DYNAMICS IN PASTORING, Jacob Firet; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 319 pp. (cloth) $24.95. (Reviewed by Prof. R.D. Decker)

This book was originally published in 1968 as a doctoral dissertation. It has gone through five printings since then and is required reading in a number of theological seminaries in Europe. The present English edition was translated from the Dutch by John Vriend. Jacob Firet has been Professor of Practical Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam since 1968.

Firet writes: “At the heart of pastoral role-fulfillment is not the activity of a human being, but the action of God who, by way of the official ministry as intermediary, comes to people in his word. It seems both necessary and possible to take this position as our point of departure for the construction of .a model of pastoral role-fulfillment.” (p. 15) This statement sounds Reformed and, standing by itself,. it is. But, what does Firet mean by “his”, i.e., God’s Word? Firet answers this question: “In the preceding we have made continual reference to ‘the word of God.’ It became plain that this phrase did not serve simply as the equivalent of ‘Holy Scripture.’ We confess that Holy Scripture is ‘the word of God,’ but that thesis is not reversible. With the phrase ‘the word of God’ we meant ‘What God says to us human beings and we hear from him.’ In our situation, we may add, this cannot be something which has not been imparted through Holy Scripture. Our interest, however, lies in another point, namely, in the word of God ‘coming to pass’ or in what we meant by ‘the coming of God in his word.’ Of that coming of God in his word we have offered a few characterizations and seen something significant.” (p. 39) This sounds like a ‘Barthian’ concept of the Word of God. And it is, for Firet admits: “In selecting these three fundamental concepts we display a certain similarity to K. Barth. Barth describes the ministry of the church—and this includes the calling of every Christian—with the word ‘witness.’ In that witness he distinguishes three components: ‘declaration, exposition, and address, or the proclamation, explication, and application of the Gospel as the Word of God entrusted to it.'” (p. 43. cf. also pp. 52, 53.)

Firet defines what he calls “pastoral role-fulfillment” as the intermediary of God’s coming in his Word. God comes in three modes: preaching (kerygma), catechetical instruction (didache), and pastoral care (paraklesis). (cf. pp. 43-82.) He insists that all three of these modes through which God comes to us are functions: “particularly of the church as fellowship in Christ.” (p. 89)

When Firet speaks of “dynamics in pastoring,” he makes a distinction between “the hermeneutic moment”—the impetus toward understanding—and the “agogic moment”—the impetus toward change. In practice these two merge and presuppose one another. For the purpose of theological analysis and research, however, they must be distinguished. (cf. pp. 95-124.) The emphasis of the book is on the “agogic moment”. When God comes to people through the intermediary of pastoral role-fulfillment, he aims at a change in their psycho-spiritual functioning. (pp. 231ff.)

As is obvious from the excerpts quoted above this book is full of difficult, technical terms. This along with its style which inevitably suffers through a translation makes the book tough going. One cannot just read through it. It is not intended for the layman, but is aimed at the Practical Theologians and students of Practical Theology.

ORTHODOXY AND ORTHOPRAXIS IN THE REFORMED COMMUNITY TODAY, edited by John Bolt; Paideia Press, 1986; 160 pp., $7.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko.)

This book contains the papers which were delivered at a conference held at Redeemer College, Hamilton, Ontario on May 30-June 1 last year. According to the introduction of this book, “the conference was called to explore the problem of polarization in the Christian Reformed community, to come to greater clarity on the reasons for polarization and to promote healing by providing a forum for dialogue and discussion.” The rather strange word “orthopraxis,” a word which has come into general use only in the last four or five years, means, again according to the introduction, “true or right moral and social action.” So the book deals with sound doctrine and sound practice as that relates to the present polarization in the Reformed community.

We cannot give a lengthy review of the book, mainly because this would involve an analysis of different papers by different speakers and this review would then become a book in itself. The best we can do is give the titles of the papers and offer a few comments. The titles are as follows: 1) The Problem of Polarization in the Christian Reformed Community, by John Bolt—a defense of the position that polarization in the CRC is due to controversy over orthodoxy and orthopraxis; 2) The Changing Face of Truth, by John Cooper—a defense of the traditional understanding of truth; 3) Heresy and Toleration, by John Van Dyke—a condemnation of modern ideas of heresy and a plea for the unity of the church; 4) Confessing the Reformed Faith Today, by Gordon Spykman—a defense of the “Contemporary Testimony” as an aid in restoring unity against our common enemy, secularization; 5) Why Apartheid is not a Heresy, by Henry Vander Goot—an excellent analysis and critique of the decision of the CRC which branded apartheid a heresy; 6) The “Women-in Office” Issue: How Crucial is It?, by Nelson Kloosterman—a condemnation of Synod’s decision approving women deacons; 7) Liberating Secession or Lamentable Schism: Can a Reformed Church Be Both “Catholic” and “True,” by John Bolt—a plea for the two wings of the church to stay together; 8) Reflections at the Conclusion of the “Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis” Conference, by John Hulst.

Further conferences are being planned and the papers of these conferences will also be published. Hence this volume has the general title: “Christian Reformed Perspectives, Volume I.” The book is rather important in order to understand what is happening in the CRC today.

VALIANT FOR TRUTH, THE STORY OF JOHN BUNYAN, by Anne Arnot; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985; 157 pp., $5.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Gertrude Hoeksema)

In this account, the author starts the story of John Bunyan’s life when he was in his teens, a reckless, profane young man, who joined Cromwell’s army at the age of sixteen. Although the story traces his life with his family in the context of the seventeenth century ecclesiastical and political structure of England, the thrust of the biography is John Bunyan’s spiritual struggle, from severe depression, through his conversion, to his life as a preacher, and later as a prisoner for the cause of God and His Word.

Probably because John Bunyan was a Puritan, and concerned with his spiritual feelings, the biography is at times excessively introspective. It is, however, an enlightening and informative account not only of John Bunyan, but also of church life in his day. Recommended.