A major publication project enlisting 500 scholars inevitably holds importance for the academic world. When it takes the form of The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Paul Edwards, editor; Macmillan, 1967, eight volumes, 4,300 pp., $219.50), its bearing on religious concerns is apparent. And a five-million-word work spanning the history of philosophy and dealing with its major themes in the context of contemporary concern is sure to carry weight among college and university students.

The publishers claim that this is the most comprehensive philosophical reference work published in any language. Although the project is rather modest when compared to the broader Hastings’ Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (1908), its full presentation of philosophical concepts and theories marks a noteworthy advance over the brief definitions and essays characteristic of Baldwin’s Dictionary of Psychology and Philosophy (1901). It includes 900 articles on individual thinkers, and many contemporary names and themes appear. Some essays run the length of short books. Plato and Bertrand Russell each get more than 20,000 words, and an article on psychology runs 25,000 words. The 35,000-word entry on the history of semantics discusses linguistic theories with an eye on the current debate. A 65,000-word article on “Logic, History of” combines the efforts of a dozen writers.

Although the Christian religion is anchored in special revelation, it does not—at least in evangelical circles—assert a “ghetto” epistemology; rather, it presses a truth-claim upon all men. And what respected philosophers say, on the other hand, influences the philosophy of religion and leaves a mark upon theological discussion. What, then, does this new effort promise for the dialogue between theologians and philosophers?

A reviewer could hardly be expected to read all 1,450 articles before venturing a judgment on the work. He must be content with fair sampling, from within the special interests of his field. In our case, an appraisal must concentrate on the overall stance of the essays toward religious realities, and in particular toward the historic Christian faith.

At very least, the encyclopedia makes accessible a great deal of useful material about the currents of recent philosophy, and its biographical listings are often of considerable help. Not only the essays on our century’s philosophers but also those on its theologians, including Barth, Brunner, Bultmann, and Niebuhr, tend to run longer than those in Encyclopaedia Britannica and are worthy entries.

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But how acceptable are the essays on the Christian religion and its bearing on philosophical concerns? The essay on “Christianity” by John Hick notes that the body of Christian doctrine differs from philosophical systems by “its essential relation to and dependence on particular historical events and experiences” (2/105). “Christianity … begins with particular, nonrecurrent historical events that are regarded as revelatory and on the basis of which Christian faith makes certain limited statements about the ultimate nature and structure of reality.” Although the facts of faith that are said to define mainstream Christianity leave in doubt an ontological Trinity, the historical fall of Adam, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and a final judgment of mankind, the essay itemizes the following minimal postulates: “the reality of God and the propriety of speaking to him in a threefold manner …; the divine creation of the universe; human sinfulness; divine incarnation in the person of Jesus, the Christ; his reconciliation of man to God; his founding of the Christian church and the continuing operation of his Spirit within it; and an eventual end to human history and the fulfillment of God’s purpose for his creation.” The origin of the Christian Church is traced to the resurrection-faith more than to the resurrection-fact, heaven is translated existentially, and universal salvation regarded as a possibility. Hick sunders Christian belief into two levels, a primal level consisting of direct reports of experience and a secondary level consisting of theological interpretation—an approach that dismisses the biblical interpretation of events as supernaturally given. The unique biblical events are “seen by faith as revelatory of God.” The essay on “Revelation” (7/189), also by Hick, concedes that the view of propositional divine revelation was virtually axiomatic a century ago and still remains the majority position. But it is uncritically asserted to be a post-biblical view, and a commitment to natural theology is held to be integral to it. The view of revelation promulgated by twentieth-century neo-Protestant theologians is said to be non-propositional.

Whatever disappointment evangelical scholars will feel at this overview will be moderated, however, by the recognition that in the context of the encyclopedia as a whole, the Christian view might have been set forth by a radical critic. For one will not find here adequate representation of contemporary scholars who champion historic Christianity with philosophical competence. The Amsterdam scholar H. Dooyeweerd gets a passing name-mention, though the essay on Dutch philosophy concedes that only the Calvinist “philosophy of the idea of Law” has remained immune to the phenomenological and existential dominance of philosophical fortunes in the Netherlands. C. S. Lewis is mentioned in an essay on immortality and a tangential reference in an essay on religion and science. Evangelical scholars like Gordon H. Clark, Alvin Plantinga, W. Harry Jellema, Cornelius Van Til, and Edward John Carnell, who have been engaged at the frontiers of theological-philosophical debate, are wholly ignored.

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This leads on to the question of objectivity in the handling of faith-and-reason concerns. Any encyclopedia will reflect largely the dominant view of its times, and in many parts of the American academic world today the climate of thought is either overtly or implicitly naturalistic. The problems that contemporary postulations raise for traditional views will, therefore, find prominent expression. But the neglect of alternative perspectives, and the setting of Christian positions almost exclusively in the context of modern criticism, will give a propagandistic character to a reference work. This encyclopedia is not free from such a bias.

The editor, Paul Edwards, concedes that the project reflects somewhat the editorial decisions of one raised in the Anglo-Saxon empirical and analytical tradition; that is a rather mild acknowledgment. Major essays (“Atheism,” “Life, Meaning and Value of,” “My Death,” and “Why?”) are from Edwards’s perspective, and there is a running concern to overcome any notion that atheists are moral outlaws (1/175, 7/156). It is amusing to find Edwards wrestling with Billy Graham and the Devil and coming up with a refutation that Graham can still explain on his own approach, that of a revelational interpretation of human unbelief.

On the whole the encyclopedia is professionally first rate; its academic standard is high. It does contain a great deal of naturalism and thus gives added publicity to the secularism and paganism of much American scholarship. But then, professional philosophies today seldom discuss ideas of revelation and the supernatural, even in the mood of Barth and Brunner.

Not a few topics could have been assigned to other philosophers of good standing and equal competence who would have done more justice to orthodox Christianity. There is no article on the “Supernatural” or “Transcendent.” In the essay on “Metaphysics, History of” Roger Hancock tells us that the analytical philosophers are making “the most original and important contributions to metaphysics” in the English-speaking world at present (5/299), and he apparently thinks that the case for rational metaphysics can now be ignored. Edwards supplies some of the ablest criticisms of existential metaphysics and of speculative ontologies like Paul Tillich’s that abandon rational knowledge of ultimate reality, and Frederick Ferré in an essay on “Analogy in Theology” points to the difficulties of nonunivocal theology; but neither notes the interest of evangelical theology in rational divine revelation and conceptual knowledge of God. Space allotments sometimes seem artificial, except as reflections of special interests. Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian psychiatrist and critic of traditional norms of sexual conduct, gets three times the space given Hans Reichenbach. Renan, who rejected the supernatural, gets generous coverage, and Bertrand Russell, who gets a page and a quarter in Encyclopaedia Britannica, gets twenty-two pages here.

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There is a tendency to reflect the modern case for Christianity in terms of a reliance on analogical, existential, and linguistic theology. Evangelical scholars along with the naturalists escort these views to a skeptical outcome, but rational theism remains as an alternative. However, in view of secular theologians’ eager appeal to the “scientific method” as a reason for abandoning the case for the supernatural, it is noteworthy that this major encyclopedia devotes only four pages to “Scientific Method,” with an essay that begins on a skeptical note about the possibility of a prescriptive methodology for science in general one concludes that “many people expect too much of the scientific method as a guide in their personal lives.” Moreover, the essay on “Metaphysics” by W. H. Walsh includes some pointed criticisms of linguistic and analytic philosophy. But the essay on “God, Concepts of” by H. P. Owen (3/344) leaves an impression that divine transcendence as affirmed by Christianity requires a rejection of univocal knowledge of God, and its overview of divine attributes and of issues bearing on the objective existence and existential reality of God is hurried.

On “Psychology” we read that there has been “notable progress toward a policy of coexistence” between philosophers and psychologists, and that “here and there some progress toward cooperation has been made.” The essay on “Rebirth” says: “See ‘Reincarnation.’ ” The essay on “Reason,” whether intentionally or not, gives the impression that the true friend of reason is not the philosopher who pitches reason’s claims high but those—including psychoanalysts—who dissent from rationalism as a philosophical doctrine.

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The encyclopedia does not wholly succeed in its attempt to make philosophical subjects intelligible to the ordinary reader, but this is as often due to the subject matter as to the handling. For the serious student in philosophy it is an important reference tool, and those churchmen determined to relate Christianity effectively to the modern world cannot afford to neglect its perspectives. It will at times disappoint the technician interested in serious interaction at theology-philosophy frontiers (the essay on “Love,” for example, surely needs supplementation in view of the extended recent discussions of eros and agape.) Yet it captures the mood of an influential segment of contemporary philosophers with deep doubts about the reality of the supernatural, of whose questions the informed churchman will want to be aware, and it expounds the perennial issues of philosophy through contributions from scholars of outstanding reputations. But if the basic commitments of philosophy concern the nature and modes of knowledge, and if these determine what is philosophically problematic and how intelligibility is maintained, then a truly encyclopedic work ought not so fully to ignore the contributions of a host of capable Christian scholars to philosophical discussion.

To hear some Christians talk about modern versions of the Scriptures, one would think that the slightest mistranslation or paraphrase could sweep away God’s Word in its entirety.

First it was the Revised Standard Version, that “perversion” of Scripture, as one writer put it, whose “evident purpose is to deny inspiration, rob Jesus of his deity, and reduce him to a mere man.” Now it is the American Bible Society’s Today’s English Version (Good News for Modern Man), whose press run has already passed five million copies. Critics say the omission of the word “blood” in Colossians 1:14 and 20 and in Revelation 1:5 minimizes the Atonement; what they overlook is that in the first verse “blood” does not occur even in the Greek (here the King James Version is in error) and that the new translation may actually make the text more understandable to many readers. Good News for Modern Man reads “through his death” rather than “through his blood.”

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None of these remarks is intended to deny the need for accurate translations. Bible-believing Christians have long recognized that divine revelation is given in verbal and propositional form; hence no effort should be spared to achieve a sound text and reliable versions. Nor dare we minimize the real harm that can be done by an improper translation or paraphrase.

In some cases, recent versions deliberately obfuscate the text. It is hard to see, for instance, how the translation of Genesis 12:3c by the RSV—“and by you all the families of the earth will bless themselves”—does anything but destroy the meaning of the passage. For although the reflective rather than the passive voice is a legitimate rendering of the Hebrew niphil, the spiritual import of the promise certainly calls for an emphasis upon that blessing which will come from the hand of God through Abraham’s seed—“in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” The reference is to a promised redeemer rather than to a blessing formula.

Similarly, the careful scholar cannot condone the imposition of a preconceived idea upon passages that speak of the ekklesia (“church” or “congregation”) in the New English Bible. The NEB reserves the translation “church” for the ekklesia in Jerusalem and refers to all other ekklesiae, those founded by the apostles throughout the Roman world, as “congregations.” Here the translation is clearly influenced by ecumenical concerns.

No one should doubt that translations are fallible, as these examples clearly indicate. Yet believers must not lose sight of the fact that “scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), that “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). They must always keep in view the spiritual dynamic and abiding character of God’s irrepressible Word. “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever” (1 Pet. 1:24, 25).

Several facts help to put the issues in proper perspective. First, there has probably never been a translation that has not met with some objection, often legitimate. And part of the reason is that no translation has ever been perfect. Church historians will note that even the King James Version met with considerable rejection in its day, particularly among those, such as the American Pilgrims, who preferred the more “conservative” Geneva version of 1560. It was many years before the intrinsic merits of the version of 1611 established it as the great Bible of the English-speaking world.

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Second, it must never be forgotten that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture and that the Bible itself tends to correct deviant translations. An excellent case in point is the rendering of Isaiah 7:14 in the RSV. Here the translators have shied away from the word “virgin,” choosing the more general of two possible meanings of the Hebrew word—“a young woman shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” But the New Testament quotes the verse again in such obvious reference to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ that all misunderstanding is inevitably corrected—“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son …” (Matt. 1:23, RSV).

Third, it is also true that some verses in Scripture have never been well translated and that, for this reason as for others, the task of producing new translations must go on. In Second Timothy 3:16, for instance, the Greek word theopneustos has never been correctly translated by any English version, with the possible exception of the Amplified Bible, which includes the correct meaning along with others.

In this verse the New Testament speaks of the Old Testament, noting that “all Scripture is inspired by God.” Now the English phrase “is inspired by” (RSV) or “is given by inspiration of” (KJV) translates the one word theopneustos. And this word, as B. B. Warfield pointed out at the beginning of this century, “very distinctly does not mean inspired of God.” It means “God-breathed.” Paul taught that the Scriptures are the direct result of the breathing-out of God. Much as God created man by breathing into him so that he became a living soul, so also did God breathe out the Scriptures so that they became a living revelation. Warfield writes, “The Greek term has nothing to say of inspiring or of inspiration: it speaks only of a ‘spiring’ or ‘spiration.’ What it says of Scripture is, not that it is ‘breathed into by God’ or that it is the product of the Divine ‘inbreathing’ into its human authors, but that it is breathed out by God, ‘God-breathed,’ the product of the creative breath of God (The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture, p. 133).

Recognizing the imperfection of all translations and looking forward to the needs of a new generation, evangelical linguists and those who have literary sensitivities would do well to pool their resources to produce a great new version, even if it takes many years. In this task they would be assisted by much preliminary work that has already been done, such as the improved Greek text under the auspices of the American Bible Society.

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Finally, it must also be argued that the effectiveness of the Word of God lies, not solely in the fact of its divine origin, though that is of primary importance, but also in the fact that the living God speaks through its pages. “We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:12, 13). J. I. Packer writes, “Without the Spirit’s help there can be no grasp of the message of Scripture, no conviction of the truth of Scripture, and no faith in the God of Scripture” (“Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, p. 112). That all three of these occur in the reading of Scripture is stirring evidence of God’s supernatural power operating through the reading of the book.

In the midst of the confusing proliferation of translations and in the face of the errors that doubtless accompany them, Christians should be confident that Scripture provides its own defense. The success of God’s gracious activity in history does not depend upon our defense of it, and neither does the power and efficacy of the Word. Scripture bears witness to Scripture. And the Spirit of God acting in Scripture has never ceased to claim men for God and to redirect their destiny.

It was a section of the thirteenth chapter of Romans that changed the life of St. Augustine as he turned to the Bible in the garden of a friend’s estate near Milan. Luther tells how in meditating upon the Scripture he felt himself to be “reborn,” and relates how Romans 1:17 became for him “a gate to heaven.” Wesley’s meditation upon Scripture led to his conversion in the little meeting in Aldersgate.

So it has been in all ages, for whenever the Word of God is faithfully preached and studied it never fails to do its transforming work in the hearts of men and women. It is despised and rejected by some. It is overlooked by many. But still it works, asserting its astonishing claims and drawing men to Jesus Christ as its focal point and author. Luther wrote, “We must make a great difference between God’s Word and the word of man. A man’s word is a little sound, that flies into the air, and soon vanishes; but the Word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yea, greater than death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God, and endures everlastingly.”

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Is the world drawing closer to the midnight of nuclear holocaust? The editors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists believe it is. On the cover of their January issue they moved forward the hands on the doomsday clock to seven minutes to midnight—five minutes closer than its previous setting in 1963 and the first move forward (rather than backward) since 1953. Only twice before had the hands been set closer: at three minutes to midnight in 1949, when Russia exploded its first bomb, and at two minutes to midnight in 1953, when both the Soviet Union and the United States produced hydrogen bombs.

Bulletin editor Dr. Eugene Rabinowitch said the latest movement was necessitated by the “dismal world record” of the past five years, during which nations have been “drifting back to pre-atomic pursuits of their narrow national interests, with power politics again replacing attempts to build a stable, peaceful world.” As evidence of deteriorating conditions he noted the development of atomic weapons by France and Red China, the Arab-Israeli and Indo-Pakistani wars, escalation of the Viet Nam war, and competition between America and Russia to produce an anti-ballistic-missile.

For over twenty years the world has been haunted by the fear of a holocaust far worse than Hiroshima that would shatter the civilized world. Profound awareness of this horrible possibility has led to restraint in the use of American military power in Viet Nam and elsewhere. President Johnson and Secretary Rusk have continued the search of their predecessors for a feasible international program of nuclear-arms control.

Despite their conscientious efforts, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and increase of nationalism throughout the world in the past five years have heightened global dangers. No longer can world tensions be understood strictly in terms of a stand-off between America and the Soviet Union. Two other nuclear-club members are beginning to flex their muscles. The bellicose policies of Mao Tse-tung and the grandiose maneuvers of Charles de Gaulle show that new power bases are emerging in the Far East and western Europe. The grievous war in Viet Nam and the touchy stalemate in the Middle East could easily explode into global conflict. Israeli intelligence recently reported that Russia has replaced the weapons lost by the Arabs in the six-day war and sent 3,500 technicians to Egypt to rebuild the Arab bloc so that they will, by Israeli estimates, be prepared for war in six months. The land of Israel could be the scene of great war in our generation.

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Threatening though the world situation is, those who believe the Bible are confident that God will not permit man to bring on a cataclysmic destruction of civilization. The day will surely come, however, when in God’s sovereignty the world will experience the fire of judgment. This will occur when Jesus Christ returns “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8).

The clock is ticking. The hands are moving toward the midnight hour. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warns men of nuclear doomsday. The Bible warns men of a greater doom—the judgment of Almighty God. It calls them to prepare for that hour by trusting in Jesus Christ, so that his coming will mean not wrath but salvation.


Unitarianism is a religious philosophy “on the wing” with built-in expectations of theological change. No official statement of belief is binding upon adherents.

Last September the Rev. Duncan Howlett of All Souls Church (Unitarian), Washington, D. C., discontinued use of the Lord’s Prayer. Last month he announced he had abandoned prayer entirely. Although he surrendered belief in a personal God some years ago, he thereafter fashioned his weekly pulpit intercession to the “Spirit of Truth.” But he now asks, “How can you pray to truth?” Since he now believes God “is not an entity … to which it is meaningful to pray,” he will henceforth substitute an “aspiration.”

Dr. Howlett should be commended for consistency. If applied further, the same principle will require him also to abandon any claim that All Souls is a church rather than an ethical society or meeting house, and to forfeit the presumption of Christian identity.

The Unitarian Universalist Association, with headquarters in Boston, lists 700 churches with a legal membership of 140,000 in the United States. According to one estimate, about 60 per cent of the Unitarian clergy are now theists while 40 per cent are naturalists. Early Unitarians like Channing and Priestley accepted the validity of revelation and believed in miracle, including Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. But though they insisted on the supernaturalness of his works, they denied the supernaturalness of his being. Of Unitarian theists today, perhaps no more than 10 per cent, or 6 in 100 overall, believe that Jesus Christ performed supernatural works.

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No durable framework of conviction can be built on unstable belief, and the Unitarian escape to subjective religious experience is no abiding place for a theology at odds with itself. The distance from Channing to Howlett is great, but except by an act of will even Howlett cannot stop where he prefers to. Abandonment of the God and Father of Jesus Christ, and of the Lord’s Prayer, leads outside the church, and to greater reverence for non-Christian religious leaders than for Jesus Christ.


In an incisive review of Paul Ramsey’s Who Speaks for the Church? in the Reporter (January 11 issue), a specialist in international affairs who is now a Brookings Institution research scholar echoes the deep dismay of many Protestant lay leaders over current NCC-WCC political entanglements. With an analytical eye on the 1966 Geneva and 1967 Detroit conferences on church and society, Dr. Ernest W. Lefever, three years an international-affairs specialist on the NCC executive staff, declares that the “militant words” of the Detroit conference disappointed many top policymakers in Washington as well as other Protestant laymen. Lefever notes that even many Protestants who since World War II have looked approvingly upon the churches’ growing interest in social questions are passing an adverse judgment. They are, he says, “shocked by the sweeping condemnations of the Federal government, the apparent confusion between coercion under law and lawless violence.”

Lefever identifies Ramsey’s chief target as “the Protestant ecumenical establishment, a group of perhaps two hundred denominational and council secretaries of social-action and overseas missions, their executive staff colleagues, professors of ethics, and other church leaders concerned chiefly with social questions.” The cohesive likemindedness of the self-perpetuating “social-action curia” is doubly remarkable in view of the diversity of American Protestantism and its emphasis on representative leadership.

Another Ramsey target is the bureaucratic process whereby this small, unrepresentative minority appears to speak for the whole of Protestantism.

Lefever hails Ramsey’s book as “already a landmark” in the debate over the Church and politics, but he holds out little hope that it will have a sobering effect upon the ecumenical establishment: “With the present activist mood of the Protestant establishment, there seems little chance that much of Ramsey’s advice will be heeded.”

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The Protestant world, given Geneva 1966 and Detroit 1967, will be tempted to view Uppsala 1968 as a final test of ecumenical responsibility and responsiveness.


Bob Jones, Sr., who died January 16, helped to shepherd conservative Protestantism from the turmoil of the 1920s until its resurgence after World War II. His charming, folksy style made him the outstanding evangelist between Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. Jones saw the need for Christian higher education and built the largest, best-equipped institution of its kind in the world. He also had the courage to stand for his convictions against theological drift of his day. Along with the good side of fundamentalism-faithfulness to Bible proclamation—Jones exemplified its limitations. He opposed conservatives with strategy different from his own, imposed needless restrictions on students, and lacked breadth theologically and socially—particularly in his unbiblical opposition to full opportunity for Negroes. Yet he was faithful in proclaiming the good news of individual redemption. Millions heard, and countless thousands believed.

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