YEARBOOK OF AMERICAN AND CANADIAN CHURCHES 1974; Constant H. Jacquet Jr. Editor: Abingdon Press 201 Eighth. Ave., So., Nashville, Tenn. 37202: 276 pages; $9.95. Reviewed by John Vander Ploeg.
To own and have ready access to the annual yearbook of one‘s own denomination is a must. We keep our priorities straight if we begin there. However, in an age as ecumenical as ours, the need arises repeatedly to be informed also about other churches all around us. Especially at such a time as this, we simply cannot afford to be uninformed about Christendom in all of us multiformity throughout the U.S. and Canada. Now in its forty-second Issue, Yearbook of America and Canadian Churches performs an outstanding service in placing at our fingertips a wealth of facts and figures and other information concerning the various religious bodies on the American and Canadian church scene.
A sample of the information this volume affords. and of special interest to us. is this listing about the CRC: “The Christian Reformed Church represents the historic faith of Protestantism. Founded in the United States in 1857, it asserts its belief in the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and is creedally united in the Belgic Confession (1561), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and the Canons of Dort (1618–19).” Then follows information about membership figures, general organization officers, other organizations, and the official periodicals of the denomination.
What is the difference between the Reformed Church in America and the Reformed Church in the United States? How many other denominations have “Reformed” as part of their name and how are we to distinguish between them? This book has the answers to these and many other questions.
In view of todays increased interest In Pentecostalism, it is of interest to . find that between thirty-five and forty different Pentecostal churches are listed. To know the difference between the several Baptist and Presbyterian bodies is also of use to us.
How many women are now in theological schools? A 1972 survey, according to this book, “revealed 3,358 women graduates who comprised 10.2 percent of the total registrants.” Information gleaned from church attendance polls, percentages as to religious preferences, listings of Theological Seminaries m the U.S. and Canada as well as Bible Colleges unfortunately, no mention of the Reformed Bible College at Grand Rapids, Mich.), and an abundance of other information about church life make this yearbook an indispensable handbook for ministers and other religious workers, as well as for all school and church libraries.
THE STRIFE OF TONGUES, 48 pp., 50¢; Occult Bondage and Deliverance, pp. 198, $1.25; Between Christ and Satan, pp. 192, $1.25; The Devil‘s Alphabet, pp 150, $1.25, by Kurt Koch. All paperbacks published by Kregel, Grand Rapids, Mich. Reviewed by Rev. J.D. Tangelder, pastor of the Riverside Christian Reformed Church of Wellandport, Ontario.
Occultism is spreading rapidly. It is in the news! Have you heard of Umbanda and Macumba. the sixth and seventh books of Moses? Did you know that there is still witch-hunting today? In view of the upsurge of magic, these four new editions of some works by Dr. Kurt Koch are most welcome. Dr. Koch, an evangelical Lutheran minister in Germany, is an authority in his field. For over forty years he made an in-depth study of the occult and visited over 120 countries.
The first title examines the “tongues” movement. Dr. Koch is concerned about the strife the movement is causing in churches. When one speaks with such brothers who claim to have the gift of tongues, “one discovers such a jumble of thoughts and such an unscriptural attitude in their grasp of the faith, that this does not prove it to be genuine but rather suggests the opposite.” Tongue speaking is by no means always a gift of the Holy Spirit. No heathen doctor or spiritistic medium can have the gift of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Koch believes that the gift of tongues has ceased and makes a good case for his thesis. He rejects the modern tongues movement, though he does not close the door entirely.
The second book is a guide for “Counselling the Sick, the Troubled and the Occultly Oppressed.” I presume that part II is written by Dr. Alfred Lechler as his name appears to be connected with this section, though it is not mentioned on the title page. The author is very disturbed about the modem faith healing phenomena. He says about the late William Branham, a well known faith healer in his day that he was a man of “exceptional mediumistic abilities.” We must remember “that the most important problem facing us is not the health of our bodies but rather the forgiveness of our sins.” Dr. Koch says that “the tongues movement, which extremists claim to be a twentieth century revival movement, is really only a suggestive epidemic, and Christians must renounce al contact with it if they hope to keep their own spiritual lives intact.” The book ends with a note of victory. Satan can do nothing to the Christian who remains faithful to his Master. We still can sing the hymn of the Reformation:
And though the world with devils filled Should threaten to undo us, We will not fear for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.
The third book is written to deal with the findings and facts of demon activity. It examines fortune telling, palmistry, astrology and so on. Koch uses mainly firsthand examples to enable the reader to form his own opinion. He draws heavily upon the experiences of his pastoral and missionary work. Copious illustrations are used to prove a point. This is done in all four of the books. And at times there are just too many illustrations. The last work looks briefly at forty-seven topics ranging from amulets and freemasonry to yoga. He also writes again about the “tongues” movement. “Today we live in the era of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit reveals Himself in His Word, in His Church and also in the guidance of each individual child of God. So we find that most mature Christians distance themselves from today’s tongues movements, especially as they observe the way in which it develops.”
We live in the last phase of the end of the age. Jesus is coming soon! We are involved in a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:12). “We have therefore to raise our heads and to look for the Coming Lord to whom all power in heaven, upon earth and under the earth is given. The battle is won. The victory is His. Empowered by this fact we can dare to face all the onslaughts of the defeated foe.”
SIGNS OF THE APOSTLES: AN EXAMINATION OF THE NEW PENTECOSTALISM by Walter J, Chantry. The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1973. 102 pages. paperback, $1.25. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien. pastor of the Faith Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Here is another short critique of the Neo-Pentecostal movement which is troubling the church today. It joins the many already published in recent years. Pastor Chantry takes pains to explain in clear and everyday language many of the Biblical passages which are important when we consider the work of the Holy Spirit.
Though the author does not want to say miracles are no longer performed, he is certain that the miracles in the Bible were to authenticate that those who spoke were indeed God’s spokesmen. He contends that Neo-Pentecostalism denies the sufficiency of Scripture and that the seeking of “gifts” which Neo-Pentecostals engage in is the outworking of this.
He points out that revival in the Church will not come this way—the way of Neo-Pentecostalism—though many sincere believers have been led to believe this. Revival comes in the way of holiness and truth according to Psalm 85.
ISSUES OF THEOLOGICAL WARFARE: EVANGELICALS AND LIBERALS, by Richard J. Coleman. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 225 Jefferson Ave., S. E., Grand Rapids, Mich. 49502. 1972. 206 pages. $3.45. Reviewed by Rev. Paul E. Bakker, pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Rock Valley, Iowa.
The author of this book is an ordained minister in the United Presbyterian Church. He is Executive Director of the Christian Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
In the preface to the book the author observes that, in spite of the ecumenical efforts and movements of the past decade, there is actually a growing and deepening division between liberal and evangelical Protestants, threatening both the ecumenical movement itself and the existence of the major denominations. The author believes that, while so far the confrontation has been largely along sociopolitical lines, the basic issues dividing evangelicals and protestants are theological. “The main purpose of this book,” in the author’s own words, “is to define the issues, as both evangelicals and liberals understand them, and to stimulate and encourage dialogue that faces the issues squarely.” The author acknowledges that the terms “evangelical” and “liberal” are rather broad and open to some objection; yet, some kinds of general categories are required to identify the broad positions which arc obviously splitting the major denominations.
The author has attempted to state as clearly and objectively as possible what each group in general holds to be true. In the opinion of this reviewer he succeeds very well in that attempt. After identifying the evangelical and the liberal and the requirement for dialogue in the introduction, he proceeds in five chapters to deal with the basic issues that divide evangelicals and liberals.
Chapter I deals with the questions of God as being personal, of how and where we meet Jesus Christ, and the nature and role of faith. Chapter II treats “The Nature of Revelation: Absolutes vs. Relatives.” Chapter III deals with “The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture.” Chapter IV deals with “Prayer, Providence, and the World.” Chapter V concerns “The Church and Social involvement.”
A set of discussion questions given at the close of each chapter adds to the value of this book.
It is the opinion of this reviewer that Coleman has set forth rather clearly and correctly the basic differences which, in general, divide evangelicals and liberals. This book can do much to help the reader understand those differences. It is the contention of the author that both evangelical and liberal are guilty of imbalance and one-sidedness in their approach and therefore can profit from honest dialogue. He is convinced that evangelical and liberal have something positive to offer to each other. No doubt this is true to some extent. This reviewer, however, feels that Coleman, though ably setting forth the differences between liberals and evangelicals, does not in most cases recognize these as being irreconcilable differences. He does not seem to regard the liberal position to be what most evangelicals regard it to be, namely, a denial of the historic Christian faith. Because of this he is perhaps too optimistic about the results of the dialogue which he advocates.
The author states in the Preface that the book is intended primarily for the theologically trained. For such the book docs have positive value as it clearly delineates the theological differences which divide evangelicals and liberals. The book should be useful in stimulating the kind of constructive dialogue which the author advocates.