CALLING OUR CITIES TO CHRIST by Roger S. Greenway, Th.D. Published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Box 185, Nutley, N.J. 07110. 129 pages. Price $1.95. Reviewed by Frank De Jong, Emeritus pastor, San Jose, California.
This book is one of a series of World Focus Books “designed to ask hard questions, and seek biblical answers about Missions, within the perspective of a God-centered orbit.” Dr. Greenway deals in particular with the question, “What are the guidelines that speak to today’s cities?” With his several years of experience in directing the Mexico City Christian Institute and fruitful labors in establishing house-churches in that city, the author is “uniquely qualified to deal with the subject he presents.” That appraisement of the author by Harvie M. Conn, Editor of World Focus Books, becomes plainly evident to the render of this book.In his Preface, Dr. Greenway summarizes his intentions with this writing by saying, “In the pages which follow I attempt to make a small contribution to the subject of urban evangelism from a Calvinistic standpoint. My central focus is on the role of the organized church in a changing neighborhood.” Well, he may speak of it as a “small contribution,” but, in this reporter’s understanding, that contribution is loaded with valuable information and much needed guidance for the organized churches living as they do in changing neighborhoods.
If it is tale, and who will deny it, that “experience is the best teacher,” then this book gives us a beautiful example of learning from history. It is a help for the city churches to “view critically and biblically the role Protestantism has played in American cities.”
The study of this history in the chapters which follow deals mainly with the history of the American churches in the nineteenth century. The author shows how the large cities grew in that century due to the tremendous influx of people coming to our shores from other countries, especially from Europe. By observing how the organized church met this challenge we can better understand our weaknesses and strengths and thus gain a perspective upon which to build our strategy for today.
Dr. Greenway deplores the way many of our Christian Reformed churches have sold out to the developing black neighborhoods and have left no influence of our Calvinistic heritage among these people. He would rather see a partial integration, giving ample time for leaving a definite impression upon the newly developing congregation, before bidding farewell to this community.A very valuable historic review is given in chapters IV and V of the rise and labors of the Salvation Army, rescue missions, homes for fallen girls, etc., pointing out that these institutions arose when the church did not herself realize her responsibility to perform such labors.
The final chapter gives theoretical and practical guidelines for all city churches facing their God-given task today to call the cities to repentance. All members of evangelistic committees and everyone interested in the great cause of city missions should read and study this valuable book.
COMMON GRACE AND THE GOSPEL by Cornelius Van Til. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Nutley, N.J. $4.50. Reviewed by Rev. Simon Viss.
Fifty years ago, a controversy that had been intensifying for years, resulted in an open rupture in the Christian Reformed Church. It was the Common Grace controversy. The denial of Common Grace by a sizable segment of the church resulted in the organization of the Protestant Reformed Churches under the dynamic leadership of the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema.
Has the issue been settled? By no means. It has been sett1ed only for those who think superficially about doctrine. It has been settled only for those who have succumbed to the unbiblical teaching that Christ died for all men and that it’s up to the individual to accept God‘s offer of salvation, thus denying the absolute sovereignty of God and the doctrine of unconditional election and total depravity.
The book, Common Grace and the Gospel by the internationally known theologian, Dr. Cornelius Van Til deals with the perennial question: How can you believe in the sovereignty of God and unconditional election and at the same time believe in “whosoever will”? The answer is that you can‘t if you follow human logic. The Bible teaches both. Van Til believes in both. Ultimately, logic must be subservient to Scripture.
In the course of the history of the Church, theologians have swerved in one direction or the other. Hoeksema stressed election so much that his view impinged upon the “whosoever will” which we also find in the Bible. Others have stressed the “whosoever will” to the extent that they in effect deny the absolute sovereignty of God and unconditional election. Hoeksema denied Common Grace. According to his views, God does not show favor to the non-elect. This book deals with issues that underlie the Common Grace question. What was the extent of the Fall? Is there a “neutral ground” where the Christian and the unbeliever can meet? Van Til presents a careful analysis of the positions of various writers on these subjects, especially those of Hoeksema and Abraham Kuyper.
The book is a careful analysis and defense of Van Til’s own position as expressed in his writings over a period of some twenty–five years. He exposes the weaknesses of Roman Catholicism and Arminianism, as well as that of modem schools of thought. This book is a reply to criticism of Van Til by the late Dr. William Masselink. The latter, in his writings alleges that Van Til believes in the absolute ethical antithesis between God and man (p. 163). Van Til replies in effect: “You don’t understand what I mean by ‘absolute.’” He refutes other allegations by Masselink.
This book isn’t easy reading. This is understandable because the subjects dealt with are not easily understood. But if you want to really get into the subject of Common Grace, then diligently study this book If you want to understand what the Canons of Dordt are all about and tile presuppositions of the A.A.C.S., and if you want a deeper appreciation of John Calvin, then this book is a “must.”
This reviewer observed a large sign in front of a Christian Reformed church which read, “God Loves You!” Expressions like this, in the light of Scripture, may be termed half- truths. In many instances, we have come very close, and have even entered the Arminian camp. According to the Bible, God does not love the sinner with the same kind of love as that shown to the saint. To say indiscriminately, “God loves you,” may only serve to salve the conscience of one committed to Satan, and thus evangelism is done a disservice. I mention this to indicate that the book under review is relevant for today. It will straighten out our thinking in regard to evangelism and will rekindle antithetical thinking.
Van Til bows before the authority of Scripture and humbly admits that we cannot logically solve the problems involved in Common Grace—and related subjects (pp. 12, 134, 140). The book is a commentary on some important truths of Scripture; therefore, it is a book worth reading.