An Indictment Of The Existential Mood

Jesus and Christian Origins: A Commentary on Modern Viewpoints, by Hugh Anderson (Oxford, 1964, 368 pp., $7), is reviewed by Samuel J. Mikolaski, professor of theology, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Few books on New Testament studies written in English since the death of James Denney have furnished the reader with the breadth of knowledge, linguistic competence, and theological perspicuity that Professor Anderson has in this volume. A British scholar, Dr. Anderson is now professor of biblical criticism and theology at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Without question this is an important book for all students of theology. Three aims appeal to me as central to the author’s purpose (1) to assess carefully the historical skepticism that pervades contemporary theology; (2) to assess the strength and weakness of the German and British-American scholars New Testament perspectives and to compare their work; (3) to do this having firmly in view a reasoned conviction of the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth, his death and resurrection, and of the finality of the apostolic Gospel.

Four chapters are devoted to the question of the historical Jesus in recent literature, tracing the line from Albert Schweitzer through the schools to Bultmann, the post-Bultmannians, and those who in Germany, Britain, and America have formed a tradition strongly critical of Bultmann. Careful attention is given to the Historisch and Geschichtlich, the claims of form criticism, kerygmatic theology, and the question of the faith and historical elements of the apostolic witness. Though this is a complex task, the author exhibits the subtleties and divergences of opinion within as well as among schools of theology. Anyone accustomed to short sentences and uncomplicated issues may find this book tedious, but the discriminating reader will follow the discussion with understanding, appreciation, and profit.

Dr. Anderson argues that though Bultmann is interested in history, his claims lead to a Docetic Christ against which some of his students have reacted; nevertheless, they (e.g., G. Bornkamm) leave much to be desired in their treatment of the New Testament factual data. For example, “But have ‘existential openness,’ ‘intuitive encounter,’ or ‘Easter faith’ allied to historical research really produced a new historical certainty in our time by bringing Jesus in his unmediatedness right into our generation? Hardly!” (p. 181). Conversely, while he sides with the historicists, Dr. Anderson reminds his British and American colleagues, and Dr. Stauffer, that sheer historical event and record are inadequate to the essential nature of the saving Gospel.

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The final two chapters engage the questions inherent in the New Testament teaching on the Resurrection and the Cross. Students will find the detailed analysis of the gospel narratives and evidence of the Epistles, plus the critique of the authorities, helpful. The Resurrection “was not a radical transformation, a radical break with the past of Jesus of Nazareth, but God’s vindication and confirmation of this Jesus” (p. 240). Further, in the apostolic preaching of the Cross “there is an unbroken line from the historical Jesus to the Kerygmatic Christ” (p. 270). In a pungent summary we read, “If ever the theology dominated by existence philosophy, with its disinterest in and unconcern for the completely human features of our Lord, were to infiltrate the life of the churches in any strength, would they not very soon go hungry for want of the humanity of the Son of God?” (p. 306). Central to the Gospel is the once-for-all character of Christ’s death for the sin of the world. In the case of Paul, he says, “the death and Resurrection of Jesus, which happened once for all in Palestine, are utterly decisive in their significance for the religious experience of men” (p. 274).

I counted up helpful, detailed discussion of more than two dozen theologians as widely spaced historically and theologically as D. F. Strauss, W. Herrmann, A. Schweitzer, R. Reitzenstein, R. Bultmann, G. Bornkamm, E. Stauffer, J. Jeremias, O. Cullmann, G. Ebeling, C. H. Dodd, V. Taylor, T. W. Manson, and John Knox. Copious footnotes comment on the views of many more. Dr. Anderson’s technical excellence is apparent, though significantly unobtrusive—a sign of the highly theological and philosophical character of the issues in biblical studies today. More than two-score catch terms and phrases of the German theologians are handled lucidly. Numerous short notes on biblical questions occur; for example: “witness” signifying both “witness to facts” and “affirmation of beliefs or truths” (p. 263); the New Testament usage of the term “Son” (pp. 333, 334); the adoptionist interpretation of Romans 1:3–5 (pp. 338, 339).

Nurtured on the works of James Denney (as I was), convinced that the New Testament confirms the historical and theological reality of Jesus of Nazareth, his words and his deeds, for saving faith, Dr. Anderson has written a challenging apologetic for New Testament Christianity that is argued competently within the current milieu. Because I agree with so much, I find little to criticize in this book. Perhaps a recognition of the importance of analytical philosophy as a method for theology, as at Oxford, might have been helpful. This research bids fair to say important things to the historical skepticism that Dr. Anderson inveighs against. But the cogent argument for the combination of both the historical and the theological as essential elements for saving faith is the striking and refreshing keynote of this work: “How then, we ask, can Jesus be known to us? For my part, I am forced to acknowledge that he may only come to us of a surety through our receiving and responding to the apostolic testimony within the context of the community’s life and faith and worship” (pp. 315, 316). The Christian community is indebted to Professor Anderson, and to Oxford Press, for this book.

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Gospel On Campus

On the Work of the Ministry in University Communities, by Richard N. Bender (The Methodist Church, Division of Higher Education, 1962, 264 pp., $2.75), is reviewed by Leonard Verduin, emeritus pastor, Campus Chapel, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

An important word—“Methodist”—has obviously been omitted from the title of this book, for it was written by Methodists, for Methodists, and about Methodists. It speaks about Methodist campus problems and about Methodist solutions.

This volume on the Methodist ministry in university communities consists of twenty-six brief contributions by twenty-four persons selected from campus communities throughout the land—students, faculty people, administration personnel, pastors of campus churches. The fact that it is a Methodist book should prepare the reader for a wide range of opinion and outlook, for, as everyone knows, The Methodist Church is a very inclusivist Church. One does not expect, and certainly does not find, anything like consensus here as to what the problem and the solution are. That the book was written by a sheaf of writers also makes for multiformity and variegation.

It is not the Methodism of Wesley that comes to expression, but the Methodism of the past century. Although here and there one detects an awareness that old-line liberalism has had its day (as, for instance, with Ralph C. Dunlop, who speaks of a “return to classical Christianity, … to Biblical Christianity,” p. 88), it is the old liberalism that seems to go on unchastened (as, for example, with Deane Ferm, for whom “the old certainties are no longer certainties. This includes the Bible, the Church, the Apostles’ Creed, … the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the existence of God …,” p. 232 f).

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To the present reviewer, the outstanding feature of all this is a greatly atrophied theology de Sacra Scriptura. Although we are told here and there that more Bible study would be a good thing on campuses, one looks in vain for the conviction, so much a part of original Methodism, that saving faith is in the first place a matter of Schriftglaube. The writers are prepared to say that “God has made himself known in Jesus Christ” (p. 19), but what is consistently omitted is that the same God who “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” has “at sundry times and in divers manners spoken in times past by the prophets.” The idiom is consistently that of “confrontation with Person”; little or nothing is said of “confrontation with Predication.”

The bête noire in this volume is “fundamentalism,” including the neo variety (which one of the contributors describes as “fundamentalism which has learned its university manners,” p. 202). One of the contributors, William E. Rhodes, Methodist chaplain at the University of Denver, informs us that “Billy Grahamism is one way not to work in higher education” (p. 194). Granted that Ann Arbor is not Denver, it remains a fact however that Rackham Hall at the former place was never more crowded to capacity than when Graham spoke from its podium.

The thinking that comes to expression throughout this book is the assumption that Christianity is simply the product of the culture in which it was launched, and that men who are of a widely different culture will for that reason stumble at it. Rhodes says: “The substitutionary atonement may be true [apparently he is not sure] but will have rough sledding” on a modern campus—as if it ever had any other kind of sledding! At another place we read that “persons addicted to the modern era cannot take seriously the assumption that sin is an infinitely heinous crime against God” (p. 202); but one does not have to be “addicted to the modern era” for that—all he needs is to be unconverted, in any age.

The reviewer does not desire to leave the impression that everything is wrong with this book, for it also contains much that is good and that everyone serving in a campus ministry will do well to ponder. For example: “The academic community is not in need of little stories about religion. It stands desperately in need of leadership capable of completely involving it in religious thought” (p. 120). The assertion (p. 188) that “the college community … involves people who have grown up in the church and yet have not the slightest knowledge of what the Christian gospel is all about” would seem to indicate that also upstate we have had enough of “little stories about religion.”

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The volume is well published. Printing and general make-up are pleasing, and typographical errors are few. If a second printing takes place, the “rolls” on page 39 should, it seems, be replaced with “roles.” The “whom” at the top of page 67 should make way for the nominative form of the pronoun. These are minor defects, as is the “Parley” on page 65; but in a book of such sophistication typographical perfection is an asset.


Lost Purpose: Lost Identity

America Is Different: The Search for Jewish Identity, by Stuart E. Rosenberg (Nelson, 1964, 274 pp., $4.50) is reviewed by Jakob Jocz, professor of systematic theology, Wycliffe College, Toronto, Ontario.

The author is a well-known and highly respected rabbi of one of the leading synagogues in Toronto. He is both a trained sociologist and a scholar in his own right. Dr. Rosenberg already has a number of books to his credit, and the present volume is a worthy contribution to the subject of Jewish identity.

Though primarily written for a Jewish public, the book will prove of considerable interest to Christian readers in that it throws some light upon the present state of Protestantism and also touches upon subjects that concern both Jews and Christians.

In some ways the problem of North American Jewry does not differ from that of any other Jewish community in the Diaspora. The basic problem facing the Jewish minority is that of national survival. Paradoxically, Jewish identity is better preserved under the pressure of anti-Semitism than under conditions of democratic equality. Discrimination may spell suffering for the individual Jew but acts as a mighty preservative of the group in that it keeps the community together. The real danger arises when outward pressure is removed so that the ancient defenses that work for separateness become redundant. Such is the case in North America.

The American experience is unique in Jewish history—America Is Different—in that for the first time the Jewish community found itself on an equal footing with every one else. In such a situation a new threat arises, namely, assimilation to the adjacent culture. In the past, Jewish separateness was founded upon Judaism, the distinctive faith of an ethnic group. But this is not a religious age. Today Jewish adherence to Judaism is as nominal as Gentile adherence to Christianity. Strangely enough, Rabbi Rosenberg takes this fact for granted and pleads not for a return to Judaism but for the preservation of the specific Jewish loyalties. His main emphasis is upon “Jewish culture,” though he is keenly aware of the shift from Judaism to Jewishness. Zionist activity, fund-raising, and ethnic loyalty have taken the place of genuine faith. This is his complaint. But Rabbi Rosenberg cannot have it both ways; once Jewish culture and Jewish faith are so assimilated as to become indistinguishable, it is inevitable that the stress should be on culture and not on faith.

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For the attentive reader there arises the inevitable question: What is meant by “Jewish culture”? It certainly is not any more a religious culture. On Dr. Rosenberg’s own admission, religious differences are of little account in modern secularized society. At best, both Jews and Gentiles indulge in vague religiosity, or what the author calls “religion-in-general.” But since the war, and especially as a result of the creation of the Israeli state, there is a tremendous upsurge of ethnic consciousness: the Jewish community is determined to preserve its identity. To this end Dr. Mordecai Kaplan’s program of Reconstructionism has assumed new significance. His influence pervades all sections of the Jewish community from the extreme liberals to the orthodox. “Peoplehood” with emphasis upon ethnic loyalty and custom is given first priority. The result is that Judaism is now understood as the “bearer of a civilization” rather than loyalty to the God of Israel. Even within the orthodox camp Jewishness prevails over against Judaism, so that it is now possible to be a “nonobservant orthodox Jew,” as it is possible to be a fervent Zionist without going to Israel except for a visit. In this, too, America Is Different. But if Dr. Rosenberg’s analysis is correct, then ultimately “Jewish culture” in North America resolves itself into secularized Americanism with a tinge of Jewish sentiment. This raises the perennial question of the raison d’être of Jewish separateness in the Diaspora.

What is the purpose of Jewish existence outside Israel?

In the last pages of Dr. Rosenberg’s book there are hints that separateness has resulted in cultural achievements that justify the Jewish struggle for survival. But is it a good enough reason? In the past, Jewish separateness was motivated by religious loyalties; today it is prompted by the herd instinct. Perhaps Dr. Rosenberg is too harsh with the Jewish intellectual after all? At least he refuses to be deceived and draws the last consequences of his atheism—without the God of Israel the Jew loses the purpose for his existence. How is it that Rabbi Rosenberg has so much to say about “Jewish culture” and nothing at all to say about Jewish destiny as God’s covenanted people?

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Perhaps in a future volume the author will present us with a theological exposition of Israel’s raison d’être as the People of God.


A Novel Witness

The Martyred, by Richard E. Kim (George Braziller, 1964, 316 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by Clyde S. Kilby, chairman, Department of English, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

The story told in this novel revolves around half a dozen main characters and is concerned with the conduct just prior to their death of twelve Christian ministers shot by Communists in North Korea in the latter half of 1950. Though these ministers died ignobly, and though even the Reverend Mr. Shin broke the heart of Captain Lee by confessing he did not believe in God, the message of the novel is that there is no alternative for suffering humanity other than a voice speaking from “far beyond history.” Colonel Chang, who did not believe in God, nevertheless at his death left money for the purchase and distribution of Bibles.

The author, a young Korean, acknowledges his indebtedness to Albert Camus; but the least significant interpretation of the novel would be one of simple atheism. (Actually the publisher calls it a Christian novel.) I find in it less of Camus than of Ibsen. Like a surgeon exhibiting a human organ to his students, Mr. Kim holds up every facet of his problem, both Christian and anti-Christian, and examines it thoroughly. It is the method of Ibsen, though here I find less of mere brilliance and more of deep sincerity than in Ibsen. It is a novel laden with the world’s grief.

Many significant questions are raised. Do people prefer a noble lie to the truth? Does God care about injustice and misery? Can atheists call Christianity a fairy tale if it actually meets a fundamental need of men? Can excessive humility turn into excessive pride? Should Christians “fail” sometimes just to prove they are human? Should religious hypocrisy be condoned for the sake of Christian unity? Does the study of history, if carried on honestly, lead to a power outside history? Are good and evil paradoxical rather than simply antithetical? From what source come courage, pity, love, and sacrifice in the hearts of men?

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Among Mr. Kim’s remarkable gifts is that of symbolism. Even so ordinary an object as the bell in the bombed-out church in Pyongyang is said to ring, and sometimes to clang, by no earthly hand but by the winds of the sky. When an unbeliever asks why the incessant ringing cannot be stopped, he is answered, “It’s too dangerous to get up to the belfry.” Thus by sparse suggestion the thoughtful reader can find meaning everywhere in this novel.

Captain Lee, the narrator of the events, seems to represent the author’s viewpoint and feelings. Not a Christian, Lee is nevertheless deeply moved by the idea of Christianity, particularly as that belief changes the hearts of its followers. To appreciate the full meaning of the novel it must be remembered that Korea in Mr. Kim’s lifetime has perhaps experienced a more genuine Christianity than any other country on earth. It is evident that Mr. Kim has felt the power of God in the Christians of his native country.


A Clear Overview

God Here and Now, by Karl Barth (Harper & Row, 1964, 108 pp., $3.75), is reviewed by James Daane, editorial associate, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Here are seven lectures delivered by Barth during the past fifteen years. The first and last deal with a ten-day conference on humanism held in Geneva in 1949. The first lecture is Barth’s speech on “humanism” (which is almost a sermon) to the conferees, who were all non-Christians except for one Roman Catholic. The key to Barth’s “humanism” (he rejects all “ism” terms as not properly definitive of Christianity) is of course the “humanity of God.” In the incarnate God-man, Jesus Christ, the nature, meaning, and secret of true humanity are to be found, and here only. If this is called “exclusiveness,” says Barth, “then we must let this change stand.” In the last lecture he shows how he fared with the advocates of various other types of humanism. Here we meet some of Barth’s humor, which often has overtones more serious than amusing.

One lecture deals with the nature of Christian proclamation and defines the nature of that grace of God which is proclaimed, and the nature of that free decision to which the Gospel summons man. Another lecture deals very lucidly with Barth’s understanding of the authority and significance of the Bible. Here he pretty much stands alone. His view of the Bible as becoming God’s Word, and as not free from human errors, will be unacceptable to conservative Christians, though they will feel some of the deep earnestness and seriousness that Barth holds for the Word of God as he conceives it. He has strong words of rejection for the Roman Catholic conception of the Word of God as borne by the hierarchy and culminating in the Vaticanum and compares it to the Protestant modernistic understanding of the Word as borne by the universal religious self-consciousness. And Barth warns those interested in the ecumenical movement that they pursue an illusion unless they recognize and respect the authority of the Bible.

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In another lecture Barth presents his conception of the Church as an event: the gathering or congregating of those summoned by the Word of God; he then goes on to show what this conception means for church polity, specifically for the proper relationship among the many congregations. The remaining lecture indicates Barth’s understanding of Christian ethics.

This small book presents many of Barth’s basic theological ideas with remarkable clarity. Barth does not get simpler or clearer than this. Part of the credit must go to the very good translation of these essays by Paul M. Van Buren. In an introductory chapter Van Buren shows his basic disagreementwith Barth’s theological method and thereby indicates that though he once followed Barth loyally, he does so no longer. Barth, says Van Buren, like the sixteenth-century Reformers thinks it is enough to hear the biblical message and repeat it today, delivering it as a mailman delivers a letter. Van Buren feels the turning point for theology lies not in the sixteenth but in the second half of the eighteenth century, and he admits amazement that Barth should be so concerned about what the Bible says and so indifferent as to how the Bible says it and how it ought to be said today. The brief introduction lights up the contrast between Barth’s theological method and that of Van Buren and of the whole current school of existential, demythologizing reinterpreters of the biblical message who state its meaning in secular terms.



Books for the Church Library, compiled for the Church Library Department of Christian Herald (1964, 57 pp.). A listing of about 400 significant religious titles, some of which would be more appropriate in a minister’s study than in the library of the average church. The list is offered free to church librarians on request.

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Sowing and Reaping, by Emil Brunner, translated by Thomas Wieser (John Knox, 1964, 91 pp., $1.50. Ten sermons.

For the Living, by Edgar N. Jackson (Channel, 1964, 96 pp., $1.50). A discussion of funeral practices, particularly as they relate to grief.

Not by Accident, by Isabel Fleece (Moody, 1964, 72 pp., $1). The reactions of a mother’s heart to God’s removal of her youngest son through an automobile accident.

His Life and Our Life: The Life of Christ and the Life in Christ, by John A. Mackay (Westminster, 1964, 80 pp„ $1.45). A former president of Princeton Theological Seminary writes in a style both delightful and lucid on what it means to be truly alive in Christ.

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