CHRISTIAN FAITH IN FOCUS, by Gordon J. Spykman; Baker Book House, 1967; 164 pp., $1.95 (paper).
This little book, written by a professor of Religion and Theology at Calvin College is intended to be a systematic study of the truths of Scripture for use in group discussions or personal study of the truth. It is well-written: vividly presenting the truths of God’s Word in an easy to read fashion. Doctrinally, it can probably be characterized as conservatively Christian Reformed! It leaves room for a dynamic view of creation; i.e., some sort of theistic evolution; it makes predestination a decree of providence although it discusses election in another connection. Its weak points are probably that it does not emphasize the important truths of salvation (discussing only briefly justification by faith and sanctification) and of the covenant. The former especially is a serious fault; Regeneration is not spoken of at all; and it becomes evident that a failure to emphasize regeneration inevitably leads to Arminianism. It has a couple of serious errors in it: e.g., Calvin did not call election “the horrible decree” as the book asserts. It is of some value as a primer in Reformed doctrine, remembering that it is written from a Christian Reformed point of view.
VITAL WORDS OF THE BIBLE, by J.M. Furness; Win. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966; 128 pp., $2.25 (paper).
The author of this short book treats about fifty New Testament words by making brief reference to their use in classical Greek, their equivalents in the Old Testament and their use in the New. While not purporting to be exhaustive, the book is nevertheless too short to be of any great use. Further, it omits important words in the New Testament and treats less important ones; and the words it does treat are not dealt with correctly. Vital meanings of Scripture are omitted. The author has higher critical views of Scripture (The myth of Genesis 3….”); is outspokenly Arminian (“…while God’s grace initiates man’s salvation, man must persevere in faith and good works…”); denies the hope of heaven to the Old Testament saints; openly repudiates total depravity; and thus shows basic weaknesses in his theological commitments. Of very little value to ministers or laymen.
—Prof. H. Hanko
UNDER GOD (A government textbook for junior high schools), by William C. Hendricks; Published by the National Union of Christian Schools & Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966; 252 pp., $4.95.
This textbook is currently being used in at least some of our own Protestant Reformed Christian Schools. In many respects I find this a good book and a relatively successful attempt to produce a distinctively Christian text in the field of Civics. From a formal point of view the book gives adequate instruction in the various types of government found in history, and in the world today. Its strong point is, rid doubt, excellent instruction in the Constitution of our own country. It is well written and interesting if is reasonably through and well suited to Junior High students. It is up to date and contains excellent summary sections.
From a doctrinal, point of view, the book is a serious attempt to explain the Christian’s relationship, to government from Scriptural perspectives. And, quite naturally, it is at this point that I have my most serious objections against the book. However, it ought to be understood that the objections raised are, after all, against points which are common teaching in the Christian Reformed Church and in the schools affiliated with that denomination. The book is heavily influenced by common grace. This is evident from the fact that there is a misconception of the image of God in man contained in the book: “We recognize this desire and need for freedom to be reflection of the image of God in man. Mankind was created to rule the earth. Man was given the ability to choose the right from the wrong. Though this image bearer of God fell into sin, there is still a trace of that image, and it gives man the desire to be free.” (p. 21.) It repeats throughout the theme that there is a special blessing of God which has, from the beginning of the history of this country, rested upon America. It contains some strange applications of Scriptural passages. We read, for example, on p. 83: “Our Declaration of, Independence states” that all men are created equal. When our Constitution forbids the granting of titles such as baron, air, knight, duke, lord, or earl, it, proves that we believe people Ate of equal rank. If a foreigner who has a title of nobility wants to become: an American citizen, he must give up his title. God’s Word teaches us to be humble. It says, “. . .and whoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all.” (Mark 10:44, A.S.V.) We may be happy that our nation under God does not give titles of nobility which build up the pride of men.” This is a somewhat strange application of a Scriptural passage not only, but an extremely curious logic. And this is not an exception.
Nevertheless, I think this is by far the best book available, for our schools. However, in its use, teachers should (and undoubtedly do) put forth every effort to correct the serious mistakes in the book when teaching Protestant Reformed children.
—Prof. H. Hanko
NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY ON EPHESIANS, by William Hendriksen; Baker Book House, 1967; 290 pp., $6.95.
It happens many times that people, in search of a commentary for society use and general Bible study, ask their ministers for advice. At times ministers are somewhat hard put to recommend a commentary because some are not very helpful, some are not faithful to Scripture, and some(usually the better ones) are too technical to be of help to people unable to work with the original languages of Scripture. William Hendriksen’s commentaries on the New Testament could very well fill this need. Especially helpful in this commentary on Ephesians is the fact that the technical discussions are left to the footnotes, while the main body of the text gives a short, clear, but comparatively comprehensive explanation of the text. Further, at the end of the discussion of each chapter is a good summary of the entire discussion.
On the whole, the commentary is Reformed. Dr. Hendriksen is a conservative exegete who tries to be faithful to the Word of God and to interpret Scripture within the context of the Reformed tradition. This is especially evident in this commentary on Ephesians in which Paul writes so beautifully on salvation by grace alone rooted in eternal and sovereign election. For example, Hendriksen argues convincingly that the words “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” inEph. 2:8 refer to faith in the first part of the verse: “By grace are ye saved through faith.”
He has a long introduction of some 66 pages in which he defends the Pauline authorship of the epistle and explains its contents. He also argues in favor of the position that this epistle was indeed written to the church at Ephesus, a position denied by many among whom are to be found conservative scholars.
Hendriksen uses a mnemonic device in connection with the word “blessing” to formulate an outline of the epistle. This is somewhat far fetched and unconvincing; and it is also characteristic of his exegesis in places.
As with all commentaries, this one too must be used as a help, not as a substitute for faithful study of the text of Scripture itself.
Commentaries by Hendriksen are available on John, Philippians, Colossians-Philemon, I & II Thessalonians and I & II Timothy Titus, besides the present volume.
—Prof. H. Hanko
IN THE BEGINNING, A Study Of Creation Versus Evolution For Young People, by Rita Rhodes Ward; Baker Book House, 1965; 110 pages, $1.25 (paper).
This book, written by a public school teacher in El Paso, Texas, is intended to be a study book for use in school or other study groups. It has twelve lessons with questions and projects at the end of each lesson. The author lists the following objectives:
“1. To learn something of what scripture does and does not teach regarding the creation and the flood.
“2. To learn the basic principles of evolutionary theory.
“3. To learn some of the scientific weaknesses in these principles.
“4. To learn how to distinguish between evolutionary theory and fact.
“5. To acquire a basic philosophy which will stabilize one’s faith regardless of what theories may be, taught.”
The author accepts creation days of 24 hours but allows for the possibility of other theories; believes in a universal flood; maintains strictly the creation narrative; and shows clearly the untenable basis for evolutionary theory. The weakness of the book is to be found in the fact that theistic evolution is not as strongly condemned as it ought to be.
Yet the book is highly recommended as an interesting and clear defense of creation over against evolution. It could be used with profit, in the high schools. It is however, marred by some bad typographical mistakes.
—Prof. H. Hanko
CRUSADE HYMN STORIES, edited by Cliff Barrows; Hope Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1967; 160 pp., $ 3.50.
Treating about fifty of the favorite hymns used on the Billy Graham Crusades and included in the hymnbook “Crusader Hymns,” this book treats some of the histories of these hymns, but includes also brief meditations on their chief themes and personal stories: compiled, by the Crusade musicians. The historical part are interesting, but the personal experiences and meditations are filled with the Arminianism characteristic of Billy Graham’s theology. Its only value lies in the background of some of the well-known hymns, and the book is recommended to those who are interested in this subject.
BISHOP PIKE: HAM, HERETIC OR HERO, by Frederick Morris; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967; 32 pp., 85 cents (paper).
A fellow prelate in the Episcopal Church comes to the conclusion that Pike is a fascinating combination of all three: ham, heretic and hero. Trying to uphold much of what Pike believes and does, the author castigates him for his methodology. Not worth the steep price of 85 cents.
—Prof. H. Hanko
CRISIS IN LUTHERAN THEOLOGY, by John Warwick Montgomery; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 133 pp., $1.50 (paper).
John Warwick Montgomery is swiftly becoming the outstanding spokesman for the conservative position in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. He is scholarly, erudite and articulate. He is at present professor and chairman of the division of church history, bibliographic consultant to the library at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and. director of the School’s European program at the University of Strasbourg, France. He studied at Cornell University, University of California, Wittenberg University, University of Chicago, and the University of Strasbourg.
This book is the first of two which deal with the same subject. It is divided into two parts, the first part with two chapters on “Inspiration and Inerrancy: A New Departure and “Lutheran Hermeneutics and Hermeneutics Today.” This section of the book is extremely technical and not readily read by those who have not received formal education in Scriptural studies. But Part Two deals with subjects and is written in a style capable of being read by all, While the book certainly deals with the crisis in Lutheran theology, it deals with problems touching upon the concerns of every denomination in, this country; problems of Scripture’s inerrancy and inspiration and interpretation. Montgomery is solidly in the camp of the conservatives in defending verbal inspiration and the historico-grammatical method of exegesis. He writes vividly and does not hesitate to call heresy by its right name.
This is unusual in our wishy-washy times.
The book is worth reading and will certainly be instructive and helpful to all who are interested in defending the truth concerning Scripture.
—Prof. H. Hanko