In his series of “primers” on fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, Dr. Gerstner has done a valuable service to the church. The primers contain clear and concise discussions on these points, and they are, therefore, helpful to anyone who is coming to faith in Christ. They are, on the whole, helpful tools for instruction.
This pamphlet deals with the central doctrine of the atonement, a crucial doctrine to say the least. It is, as others, written in dialogue form in which an “‘inquirer,’ who is an educated, thoughtful person, becoming convinced of the truths of the Christian religion, though not yet converted to them,” discusses this truth with “‘Christian,’ an experienced evangelical minister.”
Various aspects of the truth concerning the atonement are discussed and various problems faced. Special attention is given to the particular aspect of the atonement, i.e., to the truth that Christ shed His blood for His people only.
Nevertheless, this is not one of Gerstner’s better primers. I was, in fact, somewhat disappointed in it. I think there were especially three reasons why the book was disappointing. The first was that Gerstner did not at all deal with the concept of “satisfaction,” a concept which lies at the very heart of the truth of Christ’s sacrificial work. This is quite surprising in the light of the fact that the Westminster Confession (Gerstner’s own confessional commitment) speaks of this: “The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father. . . ” (VIII, 5). Secondly Gerstner gets into the matter of the call of the gospel; and, while in this discussion, he is basically sound, he nevertheless uses the terms “call,” “offer,” and “invitation” indiscriminately. This is confusing, to say the least. Finally, the author deals at length with the question of how God or the Son of God can both love and hate the sinner at the same time. His treatment here is less than satisfactory. He fails to discuss the question within the context of God’s eternal counsel and finally solves the problem by distinguishing between God’s love of complacency and God’s love of benevolence. Such a distinction is not found in Scripture and Gerstner offers no Scriptural proof for it.
We recommend, however, this primer also as a concise statement on the atonement.
This book is about the history of one period in the existence of Christian Schools International (formerly the National Union of Christian Schools), the 22 years from 1943-65. It is written by a man who was director of CSI from 1953-77. (For those of our readers who were acquainted with the former principal of Baxter Christian School in Grand Rapids, this is not the same John Vander Ark.)
The book will be valuable, first of all, to anyone who is interested in the history and development of CSI. There is much information furnished on this subject, as well as on the Christian school movement in general. In the second place, the book is valuable from the point of view of the fact that it becomes abundantly clear in it what kind of organization CSI is, i.e., a movement which is principally Christian Reformed in its outlook on Christian education.
However, this book is not strictly limited to the activities of CSI, but also reflects on other Christian schools and Christian school movements. In a chapter entitled “Relationships with Churches and Colleges” reference is made to our Protestant Reformed Christian Schools. However, in the three paragraphs devoted to Protestant Reformed schools (pp. 101-102) I noticed at least four errors of fact, errors serious enough to affect the picture drawn of our Protestant Reformed school movement. It is to be, hoped that similar inaccuracy does not characterize the rest of the book. Nevertheless, I recommend the book for those interested in a reference work on CSI.
Ivor Powell, a Baptist minister from Wales, is a figure not too well known to American readers. He is the author of a number of books on Bible studies; this one was first printed in 1965 and is now published by Kregel Publications.
The author has, as he explains in. his introduction, especially two purposes in mind. His chief purpose is to provide material for the minister who is searching for flesh to put on the skeleton of his sermon outline, but who in the press of all his other work simply cannot find time to locate such material. To attain this end, the author includes in the exposition a series of “Homilies” which are specifically directed to the minister in his sermon making.
The second goal of the book is to provide an easily read and non-technical exposition of the book of Luke, which would make a helpful study guide to anyone.
While the exposition is fairly brief, the author, on the whole, attains his goals. He is, generally, conservative in his approach to Scripture, and his exposition is clear and to the point. In the judgment of this reviewer, the “Homilies” are not really all that helpful, but this is probably due to the fact that Gerstner’s concept of homiletics is quite different from ours. And the book has a decidedly Arminian slant to it, something which the reader must take into account in his study. It is, however, a helpful commentary in many respects.