I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. by George Eldon Ladd; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 156 pp., $2.95 (paper) (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)
This book is one of a series of books which Eerdmans is in the process of publishing, edited by Michael Green, and intended “to take a fresh look at controversial areas of the Christian faith.” The author of this book is professor of New Testament in Fuller Theological Seminary.
George Ladd has given us an interesting and worthwhile book in many respects. His purpose is primarily to substantiate historically the fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To accomplish this, he examines in some detail all the various theories which have been proposed over the centuries to explain the empty tomb and the faith of the New Testament Church. He gives special attention to those who, on the basis of literary and historical criticism, deny the resurrection of Christ as a bodily resurrection from the dead. But he discusses all these views in a way in which anyone can understand them. He is also intent on showing the total importance of this truth for the Christian faith.
Nevertheless, I was not happy with this book. I am aware of the fact that there is serious disagreement among evangelicals on the whole question of Hermeneutics. There is a large number of evangelical scholars (perhaps the majority) whose approach to Scripture is basically the approach of those critics who examine the Scriptures from the viewpoint of literary and historical criticism. They examine even the truth concerning inspiration from this viewpoint. That is, only if there is, after a careful literary and historical examination of the Scriptures, sufficient reason to accept the Scriptures as true will they do so. If they are evangelical, they do, more or less, arrive at the conclusion that Scripture is indeed true, but their reasons are less than satisfactory. Others, and they are probably in the minority, do not come to Scripture in this way. They accept the truth of the infallible inspiration of Scripture on the basis of Scripture’s own testimony. They do this by faith. Theybelieve without question, on the basis of Scripture’s testimony of itself, that Scripture is God’s Word. This does not mean that they show no interest in literary and historical questions; they do. But their examination of these literary and historical questions is not to prove Scripture’s trustworthiness; it is an examination within the confines of Scripture’s trustworthiness. Their fundamental presupposition of faith is that Scripture cannot err. And all the historical and literary data of Scripture must be explained and interpreted within the context of infallible inspiration.
I belong to the latter group. Ladd belongs to the former group. We part ways at this critical juncture, and the result is that, while our conclusions may in some instances be the same, they are in other important instances quite different.
Ladd indeed believes in the bodily resurrection of Christ. He even says in more than one place in the book that faith is necessary to believe this truth. But at the same time, on the basis of his approach, he denies infallible inspiration. In fact, in all the book there is not so much as one word breathed concerning the inerrancy of the Scriptures. The veracity of the Scriptures is weighed much as one would weigh the truthfulness of any book in a court of law. So he comes to several conclusions with which I can never agree. He freely admits that there are errors in the record of Scripture, even in the records of the resurrection. The gospel narrators do not always agree on details, and one or more may have erred. He speaks of the whole of the New Testament as based solely on traditions in the early Church which were orally passed on from eyewitnesses to others, and from them to yet others or to the writers of Scripture. He accepts the theory that both Matthew and Luke are dependent upon Mark’s gospel in their writings, Etc.
Why is it that evangelical scholars are so frightened by the truth that God could have revealed to the apostles and writers of Scripture what they could not have known apart from direct revelation? I do not understand this fear. I have no doubt that it is true that some of what the writers wrote they received from others. But even then, they were infallibly guided in their writings so that they were preserved from error. But Scripture is clear that this was not always the case. Ladd insists that when Paul says in Gal. 1that he received his gospel not from men but from God, this nevertheless means that he received it from the apostles with whom he had contact in Jerusalem. But Galatians 1 is exactly a refutation of this. “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Gal. 1:11, 12. Paul recounts his brief stay in Jerusalem just exactly to show that his contacts with the apostles were too short and too limited for him to have received his gospel from them. The same thing is true of I Cor. 11:23: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread . . . .” To anyone who can read the English language this means that Paul did not receive this information concerning the institution of the Lord’s Supper from anyone else but the Lord Himself. It did not come to Paul by oral tradition from the apostles.
The seriousness of this position is clear from Ladd’s own words. He writes on p. 140:
But “historical reasoning” has not provided an adequate explanation for the rise of the resurrection faith. Therefore, historical reasoning reinforces my Christian convictions, if it does not prove them. There must be critical interaction between my Christian faith and my historical critical faculties. The present author is ready to admit that if historians came up with a completely convincing “historical” explanation of the resurrection faith, his evangelical faith would be shaken.”
I want Ladd to know that though all the critics in the world agree on a theory which can explain the data of the resurrection in a way other than that Christ bodily arose, and can make the theory so plausible that all the world should believe it, I still believe with all my heart that Christ arose bodily from the dead by the power of God. I believe this because God says, in His Word, that it is true!
Ladd shows after all that any other grounds for believing the truth of Scripture than faith in God’s infallible Word are treacherous grounds which, sooner or later, will lead to a denial of that fundamental truth of the Christian faith.
Would that evangelical scholars would be much less frightened by the charges of lack of scholarship raised by higher critics and would be somewhat more frightened by an angry God Who will not leave unpunished those who will not believe His Word.
<COMMENTARY ON ROMANS Martin Luther (translated and condensed by J. Theodore Mueller), Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 223 pp., $4.95. [Reviewed by Prof. H.C. Hoeksema]
This is a reprint of a work originally published in 1954 by Zondervan Publishing House.
To this reviewer the value of this book does not lie so much in its exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. It is not without value in this respect, to be sure. Nevertheless, as a commentary—as its very brevity of 223 pages will tell you—it is rather scant. Besides,. it is not the work of the mature Luther: Luther began his lectures on Romans in 15 15. And besides that, this is a condensed and abridged edition. Anyone who is interested in the complete comments of Luther will have to turn to the rather recently completed English edition of the complete works of Martin Luther. However, to purchase the latter is beyond the means of most people; and to borrow these volumes from a library is not always possible or practical.
The value of this book is historical, in the first place. It furnishes an insight into the way in which the Reformation took place, first of all, in Luther’s own mind and heart. For do not forget that it was through his study of Romans that Luther arrived at an understanding of “the righteousness which is of God” and of the blessed truth of justification by faith. And, as is plain from the date of these comments on Romans, 1515, this pre-dated the Reformation. In the second place, the value of this condensed commentary is somewhat devotional; and as such it will furnish. the reader a taste of Luther, a taste which might inspire him to read more of Luther’s writings.
The book is enhanced by a preface by Dr. Mueller and by the inclusion of Luther’s own Introduction, written in 1552.