A New Tour Of Genesis

Understanding Genesis, by Nahum M. Sarna (McGraw-Hill, 1966, 267 pp., $6.95), and Worship in Israel: A Cultic History of the Old Testament, by Hans-Joachim Kraus (John Knox, 1966, 246 pp., $6), are reviewed by Edward J. Young, professor of Old Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Professor Sarna’s book will certainly take a foremost place in the current revival of interest in Genesis. In interesting and readable language he takes the reader through Genesis, pointing out step by step the ancient Oriental background against which the book was written. He accepts the documentary hypothesis, although he does not allow it to clutter up his work. Thus we are told, for example, that the narrative of Joseph is mainly assigned to J and E with an admixture of P. Yet even this much of the documentary hypothesis may cause the reader to wonder how the remarkable narrative of Joseph ever arose from such a concoction.

The author has amassed a tremendous amount of archaeological material to illumine the background of Genesis. Those who desire an up-to-date evaluation of the discoveries of Nuzi, Mari, Alalakh, and so on, will find it here. Sarna seems to have overlooked nothing, and no serious student of Genesis can afford to overlook his book.

In dealing with the early chapters of Genesis, Sarna seeks to grapple with the problem of myth. And indeed, this will always be a problem—an insolvable problem—unless one regards the early chapters of Genesis, not as an “Israelite version” (p. 4) with literary indebtedness to ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies, but as a divine revelation, which, though its literary form may include words and phrases that were in use elsewhere, is nevertheless the very truth of God. There is deep need for a thorough study of the relation of the early chapters of Genesis to the cosmogonies of antiquity, a study that will proceed from the assumption that Genesis is sacred Scripture, the inerrant revelation of the triune God. Only upon such a basis can the true relation be established.

Dr. Kraus’s book is of great value as an introduction to the study of recent form criticism. His first chapter is a masterpiece of summary (a field in which he has distinguished himself) and may certainly be recommended to those who wish to understand recent Old Testament studies. Here is a cautious, scholarly, and sane treatment of the cultic festivals of ancient Israel written from a form-critical standpoint. At the same time there is a wholesome independence of approach that makes the work particularly useful.

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The book stands as a counter to the theories of Wellhausen and also to the views of patternism so prevalent in recent times. At times Kraus raises a needed word of warning against excesses of emphasis, as, for example, in the use of Hittite treaty patterns to interpret the Old Testament. He does consider carefully the Canaanite background against which Israel moved and feels that in adapting certain Canaanite acts Israel purified them, bringing them into the sphere of personal relation between the individual and God.

For my part, however, I do not think that such a picture does justice to the facts. If there was such a transformation in Israel, what really caused it? I do not feel that the presuppositions that undergird this book provide for a satisfactory answer. What happened in Israel happened in none of the other countries of antiquity. God “made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel” (Ps. 103:7). Until we accept and understand this fact, we shall never properly understand Israel nor her worship of God.


For Devotees Of Calvin

John Calvin (“Courtenay Studies in Reformation Theology,” Vol. I), edited by G. E. Duffield (Eerdmans, 1966, 228 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Donald J. Bruggink, associate professor of church history, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan.

Basil Hall of Cambridge opens this impressive volume of essays with “The Calvin Legend,” in which he shows how Calvin suffers from both the calumnies of his enemies (inside and outside Protestantism) and the distortion of his theology by his friends. Hall does not hesitate to say that “when Calvin died in 1564 the synthesis of biblical studies, humane learning, and the welfare of the small city state of Geneva, died with him. A change of emphasis came with Beza, his successor …” (p. 2). This assertion is further substantiated in the next chapter, “Calvin Against the Calvinists.” Beza is found guilty of subordinating biblical exegesis “to a restored Aristotelianism” (p. 25).

William Perkins, one of the most influential of early Puritan writers, likewise contributed to the distortion of Calvin’s carefully balanced theology, first by setting forth a more speculative and less biblical doctrine of election, and then, in an effort to give a greater assurance of grace, by urging a close inspection of one’s own feelings to ascertain the evidences of grace. Calvin had pointed the individual not to self but to “Scripture, Christ, the church and the sacraments for assurance of salvation” (p. 29).

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Basil Hall clears away a good deal of misinformation, and following essays give a more detailed look at Calvin. Ford Lewis Battles presents the young Calvin who wrote the Commentary on Seneca and shows how the careful scholarship behind this commentary constituted the tools for Calvin’s later exegesis of Scripture—a useful warning to those who would exegete Scripture purely by the “spirit.” A look at the humane, always concerned, and remarkably elastic Calvin is provided in “Calvin the Letter-Writer” by Jean-Daniel Benoit, who also provides an essay on “The History and Development of the Institutio: How Calvin Worked.”

G. S. M. Walker’s “The Lord’s Supper in the Theology and Practice of Calvin” recognizes that for Calvin “the Lord’s Supper was central in the church’s life …” (p. 131). Not only was the practice of the proclamation of God’s Word recovered at the Reformation, but Calvin was among those who also attempted to restore sacramental usages to biblical norms. In terms of biblical and Reformation history, one must agree with Walker that it is a “tragedy that for [Calvin’s] spiritual descendants … the scriptural ideal of weekly celebration has not yet been adequately realized; the result has been an unnatural divorce between word and sacrament to which the whole theology of Calvin is opposed” (p. 143).

Of timely concern is the essay of Jean Cadier, “Calvin and the Union of the Churches.” In marked contrast to many contemporary Christians who would claim Calvin’s name, Calvin was concerned with the unity of the body of Christ and was willing to discuss this unity not only with the church at Zürich, where his efforts succeeded, and with the Lutherans, where they did not, but also with the Anglicans, where a hoped-for meeting never took place, and even with the Roman Catholics! In the heat of the Reformation Calvin went to the conferences at Ratisbon in 1540 and 1541 to attempt a reconciliation of Protestant and Roman Catholic positions. The attempt failed for lack of theological agreement, but the attempt was made! Something of the theological perspective of Calvin that explains these efforts for unity is set forth in his letter to Archbishop Cranmer in 1552:

Amongst the greatest evils of our century must be counted the fact that the churches are so divided one from another that there is scarcely even a human relationship between us; at all events there is not the shining light of that holy fellowship of the members of Christ, of which many boast in word, but which few seek sincerely in deed. In consequence, because the members are tom apart, the body of the church lies wounded and bleeding. So far as I have it in my power, if I am thought to be of any service, I shall not be afraid to cross ten seas for this purpose, if that should be necessary [pp. 126, 127].
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This first volume of the “Courtenay Studies in Reformation Theology” lives up to its dust-jacket description: “A Collection of Distinguished Essays.”


The Cross And The Flag

Colonialism and Christian Missions, by Stephen Neill (McGraw-Hill, 1966, 445 pp., $7.95), is reviewed by Harold Lindsell, associate editor,CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Bishop Neill, professor of missions at the University of Hamburg, here plows new ground: he shows the relation between the cross of the Church and the flag of the colonial powers during the period when the Church was bringing the Gospel to the heathen world and the Western powers were extending their hegemony all over the globe.

Neill traces the progress of the Gospel in India, China, Japan, Indonesia, the Pacific, and Africa. He shows clearly that cross and flag were distinct strands that often intertwined and that missionaries were, after all, creatures of time and environment who sometimes thought Western culture was intrinsic to the Gospel and who were not above confederacy with the state to advance the cause of the Church. Nor was the state always averse to using the missionary arm of the Church to forward political and “imperialistic” ambitions.

What emerges from his treatment is the balanced judgment that neither Church nor state was wholly bad or wholly good. The permanent values flowing from Western penetration far exceeded the destructive aspects of that penetration. Indeed, the author shows that God overruled again and again to bring good out of evil.

Neill has brought to his work knowledge, a fair attitude and an irenic spirit that are highly commendable. His book is indispensable for an accurate understanding of the missionary advance since 1792.


The Secularization Kick

The Secularization of Modern Culture, by Bernard Eugene Meland (Oxford, 1966, 163 pp., $4.75), is reviewed by John C. Howell, professor of Christian ethics, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.

This is a particularly relevant study in light of the increasing influence of secular concepts on American Christianity. Even though Bernard Meland was addressing an Indian audience in the Barrows Lectures, which form the basis for the book, his perceptive treatment of the many forms of secularism, both Western and Eastern, is interesting and illuminating.

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Meland defines secularization as “the movement away from traditionally accepted norms and sensibilities in the life interests and habits of a people—a departure from an historical order of life that presupposes religious sanctions” (p. 3). He is aware that secularization may act as a healthy corrective to religious expressions that are piously dogmatic but that ignore the larger dimension of man’s human needs. To become secularized in this sense means to understand that religious faith must exist in a secular world and that religious people must seek to discover how God may be leading individuals to serve him through the secular structures of society. This should be encouraged.

However, when secularization leads man to abandon allegiance to the historic values that have motivated and restrained human acts, then it can be destructive of man’s basic need for recognizing the limits of his own existence. This is the secularism Meland finds developing in Eastern and Western concepts of science, technology, and the secular states.

His chapter on “The Dissolution of Historical Sensibilities” impressed me as being most helpful, in light of the moral confusion over the use of violence in the civil rights movement and the popularity of the “new morality” in American life. Although most of us would reject his belief that no world religion can “presume to speak with finality about ultimate aspects of man’s nature and destiny” (p. 157), we can find value in his treatment of the interrelatedness of knowledge gained through science, philosphy, and religion. Meland is indebted to the work of A. N. Whitehead and reflects Whitehead’s position that a clash of doctrines is not a disaster but an opportunity for deepened understanding of one’s own beliefs as well as those of others.

Although the book will be rejected by some as being too liberal theologically, it offers the discerning reader many incisive contributions to our understanding of the world in which Christian faith must be proclaimed today.


Reading for Perspective


Pentecostalism, by John Thomas Nichol (Harper & Row, $5.95). A well-documented history of “the tongues movement” that sets forth its genesis, its distinctive character and competing camps, and its growth throughout the world.

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The Church’s Worldwide Mission, edited by Harold Lindsell (Word, $3.95). Papers read at the recent Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission, including the important Wheaton Declaration, and an historical overview of the congress. A vital work for everyone interested in missions.

Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling, by Howard J. Clinebell, Jr. (Abingdon, $6). Methods of pastoral counseling that encourage the troubled person to face his problems realistically and act directly to solve them.

Here’S A New Twist

Your Pastor’s Problems: A Guide for Ministers and Laymen, by William E. Hulme (Doubleday, 1966, 165 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Lars I. Granberg, president, Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa; former professor of psychology and Counseling Service Director, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

This book is like one of those coffee cakes that start out as two strands of dough. The baker twists the two together and pops them in the oven. When the coffee cake is ready to eat, only a hint of the original strands can be seen, for they have fused.

As a long-time fan of William Hulme’s, I have come to expect his books to be perceptive, compassionate, biblical in orientation, and good reading. This one is no exception. What is exceptional is the disconcerting fusion of strands. If I may be forgiven a lapse into my students’ mode of discourse, what bugs me about this book is that I don’t know whether he’s talking to me or my pastor. Usually I know whom he starts talking to, but in the middle of his point I get the feeling he has shifted to the other fellow. Whether this means that Dr. Hulme, as a pastor and teacher of pastors, cannot really detach himself from the pastor’s perspective and responsibility, or whether he is underscoring the inextricable linking of pastor’s problems with laymen’s as well as inner with social factors in solution, I cannot say. But it’s a small matter. Most of what he says to my pastor applies to me. Maybe the reverse is true, too.

The book sets out to explain to laymen what it’s like to be a parish minister. If, for example, your pastor leaves the ministry or suffers emotional breakdown, chances are you’re no innocent bystander. You may well have been a factor, through either commission or omission. Therefore, there are some things not only nice but necessary for you to know as a responsible layman. Not to know them has a stunting effect upon Christian maturity—yours and, possibly, your pastor’s. Hulme discusses common problems arising in congregational life: tensions arising out of unresolved authority problems; the local congregation as a status-conscious club; family tensions in the manse and their roots in neglect; the need for friendship and its pitfalls; overwhelming busyness; professional jealousy; problems in personal Christian growth; and many related matters.

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This is a difficult kind of book to write—the more so when one is trained in some form of therapy, for this causes hypertrophy of the sense of obligation to begin treatment. Moreover, Dr. Hulme must have sensed that most of his readers would be clergymen. Why not? Aren’t people mainly interested in problems with which they’re familiar? With both these factors operating, it is very hard merely to write a description of the life of the minister in such a way as to give the layman the inside “feel.” It is as though the clergyman reader kept demanding attention, diverting the author into “See, here, can’t you see that it’s this way?” passages interspersed or combined with those “Yes, I know this is troubling, but you can fix it like this!” passages to which any conscientious pastor or therapist is prone.

What I hope I have said is that the book isn’t objective description. What I hope I have not said is that it would be a better book if it were. Something of the sense of loneliness that plagues the manse grips the reader. The anguish of the pastor as he struggles to avoid professionalization, his frantic sense that he should be everywhere serving everyone simultaneously, or his gracious efforts to fend off the idolatrous adulations of certain parishioners—these involve the reader’s fellow feeling. The ambiguous focus sometimes distracts, but it gives the writing a convincing quality as well.

My principal criticism of the book arises out of a dilemma. A small book like this has a better chance of being read than a larger one, especially, I think, by laymen. On the other hand, a book of this size does not allow the author to amplify his suggestions for dealing with problems. Pointing out the problems created by an overweening need to please is not the same as helping the person eliminate this source of mischief. Neither is it likely to be news to the chronically too-busy pastor that he should delegate responsibility. Probably he knows this. Neither is it enough to point out that he probably has too much to prove. Dr. Hulme knows all this, of course. To transcend the space limitations that give rise to what seem like too-pat answers, he has provided a workable list of supporting references. To help us transcend these nagging problems, he reminds us that God is neither dead nor unconcerned nor out of touch with life as it is lived today.

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The book lends itself to discussion. It could help bring mutual understanding and a deeper sense of koinonia if a group of clergy and laity would use it as the basis for regular sessions on what it’s like to be a pastor and how laymen can be helpful—hence better helped.


Good News For Moderns

Today’s English Version of the New Testament, translated by the American Bible Society, edited by Robert G. Bratcher (Macmillan, 1966, 568 pp., $3.95) and The Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha: Revised Standard Version, edited by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger (Oxford, 1966, 1922 pp., $10.50), are reviewed by J. Harold Greenlee, professor of New Testament Greek, Graduate School of Theology, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Today’s English Version, prepared by a staff member of the American Bible Society and based on the new edition of the Greek New Testament sponsored by major Bible societies of the world, is a somewhat simplified version but without rigid limits of vocabulary or style. It is part of a proposed series of such versions in various strategic languages (a Spanish version has recently been published). The rendering is readable and avoids some technical terms without becoming wooden or colorless. The text is presented in paragraph form, with section headings and cross references to parallel sections based upon those in the new Greek edition.

Bratcher’s simplified style is illustrated by his rendering of John 7:17, “Whoever is willing to do what God wants will know whether what I teach comes from God or whether I speak on my own authority.” He uses “men who studied the stars” for “Magi,” “make you completely his” for “sanctify,” “put right with God” for “justify,” and “the means by which our sins are forgiven” for “propitiation.” One may feel that “not guilty” (Rom. 4:5; 8:33) should be “forgiven,” and that “change your ways” is too weak a rendering of “repent.”

This version, also published by the American Bible Society in inexpensive editions as Good News for Modern Man, is generally acceptable and may be especially helpful for those who are learning English as a second language.

The Oxford Annotated Bible (1962) and the Oxford Annotated Apocrypha (1965) have now been made available in one volume, with brief notes to the RSV text, short introductions to each Testament and each book, selected special articles, indices, and a series of maps. The introductions to the Old Testament books, and many of the annotations, follow the common liberal point of view—e.g., the non-Mosaic four-source origin of the Pentateuch and multiple authorship of Isaiah. The Gospels are granted some connection with their traditional authors; Timothy, Titus, James, and Second Peter are assigned to anonymous authors.

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The annotations consist of brief observations, sometimes merely references to parallel or similar passages. Miracles are largely passed over with neither denial nor acceptance. In the Fourth Gospel, however, miracles seem to be received at face value.

The availability of the books of the Apocrypha may be appreciated even by those who do not regard these books as canonical.

It is of primary significance that this edition of the Bible, including both its notes and the RSV text, has been approved for use by Roman Catholics by the imprimatur of Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston. This reflects a change of attitude that a short time ago one would hardly have thought possible. No changes in the wording of the RSV text were required for this ecumenical approval. Fourteen adjustments in the notes were made in order to set forth Roman Catholic views, including the question of the perpetual virginity of Mary (Matt. 1:25; Luke 2:7, et al.) and comments on certain passages that are generally not considered original but are regarded as Scripture by Roman Catholics (e.g.,Mark 16:9–20 and John 7:53–8:11).

This edition of the Bible is a significant work, although its usefulness will depend somewhat upon the reader’s agreement with the biblical views of the various contributors.


In The Man Or The Bottle?

Ministering to Alcoholics, by John E. Keller (Augsburg, 1966, 158 pp., $4.75), is reviewed by Owen C. Onsum, pastor, The Union Congregational Church, Shafter, California.

This book, by the chaplain for the Foundation for Human Ecology in Park Ridge, Illinois, is largely an endorsement of and commentary on Alcoholics Anonymous. “The greatest number of recovered alcoholics have been restored to sobriety within the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous,” the author claims. He lays great emphasis upon the twelve steps in the A.A. program, devoting an entire chapter to “The Fourth and Fifth Steps.” The reader may well see in these procedures a prescription for dealing with all sorts of problems, bad habits, and vices.

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However, Keller, an experienced counselor of alcoholics, views alcoholism not as a vice but as a disease. It is only one of the symptoms produced by the disoriented ego of man that is a result of the Fall. This is pointed up in chapter one, which deals with the need for “Understanding Alcoholism and Accepting Alcoholics.” Through the Fall man became estranged from the proper relationships with God, with himself, and with others, as set forth in the two great commandments. “After the fall man’s problem wasn’t that he was too human, but that he couldn’t be human enough.” He is “incapable of letting God be God.… Egocentric, hostile, defiant towards God, the created person perceives himself to be the Omnipotent one …” (p. 4). “Such a person finds it well nigh impossible to function happily on an ordinary level” (p. 45).

Thus the alcoholic’s fundamental problem is one we all share more or less, although it manifests itself in a variety of ways. The counselor who realizes this will be humble and not censorious. Lack of understanding is a great barrier to genuine helpfulness.

Alcoholics Anonymous holds that “there is a valid spiritual awakening, not necessarily Christian, in which alcoholics receive from God what they need to be sober.” This is not intended to preclude a genuine Christian experience, however.

Keller devotes one chapter to the “Progressive Symptoms of Alcoholism” and another to “Counseling the Spouse.” The closing chapter deals briefly with “Alcohol Education.” Although the author calls attention to “the distorted significance alcohol has in our culture,” he is not a champion of total abstinence. Believing that alcoholism is in the man and not in the bottle, he is an advocate of Christian liberty in regard to drinking, restrained only by an enlightened and responsible Christian conscience. Interestingly, he lists good reasons for drinking as well as bad ones for not drinking, and vice versa.


Book Briefs

The Healing of Sorrow, by Norman Vincent Peale (Doubleday, 1966, 96 pp., $2.95). Helpful thoughts, biblical passages, hymns, and poetry that provide comfort and assurance for those who sorrow.

The Little People, by David Wilkerson, with Phyllis Murphy (Revell, 1966, 159 pp., $2.95). The author of The Cross and the Switchblade relates experiences gained in ministering for Christ to children who inhabit New York’s asphalt jungles.

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The Church on the Move: The Characters and Policies of Pius XII and John XXIII, by W. A. Purdy (John Day, 1966, 352 pp., $6.95). Purdy shows how the stamp of Pius XII and John XXIII can be seen on the Roman Catholic Church today.

The Heart Prepared: Grace and Conversion in Puritan Spiritual Life, by Norman Pettit (Yale University, 1966, 252 pp., $5.75). A prize-winning Yale historical study that shows how the concept of conversion by degrees entered the covenantal theology of Puritanism.

The Christian Centuries: From Christ to Dante, by Robert Payne (W. W. Norton, 1966, 438 pp., $8.95). A popular history of the first thirteen centuries of Christianity. Includes excellent plates of Christian art.

Philosophy, Religion, and the Coming World Civilization, edited by Leroy S. Rouner (Martinus Nijhoff, 1966, 504 pp., 54 guilders). A Who’s Who of scholars offer essays on metaphysics, religious philosophy, and civilization in honor of William Ernest Hocking.

Expendable!, by W. Phillip Keller (Prairie Press, 1966, 224 pp„ $2.95). The story of the Prairie Bible Institute and its principal, L. E. Maxwell; a testimony to the faithfulness of God.

The Gambling Menace, compiled and edited by Ross Coggins (Broadman, 1966. 128 pp., $2.95). A full house of Baptist professors of social ethics lay their cards on the table as they deal with the moral, economic, social, psychological, and legal aspects of the gambling problem.

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