Deep And Sensible

Creative Minds in Contemporary Theology, edited by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes (Eerdmans, 1966, 488 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Willard H. Taylor, professor of biblical theology, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.

With the book presses running at an unprecedented pace these days, it takes a “heap of reading” for either the academician or the interested laymen to keep in close touch with the ideological movements of our times. Thus guidebooks like this one are welcome, for they not only compress a man’s thought into a concise statement but also offer some at-hand criticism of it.

Hughes judiciously defines the purpose of the book and, in the judgment of the reviewer, magnificently achieves it. The design is to present “a summary introduction to the principal teaching of some of the religious thinkers who have made an impact on contemporary theology,” which essentially is “the theology of our twentieth century in its great variety of manifestations—Reformed, liberal, evolutionistic, and so on” (p. 5). Hughes tries to avoid such weasel classifications as “modernistic” or “neo-orthodox.”

The scholars chosen to make the surveys appear to be substantially informed in the thought of the men assigned to them. Each contributor falls within the evangelical camp and is openly committed to a strong doctrine of the authority of the Holy Scripture.

Of the thirteen men discussed, seven are from the Continent, four from the British Isles, and two from the United States. One’s first glance at the list evokes the question why certain names are missing, but the editor admits that the selection was difficult and that a second collection of studies is under consideration.

Obviously a reviewer cannot comment in detail on such a diverse study. Several impressions, however, developed during my reading.

First, while an unequal depth of perception is discernible among contributors of the thirteen studies, the general level of understanding is commendably high. The clearest expositions and criticisms are those on Barth, Cullmann, Denny, Dodd, and Tillich.

Second, in keeping with the concerns of conservative thought, the nagging question of revelation and inspiration receives needed attention in the critiques.

Third, in the editor’s attempt to have Catholic representation, he includes Charles Gore, who in my opinion is not a “creative” force in theological circles. And at the risk of being judged anti-Catholic, I will say that I have reservations about the established creativity of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, also. It seems to me that another decade of exacting theological scrutiny of Teilhard will be necessary before a final assessment can be made.

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The word “creative” is the subject of the editor’s highly enlightening introductory article, entitled “The Creative Task of Theology.” In response to the question, When is theology creative?, Hughes comments that it is creative when it neither denies the past nor clings isolatingly to it. “Both the new and the old, this is the framework of theology that is truly creative” (p. 9). What are some of the “old things” which the theologian brings out from his storehouse? (1) “God alone is the Creator of all that exists” (p. 9). (2) Lamentably, man is a fallen creature (p. 10). (3) God has taken the initiative on man’s behalf, and “the grace and mercy and power of God are freely available” for his redemption (p. 11).

Hughes goes on to say that the “substance” out of which the theologian fashions his system is the Word of God, which in this context means for him the Bible. He sees the possibility of creativity at this point, for “the Word of God is indeed the creative force of the universe” (p. 12).

In order for theology to be creative, it must be informed by the Church’s “proclamation of the scriptural message as the Word of the Living God.” Moreover, truth must be related to mankind indeed, to the whole world in which we live. The truth is not “inert and static” but dynamic. When theologians take this aspect of their task seriously, they become creative; and the possibilities are limitless here.

Hughes’s commitment to the Bible is deep and sensible. He questions whether it is right for us “to propound and defend notions concerning the mechanics of inspiration.” He rightly asserts that “to do so is to transpose … the Bible from the area of faith to the area of reason, and in this respect to place it under man instead of under God” (p. 17). And he goes on to suggest that “fundamentalists have developed a somewhat frenetic rationalism of their own and tend, all unwittingly, to conduct their warfare from the same ground as the radicals whom they oppose” (p. 17).

The quality and scope of this volume lead the reviewer to urge the production of another one to cover some of the lesser yet still influential theologians of our times.


The Protestant Principle

Protestantism in Transition, by Charles W. Kegley (Harper & Row, 1965, 282 pp., $5.75), is reviewed by James Daane, director, Pastoral Doctorate Program, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

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This book is an attempt to show how Protestantism, with its principle of selfcorrection, appeared in the past, and particularly how it appears today. Kegley, professor of philosophy at Wagner College, Staten Island, New York, is a good writer. His style flows smoothly, without apparent effort. At any given point his thought is clear, although it is not always clear whether his thoughts can be integrated or must finally just coexist beside one another.

Protestantism, for Kegley, is “evangelical catholicity,” a belief in, and a life determined by, the gracious love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. He has some good things to say about the truth of God’s grace and recognizes that grace is not, as in Roman Catholic thought, a substance or thing, nor as in some Protestant thought, a kind of impersonal energy.

The “material” aspect of Christianity, for Kegley, is God’s gracious love for man in Jesus Christ. The “formal” aspect is the Protestant principle: the open spirit that is alert and responsive to God’s continuing revelation of his will in Jesus Christ. Here the book is rather disappointing, not because it presents a position that I do in fact deem a non-biblical view of the Bible, but because it remains vague and even cavalier in attempting to reject what is designated as the fundamentalist literal view of the Bible.

Kegley wants to take the Bible seriously, and he has his finger on the essence of God’s revelation as his love and grace in Jesus Christ. But he gives the impression that he can take care of the claim of Roman Catholics and Protestant fundamentalists “that the Bible is literally and verbally inspired” by reducing this to the caricature that Scripture is supplied, inspired, and dictated even down to the punctuation.” Who holds this view? Or what Roman Catholic or Protestant holds to such a view of Scripture “that one is tied down to an impossible literal quibbling about texts and their unimaginative interpretation”?

Furthermore Kegley does not make plain how he can distinguish the “serious discrepancy” between the Gospel’s “primary message” and its “concept of man, in psychology and the like.” Nor does he make plain how he can say this and also say, “We need … to read the Bible and then to look at the world in which we live in the light of what we read.”

It is surely true, as any responsible adherent of a literally inspired Bible holds and admits, that life and history, science, and indeed all learning, increasingly help us to a clearer understanding of what the Bible actually asserts. But it is equally true that we either interpret the world in terms of the Bible (in which case Kegley is right in saying that “we need … to read the Bible and then to look at the world in which we live in the light of what we read”) or interpret the Bible in terms of the world. It is a case of either/or. But in this book Kegley attempts to do both, and he strives to obtain acceptance of his version of Protestantism (against Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Fundamentalism) by an appeal to the “Protestant principle.”

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The “Protestant principle” as understood by Kegley is not only the duty to examine and correct oneself in the light of the biblical demands; it is also the right to examine and correct the Scriptures according to the intellectual demands of the age.

Doubtless the scientific knowledge of the modern world is far advanced beyond that of the biblical writers. The related but quite distinct question, however—whether the biblical writers did or did not make assertions about science per se—is open for discussion. But the question (which Kegley answers in the affirmative) whether what the Bible teaches about angels falls in the area in which modern man may pass judgment in the name of science is another matter.

Kegley recognizes the basic problem about Scripture raised by his understanding of the “Protestant principle” when in his last chapter he asks how any man can stand over Scripture as both “judge and jury.” His only defense of the right to reject the existence of angels in our world and to reject the nature and psychology of man as reported in the Bible, and of the right to look to extra-biblical sources for truth in these areas, is that Protestant Christianity is a “mature” religion, calling for a mind that is “open” and yet “deeply committed.”

Since the Bible leaves the realm of scientific discovery open to free human investigation, it is indeed a mark of maturity to give science, including its actual achievements, the freedom it needs. But it is quite another matter to give the modern man of any age the right, over against biblical claims, to decide whether the Bible’s teaching about man and his history is truth to be accepted, or historically conditioned untruth to be rejected.

If the Bible witnesses to what God has done in the historical Jesus of Nazareth, then what history is, and what man was, is and can become in history, is not amenable to an open mind, a growing maturity, or a continuing revelation of God’s purposes for man. The biblical view of history, determined by what God has done for man in history through Jesus Christ, determines all subsequent history; therefore no consequent view of man and history may be a standard by which “modern” man may be both judge and jury of the biblical teaching.

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The greatest significance of Kegley’s book lies in its demonstrated inability to make its widely held view of the “Protestant principle” intellectually defensible and internally self-consistent. On this level, Kegley’s book is of considerable value. And for its value at this level, I heartily recommend it.


Time For A Hard Question

Church Cooperation: Dead-end Street or Highway to Unity?, by Forrest L. Knapp (Doubleday, 1966, 249 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Horace L. Fenton, Jr., general director, Latin America Mission, Bogota, New Jersey.

As one who believes that “unity is God’s gift already given, but its visibility is obscured” (p. 9), Dr. Knapp, general secretary of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, has devoted his life to encouraging cooperation among churches. Now, at the present stage of the ecumenical movement, he feels that it is time to ask the hard question that is the title of his book.

And the answer, he admits, is not easy to come by. He is convinced that, important as is spiritual unity, it is not enough. Indeed, he will be satisfied with nothing less than organizational unity; and he longs to see this brought to pass, not only among Protestant and Orthodox groups but with Rome itself. Yet he sees the ever-present danger that the various forms of cooperation among the churches will become destinations in themselves, instead of half-way houses on the road to the unity he pleads for.

Dr. Knapp is concerned, therefore, to examine the basis for such cooperation as now exists, the possibility that the churches may accept such cooperation as their ultimate goal instead of pressing on to organizational unity, and the steps that must be taken if that unity is to be achieved.

To the author’s credit, it must be said that he is not blind to the roadblocks that stand in the way of the goal he envisages. Nor is he a “unity-at-any-price” man, ready like so many others to forget completely the importance of a doctrinal basis for unity. He does not want the Church’s social activities divorced from the Gospel of salvation; such a divorce, he says, does a disservice to the Gospel (p. 179). He admits that even so limited a theological basis as that which appears in the constitutions of councils of churches is too often “printed and left in the inactive file” (p. 211). And he insists that in our search for unity “we ought not to compromise with the truth” (p. 71).

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But having said all this, and unquestionably having meant it, the author is still so concerned about promoting the mergers of churches that he seems to see no place where doctrinal deviations become a practical problem. He has apparently turned against the training he received in childhood—“a concept of salvation as being a ransom paid by Christ to purchase our individual freedom from sin or from the devil, and with eternal bliss as the reward” (p. 90). And he is convinced that “if, for example, the banner of ‘pure doctrine’ is again unfurled as a battle cry by those who claim that their own doctrine is whole and pure, the resulting confusion and acrimony will stifle the will to unity” (p. 79).

Indeed, Dr. Knapp seems to minimize doctrinal statements as a basis for unity. He states that there is “a wide difference among churches in their emphasis upon the importance of articulating their theological conceptions in terms of creeds or other forms of statements,” and then says that the “crucial test is not oral acceptance of verbal declarations, or belief or disbelief in the miraculous, but the quality and completeness of living response to the impulses of God’s love and wisdom which come from the Holy Spirit into a community whose heart is open to receive them” (p. 122). The reader can hardly avoid the impression that something exceedingly vague and amorphous is here preferred to any kind of solid doctrinal basis for unity.

So great is the author’s passion for church merger that he expresses the hope that councils of churches will promote and guide concrete steps toward specific unions of churches. He admits that this is heresy in ecumenical circles, and that it has been specifically repudiated by the World Council of Churches (p. 233). One might wish that he—and we—showed an equally strong passion for the purity of the Church, and for the worldwide proclamation of the faith once delivered.


You’Ll Have To Read It

Radical Theology and the Death of God, by Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton (Bobbs-Merrill, 1966, 202 pp., $5), is reviewed by Addison H. Leitch, assistant to the president and professor of philosophy and religion, Tarkio College, Tarkio, Missouri.

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This is a timely book, at least from the standpoint of the publishers and the authors. Along with Honest to God and For Christ’s Sake we now have another vivid title; and, as it is presented on the brilliant red cover, what stands out is “The Death of God.” Publishers and writers are cashing in, so to speak, on the excitement generated by the “death of God” controversy, and one suspects that what we have in this book is a collection of essays by Hamilton and Altizer that were written for various publications over the last few years and are now gathered together to catch the popular market.

This is not to say that these articles are in any way popular. It is hard to believe that anyone with a less specialized education than that of a seminary professor or a professor of philosophy could possibly absorb this book. In many ways it is “far out.” Unless the reader is really conversant with Kierkegaard, Dostoevski, Nietzsche, Barth, Tillich, Niebuhr, and Bonhoeffer, he must do his background reading first before he can imagine himself ready to pass any kind of critical judgment on these essays.

The cartoon line “Nietzsche is dead. Signed, God” is not relevant in this book, for here Nietzsche is very much alive again, along with pantheism, mysticism, and variations of Hinduism and Buddhism. If God is both immanent and transcendent, this book is an attempt to bow out his transcendency.

These writers believe that the death of God is not a matter merely of symbolism or semantics. One quotation will suffice:

This means that we shall understand the death of God as an historical event: God has died in our time, in our history, in our existence. The man who chooses to live in our destiny can neither know the reality of God’s presence nor understand the world as his creation; or, at least, he can no longer respond—either interiorly or cognitively—to the classical Christian images of the Creator and the creation. In this situation, an affirmation of the traditional forms of faith becomes a Gnostic escape from the brute realities of history [p. 95].


Protestant Hus?

John Hus’ Concept of the Church, by Matthew Spinka (Princeton, 1966, 432 pp., $12), is reviewed by Jerome Louis Ficek, associate professor of church history, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

In the Czech evangelical tradition in which the reviewer was reared, no human figure outside Scripture was more highly regarded than John Hus—national hero, biblical preacher, reformer, martyr, champion of religious freedom. As it has been observed that the amazing thing about the Jews is that they have refrained from elevating Moses to the rank of deity, so it is astonishing also that Czech Protestants have been able to exercise restraint in not raising Hus to sainthood.

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The author sees Hus in some ways as a creature of his time, in the great conciliarist tradition of the late medieval church, holding to Mary’s resurrection and ascension, saints, purgatory and the customary relief of souls therein, transubstantiation, penance, and good works as necessary for salvation. But he also sees him as a reformer, anticipating such principles as the private interpretation of the Bible, the priesthood of the believer, the duty to follow one’s conscience, and the authority of Scripture.

Central to Hus’s teaching at the University of Prague and his preaching in the Bethlehem Chapel was the doctrine of the Church, which he understood to consist of the predestined alone, rather than of all baptized believers. Thus no one is a member of it ex officio. All members of the church militant (Roman, Eastern Orthodox, Monophysite, Nestorian, and the like) have the Spirit of Christ and therefore form the one true, invisible Church. This forward-looking concept of the Church was truly ecumenical in perspective.

The author carefully shows that Hus’s enemies created a false picture of him as a thorough-going Wycliffite in order that the Council of Constance (to which he had been granted safe conduct) might condemn him and have him put to death. Scholars today, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, are convinced that Hus did not hold the Wycliffe views ascribed to him and that time has vindicated him. Many of the reforms he advocated have been adopted by the Roman Catholic Church. As Luther was through the efforts of Lortz, John Hus has been exonerated.

Because it makes him more Roman Catholic than was once assumed, this rediscovery of the Czech reformer is proving to be embarrassing to Protestants. His emphasis on Scripture was rigorous, but he admitted tradition as a source of doctrine provided it was consonant with Scripture. Although he regarded Scripture as the norm and criterion of all doctrine, he did not teach the sola scriptura view of the Reformers. He did not say that the Church is to tolerate nothing not found in Scripture; rather, it is to tolerate nothing contrary to Scripture. The resurrection and ascension of the Virgin Mary he accepted on the basis of tradition. The same was true of saints, purgatory, penance, and the like.

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Professor Spinka further develops his refutation of Loserth’s argument that the Bohemian reformer was slavishly dependent upon Wycliffe—first advanced in his earlier work, John Hus and Czech Reform (University of Chicago Press, 1941). He makes use of the research of the French Benedictine Paul de Vooght, which agrees with his own. At first Hus held only to Wycliffe’s philosophical views, especially Realism; but when he became acquainted with the latter’s theological writings he was more discriminating, accepting much but rejecting remanence and antipapalism.

Appended to the volume are Wycliffe’s Forty Five Articles, condemned on July 10, 1412, and the Thirty Final Articles with Hus’s Responses. An extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources contains references to all the important Czech and Latin studies.

This volume which places Hus in the context of his period in history is a major contribution to historical scholarship. Most of the research has been done in languages not generally known by English-speaking historians. Because of this work, many cherished notions of long duration will need to be abandoned. But as the author says, Hus, who ever insisted that “Truth conquers all,” would not want to enjoy a reputation based upon less than strictly historical grounds.


After The Long Walk

Those Who Came Forward, by Curtis Mitchell (Chilton Books, 1966, 281 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by F. Carlton Booth, professor of evangelism, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

The crusade is over—where are the converts? Will they stick? Will they mature and stand fast in the faith? Have their lives really been changed?

These questions, when posed in ridicule by the cynics, are a biting criticism of crusade evangelism. Yet it is wholly in order to inquire what those people who have professed conversion under Billy Graham’s ministry have done with their lives since. This carefully documented book is the first of its kind to help provide an answer. It is divided into three sections: (1) A discussion of why they came forward; (2) testimonies of more than twenty people who tell in their own words what happened when they came forward and what has happened since; and (3) excerpts from scores of letters that in themselves provide at least a partial answer to the question, “Do crusade converts last?”

In these pages one meets people from London to Los Angeles and from Washington to Winnipeg who declare that what they did was far more than to walk a long aisle in response to Billy Graham’s familiar words, “This is your moment with God. Just get up out of your seat and come. You need Christ, you come.” In doing research for this book, Curtis Mitchell, who also wrote God in the Garden, not only had access to the files of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association but also talked personally with hundreds of the converts and crusade workers. Here is reading to warm the heart.

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Moral Boomerang

The Corrupted Land: The Social Morality of Modern America, by Fred J. Cook (Macmillan, 1966, 352 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Arthur E. Holmes, director, Department of Philosophy, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

The last ten years have brought to light one sickening scandal after another in business, government, education, entertainment—indeed, virtually every stream of American life. In this volume a New York journalist presents a tragic commentary on the morality of our times, providing documentation about price-fixing, call girls, rigged quiz shows, student cheating, Billie Sol Estes, Bobby Baker, and much more. This is the reductio ad absurdum of an ethic that regards anything as right as long as you can get away with it.

The author presents this as evidence for his thesis that the moral crisis results from the attempt to apply eighteenth-century ideals of rugged individualism, free enterprise, and laissez-faire to our society. These ideals are anachronistic in the age of cybernation; they are myths with which we can no longer face the realities and power structures of society, economy, and government. Cook argues for the administration of prices and production, and the development of technology, for the common good rather than the feeding of private greed. This he sees as a more realistic approach to the preservation of individual liberty and human dignity along with the freedom of business enterprise as against corporation or government dictatorship.

The author is undoubtedly right in saying that much corruption is encouraged by existing social and economic structures, and in particular by the profit motive. Capitalism does not redeem man from sin, and our present institutions can hardly be held up as moral triumphs. He is to be commended for focusing attention on the ethical impact of cybernation and social technology; the Christian Church has too long ignored questions raised by Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited and Whyte’s Organization Man and Cox’s Secular City. Yet the author’s socio-economic determinism, his belief that moral corruption is both caused and cured by environmental conditions, is naïvely unrealistic. While the biblical prophet shows no tendency to perpetuate the status quo and is vehement against graft, greed, the perversion of justice, and the abuse of power, yet he does realize that economic reform and social justice go hand in hand with personal redemption. But Cook’s handwriting is still on the wall: the moral collapse of a civilization presages its decline and fall.

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Book Briefs

The Secularization of Christianity: An Analysis and a Critique, by E. L. Mascall (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966, 286 pp., $6). In all likelihood the most brilliant critique to date of the Robinson—Ogden—Van Buren secularized school of Christianity.

Index to Periodical Literature on Christ and the Gospels, by Bruce M. Metzger (E. J. Brill, 1966, 603 pp., 50 guilders).

Peace and Modern War in the Judgment of the Church, by Karl Hormann (Newman, 1966, 162 pp., $3.50). Discusses the question whether a war can be morally justified in modern times.

Concilium, Volume 14: Do We Know the Others?, edited by Hans Küng (Paulist, 1966, 180 pp., $4.50). Roman Catholics seek to learn to know “the others,” namely Protestants, Anglicans, and Orthodox.

The Grace of Law: A Study of Puritan Theology, by Ernest F. Kevan (Baker, 1965, 294 pp., $4.95). Substantial study and critical assessment of Puritan theology in the light of recent studies.

Discourse on Thinking, by Martin Heidegger (Harper & Row, 1966, pp., 93 pp., $3.50).

Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, translated and edited by Quincy Howe, Jr. (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966, 234 pp., $6). Sermons selected as representative of St. Augustine’s thought.

God’s Church, by Devere Ramsay (Eerdmans, 1966, 48 pp., $1.95). Excellent for children.

I Think of Jesus, by H. Brokering (Eerdmans, 1966, 87 pp., $3.50). Devotional poetry that sees Jesus in trees and stones.

Evil and the God of Love, by John Hick (Harper & Row, 1966, 404 pp., $6.95). The author rejects the Augustine-Anselm-Reformed “solution” as seen in the Fall of man and argues instead for the Irenaeus-Schleiermacher view that a world of suffering and misery is an appropriate environment for a man in the evolving process of spiritual maturity.

In the Footsteps of Martin Luther, by M.A. Kleeberg and Gerhard Lemme (Concordia, 1966, 224 pp., $3.95). A concise biographical sketch of Luther with many photographs illustrating the geographical and social setting of the Reformation.

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The Missionary Wife and Her Work, by Joy Turner Tuggy (Moody, 1966, 191 pp., $3.50). By a missionary-mother.

Let the Children Paint: Art in Religious Education, by Kathryn S. Wright (Seabury, 1966, 168 pp., $4.50).

Abortion, by Lawrence Lader (Bobbs-Merrill, 1966, 212 pp., $5.95). Described as “the first authoritative and documented report on the laws and practices governing abortion in the United States and around the world, and how—for the sake of women everywhere—they can and must be reformed.”

Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries; The Acts of the Apostles, Volume II: 14–28, translated by John W. Fraser, edited by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance (Eerdmans, 1966, 329 pp., $6). The prince of exegetes in excellent English.

The Social Gospel in America, 1870–1920, edited by Robert T. Handy (Oxford, 1966, 399 pp., $7). The story of the rise and decline of the social gospel in America—as reflected in three of its proponents.

Jesus Christus Wende der Welt: Grund-fragen zur Christologie, by Friedrich Gogarten (J. C. B. Mohr, 1966, 255 pp., DM 26.-). A study in Christology for the serious student.

The Formation of Historical Theology: A Study of Ferdinand Christian Baur, by Peter C. Hodgson (Harper & Row, 1966, 299 pp., $5.50).


The Divine Command: A New Perspective on Law and Gospel, by Paul Althaus (Fortress, 1966, 50 pp., $.85). A discussion that will provoke thought and critical assessment.

The Protestant Reformation, edited by Lewis W. Spitz (Prentice-Hall, 1966, 178 pp., $1.95). A spiritual biography of the sixteenth century drawn from the letters, treatises, and public confessions of its leading figures. With a good introduction.

Approaches to Reformation of the Church, by D. W. Marshall, et al. (The Evangelical Magazine, 1966, 72 pp., 4s.). A discussion of the various approaches taken in the post-Reformation era to the task of reforming the Church.

Theologians of Our Time, edited by A. W. Hastings and E. Hastings (T. and T. Clark, 1966, 224 pp., 16s.). Short essays on theologians who have contributed to contemporary thought.

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