AUTHORITY by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Published by Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 39 Bedford Square, W.C. 1, London. 94 pages. Price $1.25. Paperback.
In a day when students of science assert their right to modify the Scriptures to fit the scientist, when theologians with their man-made ideas want to modify the Scriptures to match their finite conclusions, when churches are ready to forfeit precious doctrines of the Word to promote unity at whatever the price, when the United Presbyterian Church has just adopted the Confession of 1967, when intellectuals have come to the sophomoric conviction that God is dead, when the advocates of the New Morality comfort sinners by taking the sin out of immorality—it is most refreshing and invigorating to read this book which deals with the Biblical view of authority. The substance of three lectures given at a conference in Ontario in 1957, form the contents of this book.
If you want to know why the church of today has lost its authority, read this book. If you want to be assured of the fact that in the midst of all the confusion, insecurity, and apostasy of the day, the Bible presents itself as an authoritative book, the Lord Jesus Christ as the authoritative Christ, and the Holy Spirit as the authoritative Spirit, read this precious book. The author beautifully shows the inter-relationship of the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, of the Scriptures, and of the Holy Spirit.
The whole Bible is about the Lord Jesus Christ (p. 13). The New Testament claims the supreme authority of Jesus Christ (p. 15). The Father is well-pleased in him. The Father issues the command, “Hear ye Him.” The authority to reveal the Father belongs to Christ. The word of Jesus Christ “shall not pass away.” All this, and mOre, underscores Christ’s authority.
The author maintains that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is “the ultimate proof of His authority” and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was “the final assertion of the supreme authority of Jesus Christ.” Indeed Christ himself lays claim to absolute authority. Before this authority we must all learn to bow—theologian and layman, professional and nonprofessional.
In his second chapter the author treats the authority of the Scriptures. At the beginning of that chapter he makes this significant statement: “We are concerned about the whole matter of authority because it involves the whole question of evangelism” (p. 30). This statement alone should make every evangelistic worker who reads this review, want to read this significant book. Our layworkers in evangelism and our missionaries, home and foreign, need to stress in our day, the authority of Jesus Christ, of the Scriptures, and of the Holy Spirit, lest they take the back-bone out of the Gospel of salvation, lest they have no more to offer the world than the Arminian has to offer. We cannot have the proper concept of the love of God unless we have the proper concept of divine authority.
“It was an essential part of apostolic preaching to prove that the Lord Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the OT promises.” Dr. Lloyd-Jones realizes that “in any consideration of the final authority of Jesus Christ…we are driven to a consideration of the authority of the Scriptures.” After mentioning some recent attacks on the Scriptures, the author considers the right approach to the Word of God. The right approach is to view it as a whole, to believe as a whole, to accept it by faith, and to assert its truth. How right he is when he says that one who is not a Christian cannot believe in the authority of the Scriptures. He believes that there is today even among “conservative evangelicals” a fear of “science” which tends to making concessions that do injustice to the Scriptures. In unequivocal terms the author declares it “ignorant to accord to ‘Science,’ ‘Modern Knowledge’ or ‘Learning’ an authority which they really do not possess,” and exhorts his readers to be “skeptical” of the “assertions of science.”
Christians should heed the author’s warning against maintaining the priority of defending the Scriptures. The priority lies in the asserting of the Scriptures. We must assert what the Scriptures assert. Thus, not apologetics but the preaching and the exposition of the Scriptures “really establish its truth and authority.” (Ministers, let’s have more exegesis, please.)
Dr. Lloyd-Jones defines the authority of the Scriptures as “that property by which it demands faith and obedience to all its declarations.” He then gives reasons why we must “contend for the whole of the Bible,” the beginning of Genesis included. The most important argument why we should believe Scriptures is that Scriptures themselves claim that authority.” The Lord Jesus answered his worst enemy with “It is written,” implying his implicit reliance upon its authority. The N.T. throughout verifies the authority of the O.T. “All Scripture is inspired of God…” “…holy men of God spake…” “The controlling principle of the N.T.,” says Dr. Lloyd-Jones, “is the authority of the apostles.” The author devotes a whole section to the “authority of the apostles.” He informs the readers that “the test of apostolicity” determined the canonicity of the books of the N.T.
The last chapter deals with the authority of the Holy Spirit. “Only when the authority of the Holy Spirit comes to bear upon us” do the authority of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Scriptures “become real and living and powerful to us.” Therefore the author considers the authority of the Holy Spirit to be the most important of all. He claims that the authority of the Holy Spirit is neglected today, and that it is precisely here that “we are dealing with the main source of weakness in modern evangelicalism.”
Dr. Lloyd-Jones shows how the church has attempted and is attempting to recapture authority. He mentions several erroneous efforts employed in this attempt only to lead us to the need of studying the authority of the Holy Spirit. This he does under such subjects as the authority of the Spirit in the life of our Lord, in the life of believers, and in the life of the church, and under the work of the Holy Spirit in giving understanding, in defending of the truth, and in evangelism.
In defense of the genuine concern of wide-awake Christian laymen of our day for the welfare of the church of Jesus Christ, leaders do well to ponder the reality of the work of the Holy Spirit in giving understanding. Says Dr. Lloyd-Jones, “There is an anointing and an unction by the Holy Spirit which gives us understanding. And thus it has often come to pass in the long history of the church that certain ignorant, more or less illiterate people, have been able to dis· criminate between truth and error much better than the great doctors of the church.” Doctors, please weigh this statement soberly. Laymen, find rich comfort in this fact and therefore pray and pray for the anointing and unction of the Holy Spirit in this day of apostasy. May leaders and laymen find rich communion together in bowing before the authority of the Holy Spirit.
Let me conclude the review of this significant” booklet with these thoughts of the author; What was the secret of the power of the apostles? Could they argue scientifically that the resurrection is possible? Could they reconcile the miraculous with the scientific? “No! It was the authority and power of the Holy Ghost turning these men into living witnesses who were irresistible.”
Do read this book. It will be like a drink of fresh water in a dry and thirsty land. It shows the way to a genuine revival in a day of spiritual drought, a revival that cannot be “announced” or “arranged,” but is the “direct action of the Holy Spirit in authority and power.”
THE BIBLICAL FLOOD AND THE ICE EPOCH (A Study in Scientific History) by Donald W. Patten. Published by Pacific Meridian Publishing Co., Seattle, 1966. 336 pages. Price $7.50.
This is an important book, since it discusses an important and relevant subject and since it treats it so well. Of course, the subject should interest students of nature, but since theories in the field of natural sciences affect practically all other fields, including theology, everyone should be interested. This applies not the least to Bible-believing students. Of course, all attempts at harmonization notwithstanding, there is a conflict between the exceedingly popular and dominating theory of uniformitarianism (evolutionism) on the one hand, and catastrophism on the other. Unless sections of the Bible, as for instance Genesis 1–11, are warped by speculative mythology, no one can deny that Scripture teaches that the changes which have occurred in the history of the earth are catastrophic in character. That is to say, these changes were not brought about gradually and by forces operating today (uniformitarianism), but by sudden and catastrophic upheavals. The author of this book maintains that catastrophism explains the present condition of the earth and its history. Others have done this before him, but the unique feature of this publication is that the author seeks to describe not only the effects of the Deluge, but that he also puts forth an elaborate attempt to trace the cause or causes of that catastrophe. He speaks of “the astrophysical causes, or the natural mechanics,” and contends that the forces producing the Deluge were not only of this earth, hut not loss of an astral (pertaining to the stars) nature. Such astral catastrophies, according to Mr. Patten, played an important part in producing the universal Flood as well as the following or simultaneous Ice Epoch. He states in the “Prefatory Note” of the book:
“The central proposition of this book is to demonstrate the superiority of the theory of astral catastrophism over and against the uniformitarian view of Earth history. Astral catastrophism involves occasions of sudden and overwhelming cataclysmic changes in the conditions of the Earth in a brief and limited time. Among the cataclysmic forces which engaged our fragile sphere were both gravitational and magnetic forces of planetary magnitude.”
The arguments of the author are impressive and cannot be dismissed with a mere gesture. The one impressing this reviewer most, perhaps because it is readily understood, is the discovery of frozen mammoths and other animals as well as fossils in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The author writes:
“Mammoths were, along with mastodons, the largest members of the elephant family. They have become mummified in two manners, both of which suggest cataclysm and suddenness. In Alaska and Siberia mammoths have been mummified, apparently by the millions, both in ice and in sedimentary strata. It is as if they had been deposited in watery graves in some areas, but encased in ice in other areas, ice which has remained unmelted. Their entombment and refrigeration have been so effective that mammoth carcasses have been thawed to feed sled dogs, both in Alaska and Siberia….” (pp. 104–107).
This remind me of an article by Real Admiral George J. Dufek, USN, appearing in The National Geographic Magazine of October, 1959. This author writes in a note to an illustration:
“Fossil-bearing shale and petrified wood prove Antarctica was green eons ago. Pine, swamp palm, laural, fig, beech, sequoia, and huge fern once thrived here. Shale bears imprints of leaves like those of araucaria, a tall majestic evergreen that grows today in Brazil, Chile, and the South Sea Islands.
“Field geologists can read the story of Antarctica’s verdant age wherever the wind sweeps a mountain flank or a valley free of snow, from Palmer Peninsula to the Queen Maud Range, within 300 miles of the Pole. They face a harder task, however, i.n explaining the continent’s change to a land of perpetual ice.”
In addition this eminent author in seeking to explain this phenomenon mentions two theories. The one, “contends that when the world was young, South Africa, Australia, India, South America, and Antarctica comprised. The single land mass, but gradually drifted apart.” Of course, this speculation fails to explain climatic conditions in which tropical plants could flourish in Antarctica. The other theory mentioned sounds more plausible and reminds one of Patten’s Astral Catastrophe: “Another hypothesis holds that ages ago the world’s axis tilted, relocating the geographic poles.”
The author of the book now discussed, Donald W. Patten, is by profession a geographer. However, while reading the volume one cannot fail to admire the wide scope of his learning. A mere mention of some of the headings of the chapters will, to an extent, indicate that: A Global Flood or a Local Flood, The History of Catastrophism and Uniformitarianism, Past Celestial Catastrophies, The Tidal Nature of the Biblical Flood, Orogenesis: the Cause of Global Mountain Uplifts, Glaciogenesis: the Cause of the Ice Epoch, etc. Besides the author traces present day Uniformitarianism (Evolutionism) to its philosophic background: Humanism. The book closes with the usual Index and also with five pages of “Selected Bibliography.”
It should be said that in the present discussion and controversy no one confessing to believe in Scripture as God’s special revelation can afford to ignore this well-written book by Patten.
NICHOLAS J. MONSMA
A CHRISTIAN APPRECIATION OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE by Harry van der Laan. Published by The Association for Reformed Scientific Studies, Hamilton, Ontario, 1966. Paperback, 63 pages. Price $1.25.
The book consists of three lectures delivered at the Study Conferences of the ARSS, Summer 1966, which are part of an attempt to provide Biblical direction for students in a number of academic disciplines.
In the first lecture, “Background, Roots and Content,” Dr. van der Laan states as his objective in his lectures: to search (or the Way of Life in the sciences, to discuss contemporary appreciation and interpretation of science, and to challenge the materialistic world-and-life view. He starts by posing and answering three “ultimate” questions: (1) What is the Origin of all things? Jehovah God, through the power of his creative Word; (2) What provides cohesive interrelatedness of all aspects of human experience? The fact that all aspects of reality are bound together in a coherent, modally ordered structure which unfolds itself subject to the Law set by the Creator; (3) What gives meaning to each individual part and the totality of Creation? God’s sovereign requirement that we love and serve him and our fellow man with our whole heart, which is possible only in Christ Jesus the Savior. He then defines culture as part of the created world order, as man’s response to his calling, the outcome of his responsible initiative. The “sphere universality” of the natural aspects of creation shows the unity of its order. The possibility of knowledge is founded in God’s revelation that we were created, that we are called to disclose this creation, and that we are equipped by God to fulfill this task.
In the second lecture, “Scientific Inquiry, its Philosophic Dependence and its Aims,” the author shows the close relation between philosophy and science; the scope of philosophy is the total, coherent experience of the temporal world order. The Christian uses the Bible as his focal point from which to examine critically the interpretation of the fundamental results of science. He shows how Humanism depreciates “integral” knowledge of everyday life, and how it sets up a dualism between the scientifically informed elite and the masses whose experience is largely “bare of meaning.” The Christian view is that our full experiential life is the foundation and necessary condition for the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Science is not the tool which gives meaning to everyday experience, but it may enrich that experience, and show new opportunities to the scientist. The aim of scientific inquiry is to gain knowledge of the structural laws of the created world, each of which governs an irreducible functional mode in man’s experiential spectrum.
The third lecture, “A Closer Look at Physics,” deals with the mandate that Christians, too, must engage in physical science. They will not arrive at a separate science, but will conflict with the unbeliever in the interpretations of fundamental theories and in the formulation of basic working hypotheses. In science the antithesis shows up in subtle assumptions, bold extrapolations, unwarranted priorities, and comprehensive conclusions. There is no part of science that is not related to the scientist’s faith, and interpretation of his work is unavoidable. Our knowledge is incomplete, fragmentary, and not free from error, but it is rooted in the creation order which guarantees the meaningful coherence of our integral experience, and thus also forms the foundation for our scholarly work. In experiments the psychic and analytic functions of man come to the fore, but they remain aspects of the total structure and are always directed by the heart, which must be committed to Christ the Lord.
This book, as a Christian, scholarly approach to the natural sciences, well deserves reading and studying, and may be used as a stepping stone to a more articulately Christian participation in the natural sciences and to a clearer definition of the Christian’s work in these disciplines.
JOHN CALVIN, a Collection of Distinguished Essays, edited by G. E. Duffield. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1966. $5.95.
In 1959 a collection of essays on John Calvin appeared, occasioned by the 450th anniversary of his birth (John Calvin, contemporary prophet, ed. J. T. Hoogstra)—and now we again see such a collection before us—a somewhat belated remembrance of his death in 1564. The order and balance marking the publication of 1959 are not the main characteristics of this work of 1966: as a matter of fact, although each of these “distinguished essays” appears to be inspired by a genuine appreciation of the life and work of the Genevan Reformer, unity in structure is lacking. Some of these essays appeared already in The Churchman, some in the Journal of the Huguenot Society of London, some in La Revue Reformee, and one in the Revue d’histoire et de Philosophy reilgieuses. Among the authors we meet the well-known Calvin—experts J. D. Benoit, Jean Cadier, C. S. M. Walker and T. H. L. Parker. Strikingly new points of view are not presented, although I must perhaps make one exception. The tenth essay of R. Peter on: Calvin and Louis Bude’s Translation of the Psalms contains in its Appendix an until now unpublished preface in the English language of Calvin to a translation of the Psalms which escaped the attention of the Opera Calvini editors. I might add that the first two essays (The Calvin Legend, and CalVin against the Calvinists) of Basil Hall are of peculiar interest to anyone who wants to be acquainted with the view on Calvin and Calvinism of a distinguished Anglican scholar.
Most of the essays are very readable and evoke a profound feeling of gratitude for the great gift of God in the theologian, expositor of the Bible and pastor: John Calvin. It was almost unavoidable that in a work of this character sometimes repetitions occur, as we find e.g. on pp. 153, 154, where the history of the editions of the Institutes is related, as was already extensively and excellently done on pp. 102–110.
It is more deplorable that some contradictions must also be noted. We read on p. 21 that the basis of Calvin’s theology has not been a particular doctrine, as e.g. his emphasis on God’s sovereignty as seen in his decrees of predestination; but on p. 84 the words follow: “We find as the basic foundation for the whole of Calvin’s structure the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God.” We read on p. 124, in connection with the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper: “With a remarkable sureness Calvin shows that the notion of substance must be abandoned to the schoolmen”; but on p. 134 the words follow: “The emphatic reference to ‘the substance of our Lord’s flesh and blood’ raises the question of precisely what Calvin meant by the term substantia.” We read on p. 28 that “the extreme form of scholastic Calvinism was achieved in the Five Articles (of Dort) which broke the unity of Calvin’s theology and replaced his Biblical dynamism by formulae”; but on p. 151 the words follow: “The five points of Calvinism formulated at the Synod of Dort do indeed formulate the sovereignty of grace in a way Calvin would have endorsed.”
These contradictions detract from the value of this otherwise valuable book which is, in my opinion, doubly worth its price for the excellent essay of Benoit on Calvin the Letter-writer, a study written so well that I would wish it in the hands of all our students. Also the essay of J. I. Packer on Calvin the Theologian is a model in pointing out the structural principles of Calvin’s thought.
I must add one critical observation. The essay of Cadier on Calvin and the Union of Churches is much too short and incomplete to substantiate his conclusion that Calvin “in our days would certainly have been on the side of the Ecumenical movement” (p. 128). In my opinion there is evidence that he would have opposed it in its present form, and the author would have done well by heeding the words of Prof. John Kromminga written in the Calvin-book of 1959 on the same subject: “One must be careful about putting words in his mouth. It is evident on the one hand that the absolutistic Calvin whom some have pictured is hard to find in his writings. On the other hand, the uncritical ecumenical enthusiast is also hard to discover.”