A Major Reference Tool

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Volume 1, edited by Colin Brown (Zondervan, 1976, 822 pp., $24.95), is reviewed by W. Ward Gasque, associate professor of New Testament studies, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada.

This valuable new work is the English translation, revision, and adaptation of a standard German reference tool that is much beloved by theological students and pastors. It is both easier to use and generally more theologically conservative than the famous Theological Dictionary of the New Testament edited by Gerhard Kittel, which has been recently completed in nine volumes (index volume yet to come). Considering the fact that it is in many ways an improvement of an already proven work, it would seem that it is destined for a long and useful life in its English form. When completed, the NIDNTT (or shall we abbreviate it DNTT?) will be in three volumes, due to appear at roughly one-year intervals.

The first difference from the TDNT is obviously size. The DNTT covers the same basic ground covered by the larger work in three volumes of approximately the same size as the nine in TDNT. (Volumes two and three are expected to be slightly larger than volume one.) However, it should be pointed out that there are Greek words discussed in DNTT that were missed in TDNT, and it seems improbable that any that occupy space in TDNT will be omitted from DNTT, even though the treatment will obviously be much briefer.

The second difference concerns the orientation of the two dictionaries. TDNT is intended for specialists, though it can be used with profit by anyone who has taken the trouble to learn Greek. By contrast. DNTT is designed to be easy for those with little or no Greek or Hebrew to use. Not only are all Greek and Hebrew words transliterated, but the material is arranged according to English word-groupings, so that one does not have to know even the Greek alphabet to find what he is looking for. In addition, there are extensive cross-references and very full indexes, which enable one to find just what he wants. Thus, for example, someone studying Mark 13 would look up “Abomination of Desolation” instead of bdelugma in order to find help in understanding this cryptic term; or one would look up “Church” instead of ekklesia; “Brother” instead of adelphos; “Darkness” instead of skotos; “Enemy” instead of echthros; and so forth. And under each of these headings he would find not merely a discussion of the important Greek terms used in the New Testament but also the larger conceptual context (which scholars nowadays call “semantic field”) and often penetrating exegesis of difficult passages of Scripture.

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An important feature of DNTT is the presence of extensive and fully up-to-date bibliographies. This makes the dictionary indispensable for advanced theological students and scholars as well as for ordinary Bible students. Here it is miles ahead of TDNT, whose early volumes are now extremely dated (as is, it might be added, the German original of DNTT). The bibliographies are divided into two sections, the first listing books and articles in English and the second, foreign-language material. This feature alone makes the dictionary an essential reference work in any serious theological library.

A final difference between the dictionaries edited by Kittel and Brown is the theological orientation, though this should not be overemphasized. While DNTT is often more conservative than TDNT, it is not uniformly so. One detects the influences of what we in the English-speaking world would regard as fairly negative German criticism—for example, in the hesitancy to accept the witness of Acts as historically trustworthy. However, these influences have been carefully balanced by the English editor, who indicates reasons for a contrary position on many issues discussed by the original authors and also enlists the aid of British scholars to supplement the original German articles.

It is difficult to say anything negative about a work that is carefully and lovingly produced. I have already found it not only of great personal interest but also of value in my study, and I am sure that I will continue to do so for many years to come. The editor and his team have done a superb job of proof-reading: I noted only one typographical error in my (admittedly hasty) first reading. The only thing I came across to which I took strong exception was the rather desperate article on “Infant Baptism: Its Background and Theology,” intended to balance a superb discussion of “Baptism” by G. R. Beasley-Murray. Whatever the strength of the theological case for infant baptism, this article is certainly out of place in a dictionary of New Testament theology. Still, I suppose it will not do a great deal of harm and may cause some pedobaptist clergymen to buy a copy of the dictionary when they might otherwise not do so.

Another useful feature is a brief glossary of technical terms in the beginning of the volume. Although the dictionary is by no means lightweight, and will be difficult for some beginners, every effort has been made to present the material in a form usable by serious students of the Bible at all levels of experience. I am certain that it will perform a valuable ministry for many.

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Seeking First The Political Kingdom

The Trivialization of the United Presbyterian Church, by John R. Fry (Harper & Row, 1975, 85 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Barry H. Downing, pastor, Northminster Presbyterian Church, Endwell, New York.

This book says the author, is not about “your average pooped-out Presbyterian” but rather about the liberal establishment that has led the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. down a theological and financial drain during the past decade. Since Fry was a part of that liberal establishment, his book gives you the same feeling you might have reading an exposé by Spiro Agnew of Richard Nixon’s administration: you believe he may have an inside view of what happened, but you may not think he is the one to take over the fallen kingdom.

Fry offers a theological analysis of what went wrong. He traces the problem back to the Confession of 1967, written by a liberal committee chaired by Princeton Seminary’s Edward Dowey. The confession was built around one key word, “reconciliation,” which Fry says was a fatal mistake. Reconciliation came to mean “peace at any price,” which makes for poor politics. Issues were never confronted head on. Instead, the church became caught up in trivia—therefore, “the trivialization of the United Presbyterian Church.”

The decline, if not the fall, of the United Presbyterian Church as Fry traces it goes something like this: The Confession of 1967 emphasized social action, especially in the areas of racial justice, war, poverty, and sex. In effect, the confession defined a true Christian as a liberal Democrat. The confession was used by leaders to justify more political involvement, leading eventually to the grant of $10,000 to the Angela Davis defense fund.

When this happened, the lay members of the church finally caught on to what was happening and said in clear terms that they didn’t like it. The message was that no more money would be given by local churches for national church work. The Presbyterian Lay Committee soon had a fairly substantial following, protesting the liberal leadership of the church. Fry thinks the Lay Committee has overestimated its influence, but he admits that the main body of Presbyterians is miles apart from its leadership.

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Meanwhile, the church hierarchy began a movement of corporate restructuring at the General Assembly and synod level. Fry sees this as a “Peter Principle” gone wild, at a time when the UPC had no money to carry out these structural changes.

What is Fry’s solution? He has none. He closes with a statement of blind faith that the Presbyterian Church will rise from the dead because somehow the Presbyterian lay faithful—if there are any left—will renew the church.

Generally Fry’s book is entertaining and historically accurate. I agree with him that the Presbyterian problem is theological. But I disagree with the way he has diagnosed the illness. The problem did not begin with the writing of the Confession of 1967. The problem began with the fact that the liberals felt a need to write a new confession. Why? Because they did not believe what the church had believed in the past.

Rejecting traditional Christian eschatology with its heavenly kingdom, liberals came to believe that justice could be achieved only through social and political action. Rather than expecting God to bring about justice in a heavenly day of judgment, the church must take matters into its own hands now, and if not through traditional politics, then through radical and revolutionary politics. This led to the political emphasis of the Confession of 1967 and the logic of the Angela Davis grant.

Fry fails to see that the real problem with Presbyterian liberals is that they have abandoned the New Testament. He thinks the main business of the church is to bring about love and justice. Love, yes, but justice, no. Justice is a matter of law, not gospel. Jesus used the word “justice” only once in his recorded ministry. Corrupt men resist justice. The only way to bring about justice on earth is to use violence, and Jesus strictly forbids the church to try to overcome evil with evil.

Jesus does speak prophetically to the rich, but this is eschatology, not politics, as in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Jesus warned of the coming day of judgment. But since some church leaders no longer do more than pay lip service to the idea of that judgment day, they make themselves judge, and politics is their executioner.

Fry is sorry to see the leaders of the Presbyterian Church now in fast retreat from politics to the sanctuary. I am not. The crucified Christ is a symbol not of political victory but rather the submission and humility of a heavenly king to corrupt earthly politics. The real problem in Presbyterian theology is not that the liberals picked the wrong word for the Confession of 1967. That is trivial. The real problem is that some Presbyterians have given up the ethics of the cross and the eschatology of the resurrection. That is not trivial.

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Change Churches, But How?

The Problem of Wineskins: Church Structure in a Technological Age, by Howard Snyder (InterVarsity, 1975, 214 pp., $3.85 pb) is reviewed by Robert Case II, pastor, Hope Presbyterian Church, Phoenix, Arizona.

Howard Snyder has given us what he believes is an agenda for future thought on the organic relation between the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the “new wine”) and the church traditions, structures, and patterns surrounding that Gospel (the “old wineskins”). His major premise is that church structures are relative and sociologically conditioned whereas the Gospel is absolute and eternal. He quotes Luke 5:36–39 as foundational to his argument that “new wine must be poured into new (not old) wineskins.” Snyder is to be added to the ever increasing list of church “renewal” authors (e.g., Getz, Stedman, Richards, Bloesch, Girard) seeking to recast evangelically the mold of church structure.

He defines “new wine” as “preaching the gospel to the poor.” Indeed, how a church deals with the poor (not poverty) is the test of apostolicity, in Snyder’s view. He writes. “In God’s world there is no human condition which escapes moral significance, and the poor, and the treatment they receive, are strong indicators of the faithfulness of God’s people.”

He defines the “old wineskins” as that part of the Protestant church which came out of the sixteenth-century Reformation (presbyterian and congregational church government) and did not shed enough of the encrusted Roman Catholic tradition to allow the “new wine” to pour forth once more as it did in the days of the immediate post-apostolic church. He writes. “Regardless of the label, much Protestant ecclesiology is based more on tradition than on Scripture.”

Having thus defined his central terms Snyder lays before us the basic tension in the body of Christ as he sees it: “Renewal in the church has usually meant the church’s rebirth among the poor, the masses, the alienated. And with such resurgence has usually come the recovery of such essential New Testament emphases as community, purity, discipleship, the priesthood of believers and the gifts of the Spirit.” The tension is that the structure of the Reformation-rooted church is unable to respond adequately to this “renewal” or “rebirth.”

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This being the case, a “new wineskin” is needed. Snyder takes the tabernacle in the wilderness as the divine model for today’s church structure: “it shows God’s people—the church—as mobile and flexible.” But the model that is used instead is the temple, a sign of immobility, inflexibility, inhospitality, and vanity. Using the tabernacle model. Snyder tries to determine the ecclesiastical remedy for these four woes of our Reformation-rooted church structural heritage.

Rather than being immobile, the church structure ought to facilitate the gathering together of God’s people. The Church is to be organized around the central idea that God’s people are a covenanting, called-out people on a pilgrimage in this hostile world. Secondly, rather than being inflexible, the church structure ought to accommodate itself to functional considerations as it seeks to harbor the beleaguered people of God in an antagonistic cultural setting. Thirdly, rather than being inhospitable, the church structure ought to emphasize community and “peoplehood.” That is, the Church is to concern itself, at least partially, with expressing and demonstrating the charismatic communion of God’s people as they are gathered together by the Holy Spirit. Lastly, rather than fostering vanity, the church structure ought to encourage the priesthood of all believers, with everyone humbly contributing his spiritual gifts for the common good and affirming the “uniqueness and value of human personality.” There are no “super-star” pastors in the reconstituted church.

Snyder’s discussion of the “new wine” as the “preaching to the poor” is a ground-breaking evangelical attempt to get the Church to consider this aspect of its kingdom responsibilities. His survey giving a cultural and historical perspective helps one understand his approach to the problem of church structure. The book is clearly laid out and highlighted to make comprehension rather easy. And the author’s extensive use of notes is welcome.

Snyder refuses to engage in what Kenneth Gangel calls the “franchising syndrome” (This is the way we did it, so copy us), and while this is laudable, it also poses a problem. The practicality of the book is thwarted by the omission of concrete suggestions on just how to implement the restructuring for which Snyder is calling. (Granted, he disclaims the role of blueprint-maker in his introduction.) While he emphasizes the small group (eight to twelve people) as the most efficient and functional component of church structuring, how-to-do-it information (such as that offered by Richards, Stedman, and Girard, to name three) is absent. This I consider a major drawback to this book.

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One other major weakness is the apparent cutting of the apostolic umbilical cord to church structure. Snyder seems to deny the sufficiency and normativeness of God’s Word for structuring and organizing God’s people in our age. Does God charge us with the Great Commission and then refuse to reveal to us the structure for carrying out that commission? Snyder draws more upon the unauthoritative (and scanty) history of the immediate post-apostolic church than upon the authoritative (and not so scanty) history of the apostolic church in building his sociological/functional church structure for our age.

Howard Snyder is an erudite, trench-experienced church scholar who has an immense contribution to make to the welfare of the Church of Jesus Christ in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The Problem of Wineskins, however, is itself a pilgrimage—a statement written in the midst of Snyder’s journey to a settled ecclesiastical Canaan. It might have been more profitable had the author waited upon more study and reflection and then come forth with a definitive direction that was more soundly exegeted and tightly reasoned. Until we get this from Snyder, we must rely on ecclesiastical pioneers such as David Mains of Chicago. Ray Stedman of Palo Alto (both of whom endorse this book), and Egon Middelmann of the L’Abri-oriented Grace and Peace Fellowship in St. Louis to help the evangelical churches become the “new wineskins” for our precious vintage of gospel wine.

The Dark Side Of Human Nature

Escape From Evil, by Ernest Becker (The Free Press, 1975, 188 pp., $9.95), is reviewed by Michael H. Macdonald, associate professor of German and philosophy, Seattle Pacific College, Seattle, Washington.

Escape From Evil is a sequel to the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winner, The Denial of Death. Shortly before he died Becker requested that Escape From Evil remain unpublished, but his wife decided to release it. “believing the work to be an eloquent closure of his scientific literary career … [and] realizing that had the time remained, the author himself would have done so for what he considered to be his magnum opus.” His other books include The Birth and Death of Meaning, (second edition, 1971), The Revolution in Psychiatry (1974). Angel in Armor (1975), and The Structure of Evil (1968).

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Becker claims he looked man full in the face for the first time in Escape From Evil. For years he refused to admit the dark side of human nature. Here he confronts the tragic reality of human evil. He elaborates on the central theme of The Denial of Death by arguing that it is the fear of death that drives man. The root of human evil lies in man’s urge to transcend this fear and deny mortality. Becker illustrates “how man’s impossible hopes and desires have heaped evil in the world.” Man the animal wants the impossible for an animal in a godless world: an earth that is not an earth but a heaven. Man is cursed with a burden that no other creature must bear, the consciousness of his own impending death. Yet even more than extinction, man fears “extinction with insignificance.” Man needs to know daily that his activity has cosmic meaning, that his life counts in the larger scheme of things.

Becker, writing from a starkly empirical point of view, refers to “the immense burden of guilt on the human psyche.” Here he identifies the significance of man’s need to experience expiation for guilt. In sacrifice man is drawn into the majesty of that which transcends him. Sacrifice has been one way of affirming power over life and, therefore, denying death. Becker arrives at “a logic of killing others in order to affirm our own life,” a concept that may indeed unlock much that our modern minds have been unable to explain. People within a nation join together under one banner to become “a chosen people.” Those who are different are excluded, and the attempt is made to purge the evil (the different ones) from the world (consider Stalin or Mao). Thus Becker sees the same dynamic at work in blood sacrifices, holy wars, and purges: the attempt to reach the infinite. All ideology is concerned with qualifying for eternity, and all power becomes essentially sacred, i.e., power to deny mortality. Through power one can become transformed from small and finite to big and infinite. Yet Becker discovers that not only do power and coercion enslave man, but he himself harbors an “enemy within.” Both Rousseau and Marx are wrong. Human nature is neither good nor even neutral. Societal changes will not cause man’s natural goodness to flourish.

Becker concludes that we moderns have the means for large-scale destruction, and that power is beginning to take devastating tolls. Moreover, masses of people are still being treated as means and not as ends in themselves. He bemoans the fact that neither democracy nor Marxism has led to human equality and freedom, and asserts that man must develop a social ideal that is nondestructive, yet creative and life-enhancing, one that takes into account man’s basest motives. The “hate object” could then be transformed from a race or a class of people to other, impersonal forms, like poverty, disease, and natural disasters.

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Becker does a brilliant job of penetrating to the roots of issues. Escape From Evil and The Denial of Death are both likely to become important books for the history of ideas. They answer some key questions about man’s basic motives and his attitude toward the world around him. Becker has immersed himself in both the sciences and the humanities and digested much of modern psychological and anthropological thought. His theory embraces a broad spectrum of current events and issues, from the Viet Nam war to rock festivals and Transcendental Meditation.

Regrettably, his presupposition is clearly that since there is no deity to save us, man must save himself—however impossible the task. He does an excellent job of identifying the role of guilt, but he does not point to its cause—sin—for he himself feels no sense of sin. Sin is inoperative because the Divine is denied. Our modern world has avoided sin “by simply denying the existence of the invisible dimension to which it is related.” The scientist Becker rejects the Marxist point of view that man is basically good. He concludes, in basic agreement with Christianity, that much of what is wrong with the world relates to the nature of man and the age-old problem of evil. It is a pity that in cutting through to the roots he did not rediscover the whole of historic Christianity. He seems to have come so close to, and yet be very far from, the Truth.


Scholars who are interested in writing for the general reader and are capable of doing so effectively are all too rare, especially in the area of academic biblical studies. But here are books by five outstanding authorities that communicate extremely well: I Came to Set the Earth on Fire: A Portrait of Jesus, by R. T. France (InterVarsity, 190 pp., $2.50 pb); Gleanings from the New Testament, by A. M. Hunter (Westminster, 182 pp., $4.95); First Christians: Pentecost and the Spread of Christianity, by Paul L. Maier (Harper & Row, 160 pp., $6.95); Light on the Gospels: A Reader’s Guide, by John L. McKenzie (Thomas More, 216 pp., $9.95); and To Heal and to Reveal: The Prophetic Vocation according to Luke (Seabury, 179 pp., $8.95).

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Most leaders of religious ministries would rather not have to raise money, but for those who can’t avoid it, and for those who do see it as a calling, here are three recent books with practical helps: A New Climate for Stewardship, by Wallace Fisher (Abingdon, 127 pp., $3.95 pb), which sets the broadest context: New Models for Creative Giving, by Raymond Knudsen (Association, 143 pp., $5.50 pb), with such chapters as charitable reminder trusts and instrumentality grantsmanship; and How to Pay Your Pastor More and Balance the Budget Too! by Manfred Holck, Jr. (Religious Publishing Co. [198 Allendale Rd., King of Prussia, Pa. 19406], 121 pp., $6.95), written by an expert. Highly recommended for church finance committees.

A very practical and tested method for learning to speak another language is presented by E. Thomas Brewster and Elizabeth Brewster in Language Acquisition Made Practical (Lingua House [915 W. Jackson, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80907], 384 pp., $10 pb). The book is full of illustrations and charts and takes the user step by step. It was designed with missionaries in mind. An accompanying cassette is available.

Two recent collections of essays seek to honor distinguished evangelical Bible teachers. New Testament Studies, edited by Huber L. Drum-wright and Curtis Vaughan and dedicated to Ray Summers of Baylor (Baylor University Press, 195 pp., $7.95), includes contributions by F. F. Bruce, M. C. Tenney, Fred L. Fisher, Frank Stagg, and others. Interpreting the Word of God, edited by Samuel J. Schultz and Morris A. Inch (Moody, 281 pp., $8.95), has essays written by various faculty members of Wheaton College in honor of their colleague, Steven Barabas. The latter volume has a broader focus and includes an exceptionally fine article on the use of the Old Testament in the New, though both will be of interest to theological students and teachers.

At last there is a manual for the ordinary Bible student who wishes to have a basic introduction to the biblical languages without becoming an expert, or who is frightened by the formidable enterprise of their formal academic study! Do it Yourself Hebrew and Greek: Everybody’s Guide to the Language Tools, by Edward W. Goodrick (Multnomah Press [10209 S.E. Division, Portland Ore. 97266], 250 pp, $9.95 pb) offers some of the basics of the two languages plus, equally important, an introduction to the many tools of biblical study which can be used by those who have learned these basics. The author also gives guidelines for proper biblical interpretation and warns the reader not to abuse his limited knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. Could form a unit in any Bible school or college introductory course or provide the basis of an elective Sunday school class in a larger church. An accompanying cassette is also available.

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The name of Armerding is something of a household word in the evangelical community. Now George (brother of the elder Carl, uncle of Hudson and Carl Edwin) joins the ranks of the family authors with an interesting study of all of the references to perfumes and fragrances in the Bible, Fragrance Ascending (Western Book Company [1618 Franklin St., Oakland, CA 94612], 125 pp., n.p. pb). A Song for Lovers, by S. Craig Glickman (InterVarsity 188 pp., $3.95 pb), a guide to the Song of Solomon; Journey with Job, by Thomas John Carlisle (Eerdmans, 94 pp., $2.25 pb), a series of original poems; and Epistles Now by Leslie Brandt (Concordia. 186 pp., $5.95), a rewriting of the New Testament letters in free verse with illustrations by Corita Kent: these refreshingly restate some biblical messages.

The following books will be of interest mainly to biblical specialists and theological librarians: What is Structural Exegesis?, by Daniel Patte (Fortress, 90 pp., $2.95 pb), and Structural Analysis of Narrative, by Jean Calloud (Fortress, or Scholars Press, 108 pp., $3.95 pb), a new literary approach to the Bible arising out of modern anthropological studies. Studies in the Structure of Hebrew Narrative by Robert C. Culley (Fortress or Scholars Press, 122 pp., $3.95 pb) takes a more traditional literary approach to his subject. The fourth and final volume of the famous Grammar of New Testament Greek begun by James Hope Moulton (1863–1917) contains a careful analysis of the Style of each of the New Testament authors by Nigel Turner (Edinburgh, Scotland: T & T Clark, 174 pp.,£ 4.20).

Tribal religions plus a dozen surviving advanced religions are briefly surveyed by Lewis Hopfe in Religions of the World (Glencoe, 308 pp., n.p., pb).

You do not have to believe that the Apocrypha is inspired to appreciate the fact that its varied writings offer much insight into the life and thought of the Jewish people during the intertestamental period. The extensive commentary on I Maccabees by Jonathan Goldstein (Doubleday, 609 pp., $9.00), volume 41 in the Anchor Bible, offers a very welcome mine of historical information. The New Testament Environment by Eduard Lohse (Abingdon, 300 pp., $6.95 pb) begins with intertestamental history, but includes much more. It gives the student an excellent overview of the various cultural facets influencing the culture of Jesus. Specialists will find Aspects of Religious Propaganda in Judaism and Early Christianity, edited by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza (University of Notre Dame, 192 pp., $12.95), of value.

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The Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are a fastgrowing rival of historic Christianity. Their missionary zeal, increasing national prominence, and relatively upright lives make them formidable adversaries. Some understanding of them can be gained from a publication of their leading university, Christian Churches of America, by Milton Backman, Jr. (Brigham Young, 230 pp., $9.95, $5.95 pb). A reasonably fair portrayal is given of several major bodies and movements. When describing the Mormons themselves Backman tries to be objective and makes no attempt to cover up their highly unorthodox doctrines. Authoritative statements from the highest Mormon leaders, chiefly on ethical issues, have been compiled by R. Clayton Brough in His Servants Speak (Horizon Publishers [Box 490, Bountiful, Utah 84010], 298 pp., $6.95). The fifty-five topics include birth control (no), card playing (no), Coca Cola (no), dancing (yes), military service (yes), Negro priests (no), tithing (yes). A similar compilation of doctrinal pronouncements would be desirable.

The late Arnold Toynbee’s last book, Mankind and Mother Earth (Oxford, 641 pp., $19.50), is a fitting capstone to his long and controversial career. He narrates the entire history of man, striving to avoid the Western bias that so often afflicts such attempts. His focus is not on comparisons among civilizations as it was in A Study of History. Toynbee did not hold to orthodox Christianity, but he recognizes major influences by religious movements upon historical development, and therefore his approach is worth considering.

Creation, Christ and Culture is an appropriate title for a collection of theological essays seeking to honor Professor T. F. Torrance of Edinburgh, perhaps Britain’s most distinguished and creative living theologian, edited by Richard W. A. McKinney (T & T Clark, 328 pp., £ 5.60). Twenty scholars contributed.

Beyond The Exorcist

Hostage to the Devil, by Malachi Martin (Reader’s Digest Press, 1976, 477 pp., $9.95), is reviewed by William Melden, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

It is quite possible that Malachi Martin’s Hostage to the Devil will become one of the essential texts in the dark and difficult field of biblical demonology. While not as scholarly as the theses of Merrill Ungar, nor as overwhelming in scope as the work of Kurt Koch, Martin’s book will be of tremendous value to anyone involved either in studying demonology or in actually grappling with demonic forces.

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It is interesting that the publication of Hostage to the Devil coincides with the second re-release of the film The Exorcist. Like the tormented heroes of that grisly, tasteless story, Malachi Martin is himself a former Jesuit professor with considerable experience in the field of exorcism—or, if you prefer, the ministry of deliverance. His book is both a superb piece of theological scholarship and a terribly dramatic narrative. Martin explores the nature of demonic possession, the awful havoc created in the victim’s life, and the power of Christ over Satan and his minions. He offers five detailed case studies of possession and deliverance. His examples are far more gruesome, and potentially offensive, than anything dreamed up by the scriptwriters of Warner Brothers; his final message, however, is one of encouragement, hope, and a strange sort of scarred joy that can be felt only by those who have confronted Satan face to face and seen him defeated.

The victims described in Martin’s case studies are not less “ordinary” than the people we all encounter from day to day. They include a teen-age girl, a popular disc jockey; a Catholic priest who has adopted the “pop theology” of the post-war period, a professional psychologist, and a transsexual. As Martin points out, each of these persons adopted some attitude or ideology that has only recently emerged from the shadows and become “respectable”: the confusion of sex and gender that makes homosexuality and even transsexuality “viable options for a contemporary society”; the attempt, by Teilhard de Chardin and others, to reconcile biblical theology and Darwinian evolution; the steady assault on man’s personality that makes possible the hideous reductionism of a B. F. Skinner; the contemporary infatuation with occult phenomena, such as “parapsychology” and “astral projection,” pursuits that open the doors to demonic influence. The pathetic people Martin studied are the real-life victims of such “philosophical speculations.” When we see their sufferings through Martin’s eyes, we begin to understand Paul’s warning in First Timothy 4:1, “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (NASV).

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That warning, and the illustration of its truth provided by Hostage to the Devil, raises a point that the Christian Church must never forget: ideas—philosophies, theories, “vain imaginings”—do not exist in a vacuum. They have consequences. Whether the “doctrine” is evolution, “free love,” dialectical materialism, or reincarnation, it has ramifications and repercussions in the material world. This is one of the little-discussed “occupational hazards” of the professional philosopher or theologian; while he may indeed live in an “ivory tower,” he does not live there alone. The deceitful spirits are always there, ever awaiting the opportunity to swarm into their terrible habitations. This correlation between intellectual activity and demonic ambition is very real, as witness Martin’s book; it is also probably the chief raison d’être for the old Catholic Index.

Aside from the case studies, Hostage to the Devil is distinguished by two sections that are of inestimable value to the student of demonology. The first is the chapter entitled “A Brief Handbook of Exorcism,” in which Martin discusses the mechanics of possession and exorcism and describes the type of person usually chosen by God for the dreadful ministry of deliverance. He rarely chooses a person of great intellect or imagination; such a one would be too receptive to the confusing thoughts and doubts inevitably hurled at the minister during an exorcism by the demon or demons involved. As Martin points out. Satan’s two strongest weapons are deceit and confusion, and these can be deployed with utmost effectiveness against an intellectual, whose mind can easily be led down a thousand “rational” alleyways of defeat. There are obvious exceptions, of course, such as the Apostle Paul (and, presumably, Martin himself), but the rule seems clear enough. As Martin puts it, God usually seems to choose “sensitive men of solid rather than dazzling minds.”

“A Brief Handbook of Exorcism” also includes a fascinating outline of the chronological stages of exorcism, explained to Martin by another, more experienced exorcist. The stages are called Presence, Pretense, Breakpoint, Voice, Clash, and Expulsion; each corresponds to a particular tactic or event used by the demon and/or the exorciser.

The final section of the book. “A Manual of Possession,” is an adequate if not breathtaking presentation of the traditional biblical views of Christ, Satan, and man. Martin wisely avoids a strong Catholic emphasis here; as elsewhere in the book, he emphasizes that it is nothing but the power of Jesus Christ that prevails over Satan and his demons. He does make continual reference to “the Church,” but it is clear that he means the universal church, rather than the church of Rome.

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This emphasis on the power and grace of Jesus Christ is the factor that most distinguishes Hostage to the Devil, and makes it far more than merely another book of horror stories. Malachi Martin has met the devil face to face in a way that few of us ever will; and, while he is obviously scarred, he can say, with Corrie ten Boom, “Jesus was Victor, Jesus is Victor, Jesus will be Victor.”


Like its Protestant counterpart, the Roman Catholic charismatic movement has differing styles and emphases. Joining New Covenant as a nationally circulating magazine is Catholic Charismatic, a slick-paper bi-monthly issued by a major Catholic publisher, Paulist Press, with a widespread network of editors. The first issue was dated March-April, 1976. Protestant as well as Catholic theological libraries will want to subscribe, and, of course, charismatic Catholics will be especially interested ($7.50/year; 400 Sette Drive, Paramus, N.J. 07652). Bulk rates are available.

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