He Is There and He Is Not Silent, by Francis A. Schaeffer (Tyndale, 1972, 100 pp., $3.95, $1.95 pb), and The Openness of Being: Natural Theology Today, by Eric L. Mascall (Westminster, 1972, 278 pp., $9.95), are reviewed by Harold O. J. Brown, associate editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
If philosophy was once called the handmaiden of theology, since Immanuel Kant at least it has been a treacherous one. Traditional theology and apologetics before Kant made much of the so-called proofs of God’s existence; Kant claimed to have refuted them, and post-Kantian Christians learned to look for God only in the realm of subjective experience and of moral values. The movement of so-called neo-orthodoxy initiated by Karl Barth launched a massive attack on the use of philosophy, denying that there is any way in which it can help us to know or acknowledge God. Natural theology, i.e., the approach to God apart from special revelation, has been branded a contradiction in terms.
There is certainly some validity in this skepticism concerning the ability of the human reason, with its innate tendencies to self-worship, to find God. Yet if this world is God’s creation, it would be surprising indeed if it bore no traces of his handiwork.
In an earlier book, Escape From Reason (1968), Schaeffer warned against accepting a two-story view of reality, dividing it into the natural and the supernatural, and granting autonomy and self-sufficiency to human reason on the natural level. In this sense, he has to stand against the traditional scholastic opinion that reason alone can establish the reality of God. But once this conceit has been overcome, he maintains, reason can tell us something.
In the present volume, Schaeffer warns against reading the three books in his now completed series in their order of publication. One ought rather to begin with The God Who Is There (1968), go on to Escape From Reason, and then read He Is There … But perhaps Schaeffer’s chronological order was also the psychologically correct one: particularly for the intellectually and academically inclined, whether Christian or not, it is important to destroy the illusion of the autonomy of human reason before proceeding to show that God does present himself, in a limited but imposing way, in the external world of objective reality.
In He is There … Schaeffer argues the metaphysical, moral, and epistemological necessity first that God is, in order to make objective reality intelligible, and then that he speaks in historical and propositional revelation, in order to give us a place as children rather than strangers in the world of created reality. The arguments are simple, straightforward, and in my opinion very persuasive. Although they resemble the traditional cosmological and moral arguments, they do not repeat them but rather seek to help the reader gain the insight that God’s answer is indeed the only answer to questions that man cannot entirely suppress within himself. Non-technical, Schaeffer’s writing appeals strongly to the cultural and existential experience of modern man, to his awareness of estrangement, meaninglessness, and anxiety, and it does this in lucid language that virtually everyone can understand.
Mascall, by contrast, is an academic theologian, an Anglican strongly rooted in the Thomist tradition. The Openness of Being is a rather technical book, with frequent references to the works of other scholars. Mascall is unwilling to abdicate the exercise of human reason to the atheist and agnostic, and of faith to what he somewhere calls the “extreme revelationist,” i.e., the Barthian for whom God is always “totally other.” He defends the ontological argument of Anselm of Canterbury—without altogether adopting it himself—against the common charge that it is mere meaningless verbal sleight of hand. With skill and precision he puts down the linguistic analysis that tries to stamp not merely Anselm but all “God-talk” as meaningless, and defends some of the traditional theological categories (such as Creator/creation) against the rhetoric of modernists such as the Roman Catholic Leslie Dewart, who would dismiss them all as useless Hellenistic baggage and opt for “fluid” truth. There are useful chapters on “Being and Truth” and “God and Time” in which Mascall deals with Dewart and with process theology.
Originally delivered as the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 1970–1971, the book is loosely structured and contains such disparate but interesting material as appendices on Boyce Gibson and sociologist Peter Berger, grace and nature in East and West, and body, soul, and creation. The breadth of Mascall’s knowledge and the rigorous but fair way in which he defends his Thomistic brand of Christian orthodoxy are, as usual, impressive.
History of Israelite Religion, by Georg Fohrer, translated by David E. Green (Abingdon, 1972, 416 pp., $10.95), is reviewed by R. K. Harrison, professor of Old Testament, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Ontario.
This book, written by a German scholar, boasts its own lengthy history of transmission, being based on Hölscher’s Geschichte der israelitischen und jüdischen Religion, first published in 1922 and finally revised by Fohrer after Horst and Hempel had died while undertaking that task. The work is a synthesis of liberal views about facets of Hebrew history and religion, and there are very few references to conservative authors.
Fohrer takes for granted the existence of such unproved entities as J, E, D, and P; limits the work of Isaiah ben Amoz to the first thirty-nine chapters of the prophecy; regards the legal code presented to Josiah as an early form of Deuteronomy; and with great precision and assurance places Daniel in the Maccabean period. The uncritical acceptance of these positions, combined with only one passing reference to Qumran, places the literary-critical views of the author at the turn of the present century.
Following Gunkel, Gressmann, and others, he has little regard for the historicity of the patriarchal narratives, appearing to think of the persons described therein as highly idealized figures who in some manner are recipients of revelation. If he knows anything of a theory that the patriarchal narratives were transmitted in tablet form to constitute accredited ancient Near Eastern historiography, he studiously ignores it.
The book contains a useful survey of Canaanite religion, but the author does not seem to grasp the appalling depravity of the worship, nor the crisis it brought about in Israelite life generally. In discussing the religion of the monarchy, he quite rightly criticizes the “amphictyony” concept, makes it clear that the Old Testament traditions know nothing of a “New Year Festival” of the Babylonian akitu variety, and shows that the prophets did not think of Israel’s history as Heilsgeschichte. He does not seem to know Albright’s study of Samuel in relation to the start of the prophetic movement, and actually makes relatively little reference to Albright throughout.
While the book is not extreme, it is not distinctive either, and when contrasted with Kaufmann’s masterly Religion of Israel (1960) it appears for what it is, namely, a cautious balancing of one liberal position against another. Despite the title, it is not so much a history of Israelite religion as a study of what liberals have had to say about the supposed “evolutionary” development of Hebrew religion, which for Fohrer reached its height between 800 and 500 B.C. For the reviewer the chief value of this book lies in its footnotes.
For Scholars Only
The Pastoral Epistles, by Martin Dibelius and Hans Conzelmann (Fortress, 1972, 175 pp., $10), is reviewed by D. Edmond Hiebert, professor of New Testament, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California.
This attractive volume makes effective use of the printer’s craft. The pages, nearly square, present the material in double columns with only the left edges of the lines aligned. Numerous footnotes, generally on sources, appear in smaller type at the bottom of each page. A fresh translation of the Pastorals is printed in paragraphs, only one column to the page, leaving considerable blank space for the reader’s own jottings. The translation reflects the exegetical views of the authors; it has its strong and weak points. A bibliography lists twenty-eight commentaries, twelve in English and the others in German or French, and four columns of monographs and articles.
Twenty-two excursuses of varying length deal with such subjects as “Myths and Genealogies,” “The ‘False Teachers’ of the Pastoral Epistles,” and “The Situation of 2 Timothy.” The comments, given verse by verse, are strong in tracing the origin and usage of terms and expressions in non-biblical literature. The wealth of references to various scholarly works cited in the footnotes forms a valuable feature of the commentary. But there is generally little attempt to give a systematic exposition of the biblical text as it stands.
In the introductory section on the authenticity of the Pastorals, all three letters are stamped pseudonymous. This judgment is said to be based “less on a single argument than on the convergence of a whole series of arguments.” The external evidence is dismissed in the simple remark “it is not very strong,” and only points of silence in the external evidence are mentioned. The arguments employed are all based on internal evidence. The authors recognize that the personal element in these letters forms the strongest argument for authenticity; they simply assert, however, that these references need not be accepted as real history but are rather literary devices employed to clothe the letters with Pauline authority. Since the view of two imprisonments by Paul is rejected, no place for these historical references in Paul’s life can be found; therefore they are unauthentic, the fictional invention of the unknown author to give his work apostolic authority.
The student looking for a treatment of the Pastorals that sees them as pseudonymous and provides scholarly views in support of that position will find this a stimulating work. But the ordinary Bible-believing reader will find it confusing, and the conservative pastor looking for a thorough, sympathetic exposition of these epistles to help him provide spiritual nourishment for his flock will probably think that this volume was not worth its price. The editorial observation concerning the “Hermeneia” series to which this volume belongs, “the rewards … will accrue chiefly to the field of biblical scholarship,” is fully applicable to this work on the Pastoral Epistles.
Answers to Questions, by F. F. Bruce (Zondervan, 1973, 264 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Russell Chandler, journalist, pastor, and teacher, Columbia, California.
In this compendium, the noted British evangelical scholar distills answers to questions that appeared over a twenty-year span in the Harvester, a British magazine. The book is well classified and indexed; half covers questions on biblical texts, the other half pertains to Christian doctrine and biblical subjects. The book was first published in Britain, and the American version retains a number of British idioms and spellings.
In the biblical-text portion, the reader will find specific answers to specific questions rather than a verse-by-verse exegesis or exposition. There are, therefore, gaps in continuity.
The topical section mirrors the background and interests of Harvester readers. Therefore many matters current in American Christianity are not treated. On the subject of speaking in tongues, for example, there is only one direct question-answer, though even at that Bruce’s remarks are helpful. There are five entries on justification; one answers an ambiguous question, but several would be helpful to a minister preparing a sermon or Bible study on the subject.
Answers to Questions is a useful reference book, not a volume to be read through systematically. Bruce’s insistence on the authority of Scripture as an underlying premise stamps integrity on his strong exegetical ability.
The weakness is the specificness of the content. If your question or the text for which you seek enlightenment isn’t included, you must seek help elsewhere.
New Looks At Inspiration And Revelation
Biblical Inspiration, by Bruce Vawter (Westminster, 1972, 195 pp., $9.95), and Unfolding Revelation, by Jan Walgrave (Westminster, 1972, 418 pp., $9.95), are reviewed by Thomas H. Olbricht, professor of biblical theology, Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Texas.
The authors of these books are both Roman Catholic professors, Bruce Vawter at De Paul, Chicago, and Jan Walgrave at Louvain, Belgium.
Vawter in Biblical Inspiration surveys the history of the doctrine of inspiration in both Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions and ends with his own formulation of the doctrine. He gives attention to the highlights of the biblical concept, patristic thinking, the scholarship synthesis, scholastic and post-scholastic Protestant thinking, and contemporary positions. He moves through the history offering critiques along the way but withholding his constructive position until the final chapter, hence forcing the reader to struggle on his own with the various positions on inspiration offered at various times in the history of the Church. Notes to each chapter are found in the back along with a bibliography and several indexes.
A basic thesis of Vawter is that only scholasticism has offered a theology of inspiration. The result, in his view, is that certain biblical perspectives have been ignored and theologians have been unable to cope with the nature of biblical materials as discovered through biblical criticism. The presentation of Vawter’s critique, which he bases upon his objections to the scholastic doctrine of inspiration, will indicate why he proposes a synthesis at the end that moves beyond scholastic theology.
As Vawter sees it, a crucial biblical vision of its own inspiration is that in these documents “the spirit of God has spoken through men.” Although this is true, the employment of the Old Testament in the New indicates that early Christians refused to be governed by the letter of any text, so that the product of inspiration was never conceived to be “the oracular utterance of a delphic spirit, a word voiced from heaven fixed and immutable, once for all.” Even in the New Testament a recognition shines through of the variety of biblical materials and different senses of inspiration. Furthermore, the scholastic concept of inspiration failed to recognize that some biblical documents went through various stages of development and incorporated materials from scattered sources. A doctrine of inspiration that presupposes single authorship is thus defective. The fathers of the church viewed the Scriptures as oracular, and though the scholastics were more flexible, they centered upon God as the instrumental cause of the Scriptures. The result is that scholars take positions along a spectrum from maximal cause, in which God dictates specific words, to minimal cause, in which God only supplies the basic thoughts.
Because of these weaknesses in the scholastic instrumental cause, Vawter proposes that inspiration needs to be viewed from the context of the living community in which God is at work. He proposes this as a definite theology of inspiration. Through this means, human participation in Scripture is given full recognition. This is the case first of all since no claim is made for inerrancy, inasmuch as “a human literature containing no error would indeed be a contradiction in terms, since nothing is more human than to err.” Second, multiple sources and authorship is viewed from the standpoint of the community, not from that of individual authors.
Evangelicals should read this work. From it they will learn how current views of inspiration emerged in historical settings so as to fulfill certain apologetic needs. They will also come upon explanations of inspiration that they have not entertained before. But most significant they will discover that most affirmations on inspiration are a priori and fail to take into account the actual manner in which biblical documents came about. Unfortunately, despite attention given to Protestant views, Vawter formulates his conclusions to answer chiefly Roman Catholic objections.
The book supplies more questions than systematic answers. It is not clear, for example, why some documents produced by the living community in which the Spirit of God is at work are inspired while others are not. Nor is any answer forthcoming as to the manner in which materials cited from secular documents become the Word of God.
A certain systematic rigor pervades Walgrave’s Unfolding Revelation. By his methodology it is obvious that he is a theologian rather than a biblical scholar. In the first chapter he poses the problem of the manner in which revelation is to be viewed. In the second chapter he sets out a number of definitions. If one is unfamiliar with the delineations of Newman, the importance of these definitions does not become clear until later.
In the second part of the book Walgrave sets out concepts of doctrinal development in patristic and medieval theology. He has to struggle to discover the idea in this period, and though he admits that the evidence is meager, he concludes with a strong affirmation. He is obviously more at home in the last two centuries of Christian history than in the earlier ones.
In Part III Walgrave discusses logical, transformistic and theological theories of development. In each chapter he traces the theories historically. The logical theories are pin-pointed in the thought of Thomas Aquinas and his followers. The transformistic theories are found for the most part in Protestant liberalism. The theological theory is identified with J. H. Newman and his intellectual heirs. It is this section, making up about three-fourths of the whole, that is the most impressive. Walgrave decisively pinpoints the manner in which various philosophical traditions have contributed to the idea of doctrinal development in modern theology. In a final chapter he presents his own position on doctrinal development. Notes, bibliography, and an index of proper names appear at the end.
Walgrave characterizes the biblical notion of revelation as “a living comprehensive view of God’s dealing with man insofar as it is a gradual manifestation of His hidden nature and of the mystery of His saving condescension.” This definition is significant, for Walgrave modifies traditional views by arguing that doctrinal development is more than conceptual or propositional. He admits that “Protestant theology has not occupied itself intensively with the problem of development of doctrine.” One of the difficulties with the book emerges at this point, since it appears that Walgrave hopes to formulate conclusions for both Protestants and Roman Catholics. He admits that Protestants who emphasize doctrinal development have a different goal in mind. Roman Catholics are interested, as is Walgrave, in explaining how later developments in Christendom are from God and compatible with Scriptures. Protestants emphasize the evolution of higher forms of Christianity and devaluate the authority of the Scriptures.
Anyone who reads this book will invest a large amount of time, but it will be time well spent. At minimum, he will discover how numerous thinkers in the history of Christendom have justified doctrinal development. As a Protestant he will be confronted by the fact that his theology has been tinctured by two thousand years of biblical interpretation. One need not agree with Walgrave that “a contemporary theology cannot go back; it can only go onward, consciously prolonging the ongoing impetus of tradition.” But he cannot ignore the fact that he understands the Scripture as he does because of his current position in Christian history. He must in some manner account for this development in his theology.
One final problem cannot go unnoticed. If God is involved in the ongoing development of Christian doctrine, is he responsible for all the varieties? If not, does he provide a means for identifying mutant strains? Welgrave answers this problem by positing a living church permeated by the Spirit of God that delineates true doctrine from aberrant forms. Walgrave thus fails to account for varieties of theology that Vawter locates in the Scriptures. But some of us are suspicious of a means of delineating correct doctrine that to us appears to have generated new species.
Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to Autonomy, by Walter Kaufmann (Wyden, 274 pp., $7.95). The author is one of the few professors of philosophy who seem capable of generating truly new and radical ideas, and is certainly among the most gifted stylists treating serious subjects today. He here continues his epic struggle against religion, especially the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and any authority superior to man. He is often very incisive in his analysis of human evasions and abdications of responsibility, and in attacking religion he makes it clear that not only guilt but justice depend on it. He calls for a heroic kind of human autonomy and ruthlessly exposes the immorality of both right- and left-wing political enthusiasm. Beautifully done, but overlooks the reality of God. Therefore his fundamental theory is false despite the brilliance of many of his points.
The Unpredictable Wind, by C. Brandon Rimmer and Bill Brown (Aragorn [212 N. Orange St., Glendale, Calif. 91203], 69 pp., $1.25 pb). The gentle manner of the authors and sound biblical exposition make this a very valuable book on the filling of the Spirit, especially with reference to speaking in tongues. (The authors espouse neither a requirement of speaking in tongues nor the ceasing of tongues as a valid spiritual gift for our age.) Highly recommended.
Introduction to Theology, by Owen Thomas (Greeno, Hadden [168 Brattle St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138], 218 pp., $7.50 pb). A beginner’s survey by an Episcopal theology professor. A well-organized presentation of key doctrines, though a little weak on biblical authority. Provocative discussion questions follow each chapter.
Forbid Them Not, by Louis Cassels (Independence [P.O. Box 1019, Independence, Mo. 64051], 94 pp., $2.95). A senior editor of United Press provides eight suggestions for the Church on how to attract and hold young people. Perceptive and brief.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke; and James and Jude, by John Calvin (3 vols., Eerdmans, 326, 306, and 345 pp., $7.95 each). Calvin is one of the very few commentators whose work is still quite useful after generations. The first three Gospels are treated in one sequence. Commentaries on two short letters are appended to the third volume. These volumes bring to completion the twelve-volume, up-to-date Torrance edition entitled “Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries.” (A century-old translation remains in print.)
Philosophical Issues in Religious Thought, by Geddes MacGregor (Houghton Mifflin, 500 pp., $10.95). An impressive textbook in the philosophy of religion, concentrating on general problems of religious sensitivity and belief rather than on specific issues that distinguish revealed, biblical religion. MacGregor deals with the subjects he discusses very fairly, but he slights historic biblical Christianity and many of its representatives (ten references to Bertrand Russell and nine to Teilhard, but none to Machen, Mascall, or Dooye-weerd).
Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, by J. Barton Payne (Harper & Row, 754 pp., $19.95). A comprehensive synthesis of predictive Scriptures and fulfillments. Includes verse-by-verse discussions, topical summaries, statistical appendices, five indexes, and a bibliography. The methodology is specified and the biblical chronology is of conservative scholarship. An excellent reference tool for those of all eschatological perspectives.
The Phenomenon of Religion, by Ninian Smart (Seabury, 157 pp., $6.95). A study of religion by a philosopher. He presents a complex methodology followed by discussions of religious phenomenology, myths, and concludes with a proposal to accept a neutral phenomenological view of religion as opposed to commitment-oriented “theology.” He seems to want to “save” religion from the ravages of scientific study.
What the Church Needs Now, by B. J. Chitwood (Revell, 160 pp., $4.95), and Share the Word Now, by Albert McClellan (Broadman, 128 pp., $1.50). Chitwood sees church renewal as the product of a “recovery” of distinctive biblical approaches to all segments of the ministry from evangelism and discipline to “culture contact.” McClellan emphasizes vigorous instruction in the Scriptures linked with lay evangelism as the means for renewal. Both authors are practical and persuasive.
The Religious and Philosophical Foundations in the Thought of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Ernest Lyght (Vantage, 96 pp., $3.75). A master’s thesis tracing the growth of King’s philosophy of nonviolence. Develops and discusses King’s key purpose as the linking of Christian love and Gandhian methods of nonviolent disruption in an attempt to stir the American “conscience.” A useful companion to biographical presentations of King.
Violence: Right or Wrong, by Peter Macky (Word, 210 pp., $5.95). Argues that violence breeds violence in a never-ending cycle unless it is “absorbed” in nonviolence as exemplified in the Beatitudes or in Christ’s death. Stresses education and organized Gandhian-type resistance to violence as solutions. Draws heavily on biblical material but does “violence” to a proper understanding of God’s use of armies and the like in the Old Testament.
To Live and to Die, edited by Robert Williams (Springer-Verlag [175 Fifth Ave., New York, N. Y. 10010], 346 pp., $12.95). Provocative essays by twenty-one specialists who reevaluate life and death in light of technical advances and population pressures. Topics include genetic engineering, euthanasia, and birth control. The editor and largest contributor (seven essays) provides a philosophical context that discards the soul as a product of the mind, hence precluding any afterlife. Some disturbing conclusions that deserve careful evaluation.
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