S. U. Zuidema, VAN GElOOF TOT GELOOF. Franeker: T. Wever. 1954. 184 pp., f4.80.
This book provides lillie sketches of a heart a heart type for those who would be near unto God. Previously the author has written an interesting treatise on the subject or prayer that belongs to the finest of the literature on the matter. And this book, Van Geloof tot Geloot, is equally impressive as one of the very best on the subject of faith.
Zuidema again and again points up the fact that faith is response to revelation in the Word and that it denies the supremacy to experience. In this connection he points to Schleirmacher who, under the title of The Christian Faith, actually enthroned human experience and cast out faith, saying that every pious believer could write his own scriptures. But faith starts where the Bible begins. Experience starts with reality, and here we meet the age-old problem of whether we can know God from nature apart from his Word. Zuidema contends that it is impossible to know God or his works except we live by the light of his Word (pp. 53, ff.).
By the way of faith, he continues (d. p. 59), we come to an understanding of the works of God. “Only in the light of the Word of God, which we know through faith, can we rightly understand what we experience. The facts speak only after the Word of God makes the facts speak.” As an example Zuidema cites the case of conversion from vice to virtue. We can only know whether this is a true conversion (for Satan also has his conversions from vice to virtue) by going to the Word, which tells us that Christ works only in the hearts of those who accept his cross with a sincere faith. Worthless and deceitful, therefore, is the witness of them who can tell us of their turning to Jesus as a mere example, if they deny the cross of Christ. There is no inner light and no other source by which to test the spirits than the Word of God. Only the Bible is a light upon our pathway and a lamp unto our feet.
Under the heading “Faith and Conversion” the author indicates the relationship of faith to life. It is a serious self-delusion, the author contends, to think that a man can live his life out of the neutrality stand-point. According to Scripture a Ulan lives out of his faith. True, saving faith brings a conversion, a change into a man’s thinking, living and acting. But the common conception is that betterment of life may be obtained without a biblical faith (going down to the root, or out of the heart). This is puerile, and a great evil in our day. All renewal of life and betterment of the conditions of life is produced by faith in something. Men act from their faith in reason, in humanity, in the state, in the race, or some other created thing. Every report of conversion must be judged on its own merits and we aught to inquire at once: “Under the guidance of what kind of faith did this conversion occur?” (p, 67). Without faith it is impossible to please God. This central truth is reaffirmed by the author against the contemporary insistence on the works of the law, or morality, and mistaking them for evidences of true Christianity.
Furthermore, there are chapters on faith as related to works, reason, justification, concession, church, preaching, Baptism and, finally, an exposition of the Creed in relation to faith. All in all, this excellent book is filled with suggestive thoughts that may be expanded into sermons or lectures. It is a kind of seed-bed ready for transplanting. It grips not only the mind but also the heart of the believer.
S. Greydanus, SCHRIFTOVERDENKINGEN. Compiled by C. Veenhaf. Kampen: J.H. Kok N.V. 1954, 108 pp., f3.50.
Here are twenty studies in Holy Writ compiled by Prof. C. Veenhof Friesch Kerkblad (Aug. 1916–Dec. 1917). They are still very pertinent since they deal with man’s life in a warring world, that is, as directed by the Word. This book speaks of God’s greatness and man’s smallness; it reminds us that the hand of the Lord is not shortened and that the whole disposition of life (as well as of the lot) is of the Lord. One of the finest studies deals with Paul’s statement in II Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” The learned author here contends that every good and perfect gift to all mankind is through Christ. All of God’s promises to the human race are guaranteed in the Son of his love.
Here is a vital discussion of relevant issues in our day. This book has a timeless quality because it deals with the eternal things of God realistically and concretely.
S. G. De Graaf, HET WARE GELOOF (BESCHOUWINGEN OVER ZONDAG 1–22 VAN DE HEIDELBERGSE CATECHISMUS), Kampen: J. H, Kak N.V. 1954. 465 pp., f13.75,
Those who have learned to know the writings of S. C. De Graaf, former well-known preacher of the Word in Amsterdam, will greet with joy the appearance of this new volume. This great minister of The Netherlands was both a popular preacher and a worthy exegete of Scripture. The evidence is found in his popular series: Vuur op Aarde (“fire on the earth”) which is a series of the most existential, concrete sermons that this reviewer has ever had the pleasure and profit of reading. Each one is a gem. Beyond that, this author has enriched Reformed theological literature with his incomparable: Ver-Bondsgeschiedenis (“history of the covenant”) a two·volume work on the history of God’s covenantal dealings with his people in the Old and New testaments, especially written and designed for Sunday School teachers. Never have I seen or read a work of its type in which the Biblical-theological approach is worked out so beautifully ;tIld the sovereign grace of God is so consistently magnified. De Graaf was also often invited to make public addresses and some of these have been collected in it little work called: Christus en de Wereld, (“Christ and the world”). In the work now under discussion the author sets forth the meaning and relevance of it part of one of the historical creeds of the Reformed Churches, namely, The Heidelberg Catechism. Typical of the author’s approach is the statement on the very first page of his exposition of Lord’s Day one. He notes the fact that we usually speak of creeds having the two-fold purpose of preserving the unity of the church and maintaining the truth over against the world. But, says De Graaf, these are preceded by another, namely, that in the creed the church first of all gives its answer to God, who has willed to reveal his truth to us. That is to say, a confession must always be in the first instance adoration, for our confession is only possible through faith. Now faith attaches itself to God’s faithfulness and love. These are so wondrously high that our faith can never comprehend them, hence we simply adore. And there can be no comfort without adoration. To seek the comfort of salvation without praise and adoration is a foolish attempt to plunder the faith.
A creed is the answer to the revelation of God and thus becomes “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). “But that does not mean that the truth as such has need of support and rests in the church. The truth is the revelation of God, and rests in him alone, who is the Truth. In this world, however, the truth finds rest, is confessed, preserved and de· fended in a fellowship which it has created for itself. In that sense the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Therein the value of the confession of the church for us is expressed” (p. 30).
Confession, the author reiterates, is a repeating and answering to what God has first spoken, a speaking or God’s thoughts after him, as Augustine used to say. Thus only we can confess that we are the possession of Jesus Christ. This we can never derive from experience. For experience is always the fruit of faith and not the ground of faith.
Here, therefore, we arc dose to the heart of the typically Reformed confession versus every modern form of experientialism and existentialism. The difficulty of Karl Barth c.s. is that they never get out of the slough of experientialism, and hence they deny that we are the “blessed possessors (beati possidentes) of the great salvation, which is the same as belonging to Jesus Christ.
Those who like K. Barth deny that we have the right to say that we are saved, that we are assured of eternal life, are unwilling to repeat what God says of us. They are unwilling to live by the revelation of God. They seek to make experience ultimate, and they, of course, have to await the event.
The same conception is further worked out by the author in connection with the Heidelberg’s famous expression: “thine only comfort.” When we speak of our only comfort, we say that life without that comfort is meaningless and death is hopeless. But unless one bow to the authority of the Word such confession is never sincere. The world, in the final analysis, will never admit the absolute bankruptcy of human life. Outside or the Word there is no true knowledge of our extreme need in this life and terrible hopelessness in death.” Without this victory of the Word of God the distress of the world becomes reason for an accusation against God” (p. 15). But by faith through the Word we see our misery as guilt. And our life in that misery is without meaning (zinloos). For the meaning of life lies in our fellowship with God…And how shall we understand the meaninglessness of life, except through the Word of God, which makes known to us the meaning of me” (p. 16).
In the next paragraph De Graaf speaks of restoration of life (Levensherstel). This is a promise of God in his Word, for this life as well as the next.
Under Lord’s Day two which speaks of the Law of God as the source of our knowledge of misery, De Graaf unfolds for us the nature of Law as an expression of the love of God. He is of the opinion that it is not a scholastic question whether the Law is also above God or is an arbitrary expression of God’s will, but that this is a real existential problem.
For all those who read Dutch, and every Reformed preacher ought to do all he can to gain a reading knowledge of it, this is an invaluable treasure. Nor ought Christian laymen to deprive themselves of the joy and the profit that awaits one by reading this book.