Bible Doctrine for Younger Children, Bible Doctrine for Older Children and Bible Doctrine for Teens and Young Adults, by James Beeke, published by Book and Publishing Committee, Sioux Center, IA. Reviewed. by Linda Lanning.
One thing about being a minister’s wife is that you get to know many people and experience life with them. You share in their joys, struggles and goals in life. Something I have been hearing over and over is that parents are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain good material with which to teach their children the sound doctrines of our faith.
However, there is a solution to the problem. The solution is found in the Bible study books that I have reviewed. These are called Bible Doctrine for Younger Children, books A & B for ages 8–10, Bible Doctrine for Older Children, books A & B for ages 10–12 and Bible Doctrine for Teens and Young Adults in three volumes. These study books have been written by a Christian school principal, himself a father of five children, Mr. James Beeke. Mr. Beeke wrote these volumes over a period of years and used them successfully in the classroom.
Iam using these study books with my children and am amazed at what they cover and how well they adapt the great doctrines of Scripture to the hearts and minds of children. The volumes for the YOWlger children have 20 chapters of Bible doctrine. They contain more than 150 examples and stories to help explain the truths being taught. The high school volumes address the key doctrine of Reformed thinking in the same clear, precise style as the first two volumes. They contain numerous illustrated stories and informative charts. They have proved to be helpful to many teachers. Much more could be said! I suggest you obtain copies for yourself.
The need is great for Simple, clear doctrinal teaching. The cornerstone of Christian education is Bible history and doctrine. These books cover all of that. My hope is that parents will make use of these special books to clearly teach the truths of Scripture to our children,
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleights of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ (Eph. 4:14–15). Parents and teachers, what can be
more timely for our children and students as they must live during the confusion and turmoil within our denomination. Order these special books today!
Peter Beyerhaus: Missionary Prophet Against Ecumenical Antichrists God’s Kingdom and the Utopian Error: Discerning the Blblzcal Kmgdom of God from Its Political Counterfeits by Peter P.J. Beyerhaus, Crossway Books, 1300 Crescent St., Wheaton IL 60187, 1992, 221pp. (paper), includes bibliographical references and index. Reviewed by Peter De Jong.
A UNIQUE ROLE
Dr. Peter Beyerhaus is a phenomenon too. generally overlooked in evangelIcal and particularly Reformed circles. Acquaintance with him might help us to better understand and deal with some of our most threatening problems. He is undeniably an authority on world missions and ecumenical developments. He was a Lutheran missionary in South Africa for 8 years, a Professor of Missiology and Ecumenical Theology of the University of Tubingen, Germany and an observer and speaker at virtually all world missionary conferences. In view of his roles we might expect him to be generally sympathetIc WIth the main trends in world ecumenical and missionary movements. But what distinguishes Dr. Beyerhaus is the fact that his long and profound involvement in all of them has driven him to become one of their most incisive analysts and critics! Anyone who wants to know what is really happening to the Christian faith and mission throughout the world and evangelicals in particular’ should at least listen to what he has to say.
Dr. Beyerhaus’ position and role appear even more surprising when one. considers his univerSity. Tubmgen was the earliest source and center of the modern “higher criticism of the Bible, pioneered there almost 2 centuries ago by F.C. Baul. A leading professor there might be expected to conform to the “critical” tradition of modem Bible studies which in two centuries spread from that school to dominate seminary scholarship all over the world. Amazingly, Dr. Beyerhaus’ convictions, through long and intimate acquaintance with the critical consensus have become fixed and confirmed in an exactly opposite direction. His career is the more extraordinary in its contrast with the confusion and compromise that have spread through the religious and “Christian” world of our time, even softening and weakening the convictions of long-time evangelicals. (This development Frances Schaeffer in his last book signaled as The Great Evangelical Disaster.) Beyerhaus’ stand against this almost universal current, (like an “Athanasius against the world”) demands our attention and study.
Four years ago he gave important (but poorly attended) lectures at Calvin Seminary, maintaining that conversion must be at the heart of Christian missions. In world missions he saw the call to conversion becoming obscured and replaced by other aims such as humanizing social structures and dialoguing and merging with other religions. Thus the faith itself was being lost in its “missions”! I reviewed the lectures and three of his books in the December 1988 and January 1989 OUTLOOKS. Now after four years, Dr. Beyerhaus’ new book includes materials covered in his earlier studies, and outlines their further developments in present world ecumenical and missionary activities.
How could Dr. Beyerhaus for a third of a century hold and aggressively promote in churches, schools and missions a Christian testimony exactly opposite to the enormous seemingly irresistible two-century tide of critical attack that has been threatening to overwhelm them? That question engages our attention. The author answers it in the first sentence of this volume’s preface. He says this book “follows up on” those of the early seventies in which he showed the “fundamental crisis into which the world missionary movement had run because of the deep erosion of its biblical foundations.” On those foundations he stood and stands. In his 1973 book, Shaken Foundations, he showed how the Christian church and its mission, betrayed and disintegrating because they are no longer built on those foundations, must again, like Martin Luther, in a church in trouble for the same reason, return to the “Bible only” as our “bed rock of evangelical faith and action” (pp. 2ff.).
“…The future advance or downfall of our churches is dependent on our readiness to say a clear ‘yes’ to the inspiration of the Scripture. Only in this way will our minds regain that unity and authority lost to us by our misdirected hermeneutical approaches…God’s Word does not need to be rewritten or reshaped in every cultural change…That which needs to be changed is not the text but rather the inner attitude of men which causes their difficulty in understanding” (pp. 15–17). Beyerhaus urges our need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word which He inspired, citing 1 Corinthians 2:14, 12. “The unspiritual man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually dIscerned.” The Christian, however, is entitled to confess: “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that comes from God, in order that we may know the things which God has freely given us” (p. 17). “TheologIans can never claim to be teachers of the Church as long as they act as autonomous interpreters of the Bible who respect only the thorough applicatIon of their ‘scientific’ methods…They must humbly join the chain of witnesses, not so much as historical critics, but rather as the faithful stewards of God’s mysterIes (p.18). Later he wrote movingly of the “thrilling experience” of spiritual and “biblical renewal that blew like a refreshing breeze through our churches and seminaries” during the seven difficult years (especially in defeated Germany) after WWII. He saw how that revival moved some to become “the most dedicated” of missionaries.
THE NEW BOOK
As a Christian, deeply concerned with both the Lord’s prayer and call for the unity of His people and for His commission to them to bring His only saving gospel to all the world, the professor of “missions and ecumenical theology” shows in brief but striking detail how he has seen the dominant ecumenical leadership working to destroy gospel, churches and missions. The preface recalls how this development compelled the world missionary movement to divide into 2 opposing camps in ‘73 and ‘74. Efforts to bridge the differences by trying to balance the two viewpoints were futile because the differences were about the very nature of Christ’s gospel and kingdom. Whose “kingdom” were these people talking about, God’s or men’s? A first chapter recalls how the conservative Lausanne Movement’s second International Congress for World Evangelization adopted as its theme, “Proclaim Christ until He comes!” Evangelicals confessed Christ’s return as a reality, while liberals, if they used the term, made it a mere “decoration, a piece of high-sounding rhetoric, giving it an existential, mystical, ethical, evolutionary or political interpretation.”
Despite differences among evangelicals in their views of the millennium, Beyerhaus does not see these as deep enough to interfere with their common expectation of the Lord’s return (pp. 15f.). That expectation gives them joyful assurance, a sense of urgency, hope, reliance on the work of the Holy Spirit in planting churches, patience, alertness against the spirit of antichrist, and persistence in prayer (pp. 18–20).
The evangelicals’ evangelization must envision the Kingdom of God promised in the Old Testament and proclaimed in the New, as centered in Jesus Christ (Ch. 2). It is realized now by spiritual regeneration. Although it brings transformation of life, society and creation, it is not established by political action, group dynamics or ideological indoctrination, but by the Word of God. That not only saves individuals, but puts them into Christ’s church for their growth and Christian service in anticipation of Christ’s coming kingdom of glory.
The opposition between God’s kingdom and that of Satan involves us in warfare. The world to be evangelized is not “a neutral territory,” but “in a state of active rebellion”; its religions, and personal, cultural and social life are “under demonic captivity” (p. 30). The author fears “that many evangelical Christians are not yet prepared or equipped to fight this battle” as “today Satan attacks churches, missions and individual Christians by heretical movements which threaten them with spiritual confusion.” Therefore he sees a need for “clear-cut confessional statements which are binding on our evangelistic activities and identify us in the eyes of our Christian supporters” (pp. 32f.).
After these introductory chapters, the author traces the way he has seen this Biblical gospel of Christ’s kingdom and missionary commission being subverted by their “political counterfeits,” as their Liberal promoters captured leadership of the world ecumenical movement. In these rather complex movements, we may note “two wings” (p. 50). A prominent representative of a “left wing,” “messianic Marxism” or “Christomarxism,” was a late Tubingen professor, Ernst Bloch. Although appealing to the Bible, he made its secret theme “the complete denial of God,” using what came to be called “materialistic exegesis,” interpreting Jesus to be a man who “set himself in the place of God, a Messiah against God and for man” (p. 44). While some moved to promote communist revolution in this way, others, in a right wing such as WCC’s Secretary General. Philip Potter, are working to merge all peoples and religions into one new world order. Using the “contextual method,” they cite the Bible to support their universalistic social-political program.
A chapter is devoted to the “Theology of the Poor.” Claiming that God “has a preference for the poor,” “liberation theologies” have been developed (promoted especially at the Melbourne Conference in 1980) which cast Jesus in the role of political organizer of a revolution against the rich oppressors. The author shows how radically these claims misrepresent the Lord’s gospel. Although its results bring social transformation, the gospel first reconciles us to God in Christ, calling all, rich and poor alike, to repentance and faith in Him, not to mere violent class revolution.
Two following chapters further explore the way in which the Biblical gospel has been perverted into social-political “liberation theologies.” Although these are alleged to be indigenous developments provoked by the injustices in Latin America, South Africa and other particular societies, a closer examination shows their real incitement not to have been local, but by the doctrinaire advocates of political revolution in the WCC (p. 129). When the social-political programs of these Marxist promoters of violent revolution failed to appeal to many, they sought to sell them to naive Christians and churches by fraudulent appeals to the Bible and to Christ to justify their perverting God’s Kingdom into a Kingdom of Man. The extreme length to which this movement has been carried in the WCC is seen in its example of the notorious Dorothee Solie, avowed atheist, who later “democritized the idea of God” to mean “the movement of the people” (p.115). An extreme example of the opposition in the WCC to carrying out the Bible’s missionary commission to bring the gospel to the whole world was the promotion of a complete “moratorium” on missions in its Bangkok Conference in ‘73 (Beyerhaus’ Bangkok 73, chapter 5, pp. 85–93). The author observed. in these ecumenical developments “a consistent estrangement from the biblical message” in which “all scriptural terms are filled with a new, often opposite meaning” (p. 125).
Dr. Beyerhaus, who since 1957 was involved for eight years in missionary efforts in South Africa, critically assesses The Kairos Document addressed from South Africa in 1985 to the world Christian community. This document (including among its sponsors, Dr. Allen Boesak and Bishop Tutu) calls, not for reconciliation of opposing groups, but for violent, Marxist-style, political overthrow of the government. Although the author is far from minimizing the sins of the white ruling classes against the non-white majority, he calls for repentance and reconciliation of all to God and then to fellowmen through the gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 5:19) as the Christian message for South Africa.
The final chapter deals with martyrdom in the message and mission of the gospel. The word which means to “testify” has come to refer to those who died to maintain their testimony to the gospel. The author sees much of Christendom today forgetting the Lord’s call for such testimony and compromising in an effort to escape suffering (Matt. 16:24ff.; John 15:18–21). The Bible warns us to expect demonic inspired persecution to increase as the time of the Lord’s return approaches. In connection with that, we should also observe the little known fact that “Our twentieth century is the bloodiest in the entire history of Christianity” (p. 166). Church history often shows how the Lord, according to His promise, sustains His people through their persecutions, using those experiences to strengthen their faith and to be effective means to spread His gospel.
An Appendix reflects on the world missions’ crisis in the light of the 1990 Frankfurt Conference. That meeting highlighted the same unbridgeable rift between gospel believers and unbelievers shown throughout this book. It observes strengths and weaknesses of evangelical efforts and gives a 10-point summary (prepared by the author, who presided at the conference) of the gospel call to faithful missionary testimony until the Lord returns.
Especially impressive in these 200 pages are the author’s thorough familiarity with his big and important subject, both the ecumenical movement and world missions, and his effort to be fair to show accurately and with documentation his sharply stated conclusions. The reader will undoubtedly notice some points of difference with his views. On the millennium for example, he notes the strengths and dangers in each of the three views, and fairly acknowledging uncertainties about unfulfilled prophecy, his own inclination to a “modified” premillennialism (pp. 15f.; 33ff.), including a special role for Israel in final world evangelism. While the author acknowledges that we must not expect “great revival movements” or “the complete Christianization of the nations,” but that “only an elect minority will endure and be saved” (Matt. 24:22,25), his presentation occasionally suggests Arminian perspectives (pp. 26,31). Despite our differences on such matters, we cannot stress too strongly that the message of Beyerhaus’ whole career and books is as rare as it is urgently needed, especially by all who as “evangelicals” love the Lord and His gospel.
In our time we face ever increasing pressure to discard traditional views and practices andjoin the surrounding world community. In the churches we are urged to adjust our views of the Bible, its teachings, general application and missionary promotion to the radically changing world culture, in order to “contextualize” or make “Christian” influence “relevant.” It is striking that in Beyerhaus’ career, we see him increasingly brush these considerations aside as the insincere trivialities and irrelevancies that he, through years of intimate acquaintance, has found and shown them to be. In one controversial development after another, he begins with and holds unflinchingly to the Bible’s own claim to absolute authority as God’s Word. This fact is the more impressive by its contrast with what we have been seeing, to our regret, not only in the wider church world, but recently in nearer Reformed circles.
Two recent books illustrate what is happening around us. Henry Zwaanstra’s 1991 Catholicity and Secession (Eerdmans) is a case which argues for a traditionally separate Reformed church (CRC) to break out of its long inhibition by confessional restraints and to join the ecumenical movement. Although these CR churches have up to the present stayed out of the WCC and World Alliance, their 1987 Ecumenical Charter committed them to rather uncritically join the ecumenical movement, and their increasingly demonstrated indifference to Bible and creed obviously show them moving toward this course.
More surprising and disturbing is another 1991 publication, Evangelical Reunion: Denominations and the Body of Christ (Baker) by John M. Frame of Westminster Seminary (Escondido). Reacting from a separatist tradition, this book too presses for church unity. Although there are some limits, these are not clearly defined! It is curious that neither of these books in its index, makes any reference to Peter Beyerhaus. There could hardly be a more knowledgeable expert!
The trouble is that in such academic, “scientific” discussions, the field of discussion is usually under the control of and limited by the assumptions of the academic “scientific” community. Therefore before well-intentioned participants realize what is happening, they get trapped into arguing along the lines of their opponents. The tactics of the opponents are like those with which the Sadducees tried to trap our Lord (Matt. 22:29). Few have described this deceptive process more aptly than Harry Blamires did in his 1963 The Christian Mind. Facing a 200 year tradition of “critically” misinterpreting the Bible, few, if any, have in our time been addressing some of these “ecumenical” problems more consistently and perseveringly over 3 or 4 decades than has Peter Beyerhaus. Although his stance has not made him popular in the church world, all evangelicals who love the Lord and His gospel, His church and its world mission, should learn from and be encouraged by Beyerhaus’ decades of devotion to the gospel’s missionary testimony against the opposition of counterfeits. Thank God for that record. May many learn from and take courage to follow him and his colleagues’ obedience to our Lord’s missionary orders to His church to “Proclaim Christ until he comes!”