A Look at Books

GOD LOVES by John Gritter; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich.; 123 pages; $2.95. Reviewed by Rev. Harold Bossenbrock, pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Cutlerville, Michigan.

The author was a preacher of the love of God for forty-six years. This was the joy of his life and it engaged all his time and talents. The preaching of God’s love was the challenge of his busy life, and in his retirement he received a strong and urgent desire to write about it. His was not the fear that in preaching and writing about God’s love he would be one-sided and minimize the justice, righteousness, and wrath of God.

The author took to writing because the subject was sweet to him, because in his preaching his soul was thrilled by this subject, and also because of the discussion on the love of God in the Christian Reformed Church in recent years. Gritter was not afraid to engage in discussion when controversy was abroad, for only in that way would truth come forward and be the blessing of the body of Christ.

To get at the theme of the hook that God loves, the author begins by writing about who God is and that He is real. Unless we arc God-oriented, the love of God is a meaningless subject. The love of God is “agape” which is unique and distinctly higher than human love; the “word was born within the bosom of revealed religion.” The author is eager to write about the great theme that God is Love and he does so adequately and clearly.

Having laid the groundwork in the first five chapters, the author proceeds to tell us whom God loves. One gets the impression from reading the book that God is very busy in His love and that it is a powerful and far-reaching activity. The love of God is active in self-love and in the three persons of the Trinity. Because Goo loves Himself and because there is harmony in the Godhead, there is a love that reaches out to the whole area of creation.

There are chapters on God loving the angels, man, His enemies, Israel, the Church, us, me, lower creatures and the world. We find that nothing is left untouched by the love of God. The chapters that brought forth the writing of this book are those on Man, Enemies, and the World. In the Reformed faith there has been an emphasis on limited atonement and particularized love. At least so it is often presented. The author wishes to make it very dear that in the Reformed Faith one can and one must speak of a universal love and that God does truly reach out to all.

Gritter makes clear that God loves universally but that His love is not the same in its consequences. God loves man because he is created in the image of God and man is always in that love even when he becomes an enemy of God. “Let no one say that the holy God cannot love sinful people. If that were true there would he none to love, for there are no people in the world that are not sinners. While we were enemies God loved us” (Rom. 5;8, 10). The author holds to limited atonement and a love which is particularized in its saving effect.

The last chapter deals with the universal call to all men. The message of salvation must be brought to all men for God loves the world. Furthermore, the world must hear the Gospel for all the elect will surely he saved and they are found in every language and tribe throughout the world and throughout all time.

This is a good book and it is written in a style that enables the average reader to readily grasp the answers to the questions raised. The author seeks to be thoroughly scriptural in his approach. He has assembled many, many texts which give the answers. Moreover, Scripture is used to interpret Scripture. This is a fine book to read and to own for it helps to give satisfying answers to probing questions.

JERUSALEM AND ATHENS: CRITICAL DISCUSSIONS ON THE PHILOSOPHY AND APOLOGETICS OF CORNELIUS VAN TIL, edited by E. R. Geehan, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Bo.x 185, Nutley, New Jersey, 07110, 1971, 498 pages, $9.95. Reviewed by Merle Meeter, Associate Professor of English at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa.

Jerusalem and Athens is a seventy-fifth birthday present, also signalizing forty years of teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary, for Dr. Cornelius Van Til. It is a unique volume in that Van Til himself was asked to include his written responsws to many of the essays included in this Festschrift. Editor Geehan, a Westminstwr Seminary B.D. and presently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Utrecht, deserves the thanks of all who are interested in the development of distinctively Biblical Christian Philosophy, theology, and epistemology. Among the contributors are Hendrik Stoker, Herman Dooyeweerd, J. I. Packer, C. C. Berkouwer, S. U. Zuideima, Richard B. Gaffin, Herman Ridderbos, Robert Knudsen, J. P. A. Mekkes, R. J. Rushdoony, John Warwiek Montgomery, and W. Stanford Reid, to mention just a dozen of the twenty-five distinguished scholars represented in this significant anthology.

• After an introduction in which Geehan provides a preview and paragraph epitome of each essay, Dr. Van Til articulates his presuppositions in Part I, “My Credo.” His proposal for “a consistently Christian methodology of apologetics” is as follows (I quote but three of his seven principles): “That we use the same principle in apologetics that we use in theology; the self-attesting Christ of Scripture.” “That we no longer make an appeal to ‘common notions’ which Christian and non-Christians agree on, but to the ‘common ground’ which they actually have [stress added] because man and his world arc what the Scripture says they arc.” “That we present the message and evidence for the Christian position as clearly as possible, knowing that because man is what the Christian says he is, the non-Christian will be able to understand in an intellectual sense the issues involved. In so doing, we shall, to a large extent be telling him what he ‘already knows’ but seeks to suppress. This ‘reminding’ process provides a fertile ground for the Holy Spirit, who in sovereign grace may grant the non-Christian repentance so that he may know him who is life eternal.”

• Part II, “Letters from Three Continents,” begins with Dr. Hendrik Stoker’s brilliant 47-page review and critique of Van Til’s theory of knowledge, which Dr. Stoker (Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Potchcfstroom, South Africa) introduces with the profession: “We both admit tile necessity of seeing all problems of knowledge in the light of Holy Writ.” Later, in discussing the relationship of the vertical (contextual, creational-revelational) and horizontal (analytical) approaches 10 knowledge, Stoker writes as follows concerning Dr, Herman Dooyeweerd’s “transcendental criticism” of human th0ught: “Dooyewcerd’s application of the transcendental method of human thought is primarily philosophic and your application of the method of transcendent criticism is, on account of your apologetic approach, primarily theological . . . But, as a Christian philosopher, when he [Dooyeweerd) uses the transcendental method, he must and implicity docs presuppose all the ultimate biblical truths concerning OUT triune God and his relation to all things, from which you explicitly start. You, on the other hand, by using your transcendent method, investigate the very ultimate conditions of human knowledge as they concern God and his counsel and so forth, and criticize chance and brute facts as [constituting) the ultimate conditions of the non-Christian philosophies and empirical sciences concerned. In this respect your theory of knowledge has attained a depth (or should I say, a height) that the transcendental theory of Dooyeweerd—from the nature of his procedure—does not attain. In this respect especially your theory of knowledge is in our Calvinist community definitely original and of unique significance.”

• In the next contribution, Dr. Dooyeweerd expounds and defends his transcendental critique, maintaining a priori his conclusion that “The Bible does not provide us with philosophical ideas, no more than it gives us natural scientific knowledge or an economic or legal theory,” and explaining that by a transcendental (not transcendent, note) criticism of theoretical thought, we are to “understand a critical inquiry into the universally valid conditions which alone make theoretical thought possible, and which are required by the immanent structure of this thought itself.”

Dr. Van Til counters this philosophic reductionism with the crucial observation that “The actual state of affairs about the entire cosmos is what the Bible says it is,” and he adds, by way of further elucidation: “I know very well, of course, that you [Dr. Dooyeweerd] constantly speak of creation, fall, and redemption in your book, But what you say on the subjects seems to come into the picture too late and in the way of a Deus ex machina into your main argument. You seem to me not to have given them their proper place at the outset of the argument, and you have not presented them as the presupposition of the possibility of analyzing the structure of theoretical thought and experience. You have, it appears, by your restriction, definitely excluded the contents of biblical teaching as having the basically determinative significance for your method of transcendental criticism.”

• These philosophical essays and their responses make exciting and enlightening reading; moreover, they deal with the perennially central issue (inseparably involved with “What think ye of the Christ?”): Is the able to he n\u ultimate standard of thought or is our thinking to be determined by some hypostatized laws of “thought itself” or by an extra-Scriptural or even trans-Scriptural philosophical system or by the analytically defined nuclear moment of each specific science? For example, is ethics to be normed by the Scriptures or by man’s reading of ethical situations? That is, where does one discover the fundamental structuring and guiding principles for ethics—the Bible or the cosmos (general revelation; here, the ethical situations themselves—which is Joseph Fletcher’s view)?

• In his response to Richard Gaffin’s important study, “Geerhardus Vos and the Interpretatinn of Paul,” Van Til suggests that “Kuyper’s view of formal faith is part and parcel with his views of ‘moments’ and ‘relations.’” And Van Til continues with the criticism that Dooyeweerd did not go far enough beyond Abraham Kuyper in this respect, “. . . in his failure to reject Kuyper’s idea of formal faith [now known as the pistcal modality] along with his rejection of ‘moments’ and ‘relations.’ Kuyper’s idea of formal faith is a ‘scholastic’ idea. His ‘contact’ with unbelievers is based on it. His apologetics tends to slide back into the method of old Princeton because of it. One could wish that Dooyeweerd did not seek to analyze theoretical thought as such or appeal to men to judge of his analysis of theoretical thought in relation to. time and to the supra-temporal self pointing to an origin, by the ‘empirical world’ as such” (stress added).

Jerusalem and Athens will give the reader many pleasant evenings of study and reflection. I should like to quote from several other essays so as to indicate further the quality and variety of this volume, but I instance only one more:

“Biblical Authority, Hermeneutics and Inerrancy” by J. I. Packer, who. concludes thus: “Inerrancy is a word that ha~ been in common use since only the last century, though the idea itself goes back through seventeenth-century orthodoxy, the Reformers and the Schoolmen, to the Fathers, and behind them, to our Lord’s own statements, ‘the scripture cannot be broken,’ ‘thy word is truth’ (John 10:35; 17:17) . . . The idea it expresses—namely, that all Scripture assertions are true and trustworthy in All that they assert—is not a speculation, but is directly entailed by the fact of inspiration, which, as we saw, asserts direct identity between man’s word and God’s. [“‘Thus saith the Lord’”: “What Scripture says, God says.”] . . . He who asserts inerrancy with understanding expects, rather, to have to live with such problems [of puzzling detail] all his days, perhaps in quite acute form, simply because he will not settle for anything less than a convincing harmonization, and declines to cut any knots by saying flatly that the Bible errs . . . The fact is that inerrancy, as we have defined it, is not merely a truth, but an essential and fundamental truth. Surrender it, and neither the authority of the Bible nor the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and God’s grace in him can remain intact.”

THE TRIPLE KNOWLEDGE: AN EXPOSITION OF THE HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, Volume 2, by Herman Hoeksema. Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1971 , pp. 729, 88.95. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien, pastor of the Faith Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The name of Herman Hoeksema needs no introduction to most of the readers of this journal. Anyone knowing something about the history of the Christian Reformed Church knows that in 1924 in the heat of the debate of the common grace controversy he and others organized the Protestant Reformed Churches, But the interesting fact is that during the years that followed he has had a profound effect on the Christian Reformed Church and her ministry through his writing. Though he was viewed by many as a heretic because of some of his views in 1924, many a Christian Reformed minister’s library contains some or all of his books on the Heidelberg Catechism which were originally published in the volumes. These books have been sought after by some because they cannot read the Dutch language in which many helpful studies of the Heidelberg have appeared. Since we are a denomination which still demands (at least on paper) the faithful preaching of the doctrines of God’s Holy Word which life summarized in the Heidelberg, study material on the Lord’s Days is always welcomed.

Thankfully, now, a new edition of these original ten volumes has begun to appear. The need is very great. Everywhere there is a growing ignorance of the Reformed Standards of Unity, Young and old show a lack of understanding of the confessions. A young minister—or one, for that matter who has served for some years—will fortify himself with good, solid Reformed material by making a purchase of these volumes. No, he may not always agree, but he will always find rich food for thought, and he will always learn something new.

This particular volume covers Lord’s Days 17 through 31: the Biblical doctrines of the exaltation of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, Justification, the means of grace, preaching, Baptism, the covenant, the Lord’s Supper and the keys of the Kingdom. It is difficult to say which of these sections are richer in their spiritual content and blessing. However, let it be noted that there are several chapters on preaching—chapters which every preacher and prospective preacher should read and reread. In these days when preaching is being considered less important it would do us well to reexamine the Scriptural teaching about it.

Some of the volumes now combined to make this one have long been out of print. We are thankful that they are now available again. And it can also be said, to the credit of the Reformed Free Publishing Association, the material is now available in a much more attractive form.

Are these volumes just for ministers and their already well· filled studies? Not at all. Would that this volume and the others in the set would be found in many homes of Reformed persuasion. Today there is a great need to return to reading. In bygone years there was a strength in the church because God’s people read and knew the faith. There is too little reading today. This will show in the years to come. The young people, about whom so many are concerned, are the future church. But what do they see as important? All too often they do not see as acting on the idea that the knowledge of the faith is important. Let’s read and let’s begin by restudying the faith once for all delivered unto the saints as it is outlined in our Reformed Confessions. To do this, let’s spend a little money and have this exposition in our homes.

THE SEX MANUAL FOR PURITANS. By Vernard Eller. Nashville, Tennessee, Abingdon, 78 pp., 1971. $3.00.

SEXUAL UNDERSTANDING BEFORE MARRIAGE. By Herbert J. Miles. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 222 pp. 1971. Paperback $1.95. Reviewed by Rev. Theodore J. Jansma, Chaplain-Counselor, Christian Sanatorium, Wyckoff, New Jersey.

Sex is a pretty big item on the book market these days. From lurid pulps and pornography to the “scientific” productions of Masters and Johnson, and even some new interest in Reich’s orgonomy, it’s all there—“Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask.” Of course Evangelicals have to speak up on the subject. Their witness is needed and their people, young and old, need guidance. At least a dozen new titles have recently come to my attention, and this review covers two examples.

These two books are quite different in style and contents, but they both emphasize that sex comes to its true purpose and full enjoyment only in marriage. Eller’s little book is on sex in general and is essentially a criticism of Reuben’s best seller. Chapter one with the title, “Everything You Always Assumed You Knew About Sex And So Didn’t Bother To Ask” (actually chapter four, preceded by Foreword, Forewarned, Forworse) is the core of the author’s thought, and also an example of his attempt to treat the subject in a humorous way. His humor strikes this reviewer as corny—the Rev. (Revolutionist) Cotton Picken Mather, Puritan-Impuritan, Con III and the Greedy-Groined Grieving of American. At least he does not descend to the vulgar. But there b a difference between a lively and readable treatment of a serious subject (e.g., C. S. Lewis) and an attempt to be funny which so easily becomes distracting and even in bad taste. However, Eller makes many good points, and the heart of it is his disagreement with Reuben—The view of man underlying Reuben’s book is deficient” (p. 29) . And he goes on to say, “Our view of man sees his life as consisting in commitment rather than mere experiences” (ltalics his) . . . all these human commitments are to be seen within the commitment of the Author [God the Creator, T.J.J and the story he is intent to tell.” “Commitment,” that is the heart of the matter, find that involves discipline (Puritan) as over against mere “experience” or free expression (Impuritan).

Miles’ book is a sequel find companion to his “Sexual Happiness in Marriage” (1967, Zondervan) and is concerned with “How to Understand and Control Sex from Puberty Until Marriage” (p. 13). He believes that the general decay of morals in the United States and the Western World is due to the decline in standards which should govern human sexuality (p. 12). While Eller calls his book a “Manual,” Miles’ book fits that description much better. It is a handbook or directory that could well be used as a textbook for adolescents.

Among the seven purposes which Miles lists for his book, the last two are a good indication of the high level on which he wants to treat his subject find in which he succeeds, in my opinion “Help youth to develop a solid moral foundation and a mature mental, social, and Christian attitude toward sex in order that they may have an efficient and happy married life of personal fulfillment and self-realization”—“Unite the forces of Christianity, the family, Christian youth, and education in a common counter-attack against the rising forces of immorality in om society—to claim sex for Christianity” (p. 14).

Miles is a professor of sociology and makes a serious attempt to document his views, but his documentation seems a bit thin. For example. a questionnaire to 103 girls at a Christian college is the basis for his conclusion that females do 1I0t need sexual release through masturbation (65% of the girls) (p. 174). He makes a courageous attempt to deal with the problem of sin and masturbation and will probably stir up considerable disagreement—e.g., masturbation is possible without fantasy ( p. 157)—masturbation for release find self-control is not lust.

He does not hesitate to call homosexuality sin, but at the same time he recognizes it as a problem that requires Christian understanding and sympathetic help. His subheadings within chapters and the numbering of points makes for logical development and clarity.

WISDOM T HE PRINCIPAL THING; Studies in the Book of Proverbs, by K. L. Jensen, Pacific Meridian Publishing Co., 13540 – 39th Ave., N. E., Seattle, Washington, 98125; 167 pp., 1971, $2.95, paperback. Reviewed by Dr. Gerard Van Groningen.

This is an unusual study of the Book of Proverbs. It is not a commentary; it does not deal with the material verse by verse, or chapter by chapter. And, it is hardly correct to say that one could refer to this as a topical study of Proverbs.

Jensen is interested in a teaching ministry. He wishes men to become “mentally” (not merely intellectually) involved, intensively and extensively, in the teachings of God. These teachings be they concerning God, man, salvation, human behavior—are called doctrines. Hence, Jensen has produced a “doctrinal” study of Proverbs.

Jensen finds that Proverbs’ many doctrines can be included in three main categories which he calls “thrusts”: 1. Mental attitudes; 2. Norms and standards; and 3. Overt Activity.

The reader can pick lip many helpful insights from Jensen’s discussion of passages which have been selected as sources for specific doctrines. However, the entire approach and system of interpretation cannot be fully recommended. A few reasons for this disappointing fact are: 1. Jensen, in his eagerness to teach, has overdone the matter. Doctrines arc set forth which are not always drawn from the text but from the general body of Scriptural truth. 2. Jensen could be faulted for presenting a rationalistic approach to Scripture and to spiritual life and development. His concern is most laudable—to teach! However, to include the heart under “mind” (pp. 28, 29), and to equate the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1) with the godly mental attitude (p. 3 cf. all charts) is not a balanced Biblical presentation. Jensen quite obviously is overreacting to prevalent subjectivism, emotionalism, and experientialism. 3. The study suffers from over schametization, which suggests an apriorily-prepared structure into which the doctrines are neatly arranged. Extensive chart work is presented to explicate this overdone systematization of moral and spiritual truth as it is to be absorbed by and applied to man’s life.

There fire a number of specifics which could elicit discussion. For example does much of Proverbs present David’s advice to Solomon after David had experienced tragedies with his older children? Does Bible doctrine authorize capitalism? Do the writers of Proverbs present a premillenial view of the Lordship of Jesus Christ?

A helpful feature is Jensen’s glossary. It really is necessary also because of the specific uses Jensen makes of some terms.