INASMUCH, Christian Social Responsibility In 20th Century America; by David O. Moberg; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965; 216 pp.; $2.45 (paper).
The subject defined in the sub-title of this book, a Christian’s social responsibility, is a burning issue at present in the Church. There are liberal churchmen who see no end at all to social activity and. who turn the gospel into a social gospel. There are others who strenuously protest this involvement in social issues and insist that this is not the calling of the Church. The author of this book claims to occupy an evangelical position halfway between these two extremes. He repudiates outright liberalism and rejects a social gospel. But he also calls the church to greater participation in the social problems of the day and reprimands the church for being slothful in this regard.
The first part of the book is the most important since in it the author discusses the principles upon which he bases his position. The last part deals with an elaborate program for social action.
Insisting that, while the Christian must work for the regeneration of the individual he must also labor towards social renewal, he establishes what in his opinion is the Scriptural and theological basis for social action. He finds the calling for social involvement in the command to love one’s neighbor; in the example of Jesus who fed the hungry, healed the sick, etc.; in the parable of the sheep and the goats recorded in Matt. 25:31-46; and in other parts of Scripture. He finds the theological basis in God’s universal love for men, in the universal brotherhood of man, in the general atonement of Christ and in man’s free will. He ties social action in closely with missionary work insisting that social action is a form of missionary work; or, at least, a means to open the door to missionary labor.
Inasmuch as we must reject the doctrinal basis, presumably we must also reject the social program founded upon it, since, as he himself contends, action comes forth from principles. But the question which still needs answering is the question of Scriptural bases for social action. In spite of the attempt to prove this calling from Scripture, the question still persists. Scripture does not call the believer to an elaborate social program but rather insists that the Church’s business is to preach the gospel in order that the full number of the elect may be gathered. The efforts of the world (with which the author admonishes us to cooperate) are always doomed to failure, for the world lives under the curse. Only in Christ is surcease from the world’s ills.
The Theology of Augustine, Part II: The Doctrine of God According to Augustine, by Prof. Dr. A.D.R. Polman, 411 pages, f 19.75; Published by J.H. Kok N.V.
Prof. Dr. A.D.R. Polman is a professor at the Theological School of Kampen, Netherlands. His other book on the theology of Augustine is: “The Word of God as According to Augustine. In this volume, Part II, the professor discusses this subject under the following headings: Preliminary Orientation, the Existence and Knowledge of God, God Triune, God in the Riches of His Virtues, Resume of Some Results. The book is written in the Holland language.
This book is not a book for laymen. It contains several foreign quotations. Although the question whether Dr. Polman presents an objectively true presentation of Augustine’s conception can be answered only when comparing it with the writings of the eminent church father, I would assume that the professor is accurate in what he sets forth as the doctrine of this renowned church father. In His opening chapter on Preliminary Orientation, he emphasizes the difference between Augustine’s conception and doctrine of God and that as set forth by heathen philosophers. The value of the book is, of course, that it sets forth this doctrine of God as taught and proclaimed by Augustine. Considering the fact that we should value highly the works of Augustine, we surely can recommend this book of Dr. Polman to all those who are able to read it.
THE REGISTER OF THE COMPANY OF PASTORS OF GENEVA IN THE TIME OF CALVIN, Edited by Philip E. Hughes; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids; 380 pp.; $12.50.
This is a very valuable book for all those who are interested in the Calvin Reformation. It contains the minutes of the Consistory in a period from 1541, ten years after Calvin’s first arrival in Geneva, to 1564, the year of Calvin’s death. While the minutes are not complete (for they were irregularly kept), they give considerable insight into the affairs of the Church during this important period of the Reformation. Their value is to be found especially in the light they shed upon the relations between church and state in Geneva- a relationship oftentimes very much strained; in their extensive records of the cases involving Servetus who denied the eternal Sonship of Christ and was burned at the stake, Jerome Bolsec who denied eternal predestination, and Berthelier. In the case of the latter, the question of whether the ecclesiastical authorities or the civil authorities had jurisdiction in the important matter of excommunication came to a head. This case dragged on for years while the council refused to recognize Berthelier’s excommunication to the anger and annoyance of the ministers. Finally, in January of 1555 it was conceded that “the Consistory should retain its status and exercise its accustomed authority, in accordance with the Word of God and the Ordinances previously passed.”
The book contains a valuable introduction by the editor in which the minutes are put in their proper historical perspective. There is also a translation of the ecclesiastical ordinances by which the Church of Geneva was governed—ordinances which, in many respects, contain the roots of our own Church order. The translation is eminently readable.
The book is highly recommended to all who are interested in a study of Calvin and his life and ministry in Geneva; but especially to students of the Reformation, to whom it is essential. A word of commendation ought to be given to Prof. Hughes and to the publishers for making this book available.
MISSIONARY PRINCIPLES, by Roland Allen; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964; 168 pp.; $1.45 (paper).
If one, reading the title of this book, expects a discussion of the fundamental principles underlying the missionary calling of the Church, he will be disappointed. The book is not this. It is rather intended to be inspirational material to arouse the. Church to her calling to preach the gospel to all creatures. But even in this it fails, for the book draws too much of its material from outside of the Scriptures to be truly inspiring towards Scripturally directed missionary work.
BIBLE STUDY COURSE ON THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS, by John H. Schaal.
This small book of 48 pages is put out by the Reformed Bible Institute in Grand Rapids. It is accompanied by another small supplement book of 24 pages, both of which together are intended primarily as a correspondence course for those interested in becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Scripture in general and with the book of Ephesians in particular. It is one of nine such courses offered by R.B.I. The price of this book is $1.00; the enrollment fee for the correspondence course is $5.00. No doubt the book itself may be purchased separately from the course, The introduction suggests that the material can also be used in societies.
I have often pondered the advantages of correspondence courses as a means of witnessing to the truth. In fact, a few years ago a few of our ministers discussed this type of program at some length and one suggested lesson was even drawn up. It was intended to supplement a pamphlet program. I think there is room-for such a program as this.
Whether this particular textbook fills the need is another question. It seems to me that a correspondence course should meet at least the minimum requirement of treating some aspect of the truth in a complete, clear and easily understandable way—especially inasmuch as such a course would be intended primarily for those who are unacquainted with the truth. I find this textbook deficient in this important respect. But soaring truths of predestination, redemption, salvation by grace alone, the elect church as the body of Christ, as well as the sobering truth of total depravity as taught in Ephesians are only very superficially and briefly treated. The same is true of the profound practical implications Paul draws from these truths in the last three chapters of the book with emphatic emphasis on the antithesis. The treatment is disappointing.
Perhaps the course (only 10 short lessons) is much too brief to do justice to this glorious book of Scripture. It might be of some help to those who are studying Ephesians in society; but a couple of good commentaries are a must.
—Prof. H. Hanko