What Shall I Say?
(Devotional Addresses for Special Occasions) ARNOLD OBERMEIER
(Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, 1954, pps. $1.50)
This little volume contains a series of talks for such special occasions as a district synod, pastoral conference, teacher’s conference, school graduation, Sunday school teachers’ banquet, Lutheran women’s missionary league, Walther league, religious emphasis week. parent-teacher meeting, home demonstration camp, and future home-makers’ camp. The publisher’s introduction on the jacket informs us that the author “intends this book to be source material for sermons and talks to special groups” such as those mentioned.
In an effort to evaluate the book in the light of that evident aim, one is impressed by the author’s warm fervor in trying simply and plainly to bring in fundamental themes of the gospel. He endeavors in each of these various settings to point his listeners to the Savior. Only in one case, the public school graduation talk, on the motto, “Little Strokes Fell Great Oaks,” did the reader miss that usual emphasis. There Christ’s ascension is presented as a reminder to men also to rise higher in achievement. This talk is an exception to the strong evangelical emphasis of the rest of the book.
Furthermore, one is struck by the profuse and clever use of illustration. Such a warm evangelistic interest matched with practical application and apt illustration will make for interested listeners!
What one misses in much of the material is the kind of careful analysis and application of some part of God’s Word that has become the tradition among most of us. Much of the organization is topical, which might be acceptable for certain special occasions, but would hardly qualify this work as “source material for sermons.” I feel that in the light of proper standards of Bible exegesis most of us would not care to imitate this able writer.
The occasions for which the speeches were designed, the character of them, and occasionally the theological implications of certain statements reflect plainly the Lutheran source and groups for whom they were intended. Though we would not care to imitate some features of the book, we might well profit by cultivating its warm fervor for the gospel and its apt use of illustration.
– PETER DE JONG, Seattle, Washington
You Shall Be My Witnesses
JOHN H. KROMMINGA
Wm. B. Eerdmons Publishing Co. Grond Rapids, Mich., (1954, Pp. 84, $1.50)
The subtitle of this little book is “A Challenge to Bashful Christians.” It is intended to focus attention on the fact that all Christians are called to be Christ’s witnesses. To realize this purpose the five articles or talks which the book contains deal successively with the themes: “You Are the Witnesses,” “All of Life a Preparation,” “Called at the Crossroads,” “…A Living Revelation,” and “That We May Preach Him.” Much of the material is taken from the life of the apostle Paul. In a warm and practical fashion the writer devotes himself to showing how this call to be Christ’s witnesses should be the urgent concern of every one of us.
The subject with which this book deals is a pertinent one, for there is a real need for more Christian witnessing. My own group limitations in this respect are perhaps one of our outstanding weaknesses. This is the underlying problem that is the source of perhaps most of our other missionary problems. Any such effort as this to arouse the man in the pew as well as the one in the pulpit to a more active witness for the Lord should have a hearty welcome.
Furthermore, the plan of the book is well arranged. Another commendable quality is its chart to speak the language of the people. In connection with this latter observation one additional comment should be made, however. In the realization of its excellent purpose and plan, I believe that the book might have been mare effective if more attention had been given to the style of writing. It reads as though it were a series of not always carefully formulated speeches, and the construction is loose and at times awkward. While this matter of style is, of course, of secondary importance to the contents of the book, the style of writing can do much to help or to hinder a book in .achieving its purpose. I believe this good book might have been better if it had been more carefully written.
– PETER DE JONG, Seattle, Washington
A Call to the Unconverted
(Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1954, pps. 142, $1.95)
This addition to Zondervan’s Classical Reprint series is one of those never to be forgotten gems that come to us from the Puritan era of British theology.
As its title suggests, this is an evangelistic tract of some proportion, 142 pages. It is an exposition of the famous passage from Ezekiel 33:11, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
Richard Baxter has frequently been accused of Arminianism. There are those today who also accuse him of Arminianism simply because he uses this text as the basis for an appeal to the unconverted to be reconciled unto God. Without reference to the larger context of Baxter’s writing we might say that there is some ground for this charge. It comes to expression in his view of Christ’s atonement. On pages 56 and 57 we read these words:
And think not to extenuate it by saying that it was only for his elect; for it was thy sin and the sin of all the world that lay upon our Redeemer and his sacrifice and satisfaction are sufficient for all and the fruits of it are offered to one as well as another ; but it is true that it was never the intent of his mind to pardon and save any that would not by faith and repentance be converted.
Again, on pages 117 and 118, Baxter considers this objection: “But we cannot convert ourselves till God convert us: we can do nothing without his grace, ‘it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” To this objection Baxter answers as follows:
God hath two degrees of mercy to show: the mercy of conversion first; and the mercy of salvation last; the latter he will give to none but those that will and run, and hath promised it to them alone. The former is to make them willing that were unwilling: and though your own willing and endeavors deserve not this grace; yet your willful refusal deserveth that it should be denied to you. Your disability is your very unwillingness itself, which excuses not Jour sin but makes it the greater. You could turn if you were but truly willing; and if your wills themselves are so corrupted, that nothing but effectual grace will move them, you have the more cause to seek for that grace, .and yield to it and do what you can ill the use of means and not neglect it or set against it.
One wonders, therefore, if Baxter’s understanding of total depravity, particularly total inability and efficacious grace was adequate.
A prolix style and archaic language renders doubtful the effectiveness of this book for twentieth century American pagans. As one of the great classics of Christian literature it is none the less weIr worth reading, providing it be done with discernment and comprehension.
– EARL ZETTERHOLM, Muskegon, Michigan