A Look at Books

Korte Dogmatiek by Prof. Dr. K. Dijk. Published by J.H. Kok N.V., Kampen, the Netherlands. 312 pages. Price (paperback) 3.25 guilders.

In English the title of this book would possibly be short, or brief, or condensed Dogmatics. It is an excellent little volume. Reading it GlIs one with admiration for the ability of the author to say so much so clearly and in so condensed a manner.

After having been a minister in the Gereformeerde Kerken of the Netherlands for several years, Dr. Dijk became professor of theology at the Reformed Theological Seminary of Kampen in 1937. He retired from that position in 1955. He is the author of a number of books in the field of Practical Theology, but especially in the field of Dogmatics, which is apparently his forte. His versatile pen produces works in fluent and lucid style. It is a pleasure to read them, for the “involved” is often stated plainly in them. Needless to say, Dr. Dijk is a “conservative” Reformed theologian. However, that does not mean that he is unacquainted with present day currents of thought, or that he has failed to evaluate them according to the standard of Scripture. But he cannot be impressed by new ideas merely for the sake of their novelty. In the midst of currents and cross-currents of present day thought, Dr. Dijk stands finn on Scriptural ground—indeed he is able to see both the weaknesses of old formulations and the faults of such as present themselves as “new discoveries.” This makes Dr. Dijk’s Korte Dogmatiek a wonderfully balanced volmne. He states, “…I have, after careful study of the newest theologies, and, I dare say, after intense study of Scripture, not been able to anive at other conclusions than those written in this Korte Dogmatiek.” The book consists of two sections. Pages 1–71 constitute the historical part. It is a brief account of the history of dogma, covering the theology of the ancient church up to the present-day dialectical theology. To me this part is especially valuable, since it gives a comparatively extensive description of the theology in the Netherlands during the 10th century and mentions severnl scholars whose names occur more or less frequently in Dutch publications. The second part of the volume contains the Dogmatics proper. Dr. Dijk calls this the “Thetisch Deel.” The framework of the “traditional” loci is employed by the author. The doctrines concerning God, man, Christ, salvation, church and the last things are discussed successively. However, these are not slavishly followed. The nomenclature differs in certain instances, and the doctrines are not always treated under the usual headings. For instance, instead of speaking of soteriology ( the doctrine of the way of salvation), Dr. Dijk describes that section as “The Knowledge Of the Spirit of Christ,” and under that heading he treats the doctrine of the means of grace; the Word and the Sacraments. These are, of course, usually discussed in connection with the doctrine of tho church (ecclcsiology).

It will be understood that space d id not allow the author to engage in controversy—at least not extensively. What he presents in this fine volume are positive statements of the truth of Scripture. The indices enable anyone interested to use the book for purposes of reference. Direct and lucid answers will be found to a great many questions.

The brevity of the book is, of course, to be considered a virtue. I take it that the book was published with the purpose of conciseness in mind, and the author has succeeded well. Yet all good things may be overdone. 1113t may have been the case with this publication. When reading it, one at times regrets that Dr. Dijk did not treat certain doctrines more fully. A case in point is, for instance, Chapter II, pp. 88–106, entitled, “What is our Source of Knowledge (Kenbron)?” Naturally God’s revelation is treated here and, therefore also general and special revelation. This involves Article 2 of the Belgic Confession of Faith. Today those subjects are of great importance. For that reason I cannot suppress the wish that the learned author had enlarged a bit more fully on the relation between general and special revelation. Something similar could be said concerning the author’s treatment of “Election and Reprobation” (pp. 145–151). It will be understood, I trust, that these examples are mentioned not because there is reason to doubt the soundness of the treatments, as far as they go, but only because present day conditions call for a more comprehensive discussion. Thus the strength or virtue of the book is at the same time its weakness. The brevity of the book causes questions to arise, to which Dr. Dijk doubtless has answers, but to which he could not give full attention.

Nevertheless this “Korte Dogmatiek” may serve the purpose of “review” for theological students not only, but it will likewise be very useful for non-theological students. Technical and Latin terms are not lacking, but, I think, in practically all cases they arc explained or translated. That should, therefore, be no hindrance to the uninitiated. The price of the book is within the reach of nearly all and I am happy to recommend its purchase and study heartily and even urgently to all those able to read Dutch. They will not regret having and consulting this excellent little volume.


Christ’s Church: Evangelical, Catholic and Reformed by Bela Vassady. Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company. Grand Rapids. 1965.

Bela Vassady is professor of systematic theology at Lancaster TheolOgical Seminary and editor of Theology and Life, a pastoral and theological quarterly. He received his Th.M. degree from Princeton University, and the Th.D. degree from the University of Debrecen, Hungary. From 193$ to 1948 he was a member of the Provisional Committee of the World Council of Churches while in process of formation, and thus served as one of the founders of the Council.

In these words the author is presented to us on the cover of this paperback. From the contents we learn that birth of this book has been influenced by the present situation in American inter-church relations.

On Dee. 4, 1960 Eugene Carson Blake, the stated clerk of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., preached a sermon in Grace Cathedral, at San Francisco, Calif. The sermon outlined a proposal for the reunion of Christ’s Church.

The result of this sermon was an invitation of the 173rd General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in May 1961 to the Protestant Episcopal Church, in order to form (with the Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ) a United Church—truly Catholic, truly Reformed, truly Evangelical.

In this-book of Prof; Vassady the central theological the m e of Blake’s proposal (catholic, reformed and evangelical) is developed and discussed.

The book is written In a vivid style. It is evident from the beginning to the end that the author stands in the Reformed tradition shaped in its Neo-Orthodox form by Karl Barth.

It excels in many good observations and pointed remarks.

With much interest and agreement I read the author’s comment on the “captive catholicity” of the R.C. church (p. 20, 21); his valuable remarks on what is to be considered as the real apostolic succession in the Church (pp. 84–86); and his criticism of the Christ-Church relationship as an “extension of the incarnation” (pp. 88–91).

And I would be able to quote Prof. Vassady many times with much sympathy and agreement. However, in reading this book I was basically disappointed.

Written in often glowing terms it tries to describe an ideal united church. But the attentive reader can not forget in the mean time that it is primarily concerned with a very real and concrete situation, namely that of the union of some existing American churches. I met the name of bishop James A. Pike, the well-known Californian Episcopalian bishop, on p. 28, without any further comment as that of one of the promoters of the union-plan. But about the same time I read the report of an interview with that bishop in Toronto in which this prelate denied three basic truths of the Bible: the Trinity, the Resurrection and the Virgin Birth. He declared: “For the sake of honesty the time has come to get rid of these untenable dogmas. Living as we are in the midst of a theological revolution it is mandatory that several doctrines and traditions be called obsolete. The heart of the Christian message must be heard, stripped of unessential doctrines, mores, precepts, customs, and symbols.” (Cp. the Toronto Globe and Mail of Oct. 2, 1965; and the Canadian Church Paper Church and Nation, vol. IX, 11, p. 99.)

In these words we see the ecumenical problem life-size before us, the problem of heresy, the problem of church-leaders who are not Evangelical, Catholic and Reformed.

This burning problem is not faced in the book of Prof. Vassady with one single word. The (as I suppose) Presbyterian Prof. Vassady speaks of four churches which are candidates for the united church; but he he does not describe or refer to the actual situation in these churches.

He is supposed to know the name of that former Princeton professor, the late J. Gresham Machen who was a real Protestant, but he neglects the penetrating questions asked by that champion of truth.

He is supposed to know the name and existence of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, but he neglects its existence; and this fact makes his idealistic book an irrealistic book.

He tells us that the present churches are “preoccupied with outmoded structures” (p. 7), that creeds are “testimonies, not tests of orthodox Christian faith” (p. 25), that the gospel should not be identified with “this or that human ideology” (p. 68) and that there is a freedom of Christ from “any creedal formulation” (p. 72).

But what about the truth of God which the Church of all ages has confessed in its creeds? Should it all be cut down by the sharp axe of the actualistic freedom of Christ?

Some more critical observations may follow.

The author makes mention of the triumphant voice of the chorus to the glory of Christ which is echoed and re-echoed in the pages of Church history (p. 76); but he by.passes the great problem of Church history, that this chorus has often been almost inaudible, and that so many other voices and echoes have been heard. In other words, in reading this book we get the impression of a real situation of a pluriformity of churches, each in its own way contributing to the glory of Christ; as is sketched on the cover of this book by a symbolism of different circles in all the colors of the rainbow with the cross of Christ in the center. But this solution of the many problems which arise here is very unsatisfactory and too easy.

When the author writes on the theme of the three “historic ministries” (deacon, presbyter and bishop), his worth are, to my taste, too much descriptive and too little nonnative. When he speaks of the “Gordian knot” of the establishing of a United Church. consisting in the problems raised by the “historic episcopate,” I would he inclined to ask him: is there not quite another “Gordian knot,” consisting in the simple subjection to the inspired Word of God?

On p. 125 Calvin is quoted, but in a wrong manner; it is said that (according to Calvin) the ultimate concern of the Church is to turn the whole earth into a “theatre of Cod’s glory”. But when Calvin uses this expression he means something else. He writes in his Institutes: “However fitting it may be for man seriously to turn his eyes to contemplate God’s works, since he has been placed in this most glorious theater to be a spectator of them, it is fitting that he prick up his ears to the Word, the better to profit.” (Inst. I, 6, 2; cp. I, 14, 20; II, 6, 1)

The final note of this book is one of universalism.

God is called the great “extrovert” whose first love is not the Church, but the world (p. 129); Christ has died for all men (p. 132), and both the world and the Church receive forgiveness at the cross (p. 133).

If this is true, the question remains why the basic function of the apostolate is urgency? (p. 140).

And the other question—why a Reformed theologian does not write on predestination as the Bible proclaims that sacred truth of God—remains an open question.