Death For Youth
Mr. Death: Four Stories, by Anne Moody (Harper & Row, 1975, 102 pp., $5.95), May I Cross Your Golden River?, by Paige Dixon (Atheneum, 1975, 262 pp., $7.95), and The Garden Is Doing Fine, by Carol Farley (Atheneum, 1975, 185 pp., $6.95), are reviewed by Cheryl Forbes, assistant editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
There are various ways to treat death in books for children. In the well-known Anne Shirley series by L. M. Montgomery, death and birth and sickness occur because they occur in real life. As I mentioned in my article on C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series (see page 6), Lewis included the possibility of death in his stories to show courage in action. But the subject of death is not the pivot on which the plot turns in those two examples as it is in these three new books for children. Stylistically and philosophically each book has its strengths and weaknesses. But Moody’s is the best example of how not to write a children’s book about death.
The foreword by John Donovan presumably tries to convince the prospective young reader—though I think it was really written for nervous parents—that these stories aren’t as bad as they seem, that the book is really about love, not death. I agree with his comments about catharsis, which is a valid term for how certain stories strike certain readers. But Donovan’s defense of Moody is unconvincing. If these stories “will make your life richer than it was” we don’t need an outsider to tell us so; we will know it by the reading.
I would never give this book to any sensitive person under sixteen (the dust jacket claims the stories are written for those ten and up). In the first tale the child, disturbed by the death of his mother, shoots himself in the head. When his father finds him, he kills himself the same way. In another story a small girl’s German shepherd dog eats her when he smells blood from a scratch on her arm. There is nothing bright or heroic or joyful about Moody’s vision of life; she sees sorrow without hope. The last tale is the one exception, but it alone is not worth the price of the book. Moody is a talented writer; the tales are skillfully told. But her skill is no compensation for the content.
The other two books are written for teen-agers. Dixon’s is better written than Farley’s, and is the best of the three. Eighteen-year-old Jordan discovers he is dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“Lou Gehrig’s disease”). Dixon narrates how the boy and his family handle the news realistically and sympathetically, without any cloying sentimentality. The story is not as one-diminsional as such books often are; there is more to the plot than Jordan’s plight.
Although the tale is not told from a Christian perspective, there are good passages discussing heaven, faith, prayer, and the existence of pain in relation to the existence of God. Certainly a thoughtful, mature Christian teen-ager would find the book interesting.
Jordan changes in Dixon’s tale, as does the main character in Farley’s novel. Although Farley’s plot is less diversified, her theme is more complex. Corrie, a high school freshman, faces her father’s death at the end of the book. Along the way she learns much about prayer and faith and love. Several chapters concentrate on the problem of unanswered prayer. The story raises questions that each Christian faces at some point.
The title—The Garden Is Doing Fine—symbolizes both the real garden her father plants each spring and the garden that is living in her.
These are not great books, but the last two are better than the average fare found on junior library shelves.
Doctrines Of The Apostles
A Theology of the New Testament, by George Eldon Ladd (Eerdmans, 1974, 661 pp., $12.50), is reviewed by Robert Guelich, associate professor of New Testament, Bethel Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.
After many years of creative scholarship and numerous articles and books in the area of New Testament theology, Professor George Ladd of Fuller Theological Seminary has put it all together in what might be called his magnum opus, A Theology of the New Testament. Beginning with the introduction, which briefly sketches the history of the discipline and introduces some of the major issues involved in the discipline, Ladd develops his theology of the New Testament according to the following divisions: the Synoptic Gospels, the Fourth Gospel, the Primitive Church, Paul, the General Epistles and the Apocalypse. His stated intent is “to introduce seminary students to the discipline of New Testament theology … to give a survey of the discipline, to state its problems and to offer positive solutions as the author sees them.”
The section on the Synoptic Gospels offers a valuable, concise summary of Ladd’s previous work on Jesus and the Kingdom of God. His work on Pauline theology, while not as familiar to his readers, is equally as rewarding. It comes as a fresh statement of Paul’s thought based on the author’s interaction with the vast contemporary literature on this subject. By setting off the Fourth Gospel as a section in itself, Ladd does justice to the frequently overlooked uniqueness of that work’s contribution to New Testament theology. The highlight of the section on the primitive church is his discussion of the Resurrection, and he concludes with a relatively brief statement on the theology of each of the General Epistles and the Apocalypse.
The one weakness I found in this work is its failure to take into account the theology of each Synoptic evangelist. Whereas it is important to have a composite portrait of Jesus and his ministry from the Synoptics in contrast to John, we must be careful not to overlook the theological distinctives of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Granted that one might be frustrated by the rather speculative and sometimes fanciful work that has been done in Synoptic studies, the work of evangelicals such as Marshall, Martin, and Meye encourages us to treat each of the Gospels with individual care.
Ladd’s Theology makes one very significant contribution to New Testament theology that comes almost as a byproduct. Ladd consciously develops the theological distinctives of the authors and traditions of the New Testament without denying any of its unity. This is welcome at a time when many critical studies are focusing on the diversity of the New Testament theologies and are thus skeptical about the possibility of a given New Testament theology. The theology of the New Testament is polychromatic, not monochromatic. Yet the full spectrum of colors is a compatible blend and not a clash.
The strengths of Ladd’s writings have been their comprehensive scope, fair interaction with others, and very readable style. This book is no exception. The literature is vast, the viewpoints innumerable, the issues complex. Yet Ladd singles out the significant literature, presenting both his and others’ views with objectivity and fairness. He confronts the issues directly, posing the crucial questions. And he has a gift of saying something profound in an interesting and clear way.
Although Ladd explicitly writes for the seminarian, any serious student of the Scriptures will find this to be profitable, intelligibly laid out and clearly written. I unreservedly recommend it for a reading audience larger than the “textbook” audience.
Paul’S Magnum Opus
The Epistle to the Romans, Volume I, by C. E. B. Cranfield (T. & T. Clark, 1975, 462 pp., £7.00), is reviewed by W. Ward Gasque, associate professor of New Testament, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.
The world renowned International Critical Commentary on the Bible was initiated more than eighty years ago by the well known theological publishing firm T. & T. Clark of Edinburgh, Scotland. The goal was a very ambitious one: to produce a major scholarly commentary series after the pattern of the great German multi-volume commentaries edited by H. A. W. Meyer, C. F. Keil and F Delitzsch, J. P. Lange, and H. J. Holzmann—a task never before attempted in English. According to the preface to the first volume to appear, Deuteronomy (1895) by S. R. Driver (who also served as general editor for the Old Testament), the series was to be primarily critical (i.e., scholarly) and exegetical, rather than homiletical. It was also to be international and inter-confessional in character, as well as (it was hoped) “free from polemical and ecclesiastical bias.” Emphasis would be laid on “Historical and Archaeological questions, as well as questions of Biblical [though presumably not systematic] Theology.”
As it actually turned out, the Old Testament volumes leaned very heavily upon philology and literary criticism and scarcely entered the field of biblical theology, while the New commentaries (with one exception) tended to have a more theological emphasis and were also generally more conservative in their critical conclusions, perhaps reflecting the differing outlooks of Driver and Alfred Plummer, who was the New Testament editor. Although the names of intended authors were listed in the first volume to appear, the names changed considerably over the years and many commentaries failed to appear. When the latest volume of the old series (James A. Montgomery, 1 and 2 Kings) appeared in 1951, only about two-thirds of the Bible had been covered. But by then the three original editors (C. A. Briggs was the third) were long since dead, and it seemed that the publishers and potential authors either were exhausted or had lost interest in the project.
The ICC, though very dated and in places uneven in quality, still remains an indispensable tool for the contemporary theological student or pastor, since it is the only commentary series of this style in English. (By contrast, German scholars and publishers have never tired of producing and revising numerous scholarly commentary series and other technical works of biblical study!) The new Hermeneia series, which is being published by Fortress Press, is similar to the ICC though not quite so technical and thus far is limited to translations from German. There are also commentaries on individual books, not a part of any series, that fill a gap for the serious student and surpass or update numerous ICC volumes.
However, many volumes of the old ICC remain of special value. Here one thinks of Skinner on Genesis (1925), Driver on Deuteronomy (1895), Montgomery on Daniel (1927), the multi-author volumes on the Minor Prophets (1905, 1911, 1912), Plummer on Luke (1896) and 2 Corinthians (1915), Burton on Galatians (1921), Charles’s two volumes on Revelation (1920), and, until the appearance last year of the replacement by Cranfield, Sanday and Headlam on Romans (1895).
The scholarly world pricked up its ears when it began to be rumored that the ICC was being revised under the editorship of J. A. Emerton of Cambridge and C. E. B. Cranfield of Durham. As it turns out, there are plans not for a complete revision of the series but rather for the replacement of some volumes and the filling in of significant gaps (for example, no commentary on Acts was ever published in the old series: the responsibility for this is now in the capable hands of C. K. Barrett). And now we have the first volume of what is certainly the most significant commentary on Romans written in English in more than three-quarters of a century.
Cranfield’s work is in every way a worthy successor to its well-known predecessor. If the authors who follow him in the next few years keep to the same high standard, students and teachers of the New Testament will owe them a very great debt indeed. As I read page after page of Cranfield on Romans 1–8, I could not but think of Lightfoot and Westcott, for the author seems to have that same blend of careful scholarship and sympathy for the thought of the biblical writers that one finds in these two greatest of English commentators but in few other modern (or ancient, for that matter) commentators. Volume one begins with a forty-four-page introduction, dealing with questions of authenticity and integrity, date and place of writing, the church in Rome, occasion and purpose, language and style, structure, and the history of the exegesis of the epistle. This section is a model of lucid brevity. The author deals with the major alternatives suggested in regard to each problem of introduction without overwhelming the reader with detail or turning his comments into bibliographical essays (as is the tendency of recent German commentators). His conclusions are uniformly conservative and traditional, though they are by no means merely assumed:
1. Paul is the true author of the whole epistle, including chapters 15 and 16; Tertius (Rom. 16:22) served only as secretary, taking down in longhand and shorthand the actual words of Paul.
2. The letter was written either during the period of the final days of A D. 55 and the early weeks of A.D. 56 or during the corresponding period A.D. 56–57.
3. The Roman church contained both Jewish and Gentile members, neither group, probably, having an overwhelming predominance.
4. Although the general occasion of the epistle is clear—Paul proposes to stop by Rome on his way to further missionary labors in Spain (1:8–15 and 15:14–33)—it is not altogether clear, at least at first, why he took the occasion to write a detailed exposition of the Gospel as he preached it. Cranfield promises to return to this subject at the end of his commentary.
5. Paul’s use of language shows a certain degree of culture and general refinement: his style is fluent and accurate Greek without any hint that (as is sometimes suggested) he is thinking in Aramaic.
6. A point worth noting is the use of connectives (i.e., conjunctions and other linking words), which indicates the logical development of Paul’s thought; Cranfield takes pains to point out the significance of these and the orderly mind of the author of Romans.
7. The theme of the epistle as a whole (and not just chapters 1–8 or 1–11) is found in 1:16b, 17: God’s righteousness which is by faith.
A valuable feature of Cranfield’s commentary is his warm appreciation of the work of all biblical commentators, especially the early Fathers, and not just modern scholars. Far from being largely irrelevant for the contemporary understanding of Paul’s magnum opus, the Fathers are seen to have often come to grips with the heart of an exegetical problem; and even the Middle Ages are not without light (particularly the work of Aquinas). However, it is John Calvin (rather than Luther!) with whom the author finds greatest sympathy, a fact that should warm all good Presbyterian and Reformed hearts!
Although many North American evangelicals may not be familiar with the author and his earlier work, they will doubtless embrace him as a brother, since his commentary is consistently evangelical and reformed (without being doctrinaire). Here are a few samples of his thought on key theological issues. On the concept of God’s wrath, which is so troublesome to the mind of modern man, he writes (against Dodd):
That Paul would attribute to God a capricious, irrational rage is more than improbable. But a consideration of what Dodd calls “the highest human ideas of personality” might well lead us to question whether God could be the good and loving God, if He did not react to our evil with wrath. For indignation against wickedness is surely an essential element of human goodness in a world in which moral evil is always present.…
In view of the parallelism between [chapter 1] vv. 17 and 18, the most natural way of taking v. 18 is to understand Paul to mean that orge theou [God’s wrath] also is being revealed in the gospel, that is, in the on-going proclamation of the gospel, and to recognize that behind, and basic to, this revelation of the wrath of God in the preaching, is the prior revelation of the wrath of God in the gospel events.…
The reality of the wrath of God is only truly known when it is seen in its revelation in Gethsemane and on Golgotha [pp. 109, 110].
After arguing for the translation of hilasterion in 3:25 by “a propitiatory sacrifice,” he comments:
We take it that what Paul’s statement that God purposed Christ as a propitiatory victim means is that God, because in His mercy He willed to forgive sinful men and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against His own very Self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved [p. 217],
And on Romans 5:1:
What did Paul understand to be the relation between reconciliation and justification? The correct answer would seem to be … that God’s justification involves reconciliation because God is what He is. Where it is God’s justification that is concerned, justification and reconciliation, though distinguishable, are inseparable. Whereas between a human judge and the person who appears before him there may be no personal meeting at all, no personal hostility if the accused is found guilty, no establishment of friendship if the accused is acquitted, between God and the sinner there is a personal relationship, and God’s justification involves a real self-engagement to the sinner on His part. He does not confer the status of righteousness upon us without at the same time giving Himself to us in friendship and establishing peace between Himself and us … [p. 258].
These three quotations give a sample of the theological flavor of Cranfield’s commentary, but they give no indication of the exegetical and philological detail with which the work abounds, nor of the author’s mastery of literature ranging from biblical and extra-biblical Greek and Hebrew texts through the rabbis and the early Fathers to modem commentators in a multitude of languages. Each page is packed with helpful information that will be appreciated by all serious students of the New Testament. The work will be of value primarily to those who have studied Greek, but I am sure that many who have no knowledge of this language but who have the patience to work their way through the material will also find their reward.
The only two, rather minor, negative comments I would offer are these. First, the printing job could have been more carefully done. In view of the technicality of the text, which contains reams of Greek and some Hebrew (untransliterated!), and also other foreign-language material, it is surprising that there are so few typographical errors. But in such an expensive volume one would think that the printers would be careful to make the margins uniform and to see that the type always prints evenly. However, this in no way spoils the content.
My second criticism concerns the too-frequent use of Latin and Greek (not only in the case of the New Testament and Septuagint) and, to a lesser degree, German and French. In my experience, it would be asking too much to expect all contemporary professors of New Testament to have the language mastery required to make full use of these references, and certainly few if any British or North American theological students or pastors possess the necessary linguistic skills. Although some of the author’s university colleagues might look askance at the idea of translating quotes into English, that practice would surely have enhanced the usefulness of the commentary for many.
There is no list of scholars who are working on subsequent volumes contained in this first volume of the new ICC series, but I happen to know that a distinguished group is hard at work, including E. Earle Ellis (First Corinthians), Margaret Thrall (Second Corinthians), W. D. Davies (Matthew), Bruce M. Metzger (Galatians), and Ernest Best (Ephesians). Any one of these could be published within the next two to four years, but I predict that the next to appear will be Cranfield’s second volume on Romans. Whether my prediction is right or not, I am certain that we will all be the debtors of whoever is the next to reach the press. May the Lord strengthen their hands.
Studies in Words, by C. S. Lewis (Cambridge, 343 pp., $15.50, $5.95 pb). The second edition was first issued in 1967 and is now available in paperback. Lewis discusses the meanings of various words such as nature, wit, and sense, words that students and other readers of older literature often misunderstand, sometimes with comical results. Lewis says the book is an “aide to more accurate reading,” and it is just that. Although not specifically religious, it makes us sensitive to the exact meanings of words and how they change, important in studying Scripture or theology. Those who write can benefit not only from Lewis’s ideas but also from the example of his graceful prose.
Objections to Astrology, by Bart Bok and Lawrence Jerome (Prometheus, 62 pp., $2.95 pb). Though largely from a humanist perspective, nevertheless this is a useful rebuttal to what is perhaps the most widespread non-Christian religious practice.
Evangelical feminists claim to be faithful to God as revealed in Christ and the Scriptures. Many Bible-believers have changed their minds over the years about church and state, slavery, and racial discrimination; a better understanding of the Bible can similarly lead to a change in views about men and women. Others dispute, sometimes strongly, the evangelical feminist claim. One of the best ways is to see for oneself what is—and is not—said in the Christian feminists’ leading periodical, Daughters of Sarah, a bi-monthly. A year’s subscription is $2.50 (5104 N. Christiana, Chicago, Ill. 60625).
Libraries serving theological students who read French should welcome the appearance of Hokhma (a Hebrew word for “wisdom”), a theological journal to be published three times per year. For subscription information write Case postale 242, 1000 Lausanne 22, Switzerland. Meanwhile, the somewhat less academic Ichthus is now in its sixth year of monthly publication. For information write Librairie Robert-Estienne, 5 route des Acacias, 1227 Carouge-Geneve, Switzerland.
Compulsory Education and the Amish: The Right Not to Be Modern, edited by Albert N. Keim (Beacon, 211 pp., $8.95). Even as Jehovah’s Witnesses have won for all kinds of believers rights to proselytize, so the Amish may be leading the way to winning rights to educate one’s children as one pleases. Thorough documentation, focusing on a Wisconsin supreme court decision.
Get Me a Tambourine!, by Mary Jane Chambers (Hawthorn, 164 pp., $3.95 pb). A young teenager is converted and joins the “Jesus movement.” His mother, active in a “mainstream” church, records the resulting family conflict over the next few years, which bring some modifications on both sides. Interspersed are brief but illuminating comments by the boy on what his mother has written.
Christians who like poetry will welcome the appearance in October, 1975, of Gates, a quarterly of “poetry and art that exalts Jesus Christ and strengthens the Body of Christ” ($4 for 4 issues/year; Box 67, Grand Rapids, Mich 55744).
Sojourners made its appearance in January as a new, more constructive name for The Post American. The sponsoring Peoples Christian Coalition has moved from the Chicago area to the nation’s capital. It stresses both individual conversion and living in community not as a means of withdrawal from the world but to promote social reform in keeping with what are believed to be divinely revealed biblical precepts ($5 for 10 issues/year; 1029 Vermont Avenue N.W., Washington, D. C. 20005). Somewhat different perspectives on what the Bible teaches are presented by some younger evangelicals in the Boston area in The Cambridge Fish ($2 for 4 issues/year; Box 607, Cambridge, Mass. 02139). Consideration of differing viewpoints is helpful, if not essential, for mature disciples of Christ.
Basic Principles of Biblical Counseling, by Lawrence Crabb, Jr. (Zondervan, 111 pp., $4.95). Crabb is a clinical psychologist engaged in private practice who feels that the local congregation needs to be much more involved in counseling than is customary. He feels that many evangelical psychologists are too congenial to humanistic theories, but he obviously avoids the extreme of denying any validity to psychology.
The Church Cyclopedia: A Dictionary of Church Doctrine, History, Organization and Ritual, edited by Angelo Benton (Gale Research Co., 810 pp., $28) Reprint of an 1883 reference work especially prepared by American Episcopalians and therefore of special interest to libraries serving them and to major seminary libraries generally.
Evangelization And Morality
Evangelization Today, by Bernard Häring (Fides, 1975, 182 pp., $4.95 pb), is reviewed by Dale Sanders, pastor, Evangelical Covenant Church, Essex, Iowa.
Häring, a noted Catholic moral theologian, helps us appreciate that there is still a deposit of sound teaching on grace that can be found in the Roman communion. In Thomistic outline style, with footnotes, he probes the significance of Pope Paul’s designation of 1975 as a Holy Year with two great themes, world evangelization and reconciliation.
Häring is a leading member of the progressive faction in Catholicism and was an early proponent of enlightened interpretations on indulgences and marriage. But he has been reacting lately to the excesses of Marxism, humanism, and the various liberation theologies. While defending his beloved church, he also criticizes her.
His book provides fascinating reading. He expounds on the “solidarity of the race” in a manner reminiscent of vintage Rauschenbusch. In a reflective section in which he claims “I do not intend to suggest to priests and faithful immediate applications …” (p. 144), he takes a position on polygamous African converts and their baptism virtually identical with the church-growth philosophy of Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission. He rails against one of the least-known madnesses of recent years, the massacre of some 250,000 inhabitants of Burundi, Africa, a country with little more than three million population. He is an admirer of conservative United Methodist ethicist, Paul Ramsey.
Critics of Catholicism fault it for a “theology of glory” as opposed to a “theology of grace.” H’aring appears to be adequately aware of this classic Protestant criticism and comes off an earnest explicator of grace:
Christ is not the servant of the Mosaic law, but Liberator and Saviour of all men. He came to destroy all man-made barriers, those also between Jews and Gentiles. What redeems us is grace and not morals, especially if our morals is not evangelical morals (p. 49).
He restates the “theology of glory and creates a thoughtful tension (p. 104). Nevertheless evangelicals will heavily discount large sections of Häring’s thought that are distinctively Roman Catholic: sacramental, hierarchical, and fanciful.
Those who are also concerned about the transformation of morals as part of an overall evangelical witness would do well to consider Häring’s quest for “evangelical morals” (p. 142) and “evangelical beatitudes” (p. 181). He affirms that:
Morality should never proceed according to schemes of law and grace or of law and gospel, but rather always in a vision of responsibility to the gospel and gratitude for grace, which process alone becomes a total and grateful response (p. 106).
Jesuses All Around Us
The Alleluia Affair, by Malcolm Boyd (Word, 1975, 130 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Edward Higgins, professor of English, George Fox College, Newberg, Oregon.
Malcolm Boyd has given us a moving and much needed parable for our own time. One day all the Jesuses on the crosses and in stained glass windows throughout the world suddenly come to life. They descend from their crosses and leap out of their windows. Jesuses all over the world rent rooms at YMCA’s and work as laborers, migrant farm workers, and in other lowly jobs. People confront Jesus in the streets and on the job, and at the lunch counter talk to him face to face. Naturally this is a widely discussed phenomenon all over the world. Religious leaders, in particular, are puzzled and show consternation. As one old priest observes, “The church preached resurrection; now it is confronted by it.”
And confronting the day-to-day moral, social, and political meaning of the Resurrection in a modern, secular world is precisely what Boyd wants us to do. What does the Resurrection mean to me as I confront a world of hunger, pain, injustice, rejection, meaningless lives, and all the other hurts, spiritual and physical, that human flesh is heir to?
With all the Jesuses off their crosses, another strange thing happens. All the empty crosses that once bore Christ’s likeness now bear likenesses of suffering human beings: a young black man who is a convict, a brown woman who is an untouchable, a white youth beaten by drunken parents, a tortured political prisoner, a woman who has lost the meaning of life, and many others. So people begin to see that they crucify one another just as they placed Jesus on the cross originally.
Through these and other devices of the parable-sermon, Boyd dramatizes anew Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, showing them as functioning and potent symbols for our own crucified and suffering world. The Alleluia Affair is compelling in the urgency of its message and beautiful in the simple truth of its vision. It deserves to be read widely. Photographs throughout the text are mostly crucifixes or empty crosses; several are of people going about their daily business. Juxtaposed with the text, all are moving.
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