A Look at Books

MARKS SKETCHBOOK OF CHRIST: A WORKBOOK ON THE GOSPEL OF MARK, by Helen Tenney. Banner of Truth Trust, London, England. 1971, pp. 104, $2.50. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien.

Are you looking for Bible study material for group study or individual study? Here is a study guide you might consider. While its purpose is obviously not to give interpretation of the events of the Gospel account, it does give an insight into the fads of the Biblical account. And this is certainly something many of us could use. When the author prepared this study she had her teenage !ons in mind, but there are few adults who would not profit from the use of this book. Following a good teaching technique this book has the student read a paragraph from the Bible and then answers to questions are to be written which will focus on the important points of the text. If the Bible student is willing to expend the extra mental energy to consult a good commentary on Mark, he will be much the richer in his understanding of Scripture. For the resourceful student there is no end to the use of this book as a guide toward a deeper and fuller understanding of God’s Word. Highly recommended in this day of Biblical ignorance and multiplication of rather meaningless material.

OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY: BASIC ISSUES IN THE CURRENT DEBATE by Gerhard Basel. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1972, pp. 103. $1.95, paperback Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien.

Old Testament theology, a study in the doctrinal concepts of the Old Testament is certainly in a flux. Writers express one view and then change to another. Hasel, Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology in the Theological Seminary of AndreWlS University, Berrien Springs, Michigan (SeventhDay Adventist), gives an analysis of these trends.

THE BIBLE: GODS WORD by Tenis Van Kooten. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1972, pp. 231. $2.95, paperback. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien.

Sorry to say, there is much criticism of the Bible today. And far too many are swept right up by the criticism because they are fuzzy in their thinking when it comes to inspiration, infallibility, authority, and many other aspects of the Bible. For instance, what about so-called errors in the Bible, Or, what does Kuitert think? Rev. Van Kooten has done us a real service by providing this book in which these questions are answered and these subjects are discussed. It is written clearly and without the involved terminology of some theologians. It is written as It series of studies which could be fruitfully used in many discussion and study groups. But it is not only for study groups, it is for you!

THINK ON THESE THlNGS – Bible Truths for Faith and Life by John H . Skilton. Published by The Presbyterian and Refomed Publishing Company, Nutley, New Jersey. 1972. Price, $1.50. 84 meditations. Reviewed by Rev. Harry Downs, pastor, Drosden CRC, Dresden, Ontario.

When one begins to look for devotional booklets he often Gilds them to be lopsided in their appeal to individual feelings and in their tendency toward experientialism. This is shown by the fact that most of the daily devotionals contain almost exclusively poems and all kinds of little sayings and illustrations.

In his little book, Think On These Things, Prof. John Skilton takes quite a different approach. The author reflects the fact that he is steeped in the knowledge of the Scriptures and the Reformed faith.

Many of the truths of the great Protestant Reformation are set forth in such a way that they reflect the precious promises of God’s Word and their relevance to today’s tensions, trials, and problems. Each meditation contains a heading, a text or two written out, and a suggested Bible passage. The text quoted is usually a precious promise which reflects a doctrinal truth. The meditation then explains briefly this promise and doctrinal truth. The meditation then explains briefly this promise And doctrinal truth and applies it to the daily lives of those who may be going through sorrow, loneliness, difficulties, illness, grief, or who may be caught up in the daily rush and tension of the everyday activities.

I agree wholeheartedly with the following statement which the author makes in his Preface: “The answers for the problems that confront us daily can be found only in truths revealed by God in His written Word, the Bible.” For example, devotional Number 46 provides a good, warm, balanced, Biblical anecdote against both cold intellectualism and neo-pentecostalism.

What gifts of the Holy Spirit are Christians to seek today? Arc the special gifts that the apostles and the early church enjoyed to be sought by us?

When the work of the apostles was done and they had confirmed the salvation that our Lord began to attest in His earliest ministry; and when the New Testament church had been planted, when the apostolic foundation had been provided. and when the New Testament had been written, there was no further need of the apostolic office and of the signs and gifts that had so notably accompanied it.

For the new period there remained the Holy Scriptures, the canon being complete. The Bible, for succeeding centuries, in God’s plan was to be the only infallible rule of faith and life. Further special gifts for revelation or confirmation of revelation were no longer necessary. “The whole counsel of God,” as the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men” (l:vi).

We are, however, to cultivate the abiding gifts of the Spirit. Paul commended these abiding gifts to the Corinthians. “Whether there be prophecies,” Paul wrote, “they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease” (I Cor. 13:8), “but . . . now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity [love]” (I Cor. 13:13).

In keeping with his conviction that the texts quoted in the devotional booklet are precious promises which reflect basic doctrinal truths, the author sets forth such truths as those of the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, particular atonement, the Holy Spirit, the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ, and election from eternity.

In beautiful devotional and comforting fashion Skilton shows, in devotional Numbers 32, 42, 45, 52, and 54, the importance of: 1) knowing the Holy Scriptures, 2) continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, 3) accepting the inspired, inerrant, infallible Scriptures as the “words of eternal life,” 4) anchoring our faith in the Scriptures as God’s unchanging truth and unbreakable Word, 5) the only Word which is absolutely trustworthy.

It is often incorrectly said that the doctrine of election in Christ from before the foundation of the world is an abstract doctrine and a doctrine which encourages laxity in life. However, the author shows what a rich and meaningful doctrine this can be for the genuine believer. Listen to the words of devotional Number 31:

Peter writes to those who are elect unto obedience. The divine choice did not rest upon them because of any superiority on their part. God did not choose them because He foresaw that they would be better than other men or be “worthy” of His “choice.” They are not the elect because of their obedience. They arc elect (let it he emphasized) unto obedience. There is no ground for boasting. The glory for their salvation belongs to God.

Let it be further stressed that Peter writes to those chosen unto obedience. The holy doctrine of election gives no encouragement to laxity in life. Those who are God’s should be distinguished by their obedience to God. The goal set before them is freedom from sin and perfect obedience in the life to come. Daily they should be dying to sin and living to righteousness, giving increasing evidence that they are God’s. They should delight in doing His will and should seek in all their ways to acknowledge Him as they press on toward their glorious destination. Once again, in contrast to many devotionals which are obsessed with a spirit of individualism and experientialism, the author reflects a truly Reformed world-and-life view. This is shown particulalry in his devotional (No. 72) on Romans 11:36. Here he sets forth our personal and communal calling with respect to the training of the children of the covenant.

How important it is that the children of the covenant be taught these truths that there be homes and schools in which they are trained to interpret life with proper reference to Him who is the Creator and Sustainer of life. How essential it is that they be not misled by a foolish and sinful “neutrality,” but be led in the paths of light and of truth, as God requires that His children be led. They must be taught consistently the sublime and glorious truth that of their great God and to Him and through Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.

By now it should be evident to the reader of this review that, in this devotional booklet, the author knows no disjunction between doctrinal and practical. This book is an intensely practical one. For example, in devotional Number 25, we read the following concerning the third commandment:

A boy, just starting to serve the Lord in church work, had been given a regular assignment in his Sunday school. One day his feelings were bruised. He felt that his work was not appreciated. In his resentment he was at the point of giving it up. But before he did so, he went home and reported his grievance to his mother. He expected her to be sympathetic, to understand just how he felt, and to agree with him that he should no longer continue to work At something for which he was not being given proper recognition and thanks.

But his mother surprised him. She did not tell him that he should give up his assignment in the Sunday school. Instead she asked him a question: “Why are you doing this work in the Sunday school?” She wanted to know, “Are you doing it for yourself or for the Lord?”

The boy knew how to answer this question. There was only one thing for him to do, and that was to return to his task and perform it as unto the Lord.

I could go on and on illustrating the beauty of this little doctrinal and practical devotional booklet. However, one cannot fully appreciate its value until he purchases a copy and uses it faithfully.