FILTER BY:

Book Reviews

Divine Election by G.C. Berkouwer Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960. 336 pp. $4.50

The book jacket of this study carries two endorsements, the first from James Daane and the second from Christianity Today. According to the latter, this work “rejects both the traditional and the Barthian view of the ultimacy of election and reprobation.” This characterization aptly summarizes the approach of Berkouwer’s Divine Election, which, however much he tries to connect his point of view with historic Calvinism and the creeds, still remains a rejection of that view and is presented as such by the publishers.

Thus, while Berkouwer labors earnestly to connect his view with the Canons, and again with Calvin, it remains, in Daane’s words, one with “a perspective and spirit thai will be quite novel to most theologians and ministers.” The labored attempt remains unconvincing, and is characterized by a fragmentary approach, and Berkouwer admits at times that the Canons and Calvin often suggest contrary conclusions. At one point, Berkouwer remarks, “It is not our intention to defend everyone of Calvin’s utterances regarding the doctrine of election. On some occasions he speaks of the relation between divine and human causes in such a manner that other expressions make us feel relieved” (p. 190). Had Berkouwer been ready 10 face the implications of Calvin’s total view, he would have been compelled, on his grounds, to accuse him, as he does Cornelius Van Til, of “determinism.” Significantly, Berkouwer by-passes the most mature and fully developed Reformed statement, The Westminster Confession, having but two (pp. 17,22) passing references to it.

Had Berkouwer given fuller attention to Calvin, to the Westminster Confession, and to Van Til, he would have avoided his sorry confusion of predestination and pagan determinism. Mohammedanism is deterministic in that proximate and ultimate causes are COnfused and reduced to one, whereas for Christianity, as the Westminster Confession states it, “the liberty or contingency of second causes” is not “taken away but rather established” by God’s predestination of “whatsoever comes to pass” (III, 1). What Dort condemned was the deterministic reading of reprobation, as Berkouwer notes (p. 175f.).

Why then this hostility on Berkouwer’s part to double predestination, of which Van Til is clearly a contemporary champion? (It might he noted that many others, including Gordon H. Clark, share this view, common to Presbyterian as well as Reformed orthodoxy.) To understand the labored argumentation of Berkouwer against this position, let us consider the attractiveness of this faith to the neo-orthodox theologians, men who by no means have a common position with Van Til. Why does Barth, for example, with his radically anthropocentric epistemology and his universalistic implications, give such extensive attention to the doctrine of double predestination and strive in some fashion to duplicate it? Why the urgency of this doctrinal to such men, and its compelling necessity, even as they attack the substance and essence of it in Calvin? The basis of attack is again its “determinism” and the absolute decree, whereas the goal of their own endeavor is in a sense to achieve the same doctrine without its consequences, i.e., to cat their cake, theologically, and to have it too.

One brilliant neo-orthodox theologian, Joseph Haroutunian, has aptly expressed its necessity:

The crown of Protestant piety is tho doctrine of “double election.” The notion that God elects some for salvation and others for damnation…is the ultimate product of the Protestant spirit. However easily misunderstood (and it has been universally misunderstood!), it represents the Virtual liberation of the religion from the anthropocenbic perspective, and the delusion, magic, and idolatry it generates. It is the last assertion of God’s ultimate freedom as He creates the world, a last terrible tribute to tile facts of reprobation as known in this world, a last recognition that one’s eternal destiny and one’s present status before God are secrets known only to God. It is man’s last avowal that the “communication ad extra” of God’s internal glory the manifestation of his infinite perfections, “whether in the good or the evil which life brings to man, even in the sin and death of man, is the “last end for which God created the world” (Wisdom and Folly in Religion, p. 109 f.).

It is not necessary to agree with all Haroutunian has to say here and elsewhere in order to recognize the validity of his position. His insistence, in Barthian fashion, on the doctrine he cannot accept in its true and Calvinistic sense, has this ground: double predestination is a philosophic and religious barrier against the return of magic, idolatry and the demonic. It is a witness to Barth’s philosophic brilliance, as against Brunner, that he has seen the necessity of trying to retain in some fashion a doctrine so hostile to his universalistic implications. Any and every rebellion against the orthodox doctrine of double predestination is, as Van Til has repeatedly shown, an attempt to return to a world of magic, to define finite existence independently of the plan and decree of God. In Vall Til’s words, “In every instance, though with varying degrees, it is the autonomous man that peeps through these criticisms. Knowingly or unknowingly, these men are unwilling to make their stand on the principle of the self-identification of God in the Scriptures” (The Defense of the Faith, p. 423).

Berkouwer, as this reviewer has pointed out elsewhere (Westminster Theological Journal. May. 1960, p. 174f.), tends markedly to anthropocentric and subjectivist thinking which is inimical to the orthodox faith. As a result, he brings to his studies not only an extensive learning, but an air of confusion exercised with more ability than most of his contemporaries. This is not a study of divine election as such, but, as the book jacket testifies, an argument against the orthodox or “traditional” doctrine of election and the presentation of a novel doctrine thereof.

Rousns John Rushdoony

Aan de Romeinen by Herman Ridderbos Published by J.H. Kok. Kampen, 1959

Let me say immediately that this is a great work. The author clearly shows that he is a theologian of the very first order. He is thoroughly versed in the literature of the exegesis of Romans. He never avoids a problem. He writes in a clear, readable style. Here is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, even though I was not always in agreement with the author.

The theme of Romans is clearly set forth, p. 19. Individual concepts—such as: “flesh,” “righteousness”—are carefully explained; that is to say, the book is full of precious word-studies. Nevertheless, such word-studies do not in any way detract from the volume’s readability. They simply form part of the argument. What adds to the value of the book is that much of the detailed exegesis in which the general reader is not interested is treated in paragraphs that are clearly separated from the main text. Hence, here is something for “the layman,” and also something for the advanced student or theologian.

On almost every point of exegesis I am in full agreement with Dr. Ridderhos. It is understandable that I was more than just pleased with the fact that with respect to the controversial “And so all Israel shall be saved” passage (Romans 11:26) the author’s view coincides exactly with that which I have set forth in my booklet which has that text as its title. Says Dr. Ridderbos, “All Israel means the divinely ordained full number of Israel, which one day will have been delivered by God from all sin and ruin and in which God’s “promises to Israel will have fulfilled themselves” (p. 263). He completely rejects the idea of a conversion of the Jews that would follow a conversion of the Gentiles (p. 264). He is convinced that the fulness of the Jews cannot have reference to any mass-conversion that will take place at this or that specific period in history. On the contrary, it spans history in its entirety (p. 256).

This commentary is a genuine contribution to New Testament literature, a contribution so outstanding that I would list it among the half dozen best religious books published in the year 1959.

My one important disagreement with the author—a disagreement shared by many others—concerns his exegesis of Romans 7:14–25. He sees here “the portrayal of man apart from Christ in his hopeless struggle under the law” (p. 165). Paul, the Christian, reflects on his pre-Christian “death situation” under the law (p. 170). I have read the author’s exegesis several times. I have tried my level best to follow his reasoning. I have not been convinced. To me the position that Romans 7:14–25 picturcs the conflict in the heart of Paul the Christian—the struggle between “the new man” in Christ and “the old man” of sin—is much more satisfying. Anyone who wishes to make a more detailed study of this is referred to the commentaries on Romans by W. G. Coltman (p. 163), David Brown (p. 74), C, Hodge (PP. 357, 386), J. Van Andel (pp. 143, 144), J. A. C. Van Leeuwen and D. Jacobs (132, 133), S. Greijdanus (Vol. I, p. 338 If.), and last but not least John Calvin (Calvin’s Commentaries, published by Eerdmans, 1947, Romans p. 259 ff.), to mention only a few. A fine summary of the argument can also be found in the just published Commentary on Romans by Prof. John Murray (pp. 256-273). The man who is portrayed here in Romans 7:14–25 “delights in the law of God” (verse 22), desires with all his might to do the good and to oppose the evil within him (verses 15-21), actually suffers intensely because of the fact that he is still a sinner (verse 24), yet has already in principle found deliverance through Christ (verse 25). Is not this the same struggle described in such passages as 1 Corinthians 9:26, 27; Philippians 3:12–14; and especially Galatians 5:16, 17? Paul was an intensely emotional man, a man who experienced constant struggles, yet also again and again rediscovered his peace in Christ and in his atonement. Is it not clear that in verse 9 (note the vast tense) Paul is describing his own past, but that in verses 14–25 (a long series of present tenses) he is describing his present condition (as a believer)? Besides, we have no right to disregard the fact that the view according to which Romans 7:14–25 pictures the intense struggle against sin in the heart of the believer is the Confessional interpretation. It is honored by many Confessions, both Lutheran and Calvinist. At present I shall point to just two references taken from our own Heidelberg Catechism (Lord’s Day 44, answer to Question 114 and textual reference; also Lord’s Day 52, Question 127 and textual reference).

In spite of this one important point with respect to which my own exegesis departs from that of Dr. Ridderbos—and a few minor ones which I shall not take the trouble to indicate—I am in agreement with the author. Every minister should by all means obtain a copy of the work. It is excellent!

William Hendriksen Byron Center, Mich.

BOOK BRIEFS

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

Vol. One. by D. Martin Lloyd Jones Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1959, 320 pages, $4.50

Preaching should accomplish two basic things. First, the Scriptures must speak clearly in order that the lives of God’s people may be fed. God’s growing children need the high protein of Biblical meat. Second, God’s Word must speak to the times and the lives of God’s children where they live and move and have their daily conversations with mankind. Dr. Lloyd-Jones, Minister of Westminster Chapel, London, does these two things in this book of thirty sermons. The reading of these sermons underscores the truth of II Timothy 3:16, “Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.” The expository preaching displayed in this work serves to help God’s people to be furnished completely unto every good work. I recommend this book to the readers of this periodical and eagerly await the second volume.

Alexander C. De Jong

The Voice of Authority by George W. Marston The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1960–110 pp.–$2.00

Many voices clamor for our attention. This is especially so in matters of truth and conduct. The individual conscience, public opinion, the church, the specialist, tradition, the Bible are a few of these voices. Each claims to speak with authority. The inescapable question arises, “To whom must man listen?”

The Rev. Mr. Muston deals with this important and inescapable question. In the first section of the book the author clearly demonstrates what happens when man himself claims to speak with final authority to his fellow-man. Man, in his sinful rebellion against God, rejects the divine voice of authority. This initial rejection leads to a despairing agnosticism and eventual meaninglessness. Each step along the twilight road towards darkness is sketched by the author with convincing clarity.

Man, as creature, was made to listen to God as the voice of final authority. Here again the author argues cogently and clearly, He answers such charges as, “aren’t you reasoning in a circle” (pp. 48–52) and “since there are so many different opinions as to what the Bible teaches, how can we use it as a standard in matters of faith and conduct?” (pp. 61–66). In listening to God’s voice the believer accepts the miraculous and the Lord’s interpretation of the miraculous. He humbly holds fast to the various Biblical truths which are incapable of logical harmonization. In this second, and most important, section Mr. Marston moves his pen with lucid rapidity and Biblical insight.

We congratulate the author on this his first book. it deserves wide reading, particularly in the circle of maturing young scholars. In this book the young scholar finds basic positions clearly outlined and Biblically buttressed. In an age when many heap teachers to themselves with itching ears, author Marston convincingly points the way to God and his inspired Word.

Alexander C. De Jong

Christelijke Encyclopedia Volume 4 J.H. Kok, Kampen, Netherlands, 1959, 680 pages, f 29.50

Selective reading in this fourth volume of the Christian Encyclopedia is as instructive and challenging as the reading of the first three volumes. The editors and publisher are performing a great service for the Christian community by making this revised edition available. Such articles as Kerk by Dr. A. Polman, Kinderdoop by Dr. J. Van Genderen, Kunst by Dr. J. Wytzes, Marrisme by Dr. K. Kraan, though brief, are lucid and helpful for the busy reader. The more one consults this series the more the reader is convinced that this set of Dutch books is a must for the student’s shelf of reference works.

Alexander C. De Jong

 

Book Received at Torch and Trumpet for Review – April 5, 1960.

The Holy Spirit – His Person and Work by Edward H. Bickersteth, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan, 1960 $2.95

The Emphasized Bible by Joseph Bryant Rotherham, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan, 1959 $12.95

An Exposition of the Gospel of John by George Hutcheson, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan, 1959 $4.95

The Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan, 1960 $8.95

The Speaker’s Sourcebook of 4,000 Illustrations, etc. by Eleanor Doan, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1960 $3.95

Tempest Over Scotland by Norman E. Nygaard, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1960 $2.50

The Teachings of Calvin for Today by Harold J. Whitney, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1959 $2.95

The Westminster Confession for Today by George S. Hendry, John Knox Press, Richmond 9, Virginia, 1960 Paper $2.00

Divorce by L. Boettner, Published by author, Rockport, Mo. 25¢, $2.50 per dozen

Flitsen en Fragmenten by J.H. Bavinck, J.H. Kok, Kampen, 1959 price f 4.95

Evangelism Without Apology, James A. Stewart, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1960 $2.25

World Civilization, A. Hyma, Ann Arbor Publishers, 1959, 190 pages

Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan, 1960 $8.95

 

The following are all Eerdmans Publications List of Words, (Hebrews-English) John D.W. Watts, 75¢

Archaeology and the New Testament, J.A. Thompson (A Pathway Book) 1960 $1.50

The Apocalypse Today, Thomas F. Torrance, 1959 $3.00

The Gospel of the Kingdom, George E. Ladd, 1959 $2.75

Faith is the Victory, E.M. Blaiklock, 1959 $2.00

The Triumph of Grace in THE THEOLOGY OF KARL BARTH, G.C. Berkouwer, Paperback Edition $2.45

Divine Election, G.C. Berkouwer, Paperback Edition $4.50

Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen, 1923 – Paperback, 1960

Christian Ministry, G.W. Bromiley (A Pathway Book) $1.50

Tyndale Bible Commentaries: Gospel According to John, R.V.G. Tasker, 1960 $3.00

John, R.V.G. Tasker, 1960 $3.00

The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, R.P. Martin, 1960 $3.00

Alarm to the Unconverted, Joseph Alleine, Sovereign Grace Publishers, Evansville 13, Indiana, 1959 $3.00

The Puritan Commentary on Ephesians, Paul Byne, Sovereign Grace Publishers, Evansville 13, Indiana, 1959 $7.95

Select Works by John Owen (Justification) Sovereign Grace Publishers, Evansville 13, Indiana, 1959

The Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, Edward John Carnell, Eerdmans Paperback Editions, 250 pp., 1960 $2.45

The Church’s Mission to the Educated American, Dissertation for obtaining the doctorate at the Free University by J.H. Nederhood, An Eerdmans Paperback Edition, 1960 $2.50

The Biblical Doctrine of Initiation by R.E.O. White, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 392 pages, 1960 $6.00

The Witness of the Spirit, Bernard Ramm, Eerdmans, 140 pages, 1960 $3.00

 

The following are Baker Book House publication:

Revivals: Their Laws and Leaders by James Burns, 353 pages, 1960 $3.95

The Theology of the Major Sects by J.H. Gerstner, 1960 $3.95

 

The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company has the following:

In the Twilight of Western Though, Herman Dooyeweerd’s lectures delivered on his American tour in 1958. 195 pages, 1960 $3.50

The Voice of Authority, G.W. Marston, 110 pages 1960 $2.00

Nietsche by H. Van Riessen $1.25

Bultman by Herman Ridderbos $1.25

Kierkegaard by S.U. Zuidema $1.25

Dewey by G.H. Clark $1.50

 

These all appear in a Modern Thinking Series, Ed. David H. Freeman

The Psychology of Counseling by C.M. Narramore, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 303 pages, 1960 $3.95

Church Chuckles by C. Cartwright, Kregel’s Publications, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan, 1960 $1.00

The Gospel According to Rome, J.H. Gerstner, Baker Book House 50¢, $5.00 per dozen