A Look at Books

Pentecost and Missions by HARRY R. BOER Wm. 8. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. 1961. 270 pages. $5.00.

From the viewpoint of orthodoxy it is disturbing that the foreword to this book was written by W. A. Visser ‘t Hooft, who for years has collaborated closely in the World Council of Churches with outspoken theological liberals and is, to put it mildly, soft on Barthianism. However, the volume must be viewed objectively and evaluated on its own merits.

While the author did not intend to give anything like a complete theology of missions he has presented an exceedingly important aspect of such a theology. The main thrust of this book is not only good, but decidedly excellent. The question is faced squarely what the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit did to the Church. The author’s answer is that it rendered the Church a witnessing Church. Although that answer is not the whole truth of the matter, it does state a most significant fact. Hence witnessing is of the very essence of the Church of the new dispensation. That is the one grand theme of this book. It lends coherence to the whole. And it is presented both forcefully and convincingly. So ably is that theme exhibited that to call attention to minor errors, typographical or otherwise, becomes picayune. The author deserves high praise especially for his evident striving to base on Scripture all that he has to say. He has made a valuable contribution to Christian missionary literature.

The emphatic presentation of a great truth is always refreshing and often exhilarating. That applies also to this book. But it cannot be said to excel in that fine poise which is characteristic of Christian theology at its best. In bis great enthusiasm for a truth Dr. Boer every once in a while belittles its complement. A few examples may be cited. The Pentecostal bestowal on the Church of power to be Christ’s witness is stressed to the wholly needless minimizing of the Great Commission when it is asserted that “the phenomenal missionary expansion of the early Church is not to be found in her conscious obedience to the command of Christ” (p. 16), and that “there is no ground to believe that awareness of the Great Commission played a role in launching the Church on her missionary labors” (p. 44). Under the head of the liberty of a church newly organized on a mission field, the assertion is made that Paul did not “take upon himself tho discipline of tho delinquent” (p. 223). Yet the apostle did authoritatively command the Church at Corinth to excommunicate a member guilty of incest (I Cor. 5: 13), and he himself “delivered unto Satan” Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Tim. 1:20). In the same context it is said that the norm of tile life of the younger Churches is not “the historically conditioned creeds, customs, usages and ecclesiastical structures of the older Churches” (p. 224). The question can hardly be suppressed whether that sweeping statement does justice to the guidance of the historic Christian Church into the truth by the Spirit of truth and to the fruits of that guidance as embodied, for instance, in the great creeds of Christendom.

Most regrettably, this able study of a highly significant theme suffers from a serious defect. The Bible teaches emphatically that the Spirit poured out upon the Church at Pentecost was “the Spirit of truth” (e.g., John 16:13) and that the Church, thus endowed, is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). In this day of apostasy, both bold and subtle, within the Church, there is a crying need for the defense and declaration of truth over against error. Sad to say, Dr. Boer has slighted that aspect of his theme. To be sure, in his final plea for “unity in witness” he admits that there arc within the World Council of Churches individuals who “openly call into question central beliefs in the Christian faith.” However, he explains. when speaking of “central beliefs,” that he does not refer primarily to “problems of biblical criticism” (p. 246). But is not the doctrine of Scriptural infallibility basic to the whole of the Christian faith? And have not “the critics” contributed immeasurably to the undermining of that faith? The author calls into serious question whether the liberals ought to be cast out from the World Council (p. 246). Conspicuously absent from this book are such notes as that sounded by the greatest of all Christian missionaries when he affirmed: “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9), or by the apostle of love when he commanded: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed” (II John 10). And in spite of the undeniable fact that some of the constituent bodies advisedly uphold and honor as ministers of the gospel and professors of theology men who boldly deny the eternal and essential deity of Christ and scorn the Scriptural teaching that Christ by his sacrificial death satisfied for his own the divine penal justice, Dr. Boer is unwilling to grant that false churches are comprised within the World Council (p. 247).

With mingled reactions of high admiration and deep sorrow the reviewer has read this volume. How superb a work it might have been!


De Wederkomst van Christus Vol. I, by DR. G.C. BERKOUWER

J.H. Kok N.V., Kampen, the Netherlands. 311 pages. Price 12.50 guilders.

This book is a volume in the series which

Professor Berkouwer is writing on various dogmatic subjects. He is treating the return of Christ at this book. However, the subject could not be fully treated in one volume. A second volume on the subject is forth-coming.

Through these works of Dr. Bcrkouwer we have learned to know him as an erudite scholar whose knowledge of the subjects he treats is amazing. Moreover, in his discussions and evaluations the learned author adheres closely to Scripture. Exegeses of various passages are found throughout the volume. This, to my mind, increases the value of tile book not a little. Of course, differences of opinion may occur, but it is important to listen to Berkouwer and to evaluate his explanations.

Dr. Berkouwer discusses a number of important facets of the subject, such as the expectation concerning the future. the twofold expectation (individual and universal), the crisis, of the delay, the Significance of the interim, the reality or the actuality of the Parousla, the resurrection, and the new earth. The information Dr. Berkouwer has gathered in regard to all these facets is well-nigh complete and the book is very much up-to-date.

In the first volume the author at times informs us what he expects to discuss in the second volume. They are such subjects as the future of Israel, the signs of the times, millennialism, etc. I have an idea that many an American reader might be more interested in that forth-commg second volume than in the first. However, this first volume should not be neglected. It is important and. I think, basic to the proper understanding of all the rest.

As I express my great appreciation for the works of Dr. Berkouwer, I cannot refrain from putting a question in regard to the manner in which these books are published. I wonder why the author and/or the publisher have not seen fit to add indices to the volume. Indeed, there are lists of the contents of the chapters of the books, but there are no alphabetical indices and neither are the Scripture passages discussed in the volumes listed separately. If such indices were added the usefulness of the books would doubtless be greatly enhanced. As it is the books are wonderful and instructive reading, but they are not easily used as reference works.


Roman Catholicism by LORAINE BOETTNER

The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1962. 466 pages. Price $5.95

Dr. Boettner bas indebted all of Protestantism by the writing of this valuable book. Its publication is not only timely, but likewise highly necessary. It fills a need. The author states., “We behold a strange phenomenon in the world today. While people in the predominantly Roman Catholic countries are struggling to throw off the yoke of the Roman Church, Protestant countries are welcoming it with open arms and allowing it to dictate poliCies of state, education, medicine, social life, entertainment, press, and radio. And in no Protestant country is this tendency more clearly seen than in the United States” (p. 15 ). Again, he states, “…the real cause of Roman Catholic growth and success is not to be found so much in its aggressive policy in infiltrating governments, schools, press, radio, etc., nor in its lax moral code. It is to be found rather in the indifference of Protestants and their lack of devotion to their own evangelical message. Modernistic and liberal theology has so enervated many of the churches that they have little zeal left to propagate their faith” (p. 16). These are Scripturally sound. However, this reviewer cannot refrain from stating that to his mind Chapter XVI, on The Parochial School, is somewhat vulnerable. Naturally we agree fully with the author as to his objections to Roman Catholic education. We do not want it and abhor it, since it is unscriptural. But that does not make the general run of Public School education acceptable. The author does not say that in so many words, yet he reasons that since the state is a “secular institution,” it cannot promote any particular religion and “it tends to secularize the schools.” He states, moreover, “The result is that today most of the schools tend to ignore the subject of religion, with many of them assuming a completely secular attitude, as if God did not exist, while others are actually irreligious, teaching an evolutionary philosophy in a man-centered world” (p. 381). Now such instruction is equally condemnable. The state has no business to offer that type of education. Though Dr. Boettner states that we have the privilege of maintaining our own private Christian schools, yet that does not justify tho government in giving godless and anti·God instruction. The question should be put whether it is properly the task of the state to furnish education. There are more questions which 1 should like to discuss with the author—questions pertaining to education. However, I do not like to do it in this connection. I am so very much pleased with the book as a whole that I should not like to create an opposite impression by discussing such details. Dr. Boettner’s book is, therefore, recommended wholeheartedly and urgently. By all means read it!