LISTENING TO GOD ON CALVARY, by George Gritter. Baker Book House, 1965. 143 pages. Price $2.50. The subtitle of this book is “Messages on the Seven Words from the Cross.”
Many books have been written on these words and, I suppose, nearly every minister has preached and every saint meditated on them. One might be inclined to remark, What, another book on these themes! Yet there is room for books on these words, and there will ever be. For these words interpret the Cross and the Cross stands at the very center of the gospel. Every generation of Christians must go to the Cross, listen to the words spoken on it, and draw old and new instruction from them. However, the fact that these sayings have been approached so often and, in some instances at least, so well, places severe demands upon an author. I am happy to say that Rev. Gritter satisfies such demands. The seven chapters devoted to the seven words do not simply restate what has been said by others, but again and again one meets with remarkably edifying insights and inferences in this book. I assume that these chapters have not been written hastily and in reading the work one must reduce pace time and again to allow the crisp comments of the author to penetrate and to be absorbed. Thereupon one feels thankful to God for His marvelous grace and to the author for permitting us to share with him his profound and wonderful reactions of faith to the Cross of our blessed Savior.
I think the book should be considered devotional in character. Yet I fear that description might create the impression that it lacks a solid doctrinal basis. The opposite is the case. Scriptural and doctrinal truths have been brought to fruition by the author and thus they have developed into spiritual nourishment and into devotion and praise as well. All the way through one senses the solid framework of these meditations, yet they are finished products—the skeleton has been covered with flesh. Happily, the author does not allow the discourses to be interrupted by extensive controversy. There would have been abundant opportunity for this and Rev. Gritter is well aware of it. There are hints to that effect on several pages. But this time it is refreshing to go to the Cross with the author without being too much annoyed by such as do not glory in it. Of course, at times doctrines must be discussed directly. That could, for instance, not be avoided with the first Word of the Cross. For the prayer, “Rather, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” has ever been challenging and more than one explanation has been offered by evangelical scholars. After mentioning two rather common interpretations Rev. Gritter concludes, “I am inclined to agree with those who hold that in this instance Jesus was asking for postponement of judgment” (p. 19). This reviewer has on occasions chosen the same explanation of this remarkable petition. Yet I hesitate a bit and I am glad that the author states that he is “inclined” to agree with that interpretation. Who knows but what the Spirit will at some time cast greater light upon this prayer.
However, though there be a measure of uncertainty in regard to the exact meaning of the petition and especially its to its inclusiveness, yet the merits and the product of the Cross remain unimpaired—there is forgiveness!
The author has been endowed with the charisma, the gift, of employing language concisely, accurately and beautifully. Much, very much, is repeatedly condensed to stimulating and brief statements. Take, for example, such prolific expressions as these: “Not only men, but God glories in the cross of Calvary. It is His work. It was to be found only in His heart; it was raised by His hand; it was endured by His Son. It saves sinners. It sanctifies a church. It builds a kingdom. It restores creation. It glorifies His name” (p. 120). A great number of others could be cited.
I am grateful to the author for this book. The subjects are most important. It may be stated that if one goes wrong in his conception of the Cross, he is bound to go wrong in practically cvery other doctrine. I heartily recommend the reading of this little volume to all, and certainly hope that it may have the widest possible distribution. That is necessary in an age such as ours, in which the Cross is attacked and misinterpreted even by those claiming to be Christians.
NICHOLAS J. MONSMA
CHRISTIAN COUNSELING AND OCCULTISM By Kurt E. Koch, Th.D. English Translation of the Book “Seelsorge und Okkultismus” Translated From the German by Andrew Petter Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Mich. 295 pages—$4.95
This book is intended for “the Christian counseling of persons who are psychically vexed or ailing because of involvement in occultism.” The book cover informs tlle reader that Dr. Kurt E. Koch is a noted German theologian, minister and evangelist, who has given a lifetime to a special study and ministry with those suffering from demon possession and occult entanglement. In the Foreword of the volume Dr. V. Raymond Edman, Ph.D., Chancellor of Wheaton College, mentions “the mortal combat between light and darkness, between God and Satan,” upon which Dr. Koch is shedding light in this book. “The manifestation of demonic forces is not readily believed by some and is wholly ignored by others,” and it is on this “satanic warfare against the people of God” that Dr. Koch “presents the facts.” Professor Adolph Kobede, D.D., of the University of Tubingen, writing the Introduction of the book, explains that Dr. Koch in his pastoral counseling of unnumbered psychically burdened persons found that his interviews revealed “an astounding number of these persons had been involved either actively or passively in occult influences.” For this “they always had to pay dearly in the form of psychic afflictions of all kinds;—depression, suicidal thoughts, blasphemous urges, mania or lascivious compulsions.” Dr. Koch, in his book shows the insufficiency of the natural explanations given by psychologists and psychiatrists in many areas, and on the other hand “knows by experience the adequacy of the Christian’s armour” (Ephesians 6:12), “in particular, the weapon of all-prayer in the Spirit.” (Edman, Foreword).
The compilation of the material which makes up this book is a gigantic task in itself, let alone trying to interpret it in a Christian manner by “an approach that transcends our ordinary dimensions of science.” This book,—dealing with occult practices, including extra-sensory perception as spiritism (apparition of the dead, tumbler moving, table lifting, speaking in a trance, automatic writing); telepathy, clairvoyance, palmistry, astrology; including extra-sensory influence in the form of hypnosis, magnetic cures, remote influence, black and white magic, fetishism, to mention some of the practices studied; including also extra-sensory apparitions (such as materialization and spooks),—shows the effects on the practitioners of the occult, the consequences to themselves and family, as well as to the persons who come under the occult influences by participating in the seances.
One hundred twenty-four case reports are given under the many divisions of occultism explained in Koch’s book, and are a valuable inclusion. The case report is usually followed by a brief critical examination of the way a psychiatrist and psychologist would interpret the phenomenon, and then how the pastor view deals with the case. Thus, concerning spooks, the author writes: “From the pastoral view it is Significant that faith in Jesus Christ puts an end to these sexual spook-phenomena.” (p. 136)
The section: “Occult Phenomena In The Light Of The Bible” (pp. 227–234) is of value to the pastor and any Christian counselor.
In the chapter headed: “The Way of Liberation From Occult Subjection” a quotation compares the scientific approaches of psychiatry and psychology through psycho-therapy with pastoral counseling, saying that psychotherapy is anthropocentric, concerned only with the person; pastoral care is theocentric, its aim being that “man shall find peace with God and shall know himself possessed of God.”
The section: “The Guidance of Souls From The New Testament Onward” (pp. 250 to 286) and the pages following are especially useful to the Christian therapist, be he psychiatrist, psychologist, social service worker, or pastoral counselor.
There are many things one might say, too numerous to mention in this brief review, of a long. closely written, fine printed book abounding in clinical substance. To the therapist interested in the occult, in helping parishioners who are actively engaged in occultism, or who even “dabble in it for the kicks,” this book has many fine Christian insights. The same insights gained will help in other situations of psychotherapy with Christian patients.
For the scientific psychotherapist to lean strongly toward a solution of these occultism-produced mental disturbances which is primarily a stressing of a spiritual influence (demonic) as the underlying agent in the occult phenomena and the psychic disasters that follow, and for him to rely on another spiritual influence (on the good side) (as found in the Bible, as a sort of do-it-yourself kit spiritually), is an oversimplification of the problem of the “psychic” phenomena that present themselves. Conventional, down-to-earth psychotherapy will still remain his main avenue of approach.
I recommend the book for the serious student in the field, the Christian worker who has patients with occultism-induced derangements, for the student of the occult phenomena and para-psychology, and as a most comprehensive study of occultism by a Christian counselor. The book is wen bound, wen printed, and well documented.
STUART BERGSMA, M.D.