THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF HISTORY by John McIntyre Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957 (118 pp.)
As a theologian Dr. McIntyre is concerned with a philosophy of history that is both consistent with and expressive of the idea of the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. He seeks for a doctrine of history “which is in organic union with the whole corpus of the Christian faith” (p.9). But this “corpus of the Christian faith,” we have learned in recent times, must itself be seen from the point of view of its “rootedness” in history (p. 11). “The purpose of this present study is to demonstrate that the Christian, because of his belief in God’s revelation of himself in history, is committed to a unique doctrine of history; that this doctrine is not merely a theory concerning facts which are accepted by all men, but relates to the central nature of history UseIf” (p. 11).
Immediately involved in this interrelatedness of Christianity and history, says McIntyre, is the fact that we cannot expect “to have an idea of history which is equally acceptable to believers and unbelievers” (p. 12).
Readers of this magazine may prick up their ears at this point and expect to hear echoes of the voice of Abraham Kuyper. Did not Kuyper say that, having experienced regeneration, Christians read history in a way quite different from non-Christians?
But McIntyre means nothing remotely similar to what Kuyper means. The God of Abraham Kuyper was in complete control of history. The god of McIntyre is confronted with a principle of necessity that limits him in what he can do in history (pp. 20 fl.).
The two men have, therefore, mutually exclusive views of creation, and of the “orders of creation.” In the case of Kuyper, the “orders of creation” are subject to God. In the case of McIntyre the “orders of creation” are impersonal laws.
The two men also have mutually exclusive views of providence. The God of Kuyper has unlimited power over history. The god of McIntyre finds himself faced with a limit “within which Providence must work” (p. 34).
HISTORY AND PROVIDENCE
The reader may at this point object to my making such a sharp contrast between Kuyper’s and McIntyre’s views of providence. Let us suppose the reader as giving the following definition: “Providence is that decree whereby God wills in eternity that which comes to pass in time.” Who said that? be asks. I answer: I can well think of Kuyper saying that. And then be opens McIntyre’s little book at the fourth chapter to prove that McIntyre used these words. How do I explain this?
Perhaps I may start my explanation with a statement often used by Kuyper to the effect that when two people use the same words they may yet seek to convey opposite meanings.
One cannot help but think of these words again and again in these days of neo-ortbodoxy. If it was true of modem theologians of a half century ago that they put new meanings into old words, this is doubly true today. Recent theologians do not reject the gospel; they simply reinterpret it. This is the day of Umdeutung. Even so it is with McIntyre. At the same time he is quite honest and open in his rejection of the traditional Christian “interpretations” of creation and providence.
The definition of providence as given, says McIntyre, “is by its very nature formal” (p. 35). And thereby hangs a tale. As formal, McIntyre’s definition of providence needs to get its content from the raw stuff of the universe, and from the ultimate acts of the freedom of man. Thus the category of providence “operates within the limiting terms of the categories of necessity and freedom. There are some bets in the necessary structure of history which even providence can· not change, and which we cannot expect it to change when we ourselves are called upon to act in a specific historical situation, a point always to be remembered in our prayers” (p. 38).
It appears then that the god of McIntyre is limited both by a realm of natural necessity and by ultimate human freedom.
Naturally McIntyre is confronted with the necessity of somehow relating these three in orderly fashion. He does this by the currently adopted principle of dimensionalism. Immanuel Kant has taught modem theologians how to employ this principle. By means of this principle science is given the dimension of necessity; man is given the dimension of absolute autonomous freedom. These two dimensions seem to be wholly opposed to one another. But then the idea of God is introduced as a limiting or regulative concept. God is said to be “above” both nature and man, and the one who unifies both, making them cooperate with one another in a common subservience to himself.
So for Mclntyre the category of the incarnation “is regulative of that of providence” (p. 44).
To be regulative of the idea of providence the Incarnation must itself be a formal idea. Jesus Christ is fulfillment (p. 48). As such he is the “unique and supreme Revelation of God” (p. SO). But, sad to say, the idea of Christ as fulfillment has not been properly reflected in the historical creeds (p. 50). The Chalcedon creed was too static and rigid and substantialist to think of God in Christ being really involved in creation (p. 50, p. 35). The historic creeds have, for the same reason, been unable to do justice to the universalism inherent in the idea of Christ as fulfillment (p. 35).
It is therefore only if we adopt the “methods of modern historical science” in relation to Scripture (p. 61) that we can introduce the proper amount of irrationalism in the way of the forces of nature, and of human freedom with all their attendant evil and at the same time have the proper amount of rationalism. In this manner we can be “scientific,” hold to human freedom as absolute and yet think of Christ as the ideal through whom all men and all things are redeemed because fulfilled. “So we find no difficulty in the idea that in the Atonement, not only are individuals given a new status before God, but so also is the totality of history” (p. 78).
The reader may by this time think again of Kuyper’s statement to the effect that the same words may mean different things to different people.
To have a proper view of providence and history in terms of Christ McIntyre finds it necessary to employ the modem idea of pure contingency and therefore of pure irrationalism. He says that without such an idea we cannot properly say that “God effects the identification of himself with history” (p. 78). McIntyre says that for him “this concept of identification is becoming,” “the dominant one in the interpretation of the Atonement…” (p.79). From Kuyper’s point of view this idea of contingency is destructive of the entire idea of the providence of God, and of atonement through Christ. If God must himself be lost in the abyss of contingency in order to save man, he himself would need to be taken out of it. And the sin of man would be reduced to the idea of something inherently irrational, something for which man would have no responsibility.
On the other hand, correlative to the idea of God’s identification of himself with pure contingency, McIntyre, together with other modem theologians, assumes that all men are inherently in Christ and are therefore “saved” from all eternity. Men need not to depend upon certain events of history for their salvation. The first and the second coming of Christ must be taken “as parts of the one single great fact of Christ” (p. 84). Thus the incarnation becomes prospective (p. 85). They did not realize that to take Christ as the integrative principle of history means that God took the problem of suffering “into himself” (p.93).
The reader will now understand that there is in this book of McIntyre no echo of the voice of Kuyper. When McIntyre says that he is not dealing with facts of history on which believers and unbelievers agree his believers and unbelievers are in no basic and permanent way distinct from one another. The believers in McIntyre’s view are such as have set up the Christ-ideal as the integrative principle of history. His unbelievers have Dot done this as yet. But. this does not mean that the unbelievers will not eventually participate in all the good things that believers visualize by means of their Christ-ideal. For all men are potentially in Christ.
Would that McIntyre, and with him many other theologians, might see that, while seeking to do justice to the “realm of necessity” and to the “realm of human freedom” and bringing both into subjection to Christ, they have, in effect, destroyed both science and freedom, offering us a Christ who is nothing but a projection of the mind of man.
CORNELIUS VAN TIL
The Westminster Confession for Today by George S. Hendry John Knox Press, Richmond, Virginia. 253 pp., paper, $2.00
The commentary on the Westminster Confession by the professor of Systematic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary begins with a call for the revision of thai document on the grounds that “new insights derived from faithful study of the Word of God, and new conditions under which the journey of faith has to be made, require that the maps of doctrine, which did good service to our forefathers in their journey, must be revised and amended if they are to fulfill that service for us” (p. 14). The Confession, as a 17th century product, “is excessively legalistic,” its “authors know all the answers, and can explain everything,” “tends to see everything in terms of black and white,” and is individualistic in approach, so that the lime has come “to trade in the Confession for a new one” p. 14–16).
With this introduction, it is not surprising that the author has no liking for the orthodox doctrines of inspiration and of God. Indeed, approaching the chapter “Of God and the Holy Trinity” with a Barthian hostility towards the ontological trinity, Hendry finds the Confession dangerous to the faith because:
it ends in describing another God, who is unrevealed, and who lacks the attributes of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it actually imperils the faith it asserts, that “there is but one only living and true God,” because it fails to concentrate attention on the authentic image of himself which God has given us in Jesus Christ (p. 47).
Hendry’s hostility to the absoluteness and sovereignty of God is so marked that he goes as far as to say, “When we use this kind of language, arc we saying something about God, or only about ourselves? Are we setting up an image of God which is only a projection of ourselves or a compensation for the deficiencies of our own being?” (p. 48). Such psychologizing is not only irrelevant to a matter of interpretation of Scripturc but can be turned against Hendry: those who rebel so strongly against a strong authoritarian image themselves reveal Oedipal rivalry impulses. 1be Scriptural evidence for the Confession’s declaration Hendry does not consider, because of his limitation of revelation: “The only authentic knowledge of God is that which he has given us in his revelation of himself in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit” (p. 48). The fact that this concept means that revelation is radical subjectivism, being no more than the private illumination of a neo-orthodox thinker, James I. Packer has brilliantly shown in Revelation and the Bible (p. 101; a symposium, Carl F. H. Henry, ed.).
In dealing with God’s eternal decree or double predestination, Hendry makes it clear that “the doctrine is no longer acceptable in the form in which it is presented in the Confession” (p. 51). He gives four confused reasons. First, it smacks of “dread and doom.” Second, he insists it does not mean reprobation, and so to read it (as he bas just done) is to abuse the text, which actually means that everyone can be saved, because even the vessels of wrath are “not excluded from his purpose of salvation”! (p. 52f.) Third, double predestination is not biblical; fourth, it is destructive of the freedom of both man and God. “The root of the doctrine is undoubtedly the sovereignty of the grace of God as it is exhibited in his saving work in Christ, and its basic Intention Is to trace this grace to its eternal ground in the will of God…If Christ is the authentic revelation of God, God has no other will than that which is revealed in him, and we may be fully assured thai he is able…to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him (Heb. 7:25)” (p. 55). Here Is the typical neo-orthodox limiting of God to his relational aspects and a hostility to God in himself, i.e., the ontological trinity. Hendry, while tending to universalism, inconsistently leaves universalism an open question. Later, in discussing effectual calling, he observes, “The paragraph (Of Effectual Calling, 4) illustrates the fact that a doctrine of predestination which refers salvation ultimately to a secret and immutable decree effectually undermines the assurance of salvation, which in CIXX (“Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation,” chapter XVIII in most versions; Hendry here follows the Southern Church’s numbering.) is founded on the veracity of the word and the evidential reliability of the work of the Spirit” (p. 131). This is not the only place at which Hendry claims the Confession contradicts itself.
The Confession’s, statement “Of Justification” Hendry finds to be legalistic, a fault he ascribes, among others, to Calvin. For Hendry, any attempt to retain Christ’s satisfaction of divine justice is inconsistent with “the sufficiency of grace alone” (p. 177).
His radical subjectivism is apparent in the treatment of the perseverance of the saints.
The doctrine represents an attempt to establish the certainty of salvation on all objective basis, which is not dependent on the will of the saints. But since salvation is a process in which the saints are subjectively involved, it is not easy to see how this can be accomplished. The Confession tries to get around this difficulty by introducing the conception of a “state of grace”… But this gain is dearly bought…
It is a question whether this notion of a state of grace, which is of Roman Catholic ancestry, can have any place in an evangelical confession. To evangelical faith grace is not a state which men can be in, without being aware of it, but a strategy in which God deals with men in personal encounter and response. The certainty of salvation cannot be taken out of this context and established on an objective basis as a matter of logical certainly. If the attempt is made, the effect is to change the nature of salvation from a dealing with men into a disposing of them; and this is inevitable if salvation Is made to rest ultimately on the immutable and eternal decree. But since it is obviously impossible to conclude God’s dealings with men from the picture altogether, the relation between his disposing 0 them and his dealing with them becomes a dark and tantalizing enigma. If the problem is split into two in this manner, the perseverance of the saints becomes meaningless and the assurance of salvation impossible (p. 169).
Perhaps we should be grateful that Hendry finds it “obviously impossible to exclude God’s dealings…” altogether!
It would be easy to continue pointing out Hendry’s differences with the Confession and historic Calvinism, but enough has been said to indicate his consistent neo-orthodoxy and his hostility to Reformed thinking. But the book is disappointing in another respect. Hendry’s introduction to American readers came in 1938, with God the Creator. Without arguing with the authors militant neo-orthodoxy, readers could not fail to be impressed by his brilliant writing. This present book is back work, an assignment to a subject which normally would not attract Hendry, and the results show it. Nevertheless, there are several passages in which his brilliance comes through, as witness the following, both good theology and superb writing: the opposite of freedom is not authority, but slavery. Freedom is possible only when it is happily married to true authority, the authority of God, whose service is perfect freedom” (p. 184).
One thing more: this study was an assignment by the Division of Publication of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (the “Southern” Church ) and can only be seen as an attempt of that official body to discredit the historic faith of their communion. The thinking reflected in this study, however, is more honestly stated than similar objections to sovereignty and the double decree in other Reformed Churches, who can well take heed of the necessary direction of such thinking.
ROUSAS JOHN RUSHDOONY
The Return of Christ by G.T. Manley Published by Inter-Varsity Press, Chicago 10, Illinois, 104 pages, $1.50, 1960.
The author of this pamphlet is favorably known in the evangelical world for editing The New Bible Handbook, which has had a remarkable distribution since its first edition appeared in 1947. The present study was written, according to the preface, “in response to the request for a study of the Second Advent which would be helpful to young Christians.” In my judgment the author has achieved his goal very well.
The author discusses the promise, the time, the manner, and the relevancy of the Second Advent in the light of the Scriptural data, with candor and penetration. Alter this tIle book of Revelation is discussed together with the millennium, the enemy, the judgment, and salvation. The last chapter is an exhortation to suffer with Him. that we may also reign with Him. Sina: we all alike are ignorant of the time of his coming, we must all be prepared. We must keep our lamps lit to be ready to greet the Bridegroom when he comes. To the “Behold, I come quickly,” the Mints must all make the response: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
In spite of this reviewer’s A-Millennial views which clash with the author’s PreMillennialism as to the manner of Christ’s return, yet he feels that all evangelical Christians can profit from the study of this booklet and ought to join hands in preaching the return of their risen and ascended Lord This study will help us to appreciate the actuality and the certainty of Christ’s return and as such it ought to be highly appreciated by Christians everywhere.
HENRY R. VAN TIL
Het Boek Job (The last volume of the now justly famous Korte Verklaring Der Heilige Scrift – met neiuwe vertaling). by Dr. J.H. Kroeze Published by J.H. Kok, Kampen, 1960. 296 pages, f. 8.75.
With this volume a work begun forty years ago, to which the most qualified exegetes have given their best efforts, consisting of sixty-one volumes, comes to completion. Congratulations to the publisher and the authors! Faith and perseverance have won the day, under the blessing or God. Let us thank God for the vision of the publisher and the assiduous labor and unflagging energy of the scholars involved.
This work has been and still is a great blessing to the Reformed community in the Netherlands, North America and in South Africa.
Dr. Kroeze, the author of this final volume, is a teacher at Potchefstroom University in South Africa. He has done an excellent job on this difficult book of the Bible. He hM not evaded difficulties, and handles every problem with great caution and wisdom, in such a manner that those who have not had the advantages of scientific training in the field, can still follow the interpretation. In the introduction the author deals with the content, the author, the origin, the composition, the goal, the historicity, and the character of the book. He also adds a special treatment on the figure of Job in the history of art, which will delight students of art.
The theme of the book of Job is not the suffering of the righteous and the question of Job’s uprightness hut the sovereignty of God. This is affirmed and hammered In with unremitting perseverance by Dr. Kroeze. The book of Job presents the essence of religion as the adoration of the Sovereign Ruler and Maker of the universe. This is demonstrated in the life of Job. In poverty and in riches, in sickness and in health, “Blessed be the name of the Lord”!
HENRY R. VAN TIL
Into the Light of Christianity by William J. Schnell Baker: $2.95
This little volume is the second one written by the author since leaving the Jehovah’s Witness Sect. If you have read the first book, Thirty Years A Watchtower Slave, you will certainly want to re.1d this volume. The two books differ in that the first book speaks of the deplorable condition of a person caught in the web of the cult, while in this book the author pictures precisely what the title states, his journey into the light of Christianity.
In pursuing the theme the author treats the reader to an excellent discussion of a number of peculiar doctrines taught in this sect: “Hell Is the Grave,” “Man Is a Soul,” “Denial of the Deity of Christ,” ending with a chapter “Christianity or Cults: Which?”
Mr. Schnell directs a most earnest and inviting appeal to those still bound by the shackles of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We are sure each reader will enjoy this book as he is made to live along with the author in laying aside his shackles. Above all, those who have wondered how to attack and refute the members of t!lis sect when approached by them should by all means read this book, and acquire the pamphlet condensed from Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave, “Another Gospel.”
One of the outstanding features of this book is the way the author sets the errors of this sect over against the teaching of Scripture.
JOHN J. BYKER
Tempest Over Scotland by Norman E. Nygaard
When one is requested to review a book, he would so much like to give a favorable opinion of a worK on which the author has labored hopefully. However, honesty demands the statement that Tempest over Scotland has very little literary value. The author does give a fairly good picture of the contemporary scene of Knolt’s day. The sovereigns of England, Edward VI, Bloody Mary, and Elizabeth, and the sovereign of Scotland, Queen Mary, are recognizable. Also the capture of Knox by the French and his term as galley slave on a French ship is history. When the author quotes from Knox’s First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, the note of authenticity is apparent.
None of the characters of the book, however, is a real flesh and blood individual. The language is stilted and there is a liberal sprinkling of cliches. Perhaps the author knows the Scottish accent but in the book it does not ring true. The romance of John Knox and Marjory Bower arouses no romantic memories or desires in the reader’s heart. It seems too artificially contrived.
This novel does contain a great deal of religious and Reformation sentiment, but too often the religious words seem to have been placed in the character’s mouth rather than that they arise out of the speaker’s heart. The author might have succeeded better by giving a historical account of Knox rather than by attempting to use the medium of the novel.
JOHN DE BIE
The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians by Ralph P. Martin — $3.00
The Gospel According to John by R.V.G. Tasker — $3.00
The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon by H.M. Carson — $2.00 Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan
These commentaries are volumes 4, 11 and 12 of the New Testament Tyndale Series. The entire series has a special appeal to laymen. Those who teach will find the commentaries both beneficial and enjoyable reading and those who enjoy private study will want these volumes in their libraries.
This does not imply that ministers would not benefit from the use of these commentaries. The books are scholarly, well organized and their authors show ability in expounding the Scriptures.
There is very little superficial material in these volumes. They are brief and to the point, with a negligible amount of homiletic and illustrative material. The value of each book outweighs the cost.
However, in my opinion, the value of these volumes would be enriched if the prophetic voice were oftener directed to our chaotic age.
JOHN J. BYKER
The Holy Spirit, His Person and Work by Edward Henry Bickersteth Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1959. 192 pp. $2.95.
The recent appearance of a spate of new books on the Holy Spirit marks a healthy upturn of interest in the Third Person of the Trinity who is undoubtedly the least understood of the Persons of the Godhead. In this therefore can be seen a recognition that here at least there is yet fallow ground, perhaps even virgin soil, needing the further efforts of Scriptural exegesis to which the Church today is properly addressing itself.
This book as a reprint, originally appearing in 1869 under the title, The Spirit of Life, by the Anglican bishop of Exeter, author of many books during his lifetime, may be regarded as foundational to an understanding of the Holy Spirit and his divine activity. In the words of the author, its object is not to present a “learned disquisition on abstruse points,” but to furnish a repertory of Scripture proofs for teachers missionaries, evangelists, and pastors “to which they can easily refer for at least the leading subjects of this great and exhaustless theme” (p. 7).
Bickersteth then ably proceeds to develop his subject in nine chapters, taking the first five to consider the witness of Scripture to the Holy Spirit, his distinct Personality, his eternal Godhead, his unction of Christ, and his inspiration of the Scriptures. Then three chapters are devoted to tracing his working in the heart of man as he strives with the world, quickens dead souls to life, and progressively sanctifies the believer. The final chapter deals with his work in the everlasting Kingdom.
The author’s Christian humility, as noted in the above quotation from p. 7, should not however obscure his scholarship which may be seen, for instance, throughout in the text by his extensive giving of the original Hebrew and Creek words and phrases (howbeit in supplementing parentheses), as well as In a number of learned footnotes, some of which deal with interesting subjects given in rather full detail.
That Bickersteth is an evangelical but not a wholly consistent Calvinist may also be seen at such places as p. 115 and p. 128 where the truth of God’s irresistible saving grace is not properly recognized. Moreover, on p. 122 he erroneously equates the water of John 3:5 with the sacrament of baptism.
These shortcomings, however, do not detract from the thrust of Bickersteth’s presentation as a whole. His chapter on “The Holy Spirit Sanctifying the Believer,” is, as a matter of fact. outstanding. And the warning he gives in connection with an observation he makes on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit as begun at once in conversion and thereafter continuing progressively, while almost one hundred years old, is as much in order today as when first penned. “It is most necessary for us to hold this truth firmly and intelligently in these dangerous times, when many fix their thoughts so exclusively on tile new birth that they practically slight the need of growth In the divine life [coming to expression today in the antinomian tendencies of much of modern Fundamentalism]; and others presume to affirm that those who are in Christ are not only perfectly justified, which is true, but also perfectly sanctified, which is untrue” ( p. 141) [seen In the doctrines of the Perfectionists of variegated hue today].
This book will repay the study of its contents by minister and layman alike.
RAYMOND O. ZORN Fawn Grove, Pa.