The Reconsecration Of Art

Walking on Water, by Madeleine L’Engle (Harold Shaw, 1980, 198pp., $7.95), is reviewed by Mel Lorentzen, associate director, Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

Madeleine L’Engle’s “reflections on faith and art” (the subtitle of Walking on Water) are not abstruse metaphysical probings into the cloud of unknowing. Nor are they saccharine reminiscences of a pilgrimage toward sainthood. Rather, they are stringent personal and professional efforts to reconsecrate the artifices of art by an act of faith. Like François Mauriac and Flannery O’Connor before her, she dares to be believer and writer at the same time, with all of the private tensions and public misunderstandings that go along with that.

Readers familiar with L’Engle’s diverse works (poems, novels, plays, essays, fantasies, and always stories) will find here in satisfying abundance her laconic wisdom, real-life anecdotes, candid self-revelations, and respect for mystery. Those who have heard her say some of these things in conference lectures will be glad to have them in print at last for repeated reference.

Heresy hunters of all sorts, from fundamentalists to feminists, may think to bag their limit in these 200 pages; but they need to bear in mind Edmund Fuller’s dictum that we do not look to the artist for orthodoxy. L’Engle is not to be judged as a systematic theologian, nor a scriptural exegete, but rather as a brilliant and gifted Christian woman working to relate belief and behavior amid everyday practicalities. Her dogmatic points of reference are essentially and unabashedly Episcopalian, but her strongest sympathies lean toward Catholics and evangelicals (whom she finds, as did O’Connor, to be closer to each other than they think).

By whatever standard, her personal commitment to the risen Christ as Lord and Savior is never in question, and hers is a faith forged in many fiery testings.

Obviously, then, these reflections are not typical writers’ conference bromides about plot techniques and market tips. Yet, by precept and example, she does disclose much about the craft as well as the art of writing. Her most important contribution, probably, to writers and nonwriters alike, is her insight that both faith and art are inseparable from life as experienced in human relationships. Thus, the book can serve Everyman as a spiritual vade mecum for walking on water and other assorted miracles.

No Creed, But Which Bible?

Baptists and the Bible, by L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles (Moody, 1980, 456 pp., $11.95), is reviewed by Larry L. Walker, professor of Old Testament, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tennessee.

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Two young scholars on the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have provided a useful historical survey of a timely subject, Baptists and the Bible. They state their purpose (p. 16) as “an attempt to investigate the Baptist doctrine of Scripture in a systematic, historical fashion.” All Baptists caught up in the current debate over Scripture will find in this study a treasure trove of data about the history of this basic issue in Baptist life.

Russ Bush teaches philosophy of religion, and Tom Nettles teaches church history; this combination provided a balance and depth needed to write a book of this nature. The authors have worked hard to clarify and delineate the history of this controversy among Baptists, and they have achieved an irenic, yet perceptive, survey.

Generally, the authors follow a chronological sequence in their survey, but within this overall pattern various thematic treatments are presented.

As much as possible, the various Baptists covered are allowed to speak for themselves. We hear not only the viewpoint of conservative Baptists such as Charles Spurgeon and B. H. Carroll, but Harry Emerson Fosdick and Walter Rauschenbush, who also state their case, as well as those who changed their views on Scripture (Toy). We hear from missionaries (William Carey, Adoniram Judson), and professors (A. H. Strong, A. T. Robertson, E. Y. Mullins). We hear from the past (John Gill, Benjamin Keach, John Bunyan. Roger Williams), but unfortunately, contemporary Baptists (Billy Graham, Harold Lindsell) are mostly excluded. Carl Henry is briefly referred to a couple of times, and a few references to other contemporary Baptist thinkers may appear; but Baptists currently in debate generally are not mentioned, although the issues are.

Any questions about past Baptists and the Bible should be greatly clarified by this study. For example, fundamentalist B. H. Carroll, founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, made it absolutely certain where he stood on the Bible’s authority by using language no one could misunderstand. (Before his conversion in 1865, he was an outspoken infidel.)

In the last chapter, the authors summarize their findings, restate the historic Baptist view, and consider issues surrounding the implications of this view. The discussion is contemporary but consciously drawn from precedents in Baptist life. Terms such as “infallible” and “inerrant” are carefully reviewed in Baptist history and related to current discussion.

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This should be required reading for every Baptist, and should prove to be of great significance to other Christians as well. It is written in a format and style that make it useful as a textbook, as well as for general reading. It is nicely illustrated with a section-by-section bibliography

Azuza Street Revisited

Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-day Pentecost, by Frank Bartleman (Logos, 1980, xxvi and 184 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Mark Noll, associate professor of history, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

Frank Bartleman (1871–1935) was an independent evangelist who witnessed the extraordinary events of 1905–6 that launched the modern Pentecostal movement. He was an active participant in the early revival at the mission at 312 Azusa Street, Los Angeles, from which Pentecostal teachings have gone out to at least 50 million Christians worldwide. By 1907 Bartleman had become a traveling evangelist, spreading the message of complete surrender to the Holy Spirit throughout the United States and beyond. He wrote this book as a personal reminiscence in 1925 under the title How “Pentecost” Came to Los Angeles—How It Was in the Beginning. Vinson Synan presents it here with an informative and useful introduction.

The book contains revealing glimpses of many early Pentecostal leaders, including the black evangelist William J. Seymour, who in 1906 brought the message of baptism in the Spirit with speaking in tongues to Los Angeles. It notes connections between the Welsh revival of 1904–5 and the “Latter Rain” outpouring in California. It provides a revealing account of the rapid spread of the Pentecostal message. And it illustrates the cooperation of blacks and whites in the early revival, when “the ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood” (p. 54). It also provides perhaps more on Bartleman himself than is strictly necessary. That he was a fervent servant of God is evident, but also that he was censorious (especially toward holiness believers who rejected Pentecostalism), shiftless, and greatly absorbed in his own spirituality.

Many Pentecostals and charismatics will find this book an inspiration. Other Christians, who take different approaches to the work of the Holy Spirit, will not agree with Bartleman’s interpretations of the events he witnessed, but will still find the book a valuable historical record.

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Warning Signs Flashing

The Mortal Danger, by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (Harper & Row, 1980, 71 pp., $2.95), is reviewed by T. M. Moore, president, National Institute of Biblical Studies, Pompano Beach, Florida.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has been variously regarded by Americans and other Westerners since his exile and subsequent decision to reside in the United States. Malcolm Muggeridge has called him the most brilliant mind of the twentieth century. Gerald Ford refused him an audience. And, at least since his Harvard speech, Western journalists have turned from their former adoration to chiding.

But through it all, one message from Solzhenitsyn has remained clear: the Soviet Union is a dangerous and destructive military/political force, and the West must be shaken to its senses before it is consumed. The Mortal Danger is a concise and compelling statement of this theme. It should be of particular interest to evangelicals because of the significance the author attaches to the spiritual renewal currently in process under the shadow of the Kremlin.

Solzhenitsyn sees Communism as a plague infecting his beloved Russia. He insists on a clear distinction between the Soviet Union on the one hand, and Russia on the other. He maintains that due to an inherent and radical hatred of humanity, the Soviet Union is in the process of destroying Russia, even as it will all civilization if it is not checked.

Westerners have been kept largely unaware of this tragic situation due to their dependence upon misinformed or sympathetic Western journalists and scholars. He implores the reader to avail himself of publications (such as the “Herald of the Russian Christian Movement”) more qualified to describe the situation as it really is.

Communism’s fiercest venom has been exerted toward Christianity and all other groups favoring a national and spiritual rebirth of peace. The Western press distorts or ignores facts concerning persecutions; instead, it urges the increase of aid to the Communist regime, which it sees as the only force able to maintain stability in a land threatened by insidious nationalistic and religious interest groups.

This book opens up a new perspective for evangelicals vis à vis the Soviet threat. Solzhenitsyn maintains that Communism will only be stopped by force from without or decomposition from within. The former course is unthinkable. Westerners must, therefore, undertake to encourage and support movements that can effectively end Communist domination in Russia. Our responsibility as Western Christians—in the light of the staggering persecution vented against our brethren in the Soviet Union, and their determination to triumph through it—must begin receiving more attention and action from evangelical leaders.

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The Roots Of Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870–1925, by George M. Marsden (Oxford, 1980, 252pp., $19.95), is reviewed by Thomas A. Askew, chairman and professor of history, Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts.

For at least two reasons, George M. Marsden’s expertly researched and soundly written book is of timely significance.

First, it will become the definitive resource used by secular scholars and journalists to understand today’s variegated evangelicalism and resurgent fundamentalism. Second, Marsden’s account will serve as a touchstone for thoughtful Christians of every stripe who seek to unravel the complex transition from nineteenth-century evangelicalism to twentieth-century fundamentalism.

Based on ten years of research in voluminous sources, Fundamentalism and American Culture reflects no dominant interpretive thesis. Rather, Marsden argues that fundamentalism is a diverse and complex movement, and any attempt to delineate it too narrowly will distort its variety and richness. To merge such divergent streams into an intelligible whole, the book divides into four sections.

Part I analyzes the American evangelical world around 1870, with sketches of Henry Ward Beecher, Jonathan Blanchard, and Dwight L. Moody as representative leaders. Part II, the meatiest part of the book, treats the rise of millenarianism (especially dispensational premillennialism), the holiness and victorious life movements, the Baptist and Presbyterian conservatives, and the development of four parties, or styles, within emergent fundamentalism. Helpful vignettes are provided on W. B. Riley, William Jennings Bryan, and J. Gresham Machen.

Part III covers the years 1917–25, which saw the fundamentalist controversy run full course among the Presbyterians, Northern Baptists, and others. Part IV, entitled “Interpretations,” is alone worth the price of the book. Here Marsden presents four insightful essays on fundamentalism as an American phenomenon in its social, political, and intellectual aspects. The linkage between fundamentalism and conservative politics is thoroughly explored.

It is impossible in a brief review to explicate the book’s many accomplishments. Particularly useful is Marsden’s inquiry into the relationship between Scottish common sense philosophy, Baconian inductive science, and fundamentalist theory and thought. Also, the author breaks new ground by interpreting the impact of World War I on fundamentalist political viewpoints. The end notes and bibliography constitute an instructive review of the literature on fundamentalism. Combining tough-minded analysis with an irenic and appreciative spirit, this tour de force is must reading for anyone who seeks to understand the period and issues examined.

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Prayer. Tracing the development of the Jesus prayer is Prayer of the Heart (Ave Maria), by George H. Maloney. It is a well-written guide to contemplative prayer designed to help time-pressured moderns rediscover the hesychastic tradition with its stress on inner space. A Diary of Prayer (Westminster), by J. Barrie Shepherd, is a collection of 31 meditations on the parables of Jesus in blank verse. They read very nicely.

Honest Prayer (Westminster), by Elsie Gibson, perceptively answers nine difficult questions about prayer, such as, Is it right to pray for things? and, Does prayer change anything? The Prayer that Heals (Ave Maria), by Francis MacNutt, is a moving book that reopens the question of Christ’s present-day healing ministry. It is designed to produce a “gentle revolution” within families, showing how prayer can effect true healing. The Experience of Praying (Paulist), by Sean Caulfield, is a thematic look at what it means to pray, rather than an analysis of the science of prayer. Thus, prayer is related to such things as work, watchfulness, and solitude.

Colleen Townsend Evans’s sensitive Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread (Doubleday-Galilee) eschews an I-me-my approach and includes a lengthy section on the imperative to share as part of prayer. A basic primer of prayer is Pray: God Is Listening (Zondervan), by Richard W. DeHaan. This would be an excellent introductory book to give to high school students. Bidding Prayers (Franciscan Herald), composed by the Dominican Community at Huissen (Netherlands), consists of 109 blank verse prayers on theological topics, such as grace, heaven, and hope. They are profoundly spiritual.

The Illustrated Family Prayer Book (Seabury), edited by Tony Jasper, should delight anyone. Prayers are drawn from such diverse sources as Augustine, Thomas à Kempis, and E. B. Browning, and illustrated with strikingly beautiful pictures. It is for the whole family to enjoy and use.

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