Arnold H. De Graaff: THE EDUCATIONAL MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH. A Perspective. (Doctoral dissertation, Free University, Amsterdam. December, 1966) 175 pages, paper-bound. Printed at Delft, the Netherlands, by Judels and Brinkman, 1966.
In the first chapter of this dissertation, entitled Orientation, the author discusses the concept “religious education,” and considers especially the nature and place of the church’s instruction in the Christian faith. Our attention is focused on certain American, German, and Dutch approaches. Then the author proceeds to consider the nature of “Catechetics” as a theological discipline, and sets forth especially the approaches of Dr. A. Kuyper and Dr. H. Dooyeweerd.
The second chapter bears the caption The Church and its Ministry. Here Dr. De Graaff first presents what he considers the central issue, and then the structure and the function of the Church. The author states, “The Church then is first of all to be conceived of as the new humanity, the people of God, or the body of Christ” (p. 58); and also, “The Church, instituted by Christ Himself, functions within all ‘…the modal and radical typical structures of temporal reality given already at creation’” (p. 79).
The next chapter deals with The Nature of Education. Here the author discusses: Some Christian Theories of Education, Anthropological Presuppositions, The Norms for Education, and The Structure of Education. (Dr. J. Waterink’s and Dr. C. Jaarsma’s views receive a sympathetic but also critical evaluation.)
The final chapter is entitled The Church’s Instruction in the Faith. Under this heading the author discusses: The Knowledge of Faith, and The Instruction in the Faith. Here the author deals more directly with the subject matter of catechesis. He, in harmony with other writers on this subject, gives this statement regarding catechetical instruction: “…catechetkal instruction is to be described as the church’s official instruction of its youth” (p. 147). However, the author does “not elaborate upon the normative aspect of the church’s education, since a thorough discussion of the issues involved. requires separate treatment” (p. 147).
This publication seeks to indicate and apply the implications of the philosophical approaches of Dr. Dooyeweerd and Dr. Vollenhoven of the Netherlands to the teaching ministry of God’s Church. Whatever one may think of this new and significant philosophical approach, all who are in position to judge will grant that the present dissertation is worthy of our full and sympathetic consideration. The learned contribution of Dr. De Graaff can help us much in this consideration as it applies to the field of the Church’s task of Christian education or catechesis. Not as if the author has spoken exhaustively on the subject indicated. He himself in his Acknowledgements remarks: “It is my earnest desire that others will continue the exchange of opinion regarding the very foundation of theology” (P. VII).
Not all will subscribe forthwith to all of the practical, applicatory suggestions which Dr. De Graaff makes in the final chapter of his dissertation. This reviewer has certain reservations and questions also. But to all who would be well-informed as to present-day approaches to the Church’s educational task, and the bearing which the Philosophy of Law school of thought has upon this task, Dr. De Graaff’s contribution should be valuable. To date at least, no other comparable study has appeared upon the book market.
The volume before me is a well-executed product of the press.
We gladly recommend this contribution for the consideration of all our leaders in the work and field of catechetics and kindred studies.
THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, John Murray. (New International Commentary on the New Testament), Volume II – Chapters 9-16. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1965. xvi and 286 pages. Price $5.00.
Having written the first volume of his commentary on Romans, which appeared in print in 1959, the now-emeritus professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, John Murray, continued his meticulous studies on this Pauline epistle and, by the grace of God, was able to accomplish the task he had purposed: to write a commentary in two volumes on the Epistle to the Romans.
Like the first, also this volume reveals characteristically the hand of a scholar who has made biblical exegesis the foundation of his theological studies. Murray lets the Scriptures speak, listens, and then proceeds to interpret the message for his readers. He transmits the Pauline message just as clearly in the difficult doctrinal passages of Romans 9–11 as in the concluding chapters which consist of practical advice.
In elucidating the Greek text, the author has paid close attention to variants common to textual problems. Even two of the appendices are evidence of the author’s concern for the correct reading and interpretation of the text. Appendix A is a further explanation of the textual reading of Romans 9:5 and Appendix F is a conclusive defense of the integrity of the epistle. Though most commentators discuss the question on integrity in an introduction, Murray, after exegeting the last chapter of Romans, sums up his arguments in an appendix at the end of his commentary.
In the first volume, the reader looks in vain for an explanatory section on the character and purpose of this epistle. The second volume somewhat compensates for this deficiency by having an introduction on this particular subject. Murray first discusses the purpose of chapters 12–16; that is, the chapters setting forth the practical application of Paul’s teachings. Second, he writes three pages on the purpose of chapters 9–11. Nevertheless, a comprehensive approach to the character and purpose of the entire epistle would have been appreciated.
Exegetically, the author interprets Romans 9–11 in terms of the particularity of election. According to Murray, Paul speaks in these chapters in general and in 9:11–13 in particular of the election of individuals, not of nations, so that “the interpretation which regards the election as the collective, theocratic election of Israel as a people must be rejected” (p. 19). Thus Rom. 9:13 must be understood literally, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”; these two persons must be seen as objects of God’s love and hate respectively.
Furthermore, Murray offers a classic exposition of the concept hate. Striking, for example, are these words, “We must not predicate of this divine hate those unworthy features which belong to hate as it is exercised by us sinful men. In God’s hate there is no malice, malignancy, vindictiveness, unholy rancour or bitterness” (p. 22).
With this interpretation of Rom. 9-11, Murray differs from scholars such as Berkouwer, Bruce, Leenhardt, and Ridderbos, who maintain that Paul speaks of the election of Israel collectively: God sheds his favor upon Israel and his disfavor upon Edom. Recently, a new approach to the exegesis of Rom. 9-11 has been advocated by D r. J. Douma, Algemene Genade (Goes: Oosterbaan en Le Cointre, 1966 ), pp. 290f£. , who asserts that these chapters do not indicate that Paul speaks of the election either of persons or people, but rather that he portrays both persons and people, individually and collectively, as objects of God’s electing love.
The reader may have questions when reading the exegesis of Rom. 9:22, for in the explanation of this text God is designated as the agent of fitting unbelievers for destruction. Even though the author reasons, “the destruction meted out to the vessels of wrath is something for which their precedent condition suits them” (p. 36), the question still remains: does the text say that God is the agent? The author seems to have struggled with this text, for he, too, admits that Paul does not say that God prepares unbelievers for destruction. Of course, when referring to the vessels of mercy, Paul mentions foreordination; God predestines vessels of mercy unto glory. However, because Paul does not speak of foreordination of the vessels of wrath, the exegete ought to be careful not to read foreordination into the text. Paul is silent and thereby indicates that we also should be silent.
In the chapters outlining the practical duties of the Christian, Murray proves to be a gifted exegete and an outstanding counsellor. His rich experience as a teacher radiates throughout the exposition of these chapters; his wise counsel in many passages on practical Christian living.
Professor Murray has given the Church a commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Yet this commentary does not merely take a place next to the extensive literature on this epistle—if this were true, Murray’s work would have been uncalled for in view of the many commentaries on Romans. Instead, Murray’s two volumes on the exposition of Romans constitute a significant contribution because of his biblico-exegetical treatment of the text. This much is certain. Time will tell whether Murray’s commentary will become a standard work.
COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON (in New Testament Commentary), by William Hendriksen. Published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids. 243 pages. Price $6.95.
This must be the sixth volume of the excellent New Testament Commentary written by Dr. Hendriksen and published by Baker. Besides congratulating the author for producing “so much so good” while serving as a pastor of a church, we feel prompted to express our appreciation for these scholarly and useful commentaries. It is gratifying to observe that Hendriksen is not only serving his own communion in a splendid way through these works, but that he receives general recognition as a New Testament scholar throughout our land—a scholar who is not only “conservative” or “evangelical” in his beliefs, but also scholarly in his approach and methods. That is a wonderful combination, to be sure.
As is customary the author prefaces the actual exegesis of these two New Testament books with an Introduction. Several weighty reasons are stated in answer to the question why we should study these Pauline epistles “especially today.” Naturally the city of Colosse, its locality and its proximity to Laodicea and Hieropolis, are discussed as well as its people. The church at Colosse is, of course, also treated and in that connection such persons as Epaphras (who “was in all probability the actual founder of the churches of the Lycus valley”), Philemon, Apphia and Archippus are discussed. Dr. Hendriksen writes that the conclusion is warranted that this trio, “…was closely connected. They may even have belonged to the same family. Philemon the husband and father, Apphia the wife and mother, Archippus the son.” Onesimus, mentioned so prominently in the little epistle to Philemon, was the (run-away) slave of Philemon, converted through Paul and now sent back to his master. That accounts, at least in part, for the treatment of these two epistles simultaneously and in one volume.
Dr. Hendriksen holds that the particular perils to which the Colossian church was exposed were “The Danger of Relapse into Paganism with its Cross Immorality;” and secondly, “The Danger of Accepting the Colossian Heresy.” He supplies us with an enlightening description of this heresy and states that it consisted especially of the following elements: false philosophy, Judaistic ceremonialism, angel-worship and asceticism. The author concludes, “We are perhaps safe in stating that the Colossian Heresy was a syncritism, that is, a weird mixture of Jewish and pagan elements.” He also writes that “Gnosticism, with its stress on ‘knowledge: seems to have had something to do with it…” But Hendriksen is reserved in this respect, for he writes, “we do not as yet have a reasonably complete description of gnosticism in the first. century A.D.”
The purpose Paul had in mind when writing Colossians is, according to our author, fourfold: (1) “To warn the Colossians against relapse into their former state… ,” (2) “To direct their attention to ‘the Son of God’s love’…,” (3) “…to enhance among them the prestige of their faithful minister, Epaphras…,” (4) “To emphasize among the Colossians the virtue of forgiveness and kindness.”
Various questions concerning the epistle to Philemon are discussed and, as could be expected, also such topics as the authorship and the place and time of the writing of these epistles. All in all a full and valuable introduction to these epistles of Paul is given.
When reviewing any commentary it is natural to turn first of all to features or passages discussed in the book which are basic or controversial in character. Colossians 1:15–20 is a very familiar section. Here the apostle describes Christ as Mediator of creation as well as of redemption or restoration. The language of these verses is lofty and even poetic. It is altogether suitable for the exalted theme. It need hardly be added that this sublime passage has been discussed by a great many scholars. Dr. Hendriksen describes as many as ten “views” held by various commentators (cf. footnote No. 51, pp. 67, 68). He is of the opinion that there are “two acceptable theories” concerning the character of this section: “Paul himself composed and dictated the lines [of these verses];” and second, “the passage is a pre-Pauline hymn of a well-known and oft-repeated early saying or testimony.” Hendriksen adds to the description of the theory mentioned first, that those favoring this view generally do not consider Colossians 1:15–20 a hymn. To the description of the theory mentioned secondly, he adds, “Paul, having learned this ‘hymn’ or ‘saying’ which had endeared itself to his heart, made it a part of his letter, either with no addition or alteration or else with slight changes to suit his own purpose.” Dr. Hendriksen comes to the conclusion that the theory described first may be correct, yet he also states, “There would seem to be a stronger argument in support of the second.”
The author devotes as many as five pages and a half to the thorough discussion of the “more or less” formal side of this important passage. However, following that, many more pages are devoted to the actual exegesis of the section. Needless to say that Hendriksen produces accurate work in this exegetical part and that one reads these comments with adoration for such a great and sufficient Mediator.
Another passage in Colossians which draws attention is the section which discusses “the circumcision of Christ” in chapter 2:11, 12. The author treats these verses in detail and comes to the important conclusion, “The definite implication, therefore, is that baptism has taken the place of circumcision.” Of course, this is not surprising to those of Reformed persuasion, but it is gratifying to see this described so lucidly and convincingly. Besides, the footnotes to the comments on pages 116 and 117 are very important. Material such as this confirms our belief in so-called paedo-baptism and should change all those opposing that doctrine and practice.
I have only mentioned a few of the excellent features of this commentary. In closing it should be stated that Dr. Hendriksen does not only produce his own translation in the body of the text, but that this translation has been reproduced in sequence at the end of the exegesis of each book. Surely a commendable feature.
NICHOLAS J. MONSMA