Rare Reflective Wisdom

Christian Reality and Appearance, by John A. Mackay (John Knox, 1969, 108 pp., $3.75), is reviewed by Stuart Barton Babbage, executive vice-president, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Wenham, Massachusetts.

John Mackay relates that, as a philosophy student at Aberdeen, he became fascinated by the title and substance of F. H. Bradley’s important study, Appearance and Reality. In this book the Hegelian philosopher affirms that “metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what one believes upon instinct.”

Mackay, in opposition to Bradley, insists with Pascal that “the heart has its reasons which reason does not know,” and that human thought and action are influenced in a decisive manner by what happens to the heart and in the heart. For the Christian, he points out, life is a movement from one reality to another, not from one appearance to another.

Mackay believes there has been a fateful tendency within the Church to move from the real to the unreal, from Christian reality to Christian appearance, from what is authentically Christian to what appears to be but is not. Today, Mackay accuses, a large proportion of those who bear the name Christian are marked by religious nominalism and theological illiteracy.

Christian reality, he continues, stresses the fact of God’s self-disclosure, the transforming encounter, the community of Christ, and Christian obedience. But each of these four facets of Christian reality is liable to distortion and perversion. “It is a tragic fact,” he notes, “that the emotional thrill derived from sights and sounds that are the aesthetic accompaniments of the public worship of God can become, and in a multitude of instances do become, substitutes for a genuine encounter with God.”

In his younger days Mackay played a formative role in the development of the ecumenical movement, but he is highly critical of present developments. He writes:

In view of the religious nominalism that marks the lives of the majority of the men and women who have been baptized and confirmed in churches of the Protestant tradition, should not priority be given to a united movement toward spiritual awakening in these churches rather than to a top level ecclesiastical effort to merge church denominations and conventions in a single organizational structure?

Mackay suggests that the future of Christendom may well lie between a reformed Catholicism on the one hand and a matured Pentecostalism on the other. He regrets that the churches of historical Protestantism are becoming increasingly bureaucraticized at a time when more and more church members are meeting in cells in an un-ecclesiastical underworld, when the Roman Catholic Church is developing evangelical concern and a deepening sense of what it means to be Christian, and when the charismatic movement is growing across all church boundaries.

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This is a book of rare reflective wisdom. From the perspective of a long life as missionary educator, seminary president, and Christian statesman, John Mackay reflects on trends and tendencies in the life of the Church today. He is deeply disturbed and troubled by what he sees. We would do well to listen to him.

Christ In The Old Testament

Luther and the Old Testament, by Heinrich Bornkamm (Fortress, 1969, 307 pp., $9.75), is reviewed by Carl S. Meyer, graduate professor of historical theology, Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.

Martin Luther, professor of Old Testament at the University of Wittenberg, found Christ in the Old Testament. Not allegory or typology but reality, the reality of Christ, is what Luther sought there. The factual occurrences in Jewish history, in which the salvific acts of God are evident in saving his people although they in no wise merited it, are in themselves Christ events to Luther. This means that there are Christians in the Old Testament, for those who believed in the promised Christ, said Luther, are Christians. Adam and Eve believed in the Protevangelium (Gen. 3:15); they were Christians; they constituted the church. Bornkamm says, “His [Luther’s] interest in the Old Testament is not historical [historisch], in the sense of a modern science of history, but rather historical [geschichtlich] in the sense of the true history of God” (italics in the original).

Bornkamm, renowned Luther scholar of the University of Heidelberg, in this manner emphasized Luther’s unique view of the Old Testament. It is in contrast to the allegorical method of the Middle Ages, Origen, and Erasmus. Bornkamm also has a long chapter on “The Old Testament as Word of God.” Luther recognized two testaments or covenants, but the new was the fulfillment of the old. For Luther the unity of the Scriptures meant that the written record of the Old Testament is the proclamation of the New. Luther wrote: “… The Gospels and Epistles of the apostles have been written to direct us to the writings of the prophets and of Moses in the Old Testament so that we might read and see for ourselves how Christ was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger—that is, how he is contained in the writings of the prophets.”

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Luther found the Trinity in the Old Testament, not by using allegorical interpretations, but in passages such as Genesis 1:26 and 3:22; Genesis 11:7, in the plural Elohim, and in the functions he perceived ascribed to the Godhead.

Law and Gospel were to Luther the two most important teachings of the Bible. He found Gospel in the Old Testament, of course. The Decalogue “rhymes with natural law,” he said. For him, the First Commandment gave goal and meaning to the other nine. That Christ is the end of the Law (Rom. 10:4) means that the Law is annulled insofar as it concerns justification. Since sin remains, the Law is valid until the end of the world. The proclamation of Moses is transformed by the promise of the Christ and his salvation. From it the Law receives its deeper meaning. Those passages of the Old Testament Law that are in a prophetic context can be interpreted, Luther said, in terms of the new Law, the Gospel; and the iustitia Dei could be interpreted as the righteousness of God in the grace of remission of sins. The Old Testament, therefore, also provided living examples of faith.

Bornkamm is not concerned primarily about the problems that Luther’s use of the Old Testament presents in the light of the historical-critical findings. He does refer to these problems and concludes: “Recent Old Testament study has set us a world apart from Luther’s point of view. We are unable to bridge this gap. Yet it should disturb us.” However, the task of interpreting the Old Testament with a Christocentric interpretation (not a Christological prophetic one) in the light of modern findings remains.

It is good to have an English version of this classic published in 1948, and this translation by Eric and Ruth Gritsch, edited by Victor Gruhn, is an excellent one. The references and bibliography are updated. It is a boon to have the references not only to the Weimar Ausgabe but also to the American edition of Luther’s Works. The appendix is valuable.

Evangelicals And Science

The Scientific Enterprise and Christian Faith, by Malcomb A. Jeeves (Inter-Varsity, 1969, 168 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by Howard A. Redmond, professor of religion and philosophy, Whitworth College, Spokane, Washington.

To most Americans the name Jeeves brings to mind the English butler on the late late show. What we are served by this Jeeves—Malcomb A., of the University of New Zeland—is intellectual and spiritual fare that is both stimulating and nourishing. In this age of heart transplants and moon landings, it is essential that well-informed people try to understand “the scientific enterprise” and its relation to Christian faith. This book, based on a week of discussions among scientists, philosophers, and theologians at Oxford, can do much to help one achieve this goal.

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Eschewing many of the popular clichés and superstitions about science, Jeeves succinctly states some of the major emphases in contemporary philosophy of science. Natural law is seen as descriptive, not prescriptive; in good Humean fashion he says it has no implications for the future but only states what we have observed (this is related to the concept of miracle, which would be difficult to accept if natural law were prescriptive or binding). The scientific method, so much revered by non-scientists, is shown to be neither mystical nor magical but simply the way the scientist goes about his work. Time is seen as a created reality, freeing us from the naïve view that space and its contents are created but that time is eternal. The function of models is discussed in some depth, with the warning—useful in theology as well as in science—that we take care lest we confuse the model with the reality is seeks to express.

In exploring the relation of science to Christian faith, Jeeves notes that it is probably no accident that modern science developed in a Christian civilization, a point also made by such writers as A. N. Whitehead and Alan Richardson. Certain forms of determinism are not incompatible with Christian faith. The “God of the gaps” concept, a modern deus ex machina philosophy in which God is used to explain what science does not, is rightly deprecated. The importance of the religio-scientific theories of Teilhard de Chardin is recognized, but so is the speculative and fanciful character of some of his conclusions. The evolution issue is discussed rationally, unemotionally and—this reviewer thinks—fairly. The author concludes by endorsing C. S. Lewis’ method of “transposition,” that is, the recognition that science and religion can describe the same events differently but without contradiction; each can say what is valid from its own point of view.

The book is not without flaws, which are mainly in form and style. Some parts are almost a collage of quotations, and some participants in the discussions seem to be given undue prominence. Such flaws are probably inevitable in a book that endeavors to summarize a week of varied interchange among scholars of different disciplines. But on balance the book is a noteworthy contribution to evangelical scholarship, a kind of evangelical philosophy of science for the seventies. It is one of those books that Bacon would tell us to taste, chew, and digest.

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Ancient Jerusalem Revisited

Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, by Joachim Jeremias (Fortress, 1969, 405 pp., $9), is reviewed by Bruce M. Metzger, professor of New Testament language and literature, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey.

Where does one look for information on the population of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus? What were the status and condition of slaves, both Jewish and Gentile, in the first century of the Christian era? Exactly who were the “chief priests,” referred to so often in the Gospels and Acts?

Answers to these and to hundreds of similar questions related to social and economic conditions during the New Testament period are provided in this encyclopedic volume by Joachim Jeremias, who recently retired from his chair of New Testament in the University of Göttingen.

Jeremias was born and reared in Palestine. For this volume he draws on all available sources of contemporary and rabbinic documents and canvasses every aspect of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day. He deals with the industries and guilds of Palestine, and with commerce involving both local and foreign trade. The industries connected with the building of the Temple and with its cultus are described in full detail, and there are vivid accounts of the great feasts that filled Jerusalem to overflowing with visitors. In brief vignettes the author portrays the living conditions of the rich and the poor, and of most of the levels between. There was a weekly dole to the poor of the city, consisting of food and clothing. The Temple cultus provided one of the main sources of income for the city. It maintained the priestly aristocracy, the priesthood, and the Temple employees. The latter included not only sweepers and other menial laborers but the bakers of shew-bread and the makers of incense, the weavers and knitters who produced annually two of the Temple curtains, the goldsmiths, and even a Temple doctor.

In discussing social status, Jeremias gives attention to the scribes, Pharisees, noblemen, traders, peasant workers, tax-collectors, and Samaritans. Within the context of Jewish concern for pure ancestry he examines the historical value of lay genealogies, including those which are recorded in Matthew and Luke.

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Full indexes enable the reader to find information on a great number of New Testament passages and personages. This volume, designed for scholar and lay reader alike, will surely remain for many years the authoritative treatment of economic and social conditions of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus.

Valuable Aid For Pastors

Pastoral Counseling with People in Distress, by Harold H. Haas (Concordia, 1969, 193 pp., $4.95), is received by Leslie R. Beach, professor of psychology, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

Perhaps the real strength of this book is that its author is fully trained and experienced both as a pastor and as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Haas knows both fields, where their boundaries are, where and how the roles of pastor and psychologist mesh, and what each can and cannot do for people in distress. It is good to distinguish as he does between emotional distress and mental disorder, and to leave the disorder to the mental-health professionals. It is good too to draw his distinction between pastoral counseling and pastoral care. Haas must be lauded also for pointing out, in his thorough treatment of distress and its causes, that even religion has a place among the causes of distress.

A fine thing I have not seen in similar volumes is the assumption that the pastor who reads the book is going to know his own field and professional role. Haas spends his time and words showing him how he can fit his training and his skills to the professional mental-health orientation. His cautions to the pastor against assuming an authoritarian role, offering instant diagnosis, and playing therapist are excellent.

Yet with all this Haas still carves out an important counseling role for the pastor—one characterized by limitations, yet offering a unique contribution commanding the respect of any professional. He says the pastor’s basic goal is “to put the right relationship between man and God by conveying the Word of God concerning Jesus Christ to man.” This includes goals of the helping professions—alleviating distress and helping the individual achieve his full potential.

Haas provides excellent examples of counselor responses that impede counseling and those that facilitate counseling. A chapter on practical issues and counseling ethics is also commendable. His “bill of rights” for those being counseled furnishes the pastoral counselor with much food for thought. And a real boon for the serious pastor who knows the limits of his own competence and wants to get the best professional help for his counselees is the chapter dealing with signs of severe disorder and describing referral resources and how they can be located in any community.

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The pastor himself is not neglected. The final chapter on the pastor as a person punctuates the need for him to be an effective person himself if he is to be an effective counselor. An appendix of suggested readings gives the reader more sources on selected topics.

This is clearly one of the best small volumes on pastoral counseling I have seen. It is rich and thorough, yet readable even for the person without training in psychology. And when the author deals with theology, he does not feel compelled to prove to his readers that he knows its labels and its jargon; he speaks theologically without moralism and “preachiness.” This book should not be on every pastor’s shelf—it should be close at hand on every pastor’s desk.

Book Briefs

The Cutting Edge, Volume II, compiled by H. C. Brown Jr. (Word, 1969, 130 pp., $4.95). Several contributors wrestle with some of the critical issues facing the contemporary Christian (such as the sex revolution, divorce, and the new morality), emphasizing the necessity for the Church to move out into the world to confront today’s problems.

Lectures on Preaching, by Phillips Brooks (Baker, 1969, 281 pp., paperback, $2.95). Reprint of a valuable series of lectures by one of America’s greatest preachers.

The Dynamics of Confession, by George William Bowman III (John Knox, 1969, 119 pp., $3.50). A former pastor, now serving as a counselor and hospital chaplain, affirms the need for confession of sins and offers his suggestions for the practice of confession in Protestantism.

Bible and Gospel, by Archibald M. Hunter (Westminster, 1969, 146 pp., paperback, $2.25). A widely known New Testament scholar discusses, in an understandable way, questions about the Bible as a whole, the Gospels, and the current quest for the historical Jesus.

Pocket of Pebbles, by Charles R. Hembree (Baker, 1969, 128 pp., $2.95). Devotional and practical study of “the fruits of the Spirit.”

Church Politics, by Keith R. Bridston (Word, 1970, 173 pp., $4.95). Contends that the Church is a political as well as a sacred institution and sees politics as neither good nor bad in itself but as a method of achieving goals Calls for a more representative organization of the Church.

The Contemporary Preacher and His Task, by David Waite Yohn (Eerdmans, 1969, 159 pp., paperback, $2.95). Affirms that expository preaching, based on biblical authority, can be an exciting and meaningful adventure for both preacher and congregation.

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Along Life’s Highway, by Clarence E Macartney (Baker, 1969, 103 pp., $2.95). Eleven sermons selected from the Macartney Collection at Geneva College.

The Many Faces of Friendship, by Eileen Guder (Word, 1969, 139 pp., $3.95). On the basis of her own experience, the author discusses the values and challenges of friendship.

Dissent In and For the Church: Theologians and Humanae Vitae, by Charles E. Curran and Robert E. Hunt (Sheed and Ward, 1969, 237 pp., paperback, $3.95). This document, based on the dispute over Humanae Vitae at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D. C., considers the role of theological dissent in today’s Roman Catholic Church.

Are These the Last Days?, by Robert Glenn Gromacki (Revell, 1970, 190 pp., $4.50). An examination of some of the most common questions regarding prophecy.

Is Life Really Worth Living?, by David Hubbard (Regal, 1969, 103 pp., paperback, $.95). The president of Fuller Seminary points the way to answering ten of life’s toughest questions (e.g., How do I handle my guilt? How do I overcome my past?).

Commenting and Commentaries, by C. H. Spurgeon (Banner of Truth Trust, 1969, 224 pp., $3.50). This reprint of Spurgeon’s valuable catalogue of biblical commentaries includes two lectures about commentaries and commentating. As an added feature the volume includes a complete textual index of Spurgeon’s sermons.

James—A Study Guide, by Curtis Vaughan (Zondervan, 1969, 128 pp., paperback, $1). A brief devotional exposition of James written with the layman in mind.

Paul and His Epistles, by D. A. Hayes (Baker, 1969, 508 pp., $6.95). Reprint of a classic in Pauline studies.

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