Book Reviews

THE CHURCH BETWEEN TEMPLE AND MOSQUE, BY J.H. Bavinck; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981; 206 pp., $5.95, paper. (Reviewed by Prof. R. D. Decker)

Dr. Bavinck occupied the chair of missions at the Free University in Amsterdam from 1939 until his death in 1965. Prior to 1939 he served for twenty years as a missionary in Indonesia. The author wrote an earlier work, Introduction To The Science Of Missions, which this reviewer uses as a text in his Principles of Missions course. The Bavinck of this later work which we now review is not the same as the Bavinck of the previous book. He obviously has changed considerably, over the years. 

In this book Bavinck deals with the “problem” of the relationship between Christianity and the other world religions. Bavinck contends that the church stands both “in community with and over against” other religions. Because all men share a “religious consciousness” there can be and ought to be meaningful dialogue between the church and other religions. 

A quotation or two will give something of the flavor of the book. “Man has repressed the truth of the everlasting power and the divinity of God. It has been exiled to his unconscious. . . .That does not mean, however, that it has vanished forever. Still active, it reveals itself again and again. But it cannot become openly conscious; it appears in disguise, and it is exchanged for something different. Thus all kinds of ideas of God are formed; the human mind as thefabrica idolorum (Calvin, “maker of idols,” R.D.D.) makes its own ideas of God and its own myths. This is not intentional deceit—it happens without man’s knowing it. He cannot get rid of them. So he has religion; he is busy with a god; he serves his god—but he does not see that the god. he serves is not God Himself. An exchange has taken place—a perilous exchange. An essential quality of God has beenblurred because it did not fit in with the human pattern of life, and the image man has of God is no longer true. Divine revelation indeed lies at the root of it, but man’s thoughts and aspirations cannot receive it and adapt themselves to it. In the image man has of God we can recognize the image of man himself.” (p. 122 emphasis mine, R.D.D.) 

“The man who believes in gods and spirits and bows before his idols shows that he is touched by God and that God is seeking him. But he shows at the same time that he himself is busy suppressing that which is absolutely necessary for a person to come to God.” (p. 124) These quotations are taken from the chapter in which Bavinck deals with Romans 1:18ff. What Bavinck ignores is the fact that this so-called general revelation is a revelation of the wrath of God “. . .against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). 

This book will need to be read and considered by anyone involved with missions and missiology. A much better book, one from a distinctively Reformed perspective, still needs to be written.

REPORT OF THE RES CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE TO THE RES CHURCHES IN SOUTH AFRICA. The pamphlet of 35 pages can be obtained for $1.00 from the Secretariat of the RES, 1677 Gentian Drive, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI, 49508. (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)

The RES Nimes 1980 decided that the RES, through its Interim Committee or a committee appointed by the IC, continue its discussion with the RES Churches of South Africa on their views of race relations. Such a committee was appointed. It drew up a preliminary draft of a report which it submitted to the RES Churches of South Africa for their comments. It also met with these churches after a second draft was drawn up, and then prepared a final draft which is to be submitted to the RES in Chicago in 1984. This pamphlet is a copy of that final draft. 

The pamphlet contains a brief history of this matter within the RES, discusses the current church situation in South Africa, explains what the various churches which belong to the RES have done to improve race relations, discusses the “Broederbond” and “Broederkring,” assesses the situation and offers recommendations. We quote a few of the recommendations to the RES Chicago, 1984: 

1. The RES churches in South Africa officially re-evaluate their responsibility to carry out the prophetic role of the church as institute in line with the RES Statements on “The Church and Its Social Calling.” 

3. All RES churches in South Africa carry out the decision of RES Nimes 1980 “to do all that is in their power to work for such changes in their country that (would) remove the structures of racial injustice still present and use their influence with the South African government to effect such changes.” 

8. All member churches of the RES in South Africa and all members of these churches do all in their power to conform more fully to the standards of God’s Word for the promotion of justice, righteousness and love in all relations among the races and the various ethnic groups and nations within South Africa, praying without ceasing for the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to face the difficult problems confronting them all. 

I have not read for a long time nor studied carefully the reports and the decisions of the RES on this matter of race relations in the South African Churches. It is not possible for me, therefore, to pass any judgments on the matter as such. From correspondence and contact with saints who live in South Africa, I do know that what we read in our daily newspapers and magazines is horribly biased and inaccurate and cannot be trusted. But what strikes me mostly is that while the RES is becoming increasingly involved in social issues of this sort, the RES has yet to deal firmly with the doctrinal and moral apostasy of the GKN in the Netherlands which is far more terrible and far more a threat to the Reformed character of the RES. One is left with the impression that there is greater concern in the RES over the race issue in South Africa than over the apostasy of the GKN. We urge all those who are interested in the RES and in these questions to obtain this report.

MORE DIFFICULT SAYINGS OF JESUS, by William Neil/Stephen Travis; Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982; 128 pp., $5.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)

William Neil first published a book on this subject in 1977 and intended, in a later edition, to add more “difficult sayings.” He died before he could accomplish this, and the task was completed by Stephen Travis. 

Since 31 such sayings of Jesus are discussed in this short book, it stands to reason that the treatment of them is very brief, and the emphasis throughout is on the moral aspects of our Lord’s teaching. The book is not very helpful in an understanding of Christ’s ministry of the kingdom.