“The Growing Storm,” G.M.S. Walker (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. Price: $3.75)
This is the second volume of a projected series of seven under the general heading, “The Advance of Christianity Through the Centuries,” edited by F.F. Bruce. Three volumes of this rather ambitious project in the field of Church History have now come from the press (Vol. I, “The Spreading Flame,” covering generally the ancient period; and Vol. VI, “The Inextinguishable Blaze,” dealing with 18th Century church history.) The attempt is to produce a popular and interesting, yet accurate and scholarly history. Generally speaking, the attempt thus far is rather successful. And the project is a commendable one, especially because there is a lack of dependable and up-to-date works in this field. There are plenty of general church histories, but nothing as detailed and elaborate as this series will be when completed. In this reviewer’s opinion, however, there is as yet nothing on the market comparable to the standard set of eight volumes by Philip Schaff.
As far as the volume under discussion is concerned, I believe it may be said that the book deals with a very difficult period of church history, that of the Middle Ages. “The Growing Storm” is, from a certain point of view, a rather apt designation of the period also. Moreover, the author does a rather creditable job of tracing the devious lines of history in sketch form in the period from 600 A.D. to 1350 A.D. And more than sketches of the history one could not well expect in a book of some 250 pages dealing with so involved a period as that of the Middle Ages.
However, a Reformed student will be disappointed if in this volume he expects to find church history written in a manner sympathetic to the Reformed position. In my opinion, an adequate history of the church in the Middle Ages should do more in the way of tracing the history of the preservation of the truth and of the true church in this dark period. As a sample of Mr. Walker’s failure in this respect I offer the following excerpt on Gottschalk, the ninth century champion of the truth of predestination: “The doctrine of Predestination was connected with that of the Sacraments, for it raised the question of their universal efficacy. Gottschalk, the leading figure in this controversy, was a poet of a high but melancholy order; his pessimism arose from the accident that his parents had forced him unwillingly into the monastery of Fulda as a child oblate. In his early twenties he obtained a dispensation from monastic vows, but this was cancelled through the opposition of his abbot, Rabanus Maurus, and after an attempt at missionary work, he then absorbed himself in the study of Augustine. By concentrating on a single aspect he. made the doctrine of Predestination more terrible than it had been in the hands of the African saint. He denied all human freedom and held that the divine decrees, which predestined both the saved and the damned either to heaven or hell, had been determined even before the Fall of Adam. This Supralapsarian double predestination appeared shocking to the majority of churchmen and Gottschalk spent most of his remaining life in a monastic prison, where he died around 870 without the sacraments, refusing to recant.” Let alone the fact that this presentation is hardly accurate and fair, it certainly reveals that the author has no sympathy either for Gottschalk’s or Augustine’s presentation of the truth of predestination. According to him, one is more terrible than the other.
If the reader can stand the disappointment of not finding the Reformed presentation of church history in this volume, he may nevertheless read it with interest and with profit.
“The Four Major Cults,” Anthony A. Hoekema (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. Price: $5.95)
This is a 447 page volume which treats Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventism, and Christian Science. The book covers, in order, the history, the source of authority appealed to, and the doctrines of each cult. There is also a section (five appendices) in which certain cult doctrines are specifically criticized.
The book is designed for seminary, textbook use, but can readily be read by one without theological training. To this reviewer the study of these and other cults does not hold much attraction; it seems to he on the periphery of theological studies. This is not to say, however, that the book, in its field, is not useful. There is a vast amount of research involved in this study. Its great value lies in its appeal to primary source materials and in the fact that it is well documented throughout. For anyone who wants to make a study of these cults, this book will prove to be a useful reference work.
“The Epistle of Paul to the Romans,” F.F. Bruce. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. Price: $3.00)
This is Volume 6 in the “Tyndale Bible Commentaries,” New Testament Series. Its claim is to be “a concise, workable tool for laymen, teachers, and ministers.” The attempt to be concise probably results in the treatment being too scanty. Like most commentaries, this one also is disappointing when it comes to crucial passages. The section dealing with Romans 9 to Romans 11 is, to say the least, weak and far from satisfying.
“The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians,” F. Foulkes (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. Price: $3.00)
This is Volume 10 of the same series mentioned above. Its value is severely limited by its brevity. Its dependability for a Reformed student of Scripture is its major shortcoming. In general, this reviewer prefers “The New International Commentary” series, also published by Eerdmans.
“The New Testament In Plain English,” Charles Kingsley Williams (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. Price: $3.95).
This is another of the multitude of Bible translations with which the market is glutted nowadays. I do not believe that generally in our homes, where the Bible is “at home,” the difficulty of reading God’s Word in the language of the Authorized Version is nearly as great as it is claimed to be. But if you are one of those who likes to look up several different versions when studying a text or a passage, here is another one to look up.
“Them He Glorified,” Bernard Ramm (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. Price: $3.25).
This little volume of 148 pages is a treatise on the last step of the “ordo salutis.” One of its chief values is a consistent appeal to Scripture passages which speak of “glory” and “glorification.” This is not to express agreement with all that is written. Nevertheless, the reader will find this book stimulating and provocative of further study of this subject, which perhaps does not always receive the extensive treatment it deserves in dogmatical studies.