How Various Churches View the State

Protestant Concepts of Church and State, by Thomas G. Sanders (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964, 339 pp., $7.50), and Religion and Politics in America, by Murray S. Stedman, Jr. (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1964, 168 pp., $4.95), are reviewed by A. G. Huegli, vice-president for academic affairs and professor of government, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana.

In the rapidly growing literature on the relations of the church and the political order, these books should be appreciatively received. The two approach the subject from quite different angles, and each makes a distinctive contribution.

Dr. Sanders’s Protestant Concepts of Church and State is a major work. As the first in a series to be produced with the cooperation of the National Council of Churches, it sets a high standard for the others to follow. The task the author has posed is to explore “the attitude of the church toward the state, especially as it appears in American Protestantism.”

The author regards Protestantism “as an historical and sociological phenomenon,” and suggests that the Bible, tradition, and the mode of living in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries set the pattern for Protestant thought in church-state relations. Protestantism, while sharing with Roman Catholicism such concepts as God’s sovereignty over church and state and the dualism of the two institutions, has also been affected by its relations with political absolutism, with modern secularism, and with American political thought.

Five representative Protestant answers have been chosen for analysis. Three of them are denominational: Lutheran, Mennonite (Anabaptist), and Quaker. The other two typify adherents of positions in all major denominations: separationist and transformationist.

Sanders has evaluated the theological bases of the three denominational expressions very thoroughly. His review of Luther’s thought is succinct and appropriate. One could wish for more adequate coverage of contemporary Lutheran thought, but this has not always been easy to uncover. The Lutheran leaning toward “moderate separation between church and state, principally because of its theocentrism,” has too seldom been recognized outside that group. He regards the Mennonites as “the most important representatives in modern America of the historically significant sectarian attitude toward the state.” He feels that the Quakers, in their consuming concern for peace and social justice, “need to develop their thought on other types of church-state problems.” It is not entirely clear, incidentally, why this small group receives major attention in the book.

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Of most interest because most Protestants count themselves into one or the other categories are the separationists and the transformationists. Paul Blanshard and Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State are the best known exponents of separationism, but Sanders properly studies the Baptists for the theological and historical undergirding of this position. The Baptists and their seventeenth-century associates in England get much of the credit for limitations on government, for democratic forms, for religious liberty and toleration. The trouble is that these groups could not shake off their Puritan past and hence, even in America, “inconsistently advocate a wall of separation between church and state, while virtually controlling the moral and religious life of areas in which they predominate.”

In America, says Sanders, both revivalists and New England rationalists shared in the separationist view, but in time these advocates built on a base that was less theological than political. The author is probably too sweeping in his contention that separationists frequently act out of anti-Catholic bias and so “seem to evaluate church-state problems by the secular norm of separation and receive their dynamic from ill-informed and questionable prejudices.” Nevertheless he regards separationism as the most significant of the Protestant positions—and the most dubious.

Transformationism seems to have the author’s sympathy, at least as far as its spokesmen represent a concern by the church for the world. The transformationists, as might be imagined, have Calvinist origins. Their thinking was carried forward by the Puritans in England and America and by the eighteenth-and nineteenth-century heirs of the Puritans, who accepted church-state separation but sought to keep religion in social and governmental life. The modern transformationists, like John C. Bennett, refuse to interpret the American pattern of separation in an absolute sense, preferring the terms “independence” and “cooperation” to the term “separation.” They insist on the prophetic role of the church in society. Their problem is how to secure a consensus for this kind of relation in the midst of a pluralistic setting. They, too, have discovered the need for restudying the theological substructure on which their ideas can rest.

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Sanders regards transformationism as “the most promising contemporary Protestant approach to church-state problems.” Whether one agrees with him or not, the scholarship that helps him arrive at his conclusions is impressive.

Dr. Stedman, a professor of government, writes Religion and Politics in America with a facile pen and a good-natured sense of humor. He is not so much concerned with the theories of church-state separation as with the question: What ought to be the role of the churches in the total political process? For an answer he tells us what the role is and what it is likely to become, but not to any satisfying extent what it ought to be.

He is convinced that the churches have an important part in the democratic theory and practice in America. He feels that “the churches will neither grow until they come to dominate the affairs of the Republic, nor dwindle in membership and become ineffectual.” The increase of the Roman Catholics and the Holiness and Pentecostal sects is likely to mean increased old-line Protestant support for the status quo and a diminution of Protestant effectiveness in social criticism. But the American pattern suits churches and government very well. Therefore we are not likely to have religious political parties or one church in control of the government here. Neither churches nor church leaders can assume major leadership in political affairs. The churches may educate but not participate.

Dr. Stedman acknowledges the tensions that are always present between churches and the government, but he believes the two institutions more often agree than disagree. In this he is altogether too sanguine. Even he admits that the area of social control is an explosive one in church-state relations.

In state and local governmental relations, the churches have a potential impact. On the national level, except for the Roman Catholic representation, their influence is ineffectual in politics because of their divided condition. The church union movement and international church affiliations might well have far-reaching ramifications for enhancing the influence of church lobbying in government halls in the future. About the best advice Stedman can give the churches for improving their role in public life is that they should exercise their judgmental function more distinctively.

This is not a weighty volume in size or workmanship. There is a considerable amount of overlapping and repetition of ideas within it. Yet it is a readable book with fresh insights into the relation of the church and the social order, which is always fascinating and sometimes problematical.

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Negative Version

The Foundations of Morality, by Henry Hazlitt (Van Nostrand, 1964, 398 pp., $9.95), is reviewed by Earle E. Cairns, chairman, Department of History and Political Science, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

Can an ethical system be founded only on a rational basis without recourse to an absolute source and sanction for ethical values? With only a patronizing nod to faith in God as an ethical force, Henry Hazlitt, an able and prolific writer on economic issues, undertakes the creation of a private and public ethic by rational techniques. He admits that his system owes much to Hume and the nineteenth-century Utilitarians.

The author refuses to ground his system in the nature and will of God, in a Kantian categorical imperative, in the social evolution of custom into ethical norms, or in ethical skepticism. He favors, instead, an inductive-deductive rational approach in which the “ought” of ethics rests upon an “is.” His carefully reasoned system links the interests of the individual and society in seeking happiness, or the satisfaction of desire by “social cooperation” based on “general rules” for private and social conduct. A more satisfactory state of affairs in the long run always replaces a less satisfactory one.

In the long run, happiness is not to be linked with Jeremy Bentham’s principles of pleasure-pain, utility, and the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Long-run satisfaction of desire is looked upon as a discipline to promote individual and social well-being rather than as ascetic self-sacrifice, Such satisfaction comes from following general rules of action based upon experience, and the author gives Hume credit for the discovery of such general rules. Egoism and altruism are to be brought together in “mutualism” or “cooperativism,” by which each seeks his own good but not without some consideration of that of others. This constitutes a negative Golden Rule. Self-sacrifice comes only in special vocations, such as those of the soldier, or in the performance of individual duty in special situations.

Hazlitt relates his ethical system to international relations but does not exclude the right to national self-defense or preservation of national life. He also examines capitalism as a system of long-run satisfaction by social cooperation, but he rejects all kinds of socialism as incompatible with his ethical system because they create government monopolies, stifle incentiveness, are based on coercion, and justify any means to an end.

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The writer’s clear organization and graphic style add appeal to his ideas. His reasoned refutation in chapter 2 of the ethical systems of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud is helpful. His reconciliation of the clash between the values of the individual and those of society can serve as a needed corrective in a day in which various systems overemphasize the one or the other.

The Christian, however, has several reservations. Hazlitt seems to verge on pragmatism when he relates actions with good consequences to ethics. He seems to press unduly the relation of classical economics to his system of ethics, by using social cooperation as a key to both. Neither his polite treatment of religion in chapter 32 nor his talk of “imprescriptible rights” or “prescriptive ethical rules” offsets the relativism inherent in his approach. His ethical system lacks an absolute source, sanction, and dynamic, the last of which lacks he seems to admit (p. ix). He tends to secularize morals, even though he admits that belief in God is a strong ethical force. He upholds the autonomy of ethics from religion. He too casually ignores revelation through the Scriptures and Christ in history. Thus his system is negative rather than positive in its development of the norms of ethical conduct.

Because of these weaknesses, his work will not commend itself for adoption by evangelicals. They should, however, read it for his fine insights into human freedom and responsibility.


The Task Remains

The Royal Priesthood of the Faithful, by Cyril Eastwood (Augsburg, 1963, 264 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by William A. Mueller, professor of church history, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.

This work forms a sequence with the author’s excellent The Priesthood of All Believers: An Examination of the Doctrine from the Reformation to the Present Day. In ten well-organized chapters Eastwood surveys the doctrine under discussion from Old and New Testament times to the times of the late medieval mystics. It is evident from Holy Scripture that God in calling Israel envisaged a “kingdom of priests” and not an exclusive priesthood. The servant-idea was ever uppermost in the ideas of the biblical writers. However, this servant-idea found its fulfillment only in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus “is Himself the revealed Word and the redemptive act, the whole meaning of priesthood changed. The Incarnation means the end of all other priestly mediations” (p. 29). And Christ’s priesthood is all-embracing, universal in scope and promise; it encompasses not only a redeemed humanity but also Nature, the world of men as well as the Church. The latter as a kingdom of priests is called to sacrificial service to a lost world. The apostles emphasized the idea of Christian and priestly servanthood for all believers. Suffering, sacrifice, and obedience are the true marks of the priesthood of all believers. At every service of Holy Communion our universal priesthood is, or ought to be, in evidence.

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While most of the church fathers cherished the idea of the royal priesthood of the faithful, a change took place after Cyprian of Africa. Gregory I, on the other hand, still advocated this holy concept. The real eclipse occurred after the rise of Islam. The pontificate of Hildebrand in the eleventh century led to a fatal centralization and clericalization of the clergy.

The Decretum of Gratian (1142) codified, as it were, the Hildebrandian centralization of the papacy. The clergy’s exemption from civil jurisdiction, the enforcement of celibacy for the priesthood, extreme papal claims to supreme temporal and spiritual authority—these led to the emasculation of the laity and a practical denial of the universal priesthood of all believers. Eastwood sees in the writing of Marsiglio of Padua, in the reforms of John Wycliffe, in the movement of St. Francis, and in the emphases of the Brethren of the Common Life, a rediscovery of this biblical doctrine so essential for the well-being of the Church. If the churches of our day are to be vital they must not neglect the doctrine of the royal priesthood of the faithful; for this doctrine is inherent in the very nature and mission of the Gospel of him who “has made us all priests and kings unto our God” to serve, to witness, to pray, to suffer, and to minister in his name for the redemption of mankind.


Half And Half

The Systematic Theology of Paul Tillich, by Alexander J. McKelway (John Knox, 1964, 280 pp., $5.50), is reviewed by Charles C. Ryrie, professor of systematic theology, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

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The name Paul Tillich is hardly a household term, but his theology is one of the three or four leading ones in our day. Anyone who has attempted to wade through his Systematic Theology knows how complex and intricate his thought is and will therefore be grateful for this survey.

The subtitle of this work is: “A Review and Analysis.” The review part will be very helpful to all who want more than a cursory understanding of Tillich. The analysis part is much less perceptive and needs analysis itself.

In reviewing Tillich’s thought, McKelway, a professor at Dartmouth College, faithfully reproduces and often clarifies his concepts of reason and revelation, God, Christ, life, and history. These ideas in Tillich, even the basic ones like God as the Ground of Being or Christ as New Being, are often so abstract that one has to conclude either that Tillich is saying something even he does not always fully understand or that he is saying nothing. McKelway is most sympathetic and concludes that Tillich has something to contribute to Christian theology (while Freeman, for instance, in the “Modern Thinkers” series, reaches the opposite conclusion). The author defends Tillich’s approach on the basis that he is a philosopher as much as or more than he is a theologian; but this cannot excuse, even in McKelway’s judgment, Tillich’s lack of exegesis in considering various doctrines.

McKelway’s analysis is less perceptive than his review simply because he wears glasses of a neo-orthodox prescription. Because of this, his criticism focuses on Tillich’s defective doctrine of Christ (he labels it “heterodox,” p. 174). He rightly points out that if Tillich’s man-oriented concept of revelation is correct, then God really has not spoken; and that if it is possible that Jesus of Nazareth never lived (as Tillich believes), then salvation may be found in ways other than in Jesus Christ. These criticisms are valid but do not go far enough because the author himself is not oriented toward an objective revelation of God in the Bible.

To sum up: this is an as-clear-as-possible survey of Tillich with Barth-oriented criticisms.


The Nature Of God’s Power

The Omnipotence of God, by Howard A. Redmond (Westminster, 1964, 192 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by James Daane, assistant editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Although Christians of all traditions confess that God is sovereign, they rarely agree with any precision about the nature of this sovereignty. Even less frequently do they write a book on the subject. Professor Redmond, professor of religion and philosophy at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, has written a very stimulating book on the sovereignty or omnipotence of God. To his best knowledge, he says, no major study of this subject has been made in our century. If he is wrong on this point, I am not aware of it.

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In his first chapter he listens to what theologians have said on the subject. He briefly sketches the positions of the early church fathers, of Anselm, Aquinas, Scotus, and Occam in the Middle Ages, of Luther and Calvin in Reformation times, and of William Temple, Nels Ferré, Tillich, and Brunner in the twentieth century.

A second chapter does the same for selected philosophers, and a third—a more interesting discussion than one might think—for selected poets. In his fourth chapter the author sets forth the biblical view, and a last chapter declares what we may today believe about God’s omnipotence and ends with a vindication of Jonathan Edwards.

Redmond contends that we may not give up the metaphysical attributes of God, for if we do the love of God is emasculated and we end up in maudlin moralisms and sentimental banalities. He also contends that God’s sovereignty is neither a natural causality (a la Schleiermacher) nor potestas absoluta, a philosophical abstraction that swallows human freedom. Positively, Redmond insists that God’s sovereignty must be defined in the context of God’s love and grace, and never in isolation from these. The sovereignty of God, according to Redmond, is the freedom of God to do whatever he wills and is consonant with his nature. God’s greatest power, it is said, is revealed in his greatest and most difficult work, the Cross and the Resurrection, where it is also disclosed that the glory of God is his willingness to stoop to share himself with man, even sinful man.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it to any who are seriously concerned with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. I would register two of my restrictions against its total acceptability. First, Redmond rejects the idea that the unregenerate, sinful man lacks the power to move toward God. And second, he presents his analysis of what the theologians, the poets, the philosophers, and the Bible say, and then speaks of building a synthesis, asking, What may we believe today? I do not believe that Redmond has really followed this method, for he quite clearly appears to accept the Bible as his norm.

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Readers will find provocative his contention that theology could well do without the terms “infinite” and “finite,” not because God is finite, but because “infinite” suggests, wrongly, that God is indeterminate being—and power.



The Christian in Complete Armour, by William Gurnall (Banner of Truth Trust, 1964, 1,189 pp., 35s.), is reviewed by Clement Graham, minister, Free Church of Scotland, Tain, Scotland.

This is a monumental work in the true Puritan tradition, from which it follows that to read and digest it is something of a monumental task. Gurnall is, however, free from the involved literary style we associate with many of his contemporaries. He writes with classical simplicity and the clarity that bespeaks not only thorough knowledge of a subject but also mastery of the technique of communication. The piquancy of the old English and the brilliance of the epigrams on every page often caused the reviewer to chuckle with sheer delight at the aptness of Gurnall’s expressions. Examples of his proverbial sayings: “God can make a straight line with a crooked stick”; “a blind man and a drowsy conscience go together”; “it is impossible for a naughty heart to think well of an afflicting God.” This sort of crisp, incisive saying meets one on page after page of the book, which means that Gurnall never forgets the practical application of truth.

No one can read this work seriously without being put to earnest heart-searching; and it would be difficult, even impossible, to read other than seriously, for Gurnall shows an awareness of all the strategems and pretenses with which the unbeliever and the hypocrite are accustomed to ward off the strokes of truth.

Gurnall’s exhibition and practical demonstration of the use of the armor provided for the Christian, as described in Ephesians 6, extends over more than a thousand double-columned pages. The book establishes a claim for him to rank with many of the better-known Puritans.


Judiciously Independent

Interpreting the Bible, by A. Berkeley Mickelsen (Eerdmans, 1963, 425 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Everett F. Harrison, professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

Interest in biblical hermeneutics has increased in the last few years, partly as a result of continued intensive study of the text of Scripture and partly because of the more abstruse discussions on semantics and the nature of biblical language. Dr. Mickelsen has produced a volume that is admirable for its completeness. This is not to say that every current tendency is treated, for he has avoided the post-Bultmannian hermeneutic, which is just as well in the light of its shift of emphasis from established patterns.

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The author divides his material into four parts. In the introduction he treats, among other things, the leading types of interpretation in the past and the crucial issues that are drawing attention today. This is helpfully done. The second section deals with general hermeneutics and includes chapters on the importance of the context, on language, and on history and culture. The third division delves into special hermeneutics—figures of speech, typology, prophecy, poetry, doctrine, and the like. In the final portion the author warns of false procedures and gives counsel for the development of skill as an interpreter.

Being a New Testament scholar, Mickelsen could be expected to devote more attention to that portion of Scripture than to the Old Testament; but he has resisted any temptation of this sort. The material is well balanced. Without being pedantic he keeps before the reader the importance of a knowledge of the original languages, not forgetting that many of his readers lack this equipment. Making judicious use of predecessors in this field, he maintains his independence of thought. His heaviest indebtedness, which is all to his credit, is to articles in the Kittel Wörterbuch.

The chapters on typology and on prophecy are especially well handled. In the latter, however, one misses any extensive treatment of a problem that has divided interpreters in the past, namely, the fulfillment of the Israel promises, whether these can rightfully be claimed by the New Testament Church or are reserved for eschatological Israel as a nation. The author’s attitude deserves commendation. Although he forthrightly discloses his conservative position, he at the same time manifests an openness of mind and a desire to present the Bible in such a way as to make it as meaningful as possible to this generation.

There is some doubt about the usefulness of the chapter on language, which sounds like a rapid review of a course in syntax. This will be of little use to the student who has already acquired a knowledge of the biblical languages and will likely prove beyond the grasp of the one who lacks this background. If the chapter is intended for the latter group, it could fulfill a need if the material were simplified and more profusely illustrated by specific examples.

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Rather strangely, little if any use is made of the important material in First Corinthians 2 about the necessity of the Spirit’s illumination for the understanding of the things of God. How far can one go as a student or a teacher of the Word without regeneration and yieldedness to the Spirit of truth? There is little doubt where the author stands on this, but it is unfortunate that his position is not stated more explicitly.


Book Briefs

A Book of Easter: With Daily Devotions. by Paul M. Lindberg, illustrated by Don Wallerstedt (Fortress, 1965, 192 pp., $3.75). Daily devotions for the Easter season plus considerable data about many things rightly associated with the Resurrection of Christ.

Objections to Roman Catholicism, edited by Michael de la Bedoyere (Lippincott, 1965, 185 pp., $3.95). Six laymen and an archbishop face objections to the Roman Catholic Church in such areas as censorship, contraception, freedom, and existentialism.

Who Crucified Jesus?, by Solomon Zeitlin (Bloch, 1964, 250 pp., $4.50). The author argues that early leaders of the Church accused the Jews of crucifying Christ to show that they were no longer God’s elect people; that the Gospels distort the facts; that Jesus was tried not by the religious but by the political Sanhedrin and was crucified by the Romans; and that for all these reasons the Jews are not historically responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. First published in the Jewish Quarterly Review in 1941–42. This fourth edition contains revised material and a new introduction.

The Reformation, by Hans J. Hillerbrand (Harper and Row. 1964, 495 pp., $7.50). A lively sourcebook, first of its kind in English, which provides a narrative history as related by contemporary observers and participants.

How to Peel a Sour Grape: An Impractical Guide to Successful Failure, by Richard P. Frisbie (Sheed and Ward, 1965, 179 pp., $3.95). The author has a delightful time throwing darts at the bubbles of our successes.

The Lonely Sickness, by Elizabeth D. Whitney (Beacon, 1965, 178 pp., $4). A valuable guide to anyone concerned personally or professionally with alcoholism.

John Knox, by Lord Eustace Percy (John Knox [also James Clark, London], 1965, 344 pp., $4.50).

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Serendipity, by J. Wallace Hamilton (Revell, 1965, 187 pp., $3.95). In pleasant essays the author shows how serendipity (the gift for unexpectedly finding pleasant things) operates in everyday life and in Christianity, where to those seeking the Kingdom all other things are added.


The Passion and Death of Christ, by C. H. Spurgeon (Eerdmans, 1965, 152 pp., $1.45). Lenten sermons; soundly evangelical.

The Challenge of World Communism in Asia, by J. R. Saunders (Eerdmans, 1964, 125 pp., $1.25). A one-time missionary who spent half a century in China presents not the usual frothy fulminations against Communism but a well-written, perceptive, below-the-surface analysis that senses the deep-seated character of the social and political revolution in the East.

Hymns in Christian Worship, by Cecil Northcott (John Knox, 1965, 83 pp., $1.75). A very informative and readable discussion of the place and function of the hymn in various liturgical and non-liturgical traditions.

Early Christian Thinkers: An Introduction to Clement of Alexandria and Origen, by H. Kraft (Association, 1964, 77 pp., $1.25).

The Mission of the Church and Civil Government, by Clinton Morrison (Church Peace Mission, 1964, 22 pp., $.15). A brief but very provocative essay on a very relevant subject.

The Pacifism of Karl Barth, by John Yoder (Church Peace Mission, 1964, 30 pp., $.15).

Going on in the Christian Faith, by Ernest F. Kevan (Baker, 1964, 142 pp., $1.95). Wide practical advice for the person who wants to know how to live the Christian life.

A Man Named John F. Kennedy: Sermons on His Assassination, edited by Charles J. Stewart and Bruce Kendall (Paulist Press, 1964, 208 pp., $1.25).

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