JASA Book Reviews for June 1974
CHRIST AND THE BIBLE by John W. Wenham,
Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove,
THE CHALLENGE OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES by Kenneth G. Howkins, 1972, 150 pp. paperback.
Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 60515,
Wenham argues that Jesus consistently treats the
historical narratives as straightforward records of fact,
and although he is willing to admit that Jesus' use of these narratives might conceivably be didactic rather
than literal, he feels that there is "no hint that our Lord intended anything of the sort." Similarly he admits the possibility that "Jesus is simply taking his contemporaries on their own ground without committing Himself to the correctness of their premises," but finally concludes that "it seems impossible to accept it as being Christ's real view." His arguments along this line are not wholly convincing and in later places in the text he is willing to grant, e.g., that (a) Jude (1:9) might not really indicate his quotation as coming from the lips of the patriarch Enoch, since "having no access to modern typographical techniques there was no unclumsy way of indicating that the name was recognized as a nom de plume;" (b) inexact New Testament quotations of Old Testament passages do not argue against inerrancy for "this shows a complete failure to understand the humanity of the Scriptures, which is no more destroyed by inspiration than is the humanity of Christ by incarnation. Preservation from error does not involve the destruction of normal mental processes," and (c) the words of Jerome can be quoted with approval, "that wherever the evangelists and apostles quote the Old Testament it should be noted that 'they have not followed the wording, but the meaning.'"
All in all, Wenham presents a capable case for the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, although he does not really come to grips with certain specific thorny issues such as the significance of Jesus's words about the early chapters of Genesis.
The Challenge of Religious Studies by Kenneth G. Howkins, Lecturer in Religious Studies at Balls Park College, Hertford, England, is also intended for the committed Christian, especially for the Christian confronted with the academic field of Religious Studies, posing "the insidious danger" that "the proverbial familiarity breeds contempt." He emphasizes the differences between the scientific study of religion, in which religion is treated as a phenomenon suitable for description in natural categories, the sociology and the psychology of religion, the philosophy of religion-and the reality of a living relationship with God. As he states at the end of the book, "The student of biochemistry does not cease to eat and enjoy his food because be also studies food."
Discussing the significance of conventional labels, Howkins makes the memorable comment, "the true scholar should be liberal in his outlook, radical in his thinking and conservative in his conclusions." The author has a healthy understanding for the correlation between science and Christian faith, as illustrated by such statements as "it is unbiblical to speak of 'divine interventions,' as this implies that in general the world is just going on by itself;" "myth is a way of thinking in which the other-worldly and divine are represented as this-worldly and human;" "whether a miracle occurred on a certain occasion is a question for the historian and not for the scientist;" and "the laws of nature are descriptions of what does happen and not what must happen."
In the context of a book of this sort Howkins treatment of the stories of creation and & fall are particularly helpful. A few quotations from this section illustrate.
"Do these stories contain religious or scientific truth? The very form of the question prejudges certain matters, in assuming that religious and scientific truth are opposites, or that they are alternatives.
It will be found that in Genesis I there is a most sublime and majestic account of God creating all; but we search in vain for any details of how He did it.
There is no conflict in principle between science and religion in the doctrine of divine creation. So as regards the origin of the universe, we may say that from the Old Testament we find that God created it but we do not find how He did so; for that we turn to science.
This question is often posed as, "Creation or evolution?" But to put the question that way is again to prejudge the issue, as it implies that these are two different and opposite ideas. . . . If evolution is true, then it is a description of how God created animals and man, and indeed every living thing.
The biblical doctrine of creation is not simply an account of the origin of things. It is a description of something vital about the nature of God, man and the universe, and the relation between God and man, God and the universe, and man and the universe.
We have to face the problem about taking the story of the fall literally. In a way, this is not as big a problem as it might appear. For whether we take the story as literally true or as symbolically true, the final result is the same; man is a fallen creature, with an unrealized potential, and standing in need of God's revelation and God's salvation."
Finally Howkins emphasizes the importance of considering the basic purpose for which the Bible was written, not simply study of the biblical record as an objective exercise. "It is often said that the Bible is not a scientific textbook, and that we do not turn to it to learn science. But it may even be said also that, ultimately, the Bible is not a theological textbook, and we should not turn to it just to learn theology. . . . To know theology without knowing God is a terrible fate." Both of these books are valuable for placing in the hands of college students particularly, as they often come face to face for the first time with a critical approach to biblical authority.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.
LIVING AND LOVING by A. N. Triton. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1972. Paperback, 95 p., $1.25.
The back cover of Triton's book says, "Sex before marriage, adultery, (etc.) ... are becoming acceptable, even normative, and Christians are under tremendous pressure to conform. But should they? . . . This book attempts to answer . . . and to show why . . ." The result is a fairly standard discourse on some fairly standard issues written for the standard (i.e., pretty straight) Christian British university student. All that the book reveals about Triton is a British origin; background credentials, affiliations, even sex are not to be found. Triton writes, however, like a kindly English country vicar, and the resulting prose is rather bland . . . to say the least. The flavor of both syle and content is given by the following: "In the Christian ideal stable marriage is the great thing. Sex is made for marriage, not vice versa." (p. 35).
There are chapters with topical questions. "Why Shouldn't We?" (A: "Contrary to God's ideal.") "Are Christian Morals Unalterable?" (A. ". . . basic moral principles, based on the way we are made . . . therefore unalterable.") "What If We Fail?" (A: David and Sampson did; "Here is both a warning and an encouragement.") "Is Early Marriage the Answer?" (A:
. . . must not be entered into 'unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly."
Biblical treatments consider "An Example of Victory" (Joseph with Potiphar's wife) and "St. Paul on Marriage," which is mostly a "very free paraphrasewith comment" on I Corinthians 7. 1 found nothing unexpected in these chapters. Various Scripture references are made throughout the book, of course. A chapter entitled "Prelude to Partnership" was contributed by an otherwise unidentified John H. Patterson. In my view, it is clearly superior in style and content to Triton's own work and might justify the cost of the book.
I thought the views of a middle-aged married person (myself) might be somewhat jaded on the sex and marriage issue, so I loaned the book to a single Christian male, age 20, and a newly married Christian female of about the same age. Both reported an occasional helpful point made, but-as the girl said-"It wouldn't have answered the real problems I had before I married." All three of us gave it about a "C" grade. I suggest I Loved a Girl, by Walter Trobisch.
Reviewed by W. Mack Goldsmith, Department of Psychology, California State, College, Stanislaus, California.
YOUR MIND MATTERS by John R. W. Stott. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1972, 64 pp., $.95. Paperback.
This book is about the place of the mind in the Christian life. Subtitled "the misery and menace of mindless Christianity," the book has four chapters with a foreword and notes. In 1972 John R. W. Stott gave the presidential address at the InterVarsity Fellowship Annual Conference. This book is the full text of that address. Stott is Rector of All Souls Church in London and author of the book Basic Christianity.
The psychologist who picks up this book might anticipate that the author will treat the mind in a mindless way. Such is not the case. This is a cognitive book. It will arouse some affect as the author intended but it is meant more for the cortex than the limbic system. Stott makes "a forceful appeal to Christians to show devotion set on fire by truth."
Stott believes that some Christians today are like the unbelieving Jews of whom Paul said that they have a zeal for God but it is unenlightened. This anti-intellectualism is illustrated by three sometimes exaggerated emphases: Catholic on ritual, radicals on social action, and Pentecostals on experience.
Stott quotes a man who said, "Whenever I go to church, I feel like unscrewing my head and placing it under the seat because in a religious meeting I never have any use for anything above my collar button. " The book has many quotes which enrich its emphasis on the use of the mind in the Christian life. Billy Graham is quoted as saying, "I've preached too much and studied too little." Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse is quoted "If I had only three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing." Lloyd-Jones: "The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical."
Stott takes issue with Norman Vincent Peale and W. Clement Stone for equating optimism with faith. To Stott faith is not optimism but a reasoning trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.
In conclusion, Stott makes it clear that he is not pleading for "a dry, humorless, academic Christianity." Knowledge, wisdom, discernment, and understanding are the very foundation of the Christian life. He warns, quoting Bishop Handley Moule, against an undevotional theology and an untheological devotion. This is a nifty little book and profitable reading for all Christians.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, Professor of Psychology and Biblical Studies, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
QUEST FOR REALITY: CHRISTIANITY AND
THE COUNTER CULTURE by Carl F. H. Henry
and Others, Inter-Varsity Press (1973) Paper, 161 p., $2.95.
Quest for Reality is a collection of papers presented at an invitational scholar's conference on "Christian Perspectives on the Search for Reality in Modern Life", sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Christian Studies in October, 1971. Short papers (10 to 18 pages) were presented on five related topics treating various aspects of the counter culture, each paper being followed by two critiques. In this review I shall be more concerned with the main papers, although the critiques are important and some of them make significant contributions.
Armond M. Nicholi II, a practicing psychiatrist and faculty member of Harvard Medical School, presented some excellent insights into the youth culture in the first paper, "Some Clinical Sketches of the Youth Culture". This paper, though brief, is well worth reading. In the next section, D. Elton Trueblood discusses "The Self and the Community", and concludes that it is not an either-or but a both-and proposition,
"there must be, on the one band, a warning against any individualism which makes the separated person his own
end, but there must be, at the same time, a warning against any collectivism which regards the community as
the end of the individual."
In a critique of Trueblood's paper, David Carley suggests a far more serious charge than Trueblood's, calling the "Do your own thing" of the counter culture a "thoroughly vulgar admonition". He states,
"I believe that by our actions, by our life styles and by what we do rather than what we say, the majority of Christians in America today have concern for little other than ourselves; that the concept of community is mostly
foreign to our patterns of living; and that the great paradox Trueblood refers to is only a conceptual one for most
of us because, in reality, the paradox between choosing self-sufficiency or the good of the whole is hardly a
good wrestling match. The self wins almost every time."
In a philosophical analysis of the counter culture, Ronald Nash, Head of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky, selects two prominent spokesmen, Marcuse and Reich, and subjects them to severe criticism based on his thesis that:
If the proponent of the counter culture rules out the possibility of valid inference, he should not expect us to get excited when he argues for his views or against the views of others. If the proponent of the counter culture tells us that truth is relative, be should not expect us to accept his truths as absolute. If he tells us that all beliefs are conditioned by economic and social matters, he should recognize that this vitiates his beliefs as well.
Concerning Marcuse, "his thesis is self-defeating in the sense that no one, including himself, could have ob tained knowledge of the thesis. And even granting that Marcuse's books could be the result of a miracle, no one else, according to this theory, could have under stood him." Of Reich, Nash says, "Surely there are good grounds for concluding that The Greening of America is a confused melange of nonsense." The cri tiques given by Holmes and Mavrodes are more sympa thetic to Marcuse and Reich, although they still find problems from a Christian perspective.
John Scanzoni, Prof. of Sociology at Indiana U., gives an excellent discussion of, "The Christian View of Work". He concludes,
The Christian view of vocation as a creative exercise of gifts in holy service to God supplies meaning to work
and a basis for identity that is real, in terms of both temporal and eternal. The challenge to the Christian community is somehow to communicate this view of vocation
In, "Some Aspects of the Counter Culture", John
Snyder, Executive Vice Chancellor of the University of
California at Santa Barbara, provides the best short analysis of the counter culture that I have ever seen. The paper dispels some common misconceptions about the counter culture. The final two papers are summaries; "The Search for Reality", by Calvin Linton and "What is Man on Earth For?", by Carl Henry. The main thrust of this conference is perhaps given in this statement by Henry, "Amid the truly legitimate elements in the counter-cultural complaint, the greatest service that Christian intellectuals can provide is to discriminate what is worthy from what is unworthy in the present social ferment and to reinforce what is right." This book is at least a beginning toward that goal.
Reviewed by B. J. Piersma, Houghton College, Houghton, N.Y. 14744.
ISSUES OF THEOLOGICAL WARFARE: EVANGELICALS AND LIBERALS by Richard J. Coleman. Eerdmans, 1972, 206 pages, paperback.
The author of this volume, Mr. Richard J. Coleman, a United Presbyterian minister, is to be commended for his courage in grappling with difficult problems. He writes with a concern for the continued and even widening breach between theological liberals and evangelicals. He proposes that evangelicals and liberals should engage in dialogue, facing the differences that divide them, with honesty and with a desire to learn from each other. He is convinced that if this is done, some-not all-of the differences can be resolved, with a resulting healthier climate for all concerned in the church.
The volume is divided into five chapters in which major points of doctrinal divergence are noted. Chapter one raises questions concerning the movement of faith and the doctrines held concerning God and Christ.
Chapters two and three discuss the crucial area of the nature of revelation and inspiration and authority of
the Scriptures. Chapter four considers differences in viewpoints held concerning prayer, providence and the
world. Chapter five is devoted to consideration of the
church and social involvement.
To the author's credit it must be acknowledged that he has endeavored to present both sides of key issues
- fairly and objectively with accuracy. There is evidence of wide acquaintance with the writings of both liberals
and evangelicals. He does not skim the surface with mere generalities and superficial consideration. There is much in the volume that would be read with profit by either evangelical or liberal. And of course, that is the point and purpose of the writing.
It would seem however, that the author is perhaps overly optimistic about the benefit that can be reasonably expected to accrue from dialogue between theological liberals and theological conservatives. If it were only a case of disagreement over minor details, then such optimism would be justified. But when the differences in detail are largely a result of differences in basic presuppositions, it is a different matter.
What reconciliation can be expected, for example, between the liberal view that the task of theology is 11 to uncover and thematize those aspects of everyday life that contain elements of transcendence and permanence" (p. 54), and that theology "begins with man and moves to God"-and the evangelical position that theology begins with the self-revealing God of the Scriptures? That it is not a case of man theorizing about God from what he may see in man-but of God and His works revealed historically in the Bible, in the created order, and supremely in Christ.
Or what synthesis is possible concerning the person of Christ? On the one hand, he is viewed as "only a supreme paradigmatic model, who can influence our lives only as one who stands in the past . . . (who) is dead except as we can resurrect him through the exercise of our wills" (58-59). On the evangelical view, He is the eternal son of the living God, who became incarnate, who suffered and died, and was raised again from the dead-exalted forever with the Father.
It is true of course, that dialogue is important, for it is a very useful communication. We need to know what the other person is thinking and the reasons that lie behind that thinking. It is also true that controversy and differences of viewpoint serve to clarify positions. The historical development of Christian doctrine repeatedly demonstrates this. It has been in the heat of controversy, from Celsus to Bultmann or Bonboeffer, that the more complete development of theology and viewpoint based upon the Bible has resulted. But this has not been a mere synthesis, or a compromise between two positions. It has more often been a clarifying of doctrine, with the impetus for the more complete statement furnished by the challenge.
But on issues where the positions are diametrically opposed, as is true in many instances in the liberal/evangelical controversy, one side or the other would need to make major concessions. A half-way position would not be an acceptable solution. And reluctant as some liberals have been to grant it, the evangelical remains fully persuaded of the truth of his position on basic doctrines-and this after careful, painstaking consideration of most of the implications involved in the position. It does seem significant that laymen in large numbers from within some of the major denominations, as is referred to by the author in his introductory chapter, are expressing their concern for vital Christian faith in opposition to liberalism of much of the official leadership.
The phenomenon of differences of judgment and interpretation continues to be an interesting matter in almost every discipline-although often frustrating and baffling. Whether we think of psychology, philosophy' art, astronomy or theology-different viewpoints are in evidence. And this is one thing that makes life interesting. How boring it would be if everyone thought alike on every subject. The incentive for further study and research would be at an end.
This volume then is commended for further study. Occasionally it will jar the evangelical, and at other points, it will possibly stir the liberal. Surely this will be useful for all concerned.
Reviewed by Enoch E. Mattson, Trinity Western College, Langley, B.C., Canada.
INSIGHT, AUTHORITY, AND POWER by Peter A. Schouls. Toronto: Wedge Publishing Foundation, 1972, 46 pp.
This book is a compilation of adaptations of lectures given by the author for conferences of the Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship, an international organization whose purpose is to see the Word of God have an impact on higher education and on learning in all areas of life. The topics include a definition of the question of insight, authority, and power, followed by a description of the possession of these attributes by Christ. The nature of insight, authority, and power are then considered in relation to the community of believers and with respect to the church, the home, and the school.
When Jesus taught, he did not flaunt his academic credentials before his listeners, for he had none. He did not boast of his membership in various prestigious organizations, for he was member of none. Outwardly, he was a simple carpenter, the son of a carpenter. And yet when he spoke, "The crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." (Matthew 7:28-29). Luke tells us on another occasion, "They were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority'. (Luke 4:32). The authority that Jesus bad was obvious, it was easily recognizable, and it seemingly bore little relationship to the type of authority claimed by the religious leaders of his time. Jesus is the model for the thesis of Dr. Schouls: "To the extent that a person gains or possesses insight, to that extent he obtains or possesses authority. And to the extent that a man possesses authority, he ought to be given the opportunity to act out this authority. Acted-out authority is power." (p. 12).Many New Testament passages indicate the great insight, knowledge, or understanding (the author uses A final comment is deserved by the publisher. As the three words interchangeably) that Jesus had of the will of God, since Christ was doing what his Father had told him to do. Because Christ has full and complete insight, he has full and complete authority, and, thus, unlimited power. On the other hand, the rest of us possess authority only to the extent that we posses an understanding of God's will for us and demonstrate it in our lives. An individual who assumes with out the possession of the requisite knowledge serves only himself and is a hindrance to others who are truly striving to serve the Lord. Applications of this simple, yet powerful, concept are discussed in the last four chapters.
Dr. Schouls has written a short, but extremely useful book on the proper source of authority and power:
the knowledge of God's will for man and man's obedience to that will. Many abuses of ecclesiastical power
and tyranny in the name of Jesus Christ would not
have stained the pages of religious history had this
Biblical principle been understood and followed by
those who claimed (and claim today) to be serving the
Reviewed by Donald F. Calbreath, Director of Clinical Chemistry, Watts Hospital, Durham, North Carolina 27705
REVOLUTION IN ROME by David F. Wells, foreword by John R. W. Stott, Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1972, 149 pp., bibliography, index, $4.95
Who speaks for Rome today? David Wells has at tempted to give an outline of recent trends in Catholic theology, especially in the light of the documents of Vatican II, 1962-1965. The result is not an easy book (most readers, like myself, are probably unfamiliar with theologians like Hans Kiing, or Edward Schillebeeckx) but it is a very important one: the outcome of the current revolution in Rome will have a tremendous effect on us all.
Wells has effectively chosen to divide his subject into appropriately Catholic, rather than Protestant, headings. Thus, the chapters deal respectively with the problems of change, unity, and authority, the sacred vs. the secular worlds, ecumenism, and the definition of the Church. An appendix treats the "unresolved problem" of Mary. All this he has had to compress into a little over a hundred pages of actual text, yet the book is extensively annotated, including references to the latest works of the early '70's. There is also a seven page critical bibliography and a useful index. It would be futile to attempt a summary of so compact a work. It may, however, be worthwhile to note some of the topics that are not covered. Wells has strictly adhered to the particular theological scope he
has chosen for himself. There is no discussion of the new pentecostalism or of the "extraordinary developments" that are taking place in the Mass and liturgy, although he well realizes their significance. In this regard the author's lengthy preface should be read carefully for a proper understanding of the purposes and limitations of what follows. Dealing with a particular set of theological issues, Wells provides a clear description of the crisis in Catholic religious thought-the current liberal, traditional, and radical views, and the compromises of Vatican II.
priced, and printed on recycled paper. The layout is attractive, although I did note a missing footnote number on p. 57, and the misplaced page number "75", but this in no way detracts from the fine quality of the work.
As John Stott concludes in his preface, "I believe that a careful perusual of this excellent book will lead many into new and more perceptive modes of dialog and witness. I pray that it may be so."
Reviewed by Charles D. Kay, History of Science, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.
ROCK STRATA AND THE BIBLE RECORD by Paul A. Zimmerman, Editor, Saint Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1970, 209 pp..
This short book, edited by Dr. Zimmerman, is a collection of articles "written as a summary of the committee's discussion and of the information dealing with the topics assigned to the Rock Symposium", a project funded by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The book is divided into five sections.
The first section, entitled "Theological and Scientific Guideposts", contains three chapters dealing with the theological position of the Lutheran Church and the assumptions of science as they pertain to paleontology and historical geology. One's opinion of the theological section will depend upon one's religious beliefs. However, the section on the assumptions in science is well written.
Section 11, "Time in Scripture and Geology", is a concise statement of the problems encountered in trying to reconcile Ussher's chronology with the "scientific" age of the earth. Some of the problems inherent in the scientific methods of dating are discussed.
The next section, one chapter long, deals with "The Biblical Account of Creation". The author, Dr. Fred Kramer, compares various translations and interpretations of the Biblical accounts but never comes to any conclusion except that by "its very nature and purpose the Bible leaves many scientific questions regarding the Creation unanswered."
The fourth section, entitled "The Geological Record", deals mainly with the "primate fossil record." Although this section is interesting, one tends to get bogged down in the scientific names and dental classifications.
The last section concerns Noah's flood and its implications. Much attention is given to the question of the extent of flood. It is concluded that "it would therefore seem best to allow Noah's flood to be a concern of theologians".
In summary, the book is short, readable and understandably presents both the pros and cons on each issue touched, but generally lacks any real conclusions.
The main points that are carried through the book are 1) all the information pertinent to our salvation is presented clearly; 2) our understanding of science and the Bible are incomplete- thus we must expect apparent conflict; and 3) we should keep searching for the ultimate truth and be willing to accept new facts as they are presented.
Reviewed by Floyd L. Wilcox, Sr., Associate Professor at Science, Central Wesleyan College, Central, South Carolina.