, 127 pp., $2.50). Religious themes discussed with literary charm, spiritual grace, and a lively spirit.

Mountain Doctor, by LeGette Blythe (William Morrow, 1964, 221 pp., $4.50). The odyssey of Gaine Cannon, M.D., who has put the philosophy of Albert Schweitzer to work in the remote regions of North Carolina.

Consecration of the Layman, by Max Thurian (Helicon, 1963, 118 pp., $2.95). The Protestant monk of Taizé studies the meaning of confirmation. Is it vitally related to baptism? If so, is it sacramental? An important study.


A Study of History, Vol. 12: Reconsiderations, by Arnold J. Toynbee (Oxford, 1964, 740 pp., $2.95). In this volume added to his Study of History, Toynbee responds to his critics and shows how his thought has changed on many matters, including religion. First published in 1961.

Religious Conflict in America: Studies in the Problems Beyond Bigotry, edited by Earl Raab (Doubleday, 1964, 232 pp., $1.25). A dozen men write on religious conflict in the United States; with an introduction by Raab. Many of the writers believe that this conflict lies deeper and is more durable than racial conflict, yet paradoxically believe that the religious conflict is more national and sociological than religious.

The Story of the Reformation, by William Stevenson (John Knox, 1964, 206 pp., $1.95). A very popular and readable short history of the Reformation.

Trinitarian Faith and Today’s Mission, by Lesslie Newbigin (John Knox, 1964, 78 pp., $1.25). Newbigin insists that missionaries must remember the trinitarian character of Christianity; by the Spirit, God can deal with pagans prior to the coming of the Gospel—consequently missionaries must sometimes listen to pagans before they preach to them. First American edition.

Bells Still Are Calling, by Kristofer Hagen (Augsburg, 1964, 177 pp., $3). A view of missions that Christians should get to know better in order to recognize and effectively challenge it.

Adventures in Evangelism, by Elmer A. Kettner (Concordia, 1964, 133 pp., $1.50). A popular discussion about how actually to “get started” with the task of Christian witnessing.

Man in Community, by Russell Phillip Shedd (Eerdmans, 1964, 209 pp., $1.95). A study of St. Paul’s application of Old Testament and early Jewish conceptions of human solidarity.

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The Pattern of Religious Authority, by Bernard Ramm (Eerdmans, 1963, 117 pp., $1.50). A probing into the biblical teaching of the reality of religious authority and a critique of some of the competitive ways in which it has been misunderstood and erroneously structured. A valuable study. First printed in 1957 under the title, The Pattern of Authority.

Authority in the Church, by Thomas Coates (Concordia, 1964, 98 pp., $1.50). A very readable, popular discussion about the reality of church authority and how it ought to operate on local and synodical levels. The book speaks to an area of confusion and ignorance. A fine book for group discussion.

Sea Rations, by John Kenneth Bontrager (The Upper Room, 1964, 88 pp., $.50). Thirty-seven meditations written with a pronounced flavor of the sea by a man who served as an enlisted man and is now a Navy chaplain. Excellent for the young serviceman at sea.

The Three R’s of Christianity, by Jack Finegan (John Knox, 1964, 125 pp., $1.75). A discussion of: Revelation, Redemption, Redeemer. Competently done; to be read with questions.

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