A Look at Books

ABRAHAM KUYPER: a biography, by Frank Vanden Berg. St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 1978; 282 pp. $4.95, paper. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien, Pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church, Pella, Iowa.

Some men really stand out in the Reformed tradition. One of these is Abraham Kuyper. But as great as be was and as important as he was to the development of Calvinism, until Vanden Berg’s biography first appeared in 1960 the only biographical material was in Dutch. Now, after the book had been out of print for a number of years it is once again available thanks to Paideia Press.

Kuyper’s early life, conversion, ideals, struggles and triumphs are all laid out in an interesting and readable fashion. His Free University, his reformation of 1886, and his Anti-revolutionary Political Party are all here. And what a story they make! Necessary historical background is included so that the reader understands the life and work of this illustrious Christian minister, editor, and statesman. While Vanden Berg’s presentation is obviously favorable to Kuyper it cannot be considered a presentation blind to Kuyper’s faults. They are here, too. The reader, though disagreeing with Kuyper on one issue or another, can only admire and respect this great man.

This biography is an outstanding contribution to the understanding of Reformed Church history. It is worth our time to read this book. Thanks, again, Paideia Press for making it available to us.

THE EPISTLES OF PAUL TO THE GALATIANS, EPHESIANS, PHILIPPIANS, COLOSSIANS AND THESSALONIANS by James Fergusson and THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS by David Dickson, in one volume; Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1978; 500+82 pp. $17.95. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien, Pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa.

If you are looking for a critic:al commentary or a commentary similar to the many sold today, this book is not for you. If you are looking for one which will direct your thoughts devotionally or to ideas for the spiritual application of these great epistles, you want this book. The great Spurgeon spoke highly of both writers whose work is included in this volume. Fergusson he called: “a grand, gracious, savoury divine.” According to Spurgeon, Dickson and Hutcheson were also in this same class. Of Dickson’s work he wrote: “We need say no more than—get it, and you will find abundance of suggestions for profitable trains of thought.” Of course, honest use of these comments would mean that good exegesis should be done first, then they c:an be used in application. And no one who uses this book will be disappointed.

Both writers lived in the 1600s. Both were second generation Reformers in Scotland. Both pastored very near each other. Together they, along with George Hutcheson, intended to provide expositions of Scripture for the common man which were plain and useful. Here is a part of that necessary labor in the name of Christ for His Church. Earlier (1959), the Trust published Dickson on the Psalms—now out of print, and Hutcheson on John still available. Perhaps the Trust will one day reprint Dickson on Matthew, which Spurgeon called “a perfect gem.”

BAPTISM: ITS SUBJECTS AND MODES, by J. G. Vos; Pittsburgh, Crown and Covenant Publications of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America: Board of Education and Publication, 48 pp. 75¢ paper. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien, pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa.

Apparently two separate lectures (meant particularly for the constituency of the Reformed Presbyterian Church) have been put together to make a very interesting and helpful booklet. Anyone (whether RP or not) would benefit from a reading of this scholarly but not heavy publication.

The first part deals with the subjects of baptism. Vos points out that while those who are against infant baptism try to show that their position is the strongest, it is, nevertheless, very weak. And the principles on which they build their argument prove too much.

The second portion of the booklet discusses the issue of which mode of baptism is the best: immersion, sprinkling or pouring. Vos considers the Baptist argument for immersion and concludes: “Our disagreement with our Baptist brethren . . . is not because of their practice of immersion, but rather because of their unjustifiable and unscriptural claim that immersion alone constitutes Christian baptism” (p. 48). In coming to this conclusion Vos analyzes each of the arguments for immersion (including the idea that baptism signifies burial) and shows how they all are in error.


GET OUT! A GUIDELINE FOR REFORMED CONGREGATIONAL EVANGELISM, by G. VanDooren; Winnipeg, Premier Printing Ltd., 1973, 98 pp. $3.95, paper. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien, pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa.

Recently this book by a minister of Canadian Reformed Churches and lecturer in their Theological College was reprinted. In many ways it bears reprinting, too. The author intends to Jay out a Reformed approach to the much discussed subject of evangelism. He spends much time laying down principles and discussing them in the light of current objections. He introduces the history of evangelism in the Dutch churches and he gives some guidelines for action on the partof the churches. We commend him for his constant emphasis on the Reformed Creeds and Confessions. This is a refreshing note in this day of bland evangelism.

It is hoped t hat the new edition is so written to make this book more useful to the general reading public. Dutch words which are left untranslated limit the use of the book.

PROMISE AND DELIVERANCE: VOL. II., THE FAILURE OF ISRAEL’S THEOCRACY; S.G. De Graff; trans. H. Evan Runner; Paideia Press: St. Catherines, Ont., Canada; 456 pp. $10.95. Reviewed by Rev. Henry Vanden Heuvel, pastor of Bethel CRC, Sioux Center, Iowa.

This is the second volume in the projected fourvolume translation of De Graafs Verbondsgeschiedenis by Dr. and Mrs. Evan Runner. The present volume covers the events in the Old Testament from the Judges through the return from the exile. The stories of the Old Testament in this volume center upon the covenant of God with His people. The centrality of Jesus Christ is made the theme on every page in a beautiful way.

The stories of David are especially important for the teacher and parent. They are presented here in such a way as to remove all moralism from the accounts, and to constantly point the reader to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. How important this emphasis is today for Sunday School teachers and Christian School teachers who tell these stories to their children. In every story, the emphasis is on Christ as the fulfillment of God’s grace, rather than on the strength of David, or the deception of Saul, or the treachery of Absalom. The account of David and Absalom is recounted to show David’s failure to put the grace of God over his love for Absalom, but at the same time to show how wonderfully gracious God is in uniting David with the covenant people again.

This book is a must for Sunday School teachers, for Christian school teachers, for parents, but especially for preachers. It places the Old Testament in the correct perspective of the centrality of Jesus Christ as the head of the covenant of God’s grace.

GALATIANS: A DIGEST OF REFORMED COMMENT and 2 CORINTHIANS: A DIGEST OF REFORMED COMMENT by Geoffrey B. Wilson; Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1973, 127 pages and 173 pages, 35p each. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien, pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa.

Here are two short but to the point little books which are to serve as commentaries on two New Testament books. The author has carefully culled out of works of Reformed writers thoughts which will help the Bible student in his study and in his devotions.

Obviously I do not wish to say that I endorse every view taken with a commentary this can seldom, if ever, be said. However, I do want to encourage the use of these books along with the three that appeared earlier on Romans, I Corinthians, and Hebrews. They will be especially helpful for that society member who wants clear insights into the New Testament book he may be studying.

TRUTHS THAT TRANSFORM by Dr. D. James Kennedy; published by Fleming H. Revell Co., Tappan, N.J. Reviewed by Rev. Jack Zandstra, emeritus, Boca Raton, Florida.

It is most interesting to know that Dr. Kennedy who wrote Evangelism Explosion also wrote this book. The Foreword states it quite clearly. “D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion was a book on spreading the gospel, the central concern of every Christian. It becomes a best seller because in it he showed how every Christian can be an effective witness. The present book, Truths that Transform, is for those who have yearned for a deeper understanding of Christian truth and what it can mean in their lives.”

In Evangelism Explosion Dr. Kennedy makes evangelism a practical application of the commands and doctrine of the Bible. And it works. In fact, it worked amazingly well in his own church, the Coral Ridge Presbyterian, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Now he writes a book on doctrine. And we logic:al Calvinists with a Reformed heritage, are about to object and say he has put the horse before the proverbial cart. Should we not know the doctrines before we are fit witnessbearers of the truth? Isn’t it scriptural that “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”? Isn’t knowledge of the doctrines necessary to conversion and surely necessary for witnessing? And churches who claim orthodoxy—and there are many—have stunted and shunted the great evangelistic program just because the doctrinal knowledge was not complete.

The real solution to this problem is demonstrated in these two books which hold that some knowledge is necessary to con version and witnessing, but more knowledge, yes much more is necessary “to bless lives, transform men, and build His church.” To be a sound, growing, evangelical church, she must be a studious church grounded upon the eternal verities of the Scriptures.

The chapter headings remind one of a book of systematic theology. Kennedy has no truck with “soda fizz” theology. Let me name a few. (1) The Sovereignty of God; (2) Does man have a free will?; (3) Predestination; (4) Effectual calling. The chapter on Assurance of Salvation is lucid and sustaining. Chapter 10 on Adoption is a study that is reassuring. Though slighted by many of the Reformed fathers, adoption to Dr. Kennedy is a clearly biblical subject and full of comfort. No doctrine is treated in a detached way. There is always the refreshing personal appeal. “Is your name in that book?—Have you by faith laid hold on Jesus Christ and invited Him into your heart?” (page 125).

The two chapters 8 and 9 on Justification and Sanctification are delightful studies. They fit together perfectly: Justification is one act and Sanctification is a continuous process. Kennedy’s Scripture references are many. He quotes John Calvin, Geerhardus Vos, H. Bavinck, A. Kuyper, John Murray, and other Reformed theologians freely.

One gets the message that the evangelistic thrust of the church does not begin with something less than the gospel truth. Rather, evangelism grows upon the full doctrinal truth of Scripture. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” is a repeated refrain. The mission proram is vibrant if built on the verities of the Bible.

This is not a three-volume book on Reformed Theology. It wasn’t meant to be. But its 160 pages are informative and challenging. Buy it. It may be a great stimulant to engage the church in a renewed mission program.

COMMENTARY ON FIRST CORINTHIANS by Frederic Louis Godet. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1977, 920 pp., $14.95. Reviewed by Jerome M. Julien, pastor of the First CRC of Pella, Iowa.

First published in 1886 in French and soon thereafter in English, this work by a Swiss Reformed scholar is now a part of the Kregel Reprint Library series. The author, F. L. Godet (1812–1900) was known for his orthodox faith and firm stand against the theological liberalism of the day. For many years he was professor of exegesis first in the Theological School of the National Swiss Church and later in the Free Evangelical Theological School.

Godet’s work is particularly helpful for those who are familiar with Greek, although any serious student of Scripture will benefit from its use. Lengthy discussions on the various verses indicate the right and wrong ways of viewing the text. The student who does not want to read such involved discussions would most likely draw more help from Charles Hodge‘s commentary. The preacher should have Godet, however, to use along wit h Calvin, Hodge, and Grosheide.

EERDMANS’ HANDBOOK TO THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY, Dr. Tim Dowley, organizing editor; William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1977; 656+xxiv pp., $19.95. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome J. Julien, pastor of the First CRC of Pella, Iowa.

Many contributors including Canon James Atkinson, Dr. W. Ward Gasque, Dr. James I. Packer, Dr. H. R. Rookmaaker, Dr. A. Skevington Wood and our own Dr. James A. DeJong of Dordt College make this volume a valuable introduction to Church History. The stream of the development of the Christian Church from its New Testament beginnings is laid out. In addition to the historical material there are many short articles designed to introduce the reader to various people who have made outstanding contributions to the historical development of the Church. Also, there are short articles on important movements, events, and ideas. Above 450 beautiful pictures make the history live.

Reading from this book will certainly help the Church gain an appreciation for the development of the Church through the centuries—a knowledge badly needed today.

STUDIES IN ROMANS, EPHESIANS, AND PHILIPPIANS by H. C. G. Moule; Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977. Reviewed by Rev. Henry VandenHeuvel.

These three brief commentaries by Bishop Moule are reprints by Kregel of original works printed in the latter part of the last century. They are all carefully done, basing the comments on the English text of the various epistles. Each commentary also is introduced by several chapters dealing with the life of the apostle Paul and the peculiar situation existing in each of the three places where the epistles are addressed.

Of particular interest is Moule’s discussion in his interpretation of Romans 7. He discusses the suggestion that Paul is writing out of an unbelieving mind, and dismisses this interpretation as being incorrect in the light of other passages from Paul’s epistles. His interpretation of the passages that are often disputed such as Romans 9–11, and Philippians 2:5–11 is especially good. The commentaries are strongly recommended.

PIONEER PREACHER by Gordon Spykman, Grand Rapids, Heritage Hall Publications; 142 pp.; $3.95. Reviewed by Rev. Jacob Kasper.

It is my conviction that everyone, and especially teachers of men, profit by reading widely concerning their roots. Whatever is published concerning our heritage is worth reading. I found special delight in the discovery of Gordon Spykman’s book concerning Van Raalte, the Pioneer Preacher. Here was some new source material to provide inspiration and motivation from the survey of our roots.

Spykman renders a thorough, scholarly, critical analysis of the sermon notes which were available to him. He touches on a wide range of subjects including the structure of the sermons, the choice of texts, hermeneutics, doctrine, and polemics. Spykman’s analysis is, I am sure, honest but it is limited to scant, incomplete notes. Spykman himself alerts us to his own uneasiness concerning this. The nature of the material to be examined leaves much to be desired for real understanding of the man. Sermon notes and speech notes are never adequate for a conclusive evaluation of a man.

Spykman’s conclusions are more negative than positive. He finds in Van Raalte an accent on pietism and a neglect of practical application oflife. He discovers in Van Raalte doctrinal orthodoxy but no creative application of the teachings of the Word to the world in which we live. According to Spykman, Van Raalte seems to display more of human weakness and failure than the triumph of grace in the life of one so wonderfully used in the planting of our roots. After reading Pioneer Preacher I was not left with the feeling that Van Raalte was truly a “Dienstknecht des Heeren Krachtig in Woorden en Werken.”

The book, Pioneer Preacher is provocative. It stimulates both agreement and disagreement. For this alone it is worth reading. Of great interest also is the last half which includes the appendix of select sermon notes and speech notes from the pen of Van Raalte, the pioneer preacher. In viewing the lingering evidences of Van Raalte’s ministry as they are manifest in the community around Holland, I am quite certain that we have not yet captured the whole truth concerning the genius of the Pioneer Preacher. This is not to be determined by a study of scant sermon notes as much as by simply viewing the evidence which still lingers in the community which was established under his influence and guidance.