The Future Of The Kingdom In Prophecy And Fulfillment
by MARTIN J. WYNGAARDEN, A. M., B. D., Ph. D.
A Study of the Scope of “Spiritualization” in Scripture. Baker Book House, Grand Rapid., 1955. 211 pages.
This is a reprint of a very excellent volume on the interpretation of prophecy. The thesis of the author is that prophecy may be spiritualized. In particular he says, “When we institute an investigation into the prophecies concerning the theocratic kingdom in order to see inductively what kind of a perspective tile Scriptures provide, we find every phase of this kingdom spiritualized in the Scriptures themselves.” This the author demonstrates quite ably by dealing with the various aspects of the Kingdom and their eschatological significance. He shows that there was a latency of spiritualization in the Old Testament and an actual spiritualization in the New Testament of the permanent elements of the typical Kingdom. His study of the three Messianic offices—Prophet, Priest, and King—is most helpful. He traces each office through the Scripture, from the first prophecies to the Old Testament office, and finally to the office as fulfilled in Christ in the New Testament. This reviewer has found this material most valuable for preaching on these offices, and would recommend it to any who is planning such a series of sermons.
Having demonstrated the fact of spiritualization regarding the Kingdom, the author seeks to indicate the Scriptural principles that would help us in determining just which prophetic passages are to be spiritualized and which are to be taken literally. He finds the answer in the concept of the organic unity of the entire body of concepts which represent the vital and permanent features of the Old Testament Kingdom, and which reappear in spiritualized form in the spiritual, New Testament kingdom, namely the Church. Those passages that do not fit into this organic unity are found to be in the class of those that may often be interpreted literally. Even with this basic principle the author shows his wisdom in recognizing that God may grant more literal fulfillments to certain spiritualized passages than we could be dogmatic about. One of the most valuable features of the whole book is the way in which the author illustrates his point from the Scripture itself. It is certainly a most worthwhile volume for reprinting, but we do wish that more care had been taken to correct typographical errors.
HENRY R. VAN TIL
De Theologie Van Augustinus Het Woord Gods by AUGUSTINUS
Dr. A. D. R. Polman. J. H. Kok, Kampen. 1955
As prince of the church fathers Augustine has been claimed by Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Neo-orthodox and the Reformed theologians. The author of this “dogmahistorisch” treatment of the church father has no illusions about having achieved complete objectivity in his study, but he believes that there is room for a study of Augustine’s theology from the Reformed point of view. This point of view immediately makes its impact when the author begins with an exposition of the doctrine of the Word of God in Augustine.
Furthermore, Augustine did not give a systematic treatment of doctrinal matters. He is, to be sure, a logical thinker, but not a systematic writer. Once he undertook to write a handbook on Christian doctrine (Enchiridion and Laurentium) but it is anything but a handbook, although it has brilliance and penetration, and is very instructive.
Finally, Augustine was very susceptible to every influence of the world in which he lived—political, cultural, social. He was truly contemporary. We must beware of reading our meaning into the terms that he uses. And in trying to gather the Widely scattered materials into a system is to put Augustine in a strait jacket, which would rob him of his style and genius. However, in spite of all these considerations, Polman faces the challenge of setting forth Augustine’s theology from our Reformed point of view for our day. \Ve salute Dr. Polman for his achievement in this first volume.
It will be of interest, no doubt, to know the contents of this historical study. Dr Polman takes up first of all the consideration of the Word of God Incarnate—the Christ. Two stages are discernible here. First, Augustine’s emphasis falls on Christ as the eternal Word, Neo-Platonically interpreted. Later this philosophic interpretation is not abandoned but together with and beside it there appears a more Scriptural interpretation, in which the Word is represented as the revelation of the Father, full of grace and truth. The turbulent longing for the contemplation of the Truth and of Wisdom is still present but, due to his cognizance of the guilty blindness and corruption of man, Augustine now sees the realization of this longing possible only in the hereafter. We find in this development a reflection of the struggle in the whole of Augustine’s life between ancient culture and Christianity, between Platonic idealism and prophetic realism, between Greek contemplative intellectualism and Biblical voluntarism (p. 10).
The second chapter deals with the Word of God as Holy Scripture. Here the Augustinian view of the fact, nature, scope, and effect of inspiration is discussed. Also the divine authority, clarity, sufficiency, and necessity of Scripture. It is clear that Augustine believed both Old and New Testaments to be tIle work of the Spirit of God, while he at the same time gives full recognition to the work of the human authors, holding essentially to the dynamic theory of inspiration.
The next chapter discusses the Word of God as the Word of Christ. Here the running debate with the Manicheans, especially Faustus, is set forth. The main theme is that everything in Scripture witnesses to Christ, the whole Christ, who is Head of his body, the Church. In this connection Augustine already set forth the differences and the similarities (d. Calvin’s Institutes) of the Testaments, clearly indicating that Christ was set forth by the prophets. When we consider that Augustine had a very clear conception of tile progressive character of revelation it becomes ludicrous to hear the modernist Fosdick insinuate that this idea is an invention of the religious liberals.
In chapter four, Polman sets forth Augustine’s doctrine of the Word as preaching, and calls him the creator of the doctrine of the Word of God. It is particularly here that Roman Catholicism has departed from the Bishop of Hippo, interpreting him according to modern Roman practice. However, Augustine has set his stamp upon the Church by insisting that the Scriptures are the provision-chamber for every sermon, the apothecary for every disease.
Augustine was a passionate preacher! His theme was Christ and his grace. He preached the whole counsel of God, both sides of the Gospel, and did not stoop to that perversion which presents only the love of God. For him the Word was a two-edged sword. Knowing the fear of the Lord and being moved by the love of Christ, Augustine persuaded men with all the eloquence at his command. He realized very acutely that Cod must move men to faith. And men do not receive forgiveness of sins from the preacher but through (“non ab sed per”) the ministry of the Word. The Word of God as read and preached was for him the daily bread of the believers.
Finally, allow me to list the last three chapters: “The Word of God and the Church,” “The Word of God and Personal, Spiritual Life,” and, “Without the Word of God with the Word of God,” the latter referring to the time when faith shall have made way for sight. There is a very fine discussion on canonicity, pitting the Protestant position against the Roman Catholic, in which it appears that Augustine on this point was essentially Protestant. At this point Polman cites Warfield, whose studies of St. Augustine are unexcelled from the Protestant point of view. Not only is Augustine’s basically Protestant view of inspiration asserted but especially the fact that he did not grant or acknowledge any infallible doctrinal authority except that of the Scriptures.
The last chapter indicates that Augustine never outgrew his allegorical interpretations nor the Neo-Platonic view of the beatific vision of God.
For most of us, preachers and laymen alike, there is no time to wade through Augustine himself. The next best thillg is to take a reliable guide on an excursion through the wonderland of spiritual forests and mountains, pastures and plains in works of this great genius of the Church.
We shall be watching for Dr. Polman’s second volume.
HENRY R. VAN TIL
De Brief Aan De Hebreen En De Brief Van Jakobus by DR. F. W. GROSHE!DE Published by J. H. Kok, Kampen, Netherlands, 1955. Pp. 418, price f 15.75
This is the second, revised edition of this famous commentary. As many of us know, the publisher is engaged in reprinting the well-known series which formerly were called the “Botten burg” commentaries. These commentaries are known for their thoroughness and detailed exegesis. Without any hesitation I venture to say that one cannot find a better set of commentaries anywhere.
Regarding the letter to the Hebrews, the author of this commentary does not share the opinion that it was written merely for Jewish Christians who were in danger of returning to the Old Testament “religion.” It is his conviction that the letter was in intended for Gentile as well as Jewish Christians. The sin which beset these early Christians was the sin of unbelief, turning away from the living God. The admonition that is of central significance is found in ch. 3;12: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” Time and again warnings are given against the sins of instability and disobedience which find their cause in the root·sin of unbelief. In that light we can also understand such admonitions as: “Harden not your hearts,” “exhort one another daily while it is called today,” and many others. The positive exhortation which essentially is the answer to all these admonitions is found in ch. 10:22: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, h.wing our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” This, according to the author, is the general scheme of the book.
In the epistle of James we find many references to the Sermon on the Mountain. This Sermon represents a certain stadium in Jesus’ ministry. It gives prescriptions for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, but also shows us what the conduct and life should be of those who have entered through Him.
It is noteworthy that very little mention is made in the book of James of the suffering and death of Christ. Many examples are given from the Old Testament, of Abraham, Job, Rahab, Elijah. From this it is evident that the readers were acquainted with the Old Testament. Remembering that these believers were still in the first stage of the Christian life, James shows them (as Jesus had done in the Sermon on the Mount) that though we are not saved en the basis of good works, good works must and do arise out of a living faith in Christ Jesus.
Needless to say, the book is highly recommended to all those who are interested in commentaries and are able to read the Holland language. In fact, a set of commentaries of this nature and the abundance of other valuable theological literature written in the Holland language should be an inducement for many theological students to acquire at least a reading knowledge or the Dutch language.
Korte Verklaring Der Heilige Schrift: Jozua by OR. C. J. GOSLINGA
Spreuken by DR. W. H. GISPEN
Lucas by DR. S. GREIJOANUS
J. H. Kok, Kampen, 1955. Second Printing.
It is indeed a joy to announce the continued appearance of these beautifully printed and accurately re-worked popular commentaries on the Holy Scriptures. Here the best Reformed scholarship has performed an inestimable service to the Church.
HENRY R. VAN TIL