CREATIVE MINDS IN CONTEMPORARY THEOLOGY, edited by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. $6.95.
Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, the well-known editor of the (Anglican) Churchman, has greatly obligated us by the edition of this guidebook which surprises us again and again by the wealth of its material, its concise synopses of the main teachings and its balanced evaluation of a number of theological thinkers who have made an impact on Christian theology in the twentieth century.
After having read an instructive opening chapter on The Creative Task of Theology by the editor we are confronted with Karl Barth by his English translator C. W. Bromileyj with G. C. Berkouwer by one of his American translators, the Calvin professor L. B. Smedes; with Emil Brunner by dr. P. C. Schrotenbocr (who in his dissertation analysed his theology); with Rudolf Bttltmann by the Westminster professor R D. Knudsen; with Oscar Cullmann by the Baptist professor D. H. Wallace; with the Scottish N.T.-exegete James Denney by dr. I. Howard Marshall; with C. H. Dodd, the man of the realized eschatology, by professor F. F. Bruce; with the Christian philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd by professor William Young; with P. T. Forsyth by prof. S. J. Mikolaski; with the liberal Anglo-Catholic Charles Gore by Colin Brown; with Reinhold Niebuhr by thc Calvin Professor Theodore Minnema; with the RC. prophet of evolution Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by the late (lamented) professor J. J. Duyvene de Wit; and with Paul Tillich by professor Kenneth Hamilton.
A wide range of experts on a wide range of extraordinary men!
As a matter of fact not all of these extra-ordinary men can be classified in that group of creative minds of which the editor writes in his introductory chapter: “The creative task of theology is, first of all, the task of the redeemed who, through the prior grace of God, have returned to the Father by the Son, and through the inner work of the H. Spirit have been put into tune with the mind of Christ. The creative task of theology must be performed with the given ‘material’ of the Word of God written” (p. 25).
Also the word “theology” in the title can only with some elasticity cover the work of Dooyeweerd, of whom the editor writes: “Dooyeweerd will frown at finding himself placed among the theologians in this volume; but his philosophy is created upon a genuinely theological foundation”; and in a far-different way the same is true of the oeuvre of Teilhard de Chardin of whom we read that “he loses himself in a gnostic speculation” (p. 443) and that “it has become apparent that the spiritual motive power of his theoretical thought does not at all originate from the central motive of Christian religion” (p. 447); and even of the theology of Paul Tillich which is called “not so much Christian theology as a translation of Christian theology into the language of theosophicalontological speculation” (p. 479).
But it can not be denied that also these last-mentioned men have exercised and continue to exercise a profound influence on contemporary theological thinking.
It is impossible to offer a detailed review of the contents of each essay (consisting in (1) a biographical sketch, which places the man in his national and cultural setting; (II) an exposition, which explicates the governing concepts and main contributions in his thought and writings; (III) an evaluation, which assesses the man’s thought as measured against the biblical revelation and as viewed from within the perspective of historic Evangelical theology; (IV) a bibliography; I can only emphasize my sincere appreciation of this symposion which, in my judgment equates the value of many books, in this one volume.
I was very happy with the lucid survey of the theology of Berkouwer; his ideas are spread in many books, and here we find a very valuable introduction into his guiding principle (Co-relation ), and his main theological insights.
I was personally also struck by the very important introduction into the theology of Oscar Cullmann, a theologian of the Word who is (as far as I know) less known among us than his colleagues Barth and Brunner are, and who deserves close attention. And, last not least, I congratulate prof. Young with the performance of his gigantic task: giving in understandable words an introduction to the massive work of Dooyeweerd, followed by a very thought-provoking evaluation.
In short, I recommend this book to all theological-interested readers, esp. our students; and I look forward to the coming second collection of studies of modern theological thinking which, according to the editor, is under consideration.
BY WHAT AUTHORITY? The Standards of Truth in the Early Church, by Bruce Shelley. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, paperback, $1.95
In his Preface the author (Bruce Shelley, head of the Department of Church History at the Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary in Denver. Col.) indicates the relevance of his study to the situation of our time by pointing to the revolutionary spirit of that time in which many voices claim authority. to the doctrinal affirmations of the W.C.G. in New Delhi, and to the R.C. document De Ecclesia, issued by the Vatican Council II, and he asks the question: “What century, other than the first, contributed most to a Christian pattern of authority?” In answer he points to the second century and the purpose of his study is to trace the pattern of authority in the writings of the Christian authors of that special age.
He confronts us in details with the conception of authority of the apostolic fathers and the apologists, he concentrates his attention especially on the writings of Ireneus and Tertullian, and ends his study with an exposition of the teachings of the great Alexandrians Clement and Origen concerning this subject. Recurring themes arc those of the origin and meaning of the Creed(s), the Rule of Faith, Tradition and the Canon of Scripture.
He states the fact that, prior to the fourth century. all creeds and confessions were local in character (p. 18) that they may be called interrogatory creeds used in the service of baptism, and that they were built on a triadic formula (pp. 19, 129).
The Rule of Faith was a “brief, flexible summation of the fundamentals of the church’s faith,” being found in the living message of the church (p. 83), and beyond which doctrinal inquiry and Scriptural interpretation must not go (p. 138).
Tradition was at first oral ( pp. 21,57), but always subject to the test of apostolicity (p. 103 ); only Clement of Alexandria made an unusual use of the term “tradition” (p. 130). Formal recognition of the canon of N.T. writings can be dated about the middle of the second century; the acceptance of the canonical books took place within the worshipping and witnessing community (pp. 116, 143).
It is the merit of this study that it presents in a readable form the results of an accurate study of the answers, given by the post-apostolic church to the question: “What is the authorative source of our Christian faith?”
In his interesting concluding chapter “The Sum of It” the author compares the Protestant position with that of the R.C. church. Although I agree with his main line of argument (the Church under the Word; not; the Word under the Church, p. 142), I have the feeling that it would have been helpful if he had paid some attention to the views of the new R.C. theology of which Hans Kung is such a prominent representative.
His avoiding of the terms “Reformation” and “Reformed theology,” and his preference for such as “Evangelical Protestantism” and “Biblicism,” and also his assertion that “evangelical Protestants” (with a few important exceptions) are not characterized by the “churchmanship” that appears in the early centuries, seem to be in line with his Baptist convictions. It was with much appreciation that I read, consequently, his honest questions: “Has evangelical Protestantism, particularly in its American expression, made enough room for history? Do we have an adequate doctrine of the church? Is there no legitimate place for tradition?” Shelley tries to give a short answer to these questions on some of the next pages, but they certainly deserve a more thorough answer, and we should not close our eyes for the fact that they are first-ranking and burning questions also for us.
L . PRAAMSMA
CHURCH GROWTH IN MEXICO by Donald McGavran: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963.
The author, Dr. Donald McGavran, said in his opening address at a missionary conference ill Mexico City in the month of May of this year: “God has called us to live in tremendously responsible times.” He went on to explain that in view of the spectacular growth of the world’s population, the modern means of travel and communication, and the responsiveness to the Gospel of many segments of earth’s peoples, we in our day are faced with greater opportunities and more weighty responsibility for the evangelization of the human race than any other generation before us. In view of this, the Church should know what is happening in the whole field of world evangelism. So often the Church is contented with foggy notions about mission work, its successes and its failures, its advances and its recessions, and as long as the missionaries report back that “the Lord is blessing” and “His work is being done,” no one asks further questions. But that is not McGavran’s outlook. He wants to know what is happening on every mission field, why it is happening, and what can be done to fulfill the true aim of missions in a greater measure.
As soon as one mentions the “true aim of missions” there is bound to be disagreement among Church leaders, for here theological presuppositions enter in. Is the aim of missions to convert adherents from other religions to the Christian faith, or is it merely to share with other religionists the good things that Christianity offers? Is the establishment of worshipping congregations an essential outcome of mission work, or is the organized local church merely an unnecessary carry-over from the Middle Ages? Should the Church be content with providing social services to non-Christians, whether or not they are ever converted to Christ, or is the true goal of all mission work the conversion of peoples and the establishment of indegenous churches?
The position taken in this book, and in the School of World Missions of Fuller Seminary which McGavran directs, is that the true aim of all Christian mission work is the conversion of peoples and the growth of the Church. No church, no matter how attractive it may be in doctrine, tradition, and organization, is really spiritually healthy unless it is growing through the conversion and ingrafting of people from the outside. This is especially true of younger churches in highly responsive areas such as Latin America today. While those who labor in “difficult fields” where converts are not entering the Church in great numbers need not feel that their work is unimportant since God wills that His Word be proclaimed to all men everywhere, nevertheless, it must not be argued on theological grounds that it makes no difference to God or his Church whether the harvest be small or great. The Lord of Harvest counts the sheaves, says McGavran, and the Good Shepherd rejoices in multitudes found. In areas of the world such as Mexico, where some churches and missions are experiencing tremendous growth as whole tribes, villages, and family groups arc coming to the evangelical Christian faith, we see evidence of God’s working in a very special way and we must conclude that this great ingathering is a thing that pleases the Lord very much. It is His will and work, and every church should examine itself in the light of the current situation and bend every effort to have a full share in the gathering in of the harvest that God has made ready.
Serious study of both responsive and unresponsive peoples, analysis of effective and ineffective methods, and careful consideration of theological viewpoints that make for or hinder the growth nf the Church, are of utmost importance in our time of increasing missionary opportunities. There are good ways to bring in a harvest, and there arc also bad ways. There are methods, viewpoints, and theological positions that curtail and frustrate evangelization as well as those that are conducive to great church growth. What this book tries to do, and we believe that it does so with no small amount of success, is to open up the real missionary situation as it exists in Mexico and as it relates to the growth of the Protestant Church. Some denominations arc growing at a fantastic rate; others are hardly holding their own. Still others are increasing at a more moderate rate. Why arc there these differences? What are some missions doing that brings them such outstanding results, and what are others doing, or failing to do, that hinders their growth? This is what CHURCH GROWTH IN MEXICO is about. It is an important book, well written and supplied with graphs that make the facts as clear as crystal. It has value for every Christian concerned about missions.
The author has recently been appointed Dean of the new Graduate School of World Missions at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. Before this he was head of the Church Growth Institute in Eugene, Oregon, a school he established after spending more than thirty years as a missionary to India. He knows missions inside and out. He knows from experience the slow conversion rate of heavily institutionalized missions and the depressing, slow growth of younger churches that have come to believe that evangelism is the responsibility of paid workers either foreign or national, with the money coming from America, while the task of the established church is merely to improve itself internally, working toward “quality” Christians rather than new converts. McGavran has studied closely the growth of churches in many parts of the world that have laid the responsibility for evangelism first of all on the laymen, that have followed sociological lines of group conversion, and have welcomed into their midst not just single individuals, but families, tribes, and peoples. His investigations into the growth of the Church in Mexico have. substantiated his findings in other countries. The Christian Church grows when missionaries, ministers, and laymen, are people of great faith in God and dependence on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Where the laity is employed in the spread of the Gospel, where indigenous forms of worship and church life arc allowed to express themselves, and where the church is kept a conversion center and not a social club for “quality” members only, there the Church grows. The Pentecostalist churches of Mexico have for example, gained more converts since the end of World War II, than the old-line denominations put together. Their services may be a bit “wild” for some peoples’ tastes, but who can argue with an approach that builds congregations of hundreds and even thousands of members in a decade? When things like this are happening, the whole Church should know about it think about it reconsider its own mission endeavors. and ask the Lord to show the way to greater fruitfulness. This is what McGavran challenges the Church to do in this book, aDd in the Graduate School at Fuller.
There is a secret found among rapidly growing churches that needs to be shared with those that are not so successful. McCavran points out the fact that conversions in number lead to more conversions in even greater number. “Living connections,” a term often used in the book, are connections between Christians and the people of the world. Great people movements into the Church depend on contacts, “bridges,” between Christians and non-Christians, new converts with their relatives and friends still outside the faith. It involves the whole web of social relationships which tie people together. The churches that are experiencing great growth are those that do not separate a new convert from his family and friends, but rather welcome him into the fellowship and use this new “living connection” to evangelize those to whom he is related. Churches that are alive with evangelism, simply because they are already conversion centers, are also in a position to multiply even faster as new converts carry the Gospel to their unconverted family and friends.
While CHURCH GROWTH IN MEXICO handles the strategic and sociological factors of church growth very well, there is one other aspect of church growth that ought to be included. For there is another answer that must be given to the question, Why does this church grow while that church docs not? And that is the theological side of the enterprise of missions. A church’s theology has very definite bearing on the kind of mission work it chooses to do, the type of missionaries it sends to the field and the aim which the missions set for themselves. The author himself is very much aware of the importance of a sound theology of missions, though perhaps for practical reasons he chose not to include this side of the matter in this particular book. Nevertheless, a complete and frank discussion of the comparative growth rate of different denominations cannot avoid the fact that there are theological viewpoints, among the younger churches as well as the older, that simply cannot motivate church growth or give to seeking people what they are looking for spiritually, because they themselves have lost the Biblical foundations which make conversion, baptism, and church membership meaningful. Some of the graphs that indicate the rises and declines in CHURCH GROWTH TN MEXICO, can be partially explained by the theological factor. A church that does not preach the Gospel according to the Scriptures, or begins to toy with Liberalism in either its newer or older forms, is not going to experience genuine church growth no matter how receptive the people around it may be. Some of the churches included in McGavran’s study of Mexico arc not growing, or are not growing as rapidly as they could grow, primarily because their theological position is weak, confused, and not adequate to provide a solid basis for evangelism. In such situations, mission work soon becomes a form of social service, a sort of sanctified humanitarianism, without conversions, power, or church growth.
This is our only criticism of the book. For the rest we consider it a most helpful study especially valuable for churches and missions in Mexico but containing enough thought-provoking insights on the whole subject of missions to make it valuable reading for students of missions everywhere. Another recent book, edited by Dr. McGavran, is Church Growth and Christian Mission (New York: Harper & Row, 1965). This too should be added to one’s Missions Heading List. The church growth viewpoint is a pioneering new approach to Christian missions and ought to be studied carefully by everyone involved in the extension of Christ’s Church.
ROGER S. GREENWAY
(This review appears also in the current issue of the REFORMED BULLETIN OF MISSIONS, edited by Rev. Harvie M. Conn, missionary to Korea of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.)
SERMONS SUGGESTIONS IN OUTLINE I by R.E.O. White, published by William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, paperback, 78 pages, price $1.45
Those acquainted with the author through his writings know the keenness of his spiritual insight, the beauty of his style, and the warmth of his spirit.
This volume is the first of two offering sermon suggestions for the entire calendar year. The purpose in mind is not only to provide messages of content, but also to recommend, underscore, and illustrate an effective method of preaching. As the author states: “Sermons lacking outlines are neither well delivered nor easily remembered: but outlines lacking content and message offer no nourishment to the hearer and little help to the hard-pressed preacher.”
The virtue of this volume lies in the systematic arrangement of the material; in the fact that the messages deal with the essentials of the gospel, and in the author’s demonstrated insistence that each passage of Scripture be expounded in the light of and with the use of Scripture in general.
Properly used, it is altogether likely that the author’s hope will be fulfilled : “If these skeletons are used of God to help others explore and expound the everlasting gospel, the author will be deeply grateful.”
WHAT ABOUT TONGUE SPEAKING? by Anthony A. Hoekema, published by William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 161 pages, price $3.50
This volume reveals the author’s deep concern that Scriptural revelation concerning charismatic gifts shall be properly and carefully interpreted, and that the vigorous assertions of those who claim to possess the “gift of tongues” shall be evaluated in the light of that divine revelation.
The author deals with the history of tongue-speaking, the significance of tongue-speaking for Pentecostals, and offers a biblical and theological evaluation of this phenomenon. Having exposed the weakness of drums currently being made Dr. Hoekema concludes with a discussion of certain lessons we can learn from this movement which is attracting rather wide attention.
All who are interested in the subject will find this to be a most valuable study. The strength and persuaveness of the argumentation is to be found in the author’s willingness to let the protagonists of the movement speak for themselves, in the thorough analysis of the pertinent biblical passages, and in the theological balance and Christian spirit demonstrated throughout.
A MANUAL FOR BIBLICAL PREACHING by Lloyd M. Perry, published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 215 pages, price $4.95
The author is Professor of Practical Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Bonnockburn, Deerfield, lllinois. His qualifications are to be found in the fact that he possesses two earned doctorates in practical theology and speech; in many years of service in pastorates in New England, New York, and the Midwest; and seventeen years of experience as a classroom teacher.
One cannot help being impressed with the abundance of information presented in outline form. After a brief Introduction on the Philosophy of Biblical Preaching the author proceeds to discuss: Discovering Biblical Preaching Material; Organizing the Biblical Sermon, Classifying Biblical Sermons, Planning a Biblical Preaching Program, and Presenting Biblical Sermons on Special Occasions.
The reader may well digest and then evaluate for himself the sevenfold Sermon Patterns described as Foundational, Analogical, Etymological, Analytical, Problematical, Illustrational, and Implicational.
The strength of this volume is first of all its insistence on the fact that preaching must be Biblical so that sermons are to be based on specific Scriptural passages; that these shall be expounded; and the theme of the sermon shall reflect the heart of the text and the true subject of the message. Many preachers, particularly those with limited experience will also discover a host of workable and profitable suggestions which appear as fruit of the author’s broad knowledge of Scripture and wide experience as an expositor of it.
A few strictures or limitations may be mentioned. There is some indication that the writer is committed to a dispensational view of Scriptural revelation; one wonders why the Major Prophets are omitted in the section “Gathering material for the Biblical Sermon”; and one wishes that more material had been offered dealing with “Christian Year Occasions” as compared to others which are more peripheral.
Those who use this book wisely will find in it stimulation to study the Scriptures and will not use the wealth of practical material as a substitute for personal investigation. As Kenneth S. Kantzer says in the foreword, this book is intended as “a practical guide in helping the preacher to attain success in preaching to both saint and sinner in such a way as to demonstrate the relevance of the Gospel for a desperately needy world.”
THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, edited by Gerhard Kittel; translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Vol. II, covering those New Testament words which begin with the letters delta, epsilon, zeta, and eta. Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 955 pages, price $20.50
The reviewer has long been a user of this work in its original German edition. For the minister who wishes to do thorough work in exegesiS it is well-nigh a “must.” Consider, for example, the very informative article on the word dikaiosune, a word with various meanings, depending on the specific context; for example, “uprightness,” “righteousness,” “the state of the sinner who has been declared free from guilt.” One mayor may not agree with every opinion of the author of that article, but will be forced to conclude that the facts are presented in a scholarly, systematic, and comprehensive manner. Under the entry exousia the meaning “domain” or “kingdom” is recognized. Failure to recognize this signification has led to much confusion in commentaries.
This does not mean that a conservative theologian can agree with everything presented here. In several cases he will detect an unhealthy, subjectivistic treatment. For example, we are told (article diabolos) that an Old Testament passage like Zech. 3:1ff. does not as yet view Satan as an evil power. He is merely a heavenly prosecutor. In the light, however, of Zech. 3:2 and John 8:44 it is hard to maintain this position. Thus also the pronouncement that one must not look for the origin of the office of deacon in Acts 6—an opinion based on the fact that the men chosen to office as related in that chapter are not actually called “deacons,” and on the additional circumstance that they also serve as evangelists -will not find universal endorsement. But even then, what we have in this set of books, of which this is the second volume. is a veritable library of information. The translation, moreover, is excellent. Such other matters as binding, format, type, etc., give cause for joy. The Eerdmans Publishing Co. deserves to be congratulated.