A HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS, by Stephen Neill. (Vol. VI in “The Pelican History of the Church”).
Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 622 pages. $7.50. The author of this book is thoroughly acquainted with his subject, having spent some time as missionary in South India, 20 years as a wandering evangelist, lecturer to educated Hindus and Muslims, theological teacher and finally Bishop of Tinnevelly. He was also a member of the Joint Committee which brought into being the Church of South India.
The book covers the whole field of the history of Christian Missions from the beginning of the New Testament Church till 1963 when the book was completed. It contains a thorough and interesting description of the progress of missions and is of great value to those interested in this subject.
While it is almost a “must” for anyone making a study of missions, if the reader expects a discussion of the theology of missions, he will be disappointed. The book is strictly history. And, inasmuch as the author is not interested in any theological implications of the mission calling of the church, he does no evaluation of mission work either. All of it, carried on by no matter what denomination, meets with approval. The author is strongly in favor of ecumenical mission movements of today, particularly the mission arm of the World Council of Churches.
There is a valuable discussion of the problem of establishing indigenous churches in former lands and an excellent bibliography of considerable value to the student who wishes to pursue the matter further. The book is highly recommended to our readers.
—Prof. H. Hanko
“The Epistles of John” (Tyndale Bible Commentaries), N.T. Series, Vol. 19. 230 pp. Price: $3.00. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
This series of commentaries is advertised as “A concise, workable tool for laymen, teachers and ministers.” My general comment on all the volumes of this series which I have seen thus far is two-fold: 1) The aim of the series is too broad. For a commentary to be a tool useful to laymen and at the same time to be a tool useful to ministers is a goal rather difficult of attainment in my opinion. Laymen desire a less technical tool; and ministers desire a more technical tool. 2) The striving after conciseness in a work of this kind too often results in a lack of thoroughness and depth. This is also true of this work on the Epistles of John. As is well-known, the simplicity of the language in John cloaks a riches and depth of meaning which are not always easy to probe thoroughly. It stands to reason that to cover all three of the Epistles of John in the space of 230 pages will almost necessarily result in a balance that favors brevity rather than thoroughness. This, in my opinion, is the chief shortcoming of this little commentary.
Nevertheless, Mr. Stott does a creditable job within the limits described above. His commentary is more thorough than some others in this same series. Not only is there a serious attempt at exegesis in these pages; but,—and this is sometimes one of the chief benefits of a very brief commentary,—there is frequently an insight furnished into some of the problems of interpretation and into various views on the meaning of certain passages and terms. For these reasons I would recommend the book to those who are looking for something brief. This recommendation, of course; does not imply agreement with all that is written.
“Basic Introduction To The New Testament,” 179 pp. (Paperback) Price $1.45. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
This little book is intended to be a popular introduction to the New Testament, not a technical work in N.T. Isagogics. Its avowed purpose is “an attempt to introduce the New Testament, its authors and their writings, to the man in the pew” and to “encourage Christian people to read the New Testament for themselves.” The author faces the fact that this is a day when “The practice of daily Bible reading, whether by individual Christians or in family prayers, is becoming rare.” And he intends this book to be an incentive to Bible reading, not a substitute. Frankly, I fail to see how a work of this kind can serve as such an incentive. The best incentive for Bible reading for Christian people, it seems to me, is the Bible itself! If the Scriptures themselves hold no attraction, how will a human word about those rich Scriptures serve as an incentive?
Nor can I agree with the content and basic approach of this work. It is obviously Arminian, for example, in regard to regeneration. This is evident from page 20, where the author writes: “It (the new birth) is a deep, inward, revolutionary change of heart effected by the Holy Spirit. Without it a man cannot even ‘see’ the Kingdom, let alone ‘enter’ it (John 3:3, 5). But how can this change come about? On what human conditions will the Holy Spirit effect it?” (emphasis added) And the author goes on to spell out these supposedly human conditions for the new birth as being repentance, faith, self-surrender.
For one who is looking for a good, solid, Reformed addition to his library, this is not the book to buy. This is not to say, of course, that there is nothing of value in the book.
—Prof. H.C. Hoeksema