THE NEW HERMENEUTIC, by Cornelius Van. Til; Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Nutley, New Jersey; 230 pp., $5.95 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. H. C. Hoeksema]
This volume which, I believe, is the latest from the pen of Dr. Van Til, was sent to me by the author personally and was inscribed, “H. C. Hoeksema in memory of your father. C. Van Til.” I appreciate this personal gesture of. Dr. Van Til, and hereby express my thanks. I also assume that the book was sent to me for review; but whether this assumption is correct or not, I wish to call attention to the book and to recommend it.
This is a book intended for seminarians, ministers, and theologians. As one might expect from the title, Van Til deals in this volume with the “new hermeneutic” which has made its appearance in the Netherlands. But he does more, than this. Van Til goes back to the new hermeneutic of Ernst Fuchs and Gerhard Ebeling, whom “he treats as the “main representatives” of the new hermeneutic. Then he devotes a chapter to the reaction of some modern theologians to this new hermeneutic of Fuchs and Ebeling. Next he devotes a chapter to the reaction of some orthodox theologians to this new hermeneutic. It is in this chapter that there is an excellent section of some 70 pages on the views of Dr. H. M. Kuitert. The final chapter of this book speaks of the new hermeneutic of Holland. In this chapter, which is very brief, Van Til writes of Wiersinga, Hartvelt, Koole, Baarda, and Augustijn. It certainly becomes evident, by the way, that Van Til is no friend of Kuitert, and that although he deals with Kuitert’s views in the chapter entitled “Reaction of Some Orthodox Theologians,” he does not consider Kuitert to be truly orthodox. Dr. Van Til is a foe of the liberal theology that is currently being espoused in the Netherlands.
This is, in my opinion, an excellent book for anyone who wishes to gain an understanding of what the new hermeneutic is all about without delving into the primary sources of such information. I believe that it offers a dependable description not only of the new hermeneutic but also of its failings. Nor is this book difficult to follow. While some of Van Til’s books are, in my opinion, marred by the fact that they employ too much philosophical language in dealing with things theological, that is not the case with this work. Although Van Til traces this new hermeneutic to its philosophical roots, the book is very plainly written and interestingly written and highly readable. I believe that all our ministers and our seminary students would do well to get this book and to read it, in order that they may be aware of evil views which have already made vast inroads into the Reformed community.
I have one negative criticism of the format of this book. I dislike very much the placing of footnote references at the end of a book. To place them at the end of a chapter is bad enough; I prefer to see references at the bottom of the page. But to place them at the end of a book, especially when these references include some comments, always irritates me.
I also have one comment concerning the content of this book. I would have liked to see Dr. Van Til deal with the question whether the current developments in the Netherlands are at all to be traced to elements in the teachings of Kuyper and Bavinck. Dr. Van Til traces the new hermeneutic of the Netherlands to that of modern German theologians. And he states correctly “The background of these theologians is the older modernism of such men as Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Hermann and Hamack ,and the new modernism, call it neo-orthodoxy if you will, of such men as Barth and Bultmann. And Dr. Van Til appeals to those who espouse the new hermeneutic in the Netherlands “to build their hermeneutical procedures on the theology of Calvin, Kuyper, Bavinck, etc. . . .” Nevertheless, the question arises whether there were elements in the teachings of men like Kuyper and Bavinck which constituted weaknesses in their theology, and which became to some extent the occasion for the Dutch theologians of today to imbibe neo-orthodoxy and the new hermeneutic. In other words, is what is happening in the Netherlands today strictly a departure from Kuyper and, Bavinck, or is it also in some sense a development from Kuyper and Bavinck?