Toward A Balanced Christianity
Christian Manifesto, by Ernest T. Campbell (Harper & Row, 1970, 114 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Cary N. Weisiger III, pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Menlo Park, California.
Ernest T. Campbell, senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York City, is a convinced evangelical with a burning social concern, and his book is a fresh attempt at a synthesis of the individual and social elements of the Gospel. He is gifted with keen insight, balance, courage, wit, and eloquence.
Two concerns govern his treatment: one is a look at Christians as they have tended to fall off one side or the other of the horse of a whole faith; the other is a statement on reparations as a justifiable ethic for white Christians in regard to black people.
Dr. Campbell pays tribute to the churches that produce candidates for the ministry because they confront young people with the claims of Jesus Christ. He believes in the necessity of an individual act of faith for salvation. At the same time he deplores the spiritual casualties, young people trained in the Bible but not for the world, who have to be counseled back to spiritual health. He pleads for a view of the Lordship of Christ that takes the whole world and all of history seriously. He finds Arend Th. van Leeuwen and Hendrikus Berkhof to be reliable guides and bases his ethic of the need to change the structures of society upon Berkhof’s exposition of Paul’s theology of “the powers.”
In my opinion, Campbell’s gift of facile thought and expression betrays him into easy generalizations about man’s now taking responsibility for history. Is this really a great new fact of our time? What about William Carey’s contributions to culture and social reform in the early 1800s in India? What about Livingstone’s concern to take Christ and civilization and healing for the “open sore” of slavery to Africa? What about Timothy L. Smith’s impressive treatment of Revivalism and Social Reform in mid-nineteenth-century America?
To go back to the beginnings of Christianity, the author thinks that when Paul had the opportunity to rally the Church against the institutionalized evil of slavery, he did not come through. Yet Holmes Rolston in The Social Message of the Apostle Paul quotes Troeltsch at length in the radical and conservative principles in Pauline thought that constitute an essential inner dialectic of the Christian social message from the beginning. The baffling inertness of fundamentalists in the face of social problems is best explained, in my opinion, as a failure to be truly and pervasively evangelical.
Campbell illustrates his power in the pulpit in chapter twelve, “The Case for Reparations,” a sermon that he preached after the appearance of James Forman and his “Black Manifesto” in the Riverside Church on a Sunday morning in May, 1969. Campbell rejects utterly the Communist-inspired appeal for revolution, but he is sympathetic to the idea of reparations. Using the story of Zacchaeus as his biblical base, he says that he espouses restitution as his (not necessarily everyone’s) Christian response to the defrauding of the black man.
I find reparations an unsatisfactory ethic. Using Aristotle’s four categories of justice, which Campbell describes in chapter five (commutative or one-to-one; distributive or the many to the one; contributive or the one to the many; and corporate or the many to the many), I see it as a hopeless task under category four (the many to the many) to measure the restitution that a white Christian should pay to blacks today. If a white Christian just came to this country, what should he pay? If his father and mother came in 1920, what should he pay? If his ancestors fought slavery or freed their slaves, what should he pay?
The ethic of neighbor love is sufficient for motivation to struggle unending through a lifetime to work with blacks for justice and better opportunity.
Beyond all this, any preacher will find this book timely, stirring, helpful, and packed with homiletical material from a very gifted prophet.
While Men Slept, by L. Nelson Bell (Doubleday, 1970, 247 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by C. Darby Fulton, retired executive secretary, Board of World Missions, Presbyterian Church in the United States.
Here are fifty-four short essays by the popular writer of the regular column in CHRISTIANITY TODAY called “A Layman and His Faith.” The collection as a whole presents a comprehensive view of the contemporary status of Christianity in the Church, in society, and in personal life.
The title suggests the dominant theme of the volume, that “Protestant Christendom has been asleep, and during our sleep the enemy of souls, under the guise of scholarship and advanced knowledge, has sown the seeds of doubt and unbelief.” The book deals forthrightly with the prevalent heresies of our day. It offers a direct and powerful answer to those who have proclaimed the death of God and the defeat of his Church, and affirms the author’s unshakable faith both that God is and that he is sovereign.
Dr. Bell exposes the emasculation of Christianity by those who would accommodate it to secular trends in order to insure its “relevance,” and deplores the resulting erosion of faith, theological confusion, ethical relativism, and sociological humanism, which are the symptoms of modern unbelief. He finds the basic cause of these ills in a profound ignorance of the Bible even within the Church and in a low view of its authority that precludes its acceptance as the Word of God. His answer to these problems is a return to true Christianity.
There is a remarkable welding of Scripture, logic, experience, and common sense in the truth this book presents. The author’s personal involvement is evident in every paragraph. This makes for a presentation that is alive and gripping. There is a complete absence of the theological jargon beneath which many writers obscure their views in ambiguity. The book is clear, concise, abounding in example and illustration, saturated with Scripture, and strong in its reaffirmation of the basic tenets of our Protestant heritage. It will put iron in the blood of any Christian who will read it.
A Universal Problem
The Meaning of Loneliness, by Richard Wolff (Key, 1970, 132 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by J. Murray Marshall, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Flushing, New York.
Loneliness is a universal malady. No one is fully immune, and while suggested cures abound, none has either instantaneous or permanent or total results.
Richard Wolff has contributed significantly to the subject. First of all, he recognizes the magnitude of the problem. Quotations from and references to a wide range of literature show his extensive study of the matter and his sympathy with the plight of the lonely. He exposes the superficiality of many of the popular palliatives.
In the second place, Wolff examines the causes of loneliness from the viewpoint of Christian theology. Psychiatric analysis, historical perspective, and sociological conjectures he sets aside as inadequate. The fundamental problem, he says, is an alienation from God coupled with man’s futile insistence on his independence from God. “When a man turns to God he disavows the lie, the falsehood of human autonomy.” And the man who places his faith in Jesus Christ is given the stability and assurance to conquer “essential loneliness.”
But the strength of Wolff’s treatment is that he does not leave the matter there. He freely admits that “when someone enters into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ … the problem of loneliness is not automatically solved.” Recognizing that many Christians are lonely, he stresses that in Christ “essential loneliness” is handled and that upon this firm basis Christians are enabled to handle the specifics. He faces candidly the loneliness of godly men, the problems of the single life, the capacities and limitations of friendships, and the difference between solitude, which is periodically essential, and loneliness.
Wolff writes effectively, with a crisp, short-sentence style reflective of his broadcaster’s background. His book is of certain value to the professional who ministers to the lonely and of potential value to the lonely person who, having intellectual capabilities to analyze his problems, is willing to seek a solution through Jesus Christ.
Today’s American Jew
The Jewish Mystique, by Ernest van den Haag (Stein and Day, 1969, 252 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Ludwig R. Dewitz, professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia.
The Jews are certainly a theme in the history of mankind that comes to the fore in all keys, both major and minor, with a never-ending set of variations. Dr. van den Haag, a university professor well versed in psychology and sociology as well as a practicing psychoanalyst, here adds his own distinctive note. Although in acknowledging his indebtedness to various writers, he singles out “above all, the authors of the Old and New Testaments,” he sees his subject throughout from the perspective of psychology, with the Bible remaining very much in the background.
Once this is understood, the book can be of real value to the Christian reader. Often an imbalance occurs in biblically oriented circles: the focus is too narrow, either on the Jews of the ancient past or on a futuristic picture of Israel’s final mission and vindication. The Jewish Mystique is concerned with the puzzling situation of the Jew in the United States right now. Why are Jews so smart and what are Jewish hippies like? What about Jewish snobs and, would you believe it, Jewish anti-Semites? And what about the attitude of American Jews to the State of Israel? Dr. van den Haag has a charming, humorous, and convincing way of dealing with these and many other themes.
One of the most thought-provoking chapters discusses “two kinds of discrimination,” that against Jews and that against Negroes. The point is to establish the relative position of the two minorities in relation to justice within society. Did Jews achieve leading positions despite the fact that they were Jews, and will Negroes do so because they belong to a group that has suffered injustice? “Love discriminates,” writes our author, “in favor of preferences, and charity discriminates in favor of needs. But in promotion for any one rank, the public virtue of justice must prevail.”
There remains, however, the discrepancy between van den Haag’s acknowledgment of his indebtedness to the biblical writers and the way he wholly ignores the biblical dimension. There are references to Abraham and Moses, circumcision and election, but they are practically all psychoanalyzed, usually on a Freudian basis. Take, for instance, this reference to the God of Israel: “Unlike the gods of others, who represented and accepted all parts of the human personality as they co-existed, fused, or struggled with each other, the God of the Jews came to represent a stern, dominating, and demanding paternal Superego—long before one of His chosen people invented, fathered (or at least baptized) the superego.” In discussing the reasons for the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, the author says: “Even if Freud’s speculation is no more than Freud’s own fantasy, it seems a fantasy that meets, articulates, and explains, if not the facts, the conscious and unconscious fantasies of mankind and certainly of the Jews. The idea of parricide, and of expiation by the guilt-ridden sons through sacrifice of one of their own, was widespread.…” That the author’s acquaintance with the prophets is not of the closest kind is further evidenced by the fact that he attributes to Isaiah Zechariah’s reference to ten non-Jews who take hold of the robe of a Jew to join in acknowledging God.
For those who know something of the biblical setting of the Jewish mystique, van den Haag’s book will furnish an additional valuable source for fruitful dialogue with and about Jews.
Antitheses In Luther
Luther: An Introduction to His Thought, by Gerhard Ebeling (Fortress, 1970, 287 pp. $5.95), is reviewed by Carl S. Meyer, professor of historical theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.
Zurich’s Ebeling has added to his stature as a thinker and scholar by his work on Luther, published in German in 1964 and now available in a generally fluid English translation. The title is deceptive. It may lead the reader to think he will find an elementary sketch of Luther’s theology, arranged perhaps under the common theological loci, but he will not. Ebeling indeed does treat basic theological concepts in Luther. However, he pairs these concepts in contrasting antitheses, showing their conjunctions and their conflicts. He points out that in Luther contradictory and non-contradictory antitheses were developed and extended through numerous different forms. Among the fifteen chapters are chapters on these antitheses in Luther: Philosophy and Theology; the Letter and the Spirit; the Law and the Gospel; Faith and Love; Freedom and Bondage; God Hidden and Revealed.
According to Ebeling, theology must discuss man from the theological point of view and not speak only of God. He points out that Luther referred to the theology that discusses God and man in theological terms as the theology of the cross in contrast to the theology of glory. “The theology of the cross, [Luther] tells us, speaks of the crucified and hidden God.” Ebeling quotes Luther: “We know of no God excepting only the incarnate and human God.… To seek God outside Jesus is the Devil.” The nature of faith, nature, the Church, the love of God, are topics that belong to the inner dynamics of Luther’s thought.
In a chapter on “Luther’s Actions,” Ebeling points up the importance of preaching for the Reformation; this preaching was based on the Word. Without an understanding of the essence of Reformation preaching, one cannot understand the distinctive nature of the events of the Reformation. The essence of Christian doctrine is, nevertheless, the distinction between faith and love. Luther wrote: “Oh, faith is something living, busy, active and powerful, and it is impossible that it should not unceasingly bring about good.” Sola fidei excludes love as the basis of justification, but it is also a battle on behalf of pure love.
Perhaps enough has been said to indicate Ebeling’s approach. It is stimulating and penetrating. The thoughtful reader will gain new insights into Luther.
Piety in the Public School, by Robert Michaelsen (Macmillan, 1970, 274 pp., $6.95). Sees the public school as the vehicle for creating awareness of religion in history without favoring one religion over another.
Rainbows, by Laurence N. Field (Augsburg, 1970, 134 pp., $3.75). Writing for older Christians, the author explores the problems of retirement and shows how this time of life can be richly rewarding.
Christian Liberal Arts Education, Report of the Calvin College Curriculum Study Committee (Calvin College and Eerdmans, 1970, 103 pp., $2.50). Discusses many of the problems confronting the Christian liberal-arts college today.
Ecumenicity and Evangelism, by David M. Stowe (Eerdmans, 1970, 94 pp., paperback, $2.45). An attempt to reconcile evangelicals to the “evangelism” of the NCC and the WCC.
The Layman’s Introduction to the Old Testament, by Robert B. Laurin (Judson, 1970, 160 pp., paperback, $2.95). Stresses the importance of the cultural and historical backgrounds in understanding the Old Testament.
Minister on the Spot, by James E. Ditten (Pilgrim, 1970, 138 pp., paperback, $3.95). The author warns ministers to reject the fear of involvement that often wastes and frustrates potentially fruitful ministries.
Decide for Yourself: A Theological Workbook, by Gordon R. Lewis (Inter-Varsity, 1970, 174 pp., paperback, $2.25). “For people who are tired of being told what to believe,” this book offers a systematic approach for a solid grasp of the Christian faith.
Amos, by Ray Beeley (Banner of Truth Trust, 1970, 117 pp., paperback, 5s.). The author discusses the text of the prophet, contending that Amos’s day was not unlike our own.
If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem, by Robert Silverberg (William Morrow, 1970, 620 pp., $12.95). The story of the building of the State of Israel and the part that the United States and American Jews played in its formation.
Unto His Own, by Jacob Gartenhaus (Christian Literature Crusade, 182 pp., paperback). A book that will help Christians understand the Jewish people and aid in an intelligent and sensitive presentation of the Gospel to them.
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, by Anita Bryant (Revell, 1970, 159 pp., $3.95). The author’s story of her rise to stardom and of her faith in God.
General Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture, by Charles Augustus Briggs (Baker, 1970, 688 pp., $8.95). Reprint of a classic work by a controversial nineteenth-century scholar.
Will the Old Bob Turnbull Please Drop Dead?, by Bob Turnbull (David C. Cook, 1970, 93 pp., paperback, $.95). The testimony of a movie actor turned minister.
Issue One: Evangelism, edited by Reuben P. Job and Harold K. Bales (Tidings, 1970, 116 pp., paperback, $1.75). Contends that evangelism is the most important “happening” for the world and the primary issue facing the Church in the seventies.
The Church Responds, by Joan Thatcher (Judson, 1970, 160 pp., paperback, $2.95). Shows how several churches across the United States are responding to the need for renewal.
Christ All in All, by Philip Henry (Reiner, 1970, 380 pp., $3.95). In this new reprint, the father of Matthew Henry discusses the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Advance: A History of Southern Baptist Foreign Missions, by Baker J. Cauthen and others (Broadman, 1970, 329 pp., $4.95). An account of the past and present activities of Southern Baptist foreign missions.
As Far as I Can Step, by Virginia Law (Word, 1970, 157 pp., $3.95). The author shows how sorrow over loss of a loved one can result in a more mature understanding of God.
What About Horoscopes?, by Joseph Bayly (David C. Cook, 1970, 95 pp., paperback, $.95). The author examines the phenomenon of spiritism and seeks to discover why the interest in it is mounting.
Spirit in Conflict, by William Walter Warmath (Word, 1970, 112 pp., $2.95). Explores seven areas where misdirected love creates conflict and shows how this conflict can be resolved through faith in Christ.
The Dynamics of Grief, by David K. Switzer (Abingdon, 1970, 221 pp., $5.50). An exploration and definition of both potential and actual grief, with practical suggestions for dealing with this powerful emotion.
Alexander Campbell, by Alger Morton Fitch, Jr. (Sweet, 1970, 134 pp., $3.95). The author portrays Campbell, not only as a preacher of first-century Christianity and reform, but also as a reformer of preaching.
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