Evangelicals’ Racial Paralysis
My Friend, The Enemy, by William E. Pannell (Word, 1968, 131 pp., $3.95), and Black Power and White Protestants, by Joseph C. Hough, Jr. (Oxford, 1968, 228 pp., $5.75), are reviewed by Dirk W. Jellema, professor of history, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Many evangelicals seem to have difficulty understanding the charge of the younger generation that the Church is “irrelevant.” These two books, each in its own way, should help.
Commenting recently (in the evangelical civil-rights-oriented periodical Freedom Now) on the assassination of Martin Luther King, William Pannell spoke of the “good people” whose “eloquent silence has contributed most to this ghastly problem.” This impassioned book elaborates. Pannell, a black evangelical, describes his boyhood in southern Michigan (where racism was polite) and his joy at enrolling in an evangelical college. Disillusionment followed; he soon felt that “Bible school” and white evangelical ethics had “nothing to do with justice” for the black man. He now concludes that “most of the major evangelical concerns are effectively paralyzed by racism,” which emasculates the Christian message, and charges that white evangelicals indirectly support a “bondage so pervasive as to leave a man stripped of his humanity”—the bondage imposed by white racism. A stinging and slashing attack on white complacency, hypocrisy, paternalism, and smugness, the book sharply attacks white evangelicals in particular for failing to practice what Jesus taught. How can men who claim to follow Christ so blatantly deny the clear teachings of the Gospel?
Pannell’s heated essay is emotion-packed, somber, written from the heart, a compound of sadness and bitterness and love, a desperate appeal to “my friend the enemy.” It deserves an audience.
In its own dispassionate way, Joseph Hough’s study of black power—with which he is sympathetic—is also disquieting. It presents a sober review of recent sociological and theological discussion that helps one understand this movement. With less jargon than is usual in such works, Hough introduces the reader to the background and the goals of black power, which he sees as a largely legitimate attempt to establish black self-respect. The movement rejects any “paternalistic” help from well-meaning whites, and is willing to use violence to gain “racial justice” and equality. The moderates in the movement feel that an independent power base, gained through violence if necessary, will make later effective cooperation possible. There seems little doubt that more violence will come before the racial problem is settled. White Protestant churches have lagged behind many other institutions in recognizing the dimensions of the racial problem. They have not seen its theological implications. They have, by and large, followed a course of complacency and inaction. And there is no convincing evidence that they are about to change.
This study, then, is a readable introduction that calmly tells us that we have a tremendous problem in America, and that white Protestantism has failed to come to grips with it. (Incidentally, Hough gives only a sketchy historical background; it can be argued that our current troubles are merely the delayed final stages of a revolutionary movement. Its first phase was the abolitionist era, its second the Civil War and Reconstruction, and now—after the revolutionary wave temporarily receded—we are seeing the final phase, accompanied, naturally, with some violence.)
Neither author touches on a current hang-up among evangelicals—the question of how far the Church, as Church, can act in social issues. That whole tangled question could perhaps be avoided if we considered the biblical duty given especially to the deacons as well as generally to all believers: namely, to help the unfortunate. Surely, at this late date, few would suppose that real help for our black Christian brethren can mean a charity turkey at Thanksgiving. Surely it would seem that real help would mean working for racial justice, perhaps exercising political clout, perhaps demonstrating and marching.
A white evangelical board of deacons carrying signs in a protest march? Hard to imagine? Indeed. But then, “many evangelicals seem to have difficulty understanding the charge of the younger generation that the Church is irrelevant. These two books.…”
Reading For Perspective
CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S REVIEW EDITORS CALL ATTENTION TO THESE NEW TITLES:
• Soli Deo Gloria, edited by J. McDowell Richards (John Knox, $5). A battery of top scholars—Cullmann, Bruce, Jeremias, Ladd, and others—offer provocative New Testament studies in honor of Professor William Childs Robinson.
• Christianity and the World of Thought, edited by Hudson T. Armerding (Moody, $5.95). An evangelical “brain trust” brings biblical convictions and broad scholarship to bear on contemporary issues in sixteen areas of study.
• A Leopard Tamed, by Eleanor Vandevort, with an introduction by Elisabeth Elliot (Harper & Row, $5.95). A Presbyterian missionary presents an honest account of thirteen years of service in the Sudan, highlighted by her friendship with Kuac, a boy who later became a minister.
An Uncommon Boston Church
Brimstone Corner, by H. Crosby Englizian (Moody, 1968, 286 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Jack M. Chisholm, associate minister, First Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Boston Journal of July 1, 1903, made an astute observation about churches: “We suspect churches are not unlike folks. If they have the goods, it doesn’t make much difference where they are—people will find them. If they haven’t the goods, it doesn’t matter where they are, either.” H. Crosby Englizian has made use of historical records to provide an enjoyable account of Boston’s Park Street Church, which prospered when it had the goods and suffered when it did not.
Every generation likes to think its problems are unique. But the records of Park Street seem to show that neither the basic theological problems, nor the struggle of the Church to be relevant to the changing cultural scene, nor the basic nature of man, has changed. When the congregation and its pastor were open to the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they were able to meet the demands of the day and remain true to their witness. But when either the congregation or the pastor allowed personal ambition or reputation to interfere, the church side-stepped its witness and became only one of many voices clamoring to be heard.
Perhaps the most common criticism of evangelical churches is that they do not have a social conscience. Park Street is one that will not support this generalization. Since its inception in 1809 it has been involved with the needs of Boston and of the nation. The congregation has to its credit major social contributions in such areas as prison reform, the founding of the American Temperance Society, firm opposition to slavery, and participation in the beginning of the Boston chapter of the NAACP. But always coupled with this ministry has been a strong voice in evangelism and missions. Park Street’s contribution to missions has been fantastic. It is worth the price of the book to learn how greatly God has used a single congregation in promoting, sending, and supporting missions and missionaries.
Pastors who read this book will see how God used various men to proclaim the Gospel to a congregation, a city, and a world; I especially recommend the chapters that deal with William Murray, John Witherow, Arcturus Conrad, and Harold Ockenga. Laymen will see how the people of a congregation can make or break a ministry. And those who are members of pulpit committees will learn that it pays to be patient in finding the right man.
The effectiveness of this book suggests that other great churches might well be subjects of “biographies” like this.
U. S. Policy In Viet Nam
A Chaplain Looks at Vietnam, by John J. O’Connor (World, 1968, 256 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by John E. Bishop, captain, United States Marine Corps, Arlington, Virginia.
War is tragic evidence of man’s inability to live in harmony with his neighbor. Now the United States finds itself embroiled in what is perhaps the most confusing, misunderstood, divisive war of its history. Chaplain O’Connor is an ardent supporter of our involvement in Viet Nam. His book, however, is not an emotional, hawkish presentation. He considers the arguments against our Viet Nam policy as well as those for. Then, quietly, almost matter-of-factly, he confronts the arguments with the factual data. Under his careful scrutiny, the weaknesses and strengths of both sides are revealed.
He begins with what he believes to be the basic question, “Does the United States have the moral right or the obligation to engage in the conflict in Viet Nam?” Then he systematically tackles each major criticism of present policy. “Moral judgments are only as valid as the facts on which they are based,” he says, and he has very carefully researched the documents, agreements, and papers that have become the basis both for policy and for dissension.
For example, he points out that two documents resulted from the meeting in Geneva in 1954. The first was an “Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Viet Nam” signed by Ta-Quang Buu, representing North Viet Nam, and Brigadier General Delteil, representing France. The day after this document was signed, the “Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference” was issued. O’Connor states: “This document was signed by no one.” His careful research is one of the book’s strengths. He allows the facts to speak for themselves, and the reader is made to feel a part of the search for the truth about Viet Nam.
At great length, O’Connor presents the criticism and views of such men as Senators Fulbright and Morse, the late Bernard Fall, and Jean Lacouture, and also criticism from such publications as I. F. Stone’s Weekly, America’s Vietnam Policy: The Strategy of Deception by Herman and DuBoff, and Vietnam: Crisis of Conscience by Brown, Heschel, and Novak. He carefully attempts to place before the reader the complete spectrum of views, devoid of the emotional clamoring of either the hawk or the dove.
The critical need, says O’Connor, is that we “read in depth, think, study, try to analyze carefully the data available on the conflict in Viet Nam.” He continues:
Readers will find this a candid, thoroughly objective, and excellent presentation of the experiences of one man who has had an intimate association with the warriors and people of Viet Nam.
A Theological Southpaw
The Bible’s Authority Today, by Robert H. Bryant (Augsburg, 1968, 235 pp., $4.40), is reviewed by Stanley D. Toussaint, assistant professor of New Testament literature and exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.
Here is a nerve problem operated on by a skillful left hand and a rather inept right. Robert H. Bryant, a professor from United Seminary in Minnesota, discusses the contemporary theological scene as it relates to biblical authority.
His study is meant for those with theological training; others will find it hard going.
Bryant discusses hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) and then four questions growing out of a revival of biblical theology: the historical nature of the Scriptures; the unity of the Bible; the relative authority of the Bible, tradition, and the Church; and the relevance of the Bible in this scientific age. In his concluding chapter he considers the nature of authority generally and biblical authority in particular.
He is obviously well read in the more liberal writers; he cites and pointedly summarizes the views of a wide range of these scholars. Commendable also is his recognition that belief in a form of verbal inspiration is essential (though his view of this is a great deal different from that of a conservative or fundamentalist).
But Bryant totally surrenders the classical Protestant position of sola scriptura. He accuses Protestants of saying that this means interpreting the Bible in a vacuum, without regard for its setting and historical context and the tradition of the Church. But a genuine student of the Scriptures in the classical Protestant tradition would firmly deny this and still look to the Scriptures as the sole ultimate authority of the Church. He would say the Bible is to be interpreted in the light of its meaning when it was written.
A second and perhaps more basic problem is Bryant’s refusal to accept plenary inspiration. The inevitable result is a personal picking and choosing of what is authoritative and what is not. Even his substitution of “controlling word-symbols” becomes a matter of personal subjectivism.
A third problem is that there is very little exegesis in the volume. When we are dealing with the subject of authority, we must begin with a view that is in harmony with the Bible’s view of itself. Bryant’s lack of biblical interpretation shows his failure to give adequate consideration to Scripture’s view of its own authority.
The fourth flaw in the book is the subjection of the Bible to human presuppositions. There is such a capitulation to the modern viewpoint that in certain areas the Bible is made to become the servant of theologians.
Finally, Bryant equates belief in plenary inspiration with taking all parts of Scripture with the same authority. For instance, the fact that the lex talionis of Exodus 21:23ff. does not have the same authority as Matthew 5:38 ff. is in his view a problem for those who believe in plenary inspiration. This is a false argument. Any conservative recognizes overruling progress in God’s revelation. This certainly does not mean the earlier was not inspired at the time it was given. In fact, there may be superior alternative in contemporaneous attitudes and actions (cf. Hosea 6:6).
In brief, Bryant with his left hand presents an excellent summary of the position of biblical authority in contemporary theology, but with his right he fails to grasp and set forth adequately the conservative outlook.
Needed: New Life
The Local Church Looks to the Future, by Lyle E. Schaller (Abingdon, 1968, 239 pp., $2.75), and The Integrity of Church Membership, by Russell Bow (Word, 1968, 133 pp., $3.95), are reviewed by Charles Ellis, pastor, Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Silver Spring, Maryland.
Here are two authors who are not ready to give up on the local church. Both realize, however, that the institutional church in America needs an infusion of new life.
Schaller, director of a church-planning office that serves fourteen denominations in the Cleveland area, has had wide experience in analyzing the factors that make for life or death in a congregation’s structure. His eight chapters deal with such questions as: “What Is Our Purpose?,” “How Can We Reach Out?,” and “What Is Ahead for Old First Church? An alert reader will gain much useful information.
The book suffers, however, from an uncritical acceptance of the prevailing theological climate. It is COCU-oriented. One cannot help wondering what vast competence, let alone authority, the church as church must claim in order to involve itself productively in such crucial issues as “poverty, unemployment, the struggle for social and legal justice, race relations, peace, urban renewal, housing, education, and pollution of the environment,” as Schaller says it must. Nowhere does he suggest that the renewal we so much need must stem from a theology and ministry far more Bible-based than that which generally prevails.
In The Integrity of Church Membership, Russell Bow, a Methodist pastor in Kentucky, deals with a basic weakness in the church today: easy membership. Says Bow, “The church requires less of its members than is expected of a good luncheon club.” Too many people are “paper members” only.
In seven lively chapters Bow deals with such matters as “Renewal from Within,” “The Basis for Integrity,” “Integrity at the Point of Entrance,” and “The Painfulness of Discipline.” When church membership really means something, he says, then the Church will be what it ought to be. For valid church relationship he stresses the necessity of being “born anew.”
From my Reformed viewpoint, Bow’s theology seems a bit fuzzy at points, among them regeneration and the perseverance of believers. But his over-all thrust is wholesome and much needed. If renewal is to come within the present structures of old-line churches, it will have to come in the way he describes. Certainly there is a need for better church planning, as Schaller maintains; but the real future of the local church depends far more upon fresh commitment to the authority of the Word of God and vigorous proclamation of the redeeming grace of Christ.
The Driving Force Of A Great Life
Rudolph James Wig, by Clifford M. Drury (Arthur H. Clark, 1968, 320 pp., $6.50), is reviewed by Ilion T. Jones, professor emeritus of practical theology, San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Francisco, California.
Sooner or later most ministers and committed laymen are likely to be asked by some young person, possibly with a note of hopefulness or even cynicism, “What can one man do?” “What good can come from living a Christian life?” These questions are answered well in this biography of Rudolph James Wig, fascinatingly written by Clifford Drury, a prominent church historian.
Rudolph James Wig was the son of a Hungarian immigrant who settled in Chicago. R. J., as the author speaks of him, managed by diligent effort to secure a high school and college education. He went on to hold various manufacturing and governmental positions and became an important figure in research connected with the building of concrete ships in World War I.
After the war, this Presbyterian layman left government employment and became associated with several private enterprises, working at various times with celite, kelp, frosted wood, dehydration of petroleum oil, and aircraft. He had unusual abilities as a business executive and accumulated a small fortune. During these years he married and became the father of three children. He also became very active in various charitable and educational enterprises. In addition, as a devout layman he served his denomination in many positions and also worked in interdenominational organizations.
R. J. Wig’s personal Christian faith was the driving force of his productive life. His parents were deeply religious, and from his boyhood R. J. himself was an ardent Christian believer. He believed that God had a definite plan for him and that it was his responsibility to fulfill it. To a group of young people he once said, “If we get a grip on God, nothing can defeat us. Life cannot help but be a great experience.”
In a statement of his faith that he left to his family, R. J. said: “As I look back upon my boyhood days and the charmed life I have been permitted to live, I am convinced that there is a Guiding Spirit, for it was not the whim and caprice of chance but Guiding Hands that led me through High School and College days, followed by continued opportunity for thrillingly interesting work.” His hopes, dreams, purposes, ideals, and inner resources were the fruits of his religious faith. Readers will enjoy his biography.
Winning a Hearing, by Howard W. Law (Eerdmans, 1968, 162 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Charles R. Taber, research consultant in the Translations Department of the American Bible Society and editor of “Practical Anthropology,” Hamden, Connecticut.
Professor Howard W. Law of the University of Minnesota, who formerly was with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico, has written this little book to explain to laymen what is involved in the communication of the Gospel in a foreign setting. In doing so, he calls upon the disciplines of anthropology and linguistics.
His book has many excellent qualities. It contains, for instance, a lucid and objective treatment of race and culture, a substantial chapter on “Ideology and Cultural Values,” and a suggestive summarizing section on “Culture as Changing Behavior.” The treatment of world view, religion and culture, religion and magic, impersonal powers, spirit beings, and religious practitioners is on the whole very good. (It is not accurate, though, to say that shamans are part-time practitioners and priests full-time. Nor is it enough, in talking of the functions of religion, to say baldly that it may be symbolic.)
The sections on cultural invention and diffusion are developed well also. Law makes the point that culture traits are reinterpreted as they pass from one culture to another, and that when cultures come into contact, both change. This section of Chapter 5 is a more effective treatment of culture change and cultural dynamics than the concluding chapters.
But in spite of these qualities, this is a disappointing book. Instead of selecting from anthropology those aspects that are directly relevant to his avowed subject (communication), Law gives us a brief course on what anthropology is, complete with simplistic but space-consuming treatments of archaeology and prehistory and material culture. And he too often fails to focus effectively on what is really relevant, and leaves gaps in important places.
But it is the treatment of language that is the weakest. Law seems to lose sight of his lay audience completely and presents, complete with exercises, a twenty-seven page course on phonetics and phonological analysis and an eleven page course on grammatical analysis. Yet these are not developed enough to be put to use; the field linguist will have at his disposal Pike’s Phonemics, Nida’s Morphology, Gleason’s Workbook, and Smalley’s Manual of Articulatory Phonetics (the last three missing from the bibliography). The layman has no need of these technical details. In contrast, meaning is simply passed by with a few lines! And no mention is made of the communicative functioning of language in society, of the socio-economic and situational variations that play such an important role in the functioning of language. Almost nothing, in fact, is said about linguistic communication!
Along with the omissions already mentioned, the bibliography neglects such crucial works as Nida’s Customs and Cultures (mentioned in passing on p. 43), E. T. Hall’s The Silent Language, and Joos’s The Five Clocks.
In short, while this provides part of the needed introduction to cross-cultural communication, the serious reader will find what he needs in other books, especially those of Eugene A. Nida.
Focus on People in Church Education, by Lois E. LeBar (Revell, 1968, 256 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by C. Leslie Miller, director of publications, Regal Books, Glendale, California.
Lois E. LeBar has given us a comprehensive program for Christian education in the local church. Usually such materials are available only in outline form for the few church people who are able to attend major Sunday-school conventions.
The unusual feature of this book is that it founds Christian education upon people rather than methods, materials, organization, and facilities. All these important facets are covered, but always in relation to the people involved. Unfortunately, this refreshing emphasis is not found in Dr. LeBar’s definition of Christian education as “a bridge from the Word to the World.” This is fine alliteration but deals in generalities that have plagued the Sunday school since its birth.
I was disappointed to discover in the book the usual implication that the total responsibility of Christian education is to bring a knowledge of “the Word to the World.” According to this view, a knowledge of the Word will inevitably bring to the student a redemptive relationship and personal knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ. The total emphasis upon the learning experience (content learning) leaves untouched the necessity of the student’s experience with Christ as the true aim of Christian education.
The section dealing with graded lessons is, unfortunately, so brief that it contains only enough information to be misleading. In “Balanced Programs of Christian Education,” evangelism and outreach are conspicuously absent.
The chapter on administrative problems will provide much help for churches looking for guidance in efficient organization. The suggestions are workable, and the organizational pitfalls are clearly defined. The book is rich is charts and diagrams that offer valuable visual guidance in every area of organization. Salient points in the text are well illuminated by contemporary illustrations. The bibliography is far above the average found in other books on Christian education.
Those who are concerned about Christian education in the local church will find that this book will answer many questions:
What qualifications are required?
How should we organize our program?
What facilities do we need?
What is a total program?
How can we involve more people?
Science And The Christian Faith
The Encounter Between Christianity and Science, edited by Richard Bube (Eerdsmans, 1968, 318 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by C.P.S. Taylor, associate professor of biophysics, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.
If we Christians are to continue to declare with integrity that the universe is created by Christ, the Word of God, and is thus one in its dependence on him, we must show it by allowing science, its attitudes and results, to interact with our faith. Six scientists who do this—Richard H. Bube, Owen Gingerich, F. Donald Eckelmann, Walter R. Hearn, Stanley E. Lindquist, and David O. Moberg—share the results with us in this book. In my judgment, the result is a more biblical Christian faith and a more accurate appreciation of science. If my experience with Christian students is a fair guide, most evangelicals, hold a world view based on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century science. This surely is the result of refusing to let science interact fully, and dangerously, with one’s faith. The Encounter Between Christianity and Science will, I hope, help many Christians free themselves from bondage to outmoded views that are neither biblical nor currently scientific.
The writers are, in order, a physicist, astronomer, geologist, biochemist, psychologist, and sociologist. All are responsible contributors to their own fields and hold positions of some eminence. All are churchmen and are involved in the wider Christian community. And all prove themselves skillful writers, making the book a pleasure to read.
You may go to this book for three things:
1. a discussion of science—its nature, and how its results affect our understanding of theory, our understanding of the origins of the universe, the earth, man, and all living things, and our appreciation of the nature of man individually and in society;
2. a presentation of the nature and content of the Christian faith, with a most helpful discussion of natural and biblical revelation;
3. examples of what happens to a man’s pattern of thought when he permits the encounter between science and Christianity to occur in his daily living, in his own person. I travel a similar road, and I was fascinated to find how much I agree with these fellow Christians and scientists. Since each chapter has a helpful bibliography, I saw that this agreement does not come simply from reading the same books.
Christians should study both content and vocabulary in Bube’s chapter on Christianity. It is without benefit of “Protestant Latin,” and eminently quotable. His discussion of miracles is excellent, as is his suggestion that problems of natural vs. supernatural, body vs. spirit, can be dealt with from the standpoint that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, not because something extra is added from outside, but because of the interaction of the parts. Science has banished the God-of-the-gaps. Instead, “God does not appear in history only or even primarily in the events that we call miracles, but God manifests Himself and His power in every detail of the natural course of history. It is because God is there, that it is natural.”
I found Bube’s section on biblical interpretation less satisfactory. Although he is most helpful, he failed to come right out and state that, since I must decide what the revelational content is by considering the author’s (and God’s) purpose, there remains an element of personal decision that cannot be avoided. Perhaps it is an authoritarian note absent elsewhere that bothers me. I think he can do better.
The authors’ views on evolution and Genesis deserve mention. They distinguish carefully the biological theory from “grand,” speculative extensions, and accept it for all living things including man. (Eckelmann’s presentation of current knowledge of fossil men is fascinating.) Clearly they believe the Creator can use this mechanism if he wants to. This view questions the common traditional interpretation of Genesis 1 and the authors face this and explain themselves. Since the common, quasi-scientific interpretation of the Creation Hymn clearly violates the canons of hermeneutics (Bube presents these), they see no biblical reason for retaining it. I hope we shall swiftly relieve our young people of this burden. Calvin spoke against deriving scientific information from Scripture, using the derogatory term “Mosaic Science.” The authors follow him in this, as well as in accepting the Bible wholeheartedly as the Word of God.
This is a book for Christian and non-Christian alike, but it is a must for Christians dealing with young people, and for pastors.
The Lastness Of All Things
In the End God, by John A. T. Robinson (Harper & Row, 1968, 148 pp., $1.95), is reviewed by Boyd Hunt, chairman, Department of Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
According to Martin Marty and Dean Peerman in New Theology No. 5, “eschatology, prophecy, future-talk, hope: these are not postscripts or last words or subthemes but first words and dominant notes in the new theology” of today. For this reason alone, it is not surprising that Harper & Row should republish J. A. T. Robinson’s twenty-year-old germinal work in eschatology, In the End God.
Chapters 3–11 of the book remain essentially the same as in the 1950 British edition. Chapters 1, 2, and 12 are new. The first two set Robinson’s older discussion in a contemporary context. Chapter 1 argues for a new approach to God that redefines transcendence not in spatial terms of “beyond” but in historical terms of “ahead,” and chapter 2 calls for an open humanism, one for which nothing theological hangs on the results of any of the sciences and for which this life is decisive rather than death or the life beyond. Chapter 12 is a concluding summary. Eschatology is not “teaching about the last things after everything else but rather the teaching about the relation of all things to the ‘last things’ or, as it were, about the lastness of all things.” Its first concern is with “the true eschatological depth of this world” and not with “something going on in a separate supernatural order above or behind our own, nor something merely that will take place one day—a ‘last’ thing.” And since we do not now live in an apocalyptic situation, hope for us today must “be translated into terms of ongoing secularity.”
Those who are familiar with the stress on the realized aspect of eschatology in the writings of such biblical theologians as C. H. Dodd, Oscar Cullmann, and Joachim Jeremias will recognize Robinson’s key ideas. Probably they will also agree with F. F. Bruce who, speaking about the first edition of this book, said, “there is no more stimulating thinker of this school than John Arthur Thomas Robinson.”
Robinson’s work can be seen as a necessary corrective to an eschatology that is out of touch with the present world and overly informed about the details of the end of the world and of the life beyond. Its weakness lies in his questionable assumptions: a dogmatic insistence that all men will ultimately freely receive God’s love in Christ, a minimizing of the significance of death, a radical separation of theology and science, and an understanding of transcendence that leaves New Testament references to such entities as the “principalities and powers” without any real significance.
Chasing A Phantom
Communication for the Church, by Raymond W. McLaughlin (Zondervan, 1968. 228 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by J. Daniel Baumann, associate professor of pastoral ministries, Bethel Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.
A book on communication ought to communicate—and happily enough, this one does it well. The author, a teacher of preachers at Conservative Baptist Seminary in Denver, advances the proposition, “Perfect communication is a phantom.… Accurate and adequate communication, however, is certainly possible, and this ought to be the constant objective.” He admirably outlines the process, wrestles with the problems, and offers some sane advice. The Church he loves could benefit from taking him seriously.
The format is logical. You know where you are going, and that is a plus for any book. Chapter 1 establishes the direction as it discusses the “Will to Communicate.” Chapters 2 and 3, “The Fundamentals of Communication” and “The Process of Communication,” popularize communication theory and dispense a few “ejaculatory” applications for the church along the way. Chapter 4 discusses “Barriers to Communication,” including such villains as overgeneralization, invalid cause and effect, lying with statistics, distorted definitions, false analogy, name calling, and guilt or innocence by association. Chapter 5, “Group Communication,” discusses the nature, condition, and renewal of the church group. A concluding chapter on the “Power to Communicate” speaks of the role of the Holy Spirit and the power of love.
It is disappointing to find a new volume on communication that fails to reckon seriously with Marshall McLuhan. Three of McLuhan’s works are listed in the bibliography, but that is as close as the author comes to a confrontation. In fact, most of the documentation throughout the book is at least a decade old. Although one finds it hard to argue with McLaughlin’s basic thought, it certainly seems wise to hammer out ideas upon a contemporary anvil.
McLaughlin’s book should serve as a stimulus for additional studies. For example, we need a thorough treatise on the Church’s use of mass media as well as a definitive work on the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching. The present volume simply outlines these dual assignments.
The reader will find himself nodding in silent agreement and adding an occasional “of course” to the writer’s helpful applications to church life. The book is worthy reading and begs for immediate implementation.
Evolution and the Reformation of Biology, by Hebden Taylor (Craig, 1967, 92 pp., $1.50). An excellent study of the creationist biological thought of Herman Dooyeweerd and J. J. D. de Wit that reflects the need to recognize “God’s Word as the ordering principle of our scientific work.”
Citizen Power and Social Change, by Meryl Ruoss (Seabury, 1968, 142 pp., $2). A discussion of patterns of community organization for social change that resulted from an Episcopal conference where Saul Alinsky was the chief lecturer.
Treat Me Cool, Lord, by Carl F. Burke (Association, 1968, 128 pp., $1.75). Prayers by “some of God’s bad-tempered angels with busted halos.” Sample: “God, why is we always willing / To hate the fuz—when most / Of the time they ain’t that bad?”
The Creative Society, by Ronald Reagan (Devin-Adair, 1968, 143 pp., $2). An articulate spokesman for political conservatism sensibly confronts problems facing America.
Questions and Answers About the Bible, by George Stimpson (Funk & Wagnalls, 1968, 510 pp., $2.50). Fascinating facts, folklore, and biblical history that will stimulate and enrich Bible study.
The Infallible Word, by members of the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967, 308 pp., $3.95). Reprint of a significant symposium by Westminster Seminary faculty members that upholds the historic doctrine of Scripture enunciated in the seventeenth-century Westminster Confession of Faith.
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