A Look at Books

Calvin, John: THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 1–13 (Translators: John W. Fraser and W. J. G. McDonald) Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1965, 410 pages. Price: $6.00.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 14–28 (Translator: John W. Fraser) Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1966. 329 pages. Price: $6.00.

THE EPISTLES OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS, EPHESIANS, PHILIPPIANS AND COLOSSIANS. (Translator: T. H. L. Parker) Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, 1965, 369 pages. Price: $6.00.

What can be said about the works of John Calvin that has not been said countless times before? And what can be said about his expositions of God’s Holy Word that would not be repetitious? A prince among expositors, his works are standard in Biblical exposition. Though it is true that no one claims that he has said the last word, who would pass him by when a text is to be studied? Despite the numerous references to the “Papists” and the peculiar problems of Calvin’s own age, his commentaries are very up-to-date.

Eerdmans is to be congratulated for making this new translation of these works available. Though the earlier edition published by Eerdmans was truly welcomed, this new translation is a happy improvement. The careful thoughts of this man of God have lost the tediousness of the earlier translation. Because of an up to date vocabulary and sentence structure this new translation is easier to follow. Just an example; The earlier edition has among the comments on Acts 5:4, “This amplifieth the offense, because he sinned, being enforced by no necessity.” How much easier it is to read, “The fact that no necessity drove him to sin makes his crime worse.” Or take another statement, this one found in the comments on Acts 3:17 in the new translation: “In view of the danger that they should be east down by despair and reject his doctrine, he encourages them.” Is this not easier to read than the earlier, “Because it was to be doubted, lest, being cast down with despair, they should refuse his doctrine, he doth a little lift them up.”

Though a thorough judgment on whether the translation is able and precise is out of the province of this reviewer, he likes what he sees!


THE NEW TESTAMENT FROM 26 TRANSLATIONS (ed. by Curtis Vaughan ), 1237 p. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967 – price $12.50.

Hardly anyone can keep up with the many new translations which flood the market. But in their large number there is some value and safety, if time is taken to check the one with the other. The editor appeals in defense of this new work to what Coverdale wrote in the prologue to his translation:

…thou shalt see that one translation declareth, openeth, and illustrateth another, and that in many cases one is a plain commentary unto another.

Because hardly anyone has time to check out all the translations, or even to purchase them for himself, this work has real worth. Twenty-five of the best known and finest translations of today ·are attached to the King James Version. To demonstrate the method (since by no means all of these are appended to every verse) we refer to Ephesians 20:10.

For we are his workmanship

For we are his handiwork –Alford

For we are God’s own handiwork –Weymouth

For He made us –Goodspeed

No, we are His design –Knox

created in Christ Jesus, unto good works

…for good works –ASV

…to do good works –Conybeare

creating us through our union with Christ Jesus for the life of goodness –Goodspeed

God has created us in Christ Jesus, pledged to such good actions –Knox

created, by our union with Christ Jesus, for good actions –20th Cent. N.T.

because He has created us through our union with Christ Jesus for doing good deeds –Williams

which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them which God before prepared… –ASV

in doing which God has prearranged that we should spend our lives –20th Cent. N.T.

which He has predestinated us to practise –Weymouth

which God has predestined us to live –Goodspeed

which God predestined us to make our daily walk of life –Montgomery

as he has prepared beforehand, to be the employment of our lives –Knox

The work is that of any excellent staff, including among others such scholars as Blaiklock, Harrison, Hughes, Kerr, Krentz and Mounce. As a handy reference volume it should be on every pastor’s desk.

Those who cannot use the original languages do well to use it with some reservations, since not all the translations presented are equally reliable.


SERVICE IN CHRIST. Essays presented to Karl Barth on his 80th birthday, edited by James I. McCord and Th. L. Parker. Eerdmans, 1966. Price $6.95.

The aim of this book is expressed very well in the “Foreword” of the editors. This volume of essays has served as a birthday-present to Karl Barth from “Christians in the British Isles.” Referring to the centrality of the Christological theme in Barth’s theology, the editors assert that, in writing about diakonia, they try to apply this theme to the doctrine of the Church which is “both His servant and the servant of mankind.”

The twenty essays of this book are well-ordered and written by specialists in their respective fields. The leading essay is written by prof. T. F. Torrance of Edinburgh on Service in Jesus Christ. Following this there are essays on The Classical World; Diakonia in the Old and New Testament, in the Early Church, the Middle Ages, the Reformation (Luther, Butzer, Calvin, England), among the Puritans, and in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. An essay on Christological Understanding follows and thereafter we find essays on Diakonia in some of the Churches Today (Anglican Communion, Roman Catholic, Reformed and Methodist). Finally we can read essays on Diakonia in Modern Conditions, The Church’s Diakonia in the Modern World, and Ecumenical Dinkonia.

This rather dry summary shows the wide range of subjects and also the relevance of these studies to the present situation in every living church. The problems of the meaning and task of the deacons are knocking at our doors in this time of an increasing social concern of many governmental agencies, and of wider horizons of world relief. In many respects this book will be very helpful to anyone who is interested in these problems, and it is precisely the purpose of this book to show that every church should be interested in these problems, for Christ’s sake.

This does not mean that I would recommend this book as a handbook for our deacons without any reservations. The dedication to Karl Barth is not an empty phrase, for there are Barthian tendencies throughout the book. The main stress is a universal one: the deacons ought to function not in the church in the first place, but in the world. The words of Barth are quoted that “the true community of Jesus Christ is to accept solidarity with the world” (p. 160), and the conclusion is drawn that “there should be a revolutionary change of direction, of understanding the structures of Christian service, one of the main characteristics of which will be that every Christian will be aware that he stands as a minister of Christ’s redemption in the life of a world which, whatever its appearance and present reality, is being redeemed” (p. 205). This very Barthian theme has its necessary consequences.

Without a (regretfully neglected) discussion of the Christian School movement the public school is accepted as “a sphere of service to which the Church should give a great deal of thought” (p. 179).

The idea of service to mankind is sometimes stressed to such an extent that the primary relation to the Savior from sin fades away. “A hospital can be said to be Christian when it fulfills effectively the true purposes of a hospital” (p. 201); and “Diakonia means service, and so far this essay has been largely occupied with examples of service in the work of men and women who, by their commanding intelligence, have shown themselves properly equipped to serve their fellows” (p. 194).

Another author is very much aware of the danger involved here, and he writes: “Separated from leitourgia, diakonia would be the same as secular welfare work” (p. 148). But he also stresses the concept of diakonia so much, that he extends the keywords of Protestantism “sola gratia, sola fide,” with the following “solus Christus, sow Christi diakonia,” and, if this is not meant to be a tautology, it is, in my opinion, a weakening of the what is essentially meant by this definition of Protestantism. This book has many outstanding qualities, but it should be read with discretion.


NO CIVIL WAR IN THE CAVE, by Ludecke Hoffelt, Libertarian Press, South Holland, Illinois, 1968, paper, 87 pp. (price $1.00).

Using the pen-name of “Ludecke Hoffelt” a prominent Christian Reformed watchman on the walls of Zion has addressed himself to one of the least understood, yet most widespread heresies of the day, romanticism. Without mentioning the Christian Reformed denomination nor the particular erring brethren, he nevertheless identifies satisfactorily to the alert reader the increasing irruptions of this satanic movement in our denominational life.

Beginning with a comparison of Calvin and the romantic Rousseau…

“if you are a Calvinist, Rousseau will appear mischievous and foolish. If you are an admirer of Rousseau, Calvin will appear a bigot,”

then a recapitulation of Rousseau’s debauched life, the author characterizes the romanticist as a person who lives without a consciousness of sin, i.e., without a “civil war in the cave.”

The allegory “No Civil War In The Cave” is used to designate the romantic belief relating to man’s natural goodness amidst a corrupting social environment.

The author guides our attention to some of the recent instances in our denomination where Rousseauian romanticism has replaced biblical exhortation, where an unbiblical, expansive compassion has supplanted covenantal Christian love and biblical charity. He also points to the appalling ignorance of Christian economics that has pervaded from the days of Abraham Kuyper to the present, and indicates the resultant inroads of socialist and communist influence in our beloved denomination.

Although the author neglects to identify romanticism as merely another form of humanism, this omission does not materially detract from his effective exposition of the influence of Rousseau among our Christian brethren.