The Crucial Words from Calvary by HERSCHEL H. HOBBS
Calvary Attitudes by RUSSELL BRADLEY JONES
Loyalty to Christ by DONALD E. DEMARAY Published 1958 by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Though the Lenten season is past, the hooks mentioned above will elicit the interest of all preachers who feel impelled to devote a number of sermons every year to the central theme of the gospel: the suffering and death of our Lord. Moreover, this subject is of perennial interest to all believers.
A very familiar Lenten subject is that of the words spoken by Jesus while on the cross. The Rev. Herschel Hobbs of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City has taken these words as the point of departure in the first of these volumes. His method is soundly analytical of the Scripture text. He offers many fresh insights into material that has already been treated by many others before him. This reviewer thinks he might have taken a stronger approach to the first word of sovereign forgiveness than that of “The Word of Concern”. But to treat of “I thirst” as the “Word of Championship” and of “Why hast thou forsaken me” as “The Word of Conquest”, are strokes of near-genius. The author is faithful to the Scriptures and writes a moving and valuable book.
Another fruitful field of investigation is the reactions of those who were witnesses of the sufferings of the Savior. This is explored by the Rev. Russell Jones, another Baptist, and Head of the Department of Bible and Religious Education at Carson-Newman College, in his book of 80 pages Calvary Attitudes.
The gambling soldiers are typical of those who are faced with the real meaning of the cross and settle for something secondary. The Jews, frantically wanting Pilate to change the superscription and seal up the tomb, are afraid of their own guilty souls. The repentant thief is the Defender of the Faith, and so the fresh, stimulating treatment goes on.
If a man may be known by the company he keeps, an author may be known by the sources he cites. And Jones’ book bristles with references to Edersheim, Stalker, Schilder, Vincent. He is in excellent company! The illustrations used are clear and to the point. The messages arc practical, personal, applicable, useful for sermon-makers and for general readers.
The third book is, in this reviewer’s opinion, the weakest of the three. The book is not strictly Lenten in scope, but rovers a wide range of incidents from the Scripture. The treatment, which is quite common among modem preachers, is that of stringing together so many varied illustrations that the point of the argument is lost. The book is evangelical, in a general sense, but lacks theological discernment and clarity. What is gained in interesting treatment is lost in effective instruction.
From the mechanical standpoint, all thrce little books are well bolllld, neatly printed, and well proof-read.
ARNOLD BRINK Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Glorious Body of Christ by R. B. KUIPER
Wm . B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids Mich. 1958. 383 pages, $4.95
“Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.” Thus exclaimed a psalmist of Israel (Psalm 87:3) when he was about to enumerate some of tIle attributes of the church of the living God. Speaking of that same church from the viewpoint of the New Testament, this book admirably bears out the truth of the psalmist’s exclamation. In fifty-three brief but freighted chapters the author deals with almost every conceivable aspect of the church, presenting the reader with what amounts to a commentary on the glorious things spoken of the church in Holy Writ. This study of the church is pre-eminently Scriptural, the author’s chief concern being “to give the reader some glimpses of the marvelous glory of the body of Christ as that glory shines forth resplendently from God’s infallible Word” (p. 12). To this end the author makes reference to no less than five hundred passages of Scripture which bear on his subject. An index of all Scripture cited is given for convenience and easy reference.
The contemporary ecumenical movement, with its far-reaching implications, makes a popular study of the Scriptural view of the church most urgent at the present time. The author evaluates that movement in terms of his own doctrinal commitment, that of the Reformed faith. Since indifference to truth is one of the outstanding characteristics of the modernist ecumenical movement, the author sees in the latter a real threat to the church in our day. For when the church ceases to be the custodian and defender of the truth, it ceases to be the church (p. 48). At the same time there is the disturbing trend toward independency, a form of extreme denominationalism, coming to visible expression in the popular neighborhood or community church, which is no less inimical to the well-being of the church.
TIle teaching of Scripture concerning the church, however, is not a narrow segment of doctrine isolated from other Christian doctrines. A complete study of the church, therefore, necessarily includes not only a discussion of the nature of the church and the function of its offices, but also a treatment of the message and responsibility of the church. In this broader context the author discusses a wide variety of doctrinal topics including election, salvation by grace, the antithesis, the covenant of grace, evangelism, Christian instruction, the end of the ages and many other pertinent teachings of Scripture.
A word about the author will suffice, for he is well known both within and beyond the circle of TORCH and TRUMPET readers. Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge once remarked that when R. B. Kuiper was a student at Princeton Theological Seminary he was the one student who made the greatest impression on his teacher, Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield. I It was this recommendation that led the founders of Westminster Theological Seminary to prevail upon R. B. Kuiper to assume a professorship in that institution. Since that time (1929) he has enjoyed a distinguished career as a teacher, preacher, and administrator, having meanwhile he served as president of Calvin College and later as president of Calvin Seminary.
What makes Professor R. B. Kuiper outstanding is the precision and simplicity of both his speaking and writing. He knows how to say things clearly, concisely, and accurately. The unique exactness of expression and rare gift of illustration which are typical of this veteran teacher make this book a most stimulating study for both pastor and people, and should do much toward cultivating a deeper, more Scripturally accurate appreciation of the One Holy Church.
1 Stonehouse, Ned B., J. Gresham Machen, A Biographical Memoir, 1954, Grand Rapids Wm. B. Eerdman Pub. Co., p. 450.
JOSEPH A. HILL
Jonathan Edwards, The Preacher by DR. R. G. TURNBULL
Published by Biker Book House, 192 pages, $3.95.
The great preacher, Jonathan Edwards, died exactly 200 years ago. There is a noteworthy and growing interest in the Edwardian period of our national and ecclesiastical history. Jonathan Edwards made an impact upon the American scene of his time. In it we can perhaps find a message for our time today. The heart of Calvinism is tested and tried by the inroads which neo-orthodoxy is making in our time as well as by the luring and equating efforts of a world-wide religious ecumenicity. Perhaps it is due to resulting strain and unrest that especially younger theologians and preachers are turning to the great men of the past to rediscover the source of their vigor and convictions.
Dr. Tumbull’s analysis of Jonathan Edwards as a preacher is thorough, stimulating and refreshing. It is virtually impossible to divide this personality into that of the philosopher, psychologist, theologian, and preacher. With Dr. Turnbull the reader observes these various aspects of Edwards as contributing their share in the preacher’s scholarly and devoted approach to his life’s task.
A most valuable message for us today is found in the blending harmony of sermonic studies on themes balancing the glories of heaven with the horrors of hell. With his keen insight into the human soul, Edwards addresses himself to man’s consciousness of his depraved nature and thus seeks to arouse him to repentance.
Dr. Tumbull seems to find a conflict between the Calvinistic teaching of unconditional election and of man’s responsibility. “In calling men to press into the Kingdom, Edwards’ spirit was stronger than a system of theology” (p. 144). The author gives the impression of overlooking the fact that in this system of theology man’s responsibility is included in God’s providence. Jonathan Edwards, the Preacher is a stimulating source of guidance for the ministry of today. With our crowded schedules we need to be reminded of the studious and biblical methods which Edwards used to “build” his sermons. His concern and passion for the expansion of God’s Kingdom may well be considered anew in our challenging opportunities. They are expressed both in earnest and zealous efforts to bring the individual as a penitent to the foot of the cross, and in “raising the bars”—to use our own terminology—for the purity and preservation of the church. The Inlier aspect comes to expression in Edwards’ conception of the sacraments (pages 23, 118).
Though the careful reader will have to bear with some repetition of material, the merits of this study far out-weigh the imperfections which we indicated. Baker Book House has performed a fine service for our needs of to-day by making this book available in 1958.
American Calvinism – A Survey, Edited by JACOB T. HOOGSTRA
For the Calvinistic Action Committee. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1957. 137 pages; $2.50
This book, as the subtitle indicates, is a survey. It is not an exhaustive treatment; it is informative, rather than inspirational. The historical situation in which Calvinism finds itself is evaluated with respect to its past theological tradition and its future prospects in America. The book consists of a series of talks given last year in Grand Rapids at a kind of inter nos Calvinistic caucus. The public was not invited and many of the men who have made the study of Calvin and his works their chief passion were missing. However, a small, representative group (we are not told on what basis they were chosen) was invited by the self-appointed Calvinistic Action Committee of Western Michigan.
There are six papers on the present status of Calvinism and two on its prospects. The status is sketched by professors Gerstner of Pittsburgh-Xenia and Woolley of Westminster. The former portrays Calvinism up to the nineteenth century with special reference to New England, and the latter deals with Calvinism in the twentieth century.
Professor Gerstner makes a strong plea for a proper understanding of tho term “Calvinism.” He is willing to work with the definitions of Kuyper and Warfield, but he thinks present-day Neo-Calvinism might better be re-baptized no-Calvinism. The body of his paper sketches Calvinism in New England before Edwards, that of Edwards and its continuation in the old Princeton School, and the reactions to and deviations from Edwardian Calvinism leading up to modernism.
Concerning the Calvinistic complexion of early New England, Prof. Gerstner points to the Pilgrims and Puritans; the Calvinistic imprint of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century writers; the affirmation of the Calvinistic faith by general synods (Cambridge 1660); preaching in the first half century which was concerned with the whole counsel of God; and popular education which was under the guidance of the Westminster Catechisms and employed the New England Primer. While this constituted the dominant stream, certain strong reactions are also mentioned in some detail.
I appreciated this paper for its fine handling of history. It was also very informative. Particularly useful is the sketch of the departure from the Calvinistic faith that took place after Edwards under such men as Chauncy, Channing, Bellamy, Beecher, Taylor, and others.
If I may be so bold I should put a question mark behind two statements made by Prof. Cerstner. First, were the Puritans really good Calvinists historically? Second, was Edwards true to the Calvinistic heritage as compared with the old Princeton of the Hodges and Warfield?
Prof. Woolley begins by telling his audience that at the turn of the century the situation was marked by doctrinal indifference, interdenominational activity (evangelism, organization, reform) and dependence on Europe. The first quarter was marked by the social and economic application of the Gospel. Doctrinal decline, mass evangelism, reform zeal, common worship, and theological development also characterize this period. Woolley summarizes thus: “The first twenty-five years of this century, then, were notable for many things but in this survey it is important to see the outlines of the battle field and the trends of war. The figure is deliberate. It was a battle·field. There was a war—not only the age-old war of righteousness against sin on every front, but a particular war within the ranks of the Reformed” (p. 49).
The second quarter Wall characterized by doctrinal changes, power centralization (within denominations, intra-denominational, and on the broad ecumenical level), new pronouncements on worship and marriage, and a strong development in Christian lower education. In summary: “Mass evangelism still lies in the hands of the pietist…..The reform of individual conduct is still widely regarded as the chief work of the church…but the immediate future lies with the adequate handling of the two great questions of the centralization of ecclesiastical authority and the Scriptural validity of neo-orthodoxy” (pp. 58, 59). Woolley is convinced, with respect to the first question “that ‘all church power…is only ministerial and declarative…that no church judicatory ought to pretend to make laws to bind the conscience in virtue of its own authority,’ and of the further principle that a constitution must remain such and not become a rule book” (pp. 59, 60).
Concerning neo-orthodoxy, Prof. Woolley does not believe that it teaches a system of doctrine compatible with the Scriptures; he holds that to say with Barth that Christ is elect and reprobate is a sign of fuzzy thinking.
When we consider that the theological development and emphasis in the largest Presbyterian body, the U.S.A., has been exactly along these lines of power centralization and increasing adherence to neo-orthodoxy we begin to realize the chasm that exists between those called Calvinists, both in practice and in faith.
This chasm was also clearly set forth by J. Moody McDill, who represented the Southern Presbyterian Church. He told his audience that most members of his church hold Simultaneously to the concept of the sovereignty of God and the real power of contrary choice (p. 78); and he cites one leader who thinks of the theology presented by Louis Berkhof as “so narrow that it would exclude from the ‘Calvinistic circle of faith’ most of tIle lines of influence…by Calvin in the South generally” (p. 79). The author further speaks of the “unrealistic blindness of sentimental professions of ‘High’ Calvinism” and illustrates It with the story of tIle doctor who had a Presbyterian uncle who held that the Westminster Confession of Faith was sacrosanct. But when he was confronted with some ideas from the Confessions copied on the doctor’s letterhead, the uncle snorted, “Nobody’s believed that for fifty years.” The doctor then told him that he had copied it “right out of the Confession of Faith” (p. 79). Furthermore, evidence is submitted to show that the doctrine of election is Simply not taught in the Southern Presbyterian Church, and the fact that more than two thirds of the Presbyteries in 1938-1939 openly repudiated the “more ‘High-Calvinistic’ statements in tho Westminster Confession of Faith” concerning foreordination. Final\y, the speaker rejoices that a number of Ph. D. dissertations on Calvin recently appeared in his Church, in which the students are concerned to understand Calvin “in terms of contemporary problems, and they have discovered the element of humanity in Calvin that has been too long hidden” (p. 81).
This strikes me as not particularly astute or honest, when Calvin gave us the grammatico-historical method of exegeting Scripture, to turn around and to interpret him on the basis of contemporary problems. He would not have a chance, anymore than Paul and Jesus have a chance when Fosdick gives his modern interpretation of the Bible. Besides, it is not tile element of humanity in Calvin that the world needs, but his God-centered working and living.
All in all, the statistical picture presented by Dr. McDill is extremely discouraging for the cause of historic Calvinism; and if his estimate is right, I am thoroughly disillusioned with our Southern Presbyterian brethren.
A survey of the Midwestern Region was presented by Dr. Jerome DeJong, a pastor of the Reformed Church in America. This paper says little and is colorless, and undiscriminating. Witness the last paragraph which tells us that the picture is not altogether dark because the “Back to God Hour” and “Temple Time” have a world-wide audience. Barth and Brunner have stimulated Calvinistic thinking somewhat among us, and many of our younger ministers are taken up with existentialism and the new approach to the gospel and the Scripture.
Apart from the fact that tile author identifies “existentialism” with “existential, when he refers to Ursinus and Oleviaous and their doctrine of existenz the author’s optimistic appraisal of neo-orthodoxy and existentialism as aim to Calvinism has me completely floored.
After Dr. Hoogstra, who is the secretary of the Calvinistic Action Committee, had sketched various attempts at meeting on the international level, Dr. Jaarsma began the discussion on the prospects of Calvinism. He compared Augustine, who held that one cannot learn from words without things, with W. H. Burton (The Guidance of Learning Activities) who holds that the process of learning “prohibits the possibility of fixed outcomes required uniformly of all.”
Dr. Jaarsma thinks that Augustine and Burton are both partially right and partially wrong and it is up to Calvinism to “set the educational house of today in order and rescue thill sphere of human thought and action from its self-induced chaos” (p. 109). Although the modern approach denies the objectivity of truth, it has nevertheless a valuable contribution to make with its concept of the unity of personality. However, Calvinism can furnish educational theory and practice with a sound anthropology, with well-formulated goals (it is principle conscious) and it can set the educational house in order by giving “educational theory and practice institutional expression” (p. 116).
The last chapter in the book was written by Dr. E. Osterhaven of Western Theological Seminary, also a minister in the Reformed Church in America. Ho says there are at least three kinds of Calvinism: cultural, broad, and orthodox. I do not agree that cultural Calvinism cannot be orthodox. If one does not emphasize the cultural aspects of Calvinism in the political, social, economic, and scientific fields one cannot properly speak: of Calvinism at all. And the repudiation of the theologlcal foundation of Calvinism does not inhere in the cultural interpretation. Without the cultural implications one can indeed have the Reformed faith as expressed in the historic Reformed creeds, but not Calvinism. That is why I cannot share tho optimism of De Jong on the basis that the Reformed faith is being preached. We have many preachers in our Reformed communions who seek to be true to the Dible and the creeds in matters relating to our eternal salvation, but who have no appreciation of Calvinism as a worldview. For the rest, I think Osterhaven is right in accepting the orthodox, that is, historic interpretation of Warfield and Kuyper.
As to its prospects, the author sees some reasons for pessimism. Calvinism is repugnant to the natural man; is a comprehensive body of truth and hence not easy of assimilation; is held in certain quarters too provincially; and, cannot break through the hard shell of worldliness and materialism occasioned by prosperity. On the other hand, there are reasons for optimism: the current theological revival; the realistic view of human nature held by Calvinism; the biblical character of the Reformed faith, which ought to bring those who study the Bible to something like our position; and the cosmopolitan character of Calvinism.
In conclusion Dr. Osterhaven makes bold to suggest a rosy future if certain developments will be undertaken. First, he cites the need of an adequate scholarship, which to his mind is conspicuous by its absence. In answer to this charge, not to mention the score of books that have been written by the several members of the faculty of Westminster Seminary, I want to cite the fact that the late Prof. L. Berkhof alone upheld the honor of his school on the score of authorship. Besides, there is appearing in a swift succession of volumes a new Commentary on the New Testament from the pen of Dr. William Hendriksen. Furthermore, what authority has Dr. Osterhaven for his contention that in our communion “the prevailing attitude among many of the men is that of fear of deviation”? I have heard this fear expressed upon occasion but it always sounded to me as a lame excuse on the part of those who in the last thirty years have produced nothing And are trying to cover up. Where is the man worth his salt as a scholar, and who has something to say to our times, who is so fearful of falling into heresy that he is willing to be gagged by this fear? In my humble opinion, there is a lot more of fear of the world, fear of being thought an obscurantist, fear of not making the grade scientifically that keeps men from writing.
Secondly, “our future” says the speaker, “is contingent on our courage in re-thinking our positions. Theological liberalism…has at least been courageous. A ‘hide-bound’ traditionalism, on the other hand, often lacks courage and has within it the seeds of death…It would be better to have some heresy now and then than a cringing fear of non-conformity” (132).
To the present reviewer that statement presents false alternatives. No one who defends the faith of the fathers wants hidebound conservatism. Neither should such a defense be ascribed to “cringing fear of non-conformity.” Such emotive words remind one of the liberal dictum of Fosdick that no intelligent theologian believes in the virgin birth. Besides, in my book, liberalism certainly was not courageous, but it hastily gave up the historic Christian faitJ. because of a cringing fear of being stigmatized its obscurantist, unscientific, narrow, bigoted, etc. I believe a good case could be made for the contention that the courage was on the side of such men as Orr, Vos, Machen, Warfield and others who defended the faith against the re-thinkers of a previous day.
Thirdly, Dr. Osterhaven sees a rosy future if only we will keep our minds open to the further discoveries in the various sciences. Father Calvin, says he, was not afraid of scientific progress. Again, “intelligent Christian persons should not place themselves in a position of rejection of standard scientific fact,” for this discredits the Church. and many identify orthodox theology with obscurantism. However, may I point out that this is begging the question, since the whole matter of standard scientific fact is in dispute. The defenders of the faith and their anti·theistic opponents are basically at odds on the question as to what constitutes a fact, a law, evidence, etc.
Fourthly, the future depends upon “the relevance of the message we send out to our world.” Here we are warned against wooden ways of presenting the truth.
Finally, there is a need for “recapturing the genuine piety that waits on God and receives his blessing,” to which every Calvinistic heart will respond with an “amen.”
Let me conclude by saying that if this is a fair idea of what we can accomplish by getting delegates from various representative Calvinistic churches together, the result, to my mind, is meager. As long as some regard Barth as a champion of Calvinism today (Bertalan, p. 135) and others, (Oostendorp, Woolley) do not consider him to be a Calvinist at all, there is no point in talking about ecumenical Calvinism and imagining that we can have a message for the world.
I would not recommend this book for the common man. It is misleading and confuSing, for the sound of the trumpet is uncertain. But all of the ministers of our Calvinistic churches ought to study it in order to see how hopelessly the historic Calvinistic churches are dividc<i on basic issues, such as predestination, and modern issues, as for example, Barthianism. Woolley is baSically right. We shall have to face tIle issue on neo-orthodoxy and on the hierarchical centralization that is taking place in historic Reformed communions today.
HENRY R. VAN TIL
Luther’s World of Thought by HEINRICH BORNKAMM
Concordia Publishing House, SI. Louis, Mo., 315 pages. $3.00.
The reading of this lxxlk is high adventure. Dr. Bornkamm, Professor of Church History at Heidelberg University, is a trusted guide. His many years of service as a teacher as well as many hooks and articles testify to his intimate knowledge nf the great German reformer.
Bornkamm deals with many facets of Luther’s life and teaching. After following Bomtamm in his guided tour of Luther’s world of thought, the reader knows that Luther was more than a theologian. He was a leader sent of God to explore many areas of thought and life in the light of the Scriptures. It is impossible to assess anyone chapter as being of more value than others. The ones that particularly intrigued me were those dealing with “The Hidden and Revealed God”, “Faith”, and “God and History”. Life and death, man’s whole pilgrimage all earth was illumined by Luther’s grasp of the meanings of God’s inspired revelation. This is a book which will be read with interest and laid aside only to be picked up again and read with new interest and understanding. Besides owing a debt to author Bornkamm we thank the translator Martin H. Bertram for making this book available to readers not conversant with the German language.
ALEXANDER C. DE JONG