Church History, by P.K. Keizer (Translated by T.M.P. VanderVen); Inheritance Publications, 220 pp. (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko.]
This book, written by a minister of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (Liberated), who also taught church history in a Reformed high school in Groeningen, is intended as a textbook for high school students. In the preface we are told, however, that the book assumes a certain amount of knowledge of church history which is taught in elementary and junior high classes. And this is true.
For this reason, while the book can be used in our own high school, it serves better as a reference work than as a classroom text.
There are some good features about the book: it makes an effort, usually successful, to put church history in the context of the teachings of Scripture and our own modern era; and it gives a lot of worthwhile information about various important figures in the history of the church, men whom God used in the work of the preservation of the church throughout the ages.
Another reason, however, why the book would not serve well for a text in our high school, is that it is written from the viewpoint of the Liberated churches. This becomes especially apparent at the end of the book when the struggle of the Reformed in the Netherlands to purify the church led to the establishment of the Liberated Churches in 1944. Because of this emphasis, no attention is paid to the development and history of the Reformed churches in our country.
The book is marred by some inaccuracies. On page 46, e.g., it is asserted that the Councils of Hippo and Carthage which fixed the canon of Scripture repudiated the apocryphal books – when in fact they accepted them. On page 135, the error of Arminianism is described almost exclusively in terms of the Arminian doctrine of free will, when, in fact, Arminianism corrupted other doctrines of Scripture as well.
This leads me to my final remark. There is a certain imbalance in the work which becomes evident in a less than satisfactory treatment of important issues in the history of the church, issues such as the predestination conflict during the time of Gottschalk, the Arminian conflict of the 16th century, and others; while at the same time, a disproportionate amount of time is given to relatively insignificant issues, such as the slavery issue in England.
The book can serve as a good resource book, however, to understand the history of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands from the Afscheiding of 1834 to the formation of the Liberated Churches.
Return to Reason: A Critique of Enlightenment Evidentialism and a Defense of Reason and Belief in God, by Kelly James Clark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990). $10.95 (paper). [Reviewed by James Lanting.]
Mr. Clark, an assistant professor of philosophy at Calvin College, introduces the reader to current debates in the field of natural theology and Reformed apologetics. He summarizes the recent writings of Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and George Mavrodes who are attempting to develop a novel Reformed epistemology with its own criteria for rationality.
It is the author’s thesis that classical natural theology has failed because of its stubborn adherence to the erroneous Enlightenment notion of “evidentialism.” Evidentialism holds that a belief is rational only if there is sufficient evidence or arguments or reasons for that belief. This classical notion of proof (which requires evidentiary proof and deductive argumentation) is a far too stringent concept of rationality, contends Clark. Although defending belief in God, the author suggests that our belief need not be based on “arguments” or “evidence” to be rational.
How then is belief in God to be rational if it does not depend on evidence or arguments? Because for Clark, Plantinga, et. al., belief in God is a “properly basic belief,” one that is accepted prior to evidence or argument. In other words, belief in God is part of the given foundation of our world of knowledge – in the same category as self-evident ,truths, memory beliefs, belief in other minds, etc. All of these beliefs we accept quite properly without evidence or argument; belief in God is one such “basic” belief. Says Clark: “The theist will develop a conception of the structure of believings which will legitimately capture his intuition that belief in God is properly basic.”
Clark also attempts to answer the charge that this rejection of the classical perception of rationality (with its emphasis on evidence and reason) results in mere intuitionism or fideism. His defense against this accusation is not always convincing.
Clark saves his sharpest criticism in this book, not for the 18th century Enlightenment philosophers, but for R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley and their book Classical Apologetics. “They contend,” writes Clark, “that theism requires a classical proof in order to be rational, and they have not supplied a decent proof. They fall short of their own standards.”
This book is essentially a defense of the new “theistic epistemology” recently being developed by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff in Faith and Rationality (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1983). Although Clark describes this view as a “return to reason,” its critics may dub it as a “return to intuition.”
This book is written as an introductory text to the philosophy of religion and is very readable, even for those with only a little background in philosophy and logic.