The Imprint Of Tillich
Perspectives on 19th & 20th Century Protestant Theology, by Paul Tillich, edited by Carl E. Braaten (Harper & Row, 1967, 252 pp., $5.95); The Vision of Paul Tillich, by Carl J. Armbruster, S.J. (Sheed and Ward, 1967, 328 pp., $6.95), and The Fabric of Paul Tillich’s Theology, by David H. Kelsey (Yale University Press, 1967, 202 pp., $6), are reviewed by Gordon H. Clark, professor of philosophy, Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The first of these three books was posthumously printed from tape recordings of the 1963 lectures at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Despite Tillich’s reputation for profundity or unintelligibility, these impressionistic remarks on two dozen philosophers (often too short for scholarly accuracy: two pages for Strauss and Baur, only two pages for Feuerbach) are easier reading than Karl Barth’s work on nineteenth-century theologians.
As a summary of impressionistic evaluation, the book contains caricature, distortion, and highly stimulating insights. Tillich makes clear the affinity between rationalism and mysticism; he partly explains the course of theology in America by the absence of Romanticism; he enthusiastically over-rates Schelling (in my impressionistic judgment), yet pages 141–152 are possibly the finest in the book.
Although there is none of his systematic theology here, one quickly sees that his view of faith and of the very nature of religion is far removed from Protestant orthodoxy. This latter he lampoons. He is guilty of falsification when he writes that American conservatives identify the King James Version with the true Word of God. Similarly he must plead ignorance or intellectual dishonesty, forty years after the publication of B. B. Warfield’s works and after other public disclaimers, when he attacks “the view of a mechanically dictated and inspired Word of God, as if God were dictating to a stenographer at a typewriter.” This is a standard procedure with the liberals, who do not wish to face the arguments of historic Protestantism. But with respect to the non-Christian philosophers, the book is interesting and suggestive.
The Jesuit book is mainly expository and concerns the relation between Christianity and culture. After a short but informative biographical sketch, the author develops Tillich’s views on “ultimate concern.” Something is said of idolatrous faith, the clean holy and the unclean holy, and the demonic. There is a little criticism in the last chapter but not enough to clarify the important issues.
Kelsey has produced a small gem of scholarship. The problem is this: If the historical accuracy and literal meaning of the Bible are unimportant, if the Gospels give only an aesthetic picture of Jesus, if the apostles preach merely their own experience, how can theology be biblical today?
Tillich claims to get his interpretation of the Bible from three norms: the relation of the symbols to one another; the relation of the symbols to that to which they point; and an aesthetic criticism that distinguishes between adequate and inadequate symbols so that symbolism is not reduced to non-symbolic statements. Kelsey proceeds to examine whether Tillich was able to carry through his program.
A meticulous but far from dull analysis of Tillich’s texts convinces Kelsey that emphasis on existential religious experience makes Tillich a second Feuerbach. Theology has become anthropology.
To disguise this atheism, Tillich uses equivocal and misleading expressions. When he defines reason as “the structure of the mind,” he never defines structure; and his description of the “depth of reason” is even more mystifying. Again, when Tillich asserts that the existence of Jesus could be disconfirmed by historical research, and yet that “the fact-claim made about the foundation of Christian faith is not open to criticism,” his argument is “misleading.” For a third example, Tillich tries to argue that Jesus must have been something like the distorted picture in the Gospels, for mediation requires this. Says Kelsey, “This is an astonishing argument for Tillich.… On his own grounds it can have no theological significance.… It is also a bad argument.” Kelsey, though not subscribing to Protestant orthodoxy, also notes that there is no evidence that the Synoptics distort. In conclusion, Tillich depends on ambiguity in the term “meaning,” on two incompatible views of aesthetics, and on an ambiguous use of the term “God.”
Tillich began by attempting to interpret the picture of Jesus. But the outcome in the form of preaching is a sermon that needs no mention of Jesus—merely attitudes towards life of a general sort possible for any religion. Art gives attitudes, not truth. The New Testament, on the contrary, makes truth-claims.
Depravity That Is Total
Reformed Dogmatics, by Herman Hoeksema (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1966, 917 pp., $14.95), is reviewed by M. Eugene Osterhaven, professor of systematic theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan.
Herman Hoeksema was undoubtedly one of the most unusual men in the American church. A highly gifted pulpit orator and theologian of the Dutch Reformed tradition, he left the Christian Reformed Church in the mid-twenties over the doctrine of common grace. He describes that doctrine in this way:
There is a grace, an operation of the Holy Spirit, whereby sin was restrained in man’s heart and mind, as well as in the community, and in the power of which the natural man could accomplish all these good things. Of himself man could certainly do no good; he was totally depraved. But all men receive a certain grace; and through this grace man is not regenerated: his heart remains always evil. But the evil operation of his heart was restrained. Yes, what is more, he is somewhat changed to the good, so that in temporal, natural, and civil things he could do good before God.
Hoeksema would have none of this weakening of the doctrine of sin, as he saw it, and held for a doctrine of total depravity that was understood vertically (that the natural man is only evil, with no good at all in him) as well as horizontally (that man is depraved in every part of his being). Although this was Hoeksema’s lifelong battle, he states his position in this text only where he feels he must do so, in the discussions of the image of God—which, incidentally, he denies in the broad sense—and of Adam’s sin.
Only a careful study of Hoeksema’s writings will bring out the manner in which he builds everything on the antithesis between elect and reprobate (he is a thoroughgoing supralapsarian), declaring that reprobation is equally ultimate with election, that God wills both, that God’s attitude toward the reprobate has never been anything other than hatred, and that whatever he brings into the life of the reprobate is brought there for the damnation of that person. This involved concatenation of ideas is not the only evidence of speculation in Hoeksema’s thinking; one finds considerable amounts of it here and there. This is, of course, inevitable in any work of theological depth. The question concerns the kind of speculation and its limits.
Having pointed out what I see to be the weakness in Hoeksema’s system, I will go on to say that there is a great deal of solid theology, and good theology, in this book. The other authors he leans upon are almost entirely a few select persons within the Dutch Reformed tradition. Why should a man of his ability quote Anselm via Kuyper, except possibly because of the pressure of time? Hoeksema believes in a “system of truth” that is to be elaborated; rejects the proofs for God along with the idea of the immortality of the soul, the covenant of works, and certain traditional ways of handling topics in Reformed dogmatics; and always argues his own position with ability.
The extensive use of untranslated Latin and Dutch is lamentable, unless the volume is intended for a narrow range of readers. The considerable use of the biblical languages is commendable. Those who knew the author are aware of his linguistic facility, theological acumen, and capacity for work. This work, more than his dozen volumes on the Heidelberg Catechism, represents his system of theology. He wrote it during the thirty years that he taught in his own seminary while also serving as minister of a large congregation.
Roll Call Of The Valiant And True
Valiant for the Truth: A Treasury of Evangelical Writings, compiled and edited by David Otis Fuller, introduction by Henry W. Coray (Lippincott, 1967, 460 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by John H. Gerstner, professor of church history, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
God blesses us only through Christ, who is the Truth. Specifically, he does this, as our volume demonstrates, through witness to the Truth. One thinks of Phillips Brooks’s famous definition of preaching: it is truth through personality. This book is ample illustration of that, though it is not restricted to sermons but contains some readable yet profound theological treatises as well.
These are dead witnesses who still speak through the living Christ, displaying the ecumenical evangel of the ages from Paul to Machen. Athanasius is here, along with Wesley and Anselm. But no one is included merely because he was valiant; he must have been valiant for the truth. Thus the liberal Schleiermacher is not here, nor is “The Peril of Worshiping Jesus.”
Nevertheless, some are missing who ought not to be. John of Damascus was valiant for truth in the East, and surely some Oriental greats, such as Kanamori, should be here to show the global character of the Gospel. William Carey is appropriate, but will one foreign missionary suffice? If there is a weakness in the book, it is the tendency to major in Anglo-Saxon males. The selection is good but could have been more representative.
Dr. Fuller is to be commended for his editing. Also, we must not overlook Henry Coray’s introductions. In about two pages each, he deftly gives us the quintessence of his heroes’ greatness. Citing the best and most interesting biographies and biographers, he weaves it all together on his own loom of restrained praise. These vignettes are so interesting that they could well be enlarged and published separately by this American Boreham.
Reading for Perspective
CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S REVIEW EDITORS CALL ATTENTION TO THESE NEW TITLES:
• The New Testament and Criticism, by George Eldon Ladd (Eerdmans, $3.95). Introduces evangelicals to a positive, creative use of biblical criticism—textual, linguistic, literary, form, historical, and comparative religion.
• Know Why You Believe, by Paul E. Little (Scripture Press, $1.25, paperback). The Inter-Varsity Director of Evangelism compellingly presents Christian evidences that will help believers give reasons for the hope within them.
• Nothing But the Gospel, by Peter H. Eldersveld (Eerdmans, $3.50). A collection of biblical, literate sermons by the late minister who served as the voice of the Christian Reformed Church on the “Back to God Hour.”
Adam Keeps The Faith
Keep the Faith, Baby!, by Adam Clayton Powell (Trident, 1967, 293 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by William C. Brownson, assistant professor of preaching, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan.
Here are some forty sermons by the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. Although only a few of them are assigned exact dates, some appear to be at least as old as the early days of the cold war, while others are as recent as the catchphrase “black power.”
The sermons show remarkable variety. Many are brief meditations—scarcely more than two pages; a few run to several times that length. Some abound in affirmations of the historic Christian faith; others (e.g. “What We Must Do About Africa”) have no discernible biblical content. Most of the sermons speak to specific historical situations, but a few are neither “addressed” nor “dated” and could have been preached two hundred years ago as well as yesterday (e.g., “In the End … As It Began to Dawn”). Some pursue a single theme, while others seem to join together dissimilar ideas like so many beads on a string.
The style, on the other hand, is fairly uniform. Short paragraphs, parallel constructions, generalizations and personal references characterize the book.
More than one reviewer has called attention to “fascinating parallels” between this volume—particularly the sermons “Are You the Right Size?” and “The Temptation to Modernity”—and other published materials. Except for biblical references, Powell nowhere indicates the exact source of his quotations or of other materials he may have used. Some quotations are incorrect. John Wesley, for example, who wrote in his journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed,” is quoted as making the general observation that “the human heart is being strangely warmed.”
These sermons contain little that is profound or original; yet they are not without merit and force. The light of the kerygma is here, though at times it shines through a wispy idealism. The preacher speaks frankly and directly to the key issues of our time. And, for the most part, he does so in the spirit of the Gospel. The Powell mirrored here is no racist. Although the voice of the demagogue may be heard occasionally, more often the voice is that of the herald of good news. Sprinkled here and there can be found wiser counsel, both for black and for white, than that which is often followed in our time. One cannot help wishing somewhat wistfully that the message of the minister were more clearly reflected in the career of the congressman.
The Reformers Speak For Themselves
Theology of the English Reformers, by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes (Eerdmans, 1966, 283 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Clair Davis, assistant professor of church history, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Philip Hughes, visiting professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, provides here “a compendious statement” of the faith of men such as Jewel, Latimer, Cranmer, Hooker, and Tyndale. Permitting the Reformers to speak for themselves lets their vigor and commitment come to eloquent expression; and the brief but valuable commentaries, coupled with the excellent subject index and footnotes, make for maximum usability.
Above all, it is good to be reminded of the truly basic significance that the finished work of Christ had for the Reformers, and should have for us: here is the reason for the great vigor with which medieval innovations of “grace” are rejected. Coupled with the exclusiveness of grace in Christ was the exclusive authority of his Word. Along with Reu’s study of Luther and Kantzer’s of Calvin, the chapter on the use of Scripture should do much to give the lie to the neo-orthodox contention that there is a sharp cleavage between the existential use of the Bible by the Reformers and the “mechanicalness” of later orthodoxy: these Reformers find the Bible so practical and useful precisely because of its complete authority!
The great English contribution to Protestant theology, appreciation of the biblical emphasis upon sanctification, is seen to have been present right from the beginning; the Puritans had quite a foundation upon which to build. Particularly stirring are the accounts of the Reformers’ awaiting death during the Marian persecutions—willingness to face death for the Gospel’s sake is not an Anabaptist monopoly. The stress on the necessity of preaching is especially applicable to the present day. The minister who does not teach the Scripture to his people, whatever else he may be doing, is simply not doing his job. Continual feeding of the people with meat is what is necessary, not an occasional snack of strawberries!
Attention is given to misunderstandings of Anglican distinctives. “Priest” was not intended to have sacerdotal implications, even though it was held that other words might be better. That the king is head of the church was not intended to imply his competition with Jesus Christ. The king has no ecclesiastical function—he does not preach or administer the sacraments so his headship is only legal and secular; and it is not over the whole Church but only of the one in England. Hughes shows that this formulation was “misunderstood” not only by the Puritans but also by the Roman Catholics. Does such a general misunderstanding suggest an unworkable theory?
The concluding pages, covering Cranmer’s plans for a Reformed ecumenical assembly, are most intriguing. Perhaps there could have been theological agreement among Calvin, Bullinger, Laski, Melanchthon, and the English; and then what united action and advance might have been possible. At least, common understanding of Scripture was to be recognized as prerequisite to a program of action.
Guidelines For Ethics
Moral Law in Christian Social Ethics, by Walter G. Muelder (John Knox, 1966, 189 pp., $5), and Elements for a Social Ethic, by Gibson Winter (Macmillan, 1966, 304 pp., $7.95), are reviewed by George I. Mavrodes, associate professor of philosophy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Both these books would seem from their titles to be concerned with the special ethical problems of social entities and relations. Muelder’s, however, though to my mind the more interesting, offers little specifically on this topic. Most of the book is devoted to an explanation and defense of the view that while ethics should not be “prescriptive” (apparently this means it should not consist of detailed rules that prescribe or proscribe particular actions), it cannot survive without moral laws.
Muelder proposes fifteen of these laws, based on earlier attempts by E. S. Brightman and L. Harold DeWolf. All are quite general; for example, “All persons ought to choose values which are self-consistent, harmonious, and coherent,” “All persons ought to will the best possible values in every situation,” and “All persons ought so far as possible to cooperate with other persons in the production and enjoyment of shared values.” The set ends with the “metaphysical” law: “All persons ought to know the source and significance of the harmony and universality of these moral laws …, of the coherence of the moral order.”
These laws cannot, of course, be expected to determine, by themselves, a course of action for any particular circumstance. But Muelder apparently believes that if one is loyal to these laws and open to the love and power of Christ, he can discern and do the will of God. This lack of specificity will appear to some to be the major defect of Muelder’s work. But remedying it is not easy. The moral life is lived in concrete situations of almost infinite complexity and variety. At one extreme stands the project of providing humanity with a set of laws that specifies in detail, and correctly, what response (if any) is morally required for each possible situation. The other extreme is that of requiring each person to determine what is morally required in each particular situation without reference to any general principles. (Both these extremes, incidentally, seem compatible with the view that morality is absolute, objective, and theologically based.)
Most attempts at normative ethics, like Muelder’s, fall between these extremes. They propose some general laws but leave out some of the detail of their application and of the circumstances that may require exception or modification. These decisions must then be made in some other way, e.g., through revelation, moral insight, or existential decision. It is probably not possible to achieve the first extreme in a code expressed in a manageable number of words, perhaps not in any finite code. And it is probably advisable to avoid the second extreme and to provide some general rules, at least as starting points for reflection and decision.
But to specify the best intermediate position is not easy. Muelder’s laws appear generally plausible, if we allow for a few exceptions and for the resolution of possible conflicts between them. But there is little argument to establish that this is the optimum set, the one that achieves the best possible balance of generality and specificity. Quite possibly there are other sets, striking the balance in a different way, that will also enable us to discern the will of God in the concrete circumstances of our lives.
Winter’s book is an attempt to explore the contribution that the social sciences can make to social ethics. If reflection upon social ethics requires and uses information about the structure and nature of society, and if the social sciences uncover information of this sort, then I suppose there must be a contribution. Perhaps Winter’s own most valuable contribution is that of reminding us of the abstracting nature of science, which concentrates on restricted aspects of the richer “everyday” world, and of describing for us the different “styles” currently employed in the social sciences. These styles (behavioristic, functional, dynamic, and so on) lead to different abstractions and consequently to different pictures of what the social reality is. Thus their results can properly be used by ethical theorists only after they have been criticized and perhaps supplemented.
Unfortunately, Winter’s writing is unnecessarily loaded with jargon, and much of his analysis is extremely difficult to follow. I doubt that his book will serve very widely as what he intends it to be, an introduction to this field.
Why Baptists Stay Out Of The Wcc
Baptists and Christian Unity, by William R. Estep (Broadman, 1966, 200 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Thomas B. Mc-Dormand, president, Eastern Baptist College and Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In the first half of this volume, Dr. Estep gives the Christian world a well-written, concise, carefully documented account of the rise of the modern ecumenical movement. From prophetic beginnings among the Anabaptists, through William Carey and the modern missionary movement, the momentous ecumenical gatherings at Madras (1900), Edinburgh (1910), Geneva (1920), and Oxford (1937), and other events in this stirring succession, the author traces the development of the spirit of unity and cooperation among Protestant churches to our own day. More than that, he deals most engagingly with the four sessions of Vatican Council II. The book shows the logic and the inevitability of a growing sense of interdependence and mutual respect among the branches of the Church.
The author’s task becomes more complex, however, as he attempts to deal with the confused subject of Baptist relationships to the ecumenical movement—in particular, to the World Council of Churches. Some two-thirds of world Baptists are unwilling to seek membership in the WCC. Only three of twenty-three national Baptist groups in Europe, for example, are members. British Baptists, the American Baptist Convention, and the three large Negro Baptist conventions of America are the major Baptist bodies in the WCC.
Estep devotes much attention to the doctrinal, ecclesiological, and practical reasons for the aloofness from the World Council of many Baptist groups, notably the Southern Baptist Convention, within which he serves. He specifies these reasons: (1) A Baptist convention is not a “church” and cannot commit autonomous local churches associated freely with it to membership in a council of “churches”; (2) the authority of Scripture for Baptists, and their insistence on freedom to obey and proclaim it, makes them wary of submission to doctrinal formularies created to satisfy all and sundry; (3) Baptists look askance at any semblance of a super-church; (4) ecumenism has greatly reduced rather than increased missionary effort (research in this matter by Dr. Harold Lindsell of CHRISTIANITY TODAY is used with much effect here); (5) Baptists regard denominationalism, not as inherently an evil, but rather as a dynamic aspect of the Church’s life.
These arguments cast a kindlier light upon “non-concurring” Baptists than some might concede possible!
Sermonizing From Ezekiel
The Other Son of Man: Ezekiel/Jesus, by Andrew W. Blackwood, Jr. (Baker, 1966, 165 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Larry L. Walker, assistant professor of Semitic languages, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Fort Worth, Texas.
This book gives us twelve sermons on passages from Ezekiel. The Prophet Ezekiel is designated “Son of Man” eighty-seven times; this title is rare in the rest of the Old Testament. Blackwood is disturbed that scholars who have studied this title of Jesus have not investigated more thoroughly its use in connection with Ezekiel. In the foreword to his book, he briefly discusses this title and the polarity of meaning found in its use in the Gospels.
Probably few Christians turn to Ezekiel for devotional reading or for practical help, but the author (a pastor and the son of the late well-known preacher-teacher-author Andrew Blackwood) has gleaned many helpful points from this puzzling book. The theme of Ezekiel is hope, and Blackwood develops the various facets of this topic, noting the parallels between Ezekiel’s time and our own.
The following examples illustrate his approach. The river of Ezekiel 47 symbolizes “the river of divine love, flowing through human life, bringing beauty, usefulness, and health.” The last eight chapters of Ezekiel, describing the temple, “are packed with rich, meaningful symbolism, telling that worship is man’s central business in life.” In discussing chapter one, Blackwood reminds the reader that such symbolism should not be approached “the way we try to understand the diagram of a gas-turbine engine in Popular Mechanics.” Rather, the fundamental lesson is that God “moves straight forward toward His goal.” “The briers and thorns and scorpions [Ezek. 2:6] represent the unpleasantness, discouragement, and sometimes physical danger of living and teaching a Gospel that others reject.”
Useful illustrations and practical truths abound in this book. Ministers who read it will probably be encouraged to study the Book of Ezekiel for its preaching values. And all readers will be helped to see the relevance of Ezekiel for today.
Letters and Papers from Prison (revised edition), by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Eberhard Bethge (Macmillan, 1967, 240 pp., $4.95). A revised, hard-cover edition of the widely read collection by Bonhoeffer, with a foreword by Eberhard Bethge.
Deuteronomy: A Commentary, by Gerhard von Rad (Westminster, 1966, 211 pp., $5). This volume, with its arbitrary assumptions, may have value for the student who approaches the Bible from a critical viewpoint. But for the scholar who considers the Bible in a traditional sense, it will have little worth.
Christianity and Politics, by Reginald Stackhouse (English Universities Press, 1966, 134 pp., 7s. 6d). A plea for Christian involvement in politics wherein power is interpreted and utilized in submission to the Gospel.
The New Dialogue Between Philosophy and Theology, by James A. Martin, Jr. (Seabury, 1966, 211 pp., $5.95). Martin claims that a new concern for metaphysics by both philosophers and theologians makes possible a more constructive conversation between them.
Felipe Alou … My Life and Baseball, by Felipe Alou with Herm Weiskopf (Word, 1967, 154 pp., $3.95). The Atlanta Braves baseball star from the Dominican Republic tells of his personal faith in Jesus Christ and his rapid rise in the major leagues.
Acquaintances, by Arnold J. Toynbee (Oxford, 1967, 312 pp., $7.50). The noted historian presents personal recollections of twenty-four impressive people, including Nehru, Hitler, the Webbs, T. E. Lawrence, and Jan Smuts.
The Preaching of Chrysostom, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan (Fortress, 1967, 230 pp., $3.25). The rhetorical theory and preaching practices of Chrysostom (354–407) have much to teach today’s preachers; this volume includes ten homilies on the Sermon on the Mount.
New Theology No. 4, edited by Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman (Macmillan, 1967, 253 pp., $1.95). Two Christian Century editors have scoured the theological journals and collected a mixed but stimulating bag of articles “beyond the secular.”
Vital Words of the Bible, by J. M. Furness (Eerdmans, 1966, 128 pp., $2.25). Helpful, brief biblical studies that trace a word’s background and meaning in pagan writings, the Old Testament, and the New Testament.
The Holy Trinity: Experience and Interpretation, by George Hedley (Fortress, 1967, 148 pp., $2). A brief recounting of the historical development of this basic Christian doctrine.
Faith in a Secular Age, by Colin Williams (Harper & Row, 1966, 128 pp., $1.25). Williams claims that the current debate in evangelism centers on one’s understanding of what God is doing in our history and how he is calling men to join Christ in his action in the world. He presents his rationale for the “new evangelism,” in which saving secular society takes precedence over saving individual men.
Handbook of Secret Organizations, by William J. Whalen (Bruce, 1966, 169 pp., $2.95). Ever wondered what goes on in pseudo-religious secret societies? Whalen gives the low down on forty-five major lodges. Very interesting.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.