The Gospel According to John, by D.A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992. 715 pp., $34.95. [Reviewed by Prof. Herman Hanko.]
Dr. Carson’s commentary on the Gospel According to John is one of the best commentaries I have read on this beautiful and important part of Scripture. I recommend it to all our readers. Ministers and teachers can find in it a wealth of material to aid them in understanding what is a difficult book But those with no formal education in college or Seminary can also easily read the book. It is true that it has some Greek in it here and there; but the Greek is used sparingly and the book reads easily.
All of this does not mean that I am in total agreement with all that the book contains. For one thing, D.A. Carson has some inclination to adopt various higher critical methods of biblical interpretation, particularly source and redaction criticism. But there is very little of this type of criticism in the commentary, and when Dr. Carson does work with it, he does so in a very careful way.
There are passages of John which are misinterpreted in the commentary in an effort to leave room for some general and universal love of God. John 3:16expresses God’s love for all men, and Jesus’ act of washing Judas’ feet was an expression of Jesus’ love for Judas. But in other places Carson comes out strongly for the sovereignty of grace in the work of salvation. He insists that John 6:37 and John 6:44, 45 refer to election. On John 10:26, 27, he writes:
What then can explain the obtuseness of so many hearers? It is that they do not belong to Jesus’ sheep. It is not just that his own sheep do hear his voice, that he knows them, and that they follow him, . . . but that those who are not his sheep do not hear his voice, that he does not know them, and that therefore they do not follow him….
Carson is somewhat contradictory in this respect. While, as I mentioned above, Carson holds that Christ expresses his love for Judas in the foot-washing, Christ was also sovereign over the choice of Judas as the betrayer. One wonders how such incompatible ideas can be held in tandem by an eminent scholar such as Carson. Yet I appreciated the unabashed defense of the truths of sovereign grace.
One of the best aspects of the commentary is Carson’s honest dealing with the text. This especially is what makes the commentary so helpful. In fact this honesty with the text compels Carson, in opposition to almost all of modem scholarship, to hold to two cleansings of the temple, one at the beginning and one at the end of Christ’s ministry. Carson himself explains that this position is a lonely one, but that he is compelled to take it because of the text.
We might note too that Carson rejects John 8:1 ff. as being part of the original, inspired gospel, but he treats it nevertheless. And, in his discussion of the miracles, Carson does not do much with the miracles as signs – i.e., with what the miracles as signs signified.
We urge our readers who love the gospel of John to purchase and use this commentary.
Philippians, by Moises Silva; Grand Rapids MI: Baker Book House, 1992. 255 pp., $19.95. [Reviewed by Prof. Herman Hanko.]
This book is a volume in Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Whether this is the first book in this new proposed set, I do not know. I have not previously heard of the set, and find no listing of other volumes in this commentary. But if the set is of the quality of this book, it will be good.
The treatment of this important epistle of Paul is, in almost all respects, excellent. Silva deals with the text itself and expounds the meaning carefully. His material is throughout helpful and, for the most part, soundly in the Reformed tradition. For example, in his treatment of 2:12, 13, a passage which Silva calls “remarkable,” he emphasizes how this passage teaches the determinative character of God’s work in salvation. Also in the difficult doctrinal passages (Phil. 2:5-11, e.g.) Silva does justice to the text and deals with it in the light of Scripture as a whole.
The commentary has in it quite a bit of Greek and many technical passages which make this volume of dubious use for the man in the pew. But, for the student and preacher who wants to have good material on Philippians, this commentary is a must.
If I had any significant disagreement with the exegesis at all, it would be with Silva’s insistence that the problems in the church of Philippi were serious and deep, threatening to destroy the church. The epistle seems to me to be the one epistle of Paul in which he has almost no rebukes to bring to the attention of a congregation which occupied such a large place in his affections.
The New Charismatics, by Michael G. Moriarty. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992. 384 pp. (paper), $17.99. [Reviewed by the Editor.]
The charismatic movement is now working itself out in the most abominable heresies and strangest practices: modem apostles and prophets; new revelations; signs and wonders; a fivefold ministry; a health and wealth gospel; and viewing charismatic Christians as “little gods.” Evangelical people flock to these shenanigans in multitudes. This well-researched book exposes the wild goings-on in charismatic circles today. Among the charismatic teachers held up to examination are Earl Paulk; Bill Hamon; Kenneth Hagin, Jr.; John Wimber; Mike Bickle; Kenneth Copeland; Robert Tilton; and Paul Crouch.
Of particular interest and significance to the Reformed reader is the author’s revelation of the unholy alliance between the charismatics and the leaders of the movement for Christian reconstruction, a movement that claims to be Reformed (pp. 92-95; cf. also chapter 8, “The Dominion Pursuit: Will the Church Christianize the World?”). One reconstructionist justifies the alliance by describing it as God’s mixing the light of the Reformed faith with the heat of the charismatic movement. This justification is mistaken. The charismatic movement is essentially hostile to the Reformed faith, and the Reformed faith, to the charismatic movement. Every attempt to unite the two means the death of the Reformed faith and life. The Reformed faith needs no heat from the charismatic movement. It has its heat from the same source from which it derives its light: the doctrinal truth of the Reformed faith itself.
Winds of false doctrine are blowing through evangelical Protestantism with gale force. Many are being carried away. The New Charismatics makes this frighteningly clear. Reformed believers should know these things. They should also know the basic errors of the charismatic movement as such. The fantastic doctrines and practices of the “new charismatics” are natural developments of basic charismatic teaching. This, the author, himself sympathetic to “charismatics in general,” does not recognize. Well may Reformed Christians thank God for the sound doctrine of the Reformed faith and, particularly, for the “biblical sanity” of the Reformed faith regarding eschatology (the teaching of the last things).
The author of The New Charismatics is a premillennialist, and this colors his analysis.
We Must Obey God, by Samuel E. Waldron. Arvinger, Texas: Simpson Publishing Company, 1992. 30 pp. (paper). $3.75. [Reviewed by the Editor.]
A 30-page booklet demonstrating generally that refusal to obey wicked commands of human authorities does not imply the right of “civil disobedience” as a weapon of rebellion and demonstrating particularly that Operation Rescue against abortion is sinful in its tactics.
Available from Simpson Publishing Company, P.O. Box 100, Arvinger, Texas 75630-0100.
Biblical Interpretation Then and Now: Contemporary Hermeneutics in the Light of the Early Church, by David S. Dockery. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992. 247 pp., $14.95 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. Herman Hanko.]
The author of this book, while mainly interested in contemporary Hermeneutics, is interested in the light which ancient hermeneutical methods shed on our modem scene.
To accomplish this goal, the author investigates Jesus’ use of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Hermeneutics which were used by the church fathers up to and including the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451). He deals with such interesting church fathers as Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Augustine, Jerome, and Theodoret. He not only gives a brief survey of their life, but also describes the methods of biblical interpretation which they used, and tells how these methods worked out in their own contributions to the development of the truth.
In this investigation the author finds various methods which were used: literal, typological-Christological, authoritative, allegorical. These models become the “window” through which we can see and understand modem hermeneutical issues.
While Dockery wants a “normative” Scripture (pp. 180, 181), he seems to place too much emphasis on the need for contextualization – a fairly recent “buzzword” which emphasizes the need for making Scripture relevant to our modem age. While Scripture is indeed “relevant” to all time, this relevance of Scripture is due to the fact that God wrote it through the Holy Spirit for the church of all ages.
The book is interesting and instructive to all who are concerned about the science of the interpretation of Scripture.