A Look at Books

DE BRIEF AAN DE PHILIPPENZEN EN DE BHIEF AAN PHILEMON (Commentaar op het Nieuwe Testament) by H. M. MATTER. J. H. Kok, N.V., Kampen, the Netherlands, 1965, 128 pp. Fl. 11.25.

In the series of the Commentaar op het Nieuwe Testament, Dr. H. M. Matter presents a commentary on Philippians and Philemon. This volume replaces the almost 30year-old work of the late Dr. S. Greijdanus, who wrote his commentary in the H. A. van Bottenburg series. In comparison, Matter’s exposition shows considerable improvement in approach. Whereas his predecessor wrote for the minister and scholar, Matter explains these two letters of Paul for the average reader of Scripture. Hence technical terms have been relegated to indented sections, which are of special interest to theologians but not to the uninformed; and every text is given in translation. One way to improve this excellent commentary would be to repeat the translation in full either at the beginning or at the end of the exposition.

Characteristic of this commentary are the references to the works of many exegetes -the old among whom Calvin and the more recent such as Barth. However, Matter does not merely give references. In fact, he refutes wherever necessary the exposition of Karl Barth (Erkwrung des Philipperbriefes, 5, 1947; English translation, Epistle to the Philippians, 1962). And comments of contributors to the Theologisches Worlerbuch zum Neuen Testament are not taken at face value; they are adequately disproved on the basis of the Scriptural text. Especially in the explanation of Phil. 2:5–11, Matter refutes the neo-orthodox interpretations of this christological passage very well. In short, he demonstrates the qualities of a skillful exegete.

In his introduction to Philippians, Matter discusses the time and place of origin. Although most commentators classify Philippians with the prison epistles of Paul, this writer attempts to show that the prison references in the epistle do not necessarily indicate that Paul was a prisoner when he wrote Philippians. Thus Matter maintains that Philippians was written at Ephesus in the year 54 or 55. This view has been championed by T. W. Manson and by E. H. Lohmeyer, but it has not gained any support. Too many exegetical objections make such an interpretation unacceptable, and the arguments favoring it are unconvincing.


THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES by R. B. RACKHAM. Baker Book House. 1964. 524 pp. $6.95.

This standard work was first published in October 1901 and was reprinted thirteen times. The fourteenth edition appeared in 1951, and again was reprinted in 1953, 1957, and now in 1964. The commentary appeals to ministers, theological students, and educated laymen who wish to understand the meaning and interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles. Perhaps the exposition is not as scholarly as other commentaries on this New Testament book, yet its popularity has been adequate proof of its usefulness. In a lengthy introduction, Rackham discusses matters pertaining to text, author, structure, history and theology. This work ought to be found in the library of the well-informed minister and layman.


KARL BARTH’S DOCTRINE OF SANCTIFICATION by Anthony A. Hoekema. Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1965. 23 pages.

This is the inaugural address which Dr. Hoekema delivered last year at the occasion of his installation as professor of systematic theology (with “indefinite tenure”) at Calvin Theological Seminary.

I am very grateful to the learned author for an address such as this. It is generally known that Karl Barth has written voluminously. His works number many large volumes. An ordinary pastor, conscientious in taking heed to the flock and to feed the church of the Lord, simply basn·t the time to wade through all those volumes. Yet it is indispensibly necessary that he, as well as others, be informed. Now, with this lecture, Dr. Hoekema performs the excellent service of supplying us with a monograph on the views and teachings of Barth concerning the doctrine of sanctification. Surely even the busiest minister can make time available to read this booklet. It can be obtained at the office of the Seminary for a nominal price fifty cents.

The subject is presented by Dr. Hoekema under three main headings: the first is entitled “A Shift in Emphasis;” the second, “The Treatment of Sanctification in the Church Dogmatics;” and the third, “Evaluation.”

The author is convinced that there has been a significant shift of emphasis in Barth’s teaching on sanctification. He has consulted earlier writings of Barth and found that formerly Barth maintained that sanctification coincided with justification and that these terms described “the way of God” from two different points of view, “Grace coming from above to below in justification; coming from below to above in sanctification.” Moreover, Barth denied at that time (and, I believe, he still does) “the continuity of the work of the Holy Spirit.” Barth stated, “There is no once-for-all bestowed grace as a static possession.”

Dr. Hoekema turns to Barth’s Church Dogmatics and finds that Barth rejects the entire scheme of an ordo salutis, and that he, though making a distinction between justification and sanctification, nevertheless insists that they are indissolubly bound together. However, Barth does not believe in an “historical fall,” and he denies “that there was a golden age before the fall.” Man, so he holds, is nevertheless a sinner, but “he is a sinner against his creaturely nature,” and sanctification is “the creation of [man’s] new form of existence as the faithful covenant-partner of God.” All men, so Barth appears to maintain, are “elect in Christ.” In Christ the sanctification of all men occurred objectively (de jure). However, not all men are sanctified subjectively (de facto), “since not all men have grasped, acknowledged and confessed their sanctification.” Moreover, Hoekema states that Barth teaches that, “Christ had a sinful nature and a sinful essence. He did not, however, commit any sin; His sinlessness therefore was a sinlessness of act and of deed.” This is Christ’s sanctification and we are sanctified as we participate in Christ’s sanctification.

In his Evaluation Dr. Hoekema is fair to Barth and tries hard to discover some features in his theology which he is able to appreciate. However,  Hoekema comes to the conclusion that “the total theology of Karl Barth is completely different from that of historic, conservative, evangelical Christianity—to say nothing of Reformed Christianity, to which Barth claims to adhere.” The author enumerates “five specific points of criticism.” These points naturally touch various phases of theology, not only soteriology, but also Christology and anthropology. Hoekema states these points as follows: (1) “Barth’s view of sanctification endangers the sinlessness of Christ.” (2) “Barth’s view of sanctification involves an unbiblical view of sin.”

(3) “Barth’s view of the objective sanctification of all men is both unbiblical and meaningless.” (4) “Barth’s view of the grasping of sanctification by a limited number of people involves a Trinity divided against itself.” (5) “Barth’s implicit universalism denies the ultimate seriousness of the Gospel.”

It will be understood that the author enlarges on each of these points of criticism, hence it is profitable to study these elaborations.

I heartily and urgently commend the reading of this excellent “inaugural address.” I doubt not but what the so-called “intelligent layman” can profit by reading it, as well as the trained theologian.


FAMILY, STATE, AND CHUHCH: GOD’S INSTITUTIONS by Paul Woolley. Baker Book House, 1965, 48 pages. Price $1.00.

This little volume by Paul Woolley, Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary, is a slight expansion of four lectures given at the Conservative Baptist Seminary in Denver, Colorado. By way of outlining a Christian approach to family, state, and church, Professor Woolley does not depart substantially from what Reformed writers have said in the past. The fact that he has opportunity to say these things so as to bring Reformed ideas to a non-Reformed audience is noteworthy. For example, emphasis on the covenant to an audience which may be in the habit of thinking more atomistically about the family and the church should impart new insights.

Perhaps in some cases, Professor Woolley could have gone even further than he did in making fruitful distinctions. He calls the family, state, and church God’s institutions hut then goes on to suggest that “many impermanent groups such as clubs for social purposes” can be conducted by or function under the auspices of one of the three basic groups. Other groups are supplementary to the three fundamental groups. To speak thus of supplementary and “under the auspices of” is to create confusion.

Is it not rather the case that the three institutions treated are authoritative institutions, because they have been instituted by God, and the others are free societal relationships which are in no way under the sponsorship of the authoritative? A family is under no responsibility to sponsor the organization of a bowling team. The state has no non-civil interest in a country club by way of encouraging golf. It may he a matter of debate whether the church has as its task the organization of young people’s clubs whose primary activity is social. This is not to say that there are no points at which the interests of the free societal relationships meet those of the authoritative relations.

After a short discussion as to the nature of each of these authoritative social institutions, as we have chosen to designate them, Professor Woolley goes on to a discussion of several “Modern American Problems.” All of these are of a more or less controversial nature. Hence there may a considerable measure of disagreement with the conclusions reached. This does not deter Professor Woolley, since he is of the opinion that “the things about which everyone agrees with everyone else are usually not worth talking about.”

Space limitations preclude the possibility of bringing all subjects under discussion so we will limit ourselves here to Christian education.

Professor Woolley insists that ideally education should be parent-controlled. Further, parents must see that “education is properly conducted, that its content is rightly inclusive and rightly exclusive, that God is recognized as the source of knowledge and all life.” (p. 16) A few paragraphs later we read the suggestion, “Education is education for life. It cannot be done in a situation abstracted from actual reality. The children of a school should present a cross·section of life religiously, economically and racially. Learning to face the problems of actual living under God is what the school is teaching.” (p. 17) Looking at the school situation in this period of late twentieth century America one is apt to react to the above by suggesting, Professor make up your mind! Do you want God-centered education or do you want a school situation where all the colors of the religious spectrum of American life are encountered? It is a fact of our history that these two possibilities have become mutually exclusive. We cannot embrace both sides of the educational distinct.

Somewhat later in discussing possible kinds of Christian schools, Professor Woolley again expresses his preference for diversity of viewpoint. The best type of school is a school “where religious instruction is presented and permeates the curriculum, where it is soundly based upon scriptural authority. and where different points of view are allowed in the student body and discussion is encouraged in the classroom” (p. 42). Professor Woolley doesn’t want attendance at a Christian school limited to homes where the religious beliefs are in exact agreement with the views of the school. By way of example, however, it seems fair to say that this is a practical necessity. How long will parents with Arminian leanings be satisfied to have their doctrines repudiated in the school committed to Reformed confessions? The same may apply to evangelicals with strong dispensationalist tendencies. The cooperative effort would founder on disagreement as to what constitutes “soundly based on scriptural authority.”

In presenting a discussion of current problems, the question of government aid to private schools could hardly be avoided. Professor Woolley decries the need of public education as a substitute for parent-controlled schools. Under the current arrangement taking religion out of the schools could hardly be avoided. But then, it seems to me, Professor Woolley proceeds to the inconsistent conclusion that parents who are discharging their educational task have no right to money that is levied for educational purposes. Professor Woolley argues that the stipulations of the First Amendment to the Constitution form the basis for a “neutral” public school. This is necessary, it seems, to satisfy the demands of a small but vocal atheistic minority. But the radical nature of the problem points to the violation of the rights of another minority. That minority which, while supporting education in keeping with its own religious commitment, is forced to support with its taxes the competing religion of secular humanism which has moved in to fill the vacuum left by the expulsion of religious teachings from the public schools. Professor Woolley, along with most American Protestants sees no inequity in this situation. The only kind of financial relief that he can prescribe for the supporters of Christian schools is the deductibility of educational expenses. To the minds of many, this would be tantamount to accepting a few slices from a loaf of bread which you can justly claim to be your own.

Disagreements in other areas of discussion will undoubtedly stimulate the perceptive reader who has done some thinking on the issues of our day. Why not use this little book to sharpen you own point of view? You may agree or disagree, but you can not fail to benefit from the study.