‘Late Have I Loved Thee …’

Jesus Rediscovered, by Malcolm Muggeridge (Doubleday, 1969, 217 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by J. D. Douglas, British editorial representative, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, London, England.

At the age of sixty-six, a former editor of Punch and former atheist here traces his late finding of faith. The book is crammed with the highly irregular. Muggeridge’s spiritual enlightenment, he relates, began during a journalistic stint in Moscow, and owes little to the Church as an institution. His credo is sketchy, and he is careful to profess no more than he really believes: “I see only fitfully, believe no creed wholly, have had no all-sufficing moment of illumination.” He is sympathetically agnostic about the Trinity, the Genesis creation story, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection.

Nonetheless, Muggeridge declares that in some sense he has been a perennial pilgrim on earth, having always had the conviction of being a displaced person (though on page 198 he seems to contradict this). This elicits a sentence at once curious and profound. “My first conscious recollection of life,” he says, “is of walking down the street … (when I was six) in someone else’s hat and wondering who I was.” For man to feel at home in the world would be “the ultimate disaster.”

Muggeridge was ever conscious of the Heavenly Hound’s pursuit. “I knew from the beginning, and turned away. The lucky thieves were crucified with their Saviour; You called me, and I didn’t go—those empty years, those empty words, that empty passion!” It sounds like Augustine (some will find the affinity significant), whom Muggeridge greatly admires. Other lights in his darkness include Pascal, Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, and Simone Weil.

In places the language is earthy, perhaps not surprisingly in one with such intimate knowledge of the far country, but some (this reviewer among them) will find it a wholesome antidote if large doses of pious treacle are regularly taken into the system. Muggeridge possesses an engaging capacity for selfdenigration, and follows C. S. Lewis in that crafty disclaiming of theological nous which frustrates potential critics—and gives license to let fly with sly and astounding utterances.

All this makes for eminently readable stuff, whether it deals with South Africa (“the prevailing attitude to the black African patients was veterinary rather than medical”), a television encounter with a coterie of doctors (“appalling in their grossness, their total inability to see beyond mortal flesh and their carving knives”), or his visit to the WCC Uppsala Assembly (“they were able to agree about almost anything, because they believed almost nothing”). His chapter on the transplant controversy, ghoulishly titled “My True Love Hath My Heart,” is at least a cautionary tale for reckless drivers. On the divine demise his words are few and timely. “Dead or live, he is still God, and eternity ticks on even though all the clocks have stopped.”

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He reveals that when he resigned as rector of Edinburgh University because he deplored the free distribution of contraceptives among students, the Roman Catholic chaplain wrote to rebuke him. This innocence by dissociation, incidentally, gave him a startling if temporary vogue in Scottish Calvinist circles.

An evangelical bookshop in London that had given this book a big build-up, got Muggeridge to come to sign autographs, and reaped some wordly profits from the sales, withdrew it from display in their front window when someone thought of trying it for orthodoxy. Muggeridge would have enjoyed that as much as I enjoyed his book.

Echoes Of Bultmann

An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament, by Hans Conzelmann (Harper & Row, 1969, 373 pp., $8.50), is reviewed by Clark H. Pinnock, professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

Here, fifteen years after the publication of Rudolf Bultmann’s Theology of the New Testament, is a major treatment of the same field by one of his loyal disciples. There is no lessening of the historical pessimism, no apology for the anthropological conquest of the Gospel. Professor Conzelmann simply wishes to carry through the program Bultmann began, relating it to recent studies, especially those in the theology of the individual authors of the Synoptic Gospels. The result is a detailed reference book, richly annotated, summarizing the main issues in the field of New Testament theology. The book abounds in scholarly conjectures, which some will call brilliant, others merely speculative.

The work is divided into five parts. In the first, Professor Conzelmann attempts to reconstruct the primitive kerygma before Paul—no easy task for one whose capacity to doubt the biblical text is so highly developed. In this section, he abstracts chunks of material from various New Testament books and seeks to show a confusing diversity of mutually incompatible theologies circulating in this early period.

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Part two treats the theology of the Synoptic tradition, which reflects largely community sayings overlying a very meager amount of genuine historical recollection. In a few swift pages, Conzelmann concludes that Jesus accepted none of the Christological titles applied to him in the gospel narratives. That picture of Christ is the product of the myth-making fantasy of the early Church, combined with the personal theological bias of the Synoptic authors themselves. The reader of these Gospels is thus doubly deceived.

The theology of Paul is the subject of part three and receives the most space. Only the “undisputedly authentic” letters are used as sources. Ephesians, Colossians, Second Thessalonians, and the Pastorals are excluded, as is the material in Acts. Each account of Paul’s conversion is regarded as legendary. Like Bultmann, Conzelmann is chiefly interested in Paul’s analysis of human existence. After all, for the new German pietism God’s dwelling place is not in heaven but in man’s own capacity for self-understanding. Conzelmann finds Paul’s eschatological hope confused and his “mythical idea of pre-existence [of Christ]” difficult to grasp. He says Paul was indifferent to the question of the factuality of the Resurrection (the index yields no reference to First Corinthians 15:14, 17). Conzelmann is an unreliable guide to Paul’s meaning because he is too eager to deliver Paul from it. He repeatedly misses Paul’s point because he is looking for something else.

Part four sketches the development after Paul, the alleged transition to nascent catholicism in “the third Christian generation,” and part five is devoted to the Johannine writings. The author of the Fourth Gospel was not an eyewitness of the life of Jesus. For that assertion Conzelmann feels no need of corroborating evidence. That is a trait of the whole book. Time and again the reader is expected to doubt the authenticity of biblical texts (even books!) on the strength of the professor’s word. The question that remains after the whole book is read is: If all our sources are as colored as Professor Conzelmann believes, how does he know (1) that they are, and (2) how they are?

Conzelmann hopes his work will help pastors, teachers, and laymen in their understanding of New Testament theology. If, however, that sacred book is related in any way to orthodox and evangelical interpretations of the Gospel, this hope will not be fulfilled. For here is no exposition of the central doctrines of Christ’s apostles, no recital of the mighty acts of God in history for his people. The author’s naturalist-existentialist approach to the Scripture of the New Covenant is that of blatant unbelief toward its proudest assertions. Why, when a constructive critical proposal exists for every negative one Conzelmann embraces, does he consistently adopt the destructive theory? Not, surely, because of the “critical method,” but because of his existential mindset. That this gospel fact is mythical or that doctrine is superstitious is not merely inconsequential to Conzelmann; it is actually an aid to his existential theology. For Conzelmann’s concept of faith is related to nothing factually existing or objectively true. New Testament theology is not what for centuries it has been taken to be. It is a kernel of existential truth disguised in mythical garb. But this is a very partial and truncated interpretation of the New Testament source. What for Conzelmann is merely the possibility of self-understanding is for evangelical believers the incredible, factual good news of one who came down from heaven for our salvation.

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Insight Into Middle East

Religion in the Middle East, Volume I: Judaism and Christianity, and Volume II: Islam, edited by A. J. Arberry (Cambridge University, 1969, 1,343 pp., $22.50), is reviewed by Francis R. Steele, home secretary, North Africa Mission, Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

For an enormously complicated subject we now have a ponderously detailed source book. Yet a careful reading of relevant sections will be rewarding to the seriously interested spectator of the three-way conflict in the Middle East today.

These volumes came about as an attempt to discover grounds for resolving the well-nigh perpetual conflict among the three great religious systems stemming from Palestine. It was thought that a study of their origins and interrelations might prove profitable. The whole work was directed by a well-known Middle Eastern scholar, A. J. Arberry, professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge. Professor Arberry points out in the foreward that the essays were completed in 1966.

One serious but unavoidable handicap must be noted at the outset. There is much information, carefully researched and well presented, but a true biblical perspective is lacking. The interpretation of Christian theology in the concluding section of the second volume is given by one whose viewpoint is certainly not that of evangelicalism. Witness the following statement: “The Christian faith in Jesus as the Son of God … rests squarely within the Islamic confidence of God over all.” Later on this contributor, after deploring misunderstanding of the Incarnation, adds, “Nevertheless, the steadfast Jewish-Muslim rejection of the belief about God the Son … serves to keep always in the view the transcendent mystery which that belief might seem to have impugned.” Here is an intriguing bit of dialectic: denial of revealed doctrine preserves some elements of its truth!

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Judaism is treated in about 240 pages by four scholars, Christianity in 350 pages by nine scholars, Islam in 350 pages by nineteen scholars. The synthesis, “The Three Religions on Concord and Conflict,” occupies 275 pages and was produced by five scholars. This is followed by a glossary, bibliography, and index totaling more than one hundred pages.

At first glance, the sheer size of this work makes it seem formidable. But the divisions into chapters by individual specialists facilitates reading. Anyone willing to spend a little time can find much information to help him understand current Middle East tensions.

For example, the contrast drawn between the cultural and social background of Jews in Eastern Europe and that of Jews in Central Europe helps to explain the tensions within the Zionist movement and also the political climate of Israel today. The deep-seated historic and religious antagonisms of the various Arab communities are shown to work against efforts to present a united front to Israel. And the cleavages between ancient Christian communities are seen as reducing the impact of the Church on the Middle East. On the other hand, the attempt to link all three faiths to a similar passion for “the land” seems, to me at least, unconvincing.

All too often, attitudes toward the conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors are based on simplistic assumptions. Naïve American Christians may view the situation from eschatological presuppositions and cheer on modern Israel as though her history were detailed fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. They appear to overlook the fact that there are thousands of Arab Christians, and that Israelis are not spiritual children of God. Such persons stand to gain a more informed opinion by a consideration of the facts presented in these volumes.

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The price may discourage individual purchase of these books. But every Christian school and church with a library should have a set. Pastors concerned enough to initiate study courses on the issues underlying the Arab-Israel impasse will find here much helpful source material.

The Forerunner Of Jesus

John the Baptist as Witness and Martyr, by Marcus L. Loane (Zondervan, 1969, 122 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by Leslie Hunt, principal, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto.

With this study, Marcus Loane, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, adds another volume to his already impressive list of devotional books written for the general reader. Here he deals in depth with the life of John the Baptist, the nature of his task as witness, and his vital relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. This study is not an academic exercise, concerned with sources and critical points, but rather an exposition of all the biblical passages where John the Baptist appears and where reference to him is made. Yet the author’s scholarship is in evidence, as he goes frequently to the Greek text to support a rendering and supplies brief notes at the back of the volume for those who wish to follow up the references and examine the Greek.

The figure of the Baptist in the garb of the ancient prophets comes alive as Loane vividly describes and interprets dramatic events in his life. Yet the strong emphasis throughout is to show how John points up the mission of Jesus. It is Christ’s figure that dominates; the Baptist is but a herald and witness. Loane devotes a whole section to the temptation of Jesus in the desert, an incident in which John does not appear at all, but which occurred right after his baptism of Jesus.

The author helpfully relates the scriptural passages to the problems of modern life. I heartily recommend this little book for devotional reading and a deeper understanding of John the Baptist’s life and mission.

Milestone In Catholic Theology

The Church, by Hans Küng (Sheed and Ward, 1968, 515 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by James Leo Garrett, professor of Christian theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Küng’s Structures of the Church (1963) and the present volume, taken together, may be the most significant Roman Catholic treatment of the doctrine of the Church (except for conciliar documents such as Vatican II’s De ecclesia) since John of Torquemada’s Summa de Ecclesia (1486), often regarded as the first full-scale Roman Catholic treatise. In the first place, the rediscovered ecclesiology of the New Testament, informed by recent critical and exegetical research, forms the groundwork of this book to an extent unparalleled in earlier Catholic ecclesiological treatises. Second, Küng attempts a reinterpretation of the four classic Catholic marks or “signs” of the true Church in view of biblical, historical, and ecumenical considerations. And third, here a Roman Catholic ecclesiologist recognizes the validity of the (Pauline) charismatic ordering of the Church, both in the New Testament era and in later times, when coupled with the (Palestinian) permanent-pastoral ordering of the Church, and to ministering service as the essential function of all church officers.

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Beginning with a survey of the history of Catholic ecclesiology, Küng proceeds to distinguish between the “nature” and the evil “un-nature” of the Church and to discount the distinction of visible churches versus visible Church lest the historical actuality of the Church be obscured. He then examines the relation of Jesus’ message concerning the reign of God to the Church, the meanings of the term “Church,” the time of the origin of the Church, and the similarities and differences between the Church and God’s Reign. Subsequently, using three New Testament concepts (the people of God, the creation of the Spirit, the Body of Christ) Küng expounds “the fundamental structure of the Church,” and in connection with this he discusses sympathetically three problems: the Church and the Jews, the Church and the “Enthusiasts,” and the Church and the heretics. Similarly, his reinterpretation of unity, catholicity, holiness, and apostolicity affords the occasion for dealing with the disunity and needed reunion of the churches, variant meanings of “catholicity” and the problematic formula “no salvation outside the Church,” the sinfulness and needed renewal of the Church, and faithfulness to the apostolic witness and continuation in the apostolic ministry as the valid aspects of the “apostolic succession.” Küng’s final section on church offices combines an explication of the priesthood of all believers with a reinterpretation of ecclesiastical office as ministering service and of papal domination in terms of selfless pastoral service.

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Küng’s knowledge of the diverse theology of the New Testament and desire that it be a recognized norm for Catholic ecclesiology cannot be overemphasized. He provides an excellent exposition, for example, of the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all Christians. The impact of biblical theology in our time can be seen in the fact that the reviewer, a Southern Baptist, finds himself in full accord with this exposition of the universal priesthood by a Roman Catholic author.

Unfortunately, Küng tends with a slight Europacentric state-church bias to depreciate and unwittingly to misinterpret the radical wing of the Reformation and its heirs. One reason for this is his uncritical reliance on Ronald Knox’s Enthusiasm and his failure to use the growing corpus of recent scholarly literature on the Radical Reformation.

This author’s appeal for transformation of the papal office from domination into diakonia and his accurate identification of the issues posed by the papal primacy for non-Roman Catholic Christians invites serious conversation and observation on the part of evangelical Christians whose purpose is more constructive than polemical.

Christianity And Culture

The Vacuum of Unbelief , by Stuart Barton Babbage (Zondervan, 1969, 152 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Edward E. Ericson, Jr., associate professor of English, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California.

This volume is a worthy addition to the growing shelf of recent works that unite a thorough commitment to historic Christianity and an intelligent comprehension of contemporary culture. Dr. Babbage’s wide reading equips him well for his task.

The book consists of twenty essays touching on a wide range of topics: recurrent superstition, patriotism, attitudes toward time, the value of human personality, contemporary pressures toward standardization, the riddle of death, various kinds of love, racial justice, the sentimentalism of humanism, and more. Particularly recommended are the title essay, “The Balcony Approach to Life” (on spectatorship versus passionate involvement), and “Dung and Scum” (on human worth).

However, there are cavils. The main shortcoming is that the essays are so brief that they leave gapingly underdeveloped lines of thought. Chapter four, on the Christian view of the significance of the individual as opposed to twentieth-century mass movements that lead to subhumanizing, is one unhappy example. Another is the treatment of current spiritualism, which is too scanty to include reference to the spiritualist leanings of the late Bishop James Pike. Fewer topics and fuller development would have made a more valuable book. Argument is preferable to assertion.

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Also, though Babbage usually uses his learning to good effect, he occasionally overkills with quotations. Some essays read like topical entries from a dictionary of quotations strung together with minimal commentary.

Then, there is a wavering from essay to essay between an analytic and a devotional tone. The final essay, on hands, actually borders on bathos. This wavering not only contributes to the unevenness of the book (even by the generous standards usually applied to a collection of essays) but also belies the claim of unity made for it.

The collection reads very easily (too easily? thoughts not packed tightly enough?) and is filled with random perceptive observations. It will be valuable for a person, believer or not, who wants some milk instead of meat. Its chief value is to add to the increasing weight of intelligent and relevant evangelical literature. By itself, it will have a decisive impact on very few.

Book Briefs

Subject Guide to Bible Stories, compiled by George Frederick Garland (Greenwood, 1969, 365 pp., $12). This helpful reference tool lists under a variety of topics the Bible stories that deal with each subject. Also includes a brief listing of stories dealing with leading Bible characters.

Conquest and Crisis, by John J. Davis (Baker, 1969, 176 pp., paperback, $2.95). Studies the texts of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth in the light of their historical, cultural, and theological backgrounds.

God and Man, by E. Schillebeeckx (Sheed and Ward, 1969, 308 pp., $6.95). A noted liberal Catholic theologian explores the major theological issues growing out of the development of secularization.

What Is Form Criticism?, by Edgar V. McKnight (Fortress, 1969, 86 pp., paperback, $2.25). Though evangelicals will find themselves in disagreement with the author’s sympathetic treatment of form criticism, this work can serve as a useful introduction to the history and technique of this approach to Scripture. A companion volume, What Is Redaction Criticism?, by Norman Parrin, serves a similar purpose for a closely related method.

Studies in Philippine Church History, edited by Gerald H. Anderson (Cornell University, 1969, 421 pp., $14.50). Essays that provide a wealth of information on this aspect of the history of Christian missions.

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The Geneva Bible, introduction by Lloyd E. Berry (University of Wisconsin, 1969, $29.50). A facsimile of the 1560 edition of one of the most influential and widely read translations of the English Bible.

Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy: Protestant Scholasticism and Humanism in Seventeenth-Century France, by Brian G. Armstrong (University of Wisconsin, 1969, 330 pp., $12.50). Asserts the close similarity between Calvin and the French Reformer Moïse Amyrant, who was tried for heresy by Calvin’s followers after Calvin’s death, and contends that the Calvinism commonly accepted today is not an accurate representation of Calvin’s thought.

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