The Second Vatican Council and the New Catholicism, by G. C. Berkouwer (Eerdmans, 1965, 520 pp„ $5.95), is reviewed by Heiko A. Oberman, professor of the history of dogma, Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A tidal wave of Vatican Council bulletins has flooded the market with “council books.” Some offer day-to-day developments; others lend color to the hard lines of theological debate by presenting some of the many anecdotes that circulated in the corridors of St. Peter’s Basilica. The interconfessional interest in the council was heightened by the presence of a number of Protestant observers, some of whom took up their pens to record their reactions. A book by the former dean of Harvard Divinity School, professor emeritus Douglas Horton (United Church of Christ), and one by Robert McAfee Brown (Presbyterian), Stanford professor of religion, show how these Protestants were able to enter into the suspense of curial maneuverings and unexpected developments with a sharp eye for the relevance of new developments within the Roman Catholic Church for the ecumenical situation in the United States.

The book before us is not a “council book” in the way the others are, for its scope is more extensive. It introduces the reader to the background of the so-called new Catholicism: its breakaway from traditional tenets in Roman Catholic thought, its development until the beginning of the sixties, its contribution to conciliar thought, and its achievements on the council floor.

The author, Gerrit C. Berkouwer, professor of systematic theology at the Free University of Amsterdam, is well known in this country for such books as his multi-volume Dogmatic Studies, Conflict with Rome, and The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth. Because of his pioneer work in the Rome-Reformation discussion, Berkouwer was invited to attend the second Vatican Council as the guest of the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity. There he saw how the modern Roman Catholic theology he has been studying during the last three decades was able to function within the conciliar context.

Before we turn to content, it is important to suggest the spirit of the book, which makes reading it a breath-taking experience. First, Berkouwer carries through a theme I have seen developed nowhere else in such detail; namely, the solidarity forced upon Protestants and Roman Catholics alike in their mutual confrontation of a world that has come of age. This is not only a confrontation with the world outside the Church, impatient with the Church’s claims after nineteen centuries of Christianity; it is also an encounter with the world within the Church, where history and philology prove to be equally deep-cutting challenges for the traditional Protestant and Roman Catholic understanding of the authority of the Holy Scriptures. Berkouwer shows how such representatives of modern Roman Catholic theology as Congar, De Lubac, Rahner, Schillebeeckx, and Küng are dealing with problems that are of daily concern for their Protestant colleagues.

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Secondly, Berkouwer is not concerned only with the relevance of the new Roman Catholic theology; he is equally concerned with its claims to be the old theology renewing itself by translating the original historical intent into present-day language. He who feels that the ecumenical cause can be served only by severing our ties with the past and forgetting the history of Christian thought, because he regards this history merely as a gathering place for dated controversies, had better leave this book alone unless he is willing to be converted. Theological issues in the Old and New Testament, in the Patristic Era, in the Middle Ages and the Reformation period, are presented, and have to be presented, because in this new theology the whole history of Christian thought comes alive. The bold reinterpretation of Chalcedon, Trent, and Vatican I is of great importance for Protestants, because it implies a transformation of traditional Roman Catholic positions. We find here an effort to recapture the true humanity of Christ, a new insistence on Holy Scripture as the receptacle of all Catholic truths, and a call for a rounding-off of the infallible teaching authority of the pope, as presented at the first Vatican Council, by its complement in the equally infallible teaching authority of the College of Bishops.

In the first chapter Berkouwer analyzes the new spirit sparked by Pope John XXIII and finds a radically changed spirituality transcending that of the past and all that could have been expected some five years ago. The author shows more sympathy for the conservative wing than we usually encounter in the daily press and in other council books, because he can understand the necessity of preserving (custodire) the continuity with the past. At the same time he feels that Hans Küng is right in denying that the new theology is a product of liberal nineteenth-century modernism, in 1907 condemned as “agnostic.” He regards integralism (curialistic conservatism) as reactionary, too scared to open the doors of the church to the stormy winds of our day.

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In a second chapter this changed climate in the Roman Catholic Church is further articulated, and the program of renewal is shown to be intimately related to a rapprochement with key Reformation positions. In the next chapter the problem of mutability and immutability of dogma, that is, of the truth entrusted to the church, is discussed. Here again Berkouwer’s discussion is fair and profound, because he is aware that this issue crosses confessional boundaries. The change in formulation of the truth is not a clever adjustment to modernity in order not to lose grip on the faithful. Although these pragmatic ecumenists are in evidence, this is but a distortion of the true sense in which the preserving of the truth requires a constant retranslation of the biblical Gospel as it has been understood in the past.

The author devotes a special chapter to the relation of Scripture and tradition implied in the foregoing, noting that the battle cry of the Reformation, “Scripture alone,” has found staunch supporters within the camp of modern Roman Catholic theologians. The questions remain how this can be reconciled with the decision of the Council of Trent and how the assumed identity of Scripture and tradition behind this Roman Catholic assertion, “Scripture alone,” can be historically validated.

In the chapter on “Exegesis and Teaching Authority,” however, we are confronted with the burgeoning ecumenical potential of modern Roman Catholic biblical studies, now freed from nineteenth-century shackles by Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. The question is discussed whether this implies an openness for the “vision of Teilhard de Chardin,” as in the interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis, or whether this is to be regarded as a concession to modernity, illegitimate since Humani Generis (1950).

The chapters on “Primacy and Episcopacy” and “The Mystery of the Church” discuss the significance of the collegiality of the bishops and of the new spirituality, which is unsatisfied with the traditional answers to questions about the exclusive claims of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church—which, after all, every Christian acknowledges to be “one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.” In his discussion of the problems of Mariology, and again in the concluding epilogue, the author shows how he has been studying Roman Catholicism from within—without spiritual reservations—completely giving himself to his task of writing a phenomenology of modern Roman Catholicism.

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The question may arise whether Berkouwer has sufficiently articulated the witness of the Reformation and the stance over against the Roman Catholic tradition that remains true to itself amidst adaptations. I believe that the answer should be a firm “No!” The title of the book is not The Reformation and Modern Roman Catholic Theology but The Second Vatican Council and the New Catholicism. He has not been exploring the complicated network of rooms in the building called Roman Catholicism in order to look for an opportunity to place Protestant time bombs at the more strategic places. When charting the new Roman Catholic developments and their relation to the traditional structures, Berkouwer raises profound questions, but these seem to me to be as relevant and at times as cutting for the Protestant as for the Roman Catholic.

The Roman Catholic reader has here a readable survey of twentieth-century theological developments nowhere else available. The Protestant will be helped by this book to test the spirits of his time and, above all, to have a more profound understanding of the present-day need for reformation and the significance of the Reformation in our day.

Points Beyond Itself

The Old Testament, by Robert Davidson (Lippincott, 1964, 236 pp., $2.95), is reviewed by Robert O. Kevin, professor of Old Testament, Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia.

For one who wants a warmly written, condensed, objective account of religious concepts and practices in the Old Testament period of Israel’s life this book is recommended. The work represents contemporary scholarship. It provides a facet of faith in a series of books that are to have the overall title “Knowing Christianity.”

The volume can be informative and helpful. It can also be a disappointment to one who buys it because of a promise on the cover that it is “a deeply satisfying interpretation of Old Testament theology valued in its own right and not merely as a preparation for the New Testament.”

The author did not write the advertisement. He simply says, somewhere near the end of his work, that the Old Testament ought to be valued in its own right and not only as a preparation for the New.

His purpose, judging by the content, is to show what the literature of the Old Testament is in all its varied character; how the canon of the Scripture grew; and how the Hebrews believed that God worked through human history, that he revealed his purpose for them in a covenant, and that the people of the Holy Community were to respond in obedience to his will.

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The writer describes how the prophets interpreted the disasters that befell Israel as punishment for their disobedience; how God was approached in worship, with the sacrifices that were offered, the festivals that were celebrated, and the prayers that were said. All this is set forth with clarity, ability, and understanding.

Davidson tells, moreover, how men were sometimes troubled in their religious faith and what they did about it, what they thought of themselves in the light of God’s relation to them, and how they later viewed the future through apocalyptic glasses.

In an epilogue it is said that “the Old Testament points beyond itself,” that within Judaism a Jewish sect arose that saw the Old Testament promises fulfilled in their Leader. So there was, and so they did.

It is no doubt possible to discover “a satisfying interpretation of the Old Testament in its own right.” Some modern forms of Judaism have done this for their adherents. Possibly a Christian could do it too. But the author of this book has not realized this aim, helpful as the work can be in other ways.

One of these would be as a gift to a layman who wants to study for the ministry, or perhaps to teachers of New Testament classes. Many, by reading it, will be able to discover what others have learned about the Old Testament and its riches.


A New Project

The Anchor Bible, Volume I; Genesis, introduction, translation, and notes by E. A. Speiser (Doubleday, 1964, 379 pp., $6), is reviewed by Harry A. Hofjner, Jr., assistant professor of Anatolian studies, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts.

The Anchor Bible is an ambitious and worthy new project conceived by Doubleday and blessed with the able editorial supervision of William F. Albright and David N. Freedman. The plan is to provide an English translation of the entire Bible faithfully conveying the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek texts and adapted to the idiom of current American English. The translation will be supplied with explanatory notes, and following each chapter or pericope of the biblical text there will be a brief commentary elucidating the passage from historical and critical points of view. The editors should be congratulated on their choice of Professor Ephraim A. Speiser of the University of Pennsylvania as the contributor of the commentary on Genesis. This distinguished scholar has devoted many years to the study of Assyriology and its relations to Old Testament interpretation.

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The Anchor Bible project as outlined on the frontispiece is admirable in all points save one. Any attempt to write a book that will satisfy the needs of both scholar and layman is doomed to frustration at the outset. One has the impression that in Dr. Speiser’s Genesis it is the general reader who has been short-changed. Numerous articles in several languages are cited from a score of technical journals. Yet few and far between are the references to high-quality works in English designed for the general reading public, such as J. B. Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts (to which Speiser was a principal contributor), the two volumes of the Biblical Archaeologist Reader (edited by Wright, Freedman, and Campbell, and published by Doubleday!), or any of the popular works by William F. Albright or Cyrus H. Gordon.

Some readers may find it disappointing that Speiser devotes so much space to source criticism. He holds to a modified version of the documentary hypothesis, in which leading roles are assigned not only to J, E, D, and P, but also to their supposed predecessor “T” (for “tradition”). On the issue of canonicity from the broader perspective of cuneiform literature one should not overlook W. W. Hallo, “New Viewpoints on Cuneiform Literature” (Israel Exploration Journal 12 [‘62], pp. 13 ff.), with the other studies cited there. Speiser’s English translation of Genesis is generally quite good, not only in English style (e.g., 4:7 and 9:27) but also in exegetical insights (e.g., 1:1–3 and 3:1–2). Exceptions are few. In 4:1 and elsewhere in the Old Testament the Hebrew vada’, “to know,” refers to the sexual act. Although admittedly “the man knew his wife” involves some ambiguity, most alert readers of the English Bible are aware of what is involved. How is the matter improved by the equally ambiguous (and somewhat awkward) “the man had experience of his wife”?

Though the annotations and commentary contain many valuable insights, individual scholars will not agree with the author on a number of points. The myths of the Kumarbi cycle unquestionably have left their imprint on later Greek myths of the Uranid cycle. But it is improbable that they underlie the nephilim of Genesis G. Even if the bene elohim are gods (in itself quite an assumption!), their offspring are begotten through mortal women. This is patently not the case with the Titans or Ullikummi. In the author’s commentary on Genesis 23 (pp. 168–73) he fails to mention even once the crucial article by M. R. Lehmann in Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 129 (‘53), pp. 15–18. Such an omission is hardly justifiable, even though Speiser apparently totally disagrees with Lehmann’s conclusions, denies that these “sons of Heth” could have been Hurro-Hittites, insists that the point at issue was the price of the land rather than its extent, and refuses to deal with Lehmann’s observations regarding paragraphs 46 and 47 of the Hittite laws.

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As one reviews a work of this nature, he is confirmed in the opinion that no single scholar can adequately deal with the many facets of the interpretation of Genesis. To do so he should be an expert archaeologist, historian, linguist, textual and literary critic, and theologian combined. In view of the enormously exacting demands of the task, Professor Speiser has done admirably well and clearly deserves our applause and our thanks.


Conservative Influence

The Eldership in Irish Presbyterianism, by John M. Barkley (Sabbath School Society [Belfast, Ireland], 1964, 139 pp., 15s.), is reviewed by S. W. Murray, editor, Alliance News, Belfast, Ireland.

In this volume the development of the office of eldership in the various branches of Presbyterianism in Ireland is examined in detail, with special reference to the Irish Presbyterian Church. Here there will be seen characteristic differences from the Church of Scotland, including the ordination of the elder by presbytery and not by the local minister. The influence of the elder has usually been conservative in doctrinal matters, especially in major theological controversies, of which the Irish church has had its share. This was so, for instance, in the controversies at the end of the nineteenth century on the introduction of hymns and the use of musical instruments in leading public worship.

In the days long before the welfare state in these islands, the ruling elder was often responsible for the poor and needy in the local congregation, and sometimes outside it. This volume includes extracts from Kirk Session minute books which tell, for example, of aid given “to a poor widow” and “to an honest distressed man which came out of Scotland.” The book is well documented and contains a good bibliography.


How Big Is The Difference?

Roman and Evangelical: Gospel and Ministry—An Ecumenical Issue, by Per Erik Persson (Fortress, 1964, 96 pp., $2), is reviewed by James Daane, assistant editor,CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

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This book uncovers the theological motifs that divide Romanism and Protestantism and give each its distinctive shape and content. With the clarity of a Pittsburgh plate-glass window the book shows that Protestant and Roman theologies give very different answers to the question: How and where is Christ present to us? The answer given by Rome accounts for Rome’s view of the Bible, of tradition, of what occurs in the Mass and why it can be celebrated without a congregation, of the pope and his infallibility, of the necessity of apostolic succession, of the Church, of the Incarnation, and of why a valid ministry is more important than purity of doctrine. Rome’s answer also shows that Mariology is a natural development, not a strange, whimsical addition. Persson’s demonstration that all these doctrines are shaped by Rome’s answer to the question of how and where Christ is present to us for our salvation is highly rewarding.

Rome contends that Christ is present to save in the official ministry of the church; because this ministry is concentrated in the pope, the presence of Christ is also concentrated in the pope. The pope “represents” Christ not merely in the ordinary meaning of that term but in the unique sense that Christ, who was once present on earth, is now again present in the pope. The pope therefore—and the whole teaching ministry of the church in degrees—in his words and functions reflects not only the humanity but also the deity of Christ. He can therefore be infallible, and he can therefore also be the necessary mediator (not the Mediator) of salvation; for as the one in whom Christ is present again, he can, as did Christ, represent both God to the people and the people to God. Thus the teaching ministry of the church can, for example, forgive sins, and make present again, in the Mass, the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ.

Against this view, Persson, a Lutheran, shows that in Protestantism Christ is present in the preaching of the Gospel, and that Protestants therefore hold fundamentally different views on all the matters mentioned above.

Persson contends, further, that this basic difference reflects that basic issue of the Reformation, salvation by grace alone, and that Rome’s doctrine of salvation by grace alone (she has one too) is so constructed that it requires free human cooperation, which, while said to be itself the result of divine grace, nonetheless makes human works of cooperation both necessary and meritorious. And he further shows that Rome’s sola gratia, combined with human cooperation, is rooted in Rome’s Christology, in which great stress is laid on what Christ accomplishedas a man.

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This is an extremely valuable book. Any minister or theological student can understand it. He will see clearly the motif that shapes Roman Catholic theology, and he is likely to understand his own Protestant tradition, his own churches and ministry, far better than ever before. An understanding of the contents of this little book will make him see that there is a massive, articulated, unified Roman Catholic theology in which those things that sometimes seem incredible or even nonsensical are, on the contrary, integral to the whole. It will also make the Protestant realize that some of his short-order slogans about what the Roman Catholic Church believes are only about half true.

The title of this excellent little book is rather misleading. The “and” in the title faithfully reproduces the “och” of the original Swedish title, Romerskt och Evangeliskt. Yet the thesis of l’ersson, professor of systematic theology at Lund, Sweden, is not Roman and evangelical. He asserts baldly in the final paragraph of his argument that what is necessary in the Roman view of salvation is, in the Lutheran (Protestant) view, impossible. And his whole book shows clearly that the gap between the necessary and the impossible is the distance that must be covered before there can be any Protestant-Catholic merger.


Book Briefs

The Gospel of John: An Evangelical Commentary, by George A. Turner and Julius R. Mantey (Eerdmans, 1064. 420 pp., $8.95). The third in a projected twenty-volume commentary on the entire Bible. Evangelical, up-to-date scholarship.

Counseling with College Students, by Charles F. Kemp (Prentice-Hall, 1964, 144 pp., $2.95). A rather lightweight treatment.

The Totem Pole Indians, by Joseph H. Wherry (Funk & Wagnalls, 1964, 152 pp., $6.50). With a chapter on religion.

Your Children’s Faith: A Guide for Parents, by Florence M. Taylor (Doubleday, 1964, 174 pp., $3.95). Advice and counsel cut on a rather liberal bias.

The Gospels: Portraits of Christ, by Wayne G. Rollins (Westminster, 1963, 128 pp., $3). The author sees four portraits of Christ in the New Testament: Mark presents a religious-existential approach, Matthew an ethical-apocalyptic, and so on. If you do not like what you see in one Gospel, try another.

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Handbook of the Bible, by Donald E. Demaray (Cowman, 1964, 400 pp., $8.95). A wealth of material to help the serious reader understand the Bible.

Helping Human Beings: The Ethics of Interpersonal Relations, by Earl Dahlstrom (Public Affairs Press, 1964, 350 pp., $6). A large study with a wide sweep.

Counseling the Unwed Mother, by Helen E. Terkelsen (Prentice-Hall, 1964, 144 pp., $2.95). A valuable book for the pastor.

Pastoral Administration, by Arthur Merrihew Adams (Westminster, 1964, 174 pp., $4.50). Extensive discussions and information on “running a church.”

Preparing Your Children for Marriage, by W. Clark Ellzey (Association, 1964, 159 pp., $3.95). A book from Which parents could learn much, though there is little explicit Christian orientation.

Counseling the Serviceman and His Family, by Thomas A. Harris (Prentice-Hall, 1964, 144 pp., $2.95). A valuable book for the pastor’s study.

The Burden of Guilt: A Short History of Germany, 1914–1945, by Hannah Vogt (Oxford, 1964, 318 pp., $6). A German writes for Germans about the history of Hitler’s Germany, assessing the burden of guilt in a writing for our times.

Diligently Compared: The Revised Standard Version and the King James Version of the Old Testament, by Millar Burrows (Nelson, 1964, 278 pp., $6.50). “Why isn’t the King James good enough?” This book answers this question for the Old Testament. The author is a member of the Standard Bible Committee of the NCC.


We Know in Part, by D. T. Niles (Westminster, 1964, 158 pp„ $1.95). D. T. Niles’s quite substantial response to J. A. T. Robinson’s Honest to God.

The Holy Spirit in Christian Education, by Rachel Henderlite (Westminster, 1964. 128 pp., $1.95). The author struggles with the relation of revelation, Church, Bible, and Holy Spirit in view of the task of Christian education. She writes lucidly and competently, and with a fear that a literally infallible Bible would be a dangerous thing.

Talking about Jesus with a Jewish Neighbor, by Albert Huisjen (Baker, 1964, 54 pp., $1). This is no “push-the-door-bell-and-smile” type of advice, but a thoroughly biblical discussion that provides theological footing.

The Church Faces Isms, edited by Arnold B. Rhodes (Abingdon, 1964, 304 pp., $2.25). Good essays on fundamentalism, Adventism, dispensationalism, perfectionism, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, denominationalism, ecumenism, totalitarianism, racism, secularism, naturalism, scientism, and modernism. For laymen or clergy. First printed in 1958.

The Idea of Revelation in Recent Thought, by John Baillie (Columbia University, 1964, 152 pp., $1.45). First printed in 1956.

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Church and Ministry in Transition, by Richard Caemmerer and Erwin L. Luekev (Concordia, 1964, 80 pp., $1). A discussion in the context of Scripture and history.

On Trial: Sermons for Lent and Easter, by Arnold G. Kuntz (Concordia, 1965, 102 pp., $1.50). Six sermonettes that probe the conscience and dig into the heart with remarkable effectiveness. They call three witnesses for the prosecution and three for the defense.

Theology of Culture, by Paul Tillich (Oxford, 1964, 213 pp., $1.45). Fifteen essays on religion and culture. First published in 1959.

Psychology of Pastoral Care, by Paul E. Johnson (Abingdon, 1964, 362 pp., $1.95). A superlative, comprehensive work covering the wide sweep of pastoral concerns. The book stands in almost lonely excellence. First published in 1953.

The Sociology of Religion, by Max Weber (Beacon Press, 1964, 304 pp., $2.75). A substantial and self-contained part of Weber’s famous magnum opus, Economics and Society.First English version.

The Call of the Minaret, by Kenneth Cragg (Oxford, 1964, 376 pp., $1.95). An excellent commentary on Muslim belief and action. First published in 1956, it throws considerable light on a sector of the world that presses for increasing attention.

Christian Education for Socially Handicapped Children and Youth: A Manual for Chaplains and Teachers of Persons Under Custody, by Eleanor Ebersole (United Church Press, 1964, 96 pp., $1.25). A noble subject dealt a bad blow by not only bad but very confused theology.

The Hunger, The Thirst, by Malcolm Boyd (Morehouse-Barlow, 1964, 128 pp., $1.50). Malcolm Boyd, “the espresso priest,’ gives pungent answers to the questions of the young generation. Good reading.

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