THE MESSAGE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, by H. L. Ellison; Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970; 94 pp., $1.45 (paper).
In this short volume the writer attempts to sum up the central message of the Old Testament. The description on the book contains this sentence: “With his established reputation for Old Testament studies he is uniquely qualified for what might seem a Herculean task, particularly when it has to be accomplished in 96 pages!” It is a Herculean task, indeed too great to be done in 96 pages, as the book amply proves. The author makes his own subject an impossible one by asserting early in the book that there is really no central theme in the Old Testament which makes of it a unity. The book is not Reformed and does little to help to understand this important part of God’s Word.
BIBLE STUDY BOOKS I PETER — REVELATION, by H.L. Ellison; 92 pp. $1.25 (paper). LAMENTATIONS – DANIEL, by J. Stafford Wright; 93 pp., $1.25 (paper). ISAIAH 40 — JEREMIAH, by Arthur E. Cundall; 92 pp., $1.25 (paper). Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970.
These books are part of the Scripture Union Bible Study Books. They are not intended as commentaries but as aids in the daily reading of Scripture. According to the introduction, they are “designed to provide basic study material for the Christian who wishes to have a mature and organized guide for the whole of the Bible.”
The books are of little help in the understanding of the Scriptures and often reduce the revelation of God in the Scriptures to moral homilies.
PREACHING FROM PAUL, by R. C. H. Lenski; Baker Book House, 1968; 247 pp., $2.95 (paper).
This reprint is part of Baker’s Minister’s Paperback Library. It contains material on selected sections of Paul’s work as described in the book of Acts and Paul’s epistles. Most of the material is exegetical, but included also are “homiletical hints” and sermon outlines. It is intended to be an aid to ministers preaching on the great apostle. Apart from his synergism (which repeatedly shines through in the book) Lenski is an excellent exegete and there is a great deal of good material in this book, although it is adapted for ministerial use with its constant references to the Greek. The homiletics is quite different from what is practiced generally in Reformed Churches.
FOR SINNERS ONLY, by Jacob D. Eppinga; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970; 142 pp., $3.95.
Written by the pastor of LaGrave Ave. Christian Reformed Church, this book attempts to be of assistance to young people preparing to make confession of their faith by discussing various segments of the life of the apostle Paul. While there is undoubtedly a need for such a book for covenant young people, this book is hardly what is required. It is superficial, moralistic, not of great help in understanding the meaning of confession of faith and contains incorrect explanations of several of the passages referred to. It can hardly be recommended as of help in preparing for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHRIST, by John H. Schaal; Baker Book House, 1968; 128 pp., $1.95 (paper).
This book is the second in the series of “Layman’s Bible Study Series.” It is a book of studies in the epistle to the Hebrews and is written as an aid to this study for societies, schools, those taking correspondence courses or for personal study. The format of the book is good: it has room for texts, notes, ideas and each chapter is concluded with a series of questions. There is also some excellent material in the book, ,although there is a tendency to reduce the Scripture truth to moral precepts. Perhaps the weakness of the book is its brevity. It is almost too short to give an accurate and thorough understanding of the epistle to the Hebrews. But books of this nature can be effectively used in societies and classroom work and can serve as valuable aids in studying particular books of the Bible.
CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS, by J. K. S. Reid; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970; 224 pp., $2.45 (paper).
One important aspect of the calling of the Church throughout the ages has been her task of defending the faith against false doctrine. Prof. Reid traces the history of this defense of the faith from the time of Pentecost until today. This history is traced in light of various questions which arise: In the defense of the faith, is it possible for the Church to remain faithful to the truth? Against whom must the Church do battle? What is the methodology of Apologetics? The principles of Apologetics are interwoven with the history.
In many respects, this is a valuable and interesting book. It is an able analysis of various trends which appeared in the history of the defense of the truth. It is a clear account of the many heresies which threatened the existence of the Church. It has some excellent evaluations of how faithful the Church was in the execution of her task. E.g., in the discussion of the proofs for the existence of God (such a burning question in the Middle Ages) it points out that these proofs have proved to be of value only in the context of faith.
But there are some points in the book which are less than satisfactory. For one thing, the author has his own personal opinions of the value of pagan thought. In keeping with these opinions, he does injustice to the Scriptures and to the Church. He finds, e.g., the book of Hebrews affected by the Platonism rampant in Alexandria and leans to the idea that this book was written by an Alexandrian who was well-versed in philosophy. He sometimes unjustly imposes his ideas on the early church fathers—although it is certainly true that some of these church fathers were under the influence of pagan thought.
For another thing, he is overly concerned with apologetics in relation to the unbeliever. He looks at the whole question of Apologetics from the broad perspective of the whole of Christendom. He does not reckon with the fact sufficiently that the battle in the defense of the truth of God’s Word is often most heated and bitter, against heresies which arise in the Church. The result is that he concentrates upon what answer the Church shall give to unbelieving philosophy and resorts, in large measure, to rationalistic argument as a legitimate weapon in defense of the faith. This is especially apparent when he deals with modern times: He finds the enemies of the church to be particularly science, communism, secularism, and humanism. And he analyses the apologetic response of the Church against these evils as this response is made by form criticism, Barth, Tillich, the “God-is-dead” school, etc. And, while he is critical of some of these answers, his criticism is not complete; he finds too much that is satisfactory in these writings. These men are not apologists for the faith, but enemies who must themselves be answered by the Church.
The result of all this is that he fails to deal with the fact that is all-important in apologetics: that God uses attacks upon the faith to spur the Church on in the development of the truth.
If read carefully and understandingly, this book is recommended to all who are interested in the history of doctrine and who are concerned with the apologetic calling of the Church.