COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF MARK, by William L. Lime. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. 652 pages. Price $12.95. Reviewed by Rey. Harry C. Arnold, pastor First Christian Reformed Church Lansing, Illinois.
This volume is one of of a series of commentaries that will eventually comprise “The New International Commentary on the New Testament.” The work of producing such a New Testament commentary was originally undertaken by the late Dr. Ned. B. Stonehouse, its first general editor. Since Dr. Stonehouse’s demise, Dr. F.F. Bruce is serving in that capacity.It was the late Dr. Stonehouse who assigned the task of writing a commentary on “Mark” to William L. Lane. That was in the fall of 1961. Now, more than a decade later, we can enjoy the fruit of his labors and scholarship. The evangelical Christian community has been made the richer by the publication of this commentary. I judge the value of a commentary more from the viewpoint of a pastor than a scholar. And I like what I see in this commentary. There is a fine, well-written introduction which gives evidence of being abreast of the latest New Testament scholarship. The average, busy pastor will find Dr. Lane’s treatment and evaluation of Jose O’Calaghan’s theory on the fragments of Cave 7 at Qumran very helpful in forming his own opinions on this matter. The detailed outline of the book is also useful. Moreover, the “Select Bibliography” should be a good guide for further study to those who have scholarly ability. It was the late Dr. Stonehouse who assigned the task of writing a commentary on “Mark” to William L. Lane. That was in the fall of 1961. Now, more than a decade later, we can enjoy the fruit of his labors and scholarship. The evangelical Christian community has been made the richer by the publication of this commentary. I judge the value of a commentary more from the viewpoint of a pastor than a scholar. And I like what I see in this commentary. There is a fine, well-written introduction which gives evidence of being abreast of the latest New Testament scholarship. The average, busy pastor will find Dr. Lane’s treatment and evaluation of Jose O’Calaghan’s theory on the fragments of Cave 7 at Qumran very helpful in forming his own opinions on this matter. The detailed outline of the book is also useful. Moreover, the “Select Bibliography” should be a good guide for further study to those who have scholarly ability. The comments on the text of Mark are all in English. The commentary reads well. Technical matters are discussed in copious footnotes which also contain more reference material for study. Dr. Lane’s comments include reference to the latest studies which have been published in journals and articles, as well as in books. He writes from the viewpoint that Mark is the first gospel written. Moreover, he accepts “redaction criticism” which basically allows the author of the book to mold the gospel tradition with his own theological purpose. Concerning the author of the book of “Mark,” Dr. Lane writes: “A careful reading of the Gospel will serve to introduce the author as a theologian of the first rank who never forgot that his primary intention was the strengthening of the people of God in a time of firey ordeal” (p. 23). The entire volume impresses me as evangelical and scholarly at the same time. Such a book is naturally helpful both to the pastor and student of the New Testament. Those who lead Bible study groups will find the comments enlightening and helpful. By all means, buy it and use it!
THE SHORTER CATECHISM. Volume I: Questions 1–38, Volume II: Questions 39–107, by G. I. Williamson. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1970, Volume I, pp. 158; Volume II, pp. 161. $3.00 each volume, paperback. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien, Pastor of the Faith Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.Here are two excellent books explaining in a fresh and interesting manner this monumental catechism of the Reformed Faith – The Westminster. Writing these helpful lessons is oftentimes contributor to the Blue Banner Faith and Life (a Covenanter publication). The author does not hesitate to combat Arminianism. Many excellent features could be pointed out. An interesting forthright discussion about pictures of Christ appears in the discussion about pictures of Christ appears in the discussion of the second commandment. Several charts appear which help to clarify certain doctrinal concepts. In spite of the cost, these books will be helpful to students and also to Catechism teachers, even if they do not use the Westminster.
THE GAY CHURCH, Ronald M. Enroth and Gerald E. Jamison, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974, 144 pages, price $4.95. Reviewed by Rev. Elco H. Oostendorp, pastor of the Reeman (Mich.) Christian Reformed Church.Ronald M. Enroth is Associate Professor of Sociology at Westmont College in California and Gerald E. Jamison is a graduate of that College who majored in Sociology. This indicates that the approach taken in this book is primarily sociological rather than theological or ethical. The authors, however, do not hide their basically evangelical standpoint and they indicate the difficulties in these areas that the movement under study encounters. This is not a study of homosexuality in general, or the position Christian must take toward it, but specifically a study of the gay church, or how homosexual people are trying to combine the gay lifestyle with membership in some kind of Christian church structure. Although some attention is given to smaller organizations and also to the reaction of established denominations to gay people, the major part of the book is devoted to a description of the Metropolitan Community Church. This group was started in 1968 and has grown into a quasi-denomination with thousands of members and dozens of congregations throughout the United States. The founder and still leading minister is Rev. Troy Perry. At one time the “mother church” in Los Angeles had more than a thousand members. Apart from the interesting information about this movement, the most valuable chapter in the book for the average reader would no doubt be the third on “The Gay Church in a Straight Jacket?,” the development of a Homosexual Theology. This chapter discusses the texts in Scripture that refer to homosexuality and shows how the members of gay churches argue that this is not sin. The basic contention is that the homosexual did not make himself the way he is and therefore he is free to be himself also sexually. Other chapters indicate that the very nature of this sexual perversion leads to promiscuity and excessive emphasis on sex. The unscriptural nature of the position of the gay church leads to confirming the homosexual in his sin rather than bringing him the gospel of saving grace in Jesus Christ. The authors affirm: “Christian who are theologically conservative simply cannot affirm homosexuality as a valid behavior and lifestyle” (p. 133). They also state that while one can distinguish between homosexual orientation and homosexual practice there is no scientific evidence that homosexuals are born that way and cannot help themselves. However, they do point out that the conservative churches have not always been sympathetic to the struggles of gay people or ready to help them find salvation not only by preaching the gospel to them but also by giving them the emotional and social support they badly need. I Corinthians 6:9–11 shows that the homosexual is no more beyond the cleansing power of the gospel than thieves or drunkards or any other kind of sinner.
HEILIG WOORD EN HEJLIGE SCHRIFT IN DE RELIGIES. Dr. D. C. Mulder. Kok, 1970, 64 pages, paper. Reviewed by Rev. Lambertus Mulder. pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of Lethbridge, Alberta.Dr. Mulder (no kin of the reviewer) is a technician in the field of comparative religions. The message of this paperback is that the Bible has a unique message, because it is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. None of the other religions could possibly agree with that approach to their holy books. The Koran as well as the Hinda Vedas are religions which are bound to the letter of their sacred books. The Christian, while giving full allegiance to the Scriptures, is not a paperbounds religion. It gives the history of God’s salvation as it has been inscripturated in the Bible. Quite a bit of time has passed and a lot of religious water went under the bridge since the completion of the Canon. It is therefore evident that we may not say that the Word of God is the Bible, because the revelation of God goes far beyond that and points to the Incarnate Word. This viewpoint will influence the exegesis, the hermeneutics as well as our concept of plenary inspiration. Thus, says the author, our salvation does not depend (as is the case with the Muslims, etc.) upon a sacred Book, it depends upon the God of that Book who reveals Himself in Christ. In the reviewer’s opinion the author adds to the confusion rather than bringing more light into this delicate subject. For one thing, why must there be such a sharp distinction between the Book and the God of the Book? Is not the revelation of Jesus Christ bound precisely to the letter of the text? Did the Spirit as the primary author of the Bible in these latter years discard His handiwork in favor of something which somehow goes above and beyond the text? In my opinion the cause of the Reformed faith is not helped by such and similar outcries as the author makes.
A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF ORIGINS, by Donald England. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1972. 138 pp., $2.95, paper. Reviewed by Dr. Russell Maatman, Professor of Chemistry Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa.This book is important because it comes from the evangelical community (the author is a professor of chemistry at Harding College, Searcy, Arkansas) and combines the following ideas: (1) The Bible is to be taken seriously and the creation account is factual. (2) The conclusions which natural scientists, such as geologists, have made are also to be taken seriously. (3) It should be concluded from both the Bible and our knowledge of biochemistry that life did not spontaneously evolve from non-life. Nor have living things evolved from the simplest life. This book is needed. There are too few who have England’s insight. He makes a good case for refusing to debunk either the Biblical text or the results of the natural scientist. He shows that whoever does have reverence for the Bible and respect for what the natural scientist has done will reject the General Theory of Evolution. He will reject Theistic Evolution. He will not minimize what the Bible teaches about origins and he will not scorn modern science. Over half the book is devoted to the question of whether or not life evolved spontaneously from non-life. The scientific evidence that such evolution did not occur is very convincing. Although the evidence is chemical, it is presented so that the non-technical reader can readily understand it. Life is far too complex to have evolved from non-life. This conclusion stands even when the various proposed evolutionary mechanisms have been examined. Probably the most interesting aspect of the evidence is that it consists of several separate overwhelming reasons indicating that life did not evolve. Thus anyone who attempts to answer England (if his arguments are not effectively answered, the General Theory of Evolution collapses) must disprove each of the overwhelming reasons. Even if only one of the reasons remains, he has still shown that the General Theory is wrong.
Perhaps England could have said some things differently. For example, presenting the Christian position merely as an “alternative” (as on pages 13 and 74) may imply that mHn has It right to stand hack and choose. Any attempt to stand on supposedly neutral ground for the purpose of choosing is in itself wrong. It is inevitable in a book touching on many areas of natural science that some errors will creep in. Contrary to what he implies (p. 59), modem physical developments show that the shapes and sizes of molecules are explainable to terms of all-encompassing, profound laws. Once we understand that God has created so that these laws hold, we can also understand why the various molecules arc what they are. Thus, the ammonia molecule does not represent one law and the water molecule another: they are both manifestations of the same fundamental laws. The numerical examples illustrating the use of the equilibrium constant are incorrect (pp. 83 and 91). The temperature of a substance is not defined by the amount of internal energy the molecules have (p. 84). None of these matters affect his basic argument. England has obviously read widely and based his argument well on the right kind of sources.
This book is well-written. No special prior knowledge is required, and yet those who do !lave knowledge about the subject will find new and interesting insights. Perhaps the following statements, which the author discusses in detail, give some of the flavor of the book and also serve to provoke discussion (italics are in the original):
At the rate of synthesizing one molecule per second and starting four and one-half billion years ago, [a chemist could) have synthesized far less than one billionth of one billionth of one percent of the [number of variations on a protein molecule needed to produce one useful protein] by the present . . . It is estimated that all living species in both the plant and animal kingdoms on the earth are composed of [from ten to one thousand billion] different kinds of [useful protein] molecules (p. 65).
Phenomena with very small probabilities do not occur (p. 97).
To get a value of 6,000 years for the age of the earth one would have to assume an error of 99.9998 percent for each of the major radioactive methods (p. 105).
Theistic evolution is an unnecessary compromise for the Christian (p. 113).
This is a good book. It deserves the attention of all who have interest in the subject, and it may well be instrumental in strengthening the faith of some.