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Book Reviews

Pictures of the Apostolic Church

by Sir William M. Ramsay

Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1959. Pages XV, 367. Price $3.50

More than a dozen erudite books came from the pen of this scholar of a generation ago who, as the result of his own archaeological investigations, became a convinced exponent of historic Christianity.

This book, a reprint of one of his last, was originally written as a series of articles in The Sunday School Times. TIlese articles were in the fonn of a weekly commentary on the International Sunday School Lessons of 1909. In 1910, having been somewhat modified by the author, they made their subsequent appearance in book fonn.

As the sub-title Studies in the Book of Acts indicates, the book is a series of pictures of the life, development, and teaching of the early church. As such, it does not limit itself to the material presented by Acts alone, but includes in its presentation such portions of the epistles of James, Hebrews, Romans, Thessalonians, Corinthians, and II Timothy as are apropos of the total picture, especially as connected with the life and missionary labors of the Apostle Paul to which Luke in the latter half of Acts devotes almost exclusive attention.

The well-nigh overpowering bent of late nineteenth and early twentieth century naturalistic rationalism seems to have left its mark somewhat upon Ramsay, for at times one is left in question as to whether he is an unqualified exponent of supernaturalism in the same straightforward way as is presented by the Bible. For instance, already on p. 3, he says of Christ’s ascension, “To say that Jesus went up into heaven is a merely symbolic expression; it has not a local significance; it is an emblematic statement of truth.” This, to be sure, may be conceded for the divine nature of Christ but not for his human nature which, indeed, has a local presence in heaven and which, after all, is what the apostles saw leave earth at the ascension. Moreover, Luke affirms that Christ will return to earth again in the same physical way as he left it (Acts 1:11). Further examples of a rather rationalistic tendency on the part of Ramsay might also be pointed out in his treatment of the healing of the beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the temple (Acts 3), p. 18; the release of the apostles from prison (Acts 5), pp. 37–38; Peter’s deliverance from prison (Acts 12), p. 93; and the raising of Eutychus from the dead by the Apostle Paul (Acts 20), p. 238.

Happily, instances of the above are not excessive and, in all fairness to Ramsay, it should be noted that he recognized the Scripture’s teaching of the supernatural. In fact, he says, “You cannot get rid of the superhuman element (in Acts) without discarding the whole book” (p. 284). Moreover, on pp. 328–329 he appears in full agreement with “one of the most noteworthy sentences in the whole of Paul’s writings” (II Cor. 8:9), i.e., that Paul makes a “most indubitable declaration of the pre-existence of Jesus as God before he condescended to take on himself human form.”

So the reviewer’s intention In calling attention to the above is not to lessen Ramsay’s worth as a commentator. His grasp of Scripture with the felicitous choice of the important for treatment and omission of the less weighty in a series of studies whose brevity was dictated by the original limits of space clearly demonstrates a scholar’s mastery where superficiality or triteness might just as easily have been the case. To cite a few typical examples whose evidence in support of the interpretation Ramsay gives is the persuading factor that nevertheless needs the erudition of a scholar to produce: his bringing to light the way by which Luke’s historical information was gained, pp. 67-68; his reasons for regarding Paul as a man of wealth and social standing, pp. 292, 295, despite his labors as a tentmaker, which fact is also satisfactorily harmonized in the paragraph following on pp. 295–296; why Luke was allowed to accompany Paul, though a prisoner, on his way to trial in Rome, especially when it IS remembered that to permit any friend to accompany a prisoner on his way to Rome was contrary to Roman custom, p. 312. Ramsay also gives weighty evidence to the view that Paul’s vision in the temple at the time he was ordered by the Lord to depart and begin his mission to the Gentiles (Acts 22:17–21) is also the same time to which he refers in II Corinthians 12:2–4 when he was transported into heaven itself, pp. 323–324.

These are just some of the interesting things among many others which await the reader of this book. No one can read Ramsay without definite benefit. His commentary on the missionary labors of the Apostle Paul is a veritable biography of the great Apostle and alone is worth the price of the book. The humanity of Paul, his spiritual struggles, his conflicts with the failings of the flesh, his confrontation with difficult decisions and heartbreaking sacrifice, even of friendship when necessary, in his complete dedication to the cause of truth is deeply moving, to say the least. The essence of all of this is graphically summarized by Ramsay in this discussion of the parting of Paul and Barnabas. “He [Paul] chose his work; but the cost was great. This is the sorest trial of human life. It is not only our unsympathetic opponents who misunderstand us. Sometimes even our friends differ from us, disagree with our views, suspect and disapprove of our aims and course of life, and part from us. We have to choose between friendship and truth, the hardest choice in life. Are we quite sure that we are right in our view? May we not have mistaken our course? Shall we be justified in breaking the bond of true companionship? With that question comes doubt and anxiety, perplexity and almost despair” (pp. 341–342). Who in the course of his Christian life has not in some measure at least experienced this same thing? nut who would not in his best moments of decision make the same choice as Paul? This reviewer came away from Ramsay with a new appreciation for Paul as a man of unequalled stature among the heroes of the Christian faith. To paraphrase the famous words of Winston Churchill, never have so many owed so much to but a single individual!

The publisher is to be commended for making this work available once more to ministers, Sunday School teachers, and all others wishing a practically helpful and intellectually satisfying tool for the gaining of a better understanding of Acts and Scriptures related to it.

RAYMOND O. ZORN

Fawn Grove, PA.

Geloof an Sekte by Kurt Hutten: Het sektarisme als anti-reformatorisch geloofsverschijnsel. Zijn doelstelling en zijn trajiek. Uit het Duits vertaald door ds. J.J. Poort. Prijs f. 7.90

Utigave T. Wever. Franeker.

The author of this book, Dr. Hutten, received an honorary degree from the German University of Cottingen, as a reward for his lifelong research-work with regard to the sects. The result of this work was to be found earlier in his book about all possible sects: “Scher, Gmbler, Enthusiasten.” But now in his new book, which was edited in Germany with the title: “Die Glaubenswelt des Sektierers,” he comes to definite conclusions. He tries to give a definition, or at least an approximating description, not only of some sects, but of the general idea and common features of the sect. According to his view all sects have something in common, to begin with, their protest against the Sola Gratia of the Reformation; sectarians always seek to find a way of salvation, which deviates from this Sola Gratia, which endeavors to give a certainty in the way of works of human perfection or in the way of absolute confidence in a human leadership. The decision about salvation is withdrawn from the hands of God and put in the hands of man. Therefore the author speaks of the Theologia posologia gloriae sectae, of its Theologia possessionis, of its haughty criticism of the church, of its seH-idolization. Dr. Hutten speaks with extensive knowledge of his topic and again and again gives striking examples to sustain his theses. Most Alarming is the section of his book entitled: “They compass sea and land.” Herein he gives not only a survey of the numbers of all sects of the world and their members, but also of their zealous missionary work. I only quote him about Nigeria: “In Nigeria almost 20,000 messenger of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are working, and there are more than 500 congregations of the Pentecostals with their own Seminary. In the city of Laos in Nigeria (230,000 inhabitants) there were in 1950, 122,000 Christians, 19,000 of whom belonged to African sects. In lbada, the city in Nigeria with the largest native population, there was in 1937 one sect, but in 1952 thirty. Fanatical nationalist and syncretistic elements grow rampant in these African sects and mutilate the Christian message. It occurs that the work of missions of decades simply is swept away and ruined, because congregations with their pastors and teachers go over to the sects. And that in A continent, which at the same time has to endure the assault of the Islam and of Communism.”

The book of Dr. Hutten is a most interesting and a very important book.

Nevertheless, I wish to ask the author some questions. He rightly speaks of the difficulties connected with defining the ideas “church” and “sect”; he even declares, that we don’t have any definition of “church.” Is that true? I agree, that we don’t have a definition which is generally accepted; but does that justify the bold assertion of the author? What about the definitions which are to be found in catechisms and confessions of the church?

Another question: how does the author evaluate the idea of Reformation? I painfully missed in his book an attempt to make clear this relevant idea. The author asks the question whether Roman-Catholicism has to be considered as a sect in the Protestant view (p. 135), because both Roman-Catholicism and the sects have their theologia posseuionis. He rejects tills position. but he fails to ask the more obvious question whether Protestantism has to be considered as a sect in the Roman-Catholic view. U he had asked this question, he should have given an answer in which he had developed the idea, the right, and the necessity of reformation in a church; and he should have pointed out the difference between sects and free churches in a more comprehensive way than he did on p. 26 of his book. Still another question: the author rightly says, that one of the causes of the rise of sects is the disrespectful criticism of Scripture (p. 127); he pleads for a respectful use of Holy Scripture, “although the Church may have its criticism of verbal inspiration.” I wonder whether the author means by “verbal inspiration” the same as “mechanical inspiration.” But otherwise I would ask him: “Why do you reject verbal inspiration? If the Bible is the Word of God, does not that mean that the words of the Bible are words inspired by God?”

Anyhow, the book of Dr. Hutten is a valuable book It confronts us with the inevitable question of the way from the church to the sects and from the sects to the church. How can we reach the sects? How can we reach the masses who drifted away and get stones for bread? I think this is one of the burning questions of our time.

L. PRAAMSMA

De Ouderling en de Prediking

by Dr PH J. Huijser

J.H. Kok N.V., Kampen, 1959, 202 pp., f. 8.90.

In this book, as the title suggests, a study is made of the office of elder as particularly related to the ministry of preaching. In fact, the longest of its seven chapters, “The Elder and Preaching,” occupies about one fourth of the book’s size, and is an instructive dissertation on the subject of preaching. But the office of elder is seen as well in the more comprehensive light of its entire task.

The first chapter furnishes a valuable study of the Scriptures which trace the office from its beginning with the elders in Israel to its present place in the church as set forth in the New Testament. Then, in the next chapter, the place of the elder is traced in church history, its suppression is seen in the Romanist division of clergy And laity along with alignment of the clergy in hierarchical ranks, and the re-establishment of the office to its rightful place in the church is pointed out as one of the fruits of the Calvinistic Reformation. There are also separate chapters devoted to the elder and the minister of the Word; the elder, the congregation and preaching; the elder, the consistory and preaching; and the elder, the denomination and preaching.

Of certain interest to readers of this book will be the author’s clarifying work on the subject or apostolic succession as lodged in the office of elder. After showing thAt the apostolic office was unique in that the apostles alone were the “instruments of the special revelation of God in Christ, the founders of the universal Christian church, and the spiritual authorities of revealed truth” (p. 19), Huijser goes on to show that the office of elder is by apostolic appointment the successor (not continuation) of the lauer’s unique office for to it has been committed the continuing task of superintending, governing, and care of souls, first begun and performed in the church by the apostles (pp. 23–24). At first, ruling elders alone were the immediate necessity for newly founded congregations and were ordained by the apostles after they had been elected by the congregation (Acts 14:23). They were. after the pattern of the O.T. church and the synagogue, fellow-laborers with the apostles in the oversight of the local congregations. Preaching, however, was yet by and large in the hands of the apostles or those, such as prophets and evangelists, endowed with the charismatic gifts temporarily given by the Holy Spirit to facilitate the founding of the infant church. With the growth of the precipitate of revelation, however. came the necessity of perpetuating the preaching of apostolic truth. Hence, Paul’s admonition to Timothy. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (ll Timothy 2;2, d. 1:13, 3;10, 14). Thus, the mantle of the apostolic doctrine’s perpetuation fell upon those whom Scripture designates as teachers, originally the apostles themselves (Luke 1:2, Acts 6:4, I Timothy 2:7, II Timothy 1:11). but later including others with or without charismatic gifts (Acts 13:1, I Corinthians 12;28–29, Ephesians 4;11). The cessation of the charismatic gifts brought to an end the special offices of evangelist (such as Timothy and Titus) and prophet, so that their disappearance, along with the apostolic office, left that of the teacher, or minister of the Word, as the sole remainder and permanent replacement of these earlier temporary offices.

The association of the teaching office with that of eldership is clearly seen in I Timothy 5:17, with the two aspects of what must be regarded as but one office also to be noted in this verse. However, the fact that only some elders were teachers necessarily brought about such changes in this office as needful remuneration for full-time work in the ministry of the Word, and usual limitation of their number to one in any particular congregation. Huijser comments, “The text (I Timothy 5:17–18) let us see that in the last years of Paul’s labors, approximately thirty years after his conversion, when the composition of the young Christian church had more or less crystallized, a specified group of men from the eldership became apparent who gave themselves specifically to the preaching and teaching of the Holy Scriptures. They were the teachers of the congregation and found their life’s work in this ministry; consequently they received remuneration for their official work. This is seen from what the apostle says, ‘For the Scripture says, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the com, and, The laborer is worthy of his reward’…When seen in connection with Revelation 2–3 where there is always reference to a sole angel of the assembly, we may conclude that in each congregation there was probably but one man who received an honorarium, namely, he who was invested with the office of teacher or preacher” (pp. 71–72). We are not, however, to conclude that the aspects of ruling and teaching were separate divisions of the larger office of eldership. Huijser allows that this might be the conclusion if I Timothy 5:17 were viewed in isolation from rather than in connection with the basic thought of apostolic succession (pp. 72–73). But we have seen that the ministry of the Word was an office from the very beginning (Luke 1;2, Acts 6:4) which, by the time of the writing of I Timothy 5:17, had been combined with the office of elder. Huijser’s conclusion, therefore, is that in I Timothy 5;17 two aspects of the one office are denominated, the aspect of leading or governing and the aspect of preaching; the first was never without the second. and the second was for all time paired with the first; the elder was not however necessarily a minister of the Word because of his official position, but the minister of the Word combined the two aspects of the office in his person (p. 73). The minister of the Word may, hence, be thought of as the first among equals (p. 72 ), not a dominee (a term which Huijser considers unfortunate as a designation of the pastor because of its Latin original which means master which the pastor clearly is not, p. 59). Even less are the elders to be thought of as rulers, for Christ alone is Master, Lord, and King. Christ rules His church. The elders of His flock govern, or superintend (proistemi, I Timothy 5;17), and he who would lead must become as a servant, as Matthew 23:8–11 teaches (p. 63).

This book is worthy of study for other reasons as well. For example, Huijser shows that one of the reasons for the decline of preaching in the Middle Ages was because of the exchange of the pulpit for the altar of the Mass (p. 36). Is not the increasingly modem emphasis upon liturgy and ritual creating the same danger? Our congregations again need to be reminded in the words of Hoekstra quoted by Huijser, namely, that the minister of the Word “is one sent by the King who brings the King’s word to His subjects. It is as if Christ Himself speaks and entreats us through him” (p. 109). Nothing can or must replace the centrality of preaching in the worship service!

Another example or rood for thought not altogether separate from the above is Rome’s concern for preaching since the Reformation. Huijser lists the various canons from the Council of Trent to our own time which stress the necessity of preaching. Two examples, one on page 89 and the other on page 90. are to the point. “Preaching must be a means of setting forth the redemptive work of Jesus Christ” (Encyclical of Bcnedict XV, 1917). “The content of the sermon must be that which the faithful must have for faith and practice in order to be saved” (Canon 1347). As Huijser correctly observes, Rome may not make preaching properly central in worship, nor be concerned with its purity in connection with the Word alone, but do not her interests for preaching, to this extent at least, put many Protestant churches to shame?

At the end of the book Huijser an extensive and worthwhile bibliography of some 223 entries. The book would be a worthy protect for translation into English even at the undoubted increase in price over its present low cost at the American equivalent of $2.33. An addition of subject and Scripture text indexes, now lacking, would also be an immeasurable help for reference and correlated study of a subject about which every cider and minister of Reformed persuasion might well deepen, if not also broaden, his present knowledge.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Huijser for his careful and illuminating work upon a subject of vital concern for the proper preservation and perpetuation of the Book of Christ which He has entrusted into the care of His under-shepherds.

RAYMOND O. ZORN Fawn Grove, Pa.

The Doctrines of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers

by Thomas F. Torrance

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1959, 150 pp. $3.00

This study, first published in Great Britain in 1948, is a work of major importance not only in understanding the Apostolic Fathers but in understanding some of the heresies in much of contemporary theological thinking.

The early church, approaching the biblical faith with alien presuppositions, steadily transformed grace from the gift of God in Christ in the objective act of salvation to, first, “something given by God to those who worthily strive after righteousness to enable them to attain their end. It was something to be acquired.” Second. the Holy Spirit was also, like grace, detached from Christ and grace attached to the Spirit and made pneumatic. Third, “Grace was taken under the wing of the Church in an official way. The Church was regarded as endowed in some way or other with this spiritual power which made the believer godlike, and in fact united him to God. The Church as the body of Christ was looked on as the depository of pneumatic grace, which might be dispensed in sacramentalist fashion after the analogy of the mystery religions. The Church, in other words, possessed the means of grace. With Ignatius this was closely associated with the episcopate” (pp. 139–141).

This perversion of doctrine came about, not by any deliberate distortion. but in the context of earnest faith which, while speaking to the needs of the day, gave an accordingly unbalanced or distorted emphasis to the gospel. This Ignatius, in speaking to the Roman world’s sense of evil, presented the work or Christ in terms or that condition. “Christ dies to deliver men from the fetters of the devil, from ignorance, and every bond of wickedness, and from death. Much more is made in the Epistles of Ignatius of the devil and the Prince of this world than of the power of sin or guilt. It may be that sin is actually understood when evil powers are spoken of; but on the whole it appears to be evil and not sin that is under consideration” (p. 6lf.). Much of contemporary theology’s seeming concern with sin is this same confusion and preoccupation with evil, which distorts the work of Christ.

In the Didache, a distortion of the work of Christ is traced to the confusion of sin with corruption rather than guilt. “That is why the emphasis is laid on immortality or incorruptibility. If sin is corruption, then doubt1css salvation from sin will not come till after death. It follows then that if at baptism the believer does not put on salvation right away, Christ has not borne the whole burden of sin. There is still much left for the believer to do” (p. 41).

At these and other points, Judaism and Hellenism were basic to the change in the doctrine of grace. Grace was made to conform to an outlook in which “the idea of merit, which is the central thought in all pagan conceptions of salvations” (p. 126), governed and ordered all thought. The result was a radical re-orientation of the conception of the Christian life. “They did not live from God so much as toward Him” (p. 135). The eschatological emphasis was likewise shifted from the work of Christ to the fundamental gap between this world and the world to come. Christian ethics were similarly reconstructed in terms of man’s urge for self-justification. The essential unity of doctrine in biblical thought gave way to the pagan disunity and tension. Grace was made impersonal and a private possession or accomplishment. Forgiveness was granted, not on the grounds of Christ’s work but man, work, not Christ, affliction and purity, but man’s self-affliction and purity (p. 119). Accordingly, reconciliation became less and less forgiveness and more and more “reconciliation as attaining to God and becoming like Him” (p. 66). “Faith is turned into faithfulness or endurance with a view to salvation” (p. 70). With the church made the depository of grace, faithfulness to and unity with the church “became increasingly important. The unity between church and bishop was compared by Ignatius to the unity between Christ and the Father, and Ignatius went so far as to say that this unity is God. Forgiveness is thus for those who unite with the bishop, and “where there is unity the Lord dwells” (p. 85). Salvation becomes less a participation by faith in Christ and more an imitation of Christ’s work, even to His death, as with Polycarp (p. 95).

It is a temptation to continue citing the very important conclusions Torrance has reached. Suffice it to say that no serious Christian can evade the significance of this study, which, while It careful and excellent bit of research, is by its very nature an urgent tract for the times. The publishers are to be praised for making it available to readers in this country.

ROUSAS ]. RUSHDOONY

         

         

Central Themes of American Life

by Tim J. Campbell

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1959, 188 pp. $3.50

Here is an important and popular treatment o( the Christian philosophy of history which presupposes an eternal decree and human responsibility under God. “Campbell declares, the greatest fact of American history, and of world history, is that God roles in the aHairs of man” (p. 11). Campbell sees history in terms of design, and the eternal aspect of that design is basic. He illustrates this purpose in terms of certain tests:

“Events to which man did not contribute cannot be credited to man. Results striven for by man but which could not have been brought about except for some happening which man did not foresee or control cannot be credited to man.

“Man cannot be credited with having controlled even that which resulted from his own acts unless the result was contemplated by man.

“When it appears that unexpected nonhuman factors have repeatedly determined beneficial outcomes in times of crises, then that was God’s hand” (p. 12).

Not all can share Campbell’s particular beliefs in neo-orthodoxy as a step towards orthodoxy (p. 153), his re-assurance concerning tho theological position of the World Council of Churches (p. 151), or his happy opinion of foreign aid by the United States (p. 141), but Campbell recognizes that “Some of the deductions here made are fallacious” (p. 42). What is not fallacious in Campbell is his insistence with Scripture and after Calvin and Hodge that history is governed by an eternal decree and a plan of salvation, and therefore cannot be understood apart from these things. His stress on American history is accordingly in terms of the divine purpose to show forth God’s glory and manifest His plan and Kingdom; the history of no nation is to be read apart from God. In terms of this faith, Campbell has written an excellent and very readable book, one to be commended to pastors and members alike as happy and necessary reading and a needed addition to church libraries.

ROUSAS J. RUSHDOONY

The Idea of Equality, An Anthology

by George L. Abernathy

John Knox Press, Richmond, Virginia, 1959, 351 pp. $6.00

Fundamental to this anthology, as revealed in Abernathy’s introduction, is the liberal faith that equality and justice are inseparable. This idea of equality is seen as basic to biblical thought with its “pr0phetic insistence on the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” (p. 18). The modem mythology is thus accepted without question by Abernathy. There is no recognition that the modern concept of equality can be destructive of justice, or that it involves a defective conception of man and society. Significantly, most of Abernathy, documents are from the modem era, and the book has a limited value in its reproduction of such things as the 1848 Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments (on women’s rights), the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the U.S. Supreme Court 1954 decision on public school desegregation. For a fuller documentation and better commentary on the Puritan concepts, which Abernathy cites briefly, A. S. P. Woodhouse’s Puritanism and Liberty (1938) should be consulted, and for an analysis of the present situation and the relationship of equality to justice, the symposium, Essays on Individuality, edited by Felix Morley (1958). Abernathy’s effort is a futile labor of misguided love.

ROUSAS J. RUSHDOONY