Is It Worth Reading?

Wallace Emerson, OUTLINE OF PSYCHOLOGY (A Basic Psychology with Christian Implications). Wheaton, Illinois.; VanKampen Press, Inc. 480. $5.00.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century Franz Delitzsch gave the world his A System of Biblical Psychology. In the early part of the twentieth century Herman Bavinck gave the Dutch leaders his Biblical and Religious Psychology. Both works appeared in response to the development of a new science, psychology. From a philosophical, deductive field of learning psychology was struggling to establish itself as an independent science with its own data and methodology. But every science is based on certain principles not contained in itself but obtained from fundamental views of God. man, and the world. Psychology as a science too has such principles. Both Delitzsch and Bavinck sought to point out these principles according to the Scriptures which many psychologists accepted principles implicitly or explicitly grounded in human philosophy.

Since Bavinck’s time several books in psychology based on principles derived from the Bible have appeared in the Dutch language. We are grateful for them, but they are accessible only to those who read Dutch. None of these works have appeared in the English language:. Translations would not serve the purpose, for in their content they have a European selling. Hence, we need original works by Christian students of psychology in our land. Such a book Dr. Wallace Emerson has tried to give us. At least he is aware of the need for “a psychology that offers points of contact with the philosophical and Biblical fields.”

Following an introduction which takes up briefly techniques and schools of psychology, the author successively discusses the following: Body as it Relates to Mind; Mind and its Attributes; Mind as it is Affected by Environment; and Spirit. Two chapters totaling approximately seventy pages are devoted to the physiological bases of psychology, the endocrine glands and the central nervous system. Both chapters are well illustrated. Following this discussion, seven chapters are devoted to the mental functions; consciousness, memory and recall, forgetting will, feeling and emotion, intelligence, and idealism. Then follows an entire section of three chapters on sense organs, sensations, and perception. These chapters too devote a large part to the physiological structure. Two chapters on instinct and learning follow. The final section contains a discussion of the human spirit as pertaining to personality and the spiritual in man.

Though the data given pertaining to the physiological bases of psychology are of value for one who seeks an introductory study to this field, the space given to this discussion is all out of proportion to the psychology as such, that is to the soul life of man or mental functions based on the body. We are getting away from physiological psychology, that is psychology linked to physiology. Neurology and endocrinology are auxiliary sciences in relation to psychology, that is they make significant contributions to the understanding of mental functions. Where the structural mechanism leaves off and the soul life begins is impossible to determine. But a student who seeks introduction to psychology should come equipped with the biological and physiological bases for psychology. Introductory textbooks have all they can handle in dealing in meaningful fashion with mental functions.

The chapters dealing with mental functions and processes themselves are well-organized and contain valuable material for the beginning student. Valuable references, illustrations and cases are cited. But this material is frequently purely factual and lacks interpretation. Some of the material cited has been discredited long ago. The Kallikak family, for example. This is hardly considered a reputable study in heredity today.

While the chapters on instinct and learning bring many valuable data from several psychological studies together, the entire discussion is too eclectic to be of significance. These chapters too lack significant interpretation.

Throughout the textbook the author seeks to make “contact” between the Bible and psychology. On page seven he reveals a sound insight when he says, “Since the agnostic studies it (psychology) from agnostic premises, the Christian all the other hand, has every right and duty to study it from the Christian standpoint, He does not do otherwise.” This is the right keynote, Bill then throughout the author contends himself with casual references to and “contacts” with the Bible. Because principles of interpretation are lacking the hook is often purely factual.

When we get to the last section on spirit we are again reminded of the basic character of the Bible. First of all with reference to personality. On page 409 we read, “The Bible, of course, is the basic textbook on the study of personality.” Again one would agree if the author means that the basic principles of interpretation or personality are scripturally oriented. But what happens to the discussion or personality? Nothing distinctively Christian until the author gets to the spirit of man. Now we get scripturally oriented truth. But the principles set forth in Chapter Nineteen, The Spiritual Man, should have been the very basis on which consciousness, will, learning, etc., are discussed. If this were done, the author would give us what we sorely need, a spiritually oriented psychology.

Dr. Emerson’s book represents a courageous attempt in a very difficult field. He is to be commended on his effort. But we need more than a “basic psychology with Christian implications.” We need a scripturally-oriented interpretation of psychological data. And that will give us a very different text.

CORNELIUS JAARSMA, Grand Rapids, Michigan


Herman Bavinck, THE PHILOSOPHY OF REVELATION, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954, 349 pp. $3.50

The first seven chapters of this volume comprise the Stone Lectures delivered at Princeton Theological Seminary during the academic year 1908–09. In them Dr. Bavinck proved that a truly great scholar is interesting and intelligible. It is the mark of a psuedo-scholar to be cloudy and dull. These lectures, though almost fifty years old have not lost their sparkle. Naturually, they are dated. Hacckel, Buckle, G. A. Coe, Starbuck, Stanley Hall, William James, Herrmann, Harnack, and others are dealt with in masterly fashion. Would that Dr. Bavinck were living today and could give us his opinion of Reinhold Niebuhr, R. C. Calhoun, Nels Ferre, Paul Tillich, and other leaders of our American thought-world. And of course he would not neglect to deal with all the intellectual fads of Europe in his usual illuminating manner.

Out of this rich volume the following nuggets are offered for the profit and delectation of all those that may have the change to read this review. In discussing the idea of a philosophy of revelation Bavinck speaks as follows:

The world itself rests on revelation: revelation is the presupposition, the foundation, the secret of all that exists in all its forms. The deeper science pushes its investigations, the more clearly will it discover that revelation underlies all created being…Notwithstanding the separation wrought by sin, there is a progressive approach of God to his creatures. The transcendence does not case to exist, but becomes an even deeper immanence. But as a disclosure of the greatness of God’s heart, special revelation far surpasses general revelation which makes known to us the power of his mind. General revelation leads to special, special revelation point back in general.

Bavinck lived before the most recent discussions concerning common and special grace . Do we find in this statement a completely satisfying distinction between the two? Or could something more be added to (or some correction made in) Bavinck’s thought at this point? This reviewer is not making a statement. He is only asking a question.

In the chapter of Revelation and Culture we find the following wise observation.

The truth and value of Christianity certainly do not depend on the fruits which it has born for civilization and culture; it has its own independent value; it is the realization of the kingdom of God on earth; and it does not make its truth depend after a utilitarian or pragmatical fashion, on what men here have accomplished with the talents entrusted to him. The Gospel of Christ promises righteousness, peace and joy, and has fulfilled its promise if it gives these things. Christ did not portray for his disciples a beautiful future in this world, but prepared them for oppression and persecution. But, nevertheless, the kingdom of heaven, while a pearl of great price, is also a leaven which permeates the whole world.

Bavinck ends his volume on a high biblical note.

For monism the present economy is as a short span of life between two eternities of death, and consciousness a lightning flash in the dark night. But for the Christian this dark world is always irradiated from above by the splendor of divine revelation, and under its guidance it moves onward towards the kingdom of light and life. Round about revelation are clouds and darkness; nevertheless righteousness and judgment are the foundation of God’s throne.

All in all this is still a very worthwhile volume to read and study, despite its somewhat ancient date. It effectually refutes the idea that Bavinck was not really interested in apologies.

DR. EDWARD F. HILLS, Grand Rapids, Michigan


William Ward Ayer, FLAME FOR THE ALTAR. The Bob Jones University Lectures on Evangelism for 1952. Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan Publishing House. 198 pp. $2.50.

The author is claimed to be one of the ten best known men in Manhattan according to the foreward of this book written by Bob Jones Jr. Dr. Ayer writes out of the experience of a man who has conducted many evangelistic campaigns, as well as having occupied the pulpit of the famous Calvary Baptist church, New York City, for fourteen years. The illustrious preacher calls this volume his personal testimony. It suffers the fault of repetition and disorganization common to such personal testimonies. The author, though he is undoubtedly a gifted orator, rambles on without getting at the root of the troubles which he claims revivalism could cure. He believes the trouble in our day is largely due to the fact that we have no large-scale Whitefield, Wesley or Billy Sunday kind of revival going on. Isn’t that an incredible over-simplification of the national religious situation? Nevertheless, taking his cue from the Elijah scene where fire fell from heaven to consume the offering on Mount Carmal. Dr. Ayer believes we should pray down the fire of revivalism today. Are these fires more than remotely related?

The these of the lectures found in this book is presented on page 129: (1) “There is it religious awakening in America today.” (2) “Unfortunately this awakening has not yet brought revival to the church.” (No doubt the author refers to the Youth for Christ and Billy Graham campaigns, which are outside of the church.) (3) “There can be no national revival until the local churches of our cities and towns are quickened In the Holy Ghost in genuine revival.” Revival campaigns could be stripped of certain objectionable features and become truly effective if there is adequate and proper local preparation for them; if converts are directed into the local churches thus preserving these fruits of revival for the church, says Dr. Ayer. He has been a churchman too long to want to replace the church with revivalistic campaigns done. (4) “That the blame for the churches not being revived today must be assumed by both preacher and layman seems escapable.” For this the writer suggests “A Design for Local Church Evangelism.” Although he is a Baptist, he thinks there is “household (Covenant?) salvation definitely in the program of God” (p. 137). In the “Effective Evangelistic Sermon” that the local preacher should preach, he says we need a return to hell-fire and damnation themes. “The ‘love’ sermons of earlier evangelists are all but completely ineffective among the sinful and blase of today” (p. 161). (5) “The call of God to the preacher is to repentance, the call of the preacher to the laymen should also be, repentance. Genuine repentance must come before God sends the fire of revival blesses this nation.”

The author seems to have given more study and preparation to the Epilogue than to the rest of the lectures. It is entitled, “The Glory of the ministry.” Probably it was prepared earlier for other occasions, and delivered oftener. This able little treatise is very suggestive for us at an ordination service of a minister. It is the best chapter in the book.

RENZE DE GROOT, Grand Rapids, Michigan


The tide of this book should not lead any to surmise that its material is of a recent date, since this book is a reprint of a work that was first published in 1911. Much of the content is the result of investigation which took place at the turn of the century.

This work developed out or a non·theological interest, namely, Ramsay’s desire to find a reliable witness of the first century to the topography, social conditions, political divisions, municipal institutions, etc, of Asia Minor. It is the story of how the author in spite of the attempt of others to negate the trustworthiness of the historian Luke, came to the conclusion through archaeological research that Luke’s history was accurate even in the minutest detail, and, therefore, that Luke was a reliable historian. He examines several statements in Acts which are minor and incidental to the narrative, but which many critics believed showed that Acts was not written by all eye-witness, a person who had been engaged in the action described , but by someone of a later period who tried to give the impression that he had been an eye-witness.

Ramsay admits that he, too, judged these criticisms to be true, but repeatedly, after his own archaeological investigation, he comes to a conclusion such as this one: “The reversal or our judgment, then, was complete. We had imagined that this detail was a blunder due to stupidity or ignorance or misplaced ingenuity on the part of the author: it has now been round to show excellent knowledge and the minute accuracy which comes from the faithful report of an eye-witness and participation in the action” (p. 79). It is strengthening and comforting, to say the least, to see many of these older criticisms refuted by the author.

In several places Ramsay betrays a rationalistic background, such as in his explanation of the “many signs and wonders” which Luke records in Acts 5:12 and 8:7 (pp. 200–201). He considers these statements to be records o( what was very likely to have occurred in those days. For one reason, he argues, the Oriental population had a low standard of living and thought, full of superstition. When this fact is coupled with a great religious idea propagated “by one extraordinary personality and by a devoted enthusiastic group of followers, all themselves men and women of eminent power and magnetic influence,” these statements, he reasons further, can not be regarded as improbable. He does not give any indication that these signs and wonders could have occurred in a supernatural way.

EDWIN H. PALMER, Spring Lake, Michigan

Edward J. Tanis, What Rome Teaches. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1954. 56 pp. 60c

This fine brochure ought to be in every Reformed home! Compact in format, it is written in very understandable language. It is not, of course, a complete analysis of Roman Catholic doctrine. The author does however, touch upon the Romanist doctrines of God, the Bible, papal infallibility, the mass, purgatory, marriage, etc. Especially valuable is the rather thorough consideration of Mariolatry, that is, the Roman Catholic declaration of the immaculate conception, the perpetual virginity, and the so-called assumption of Mary.

The book has a fine practical emphasis throughout, including sharp warnings against mixed marriages of Protestants with Roman Catholics and the dire consequences resulting therefrom.

If I may be permitted a constructive criticism, I believe the apologetic value of this work might have been rendered more effective by a consideration of the Protestant principle of Scriptum solo over against the Romanist recognition of tradition as authority in connection with the apocryphal books.

The questions at the end of each chapter make this an especially fine booklet for study groups. This is indeed a timely tract which we are happy to recommend to Christian readers who are looking for a concise statement of Romanist teachings.

HENRY R. VAN TIL, Grand Rapids, Michigan