A Look at Books

A HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS by Stephen Neill. Published by Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1965. Price, $7.50.

This book is the last of a six volume series called “The Pelican History of the Church.” Owen Chadwick is the general editor of this series, and the other volumes in it deal with the various periods of church history from ancient to modern times.

I believe that A History of Christian Missions will be widely used as a textbook by seminaries and Christian colleges. The thing that particularly recommends it for this purpose is its comprehensiveness. The author describes extensively the mission efforts of every branch of Christendom, including the efforts of Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants. He considers not only the missions of the Early Church and of recent centuries; he also describes the work carried on with the pagans of Europe throughout the Middle Ages and the efforts of European Christians to evangelize Asia during this same time. These latter descriptions are especially interesting for they demonstrate that at least some part of the church has always been mission oriented. There is possibly one lacuna in what is otherwise a comprehensive account: The Church in North Africa during Ancient and Medieval times receives rather hasty treatment, while the ancient Coptic Church of Ethiopia is finished off in one paragraph (pp. 52, 3).

Regarding the World Council of Churches Neill says, “That body can claim to include Churches which have a nominal membership of about 300 million, or more than a third of the nominal Christians in the world; but barely one sixth of the missionary work in the world is being done by the Churches which adhere to the Council” (p. 460). This is a tacit admission that the strongly evangelical churches which have stayed outside the World Council are, together with the Roman Catholics, doing the lion’s share of all mission work in the world today. Yet in a chapter entitled, “From Mission to Church” (pp. 510–58) Neill treats the current broad ecumenical movement with great enthusiasm, as if it were an integral part of Christian missions. Neill (as well as others who have written in the same vein) has not produced statistical evidence that ecumenicalism per se either promotes missions or stimulates conversions. There is, no doubt, Biblical evidence favoring cooperation or union between those churches which are real manifestations of the body of Christ. But if one is interested in results on the mission field, he would be well advised to study mission principles and practice, and then practise what he has learned.


SPEAKING WITH TONGUES by Stuart Bergsma. Published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Paperback, 20 pages. Price $ .85.

This brief treatment of a currently live issue is both instructive and interesting. One finds in it thoughtprovoking ideas expressed in delightful style.

The author approaches his subject from the point of view of “a Christian, a medical man, a psychiatrist, a common sense scientist.” He deals with the biblical givens, demonstrates theological discernment, and then offers an evaluation from a predominately psychological perspective which is most enlightening.

Dr. Bergsma insists, and rightly so, that speaking with tongues must glorify God, exalt Christ, and magnify the Holy Spirit. His conclusion is “Modern glossolalia fails to meet these conditions. God does not deal in trivialities, obscurities, unintelligible gibberish. Hence, I still say that except for exceptional exceptions, modern glossolalia or modern speaking with tongues can be explained physiologically and psychologically today.”