Has The Queen Abdicated?
New Directions in Theology Today, Volume I: Introduction, by William Hordern (general editor of the series), and Volume II: History and Hermeneutics, by Carl E. Braaten (Westminster, 1966, 170 and 205 pp., $1.95 each, paperback), are reviewed by Edward John Carnell, professor of ethics and philosophy of religion, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.
Volume I (seven volumes are to make up the series) is saturated with the conviction that it is high time to have edifying dialogue between theologians and the Church, and that the best way to come to the rescue is by disclosing what is new in contemporary theology. So Hordern brings forth a delightful cafeteria of theological alternatives. His sense of fairness leads him to include a chapter entitled “The New Face of Conservatism,” although I wonder whether he really grasps the true substance of conservatism.
In any case, Hordern writes with such an irenic spirit that he addresses both mind and heart, and thus forces serious readers to ask, “Just why is Christianity so fragmented?” and “What can we do to convert this fragmentation into a spiritual, intellectual, and ecclesiastical unity?”
An orthodox Christian, nonetheless, will feel a measure of frustration after reading this book, for no attempt is made to develop a rigorous criterion by which a selection between theological alternatives can be made. The Bible is quoted here and there. In fact, the book ends with a portion of Second Corinthians 4:2. But whether quotations from Scripture contain any more truth on divine authority than quotations from Plato is not resolved. This leads an orthodox Christian into deeper questions, for of what value is theological dialogue unless the agenda includes serious consideration of the right criterion for declaring theological system valid or invalid?
I would speak less than the truth if I were to conceal my feeling that this is a highly stimulating, well-written book. Still, I am sorry that the case for theological dialogue is built in part on the open admission of skepticism that theology is any longer “queen of the sciences.” Certainly we confront new complexities; certainly our file of theological knowledge contains more relative judgments than our fathers in the faith were prone to admit; but the fact remains that a theologian is entrusted with a queenly science. For nothing can fitly rank above the question, “What must I do to be saved?”
Volume II is an awesome piece of scholarship, even though it is written from a somewhat parochial Lutheran perspective and dwells mostly on the theological debate in contemporary Germany. The lion’s share of the discussion is given to Bultmann’s existential theology, while the greatest admiration is heaped on Pannenberg’s theology of universal history.
Two questions arise immediately. First, why are Barth and company brushed off in such a cursory way? Second, why does Bultmann steal the show, despite Braaten’s rejection of his theological position? Braaten (a conservative liberal, if that means anything) devotes a number of closing paragraphs to telling us, in a rather dogmatic way, why he believes that Bultmann has failed miserably in his attempt to perform a marriage ceremony between Christian existentialism and outright naturalism. Bultmann seems to throw out the good with the bad.
Since much of German thinking pays high regard to planned obsolescence (somewhat like the American automobile industry), Braaten may simply be reporting that the revelation theology of Barth has run its course and thus has lost its novelty, while Bultmann, who started out with Barth but later severed company, retains a sparkling novelty. In any case, I am left with the assumption that Bultmann forces Braaten to work for his faith, and this leaves Braaten in debt to Bultmann.
Although Pannenberg is one of the bright young stars in the contemporary theological constellation of Germany, Braaten by no means accepts all of his position. Indeed, he deals with some serious difficulties. Still, Pannenberg seems to command Braaten’s respect by viewing historical Christian events in such a way that they are actually not historical or Christian unless a believer responsibly acknowledges them as part of salvation-history. In this way the objective and the subjective are blended in such a way that the secularization of salvation-history and the envelopment of Christianity by some brand of mysticism are avoided. Moreover, Braaten is convinced that this blending of objective and subjective yields a fresh hermeneutics. Such hermeneutics takes in both the obligation to defend, as well as to know, historical Christian events, and the rules governing biblical exegesis. Pannenberg is forthright in his acceptance of Christ’s resurrection, even as he struggles hard and long to bring the Old and New Testaments into some kind of theological fellowship. These are excellent commitments, although I fail to see anything particularly “new” about them.
Reading for Perspective
CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S REVIEW EDITORS CALL ATTENTION TO THESE NEW TITLES:
• The Christian Persuader, by Leighton Ford (Harper & Row, $3.95). A trenchant analysis of contemporary evangelism—the obstacles to be overcome, the strategies to be carried out, the biblical message to be proclaimed—by a man whose writing reveals his passion for Jesus Christ.
• History of Evangelism, by Paulus Scharpff (Eerdmans, $5.75). Evangelism in Germany, Great Britain, and America viewed in their historical relationship by a German writer who urges mutual exchange of such knowledge by Christians.
• Man: The Dwelling Place of God, by A. W. Tozer (Christian Publications, $3). Terse essays by the late Christian and Missionary Alliance editor that provide insight into the pitfalls and victories of the life of faith.
Braaten summarily dismisses orthodoxy on at least two charges: (a) that it hinders the work of the Spirit by identifying the Word of God with infallibly inspired words in the Bible; and (b) that it imposes the culturally conditioned world view of the Bible on people who happen to live in the twentieth century with its evolutionary and expanding universe. All honor to Braaten for making it clear why he sees no value in holding dialogue with orthodoxy. Ironically, however, his caricature of orthodoxy may convince many conservatives that there is no value in holding dialogue with Braaten.
In any event, this is such a technical work on such far-out theological systems that it is not likely to stimulate dialogue between busy theologians and busy laymen. Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that the average church member wouldn’t grasp the difference between Historie and Geschichte if they sat beside him in the television room for a week.
EDWARD JOHN CARNELL
Through Chaos And Terrorism
Congo Crisis, by Joseph T. Bayly (Zondervan, 1966, 224 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by C. Darby Fulton, retired executive secretary, Board of World Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U. S., Nashville, Tennessee.
This is a vivid story of what happened to a young American missionary couple and their children who arrived in the Congo in the spring of 1964 and were soon caught in the murderous cross fire of the rebellion that centered around the city of Stanleyville. The author, an experienced writer, has produced an animated recording of the harrowing experiences of Charles and Muriel Davis and the beleaguered company of missionaries and Congolese Christians. The reader will find heroes of all ages, both sexes, many nationalities, and the black as well as white skins.
Early in the story there is a brief but excellent summary of the developments leading to Congo independence in 1960 and an explanation of the violent and chaotic years that have followed. Bayly lays the chief blame for Congo’s deterioration on the pressures of world opinion that compelled Belgium to grant independence prematurely. “Belgium’s hand was forced, and the Free World suffered. The Congo itself suffered most.” Included in the record is a remarkably sympathetic interpretation of the tragic career and fate of Patrice Lumumba.
The heart of the book consists of firsthand accounts narrated by missionaries and other eye witnesses who lived through weeks of chaos and terrorism. The whole area around Stanleyville was at the mercy of roving bands of “Simbas,” intent on murder and destruction, guided by caprice, and inflamed by tribal rivalries, political dissension, and international intrigue. The story is one of husbands snatched away from their families, of wives and children hiding in the tropical forest like hunted animals, of narrow escapes from detection and death, of firing squads, of prayer and faith and dependence upon God, and of the final and sudden ordeal of martyrdom for some.
The author feels that the role of the missionary and of the Congolese Christian in this drama has been “magnificent,” characterized by courage and dignity. This should engender added respect for the whole enterprise.
The final chapter is an attempt to evaluate the Church and missions in the Congo. Specifically, it examines the events of the past few years to see what lessons are suggested for missions throughout the world. There are interesting and valuable insights here, not only for the foreign missionary but for all who are concerned about the Gospel’s encounter with the revolutionary forces of this generation. Emphasis is given to the “new partnership” between missionaries and the national church, as distinguished from the “paternalism” of former years. At this point the author does not entirely escape the easy fault of making comparisons at the expense of the past, describing as “new” some attitude or principle that has long been recognized. It is likely, however, that there will be general agreement with his basic summation in the closing paragraphs:
The Church is not a missionary carrying on his program with the help of nationals. Nor is it an organization with national leadership in which a missionary is accepted as helper. In America or the Congo, the Church is—according to the New Testament—a body, and Christ is the Head of the body. The life that surges through the body is not Congolese life, or American life; it is the life of Christ. Each part of the body exists for the Head, and for every other part.
C. DARBY FULTON
Face The Issues!
Dissenter in a Great Society: A Christian View of America in Crisis, by William Stringfellow (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966, 164 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Charles E. Hummel, president, Barrington College, Barrington, Rhode Island.
What do race riots in Watts and Rochester and demonstrations in Selma and Cicero portend for the American future? With prophetic urgency Stringfellow attacks Americans’ complacency about the social and economic structure that institutionalizes poverty.
Lawyer Stringfellow eloquently argues the case for the poor and oppressed. In the war on poverty, what is the nature of the enemy? A cogent analysis of the interrelations of poverty, property, and people disclose an ideological problem that has divided the country from the start: Should the rights of property or the rights of people constitute the basis of our society? The author shows how institutions of property are prevailing over the rights of human beings. While both rights are important, the tragedy of American society lies in its worship of property. What a man owns has become the yardstick of his worth.
Stringfellow incisively exposes the idolatry of money. “Money is not inherently evil, but it is fallen.” One society mistakenly equates value with money and so judges a man’s moral worth by the amount of money he possesses or controls. If we disavow this idea, to what extent do we not really believe that those without money are inferior? “Where money is an idol, to be poor is a sin.” Christ offers freedom from the idolatry of money.
Everyone in the United States is now involved in the war between the races. “The only issue that remains is how one is involved: obstinately, stupidly, irrationally—or with concern, intelligence or compassion.” But the civil-rights movement is not an end in itself; restoration to Negroes of their rights must pioneer a reconstruction needed by our entire society. For the Christian, integration is not enough, since it is not the moral equivalent of reconciliation in Christ. All men and things are reconciled only in the Body of Christ.
Pessimistic about lack of progress, Stringfellow sees a day of wrath approaching. He believes the “real recalcitrant in the American racial crisis is not the so-called die-hard segregationist or the pathological racist, but respectable, sane, sincere, benevolent, earnest people, church members and devout liberals.”
This book steps on many toes from the right to the left. Each reader must face the basic question: Will he look for excuses to discount its message? Or will he move past the offense to some of his pet positions and panaceas and get at the central disturbing questions? Stringfellow’s perception and passion commend this book for personal study and group discussion.
CHARLES E. HUMMEL
A Modest Commentary
Beacon Bible Commentary, Volume V: The Minor Prophets, by Oscar F. Reed, et al. (Beacon Hill, 1966, 453 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Bruce K. Waltke, assistant professor of semitic languages and Old Testament exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.
A sober evaluation of this commentary is given in the preface: “Beacon Bible Commentary is offered in ten volumes with becoming modesty. It does not supplement others. Neither does it purport to be exhaustive or final.… It is candidly admitted that this is a commentary written from the viewpoint of Wesleyan-Arminian theology. Nevertheless, it is hoped that it will have value to all who seek to know the truth as it is in Jesus.” The Church of the Nazarene is to be commended for offering this helpful, devotional commentary to all serious students of God’s Word.
The defensive aspects of Wesleyan-Arminian theology are not apparent in this volume and therefore will not limit its popularity in evangelical circles. The non-definitive character of that system of interpretation with regard to eschatology, however, will limit its value for those who hold to a dispensational, pre-millennial interpretation of Scripture. Although the contributors are generally vague about their eschatological convictions, their view seems to be that the kingdom of Christ was inaugurated with the death and resurrection of Jesus and will be consummated when Christ returns (see p. 399). Oracles of judgment are usually interpreted as having been fulfilled historically; oracles of blessing are usually interpreted as having been fulfilled in the return from the exile, in the Maccabean era, and in the Church but are sometimes more vaguely interpreted as yet to be fulfilled in the Messianic age.
Generally speaking, the work is non-critical and is based on the King James translation. Problems of literary criticism are dismissed (but see the discussion on the unity of Zechariah); problems of form criticism are not raised; and problems of the Hebrew text are rarely considered. For the most part, the authors comment only on the interpretative problems of the KJV.
As stated in the preface, the work is not exhaustive. On the one hand this approach is welcome, for often the contributors, avoiding pedantry, incisively interpret an obscure passage. On the other hand, the approach proves disconcerting when contributors treat other interpretations superficially or draw conclusions where the reader asks for more argumentation. For example, one contributor cavalierly states that Amos addressed his prophecy to both Israel and Judah, although the text itself does not clearly attest this fact. Again, the identification of the four horns in Zechariah’s vision with the kingdoms of Daniel’s vision is summarily rejected because the horns are said “to have (already) scattered Judah.” It is well known, however, that the perfect tense of the Hebrew verb denotes the aspect of the action more than the time of the action and can refer to the present and future as well as to the past. Although both of the above interpretations may be correct, the point is that the reader would have appreciated a stouter defense.
The contributors have extensively used earlier commentaries written in English and modern English translations but have neglected almost entirely pertinent articles in the learned journals. This neglect severely limits the value of the work. For example, our understanding of the prophetic message, especially Hosea’s, has been greatly enriched by the form-critical analysis of the rib motif in the Old Testament (cf. Herbert B. Huffmon, “The Covenant Lawsuit in the Prophets,” Journal of Biblical Literature, LXXVIII , pp. 285–95). In addition, it is very hazardous to amend the Masoretic text, as the authors occasionally do, without a thorough acquaintance with the history of the texts of the Minor Prophets (cf. D. Barthélemy, Les devanciers d’Aquila: Première publication integrale du texte des fragments du dodécaprophéton, Brill, 1963).
Nevertheless, despite these limitations, this work will have value for all those engaged in the public presentation of God’s Word because of its practical expositions, homiletical suggestions, and pertinent quotations.
BRUCE K. WALTKE
Vatican Ii And Anti-Semitism
The Church and the Jewish People, by Augustin Cardinal Bea, S. J., translated by Philip Loretz, S. J. (Harper & Row, 1966, 172 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by Belden Menkus, editor, author, and management consultant, Bergenfield, New Jersey.
The cry echoes with misery through two millennia of Jewish history. At best, it has been followed by a curse, a kick, or a blow. At worst, it has brought humiliation, torture, or death for Jews.
Far too often, this hatred has hidden behind the cross of Christ.
The Vatican Council, as one of its noblest objectives, sought to bring this distortion of all that is Christian out in the open. Result: A declaration by the council that pleased no one. Some felt it went too far, some that it did not go far enough.
What did happen? What does this statement really signify? Cardinal Bea, a prime mover in the council’s deliberations, was intimately involved with the discussion of anti-Semitism. Here, in an engagingly lucid style, he tells what the council did, analyzes what it said, and suggests how this statement might affect future relations between Christians and Jews.
Evangelicals may find this book a bit confusing. The Cardinal accepts the traditional “deicide” charge at face value—and this colors the rest of the book. Deicide has not been a significant factor in evangelical thought. And, as I have pointed out elsewhere, deicide is a contradiction in concepts. Man cannot kill God; and Jesus Christ was and is God. Even Cardinal Bea recognizes this problem in Catholic thought when he contends that “Jews should not be represented falsely as under a curse and rejected by God.” The duty of the Church, he continues, “is to preach that Christ voluntarily submitted to his death.”
This is a challenging and satisfying book. The Cardinal is an exegete of exceptional insights; I found myself wanting to read more of his writings and to know the man better.
This is a forthright book. Few in Catholic or Protestant circles have faced the Christian implications of anti-Semitism as clearly and directly as Cardinal Bea has here. “The bonds which bind us to the Jewish people are manifold … reaching to the very heart of our spiritual life.” Speaking of Christian and Jewish common contact in the Old Testament, he writes that “difficulties will arise in connection with the interpretation of certain passages … but there is no doubt that we can go the greater part of the way together.”
This is a disappointing book. The Cardinal fails to face past Catholic anti-Semitism and the council’s retreat from its original position on the Jews.
Yet, the book merits thoughtful study. And it demands a comparable confrontation of the problem by evangelicals.
More Hebrew Honey: A Simple and Deep Word Study of the Old Testament, Volume II, by Al Novak (Premier Printing Company, 1966, 144 pp., $4). Old Testament word studies sweet to the mind and heart.
Captured by Mystery: Devotional Readings, by Alvin N. Rogness (Augsburg, 1966, 147 pp., $3.50). Penetrating readings on life, love, gratitude, the church, and death, for daily consumption.
The Changing Church, by Bertrand van Bilsen (Duquesne University, 1966, 440 pp., $7.95). A synthesis of the current Roman Catholic reformation.
Children’s Art and the Christian Reader, by Edgar Boevé (National Union of Christian Schools, 1966, 200 pp., $5.95). A Christian approach to the development of children’s discernment and religious expression in art; well illustrated.
Woman Is the Glory of Man, by E. Daniel and B. Olivier, translated by M. Angeline Bouchard (Newman, 1966, 137 pp., $4.25). The mystery and uniqueness of woman seen from a Roman Catholic perspective.
Where Jesus Walks, by Ruth Youngdahl Nelson (Augsburg, 1966, 144 pp., $3.50). A devotional pilgrimage to places of spiritual enrichment and service.
Aw, Stop Worryin’, by Winston K. Pendleton (Bethany Press, 1966, 80 pp., $2.50). The Christian antidote to anxiety, discussed by the author of 2121 Funny Stories and How to Tell Them. His only worry seems to be our worrying.
Get Up and Go: Devotions for Teens, by Paul Martin (Beacon Hill, 1966, 96 pp., $1.50). Ninety pungent devotionals beamed directly at today’s teenagers.
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