“Fundamentalism” and the Word Of God by J. I. PACKER
Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 3, Michigan, 1958 Pocket Edition, $1.25.
The author defines his purpose to be “a constructive testament of evangelical principles in the light of the current ‘Fundamentalism controversy’. His aim is to ‘fix the right approach to the Bible, to the intellectual tasks of faith, and to the present debate” (Foreword). In this the author has succeeded admirably.
The controversy referred to above is basically British. However, we in America may well watch the debate with bated breath, since the old and new liberalism have gained new strength after tIle Second World War and there are signs of defection in the ranks of the Evangelicals.1
Dr. Packer is especially disturbed because the critics of “Fundamentalism” do not define the phenomenon adequately. Either they “define it as a theological peculiarity” adhering to the idea that the words of the Bible were divinely dictated, or to this they add certain peculiarities of practice (p. 10). But all the critics agree that the “Fundamentalist” doctrine of Scripture “is new, eccentric and in reality untenable” and that It represents “a defiant hardening of pre-critical and pre-scientific views, a desperate attempt to bolster up obsolete traditions”(11).
Dr. Packer is of the opinion that since the criticisms are made in good faith and strike deep, an answer is required. But he finds a certain ambiguity in the criticism, for the “Fundamentalists” are said to be “essentially orthodox in their beliefs and admirably forthright in their witness to basic Christian truth·, (p. 16). However, they ought to give up certain crudities (such as their obscurantist attitude to the Bible) and they should abandon their isolationism. Such statements indicate the superficiality of the critics. They do not see the impassable chasm between them and the “Fundamentalists,” namely the disagreement as to the principle of authority.
The aim of the author accordingly is to show what “Fundamentalism” (a twentieth-century name for historic Christianity) is and to discuss the basic question between “Fundamentalism” and its critics—namely, the question of authority in the Christian Church. His aim is to show that authentic Christianity is based on biblical authority, which involves an inerrant Scripture. For subjection to the authority of Christ involves subjection to the authority of Scripture, since we can know the words of Christ in no other way than through the Spirit speaking in the Scripture (21).
In the course of the argument Dr. Packer indicates how Dr. Machen did yeoman service with his classic, Christianity and Liberalism, which “crystallized the issues at stake in their broadest implications with a judicious mastery that cannot be too highly praised” (25). The term “Fundamentals” arose in 1909 when the basic truths of orthodox Christianity were set forth in twelve small volumes, entitled The Fundamentals. These fundamentals were Riven specific characterization also by the Northern Presbyterian Church in 1910, specifying “the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, tile deity of Christ, His virgin birth and miracles, His penal death for our sins, and his physical resurrection and personal return” as being basic to the maintenance of evangelical Christianity (28).2
In spite of its basic significance, the term “Fundamentalism” has now become objectionable because it “combines the vaguest conceptual meaning with the strongest emotional flavor.” It “suggests Evangelicalism at something less than its best”; and it “gives the impression that one is dealing with a modern phenomenon, with one of the many ‘isms’ on the market.” But the Evangelical (this is the proper name for Bible-believing Christians) identifies his faith with apostolic Christianity. He is not reactionary. He acknowledges the guiding activity of the Spirit in leading the Church into all the truth. But the process of growth must be controlled and judged by the Word of God.
This is so because Christianity is built on truth, on the divine self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The deepest divergencies in Christendom are doctrinal, and the doctrine of authority is basic. The three basic authorities, to which final appeal is usually made, are: Ho!y Scripture, Church tradition, and Christian reason. The principle of the Evangelicals is that Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture, and that it reveals the mind of God in his written Word. “The Bible is inspired in the sense of being word-for-word God-given” (47). And it is both sufficient and perspicuous. “The Spirit must be acknowledged as the infallible Interpreter of God’s infallible Word” (47) . Christ himself accepted the authority of the Scriptures, comprising the Law and the Prophets, as absolute. In this the apostles followed their Lord. Nor did the early Church deviate from this position in the least. However, the liberals, on the basis of the presuppositions and conclusions of the higher critical approach, reject such authority on the ground that there are some erroneous statements in Scripture. Hence they are using their scholarship to distinguish the fallible words of fallible men from the eternal truth of God (72). Here the issue is joined and it does not seem possible to the Evangelical that his opponent can seriously say with David, “And now, O Lord God, thou art God, and thy words are true.”
At this point Dr. Packer once more broadly states the Evangelical position on (he authority of Scripture, referring to its divine origin, its organic nature, its providential preservation, and its unity. He goes on to speak of the sense in which it is the Word of God so that revelation is not merely through the facts of creation, providence, and incarnation, but also comes in propositional form. Next he speaks of the long pedigree of the term “infallible” among the Reformers, Cranmer, and Jewel (94/5). “Infallible denotes the quality of never deceiving or misleading, and so means ‘wholly trustworthy and reliable’; ‘inerrant’ means ‘wholly true’. Scripture is termed infallible and inerrant to express tIle conviction that all its teaching is the utterance of God ‘who cannot lie’ (Titus 1:2), whose word, once spoken, abides forever…God’s Word is affirmed to be infallible because God himself is infallible; the infallibility of Scripture is simply the infallibility of God speaking. What Scripture says is to he received as the infallible Word of the infallible God, and to assert biblical inerrancy and infallibility is just to confess faith in (1) the divine origin of the Bible and (2) the truthfulness and trustworthiness of God. The value of these terms is that they conserve the principle of biblical authority; for statements that are not absolutely true and reliable could not he absolutely authoritative” (pp. 95/6).
I have quoted the author at length because of the importance and relevance of the subject. He immediately adds that there is no infallible interpretation of the Bible and that careful, painstaking study is necessary to ascertain what the Bible says. The Bible does not claim to teach either science or grammar, and one must learn to distinguish the poetic, imaginative, and symbolic forms in which truth is expressed, which at times is difficult. However, the Bible does claim to speak the truth on matters of historical fact no less than on matters of theology. And the increased emphasis on the factual truthfulness of the biblical record “is not due to the materialistic influences of modern science, but to the characteristic form of modem heresy” (100).
Dr. Packer further enriches his book with a chapter on reason in which he says that there is no real antithesis between reason and faith but between a faithful and a faithless use of reason (140). Finally, the author is not satisfied with an apologetic for the Evangelical position; he also attacks both the old and the new Liberalism as the real troublers of Israel (pp. 146ff.).
Space forbids entering upon this incisive analysis, which clearly sets forth the self-contradictory character of Liberalism. TIle new Liberalism of the post-war period Is neither scientific nor biblical since it expresses an attitude of intellectual impenitence.
In conclusion, Dr. Packer notes that Evangelicals ought to take courage from the fact that the present controversy is evidence of the renewed vitality of historic Christianity. “For it is the nature of the gospel to create controversy: and the vigor with which the gospel is spoken against is an index of the faithfulness and power with which it is being preached” (177).
The virtue of Dr. Packer’s booklet (it is pocket-size) consists in its forthrightness and clarity. It addresses itself to the issues without beating around the bush and it challenges modernism, old and new, to face the central problem of authority in religion. That question in turn resolves itself into the one which Christ put to his contemporaries, “What think ye of the Christ, whose Son is he?”
HENRY R. VAN TIL
1. Cf. Warren C. Young, ‘“Whither Evangelicalism?” in Bulletin of the EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
H. J. Kuiper: “WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH?” Torch and Trumpet, Vol. IX, I (l959) pp. 7–9.
2. According to E. H. Rian in The Presbyterian Conflict (Grand Rapids 1940) pp. 31ff., these fundamentals were accepted by the General Assembly in May, 1923.
THE WORD OF THE LORD
“The word of the Lord endureth for ever.” I Peter 1:25.
Much that we handle, see and experience every day lacks the quality of endurance. The Word of the Lord, however, endureth forever! After all the books of the month have been forgotten the Bible remains as the Book of the Ages. It is an old hook, hut its truth never wears out. It stands majestic, finn, unimpeachable in its way of righteousness. The critics continue to tamper with it, and while they tamper, it tries them, judges them, survives them. The very first verse in the Bible bothers them no end. Indeed, the entire book of Genesis irritates them. To conceal their annoyance some of them stoop to the low practice of joking about it. They wisecrack about the first couple in Eden, the identity of Cain’s wife, the disappearance of Enoch, and the menagerie in Noah’s ark. They move from book to book with unashamed pride and unholy step. Meanwhile this Wonder Book lives on with a vitality that confounds its enemies. And we need not be surprised at that, for it is the Word of the Lord. It endures because it is His Word and because He is the Lord. From Daily Manna Calendar.
REV. LEONARD GREENWAY, Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Life and Teachings of John Calvin
A study manual…
by JOHN H. BRATT
Baker Book House, 1958. $.75, $7.50, dozen.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce this little study manual on the life and work of John Calvin by my colleague, Professor Bratt. This brochure of 72 pages has 22 lessons, all terminating in a set of questions designed for discussion and further study. The style is clear, popular, and extremely simple. One need not have receive a High School diploma to read this pamphlet with profit. Its appearance is perfectly timed for giving the members of the churches of Calvinistic origin find confession a better appreciation for the man Calvin and his great work for the reformation of the church in Geneva. Fifteen characters deal with the life of Calvin; seven set forth his teachings on such subjects as: the sovereignty of God, predestination, the sacraments, common grace, marriage and divorce, missions, pleasures and amusements, and ecumenicity. The appeal to our own day is unmistakable. The author is right when he says in the introduction that Calvin lives today.
HENRY R. VAN TIL
Dutch Commentaries: Received and Recommended.
Korte Verklaring Der Heilige Schrift (met nieuwe vertaling)
1. Ezechiel, I and II, A. Noordzij, price f 6.95; J.H. Kok, Kampen
2. Koningen, III and IV, C. Van Gelderen, price f 8.90 and f 4.90 resp. Kok, Kampen.
3. Samuel, II, C.J. Goslinga, price f 8.90; J.H. Kok, Kampen
4. Kronieken, II, A. Noordzij, price f 9.75, J.H. Kok, Kampen
5. Numeri, A. Noordzij, price f 8.75; J.H. Kok, Kampen
6. De Prediker, C. Ch. Aalders, price f 4.80; J.H. Kok, Kampen
These volumes constitute a continuation of the second printing of the series that has justly become famous in The Netherlands, based on the New Translation, which appeared in 1951. Since the first edition of this series proved to be such a stimulus to serious Bible study on the popular level, the publishers have done well in re-issuing this great work for the ordinary church member. Korte Verldaring has become a family institution for family Bible study in thousands of Reformed homes in Holland and throughout the world, where the language is sWI understood and appreciated.
Both Professors Noordzij and Van Gelderen have gone to their eternal reward, while Dr. Goslinga is still enjoying the goodness of God as emeritus minister. They belong to the past generation of Reformed scholars, who seriously faced !he attacks of modern, higher criticism and evolutionary naturalism as applied to !he Old Testament. Their work is valuable today and ought not to he lightly cast aside. Since the language may be a barrier to most people, the works here recommended ought to be of special interest to theological students and Bible teachers, who still take pains to learn the speech of the fathers.
HENRY R. VAN TIL
Partners For Life
Baker Book House, 1958. 47 pages. Price ??
Partners for Life, Happiness in Marriage deals very briefly with the following topics: “Falling in Love”, by Dr. L. Greenway; “Religion in Marriage”, by Rev. W. Faber; “The Physical Union in Marriage”, by Dr. G. A. Mulder; “Lasting Happiness” by Rev. H. J. Ten Clay; and “Adjustments in Marriage”, by Dr. D. H. Bouma. Though each chapter is brief, it is packed with helpful suggestions. Every page is easy to read and particularly suitable for our Junior and Senior High School students. This is just what High-School Principals and Pastors have been looking for. We heartily recommend that they keep several copies on hand at all times. This pamphlet in the hands of our youth may serve as it positive guide when they begin courting.
Children of the Reformation
The Story of the Christian Reformed Church – Its Origin and Growth
by MARIAN M. SCHOOLLAND
Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1958. Price $2.75.
Miss Schoolland, who has written Bible Stories and Children’s books, is also the author of several popular histories of the Dutch immigration under Van Raalte to Holland, Michigan, and its environs. In this Yolwne, however, she tries the more difficult task of portraying the rise and development of the Christian Reformed Church, from its origin in the Protestant Reformation to its late$t sociological developments. This is, indeed, a laudable venture, since a new generation is arising that is ignorant of its historical rootage. Besides, our American neighbors and our fellow-believers in other denominations could profit from a little more in formation about some of their compatriots from the Netherlands. A book such as this has some advantages over an official history of the Church, written by a trained theologian and historian, inasmuch as it will not frighten the uninitiated away with technical jargon and learned language. Since Ms. Schoolland has learned to get down to the level of the average reader, the adolescent and the aged alike will he able to appreciate her story of the Church in the new world.
The author has admirably succeeded in reproducing the spirit which animated the Reformation in Europe during the 16th century. She also gives a vivid portrayal of the revival of true religion in the 19th century, with its return to the principles of Calvinism in Holland: This is, to my mind, the most gripping section of the book. However, the struggle of faith, which gave rise to the separate existence of the Christian Reformed Church in this country, is also depicted sympathetically and realistically. The author does not apologize for the separate existence of her church in a day when ecumenicism is sweeping the land and organizational unity is held up as the highest ecclesiastical goal.
The historical reproduction of dramatic scenes from the humble, insignificant beginnings of the church that celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 1957, is especially striking.
Among the problems of growth, the founding of a theological school and the development of a fully accredited liberal arts college, the rise and growth of Christian day schools and high schools, receive prominent notice. The work of missions, Christian philanthropy, and the work of the chaplaincy during two world wars, are traced. The place of Psalm singing, catechetical instruction, liturgical development and the organization of church societies are noted. All in all, a representative picture ensues. However, the mighty river of intense religious conviction, the high drama of the first several chapters seems to run dry in the sands of humdrum, conventional ecclesiastical activities. But, this is, no doubt, an unavoidable concomitant of the task assumed. However, one comes away with the tragic sense of spiritual indifference and ecclesiastical complacency among the spiritual descendants of the heroes of faith.
Let the Church give heed. There is no future for a church that docs not know and understand its history, that fails to appreciate the truths for which the fathers sacrificed their fortunes and held their lives in jeopardy.
HENRY R. VAN TIL
Edited by DR. F.W. GROSHEIDE and DR. G.P. VAN ITTERZON
J. Kok Kampen, Netherlands, 1957.
The second volume of this work has made its appearance. The articles are of varying length and quality, but withal well worth reading. The materials are written from a distinctively Christian point of view. If you wish a brief but careful analysis of Brunner’s contributions to the world of Christian thought be sure to see pages 41–45 of this second volume. Of current interest in the contemporary debate concerning Dr. J. Lever’s position relative to creation and evolution are the articles of this scholar on creationism and evolution. This volume contains a sharp analysis and penetrating criticism of communism.
This Christian encyclopedia ought to be found in the libraries of Christian leaders who can read the Dutch language. We heartily recommend its purchase to the readers of this periodical.
ALEXANDER DE JONG
Kok of Kampen announces Pocket Edition Series-Classic and Modern Herleefd Verleden, by PROF. A. SIZOO
Institutie, by JOHANNES CALVIN
Het Raadsel van ons Leven, by PROF. J.H. BAVINCK
de humor van de bijbel, by OKKE JAGER
De Apocriefe Boeken, I and II Ezra through Maccabees
Published by J.H. Kok, Kampen, The Netherlands, 1958. Price f 1.50@.
The striking thing, of course, is that this is a Christian Pocket Book Series. In this respect Kok is pioneering in the Netherlands, and is to be congratulated. These are all reprints, some of them classics (The Apocrypha and The Institutes) and others, best sellers of today (do humor van de bijbel, e.g.). All of the titles are most worthwhile and fully recommended, but a special word of explanation and commendation regarding the Institutes may not be amiss in this year of Calvin commemoration.
The little pocket edition of the Institutes is naturally an epitome of the larger two-volume work. This is not new. Already in the 16th century the need for a compendium of Calvin’s instruction in the Christian religion was deemed desirable, and was furnished by a French physician, Guillaume de Laune (1530–1611) which was later duplicated by a Dutchman, Joris de Raedt, 1592. In 1934 a new compendium was compiled by Dr. B. Wierenga, of which the present pocket edition is a copy.
This edition is especially suited to the common man, for it gives the quintessence of Calvin’s thought concerning God and his revelation to man, creation of man and his fall into sin and the manner of redemption; the doctrine of the Church and the sacraments and of civil magistrates, without, however, reproducing all the refinements of Calvin’s theological perception and the niceties of his polemics. For the scholar this pocket edition will but drive him on to read the Institutes in their entirety, but one can capture Calvin’s spirit and his masterful approach thoroughly by reading the Pocket Edition. Once again, congratulations to Kok of Kampen! Who will be the first American publisher to emulate this worthy example!
HENRY R. VAN TIL
The Riddle of Life
by DR. J.H. BAVINCK
Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1958. 128 pages. $2.00.
Dr. Bavinck writes this booklet in a captivating style, to which the translator, Mr. J. J. Lamberts, has done full justice. In eighteen chapters our present-day world is presented in all its vastness, its horrible potentialities, its astonishing advances, its many failures, and its unavoidable end.
There is, however, one question which thrusts itself upon the reader’s mind. It concerns the method of approach of which this treatise is an extreme example.
A Christian seeks to evaluate the world-perplexities in the light of his corrective, namely special revelation. He seeks to interpret “My Father’s World” in the light of “My Father’s Word”. Except for the three chapters dealing with “our idols”, which are masterfully presented, it may well strike the Christian reader that this hook lacks the clement of emphasis on repentance altogether in its approach to the unconverted. Hence the impression might easily be received that Christianity is paganism plus something added. In how far can the Christian for the sake of “contact” identify himself with the unconverted in order to present his unique message as an Ambassador of the Lord Jesus?
This is one of the most essential questions, related to the complex problem of approach. The implications of this question rock the very foundation of the Christian Reformed Church of today. We are all agreed to address ourselves most vigorously to the imperative: “Let the Truth shine in this dark world!” In the execution of this imperative lies our dynamic and our preservation.
Is the method. presented by Dr. Bavinck in this hooklet, the answer to the problem? It seems to me that Dr. Bavinck goes all out with the “pure (?)” reason of the non-Christian in order to lead him to “jump” into religion. The unbeliever must develop an “inquiring mind” and act “responsibly”.
Quite consistent with this particular approach is the extreme use the author makes of some forms of the so-called “ontological arguments”. These arguments based on general revelation are often looked upon as “testimonials of believers,” because they pre-suppose special revelation. Can they as such be used to lead the non-Christian to the only true and personal God-of-the-Scriptures? Calvin, Kuyper and Warfield did not go that far. (See Dictaten Dogmatiek, Locus De Deo-pars prima – p . 101, III, 1, 2, 3, and B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine, pp. 45–47.)
Calvin writes (Inst. 6th Am. ed. Vol. I, Bk. I, ch. 5, p. 68): “…men who are taught only by nature have no certain sound, or distinct knowledge, but are confined to confused principles; so that they worship all unknown God.” We fail to harmonize this approach in The Riddle of Life with what the author himself wrote in Inleiding in de Zendingswetenschap p. 139, “All these efforts are thoroughly understandable. But they are, judged in tile light of Scripture, likewise thoroughly mistaken. They all take for granted that in the non-christian religions…fragments of truths are tucked away, which may be looked upon as pure remnants in natural religion” (Translation mine, RT). Needless to say, we favor the approach of Sin-Salvation-Service, the positive mandate of the Ambassador: ‘“Thus saith the Lord!” We believe that it is thus that “The truth shall make you free!” In The Riddle of Life the “riddle” overshadows Him who is the “Life.”
Life Crucified by OSWALD C. J. HOFFMAN,
D.O. Published by Wm. B. Eerdman. Company, Grand Rapids 3, Michigan, 1959. 125 pages. Price $2.50
This book, written by the radio speaker of The Lutheran Hour, might be called a broad, topical exposition of Matthew 16:24, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” The subtitle reads: The Christ, The Cross, And Your Modern Life.
The author writes with vigor and directness. He is anything but vague. He pleads for vicarious thinking and living, conditioned by the one indispensable atoning deed at Calvary. Not satisfied with Christians who are creedally correct and stop with what, he keeps asking the question, in one form or another. Does living for heaven mean that earth becomes unimportant?
There is a contemporaneousness in these pages that sustains the interest level of the reader. He will observe Lutheran slants after all, let a Lutheran be a Lutheran, but who of us Calvinists cannot have fellowship with a man who exclaims: “There is not a man alive who by his efforts can work his way into the favor of God. Only One in all history constantly looked upon the face of God and did not have to turn away in shame”?