This year’s survey of theological books covers two basic areas: theology proper and philosophical theology.
In theology proper, a good deal of effort was expended looking at the foundations of systematics. Reevaluation is taking place and one needs to start at the beginning, asking where we begin, why we begin there, and where we go next. Although considerable work is being done here, evangelicals are not playing a prominent role.
Two specific areas that received special attention are the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of Scripture. This is not surprising, given today’s situation. The lingering charismatic revival is forcing everyone to rethink who the Holy Spirit is and what his role in church and individual life should be. Most of the books are constructive rather than polemical, and it appears that great good continues to come from this often neglected aspect of theology. The doctrine of Scripture is also being examined. If the foundation is shaken apart, the whole structure is in danger of collapse, so it is appropriate that this fundamental point be analyzed. Evangelicals are contributing significantly here.
Philosophical theology is making something of a comeback. An inordinate stress on practicality is slowly giving way to the realization that we must know what is practical and why. This raises all sorts of questions, especially regarding the relation of theology to other aspects of life. A large number of books were written dealing with social ethics (to be surveyed in the fall book issue), and, broadly, apologetics—that is, the proclamation and defense of Christianity in the world. Here again evangelicals are doing significant work.
Four books were selected as “most significant” for evangelicals from the past year’s production. They were chosen not because they actively defended the evangelical point of view, but because of the way in which they touched upon subjects, and informed evangelicals need to be aware of their existence.
Doxology (Oxford), by Geoffrey Wain-wright, is a new kind of systematic theology. It is an attempt to look at “the praise of God in worship, doctrine and life” (its subtitle); in effect, it is a systematic theology of worship. The standard topics are surveyed—God, Christ, Spirit, church, and so on—but all from the perspective of worship and liturgy. This allows the historical dimension to emerge alongside the doctrinal within the context of the community and its praise of God. This book is well thought out, and it breaks new ground. Scholars will appreciate it (the notes alone cover 125 pages), and so will pastors, as it focuses on theology in the file of the church. It is a most rewarding experience.
Does God Exist? (Doubleday), by Hans Küng, is a major apologetic work. It surveys nontheistic and atheistic alternatives, with their resulting nihilism, and then makes a rational case for belief in God. It ends with a Christian statement of who God is. The discussion is learned and dense, though Küng tried to put it at a popular level, sometimes revising as often as eight times to make it understandable to the man in the street. But this does not detract from the book. It is a worthy piece of work that is worth the effort to read. Küng answers the question, Does God exist?, with “a clear, convinced Yes, justifiable at the bar of critical reason. [The answer] begins with faith and ends with trust. In you Lord, I have hoped, I shall never be put to shame.”
Man and Woman in Christ (Servant), by Stephen B. Clark, is a major work in which Clark looks at the scriptural teaching on the roles of men and women. He carefully assesses it, and concludes that God created sexual differentiation because of his purposes for humanity. He also concludes that if we claim to accept the authority of the Bible, we are obliged to apply its pointedly clear teachings to our situation today; we are not free to alter or ignore it. Clark continues by examining our new intellectual environment, offering suggestions on how to apply the Bible’s teachings in the contemporary world. This is an irenic, helpful book, and of all the multitude of books on this subject it is easily the best.
The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach (Harper & Row), by Jack B. Rogers and Donald R. McKim, addresses the burning issue that questions what constitutes the Bible’s inspiration and what should be the Christian’s attitude toward both the Bible and the doctrine of inspiration. Rogers and McKim have jumped headlong into the discussion offering what perhaps could be called an errant infallibilist option. They argue that the Bible infallibly does what God intended it to do (primarily, lead people to Christ) but is errant in lesser matters. They also contend that this is essentially the historic view of the church. Personally, I think they are wrong on both counts; but the book needs to be read. At least the issues are now clearly surfacing—which is a distinct benefit. The authors have also done an immense amount of research that will open up avenues of thought for even those who disagree with them. They can be thanked for that; hopefully, we can all learn from the experience of sharing in their labors.
A good deal of thought is going into assessing what theology is all about. Most of the books in this section fall rather uneasily into two categories, either analyzing the foundations and structure of theology or attempting to work out a system of sorts. Some use traditional ideas, some do not.
Several fall into the first category. T. F. Torrance in The Ground and Grammar of Theology (Univ. Press of Virginia) ably discusses the impact of nondualist Einstinian concepts on essentially dualist theology, arguing that dialogue with natural science will benefit theology. John Jefferson Davis edits an interesting collection of essays on The Necessity of Systematic Theology (Baker), covering a range from Brunner to Gerstner. Baker has also reprinted Abraham Ruyper’s massive classic, Principles of Sacred Theology.
Although a bit weak in spots (see the Resurrection, p. 48), Introduction to Christianity: A Case Method Approach (John Knox), by Alice and Robert Evans, contains valuable insight. Johann Baptist Metz in Faith in History and Society (Seabury) attempts in rather turgid fashion to lay the foundation for a political theology. It is worth plowing through, if only to challenge one’s own ideas. John A. T. Robinson argues that Truth Is Two-Eyed (Westminster), meaning that insights gained from Eastern religions help make sense out of Western Christianity. Langdon Gilkey’s introduction to theology, Message and Existence (Seabury), is an attempt to restate theology in “dynamic” categories; hence God becomes a he/she with the attributes of potentiality, relatedness, changeability, and temporality. Understanding the Christian Faith (Prentice-Hall), by Charles D. Barrett, is more traditional and quite helpful. A very perceptive introduction to the evangelical/liberal conflict is Issues of Theological Conflict (Eerdmans), by Richard J. Coleman. It is highly recommended.
Numerous systematic statements have appeared. A Book of Christian Faith (Augsburg), by Johann C. Hampe, is an easy-to-understand statement of basic Christian doctrine. William Hendricks’s A Theology for Children (Broadman), is not for children, but for adults who want to relate theology to children. It is well done. A prodigious work of massive learning is Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine and Life (Oxford), by Geoffrey Wain-wright. It is a systematic theology written in the context of worship. I Have Believed (The Upper Room), by Bishop Earl G. Hunt, is a simple statement of basic doctrine drawn from a lifetime of belief. A Handbook of Christian Theology (Abingdon), edited by A. A. Cohen and Marvin Halverson, is a dictionary of sorts covering 101 topics from Adam to Vocation. The essays range from very conservative to moderately liberal.
God. Both practical and theoretical works have appeared on this fundamental topic. Practically, the concern seems to be how we can know God better in our own experience. In various ways, the following books offer helpful insights: W. Phillip Keller, Walking with God (Revell); J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God (Moody); Overton Sacksteder, Streaks of Light (Logos); Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The God of Jesus Christ (Franciscan Herald); George Lefebvre, God Present (Winston Press); Bill Austin, The Back of God (Tyndale); Morris Ashcraft, The Will of God (Broadman); and M. Blaine Smith, Knowing God’s Will (InterVarsity).
Cornerstone Books has made available an excellent collection of essays on the being of God, One God in Trinity, edited by Peter Toon and James Spiceland. God Our Father (Saint Andrews Press, 121 George St., Edinburgh, Scotland EH2 4YN), by Alan P. F. Sell, touches devotionally and thoughtfully on the general doctrine of God. Emil Brunner’s The Christian Doctrine of God (Westminster) is now available in paperback.
Christ/Atonement. Karl Rahner and Wilhelm Thüsing in A New Christology (Seabury) offer an attempt to restate traditional ideas in nontraditional form; it is not altogether successful. More traditional is What the Bible Teaches About Jesus (Tyndale), by Geoffrey Grogan, and Focus on Christ (Collins), by John Stott.
Several reprints have appeared on the Atonement: The Cross and the Common Man (Northwestern Publishing House), by Herman W. Gockel; The Atonement (Bethany Fellowship), by Albert Barnes; The Doctrine of the Atonement According to Christ (Alpha), and The Doctrine of the Atonement According to the Apostles (Alpha), both by George Smeaton.
The Holy Spirit. It is difficult to subdivide the numerous books that have appeared on the Holy Spirit because they overlap so much. Basically, there are two groups: doctrinal and practical/charismatic.
The Holy Spirit: Lord and Life-giver (Loizeaux), by John Williams, is a moderate, basically anticharismatic treatment of the Spirit’s work. Its positive statements are well made. Somewhat more critical, and from a holiness perspective, is The Holy Spirit: Friend and Counselor (Beacon Hill of Kansas City), by Milton Agnew. Moderate, and from a Brethren perspective, is Flamed by the Spirit (Brethren Press), by Dale W. Brown. Arguing that “tongues are a necessary and essential evidence of the baptism in the Spirit” is The Holy Spirit, a Pentecostal Interpretation (Gospel Publishing House), by L. Thomas Holdcroft. One of the best statements I have seen defending the reality of the charismatic phenomenon for today is The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today (Logos), by J. Rodman Williams. A readable and helpful treatment of the Spirit’s work in the New Testament is The Answer Is the Spirit (Westminster), by R. E. O. White. Two older, standard works by A. W. Tozer are in print again: The Divine Conquest (Revell) and When He Is Come (Christian Publications). A collection of Charles G. Finney’s lectures relating to holiness and the Spirit, with a very instructive introduction by Timothy L. Smith, is The Promise of the Spirit (Bethany Fellowship). A series of challenging, academic essays is Conflicts About the Holy Spirit (Seabury), edited by Hans Küng and Jürgen Moltmann.
Three essentially noncharismatic treatments of Spirit living are: Let It Show (Christian Herald), by Dick Mohrman, a discussion of the nine fruits of the Spirit; Live by the Spirit (Servant), by Michael Harper, a clearly written general statement of the Spirit and life; and Living in the Spirit (Seabury), by Rachel Hosmer and Alan Jones, which is basically community oriented and traditional. Essentially charismatic are: The Gift Is Already Yours (Bethany Fellowship), by Erwin Prange, a moving personal testimony; and See How the Wind Blows (Logos), by Bob Slosser, which looks at charismatic renewal and church unity. The Catholic charismatic movement is discussed in: A Portion of The Spirit (Carillon Books), by Michael Scanlan, This Charismatic Thing (Our Sunday Visitor), by David Parry, The Theological Self-Understanding of the Catholic Charismatic Movement (University Press of America), by James F. Breckenridge, and an excellent collection of charismatic documents, Presence, Power, Praise, three volumes (Liturgical Press), by Kilian McDonnell. An attempt to structure a system of charismatic worship in the Reformed tradition is In Spirit and Truth (Dorrance), by Calvin H. Chambers. Two academic studies from the University Press of America are Neo-Pentecostalism: A Sociological Assessment, by Cecil David Bradfield, and Perspectives on Pentecostalism; Case Studies from the Caribbean and Latin America, edited by Stephen D. Glazier.
Scripture. The inspiration of the Bible continues to engage the interest of theologians. Because so much is at stake, great effort is being expended to define as clearly as possible how the Bible is the Word of God. H. D. McDonald writes a helpful overview of the entire subject in What the Bible Teaches About the Bible (Tyndale). Shorter, but stressing the infallibility of the Scripture just as strongly, is Take God’s Word for It (Regal), by John F. MacArthur. Richard S. Taylor looks at Biblical Authority and Christian Faith (Beacon Hill of Kansas City). B. H. Carroll, Inspiration of the Bible (Nelson), and John H. Gerstner, A Bible Inerrancy Primer (Alpha), both argue strongly for the full infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, Carroll going so far as to include the Hebrew vowel points. S. Lewis Johnson finds an argument for biblical inspiration in The Old Testament in the New (Zondervan), which is a helpful book in many ways.
J. I. Packer in God Has Spoken (InterVarsity) argues broadly the case for biblical authority, including discussions on the nature of God and Christ. He also contends that we must move on from narrow conflicts to the larger issues in Beyond the Battle for the Bible (Cornerstone). Two collections, both valuable and in defense of the full authority of the Bible, are: Inerrancy and Common Sense (Baker), edited by Roger Nicole and J. Ramsey Michaels, and Inerrancy (Zondervan), edited by Norman L. Geisler. I prefer the latter because it covers more topics in more depth, but both are well worth reading.
The current thinking of the World Council of Churches that the authority of the Bible is relational and that inspiration is something that happens, not that happened, may be found in The Bible: Its Authority and Interpretation in the Ecumenical Movement (WCC), edited by Ellen Flesseman-van Leer. Paul Achtemeier says much the same thing in The Inspiration of Scripture: Problems and Proposals (Westminster).
Jack B. Rogers and Donald K. McKim in The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach (Harper & Row) argue, not convincingly that I can see, that the central church tradition is that Scripture’s authority lies in its ability to bring people to Christ, not in its being a repository of inerrant words. In particular, they say the Hodge-Warfield tradition has distorted the historic view of the church.
Faith. Gerhard Ebeling’s The Nature of Faith (Fortress) has appeared in a new printing. It remains a challenge to those who read it. What the Bible Says About Faith andOpinion (College Press, Joplin, Mo.), by W. Robert Palmer, is a basically conservative statement by a writer in the Restoration Movement of the Church of Christ.
Salvation.God’s Eternal Good Pleasure (Reformed Free Publishing Association/Kregel), by Herman Hoeksema, is a series of strongly Calvinistic sermons on God’s sovereignty. More moderate are John Gerstner’s booklets, A Predestination Primer (Alpha), and A Reconciliation Primer (Alpha). R. G. England surveys Justification Today: The Roman Catholic and Anglican Debate (Latimer House, 131 Banbury Road, Oxford, England). Unconditional Good News (Eerdmans), by Neal Punt, argues that all are saved except those whom the Bible declares are lost, rather than all are lost except those whom the Bible declares are saved. All are elect in Christ (whose death saves) except those who reject it. Thomas C. Oden, Guilt Free (Abingdon), ably discusses one of the chief benefits of salvation: overcoming guilt.
Man. Eight years of careful research went into Alister Hardy’s The Spiritual Nature of Man (Oxford). His experimental conclusions include the necessity of a transcendent personal God. Arthur Custance, in The Mysterious Matter of Mind (Zondervan/Probe Ministries), argues philosophically, and well, for a substantive view of mind: “Man has a computer, not is a computer.” Trinity of Man (Logos), by Dennis and Rita Bennett, uses a modified trichotomy to explain man and offer healing and wholeness. Morton T. Kelsey looks at Healing and Christianity (Harper & Row) and its relation to the essence of the person. This is a new printing of the paperback edition. Stephen Swanson discusses personhood, virtues, and vices in The Double Cross (Augsburg).
Nature. The 1978 Warfield Lectures (Princeton Seminary), by George Hendry, have been published by Westminster Press as Theology of Nature. It is a thought-provoking series of lectures.
Sanctification. J. Kenneth Grider explains Entire Sanctification: The Distinctive Doctrines of Wesleyanism (Beacon Hill of Kansas City), and it clears up numerous misconceptions.
Perseverance. The Primitive Baptist Library has made available J. H. Oliphant’s The Doctrine of the Final Perseverance of the Saints, first published in 1878.
Hermeneutics. Daniel P. Fuller rejects both covenant theology and dispensationalism in Gospel and Law: Contrast or Continuum (Eerdmans). The basis of unity seen by Fuller is “the obedience of faith” in both law and gospel.
Numerous books appeared in this category last year, covering a wide range of specific topics. They are difficult to classify, but have been grouped under several subheadings for this survey.
Philosophy. Several introductions and surveys have appeared. A well-written but hardly Christian treatment is Anthony Flew’s Philosophy: An Introduction (Prometheus). Three Christian works are now available: Introduction to Philosophy (Baker), by Norman Geisler and Paul Feinberg, which will probably become a standard text for a lot of people; With All Your Mind (Abingdon), by Yandall Woodfein, which is more a Christian philosophy than a Christian look at philosophy; and Reason Within the Bounds of Religion (Eerdmans), by Nicholas Wolterstorff, which is a marvelous essay that pulls faith and reason together. Gordon Clark’s standard history of philosophy, Thales to Dewey, has been reprinted in paperback by Baker. The Rise of American Philosophy: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1860–1930 (Yale Univ.), by Bruce Kaklick, is a definitive work. No one interested in the subject would want to miss it. Mirrors of Man in Existentialism (Abingdon), by Nathan A. Scott, is an introduction to existentialism, and a good one.
Philosophers. Princeton University Press continues its studies in Kant with Kant and the Philosophy of History, by Yirmiahu Yovel. Frank Peddle analyzes both Kant and Hegel in Thought and Being: Hegel’s Criticism of Kant’s System of Cosmological Ideas (Univ. Press of America). A very readable introduction (and evaluation) is Hume (Routledge and Kegan Paul), by Barry Stroud. Frederick Sontag has explained the seemingly unexplainable in A Kierkegaard Handbook (John Knox). Wittgenstein (Routledge and Kegan Paul), by Robert J. Fogelin, introduces the subject well and Wittgenstein for Preaching: A Model for Communication (Univ. Press of America), by Thomas D. Peterson, opens up some new areas of thought for ministers. Moore: G. E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles (Holt, Rinehart and Winston), by Paul Levy, is a model of historical philosophical writing. The whole complex subject comes alive. Gabriel Marcel on Religious Knowledge (Univ. Press of America), by Neil Gillman, is a careful and helpful work. Two Roads to Ignorance: A Quasi Biography (Southern Illinois Univ.), by Eliseo Vivas, is an unconventional self-study by one of America’s most challenging thinkers.
Philosophy of Religion. The University Press of America has published two books in this area: Religious Perspectives and Problems: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, by Allen Eikner, a book of readings topically arranged, and Ideas of Religion: A Prolegomenon to the Philosophy of Religion, by John Edward Sullivan.
Science and Faith. Two significant works are now available. Stanley L. Jaki’s Gifford Lectures, The Road of Science and the Ways to God (Univ. of Chicago), is in paperback. One cannot speak too highly of this work, which shows the rationality of belief in the existence of a Creator. A. R. Peacocke’s Bampton Lectures, Creation and the World of Science (Oxford), is a defense of Creation, theistic evolution, and the reality of God. It is a deeply religious work in many respects.
Apologetics. In addition to the above two works that ably defend rational belief in God, others have been written with the express purpose of establishing that there is a God. These include Mortimer J. Adler’s How to Think about God (Macmillan); William Craig’s The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (Here’s Life); Josh McDowell and Don Stewart’s Answers to Tough Questions (Here’s Life); and Alan Hayward’s God Is (Nelson). Of special significance are Hans Küng’s massive Does God Exist? (Doubleday), a monumental defense of theistic belief, and George Schlesinger’s Religion and Scientific Method (Reidel, 160 Old Derby St., Hingham, Mass.), a rigorous defense of the methodology used to establish theism and, hence, of theism itself. Both of these books are of great value.
Language. Two very different approaches to this subject appeared. Gordon H. Clark looks at Language and Theology (Presbyterian and Reformed) in a very perceptive book, and Albert Cook has written a major work on Myth and Language (Indiana Univ.). Both books tackle difficult subjects well.
Liberation Theology.Called to Freedom (Westminster), by Daniel L. Migliore, is art attempt to restate traditional doctrines in liberationist terms, defending liberation theology. Others are not so sure that liberation thought is the answer. J. Andrew Kirk argues this well in Liberation Theology (John Knox) and Theology Encounters Revolution (InterVarsity, 38 De Montfort St., Leicester, LEI 7GP, England). The Integrity of the Gospel (John Knox), by René de Visme Williamson, is a critique of liberation theology. So, in its own way, is Reconciliation and Liberation (Fortress), by Jan Mileč Lochman.
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