CHRISTOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, by E. W. Hengstenberg (edited by Thomas K. Arnold); Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 699 pages, $9.95.
This is a recent volume in the Kregel Reprint Library. For a long time the original four volume set, which I have in my personal library, has not been available, except on rare occasions in used book departments. The present volume is not a complete reprint of those original four volumes, which, though valuable, sometimes tended to be a bit long-winded. But it is an abridgment, which attempts to furnish the reader with what might be called the “meat” of Hengstenberg’s work. The value of an abridgment for the reader lies, of course, in the fact that it is a time-saver; the disadvantage lies in the fact that the reader cannot decide for himself what is important and what is unimportant. If, however, the abridging is carefully done, an abridgment can, indeed, be valuable; and it has the additional advantage, as in this case, of a more reasonable price. Reprinting all four volumes of the original set, for example, at $9.95 each would have put this work beyond the pocketbook of many readers who ought to have it in their libraries.
E.W. Hengstenberg was a nineteenth century German orthodox Lutheran scholar. Although one need not necessarily agree with all that he writes, nevertheless Hengstenberg belonged to an age when men still believed in solid exegetical work. Again, while Hengstenberg must not be used as a crutch, and while his exegesis must certainly not be swallowed uncritically, those students and ministers—and they are becoming increasingly rare—who are genuinely interested in expository preaching can profit greatly from Hengstenberg’s insights in this volume. And in this day and age $9.95 is not too much for a volume of this size, value, and workmanship.
I have perused this volume and compared it with the original four volume English translation, and I can agree with what Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., writes in the Foreword:
“The real impact of Hengstenberg, however, comes from his writings and the most important, influential and ablest work he produced was The Christology of the Old Testament. In this work, the reader will see Hengstenberg as the expositor, philologist, and devout Christian who finds in the Old Testament what those disciples on the road to Emmaus missed because they were so foolish and ‘slow of heart’, (Luke 24:25-27). Christ is identified as the center of the Old Testament revelation and herein lies the majesty of this work. Nearly every one will be delighted with the abundance of material already encompassed in this work which exhibits an excellent control of the tools of philology and exegesis. Its very survival and present usefulness is a strong testimony to its intrinsic worth.
“The Christology of the Old Testament began to appear in 1828, the same year Hengstenberg attained full professorship at the University of Berlin and was completed in 1835. A second edition appeared in 1854-1857. The present abridged addition preserves every important passage in the four volume set except the Angel of the Lord discussion and the important II Samuel text. Indeed in almost every instance, up to one-half of the original discussion of every important passage has been captured in this brilliant abridgment by T. K. Arnold.”
This reviewer agrees with the above evaluation. Kregel Publications is to be congratulated on this reprint. I highly recommend this volume, especially for seminarians and ministers, but also, because the use of the Hebrew does not interfere with the reading of the book, for all those who are interested in worthwhile Bible study aids.
A HISTORY OF PREACHING, Vol. 2, (From the Close of the Reformation to the End of the Nineteenth Century, 1572-1900); by Edwin C. Dargan; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 591 pages, paper, $4.95.
There is a dearth of material of a historical nature in the field of Homiletics. This reprint by Baker Book House helps to fill that lack.
The author was Professor of Homiletics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In this volume, as in the preceding one, the reader is furnished with a rather comprehensive history of preaching, written in lively and interesting style. In the nature of the case, a Reformed man might be expected to disagree with some of the emphases and evaluations of this Baptist writer, but there is a large amount of information in a book of this kind, based upon what appears to be rather careful research.
These large volumes, published in paperback, are priced within the reach of most readers. I recommend them, particularly to seminarians and ministers, as worthwhile and informative additions to one’s library in a field of study in which there is a lack of worthwhile books.
OUR GUILTY SILENCE, by John R. W. Stott; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 119 pp., $1.45 (paper).
This is a short book on the importance of evangelism. While containing some interesting and worthwhile insights and while speaking at some length about the individual’s “role” in evangelism, the book is not written from the Reformed perspective and therefore goes astray on some cardinal points of Scripture.
SOMEWHAT LESS THAN GOD: THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF MAN, by Leonard Verduin; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970; 168 pp., $2.95 (paper).
This book made me angry. The chief reason for this is that the author stands in the Reformed tradition, is in fact a member of the Christian Reformed Church—a retired minister, but has no semblance of loyalty to the Reformed faith in all the book. In fact, he openly and blatantly denies everything for which the Reformed faith stands. It is apparently for this reason that the writer almost never speaks of the Reformed faith, but rather speaks repeatedly of what he calls “authentic Christianity.” This term recurs countless times in the book.
The book gets off on the wrong foot immediately. Already in the preface the author writes:
Man is a central theme in the Bible. This fact is in eclipse in much of modem theology. It has been said so often that the Bible is God’s self-disclosure, it has been repeated so often that the Bible’s message is its portrayal of the Christ, that what it has to say about man tends to recede into the background as a consequence. While it is true that one of the earmarks of the Bible-taught man is his God-concept, or his Christ-concept, it is just as true that he may be known by his man-concept.
How anyone who is interested in the truth of the Scriptures can write this way is a mystery. The whole theme of the Bible is God and His glory. If there is one thing wrong with modern theology in almost the whole of the Church, it is its entirely un-Scriptural emphasis on man. One hears almost nothing about God any more today; all one hears is man, man, man.
Perhaps it can be said of the book that it gives a most remarkable demonstration of what happens to the truth of Scripture when one adopts an evolutionary viewpoint. This Verduin is at pains to do. He rejects out of hand a literal interpretation of creation and the fall and puts all in the framework or some kind of theistic evolutionism. He speaks of a “never-begun Creator-creature relation” and rejects the immediate works of God in favor of process.
From this starting point, all sorts of terrible errors are passed off as the truth of “authentic Christianity.” The image of God is identified almost exclusively with what Verduin calls “dominion having.” Only a relative distinction is made between man before the fall and after the fall in this matter of dominion. There is no room in Verduin’s thinking for total depravity; rather man retains a free will. In fact, Verduin insists that those who maintain that man’s will has become depraved so that .man is unable to choose for the good do so on an erroneous acceptance of the fall as actual history.
Sin is defined by use of the figure of barnacles fastened to a ship, not affecting the ship itself, but clinging to the outside and easily scraped off. Conscience is not the testimony of God and salvation is a restoration of conscience.
An election which is not conditional is no election at all and a perversion of the truth in Verduin’s opinion. Every truth of the Reformed faith is denied.
His doctrine of Scripture, while not explicitly set forth, is clear. He blames Paul’s use of pagan terms for errors which have crept into the thinking of the Church. He can, with a wave of the hand, summarize the whole Bible in these words:
We have urged that in the Christian perspective man is a creature of option, This insight is the fruit of Special Revelation. The Genesis story is not so much interested in telling us just how man came to be as to inform us as to what man is, a creature made in God’s image and therefore capable of choosing and able to steer his ship. The next thing the Bible wants us to know is that man steered badly by a bad exercise of option. The rest of the Book informs us of the posing of a new option, a new chance, for “decision determines destiny.”
In discussing man as a cultural creature, it is not surprising that there is no antithesis at all in Verduin’s view of culture. And, in this connection, Verduin describes Babel as God voting for a pluralism of cultures, something reversed at Pentecost.
Such key Scriptural terms as curse, fall and grace are almost always put in quotes in the book as if to inform us that these terms must not be accepted in their usual sense, but in some unexplained figurative sense. Nor am I an admirer of Verduin’s style of writing. While it is lucid and clear, it is what Luther would probably call “smart-alecky.” I always get the feeling when reading Verduin (not only in this book) that he treats Scripture off-handedly, facetiously, laughingly. There is no awe, no reverence, no fear for that which is holy and of God. There is no spirit of humility, of child-like bowing before God’s Word. It all somehow comes out as a bad joke.
No wonder then that there is almost no Scripture in the book. There is a great deal of philosophy and psychology, but there is no Scripture. In these isolated places where Scripture is quoted, it is quoted without any regard for the regula fidei and without any attempt at careful exegesis.
No man who so openly denies all that is Reformed ought to be allowed to write under the Reformed banner. It is a travesty on the truth and is conducive to making a mockery of the Reformed faith.
THE CONTEMPORARY PREACHER AND HIS TASK, By David Waite Yohn; Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969; 159 pp., $2.95 (paper).
In many respects this is an interesting and worthwhile book. The author, senior pastor of the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, is alarmed with the quality of the preaching in the Church. He claims, and correctly, that the Church has lost what he calls “sacramental preaching,” by which he means preaching which is indeed a means of grace. Sacramental preaching, in his view, consists of preaching which is prophetic, exegetical, and liturgical.
In developing this theme, the author has a good discussion of the need for Biblical preaching. He emphasizes that this is possible only on the basis of a correct view of the unity of the Scriptures—a subject he discusses at some length in connection with many erroneous viewpoints. He correctly finds the truth of the authority of Scripture a sine qua non for any kind of authoritative preaching. In this connection, however, he fails to develop the idea of the authority of the preacher in connection with his office in the Church and its relation to the authority of Scripture. Nor does he ground the authority of Scripture in the truth that Scripture is God’s infallible Word.
He scores topical preaching, ethical preaching a la Norman Vincent Peale, doctrinal preaching which is not exegetical, and other types so common in the Church; and he pleads for true expository preaching.
The weakness of the book is a failure to discuss the idea of preaching as it is developed in Scripture and the idea of the gospel as power of God unto salvation.
The book is worth reading, however, and is recommended to our readers.