Man en Vrouw Voor en I n het Huwelijk
6th ed. Kampen, J. H. Kak, 1955. 221 pp. f. 5.90.
The Christian public can be thankful that out of the recent deluge of literature on the subject of the sexual life there has come a number of books from the Christian side that have shown an informed and healthy attitude toward this important and inflammable part of life. I believe that by and large Dr. Drogendijk’s manual falls within that class. Judging from the fact that there have been five editions since 1941, the work must have met with approval and must have found its way into the hands of many Christian young people.
Dr. Drogendijk deals with both the prelude to marriage and the relationships in the marriage bond. In the first section he treats the Christian view of marriage, the sexual development of youth, the engagement period, and the question of medical examination before marriage. The American reader will notice the absence of any discussion of topics which are prominently featured in American books, e.g., dating, simply because of the different customs in Holland. Among the conservative families at least, dating is not nearly so free as in America. As would be expected, the entire book is written with the Dutch scene in mind. It is more particularly addressed to young couples in the Gereformeerde Kerken. That would of itself limit its appeal to the American reader, provided he knew Dutch in the first place. I believe that this first section of the book is the better one, though it could have been more extensive in comparison with the second part.
The second part of the volume is given over very largely to the discussion of the sexual within the marriage bond. Dr. Drogendijk approaches his subject factually, sometimes pedantically so, as when he distinguishes between absolute and relative sterility, and aspermatisme, azoospermie, oligozoospermie, and necrospermie. I was hard pressed to see how some of the material would be of much help to the young people reading it. I thought, too, that there was a disproportionate amount of space given to birth control and birth spacing. The author devotes individual chapters to Neo-Malthusian theories, Ogino-Knaus (rhythm) methods, and to the question of self-denial in the marriage bond. He is very wary of any interference of the “natural” course of events in the marriage relationship. I sometimes got the impression, however, that he painted the picture of the “natural,” unhindered marriage relationship in a rather sentimental way. He would even become rhapsodic. On the other hand, when he was depicting something he did not like, he used illustrations and imaginary dialogues that to my mind could have been done with more fine feeling. It is in this second part of the book that Dr. Drogendijk sometimes moves away from sober presentation. There is no area of life that calls for more quiet treatment than that of sexual relations, and yet we find the author slanting his argument emotionally when a careful reading shows it not to be very strong logically.
These criticisms are not meant to obscure the fact, however, that there are fine qualities about the book and that the approach is for the most part sensible. Fortunately, we have enough sources in English so that one need not go to foreign books. If one wishes, however, to turn to Dutch sources, I have found more satisfying the book of Brillenburg Wurth, Het Christelijk leven in huwelijk en gezin.
ROBERT D. KNUDSEN
CORNELIUS VAN TIL
Christianity and Modern Theology
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Po. 1955, 89 pp.
This booklet contains a series of reviews by Dr. Van Til evaluating and criticizing books of more than passing importance on subjects relating to apologetics. It is worth reading for more than one reason. It introduces the reader to a wide variety of exceptionally able writings from many points of view. Book reviews are a very poor substitute for books, but they often help a busy pastor to decide which of the never-ending succession of new books he wants to read, as well as to get a glimpse of what is being written beyond the possible range of his own reading. As is almost inevitable in the work of a capable writer, such evaluations as these reveal as much of the point of view of the person making the judgments as they do of the material being evaluated.
The reader will find in these reviews many a good, well-written expression of Dr. Van Til’s own point of view and emphasis in apologetics, rather more readable, in fact, than many of his more extensive writings.
Of special interest I found his remarks on S.J. Ridderbos’ De Theologische Cultuur-beschouwing van Abraham Kuyper. Though brief, they contain some of the clearest analyses I have yet read of the diverging points of view on the common grace controversy. To the question, “Has common grace an independent purpose beside that of preparing the ground for special grace?” Dr. Ridderbos with Dr. Kuyper answered, “Yes.” Dr. Van Til and others answer, “No…This should be its only purpose.” I am inclined to agree with Dr. Van Til’s criticism of the traditional Kuyper position as it is here presented, but, if one may hazard a further observation on so controversial a matter, I see a few considerations that would make one hesitate to say that the only purpose of common grace is “preparing the ground for special grace.” How would one maintain such a position when he considers the millions of pagans who have experienced only God’s common grace but so far as we know never came in contact with God’s special or saving grace? Or again, does not a passage such as Romans 9:22 state clearly that God’s “long-suffering” toward the non-elect, which I suppose we must include under “common grace,” has quite a different purpose than “preparing the ground for special grace”? “To show his wrath and make his power known” is hardly “grace.” Does not consideration of such a passage as Revelation 4 and 5 suggest that we place such a question as this in a larger frame of reference, and observe that the Creation was made for God’s glory, but that that goal is only realized by the way of Christ’s redemption? To think of the only purpose of God’s common grace as “preparing the ground for special grace” would seem to be restricting our view of God’s work too narrowly as though “grace” were the only attribute He expressed in His work.
Dr. Van Til would appear to be quite right, however, in criticizing the setting up of common grace as something independent of special grace with its own purposes to be realized out of any connection with the latter. That idea is not only open to theoretical objections, but it would also appear to be full of mischievous possibilities in the practical life of the Christian and the church. To set up common grace as a kind of independent realm in which the difference between the Christian and non-Christian does not matter, would appear to give a theological justification to a secular way of life which dismisses our Christian faith as properly irrelevant to most of life. I fear that there is some evidence that that idea of common grace is beginning to promote a way of life among us that flatly contradicts the biblical injunction to every Christian, “whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Against such an un-biblical and antiChristian distortion of “common grace” Dr. Van Til is performing a real service in warning the church.
PETER DE JONG
VIOLA MARY CAMERON
God’s Plan and Man’s Destiny
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 147 North 10th St., Philadelphia, Po., 1955, 160 pp.
The idea embodied in this book is an excellent one. There is a real need for popular presentations of the Christian faith which are both accurate and readable. The author endeavors to comprehend a great deal of Christian theology in a small compass. One appreciates her enthusiasm for the Reformed faith and her desire to communicate it in this way.
In endeavoring to give some evaluation of her success in realizing the objective of the book, I have several observations to make: Possibly because of the effort to include so much material in so small a book, the styJe of writing has become unduly complicated. The result is that the book is not easy reading. A second characteristic of the book is that it reveals a tendency to present certain ideas as true when in Reformed circles they may be actually only recognized as probable or even debatable. One could cite many instances in which the reader would be led to believe that this or that idea is a feature of the Reformed faith, when it is merely one among diverging opinions among Reformed Christians. For example: We are told, “Cain refused to bring an animal sacrifice which symbolized the death of the Saviour, therefore it was obvious he refused to acknowledge his sin” (p.37). Again, “It should be clearly understood that the Israelites were never led to believe that this agreement (God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai ) had anything to do with their individual eternal standing before God” (p. 69). “The meal offering…symbolized Christ’s sinless humanity” (p. 76 ). Few if any Reformed scholars would care to follow the author when she quotes from Luther apparently with approval his statement that in Christ “humanity together with the divinity is partaker of the same properties.” This is evidently the Lutherans’ “communicatio idiomatum” in which they parted company with the Reformed (p. 86). Again we read “In God’s plan for his doomed race he has ordained to save as many as his justice shall permit…” (p. 104). She seems to imply that faith is implanted before people hear the gospel (p. 107). “Faith must precede the preaching of the word if there are to be results” (p. 109), a position that Romans 10:17 and I Peter 1:23 hardly seem to substantiate. A statement that sanctification does not make a man a saint (p. 112) would appear to demand some explanation, even though it is attributed to Professor Berkhof! Sometimes the author’s way of expressing an idea is particularly unfortunate, “This deeper angle of substitutionary righteousness gives us the dynamic…” ( p. 123, d. 121). To say that sacraments are “just the acted-out word” is rather inadequate statement of their meaning even in so brief a work as this (p. 128). In the field of eschatology the author argues for a pre-tribulation rapture of the church, a position that can hardly claim to be representative of the body of Reformed teaching. To say of death, “it is certain that the soul is in a weakened state when parted from the body,” is another generalization for which one would like some evidence. The explanation of the sabbath is rather confusing, “He (God) is at rest because he is working alI things in accord with an unchangeable plan which he settled for ever in eternity.” As an explanation of God’s rest this would appear to explain exactly nothing. Then the author goes on to point out that the sabbath for man involves “to resign his will to God’s will, to God’s eternal plan.” In this connection it would seem that a distinction should be made between God’s revealed will against which Adam transgressed, and His eternal plan which somehow is always realized, and what this all has to do with the sabbath remains a mystery! One can appreciate the author’s laudable aim to present a popular summary of the Reformed faith from a biblical approach and to set it off clearly from Arminianism and dispensationalism. Such books are greatly needed. But I feel that this book, though it may be read with profit, is seriously handicapped by its compact but at times complicated style, and by its tendency to make affirmations that are by no means generally accepted by Reformed scholars or capable of being substantiated. In reading it I am reminded of the remark of Professor D. Kromminga, “It is better not to know quite so much than a lot of things that ain’t so.” A simpler presentation of the things “which have been fully established among us” would, I believe, be much more effective. Perhaps the finest feature of the book is that it is an effort to present a Biblical theology. We need more of such books.
PETER DE JONG
Published by Wm. 8. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids 3, Michigan, 1956. 159 pages. Price $2.50
Although Dr. Boettner is best known among us for his excellent work on TIw Reformed Doctrine of Predestination he bas distinguished himself in other writings. notably his Studies in Theology. The present volume is worthy of the same recognition given his earlier works.
Its three main sections deal respectively with “Physical Death,” “Immortality” and “The Intermediate State.” The author again shows that be is an orthodox Christian believer unreservedly committed to the belief that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. He appears to have written this latest book not so much to have it serve as a scholarly source book as to make it to a practical and homiletic purpose. This is seen, for example, in those sections that confront the Jehovah Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Spiritualists, and the Romanists on the matter of the Intermediate State. The authors discussion here will be helpful and informative to pastors, Sunday School teachers, and intelligent lay readers.
Dr Boettner perhaps does his best work in the first main division where be gives elegant expression to the Christian attitude towards death. “Human life,” he writes, “is a boundless adventure which is to continue on through all eternity. The present life is but the first stage of a long career. What we call death is not the end. bot only the entrance of the soul into a new and more wondrous world” (p. 40).
The reviewer wishes be could sit down with Dr. Boettner and discuss the matter of immortality as it applies to the Cbristian in distinction from man as man. Perhaps the reviewer does not understand the author here. But there is nothing about the strangeness of the statement that appears on page 54 where the following is said respecting the practice of cremation: “Most of those who advocate it in our day are religious liberals or humanitarians…” The reviewer is startled by the presence of the word “humanitarians” in that statement.
JAMES D. MURCH
Cooperation Without Compromise
Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1956. 220 pages. $3.50.
If one is looking for a competently written history of the conservative Christian organization known as the National Association of Evangelicals, this is the book to buy. Perhaps no one is better qualified to write this history than Dr. Murch. since he has been activeJy associated with the organization from its beginning, and is currently the editor and manager of United Evangelical Action, the official periodical of the NAE. He has also served on the faculty of the Cincinnati Bible Seminary.
One cannot read this book without being impressed by the author’s fairness and intellectual honesty. In Chapter XV. for example. he shows himself not averse to a re-examination of the fundamentalism of which his organization is a leading exponent. “Today’s world calls not for yesterday’s approach to the problems of religion and life, but for new approaches, new emphases, new strategies….We need to lift our Sights above old non-biblical concepts. accept the valid discoveries and worthwhile advances of modern life and think. plan. and act accordingly” (p. 213).
DR. KLAAS RUNIA
Its Essence and Method
Published by Board of Directors of the Association for Higher Education on a Calvinistic Basis. Reformed Theological College, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, 30 pages.
It is with pleasure that I introduce to our readers Dr. Klaas Runia as Professor of Systematic Theology at the Reformed Theological College of Australia. It is certainly a commendable practice (and I deplore its neglect among us here in America) that one newly appointed to a chair of theological learning should deliver an inaugural address stating his objectives and views with respect to his 6eId This little brochure presents the lecture given by brother Runia as be assumed his professional obligations.
Dr. Runia begins by citing the return to the study of Dogmatics and the importance of being conscious of the essence and method of its study. He follows Bavinck and Hepp in defining the term, namely, “as systematic and scientific reflection upon and reproduction of the Scriptural revelation, in full harmony with and bound to the Church dogma” (p. 5). As such it is distinguished from dogma, for the latter is peculiar to the church and is not strictly scientific in its origin.
Furthermore, the author consciously chooses Reformed Dogmatics, in contradistinction from Catholic. Greek Orthodox, Modernistic, or Lutheran and Anglican. True the last two mentioned share with us the starting point of the Reformation, namely, giving the Bible as God’s Word the central place in the life of the church. “Nevertheless,” says Runia—and this is significant and promising—this “does not mean that we take the above-mentioned differences any less seriously or that we can view them as trilling matters” (p. 10). This, to my mind. promises well for the polemical character of the newly organized institution.
In Reformed Dogmatics, then, we “find a complete recognition of the absolute theonomy of the Divine Revelation” (p. 11). The principle of knowledge, according to Reformed Dogmatics, is “God’s self-revelation to His creatures” (p. 3). The testimony of the church is only secondary, thus excluding traditionalism; but the testimony of the Spirit is complementary to the testimony in the Word. It is the one, triune God who speaks to us objectively (all human speculation and mysticism is thus cut off by the root) and who assures us subjectively. so that we understand revelation for what it is, namely, the voice of God speaking with authority for our lives.
This means that we do not subject the Word to man’s reason for its final ratification as is being done today by many apologists in the evangelical camp. Dr. Runia points to Calvin’s methodology in this matter which is instructive. “Nowhere is his last word of appeal to common sense or to rational insight to prove that the Christian faith is the real thing. On the contrary? his starting-point is always the Holy Scriptures….There is only one proof-Scripture proof!” (p. 16).
The primary principle not only “comprises the essence” but also determines the method of dogmatics. We must have a dogmatics of the Word; the Bow of revelation must not be allowed to become a pool of stagnant winter. Out of the rich mine of the Word the dogmatician must bring forth new treasures and old. Tradition may never become the alpha and omega of Dogmatics. By devoutIy listening to God in his Word every thought will be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
I heartily agree with the above approach and think that theology among us (Christian Reformed) has fallen upon evil days because of our traditionalism. However, I should like to see the learned author capitalize OLD as well as NEW. when he is bringing forth the treasures. The old are still true and relevant and must be learned and appreciated anew by every generation of theologians or we shall not contend earnestly for the faith once delivered.
Now God has made the Church the pillar and ground of tile truth and she is our mother, hence Dogmatics must be confessional. At the same time we must remember that the Word of God is not bound (II Corinthians 2:9). Here there is the great danger of falling into confessionalism (closely resembling traditionalism) so that the Bible becomes a closed book and revolution has been crystallized by a sterile process of arterio-sclerosis. Dr. Runia suggests that the confessions do not bind the dogmatician as a wall (making him a prisoner) but they are a set of maps,” which will direct him into the wide, roomy landscape of Scriptural revelation” (p. 21). From time to time these maps may have to be revised, especially in view of the met that they give only the main roads and bridges while the side-roads are still being investigated. Our author suggests that the church listen with an open mind when the dogmatician finds the old maps obsolete.
In my humble opinion no reasonable person should object to this thesis. An open and frank statement of this kind certainly is more commendable, so that the churches know what they may expect from their new professor of theology. Would that the Board of Trustees of Calvin College and Seminary could see the benefits of such inaugural addresses and institute same at our institution. It would do a lot to give confidence and mutual trust between the faculties and to the church in general.
Finally, the third ingredient in the method of theology, says Dr. Runia, is that it must be theocentric, formally and materially. The author here scores the subjectivistic approach of SchIeiermacher and the modernists in general, and makes bold to say that anything less than theocentric theology cannot exist; it belies its very name.
To be truly theocentric it must be trinitarian. This, of course. condemns the “Christomonistic” approach of Barth. Runia gives his judgment thus…“the whole of this Christocentric conception….is unacceptable and in conflict with the Scriptures” (p. 26). I rejoice that the new professor of dogmatic theology in Geelong has from the very strut made his position clear with respect to Barthianism.
For anyone who wants to know more of Runia’s views of Karl Barth I would recommend his dissertation, entitled: De theologisch tijd bij Karl Barth; 1955. However, the short statement just quoted already gives us a fair picture of the polemical character of true theology as Dr. Runia conceives of it. We shall be awaiting with eager anticipation further fruits from the ready pen of our esteemed colleague. My personal congratulations, brother Runia’s on your appointment and entrance upon your eminent office in the church.
HENRY R. VAN TIL
Devotions and Prayers
Selected and translated by Dr. Andrew Kosten. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan, 1956. 111 pages, $1.50.
To know Martin Luther at his best, says the translator, one must know him as a man of devotion. This is, of course, a universal truth. One does not know David from a record of his wars and his accomplishments. but one can only know the man after God’s heart when he has read the Psalms of David.
In this brief record we have a collection of fifty-two one-minute readings on the Psalms. A very short prayer is centered on the opposite page. This booklet is ideally suited for the sick, for travelers and service men.
HENRY R. VAN TIL
Exposition of Zechariah
Published by The Wartburg Press, Columbus, Ohio. 1956. 280 pages Price $4.00.
Dr. Leupold, author of commentaries on Genesis, Ecclesiastes, and Daniel, again has produced a fine exegetical study of an Old Testament book. We have here a fresh translation of the neglected book of Zechariah with a fairly comprehensive commentary written in a conservative perspective. The author is generous with his transliterations of tho Hebrew and with his grammatical notes.
Dr. Leupold unashamedly takes the position that the prophet foresaw tile coming of Alexander the Great whose finny destroyed the island city of Tyre (9:4). God’s promise of protection in 9:8 also is referred to Alexander who was moved to spare the city of Jerusalem when the elders headed by the high priest came forth, in solemn procession to implore his mercy. (cf., Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, XI, 8, 3–5).
Not so satisfying is Leupold’s treatment of 14:4 which is admittedly difficult and which, in the reviewer’s opinion, is handled here somewhat ambiguously.
This is a fine commentary and deserves the kind of reception that will encourage the Professor of Old Testament Exegesis at the Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, to continue publishing his scholarly materials.
Dr. C. Gilhuis
Pastorale Zorg aan Bejaarden
Published by J.H. Kok, N.V., Kampen, 1956. 246 pages.
Pastoral care for the aged has always been a necessity throughout the ages of history, but it is becoming a greater problem in view of the increasing longevity of the human race in this century. Interest in the science of geriatrics has increased because of the great number of the aged, the lengthening of the average span of human life, the urbanization of life, the shifting of emphasis in the problem of the generations, and the bureaucratization of life. Dr. Gilhuis informs us that in 1900 the age group of 65 years and over in the United States constituted 4.1%of the population. In 1940 that percentage had increased to 8.6%, and the estimate for 1980 is 14.4% of the population. The problem is very actual. The author deplores the fact that in the bibliographies of geriatrics the writings of theologians are seldom found, and that we lack a Biblical “De Senectute.”
Dr. Gilhuis has supplied us with a scholarly work in a field of pastoral care that cans for more extensive but also for more intensive cultivation. The psychological aspects of old age are presented in great detail, although the author humbly, and no doubt accurately, speaks of “Some Psychological Aspects.” His division of the types of aged persons is threefold: the retrospective, the realistic, and the prospective. He lists eight types of retrospective aged, seven types of realistic aged, and three types of prospective aged. From the footnotes in this section, and indeed throughout the whole volume, it becomes clear that the author has read widely and carefully, in many languages, in the domain of psychology.
In the third main section of this book the Bible facts about old age are presented in interesting and informative fashion. These facts should be read and studied by every shepherd of souls, so that he may use them in dealing with the spiritual needs of the older members of his Book. A working knowledge of the revealed will of God as it pertains to those who are nearing the sunset of life is an indispensable prerequisite for those who must understand and minister to the aged in terms of the ageless Word of God.
The last section, dealing with the “Pastorate,” contains the practical application of aU that precedes. Forty-four pages are devoted to “Visitatio Domestica” (Family-Visiting). The pastor who is interested in adapting his family-visiting to the needs of the elderly members of his congregation will and this part of the volume very helpful. The minister of the Gospel must also reckon with the aged in his preaching in much the same manner as he bears in mind the needs of the children and young people. Dr. Gilhuis maintains that the sacrament of communion should be administered in homes for the aged, and he pleads with the church to consider once again the question of “communion for the sick.” The concluding part of his book deals with the matter of “Pastoral Help” in respect to social and economic problems, which are the primary concern of the Diaconate, but which must also be the concern of the shepherd who cares for all the needs of his sheep.
We recommend the reading and study of this scholarly treatise to all who can read the Holland language. Our ministerial and theological libraries would benefit still more by the translation of this worthwhile work into the English language.