Implications of Evolution by G. A. Kerkvt. Pergamon Press, Inc., 122 East 55th Street, New York 22, N. Y.; in Britain: Headington Hill Hall, Oxford; 4-5 Fitzroy Square, london W. 1, England. 1960, pp. 174. $5.00.
This book is part of a series entitled “International Series of Monographs on Pure and Applied Biology.” The author of the present volume is a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biochemistry, The University of Southampton, England. He is an evolutionist and writes from a strictly scientific standpoint. No religious belief or viewpoint is discernible in the book. Nevertheless this book is an extremely important and valuable one from the Christian point of view, for the reason that will be stated below.
Most Christian books written to question or disprove the theory of evolution are of very little value because the authors quite obviously have only a limited and often distorted knowledge of current scientific thought. Some books by fundamentalist authors contain such erode blunders and overstatements that a scientist of any stature would only laugh at them. Other books ruin their case on the cover and title page of the hook by the use of a question-begging title such as “Am I Rational?” While this type of literature may help some Christians to see that much can be said against the theory of evolution, it is seldom a match for the evolutionistic scientific textbooks of our day. A Christian student would not be likely to get far by showing one of these fundamentalist critiques of evolution to a professor who accepts evolution as “proved fact.” There is certainly a need, therefore, for literature that is scientifically above reproach, which the Christian student can use to defend his faith against evolutionistic attack. The present volume is such a book.
As far as can be seen from the book, the author is not a religious believer at all certainly no one could call him a fundamentalist. He is a profesSional biologist in a modern university and he is interested only in the scientific status of the question. He undertakes to show that evolution, as commonly understood, is not “proved fact” at all, but a hypothesis that rests upon seven basic assumptions or presuppositions, none of which has been proved—in fact, in the nature of the case, they cannot be proved. The first assumption is “that non-living things gave rise to living material, i.e., spontaneous generation occurred.” “The second assumption is that spontaneous generation occurred only once.” “The third assumption is that viruses, bacteria, plants and animals are all interrelated.” “The fourth assumption is that the Protozoa gave rise to the Metazoa.” “The fifth assumption is that the various invertebrate phyla are interrelated.” “The sixth assumption is that the invertebrates gave rise to the vertebrates.” “The seventh assumption is that within the vertebrates the fish gave rise to the amphibia, the amphibia to the reptiles, and the reptiles to the birds and mammals” (p. 6). The author adds: “For the initial purposes of this discussion on Evolution I shall consider that the supporters of the theory of Evolution hold that all these seven assumptions are valid, and that these assumptions form the ‘General Theory of Evolution’” (p. 7). He then goes on to say that “these seven assumptions by their nature are not capable of experimental verification. They assume that a certain series of events has occurred in the past,” but there is no scientific proof that they did occur in the past. He then discusses the possibility and probability of these events having occurred, but is careful to show that neither possibility nor probability is the same thing as “proved fact.”
The author is quite devastating in his criticism of students who think they are accepting evolution on the basis of scientific evidence when as a matter of fact they are only parroting the statements of professors amI textbooks. He reconstructs an interview with such a student (pp. 3–5), which shows up the student as, not a vigorous independent thinker, hut merely a scientific conformist who can echo the scientific orthodoxy of the day.
At the end of the book there is a bibliography of books on evolution extending to ten pages (159–168). We shall close this review with the author’s conclusion of the book (pp. 156–7): “Most students become acquainted with many of the current concepts in biology whilst still at school and at an age when most people are, on the whole, uncritical Then when they come to study in more detail, they have in their minds several half-truths and misconceptions which tend to prevent them from coming to a fresh appraisal of the situation. In addition, with a uniform pattern of education most students tend to have the same sort of educational background and so in conversation and discussion they accept common fallacies and agree on matters based on these fallacies.
“It would seem a good principle to encourage the study of ‘scientific heresies.’ There is always the danger that a reader might be seduced by one of these heresies but the danger is neither as great nor as serious as the danger of having scientists brought up in a type of mental strait-jacket or of taking them so quickly through a subject that they have no time to analyze and digest the material they have ‘studied.’ A careful perusal of the heresies will also indicate the facts in favour of the currently accepted doctrines, and if the evidence against a theory is overwhelming and if there is no other satisfactory theory to take its place we shall just have to say that we do not yet know the answer.
“There is a theory which states that many living animals can he observed over the course of time to undergo changes so that new species are formed. This can be called the ‘Special Theory of Evolution’ and call be demonstrated in certain cases by experiments. On the other hand there is the theory that all living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form. This theory can be called the ‘General Theory of Evolution’ and the evidence that supports it is not sufficiently strong to allow us to consider it as anything more than a working hypothesis. It is not clear whether the changes that bring about speciation are of the same nature as those that brought about the development of new phyla. The answer will be found by future experimental work and not by dogmatic assertions that the General Theory of Evolution must be correct because there is nothing else that will satisfactorily take its place.”
Every high school teacher of science should have this book. Parents would do well to spend five dollars to give a copy to any son or daughter who is being shaken in faith by the dogmatic assertions of a college professor that Evolution is “proved fact” and must be accepted because there is no credible alternative. Like a breath of fresh air it clears the atmosphere of assumptions treated as if they were facts, and shows the real status of the scientific question of evolution today.
J.G. VOS (from “BLUE BANNER FAITH AND LIFE,” July–September 1965 issue; by permission of the reviewer.)
An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism by J. HAROLD GREENLEE. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1964. 160 pp., $3.50.
J. Harold Greenlee is professor of New Testament Language at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. He has written a textbook for his students. He states that his aim is “to present the facts and principles of New Testament textual criticism that are generally accepted…in a manner that will enable the beginning student to understand them and to begin to make his way in this intriguing and important field in which the rewards of careful labor are great.”
He discusses the need and importance of textual criticism, the various sources of textual data, the history of the text, and the history of critical textual study. Probably the two most important chapters for the average seminary student are the two on how to engage in textual criticism and what guidelines are to be followed in arriving at the most likely original reading.
The material of this book is not new. The general guidelines of textual criticism have remained fairly constant since Westcott and Hort’s work at the end of the previous century. This book gives a good introduction to the whole field for the novice. It also makes a fine handbook for those who wish to review their seminary material and keep in practice on the problems of textual study.
WILLIS P. DE BOER
Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind by P. T. Forsyth. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 258 pages. Price $1.95 (Paperback).
Always, and surely in our time, preaching is so important that it is deserving of constant study and analysis. By all means, it should be positive and address itself to the modern mind. Such preaching is what God intended, what men everywhere need, and what the Word and Spirit make possible. It is true that this ideal is not always realized, and we must appreciate the author’s attempt to contribute to a greater realization of it.
This is the recent American edition of a volume that first appeared in England in 1907. Although written more than a half century ago, this discussion has lost none of its cogency and relevancy for our time. In fact it is one of the most stimulating volumes available on the subject of preaching. The author has something to say and proceeds to say it in a challenging and delightful manner. The book abounds in statements that one is determined to remember and inclined to quote. One finds a gem on almost every page.
The author offers many valuable insights. The language, but also the content, is fresh and inspiring. All who are interested in the proclamation of God’s Word ought to find real appeal in the discussion on the need of Biblical exposition; preaching as worship; the church as the great missionary to humanity; the authority of the preacher; and the centrality of the cross in the preacher’s message.
However, it must be said, and let it be said emphatically, that this book must be read with great discernment. There is much in it that is truly instructive; there is also much with which conservatives will disagree. As one reads, questions arise: Can one accept the author’s view of revelation? Does he clearly distinguish between revelation and preaching? If preaching is offered to God while directed to men, is it really sacramental in character in the sense that the author avers? Are the cross and the atonement interpreted in a truly Biblical sense?
Obviously, the theology of the book must be put to the test. One can only advise; read the book; listen closely; think carefully; and obey the truth, the tnlth of the Word of God. When this is done one will learn much and will at the same time be prompted to investigate further.
The Preacher’s Portrait by John R. W. Stott, Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 124 pages. Price$1.45 (Paperback).
The author is Rector of the All Souls Church, London, and serves as Chaplain to Her Majesty, the Queen of England. He has also written several other volumes, among them Basic Christianity.
Who will not agree with the author’s statement of purpose: “We need to gain in the Church today a clearer view of God’s revealed ideal for the preacher, what he is and how he needs to do his work. So I shall be considering his message and authority, the character of the proclamation he is called to make, the Vital necessity of his own experience of the Gospel, the nature of his motive, the source of his power, and the moral qualities which should characterize him, notably humility, gentleness, and love. This, I suggest, is the preacher’s portrait painted by the hand of God Himself on the broad canvas of the New Testament.”
The five chapters discuss the preacher as Steward, Herald, Witness, Father, and Servant. The portrait presented is beautiful in its description and thoroughly Biblical in character. This study includes analysis of many of the basic and prominent terms used in the New Testament with reference to the preacher, but the discussion is very clear-cut so that its value is not limited to those who have studied the Greek language.
This volume is deserving of wide circulation and perusal. It will serve as a reminder to the busy—and at times disappointed pastor, of the glory of his task. It will enlighten members of the congregation as to their responsibility toward the mall who by divine call is burdened with the task of bringing the message of God, which alone can and will meet the eternal need of saints and sinners.
Introduction to the New Testament by EVERETT F. HARRISON; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1964. 481 pages. Price $5.95.
Everett F. Harrison is professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. Prior to his coming to Fuller he taught at Dallas Theological Seminary. This book is the result of twenty-five years of teaching New Testament Introduction in these seminaries. Harrison states, “I was led to prepare this book primarily for the sake of my students, who were growing weary of taking notes diligently from day to day in the classroom.” Hence, the professed purpose of the book is to serve as a textbook for seminarians.
In nearly 500 pages the author surveys the matters appropriate to such an introduction of the New Testament. He has sections on the background history, the language of the New Testament, textual criticism, and the New Testament canon. The major portion of the work is devoted to a discussion of the individual books of the New Testament. Here the typical introductory matters are discussed: authorship, readers, purpose, date, contents. characteristics, and the special problems and recent discussions of the book. Those acquainted with New Testament Introductions will immediately sense how true to form this book is.
Harrison’s approach is evangelical and conservative. As a New Testament scholar he has kept abreast of his field. He is alert to the wide range of approaches to and opinions on the various New Testament problems. He has benefited from the many valuable insights that the scholarly probing and discussing of recent decades has brought to light. Even in some positions and approaches with which he disagrees most heartily, Harrison can detect very worthwhile insights and suggestions. In general, however, after Harrison has led his students through a review of the available facts, varying opinions, and scholarly discussions, he concludes that the traditional position can still stand.
Harrison’s proposals are not new and exciting ones. He concludes. for instance, that Luke is the author of Acts, and that it is historically reliable; that Paul is the author of Ephesians, that the Prison Epistles originated from Rome; that the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles is credible, particularly if one considers the possibility that Luke may have been acting as Paul’s secretary at this point, that the case against Peter’s authorship of II Peter, while admittedly a strong one. is not finally compelling. Other matters Harrison finds remaining as much up in the air as ever. For all the wealth of study that has been directed to the synoptic problem, the problem remains as unsolved as ever. Nor has a great deal of probing succeeded in making Hebrews less of an enigma. Harrison’s book is a valuable addition to the New Testament field not merely in that it offers sane and judicious conclusions. He makes a vast amount of material available to the reader by way of summary and survey. Here is an epitome of New Testament discussion.
The book is written as a seminary textbook. Ought this to scare oH the rest of the reading public? Not necessarily. There is a wealth of information and instruction here for anyone who wishes to work a bit at broadening and deepening his knowledge about the New Testament. It gives reliable guidance on New Testament problems.
It is probably the ministers, however, who have the most reason for interest in this book This New Testament Introduction succeeds in making the old seminary textbook on most parsonage bookshelves out of date. Not that its conclusions arc very different. But the context of the discussion is constantly changing. Harrison’s book will remain up to date only if he keeps it so—and it is to be hoped that the publishers will encourage rum to do that. There is constant ferment in New Testament science, just as there is in the other sciences. One remains abreast of his field only by constant reading and study. Harrison lends a helping hand by sharing his wide reading and constant study with others. This book can he highly recommended to those in the ministry as a refresher course.
WILLIS P. DE BOER