A Look at Books

MAKING IT ON A PASTORS PAY, by Manfred Holck, Jr. Published by Abingdon Press, 201 Eighth Ave. South, Nashville, Tennessee 37202, 1974. 123 pages, $4.95. Reviewed by John W. Asma, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

On October 19, 1974, our local newspaper carried an article about ministers’ salaries. It contained the results of a recent study directed by the City University of New York through a grant from the Ministers’ Life and Casualty Union of Minneapolis, indicating that inflation is putting a “particularly rough strain” on Christian pastors. The findings are based on responses from 4,635 pastors. Ministers are among the lowest paid among comparably educated professionals in the country, the article stated. It may be small comfort to those of you who are Christian Reformed pastors, but it is still gratifying to note that among the nineteen major denominations, including the largest in the United States, the Christian Reformed Church was listed as paying the highest salaries to its pastors.

Regardless, every minister suffers from the effect of inflation. Even without inflation, anything that is helpful in learning to live within one‘s income, should he welcome. I believe that the book under review can offer such help.

The author is vice-president for business affairs at Wittenberg University and is a C. P.A. He has written several books, articles, and he publishes a newsletter and a series of cassette tapes dealing with church and clergy finance. He also holds a Th.M. and is an ordained minister.

The book gives suggestions for discussions with the Salary Committee on how to put together an intelligent pay package, taking advantage of current tax laws relating to a clergyman’s rental or housing allowance, car expenses, and other items. It also discusses Social Security provisions pertaining to clergymen. Once a pay package has been established it becomes important to use it wisely. The book has chapters on an earnings-savings-spending plan, investment ideas, and retirement planning with several good examples, tables, and suggested forms.

This is not a large, technical work but an easy to read, short book written for it. I noted, however, that a few family men in the ministry, and I recommend things, such as the IRS mileage allowance, and the table on Social Security benefits are already out of date. After rending: this book it may he profitable to discuss it with a qualified person in your congregation who is acquainted with and can explain the finer, technical points. A bibliography gives several references to additional material on the subject.

THE HOLY BIBLE. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. THE NEW TESTAMENT. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, ’73. x+573 pp. $5.95. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien, pastor of the Faith Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Most ministers hear the question, “What is a good modern speech translation of the Bible?” And if they are perfectly honest in answering they will have to say, “What you want is almost non-existent.” Oh there have been many attempts to get the Bible—or part of it—in the language which reflects the language of that day—just as the King James Version had the sound of the language of the 1600s. Very few have stayed too long, and very few have been actual translations. A few years ago it was not uncommon to see people carrying a copy of Good News for Modern Man (TEV). Today young people and adults alike carry Reach Out or The Living Bible (LB). The Amplified Bible has also been popular. However, these have ns their purpose to present a translation” which will express the meaning of the Greek text. And studies of volumes such as TEV and LB show that there has been much lost in getting away from literal translation. For instance, the word “blood” has been re-styled “death” or something similar in TEV. Texts which are very clearly basic proofs for the Reformed truth have been restyled in the LB (see Romans 8:29). Where does this leave us? Without much to recommend!

Now a new translation has appeared. The New York Bible Society International has undertaken financial support of the Committee on Bible Translation (a committee of fifteen Bible scholars from various denominations, “committed to the full authority and complete trustworthiness of the Scriptures,” p. viii).

When the first news of this volume began to come I had hopes that it would be a literal translation in good, clear, simple modern English so that the clamoring for a modern translation could be satisfied. Of course, it would have to be a literal translation because we are committed to the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture.

Now, what have we been given in the NIV?

In the very explanatory preface we read, “. . . their first concern has been the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the New Testament written. While they have weighed the significance of the lexical and grammatical details of the Greek text, they have striven for more than it word-for-word translation. Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning of the writers of the New Testament demands frequent modifications in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meanings of words (p. ix).” This, obviously, involves a certain amount of exegesis so that the translation will lit these requirements. Thankfully, this work involved more than one or two men and thankfully all the translators are “committed to the full authority and complete trustworthiness of the Scriptures, which they believe to be God‘s Word in written form (pp. viii, ix).”

There are some notable examples of this interpretation. In Matthew 9:18 the translators do the work of harmonists by interpreting the text in the light of the other accounts of the same event in the Gospels. They make Jairus say, “My daughter is at the point of death,” whereas the literal sense is, “My daughter has just died.” Another example is the phrase, “it came to pass” which is so common in Luke. This has been allowed to fade into a smooth translation. However, are those words important in the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan? One place we miss them in this connection is Luke 2:1.

As we read through this translation we are impressed, however, that it is not just another transliteration. Though I would not consider the NIV a study Bible, I would not hesitate to suggest that it might be useful for devotional reading, especially in family devotions where young children are present though I know there are children who are not especially positive toward it.

Concerning the theology reflected in these pages I am well-pleased on the basis of a general survey. You know, for instance, how Romans 8:29 reads. Well, in the LB we read, “For from the very beginning God decided that those who came to Him—and all along He knew who would—should become like His Son, so that His Son would be the First, with many brothers.” After that blatant Arminianism it is quite refreshing to read in NIV, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Thankfully, the NIV does not claim to replace the Authorized Versions of the Bible. I am not happy with the comments about its being proper for pulpit use, as seen in some ads. There is a certain dignity of language which the Authorized Versions have which does not seem to be present in the NIV. My fear is that in the “confusion of tongues” today concerning the Bible this Bible will become another fad which will replace the Authorized Versions for study and finally he cast off when another one appears. May neither of these happen!

At last we have a modem speech translation we can recommend along with the Berkeley Version. And thankfully, the World Home Bible League has begun to make the NIV available in paperback. (May it soon outstrip the LB in popularity.) May the Old Testament pages come to our hands very soon.

DE GELOOFSPRAKTIJK, Volume 2, Theologie en Gemeente. 8. Rietveld. 100 pp. Kok, Kampen, 1972

DE KOERS VAN DE KERK IN EEN HORIZONTALISTISCH TIJDPERKVol. 3, Theologie en Gemeente. B. Wentsel. 111 pp. Kok, Kampen, 1972. Reviewed by Rev. Lambertus Mulder, pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Both of these paperbacks represent a counter-attack on the part of evangelical ministers in the Netherlands against the “Gemeente theologie” which has causcd so milch confusion in Reformed circles.

Dr. Rietveld asks the question publicly whether there is any certainty left at all for the Christian amid all the problems surrounding him. He finds a personal need to reflect on this mailer and has come to the conclusion that many more people would like an answer to the burning question. The answer is found, according to Rietveld, in the personal encounter with the God of the Scriptures. To be sure, he does not want to escape into the corner of pietistic meditation, but he wants to find the basis from which he can launch into the good light of faith in order to finish the race and keep the faith. Only that faith will overcome the world.

Rietveld wnsiders the dangers of mysticism, pietism, subjectivism, and mass psychology. He rejeets them all, but refuses to tbrow out the baby with the bathwater. The author claims we are being bombarded by a new social gospel from every side, but the church must remain faithful to ber task: to proclaim the redemptive events of the Scriptures, events which lead to a fellowship with the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. Men must be drawn into that fellowship before they can begin to look at the social problems of the day. No one can stand up under the pressure of everyday life as we experience them in our day, unless that person has it strong relationship with the God who speaks in the Scriptures. Him we must seek as never before; this must be a living reality in which the practice of faith is firmly anchored and rooted, bearing fruit for this life and for the life to come.

If anyone doubts the truth of the things which we believe, this booklet will be a powerful antidote and a mighty support.

Dr. Wentsel, in his book, traces the causes of the present crisis in the Dutch theology. It is his avowed purpose to break up the polarization in the church and find the Biblical basis for unity.

He lists several causes for the present impasse: a desire to return to the source of revelation, bypassing tradition, the conflict between faith and science, the continuing secularization of life, a change from verticalism to horizontalism and the new view of the position of the church. As anyone can readily see, the problem is complex indeed.

Mixed into that potpourri of melodies is the yen for accepting the new and disregarding the old. Such phenomena take place on tile stage of a world in which distances shrink rapidly, thus contributing to an almost simultaneous participation of Christians all over the world in the issues of the day. Is it any wonder that confusion reigns supremely?

Christians of the far right , of the far left, and of the middle orthodoxy are alarmed over the several trends in modern theology. On the one hand, there is sharp protest against the tendency to sweep all controversy under the rug by preaching a bland gospel in which both heaven and hell have faded into nonentities; on the other hand there is alarm over the fact that the church is almost wholly looking inward. Action and counteraction change places on the never ending seesaw of spiritual values, giving mass apostasy unlimited chances for success. The real antithesis of the Scriptures is lost sight of and false dilemmas take its place. All sorts of contrasts are created, but the real contrast between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of darkness becomes an unreality. Spiritual injury is added to theological insult. Karl Barth is making his influence felt even though he has passed from the scene; horizontalism has slain its tens of thousands in our modern day.

Dr. Wentsel has made an excellent contribution toward a better understanding of the demonic influences in theology in our time. For those who master the Dutch, his booklet gives an excellent expose of the need to continue to contend for the faith, always.

LATIN AMERICAN THEOLOGY, RADICAL OR EVANGELICAL? by C. Peter Wagner. Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids., Mich., 1970, 118 pages; $2.45. Reviewed by Dr. Roger Greenway.

When this book appeared in Spanish in 1969, I had the privilege of reviewing it for the Revista Teologica, published quarterly by the John Calvin Theological Seminary in Mexico City. Wagner’s book pioneered in the field of Latin American Protestant theology for it was the first study to he published of recent theological developments in the Spanish-speaking Protestant world. The Spanish edition opened the eyes of many Latin American church leaders to some of the things which are happening in theological circles from Mexico to Argentina, and now that the English edition has appeared, the same thing is likely to occur among North Americans who are interested in Latin America.

For everyone concerned about the growth and development of the evangelical faith in Latin America, this book is a must.

Wagner correctly identifies the most urgent problem facing Latin America in the second half of the twentieth century as the social revolution which is sweeping across the hemisphere. Belated to this revolution in the social sphere is the rise of radical, revolution-oriented Protestant theology. Since the end of World War II, a new generation of Protestant theologians has arisen in Latin America. Most of them are second-generation Protestants who one the one hand lack the aggressive antiCatholicism which motivated their parents and grandparents to evangelize and seek to extend the Protestant faith numerically. And on the other hand, they are captivated by the social needs of millions of Latin American people, they are radically opposed to the political and economic systems which exploit the masses, and they are thoroughly committed to a type of theology which seeks to give religious basis for the violent, revolutionary overthrow of oppressive social orders.

Wagner brings together the fruit of his wide reading in the area of Latin America theology, especially of radical theologians whose names and contributions are not well known outside of Latin American countries. The author provides a critique of these views from the standpoint of the Church Growth school of missiology which Dr. Donald McGavran has promoted so vigorously in recent years. Wagner is generous with the various theologians whom he studies, and he does not question the sincerity of their desire to apply Biblical teaching to the social needs of Latin America. He says: “heir interpretation of the relation of the Church to the Latin American social revolution springs first and foremost from religions conviction. They are firmly convinced that they are about their Father‘s business. They are engaged in an intensive search for what they consider to be God’s will for themselves. their church, and their countries.”

Where then does the problem lie? Not, says Wagner, in the failure of these theologians to acknowledge the authority of the Bible as the Word of God.

It lies rather in the extreme degree to which their understanding of the secular world has influenced their understanding of Biblical truth. In many instances (but not all), truth is not denied as much as it is distorted. Priorities are often shifted out oBiblical focus. At times one gets the feeling that the starting point of this group has been a priori socio-economic theory, and that theology has been called in only as an afterthought, not to say rationalization. The Bible seems to be used very often as a source book for proof texts rather than the touchstone of all doctrine.

(This is an interesting analysis, and it could spark some discussion with relation to certain movements among the Reformed today.)

Wagner scores the radical theologians on two major points: tlleir theology tends to be syncretistic and it blunts the edge of Protestant church growth. Many of the radical theologians are not the least concerned about soul-saving, church-planting evangelism, and some are definitely opposed to the whole idea of that type of mission work. Emilio Castro (now with the Christian Century), for example. mocks traditional evangelism as a form of escapism from the real issues of life.

Unfortunately, the conservative Latin American theologians whom Wagner can cite are not as articulate as are the radicals. As the author acknowledges, missionminded evangelicals in Latin America have concentrated on evangelism and generally have forgotten that top-ranking theological leadership needs to be trained. As a result, the most creative and educated church leaders today are usually found in the Leftist camp, a situation which is not without parallels in other countries. Wagner’s pioneer study has already done much good by awakening evangelical leaders to a new awareness of the direction in which Latin American theology is moving and of the need to meet the challenge by serious study, research, and publication.