Breakthrough For Evangelicals

The God Who Is There, by Francis A. Schaeffer (Inter-Varsity Press, 1968, 191 pp., $4.50; paper, $2.50), is reviewed by Clark H. Pinnock, associate professor of theology, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.

A cultural event of deep significance for the task of twentieth-century Christian apologetics has taken place in the publication of this startling book. For over a decade now the evangelical world has been dimly aware of the creative ministry of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer in reaching intellectual unbelievers, but has until this year been compelled to learn of his fresh insights into evangelism and theology at second or third hand. This book, along with a smaller one that preceded it by a month or so, Escape From Reason (also Inter-Varsity Press), presents truly revolutionary and original insights into the understanding, communicating, and practicing of the truth of the Gospel. At last an orthodox Protestant has directed the biblical answers toward the contemporary questions without compromising the former or muffling the latter! So often a writer knows either the questions or the answers, but seldom both. The evangelical world at large is culturally barren and needs Dr. Schaeffer to be its teacher. For as John Killinger has written, “When the Church fails to listen to contemporary art, it usually misses the temper and mood of humanity and loses its opportunity to deal with the needs of man at the point where it might most readily have entered into them.”

In The God Who Is There Schaeffer explores the soulscape of modern culture. He discovers a monolithic ethos that despairs of ever finding answers to the human predicament. The dignity of man is related intrinsically to the existence of God. The whole culture now speaks of the loss of the human and the death of hope. Schaeffer is able to document his thesis with a knowledge of philosophy, art, music, and literature that few living Christians can match. In order to evade the demon of despair, modern man seeks to transcend nihilism by a mystical leap of faith rooted in nothing. Faith becomes a magic wand that chases away the gloom. The author detects this empty fideism in art, theology, philosophy, and music. The drug scene is the most eloquent proof that modern man has given up hope of finding rational answers to his existence.

This is a book of theology and apologetics. Every aspect of the Christian system of truth bears rich apologetic significance. Schaeffer, in a decade of dealing with avant-garde people in the remote Swiss village of Huemoz, has learned to couch historic Christian teaching in a new set of terms so that the Gospel glows again in that iridescent splendor it once had for Christians of an earlier day. This book will liberate the biblical truths for thousands to whom they seemed static and fossilized. For those who will read it, the Christian faith can become again a truly exciting prospect. Christian and non-Christian alike cannot help being challenged by it.

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Weaknesses there inevitably are. It is so easy in an overview of intellectual history to oversimplify cultural evolution and force particulars into a general scheme. Schaeffer’s prophetic insights call for detailed studies in which his program is carried out with scholarly thoroughness. Furthermore, the absence of theistic argument and historical evidences might suggest that the Christian faith is a grand assumption based indeed upon a favorable correlation with other world views but ungrounded in objective considerations. However, with its weaknesses taken into account, Schaeffer’s book still stands head and shoulders above its closest competitor. At last an evangelical scholar has dared to rethink the historic faith, to present it in a fresh, new mode, and to propose a vigorous and exciting apologetic program fitted to our situation. The task is before us. The way has been shown. A renaissance of Christian culture is a possibility. If only evangelicalism will heed Schaeffer’s words and make it a reality.

Religion In Public Schools

Religion Goes to School: A Practical Handbook for Teachers, by James V. Panoch and David L. Barr (Harper & Row, 1968, 183 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Lee M. Nash, associate professor of history, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff.

This important book should be brought to the attention of every evangelical involved in the public schools, be he teacher, administrator, board member, or concerned parent. The authors, who direct the non-sectarian Religious Instruction Association fn Fort Wayne, Indiana, declare that our schools have become more secular because of Christian apathy and ignorance, not because of hostile courts. They offer practical helps to the teacher who wishes to include religion in the curriculum within both legal limits and sound educational principles.

Although Supreme Court decisions have barred the schoolroom practice of religion, as in prescribed prayers or worship services, those decisions do not hinder the objective study of comparative religions, religious history, and the Bible as history and literature. The school that neglects such studies implies that religion is unimportant. And the same constitutional principles that deny teachers the right to promote religion also restrain them from disparaging religion.

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Panoch and Barr are not discouraged at the defeat of the Dirksen and Becker prayer amendments, for they are convinced that in guaranteeing the “free exercise” of religion the First Amendment already protects the right of students to private prayer and Bible reading. They favor the “moment of meditation,” officially adopted by Massachusetts in 1966, as an opportunity for voluntary prayer.

After fifty lucid, though sometimes repetitious, pages on legal and educational issues, the remaining two-thirds of the book consists of annotated lists of specific teacher aids. Curricular units now in use, rich audio-visual materials available, books on every phase of religion (with evangelical views well represented), a summer course at Wheaton for teachers—all are here in full detail.

Now what remains is for someone to do an article on the implications of these principles for public colleges and universities. Some militant anti-religion professors shatter the constitutional rights of Christian students daily, while some Christian teachers are so cautious that they fail even to give fair place to religion in their own courses. To be sure, open anti-Christian bias in the universities is probably less prevalent today than in the more liberal 1950s and before, and Christian professors are more numerous. But we need to be reminded of our special opportunities in the intellectual community.

Developing Responsible Christians

On Being Responsible: Issues in Personal Ethics, edited by James M. Gustafson and James T. Laney (Harper & Row, 1968, 310 pp., $3.50), and Power Where the Action Is, by Harvey Seifert (Westminster, 1968, 157 pp., $2.25), are reviewed by John C. Howell, professor of Christian ethics, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.

Developing a creative sense of Christian responsibility in those who have allowed dullness to smother much of the inherent vitality of Christian faith is a central theme of these two paperbacks dealing with personal and social ethics. The volume by Gustafson and Laney, one of the “Harper Forum Series,” is designed for use by discussion groups, while Seifert’s is a manual for the involvement of local churchmen in community ministries.

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Gustafson and Laney rightly interpret the concept of responsibility as fundamental to Christian morality. They have assembled readings from influential theologians, sociologists, and ethicists to stimulate thought on Christian responsibility in the particular areas of love, honesty, and citizenship.

As qualities that compose responsibility the editors cite responsiveness, the awareness of the importance of the other person in interpersonal relations; actions, as a person uses his freedom to determine how he will respond in moral choice situations; fidelity or trustworthiness; and awareness of accountability to God for one’s actions in society.

In contrast both to rigid legalism and to absolute situationalism, they hold that the idea of responsibility “charts a course between an ethics, on the one hand, of conformity to a law or an order that is given a priori, and an ethics that merely reacts in utter open-endedness to whatever is happening.” Their selection of readings as well as their excellent introductions places strong emphasis on an ethic of principle in responsible morality.

In his book, Seifert too stresses man’s need for ethical guidelines as he involves himself in the daily routine of work, marriage, politics, and play. He sees three elements in decision-making: (1) Christian theological perspectives that are grounded upon competent study of the Bible, since “thin theology makes fragile ethics,” (2) ethical principles that grow out of religious insight or personal experiences, and (3) social data from the behavioral sciences, which can help the Christian separate fact from fancy, truth from propaganda.

Seifert rightly urges greater use of socio-psychological studies in the development of community ministry. One must realize of course, that these studies often have to be reinterpreted from the Christian view of man’s wholeness in Christ, the behavioral scientist is not usually concerned with this aspect of social responsibility but this does not invalidate the usefulness of this information.

Church leaders will find excellent guidelines to community action in this manual.

A Fresh Look At John Knox

John Knox, by Jasper Ridley (Oxford, 1968, 596 pp., $9.50), is reviewed by Paul Woolley, professor of church history, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Most Christian people consider John Knox the acme of sourness, bitterness, and angularity. In his later years he gave them plenty of reason for such a judgment. But if that had been all there was to John Knox, no one would remember him today.

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This is the first biography of Knox in our century based directly on the original sources and supported by references. Jasper Ridley is a London attorney who has written lesser biographies previously. He attempts to hew to the requirements of objectivity; praise and blame for Knox alternate.

Best of all is the thrilling story of how Scotland’s Church became one of the great members of the Calvinistic family. Anyone who is under the delusion that at the time of the Reformation every one on the Protestant side acted like an angelic being will be sharply surprised. One can only wonder how God brought so much light and virtue as he did out of a course of events so widely characterized by deception, cruelty, malevolence, jealousy, and self-seeking. But Knox was different.

Knox’s greatest talent was his political sense. With hardly a slip, he knew what could and could not be done in a given situation. He seemed to be able to sense the exact quality of a situation, and whether or not a certain action was right and appropriate in it.

His contribution to the discussion about the Christian right of revolution is one of his most fruitful. On a number of matters Knox differed from the man whom he highly honored, John Calvin. This was one. Knox came to the conclusion that the ordinary Christian holding no particular office could actively participate in a revolution attempting to overthrow an established government, if that government was disobeying the law of God. With Knox and Buchanan behind it, that policy maintained the Reformation in Scotland.

The Lord’S Day

Sunday: The History of the Day of Rest and Worship in the Earliest Centuries of the Christian Church, by Willy Rordorf (Westminster, 1968, 336 pp., $8.50), is reviewed by William C. Robinson, emeritus professor of ecclesiastical history, church history, and apologetics, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia.

This comprehensive treatment begins with the Sabbath law in the Old Testament, considering the relation of Jesus and his apostles to this law, and moves on to a full discussion of the Christian “day of the Lord” in the early centuries. In a thoroughly scholarly way, Rordorf explains the various positions. A biblical index makes the work useful for reference.

Rordorf writes out of a high Christology as he presents Jesus’ own messianic consciousness and finds in the Old Testament the roots of the ascription to him of the title Lord. It is a pleasure to read his well-considered testimony to the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. On the other hand, he holds a critical position and arrives at some conclusions with which the reviewer does not agree. For example, he says that the Sabbath began in a sociological concern for slaves and was later taken up by the Lord as one of the Ten Words. Why not the other way around? God showed his “sociological” compassion for those who needed rest by giving them this day for that end, as well as a prophecy of the sabbath rest to come.

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Rordorf holds that our Sunday comes not directly from the Jewish Sabbath but from the early Christian worship on the first day. As the Old Testament Sabbath spoke of the original creation, so worship on “the eighth day” told of the new creation in Christ. Our observance of the Lord’s day comes from the regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper that grew out of Jesus’ table fellowship with his disciples on the first Easter evening, when presumably he again celebrated with them the Lord’s Supper. Thus the Lord’s Supper is the risen Christ in his Holy Spirit having communal fellowship with the disciples at their weekly worship. Christian worship centered around the evening Supper until the beginning of the second century, when an imperial edict, enforced by Governor Pliny in Bithynia, forbade the evening meetings of unlicensed clubs and thus forced the Supper to the morning hour. As the evening worship at first centered in the Eucharist, so the early-morning worship gathered about baptism.

The author insists that the importance of Sunday as the day of worship is not given sufficient recognition today, for “the individual Christian can be a complete Christian only as a member of an actual community which carries him along.”

Discover God For Yourself

Learning to Live from the Gospels, by Eugenia Price (J. B. Lippincott, 1968, 222 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Opal Lincoln Gee, Springfield, Missouri.

In this easily read commentary on several of the more understandable passages in the four Gospels, Miss Price bypasses what she considers obscure passages. Her purpose for writing the book comes through when she discusses Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to take his yoke upon them and learn of him:

Discover for yourselves, he told us, something of the true nature of this God who longs over you. Find out what he is really like in his heart, his plans, his dreams for the people he loves. Don’t settle for a secondhand notion of God. Learn of him firsthand by learning of Jesus Christ, his one complete, uncluttered, clear revelation of himself. Rest comes no other way. Through Christ, it can come to everyone. With him, no one is left out.
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In at least two passages she seems to view God as a permissive, indulgent father. Commenting on Matthew 27:3–5, she writes that since Judas repented, he would be forgiven even after what he did (she does not deal with Matthew 26:24 or John 17:12). She does not believe, she says in her comments on Luke 1:19, 20, that God would punish Zacharias with speechlessness for his doubt; his nine-month silence was probably caused from shock.

Christians who believe God is a loving father who requires discipline and obedience from his children for their sake as well as his own will find this book considerably weak in passages dealing with submission and self-denial. And those who believe that Jesus commissioned them to go into all the world and make disciples will vehemently disagree with her comments on John 15:8, 9:

Jesus said God, his Father, was glorified if his disciples bear much fruit. How have we so distorted this as to mean that the Father is only glorified according to how many “souls we win”? I have never won a soul to Christ. None of us has. God does his own winning and the sooner we learn this the more rested and relaxed and natural we are going to be as children in the Kingdom.

But despite its limitations, this book can stimulate one’s thinking and deepen one’s appreciation of the patience, tenderness, and approachability of Christ.

Book Briefs

The Hebrew Kingdoms, by E. W. Heaton (Oxford, 1968, 437 pp., $5.75). A part of the revision of Clarendon Bible that offers commentary on the history, worship, wisdom, law, and prophecy of the Hebrew kingdoms, 922–587 B.C.

Liberal Protestantism, by Bernard M. G. Reardon (Stanford, 1968, 244 pp., $6.75). A “Modern Religious Thought” volume containing a comprehensive background study of theological liberalism and a collection of writings in which influential liberal Protestant theologians, such as Ritschl, Sabatier, and Reville, discuss their concepts of Christianity.

The Ministers Manual (Doran’s), edited by Charles L. Wallis (Harper & Row, 1968, 345 pp., $4.95). The 1969 edition of a standard work.

The Religion Business, by Alfred Balk (John Knox, 1968, 96 pp., $3). A penetrating study of the nature and extent of American religious wealth. Scrutinizes the exemption of religious organizations from federal income tax on “unrelated business income” and offers suggestions for reform.

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Devotions for the Children’s Hour, by Kenneth N. Taylor (Moody, 1968, 175 pp., $3.95). A newly revised edition of a most helpful volume presenting Bible doctrines in language readily understood by pre-school children. The translator of Living Letters (and father of ten children) answers in a clear and simple way many of the questions often asked by children. Highly recommended for use as a part of the daily family altar. Other newly revised children’s devotional books by the same author: A Living Letter for the Children’s Hour and Stories for the Children’s Hour (Moody, 1968, 175 and 189 pp., $3.95 each).

The Double Yoke, by Lillian E. Hansen (Citadel, 1968, 268 pp. $5.95). The story of Salvation Army officer Dr. William Alexander Noble, who served as a medical missionary to India for forty-five years.

Jesus and the Historian, edited by F. Thomas Trotter (Westminster, 1968, 176 pp., $5.95). Collection of essays in honor of Ernest Cadman Colwell dealing with historical problems concerning the life of Jesus.

The Vatican Council and the Jews, by Arthur Gilbert (World, 1968, 335 pp., $6.95). An enlightening study unfolding the story behind Vatican II’s “Statement on the Jews.”

God Reigns, by James Leo Green (Broadman, 1968, 178 pp., $4.50). A non-technical study of selected portions of Isaiah pointing out its application for today’s world and emphasizing the sovereignty of God.

Who Are the Criminals?, by William S. Garmon (Broadman, 1968, 127 pp., $1.50). A poignant appeal to Christians to become active in rehabilitating criminals to healthy involvement in community life.

Czechoslovakia’s Blueprint for Freedom, compiled by Paul Ello (Acropolis, 1968, 304 pp., $2.95). Photographically reproduced copies of Alexander Dubcek’s statements leading to the conflict of August, 1968, with an introduction and analysis by a Georgetown University School of Foreign Service professor.

Search the Scriptures, by Robert B. Greenblatt (Lippincott, 1968, 168 pp., $4.50). Enlarged revision of an earlier work. A medical doctor studies personalities and incidents in the Bible from the perspective of modern medical science.

From the Beginning, by Karl Katz and others (Reynal, 1968, 287 pp., $12.95). A comprehensive record of Jewish history and tradition that concentrates on the great national collection of art in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Beautifully illustrated by 64 color plates and 150 black-and-white photos.

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Is Christ for John Smith?, edited by John A. Ishee (Broadman, 1968, 127 pp., $1.50). Clear guidelines for leading persons to Christ.


From Left to Right, by Herbert E. Robb and Raymond Sobel (Benziger Brothers, 1968, 265 pp., $2.50). An informative compilation of writings representing a wide variety of opinions (from far left to far right) on a number of current socio-political issues.

The Christian Encounters the World of Painting, by Wendell Mathews (Concordia, 1968, 112 pp., $1.25). An art professor presents a guide to judging art for the non-expert, with special emphasis on viewing art from a Christian perspective.

Religious Identity, by Gibson Winter (Macmillan, 1968, 143 pp., $1.45). A sobering study of present-day religious organization that uncovers the increasing separation between the organizational structures of the Church and the faith and life of the average minister and church-goer.

In the Holy Land, by Godfrey C. Robinson and Stephen F. Winward (Eerdmans, 1968, 128 pp., $1.95). Text, pictures, maps and biblical references take the reader on an armchair tour of areas of the Holy Land that relate to the biblical narratives.

Bible Study Books: St. John, by Robin E. Nixon (Eerdmans, 1968, 85 pp., $1.25). A Scripture Union book designed for use in personal Bible study.

Israel and the Bible, by William Hendriksen (Baker, 1968, 63 pp., $1.50). A cursory treatment of several contemporary questions dealing with the Jew in the light of biblical teaching.

On Becoming the Truth, by Walter W. Sikes (Bethany Press, 1968, 190 pp., $2.95). A helpful addition to the wealth of literature on the life and thought of Soren Kierkegaard.

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