THE PATTERN OF NEW TESTAMENT. TRUTH, by George Eldon Ladd; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969; 111 pp., $3.75.
It is common for various schools about the country to invite learned men to deliver Memorial lectures. It is reasonable to expect that one so invited will consider this a great honor and accept with alacrity. It is not unusual that these lectures are then published in book form for the general instruction and edification of the wider reading public. It is questionable whether there is always wisdom in such publication. Sometimes the lectures do not deal with such important matters that they warrant publication. It is quite possible that this book belongs in this latter category.
The book contains the lectures of George Eldon Ladd, professor of New Testament Exegesis and Theology in Fuller Theological Seminary. They were delivered as the Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectures at North Park Seminary in Chicago in 1966.
The book takes issue with the fact that many students of Scripture find great importance in Gnosticism as background to an understanding of the New Testament. The author goes on to discuss what he considers to be more important: Greek dualism as taught especially by Plato, Plutarch and Philo. He emphasizes that New Testament “dualism” (as well as Hebrew thought in the Old Testament) is fundamentally different from that found in Greek thinking. This fundamental difference is in the unifying concept of the New Testament—”the invasion of God into human history for man’s salvation.” This unifying concept is asserted over against modern literary criticism and discussed in the context of Scripture’s teachings concerning eschatology.
THE REFORM OF THE CHURCH, by Donald Bloesch; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970; 199 pp., $4.95.
That the Church is today in trouble seems to be almost universally admitted. Donald Bloesch, from an evangelical perspective, writes a book which is a prescription of the cure:
What we seek is a new kind of evangelicalism, one that is ecumenical as well as biblical, social as well as personal. While avoiding the false otherworldliness that disregards life in this world, characteristic of an introverted “pietism” and much of Catholic mysticism, we endorse a true otherworldliness that gives significance to life in this world.
The book discusses the whole range of ecclesiastical problems from the place of the preaching and the sacraments through the questions of special gifts in the Church to the Church’s calling to seek the unity of Christ’s body. The author fills the book with many suggestions of a practical nature to restore vitality to the Church. Many of his chapters are very good. He has an excellent chapter on the importance of preaching, a provocative chapter on confession of sin, a good discussion of the sacraments, a strong plea for a return to the exercise of Christian discipline. There is also much with which one cannot agree. The author is too broadly evangelical in his. approach to the doctrines of salvation by grace alone (which leads him again and again into Arminianism); he places too much emphasis on the social calling of the Church—or, at least, divorces this calling from the context of the salvation of the elect Church in Jesus Christ; he gives altogether too prominent a role to the gifts of tongues, healing, prophesy, etc. in the Church.
In spite of the many things with which we cannot agree, this book is strongly recommended to all our readers. It is thorough, thought-provoking, interesting and will give much material for meditation to those who are interested in the problems which afflict the Church today and who are concerned for her evils.
A SYMPOSIUM ON CREATION (II), Edited by Donald W. Patten; Baker Book House, 1970; 151 pp., $1.95 (paper).
The two books which have thus far been published in this series are extremely worth-while books. They are worthwhile for especially two reasons. In the first place, they are, in most instances, scholarly refutations of the theory of evolutionism. In the second place, they are serious attempts, by competent scientists, to develop a true science which is in harmony with the Word of God.
This present book does both. As far as a refutation of evolutionism is concerned, this book has important chapters on the errors of Carbon-14 (and other radioactive elements) dating and a very instructive chapter on “The Mythological Character of Evolution.” In their efforts to develop a Scripturally true Science, the authors have presented material on “The Pre-flood Greenhouse Effect” and “A Scriptural Groundwork for Historical Geology.” Other chapter titles are “Dating the Earth and Fossils,” “Genesis Time: A Spiritual Consideration,” “Creation: The Only Reasonable Explanation of Natural Phenomena.”
While there may be differences of opinion on the author’s conclusions in both areas, the authors and the publishers are to be commended for producing these books. We heartily recommend them to our schools and homes. We sincerely hope that Baker will continue to publish them.
THE BOOK OF ISAIAH; VOL. II, CHAPTERS XIXXXIX; Edward J. Young; Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; 604 pp., $9.95.
This is the second of a projected three volumes on the Prophecy of Isaiah by the late Dr. Edward J. Young. Dr. Young had completed the manuscript for the third volume before his death, and the third volume is scheduled for publication during 1970 also.
As one might conclude from the fact of its size, this is not a superficial work, but a very thorough one. He who makes use of this commentary must expect not a “thumb-nail” explanation, but a very careful and detailed and complete explanation of the text. The late Dr. Young, who was professor in Old Testament studies at Westminster Seminary, was a scholar in the true sense of that term. He had a thorough command of the Hebrew language, as well as of related languages; he had a wide acquaintance with literature on the. Old Testament; and he knew what was involved in believing exegesis. All of these merits shine brightly in his commentary. Moreover, in this commentary there is manifest a basically Reformed position and a striving after faithfulness to the text which is somewhat of a rarity in contemporary commentaries.
Yet the style and format of this commentary is popular in the sense that one need not be acquainted with the mysteries of the Hebrew language in order to read it. Technical material and references to the original are placed in footnotes as much as possible. Hence, anyone who is willing to put on his thinking-cap can make very profitable use of this commentary.
These volumes on Isaiah by Dr. Young are the first of a projected series called “The New International Commentary on the Old Testament.” If the other volumes of this series measure up to the quality of Dr. Young’s work, this will indeed be an excellent series. Highly recommended.
DE OUDE BARTH (ZOALS WE HEM HOORDENIN COLLEGES EN GESPREKKEN); Dr. A. Dekker/Drs. G. Puchinger; Uitgeversmij J.H. Kok N.V., Kampen, The Netherlands; 162 pp. (paper), $9.75.
This little book is of a biographical nature. It is not a complete or even a partial biography; but, as the title indicates, it is about “The Aged Barth” as seen through the eyes and heard through the ears of two Dutch theologians who studied under Barth and who interviewed him during his latter years. In a Foreword written by Dr. A. Dekker the purpose of this book is adequately expressed: “Possibly some will see and hear Barth anew with us in this little book. Very old, bowed, pale. Nevertheless moving, great in his simplicity, become mild in his judgment, enthusiastic in his encouragement. He remained startlingly original. There was always something to learn.”
There is no unity or theme in the book. It merely furnishes glimpses bf Karl Barth in his latter days. Some of these—glimpses are of Barth in the lecture hall situation, lecturing to his students on Calvin, on Schleiermacher, on Rome and Vatican II. Others are interesting accounts of conversations or interviews with Barth. The book is enhanced by a few striking photographs.
While this book is not intended to be a study or evaluation of Barth as a theologian, one nevertheless gets the impression that the authors were not a little taken in by Barth. And in this sympathy toward the Basel theologian I cannot share. Nevertheless, there are some very interesting glimpses into Barth’s rather enigmatic character and manner; and this book can be read (by anyone able to read Dutch, and some German) with enjoyment.