Novelists In Christian Focus

John Updike, by Kenneth Hamilton, Kathleen Raine, by Ralph J. Mills, Jr., Günter Grass, by Norris W. Yates, and Saul Bellow, by Robert Detweiler (Eerdmans, 1968, 48 pp. each, paper, $.85 each), are reviewed by Ann Paton, professor of English, Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

For those of us who find most literary criticism blurred, slanted, or truncated because its angle of vision is not our own, the Eerdmans series on “Contemporary Writers in Christian Perspective” answers a felt need. Under the editorship of Roderick Jellema, the booklets have in common their length (forty-eight pages), their apparatus (a selected bibliography of works and criticism), and their aim: to bring major writers into Christian focus at a high level of perception and scholarship. Because each essayist is free to go about achieving this goal in his own way, the series exhibits a refreshing variety of approaches and styles.

Robert Detweiler, obviously enthusiastic about his subject, measures Saul Bellow’s stature and finds him, like that other Saul, head and shoulders above not only the rest of Israel but Gentile novelists as well. Bellow is the representative Western man for whom the old categories of Christian and Jew are losing their absolute validity, whose writing is informed by both Judaism and Christianity, and whose aim is to reconcile and unify. Because he speaks the word of affirmation, Bellow invites viewing from the Christian perspective, which, in its via-death-to-life patterns, is also his own. With special reference to Herzog and The Adventures of Augie March, Detweiler analyzes five elements of Bellow’s art—fictional perspective, language and image, setting, characterization, and action—and shows how each opens up a theological understanding of human experience. He is at his best in his analysis of Bellow’s language and the function of the word/Word in Christian doctrine. Finally, he shows that Bellow’s characters are elucidated in their personal relationships by Martin Buber and in their actions by Friedrich Gogarten.

Reading For Perspective


Who Was Who in Church History, by Elgin S. Moyer (Moody, $6.95). A new revision of a helpful volume of thumbnail sketches of seventeen hundred people whose lives influenced the course of the Christian Church.

The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark, edited by Ronald H. Nash (Presbyterian and Reformed, $9.95). A fascinating, challenging Festschrift on the encyclopedic thought of the outstanding evangelical Protestant philosopher of our day.

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God in Man’s Experience, by Leonard Griffith (Word, $3.95). A Toronto minister offers perceptive expositions of twenty-one selected Psalms “written in the ink of personal experience” that will stimulate readers to study these profound hymns of faith in greater depth.

Norris Yates hears a different kind of “Yea” rising out of the apparent wreckage in the works of the conspicuous and controversial Günter Grass. American readers will be especially grateful for his biographical summary of Grass. The poems and plays are touched on, but it is from the three novels (The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse, and Dog Years), with all their grotesquerie, fable, obscenity, fantasy, pathos, symbolism, and whimsy, that the great affirmation emerges: Man is a seeker after truth. Yates concludes with an incisive judgment of Grass’s defects and of his attitude toward the Christian faith.

John Updike: apologist or skeptic? fizzle or flame? Kenneth Hamilton sees as the key to Updike his “sense of place”: his conviction that the world has a center and that the center is in remembered things. To apostles of absurdity, Updike’s world seems too small and his sense of place a heresy. If Updike’s world is small, it is deep, for his fiction is preoccupied with showing how the “mysteries” of sex, religion, and art, encountered early in life, color mature existence. Updike’s judgment on our civilization is that we have cut ourselves off from the sources that nourish our good. This judgment is most explicit in Poorhouse Fair, his Horrible Utopia novel. Hamilton’s comments on Rabbit, Run clarify the relation of the book’s strong sexuality to its motto from Pascal: ‘The motions of Grace, the hardness of the heart.…” Hamilton treats The Centaur as a companion piece showing that not all human hearts are hardened against the motions of grace. Updike’s short stories are variations on the same great themes. Hamilton has succeeded admirably in analyzing individual works, but he has not made sufficiently clear how the “mysteries” and the Wordsworthian natural piety he sees in Updike are related. He admits, “Updike remains something of a puzzle. Even his basic stance as a writer is hard to pin down.”

Not so Miss Kathleen Raine. Ralph Mills has taken full advantage of the fact that Miss Raine is an articulate poet who knows her theory of poetry and her own place in the literary mainstream. Using Miss Raine’s statements, as well as his own analysis, Mills first delineates Miss Raine’s basic assumption that reality exists on several planes and that poetic symbols, arising from within, partake of metaphysical reality and thus disclose transcendent truth. Defining the poet not merely as maker but also as seer, Miss Raine aligns herself with Blake, Coleridge, Eliot, and Sitwell. Mills shows her, in her Collected Poems and The Year One, to be a severely self-disciplined and dedicated writer who transmits the religious vision that has been granted her: an identification with the unchanging energies of the universe, and an awareness of transcendent meaning and of the divine principle hidden in things. Readers interested in the theory of poetry will find Mills’s well written essay especially illuminating.

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Each of the essays gives sufficient summary and biography to support the criticism. Each acknowledges other criticism and goes on to present a personal judgment informed by thorough knowledge both of the author’s works and of the techniques of modern criticism. Some readers may wish for a more explicit exposition of Christian doctrine as it is present in or absent from a given writer’s works; but surely one can see the specifics for himself, once the shape of a writer’s work has been delineated from a Christian perspective.

An Arab Strikes Back

Bitter Harvest, by Sami Hadawi, (New World, 1967, 346 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by G. Douglas Young, president, American Institute of Holy Land Studies, Highland Park, Illinois.

Sami Hadawi is a Christian Arab who was born in Jerusalem when it was still a part of the Ottoman Empire. From 1920 to 1948 he served the British mandatory government and from then until 1955 the government of Jordan. Later he served various Arab governments at the United Nations. He writes well and with emotion presents what he considers to be the Arab side of the Palestine story, 1914 to 1967. His case would probably be very convincing to one who had never heard the other side of this story, was not perturbed by threats of additional genocide as the solution to political problems, or had little knowledge of the ancient and modern history of the Middle East.

Hadawi’s last sentence, his final conclusion, is: “The Arabian desert is bound to rebel again and the Zionist intruders will be cast into the sea from whence they came and we shall have peace again in the Holy Land.”

Peace at the price of genocide! One had hoped that in the years since the Nazi era the world had progressed beyond genocide as a final solution to man’s problems.

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Strange twistings of history occur throughout the volume. Romans, not Arabs of the desert, expelled the Greeks. Byzantines, not Arabs, expelled the Romans. Mohammed’s Arab takeover did not come until the seventh century A.D.! The Arab Nabateans and Itruraeans came as power only in Hellenistic times, centuries after David and Solomon. How odious is this debate of prior occupancy!

As a Jordanian, Hadawi did not have access to the matters taking place across the border in Israel, and no doubt many of his inaccurate statements and onesided emphases are the result of this. “Israel prevents the travel of an Arab outside the country unless he undertakes to sign away his right to return,” he says. But I myself know many returned Israeli Arabs. The Samua incident (November 13, 1966) he calls “naked aggression devoid of any justification.” He is apparently unaware of the fourteen infiltration attacks against civilian villages and homes made out of Samua into Israel that provoked the action in Samua that stopped those attacks.

We read that “the impotence of the U. N. and the double-dealing of the American President are responsible for the 1967 war.…” One might have thought that the closing of the straits at Sharm-el-Sheikh, the moving of heavy armor across the Sinai toward Israel, and the radio releases in which Egypt’s President Nasser, then the leader of the Arab nations, threatened to drive the Jews into the sea, were at least contributing factors! Hadawi justifies the murderous raids of the al-Fatah against civilian targets in Israel. In his view, the Scriptures rule Israel forever out of the plans of God; it has been superseded by another Israel, the Church.

This volume will contribute little, if anything, to peace and may weaken the resistance of some to genocide as a solution.

How Does God Reveal Himself?

Has Christianity a Revelation?, by F. Gerald Downing (Westminster, 1967, 315 pp., $6), and The Self-Revelation of God, by J. Kenneth Kuntz (Westminster, 1967, 254 pp., $7.50), are reviewed by Leslie R. Keylock, assistant professor of theology, St. Norbert College, West De Pere, Wisconsin.

Carl Braaten opens his recent book, History and Hermeneutics, by saying, “Roman Catholic theology today is catching up with Protestant theology; it is no longer sure of what it means by revelation.” The two Protestant works here being reviewed clearly reflect the revival of concern with the concept of revelation in an age when historical criticism has led so many Protestants to soft-pedal any idea of a biblical revelation. But when Braaten concludes that “there is no doubt that any theology which deserves to be called Christian will include the notion that man’s knowledge of God presupposes God’s revelation of himself,” he would find in F. Gerald Downing a vigorous dissenter.

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Downing’s thesis is that Christian talk about God’s revelation of himself in Christ is neither biblical nor meaningful. He insists, rather, that the biblical writers say God remains a Deus absconditus (concealed) even in his saving activity in Christ, and that only in Hellenistic thought (Hermetic literature, Gnosticism, Philo) is knowledge of God himself the pure awareness of absolute being. To prove his hypothesis he devotes two chapters to a careful analysis of the biblical and related vocabulary of revelation, one to a survey of Christian thought on the subject after the first century, and two to a linguistic analysis of the word “revelation” (he concludes that its normal use by theologians is illogical and incoherent). In a final concluding chapter Downing argues for a “Christianity without revelation,” and suggests that the key to understanding the Bible is to be found rather in the theme of salvation or redemption.

Incidentally, though one of the major quarrels in the theology of revelation in this century has been between those who speak of the truths of revelation (propositional revelation as connected with such names as the evangelical Protestant J. I. Packer and the Catholic M. C. D’Arcy) and those who insist that God reveals himself and not truths (personal revelation as defended by Barth, Brunner, Bultmann, and their successors), Downing concludes that both groups “are saying much the same thing” and that to speak of revelation as personal encounter is really just as “intellectualistic” as to speak of the revelation of truth in propositional form.

In the Old Testament, says Downing, God never reveals himself; rather, he lets his people know that he is concerned about them (Downing admits that God in the Old Testament does reveal his demands). He makes himself known only indirectly and darkly at best, through visions and dreams, and never intimately or explicitly enough to warrant the label “revelation.”

Despite the similarity in title to Downing’s work, J. Kenneth Kuntz’s The Self-Revelation of God is quite dissimilar in content. His purpose is to use the form-critical method to analyze selected Old Testament theophanies. He gives a ten-sided definition of theophany that should probably be considered definitive: “a temporal, partial and intentionally allusive self-disclosure initiated by the sovereign deity at a particular place, the reality of which evokes the convulsion of nature and the fear and dread of man, and whose unfolding emphasizes visual and audible aspects generally according to a recognized literary form.”

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With such an overall biblical definition, Kuntz then proceeds to examine the three accounts of the theophany on Mt. Sinai and selected theophanies connected with Israel’s patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and prophets (Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Second Isaiah) and with three psalms (18; 50; 97). He concludes his study of Old Testament theophany with some reflections on the cultic Sitz im Leben of biblical theophanies.

These two books are so different that comparison is probably unwarranted. Kuntz’s book is descriptive and for those who are biblically literate at times extremely elementary. It reflects careful training but leaves the impression of lacking creativity and originality. So many of the questions a scholar might expect to find discussed in a book about Old Testament theophanies are missing. The title of the book is really inappropriate, and I failed to see any value in the frequent transliterations of the Hebrew text. Perhaps I anticipated the kind of tangible results from the application of form criticism to the theophanies we have come to expect from German scholars, usually provocative even if often unconvincing.

Downing’s book, on the other hand, is not only thoroughly descriptive but at the same time problematic, creative, and stimulating. It is hard for me to overstate my appreciation for this book, even though I frequently disagreed with it. Its breadth and the thoroughness of its research are commendable. It is the kind of book that will force evangelicals to re-examine some of their basic assumptions; it calls for a creative response from them.

My major question about the book would be this: Does Downing do more than show that it is unbiblical to speak of a revelation by God of himself in the mystical sense of a divine-human encounter as defended by neo-orthodox thinkers? Theologians like Macquarrie agree that I-Thou encounters are meaningful only between human persons. But is it then justifiable to jump to the conclusion that Christianity has no revelation at all?

This book should receive a wide reading in evangelical circles if for no other reason that that it demolishes the main plank in the neo-orthodox attack on propositional revelation and forces its readers to think through exactly what they mean when they say that God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ.

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Social Impact Of The Gospel

Followers of the New Faith, by Emilio Willems (Vanderbilt University, 1967, 290 pp., $7.50), is reviewed by Samuel Southard, director of research, General Council of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S., Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Willems, professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University, presents cultural change and the rise of Protestantism in Brazil and Chile. His survey is based on fifteen months of field research and a critical evaluation of English, Spanish, and Portuguese books and articles.

Willems found that Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal groups were agents of social as well as personal change. They stressed sobriety, honesty, and marital fidelity, qualities that traditionally have not been stressed among Latin Americans. The sects also laid emphasis on the duties of all church members in evangelism, teaching, and church administration.

This new teaching led to the development of a sense of personal strength among the poor, who before had felt powerless. It also brought a change in family structure, so that women became able to require sexual morality from their husbands. In the community, Protestants were sought as business partners, employees, and servants because of their emphasis upon thrift, sobriety, industry, and education.

These personal and social changes might have been a disruptive force in the Latin culture, but Willems found that Protestantism was able to adapt itself to a culture that departed far from the middle-class American assumptions of the major mission boards. In making this adaptation, Protestantism kept its doctrinal standards but ministered to the poor and despised in a way unknown in America since pioneer days. In fact, Willems considers the growth of Protestantism to be primarily in the “pioneer” areas of Brazil and Chile.

The study of Protestant growth in pioneer areas led Willems to a second major conclusion: that Protestantism grew under conditions of social change. The new faith was well received in the new industrial areas, especially among immigrants from rural areas. It was also well received in rural areas that had been bypassed by the hacienda system, and where an independent peasantry had been allowed to develop. The highest concentration of Protestants is in those areas where the new faith could give meaning to people who had been torn away from their traditional moorings.

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The entire volume will be of interest to students of religion and cultural change. The concluding chapter would be of special interest to persons responsible for missionary strategy in Brazil and Chile. Willems is to be especially commended for his attention to the varieties of Pentecostal groups that have grown so rapidly in Brazil and Chile.

Armchair Travel To The Holy Land

Everyday Life in Bible Times, edited by Melville Bell Grosvenor (National Geographic Society, 1967, 448 pp., $9.95), is reviewed by B. Clayton Bell, minister, First Presbyterian Church, Dothan, Alabama.

Let me invite you to take a tour of the Holy Land. It will cost only $1,600, and we will visit such places as Rome, Corinth, the cities of Paul’s missionary journeys, Egypt, and Palestine. On this tour we will, of course, see the Bible lands only as they are today.

If you want to save $1,590.05, you can tour these lands as an armchair traveler, thanks to the National Geographic Society. This volume enables you not only to view the Bible lands as they are today but also, through text and artists’ conceptions, to get a glimpse of life in the land of promise in the days of Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, Jesus, and Paul—all with the unsurpassed quality and beauty common to National Geographic publications.

The text is written by reputable biblical and archaeological scholars. Supernatural elements in divine history and in mythology are treated with respect. There are 528 illustrations (more than three-fourths in full color) and thirteen maps. A pocket inside the back cover contains a large map of the entire Middle East and, on the back, a more detailed map of the Holy Land from Baalbek to Beersheba. Both maps show the territory occupied by Israel as of June 10, 1967.

This volume will be a worthwhile addition to any home library. It will delight both the armchair traveler and the serious Bible student.

The Man Who Saved Quakerism

Robert Barclay, by D. Elton Trueblood (Harper & Row, 1968, 274 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Burney H. Enzor, minister, First Baptist Church, Bonifay, Florida.

As author-educator-lecturer, Trueblood notably fills a dual role as speaker to today’s total Christian community and speaker for his own Quaker faith. In this volume the Christian philosopher is a historian as well, filling a gap in Christian—particularly Quaker—history and biography.

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The opening chapter, tediously documented, pegs Barclay in history. The author states, “The most important thing to say about Robert Barclay’s place in history is that he, more than any other person, saved Quakerism from extinction.” He sees as Barclay’s “crucial contribution” the “ministry of intelligence,” at its peak in his Apology.

The biography is divided into two parts: life and thought. The several chapters in Part I are pages of praise. Barclay’s hundreds of faithful Quaker descendants are said to attest to his faithfulness as a father. As a prisoner, he exemplified the lesson, “best thing in worst times”; his prison years were most productive and vital. As a minister he was a faithful servant in writing, speaking, visiting, and corresponding. As courtier in contact with nobility, especially King James, he saw influential persons as a challenge for Christian witness. One has to read carefully to find an adverse line about the life of Barclay. Is the author too kind?

But when he moves into Part II, Trueblood frees his sensitive, critical mind to probe. He admits that careful scrutiny of Barclay’s “authority of experience” shows it to have real pitfalls. The clergy will be challenged by Trueblood’s discussion of “The Revolutionary Ministry.” In another place he touches a nerve in his own people when he says, “The Quakers have ceased to quake.” The final chapter, “The Modernity of Barclay,” gives him the chance to say some things in his own voice while yet remaining in the context of biography. The embers of his recent book The Incendiary Fellowship glow again in this Part II.

Trueblood is an eloquent apologist for the apologist and usually improves Barclay’s auguments for the modem thinker. The extreme position on the sacraments is well thought out and deserves commendation for exalting the “real” above the ritual itself. But it is an extreme that demands too much explaining. How could Barclay and his biographer abandon the literal water, bread, and wine that communicated genuine spiritual joy for the New Testament Christians? The partial exegesis of the related passages is biased. The symbols are rejected because they stand for what the apologist stands for. Strange?

The author’s multidimensional scholarship is once again evident in this volume. Yet one should not buy the book simply because its author is Elton Trueblood; it may prove disappointing to those without particular interest in Christian history and thought of the seventeenth century. Nevertheless we may say about this book, “Well done!” It succeeds in creating a deeper appreciation not only for Barclay but even more for his people, the Quakers, and most of all for his Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Country-Style Ministry

Town and Country America, by Giles C. Ekola (Concordia, 1967, 123 pp., paper, $1.25), and The Cooperative Parish in Nonmetropolitan Areas, by Marvin T. Judy (Abingdon, 1967, 204 pp., $4.25), are reviewed by William G. Jamison, professor of applied theology, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.

In this day of emphasis upon specialized inner-city and suburban ministries, it is good to have these two helpful books on nonmetropolitan areas. After all, as these authors remind us, nearly 40 per cent of the nation’s people live outside metropolitan areas (areas with 50,000 or more inhabitants, of which the U. S. Census Bureau counts 212). Certainly we need to train men and women for ministry to these 60 million Americans who live in rural, village, town, and small-city situations.

The authors see the need for church leaders in nonmetropolitan areas to be well grounded in sociology, particularly those aspects concerned with community. A leader should make a detailed study of his community and apply to it the principles of community development, as Ekola sees “congregation development” and community development as inseparable, but he hastens to say that the church in its organized form should never become directly involved in community development. Rather, the church is to provide the opportunity for worship and to educate believers for service in the larger community.

Unfortunately, neither author discusses the nonmetropolitan family. But the family is the primary group in any community; with it one begins his study of community.

Judy speaks about the cooperative parish out of a wealth of experience and research, and he should be commended for careful attention to details and definitions. Ekola’s concise presentations on human relations in town and country, the influence of leisure and recreation, and water and soil pollution, are excellent, probably the best available. Ekola provides a short but sound biblical doctrine for community involvement and development; this is an unfortunate omission in Judy’s book. Judy, a Methodist, and Ekola, a Lutheran, cite many examples of parish life in their own denominations and use their particular denominational jargon; but translation to another church setting is not difficult.

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Renewal—Not Liquidation

The Gospel for an Exploding World, by H. Franklin Paschall (Broadman, 1967, 128 pp., $2.95), is reviewed by E. Milford Howell, secretary of missions and stewardship, Baptist Convention of Maryland, Baltimore.

Since becoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1966, H. Franklin Paschall has traveled to nearly every state and to many foreign mission fields. He has seen and felt the explosive condition of our world and speaks about it in this book with frankness, warmth, and a firm conviction that the Gospel of Christ is the only answer.

In the first part of the book Paschall vividly describes the problems of our “exploding” world. Then, in the bulk of the book, he preaches the Gospel as plainly as it has ever been preached, showing its application to the world situation he has described. Forcefully, without pulling any punches, he points men and women to “the Gospel for our times.”

The last chapters of the book discuss the mandate Christ gave to his disciples: to take the Gospel to the world. The reader who comes to these chapters after the strong preaching of the center section cannot fail to realize that he himself shares in this mandate.

Paschall reminds us that “true churches have a place in the purpose of God and Jesus Christ”:

Institutional churches are under bitter attack today. Some say they are no more than ghettos of Christianity and islands of real estate.… Others say at best that churches are irrelevant and at worst an obstacle to genuine human experience.… Let us face our sins honestly, confess them and repent from them. Let us break out beyond ourselves—beyond our frozen orthodoxy, organizational routines, religious rigamarole, prejudice and pride—and minister to the world. But let us see the difference between trying to renew the churches and trying to liquidate them.… Christians cannot successfully bypass the church and minister to the world.

Laymen and ministers who want to do their part to change the world through the Gospel of Jesus Christ will welcome this forceful, challenging book.

Book Briefs

God, the Atom, and the Universe, by James Reid (Zondervan, 1968, 240 pp., $4.95). Reid discusses in laymen’s language how the “Big Bang” hypothesis of the creation of the universe harmonizes with the Genesis account.

A Devotional Treasury from the Early Church, compiled by Georgia Harkness (Abingdon, 1968, 160 pp., $3.50). Well-chosen, enduring selections from the writings of the Church Fathers—Ignatius, Polycarp, the Didache, and others—with appropriate introductions by Dr. Harkness.

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The Wind Blows Wild, by Bernard Palmer (Moody, 1968, 191 pp., $2.95). The author of the Danny Orlis series offers adults a Christian novel set in the far north of Canada.

The Greatness of the Kingdom, by Alva J. McClain (Moody, 1968, 556 pp., $6.95). A reprint of a major work in dispensational theology (reviewed in CHRISTIANITY TODAY, October 12, 1959, pp. 38 ff.).

Not Forgetting to Sing, by Nancy E. Robbins (Moody, 1968, 179 pp., $3.95). Dr. Robbins tells the heart-warming story of her medical missionary work at the Dohnavur Fellowship in South India.

A Sourcebook for Christian Worship, edited by Paul S. McElroy (World, 1968, 239 pp., $6.95). An excellent anthology of prayers, Scripture selections, and sentences for various aspects of worship services. Helpful resource book for ministers.


Inside Jerusalem: City of Destiny, by Arnold Olson (Gospel Light, 1968, $.95). The president of the Evangelical Free Church describes conditions in modern Jerusalem against the backdrop of biblical teaching and his own experiences there.

The Old Testament Understanding of God, by J. Stanley Chesnut (Westminster, 1968, 192 pp., $2.45). Chesnut uses a topical-chronological pattern to trace Hebrew conceptions of God.

The Modern Vision of Death, edited by Nathan A. Scott, Jr. (John Knox, 1967, 125 pp., $1.95). Provocative observations on contemporary attitudes toward death by Amos Wilder, Hans Morgenthau, Joseph Haroutunian, Paul Tillich, and others.

Mountains Singing, by Sanna Morrison Barlow (Moody, 1968, 352 pp., $1.29). The thrilling story of how God has prospered the work of Gospel Recordings, under the direction of Joy Ridderhof and Ann Sherwood, in the Philippines.

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