Varieties of Christian Apologetics: An Introduction to the Christian Philosophy of Religion by BERNARD RAMM Baker, 199 pages, $3.95
In this new edition, Ramm rewrites his early study of Christian apologetics in terms of greater usability as a textbook Besides various cuts and revisions, two chapters have been substituted for earlier ones.
As a textbook, Ramm’s work is a masterpiece of condensation and organization. While there will be differences of interpretation at many points, it must be recognized that Ramm has boon most conscientious in striving to present each man fairly as well as pointedly. Three kinds of approach to apologetics are seen: first, systems stressing subjective immediacy, as seen in Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Brunner. Second, Ramm cites systems stressing natural theology, in particular Aquinas, Butler, and Tennant. Third, Ramm discusses systems stressing revelation: Augustine, Calvin, and Kuyper.
Granted the premises of Ramm’s approach, this is an excellent study and a very handy guide to the subject. But can Ramm’s presuppositions by any stretch of the imagination be granted? Two can be cited. First, Ramm believes that one of the problems of Christian apologetics is the relationship between philosophy and Christianity, and he cites Tertullian as “the most consistent representative of those who would have nothing to do with philosophy. Jerusalem and Athens! What have they to do with each other? Nothing!”(p. 71). But the rejection of Athens was not the rejection of philosophy as such but of Greek philosophy as alien and hostile to Christianity. As against the Greek emphasis on the autonomous mind of man and the form-matter dialeclic, Tcrtullian stressed the triune God. Against a universal tradition in philosophy he opposed a new principle. Second, of these three systems Hamm says, “all three types accept revelation” (p. 10). But do they? Do Tennant, Kierkegaard, and Brunner accept revelation, to cite the three most obvious examples, in any sense understandable to Christian orthodoxy? Ramm assumes that aJl these men he discusses are dealing with the same religion. This must be denied in toto by any true apologetics. Kierkegaard and Calvin differ, not as to what is the proper apologetic method, but as to what true Christianity is. They present mutually exclusive systems and religions, If Kierkegaard and Tennant can be included, why not atheism, as it fourth kind of apologetic? Tillich and Barth both make this possible by elements in their thought. Indeed, both find atheism less a menace to their faith than orthodoxy! Most of the thinkers Ramm considers accept, not revelation, but a dialectic as ultimate.
‘These different apologetics represent varying presuppositions and rest on axioms of thought which are in every instance religious bill not always Christian. To see them as varying defenses of a common faith simply because they cal! themselves Christian is to see varying religions as varieties of approaches to God simply because they also use the term God.
R. J. RUSHDOONY
The Significance of Barth’s Theology An Appraisal: With Special Reference to Election and Reconciliation by FRED A. KLOOSTER Baker, 98 pages, $2.95
The three lectures of Klooster, delivered under the auspices of the Refonnoo Fellowship at Calvin College Chapel in 1960, are an able and forthright study of Karl Barth’s theology. The general signiRcance of Barth’s theology is discussed, and his doctrines of election and reconciliation. The subject is thus strictly limited. Moreover, the philosophical premises of Barth’s position are by-passed. Nonetheless, this little book is a better introduction to Barth than many more ambitious studies. By his concentrated analysis of these key doctrines in Barth, Klooster makes apparent the broader implications of Barth’s theology. Klooster makes apparent also that Barth has two grcnt enemies, liberalism and orthodoxy, and, of these two, his attack on the latter is more consistent and thorough. The philosophical implications also appear in the discussion of Barth’s doctrine of the “holy mutability” of God, i.e., the freedom of Cod, whereby the eternal decree is nullified and God reduced to boundless unconscious potentialities and to the necessity of change. Moreover, Klooster notes the parallel to Tillich’s radical hostility to true theism in a footnote (p. 88): “One is reminded of Paul Tillich’s idea that a final revelation must be able to negate itself.” Barth’s God is thus truly “an Unknown God” (p. 70, and, one might add, an unknowable God, either to himself or to man, because of this “freedom”). Again, in Greek fashion, Barth by-passes the atonement to find reconciliation in the incarnation rather than the cross. This incarnate Christ, however, is detached so much from the ontological trinity (which is not affirmed) that one can speak of a “unitarianism of the second person.” But, without the cross central to reconciliation, this Christ is also. one could add, detached from humanity. It does, as Klooster notes, weaken his historicity. The failure to distinguish between the person and work of Christ furthers this weakness. The result is a disclosure, not a historical event.
Klooster’s study is thus an able, highly concentrated, and clearly written work of major ability. It commends itself as both a scholarly and a popular treatment. At one point, however, It left this reviewer with more than a note of sadness. The name of the great authority on Barth, Cornelius Van Til, is conspicuous by its absence in the references and citations.
R. J. RUSHDOONY
The Worldly Philosophers, The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers by HEILBRONER, ROBERT L. Revised Edition, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1961, 310 pp. $1.50.
It was on Canada’s Thanksgiving Day that I picked up and read this hook that L. De Koster’s “Anti-Communist Book List” had prompted me to buy months ago. It Is an utterly fascinating introduction to an area of study with which most of us have had far too little systematic acquaintance. In a style sparkling with interesting personal details we are introduced to the men who for 200 years have largely dominated the economic thinking of the world.
First among them we meet the absentminded professor, Adam Smith, who “made England, and then the whole Western world, understand just how the market kept society together,” and was the “first to build an edifice of social order on the understanding he achieved.” He was an optimist. For him “all the grubby scrabbling for wealth and glory has its ultimate justification in the welfare of tile common man.” “Don’t try to do good, says Smith. Let good emerge as the byproduct of selfishness.”
Following Smith we are introduced to two friends, very dillercnt from each other, who both helped to spoil Smith’s dreams of automatic progress. Parson Malthus warned that as the world’s population increased it must outstrip the food supply, and David Ricardo, the successful stockbrokcr, warned that as the economy developed the poor working man and hard-working capitalist were doomed to be deprived of the Emits of their labor by the landlord who did nothing but collect his increasing rents. Between them, these two men were able “to convince the world that it was living in a fool’s paradise.”
The next development on the scene was the arrival of a group of “Utopian Socialists” who were convinced drastic action was needed to stave off disaster. Robert Owen, early a successful factory manager, developed into a sponsor of communist community experiments and promoter of a national trade union. Next, we arc introduced to Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, and finally to the most remarkable of this group of men, John Stuart Mill, child prodigy. who by the time he was 13 had made a complete survey of all there was to be known in the field of political economy! “Mill was a supreme believer in the ability of men to control their fate through reason. He taught a message of progress and the opportunity for peaceful change and betterment.
In the year 1848, when Mill’s great book on economies was published, there also appeared The Communist Manifesto which “in its few pages—undid, in bitter words, all the calm and buoyant reasonableness with which J. S. Mill had endowed the world.” Karl Man:, angry genius, preached that capitalism must destroy itself by the crises that it must produce. He saw government “as inevitably a tool of the capitalist class,” and did not see the possibility of its exercising an impartial role “seeking to reconcile divergent interests.”
Capitalism did not collapse as Marx had predicted. Victorian England prospered: wages increased and working conditions improved with general prosperity. “The Victorian boom gave rise to a roster of elucidators, men who would examine the workings of the system in greatest detail, but who would no longer ask penetrating questions as to its basic merits or cast troublesome doubts over its eventual fate.” There were also a group of unpopular critics—Frederic Bastiat, with his ridicule of the system, Henry George who campaigned against the injustice of rents and for the single tax, and Hobson who taught that savings might undermine prosperity by leading to overseas investment and colonialism. This latter idea was taken over and further developed by the communists .
The author’s focus of attention next switches to the United States and the period of the “robber barons” whose antics were far too generally glossed over by conventional economists but were analyzed and mercilessly exposed by one of the oddest characters in the whole roster of this book, Thorstein Veblen.
Finally we arc introduced to the versatile economic doctor called in for consultation during our own great depression, John Maynard Keynes. He suggested that an economy might not cure itself from a depression but might have to be rescued by a dose of government investment! “While Keynes espoused a policy of managing capitalism, he was no opponent of private enterprise.” He felt “the working of the vast bulk of the economy could and should be left to private initiative.”
Finally, the writer completes his task with a brief survey of the modem world, the faults and virtues of our present system, it!; dangers from increasing government control, the monopolies of large corporations, and the failure of continuing growth, and then a discussion of what to expect in the future. His concluding thought is this, “As the control of our destiny devolves increasingly upon ourselves, we shall have to make choices—desperately important ones—among the counsels of the present. It is from the scope and wisdom of the economists of the past that we must reap the knowledge with which to face the future.”
What value shall wo upon such a book as this? In the first place, the author deserves high praise for introducing in such a thoroughly fascinating way a goodly number of men who have done much to shape the thinking of our modern world. They are meo with whose thought and influence the Christian who would undem:and oor times needs to be better acquainted. While reading about a man is usually not as adequate a way to understand him as reading his own works, most of us will never have the time to do the latter in the case of most of these economists and one can deeply appreciate the clear, graphic, and evidently well-balanced introduction of Heilbroner. Does this mean that we can simply take over the author’s evaluations? It seems to me that the answer must be both yes and no. Within the limited area of ec0nomic considerations, much of his discussion and criticism mixed with appreciation seeuu impossible to deny. And one must say this too for Mr. Heilbroner that his concluding chapter points up the fact that our problems are not merely economic, but moral. In his words, “the more successful our economic mechanism, the more pressing become these political -and moral “problems.” This is all to the good. But, as we again reflect upon tlle whole survey, it is also perfectly evident that for almost all of these economists and for the author who reflects upon them, human life and history arc to be understood and lived without any real reference to God. Whether these correctly called “worldly philosophers”—a term perhaps even more apt than Mr. Heilbroner intended—are inclined to think of man’s life as mechanistically determined by economic considerations. or are inclined, in more humanistic fashion, to feel that man can determine his own course, the fatal secularism of their outlook is all too plainly revealed “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God . . . There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3;11, 18). This book ably reflects, the more effectively because so unconsciously, the ungodliness of our modern world, the ungodliness which calls for God’s judgment upon it.
Much more needs to be said. But it must be said by students who have given specialfzcd study to these men and ideas which are so inliucntial in our day. We need to get the Idnd of Christian studies and interpretations that point out in each case how the non-Christian assumptions have colored and distorted, or determined, the conclusions of these important leaders. But where are the men who are making such studies and giving us such interpretations? Too often Christian students have either avoided these Ilelds or where they have entered them, have been content withln the fields to accept all too uncritically and pass along the evaluations of able non-Christian professors. It often seems that this is the weakness of much of our growing Christian education movement. It is to be hoped that some of our young people who have gone on to school or are doing so will see some of these things that so urgently need to be done, and with God’s help, tackle them. Then, perhaps, we may some day be able to pick up a book on The Worldly Philosopher, that will not only give us an able exposition of thell ideas, but also a much more penetrating and satisfying analysis of them—one to provoke Christian thought and action.
PETER DE JONG
Church and Kingdom by RAYMOND O. ZORN Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia, PA, 1962, 228 pages. $3.75.
The author, currently serving as pastor of the Reformed Church in Hamilton, New Zealand, is a veteran of World War II. He holds an A.B. degree from Gordon College in Boston, Mass., and B.D. and Th.M. degrees from Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The volume under review has been added to the International Library of Philosophy and Theology which is served editorially by R. J. Rushdoony.
Author Zorn has given us a thoroughly Scriptural treatment of three related subject3: I. The Church in Relation to tho Concept of the Kingdom. II. The Church and the Kingdom in Eschatological Fulfillment. III. The Task of the Church in the Kingdom of God.
The author’s commitment is unequivocally Reformed, and while his discussion reveals considerable reliance upon the expositions of G. Vas and H. N. Ridderbos it cannot he said that he is slavishly dependent on them. He has his own mind and it is a good one.
This is a helpful book. The material is well-indexed, but the proof-reading might have been better.