Granted the general fallibility of human judgment, there are still some special difficulties in trying to select significant books in a given year. For one thing, the criteria of significance vary so widely. For another, history has a habit of confounding our conclusions, and even history has both short-range and long-range evaluations. This year there is the added problem of a very large number of worthwhile volumes in this field. At best, then, the following list can be described only as a tentative venture.
1. The Cambridge History of the Bible, Volume II: The West from the Fathers to the Reformation, edited by G. W. H. Lampe (Cambridge). This is one book that could hardly be left out. The articles are written by leading scholars and cover such important matters as translation, interpretation, and use through the various periods. In view of the centrality of Holy Scripture, an authoritative history of this kind is to be specially welcomed and will prove of inestimable value.
2. The Geneva Bible (University of Wisconsin). This is a reprint of primary importance and interest and should be recommended to the local library if one finds the price too high. First published in 1560, the Geneva Bible was the Puritan alternative to the Bishops’ Bible, with which it was in fierce competition in Elizabeth’s reign. The two finally came together in the King James of 1611, though each kept a devoted circle for some years after. The Geneva Bible is a famous link in the chain of the English Bible, but few have had the chance to peruse it. The present imprint now opens it to a wider public.
3. Theological Ethics, Volume II, by Helmut Thielicke (Fortress). Translation from the German always plays a big role in theology, and this year we have an important volume from Thielicke. Having laid the foundation in Volume I, he here moves on to an acute discussion of political ethics with illustrating themes. While a good deal of attention is devoted to special situations, Thielicke avoids the shallowness of popular situation ethics and keeps to his basic thesis that the whole problem is that of doing what is right in a fallen world. In spite of some rearrangement and abridging, the result is one of the most profound and thought-provoking ethical discussions in the modern epoch.
4. Church Dogmatics, IV, 4 (Fragment), by Karl Barth (T. and T. Clark). This year also sees the English version of the last available part of Barth’s Dogmatics. The peculiar title is due to the fact that Barth specially prepared the section on baptism from among the materials amassed for the full fourth part of Volume IV. Though a fragment of the planned whole, this is in fact a self-contained book in which Barth in a tour de force abandons the classical Reformed doctrine of baptism and presents his reinterpretation. His final call for the end of infant baptism shows that the Barth-Baptist axis of 1943 stood to the very last.
5. The Theological Foundation of Law, by Jacques Ellul (Seabury). Ellul’s name has been familiar in Europe for many years, and it is now penetrating into the American world. This small but important work, translated from the French, is an acute analysis of the basis of law by one who is both a professor of law and a lay theologian. Ellul is not satisfied theologically with the usual appeal to natural law and seeks to work out a biblical alternative. The practical relevance of the study is clear, and whether or not one accepts the thesis or its details, the presentation is vivid, exciting, and timely.
6. Patterns of Reformation, by Gordon Rupp (Fortress). Reformation studies always claim attention, and Professor Rupp has again laid us in his debt with this masterly and colorful volume. In it he focuses attention on four of the lesser figures of the Reformation, Oecolampadius and Vadianus from Switzerland and Karlstadt and Müntzer from Germany. He gives a well-documented portrayal of all four, shows their importance, and sets them against the rich tapestry of a great and formative age. There is a powerful reminder here that history is not just the story of a few great men.
7. Captive to the Word, by A. Skevington Wood (Eerdmans), and From Shadow to Promise, by J. S. Preus (Harvard). Perhaps one may be permitted to group together here two works that deal with Luther and Holy Scripture. The former is the more comprehensive. Based on a diligent reading of the sources, it is a well-written study of Luther and Scripture by an author who seems to switch with the greatest of ease from Wesley to Luther and back again. The latter is a more detailed account of Luther’s understanding of the Old Testament, especially against the background of medieval work in this field. Since the problems of both works, the role of Scripture and the interrelation of the Testaments, are very much the questions of our own time, the value of these two very able works is plain.
8. John Hus, by Matthew Spinka (Princeton). In biography this book on Hus is the first to claim attention. In fact, it should have been mentioned last year but came to hand just too late for inclusion. A lifetime of study in the field has gone to produce what will surely rank as one of the most authoritative accounts of the Czech reformer, written with all the distinction and force of a practiced author and scholar. If not so much is said about Hus’s theology, Dr. Spinka himself has already covered the field in previous works. The focus now is on the man and his life and activity.
9. Dwight L. Moody, by J. M. Findlay (University of Chicago). Another biography of stature is this new account of the great nineteenth-century evangelist whose energy and achievements can still astonish us. This is a workmanlike job that happily combines sound research and interesting presentation. Since the author’s perspectives are not the same as Moody’s, some of the evaluations are to be treated with caution. Yet they also call for consideration, and in any case do not detract from the historical merit of the work or the interest of the subject.
10. The Life and Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Mary Bosanquet (Harper and Row). A final biography deals with one of the most fascinating and influential figures of our own century. Much has been written about Bonhoeffer and his own writings have been extensively published, but this is the first English book to supply a comprehensive picture of the whole man. A notable feature of this work is the balance of presentation. The author is well aware that some fragmentary ideas of Bonhoeffer have been monstrously exaggerated in more recent years. It is no small merit of this able and fascinating biography to put these in proper perspective.
11. Melanchthon and Bucer, edited by Wilhelm Pauck (Westminster). To go back to the Reformation age we now have in this addition to the “Library of Christian Classics” two very important writings. The first is Melanchthon’s Loci Communes, the first Protestant dogmatics, written when the author was still a young man. The other is Martin Bucer’s On the Kingdom of Christ, a work on social problems composed when the Strasburg reformer had reached maturity. The production is fully in keeping with what one would expect from the distinguished editor.
12. The Catholic Reformation: Savonarola to Ignatius Loyola, by J. C. Olin (Harper & Row). In complementary fashion we have here a collection of sources from the movement often known as the Counter-Reformation, though in fact, as the author points out, many of them belong to the pre-1517 era of reform. Among others are a sermon by Savonarola, Colet’s famous convocation sermon, a charming piece by Erasmus, Lefevre’s preface, and some new monastic rules. There is a brief introduction to the whole collection, and each extract has its own useful and unobtrusive preface.
13. Ideas of History, Volume I and II, edited by Ronald H. Nash (Dutton). This is a very different collection, consisting of sections from the great writers on the philosophy of history. The volumes are divided thematically rather than chronologically. In the speculative category are men like Augustine, Vico, Kant, and Niebuhr, while the critical includes Comte, Mill, Dilthey, Collingwood, and others. Light is thus shed on the difference of approach as well as on individual features. For those who want a fuller dose, Herder’s Ideen are now available in abridged translation, Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind (University of Chicago).
14. Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy, by Brian G. Armstrong (University of Wisconsin). Historical theology provides a long overdue investigation of the important controversy in the seventeenth-century French Reformed Church associated with Moise Amyraut. Amyraut was tried in 1637 for departing from orthodox Calvinism. He claimed, however, that his teaching was essentially that of Calvin himself. The heart of the present enquiry is the question whether this plea was correct—in other words, whether Calvinism itself was not perhaps a departure from Calvin. The author inclines to this view, but one does not have to agree with this to appreciate the value of a book that drives us back to the originals on a matter of no little importance.
15. Luther Right or Wrong?, by H. J. McSorley (Newman and Augsburg). This is also a work of historical theology and in the same area. At issue is Luther’s important book On the Bondage of the Will, which he wrote in answer to Erasmus’s treatise On the Freedom of the Will. The author’s question is whether Luther’s is the true Christian position, though this in turn raises such further matters as the norm of orthodoxy, the views of Augustine, the meaning of theological (as compared with philosophical) freedom. The book does a service by taking us back to these deep but central issues.
16. The Sacraments, by G. C. Berkouwer (Eerdmans). In dogmatics one has come to look for a book every year or so from the Dutch evangelical G. C. Berkouwer. This time he writes on the sacraments in a competent and constructive restatement of the reformed understanding. Here is another volume in the comprehensive series of “Studies in Dogmatics.” This is one of the finest things in evangelical theology today and should command a widening circle of appreciative readers.
17. The Knowledge of God, by Henri Bouillard (Burns and Oates). Bouillard is a well-known French Roman Catholic who has played an important part in the modern rethinking of Roman Catholic theology. In this small work he tackles one of the lively issues of the day, the question of natural theology: How much may sinful man know of God without the special revelation of the Bible? The book can serve as an introduction to Bouillard, as a historical guide, and also as a stimulus to further thought on this subject.
18. Norm and Context in Christian Ethics, edited by G. H. Outka and Paul Ramsey (SCM). This large volume consists of articles by scholars of many different lands and schools. It has four parts, one of more general introduction, one on natural law, one on reformation concepts, and one on situation ethics. The central theme, of course, is the place of norms. If no uniform solution is reached, evangelicals who know what the norm is but still find it very hard to apply should not be too critical. The books helps to clarify what an ethical norm involves. It also shows what some of the suggested answers to the question are.
19. A Dictionary of Christian Theology, edited by Alan Richardson (Westminster). Many people, especially students, feel the need for a dictionary of theology that will not be too big but will also offer more than a recital of bare facts. The present volume, which combines conciseness with some depth in presenting men and movements, is designed to meet that need. Experts will differ on the emphases and omissions, and no one will agree with all the evaluations. But for the reader or student who wants some basic knowledge and orientation, this is not a bad place to begin.
20. Jesus Rediscovered, by Malcolm Muggeridge (Doubleday). This is a theological lightweight compared to the others. It is an assembly of articles with an opening chapter on the author’s spiritual pilgrimage. The central theme is the rediscovery of Jesus, the movement to faith in Christ. Much of what is said is palpably inadequate theologically, but that is not the point. The point is that, as with C. S. Lewis, a modern intellectual has found his way to Jesus, and he writes about it with the wit and grace and provocativeness so characteristic of this former editor of Punch. This is what gives the work its interest and importance.
As noted, this has been a good year, and only a sprinkling of other works can be given. Many series of basic texts go forward, as with Aquinas (Eyre and Spottiswoode). Biography includes Martin Luther by E. Simon and William Tyndale by R. C. Williams. T. H. L. Parker has a good and timely sketch of Karl Barth (Eerdmans). One might also mention The Musical Wesleys (Oxford) by E. K. Routely: these are Charles II, Samuel, and Samuel Sebastian. A Roman Catholic study is that of The Liberal Who Failed (Corpus) by J. C. Findlay; he refers to Montalembert. More general histories range from Friedrich Heer, The Holy Roman Empire (Praeger), to Archibald Alexander, The Log College (Banner of Truth).
Philosophy offers many tomes. J. D. Bettes presents Phenomenology of Religion (SCM), while S. C. Brown is worried about the intelligibility gap, Do Religious Claims Make Sense? (SCM). N. Smart has added a chapter on Wittgenstein to his Philosophers and Religious Truth (SCM). H. H. Price has revised the 1966 Gifford Lectures, Belief (Allen and Unwin). Colin Brown has a helpful survey of Philosophy and the Faith (Inter-Varsity). Ronald H. Nash uses the title The Light of the Mind (Kentucky) for his probe into Augustine’s theory of knowledge. In The Future of Theology (Westminster), Frederick Sontag suggests that American Protestantism could do with a philosophical basis of some kind.
Theology offers varied fare. Jaroslav Pelikan seems to be launching a new history of dogma in Development of Christian Doctrine (Yale). E. Mascall is back on the scene with Theology and the Future (Darton, Longman and Todd). A theology of history is the goal of J. W. Montgomery’s Where Is History Going? (Zondervan). Carl F. H. Henry keeps busy; in addition to seeing the CHRISTIANITY TODAY series Fundamentals of the Faith through the press (Zondervan), he also has his own collection, Faith on the Frontiers (Moody). Lesslie Newbigin tackles problems of comparative religion in The Finality of Christ (SCM). T. F. Torrance has two small but thought-provoking books, Theological Science and Space, Time and Incarnation (Oxford). H. A. Kelly seeks the demise, not of God, but of the devil, in Toward the Death of Satan (Geoffrey Chapman)—a Roman Catholic work! Also from Roman Catholicism comes a useful Dictionary of the Council by J. Deretz and A. Nocent (Corpus). In the “Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought” series, S. E. Ozment has a valuable account of Luther’s anthropology, Homo Spiritualis. Also worth noting for any who read German is G. W. Locher’s Huldrych Zwingli in neuer Sicht, a collection of articles by perhaps the foremost student of Zwingli’s theology today.
By way of conclusion, four very varied works may be noted. The first, Heresies of the High Middle Ages (Columbia), by W. L. Wakefield and A. P. Evans, is a valuable and interesting collection of sources. The second, Translating for King James (Vanderbilt), edited by Ward Allen, reproduces some long-lost notes of John Bois, one the translators of the King James Version. The third is a set of sermons by Helmut Thielicke, How Modern Should Theology Be? (Fortress), in which he pleads that the baby not be lost with the bathwater. The last is a study of The Church and Social Order (Mowbrays) by J. Oliver. Though devoted to the Church of England (1918–39), this contains, according to A. R. Vidler in the foreword, “the principal lesson … that Christian social action is primarily a matter of lay people doing things in the various walks of life in which they hold responsibility and of which they have first-hand knowledge, and not of clerics and ecclesiastical assemblies saying things, or passing well-intentioned resolutions about what other people might do.”
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