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THE FOURTH DAY, Howard J. Van Till; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.; 286 pp., $9.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H.C. Hoeksema)

The publisher’s blurb makes some big claims for this book by a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College. It states:

In this comprehensive and rigorously argued book, Howard Van Till draws on both scriptural evidence and scientific investigation to construct a theologically sound and scientifically coherent perspective on the nature of the cosmos. 

Van Till begins with the premise that neither the biblical nor the scientific view of the cosmos is complete in itself. While scriptural exegesis indicates that the cosmos is creation—the handiwork of God, who creates, preserves, governs, and provides for it—scientific investigation indicates that the cosmos is a complex of material systems that behave in reasonable, predictable ways. Taken together, these two accurate and compatible views form a unified vision of the cosmos. 

Since evolution and creation deal with distinctly different questions, says Van Till, both concepts can be taught with integrity in schools—not as alternatives, but as complementary views of the universe and its history. Van Till’s high respect for Scripture as the authoritative revelation of God and his thorough acquaintance with contemporary science makes this book a valuable contribution to current debates over the relation between Christianity and science.

One could, of course, write many an article, or even a whole book, in response to a book like this.

Actually, however, the issue addressed in this book is very simple. The entire book is a thinly veiled attempt at harmonizing Scripture and evolutionism. Dr. Van Till believes that cosmic history extends over more than 10 billion years. (How often and how vastly these figures have changed in my lifetime! “Science” is always adjusting them upward!) He also claims to believe the Bible, and claims that evolution and creation can very well exist side by side and can be taught as complementary views.

By what magic does he think to achieve this synthesis?

By getting rid of the Scriptural account of creation.

How does he do this? First of all, by adopting the view that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are a kind of primeval history—really not history at all. Secondly, by adopting the theory of a framework hypothesis with respect to Genesis 1, so that this chapter does not really teach a creation in six days. Writes he, p. 84:

The seven-day chronology that we find in

Genesis 1

has no connection with the actual chronology of the Creator’s continuous dynamic action in the cosmos. The creation-week motif is a literary device, a framework in which a number of very important messages are held. The chronology of the narrative is not the chronology of creation but rather the packaging in which the message is wrapped. The particular acts depicted in the Story of the Creator are not the events of creative action reported with photographic realism but rather imaginative illustrations of the way in which God and the Creation are related.

How does the author arrive at such conclusions about Genesis? Surely, not by exegetical processes and by listening to the testimony of Scripture itself. He simply allows his “science” to rule his understanding of Scripture.

Basically, there is nothing new about this book, therefore. The attempt made in this book has been made many times before.

Evolutionism (It is an ism!) and creation can no more be mixed than fire and water.

My concern is that our young people who attend Calvin College may be deceived by this sort of thing. They must be on their guard! Perhaps for this reason I shall, if the opportunity arises, write more extensively about this in our editorial columns.

THE JEWISH RECLAMATION OF JESUS, An Analysis & Critique of the Modern Jewish Study of Jesus, by Donald A. Hagner; Zondervan Publishing House, 1984; 341 pp., $9.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)

I found this book by the professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary to be a fascinating book. I presume that its fascination for me was its description of a development among Jewish scholars of which I was unaware.

The author informs us that within the last century many Jewish scholars have begun to study the gospel narratives (especially the synoptics) in an effort to understand the work and ministry of Jesus with the final goal of claiming Jesus as their own. Of course, in order to do this, Jewish scholars want Jesus as their own only as a Jewish rabbi and teacher, not as the Messiah. They claim that the Messiahship of Jesus is a perversion of the gospels, foisted on the church especially by Paul.

It ought to be evident, of course, that these Jewish scholars cannot do this by dealing honestly with the gospel narratives either. And so the author shows how higher criticism has opened the door to this effort of Jewish scholars by making all the miraculous in the gospels unhistorical.

It was this interest of Jewish scholars in Jesus as a great rabbi and Pharisee which resulted in the split among Jews between orthodox, conservative, and reform Jews. But the Jews who are most intent on claiming Jesus as their own, show that Jesus was completely within the Jewish tradition in His teachings. Where the gospels contradict this, the obvious solution is to employ higher criticisms to take these words out of Jesus’ mouth and put them into a misled and misguided church.

The book makes it very clear that it is possible to understand Jesus’ teachings only on the basis of His being the Son of God. And this, of course, no Jewish scholar will grant.

A long chapter is devoted to a discussion of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day and the disagreement between modern Jews’ conception of the Pharisees (mostly favorable) and the testimony of the gospels. A first century Jew would not have found anything novel in Jesus’ teachings, and what is novel in the gospel narratives is not authentic but a Christian introduction into the narrative of Pauline Christianity.

The great problem of the book is the author’s own willingness to make concessions to higher criticism in the interests of conceding to Jewish scholars all he can. The author himself admits that his own position, though that of a conservative Christian, is also critical.

Although the author is certainly not satisfied with the Jewish position, his willingness to surrender to higher criticism is dismaying and seems to us to cut out from under the feet of the church her basis for doing missionary work among the Jews.