The present century may not go down in history as the most wise or the most learned. It may not make the greatest contribution to Christian knowledge. It may not even be remembered as theologically the most literate. But it will certainly make its mark for the quantity of theological literature. If there is a deficiency of true learning, it is not for any lack of the necessary tools. Even to list the titles that have been made available during the last year would require far greater space than is available for the present article, and obviously no space is open for extended review of those books which seem to be significant for various reasons.

We may begin by mentioning the continuation of some of the established series of the past. The great Luther translation still continues (Concordia and Muhlenberg), and this year has seen the addition in three volumes of the lectures on Galatians and also of a selection of letters. The new translation of Calvin’s Commentaries (Eerdmans) is also making headway; serious Calvin students would do well to purchase Hebrews and I & II Peter, since these epistles, especially Hebrews, are of great importance in Calvin’s thought.

The year has also seen the initiation of a number of new series of some importance. Denominationally we may refer to the History of the Church of Christ and also to the first of two volumes by E. T. Thompson on Presbyterians in the South (John Knox). Reference may also be made to the three-volume History of Early Christian Doctrine that is being undertaken by J. Daniélou, and to a five-volume Roman Catholic series under the title The Christian Centuries. It will be particularly interesting to see how far the new ideas in modern Romanism have affected its understanding and presentation of Christian history.

One of the most interesting and valuable parts of historical study is the consultation of original documents. In this field we might mention two very different works. The first is a revised edition of H. Bettenson’s Documents of the Christian Church (Oxford), which is a well-known selection of some of the greatest documents of the past. The second is C. M. Drury’s First White Women over the Rockies (two vols., Arthur H. Clarke Co.), which reproduces the diaries and letters of six women of the mission to Oregon Indians during the period 1836–1838 and which thus represents documentation under the microscope.

Centenaries always provide an occasion for historical survey, and this past year has been no exception. One of the most important commemorations was that of the landing of St. Columba in Iona, and this has led to a retelling of that fascinating story of monastic-missionary endeavor which did not begin or end with Columba, but of which he is in a sense the center and symbol. We are grateful to J. Bulloch for doing this in The Life of the Celtic Church (St. Andrew Press), even if some of his emphases will not command universal assent. Another centenary of some importance is that of the Apology of the Anglican reformer Jewel, which is one of the clearest statements of the truth that Reformation faith is genuinely catholic and apostolic, and which enjoyed a European reputation in its day. In honor of this celebration we have both a new edition of the Apology (Cornell Univ. Press) and a study of John Jewel as Apologist, by J. E. Booty. Finally 1963 was the anniversary of the beloved Heidelberg Catechism, and the story of the making of the catechism is briefly retold in Three Men Came to Heidelberg, by T. B. van Halsema (Christian Reformed Publishing House).

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The historical world has also had the benefit of a number of solid individual studies during the past year. Pride of place belongs, perhaps, to the Cambridge History of the Bible, edited by S. L. Greenslade (Cambridge). For those interested in the Middle Ages we may refer also to The Crusaders, by R. Pernoud (Oliver & Boyd), and The Popes at Avignon, by G. Mollat (Nelson). In English church history F. Barlow has given us a detailed study of the immediate pre-Norman period in The English Church 1000–1066 (Longmans), and in American church history we must mention the second volume of American Christianity (Scribner’s)—a monumental collection of documents relating to the period 1820–1960 and edited by R. T. Handy and L. A. Loetscher.

This has been an interesting year for biography. In addition to a revised edition of the biography of Spurgeon (Spurgeon, the Early Years, Banner of Truth Trust), there is now a completely new account of the life of Moody (Moody, A Biographical Portrait, Macmillan) by the well-known writer J. C. Pollock, who makes use of many new papers in this presentation. Also of interest are the accounts given of two prominent figures from the Roman Catholic world in Jacques Maritain, edited by J. W. Evans (Sheed & Ward), and Alden Hatch’s A Man Named John (Hawthorn), an early assessment of the late Pope John XXIII. That dominant and complicated figure, Martin Luther, still continues to attract attention. In addition to the account by F. Lau, Luther (SCM), we may commend the work by a Finnish scholar, L. Pinomaa (Faith Victorious, trans. by W. J. Kukkonen, Fortress), whose concern is to provide an introduction to the theology of Luther in the light of modern research. A no less dominant personage from an earlier period is St. Augustine; for a new study readers may consult St. Augustine of Hippo, by G. Bonner (SCM).

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Toward A Theology Of History

A healthful trend in modern historical study is toward a greater emphasis on the meaning and interpretation of history. In this field we may mention two very different works from two different angles, each with its own value. The first is that of E. C. Rust, Towards a Theological Understanding of History (Oxford); the second, that of the well-known Roman Catholic scholar, H. U. von Balthasar, A Theology of History (Sheed & Ward). Whatever we think of these essays in detail, the important thing is that they both recognize the fact that history demands a theological understanding.

From the standpoint of theology in the narrower sense of doctrine this has not been an outstanding year. On the evangelical side we may commend two valuable studies that have come from Eerdmans. The first, by James P. Martin, is The Last Judgment, and the second, by Bernard Ramm, Them He Glorified. Ramm explores a relatively neglected area in his discussion of the doctrine of glorification. Martin is concerned to analyze the presuppositions that have led to so serious an evasion of the doctrine of judgment in much contemporary theology.

Two books in the Roman Catholic sphere constitute a reminder that we must not be too optimistic in looking for reformation as a result of recent movements. From L. Legrand we have a discussion of The Biblical Doctrine of Virginity (Sheed & Ward) and from O. Semmelroth an essay in Mariology, Mary, Archetype of the Church (Sheed & Ward).

From The Liberal Corner

Liberal theology has not produced anything of vital importance. H. P. Van Dusen has attempted a new tracts-for-the-times movement in his Vindication of Liberal Theology (Scribner’s), but it may be doubted whether the work is finally very relevant to our own times. Nels Ferré has a good subject in The Finality of Faith (Harper & Row) and writes with his usual charm, but the work is hardly likely to be definitive. No little stir has been caused by Bishop Robinson’s Honest to God (SCM and Westminster), but in effect this is simply an effective and challenging popularization. For much the same type of thing one might just as well turn to Paul Tillich’s Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions (Columbia Univ. Press). But this is a far cry from dogmatics in any strict sense.

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Three more modest, but probably more valuable, works may be mentioned at this point. The first is historical—a competent survey of Twentieth Century Religious Thought, by John Macquarrie (Harper & Row). The second is more constructive—a retreatment of the old theme of the interrelation of Christianity and philosophy by Geddes MacGregor in his book The Hemlock and the Cross (J. P. Lippincott). The main criticism of this work is that there is too much emphasis on the “and” rather than on the “or.” The third is linguistic—a fairly technical paperback of an earlier work by I. T. Ramsey on philosophy and theology in the light of language (Religious Language: An Empirical Placing of Theological Phrases, Macmillan).

The last two works lead us directly to an interesting study of Barth’s Dogmatics by G. Clark in his Karl Barth’s Theological Method (Presbyterian and Reformed). Here the possibility of fruitful discussion is ruled out from the first by the fact that Barth and Clark take quite different views of the theological possibilities of philosophically shaped language. Barth’s American tour is perhaps responsible in part for the publication of other works on Barth, e.g., a translation of the Portrait of Karl Barth, by Georges Casalis (Doubleday), the homiletical application of Barth’s material in A. B. Come’s An Introduction to Barth’s Dogmatics for Preachers (Westminster), and especially, perhaps, the dogmatic wrestling with Barth in R. W. Jenson’s Alpha and Omega (Nelson). From Barth himself there has been little this year. His Evangelical Theology was published early in 1963 (Holt, Rinehart and Winston), and we also have the small work The Preaching of the Gospel (Westminster), which is for the most part a work of homiletics. In addition, J. D. Godsey has collected some of the spoken material in Karl Barth’s Table Talk (John Knox). But the expected continuation of the Dogmatics has not materialized, and there now seems to be good reason for thinking that Barth will terminate the series without further addition.

Mention of Barth is a reminder of the new book on The Virgin Birth by T. Boslooper (Westminster). This contains a great deal of useful historical information and a good bibliography, but the argument that we should retain the infancy stories as a necessary myth for those who think mythically is ingenuous, and the attempt to shelter this under Barth’s umbrella is ridiculous. Also from Westminster came a book on The Inspiration of Scripture, which attracted attention largely because its author, D. M. Beegle, is associated with Biblical Seminary. The work itself simply repeats a movement from conservative to liberal evangelicalism which might have caught the headlines fifty years ago but is of no constructive theological significance today.

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The ecumenical movement has again contributed largely to theological production. On the native scene, R. A. Brown and D. H. Scott have edited some essays on the Blake-Pike proposal under the heading The Challenge to Reunion (McGraw-Hill). Apart from a discordant voice or two, these turn into an essay of self-congratulation. Another symposium from Faith and Order is edited by N. Ehrenstrom and W. G. Muelder (SCM) under the title Institutionalism and Church Unity; it is a model of how not to conduct a theologico-sociological inquiry. The first volume of yet another symposium, edited by R. S. Petton, is entitled The Church as the Body of Christ (University of Notre Dame), and this brings us more deeply into the issues. Also worth noting are P. S. Minear’s Faith and Order Findings (Broadman) and J. W. Bevan’s The Churches and Christian Unity (Oxford). The evangelical contribution, The Dynamics of the Ecumenical Movement, edited by W. S. Mooneyham (Zondervan), is a comforting repetition of familiar convictions but hardly comes to grips with the real point of the ecumenical movement, at any rate at its deeper levels. Perhaps the most interesting contribution in this whole area is a by-product; we refer to Creeds and Confessions, by E. Routley (Westminster; Duckworth, 1962), which is a study of confessions from the Reformation to our own day.

The year has been a valuable one in pastoral theology. We might very well begin here with Beginning Your Ministry, by S. M. Shoemaker (Harper & Row), which is a distillation of much wisdom and experience for the ordination candidate and the young minister. From the standpoint of homiletics note should be taken of Horton Davies’s Varieties of English Preaching 1900–1960 and also of the compilation by Wilbur M. Smith, Great Sermons on the Birth of Christ (W. A. Wilde). Indeed, there seems to be a wealth of sermon material available at the present time. From the past we may cite yet again Master Sermons Through the Ages, edited by W. A. Sadler (Harper & Row). From the present there is an interesting discussion of Norman Vincent Peale as a preacher, He Speaks the Word of God, by A. R. Broadhurst (Prentice-Hall). A powerful voice comes from Edinburgh, that of M. E. Macdonald in The Call to Obey (Hodder and Stoughton). From Scotland, too, we have the Warrack Lectures, Preaching the Eternities (St. Andrew Press), by H. C. MacKenzie. And finally we have no less than four works from Helmut Thielicke, Out of the Depths (Eerdmans), Man in God’s World (Harper & Row), The Freedom of the Christian Man (Harper & Row), and Encounter with Spurgeon (Fortress), which is made up for the most part of selections from Spurgeon’s lectures and sermons that Thielicke has found of particular interest and value. If we fail to produce a new race of preachers, it will not be for lack of precept and precedent.

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The Minister Addresses His Congregation

Softly warm, the candles’ glow reflects upon the altar flowers, tastefully arranged.

From the unobtrusive organ’s niche, Bach’s solemn harmonies issue deftly.

Quietly efficient, carnation-lapeled ushers seat the fashionably attired worshipers,

all footsteps silenced in the carpet’s crimson depths.

The morning sun shines opaquely through jewelhued artistic glass.

Flawlessly (any crudeness long-since banished) the worship service proceeds:

the call to worship, sung by properly vibratoed, diction-perfect voices

the creed, intoned in modulated smoothness

responsive reading, anthem, Gloria

Oh, yes—here is perfection.

From behind the polished pulpit, fresh from

silent prayer, robed in prescribed black, he rises to face them

the piously righteous pillar

the bitter-visaged elderly widow

the lovers, ready to encompass even Gospel in their luminosity

the new communicant, aglow with fervor

the patient blind man, groping for an inner light

the well-spaced complacent vegetables

Oh, God—one message for all?

Humbly he begins, “Beloved …”


Geoffrey W. Bromiley is professor of church history and historical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. He holds the M.A. from Cambridge University, the Ph.D. and D.Litt. from the University of Edinburgh. Formerly vice-principal of Tyndale Hall, Bristol, England, he is the translator of Karl Barth’s “Church Dogmatics” and the author of other works.

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