What’S Coming Up?
Behold I Come, by Ralph Earle (Beacon Hill, 1973, 86 pp., $1.50 pb), The Bible and Future Events, by Leon J. Wood (Zondervan, 1973, 208 pp., $2.95 pb), The King Is Coming, by H. L. Willmington (Tyndale House, 1973, 237 pp., $1.95 pb). Population, Pollution, and Prophecy, by Leslie H. Woodson (Revell, 1973, 159 pp., $4.95), Satan in the Sanctuary, by Thomas S. McCall and Zola Levitt (Moody, 1973, 120 pp., $3.95), Prophetic Problems, by C. E. Mason (Moody, 1973, 254 pp., $4.95), The Church and the Tribulation, by Robert H. Gundry (Zondervan, 1973, 224 pp., $5.95), Is This Really the End?, by George C. Miladin (Puritan-Reformed [1319 Newport-Gap Pike, Wilmington, Del. 19804], 1972, 55 pp., $1.25 pb), and A Survey of Bible Prophecy, by R. Ludwigson (Zondervan, 1973, 187 pp., $2.95 pb), are reviewed by R. Clyde McCone, professor of anthropology, California State University, Long Beach.
As international and internal problems continue to threaten the future of the nations of Western civilization, the curious and the anxious seek the predictions of the crystal ball and the stars. Others see in the Bible an outline of future socio-political and military events. Even those who look into “the more sure word of prophecy” see diverse visions of the future.
The nine books reviewed here illustrate that disagreements among “prophetic” Bible expositors continue to run along traditionally established lines. The first six books, however, show almost complete consensus in that each presents the future in the framework of the pre-tribulational rapture of the Church and the premillennial return of Christ to reign on the earth.
Ralph Earle’s Behold I Come is a brief statement without argument against opposing views. The pretrib-premil framework of events is assumed. The author’s concern is that the reader be ready for the imminent and certain coming of Jesus.
In The Bible and Future Events, Leon Wood contends strongly for the pretrib-premil position. He presents the imminence of the return of Christ in the hope of the Christian as proof against the tribulation’s preceding the rapture. By interpreting the falling away of Second Thessalonians 2:3 as departure from the earth rather than departure from the faith, he finds textual proof for the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.
In a similar fashion Willmington in The King Is Coming defends the pretrib-premil position by marshalling a large number of Scriptures into its categories. He summarily refutes post-tribulationism by referring the reader to such Scriptures as First Thessalonians 5:9, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” Many readers would see in this Scripture no necessary reference to the tribulation. The questionableness of proof by the assignment of Scriptures to the chosen categories is increased when the prophecy from Joel that Peter quoted as being fulfilled at Pentecost is used as proof of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the tribulation after the rapture of the Church.
Modern environmental problems of population and pollution are used to introduce another pretrib-premil survey in Population, Pollution, and Prophecy by Leslie H. Woodson. The rapture of the Church is seen as temporarily relieving the population problem for those who are left behind. By identifying the king of the North as the leader of Russia, Woodson estimates that the destruction of this leader and five-sixths of his people will relieve the earth of another 300 million people. Finally, at the close of the tribulation Christ will return and slay with the sword of his mouth all Jews and Gentiles who have not been converted during the tribulation. Evidently the population problem will be solved for the next thousand years. There will be no pollution on a renovated earth during the millennium.
In Satan in the Sanctuary, McCall and Levitt present the total pretrib-premil position from the perspective of the rebuilt tribulation temple. The book’s stated purpose is “to show how the end of the world will be.” The fact that the temples of Solomon and Herod were destroyed as phophesied is presented as proof that the author’s identification of the tribulation and millennial temples is prophetically reliable. “Temple prophecy” thus becomes proof for the pretrib-premil interpretation.
Mason, in Prophetic Problems, is aware that many of the arguments by his pretrib-premil colleagues are not defensible. As a member of “the loyal opposition” he hopes to strengthen, not challenge, this position. His concern is that some teachings of pretrib-premil scholars “play into the hands” of opposing positions and “work against and not for premillennialists in our disagreement with amillennialists.” Among the teachings he regards as vulnerable is the idea of a single endtime Antichrist.
The issue of post-tribulation vs. pre-tribulationism among premillennialists is supported by extensive Scripture reference and logically convincing argument in Gundry’s The Church and the Tribulation. He presents a biblical case against the imminence of Christ’s return and thus disarms the pretrib argument. Gundry also points out an inconsistency of the pretrib position: The Holy Spirit as the restraining factor before the tribulation is removed with the rapture of the Church so that the Man of Sin can be revealed, and then the Holy Spirit continues to carry on a much more effective evangelism during the tribulation without faintly hindering the free hand of the Antichrist during this period.
Since both pretrib and posttrib premillennialists are committed to locating Daniel’s seventieth week at the end of the age, neither Gundry nor Mason considers the logical possibility that the source of their conflicting ideas may be in the tribulation concept itself. At this point, as tribulationists, they join ranks against all opponents. One opponent, George Miladin, in Is This Really the End?, dares to question the idea of an amputated seventieth week of Daniel projected down to the end of the age. This short essay is an attempt to give the reader a positive non-dispensational eschatological system that does not overwhelm him with a plethora of controversial details about endtime events. Miladin finds the use made of Daniel’s seventieth week by tribulationists the chief source of unscriptural speculation. The importance to the tribulationists of their interpretation of the seventy weeks of Daniel is indicated by Willmington when he describes it as “the most important, the most amazing, and the most profound single prophecy in the entire Word of God.” Miladin’s brief essay deserves the serious consideration of those who may believe that they have the inside track on the future history of planet earth. It will be welcomed by many who are confused by diverse biblical chartings of the future. Miladin’s protest against the idea of the return to the types and shadows of animal sacrifice is shared by many Christians.
In the preface to Ludwigson’s A Survey of Bible Prophecy, Wilbur Smith observes:
There have always been … differences of opinion regarding some of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.… But in no area have these diversities been so many, and so pronounced as in the area of Biblical prophecy, especially those prophecies which point to events still in the future.
Ludwigson, in this update of a former work, has made available a useful analysis of the major divergent views of prophecy in terms of the categories commonly used.
It would be incorrect to leave the impression that all is conflict in the study of Bible prophecy. There is, of course, a degree of consensus within each of the divergent schools of prophetic thought. But beyond this Miladin has expressed four eschatological certainties with which it would seem most Christians would agree. They are:
1. Jesus is coming.
2. Since the time of Christ we have been living in the last days.
3. This age is characterized by revival and reformation on the one hand and by decadence and decline on the other.
4. Watching and waiting is the scriptural stance of endtime people.
It will be observed that these certainties have little to do with a predictive outline of future events.
If deep-seated disagreements over future events are confusing to many Christians, and if, as some have observed, they could be a laughingstock to unbelievers who chance to read prophetic books, then it would seem that “prophetic” Bible expositors could afford to withdraw, at least briefly, from their somewhat polemic positions to ask themselves, “Is this what Bible prophecy is really all about?” It might be worth the time out to consider this anthropological suggestion: The roots of disagreement among interpreters of Bible prophecy may be in the culture of Western man.
Our Greek cultural heritage establishes in our minds unconscious postulates that lead us to order and understand human events in the lineal time scale of history. Both the Old and New Testaments came through those who did not share the Greek motivations and philosophical foundations of the West. If this is true, then the attempt to identify from divine revelation specific socio-political events within a detailed outline of future historical sequence may not be in line with the purpose for which these Scriptures were written. A number of the authors in the books reviewed here have all too briefly recognized this fact on occasions when their efforts ran into difficulties.
Wood expressed the possibility that in certain sections of the Mt. Olivet prophecy “chronological sequence is not pertinent.” More explicitly Mason observed, “It has been almost uniformly assumed that because we in the Western world have a habit of writing things sequentially and chronologically, this must be the Bible’s way of writing.” He then pointed out the obvious fact that the Book of Revelation is not written in the framework of chronological sequence. Gundry also recognized that the “Semitic style of Revelation” is not similar to Western thought:
Chronologically, the apocalyptic visions dart back and forth with a swiftness that sometimes bewilders our Western minds.… The Semitic and apocalyptic character of Revelation forbids, then, our assuming that the seals, trumpets, and bowls follow one another in smooth succession.
And yet, both Mason and Gundry then forge ahead to devote their Western genius to unraveling the Semitic character of Revelation and rearranging it into a “historicized” future demanded by Western thought. A part of this “historicization” is usually disguised under the misleading label “literal interpretation.”
Miladin’s contribution at this point must not be passed by. He introduces the concept of the prophetic parable by which accounts are understood to illustrate a great truth rather than to refer to any specific historical event. This concept is then not really preterist or futurist but regards prophecy as directly relevant to the experience of every generation in every century. The prophetic parable is far more than the interpretational crutch of allegory. It leans rather in the direction of understanding Semitic thought.
Jesus pointed out that the prophecies regarding his first coming spoke of himself and of the events that must come to pass, i.e., his crucifixion and resurrection (see Luke 24:25–46). Revelation, the climaxing book of the Bible, presents prophecy also as the “revelation of Jesus Christ … to show unto his servants the things that must come to pass.” The revelation of Christ in the midst of the churches focuses our attention on the must of world evangelism (Rev. 1–3). The revelation of Christ on the mediatorial throne assures us that “he must reign until his enemies be made his footstool” (Rev. 4–11). The focus throughout Revelation is on the unveiling of Christ; the events that must come to pass are Christological promises, not “crystallogical” predictions.
The speculative character of Western thought requires the use of assumptions to arrange phenomena into its explanations of science or history. Similarly basic assumptions characterize “prophetic systems” that attempt to construct the biblical order of future events. Gundry refers to two postulates that all tribulationists accept and adds a third that characterizes only pre-tribulationists. Pre-tribulationist assumptions are inherent in Mason’s reference to “the boundaries of an agreed order of events.” When portions of the Bible are selected out as “prophetic” Scriptures according to culturally inspired assumptions and organized on the basis of diverse sets of postulates into historical explanations of future events, no level of scholarship, no degree of fidelity to the canons of hermeneutics, no amount of Bible study, no depth of Christian consecration, will enable the competing schools of thought to arrive at a consensus. As a result, the assurance of the angels, “This same Jesus … shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go,” and the cry of the Christian, “Even so come Lord Jesus,” become confused with Western man’s carnal and cultural concerns about the future.
The Lower East Side
So Long Sweet Jesus, by Bill Milliken, (Prometheus, 1973, 187 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Thomas Howard, associate professor of English, Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts.
There is one sense in which nobody except the author or someone who has been with him through every stage of the experience related in this book can “review” it. My trying to make some comments about it is a bit like someone from the tranquility of his fastness in the Vermont hills commenting on some war correspondent’s reports from Anzio beachhead, or Khe San. Except that I live among the woods and fields north of Boston, and Bill Milliken writes about the Lower East Side of New York City.
That is the locale of this odyssey, for that is what it is. The events—and a terrifying sequence they are—are all points, or phases, in the unfolding of consciousness in a Christian who is trying to obey Christ. The obedience is not merely the technical one of getting the right vocation (“Lord, do you want me as a parson or as an actuary?”) or the right geography (“Ultima Thule or Grosse Point, Lord?”). It is the much more gritty business of trying, daily, in threatening situations, to understand exactly what is asked of a man who is committed to Christ and his Gospel. And again, the threat itself is not simply the external one posed by knives, pistols, and fists (and this story is full of them); nor is it even simply the more internal one posed by the assault on one’s self-esteem and good intentions by bitter and violent colleagues (and the story is full of that, too). Rather, it is the far more radical threat to one’s whole understanding of himself and of God, and the awful possibility that one has got the whole thing wrong, or, worse, has got it right enough but lacks the courage and integrity to follow through.
That is the thing that impressed me about this account. There are at least two inviting places at which Bill Milliken could have stopped in his odyssey. He could have stopped with his early, easy, respectable apprehension of Jesus (whom he calls “the Jolly Green Giant” Jesus); or again, he could have stopped, after a tempestuous voyage through the turbulence and shoals of Young Life work among blacks, Puerto Ricans, and spaced-out East Village drug cultists and Maoists, with the “other” Jesus—the Jesus made over into the image of the angry revolutionary, the two-fisted, harsh Jesus who loves only blacks and radicals, and detests suburbanites and Republicans.
But Milliken pressed on—or was pressed on, perhaps. Circumstance after circumstance, encounter after encounter, flogged him along. You meet quite an array of people in this account—Watson and Eddie and Bobo and Chino and Santos and Gia; and Jean, Bill’s wife; and Dean Borgman and Tim Hansel and Clarence Jordan. By their anger, their love, their wisdom, their humanness, their own struggles, and their relationship with Bill, they became helpers on his pilgrimage. And he, for his part, because he did not pack it all in but kept going, has become a helper on the pilgrimage of who knows how many human beings, including at least one book reviewer.
The Evangelical Renaissance, by Donald G. Bloesch (Eerdmans, 1973, 165 pp., $2.95 pb), is reviewed by Ronald J. Sider, dean and associate professor of religion and history, Messiah College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
With the belated recognition that resurgent evangelicalism constitutes a new religious majority in American Protestantism, a flood of new analyses has recently appeared. Among the more astute and useful of these is The Evangelical Renaissance by the professor of theology at Dubuque Seminary. In the first two chapters (which should have been combined to avoid repetition), Bloesch briefly presents evidence to support the thesis of a genuine renaissance and then offers an initial evaluation. Three subsequent chapters deal with evangelical theology, Barth’s importance for evangelicals, and the significance of our pietist heritage.
Bloesch wants to help shape the new movement that is now emerging. He hopes for a “catholic evangelicalism” open for ecumenical dialogue with other traditions from which it can learn and to which it can contribute. Hence in part his critical appreciation of Barth. He wants a strengthened emphasis on the devotional life. Hence in part his highly positive treatment of Pietism. And he hopes to temper what he considers both a dangerous tendency toward a rationalistic apologetic in some circles and also the continuing identification of a conservative position on biblical authority with “wooden literalism” and “divine dictation.”
The excellent treatment of Pietism may help foster a much needed reassessment. Bloesch devotes one-third of the book to the correction of false impressions of Pietism and a successful demonstration of Pietism’s historical connection and significant contribution to contemporary evangelicalism. (His analysis is an important corrective to the one-sided genealogy offered in Bernard Ramm’s The Evangelical Heritage.) In addition to Pietism’s outstanding contributions in such areas as missions and the devotional life, it also contained a major emphasis on social concern. “Evangelicals today who simply say that belief in the gospel is the only answer to the social crisis without pressing for corrective legislation are not being true to their own [Pietist] heritage,” says Bloesch.
In spite of this and several other positive references to social concern (on p. 26, the recovery of the social implications of the faith is one of the “signs of hope”), Bloesch both tends to ignore the growing movement of evangelical social concern and also repeats inadequate theological formulas. He fails to transcend an unbiblical spiritual-secular dichotomy that labels prayer and evangelistic proclamation as “spiritual” and social action as “secular.” “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17). Nor it is helpful to say that “the primary task of the church is to convert individuals.” It was precisely this type of formulation that contributed to earlier controversies from which all sides emerged with a partial, one-sided (and therefore heretical) message. It is time for evangelicals to refuse to use sentences that begin with “the primary task of the Church is …” regardless of whether the sentence ends with worship or evangelism or Bible teaching or “social concern.” They are all integral, necessary aspects of the Church’s task. If we are to remain faithful to the Bible and avoid new divisions, we must forsake formulations that suggest that any one of these tasks is “primary” and the others are “secondary” and therefore to be done in our spare time.
Nor can I accept Bloesch’s view that social service is integral to the Church’s task but social action is not. Is it really more “spiritual” or more in keeping with Jesus and the prophets to man the ambulances that pick up the bloody victims of destructive social structures than to work to change the structures themselves? Was it more spiritual to nurse Sri Lanka’s hospitalized malaria victims than to persuade governments to drain the swamps where the malaria carrying mosquitoes bred?
In spite of weaknesses, however, the book deserves wide circulation.
Bright Shadow of Reality: C. S. Lewis and the Feeling Intellect, by Corbin Scott Carnell (Eerdmans, 180 pp., $2.95 pb). In what was originally a doctoral dissertation Carnell explores the ideas of sehnsucht and the numinous in Lewis’s writing. Provides a basic introduction to these two important concepts in Lewis’s philosophy.
Living Together in a World Falling Apart, by Dave and Neta Jackson (Creation, 304 pp., $1.95 pb). If you’ve wondered about the inner day-by-day workings of evangelical communal living, this is the book for you. Active participants in several communities, the authors chat about goals, duties, roles, money, marriage, and parenthood. Includes addresses of two dozen communities.
A Church For Sinners, Seekers, and Sundry Non-Saints, by Arthur Tennies (Abingdon, 144 pp., $4.50). Personal observation on the gap between what Christians should be like and what they actually are. Refreshingly honest and thought-provoking.
Creative Ways to Worship, by James L. Christensen (Revell, 256 pp., $5.95). Numerous fresh ideas including poems, role-playing, and dialogues for small groups, church worship services, communion, sermons, and funerals. Worth a look.
The Devil and Mr. Smith, by Hershel Smith (Revell, 192 pp., $2.95 pb). Perhaps excessively alluring autobiographical account by an ex-Satan-worshiper who now heads Teen Power, a ministry seeking to warn against occultism and aid those entrapped by it.
Jesus: The Fact Behind the Faith, by C. Leslie Mitton (Eerdmans, 152 pp., $2.95 pb). Designed for the layman with little knowledge of the theologians’ debate over the historical Jesus. Provides a general background and then builds a case for substantial authenticity. Useful as far as it goes.
Agency and Urgency, by Thomas E. Wren (Precedent [160 Fifth Ave., New York, N. Y. 10010], 169 pp., $7.50). A philosophical analysis of the concepts used to formulate rights and obligations over the centuries of Judeo-Christian civilization. Aimed not at specific issues but the underlying approaches. Raises profound questions about the basis for morality in a secularistic culture.
One Home Under God, by Jack R. Taylor (Broadman, 157 pp., $4.95). A best-selling author and prominent Southern Baptist pastor tells how in the midst of external blessing an internal crisis was developing in his home life (an all too common ministerial hazard) and how by God’s grace this has been resolved. Biblical submission—the mutual kind—is stressed.
Encountering Darkness, by G. A. ffrench-Beytagh (Seabury, 283 pp., $6.95). Autobiographical account of the South African Anglican leader’s ordeal resulting from charges of terrorism and Communism because of his activities in opposition to apartheid. Serious reflection on the political and moral situation in South Africa. The extreme depravity of the professedly “Calvinist” rulers of that land is depressingly evident.
Calling For Christ, by Luther Cook (Moody, 127 pp., $1.95 pb). A thorough and easy-to-assimilate guide to door-to-door evangelism. Very practical do’s and don’ts and samples.
The Church: United or Untied?, by Leslie Woodson (Zondervan, 156 pp., $1.25 pb). A thoughtful evangelical reflection on relations with Judaism and other non-Christian religions, Catholicism, and Protestant ecumenism, and on how local congregations should function.
Church Growth in Japan, by Tetsunao Yamamori (William Carey, 185 pp., $4.95 pb). Documented study of eight Protestant denominations from 1859 to 1939.
The Christian Home in the Seventies, edited by George W. Knight (Broadman, 126 pp., $1.50). Brief accounts of experiences of seventeen families originally reported in the Southern Baptist periodical Home Life.
Christ in the Home, by Robert R. Taylor, Jr. (Baker, 282 pp., $3.95 pb). A Church of Christ minister presents a comprehensive look at biblical precepts and examples pertinent to marriage and the family.
2700 Quotes for Sermons and Addresses compiled by E. C. McKenzie (Baker, 140 pp., $1.95). Serious one-liners on scores of topics from ability to zeal. Samples: “There are no idle rumors. They are all busy.” “Be bold in what you stand for but careful in what you fall for.”
Tradition And Innovation
Faith and Morality in the Secular Age, by Bernard Häring (Doubleday, 1973, 237 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Herbert C. Bradshaw, editorial-page editor of the “Durham Morning Herald,” Durham, North Carolina.
The spiritual indifference and unconcern commonly attributed to the influence of this secular age present formidable barriers to the Christian witness. So potent are they that a few years ago some were labeling this the post-Christian era. Later, extremes of this attitude found expression in the “death-of-God” cult. Bernard Häring, a distinguished Roman Catholic theologian, offers a thoughtful and challenging analysis of this problem and proposes a solution in Faith and Morality in the Secular Age.
Building his thesis on the solid orthodoxy of such premises as “time cannot alter the spirit, truth, and intrinsic value of Christian morality” and “the raison d’etre of the Church is the proclamation of any testimony to the kingdom of God,” Father Häring argues cogently for presenting the message in terms (vocabulary, liturgy, structure, organization) understandable to the age in which it is proclaimed.
In distinguishing between secularization and secularism, Häring finds that the former in one sense helps the Church by freeing it for its primary mission and in another sense is a neutral force in regard to religion. Secularism, however, is antagonistic toward the Church and spiritual concerns. In Häring’s view, sacralization of things is more inimical to the work of the Church than is secularization. Protestants who cherish the spirit of the Reformation will agree. The distinction between “secular” and “profane” is essential to this study.
A prominent feature of this book is its reconciliation of views generally regarded as opposing. For example, Häring sees biblical theism, in regarding all things as creatures, as desacralizing everything, but also finds it teaching, since everything is created in the Word, “the universe’s intrinsic sacredness.” He also brings together faith and practice, a separation all too common in religious thought; the kingdom of God and the earthly city; criticism of divisiveness in Christendom and acceptance of pluralism in the religious aspect of society.
Faith and Morality in the Secular Age is also an interpretation of and an apologia for the documents of Vatican II. Together with the Scriptures, these documents provide the basis on which Häring develops his book; he quotes both the Bible and the documents frequently.
Integral to life is prayer, which “forms the main orientation of life through which man gradually becomes aware of his existential dependence on God since he is a creature coming from the Father and a pilgrim son, who, through his brother, Jesus Christ, is going back home to him in the mystery of the Holy Spirit.” While prayer is communion with God, it finds implementation as man works “as God’s instrument for liberating love, mercy and justice.”
A valuable study for Protestants, Faith and Morality in the Secular Age is primarily a Roman Catholic work, intended to help that communion adapt its traditional structure and practices to contemporary society. It stresses freedom in religious expression and encourages such innovations as the Catholic Pentecostal and “House of Prayer” movements. Häring seeks to synthesize the traditional and the innovative in his Church. At the same time, admitting the constructive impact of the Protestant Reformation through the Council of Trent, he defends Catholicism against Martin Luther’s strictures and challenges such formulas as sola fides, though acknowledging that the Catholic can accept it “within an orthodox interpretation.”
The book has a chaste and spare style, which makes close reading necessary. Strangely, the author’s suggested creed is the most verbose portion of the book (a characteristic of the secular age?), and, again strangely, he includes in that creed no affirmation of belief in the Holy Spirit, referring to him only in the mention of “God’s triune love.”
One of the largest indigenous American denominations is Adventism, which, especially through the efforts of its largest branch, the Seventh-day, has spread to every corner of the world. Now there is a semi-annual journal devoted to the entire Adventist Heritage and intended for both scholars and laymen. The first issue (January, 1974) is very well illustrated and includes articles on the splits in the Millerite movement right after the “Great Disappointment of 1844,” SDA’s on World War I, and the rise of black Adventists. Every theological and university library should subscribe. ($4/year; P.O. Box 341, Loma Linda, Cal. 92354.)
The Bible-Science Newsletter considers the world to have been created a few thousand years ago in 144 hours. However, it seeks to give scientific as well as exegetical bases for this belief and reports on those who, often dogmatically, maintain opposing positions. In short, one does not have to agree with it to find it of value as an information source. (Box 1016, Caldwell, Idaho 83605; $3.00/year, ten issues.)
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