Over De Laatste Dingen
Tussen… Sterven…… Opstanding, door DR. K. DYK.
Tweede Druk—J. H. KoIe, Kampen 1955. 188 pages. f6.90.
This work is the first of a trilogy on the subject of eschatology. The author tells us in the preface that it is especially the peculiar tension which characterizes contemporary man which drives him to a new appraisal of the scriptural answer to the questions of eschatology.
The answer of scripture covers three aspects of the future, namely, the condition of body and soul after death before the resurrection of the flesh; the signs of the times immediately preceding the return of Christ with special reference to the millennium and the binding of Satan and finally, the appearance of our heavenly King and the eternal state ushered in by the parousia. The three parts of Dr. Dyk’s trilogy are to concern themselves with these three aspects of eschatology. This first volume of the second edition has been slightly enlarged and gives the sCriptural references in the medium of the new translation, which appeared in 1951.
This announcement and recommendation is not going to become a review. But I do wish to call special attention to the very first chapter of this masterful treatment of the material. The author entitles it, “The ‘immortal’ man.” He inveighs against the Greek idea of the immortality of the soul, which has had such nefarious influence on Christian thought. “If we want to get the right perspective of the continued existence of man we must free ourselves from Plato and every philosophic idea and Simply ask what Holy Writ tells us about this mystery. It is impossible, in our opinion, to do what Rome (Catholicism) is trying to do, i.e., to build up a kind of natural theology on this difficult point, a natural or rational theology outside of the Scriptures. We ought to let ourselves be guided from the outset by the light that shines from the Word” (p. 10).
The author points out that the Word teaches us that only God has immortality and that Scripture teaches us that immortality is a gift, which is still to be conferred in the future (p. 12). Of course, says the author, this does not mean that man does not have continued existence as a creature made in the image of God. But immortality means the escape from the power of death, which shall be granted to the believers at the resurrection. This is essentially the position of Dr. Vollenhoven in his philosophy, a position which is still being misunderstood and attacked by some theologians on this side of the water. This position has long since been accepted by our Dutch brethren, and one does not become a Jehovah’s Witness by doing so. At least Dr. Dyk has never been tried for heresy on this score.
One of the most interesting and instructive sections of the book deals with the intermediate state. Here the author presents us with a birds-eye view of the controversies that have raged in connection with the confession of the intermediate state. He takes up in succession such questions as: purgatory, soul-sleep. transmigration of souls, spiritism, Swedenborgianism and conditional immortality. The views of Barth, c.s., are also examined and found wanting. There is a rather long treatment of the state of the dead in the light of both the Old and the New Testament and the book closes with three chapters dealing with the communion, the rest and the reward in the Father’s house.
For those who can decipher the language of the Netherlanders and at the same time do business with American dollars this book is a ‘“buy.” Here is solid instruction, sound theology and the language of faith which thrills the heart of the believer. – HENRY R. VAN TIL
With Jesus on the Navajo Road
JACOB and CHRISTINA BOLT
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1956, Michigan. 120 pages, $2.00.
Here is a book for the whole family. It is a touchingly tender recital of the power of God unto salvation through witnessing in season and out of season. This book presents a personal picture of the missionary activity of the Christian Reformed Church among the natives of America, at its best. Of course, it is purely personal and deals with the experience of two devout people, man and wife, as they gave twenty-five years of their lives to the great work of the church in proclaiming Christ. The personal element is at once its strength and weakness. It makes the book appealing, readable, and highly emotional for close friends. But sometimes this personal element gets in the way for the more objective reader.
The title of the book is too trite (reminding one of the Indian Road and the Cosmic Road ). In the foreword the words of the apostle John are quoted, in my humble opinion, in a dubious context. The authors refer to ‘that which we have seen and heard’ and are giving us a record of it. But this phrase as used by John refers to divine revelation. It is here used of personal experience—two quite different levels to which the same words cannot be applied without careful distinction.
I wish a paper edition for one dollar were available, as is so often the case with publications in The Netherlands. That insures a much larger distribution. It is my hope that this booklet will be Widely read throughout the churches. The childlike faith of the missionaries, the faithfulness of the covenant God, and the riches of grace that are experienced in faithful service are here ingeniously set forth.
Christ or the Lodge, A Report on Masonry:
The Committee on Christian Education, The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
This twenty-three page pamphlet constitutes the report made to the ninth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which met at Rochester, New York, June 2-5, 1942. The simple thesis of the brochure is that Masonry is a false religion, and consequently a confessor of Christ cannot consistently remain in the lodge after this incongruity has been pointed out. The fact that some who put their trust for eternal life solely in the merits of Christ and yet continue as members of the Masonic Lodge does in no way alter the fact that membership in the Masonic fraternity is inconsistent with Christianity.
To those who would save some lodge member from his idolatry this little treatise is both objectively fair and logically cogent. I heartily endorse the work of the committee as it reflects the firm stand of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church against secret societies.
Modernism Marches On
The International Lessons Annual, Charles M. Layman, Editor. Abingon Press.
New York 1956. $2.95. 440 pages.
This book “is the first in a series of commentaries on the International Sunday School Lessons for adults.” It is the work of the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in U.S.A. It is called by the editor “an outstanding example of inter-denominational cooperation among Protestant groups, and their wide use is no small achievement in our progress toward ecumenical fellowship through Bible study” (p. 5).
This sounds like a worthy ideal but it amounts to nothing short of a sellout of historic Christianity on the grand scale. It is indicative of the fact that modernism in our day is marching on. With all the brave talk of what Barthianism has achieved in calling men back to the Bible and making us sensitive to sin, American liberalism has not given up its duplicity in watering down the Gospel of God, so that it becomes the power of positive thinking and the do-goodism of man.
In evaluating this beautiful book, which has all the finest features from the viewpoint of technical perfection and even quotes the King James Version along-side of the Revised Standard Version, I have merely resorted to examining pivotal points in the exegesis and application of the Bible lesson. For example, in “the meaning of the Lord’s Supper” the symbolic action of Jesus which Christians repeat is referred to “his death and the coming triumph of his cause…His action assured them that his life was given for them; the full triumph of the kingdom of God was coming, and they would share in it with him” (p. 102). This is the exegesis of Luke 22:14–20 but more attention is given to the fact that the revised version has omitted verses 19b and 20 because some ancient manuscripts do not have them. Under “Major Ideas in the Lesson” we are told that it was the custom of people in that day for a person going on a journey to call his friends together to a common meal and to “pledge one another their undying loyalty and friendship.” Christ gave thanks in the face of death “for the Kingdom of God had been launched among men, and it would never go out of existence…he was confident the Kingdom could survive even in a world that killed him” (p. 105). Judas great sin was that he broke the covenant made at the supper (this also was the sin of Peter’s denial and the flight of the other disciples) in which Christ had shared with them like a host the warmth and the comradeship of food and drink (at this point Paul Sherer is quoted from The Interpreter’s Bible). But “this is precisely the meaning of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper today,” the author continues; it is to accept the “gracious forgiveness of God.”
Under the “Meaning of Christ’s Suffering,” immediately following the foregOing there is an emphasis upon the innocence of Jesus and the fact that “Jesus was constantly ready to respond to every repentant sinner.” This was Luke’s special emphasis, for “Even when Jesus was suffering and dying, he could think of the good of his neighbor.” And further, “The message of salvation finds here a dramatic illustration; in me and in death Jesus was dedicated to helping all who would turn to him” (pp. 110,111).
With regard to the resurrection, everything depends upon the experience, which is said to help us understand the deeper meaning of Easter. The original Easter experience (referring to the re-action of the disciples, not the actual coming forth of Christ as an historical fact ) incited and empowered the great missionary movement. So too the experience of Jesus’ resurrection today means to be transformed and empowered. “This is the essential secret of every article of the Christian faith. A person can prove each in his own soul” ( p. 118). How we may have that wonderful experience is somewhat of a mystery, but we can act and live as if Jesus is alive and then it will come to us. It sounds pretty much like Wm. James in his pragmatic reflections concerning Christianity—just live as if it is true, and you cannot go wrong.
In that great passage of Hebrews where Christ is represented as the Purifier of our Sins and the Son of God, one L.P. Pherigo tells us that Christ was superior to Jewish heroes for obtaining salvation and therefore we ought to be “Zealous in seeking to grow spiritually so as to be worthy of salvation” (p. 237, emphasis added).
On purification for sins he goes on to say, “This is one of the metaphorical ways in which the cross was made meaningful in apostolic times. It is an explanation of the cross in terms of the blood sacrifices common at that time. Among the Jews, these sacrifices were believed to be valuable in a ritual process of purification. Among some, it was therefore quite natural for the cleansing effect of Christ on human life to be explained as due to his sacrificial death on the cross” (p. 237). Here it is, at last, a full-blown statement of the denial of historic Christianity. That which has been skirted gingerly and avoided continuously is here fully brought to light, namely, that Modernism is presenting a “gospel” other than the full biblical doctrine of substitutionary atonement through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cursed cross to make expiation for our sins and thereby appease the wrath of God.
In the fourth quarter great passages of the Bible are treated, among them the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah fifty-three. The exegesis of this passage speaks of willing substitution and complete atonement and removal of the guilt of the people. So far so good. Then Roy L. Smith, who makes application in most cases, after having brought in the dubious scholarship of the deutero-Isaiah of the exile, tells the class that “life comes to its highest level when we suffer for others…the innocent suffer for others, and by their sufferings the world’s hurt is healed” (p. 375). With respect to the question of whom the prophet spoke in chapter 53 he says: “The question will probably never be answered to the satisfaction of all men,” and he exhorts us to drop the issue and Simply “read the Scripture as a trustworthy description of redemptive love expressed through suffering” (p. 375).
One more example must suffice. For Christmas Sunday Ralph W. Sockman, arch-modernist of Christ Church Methodist, does the honors. He tells us that it all depends what your perspective is but Christmas really goes back to the expectation of Plato, who is quoted as saying, “only by way of some divine disclosure coming into life from outside it, could men find the way of truth and freedom.” Chrisbnas, we are told, is the answer to the yearning of all men everywhere for the mercy and love of God (a typical liberal way of making revelation something that comes out of the mind of man instead of being a supernatural, divine disclosure of the mind of God ) in which many pagan elements taken up are all a tribute to Christ. The universality of Christmas is evident from the fact that the yule-Jog comes from Iceland, the fir tree from Germany, the mistletoe from England, and jolly old Saint Nick from Holland. But why does Christmas continue to charm us? Because in the manger we behold the glory of God and “In the presence of mother love, adoring shepherds and humbled wise men, we feel godliness being born again in ourselves” (pp. 423, 424).
Then follows the lesson from the Prologue of John. After some very fine sentiments have been expressed in traditional language and one is almost convinced that the expositor is here at long last returning to the faith of the fathers we have this conclusion that God came to earth in Jesus of Nazareth, i.e., “When he had spoken, it had been God speaking; when he had approved, it was God expressing approval;…That this is a staggering concept is quite true, but as men have yielded themselves to it, their faith has been vindicated. They have become sons of God” (p. 429 ). Are further words necessary? Does this have to be spelled out for indoctrinated Christians? The divinity of Christ is pulled down by making men gods in the same sense that he was god—this is blasphemy! It is the same unscholarly liberalism against which Dr. Machen inveighed in Christianity and Liberalism, 1923; and it is also found in that wretched book of Fosdick: The Modern Use of the Bible. For a searching criticism of this naive, unscholarly approach I advise the instructed reader to study Machen’s What is Christianity? (Eerdmans, 1951).
It hardly needs further documentation that modern liberalism, in spite of the experience of two world wars and the telling criticism of Barth and Brunner, has not been converted from its evil way.
– HENRY R. VAN TIL