The Church’s Witness to the World by PETER Y. DE JONG Pella Publishing Company, Pella, Iowa, Volume II, 1962, 446 pp.
The author of this volume must be a prodigious worker. Though he has held some of the busiest pastorates in his denomination practically all of his ministerial li:fe, he has been able to produce books of merit in his “spare time.” This is a book of real merit. It demonstrates an erudition that is nothing short of amazing. De Jong is thoroughly at home in the field of Church History, or, more particularly Dogmenge-schichte. He quotes at will theologians of every hue: ancient and modern, orthodox and neo-orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran, liberal and existentialist. He also quotes freely from the poets and other literary figures. A valuable index of Scriptural passages, literally hundreds of them, is included. In short, this book answers fully to the requirements of true scholarship.
This is Volume II of the author’s study on the Belgic Confession, and covers articles sixteen through thirty-seven. In the some 750 pages that comprise the two volumes the author demonstrates that this creedal document is not to be relegated to the dusty archives of a theological museum. Every article is treated in its historical setting, and then its complete relevance to our age is fully demonstrated. In the hands of this craftsman the creed becomes vibrant with life, spiritual life. For not the least of the merits of this volume is the spirit of a heal—thy piety which it breathes. This is not merely an intellectual treatise. Here we sense the pulse-beat of a heart nurtured by and saturated with the Word of God.
Though the material is uniformly good, to the mind of this reviewer the author is at his best in the exposition of articles twenty-seven through thirty-two. These deal with tho church. Just what is the nature and task of the church? In our time the ecumenical movement has brought this moot question into sharp focus. About the task of the church there is a wide variety of opinion. There are many who say that the task of the church is to witness. By this they often mean evangelism in the narrower sense of concentration on personal salvation. It should rather be said that the first task of the church is to be the church. The very existence of the church is witness to the reality of Christianity.
Significantly De Jong entitles his work on the Belgic Confession The Church’s Witness to the World. The church speaks to the world through its confessions. And to this reviewer it seems like a happy coincidence that this idea has received the unqualified endorsement of the president of Calvin Seminary, John Kromminga. In his recent inaugural address he speaks on this very subject as follows:
“And what of the past declarations which are enshrined? They are much in our minds these days. The Reformed world is currently celebrating a series of 400-year anniversaries: Calvin’s Institutes in 1959, the Belgic Confession in 1961, the Genevan Psalter in 1962, and the Heidelberg Catechism in 1963. These occasions have served to remind the Christian Reformed Church of her confessions, which have never become dead letters to her. But what we must realize anew is that these confessions are not mere teaching instruments or doctrinal tests, but constitute the church’s confession of her faith, to be witnessed to the world. As Franklin Littell has said, “Great confessions are battlefield orders, not armchair creations, and in this world the church is at her best as Ecclesia militans’. A creed is of significance not only in a theological classroom or a church court. It is of primary significance in the world—the world of controversy, opposition, or unbelief, or the world of simple stark human need.”
It is gratifying that there is agreement on this point between these scholars. De Jong’s two volume work most aptly answers the demand Kromminga makes upon the church in relation to her confessions.
What a transformation the Christian Re-formed Church would undergo if every elder would acquire this work If he would read the exposition of one article a week (some twenty pages), inside one year he would have acquired an undreamed of storehouse of intellectual and spiritual riches. This would bring about a rekindling of love for the church of Christ and of loyalty to the denomination. But this study in the church’s Confession of Faith is not just for the elders. It can be unreservedly recommended for reading and study by all earnest members of the church.
Some minor typographical corrections should be made in any subsequent edition.
My congratulations to the author. Still in the prime of life, he may be expected to use his facile pen for the production of more works that will enrich the life of the church.
God’s Mission by EDWIN D. ROELS T. Wever, Franeker, 1962. 301 pages.
This is a doctoral dissertation. It was written in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Theology degree awarded by the Free Reformed University of Amsterdam.
The sub-title is: “The Epistle to the Ephesians in Mission Perspective.” There are four chapters: “The Theological Basis of the Mission,” “The Church as Goal of the Mission,” “The Church as Instrument of the Mission,” and “The Eschatological Fulness of the Mission.”
In my estimation this is a scholarly work of high merit. One does not need to agree with the author on every detail in order to justify that evaluation. Not only is this study exceedingly well documented; the author stands on his own feet and has the courage of his own convictions. The scholar may be said to sec both the individual trees and the forest as a whole. Roels has an eye for one as well as the other. On the one band, his dissertation abounds in painstaking and detailed exegesis: on the other band, it is characterized by a striking unity.
To state the same matter in a more substantial way, it is, no doubt, true, as has often been said, that one cannot be a good theologian unless one is a good exegete; but it is also true, although no.t so generally recognized, that one cannot be a good exegete of Holy Scripture unless one is a good theologian. The obvious reason is that Scripture, because of its divine origin, must always be interrupted in the light of Scripture and the only infallible interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself. Roels is a good theologian as well as a good exegete. For one example, in discussing the clause of Ephesis 3:19, “that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God,” he rejects the view that “all the fulness of God” is synonymous with “all the fulness of the Godhead,” of which Colossians 2:9 speaks in ascribing essential deity to Jesus Christ. He rejects that view for exegetical reasons in the narrow sense of the term, but also for the theological reason that the essence of deity is incommunicable and, therefore, not even the totality of believers can possibly possess it (pp. 235 f.).
Typographically this volume is nearly faultless. I surmise that the proof-reading was done by the author himself.
What pleases this reviewer more than anything else is the main thrust of this book. It is pointedly expressed in the title, “God’s Mission.” The church is indeed in sacred duty bound to conduct missions, but it does this as an instrument of God, whose work missions are or, more precisely, the mission is. And while the growth of the church is beyond dispute a high aim of God’s mission, its highest and ultimate aim is the glory of God. Such is the emphasis of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. It is also the emphasis of this study. Dr. Roels is to be congratulated not only; he is also to be thanked.
R. B. KUIPER
Christianity and Barthianism by CORNELIUS VAN TIL The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1962, 450 pages, price $6.95.
“Speaking as objectively as we can, we must say that, as in Machen’s time ‘Liberalism,’ while propagated in the church as though it were the gospel, was in reality a man-made religion, so Barthianism, using the language of Reformation theology, is still only a higher humanism.” This is the conclusion of the whole matter to which Dr. Van Til comes on page 446 of this scholarly book on Christianity and Barthianism. The reference to Machen explains the title, and recalls Machen’s famous christianity and Liberalism. Carrying on the Westminster tradition Van Til fearlessly champions the Reformed faith and contrasts it with a modem perversion and counterfeit. As be did in 1947 in his The New Modernism Van Til points out that in spite of its claim to. be a corrective of liberalism, Barthianism is in essence only another form of the same heresy. In this book he is especially concerned to show that changes in Barth’s emphasis as reflected in his more recent writings do not involve a fundamental change in his principles.
It would be easier for the average reader if Van Til’s book did not only resemble Machen’s in its main thrust, but also in its style and lucidity. Whereas any intelligent Christian can follow Machen’s clear analysis, only the expert will be able to stay with Van Til all the way. In fairness to him it must be said that he does not intend to be popular; in fact, he indicates that he wants to go beyond Barth’s popular writings and show the “simple” believer the deeper sources of his system. I very much fear that Van Til has not succeeded in getting his message across to such believers; but he has done a real service in marshaling his arguments and making them available to others who may be able to popularize his material.
When I read The New Modernism some years ago I had the sensation of going around and around. This book leaves the same impression because it also consists of a variety of approaches all leading to the same conclusion. “Semper idem!”—that is what one is tempted to write in the margin of many a page. Van Til is hammering away at one central point and in doing so he does not hesitate to repeat what has been said before, sometimes in his own words and at other times by reviewing the works of others. It seems to me that the author might profitably have broadened the base of his attack, thus giving his readers more information on points of Barth’s teachings that are now only referred to indirectly.
The first main section of the book, containing six chapters and covering some One hundred pages, is entitled “Barth’s Main Doctrines.” This is an excellent summary of distinctive doctrines of Barthianism as developed in his Kirchliche Dogmatik. or Church Dogmatics. Of this section even Dr. James Daane says in his review, “The presentation here is clear and readable; in my judgment it is the best part of the book” (Reformed Journal, January 1963, p. 27). Although not making many direct quotations, here as elsewhere Van Til gives copious references to Barth’s works so the reader can check the accuracy of his statements. His conclusion in this section is: “On the basis of Barth’s theology, there is, says Berkouwer, no transition from wrath to grace in history. No more basic criticism of Barth’s theology can be made” (p. 113).
In the second section, “Reformed Thinkers Respond,” Van Til gives a brief digest of criticism of Barth made by such writers as G. C. Berkouwer, K. Runia, K. Schilder, A. D. R. Polman and other Dutch Reformed writers of recent date. They discuss such subjects as revelation, providence, creation, sin and election. On the basis of my reading of Berkouwer I am inclined to agree with Dr. Daane that Van Til makes it appear that his attitude is more severely negative toward Barth than it actually is. Van Til does not in any way refer to Berkouwer’s critical evaluation of his New Modernism. (Cf. De Triomf De’ Genade In De Theowgie Van Karl Barth, p. 17, footnote.) This silence might convey the impression that Berkouwer is in basic agreement with all that Van Til says. However, there can be no contesting the fact that Van Til is right in maintaining that the recent Reformed authorities he cites are agreed in seeing in Barthianism a deviation from historic, biblical Reformation theology. The concluding chapter reviews works of Christian philosophers, H. Dooyeweecd, S. U. Zuidema, E. G. Van Teylingen and M. P. Van Dyk. Also elsewhere in the book Van Til acknowledges his debt to Dooyeweerd in pointing out the philosophical errors of Barth.
This section contains much valuable material not otherwise available to those who do not read Dutch, and the author makes a real contribution by calling it to our attention. Van Til shows great respect for Dr. Berkouwer and commends his books to his readers’ attention.
The third section deals with “Dialecticism.” Van Til shows that Barth stands in the tradition of modem philosophy, tracing its development in three stages, Medieval (Romanism), Modem (Kant), and Recent (Kierkegaard). The argument here is substantially that of his New Modernism. Since Barth refuses to take his stand on God’s sell-revelation as given in the Bible he must base his thought on “apostate” philosophy of dialecticism.
The concluding section of some 130 pages covers much the same ground from another aspect, namely under the heading “The New Consciousness-Theology.” In two chapters the evaluations of Barth by two Roman Catholic writers, Hans Von Bathasac and Hans Kung, are discussed. In doing so it is Van Til’s purpose to show that Barth’s system has more in common with Roman Catholicism than with truly Protestant theology. Chapter XV contains another view of the philosophical background of Barth’s thought as reaction to modem philosophy and theology, showing that despite his purported break with subjectivism, consciousness-theology and humanism Barth is still confronted with the dilemma that controls all merely human knowledge. He refuses to take his stand on Scripture as God’s Word, and to acknowledge Jesus as the historical revelation of God’s saving grace.
In 1934 Dr. Machen wrote, “Presenting an issue sharply is indeed by no means a popular business at the present time.” It is even less so today! Dr. Van Til deserves our respect for daring to do so. He has written a book that is the fruit of his tremendous erudition and keen mind. Above all, a book in which he is not ashamed of confessing his loyalty to the Reformed faith as set forth in the Canons of Dordt (pages 218–220). Let us hope that the fundamental criticisms here laid down in the technical language of the experts may be popularized and brought to bear upon the practical issues of the day,
ELCO H. OOSTENDORP
Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Holy Scripture by K. RUNIA Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1962, 223 pages.
Barth stands as a giant in the earth these days. The bibliography on his theology is steadily mounting. I am told that his library includes an entire wall of books about himself, most of which he (naturally) has never read. But here is a book which should not escape his attention—nor ours.
Dr. Runia, a leader in Australian Reformed scholarship, offers a thoroughgoing and penetrating critical analysis of Barth’s theology of the Word. His work evidences intimate familiarity with Barth’s thinking and broad acquaintance with the writings of his disciples, whose theologizing often elicits from Barth the petition, “God save me from my friends.”
From start to finish Ronia allows Barth to speak freely. He is at home in Barth’s dialectics and seriously attempts to get at Barth from the inside. This publication is enriched by many fringe benefits derived from Runia’s earlier dissertation on “Theological Time in Karl Barth’s Dogmatics.”
The author argues that Barth’s central thesis is “basically untenable,” Accordingly he carries on a running encounter with “the Whale” by directing penetrating questions at his views on the Witness of Scripture, its Humanity and Fallibility, its inspiration and Authority. Yet Ronia mingles his criticisms with expressions of appreciation.
This book is, however, more than a critical analysis. Ronia converts this confrontation with Barth’s theology into an occasion for theological self-examination by Orthodoxy. Indeed he often defends historic Christian views against Barth’s misdirected rebukes. But he also points out how Evangelicalism has often laid itself open to Barth’s rebukes. Sometimes we act as though we “have” the Word, rather than that the Word “has” us. Loyalty to certain ideas about the Bible sometimes becomes a subtle substitute for loyalty to the Bible itself. Therefore “both Liberals and Evangelicals will do well to give hood to Barth’s continued warning that man can never dispose of God’s revelation nor control (nor manipulate) it.”
This book is clear, forceful, provocative, self-reflective, relevant. It suffers at points from stylistic inelegancy. But its message is never obscured. Heartily recommended.
GORDON J. SPYIKMAN
The New Bible Dictionary J.D. DOUGLAS, organizing editor Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1962, 1392 pages (in double column). Price $12.95.
The title of this Dictionary is a bit misleading. The adjective “new” is used. but, as explained in the Preface, it is not employed in the conventional way, for this Dictionary is not a revision of an older work or a former publication. It is “new” in the sense that it is published for the first time. We learn from the Preface that this publication is the latest and thus far the major product of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research, “which was founded in 1945 in close association with the Inter-Varsity Fellowship to stimulate evangelical biblical scholarship in Great Britain and elsewhere.” There are 139 writers or contributors and these have been selected not only from Great Britain, but from various lands, Scholars familiar to many of our readers, such as Ridderbos, Cispen, Young, Murray, Skilton, Kline, and others are included. There are 2300 articles, 230 line drawings, 40 pages of hall-tone illustrations, and 16 pages of original four-colored maps, It is indeed an am.1zing product, up-to-date and, as a Bible Dictionary—in distinction from a general theological dictionary—comprehensive. Besides, it is a bargain at the price indicated above.
Of course, it would not be fair to compare this one-volume work with other larger dictionaries or encyclopaedias, which appear in many volumes. I should say that this is a “compact” publication and as such it is marvelous. The articles have been reduced to their essentials but, as far as my observation has gone, the essentials are there. Bibliographies are frequently attached to the articles. However, these are brief and to my mind hardly sufficient. But to my knowledge this is the latest product of this kind appearing in the English language, and the price will enable many to purchase it, This includes by no means only theological students and ministers; intelligent “laymen” will benefit greatly by it as well. It should, however, not be said that this Dictionary is popular and wholly non-technical. To an extent it is technical and scholarly. But if the reader is really interested and of ordinary intelligence be should experience little or no trouble in consulting this work. I hope that it will be found in many homes.
Just a word in regard to the contents. The Preface states that it has been the aim of the editors and contributors “…to produce a volume, written in a spirit of loyalty to Holy Scripture, which would contribute substantially to the understanding of God’s Word to men.” However, it is also stated, “No attempt has been made…to impose a rigid uniformity upon the whole work, or to exclude the occasional expression of different viewpoints.” Upon reading certain “key” articles I have found these descriptions to be true. The question may be asked, How does one review a work such as this? Does a recommendation imply that the reviewer subscribes to and endorses every view expressed? I think not, However, I feel free not only to recommend this work, but I am grateful and happy to do it also, because I am convinced that it is “conservative” in the right sense of that term and that it will excellent1y serve the purpose intended. The work is evangelical throughout and should be recommended to our readers.
I can, however, not refrain from expressing my regret that the editors have seen fit to indicate the authors of the articles only by their initials. It would have made the reading easier if the full names were printed.
NICHOLAS J. MONSMA
Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: The New International Commentary by PHILIP E. HUGHES Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1962, 508 pages. $6.00
I regard this as one of the best commentaries in The New International. Dr. Hughes is not the kind of author who is easily swept off his feet by all kinds of novel views. He realizes that in many cases the older view is better. That holds, for example, with respect to the close relationship between I Corinthians and II Corinthians. As Dr. Hughes sees it, “the offender” to which II Corinthians 2:5 refers is to be identified with the man mentioned in I Corinthians 5. Here he supports the traditional view but opposes the view of such commentators as F. W. Grosheide (II Korinthe, p. 34, in Korte Verklaring), Godet, Moffatt, Plummer, Lietzmann, Bachmann, Strachan, etc. I believe that it will be very difficult to refute the line of argument presented by Dr. Hughes.
Even more important, perhaps, is what I consider the very sane interpretation of that much discussed and debated passage, II Corinthians 5:1–10. As many sermons—especially funeral sermons—are based on this precious paragraph or on this or that text taken from it, I would especially urge all ministers to get the commentary now under review.
The language is clear throughout. The context is never lost sight of. The Introduction might have been more thorough. All in all this book deserves high praise and can be profitably used by clergy and non-clergy.
Paul and His Interpreters by E. EARLE ELLIS Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1961, 63 pages, $1.75, paperback
In fifty-nine pages of text plus five pages of Index Dr. E. Earle Ellis discusses three subjects: Pauline Studies in Recent Research, the Structure of Pauline Eschatology (II Cor. 5:1–10), and The Authorship of The Pastorals. He not only reviews recent studies by others but also states his own conclusions in many cases.
The little work dearly indicates that Dr. Ellis has read widely. This makes his contribution worthwhile. With much of what he says this reviewer is in hearty agreement. The booklet should be in the library of every earnest student of Paul.
In some respects the work is, however, not entirely satisfying. I would mention the following items:
a. Dr. Ellis regards the “fourteen years” of Galatians 2:1 as referring back as a starting-point to the date of Paul’s conversion. He should have considered more seriously the argumentation of Dr. Hetman N. Ridderbos (Galatians in The New International Commentary, p. 76) against this view.
b. The interpretation which Dr. Ellis presents against the traditional view, when he contends that II Corinthians 5:1–10 has nothing to do with the intermediate state and that Paul is not referring to individual bodies at all, does violence to the context, as Dr. Philip E. Hughes (II Corinthians in The New lnternational Commentary, pp. 184, 185) has clearly shown.
c. The essay on The Authorship of the Pastorals, though rather satisfying as to its conclusions, is also rather incomplete. He states, “Harrison’s word-statistics, long a pillar in the case against genuineness, have been subjected by Professor Metzger to sharp and telling criticisms.” He refers in this connection to an article which Dr. Metzger of Princeton Seminary wrote in an issue of The Expository Times. Please note the date of that issue: 1958, 1959! True enough. The kind reader will pardon me for calling attention, however, to the fact that the present reviewer had already in his own way performed this task at least a year earlier (see my New Testament Commentary on I and II Timothy and Titus, published in 1957 by Baker Book House, pp. 4–33, also pp. 377–381).
For the rest, the booklet of Or. Ellis contains so much that is valuable that I would strongly urge everyone who is interested in this subject to get it, especially for the sake of the references to recent Pauline literature.
The Beatitudes of Jesus by WILLIAM FITCH Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1961, 132 pages, $3.00
This book is a gem! It is one of the finest books, In the popular devotional class, that I have seen in recent years. It contains 10 chapters, one on each of the beatitudes and a chapter (Chapter 10) on “the choice of blessedness.” The point of departure is entirely correct. Says the author (p. 6): “To say that The Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in particular are not given as a standard of Christian experience and work is surely error of the grossest kind.” Here he combats the dispensationalistic view. On p. 33 occurs the statement, “The Beatitudes succeed one another, as St Chrysostom says, like links in a golden chain.” Again, a very correct view. However, not only is the interpretation sound but it is pleasingly presented. It breathes devotional warmth. It is practical from start to finish. The illustrations, too, by Armand Merizon, are excellent. That artist has grasped the true spirit of each of these Beatitudes, it would seem to me.
May this precious book, one of the best I have seen in years (that is, of literature of this class) enjoy a phenomenal sale. And may all these buyers become readers. And may we, as readers. practice these Beatitudes.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary Tyndale Bible Commentaries by R.V.G. TASKER Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1961, 285 pages, $3.00
Many good things can be said about this commentary. Its language is clear. Its theological position is conservative. For the busy man this commentary can be of real help. Moreover, tho author is a Greek scholar. Of this there can be no doubt. His many references to the original prove this point. I would like to see this commentary in every church-library. Every Sunday School teacher can make good use of it.
My criticism would be that it is hardly a tool for those who are looking for a rather full explanation of the text. Though there are 285 pages in this book, only 246 are devoted to comments on all the 28 chapters of Matthew! Thus, for example, the very important section of Matthew’s Gospel which deals with our Lord’s resurrection (Matthew 28:1–10) receives about 2 pages of comment (plus about half a page of Additional Notes). Too many questions, therefore, remain unanswered. Also eight. pages (pp. 278–285) are devoted to the topic, “The Gospel of Matthew in The New English Bible.” The author has much to say in favor of this new version. He calls it “an instrument of the greatest value for the understanding…of the entire New Testament.” Is it fair to recommend this new version so highly without also setting forth its glaring weaknesses?
There is enough good material for the discerning reader who lacks the time to “dig deeper” for me to give it my qualified recommendation.
The Gospel According to St. Mark: An Introduction and Commentary Tyndale Bible Commentaries by R.A. COLE Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1961, 263 pages, $3.00
After what has been said about Tasker’s Commentary on Matthew in this same series, little need be added about Cole’s on Mark. It follows the general pattern and has the same points of excellence and of relative weakness. The author himself recognizes this when be states:
“This little book cannot pretend to be scholarly, but it does at least attempt to be theological. There are many excellent commentaries on Mark already in existence, but perhaps this slender volume may yet find a place on the shelves of those who are too busy to read the larger volumes,” etc. Well said! It is only fair to add, however, that for the size of this rather small book there is an Introduction more thorough than one might have expected. Both the Introduction and the Commentary contain much that is worthwhile, and I give also this book my qualified recommendation, in the spirit of the author’s own words of Introduction.
The Children’s Version of the Holy Bible by McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. Copyright by Jay P. Green, 1536 pp., $7.95
We are getting more and more versions and translations of the Bible. The end is not yet in sight. This is one of three versions -the one for children. A second is known as Bible for Teen-agers and a third for Grown-ups. You may have your choice. We wonder which one must be read at the time of family devotions.
The Children’s version has been readertested by thousands of children. It appears to your reviewer to be a faithful modernization of the King James Version rather than the much-improved American Revised Version which has the official endorsement of the Christian Reformed Church.
Its features are:
Its large type. Many tests with children prove that they do not like small print. Of course, this makes for a large book, not too easy to carry.
It is paragraphed (a real improvement), and indented at the beginning of each verse.
Difficult names and places are diacritically marked, making pronouncing easy.
Easy-to-understand language is used throughout. A few illustrations: for firmament we read expanse; for damsel-girl; for sporting—caressing.
Deity is always capitalized. We are old-fashioned enough to appreciate this. The name LORD, for God, is used consistently in the Old Testament.
To the best of my knowledge there has been no tampering, paraphrasing, or other questionable improvements. We have the BIBLE. We found no slang or cheap expressions.
It contains a glossary of words and terms which will aid the child. Children in the fourth grade and up should read it with ease.
This Bible is attractive, having real eye-appeal It is made of tough, durable material, strongly bound.
This Bible has been highly recommended and if the claims of the publishers be true, namely, that children happily choose to read this version of the Bible, we add the wish and prayer that God’s Spirit may use it mightily to that end.
Any money spent by parents to get their children to read the Book of books will certainly be worth while.
EDWARD B. PEKELDER