I Believe: The Christian’s Creed, by Helmut Thielicke (Fortress, 1968, 256 pp., $2.50), is reviewed by Wayne E. Ward, professor of theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
The reading public has come to expect something very special in a book by the great German preacher-theologian, Professor Helmut Thielicke of Hamburg. From the evangelical appeal of the “waiting Father” in the parable of the prodigal son to the profound interpretation of the doctrine of creation, this man’s writings combine popular expression with technical excellence.
At last we have his exciting interpretation of that epitome of historic Christian doctrine, the Apostles’ Creed. In a series of doctrinal sermons, delivered with all the illustrative power and vital interaction of the preaching situation, he unfolds the meaning of these central affirmations of the Christian faith. He does so with a keen sense of the questioning, even negative, response of many in his modern congregation. In fact, he joins the doubters at many points and shows the necessity of passionate doubt in coming to a serious understanding of the meaning of the faith.
The translation was begun by Thielicke’s friend John W. Doberstein, professor of pastoral theology at the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia. As early as 1961, Thielicke had mentioned in his Christmas letter to friends that he had found a translator of “remarkable creative power.” The same letter announced the beginning of Thielicke’s work on the Apostles’ Creed, and these sermons were preached in Hamburg during the following years. In 1965 they were published in Germany under the title Ich Glaube (“I Believe”), and Doberstein began his translation almost immediately. At the time of his death later that year, he had just completed the chapter entitled “I Believe in God the Father.” A former student of his, H. George Anderson, completed the translation.
Each affirmation of the creed is expounded with the thoroughness and skill that mark all Thielicke’s work. Usually a key passage of Scripture is presented as the exegetical foundation, and a fresh interpretation of the doctrine in modern language, with abundant illustrations from classical writers and his own experience, forms the body of each chapter.
In addition, several of the phrases of the creed are expanded by a consideration of “additional questions.” Under the topic “God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth,” Thielicke deals with the persistent questions, “Do miracles really happen?” and “What is the point of miracles?” These studies of miracles are theological gems, absolutely brilliant in their insight and honesty.
Thielicke deals also with the question, “Where are the dead?” He mentions that he noted a remarkable increase in attendance for those sermons that discuss the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. Out of a life that has known the sorrow and crisis of World War II Germany, he is able to speak to the deep longings of the heart with profound understanding.
The highest value of these sermons is not to be found, however, in the comfort they offer to the troubled, the suffering, or the doubter. Great as this may be, their greatest value is surely in their apologetic power. Surely there are few who have Thielicke’s skill in challenging the shallow thinking of the carping critic, the self-styled “atheist,” or the complacent religionist. On their own terms, these messages meet the doubter and the cynic and engage them in passionate struggle for a truth to live by. This is an apologetic work of tremendous power; it will find its place among those Christian writings that have sought, not to overwhelm intellectual opponents, but to lead earnest doubters to Christ.
Philosophy Of Process
Christian History and Interpretation: Studies Presented to John Knox, edited by W. R. Farmer, C. F. D. Moule, and R. R. Niebuhr (Cambridge, 1967, 428 pp., $9.50), is reviewed by Norman Shepherd, associate professor of systematic theology, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This collection of studies honors a New Testament scholar who for over twenty years was associated with Union Theological Seminary (New York) and who now teaches at Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest. The list of eighteen distinguished contributors insures a volume of the highest academic quality.
The chapters, though diverse in character, are brought together under two general themes: questions of history and faith focused on Jesus of Nazareth, and the mind of Paul and problems of Pauline interpretation. The essays reflect the main areas of Knox’s own interest and to a greater or lesser degree show indebtedness to him.
Most of the chapters are detailed and technical and defy evaluation in a brief review. In the opening essay, however, Norman Pittenger has sought to elicit “some implications, philosophical and theological, in John Knox’s writing,” recognizing that Knox himself has not felt the need to give a theoretical accounting for his philosophical and theological presuppositions. Pittenger sees Knox as dependent upon contemporary American process-thought in contrast to philosophies of substance, where, presumably (but wrongly), we are to expect to find orthodox Christian theology.
Knox’s world in process is found to be marked by growing concretions of good, though things may temporarily be “out of hand.” The reason for this optimism is the fact that loving action focused in the “complex occasion” called Jesus Christ is giving rise to other focal centers of love. There is a purpose of love at work bringing all things back to their intended character as instruments of the divine Charity.
Pittenger shares Knox’s commitment to a philosophy of process and, while recognizing that this can be expressed in traditional language, nevertheless appeals for a new statement “made in the patterns of thought appropriate to such a processive world as Professor Knox sees our world to be.” We can only applaud and encourage this proposal “to reconceive the Christian faith not only ‘in other words’ but also in a quite different perspective and with quite different presuppositions.” It will serve to make plain how thorough is the divergence from the historic Christian faith, and how irreconcilable is this faith with what is offered as a substitute.
For the servant of Jesus Christ it is not a matter of choosing between a philosophy of metaphysical essences and a philosophy of process. Rather, he must develop a distinctively Christian life-and-world view that begins in the sufficiency and clarity of God’s written word of revelation.
New Light On Galatians
Galatians, by William Hendriksen (Baker, 1968, 260 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by David W. McIlvaine, subject cataloger, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
This volume, the eighth in Dr. Hendriksen’s continuing commentary on the New Testament, will be very useful to the pastor or Bible teacher. An advanced scholar might find it less useful because in the main Hendriksen concentrates on the text, without detailed interaction with the opinions of other scholars. However, he is aware of the work of others and is not hesitant to voice disagreement. For example, he identifies the trip by Paul to Jerusalem (described in Galatians 2) with Acts 15. In one footnote he tells us that Berkhof, Erdman, Findlay, Greijdanus, Grosheide, Lightfoot, Rendall, and Robertson also take this position, and in another that Bruce, Calvin, Duncan, Ellis, Emmet, Hoeber, and Knox disagree. Such information makes this commentary particularly useful, for it enables the reader to see that good evangelical scholars are divided in their opinion. Not only conservative scholars are consulted, however, as the four-page bibliography shows.
By itself this volume is not exhaustive; it is meant to take its place on the shelves along with the author’s other volumes on the New Testament. When commenting on the Greek word for “to tell the truth,” for instance, he refers us, in a footnote, to a footnote in his commentary on Ephesians. This is somewhat annoying for a reader who doesn’t have his volume on Ephesians!
But this work is superb in both content and format and may well convince the newcomer to Hendriksen to investigate his other volumes as well.
Help In Sex Education
A Guide for Christian Sex Education of Youth, by Thomas Edwards Brown (Association Press, 1968, 368 pp., $7.95), is reviewed by Leslie R. Beach, professor of psychology, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.
Sex has to be the subject in which we are most guilty of giving young people answers to questions they are not asking. It also has to be a subject on which we do one of our poorest jobs of communicating what answers we do give. Here is help for making sex education less painful for the educator and more relevant for the student—all within a “for real” Christian framework that speaks to today’s teen-ager.
Writing out of extensive experience with young people, Thomas Edwards Brown presents guidelines and materials for sex-education programs for grades 7–12 and for parents. He sees teenagers as already fully sexual beings who need real answers to real questions—and the real questions do not deal with biology, the human reproductive systems, moonlight and roses, or the horrors of unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease. Rather, these fiercely persistent questions have to do with the goodness or badness of sex, coming to terms with one’s sexuality, how to get started in relationships, how far to go in relationships, and becoming fully functioning, wholesome, mature sexual persons. The “traditional” subjects are not omitted, however; they are treated with openness and candor.
Brown gives his reader the materials and techniques, constantly under revision, that he has used successfully with teen-agers and their parents. His inclusion of typical questions asked at various ages helps prepare the uninitiated for the kind of question (and language) he may encounter. Helpful case examples are included also.
To Christian sex education Brown brings a positive outlook on sex and personhood, relevant materials and techniques, and sound Christian dogma. All youth workers who read his book will feel indebted to him.
Analyzing Our Dreams
Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language, by John A. Sanford (Lippincott, 1968, 223 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by E. Mansell Pattison, assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle.
John Sanford’s theme is that human nature is paradoxical, and the understanding of it comes through the analysis of our dreams. And this is indeed a paradoxical book from title to index. The author begins by disavowing the notion that dreams are the vehicle by which a supernatural God speaks to men, but ends by asserting that the universal symbols and revelations of our dreams suggests the existence of God. He claims to draw on modern psychologists for the foundations of his work, yet uses only pre-1940 Jung, misinterprets Freud, and ignores the revolutionary breakthroughs that have occurred in the experimental study of dreams in the past fifteen years.
Sanford is an Episcopal clergyman who studied at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zürich after seminary training. There he became convinced of the correctness of Jung’s theories and concluded that dreams were a neglected but highly important theological issue. He sees dreams as the royal road not only to the unconscious but also to the restoration of psychological and spiritual healthiness. “Dreams and their interpretation can heal the sick soul.”
The first half of the book contains case histories drawn from Sanford’s pastoral counseling. He shows how his clients’ emotional conflicts were revealed in their dreams and how he helped them to emotional health through dream interpretation. He fairly accurately summarized the psychodynamic functions of dreams and sketches out the paradoxes of the conscious and unconscious aspects of the personality. None of this is at all new, but it is well done.
The second half of the book shifts to speculation. Here Sanford attempts to use dream analysis to develop a theological view of the nature of man and his relationship to God. It will satisfy neither scientist nor theologian.
I also want to make it quite clear that by referring to dreams as God’s forgotten language I do not have in mind the “theological God” possessing a whole string of metaphysical attributes. By saying that our dreams are from God I mean that they are, from the point of view of the ego, purposively directed, and seem to revolve around a central authority in the psyche. There is always a creative element in dreams, and it is this creativity which is divine.
The two halves of the book present a familiar paradox. Writing as a clinician, the author shows a warm, empathic understanding of human nature. This part will warrant reading by the layman. The clinical relevance of dreams is well shown. But when the clinician tries his hand at being a theoretician, he runs afoul of the danger of using personal clinical success to validate a speculative theory. Contemporary research simply invalidates much of his Jungian extrapolation. Thus his scientific and theological theory fares no better than the metaphysics he so vehemently decries.
Objective Look At Mid-East
The Arab-Israeli Dilemma, by Fred J. Khouri (Syracuse University Press, 1968, 436 pp., $10), is reviewed by Arnold T. Olson, president, Evangelical Free Church of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
An objective treatment of the complex issues of the Middle East is hard to find. The emotion the situation has generated among the people directly involved seems contagious; one is either pro-Arab or pro-Israeli.
Mr. Khouri’s book is refreshing and revealing as it deals objectively with the events of the past twenty years. As a historian he reports the events as they happened. As a political scientist he seeks to interpret those events. Time and again he summarizes the pros and cons of a situation. His analyses seem quite impartial, and he does not hesitate to point out errors on either side. While he exposes what he considers the failures of the United Nations and the great powers in their attempts to solve the problems, he also notes praiseworthy endeavors. And he believes that with the United Nations rests the ultimate solution to the problem.
Sources are well documented in more than five hundred footnotes, some containing as many as a score of references. The bibliography includes 212 documents and official publications, arranged according to where they can be found, as well as a thorough listing of books. An appendix contains documents such as the Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, several U. N. General Assembly resolutions, and armistice agreements, as well as tables on Palestine population, immigration, and refugees, and other material.
Khouri, writing a secular history, begins with the period leading up to the partition of Palestine. He states, “It was the rise of extreme forms of Arab and Jewish nationalisms, mostly in the twentieth century, which precipitated the serious breach between the two Semitic peoples. Thus their hostility is of fairly recent origin and not based on some ancient animus.” But as any student of the Scriptures knows, the animosity goes back through many centuries. The book does not look back far enough, and, since it deals only with secular history, it cannot look far enough ahead.
One is left with many questions. Why is the United Nations, which was responsible for the birth of the State of Israel and which has spent more time on the Middle East crisis than on any other issue, so helpless? None of its resolutions have been fully adopted; most have been ignored or defied. Why have the great powers been so inept and almost naïve in dealing with this crisis? It seems clear that another world war could develop out of it; yet the situation is permitted to deteriorate.
Khouri summarizes the problem clearly:
So long as deep Arab-Israeli distrust, hostility, and conflicting national interests persisted, so long as internal political instabilities and rivalries continued to exist within Israel and the Arab world, and so long as the two super powers remained seriously divided, neither the United Nations nor any of its agents would be able to bridge the wide psychological and political gaps which continued to separate the Arabs and Israelis and to bring about a peace settlement despite U Thant’s clear warning that “if … no progress is made towards resolving the root causes of conflict, within a few years at the most there will be ineluctably a new eruption of war.”
This will take more than the efforts of the United Nations. It will take a miracle. And such a miracle will call for divine intervention.
A Discussion Of Death
Death and Its Mysteries, by Ignace Lepp (Macmillan, 1968, 194 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by R. K. Harrison, professor of Old Testament, Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada.
The uncertainties of the atomic age and the nihilism of most existentialist thinkers, it is said, have made death a matter for discussion in some intellectual circles. Dr. Lepp, a French Roman Catholic priest and a psychotherapist who practiced in Paris until his death in 1966, has taken his cue from writers such as Camus and Sartre and has expounded his general theme along the lines of Bergsonian “creative evolution” and the rather elusive theology of Teilhard de Chardin.
Lepp makes several penetrating criticisms of Freudian theory. He views death both as a normal procedure (for old people) and as an “intolerable scandal” (for young people). The book contains interesting and penetrating sections on suicide and spiritism, and helpful comments on communicating the fact of death to children.
Perhaps I move in the wrong circles these days, but I felt that the book drew too heavily upon nineteenth-century Roman Catholic traditions in Europe and was therefore rather dated in its approach. The author exhibits a certain old-world romanticism in discussing how men supposedly dread death and try to give some meaning to it. He maintains that North Americans, more than any others, are terrified by the onset of death, and that this is reflected in their funeral practices. As a European, I have observed that most North Americans live as though they believed themselves indestructible, and seldom think about their own death. As for the funerals, there is a business interest connected with the undertaking that need not be discussed here.
The doctrinal standpoint of the book is that of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, tempered by the speculations of Bergson and Teilhard de Chardin. The title led me to expect that Lepp would discuss the phenomenon of death more than he did. Still, I found the book stimulating.
Survey Of Jewish Thought
A New Jewish Theology in the Making, by Eugene B. Borowitz (Westminster, 1968, 220 pp., $6.50), is reviewed by Victor Buksbazen, editor, The Spearhead Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The author of this excellent survey of contemporary Jewish religious thought and philosophy is a liberal rabbi and a philosopher of religion. In discussing the difficulties of writing a systematic theology of Judaism acceptable to the contemporary thinking Jew, he takes us on a grand tour of philosophical and religious ideas of the most prominent Jewish thinkers of the last hundred years. And with great skill and insight, he analyzes the lasting contributions made by such pillars of contemporary Judaism as Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, Mordechai Kaplan, Leo Baeck, Abraham Heschel, and Joseph Soloveitchick.
Borowitz believes that a theology of Judaism is urgently needed if the modern Jew is to understand the faith by which he seeks to live, and avoid the pitfalls of a too individualistic and subjective religion. However, Judaism is intrinsically inhospitable to theology, because it is basically a religion of deed rather than creed.
There is an even greater obstacle to the formulation of a contemporary theology of Judaism. In the past, the Bible and rabbinical tradition were the supreme authority for right conduct and right belief. Today, this authority is either completely rejected or seriously questioned by the vast majority of a secularized Jewry:
For just as history no longer shows a single progressive march of Jewish faith, so contemporary philosophy does not provide a single standard of truth, so widely acceptable that it might become the foundation of a theology of Judaism.
Consequently all that remains to the Jewish religious thinker is to formulate significant questions in the hope that a rising generation will perhaps find answers.
The lack of a sure foundation and authority upon which to base faith is the real predicament of contemporary man, whether he be a liberal Jew or Christian. He must sail very stormy seas without either a guiding star or a dependable compass.
The Bitter Road, by John H. Baumgaertner (Concordia, 1969, 104 pp., $1.95). A series of Lenten messages beginning at Bethlehem and ending triumphantly at an empty tomb.
Cameos, Women Fashioned by God, by Helen Kooiman (Tyndale House, 1968, 163 pp., $1.95). Stories of fifteen women whose lives have been deeply affected by their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ecumenism and the Reformed Church, by Herman Harmelink III (Eerdmans, 1968, 112 pp., $2.45). Examines the reasons for the repeated refusal of the Reformed Church in America to enter into unions with various other groups.
Is It the Same Church?, by F. J. Sheed (Pflaum, 1968, 224 pp., $1.75). A thoughtful consideration of change in the church by one who has been deeply involved in one of the most rapidly changing periods in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
Living Dangerously, by D. Stuart Briscoe (Zondervan, 1968, 132 pp., $1.95). Confronts Christians with the shocking fact that they may be living as those who are spiritually dead and challenges them to lead daring and dynamic lives of vigorous commitment to Christ.
Man Alive!, by Michael Green (Inter-Varsity Press, 1968, 96 pp., $.95). An examination of the cardinal tenet of the Christian faith—that Jesus rose from the tomb and is alive today.
Martin Luther and the Birth of Protestantism by James Atkinson (Pelican, 1968, 352 pp., $1.95). Investigates the social basis for Luther’s dissent and tries to determine what issues of faith and morals really divided him from the Church.
The Message of Galatians, by John R. W. Stott (Inter-Varsity Press, 1968, 191 pp., $1.95). Twenty sermons on Galatians by the outstanding rector of All Souls Church, London. Shows how Galatians speaks to our day.
Psalms in Modern Speech, translated by Richard S. Hanson (Fortress, 1968, 80, 103, and 124 pp., $1.95 each). A refreshing new translation of the Psalms in three volumes.
Rebel with a Cause (Tyndale, 1968, 80 pp., $.75). The Gospel of Mark from Kenneth N. Taylor’s The Living New Testament presented in a format attractive to young people. In the same series: Tune In (John).
This Morning with God, edited by Carol Adeney (Inter-Varsity, 1968, 121 pp., $1.50). First of a series of daily devotional guides that lead the reader into firsthand study of the Bible. The series is planned to cover the whole Bible in five years.
A Woman in Her Home, by Ella May Miller (Moody, 1968, 128 pp., $.50). Practical suggestions pointing busy wives and mothers to a more satisfying home and family life.
The Pattern of God’s Truth, by Frank E. Gaebelein (Moody, 1968, 126 pp., $1.25). Paperback edition of a widely acknowledged treatment of Christian education. States that the master principle of all education, Christian or secular, is that all truth is of God.
Can I Trust the Bible? edited by Howard F. Vos (Moody, 1968, 190 pp., $.60). Paperback edition of an earlier work in which eight evangelical scholars whose fields of learning vary considerably present solid reasons for believing the truth of the Bible.
A Treasury of Sermon Illustrations, edited by Charles L. Wallis (Abingdon, 1968, 319 pp., $1.95). More than 2,400 stories, poems, and anecdotes; comprehensive indexes make this volume particularly helpful.
Structures of the Church, by Hans Küng (University of Notre Dame, 1968, 370 pp., $3.45). Paperback edition of a bold and penetrating study of the nature of the Church by an outstanding Roman Catholic scholar.
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