Evangelistic Round-Up

Redeemed? Say So!, by Robert J. Plekker (Harper & Row, 1977, 191 pp., $3.95 pb), HIS Guide to Evangelism, by Paul Little and others (InterVarsity, 1977, 157 pp., $2.50 pb), That None Be Lost, by Oliver V. Dalaba (Gospel Publishing House, 1977, 127 pp., $1.25 pb), Go Make Disciples, by Rolf A. Syrdal (Augsburg, 1977, 128 pp., $3.50), I Believe in Evangelism, by David Watson (Eerdmans, 1977, 190 pp., $2.95 pb), and Evangelism in a Tangled World, by Wayne McDill (Broadman, 1977, 181 pp., $3.95 pb), are reviewed by Richard V. Peace, assistant professor of evangelism, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Many people are concerned about evangelism. Witness the six different traditions represented in these books, which span the ecclesiastical spectrum from an Anglican rector to an Assemblies of God minister and in between a Lutheran professor, a Southern Baptist denominational executive, a Christian Reformed layman, and an interdenominational campus minister. Each of them is concerned that we get on with the job of sharing the good news. But when it comes to how each one views the work of evangelism, we find quite different viewpoints.

Robert J. Plekker is a Michigan dentist and a layman in the Christian Reformed Church. He opens his book by commending as a model for personal witnessing a man he once met on a plane to Florida. Plekker first noticed the man when he rushed into the plane, late: “His shirt [was] half way out of his pants, his tie was loose and his head was topped off with a red golfer’s cap … He ran down the aisle with bags, camera, books and other paraphernalia” and sat down next to Plekker. Then in a loud, embarrassing way he introduced himself, and proceeded to “witness” to Plekker. Apparently this gentleman confronted each and every stranger he met, without fail, with a plan of salvation. Later that day, he and Plekker shared a fifty-mile car trip in Florida that took twenty-four hours to complete because of this man’s insistence upon stopping for every hitchhiker so he could confront them with his message until they literally “broke down.”

In sharp contrast is an anecdote cited by Mark Pettersen in HIS Guide to Evangelism: “An agnostic friend of mine was approached by a Christian with the lecture approach. After the Christian made his first point, my friend objected that he was not ready to grant the existence of any God let alone a God who loved him but the Christian insisted they finish the outline before they discussed that issue. My friend was forced to listen to a presentation that obviously did not relate to him. The immediate effect was that he lost both warmth for the Christian as a person and freedom to ask further questions.” A style of witness commended in one book is condemned in another. Although the contrast between books is generally not this pointed, it is interesting to note the wide range of ways in which evangelism is perceived.

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Oliver V. Dalaba in That None Be Lost uses what might be called a potpourri approach to evangelism. Rather than examining anything in detail, he gives us lists. For example, he discusses eleven methods of outreach, nine philosophies of outreach, eight witnessing plans, seven witnessing places, and six guidelines to compassion. His book tends to be a series of loosely related snippets of information. Dalaba’s approach is oriented to the needs and concerns of the Assemblies of God. (He makes frequent reference, without explanation, to such programs as Royal Rangers and Missionettes.)

Rolf Syrdal, former director of world missions for the American Lutheran Church, is more theological. Although Dalaba focuses on the “have to” in a summary sort of way, Syrdal looks at the theological and historical issues involved in evangelism. He deals with such areas as the relationship between baptism and evangelism, preaching and personal evangelism, and evangelism and Christian service. He is concerned that evangelism be directed not only outside into the unbelieving world, but inward toward those church members who have stopped living in Christ: “At the close of the service of baptism of infants, … the parents and sponsors are admonished to nurture the spiritual life of the children so they will be brought up in the faith.… The very fact that this admonition is necessary implies that it is possible that a child who is baptized may later break the covenant by willful acts.… The prophets were evangelists to the people of the covenant who had departed from the faith.… We are to proclaim (the Gospel) also to those who have fallen away from God and need to be brought back in repentance and faith. The church must have an ‘outreach’ of the Gospel to those outside the church, but it is also necessary that the church has an evangelical ‘inreach’ … to save those who have left Christ.”

The concern in HIS Guide to Evangelism is the college campus. These eighteen articles (by sixteen authors) appeared originally in Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s magazine, HIS. As in any collection, the quality of the articles varies. Many, however, are very useful (and not just in a campus context). Some of them, such as Beckey Manley’s “Sharing Christ, Ourselves and Pizza … All at Once” are excellent. She begins: “Christians and non-Christians have something in common: They are both uptight about evangelism. The common fear of Christians seems to be ‘How many people did I offend this week?’ They think that they must offend in order to be a good evangelist. A tension begins to build inside: Should I be sensitive to people and forget about evangelism or should I blast them with the gospel and forget about this person?” She goes on to discuss how we can learn to be ourselves as well as letting others be themselves; at the same time we are transparently honest about Jesus and his claims. This article alone is worth the price of the book.

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Often in stark contrast to that approach is Plekker’s book, Redeemed? Say So!, in which the approach is much more mechanistic (e.g., Chapter 13 in which twenty-one “Satanic Tangents” are listed along with concise suggestions on how to get the conversation back on track again) and high pressure (e.g., “The seventh rule may not sound too nice but it is essential. Avoid allowing someone the ‘out’ of thinking it over. Giving someone time to ponder things is bad kingdom business”).

The real gems in this set of six books are David Watson’s I Believe in Evangelism and Wayne McDill’s Evangelism in a Tangled World. Watson’s book is the best general introduction to evangelism I have seen in years. It is profoundly biblical and intensely practical. Watson, pastor of St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church in York, England, begins with a series of word studies (“evangelism,” “gospel,” “proclamation”), which are academically sound and immensely readable. He establishes a biblical foundation. His chapters on personal evangelism and follow-up are filled with insight and his chapter on evangelism and the local church is a blueprint for healthy church growth. The special thing about the book comes in the final two chapters in which Watson explains the relationship between worship and evangelism and then discusses “the spirit in evangelism.” He begins his penultimate chapter: “In the 1,470 page report of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation there are only 2 short paragraphs specifically on worship. However, on many occasions I have seen the close link between the praise of God, when marked by the freshness and freedom of the spirit’s presence, and powerful evangelism.” He goes on then to amplify and illustrate this relationship. In his final chapter there is as clear, profound, and moving a discussion of the work of the Holy Spirit in evangelism as I have seen.

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Wayne McDill is a Southern Baptist, serving as an executive in the Evangelism Division in Texas. McDill’s book shows deep insight into the people we are seeking to reach through our evangelism. Other books (e.g. Plekker’s) seem preoccupied with the Christian’s role in evangelism but McDill forces us to examine our methods and message from the point of view of those to whom our efforts are directed. He constantly asks: Will they understand? Does this touch people at a point of authentic need? For example, in discussing the message of the Gospel, he begins with the biblical material, but then “repaints the ancient pictures” by means of a series of metaphors that will communicate the Gospel content to modern man. He then goes on to discuss conversion, beginning with what he calls “biblical psychology” and then exploring the cognitive, moral, emotional, and volitional aspects of the conversion experience. His examination of the Great Commission is by means of seven questions or options—“Will the believer be characterized in the mind of the church as a salesman or as a witness for Christ?” (he opts for discipleship and for witnesses). Either McDill’s or Watson’s book would be an excellent text in a course on evangelism. Their attitudes and insights will serve as a corrective for much that is being written about evangelism today. They will stimulate each of us to get on with the task of sharing Jesus with others in a loving way.

What About The New Religions?

The New Religious Consciousness, edited by Charles Y. Glock and Robert N. Bellah (University of California, 1976, 400 pp., $14.95, $5.95 pb), is reviewed by Kenneth W. Shipps, associate professor of history, Trinity College, Deerfield, Illinois.

From what might be called the new Fertile Crescent of the world comes the first of a projected series of books on the new religious consciousness. Two professors of the University of California at Berkeley have edited the essays of graduate students and contributed their own thoughts in pondering the “deepest meanings” of the cultural upheavals of the sixties. Using social science techniques, they report on nine of the scores of more or less religious groups that flourish in the Bay area: the Healthy-Happy-Holy Organization, Hare Krishna, Divine Light (Maharaj Ji), the New Left, the Human Potential Movement, Synanon, the Christian World Liberation Front, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and the Church of Satan. Besides these nine case studies there are several other essays including three fascinating ones on how “traditional religion” has responded to the youth “counterculture” and two that project four alternative futures. The volume also includes a summary of the data collected by Robert Wuthnow, who designed and supervised a random survey of the religious awareness, beliefs, and practices of 1,000 Bay Area residents in 1973.

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Thank You, God is another of the fine products for children from the Thomas Klise Company (Box 3418, Peoria, IL 61613). Designed as a continuation of the biblical material in Praise the Lord (see Oct. 21, 1977, issue, p. 32), it leads children to praise and thank God not only for the revelation of his Word, but also of his world. This filmstrip does require careful preparation by the teacher. Delightfully animated for the very young.

Also from Klise, but for adults, is A Thanksgiving Service, which sensitively blends photos of nature and man’s stewardship as a sacred and secular idyll. We hear both sexes give genuine thanks.

Even though The Spanish Missions: Yesterday’s Dream is about the California missions that were established after the Pilgrims had already come ashore in New England, it is well to remember that the missionary impulse to the New World of which the California missions were a part began two centuries before the Pilgrims arrived. This filmstrip seriously discusses the pluses and minuses of Spanish missions. It raises questions of a historical nature that are also relevant to Protestants. This is a secular production from Multi-Media (Box 5097, Stanford, CA 94305) meant for schools, but it can be studied by churches, particularly as a balance to foreign programs that too often seem happily and enthusiastically oblivious to some of the consequences of mission practices. It is a fair and balanced presentation, but the filmstrip gives no answers to the questions it asks.

Shocking and sobering are the words to describe Christians & Jews: A Troubled Brotherhood. This two-part Alba House (Canfield, OH 44406) production for teens and adults has no peer in the rendering of its theme. Finely crafted in the hands of Suzanne Noffke, a Dominican sister, these filmstrips are an artistically powerful presentation of the troubled relations between church and synagogue over the centuries. The story is told with striking examples of Christian anti-Semitic art that is rarely seen. The music background, by Bloch, Bruch, and Partos, conveys the anguish of the Holocaust. Although this production ought to be viewed by every Christian, there are two troubling aspects to its viewpoint. One is the assumption that anti-Semitism is partly rooted in the Gospel accounts themselves, and the other is the assumption that anti-Semitism is mostly a Christian problem rather than a universal one. These filmstrips deserve wide circulation among Christians.

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Although tame by today’s standards, some have thought Gustav Doré’s lithographs of the works of Dante a nineteenth-century excursion into pious voyeurism. However Gustav Doré’s Vision of the Bible is an interesting period piece from Contemporary Drama Service (Box 475, Downers Grove, IL 60515). The black and white pictures have been tinted to add dramatic color. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception from Vedo Films (85 Longview Rd., Port Washington, NY 11050) is an exquisite tour of the largest Roman Catholic building in North America. It is aesthetically pleasing, but Protestant viewers will be amazed (or dismayed) at the strength of Marian devotion that raised this incomparable structure in the heart of Washington, D.C. A lavishly illustrated booklet comes with it.

The Great Men of Art series from Encyclopaedia Britannica (425 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611) is an excellently prepared program on da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Van Eyck, and Dürer. All of these artists worked within the Christian milieu; their most memorable works are scenes of biblical motifs. Sadja Herzog of Ohio State University notes the spiritual impulses of the Renaissance and the Reformation. This is particularly evident in the Dürer segment, the great Protestant engraver and friend of Luther.


Portland, Oregon.

Wuthnow’s work is so valuable that it resulted in a companion volume, The Consciousness Reformation (1976, University of California). There Wuthnow details the methodology and results of his survey. In Wuthnow’s essay based on his survey he found that only one out of four in the Bay Area was aware of even one of the thirteen new religious groups listed for the area. Wuthnow’s conclusions suggest that all these movements have garnered their adherents from the better educated; also, interest in counterculture groups is likely to remain limited to a very small minority and only in the years of their youth. In his book he also traces through American history what he calls four symbolic universes: theistic, individualistic, social scientific, and mystical. Unfortunately his projections of religious typology on American history and contemporary religious belief, as well as his theory of change through generational conflict, are misleading and reductionistic.

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Each of the movements studied provides a fascinating profile in itself, and in some cases they clearly were an exotic response to the turbulent sixties. Also each chapter suggests why millions of Americans have recently experimented with nontraditional religions and lifestyles. For example, through the Healthy-Happy-Holy process participants find release from the pressures of the material world, a purifying lifestyle, and inner harmony with their Creator. To set themselves apart adherents have adopted the dress of Sikhism—a white robe crowned by a turban. They want to lead the world into a new age of Aquarius.

With the designation “quasi-religious,” the editors can show a more intimate connection between the alternative lifestyles of the seventies and the burned-out political activism of the sixties, but not without straining. Bellah insists that there “was something religious” about the political activism of the period, but he suggests that it was the homelessness, the daring, and the disaffection of youth. Bellah’s imprecise language about religiousness, which is shared by other essayists, leads to confusing, exaggerated, and misleading links between religious, social, and political radicals. In fact only occasional examples are provided to show any connection between the newly religious and the leadership of the broader movements of the time from the civil rights movement through the antiwar movement to the women’s rights movement.

The essays by Donald Heinz on the Christian World Liberation Front, an evangelical group founded in 1969 (much of which survives in the Berkeley Christian Coalition), and by Randall Alfred on the Church of Satan, headed by Anton LeVey, offer brilliant sketches of those groups. Bellah, who is widely known for his oft-reprinted 1967 essay “Civil Religion in America,” in a series of sweeping generalizations assesses the decade of the sixties as an “erosion” of the basic systems of meaning in American history: biblical religion and utilitarian individualism. Bellah sees self-interest undermining “conscience,” his strange paradigm of biblical religion. Religion itself “became for many a means for the maximization of self-interest with no effect link to virtue, charity or community.” Bellah also sees the rising prestige of science, technology, and bureaucracy as further supporting utilitarian individualism and the consequent demise of shared values and ends. Glock, a leading survey researcher, has quite a different set of assertions about science. For him the sciences do not contribute a world view, though they do conflict “with supernatural and individual modes of consciousness.” The sciences must interact with all sorts of forces from the biological to the sociological. From all this monumental reductionism Glock and Bellah proceed to their interpretations of the sixties and beyond.

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For Bellah the new consciousness turned its back on utilitarian individualism, indeed the whole apparatus of modern industrial society. Similarly Glock, who evidendy also likes to have his speculations published, says that the counterculture inspired a disenchantment with the historic view that man could control his environment. For Bellah America may continue its mindless accumulation of wealth and power; it may “relapse” into traditional, persecuting authoritarianism as symbolized by a growing “conservative Protestant fundamentalism”; or improbably, as Bellah himself suggests, a revolutionary religious change may promote “greater concern for harmony with nature and between human beings.” This change would provide the simple, free culture suggested in the values and worship of the new groups.

Glock maintains that a “new cognition” has arisen out of the sects of the sixties. This new way “to comprehend the world, but unlike its American predecessors, is not one given to shaping and finding meaning in the world.” In part, according to Glock and contrary to Bellah, the youth of the sixties reflected their predecessors in their search for more individualism and in their condemnation of a people who had turned too far from the God of their creation. Yet the counterculture denied prevailing views and adopted “the new cognition” of the sciences, which Glock sees as the wave of the future. This scientific view, which has emerged slowly in this century, stresses a lack of consensus, a limit to human knowledge in a complex social and biological environment, a set of relative and ambiguous values, and no possible answers to questions of ultimate meaning.

Thus the book ends pessimistically in unsupported or reductionistic speculation, hypotheses not unlike what the curious professors had found in research prior to their own investigations. Certainly we know more about a few marginal Bay Area religious groups. Several researchers used new methods of social research well, and Wuthnow’s survey of religious beliefs will remain valuable for comparative research. Yet many of the groups have few members and a declining impact. Other movements might have proved more useful for the research and related more to national followings; these include the evangelical charismatics, the Zenists, TM, Muslims, or even the Unification Church. But of course part of the problem in the book is how and when to relate local interests to the larger view. The editors attempt to relate the upheavals of the sixties to history, to the national scene, and to future religious scenes; their efforts, though bold and full of insight, become highly speculative. It appears that a certain millenarian effervescence has captured the professors; they tend to confuse peripheral, transitory religious movements with long-term fundamental change.

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More effective in surveying a broader scope is Religious Movements in Contemporary America, edited by I. Zaretsky and M. Leon (1975, Princeton University). Without the coordinated financial backing of the Berkeley group these writers set forth more theoretical perspectives. Subjects include such groups as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Mormons, Afro-Americans, Meher Baba. Chapters relate to law, music, linguistics, theology, political science, and homiletics. This massive book also has a forty-three page bibliography.

Another broad book on contemporary British and international religious movements is Sectarianism: Analyses of Religious and Non-Religious Sects, edited by Roy Wallis (1975, Halsted/Wiley). This book contains useful distinctions to separate the religious from the nonreligious. It has essays on the Krishna movement, Scientology, and various therapeutic sects. Perhaps with criticism and competition, researchers on the new religious consciousness in the new Fertile Crescent will give us more thorough studies.

Although interest in new religions is on the rise, none of the recent works has used a Christian theological perspective in assessing their work. Making generalizations about religious consciousness in America has led to fewer differentiations between the myriad religious groups in the world, past and present. Hence the CWLF, an innovative expression of evangelicalism, submerges into the counterculture as some kind of countercultural force against the overriding traditions of American Christianity. Generalizations on the relationship between peripheral sects and predominant christianizing and dechristianizing movements need more refinement than can be found in most of these books. Also, techniques of religious studies, especially in the Glock-Bellah work, have difficulty accounting for shifts within so voluntaristic a scene as American religion. They tend to overplay an undefined traditional religion or make rash demarcations about major changes in a complex, variable environment. And none of these books point out how destructive these sects can be. Christian churches have long had ways to differentiate between spooky, heretical, and destructive sects as compared with a more serious, religious experience.

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Edifying Addresses

Our Sovereign God, edited by James Boice (Baker, 1977, 175 pp., $4.95 pb), is reviewed by D. A. Carson, associate professor of New Testament, Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary, Vancouver, British Columbia.

The title of this book captures a theme that has in recent years rekindled a lot of interest among evangelicals; but the subtitle more accurately reflects the contents of this book. Here are fifteen addresses presented to the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology by seven men. John R. W. Stott deals with “The Sovereignty of God the Son” and with “The Sovereign God and the Church.” Roger R. Nicole expounds “The ‘Five Points’ and God’s Sovereignty,” “The Doctrines of Grace in Jesus’ Teaching,” “Optimism and God’s Sovereignty,” and the historical implications of “Soli Deo Gloria.” Stuart D. Sacks draws relationships between “God’s Sovereignty and Old Testament Names for God,” and James I. Packer contributes a section “On Knowing God.” R. C. Sproul follows up the latter theme with “Why We Do Not Know God” and “Why We Must Know God,” and then discusses two further topics, “Discerning the Will of God” and “Prayer and God’s Sovereignty.” Ralph L. Keiper gives us “The Key to Knowing God” and “Witnessing and God’s Sovereignty.” The editor, James M. Boice, seeks to reconcile “Disobedience and God’s Sovereignty.” I confess I found the book extraordinarily difficult to evaluate, not so much because of the diversity of approaches and of merit from chapter to chapter (a problem in most symposia), but because I enjoyed and appreciated the work more than my critical faculties tell me I should.

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The unifying feature is the forum at which they were delivered rather than some common theme. For example, Stott’s second message affirms that “[the] purpose of our sovereign God is not just to save isolated individuals, but to call out a people for himself.” Stott then expounds Acts 2:42–47 in a manner that would be acceptable anywhere in evangelicalism, not just at a Reformed conference. The exposition, as one might expect from Stott, is competent and telling; but its link with the “theme” of the book is no more than could be generated by considering the connection between any biblical passage and the sovereignty of God. The same artificiality afflicts more than half the chapters in the book, but comes to its apex in the second of the four sections into which the book is divided. That section, “Knowing the Sovereign God,” has very little within it that has any exclusive connection to Reformed theology.

The diversity of approaches adopted by the various contributors adds to the reader’s awareness of disarray. In his chapter “On Knowing God,” Packer consciously presents his material as an exposition of Calvin’s thought. In one of his four chapters, Nicole seeks to reformulate the traditional “five points” in ways open to less ambiguity, effectively jettisoning TULIP en route while retaining its essential content. Keiper is largely anecdotal; Sproul, though scarcely less so, organizes his material topically. Boice tries to deal with the difficult topic “Disobedience and God’s Sovereignty” by expounding selected parts of Jonah; but the limitations of the passages chosen preclude the possibility of admitting important considerations from elsewhere, though the centrality of the topic makes some of the exposition forced—a classic case of the mutually destructive homiletical marriage between exposition of a major topic and exposition of a restricted passage.

To this methodological disarray must be added two or three major errors. Considering the fruit of Anabaptist research during the last three decades, it is astonishing to be told that “The Anabaptists of Calvin’s day were similar to the liberal and radical theologians of our time, for they appealed to the spirit in their own minds rather than what was said in the Scriptures. They said, ‘Because we have spiritual intuitions that come strong upon us, we are going to follow them. We accept them as from the Spirit of God; if this means leaving the Bible behind, well, so much the worse for the Bible!’ Calvin denied this, for he denied that the Spirit contradicts himself.” No doubt that is the way Calvin perceived things; but Calvin never enjoyed any first-hand knowledge of the leaders of the Anabaptists, whose writings portray them to be no less biblically oriented (to say the least) than any of the other branches of the Reformation. A little later in the book, a writer takes pains to differentiate between the person who knows God’s will as revealed in Scripture, and the one who seeks to discover it when it is not so revealed. “It is one thing,” we are told, “to put out a fleece in attempting to discover that which God has not revealed. But to test that which God has revealed is to insult the integrity of his word, and I will not do it” (p. 93). I will try not to do it, too; but I can’t help remembering that when Gideon put out the fleece—twice, at that—it was for no other purpose than to test that which God had indeed already revealed.

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Again, when a contributor writes that in forty years “I think I have heard only one truly honest prayer from the pulpit,” does he intend to use hyperbole to underline the remarkable candor and humility of the example that he then proceeds to give? It must be so, for I cannot believe his ecclesiastical experience is as limited as his words suggest.

Despite my criticisms, however, I find this little book quite compelling. It cannot be compared with Grace Unlimited (edited by Clark Pinnock), for the latter is openly polemical and designed as a symposium of written essays, whereas Our Sovereign God expounds its position with little polemic, and is scarcely more than transcribed addresses. So little concerned is this book to offer a definitive defense of Reformed theology that there is virtually no mention of such topics as covenant, Romans 9 or Ephesians 1, decree, ordo salutis, or a crux interpretum like First John 2:2. Yet this formal lack nonetheless conspires to make this book a helpful, edifying volume, eminently useful in a wide reading circle. To say this is not to despise the polemical work or to give it no place; but it is to say that its place is rarely for edification per se. Our Sovereign God is a work that, though not very profound, is not polemical either, and is edifying.

Although the reader must put up with an informality of style more suitable behind the pulpit than on the printed page, yet he does not have to read far before gaining genuine and valuable insights. One man writes, “Knowledge of God is more than any particular experience of God. For, like the Biblical writers, Calvin comes out of an era when people were less self-absorbed than we are. They were more interested in the realities that they experienced than in their experience of those realities” (p. 63). Another says, “Foolishness is in many of the catalogues of serious sins in the New Testament, along with adultery and murder and things like that. Foolishness is a moral refusal to deal honestly with the truth” (p. 81). And peppered through the book are choice quotations from Calvin, Wesley (!), Warfield, Kierkegaard, Geoffrey Fisher, Brunner, and others.

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If you are looking for a book that will establish the truth of Reformed theology, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a generally interesting and edifying collection of sermons, this is for you.

Teaching Them All Things

With Christ in the School of Disciple Building, by Carl Wilson (Zondervan, 1976, 336 pp., $5.95 pb), is reviewed by Peter R. Grosso, pastoral intern, Cedar Park United Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

From a thorough study of the life of Christ Wilson finds evidence for seven steps in developing disciples: repentance and faith, enlightenment and guidance, ministry training and appreciation of benefits, leadership development and government under God, reevaluation and separation, participation and delegation, and the exchanged life and worldwide challenge. He underscores the urgent need for a balanced biblical emphasis and method for discipleship.

The church’s failure to do this, Wilson thinks, has been the pivotal factor in the crisis now facing the world, particularly Western society. The church has unintentionally through enculturation of the Gospel ceased to build disciples effectively. The incompleteness with which many American Christians interpret the Great Commission is characteristic of this. Often evangelism is emphasized to the neglect of Christ’s command to teach believers to obey Christ’s teachings. Our cultural, social, and political responsibilities are frequently ignored. The church, therefore, has fallen critically short in obedience to Christ’s command to prevent corruption and to drive back darkness, often sinning by placing the pursuit of blessing and man’s well-being above the service and praise of God.

In the midst of this dangerous vacuum of adequate Christian teaching, secular humanism is succeeding in its bid to control our minds, lives, and institutions. Wilson points out that today many churches are subservient to this deceptive philosophy. Our public school system is another sphere of its influence. Wilson traces the history of the causes for the decline of biblical discipleship and lay ministry since the early church. He also delineates the trends causing the loss of effectiveness in disciple building in the United States and the corresponding loss of the church’s influence in our society.

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Yet Wilson sees the present kairos as unique for the restoration of the New Testament method of discipleship. Both positive and negative factors could contribute to such a restoration, he thinks, resulting in the return of the church to her rightful identity as God’s holy and healing assembly in an evil and broken world. He calls the church to return to the faithful pursuit of her Lord’s will, and emphasizes the need for making disciples who are able to live the exchanged life, a relatively stable, consistent walk in the Holy Spirit.

The book is instructive and will be valuable for the pastor or layperson.

Briefly Noted

Booksellers, librarians, and bibliophiles take note. Religious Reading 3 appeared late last year, third in a series of annual surveys of religious book publishing in the United States (Consortium Books [Box 9001, Wilmington, NC 28401], 313 pp., $15). Some 1,577 books that were published just in 1975 are classified into thirty-two categories and briefly described (but rarely evaluated). The author and title indexes are essential since many books aren’t classified where one might expect. The listing is definitely not complete, for six of the twenty-two 1975 books that we had considered “choice” are not included. But it has improved considerably since the first in the series. Both popular and scholarly books are included, as are books for children. Many reprints are listed, but contrary to the publisher’s intention, they are not always indicated as such. The two previous volumes are still in print. As this series continues, becomes more complete, enlarges some of the descriptions while shortening others, and adds a subject index, it will become an increasingly valuable tool for every religious bookstore and church or school library.

A recent reference book to assist elementary-age children when reading their Bibles and preparing for family devotions and Bible lessons is The Children’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by V. Gilbert Beers (Nelson, 316 pp., $7.95) with 1,214 alphabetical entries. Each entry takes one-fourth of a large-size page and has a full-color illustration of the person, place, thing, or concept that is described. There is no denominational bias. An example for four consecutive entries: “Day’s Journey,” “Deacon,” “Dead Sea,” and “Debir.” One serious drawback (although some may not consider it so) is the absence of entries on most of the commonly asked about Bible words relating in some way to sex. If your child asks who publicans are, he can look it up here; but if he asks about harlots, you’re on your own. Baptism and murder are here, but not circumcision or adultery. Both theologically and practically, I think it reflects poorly on the author and publisher that they would presume to omit so many God-inspired words.

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For a first-hand account of the tragic Ugandan situation, read Idi Amin Dada: Hitler in Africa (Sheed, 184 pp., $7.95). Written by the last United States Ambassador to Uganda, Thomas Melady, and his wife, the book chronicles Amin’s rise to power and describes life in Uganda since his reign. The authors present chilling accounts of bloodshed, arrest, and torture to support their charge that Amin is another Hitler.

Teaching Children as the Spirit Leads (Logos, 315 pp., $4.95 pb) by K. J. Allison claims to be a complete source book for Christian education. It is a thorough study, covering everything from “Spirit-Led Bible Teaching” to “Materials and Books” to a resource section for running a preschool program. Take note: it only considers preschool-age children. For a Catholic perspective on working with youth, see Youth Ministry (Paulist, 212 pp., $2.95 pb), edited by Michael Warren. The book has sixteen practical and foundational essays about evangelization, programs, and the development of leadership. Help! I’ve Got Problems! (Standard, 48 pp. and $1.50 pb each) is more elementary. The five-volume series is designed to help the teacher identify problems in the Sunday school class, and it offers solutions. Each volume deals with a different group from preschool teachers to administrators. Buses, Bibles, and Banana Splits (Baker, $5.95 pb) is a practical book compiled by Bill Wilson. This revised edition offers tried and tested ideas for children’s church and bus programs, including poster/flyer layouts ready for use with only the insertion of the specific information.

A new style for ministry is being pioneered by Nicholas Christoff. He makes his home and gathers a church in an apartment complex of 1,200 persons, most of them single. In Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (Harper & Row, 143 pp., $7.95) Christoff relates his transition from a family to a singles-oriented minister. He describes in a captivating fashion the seven deadly sins and seven lively virtues of singles. He details twenty-one actions that churches can take to remove barriers to singles. An excellent book.

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Funeral Services for Today by James Christensen (Revell, 192 pp., $6.95) is a helpful compilation of twenty-eight complete (Scripture, prayers, hymns, meditations) services for all kinds of funerals, including especially difficult ones such as for infants, accident victims, nominal church members, or persons of poor reputation.

William Rodgers, a former actor, focuses on the “ ‘average’ homosexual” in setting forth what he believes is a Christian perspective in The Gay Invasion (Accent, 160 pp., $2.95 pb). He traces the development of thinking concerning homosexuality from Freud to the present day. For him homosexuality is a sin that requires therapy. However, he cautions that such therapy usually falls short of complete effectiveness. Nevertheless, the grace and mercy of God can enable a homosexual to repent of his sin and help him to begin a new life.

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