An Old Tale Lives Again

Passport to Life City: A Modern Pilgrim’s Progress, by Sherwood Eliot Wirt (Harper & Row, 1969, 207 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Calvin D. Linton, professor of English and dean of the college, The George Washington University, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Wirt, author of five books and editor of two others, fortunately possesses considerable writing ability. He needs it. Anyone who undertakes to write a novel paralleling Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress begins a journey only a little less hazardous than that of the original pilgrim. Bestriding the way are those who have been raised on Bunyan, and for whom even a hint of “improving” the Bedford tinker is of a piece with the work of the eighteenth-century “improvers” of Shakespeare. Looming on the sidelines are those who do not really know Bunyan except as a famous name—as they know Milton and Shakespeare—and who will be misled into thinking that they have now read him in the easy, modern version.

Neither attitude is entirely fair, and Mr. Wirt tries to anticipate both. “The Preacher of Bedford has never needed people like me to explain or interpret him. His genius speaks for itself,” he says in the preface. Rather, he says, “I have written a modern parable to show, if possible, what it means to search for the living God in our generation.… Yet it will be more than obvious that without Bunyan’s masterpiece the present work could not have taken shape. A list of characters and places at the end of the book serves to relate the nomenclature of the two tales.”

So Christian Anders, suffering from a mysterious pain and tightness in his upper spine and shoulders, fearing that the ultimate nuclear conflict is imminent, and living in a petty and nagging domestic situation, climbs into his Mustang one day and sets off aimlessly on the freeway. From the time when he meets Ernie van Gelst (Evangelist), O. B. Stennett (Obstinate), Guy Wise (Wordly Wiseman), and the other classic allegorical characters, the plot unfolds dramatically and quickly. The dialogue is well handled, and the characters are deftly drawn. For the reader ignorant of Bunyan, there would be considerable suspense of the good old-fashioned sort. For the reader familiar with Bunyan, there is the interest of discovering how the author gives immediacy and currency to the old predicaments and themes. Occasionally he needs a new character—one like the seminarian, who dismisses Christian Ander’s newly won faith as possessing “too many a priori’s. You apparently have no doctrine of the church—no sense of living tradition. Where, for example, do you work in the leitourgia, the diakonia, the koinania?” “Maybe,” says a hippie, “we’ll come and picket the place. Have a croak-in.”

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It is all done professionally and skillfully. Its evangelical impact will be great on thousands who never have read Bunyan and never will. This reviewer’s reservation is probably wrong-headed and almost entirely sentimental, as sentimental as the remark of Charles Lamb when he thumbed through a brand-new edition of Burton’s Anatomy: “What need was there of unearthing the bones of that fantastic great old man, to expose them in a winding-sheet of the newest fashion.…?” The unsentimental answer, actually, is: “Considerable need—if the modernizer is true to the faith of the original, and able to make the old tale live again. Mr. Wirt is both.

Handbook On Form Criticism

The Growth of the Biblical Tradition: The Form-Critical Method, by Klaus Koch (Scribner, 1969, 233 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Meredith G. Kline, professor of Old Testament, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Wenham, Massachusetts.

If somebody is looking for a very thorough introductory handbook on the form-critical method of biblical research, here is his book. The frequent long sections set out in small type and the generally cumbersome presentation may not excite the reader’s gratitude, but in this area one does not have much choice. And that is precisely why many seminary teachers will welcome this translation of the second edition (1967) of a widely used German work. Though it is mainly concerned with the Old Testament, illustrative excursions into the New suggest the broader applicability of the form-critical method and reflect the interrelationship between research in the two Testaments done along these lines, largely in the twentieth century.

Those with high views of biblical inspiration should not be turned off by the suggestion that the Scriptures be subjected to form-critical investigation. As literature, the Bible exhibits rich variety of form, and our understanding of what it says to us is bound to be enhanced by improved knowledge of the nature and function of its various genres, brightly illuminated by parallels in ancient extra-biblical literature. Moreover, form criticism has proved to be mildly corrective of some of the more radical conclusions of past higher criticism. Indeed, properly developed and applied, form criticism could have a shattering impact on much traditional literary criticism of Scripture. While using this method, the orthodox scholar, keeping pace with the supplementary movement through form criticism into Redaktionsgeschichte and rhetorical criticism, should be prepared to turn these techniques too to the advantage of sound biblical learning. There is need for an emphasis on the adaptively imitative and the creative in the contribution of the real biblical authors.

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Unfortunately, in its conventional exposition, form criticism of Scripture has been vitiated by unfounded assumptions imbibed from older developmental approaches, coupled with either ignorance of the actual phenomena of ancient literature or disregard for them. The consequent distortion of reality has been most severe in reconstructions of the history of literary types and of the transmission of the biblical materials. These weaknesses are reproduced in Koch’s book, and vividly so in his own illustrative examples, which are generously supplied (Part II, pages 111–220, consists exclusively of such material). Subjectively determined form-critical analysis of Decalogue or beatitudes is presented, magnificently impervious to correction by the contradictory objective evidence of well-known ancient Near Eastern texts. In his discussion of categories like saga and legend, Koch blends the customary dismissal of the historicity of significant areas of the biblical record with patronizing concern over the horrified reactions he anticipates from the orthodox.

Gratifying is Koch’s refusal to évade the question of the theological consequences (especially for the canon) of form criticism, as generally practiced. However, with his characteristically modern assessment of the relation between revelation and response, Koch proves quite incapable of a satisfactory treatment of the problem of scriptural authority. He succeeds only in demonstrating anew the mutually determinative correlation of theological presupposition and methodological praxis.

Sound Devotional Commentary

Beacon Bible Commentary, Volume I: Genesis through Deuteronomy, by G. H. Livingston et al. (Beacon Hill, 1969, 630 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by R. K. Harrison, professor of Old Testament, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Canada.

This book is part of a ten-volume commentary on the Scriptures that is comprehensive in interpretation and based on the King James Version. The contributors to this volume subscribe to the plenary inspiration of the Bible, but at the same time they are well aware of the necessary limitations imposed upon the processes of scriptural transmission by the purely human element. Accordingly they draw upon the resources of biblical scholarship to present a work that aspires to soundness of interpretation and lasting inspirational quality.

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The commentary format includes exposition, exegesis, and homiletical suggestions, which make the series especially valuable for ministers and teachers in the church. The exposition of each book is prefaced by brief remarks on content, form, and authorship. I found the introductory material to the Pentateuchal books rather disappointing because of its brevity. The unsuspecting reader would have no idea whatever of the complexity of the subject if he did not go on to examine the short bibliography suggested. Even when space has to be watched carefully, the conservative scholar ought to have enough factual information on hand to provide a short, objective critique-in-depth of the liberal approach to Pentateuchal studies. I would like to see more aggressive conservative scholarship in evidence, and not least in commentaries like this.

The writers draw unobtrusively upon modern scholarship, though sometimes at second or third hand. Many renderings are based upon the Hebrew as understood by its contemporaries, which does much to clarify parts of the King James Version. The archaeology of the patriarchal period receives proper notice, and a thirteenth-century B.C. date for the Exodus is supported. The authors also correctly recognize the structure of Deuteronomy as a covenant-renewal document whose form has been illumined by the discovery of second-millennium B.C. international treaties. Short bibliographies conclude each major section of the commentary.

I was impressed by the devotional quality of the volume. Its exegesis is careful without being dogmatic, and the authors avoid such extremes of interpretation as assuming that the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4 were “fallen angels.” Equally sensibly, they decline to associate the Flood with any specific archaeological level in southern Mesopotamia.

This commentary should prove very valuable to all expositors of Scripture.

Early American Evangelist

John Eliot: ‘Apostle to the Indians,’ by Ola Elizabeth Winslow (Houghton Mifflin, 1969, 225 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by D. Bruce Lockerbie, chairman, Department of English, The Stony Brook School, Stony Brook, New York.

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The list of saints who occupied New England’s stern and rock-bound coast in the name of God includes the notable Bradfords, Cottons, Winthrops, and Mathers. It also includes less famous persons, such as John Eliot, the subject of this biographical study by Ola Elizabeth Winslow.

Eliot came to Boston in 1631, one year after the Massachusetts Bay Company had arrived, and devoted his remaining six decades to evangelizing the Indians for Christ, earning himself the title “Apostle to the Indians.” During this time he was instrumental in the establishing of fourteen “praying towns,” Indian settlements where he preached in a difficult Algonquian language. His translation of the Scriptures into this Algonquian tongue remains one of the great cultural achievements in colonial America.

Miss Winslow, whose biography of Jonathan Edwards won a Pulitzer Prize, has undertaken to present the life of John Eliot with little of the apparatus usually available to the biographer. Many of Eliot’s records and sermons have not survived; by nature retiring, he was not a forceful figure whose actions found their way into the journals being kept by more prominent men. As a consequence, his biographer is forced to accentuate whatever material may be at hand, such as the account of Eliot’s minor part in the trial of Anne Hutchinson. The texts of representative passages from Eliot’s translations appear, but references to criticism of his work without direct quotations weaken the study and often irritate the reader, as does the sometimes shifting chronology of the book’s structure.

Scholars of the New England theocracy will not find their knowledge largely enriched by this book; however, persons wishing an adequate introduction to the development of evangelism in America will do well to read John Eliot: “Apostle to the Indians.”

An Awesome Role

Come, Let Us Play God, by Leroy Augenstein (Harper & Row, 1969, 146 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Ralph L. Lynn, professor of history, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Man has always and unavoidably played God, but till now in ignorant unconsciousness, says Augenstein. Now he must play God in the most intelligent and deliberate fashion, in genetic management, population limitation, and many other sensitive areas in which we have previously proceeded in laissez-faire chaos.

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If we continue our present growth rate until 2020, we will have to export 200 million people annually merely to stabilize the earth’s population at ten billion. Obviously, any slower rate of increase would only delay catastrophe; equally obviously, space vehicles in transit to really distant planets would be flooded as would new planets themselves, whether near or far.

In genetics, by keeping defective people alive and allowing them to procreate. “we are constantly increasing the pollution in the genetic pool” with the consequence that within two to five generations, “one out of ten children born will be seriously defective.”

Underlying these and other equally crucial problems are two considerations rarely faced. How completely shall we manage? Who will be the managers? Augenstein hopes (probably in vain) for orderly public discussion and for the establishment of statutory, elective boards to serve local, regional, and national needs. He seems unaware that deliberately and effectively playing God will be likely to lead to the pride that goes before a fall, though he admits that scientists proceed successfully without introducing God into their hypotheses.

Augenstein is the head of the biophysics department at Michigan State University. His Christian conscience has led him to become involved in a variety of human affairs, and he has worked with the Atomic Energy Commission, is a member of the Michigan State Board of Education, and is an adjunct professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary. He has made literally thousands of speeches on the topics of this book, and some of them appear as chapters here.

The earnestness that marks every sentence will persuade most readers to forgive the disorganization, the breezy style, and the scrambled syntax that have survived from his speeches to the printed page. The book’s greatest value lies in the possibility that churches may use it, along with 16 mm films of his speeches available from Michigan State, in adult study groups. There may be no more effective way to get his message before the public, which must participate in the decisions by which we play God either in our traditional ignorance or in the informed, deliberate fashion for which Augenstein pleads.

Illuminates Gospel Accounts

An Archaeologist Looks at the Gospels, by James L. Kelso (Word, 1969, 143 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Fred L. Fisher, professor of New Testament interpretation, Golden Gate Baptist Seminary, Mill Valley, California.

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If you are looking for a book that illuminates the gospel stories with geographical and archaeological information interestingly presented, this is the book for you. If you are looking for a scientific study of archaeology as it pertains to the period of Jesus’ earthly life, this book will not meet your needs.

Dr. Kelso has impressive credentials as an archaeologist. But here he does not write for the expert or even for the advanced student. He writes for the layman. This no doubt explains why he often makes unsupported statements about matters that are still in debate. For instance, he says, “The Essenes originated with a super-orthodox group of Jewish priests from the high priestly family of Zadok,” without giving any indication that this is a highly conjectural statement.

The book follows a broad outline of the life of Jesus and makes illuminating comments on the background of many gospel stories. The various chapters have the tone of the lecture and perhaps originated as such. Although the author is obviously not a New Testament scholar, his background comments are usually helpful. The lay person interested in a deeper understanding of the Gospels and the preacher looking for illustrative material to liven up his sermons would find help here.

New Twist In Preaching

Dialogue Preaching, by William D. Thompson and Gordon C. Bennett (Judson, 1969, 158 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by H. C. Brown, Jr., professor of preaching, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

The authors define dialogue preaching as “an act within the context of public worship in which two or more persons engage in a verbal exchange as the sermon or message,” and they divide it into two types: (1) congregational dialogue (pastor-preacher with his people), and (2) chancel dialogue (two or three persons discussing a topic within the hearing of the people). They discuss the origin of dialogue preaching, the congregation in dialogue, the types of chancel dialogue (they list four), and the values of dialogue, and they present eight chancel dialogue sermons (but no examples of congregational dialogue sermons).

These authors, unlike some others, do not claim that their work is the most significant of its kind in this decade. They do not say that it will cure all the ills of contemporary preaching. And they insist that the monological sermon will continue to be the primary method of preaching. But they persuasively urge the minister to try dialogical preaching in order to add drama, freshness, and creativity to his pulpit work.

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Book Briefs

Division, Despair, and Hope, by Manford George Gutzke (Gospel Light, 1969, 167 pp., paperback, $.95). Survey of Israel’s history from the death of Solomon to the birth of Christ.

Balancing the Christian Life, by Charles Caldwell Ryrie (Moody, 1969, 191 pp., $3.95). A practical study of a number of the concepts and problems that are a part of Christian living.

The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition, by E. P. Saunders (Cambridge, 1969, 328 pp., $14.50). After careful investigation, the author concludes that there are no hard and fast laws of the development of the Synoptic tradition, therefore ruling out dogmatic statements that a certain characteristic proves a certain passage to be earlier than another.

Power Beyond Words, by Allan Jahsmann (Concordia, 1969, 180 pp., $4.50). A reevaluation of the methodology of Christian education in the light of a solid understanding of the communication process.

Stand on Your Own Three Feet, edited by Hugh M. Salisbury (Tyndale House, 1969, 162 pp., paperback, $1.45). Written by young people for young people, this volume deals with some of the major “hang-ups” of today’s teen-agers.

Funny, You Don’t Look Christian, by Robert M. Herhold (Weybright and Talley, 1969, 116 pp., $3.95). This funny, yet very challenging, collection of anecdotes and reflections reveals the deadly complacency of the average local congregation.

The View From a Hearse, by Joseph Bayly (David C. Cook, 1969, 95 pp., $.95). A practical book about death and the questions and problems that surround it, written by a man who himself has lost three children.

The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Christian Thought, by Dallas M. Roark (Broadman, 1969, 328 pp., $7.50). A textbook-type survey of Christian doctrine that evangelicals will do well to use with caution (his discussion of the inerrancy of Scripture really misses the whole point).

The Vacant Pulpit, by Jack Gilchrist (Judson, 1969, 159 pp., paperback, $2.95). This story of a pulpit committee’s search for the “right” man, written by the chairman of such a committee, will find many empathetic readers among those who have been involved in just such a quest.

Patterns of Medieval Society, by Jeremy duQuesnay Adams (Prentice-Hall, 1969, 306 pp., $6.95). This collection of readings offers an enlightening glimpse into medieval society, with special emphasis on its commitment to Christianity.

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Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, by R. Laird Harris (Zondervan, 1969, 316 pp., paperback, $2.45). This reprint of a scholarly presentation affirming the infallibility of the Scriptures is one of the first in the new “Contemporary Evangelical Perspectives” series. Other reprints in the same series are Effective Bible Study, by Howard Vos (224 pp., $1.95) and The Psychology of Christian Experience, by W. Curry Mavis (155 pp., $1.95).

Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, by Bruce M. Metzger (self-published, distributed by the Theological Book Agency, 1969, 100 pp., paperback, $2). New edition of a standard tool.

The Crime of Christendom, by Fred Gladstone Bratton (Beacon, 1969, 241 pp., $5.95). Contends that all manifestations of anti-Semitism are grounded in church teachings and warns that this evil can be eliminated only when the churches will relinquish orthodox Christology.

Leading Dynamic Bible Study, by Rice A. Pierce (Broadman, 1969, 128 pp., $2.95). A practical guidebook suggesting several ways of leading group Bible study.

Pueblo Intrigue, by Don Crawford (Tyndale House, 1969, 113 pp., $3.50). The story of the Pueblo incident as witnessed by two Christians who were on board.

By All Means, by Marvin Mardock (Bethany Fellowship, 1969, 174 pp., paperback, $1.95). Twelve leaders of missionary organizations introduce the reader to the specific field of missionary endeavor in which they are involved (e.g. aviation, medicine, literature).

The Future of God, by Carl E. Braaten (Harper & Row, 1969, 181 pp., $5.95). Sees the theology of hope as issuing forth in an ethic of revolutionary change.

Christian Communicator’s Handbook, by Floyd A. Craig (Broadman, 1969, 96 pp., paperback, $3.50). Could be very helpful to pastors and others who feel inadequately prepared to cope with the public-relations responsibilities thrust upon them.

The End Times, by Herman A. Hoyt (Moody, 1969, 256 pp., $4.95). A popular treatment of eschatology from a premillennial, pretribulation point of view.

The Light of the Mind, by Ronald H. Nash (University, 1969, 146 pp., $6.50). A careful examination of Augustine’s theory of knowledge.

God Is Too Much, by Joel Nederhood (Tyndale, 1969, 159 pp., paperback, $1.95). A collection of messages by the main speaker of the “Back to God Hour” radio broadcast.

Latin American Church Growth, by W. R. Read, V. M. Monterroso, and H. A. Johnson (Eerdmans, 1969, 421 pp., $8.95). This in-depth study of Protestant churches of Latin America is the product of nearly three years of intensive research and writing by a team of three missionaries.

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Jonathan Edwards, edited by David Levin (Hill and Wang, 1969, 263 pp., $5.95). Essays on various aspects of the life of this giant of American church history.

Conflict and Harmony in Science and the Bible, by Jack Wood Sears (Baker, 1969, 97 pp., paperback, $1.95). Takes the position that if absolute truth is attained both in science and in biblical understanding, the apparent conflicts between science and the Bible will evaporate.

Meet Me at the Door, by Ernest Gordon (Harper & Row, 1969, 154 pp., $4.95). Although the “answers” presented here are theologically inadequate, this work by the dean of the chapel at Princeton University offers helpful insight into the serious questions troubling today’s college young people.

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