Christianity and Democracy in the United States

A Theological Interpretation of American History, by C. Gregg Singer (Craig Press, 1964, 305 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by William Spoelhof, president, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The subject of this book is a significant one. Although there have been many earlier discussions of the religious influences, particularly of Calvin and Calvinism, on the formation of the American political system, this volume is a first to give a long overdue, modern, comprehensive treatment of a Christian interpretation of American history.

Professor Singer rejects as invalid, though helpful, attempts to find the key to the interpretation of American history in the influence of the frontier, or in the development of the democratic dream, or in economic or intellectual drives; he himself finds the key in the theological and philosophical connotations of historical forces. He asserts that only from the Christian perspective can American history be correctly interpreted. Christian historians will, of course, agree with this theme. However, since he calls his work a “theological” rather than a “religious” or “Christian” interpretation, the author could be said to be pressing a thesis rather than following a theme. The title is suited to the broad strokes with which he works.

Singer, taking his stance in twentieth-century, orthodox Calvinism (a bias the reviewer shares), appears to identify this later perspective with the Puritan brand. From this point of view he argues that in the stream of American history, deviations from the Puritan dream in the direction of democratic forms and reforms are deliberate attacks on orthodox Calvinism and represent an espousal of self-defeating liberal causes, both theological and political.

Calvinism, according to Singer, in the form of Puritanism, was the dominant force in forming the political thought of colonial America. In this thought the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man were the molding doctrines. The author contends that to a Puritan any concept of government “which placed sovereignty in the hands of the people and which found the origin of government in a human compact was utterly unknown … and in the democratic philosophy with its emphasis on the sovereignty of the people lay a fundamental contradiction to the … sovereignty of God.”

Here lies the crux of Singer’s thesis. It is quite right to judge that humanistic and secularistic popular sovereignty is not Calvinistic and not Christian. But it is quite another matter to suggest that all democracy and popular government or popular reforms are a denial of the sovereignty of God. The signers of the Mayflower Compact did not, for example, recognize this contradiction with the sovereignty of God. True, the Bradford-led Separatists are not Puritan Calvinists in their doctrine. Choose, then, Thomas Hooker to stand next to Cotton, Winthrop the elder, and Davenport (the three Puritans, quoted by Singer, who surely did distrust democracy). Thomas Hooker is a Puritan in good standing, but he represents those in the colony and in England who disliked the oligarchic character of the Boston rulers. True, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which Thomas Hooker helped to formulate, were not democratic in the sense of giving full and equal rights for all inhabitants; but they did assert that government was instituted in the name of the people. In the words of the Orders: “We doe therefore associate and conioyne our selves to be as one Publike State or Commonwealth.” And Thomas Hooker made this clear in a sermon preceding the adoption of the Fundamental Orders, when he declared that “the foundation of authority is laid, firstly, in the free consent of the people, and, therefore, the choice of magistrates belongs unto the people, by God’s allowance.” This is not popular sovereignty but it is democratic, and it does provide a framework within which democratic forms and reforms can grow.

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The author’s too ready identification of almost every democratic trend and popular reform (from abolition of slavery through child labor, women’s rights, prohibition, world peace, social security, and the like) with that secular concept of popular sovereignty which denies the sovereignty of God makes it difficult to accept many of the conclusions of an otherwise admirable theme. No doubt Puritanism and, later, Calvinism opposed the liberalism out of which so much of democracy has grown, and in that sense they are anti-democratic. But, inasmuch as they also oppose inequality and injustice and espouse constitutional government, established under God, by the free consent of the people, Puritanism and Calvinism surely must be seen to be pro-democratic. Singer’s one paragraph and occasional footnote-exceptions to his thesis are not enough to soften its temper.

Singer asserts that deism and unitarianism arose to break the Puritan hegemony over colonial political life. These furnished the basis for the increasingly secularized colonial outlook and for the acceptance of a humanistic conception of democracy. This new development was reflected in the radical and revolutionary character of the American Rebellion and the Declaration of Independence. Singer sees American history as Puritan Calvinism reasserted and enshrined in the Constitution of 1788. From this source Puritanism supplied a continuing influence in American government, but then only in the sense of its being in constant conflict with the rise of secular democracy, which arose out of liberal theological and non-biblical sources.

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In bold, vigorous language the author sketches the rise and flow of those theological and philosophical currents which, with inevitable and steady progress, produced a dominantly secularistic, democratic outlook in national affairs. These currents had in common a break with the emphasis on the sovereignty of God and sported an optimistic view of human nature. Thus deism removed the personal God by encapsulating him in his own creation and in natural law. Transcendentalism, arising out of reaction to deism’s cold, rationalistic climate, espoused a God who was part of creation, and thus it fathered a vigorous type of individualism. Its individualism, humanistic to the core, was easily translated into the sovereignty of man, which became its central theme. But it was the radicalism of the movement, asserts Singer, rather than its individualism that triumphed. Closely affiliated with Jacksonian democracy, transcendentalism fathered the reform movements of 1820–60, culminating in the abolition movement and the Civil War. In its humanism and radicalism transcendental philosophy bore close resemblance to the spirit of the New Deal, asserts Singer. The only difference was that transcendental humanism was disguised by a pantheistic idealism, while the New Deal, nurtured by pragmatism, presented itself in unvarnished secularism.

Transcendentalism paved the way for social Darwinism, which after 1870 was the new ally of political radicalism. This was ushered in by the materialistic and scientific temper of the times and by a wave of theological, political, and social radicalism flushed with the triumph of abolition. Singer notes that, while the negative aspect in Darwinian evolution tended to produce the theory that rights belong only to those fit to survive the struggle, its optimistic aspect produced a belief in an evolving, better human society, eventuating in the welfare state. This sociocratic collectivism Singer finds fulfilled in the New Deal, the Fair Deal, and the New Frontier state. Social security, medical aid, federal aid to education, and many similar projects, claims Singer, all reflect social Darwinian thought. This new radicalism found expression in the social gospel movement, which discovered a kindred spirit in the rise of the Progressive Republican party of Theodore Roosevelt. The defeat of Progressivism merely shifted the scene to a new wave of theological liberalism, which came into a working alliance with the theorists and politicians of the New Deal, producing a radical social revolution. The decline in radicalism since World War II Singer ascribes to the rise of neo-orthodoxy, with its lack of concern for the historical process. But with it, he observes, came a period in which the voice of Christianity in national affairs was almost stilled. The gradual democratization of American life well-nigh makes necessary “a totalitarian state, virtually infallible.”

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Singer concludes with a most important question: “Does orthodoxy have a remedy?” Admittedly sketchy in his reply, he avows that it does but suggests that a separate volume would be needed to present it.

The author’s basic approach is that national issues express the prevailing philosophy at any given point in American history. I believe this to be a good generalization, but it is not always possible to isolate the diverse forces that enter into the determination of national affairs. When Singer asserts that “the dominant philosophy is ultimately the product of a theological climate,” I have difficulty giving full assent. I do believe that the philosophy of an age is the product of a religious climate, because all life is religion; but it is too much to say that all national political, economic, and social developments have a self-conscious theological base. That is claiming too much for the word “theological.”

The author gives a vigorous, persuasive push to his thesis. However, just at the moment the reader receives the impression that every major reform must be judged to be the product of a humanistic secularism, the author in a footnote or brief paragraph reminds the reader that common grace is an important factor in historical interpretation, or that evangelicals did at times justify social reform on the basis of Christian commitment. He could have worked this side much harder.

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Singer has broken a path for us. Although I disagree with many of his concrete applications of his thesis and also with some of his far too easy generalizations, the big picture is compelling and true. There is no doubt that American democracy has been secularized. In its secularization, democracy finds its own predicament. By accepting a pragmatic view of fluid law and by fostering the dechristianization of American life through a distorted view of the freedom from religion rather than a freedom of religion, democracy will breach its own bulwarks. Singer calls the Christian to consider always the motivation of his political, social, and economic commitments. We should heed this call and allow these commitments always to arise out of a biblical conception of God’s sovereignty and of man created in the image of God, and of the source and origin of authority, the state, law, and justice. In calling us to this task he has rendered a very important service.


Far Right And Deep South

Danger on the Right, by Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein (Random House, 1964, 295 pp., $4.95), and Who Speaks for the South?, by James McBride Dabbs (Funk and Wagnalls, 1964, 398 pp., $5.95), are reviewed by Harold B. Kuhn, professor of philosophy of religion, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.

Danger on the Right professes to be an expose of the forces of conservatism in America. It deals, basically, with what the authors see as the two divisions of the rightist movement in our land. First there is the “radical right,” those who believe in the “conspiracy theory of American history,” which is, that the United States is caught in the toils of a vast plot devised by her leaders (especially those since 1933) to deliver her over to Communism. The other division, termed “extreme conservatism,” consists of those who think that the drift toward collectivism is the result of the naïveté and bungling of blind leaders.

To summarize the chapters written to expose the “radical right” would require several pages. The basic assumption is that all the leaders of this movement are people of bad faith. Their major concern is to utilize tax-exempt privileges for personal gain. Most of them are anti-Semitic, racist, and undemocratic.

No one will deny that there is peril in radicalism of every kind. Not all, however, will agree with the hidden thesis of Forster and Epstein that the danger to American freedom is exclusively from the right. It seems to be taken for granted that just beneath the crust of American life there are rightist forces awaiting an opportunity to take control and to subvert democratic principles. Now, none will doubt that every society has members who resist social change. What is to be questioned is whether this is the major menace to American freedom.

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The authors of Danger on the Right have no intimation, it seems, that some of the dynamics of conservatism stem from our earlier lackadaisical attitude toward Communism, and from our obvious national inability during the thirties and forties to cope with Communist imperialism. They say nothing about the days when Joe Lash, apparently with White House approval, held parties on the lawn of our executive mansion for young members of obviously Communist-front groups. They show latent anger at the ability of Frederick Schwarz to come to the United States from Australia and lead an anti-Communist crusade, but show no similar concern about Harry Bridges, who could come to our shores and organize movements to tie up coastal shipping (apparently with the support of Communists of our land), or about the inability of our courts to return him to Australia.

The authors are less one-sided and tendentious in their survey of the “extreme conservatives”; yet they concede no sincerity of motive to those who feel that some curbs should be placed upon the gargantuan growth of government and its increasing and relentless invasion of individual rights. Much is made of the corporations’ donations to conservative movements: the authors assume that because the movements receive such assistance they are automatically damned.

It would have been helpful if authors of equal diligence had surveyed the organizations making up the United Front in the thirties, or had written with equal fervor when leftists were passing on secret defense and technological secrets to the U.S.S.R. Some of the energy spent trying to secure clemency for the Rosenbergs and for Alger Hiss could have been expended advantageously to prevent the frittering away of the fruits of victory in World War II and of the technological advantages that our research during the war gave us. Had this been done, much of the occasion for rightist anxiety might have been avoided.

Who Speaks for the South? seeks to define the South—to create an image of it that will replace the romantic one that has been destroyed by the historians. With the loss of the Cavalier theory, scholars have sought to formulate a new theory of the South based upon a more rational understanding of the Old South; and they frequently speak of “many Souths.”

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James M. Dabbs represents the enlightened conscience of a region that has ceased to take itself for granted and that seeks to salvage what is praiseworthy and continuingly valid from a tradition uncertain of itself. He writes pensively, at times almost nostalgically; his outlook is that of the country gentleman. At the same time, he is astute enough to see that the Negro is also a Southerner. He traces the forces that have made the Negro what he is, as well as those that have molded the white Southerner.

Against the “many Souths” theory, he sees the emergence of a unitary quality of South-ness. He repudiates the view that the Southerner is a tragic character; it was as a good-natured and relaxed person, he says, that the Southerner met his tragedy. True, our author feels that the Southerner did not quite deserve all that happened to him—and with this all of us would agree.

The book is valuable for its keen insights into the way an enlightened person views life about him. Dabbs appreciates the role of the Church in the life of the South. He is neither a romantic nor a cynic. He is perhaps less romantic than W. J. Cash (The Mind of the South), but his work embodies, we think, more careful analysis.


Social Righteousness

He Gave Some Prophets: The Old Testament Prophets and Their Message, by Sanford Calvin Yoder (Herald, 1964, 252 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by Gordon R. Lewis, professor of theology, Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado.

He who would speak prophetically in an immoral age should read this book. Its hard-hitting ethical and spiritual challenge will suggest a desperately needed series of sermons or Bible studies. Any defender of justification by faith who fears the Gospel’s social and political implications must consider the wealth of Scripture here expounded.

Author of six other books, Dr. Sanford C. Yoder (S.T.D., Gordon Divinity School; D.D., Northern Baptist Theological Seminary) has been a pastor and bishop of the Mennonite Church, a professor of Bible, and president of Goshen College. As the fitting consummation of a lengthy ministry, He Gave Some Prophets was published on the writer’s eighty-fifth birthday.

Briefly and readably Dr. Yoder has fulfilled his purpose as far as ethical matters are concerned. He sets forth the content of the Old Testament prophetic books in the historical, geographic, political, and religious setting out of which they came. Although he draws upon critical studies, he makes only brief allusions to them. Similarly, this evangelical writer minimizes doctrinal problems. An advocate of literal interpretation, he nevertheless bypasses the millennial issue and includes no chart of eschatological events. The prophetic message in the highest sense, he finds, is ethical, spiritual, and practical. The priests took care of the ritual; the prophets sought personal and national righteousness. “What the prophets tried to bring about was repentance, justice, honesty and truth, without which all sacrifices, offerings, and ceremonies are vain.” The prophets were “first of all preachers of righteousness who spoke to the people and problems of their day.”

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And problems there were! In high places, as well as in low, Old Testament prophets confronted people who sought ultimate security in military strength and strong walls, formed alliances with ungodly nations, bribed officials, flattered the rich, took inherited property by force, drank from morning to night, got their neighbors drunk to look at their nakedness, shamelessly practiced immorality in broad daylight and in places set apart to the Lord, gloated over others’ misfortunes, plundered and murdered, called good evil and evil good, said one thing and did another, loved to listen to false prophets, spoke much of love but in their hearts coveted, oppressed the poor in order to live in luxury, married the ungodly, violated marriage commitments, failed to train children in the things of God, took pride in their own works, hypocritically made a show of worshiping God but like spiritual harlots worshiped idols.

Our remarkably similar times cry out for the message of the prophets! And from the prophets we should learn. Although they spoke to the problems of their day, they also spoke, Yoder emphasizes, to the ages. They dealt with eternal truth and therefore have a message for us. The author concludes each chapter with relevant contemporary applications.

Many of the prophets were like Jonah, hesitant to announce the divine judgment upon sinners. But they did announce it, basing their indictments on a vision of God’s holiness and universal moral government. What a man sows he will reap. God may use one nation to chastise another. Corrupt nations cannot stand. Their doom is certain. Judgment will fall upon all unrighteousness. “Each generation must learn, so it seems, for itself that authority or power, violence or might are not the final forces that man has to deal with. Nor do man’s rationalizations constitute the answer to his problems. Only the truth and righteousness that is of God abides.”

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Repent! the prophets cry. Put on sackcloth and ashes, fast and pray! Individuals who acknowledge their sins and turn from their wicked ways may be forgiven. The just shall live by faith—not by ten thousands of sacrifices. Yoder writes, “Righteousness is a personal matter and evil is a personal problem. It always was. It is high time that every person from the head of the nation to the most humble one on the field or street … should become concerned with the things that have to do with our relationship to our Maker and the age-old and time-honored principles that have to do with life and faith and character, rather than with armaments, amusements, shorter hours, and higher economic levels.”

By and large people spurned the prophets, but the prophets did not despair. They hoped in God, who overrules and brings to naught the devices of evil men. God’s plan will not fail. One day a redeemer will appear. Redemption comes, not from mighty men, but from the suffering servant of God. The apparent futility of life turns into joyful anticipation by faith in the promised Messiah. Immanuel will bring not only spiritual redemption and rehabilitation but also physical and political deliverance. An era of peace will be realized when the Lord is king over all the world and righteousness covers the earth as water covers the sea.

Let none identify these themes with a merely social gospel. And let none miss the necessity of individual and social righteousness as the fruit of faith!


Mary And History

Mary, Mother of the Redemption. by Edward Schillebeeckx, O. P. (Sheed and Ward, 1964, 175 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by James Daane, assistant editor, Christianity Today.

I can recommend this book as a lucid presentation of the Roman Catholic theology of Mary. In this tradition, Mary is understood as the proper human response to God’s redemption in Christ. She is the perfect embodiment of the Old Testament anticipation of the coming Messiah, and the ideal form of the Church’s acceptance of Christ and its willingness to suffer sacrificially for his redemptive purposes. Mary’s response, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word,” and her perpetual virginity express the required “open receptiveness” to God’s coming in Christ and that “free consent” to be saved by Christ and to fulfill sacrificially the sufferings of Christ for the salvation of the world. Mary perfectly provides that “human cooperation” which is the sine qua non of all human salvation, and she is thus a “co-redeemer” with Christ and a picture of the Church.

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What Mary docs is regarded as absolutely essential; without her action there would be no salvation. Furthermore, her perfect response to God is the response made (though imperfectly) by every person who is saved by Christ.

Her perfect response to God in Christ, while meritorious, is nonetheless defined in Roman Catholic thought as wholly the consequence of God’s grace.

Protestants generally, particularly those of the Reformed tradition, regard this as an infringement on salvation “by grace alone.” Schillebeeckx is wholly aware of this objection, for he asserts that Protestants “misinterpret” Mary’s “essential maternal quality, by denying man’s personal, meritorious cooperation in his salvation.” Protestantism generally, and especially in its most authentic forms, denies that the act by which a person becomes a Christian can be both wholly a gracious act of God and a meritorious human act. For them grace wholly excludes merit, and they seem to have on their side Paul, who says that if salvation is of works it is no more of grace. Yet Protestants can scarcely brush aside this aspect of Mariology with an imperial sweep of the hand. They who believe that a human decision precedes the moment of becoming a Christian have, in fact, no sure defense against this aspect of the Marian doctrine. And the notion that Adam in a “covenant of works” could have earned eternal life by obedience in the garden fringes on the same doctrine. Moreover, both Protestants and Roman Catholics face the biblical teaching that the good works of believers are rewarded by God, and the Protestant explanation that the reward is one of grace, not merit, is not exactly crystal clear.

Beside the motif of “human co-operation” there is another that shapes the Marian doctrine. Roman Catholics emphasize that Protestants misunderstand the Marian doctrine and as a result do not wholly see the very human, historical aspect of the Incarnation. Schillebeeckx, a Belgian who currently teaches at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, says that Protestants do not really perceive the truth that God became human in history and miss that humane and mellow, that tender aspect of the Incarnation that is revealed in Mary.

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It is doubtless true that traditional Protestantism has not been sufficiently sensitive to the humanity of Christ and to the historical character of the Christian revelation; yet Protestants are convinced that this can be overcome, not by diverting attention to Mary, but by riveting greater attention on the humanity of Christ.

Protestants would quite agree with Schillebeeckx that the Roman Catholic dogmatic vision of Mary is quite different from the gospel image of Mary. Most of them, I think, would also feel that the Marian doctrine described in this book is not only largely extra-biblical but also highly scholastic and abstract, indeed so abstract as to challenge that authentic historicity and concrete humanity which the Marian doctrine is supposed to maintain.

Mary is said to put the spotlight on the historical, down-to-earth, humane character of the Incarnation of God in Christ. Yet to achieve this function Mary, in Roman Catholic thought, is said to have been immaculately conceived, that is, free from sin and herself not a sinner; to have retained her virginity; and to have been bodily assumed into heaven. All this would seem to take her out of history, or more exactly, to render her a kind of feminine Geschichte who touches our history only at some points. She seems to have been redeemed and rendered perfect before she enters history; she is said to be redeemed by Christ, though never to have been a sinner in history. This would hardly seem to qualify Mary for the function of being a manifestation of the historicity of the Incarnation. Christ, at least, became sin for us in history.

Protestants who give some thought to theology could profitably read this book. The first part gives some fine biblical insights into the truth about Mary. In the light of the biblical teaching about Mary, some Protestants might be led to ask themselves when they last called her “blessed.” For the rest, Protestants will discover that the Marian doctrine is very alien to their thought and spirituality, but that it nonetheless does grapple with some basic biblical motifs with which they themselves also struggle, and not always successfully.

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A Nettlesome Subject

Suffering: A Christian Understanding, by Merrill Proudfoot (Westminster, 1964, 194 pp., $5), is reviewed by C. Ralston Smith, minister, First Presbyterian Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

For the twentieth-century American, suffering is to a large extent theoretical. Our lack of understanding of the word is demonstrated in our cheapening of it. The slightest test, the least discomfort, we now describe as “a traumatic experience.” In fact, it seems almost agnostic, not to say unpatriotic, to suggest that the experience of suffering should be part of our existence.

In this volume Dr. Proudfoot confronts us with the fact that Christians can expect to be brought under the limitations of weakness and trial for the fulfillment of the life of discipleship and for the strengthening of that body of faith which is the Church. On the fly-leaf introduction, his book is referred to as “many-dimensioned.” This well epitomizes the book’s approach. The Apostle Paul is chosen as a worthy example and as a reliable authority on the nature and meaning of suffering. It is a real testimony to the relevance of the scriptural record that Paul is so useful to us—even in this gadget-triggered time—as we contemplate the problem of suffering.

The book is carefully wrought. The text is preceded by a helpful foreword that gives in embryo the theses to be expounded, and is concluded with a splendid yet brief review of the ground covered. And in the text, a carefully segmented argument follows a clear and adequate outline. An addenda of ten pages of notes and index shows careful work; indeed, the notes are interesting enough to make the inconvenience of flipping the pages back and forth worthwhile!

The Christian view of suffering as represented by Paul is compared with three other views: rejection, retribution, and relishment. These are illustrated by personalities and philosophies both past and present. The Greek, Hebrew, and early Christian cultures are typified in a treatment I found very refreshing. The research into the lives of the selected representatives is most informative, and the contemporary examples are relevant and familiar.

The author does not hesitate to differ severely with some of the popular figures of our time. Yet his approach is completely without rancor. He does not take advantage of his privileged position, nor does he compromise. I sense that his position on the historical reliability of the Scriptures is more liberal than mine, and his devotion to the various “church and society” emphases is quite apparent. These things, however, are neither in poor taste nor detrimental to the effectiveness of his presentation.

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In short, I found this stimulating treatment of a nettlesome subject engaging, and I recommend a twice-through perusal.


Synopsis Of Critical Thought

Interpreting the Old Testament, by Walter Harrelson (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964, 529 pp., $9.95), is reviewed by R. Laird Harris, professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.

It was evidently the author’s purpose to write a book for the serious layman that would give him access to recent studies and discoveries and thus help him to understand the Old Testament. The book is indeed a readable and extensive work. It has an appendix giving the documentary divisions of the Pentateuch, a glossary of terms, a large bibliography that includes many foreign works, indices, and four good maps as end papers. Dr. Harrelson, formerly dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, is now professor of Bible at Vanderbilt Divinity School. He is well known in Old Testament study.

After brief general observations he touches on the canon and text of the Old Testament. His view of the canon is the usual three-fold development theory long standard in critical circles, although he dates the books of his third division much earlier than was formerly done. The Dead Sea Scrolls necessitate this change. A few words are said on textual criticism; then the books are considered individually—their origin, composition, date, and contents. He hardly leaves a single book of the Old Testament intact. But his approach is not that of the older Driver-Wellhausen school; rather he shows considerable agreement with Alt and Noth (p. 34).

There are innumerable points to which a conservative would react, such as the idea that the story of Jacob’s wrestling comes from a legend of a “demon” of the Jabbok ford (p. 63); Zipporah’s circumcision of her son also comes from an old tale of a demon of the wedding night (p. 80); Elijah’s pouring water on the altar at Carmel comes from a rain-making ceremony (p. 205); Jonah is a fable—written during the exile (p. 318); no Psalm can “with any certainty” be attributed to David (p. 408). No Old Testament miracle or long-range prophecy is allowed to be true. Of the 293 works listed in the bibliography, perhaps three are conservative!

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There are also a number of disturbing inaccuracies in treating new material, of which we can mention only a few. Harrelson says that Hazor fell to Joshua at about 1200 B.C. but that it was reestablished—against archaeological evidence—at the time of Barak’s campaign (p. 134). It would be better to equate an earlier destruction with Joshua’s. Also, he emphasizes the annual death and resurrection of Tammuz (p. 296), although it is now known that Tammuz remained in the underworld. He charges Daniel with error in speaking of a captivity by Nebuchadnezzar in 606–605 B.C. (p. 458), but Wiseman’s publication of the Chronicles of Nebuchadnezzar shows that he “conquered the whole area of the Hatti land” that very year. Askelon is later mentioned as included under this geographical designation.

The book is thus far from satisfactory, but it is recommended as a convenient synopsis of critical thought today.


For Profit And Delight

The English Reformation, by A. G. Dickens (Schocken, 1964, 384 pp., $8.50), is reviewed by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, professor of church history and historical theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

For the theologian or church historian it is always interesting and refreshing to turn to the work of non-theological historians, especially when they are dealing with a theme within the ecclesiastical province. A special interest thus attaches to this new account of the English Reformation by Professor Dickens, for his concern is with a period of intense church-state interaction, and he has already published many monographs on ecclesiastical as well as political, economic, and social aspects of the Tudor period. The more general volume is thus in every way a work of church history, though written from the perspective of one whose work is not narrowly oriented to this field.

In content, the study embraces a vast area. Beginning with a brief sketch of the medieval, Lollard, and Lutheran background, it passes through the Henrician and Edwardian phases, by way of the Marian reaction, to the Elizabethan Settlement. The shape of things to come is indicated by a concluding delineation of Puritanism, not just in the more technical doctrinaire or separatist forms but as a broad movement within the Anglican world.

With the march of ecclesiastical events, Professor Dickens finds ample scope to present some of the recent findings of the intensive social and economic research in which he has played a notable part. He also has a lively taste for the anecdotes in which the period abounds, and can point a moral of his own. Thus, telling us of the pudding handed to one of Mary’s perambulating prebendaries, he remarks that while it was no doubt given by a ribald Protestant, “it would have been still more fitting had it come from a percipient Catholic” (p. 280). Nor is he afraid of an unpopular judgment. He certainly attempts no justification of infamous Northumberland, but he makes out a credible case for some religious sincerity on the part of Thomas Cromwell.

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When he comes to more directly theological or polemical matters, his views are worth noting. Of the Forty-two Articles he points out that, while they express the medial position of the new church, “yet it is chiefly medial between Rome and the Anabaptists, rather than between Rome and the Calvinists or … Lutherans” (p. 252). The eucharistic teaching of the Anglican Reformers gives him some trouble, and here the specialists with their conflicting interpretations are little help. The ghost of Zwingli (surely laid by the Consensus Tigurinus) unduly haunts the scene. Failure to understand the Reformed position expressed in the Consensus confounds confusion. The estimation of Puritanism is more balanced than one often finds today. Indeed, Professor Dickens shows a considerable appreciation for the Reformation as a whole, though his final observations on the “proper plane” of theology, namely, that it should be that of “hypothesis,” indicate an ultimate lack of understanding of what so theological a movement as the Reformation was really all about.

Nevertheless, the merits and importance of the work are plain to see. A masterly grasp of this complex and formative movement is displayed. If the theme is comprehensive, the treatment is authoritative and concise. If the story is tangled, there is a sure indication of the guiding threads. If generalized statements are necessary, they are made on the basis of solid and often original research. The result is a work that all students of the English Reformation, and all who value its heritage in English-speaking lands, will read with profit and delight.


Book Briefs

Trials, Tragedies and Triumphs, by R. Earl Allen (Revell, 1965, 160 pp., §2.95). Twenty-one evangelical sermonettes on the seven words of the Cross.

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Go Home and Tell, by Bertha Smith (Broadman, 1965, 154 pp., $2.75; also paper, $1.25). A missionary in the Orient for forty-two years gives an interesting account of mission work in China and Formosa.

The Kingdom of God Today, by Otto Karrer (Herder and Herder, 1964, 255 pp., $4.95). A Roman Catholic theological discussion of high caliber and wide range, with an ecumenical concern.

Christian Sex Ethics, by V. A. Dernant (Harper and Row, 1965, 127 pp., $2.75). For the person who really wants to think about sex.

Torches Together: The Beginnings and Early Years of the Bruderhof Communities, by Emmy Arnold (Plough, 1964, 222 pp., $3.50).

Your Future Is Your Friend: An Inspirational Pilgrimage through the Twenty-third Psalm, by Robert Harold Schuller (Eerdmans, 1964, 98 pp., $2.50). By the drive-in church pastor of Garden Grove, California.

Archaeology in Biblical Research, by Walter G. Williams (Abingdon, 1965, 244 pp., $4.75). Informative and readable.

Egermeier’s Favorite Bible Stories, new edition, by Elsie E. Egermeier, adapted by Dorothy Nicholson (Warner, 1965, 128 pp., $2.95).

Love and Marriage in the Spirit, by Eberhard Arnold (Plough, 1964, 239 pp., $4). Very interesting, informative, and sometimes questionable views of marriage and the Church, delivered originally, during the Hitler years, at the Rhon Bruderhof in Hesse, Germany.

The Lord’s Prayers, by Elton Trueblood (Harper and Row, 1965, 128 pp., $2.50). Trueblood presents a provocative discussion of prayers the Lord prayed (not the Lord’s Prayer) and those he suggested as prayers for others.

The Existence of God, by Wallace I. Matson (Cornell University, 1965, 254 pp., $4.95). A teacher of philosophy at the University of California (Berkeley) asserts that God is an ideal, who, if he existed, would be an idol. He admits he himself is only “flesh and blood,” but he is quite confident that there is no reason to believe that God exists.

What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr,, by Lerone Bennett, Jr. (Johnson, 1964, 237 pp., $4.95). An absorbing story of the struggles and achievements of America’s most popular civil rights leader.


A Time to Embrace, edited by Oliver R. Barclay (Inter-Varsity, 1964, 61 pp., 2s.). Six essays on the Christian view of sex. Dr. Barclay affirms that Christians cannot rely merely on a rule-of-thumb morality that may lead to a legalistic outlook, and here discusses the question of what can be substituted.

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The Five Books of Moses, by Oswald T. Allis (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1964, 356 pp., $3.50). A re-examination of the modern theory that the Pentateuch is a late compilation from diverse and conflicting sources by authors and editors whose identity is completely unknown.

New Testament Detection, by W. Gordon Robinson (Oxford, 1964, 269 pp., $4.50). The author identifies people, searches out places, tracks down words, and considers evidence in the New Testament. A valuable and useful study.

Presbyterian Heritage, by A. Mervyn Davies (John Knox, 1965, 144 pp., $1.95). A pleasantly readable account of the history of Presbyterianism in Great Britain, on the Continent, and in America by a former staff member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Called to the Ministry, by Edmund P. Clowney (Westminster Theological Seminary, 1964, 90 pp., $1.25). A serious and helpful discussion of what it means to be called to the Christian ministry. A brief but valuable contribution.

Prologue to Prison: Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, by Richard C. Halverson (Cowman, 1964, 252 pp., $1.95). A very lucid, readable, step-by-step commentary on Romans.

Ecumenical Theology Today, edited by Gregory Baum, O. S. A. (Paulist Press, 1964, 256 pp., $.95). A delightful series of brief essays by Roman Catholics and Protestants (many by editor Gregory Baum) on many ecumenical matters, including the Jews and “What Are Other Churches?”

Kierkegaard and Bultmann: The Quest of the Historical Jesus, by Herbert C. Wolf (Augsburg, 1965, 100 pp., $1.95). An attempt to compare and contrast Kierkegaard and Bultmann’s views of the relation of faith and history.


Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotions from the Bible, by Charles H. Spurgeon (Baker, 1964, 784 pp., $5.95). Originally published under the title The Interpreter.

The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, by Henry Barclay Swete (Baker, 1964, 417 pp., $6.95). A scholarly, biblical exposition. First printed in 1910.

Great Personalities of the Bible, by William Sanford LaSor (Revell, 1965, 384 pp., $5.95). The author treats a chain of personalities whose stories constitute the thread of the whole Bible. Well done; most of the material appeared earlier in two volumes.

The Twenty-Third Psalm, by John McNeill (Revell, 1965, 94 pp., $1.95). Devotional reading with a glow. First printed in 1927.

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