I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, by Michael Green; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977; 223 pp., $2.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)
This volume is a part of a series of books being published by Eerdmans. On the back cover we are told:
Edited by Michael Green, these books are intended to take a fresh look at controversial areas of the Christian faith. The writers, from different nations, cultures, and confessional backgrounds, all anchor their work in the Bible. Though fully abreast of the latest scholarship in the area about which they write, they focus in these volumes on the current, practical meaning of their topic for the general reader.
Michael Green, Rector of St. Aldate’s, Oxford, has added another book to the mountain of literature on Pentecostalism. It is somewhat doubtful whether this book makes any significantly new contribution to the field. I found the book very weak in important areas and not overly helpful in the apologetic against Neo- Pentecostalism. The weaknesses are many more than the strengths.
In the first place, the book is doctrinally weak. It is doctrinally weak first of all because there is no real theology of the Holy Spirit developed—something which is a crying need in the current discussion. It is doctrinally weak secondly because it takes erroneous positions on some key points. Consider the following quotes concerning the personality of the Spirit:
We have seen that the Spirit of God which appeared fitfully, in a variety of forms, and prophetically in the Old Testament days shone steadily, personally, and fully in the Man of Nazareth. No longer is the Holy Spirit encountered as naked power; he is clothed with the personality and character of Jesus. If you like, Jesus is the funnel through whom the Spirit becomes available to men. Jesus transposes the Spirit into a fully personal key. Jesus is the prism through whom the diffused and fitful light of the Spirit is concentrated. (p. 42)
By the time of the New Testament Epistles, on the other hand, the Spirit is the fully personal embodiment of the Godhead. How comes this change?
It is simply due to the fact that the diffused, little-defined, fitfully-manifested and sometimes sub-personal presence of God-as Spirit which we found in the Old Testament, becomes clearly focused for the first time in Jesus of Nazareth. . . . No longer sub-personal, the Spirit is stamped with the personality of Jesus. (p. 51)
There is also an Arminian emphasis in the book: the Holy Spirit is dependent upon our acceptance of Him before He can begin His work, pp. 87 & 88; there is a general operation of the Spirit in all men leading to Christ. But the most serious weakness is the author’s willingness to make major concessions to Pentecostalism. In chapter 10 he concedes tongue speaking, prophecy, interpretation, and all the gifts mentioned in I Cor. 12 as present day gifts of the Spirit.
The book is not of very great help in the defense of the faith over against Pentecostalism.
A HALF CENTURY OF THEOLOGY, G.C. Berkouwer; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 268 pages, $6.95 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. H.C. Hoeksema]
We have already reviewed the Dutch edition of this work and also devoted a rather lengthy critique to Chapter 4 in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. Now we have the English translation by Lewis Smedes. Smedes has done an acceptable job of translating, too, although a book almost always loses something in translation.
On October 12, 1973, Dr. Berkouwer retired as professor of the Theological Faculty of the Free University of Amsterdam. This event occasioned his looking back upon a half century of being busy within the Gereformeerde Kerken and as occupant of the Chair of Theology at the Free. And the book under review is the result of his retrospective look. In these theological memoirs he traces the important currents in theology (in his view) from 1920 to the present, and he gives account of his motives in his theological and ecclesiastical labor.
In a way this is not a typical Berkouwer book. While in the nature of the case there are many references to the views of others, at many points: there is much more of Berkouwer in this book than in some of his Studies in Dogmatics. Through reading this book one certainly obtains a better insight into the theological approach of the author.
Of special interest is his reference to the fact that he developed his own view of election and of election in relation to the preaching of the gospel (and remember: Berkouwer has openly denied double predestination) in reaction to Herman Hoeksema’s view (or a caricature of that view). It is interesting to note that Berkouwer states of Hoeksema, “I have seldom met a theologian who consistently reasoned things through from an adopted standpoint.”
This book will not have a wide readership, since it is of special interest only to those with theological interests.
But by ministers and theological students it should be read by all means, and I recommend this strongly. Regular readers of the Standard Bearer will know that I count Berkouwer an enemy of the Reformed faith. But he is a force to be reckoned with. There is probably no one person more responsible than is Berkouwer for recent trends in the Dutch churches; I hold him more responsible than men like Kuitert, Baarda, and Wiersinga. Moreover, Berkouwer has undoubtedly influenced theology far beyond the boundaries of the Netherlands. He has many a disciple in this country also. Besides, his Studies in Dogmatics have been widely hailed; and only very rarely did one read a critical review of any of them.
Berkouwer must be known and understood, therefore, in order that we may reckon with him and his theology. This book is a help in understanding the’ man and his theology. For this reason I recommend it.