CALVIN’S DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION1
(Second Edition), Fred H. Klooster; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich.; 98 pp., $3.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H. C. Hoeksema)
This little monograph accurately presents in summary form and with the use of many quotations and references Calvin’s doctrine of predestination. As such, it is a helpful and instructive volume.
A summary of this kind, even though replete with references and quotations, is, however, second best. The best that any theologian or budding theologian can do is to go directly to Calvin and make a thorough study of his doctrine of predestination at the sources—and I refer especially to the Institutes and to Calvin’s Calvinism. This will also have the advantage of enabling one to see the crucial importance of Calvin’s doctrine in relation to other doctrines in his system. This remark is not a criticism of Klooster’s book, however. Perhaps a little book such as this will even serve the purpose of stimulating some to make a more thorough study. There are plenty of ministers and students who could profit from such a study.
This reviewer appreciated the author’s correct insistence on the fact that Calvin taught the equal ultimacy of election and reprobation, contrary to such detractors as James Daane and G.C. Berkouwer.
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN,
Book One, by Gertrude Hoeksema; Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 339 pages, $8.95 (Kivar binding). Reviewed by Don Doezema.
As is immediately apparent from the book itself, Suffer Little Children was intended first of all for use by teachers. It’s very evident, too, that the author is herself a teacher. Gertrude Hoeksema draws from extensive experience as an instructor of children at the primary level when, for example, she offers, in her introduction to the teachers’ guide for grade one, a number of very practical tips concerning the art of story-telling, of asking questions, and of using visual aids. Her pedagogical insights are evident further in her insistence that the teacher of the young child stressfacts, but “from the viewpoint of understanding those facts.” To illustrate her contention, she points out that one ought not to teach the history of the Judges as a “series of wars with sundry victories and losses of battles.” Rather must the teacher make clear to the students how that, in this particular period in Israel’s history, God was “teaching His people that they might not and could not be comfortable living side by side with their heathen neighbors.” She suggests that “the elements of total depravity, the antithesis, forgiveness only in the blood of the cross and in the way of repentance, and a calling to a holy life enter into all of this history.” And, she adds, “they apply, not only to Israel, but to us, the true Israel of modern times.” To give to a Bible story, or to a series of Bible stories, that kind of meaning for a young child is no simple task. And the beauty of Suffer Little Children is that in each of the 125 two-page lessons attention is drawn to the significance of events, and to their application to the student’s own experiences. The “Points to Remember,” and the “Memory Work,” which are part of every lesson, serve particularly well in that regard.
Book One, intended of course for grade one, covers Bible history from creation to the death of Saul. The 125 lessons were meant to provide four lesson plans for a five-day week. The author suggests, by the way, that the plans “are not intended as a rigid schedule.” A teacher ought to be able very easily to adapt the lessons to fit her own preferred method of teaching, treating the various subjects in more or less detail, depending on individual preference and special circumstances. In any event, the lesson outline, along with the other features of each lesson, and the supplementary pages of guide questions, true and false statements, and maps and diagrams, should serve the teacher well in preparing herself for effective Bible instruction.
The 28-page general introduction was written to serve as a foundation for the entire series (the second book of which is already available from the RFPA). This introduction deals with the “basis for teaching Bible, (and) our approach to Scripture and the implications of this approach for teaching Bible in the classroom.” In it Mrs. Hoeksema outlines a “philosophy” of the Scriptures which can be read with profit by other than first grade teachers. The entire book, for that matter, can be helpful as well to Sunday School teachers, and perhaps even to parents who make a serious attempt to give systematic Bible instruction to their young children.
I BELIEVE IN THE HISTORICAL JESUS,
by Howard Marshall; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977; 253 pp., $2.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)
This book, written by the Senior Lecturer in New Testament Exegesis at the University. of Aberdeen, Scotland, is part of the “I Believe . . .” series published by Eerdmans.
When I first picked up the book, I noticed that on the back cover appeared the words: “The result of this study is a ringing affirmation of belief in the historical Jesus.” I was eager to read the book therefore, because it is refreshing to read a book which “ringingly affirms” belief in the historical Jesus in these days when higher criticism all but destroys such faith. But the book was a bitter and frustrating experience, and the quote on the back of the book is not true in any sense of the word. The book is rather a hesitant, equivocating, and extremely weak suggestion that faith in some aspects of Christ’s life is probably possible for the child of God.
The approach of the author is not the approach of faith in the truth of infallible inspiration. In fact, there is no single place in the entire book where the truth of inspiration is so much as mentioned. The general impression is left that the author does not believe at all in the truth of inspiration. In fact, he considers the New Testament Scriptures from a purely literary and historical point of view, and asks the question whether there is sufficient evidence in these “documents” to support the faith of a child of God in a historical Jesus. His answer is in the affirmative, but with strong limitations.
The main problem in the book is that, denying the infallibility of the Scriptures, the author approaches the Scriptures as historical documents. They are on a par with any historical document, no different from them essentially, and therefore to be treated as such. It is true that he also discusses faith. But he has three points to make in this connection. 1) It is possible that faith in the believer is the same as faith in the unbeliever and is belief, trust, commitment. 2) It is also possible that faith is a subjective experience which adds a dimension to faith which the unbeliever does not have. 3) He is himself not certain whether faith precedes historical investigation of Scripture or whether historical investigation precedes faith. Whatever the case may be, he forgets that faith is in the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God, and that faith in God as revealed through Christ can only be by means of faith in the Scriptures as the Word of God.
But the point that needs emphasis here is the fact that the author, proceeding from an erroneous idea of faith, treats the Scriptures as historical documents. In doing this, the author adopts all the tools of higher criticism in his investigation of Scripture. He accepts the multiple document theory of the synoptic gospels. He believes in the validity of redaction criticism, i.e., that the gospel writers were editors of other documents and of tradition which was handed down by the New Testament saints, and that their product was the Scriptural books which we have in our Bible. He accepts form criticism, i.e., that the editors adopted various forms in which they wove the stories of tradition in order to express their faith in Christ. He believes that the gospels in particular were more expressions of the faith of the early Church than sober recitations of what actually happened. And the result is that he finds innumerable errors, inconsistencies, contradictions, legends, myths, etc. in the gospel records.
The result of this is that he engages in the task of higher criticism which devotes itself to stripping away all that is not historical so as to get at the historical kernel of fact. There is not a great deal left when he gets all done. It is true that he finds more history than such radical higher critics as Bultmann, et. al., but it is a matter of degree only.
The big question is, of course, the miracles of Jesus. The author equivocates badly on this subject, but finally comes to the conclusion that it was probably true that Jesus practiced exorcism, that he performed some psycho-somatic healings; but beyond this we are unable to go. (p. 224) In his very last chapter he admits that the historian need not necessarily rule out the supernatural, but it is also obvious that he really does not know what to do with all this.
However, the conclusion is that there is sufficient historical evidence to support the Christ of faith.
There are several remarks which ought to be made. In the first place, about the only value of a book like this is that it brings one up to date on all that is being done in the field of higher criticism. The book is clearly written, closely argued, and can serve as a handbook on the history and recent developments in this field to those who are interested in this subject.
In the second place, it struck me as I was reading this book that here we have indeed what the end result is of every effort to approach the Scriptures apart from faith in the truth of infallible inspiration. We ought to be clear on this point. Any time one abandons the approach of faith and attempts to investigate the Scriptures apart from faith, the result is disaster. There are “conservative” scholars who firmly believe that one ought to come to Scripture to judge whether Scripture is indeed what it claims to be. Faith follows such an investigation therefore. But the result is always that part of the Scripture is lost. Whether one finds only a few discrepancies and contradictions, a few historical inaccuracies while accepting the greater share of Scripture, or whether one comes to the conclusion of one modern critic that all we can be assured of is that once there lived a man by the name of Jesus—it makes no essential difference. The differences are mere matters of degree. But this will always be the case of such an investigation. The approach which Scripture itself demands is faith: faith in the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God prior to any investigation of Scripture itself. Then we bow in faith before the Word of God and receive in faith all that God Himself says to us on the pages of Holy Writ.
I have no doubt about it that the higher critics must be answered. And we certainly have also the obligation to show the higher critics that their own views are contradictory, self-defeating, inadequate in the extreme, and wholly unsatisfactory. But, basically, we must insist that the approach of faith is the only approach. We stand on the foundation of faith; all else is essentially unbelief. And anyone who will not take the position of faith, will not come to Scripture in the right way, and Scripture will not speak to him.
In the third place, one cannot help but be impressed with the fact that a book of this sort (and all similar efforts) expends so much time and energy in searching for the historical Jesus that there is no time and energy left to hear what the Scriptures themselves say. The author has no time to listen to Christ speak because he is so wrapped up in trying to find Christ. And so there is no time left to bow before Christ in humble submission to Christ’s will and to walk as a citizen of the kingdom which Christ came to establish. There is no religion left, no godliness, no Christian life.
This book therefore belongs to those books which are at warfare with the faith of the child of God.