PREACHING YESTERDAY AND TODAY; Carey Publications Ltd., 5 Fairford Close, Haywards Heath, Sussex RH 16 3EF, 1972; 45p, 88pp. (paper). [reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
The material of this book contains several of the papers delivered at the first Evangelical and Reformed Conference in South Africa in April, 1971. The Conference dealt with the calling of the Church to preach the gospel.
The first chapter in the book is entitled “Revival, Preaching, and the Doctrines of Grace Illustrated from the life of George Whitefield.” It was prepared by Errol1 Hulse, minister of the Cuckfield Baptist Church in England and editor of Reformation Today.
Whitefield was a great figure in the 18th Century in England, probably preaching to more people than any other minister before the days of modern communications. Although a contemporary of the Wesleys, Whitefield parted ways with them because Whitefield was a Calvinist and could not accept the Arminianism of the Wesleys. Preaching wherever he had opportunity, even often in the open air, Whitefield was the despair of the organized Church, but was also responsible for religious revival in England. Hulse examines in this paper Whitefield’s power in preaching and finds the answer to be the doctrines of grace as taught by the Puritans and as personally experienced by Whitefield himself which formed the content of Whitefield’s preaching. Hulse emphasizes that such a return to the Puritans is necessary if preaching today is to regain its power.
The second chapter, written by Jim van Zyl, is entitled “Free Will or God’s Grace? Luther’s Reformation Conflict With Erasmus.”
This is an interesting chapter discussing the whole controversy between Luther and Erasmus on the question of free will vs. the bondage of the will. Van Zyl emphatically takes his stand with Luther and discusses the relationship between the doctrine of the bondage of the will. and the command of God to all men to repent. He finds here an insoluble problem, but insists that both are taught in God’s Word and that both therefore, must be maintained by the evangelical preacher.
He condemns “hyper-Calvinism,” but is not clear on what he means by this.
In chapter 3 David Kingdom discusses “God’s Church and Scriptural Evangelism.” He offers devastating criticism of modem evangelism and gives suggestions for evangelism that are according to the Scriptures.
The same author, in chapter 4, discusses “Secularism and the Gospel.” This paper is by far the longest and most technical. The author includes a brief though interesting and accurate history of secularism and discusses the calling of the Church in making the gospel relevant to this secular age. Leaning heavily on Dooyeweerd, he gives a criticism of secularism and presents the gospel as the only cure. There were especially two aspects to this paper with which we found ourselves in disagreement. The first was what in our opinion is a wrong description of the relation between the Renaissance and the Reformation. While the point is not discussed in detail, the author seems to suggest that there were many similarities because the Renaissance greatly influenced the Reformation. (cf. p. 62.) He ends a paragraph on, this subject with the words: “Thus though religiously the Reformers turned their backs upon the synergism of Renaissance theology they accepted the Renaissance concern for exact historical scholarship and interest in a rational form of the Church.” While, in a limited sense this is true, insufficient attention is given to the deep spiritual difference between the Renaissance and the Reformation. Secondly, in offering suggestions as to how evangelism must attack secularism, the author pays insufficient attention to the very heart of the gospel. Paul, when discussing his approach in Corinth to the secularism of his time, writes: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” I Cor. 2:1, 2. Kingdom makes no mention of this, but rather leaves the impression that our struggle with secularism is purely intellectual.
One of the nicest chapters in the book is the last one, written by Janme du Preez and entitled “The Implications of Biblical Theology for our Preaching.” The author develops the thesis that our view of what the Bible is will also determine our preaching. He takes the position that Scripture is the inspired Word of God, that God has revealed Himself through Christ, that Scripture is the record of this revelation, that salvation history is covenant history which is progressive in nature and which reaches its purpose in the coming of the Kingdom of God, and that this alone gives glory to God. In developing all these ideas, du Preez shows how these truths affect preaching and are related to true preaching of the Gospel. This is a most excellent chapter.
The book as a whole is very worthwhile. We heartily recommend it to our readers and urge them to obtain it. We also commend those involved for what must have been a most interesting conference and wish that such conferences could be held in our own country.
APOCALYPTIC, by Leon Morris; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 87pp., $1.95 (paper). [reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
Apocalyptic literature includes ancient writings which deal especially with the subject of the end of the world. Morris has brought together in this book material which has recently been written on this literature and (most of) which takes the position that this literature is the key to the understanding of the New Testament. Morris disputes this claim although he holds that a study of this literature is important to gain a broader understanding of many passages in Scripture.MILLENNIAL STUDIES, A Search for Truth, by George L. Murray; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1972; 207 pp., $2.95 (paper). [reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
There is today an increasing interest in problems of eschatology. This can be only for the good since Scripture tells us that we live in the era of the Lord’s return; and all such studies which are based on the Scriptures cannot but remind the child of God of the final consummation of all things.
In connection with the revival of eschatological studies however, there is an increase in the number of those who hold to premillennial views. This book is intended to be an examination of and Scriptural answer to premillennialism. The book was first printed in 1948 and is now reprinted for the fourth time. It is good that the book has wide distribution, for it is excellent. The author served in various pastorates in the United Presbyterian Church, but taught History of Doctrine for a number of years in Gordon College. He has made a thorough study of premillennialism, and finds that this view, though so popular, especially among fundamentalists, is entirely lacking in Scriptural support. The author traces premillennialism throughout the history of the Church and observes, correctly in our opinion, that, while Chiliasm was taught by some in the early Church, it never was generally received by the Church and never gained creedal status. He also points out that the Chiliasm of the ancient church was a far cry from the dispensational-premillennialism so rampant today.
The author examines all the various aspects of premillennialism: its dispensationalism and separation between Israel and the Gentiles; its idea of the rapture, of the seven years of persecution, of the earthly millennium established in Canaan for the nation of Israel. He points out by numerous Scriptural quotes that all these ideas are inventions of men and have no Scriptural support.
But of added value to the book is the fact that the author treats the various passages to which premillennialists refer and explains them as they ought to be explained. These passages discussed include the references to Daniel 7 and Revelation 20 which form the cornerstone of premillennial thought.
We do not always agree with the author’s exegesis. This is particularly true of his assertion that all the signs mentioned in Matthew 24 of the return of Christ were fulfilled at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and that they have no reference at all to the end of the world. While we are aware of the problems of interpretation, we cannot understand how it is possible to limit this important chapter to Jerusalem’s destruction by the armies of Titus in 70 A.D. This is particularly true of vs. 3 where the disciples specifically ask concerning the Lord’s coming and the end of the world; of vs. 13, 14; of vss. 29-31, etc.
Nevertheless, we not only recommend this book to our readers, but urge them to purchase it so that they may have the ability to give answer to all premillennialism. The book is eminently readable and is written for all God’s people. Even our young people can easily read it and profit from it.
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION AND MODERN SOCIETY, by F. N. Lee; Scottish Reformed Fellowship; 16 pp., 8p (pamphlet). [reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
The subtitle of the pamphlet which was first presented as an address by the author to the Faculty and students of Faith Theological Seminary in Philadelphia reads: “How May We Confess Christ in a Twentieth-Century Expression of the Westminster Confession of Faith to a Changing Hostile World?” The author has divided his address into three parts. He writes: “Let us then first of all discuss this twentieth-century societywhich is becoming increasingly hostile to the confession of Christ. After that, let us proceed to examine the way in which the Westminster Confession confesses Christ, to Whom twentieth-century society is becoming increasingly hostile. And, finally, let us consider whether we as twentieth-century Christians may and should confess Christ todaydifferently from the way in which the Westminster Confession did in the seventeenth century.”
After describing today’s society as “affluent,” “highly mechanized,” “undisciplined,” and “Godless,” he goes on to point out specifically how the Westminster Confession can “oe made relevant. After giving a brief outline of the Confession, the author writes: “Consequently, while upholding the primary theological and ecclesiastical emphasis of the Westminster Confession, I would also attempt to apprehend twentieth-century man with the non-theological and non-ecclesiastical emphasis of the Westminster Confession and of its sister document, the Westminster Larger Catechism.” (p. 5) In this connection he refers to the discussion in the creed of the ten commandments, the teachings on spheres of authority, employer-employee relationships, etc. The reason why all this, as taught in the creed, can be brought to society at large is that “God not only gives a special revelation and special grace to His Church, but He also gives His general revelation and His general, or common, grace to all other societal spheres outside the Church as well.” (p. 6)
The author does insist however that the doctrines of the creed are also important; he insists on the maintenance of the Calvinism of the creed over against all Arminianism and Amyraldianism. (p. 6) He spends a lot of time discussing the covenant of works and its relevance to modem problems, but the discussion here is not too clear. In the third part of the pamphlet the author turns to the question of the revision or alteration of the creed as being necessary to make it relevant. He believes that while the Churchmay alter her creed, she should not do this except to “replace certain obsolescent words and phrases in the Confession by more understandable current terminology.” (p. 13). It is this last part of the book that we find some of the most interesting discussion. The author seems to have come under the influence of those thinkers in this county who, in the name of Calvinism, want to make the Church’s Confessions ecclesiastical confessions only. Asserting that the Church has to work for a Christian family, a Christian school, a Christian nation, a Christian business, and Christian cultural associations, he writes: “All (of these spheres of life) are free to form their own Christian confessions specifically for their own spheres just as the Church did when it formed the Westminster Confession for the Church sphere.” (p. 16)
This last is a key point, of course, for it is the final answer of the author to the question posed in the subtitle. Hence, although there is much worthwhile in the book, we cannot agree with this all-controlling conclusion.
BIBLE CHARACTERS AND DOCTRINES, Nadab to Boaz & The Character of God, by E.M. Blaiklock and J. Stafford Wright; Elkanah to David/The Holy Trinity by E. M. Blaiklock and Geoffrey Grogan; Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972; 128 pp., $1.50 (paper). [reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
These two books are two volumes in a new series of Bible study aids which are intended to be used on a daily basis. The description on the cover reads: “Each volume consists of some 90 articles, half of them focusing on important biblical doctrines, the remainder providing sketches of Bible characters. Suggested scripture readings, a selection of questions, and themes for further study complete every article. The series will include a total of 16 volumes, each containing material for three months use.”
There seems to be no specific plan to the books as far as correlation between the doctrinal sketches and the description of Biblical characters is concerned. And, while they make for some interesting devotional reading, the doctrine is sketchy and the character studies seem often to be psychological descriptions rather than studies of the Biblical data.
IN PLACE OF SACRAMENTS, A study of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, by Vemard Eller; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972; 144 pp., $2.95 (paper). [reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
This is a very interestingly written book in which the author (unsuccessfully) attempts to persuade the Church that she has erred in her traditional celebration of the sacraments and must thoroughly revamp the whole of her celebration, if she is to return to directives of Scripture.