A Theology Of Communion
God with Us: A Theology of Transpersonal Life, by Joseph Haroutunian (Westminster, 1965, 318 pp., $6), is reviewed by Nicholas P. Wolterstorff, associate professor of philosophy, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The true end of man, argues Professor Haroutunian, is fellowship, conceived not as working together in institutions for the achievement of common goals but rather as loving, faithful communion with one another. He puts the point even more strongly: We are human only to the degree that we are in communion with others. In so far as we limit our engagement with others to the use of them as a means for achieving our own goals, we exist simply at the level of organisms. All men, by virtue of being intelligent creatures of God, place on others a claim to love and faithfulness. Only as this claim is answered do we exist as human beings. The absence of such communion is death and sin and yields anxiety; its presence is salvation.
The Church must be conceived as a communion in this sense, as a fellowship among men and with Jesus Christ. Traditionally the Church has been thought to be an institution that through its ministers dispenses grace to all its members. The hope has been that, from faithful attendance on these means of grace, a fellowship would grow. Yet fellowship has been seen as a consequence of the work of the Church, rather than as its very nature.
Perhaps these themes as such are no longer new and startling. What is fresh and promising in Haroutunian’s book, however, is that he uncompromisingly adheres to them in exploring some of the theological consequences of this way of seeing things. He begins the development of a “theology of communion” in which God’s dealings with us, and our knowledge of and response to God, are conceived always in the context of a fellowship among men that exists in covenant with God. The “hub” of this fellowship is our fellow man Jesus Christ, who established fellowship among men by way of forgiveness. His forgiveness evoked forgiveness, so that a company of men was brought into being who exist in fellowship with one another through Jesus Christ, not as perfected saints, but as sinners who can yet exist in communion by being able to forgive. And this new fellowship is now the basic means of God’s grace to men: my fellow is God’s minister to me. Just as God’s Word is manifested in the forgiveness extended by Jesus Christ to other men, so the Holy Spirit is manifested in the forgiveness that the Church—a fellowship among men and with Jesus—extends to other men. But it is not only God’s grace that comes to us through the fellowship of Christ and the Church, for in this fellowship God is known. Just as he does not act toward us apart from his Word and his Spirit, so we do not know him apart from the communion that he establishes in Christ and in the Church.
Though this gives only the slightest indication of the promising possibilities of this theology of communion—I have, for example, said nothing about one of the finest sections of the book, the critique of the agape understanding of Christian love—let me go on to mention two important points at which I find obscurity.
What is the connection between communion as the true end of man and Christ? Would we men not have known that this is the true end, were it not for Christ? Is Christ’s fellowship with men indispensable to all human fellowship? Is our acquaintance with Christ’s fellowship indispensable to all fellowship? Is our acknowledgment of Christ’s fellowship as God’s grace indispensable to all fellowship? Or is Christ’s fellowship with men just the paradigm of all human fellowship? I find the answers to these questions unclear, or inconsistent. In his discussion of how God acts, Haroutunian seems to say that communion is disrupted among men, that it can be restored only by forgiveness, that it is normally impossible to forgive except in response to forgiveness, that the initial forgiveness in human affairs is Christ’s, and that this forgiveness sets up, as it were, a chain reaction of forgiveness. But other parts of the book seem to contradict various of these connected theses. The obscurity cannot be fully cleared away without a clear understanding of what communion or “fellow-manhood” is; and this central concept is one of those least adequately developed.
Secondly, Haroutunian sometimes seems to hold that to say that God, or God’s Word, or the Holy Spirit forgives is just to say that Jesus and/or my fellow man forgives; and more generally, that to say something about God’s mode of acting is just to say something about man’s mode of acting. And to the question, “But why use the ‘godly’ mode of speech?” his answer would seem to be, “Because the action (e.g., forgiveness) surprises us, it is miraculous.” Similarly, he sometimes seems to hold that to say that a man has responded in a certain way to a certain action of God is just to say that he has responded in a certain way to his fellow men. On this view, then, God is not an independent being, a “person,” with whom we can have communion. Rather, to speak of communion between us and God is only another way of speaking of communion with one another. Yet many passages in the book indicate that Haroutunian does not at all hold to such reductionism. At times, for example, he explicitly urges a distinction between God’s action and man’s action, rightly insisting that to fail to make this distinction is to wind up in humanism. And all in all, it seems that the author wishes not to reduce divine action to human action, but rather to insist that God exercises his grace through human action, especially the action of forgiveness establishing fellowship. Still, the force of this word “exercises” is left obscure.
At several important points, then, there is obscurity. But I do not at all wish to suggest that a theology of communion, as begun by this author, is an unpromising line of exploration. I think that it is necessary, and that Haroutunian has captured a great deal of the biblical Christian understanding of how God has to do with man and man with God.
NICHOLAS P. WOLTERSTORFF
The Art of Dynamic Preaching: A Practical Guide to Better Preaching, by Peter-Thomas Rohrbach, O.C.D. (Doubleday, 1965, 190 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by James Daane, assistant editor,CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
Few men of the pulpit read books on how to preach; most think either that they already know or that they do not have the time to learn. Yet preaching is an art to be pursued all one’s life, and is not acquired without conscious reflection on Sunday-to-Sunday performance. If baseball players and concert pianists never outlive the need to practice their techniques, neither do men of the pulpit.
This book is an incentive to improve pulpit performance. It gives a rich supply of practical suggestions about the art of public speaking, the psychology of the speaker and his audience, and the art of putting together a well-knit sermon with a consistent pattern and a relevant message. Rohrbach’s advice will be very helpful to the man just beginning his pulpit career. And it will be, I think, even more helpful for the experienced pulpiteer who will more easily recognize these problems of the pulpit to which the author offers means of solution.
Although this book was written by a Roman Catholic and was designed to help the priest preach more effectively, almost everything in it is of value for the Protestant minister. The author calls for biblical preaching that rings with “the Lord God says!,” acknowledging that “there is something unique and entirely special about Scripture.” He confesses that “there has been a disheartening decline in the vigor and quality of Catholic preaching during the past four centuries,” a criticism that is valid for much of contemporary Protestant preaching. Protestant pulpiteers who are not too sensitive may profit from another criticism Rohrbach levels against much of the preaching of his own church. Decrying the lack of sermonic preparation and organization, the author, who is the superior of the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Washington, D. C., says, “Unfortunately, too many priests deliver what has been called ‘the steer’s-head sermon’—a point here and a point there, and a lot of bull in between.” Rohrbach maintains that a preacher should be able to state the message of any sermon in one sentence.
One of the most interesting and profitable parts of the book is the discussion of the psychological factors that play on the man who in a social gathering converses with ease but who in the pulpit speaks uneasily and haltingly about Jesus Christ.
For better preaching—a matter on which we can afford to be bipartisan—this is a valuable book for Protestant and Roman Catholic preacher.
Recipe For Manna
Bread from Heaven: An Exegetical Study of the Concept of Manna in the Gospel of John and the Writings of Philo, by Peder Borgen (E. J. Brill, 1965, 217 pp., 38 guilders), is reviewed by Larry L. Walker, instructor in Semitic languages, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
This book, Volume X in the series “Supplements to Novum Testamentum,” discusses the following central questions in Johannine and Philonic research: (1) sources and traditions, (2) form and style, and (3) origin and interpretation of ideas. The author’s purpose is to investigate the Johannine and Philonic exposition of the pericope on manna, the bread from heaven. His study is technical and requires of the reader more than a general acquaintance with Philo, the Mishna, and the Midrash.
Chapter one shows how Philo and John wove together fragments from Haggadic traditions and words from Old Testament quotations. After examining six relevant Palestinian midrashim about the manna from heaven, the author concludes (pp. 8, 10) that they were merely different versions of the same Haggadic tradition, a tradition probably from Palestine. Chapter two is a thorough study of the homiletic pattern used by Philo and John, and chapter three continues with the survey of how the midrashic method, patterns, and terminology are employed in such homilies.
In the fifth chapter Borgen concludes that Philo developed his ideas of the cosmic and ethical order much in accordance with the higher level of Stoic philosophy and Platonic thought patterns, but also that his ideas are to some degree parallel to the cosmological interpretation of the Torah found in the Palestinian midrash as well as in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. The author also points out that Philo’s non-Jewish (Greek) ideas about philosophy, encyclia, and cosmic order were interpreted within the context of the situation of the Jews in Alexandria and combined with thoughts from the common Jewish heritage. On the other hand, traces of non-Jewish ideas were found in Palestinian traditions as well, an observation which shows that in different degrees Judaism as a whole—Palestinian Judaism included—was part of the Hellenistic world, with its Oriental and Greek components (chapters four and five).
The value of Borgen’s book for research in this field is unquestioned; his source material is fully documented, his bibliography is extensive, and his indices of authors, references, and subjects are complete.
LARRY L. WALKER
The Book of God and Man: A Study of Job, by Robert Gordis (University of Chicago, 1965, 389 pp., $8.50), is reviewed by Robert B. Laurin, professor of Old Testament, California Baptist Theological Seminary, Covina, California.
Over the centuries men have turned to the Book of Job for understanding and solace in a world that often seems to require denial of faith. Robert Gordis, a rabbi and a professor at Jewish Theological Seminary, has provided a learned and exciting look into Job’s contribution to man’s perplexing faith decision.
The book is not a commentary (the author tells us that such a volume is in preparation), and therefore many exegetical and linguistic evidences are frustratingly absent. Nevertheless, this work is exceedingly useful as (1) a discussion of the variegated problems of introduction and theology and (2) an original translation with a summary of contents before each division of the text. Here the author’s wide knowledge of world literature, particularly Jewish writings, opens up the cultural and literary milieu of Job.
Professor Gordis classifies Job form-critically as “the only book of its kind,” for although it has many of the characteristics of both lyric and didactic poetry, yet its setting within a framework of a prose tale sets it apart as a unique literary genre. In spite of this, the author stresses the unity of the book and scorns anything but a conservative approach to emendations. Gordis sees the book as a whole as having been formed by a Hebrew writer, probably in the fifth century B.C., who took an ancient folk tale dealing with a “patient Job” (chaps. 1:1–2:10; 42:11–17). retold it in his own words, and provided transitional prose material (2:11–13; 42:7–10) as links to his poetic dialogue about a “protesting Job” (3:1–42:6). Written partly as a protest against the prevalent narrow particularism of post-exilic Judaism, the Book of Job shares with Ruth and Jonah a universalism of spirit that is concerned with the problem of all men’s place in the universe. And what is that problem specifically? It is the mystery of the suffering man must endure in God’s world.
To this the author of Job speaks. Although he recognizes that suffering may have an educative function, he finds the real answer in the words of the Lord spoken “out of the whirlwind.” One is to recognize in the complexity, order, and beauty of nature that “nature is not merely a mystery, but a miracle.” Man cannot fully comprehend the order of the natural world; yet at every turn he is aware of its harmony. So, given this analogy in nature, man may have faith in God and believe that there is an essential rightness to the moral order as well.
Professor Gordis has given us an important book that, if used with a good commentary, will do much to help us to see Job’s point that ultimately justification is only by faith.
ROBERT B. LAURIN
The Psalms: Their Structure and Meaning, by Pius Drijvers, O.C.S.O. (Herder and Herder, 1965, 269 pp., $5.50), is reviewed by Clyde T. Francisco, professor of Old Testament interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
This study, an English translation of the popular Dutch work that first appeared in 1956, is a worthy example of the recent efforts of Catholic scholars. Father Drijvers has clearly sought to work within the bounds of the papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), which encouraged the use of historical research within the limits of biblical inerrancy.
On the one hand, critical views are boldly stated. Father Drijvers observes that “the Vulgate edition of the psalms is so to speak second-hand, and it has, as well as its own translators’ faults, those of its original translation, the Septuagint” (p. 21). He declares that “the literary criticism that is connected with the name of Julius Wellhausen has established the fact that there are several documents in the five books of Moses, namely, the Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and the Priestly Code” (p. 33). He affirms that none of the royal psalms were originally Messianic, each one having been composed with a contemporary Israelite king in mind. In all his work he obviously is dependent upon the form-critical labors of Hermann Gunkel.
On the other hand, the author has been able to achieve a goal few modern scholars have attempted. Since Gunkel, most of the serious psalm studies have been content with determining the original Sitz im Leben, leaving the average reader wondering just where in the strange world of the ancient Israelite there is a word of God for today. With evangelical fervor Father Drijvers attacks this problem. He does not attempt to exegete individual psalms, since his purpose is to give a Christian perspective to the historical study of the Psalter. His procedure is “by methods of exegesis to arrive at the division of the psalms into various groups; to elucidate the themes of these groups; and to transpose these themes onto the Christian and liturgical plane” (p. 15). The result—although repeated allusions to Old Testament ideas fulfilled in the Eucharist seem out of proportion to the number of New Testament references involved—is an exciting and compelling book.
CLYDE T. FRANCISCO
As He Began
Man in Conflict, by Paul F. Barkman (Zondervan, 1965, 189 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Glenn R. Wittig, assistant librarian, Tidwell Bible Library, and graduate student in psychology of religion, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
This book is a first attempt at a “biblical psychology.” It is also an early product of the new Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. In these two respects the work is both encouraging and disappointing.
It is particularly encouraging since the author, a confirmed biblicist as well as a clinical psychologist and professor at Fuller, openly relates a scientific theory of knowledge to a portion of Scripture. He compares Freud’s theory of neurosis with the theme of double-mindedness in the Epistle of James, thereby attempting to ferret out the psychological meanings in that New Testament book.
The work is also commendable for the stance toward Christianity and mental illness. Barkman strongly states that the Christianity provides no guarantee against or panacea for mental illness (pp. 31, 47). Repeatedly neglected by others, this position is most welcome here.
But although the approach to the subject is praiseworthy, the quality of the work is disappointing. Man’s deterioration (from “choice” to “repression” to “anxiety” to “neurosis”) is discussed simply and clearly. The description of the “true direction” back to health and “integration,” however, is weak and sometimes unconvincing. The chapter summaries are excellent; yet Barkman’s style is disturbingly colloquial.
Those who have watched with anticipation the encouraging developments at Fuller expected something more in this early product than another popular essay on mental health. The work was not meant to be a commentary, but neither is it a true psychoanalytic interpretation of James. Rather, psychological knowledge is highlighted with quotations and references drawn equally from James and the rest of the New Testament.
Nevertheless, this study opens vast new vistas in biblical interpretation. One hopes that Barkman will continue to provide material in this area of constructive integration and analysis.
GLENN R. WITTIG
How the Communists Use Religion, by Edgar C. Bundy (Devin-Adair, 1966, 162 pp., $3.50). The executive secretary of the Church League of America spent eight years on the “wearisome job” of proving that top Soviet churchmen are Communists. But while pointing them out, with an eye on the World Council of Churches, he indicates little about the problems of the Church in a repressive, atheistic state.
God in Creation and Evolution, by A. Hulbosch, O. S. A. (Sheed and Ward, 1965, 240 pp., $4.95). The author, influenced by Teilhard de Chardin, argues that evolution can enrich theology.
The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays, by Richard Hofstadter (Alfred A. Knopf. 1965, 333 pp., $5.95).
The Amplified Bible (Zondervan, 1965, 1,400 pp., $9.95). A version of the Bible which leaves the reader to decide whether the original Hebrew or Greek means this, that, or something else, or all combined, resulting in a Bible that has lost its serviceability for public or family reading. Even in private devotional use one must stumble through it rather than read it. Its pages are studded with brackets giving numerous, varied readings of the original—sometimes with the aid of Webster’s dictionary (!)—assurances that this is fulfillment of prophecy, and even definitive elaborations of such words as “good” and “bad.” Why “blessed” has different meanings in different beatitudes is not indicated: “Blessed—happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous [that is, with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions]—are the meek (the mild, patient, long-suffering), for they shall inherit the earth!” (Matt. 5:5); “Blessed—happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous [that is, possessing the happiness produced by experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions]—are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!” (5:8). Already more than a million copies have been printed.
Blessings out of Buffetings: Studies in Second Corinthians, by Alan Redpath (Revell, 1965, 240 pp., $3.95).
Gripped by Christ, by S. Estborn (Association, 1965, 80 pp., $1.25). A study of individual conversions in India.
A Treasury of Christian Verse, edited by Hugh Martin (Fortress, 1966, 126 pp., $2). Some of the finest Christian verse gathered from the centuries. First published in 1959.
My God, My God, Why …?: Messages on the Seven Last Words, by Adolph Redsole (Baker, 1965. 67 pp., $1). Evangelical and suggestively practical.
Separated Brethren: A Survey of Non-Catholic Christian Denominations (revised edition), by William J. Whalen (Bruce, 1966, 286 pp., $1.95). Revised in 1961. First published in 1958.
Threat to Freedom: A Picture Story Exposing Communism (Standard, 1965, 32 pp., $.35).
The Forgotten Commandment, by Ed Smithson (self-published, 1965, 71 pp., $1). Derives most of its value from its subject.
Two Worlds—Christianity and Communism, by James D. Bales (Standard, 1965, 128 pp., $1.25). Study course for youth and adults.
Children’s Talks for Sundays and Holidays, by Marion G. Gosselink (Baker, 1965, 80 pp., $1). Evangelical, practical chats of the kind that is for many the most difficult to make.
What Do Presbyterians Believe?, by Gordon H. Clark (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1965, 284 pp., $3.95). An exposition of the Westminster Confession, sometimes quite philosophical.
The Voice from the Cross: Sermons on the Seven Words from the Cross, by Andrew W. Blackwood, Jr. (Baker, 1965, 71 pp., $1). Good short sermons on the Seven Words. First published in 1955.
The Economics of Poverty: An American Paradox, edited by Burton A. Weisbrod (Prentice-Hall, 1965, 180 pp., $1.95). A series of essays on the why of poverty and the how of its elimination.
How to Understand the Bible, by W. Robert Palmer (Standard, 1965, 112 pp., $1.25). More well-intended than well-wrought.
In the Beginning …: Genesis 1–3, by Jean Danielou, S. J. (Helicon, 1965, 106 pp., $1.25). Translated from the French, this exposition considers the creation narrative late recorded, early conceived, and theologically significant only in anticipation of Jesus Christ, Lord of the new creation.
A Reconciliation Primer, by John H. Gerstner (Baker, 1965, 51 pp., $.85). The author contends that Christians eternally existed in Christ and fell from this eternal union with Christ into sin, and that on the basis of this eternal union, reconciliation reunited them with Christ eternally.
A Bible Inerrancy Primer, by John H. Gerstner (Baker, 1965, 63 pp., $.85). A remarkable argument for biblical inerrancy which some will find not inerrant.
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