SONS OF ADAM. By Samuel M. Zwemer. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1951. Pp. 164. $2.00.
More than half a century ago Dr. Zwemer was active in the Student Volunteer Movement, which had as its watchword, “The Evangelization of the world in this generation,” a challenge which appealed strongly to college men and women at Northfield and other Conference centers, before the blight of Modernism dampened achievement and hobbled enthusiasm. He is one of the few living reminders of those days of high endeavor. For forty years his energies were devoted directly to the work of Moslem evangelization. He was the founder and editor of The Moslem World. In 1929 he became the professor of the History of Christian Religion and Missions in Princeton Theological Seminary; and since his retirement a decade ago his pen has been incessantly active, as is indicated by the fact that Sons of Adam is his thirtieth volume.
In this little volume, Dr. Zwemer gives a dozen brief studies of Bible characters: Adam: Myth or Fact?; Abraham, the Friend of God; Hagar and Ishmael; Jacob’s Ladder and Jacob’s Wrestling; Moses and Samson; Noah, Daniel, and Job; Three Righteous Men; David’s Amulet Against Fear; Jonathan: the Friend of David; Solomon’s Lonely Heart; Isaiah Taking Hold of God; Manasseh: Adam’s Bad Boy; Ezekiel’s Wheels. The titles are suggestive and intriguing; and they are handled in an original and striking way, with insight and sympathy. They are not biographies but “pen sketches.” In them the author shows his wide acquaintance with literature and his love of poetry.
Dr. Zwemer holds the conservative, or as we would prefer to say, the biblical view of the Old Testament. He rejects emphatically the decisive and destructive conclusions of the critics and boldly advocates the Biblical view. This appears especially clearly in “Adam: Myth or Fact?” which is a vigorous indictment of Evolution. For this reason especially, we could wish that he had been more cautious in some of his statements. “David’s Amulet Against Fear” assumes that Psalm 91 is Davidic. The testimony of the Septuagint can be appealed to in support of such authorship. But in the Hebrew Bible the psalm has no heading; and there is no definite Biblical evidence to support it. The same ap. plies to Psalm 104 which is also attributed to David (p. 137). It is difficult to think of the four kings of Genesis 14 as “four Arabian sheikhs” (p. 44). Elam certainly could hardly be classed as Arabian. We would also like to sec Moffatt’s rendering of David’s Lament over Saul and Jonathan called a free paraphrase rather than a “version.” For in it, as often in his “version,” Moffatt took liberties with the text of Scripture which no reverent translator would be guilty of. But those are relatively minor blemishes. We hope that Dr. Zwemer will not stop with number thirty, but that we may have still other products of his vigorous and facile pen. – Oswald T. Allis
THE CHURCH IN HISTORY. B.K. Kuiper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. 1951. Pp. 496. $4.95.
Two write a text book, covering the whole of the Church’s history from the beginnings down to the present time is no easy task. When this textbook is addressed to readers of high school age, it becomes even more difficult. It cannot be assumed that those using the book have a very great background of theology or of general history. Consequently while explanations of rather abstruse problems such as the Arian controversy have to be given, the limited amount of space available coupled with the elementary knowledge of the readers imposes a very great problem. There is the grave danger of over-simplification as well as that of becoming absolutely incomprehensible. This was one of the major hazards faced by the author when he commenced the writing of this book.
Another problem was that of giving a Reformed interpretation of the church’s story. With the limited space and the inability to assume very much background on the part of the reader, there could be little discussion or application of the Reformed philosophy of history. The difficulties were increased because, no matter how much space and time an historian possesses, it is frequently difficult to give a specifically Christian interpretation. For one thing, from the earliest days the Church has been conscious of history, and many of the Christian views and explanations have become part and parcel of the historian’s equipment. Moreover, even an unbelieving historian, if he believes in historical continuity, cause and effect, etc. unconsciously assumes a point of view, proper only to the Christian. Thus the writing of a specifically Reformed history of the church is virtually impossible. But we can say that the attainment of the highest level of truthfulness, that is the work of the historian and only the Christian, believing in God’s sovereign rule over history, can attain to anything approaching that level. But even for the Christian that is no easy task.
Taking into consideration both these difficulties: the limits of a text book and the problem of interpretation, it becomes clear that B. K. Kuiper has done a valuable piece of work. In less than 500 pages he covers the history of the church down to 1950. He has done it clearly and succinctly. At the same time he always keeps before the reader the truth of the Word of God. Generally while he is discussing the views and actions of various figures and bodies in the church he continually leads the reader back to first principles and to Scriptural teachings. He also usually draws a distinction between what has been taught by various elements in the church and the teaching of Calvin and the Reformed church. He presents as fairly as possible the non-Calvinistic point of view, sometimes almost bending over backwards, but ends by pointing out where it differs from Calvinism. This tends to keep before the reader’s mind at all times the Reformed position and its distinctiveness. The book, therefore, should be of very real help and interest.
As one examines the book he finds that there has been no riding of a hobby horse. It is divided roughly into five equal divisions. The first fifth covers the life of the early church down to the Middle Ages. This is followed by a section of about 100 pages on the Medieval church. Of the modern section which occupies the rest of the book, one-third is devoted to the Reformation, one third to the life of the church since the Reformation and a final third to the church in the United States. In this way there is an attempt to cover, fairly equally the four man periods of the church’s life, and also to give a picture of the growth of the various denominations in the author’s own land.
The book, however, is not only well proportioned physically, it also endeavors to give a well-rounded picture of the church in each age. The progress of doctrine, for instance, is given a very considerable place. An effort is made to explain the rise of various heresies in the church and the resulting doctrinal formulations with which the church has endeavored to counter false teaching. But doctrine has not by any means occupied the whole of the stage. The role of the individual has been pictured repeatedly, so that the great figures of the church stand out in clear relief. While it is only natural that all historians would not always agree on those who have been the great leaders of the church, a well-balanced position seems to have been taken. Along with all this, there has been maintained the sense of the unity of the church’s history and also a feeling of its movement. Thus when one lays down the book, he has obtained a very good general introduction to the story of the Christian Church throughout the ages.
To aid in this understanding of the church in history several devices have been used. Pictures have been employed copiously to illustrate the text. In this way an effort has been made to gain entrance to the mind by means not only of the printed word, but also through visual understanding. At the beginning of each of the book’s five sections a short introduction is given, describing the general trend of the church’s history during the period. Along with this is a list of the chapter headings. Another help is a two page time line for each section. One page of this line gives a general chronological indication of the dates of the important individuals, while the oilier page shows the main events of the period. Each chapter is also divided up into sections with their appropriate headings so that it is very easy to follow the general argument not only of major sections, but also of individual chapters. An these helps make it a very useful book for giving instruction to church history classes.
Yet, at the same time, one must never forget that it is a textbook with all of the textbook’s limitations. For one thing on reading it one often feels that there has been a tendency to make broad sweeping generalizations to which the exceptions are of the greatest importance. For instance the rather favorable interpretation of the work of the mendicant orders would seem to have been too general, as was also the description of the views of the Albigensians. Coupled with this danger of generalization, there is also the danger of omission. For one thing, there seems to have been something of tendency to ignore the importance of economic and social forces in the rise of the church to power in the ancient world as well as their impact on the Reformation. We are also told that the Great Awakening “brought about the development of the New England theology.” (p. 421) After the rather favorable interpretation of the Great Awakening one would think that this statement deserved some explanation but none is given. It would also seem to have been a pity that the development of the church in Canada has been completely ignored, particularly in these days when U.S.-Canadian cooperation is becoming of vital importance.
Besides these difficulties inherent in a textbook there are a few inaccuracies. For one thing some of the pictures in the early part of the book, copied from Renaissance paintings are in danger of misleading the readers. For instance the baptism of Constantine by Sylvester of Rome gives the impression that the papacy was by then Fully established. Then later on we are given the impression that John Newton, William Cowper and others were Wesleyan Methodists. The actual fact is, however, that they were pretty generally Calvinistic. On page 425 it is said that “the Presbyterians as one man took the side of the colonial patriots.” The truth of the matter is, however, that the first Presbyterian minister in the Province of Quebec, then newly conquered New France, was John Bethune, chaplain of a loyalist regiment raised in North Carolina during the Revolution. Other Presbyterian loyalists settled in the Maritime Provinces and Ontario.
Yet while there are certain omissions, sweeping generalizations and at times even errors, they are of relatively little importance. They do not affect the very real usefulness of the book. It gives a good bird’s eye view of the church’s story, in simple language understandable by all. What is more it makes plain the origins and background of many of the contemporary problems of the church. Thus, for those who wish to know more about the church but who have neither the time nor the background to study it at length this book should prove a very valuable aid. It will open up the way to them and perhaps incite them to delve more deeply into the past of the church, the pillar and ground of the truth. — Stanford W. Reid
WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?. Gresham Machen, D.D., Litt. D. Edited by Ned B. Stonehouse, Th. D. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. 1951 Price $3.00. 317 pages.
This book is a compilation of the most notable lectures given by the author during the last twenty-five years of his life. The initial address, “What is Christianity?” is a very suitable title for the entire collection of addresses. In a thoroughly Calvinistic manner the erstwhile New Testament scholar integrates God’s general revelation with the Scriptures and views the life of man through the spectacles of God’s Holy Word. He builds all the thoughts of his entire system squarely upon divine self-revelation and shows how truly scientific that is. Regardless of the type of group he is addressing, the author, best remembered as founder of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, tells the same story consistently. This was his “one holy passion” as he faced the world of his day.
In the first address of this collection Machen asserts that Christianity is fundamentally a gospel, a “piece of news,” the relating of a great event that transpired in the past. Real truth never changes. Christianity is truth. If it can change for the next generation it cannot possibly be true for this generation. Its basis is God’s revelation, not man’s comprehension. The basic text for the apostles as they faced their tremendous task in the world of their day is expressed in I Corinthians 15:3, 4, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. Here is a factual gospel.
Paul received it. This is doctrine but that doctrine is always basic to and relevant for the spiritual life.
It is interesting to note the author’s psychological insight and sensitiveness. The utter sincerity of the Gospel writers has communicated a “certain self-evidencing quality” to their narratives, which “has a larger place in the production of Christian conviction than often is supposed.” Indeed, (or Dr. Machen, the hypothesis that a Gospel writer “is engaging in a refined bit of deception by subtly making the false impression of being an eyewitness when he was no eye-witness at all” is a monstrous one (pp. 53, 54).
In a very enlightening manner Dr. Machen proceeds to show how the prologue to Luke’s Gospel is based on this identical conviction because Christianity is founded upon such facts as creation, sin, and redemption.
The lecture on the Virgin Birth is an excellent one. The author argues convincingly concerning this subject, so distasteful to the natural mind, and tells why Matthew and Luke are so thorough in their description. The Interpolation Theory—and there is no evidence for it whatever—indicates the desperation of the enemies. Paul’s silence on it is no argument, for he is silent on most all the events in the life of our Lord. Paul’s doctrine of Jesus as the second Adam and his well-developed Christology reveal the unity in the Bible respecting the Virgin Birth. This doctrine is absolutely indispensable for the authority of the Bible, the person of the Christ and supernaturalism.
One of the most interesting lectures is that concerning the relation of Jews and Christians. Here again one notes the consistency and honesty of Dr. Machen. Delivered at a conference of Jews and Christians, the lecture pulls no ounches and conceals no light of biblical Christianity. Even in the camp of the enemy he is the same Dr. Machen. In his own words, he puts his “worst foot” forward as he posits the fundamental Christian convictions. Christianity is very pessimistic as far as man is concerned, because man is on the way to hell. Sin is revealed by the law, and also in Jesus’ cross as the only victory over it. Machen tells the Jews that they are lost in sin without Christ. Then he advances to the thought that Jews and Christians must tolerate each other in the right way, but the Christian will preach Christ to the Jew. The two can also cooperate with Catholics to prevent the tyrannization of education by the state. The reviewer deems this the proper way to treat the problem. Many try to eliminate the differences by sliding over important issues and telling the opponent they believe the same thing when they do not. The truth is that although we can still be friends, we are not all brothers in the true sense.
Dr. Machen’s lectures on Scholarship are very stimulating as he links the fundamental necessity of scholarship with evangelism, education, and the defense of the faith. The event of Christianity is the story we must tell to the nations. As far as the defense of the faith is concerned, Christianity cannot be maintained without a constant struggle, since its precepts are contrary to the natural man. We need. sound and vigorous apologetics because the faith is not defended by mere piety. The need of the hour for the church is good doctrinal preaching and teaching.
In a fearless way the author exposes the intentional omission of issues and the modernistic bias of Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s Modern Use of the Bible.
A thought provoking chapter is the one on Christianity and Culture. Dr. Machen decries the prevalent divorce between the two and pleads for the proper integration. It may sound a bit anti-cultural as he states that the chief obstacle to Christianity today lies in the sphere of the intellect. For the most part, students are not Christians and Christians are not students in our American universities. However, he then describes the entire situation in such a way that it affords a tremendous challenge to the Christian thinker. The reviewer is of the opinion that in this chapter the author could have traced the antithesis a bit more clearly from the mind to the heart, out of which are the “issues of life.”
The book has an attractive appearance and an important content. Dr. Stonehouse deserves a tribute for editing this book at a time when the thinking of the eminent founder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is needed so greatly. Congratulations to the publisher for his contribution to the advancement of genuine Christian apologetics! May the book have a wide circulation among all serious thinkers of the church today. It will stimulate all who read it. What a beautiful vindication of the Reformed faith by this defender of the faith! – F. W. Van Houten
FREE UNIVERSITY QUARTERLY, Vol. 1, No.1, Published by Free University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (American agent: Baker Book House, 1019 Wealthy, S.E., Grand Rapids 6, Michigan).
The book under consideration is, we believe, significant out of all proportion to its modest and unassuming appearance and size. It is the first issue of what will be a quarterly publication by tile Free University or Amsterdam, the first and for many years the only openly Calvinistic university in the world.
The first article in the quarterly, entitled “The Free University and Its Quarterly” by G. Ch. Aalders, gives the reader a brief introduction to the Free University and its principles principles that made it seem right and proper that the university should issue such a publication as this. The University, says Aalders, has “devoted itself fully to the Reformed principles as basic for all instruction and scholarly work” (p. 1). “It is deeply convinced that all instruction must be rounded on certain principles, and for its instruction it has chosen the principles of the Calvinistic Reformation, the principles of the Divine Word” (p.3).
That striking idea that no scholarship can proceed without certain basic principles is further developed by Dr. H . Waterink when he writes on “The Scholarly Habitus.” Among other things, the writer very cleverly exposes how illogical and impossible is the prevalent idea that scientific and philosophic study can be neutral on matters of basic faith. On page 17 he reasons very rightly that no one comes to his scholarly work as a neutral. Neutrality itself becomes a basic principle and so destroys its own theory that all principles are equal. He reasons further that man, by being a man, must have a world-and-Iife-view. That is then, his prescientific starting-point and is accepted by him on faith. Christian faith, thus, “does not ‘rise above the reason’ (p. 24), it lifts the reason up to a higher plane and kindles in thought the new light by which ways are seen which, for man as he is in himself, lie in darkness.”
All this means, as the writer recognizes (p. 27), that there must be a growing antithesis in scholarship. “Scholarship on the basis of faith in Holy Scripture is always a participating in the wrestling of the spirits. It does not matter if men from the side of unbelief deny the existence of the wrestling…if Christians minimize it if open enemies. try to bar its right to the name of scholarship The fact is that up to the last day the wrestling in the field of scholarship will go on.”
The third article, by I.A. Diepenhorst, on “The Christian and the Contemporary Problem of the State,” raises many very basic questions. For example, the question of the relation of God’s common grace to his particular grace is raised (p. 33). And the need of a more precise treatment of both the source of and the grounds for these two forms of grace is emphasized. The writer observes correctly, we believe, (p. 36) that Reformed confessions neglect the question of the responsibility of citizenship in a democratic government. But we feel, and apparently Dr. Diepenhorst felt (p. 45) , that, suggestive as his treatment was, definitive answers to these questions remain to be given. Many problems are here analyzed and broken down into lesser or related problems, but few cogent answers are given.
The fourth article. and the last to which we will call attention in this review, “Science Materialism and Christianity,” by Dr. R. Hooykaas, reviews the history of materialism in the past and present, and analyzes its basic fallacy. But he is not willing to lake the stand of his colleague, Waterink, that Faith raises Reason to see light which it cannot see by nature. He takes the position (p. 60) that Scripture and Nature are two independent sources of revelation. Christian faith makes the scientist only the more honestly realistic and critical of hypotheses. The source of knowledge for natural sciences is the Book of Nature which is given to everyone. He brings into his closing paragraph what seems to us a weakened concession to Christian faith by saying that if we are “in Christ,” then all our thinking will work out to his glory.
To the mind of the present reviewer, the article last mentioned would be much more solidly grounded had the learned author been willing to grant that there are not two independent sources of revelation, but a unitary revelation in two forms and with two purposes. Then, although the Scripture is not a source-book on astronomy, not a philosopher’s stone to answer all scientific problems, it would continue to occupy its rightful place as the ultimately valid revelation of Him who is the Truth. Thus we are not in danger of lowering the Bible to the level of a mere devotional book on religion, devoid of philosophic and scientific validity.
In general, we hail the Free University Quarterly as a genuine contribution to Calvinistic scholarship and we await with eagerness the forthcoming issues.
If we may vemure to suggest to the editorial committee a procedure that would strengthen still more the already laudable attempt at an English publication of international readability, it would be that they engage an American student, perhaps, to edit the English manuscripts with a view to securing a more accurate English idiom. –Arnold Brink