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THE CHURCH IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: Elect From Every Nation; by Louis Praamsma; Paideia Press, 1981; 289 pp., $9.95 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. H.C. Hanko]

This is the last volume in Dr. Praamsma’s series on the history of the Christian Church. This book is a translation from the Dutch in which language it was originally printed.

Dr. Praamsma has done good service to the Church in writing a series of books on Church History from the conservative Reformed position. It is a necessary addition to the library of all who read and study in the field of Church History and it ought to have a place in the libraries of our high schools, colleges, and seminaries. 

Dr. Praamsma has read widely in the field of Church History, in the original literature of every period, and in the history of Western civilization. He has produced a book, therefore, which catches the breadth and scope of the wide variety of currents which have swept the modern church. And he has succeeded in bringing it all together in an interesting and significant volume. The modern day church is described against the background of the wars, social upheavals, and technological developments of our modern times. It will aid greatly in an understanding of our modern period and it will help to put the church in its proper perspective. 

The book has, in this reviewer’s judgment, one weakness. It gives altogether insufficient attention to the true church of our Lord Jesus Christ and, in this failure, it does not relate the history of the true church to the history of Christendom in its broader scope. A great deal of time is spent on the effect of the two world wars upon the church, on the theology of liberal theologians, and on the history of the ecumenical movement. But there is almost nothing in the book about conservative Presbyterianism and the history of the Reformed Churches.

MY GOD IS YAHWEH (Elijah and Ahab in an Age of Apostasy), M.B. Van’t Veer (translated by Theodore Plantinga); Paideia Press, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada; 440 pp., (cloth) $14.95. [Reviewed by Prof. H.C. Hoeksema]

According to the dust jacket, the author “lived a comparative brief but active life as a scholar, pastor and church leader. He held several pastorates in the Reformed Church of the Netherlands and authored a number of important publications in Dutch, including a dissertation on catechism instruction in relation to the writings of John Calvin.” More than this we are not told concerning the author; nor are we informed as to the origins of this book. It is not a book of sermons, neither is it a commentary in the usual sense of the term. 

Nevertheless, this is a delightful and well written work about the ministry of the prophet Elijah. It begins with the rebuilding of Jericho (I Kings 16:34), and it concludes with the calling of Elisha (I Kings 19:19-21). The book is well written, and, in my opinion, in general offers a sound explanation of this particular segment of Old Testament history. Anyone who wishes to preach on the history of Elijah could well profit from many of the insights in this book. 

Although I cannot compare the English version with the Dutch original, it strikes me that this work also appears to be well translated. 

My only negative comment is that the book does not completely cover the history of Elijah, and I was at a loss to understand why the author ended where he did.


CALVIN AND THE ANABAPTIST RADICALS, by Willem Balke; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1981; 338 pp., price not given; (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. H.C. Hanko]

This book, originally published in Dutch and translated by William J. Heynen, is a welcome edition to the literature on the “radical” movement of the Reformation. While the chief enemy of the Reformers on the continent was surely the Romish Church, the Reformers were troubled, almost from the beginning, by different groups of people who had also left the Romish Church, but who hold views fundamentally different from the Reformers. These constituted an entire wing of the Reformation and are usually all included under the general name, “Anabaptists,” a name which designates those who denied infant baptism and required rebaptism of those who joined them. Yet the views of these “radicals” on baptism were by no means the only points in which they differed from the Reformers. They held divergent views on such important doctrines as the nature of the church, the incarnation of Christ, and the doctrine of sanctification.

This book deals almost exclusively with Calvin’s defense of the truth of Scripture over against the Anabaptist position. The book is divided into two parts: the first part deals with Calvin’s attitude towards the Anabaptists in his successive editions of the Institutes and his actions against the Anabaptists during his first and second stays in Geneva. The second part is primarily doctrinal and gives a systematic summary of Calvin’s teachings over against the doctrines of the Anabaptists. 

The book makes extensive use of quotations from both primary and secondary sources and is for this reason also a valuable book. It gives, on the whole, a fair and balanced treatment of both the Anabaptists and Calvin and succeeds rather, well in putting the whole controversy in its proper historical light. 

The book seems to be somewhat overstated at times. E.g., the author, in the interests of his thesis, seems to find references to the Anabaptists in Calvin’s writings where it is at least doubtful that this is true. Nevertheless, the book gives an insight into the Anabaptist controversy which is important to an understanding of the Reformation period.

THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS, Henry Stob; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. 267 pp., (paper) $$11.95 [Reviewed by Prof. H.C. Hoeksema]

As the author himself points out in the Preface, “This volume contains some of the occasional papers and addresses which, in the course of years, were delivered to restricted audiences or published in journals with a limited circulation.” Most of the chapters of this little volume were familiar to me from my having read them when they first appeared in various journals. And with many of these writings I disagreed when I first read them, and disagree also today. This does not change the fact that Dr. Stob is an interesting writer, well able to express his viewpoint. His approach, however, is frequently more philosophical than theological. 

My general negative criticism is that the titleTheological Reflections is a bit pretentious. Only a limited number of the essays in this book actually fit under that title, in this reviewer’s opinion. 

Let me end this review on a positive note. Chapter 28 is an essay which first appeared in The Reformed Journal in 1952. It is entitled, “Catechesis: On Using and Revising the Compendium.” In this chapter I found much worthwhile instruction concerning the subject of catechism instruction. Every seminarian and pastor, and especially those who are from time to time charged with revision and improvement of our catechism materials, could profit from some of the instruction and the cautions in this chapter.

THE NEW CENTURY BIBLE COMMENTARY (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.) EXODUS, J.P. Hyatt; 351 pp. (paper), $7.95 ISAIAH 1-39, Ronald E. Clements; 301 pp. (paper), $7.95. JOB, H.H. Rowley; 281 pp. (paper) $7.95. [Reviewed by Prof. H.C. Hoeksema]

These three commentaries on the Old Testament are of very limited value. Perhaps it may be said that their main value in the library of any conservative student of Scripture would be negative, that is, they would serve as examples of how not to interpret Scripture. 

My main criticism of them is that the viewpoint of all three of them is that of higher criticism. The commentary of Exodus is shot through with the documentary hypothesis. The commentary on Isaiah 1-39proceeds from the higher critical viewpoint that Isaiah is the product of more than one human writer and that its parts were written at different times; this theory really denies the prophetic character of the book. And the commentary of Job questions the historicity of Job.

Besides, as far as explanation of the text is concerned, for the most part these volumes furnish very little more than a running commentary. They provide very little substantive explanation of the Scriptures.