Book Reviews

ARE FIVE POINTS ENOUGH? Ten Points of Calvinism, by Leonard J. Coppes; Reformation Educational Foundation, 1980; 197 pp., $4.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko.) 

The rather strange title of this book was chosen because the author is convinced that Calvinism is richer than the familiar and well-known “five points,” and he is convinced that the wealth and breadth of Calvinism ought to be emphasized and publicly proclaimed. Dr. Coppes is a firm believer in the “five points” and spends a great deal of time in the book inveighing against the errors and dangers of Arminianism, but he has many positive things to say about Calvinism other than the specific doctrines of the “five points.” A list of the chapter titles is a list of “the ten points of Calvinism’ ‘ : The Use of Scripture; The Sovereignty of God; The Covenantal Structure of Scripture; The Plan of Salvation (the chapter in which the five points are briefly treated); The All-embracing World View; The Concept of Holiness; The Concept of Church Government; The Understanding of the Sacraments; The Understanding of Evangelism; The Understanding of Worship. 

This is basically a good book and we strongly recommend it to our readers. It is, in capsule form, a good summary of the basic tenets of Calvinism and the Reformed faith—from a Presbyterian perspective. It is relatively brief: that is its strength and its weakness. It is too brief to be of help in a thorough study of some of these important questions; but it is sufficiently brief to serve as a study guide in schools and societies. Each chapter is followed by a list of further reading. The section on infant baptism was, in this reviewer’s opinion, especially good for a brief treatment. 

The weaknesses are not many. There is an inconsistent line in some places where the author speaks of the free offer of the gospel and of man’s capability of doing moral good. But the references to these are only two or three in number and then of a passing kind. The author was quite unconvincing in his defense of sprinkling as the only proper mode for baptism when he appealed to Acts 1:5 and interpreted the “tongues of fire” which came on the believers at Pentecost as “droplets.” But this latter is a minor point.

The book can be obtained either from the publisher, the address of which is: 9400 Fairview Ave., Manassas, Virginia 22110, or, the author whose address is: Box 55, Harrisville, PA 16038.  

COMMENTARY ON ROMANS, by Ernst Kasemann; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980; 428 pp., $22.50. (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko.)

Ernst Kasemann was formerly Professor of New Testament at the University of Tubingen in Germany. While not the most radical of higher critics, he nevertheless stands out in the field and shows in all his works the devastating influence of higher criticism on Bible studies. This is also about the only value of this rather lengthy commentary: it demonstrates vividly the radical reinterpretation of Scripture which higher criticism, consistently applied, brings to the Bible. To illustrate this we quote just one passage taken from the introduction to the discussion of Romans 9-11:

If it had been customary since the Reformation to read the epistle as a compendium of Pauline theology, and consequently to give undue prominence in these chapters to the question of predestination, F.C. Baur pioneered the way to a historical understanding. He made this section of the letter the hermeneutical center of the whole epistle, which as he saw it was oriented to the debate with Jewish-Christians. Christian universalism is championed here against Jewish particularism. Baur thus initiated a process which has not yet ended. By resolutely raising the question of the Sitz im Leben of the primitive Christianity of our letter, he also set it in the relativity of all things historical. By way of exposition of chs. 9-11 Baur, the chief witness of the Protestant churches, became first the catalyst in a radical tendency criticism of the NT, then a Janus-headed figure in the history of religions, who on the one side has been viewed in terms of eschatology as an apocalyptic, while on the other side he has been viewed in terms of the cult-piety of Hellenism as a mystic.

A commentary such as this makes a mockery of the truth of the perspicuity of Scripture. One cannot understand the commentary which is supposed to make clear the Scriptures; but rooting around in the commentary, one cannot make much sense out of Romans either.