A Look at Books

In Den Beginne by HELMUTH FREY Exposition of Genesis I–XI. Translated from the German by Rev. H. A. Wiersenga. Wever, Freneker, 188 pages.

Whereas formerly the first three chapters of Genesis were particularly the object of special consideration (see the monumental work of Dr. Aalders), it has come to the reviewer’s attention that this is now extended to the first eleven chapters. The reason for this is not altogether clear to him.

The popularity of this exposition is attested by the fact that this volume is the sixth printing, and is now being translated so that its influence may be extended beyond Germany.

What is the strength of this book? To what must its popularity be ascribed? It deals with Creation, the Fall, Cain and Abel, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel and its consequences. The material is systematized into three divisions of each chapter: (1) translation and exposition of the text; (2) “theologische bezinning,” which places the material in the framework of our modern history with its burning questions; and (3) the biblical perspectives which endeavor to show how the results obtained from (1) and (2) It in the totality of the biblical revelation. The author shows a certain brilliance which makes also this part of Scripture relevant to the modern age. His exposition of the Tower of Babel is especially fascinating in view of the seething of the nations today. Frey correctly contends that to seek the chief reason for Babel in the confusion of tongues devaluates its meaning. The meaning lies much deeper.

Why this book? Frey is impressed with a definite need in the church which he tries to meet. According to the author it is “clear as day” that there is an awakening in the churches that they can no longer be edified by the exposition of texts treated in isolation. The church wants the biblical material presented in its interrelatedness; she wants to see the troth of Scripture as one grand unity and thus attain unto a unified world and life view. And, secondly, our age is becoming increasingly conscious that the Lord is God, a God who claims man for himself in the totality of his existential situation.

Frey’s book gives rise to a number of serious questions. For instance, is it true that there is a “clear as day” awakening in the churches regarding the unity of biblical truth? It may be true in Germany, but this reviewer is not at all ready to subscribe to the fact that such an awakening prevails in the church in the United States. Moreover, does the history of theological science bear out that it has been deficient in the appreciation of this unity? It is possible of course that the preachers have not always maintained a perfect balance in preaching. But does not the science of Biblical Theology concern itself with this very thing? Also, that God is concerned with man in the totality of bis existential situation, that the Lord is God—which is but another way of saying that God is a sovereign God—has not just that been the heart of Calvinism?

Then, too, Frey’s views of the inspiration of Scripture give rise to serious misgivings. Not once is Moses credited with the authorship of Genesis. Frey is evidently unacquainted with the idea of organic inspiration. Mechanical inspiration, yes, which is then all but ridiculed. Says he, “For many the Bible loses its value when it is discovered that parts of it originated out of the heathen saga from the ‘oerwereld’.” It all must be, so they think, “directly dictated to the writer with pen in hand, or literally spoken into his ear 10 be regarded as divinely inspired holy Scripture, if it is to have the value of revelation,” p. 37 (translation mine, C.H.).

Then follows Ills own view. He sees that God through the ages molds the images and conceptions of all nations, how the various peoples imagine the Deity and the origin of the world. These concepts impregnate one another and thus Israel was impregnated by the Egyptian, Arabian, Babylonian, Phoenician and Persian religious ideas. But the Old Testament saints knew themselves to be related to a personal God; were conscious of their own capacity to sift and select and differentiate, and thus accepted what they deemed acceptable and rejected what they deemed worthless. The process is similar to the process of refinement in a crucible. The whole mass is melted, the dross is separated from the true metal and discarded. In such a manner Israel gathered the sparks, brought them into focus under one lens, bound them together as illumined by God and so gave it back to the nations. On that basis how anyone can believe in verbal inspiration is difficult to see. Frey holds to a composite authorship and does not hesitate to accept contradictions between the various documents.

In conclusion, this writer cannot enthusiastically endorse Frey’s method. When one reads on the flap that the author does not indulge in “inlegkunde” or biblical criticism or in the popular “vermythologisering,” but as a convinced believer only listens to the powerful language of the Spirit, The Divine “Inspirator” of Scripture, one cannot help but wonder how far we and our Dutch theologians are apart in our views on the authority and the inspiration of Holy Writ.


The Holy Spirit, His Gifts and Power by JOHN OWEN Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids 6, Mich. 356 pages, Price $3.95

This is an abridgment of some of the most important of the writings of John Owen, the famous theologian, who was a contemporary of John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. This volume is an abridgment of books I–IV of Owen’s “Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit.” The editor, George Burder, has not given an epitome of books V and VI of the above named work. He has, however, included in this volume a compendium of Owen’s “Discourse of the Work of tIle Holy Spirit in Prayer” and of his “Discourse of the Holy Spirit as a Comforter.”

It is only natural that an earnest scholar will hardly consider this volume a sufficient source-book when he wishes to acquaint himself with Owen’s ideas concerning the Holy Spirit and his work. He will much rather take the trouble of wading through the prolix writings of Owen on this important subject. We may say, however, that George Burder has performed a good service for a great host of Christians, who find that Owen’s books are too verbose and too difficult to command their attention. He has presented them with a volume which faithfully reproduces Owen’s thoughts in comparatively few words and in language which the ordinary man can readily grasp. So this volume can aid many to gain a fuller appreciation of the work of the Holy Spirit, which is intimately related to the well-being of God’s people.


New Testament Survey by MERRILL C. TENNEY Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapid., Michigan. 464 pages. Price $5.95.

Merrill C. Tenney is Dean of the Graduate School of Theology, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of several volumes in the New Testament field, and has established himself as a competent and reliable authority in this particular area of theological research. His theological outlook Is conservative and evangelical.

This book is a survey, not a commentary. It Is a revised and enlarged edition of a volume entitled “The New Testament: An Historical and Analytical Survey” and, as such, it presents a comprehensive survey of the New Testament world and message, with due attention being given to such new discoveries as the Dead Sea Scrolls and to “the shift of scholarly opinion on the problems of the New Testament.” Numerous pictorial illustrations have been included to make the book more attractive and instructive.

One finds in this volume a compact yet extensive analysis of the background, content, and significance of each of the New Testament books, as well as of the New Testament as a unit. Because of the scope and purpose of the book, the discussion on some subjects, such as Judaism and the Synoptic Problem, is brief. But it is always enlightening. Furthermore, wherever the discussion is limited the author supplies valuable references as a guide to further investigation. The entire volume is characterized by wealth of information, commendable organization, and pleasing presentation.

This is an excellent book. It is scholarly, well-written, and exhibits an inspiring spirit of sympathy and reverence for the inspired Word of God. One suggestion might be in place. In general the themes and outlines of the various New Testament books are very helpful, but in a few instances the themes are not sufficiently revelatory of the content. Such themes as “The Personal Epistle” (Philippians) and “The Farewell Message” (II Timothy) hardly do justice to the books in question.

Ministers, teachers, and Bible students of all kinds will find this book very stimulating and helpful. An extensive bibliography and index enhance its usefulness. Both author and publisher are to be highly commended for the appearance of this volume.


Man’s Peace, God’s Glory by ERIC S. FIFE Inter-Varsity Press, Chicago, 1961. 144 pp., cloth, $3.50, paper, $1.95.

The Missionary Director of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is speaking in this book as a pastor to the men and women who work in missions under his directorship, and to the larger audience of all Christians interested in knowing what is expected of a missionary today.

Mr. Fife makes an impressive plea for the centrality of God in missions: the mission program is the development of God’s eternal purpose, centering in Christ and involving His redeemed people. Motivations for missionary service are equally God-centered: concern for the glory of God, the love of God, the fear of God, and love for man, because he is God’s creature.

Further chapters on missionary qualifications stress the need for spiritual depth rather than technical breadth, and discussions of Missions and Prayer, and Missions and Giving focus attention on the motive and attitude of the missionary.

This book is not a classic as was Dr. Brown’s The Foreign Missionary, but it is a stimulating and rewarding hour of reading and re-reading for all who labor in the Kingdom, a guide for self-examination, a pastoral letter of stimulation for those considering full-time service in the Kingdom, required reading for seminary students, missionary candidates, and those challenged to missionary service.


A Believer’s Life of Christ by JOHN C. RANKIN W. A Wilde Co., 1900. Natick, Mass. 210 pages. $3.50.

At first blush the title of this book seem, strange. One would expect a treatise on the believer’s life in Christ rather than of Christ. But the author explains his choice in his PREFACE. He wishes to distinguish his work from the many “lives” written by scholars of the liberal school. Also he takes pride in standing solidly in the tradition of his father and grandfather; both ministers, and “…in memory of their fidelity to the Word of God and the historic Christian faith.”

The book is well written. It is not just a dry rehash of historical data. Rankin knows his facts, is faithful to the Word, and his hook breathes a spirit of healthy piety. It could be classified as devotional literature as well as historical. That is an art; it is the strength of this volume. Whether it adds anything particularly new to theological science is doubtful.

In a couple of instances this reviewer must place a question mark. For instance, what is the authority for the statement that John had remained behind with Jesus in the encounter with the Samaritan woman (p. 37)? The record does not indicate it. Also it is a bit precarious for a historian to speak as positively as Rankin does on page 51. Speaking of the call of the four disciples, Peter and Andrew, and James and John, we read, “We may well believe that they were by no means unprepared. Doubtless [italics mine, C.H.] they had been forewarned that the call would come.” It is a bit dangerous to speak so positively on matters of conjecture.

But Rankin has written a good book. Anyone assimilating the facts here presented and absorbing the spirit of devotion exuding from it, will find the reading of it a rewarding experience.