THE LORD OF GLORY, by Benjamin B. Warfield; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 332 pp., $3.95 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
Baker Book House is in the process of publishing a series of books under the title: “Notable Books On Theology.” This book is one of the series. The publisher describes the series as follows: “Christians today are intensifying their efforts to share the gospel. Ministries are being expanded to include growth groups, encounter sessions, and informal Bible study groups. These developments have given rise to an urgent call for solid leadership and clear understanding of Biblical teachings. To help to meet this need, Baker Book House is issuing a new series, Notable Books on Theology. The titles included have been carefully selected to provide laymen and Bible students with reliable and readable material on basic Bible truths. All are excellent tools for preparing and illustrating Bible study lessons and sermons.”
We welcome this series of books by Baker and recommend the books to our readers. We do this not so much because of the reasons given above, but because we live in an age of doctrinal insipidity. These books are meaty and conducive to doctrinal growth in the knowledge of the Scriptures.
This book deals with the truth concerning the deity of Christ. The author, the well-known Princeton theologian from the days when Princeton was still orthodox, treats this subject by paying close attention to all the names of Christ as they are used in the New Testament. The value of the book is enhanced by a complete index of texts. This book is a worthwhile addition to our home and school libraries.
A THEOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, by George Eldon Ladd; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974; 661 pp., $12.50. [Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
The trend today, in both conservative and more liberal circles, is towards what is sometimes called “Biblical Theology.” This development of theology makes use of a different method than the historical method of “Systematic Theology.” The latter method divides all of the knowledge of the truth of the Scriptures which is appropriated by faith into some kind of logical division—usually the six loci of Dogmatics. The former method, followed in this book under review, goes through the whole Bible or part of the Bible (Ladd treats only the New Testament, as is evident from his title) and gleans from each book or from a few books treated together the “theology” of that book or of the group of books being treated.
While we want to say something about this method of theologizing, nevertheless, first of all I want to recommend this book to our readers. It is especially valuable to ministers, but it has also considerable value for all those who are interested in a deep study of Scriptural concepts. It can be used with profit by all who are, e.g., interested in what is taught in the epistles of Paul concerning the truth of justification by faith alone.
But something ought to be said about the method. Ladd himself discusses this on p. 25 in the Introduction when he writes: “Biblical theology is that discipline which sets forth the message of the books of the Bible in their historical setting. Biblical theology is primarily a descriptive discipline. It is not initially concerned with the final meaning of the teachings of the Bible or their relevance for today. This is the task of systematic theology. Biblical theology has the task of expounding the theology found in the Bible in its own historical setting, and its own terms, categories, and thought forms.”
The question is, of course, whether this is a legitimate method of theologizing.
Now it is true that all the books of the Bible have an historical setting. It is also true that proper exegesis must take this historical setting into account. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there are serious weaknesses in this method. And at the heart of these weaknesses seems to be the weakness of failing to reckon with what our fathers called the regula fidei. The phrase means, of course, “rule of faith”. But by the “rule of faith” is meant the current teaching of Scripture with respect to Scripture’s doctrines. Scripture is not a textbook on Dogmatics; it is the organic record of the revelation of God in Christ. By means of the Spirit of Christ, the Church is led to study the Scriptures in their organic unity in order to discover there the truth of God. But this study of the Scriptures recognizes the fact that the Holy Spirit of God is the Author of Scripture, for the truth revealed there is the truth of God in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of His people. Because of the Holy Spirit’s divine authorship, Scripture is an organic unity. And because Scripture is an organic unity, the whole of Scripture must be taken together and in its entirety to discover the truth of God in it. Even though exegesis takes into account the historical setting, the authorship of the Holy Spirit is of chief importance.
Biblical Theology is a method of theologizing which does not take this truth sufficiently into account. In its emphasis on the historical setting, the divine authorship of Scripture is neglected. This is also evident from Ladd’s book. There is no mention, so far as I could discover, of Scripture’s divine authorship in all its pages.
And this in turn leads to a serious error. This method of theologizing leads to a “discovery” in Scripture of a “theology of Paul,” “a theology of John,” “a theology of Peter,” etc. But once one has embarked on this course, the result is that presently one discovers that the “theology of Paul” disagrees in some respects and runs counter to in certain areas, the “theology of James,” for example. Hence, one loses the organic unity of Scripture, the divine authorship of Scripture, the fundamental reformational principle that “Scripture interprets Scripture.”
Ladd is not a liberal, but a staunch conservative. Nevertheless, this approach leads him in a direction which will finally end in the liberal camp. It is part of a new hermeneutic propounded by conservative Bible scholars which begins with an undue emphasis on the “human element” in Scripture, and which proceeds rationalistically to defend the conservative position over against liberal higher criticism, but which winds up in denying fundamental truths concerning Scripture and revelation.
Nevertheless, there is a great deal of value in this book. If it is used carefully and if our objections against Ladd’s method are kept in mind, there is a wealth of valuable material for the serious student of Scripture. We do not agree by any means with all of Ladd’s conclusions; but his discussions of such subjects as the kingdom of heaven, Pauline psychology, the terms used in Scripture for the atonement, justification, and many, many more are most worthwhile and helpful. While the very method which Ladd follows leads, to a somewhat scattered treatment of various concepts in the New Testament, nevertheless, his treatment of concepts is very worthwhile.
Get the book if you are able to purchase it. The price is not too much to pay.
THE IDEA OF A CHRISTIAN COLLEGE, by Arthur F. Holmes; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975; 118 pp. $2.65 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
Holmes attempts in this book to “unfold the idea of a Christian college” which presents “a philosophy of Christian liberal arts education written for the layman, not the philosopher” and which is intended to help “teachers and students who are trying to articulate their own thinking on the subject.”
It would be interesting to examine this book in detail and discuss thoroughly what the author has to say on this subject. There are many areas of disagreement in the book, some of which we can, in this review, touch on only briefly.
Under the sub-heading, “Avoiding Pitfalls” in the chapter entitled “Why a Christian College,” the author writes: “A frequent idea people have of the Christian college has been captured in the label ‘defender of the faith.’ Though defending the faith was certainly an apostolic responsibility, it is hard to extend it to all of the educational task, all of art and science or all of campus life. Yet a defensive mentality is still common among pastors and parents; many suppose that the Christian college exists to protect young people against sin and heresy in other institutions. The idea therefore is not so much to educate as to indoctrinate, to provide a safe environment plus all the answers to all the problems posed by all the critics of orthodoxy and virtue. This is an idea, I say—more a caricature than a reality. . . .” But the author forgets that underlying all education is the covenantal task of the people of God to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. A correct understanding of this Scriptural injunction precludes all that the author says here.
Further, the author is firmly committed to common grace with its consequent denial of total depravity, (“Man is . . . the object of a divine providence that limits evil and preserves man’s personality, and he is the object of a divine grace that restores God’s image and sanctifies human powers for God’s glory.”) and abandonment of the antithesis (“for all human sin has done to distort the scene, this world is still God’s creation, of value to both God Andy men. The ‘secular’ is not itself evil; in fact, in God’s world it too is sacred.”)
Following along these same lines, the author holds to a concept of academic freedom which essentially reduces the truth of relativism.
But buy the book and read it for yourself. It will, at least, give much food for thought.
SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE AACS, by Rev. Peter De Jong (Pastor of the Christian Reformed Church in Dutton, Michigan); Reformed Fellowship, Inc. [Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
Rev. De Jong sent this brochure to me asking me to give notification of its publication in The Standard Bearer if I felt it was of worth to our readers. This I am happy to do. Rev. De Jong has written a great deal, on the AACS movement, and has always been very critical of it. His criticism, however, has always been penetrating and supported by copious quotations from the writings of the leaders of the movement.
This pamphlet, written in question and answer form, is divided into the following sections: “Introduction,” “The Bible, the Word of God,” “AACS Views on Doctrine and Law,” “The Kingdom and its ‘Spheres,'” “Practical Results of These AACS Views,” “The AACS Role in Christian Education,” and “Conclusion.” It is a very concise statement of the position of the AACS on key points with a brief refutation of these erroneous views. It is filled with many quotes from the writings of AACS thinkers, and the contentions of the author are abundantly supported. It is an extremely handy little booklet and will give the reader an overall idea of AACS thinking and of how far these men have departed from the Reformed heritage.
At the end of the pamphlet the following appears: “For additional copies order from Reformed Fellowship, Inc., Box 7383; Grand Rapids, Mich. 49510. 1 copy 40¢, 3 copies $1.00, 10 copies, $2.00, 100 copies $15.00. For larger quantities write for special price. Remittance must accompany order. Cash up to $2.00 may be sent at our risk. Checks should be made payable to Reformed Fellowship.”