Heroic Colonial Christians, edited by Russell T. Hitt (Lippincott, 1966, 255 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by C. Gregg Singer, chairman, Department of History, Catawba College, Salisbury, North Carolina.
This book, dealing with Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent, David Brainerd, and John Witherspoon, is delightfully different from most books that try to relate the colonial period and evangelical Christianity. Jonathan Edwards is the only one of these four who generally gets any attention from the secular historian. Tennent, Brainerd, and Witherspoon are for the most part still treated with indifference.
Courtney Anderson, author of a biography of Adoniram Judson, presents a fascinating picture of the life of Jonathan Edwards and offers fresh insights into this brilliant colonial mind. He pays unusual attention to the ancestry and early training of Edwards, which makes his later career more interesting and understandable. Anderson places Edwards within the religious life of New England during the eighteenth century and makes him a part of his times. While the basic greatness of Edwards appears in bold relief, Anderson also portrays his human failings, particularly his inability to understand people. The treatment of Edwards as a philosopher and theologian is necessarily brief in a volume of this kind; however, the theological and philosophical influences that helped him form his own interpretation of Calvinism for the colonial mind are well presented.
In his chapter on Gilbert Tennent, Russell Hitt brings to life a neglected figure in colonial Presbyterianism and shows his role in the Great Awakening. In so doing, he unfortunately fails to present the real nature of the split between the Old Light and the New Light schools within Presbyterianism. He gives the impression that the Old Light party was at fault, even though he does admit that Gilbert Tennent was at the very heart of the controversy. Perhaps the best part of this chapter is that which deals with the Log Cabin College and its influence on American Presbyterianism.
Clyde Kilby treats David Brainerd with literary skill and great fidelity to the available sources on his life. The Brainerd who emerges is not the one so often presented in evangelical literature as the missionary to the Indians. Kilby does not detract from his greatness, but he also presents the Brainerd who failed to understand and appreciate the Indians with whom he was dealing and to whom he was preaching the Gospel. Kilby is at his best when he analyzes Brainerd’s lack of appreciation of nature as God’s creation in contrast to the deep appreciation that marked Jonathan Edwards.
Henry Coray fails to present John Witherspoon as the first three writers presented Edwards, Tennent, and Brainerd. He treats him much more as a patriot than as a powerful figure in American Presbyterian history. The activities of the Continental Congress are given undue space compared to that given the theological influence of Witherspoon. Coray also seems to feel the need for denying that Witherspoon was in bad company by denying that Franklin and Jefferson were deists. Their espousal of deism is too well attested to be easily set aside.
It might be well if the four writers could come to an agreement on the date for the founding of the College of New Jersey. But this is a minor matter, and on the whole the book is fascinating. I recommend it highly as a very readable presentation of four leaders of the eighteenth-century Great Revival, and thus as an aid in understanding that revival.
C. GREGG SINGER
Raading for Perspective
CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S REVIEW EDITORS CALL ATTENTION TO THESE NEW TITLES:
• Not Me, God, by Sherwood Eliot Wirt (Harper & Row, $2.95). Imaginary conversations between a Contemporary man and God that explode man’s pretensions and exhibit God’s grace in a penetrating way.
• The Biblical World: A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer (Baker, $8.95). An informative glimpse of the geography, history, literature, religion, and art of the lands of the eastern Mediterranean and Fertile Crescent in light of archaeological discoveries.
• Help! I’m a Layman, by Kenneth Chafin (Word, $3.50). The occupant of the Billy Graham Chair of Evangelism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary offers encouragement and spiritual strength to new Christians.
Von Rad Rides Again
The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays, by Gerhard von Rad, translated by E. W. Trueman Dicken (McGraw-Hill, 1966, 340 pp., $9.50), is reviewed by Harvey E. Finley, professor of Old Testament, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.
“The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch,” published originally in 1938, is the main article in this book. When the various articles were considered for a collection at the instance of Professor H. W. Wolff, there was an attempt to revise this and some of the others. However, it was found to be impractical. Von Rad in the foreword therefore begs the reader “exercise a certain historical discretion in making use of the present volume and to bear in mind the state of our knowledge when each particular essay was written” (p. v).
The article on the Hexateuch is the one in which von Rad presented his famous thesis that the Hexateuch is the elaboration of a brief, historical creed found in Deuteronomy 26. In studying the form of this creed, von Rad noticed that it was used in different situations, and thus he was led into the literary history of this ever-expanding creed. He observes that a number of separate traditions (such as the Settlement tradition, the Sinai tradition, the Exodus tradition, and the patriarchal history), were developed into literature around certain themes by a Yahwist, perhaps of the time of Solomon. Further, he contends that the Yahwist used the Settlement tradition as his framework and fused a great amount of agglomerate material into it to produce a single whole. Thus von Rad presents a case for a long, complicated history of the hexateuch.
The term “hexateuch” has always been open to debate. Form critics tend to abandon it and to speak of a Deuteronomic History presumably consisting of Deuteronomy through Second Kings, excluding the Book of Ruth. This among other reasons is perhaps why von Rad advises the reader to use Noth’s Überlieferungsgeschichte des Pentateuchs along with his article.
Other questions may be raised about von Rad’s reconstruction of the literary history of the biblical materials with which he deals. For example, one may well question the nihilistic attitude toward Moses, of whom very little mention is made. In speaking of a Yahwist von Rad apparently reflects the need to refer to a great religious personality, one who contributed significantly to the “theology” and to the literature of ancient Israel. The question arises, then: Why downgrade and almost overlook the most obvious person, the great biblical personality Moses? The implied answer is that the Bible cannot be taken for what it is but rather must have a modern viewpoint imposed upon it. This inclines the reviewer to question both the methodology of and the presuppositions behind such literary analysis.
The other fifteen articles making up this volume were published in European periodicals between 1933 and 1964. All except “Some Aspects of the Old Testament World-View” were published as a collection, Gesammelte Studien zum Alten Testament (Munich: Kaiser Verlag, 1958). It can only be pointed out here that each article as a separate study is distinctive for a particular von Rad viewpoint, at times differing from that of other Old Testament scholars.
These essays should be of special interest to those who teach and study the Old Testament in depth. It will inform them about a methodology that has been given increased attention in recent times.
HARVEY E. FINLEY
We Four And No More
The World of Mission, by Bengt Sundkler, translated by Eric J. Sharpe (Eerdmans, 1965, 318 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by H. Wilbert Norton, Sr., professor of missions and church history, Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.
From three sides: theological, historical, and ecological, the former bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, now professor of church history and missions at Uppsala University in Sweden, examines “… the milieu in which the Church has to live, and the interchange between Church and milieu.”
Sundkler’s theology of mission is an apologetic for ecumenical universalism. Initiated by the election of Abraham, “salvation history” progresses to Israel and reduces itself to Judah through the Remnant to “the Solitary,” Daniel’s “a son of man,” and Isaiah’s “suffering servant” (p. 13).
“This Solitary was chosen to represent mankind on the Cross—to save the nation; to save the nations; to save all men” (p. 13). The Cross introduces “a progressive expansion … to the apostles … to the early missionary Church … to the new people of God … to the company of the redeemed of mankind in the Kingdom of God …” (pp. 13–17). According to Sundkler, the Christian faith claims that the elective line of Abraham and the universalistic line of Noah meet at the Cross, thereby undergirding “the universalism of the New Testament.”
The message of the Church is that Christ is King. Cullmann’s concentric-circle concept of the Lordship of Christ over the Church and the world leads to the insistence that social responsibility, “developing the political and social resources of the Asian countries, is the response of obedience to the Lordship of Christ” (pp. 43, 44).
Sundkler’s ecumenical and universalistic theology, which breaks completely with the historic apostolic and Reformation emphasis on sin, regeneration, and personal faith in a personal Lord and Saviour, deliberately excludes the historic evangelical approach to the great religions of the world. Categorically he includes “only four … the Catholic, Lutheran, Liberal and Barthian solutions” (p. 47). Consequently he later scores the “energetic proselytism” of “certain fundamentalistic groups” (p. 303).
Apart from his positive reference to Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission, Sundkler appears to be totally oblivious to the coordinated efforts of contemporary evangelical (fundamental) efforts of the member missions of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association and its almost fifty-year-old counterpart, the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association. An ecumenist, Sundkler leaves but little room for the non-ecumenist!
Sundkler’s Swedish accent is refreshing in the midst of the many English, German, and Dutch voices to speak on missions in recent years. He refers several times to Swedish missionary involvement, a long overdue mention. However, the Swedish bishop breaks with his own tradition in failing to recognize the priority and centrality of the Scriptures in the contemporary missionary task.
In his consideration of Church and milieu, Sundkler suggests that sacramental Christianity in dialogue with Islam can appeal to the theocentricity of the Muslims more meaningfully than can Christian moralism (p. 233). Baptizing the Indian religious language will provide a new approach to the Hindu (p. 265). Buddhist study centers carry hopes of better understanding of religious language and its use, as shown in the meaning of the Logos and the Tao (p. 289).
A ten-page index is very helpful. There is, however, no bibliography, and documentation is very limited.
H. WILBERT NORTON, SR.
When Counselors Talk Too Much
The Meaning of Pastoral Care, by Carroll A. Wise (Harper & Row, 1966, 144 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Gene Griessman, pastor, Foster Road Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Carroll A. Wise’s most recent work is not a “how to do it” handbook for fledgling counselors. Those who purchase it for this purpose will be disappointed. The book is basically what its title suggests—a setting forth of the meaning, or philosophy, of pastoral care.
Pastoral care, however, has a variety of meanings. A few writers, the most prominent of which are Eduard Thurneysen (A Theology of Pastoral Care) and Frederick Reeves (Theology and the Cure of Souls). have advanced the idea that pastoral care should include theological “conversation.” That is, the pastor should speak as well as listen. Their approach is in direct contrast to the one developed by Dr. Wise, who defines pastoral care as “the art of communicating the inner meaning of the Gospel to persons at the point of their need” (p. 9). Its function is to help persons live out a “personal existence in a genuine relationship of trust and love.”
The author stresses the importance of “relationships,” however, without explicitly stating what a “relationship” is. Verbal formulations and relationships tend to be presented as polar opposites. The reader sometimes gets the impression that words are intrinsically harmful.
Wise asserts that the “Christian faith has not produced a workable theory of personal growth” (p. 86). Then he devotes twenty-nine uncritical pages to a presentation of the theories of Erik Erikson, a neo-Freudian clinician.
The author maintains that Christians should endeavor to be open and transparent to all. Yet he fails to warn that indiscriminate self-disclosures are often damaging to mental health.
Nevertheless, the treatment of the subject is systematic. The need for a personal experience with Christ is emphasized. Hazards to be avoided by the pastor are enumerated, including: (1) talking too much and listening too little, and (2) proceeding from the role of representative of God to the fantasy of playing God. The author also deals with the crucial question of the relation between personality and culture.
The surprise of the book is the last chapter, “The Making of a Pastor.” In it the author pinpoints a flaw in contemporary theological training: the creation of an atmosphere wherein students identify with scholars but not with pastors. Dr. Wise, himself a professor (at Garrett Biblical Institute), offers suggestions for remedying the deficiency. This chapter, though certain to stir controversy, is worthy of consideration by all interested in theological education.
Conversations With God
Not Me, God, by Sherwood Eliot Wirt (Harper & Row, 1966, 94 pp., $2.95), is reviewed by Robert L. Cleath, editorial assistant,CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
To capture the spirit and words of a man conversing with God in his innermost being is an elusive task for any writer. Sherwood Wirt has succeeded remarkably in doing this, however, in this little gem of a book that depicts the give-and-take of a man with his Maker.
Not Me, God is the kind of book that may creep up on the reader. As Wirt imaginatively relates in simple dialogue the doubts, anxieties, pride, and spiritual hunger of a thoroughly modern man who first unsuspectingly makes contact with God while shaving, the reader may before he knows it find himself looking into the mirror of his own spiritual experience.
The problems that emerge in forty-six conversational episodes are those found universally in the developing relationship of a man with God. Wirt’s conversations touch upon such topics as God’s desire and ability to communicate with man, man’s status as a sinner, the meaning of the Cross, grace, prayer, the relationship of the spiritual and material, envy, lust, pride, weariness, false and true piety, the Bible as spiritual food, Christian witnessing and service, and God’s resources for the believer.
Such a list, however, does not begin to convey the full contribution of the book. Its value lies in the writer’s incisive ability to cut away the complexities that often surround such topics and lay bare crucial matters that pertain to a man’s personal experience with God and his fellow man. While the dialogues do not penetrate in the same way as the reverse-English thrusts in the letters of C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape to Wormwood, they are nevertheless incisive and authentic. The words Wirt places in God’s mouth have a startling simplicity reminiscent of Jesus’ speech in the Gospels. The uninhibited verbalizations of Wirt’s man have the ring of one’s own remarks to God in private.
In relating the six-month spiritual pilgrimage that proceeds from doubt and doom to Christian conversion and sets the man on the road to spiritual maturity, Wirt is disarmingly honest in conveying the attitudes of both God and man. God is shown to be one to whom religion does not appeal, who seeks to make men normal and “more ordinary than ordinary,” who works tirelessly behind the scenes, who sweats out a man’s difficulties at his side, who delights in hearing his sons say they love him, who comes to man and reveals himself according to his own good pleasure.
The man first considers the inner voice of God to be a hallucination. After his conversion and the early months of his new life, when God has brought into his life three men seeking spiritual counsel, he unboastingly exclaims: “Me, the space guide to celestial regions—when it’s all I can do to put the honest change in the slot of a newspaper rack.” Wirt has the ability to make real the presence of God in the life of a man who experiences varying moods and circumstances. The reader is caught by the ever deepening qualities of this relationship with God and feels a surge of excitement as he reads the last episode: a glimpse of God’s glory found in Psalm 19.
Not Me, God was written by Wirt at odd moments over a ten-year period. Its simplicity, honesty, and vitality make one desire to meet its author. But more important, it motivates the reader to enter into an intimate personal relationship with God.
ROBERT L. CLEATH
Nature, History, and Existentialism, by Karl Löwith, edited by Arnold Levison (Northwestern University, 1966, 220 pp., $8.50). A series of essays contemplating the meaning of human existence within nature and history as known today. For the serious student only.
Fulfillment in Marriage, by Joseph B. Henry (Revell, 1966, 160 pp., $3.95). Much good sense about sex and marriage.
The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence, by Abraham Joshua Heschel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1966, 306, pp., $5.95). Twenty philosophical essays on the perplexities of our humanity in modern society; by an erudite Jew of high morality.
The American Male, by Myron Brenton (Coward-McCann, 1966, 252 pp., $5.95). A lot of psychological sense about sex in an age in which “true gusto for sex” is “tragically absent.”
The Word That Can Never Die, by Olav Valen-Sendstad, translated by Norman A. Madson, Sr., and Ahlert H. Strand (Concordia, 1966, 164 pp., $3.95). A basic, evangelical Lutheran analysis of theological trends; suffers from the fact that this first 1966 English translation is of a 1949 book.
Footloose Scientist in Mayan America, by Sister Mary Corde Lorang (Scribners, 1966, 308 pp., $6.95).
The Cambridge Medieval History, Volume IV: The Byzantine Empire, Part I: Byzantium and Its Neighbors, edited by J. M. Hussey (Cambridge, 1966, 1,168 pp., $25). Fresh material on the history of Byzantium between 717 and 1453 and of its neighbors: the Muslims, the Slavs, the Hungarians, and the Latins of the Aegean.
The Vespasian Psalter, edited by Sherman M. Kuhn (University of Michigan, 1965, 327 pp., $12.50). This title is the designation by which this British Museum manuscript is known to many scholars. The manuscript is significant for many areas of research. It contains the English interlinear translation of the Psalter and is the most extensive text of the Mercian dialect that has survived to modern times.
No Other Name, by R. Leonard Small (T. and T. Clark, 1966, 182 pp., 21s.), Extraordinarily good sermons.
From Hell to Paradise: Dante and His Comedy, by Olof Lagercrantz, translated by Alan Blair (Washington Square, 1966, 219 pp., $4.95). The author in simple style escorts the reader through the symbols and beauty of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
The Christian and the John Birch Society, by Lester DeKoster (Eerdmans, 1966, 46 pp., $.75). An informed and persuasive critique of the perversion and abuse of Christianity as it appears in the Blue Book of the John Birch Society.
Flannery O’Connor: A Critical Essay, by Robert Drake (Eerdmans, 1966, 48 pp., $.85).
Sermons and Meditations by the Rev. James A. Tallach (Ross-shire Printing and Publishing, 1962, 110 pp., $1). Sermons and meditations by the late author, offered by his wife.
Vatican II: Renewal or Reform?, by James G. Manz (Concordia, 1966, 142 pp., $1.95). A sane, fruitful contribution to Roman Catholic dialogue by a Lutheran.
Alter Orient und Altes Testament: Probleme und ihre Lösungen Aufklärung und Erläuterung, by K. A. Kitchen (R. Brockhaus Verlag, 1965, 117 pp., DM7.20). Two lectures that throw the light of Ancient Eastern research on Old Testament problems.
The Shaping of Protestant Education, by William Bean Kennedy (Association, 1966, 93 pp., $2.50).
Apostle to the Illiterates: Chapters in the Life of Frank C. Laubach, by David E. Mason (Zondervan, 1966, 92 pp., $.69). A short portrait of the work and spiritual life of a remarkable man who is still vigorously enlarging the portrait at the age of eighty-two.
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