THE REFORMATION: Vol. III in “The Pelican History Of The Church”; by Owen Chadwick; published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 445 pp. $5.95.
This new series on the history of the church is written by six different authors, Owen Chadwick, the author of this volume, the general editor. He is Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Master of Selwyn College.
The book discusses the Reformation Period from the time of Luther to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, including a discussion of the Spanish conquest in the Americas and the consequent Romish influences in this hemisphere.
The strength of the book is its bird’s eye view of the history of the Reformation on the continent of Europe. It is written in popular style for the interest of those who are not making a scholarly study of Church History. It is good for those who want a briefs survey of the Reformation without great detail. It makes for interesting and light reading, while giving the reader an understanding of the period.
But the book has its weaknesses. The treatment of the Reformation itself under Luther and Calvin is sketchy and much too brief. In all, less than 60 pages of this 445 page volume are devoted to the two great Reformers of the period.
The doctrinal questions involved in the Reformation are almost completely ignored. And when they are discussed, the discussion is distorted. Concerning Luther’s emphasis on justification by faith, the author writes only: “The guiding principle was the doctrine of justification by faith, in other words a shift of emphasis from the external act in religion—cult and ritual and ceremonial—to the mind and heart, to the faith which needs external acts for the sacramental expression of an inward worship.”
There is no evaluation of the Reformation, no interpretation of this all-important part of the history of the Church, no attempt to explain it as the God-ordained history of the Church of Jesus Christ. The author seems intent on shying away from any explanation of this great event in the history of God’s people.
In close connection with all this, the author is at times unduly sympathetic with the Romish Church. He deplores the necessity of the Reformation in a few brief asides, wishes it could have been otherwise, sides with the Romish Church on certain questions of Romish practices which the Reformers condemned and spends a disproportionate amount of time discussing the Counter-reformation and the conquest of the Americas by the Spanish and Roman Catholic Conquistadors.
He is not very sympathetic with Calvinism and writes in a very brief statement: “The fortress of Calvinist teaching was assailable in its two weak bastions: whether the dogma of absolute predestination, however supported by texts of Scripture, was not incompatible with other texts of Scripture and with the total revelation of God’s nature; and whether the text of the New Testament vindicated the claim that the polity of pastors, elders, and consistories was the only polity ordered by Scripture.” He describes the great Calvinist of the Synod of Dordt, Francis Gomarus, as “a Calvinist with an inflexible mind and a conscientious talent for setting the eternal decrees in their most repellant guise.”
But there are many interesting and informative passages concerning the history as a whole and a good discussion of religious practices among the Churches of the Reformation.
For a brief survey of the entire period, especially from a purely historical point of view, the book can be profitably read.
—Prof. H. Hanko
“Uitverkiezen En Uitverkiezing In Het Nieuwe Testamemt,” by H. Venema; J.H. Kok N.V., Netherlands; price: f 8.90.
This book of 172 pages is a treatise on the subject mentioned above, which was written by H. Venema to obtain his degree as Doctor in Theology from the Theological School of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, at Kampen, Netherlands, and therefore from the Reformed Churches as maintaining Art. 31.
This document is introduced by eighteen propositions which are discussed in this treatise.
The author discusses the Scriptural doctrine of election as taught in the New Testament. In his introductory remarks he explains why he has confined himself to the New Testament.
In a review of this nature, it is, of course, impossible to treat this document in detail. I do not mind recommending this booklet to our readers who can read the Holland language, but with definite reservations. I am in complete disagreement with its content throughout.
The author would maintain a doctrine of election as in time. He rejects the Scriptural doctrine of eternal election. One reads this treatise Andy is amazed that passages such as Eph. 1:4, John 6:37-39, John 10:26-27, Acts 13:48, II Pet. 1:10, etc., are all explained as not referring to an eternal election. Speaking of an eternal election, Venema objects to it (page 48) that such a view deprives history of all value, and that history is then merely the unfolding of a long predetermined film. Repeatedly he voices such objections against a Scriptural doctrine as an election from eternity: This doctrine simply would deny man’s responsibility.
More could be said about this, but time and space forbid. Writing on Rom. 9-11, page 103, he writes: “Paul does not wish to say: no wonder, that so many Jews did not believe in Christ, for, although they had the promise, they were not elect. But: many Jews, although by nature Abraham’s children, were not really children of him, because they did not live out of the promise. And that is all important (daar komt het op aan).” In my conviction, this is completely against Romans 9.
Venema also has something to say about the doctrine of reprobation. We read on page 168: “But it is plain, it seems to us, that, if we would say with Bavinck that Scripture causes reprobation to appear in history as an act of God, we must add that this reprobation is divine punishment, and that therefore the guilt of man precedes.” In other words: sin is first, then reprobation. This is Arminianism, and contrary to Scripture and the Confessions.
Bearing all this in mind, and provided that we read the book carefully, we may recommend it to our Holland readers.
—Rev. H. Veldman