What Next?

Dreams, Visions and Oracles, by Carl E. Armerding and W. Ward Gasque (Baker, 1977, 263 pp., $9.95), is reviewed by John V. Dahms, professor of New Testament, Canadian Theological College, Regina, Saskatchewan.

The title of this book might suggest another of the many volumes that claim to provide a detailed blueprint of the end of the age, set in a framework of dispensationalist premillennialism and perhaps interpreting current events as sure evidence that the rapture of the Church is not far off. The facts are quite otherwise. As stated in the preface, the editors’ purpose is to deal with Bible prophecy in a way that is “less sensational and essentially more biblical” than the treatment in The Late Great Planet Earth and other recent popular books on the subject.

Seventeen respected scholars contribute chapters, with a foreword by F. F. Bruce. There is, not surprisingly, some lack of continuity between the chapters and some unevenness in the level of understanding required of the readers. (According to the subtitle, the book is intended as “The Layman’s Guide to Biblical Prophecy”; it is for “the ordinary, intelligent reader.”) On the other hand, by choosing the symposium method the editors are able to present the book as representative of an evangelical consensus, an important consideration at a time when the popular books on Bible prophecy do not “represent the convictions of any of the historic confessions or of most evangelical theologians.”

However, the primary purpose of the book is not to put down popular literature that prompted it. Although the first three articles do deal with the rise of dispensationalist premillennialism and the tendency to fix times for prophetic events, the rest of the volume is almost entirely positive in its approach. Several chapters set forth background considerations and important guidelines for interpreting prophecy. A major section of the book is devoted to such themes as the Kingdom of God, the return of Christ, the millenium, the last judgment, and Israel’s relationship to the church.

Two features of the book are especially helpful. First, historical influences on matters relating to biblical prophecy are set forth; for example, W. Dyrness points out that Hal Lindsey’s first book gained appeal by appearing at a time when astrology was having its greatest revival in three hundred years, and J. W. Montgomery describes the circumstances that encouraged some early Christians to reject a literal millennium. Second, a number of writers take pains to show how biblical statements concerning the future accord with other teachings of Scripture; for example, R. Longenecker discusses how the return of Christ is “rooted in the covenant promise of God.” and J. P. Martin relates judgment as a future event to the emphasis in the Johannine Gospel and Epistles on “the present as the decisive time of judgment.” I think it is important to perceive the unity between the various items of eschatological expectation and other doctrines of the Christian faith.

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Even those who heartily agree with the general view of prophecy in this volume may demur at some minor points. And some will question whether certain parts of it are written in a popular enough vein for a “Layman’s Guide.” Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book. May it be but the first of many volumes bringing to the attention of evangelical persons the historic and mainline understanding of biblical prophecy. Such books can never hope to gain the popularity of The Late Great Planet Earth and similar works, because they cannot excite the reader with the promise that we are in the last decades, cannot satisfy the desire to know in detail what is to happen, and cannot assure escape from the worst of tribulations. But they can serve as a constant reminder that there is another understanding of biblical prophecy whose advocates are just as devoted to the truth of God’s Word and just as eager for Christ’s return.

Has God Said?

I Believe in Revelation, by Leon Morris (Eerdmans, 1976, 159 pp., $2.95 pb), is reviewed by George W. Knight III, associate professor of New Testament, Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.

Revelation-the doctrine that God makes himself known through the beauty and order of his creation, the message of the Bible, and climactically, through his Son—has been attacked by many theologians in recent years. Leon Morris’s aim in these pages is to counter that trend and lead us to a firm understanding of revelation and its manifestations.” So begins the description of this book on its cover, and apt and accurate words they are.

Written for the general reader as part of an “I Believe” series of books, this paperback volume serves as a current statement of evangelical thought on a controversial area of the Christian faith. It is not a technical monograph or an in-depth study, like the classic essays of B. B. Warfield. It is not a treatise dealing with difficult passages, like parts of the well-known works of William Arndt or E. J. Young. It is not another symposium of evangelicals, like The Infallible Word by the Westminster faculty or the volumes edited by Carl Henry. Nor is it an exposé like The Battle for the Bible, done so ably by Harold Lindsell. What then is this delightfully and carefully written book? It is an encyclopedic overview of the central question, Has God revealed himself to man? Morris begins with the broadest perspective, the philosophical and historical questions, and proceeds to the most specific, the question of the Bible itself and more particularly its message of salvation and life in Jesus Christ.

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The author is quite abreast of the broad philosophical and theological spectrum. Anyone acquainted with Leon Morris’s academic itinerary both as a student and as a professor will be well satisfied with his breadth of perspective, and his footnotes and references bear out this confidence. Most particularly, Morris’s Cambridge doctoral dissertation on the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death has given him a vantage point from which to look at this larger question of revelation. Moreover, in a study in which the words of Jesus and his apostles have decisive significance, it is good to have a New Testament scholar as the guide.

Two recurring points keep the discussion on track. The first is that Morris continually asks, What does the Bible say? Does it say that God has revealed himself? Does it say that it itself is a vehicle for that revelation? Second, Morris continually exposes those who repudiate the Bible’s claims by showing their prejudicial a prioris. From what other than a “religious” presupposition can they say that revelation or the supernatural cannot exist and cannot be documented in historical writings? At this last point I find Morris is a bit too charitable in his polite request to “historians” to admit that the supernatural is outside their realm; I think instead that he should challenge them to recognize that if God has acted in history and his actions are observable—for example, the resurrection of Lazarus or of Jesus—then for historians to fail to take account of these facts is to be unscholarly and less than accurate. The same must be said for his defense of piety. Rather than concessively saying that piety is needed and is important alongside of scholarship, I think we must say that the word of God calls for a response of piety and that scholars who fail to say that or ridicule it have shown that their own defensiveness will not allow the text to have its say.

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But this is not to suggest that Morris avoids the hard questions. Far from it. Take the matter of cultural relativity, for instance. According to this view, the Bible (or parts of it) is conditioned by the culture of its day and cannot be normative in another culture, particularly in ours today. Morris points out that there is not that much isolation for any culture, and that the common ground of human beings in all cultures is far more significant.

Morris clearly affirms his belief that although the word “inerrancy” is not found in Scripture, the concept is a necessary corollary of the fact that it is the God of truth who reveals himself, not a God to whom error is of no consequence. He cites nearly a page of references to Scripture passages that affirm this characteristic of God in his dealing with men.

Particularly in this treatment of inerrancy but also elsewhere in the book I was dismayed that certain relevant passages were not more thoroughly opened up. For example, John 10:35 says the “Scripture [that which is written, not just the message thereof] cannot be broken,” i.e., proved to be in error. And the passage quoted from the Old Testament in verse 34 is not dealing, strictly speaking, with the salvation message but is nevertheless the basis for the a fortiori argument of Jesus about his deity as the Son of God. However, Jesus was willing to build his argument on this small segment of Scripture because he believed that Scripture as a whole and every part of it could not be set aside or found to be in error. For Morris to say nothing about this passage in his discussion of inerrancy seems to me a rather grievous error, in view of Jesus’ value judgment!

In his last chapter, “Revelation Outside Christianity,” Morris skillfully marshalls passages in support of the point that “it is biblical teaching that God ‘did not leave himself without witness’ among the heathen (Acts 14:17).” But at the same time he fails to make it clear that the Bible (in the very passages he refers to and elsewhere) makes these distinctions between the fact that God has made himself known to them, and the fact that they have not really personally known God in a living and transforming relationship; between the fact that God has made himself known to them, and the fact that he has not made himself known through them; between the fact that the revelation among the heathen is natural or general revelation and is corrupted or suppressed when they write or speak of it, and the fact that the special, supernatural, and saving revelation is made known to and through his redeemed people and his chosen vessels of communication. The reader may be left with the impression that both sides of these sets of contrasting positions are true, which I think Morris did not intend and does not believe.

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The positive thrust and position of the book, on the one hand, and the direction of its answers to opposing views, especially to those that claim to be within the ranks of Christendom, can be seen in these two quotations:

“The fact is that nobody comes to regard the Bible as the book that gives us God’s word because he has worked through it and come up with acceptable solutions to all the difficulties. He accepts it thankfully and regards it as reliable because that was the view of Christ and the apostles. It is this, and not our ability to explain difficulties, that is the justification for our holding the Bible to be God’s authoritative revelation. Conversely our inability to come up with satisfactory explanations does not compel us to abandon the Bible” (p. 140).

“He fears that the same cannot usually be said about the view of his more radical brother. The latter makes no claim to submitting to Christ or to anyone else in this matter. Rather he works out his concept of revelation according to his best insights. He may take notice of what Christ said or what the apostles said or what his colleagues say. But in the last resort his view of revelation is simply that which commends itself to him. His reasoning seems completely subjective” (p. 120).


The Book of Deuteronomy, by Peter C. Craigie (Eerdmans, 1976, 424 pp., $9.95), and Deuteronomy, by J. A. Thompson (InterVarsity, 1974, 320 pp., $7.95), are reviewed by Ronald Youngblood, professor of Old Testament, Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Although a seventh-century-B.C. date for Deuteronomy is still the reigning hypothesis in Pentateuchal higher criticism, scholars have by no means arrived at an agreement. G. Hölscher dated Deuteronomy (D) after the exile on the basis that a demand for a single sanctuary would have been impracticably idealistic in pre-exilic times. R. H. Kennett also proposed a late date for D since the law of sacrifice in H (the “Holiness” code of Leviticus), which he considered to be closely related to Ezekiel, is earlier than the law of sacrifice found in Deuteronomy 12. On the other hand, A. C. Welch proposed to date many of the laws of D during the Solomonic period or slightly later because of their primitive character, and E. Robertson dated D earlier still, feeling that it was composed under Samuel’s supervision to be used as a lawbook when the Israelite tribes were eventually united under a king. Moreover, G. T. Manley, in The Book of the Law, supported the essentially Mosaic origin of D in a closely reasoned presentation, while M. Kline, in Treaty of the Great King, showed that the outline of D coincides with that of the Hittite suzerainty treaties of the period from c. 1450 to c. 1200 B.C. (i.e., the period of Moses, whether he is dated early or late).

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Enter evangelicals P. C. Craigie and J. A. Thompson, both of whom are solidly in the tradition of Manley and Kline. With Manley, both see the hand of Moses throughout D, though they do not deny the possibility—even the likelihood—of a later editorial touch here and there (Deuteronomy 34 being an obvious example). Following Kline’s lead, both are intrigued by the close similarity between the structure of D and the structure of Late Bronze Age political treaties; Craigie even proposes that the treaty form of the Sinaitic covenant has an Egyptian rather than a Hittite background. Both commentators, then, present traditional views about the date and authorship of D. though it is clear that they are thoroughly conversant with competing positions.

Thompson, an Australian, sprinkles archaeological notes throughout his work. Strangely enough, however, he locates Kadesh-barnea at Ain Kadesh rather than at Ain el-Qudeirat. Also, his reference to copper smelters in the Arabah needs revision in the light of recent reassessments of those installations as storehouses. But by and large Thompson is a sure-footed and reliable guide through the highways and byways of the Middle East. And the vast majority of his exegetical comments are eminently sane as well: for example. D’s policy of centralization envisions not Jerusalem but a series of sanctuaries in succession; at the end of the period of wilderness wandering, Moses restated the Decalogue to suit the new circumstances in which the people found themselves; the “thou” and “you” sections of D, instead of proving diversity of authorship, merely reflect difference in emphasis.

Craigie, a Canadian, treats us to numerous philological and lexical notes in his commentary. While agreeing with him at almost every point, I found myself wondering why “back(s)” as a translation for bmt is not so appropriate in the highly poetic context of Deuteronomy 32:13 (p. 381) as it is in 33:29 (pp. 402 f.). I also questioned his judgment that “ailing Aramean” is preferable to “wandering Aramean” in 26:5. His comments on the double inheritance-share received by the firstborn (21:17) would have been strengthened by a cross-reference to Second Kings 2:9, and the “fruit of the womb” (28:4) has a close parallel in Luke 1:42. A passing reference to the possibility that “thousands” in Deuteronomy 5:10 means “thousands of generations” (see 5:9) would have been welcome. But these are insignificant complaints when balanced against the author’s numerous helpful insights.

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Both of these books are worthy contributions to their series (Craigie’s to the New International Commentary on the Old Testament and Thompson’s to the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) and to evangelical Old Testament scholarship. They should prove useful to clergyman and layman alike. Both commentators wear their scholarship lightly, and their devotion to Jesus Christ shines clearly from the printed page.

Furthermore, a deeply reverent attitude toward Scripture is everywhere evident. Craigie speaks for both when he states that D is ultimately not a human work but the work of God. In view of this, the essentially Mosaic date and authorship that both espouse is only to be expected. As Kline expressed it nearly fifteen years ago, “the Deuteronomic bark” seems once again to be drifting “in the general direction of the Mosaic port.”

May the fresh breezes continue to blow!

An Admirable Life Of Jesus

I Came to Set the Earth on Fire: A Portrayal of Jesus, by R. T. France (InterVarsity, 1976, 190 pp., $2.50 pb), is reviewed by Walter A. Elwell, associate professor of Bible and theology, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

In this extremely well-written little book, R. T. France has put forward a sensitive and compelling portrait of Jesus. He begins by pointing out that although the Gospels are not biographical in the modern sense, and no precise chronology of Jesus’ life is possible, this does not mean nothing at all can be said. A broad historical picture of Jesus can be painted, and France draws upon a detailed knowledge of Jesus’ times to make his life understandable in historical terms. Discussions of Roman law. Jewish thought, geography, social problems, politics, and rabbinic teaching are laced throughout the book. It is all so deftly accomplished that one must reread the footnotes to see how much work has gone into the book and how carefully documented everything is.

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France acknowledges that what he writes about Jesus is not wholly objective, but this hardly detracts from the book. No one is totally objective in what he writes. What is required is consistency and honesty in the handling of the sources, and here France scores highly. He never skirts a problem, attempts a facile reconciliation of conflicting accounts, falls back upon an artificial a priori theological doctrine, or refuses to acknowledge the difficulty of what he says (e.g., concerning miracles or the virgin birth).

On the debit side, France’s topical approach leads to a lack of integration. The book is advertised in this way: “Who is the real Jesus? Why did he say, ‘I came to set the earth on fire’?” But the answer is not made clear. The idea of setting the world on fire is mentioned just once; it plays no significant role in France’s reconstruction of Jesus. The Jesus France portrays comes from a middle-class family, is conspicuously opposed to violence, has no program for society, is not even remotely in sympathy with Zealot ideals, and is thoroughly apolitical—hardly a firebrand. A more prominent theme is that of Jesus the Ultimate Challenge—one who does not allow objectivity but demands decision; this idea runs throughout the book. Jesus drives men to extremes, making them take sides either for or against him. Another theme, though it is not fully developed, is that of Jesus the Compassionate One, the One Who Cared: “It was people that mattered, people in need, people and their response to God.… Jesus was interested in people, as people.” Other themes that occur are Jesus the New Israel and Jesus the Reconciler. But the various themes are not brought together very well, perhaps because France does not think such integration is possible (see p. 115).

As a brief survey of Jesus’ life, intended for the educated layman, this book is admirable. It is wholly positive and constructively apologetic, saying just enough to answer the questions in the mind of the reader but never overpowering. It confronts the reader with Jesus and lets him decide what responses to make.

The Rise Of Post-Christian Europe

James I (1976, 472 pp., $12.50), and Robespierre, The Voice of Virtue (1974, 266 pp., $9.95), both by Otto J. Scott and published by Mason/Charter, are reviewed by R. J. Rushdoony, president, Chalcedon Foundation, Vallecito, California.

In an effort to escape a confrontation with the living God, says Otto J. Scott, man has followed what Scott calls “holy fools,” leaders of efforts to create an alternative to Christian faith, who have thereby brought disaster to their followers. These leaders have sought either to use Christianity for their own ends or to destroy it in order to establish their own religion, humanism. James I sought to use Christianity and Robespierre to supplant it. A third “holy fool,” John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame, is the subject of Scott’s third and forthcoming study.

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In James I’s day, the Grand Design of the Calvinists was to replace royal sovereignty, with its claim to divine rights, with the sovereignty of God. After Knox, the goal of Calvinism was to combine political and social revolution with a theological revolution and to make the Reformed faith the foundation for the restructuring of society. The immediate goal was to unite Scotland, England, and the Netherlands, aid the Huguenots, help Reform triumph in all of northern Europe, and thereby create a new Christendom. Philip II of Spain had dreamed of restoring the old Catholic Christendom. Most monarchs, however, were thinking of a state-centered rather than a God-centered order.

In infancy, James I had been crowned by men who dreamed of the Grand Design, and he had been tutored in it, although very early his magnificent tutor George Buchanan recognized his reprobate nature. (Very early, too, James developed his homosexual tendencies.) From the beginning, James surrounded himself with pro-Catholic nobles and sought good relations with England’s old enemy, Spain. By exploiting the Catholics he was able to use them, as he used everyone else, to further, not Calvinist or Catholic goals, but royal ones. Scott makes clear what many scholars, misled by James’s sorry appearance and pomposity, have missed: “There had never been anything wrong with James’ intelligence; it was his character that was deficient.” James was a key figure in the shift of the climate of Europe from Christian man to politico-economic man, a shift that undermined the work of both the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation and gave us the modern era.

In Robespierre, the humanism is open and clear. A new world order, a millennium, is to be established on man’s terms. The full slogan of the French Revolution, seldom reproduced in our time, was “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity—or Death,” and the Reign of Terror, the Russian Revolution, and the social upheavals of our day were the result. Robespierre pushed through the legal abolition of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, but not of the witchcraft and black magic cults. Judaism was banned also, and the death penalty was ordered for “the practice of any form of Christian or Judaic religion.” The goal was to de-Christianize France and to create a truly humanistic religion.

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In France, the man in the street had become economic man, no longer Christian man. Earlier, Mirabeau had seen the issue and what revolution had to promise: “In the last analysis, the people will judge the Revolution by one consideration, and one only: will it put more money in their pockets? Will they be able to live more easily?” Anything was permissible for the rulers in their efforts to reach their revolutionary objectives, because man’s morality could be decreed only by man. An edict of d’Herbois and Fouchet began, “All is permitted those who act in the Revolutionary direction.” The fall of Robespierre came when he began to be heralded by an insane little group as the Messiah; Catherine Theot hailed him as the Son of God, and then as God. Robespierre’s enemies used this to overthrow him; the humanistic gods ended by tearing each other apart savagely.

Scott writes with superb ability, as a master of both language and history. Moreover, he writes as a Christian, one who sees all of history in terms of biblical faith. He is a scholar with a solid background in the world of commerce (the oil industry), as his study The Professional (1976) evidences. He does not see Christian faith as alien to that world or to modern history. Rather, he sees it as the critical and inescapable issue. Modern man may pretend to be indifferent to that faith, but behind that indifference a full-scale war is under way, because the challenge is felt; man cannot exist in indifference to the living God. Moreover, Scott sees man’s warfare against God as involving war against man as well, so that James, for example, in opposing the faith, was also renouncing his pledge to work for his kingdom’s welfare. As Scott notes, intellectuals still echo James’s belief that he could govern according to the common weal and not according to the common will. Humanistic intellectuals from James I to the present have assumed that they themselves could define, without reference to the word of God and the will of man, what constitutes the common good.

Both these studies are important, not only for what they say concerning the eras dealt with but for their implications for our times. Scott is aware that there is an implicit theology in all historiography. Instead of a morass of data, he gives us a coherent view, because, if God is the Lord of history, then history is more than a collection of data. For this reason, to read Scott’s studies means that things fall into place for us; our own perspective is clarified.

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Briefly Noted: Feelings

Christians can have more difficulty in handling problems than non-Christians. They may feel they are supposed to be leading lives of continuous peace and victory with the strength God supplies, and so to the initial problem are added guilt and a feeling of having let God down. For general treatments see The Whole Christian: How You Can Find Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Health, by Elizabeth Skoglund (Harper & Row, 113 pp., $2.95 pb), The Strong Weak People, by Jay Kesler (Victor, 119 pp., $2.25 pb), Courage to Live: Help From the Bible For Life’s Problems, by John Bishop (Judson, 127 pp., $3.95 pb), and How to Live with Your Feelings, by Phillip Swihart (InterVarsity, 60 pp., $1.25 pb). Several emotions are treated, a chapter for each, in Healing Life’s Sore Spots, by Frank Kostyu (Hawthorn, 156 pp., $6.95), and Your Churning Place: Your Emotions, Turning Stress Into Strength, by Robert Wise (Regal, 142 pp., $2.95 pb). Numerous specific emotions are the subjects of separate books: To Anger, With Love, by Elizabeth Skoglund (Harper & Row, 108 pp., $6.95), Overcoming Anxiety, by Gerald Schomp (St. Anthony Messenger, 124 pp., $1.50 pb), Depression: What Is It? How Do We Cope? by Jack Dominian (Our Sunday Visitor, 224 pp., $3.95 pb), How to Beat the Blahs, by Arnold Prater (Harvest House, 112 pp., $1.75 pb), and Liberation From Guilt, by Harold Warlick, Jr. (Broadman, 128 pp., n.p., pb).

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