In this diverse collection of categories related to church history, several things stand out clearly as trends. First, there is growing interest in denominational studies. Over the past few decades with the stress on merger and bigness, one would perhaps have expected individual Christian distinctives to have disappeared. Such was not the case. The call to abandon distinctives caused people to look at them more closely, and to discover that they really did mean something after all. The result is that today histories of denominations, biographies of founders, doctrinal studies, and periods of time are being looked at carefully, from a denominational point of view.
Second, the relation of Christianity to the arts is being explored in a new and creative way by evangelicals. There has been something of the world denier in evangelical thought in times past; today, however, a serious attempt is being made to look at how music, art, literature, aesthetics, and architecture relate to the basic Christian message. It is as if to say, this is our Father’s world and all that may be used in the interest of our Father’s business is a legitimate concern for the believer.
Third, the place of the pulpit is receiving attention once more. Gimmicks have failed, fads have come and gone, but the needs of the congregation have remained. How to meet those needs is an increasing concern to the evangelical community, as it takes a new look at effective preaching. Every preacher asks himself somewhere along the line, What good does all this preaching do? Attention is now being directed to that question, and there are some good answers being given.
Fourth, the problem of Israel won’t go away. This is not news, of course, but this fact stands out clearly in the books that continue to pour off the presses. Would that some practical solution could be offered that is acceptable to all responsible parties to enable peace to be established in the Middle East. Every point of view is presented, but nothing substantive seems to be accomplished.
It is not easy to select those books that ought to be called the best of the year; so many could qualify for one reason or another. A few, however, do stand out, sometimes as representatives of a class. The following four were selected as choice books of evangelical interest.
John Wesley (Collins), by Stanley Ayling. This scholarly, well-written, and urbane treatment of Wesley represents the interest now being directed toward denominational beginnings. Ayling tries to see Wesley as a part of his own time, but he never forgets the immense influence Wesley has had on subsequent British history. It is a fine book that deserves careful reading.
Gateway to Heaven (Harper & Row), by Sheldon Vanauken. This is a brilliant, moving Christian novel that is impossible to put down. It is a new kind of novel for Christians and indicative of what can be done when one sets out in new directions. Vanauken is a writer whose work will stand the test of time.
Baptists and the Bible (Moody), by Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles. This book is important because of the history it contains and the fair-minded approach taken. Bombast so often replaces rationality in controversial matters, but you will not find any of that in this volume. The authors are clearly out to heal and help. This book sets a pattern for works of this sort.
Beyond the Gunsights: One Arab Family in the Promised Land (Houghton Mifflin), by Yoella Har-Shefi. The complexities of Israel’s problems are set forth in this challenging book in a personal way by describing the lives of an Arab family. That it was written by a survivor of a Warsaw ghetto is also significant. The book is no partisan polemic for the Arab point of view, but is a sensitive portrayal of what life is like for everyone in that disturbed land. One needs to read this book to balance out the prophecy charts that so often make concern for the future cancel out any interest in the people who make up the present.
DENOMINATIONS. Herbert Bowman’s A Look at Today’s Churches—A Comparative Guide (Concordia) is a brief, general introduction to the basic denominations in America. It is helpful, but Bowman is confused about premillennialism and dispensationalism (pp. 61–63).
Baptists. A revised edition of the excellent survey The Baptists in America (Doubleday/Galilee), by O. K. and Marjorie Armstrong, is now available in paperback. It is the best introduction available. Baptists Who Dared (Judson), by Frank Hoadley and Benjamin Browne, briefly gives lives of over 20 courageous Baptists. Baptists in Transition (Judson), by Winthrop Hudson, takes a look at some of the tensions deep in Baptist life. Baptists and the Bible (Moody), by L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles, looks specifically at the current controversy over inspiration and authority in a well-written and fair-minded work. It puts the discussion into a much-needed historical context by considering Baptist views from the past. Baptists in Canada: Search for Identity Amidst Diversity (Welch, 960 Gateway, Burlington, Ont., Canada), edited by Jarold K. Zeman, is a stimulating collection of essays. Leslie Tarr’s “Another Perspective on T. T. Shields” is especially interesting. A very clever and readable survey is The Twentieth Century Baptist (Judson), by Carl Tiller. Done as a news journal, the significant events and people related to The Baptist World Alliance during its first 75 years are chronicled.
Methodists. Three works directly related to Wesley appeared in the last year, two of them excellent and complementary biographies; John Wesley (Collins), by Stanley Ayling, and Strangely Warmed (Tyndale), by Garth Lean. Robert L. Moore’s John Wesley and Authority: A Psychological Perspective (Scholar’s Press) reduces Wesley too far into Freudian categories to be helpful, in my opinion. Two valuable source works are: Methodist Union Catalog: Pre-1976 Imprints, Vol. IV, DO-FY (Scarecrow Press), edited by Kenneth Rowe, drawn from more than 200 libraries, and The Works of John Wesley: Letters I, 1721–1739 (Oxford Univ. Press), edited by Frank Baker. The introduction and notes are superb. Ted Campbell looks at the Apostolate of United Methodism (Discipleship Resources, Box 840, Nashville, Tenn.), and William Greathouse examines Christian perfectionism in From the Apostles to Wesley (Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City).
Lutherans.The Lutherans in North America, revised edition (Fortress), edited by E. Clifford Nelson, certainly has to be the volume to own on this subject. A much shorter, but still helpful history is The Story of the American Lutheran Church (Augsburg), by Alvin Rogness. Ten Faces of Ministry (Augsburg) by Milo Brekke, Merton Strommen, and Dorothy Williams, is a fascinating survey of what five thousand Lutherans said regarding pastoral and congregational effectiveness. Anyone would profit by reading this book.
Episcopalians. A Communion of Communions: The Eucharistic Fellowship (Seabury), edited by J. Robert Wright, contains the Detroit Report and papers of the Triennial Ecumenical Study of the Episcopal Church, 1976–79.
Evangelical United Brethren.The History of the Evangelical United Brethren Church (Abingdon), by I. Bruce Behney and Paul H. Eller, is a definitive history of this denomination from its beginnings to its merger with the United Methodist Church in 1968.
Mennonites.Women Among the Brethren (Board of Christian Literature of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, Hillsboro, Kansas), edited by Katie Wiebe, gives 15 stirring stories of the lives of women who dared to serve the Lord. Evangelicalism and Anabaptism (Herald), edited by C. Norman Kraus, is a look at evangelicalism from a specifically Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective. “Pop Eschatology” by Marlin Jeschke is especially interesting.
Quakers. Elbert Russell’s monumental The History of Quakerism (Friends United Press, Richmond, Ind.) is available again in paperback. It remains the best single-volume history available.
Pentecostals.Pentecostals Around the World (Paragon, Box 809, Fern Park, Fla.) is a firsthand account of Pentecostalism’s amazing growth worldwide. Neo-Pentecostalism: A Sociological Assessment (Univ. Press of America), by Cecil Bradfield, is an attempt to look at the phenomenon as a social experience. (For Roman Catholic Pentecostalism, see below.)
Amish.Amish Society, third edition, revised (Johns Hopkins Univ.), by John A. Hostetler, is an updating of the best single book available on the Amish. It is well written, well documented, and authoritative.
Salvation Army.Marching to Glory (Harper & Row), by Edward H. McKinley, ably covers the Salvation Army’s first hundred years, 1880–1980. A shorter and nicely illustrated account is A Gentle War (Macmillan) by Lawrence Fellows.
The Bruderhof. Although technically not a denomination, this interesting federation of three colonies located in New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut has survived for three generations and is carefully written up in The Joyful Community (Univ. of Chicago), by Benjamin Zablocki.
Roman Catholicism. Three introductory volumes head this list. The first is a massive Summa, entitled simply Catholicism, two volumes (Winston Press), by Richard P. McBrien. It is a comprehensive, balanced, thoughtful summary of Catholic life and doctrine that shows clearly where Roman Catholicism is today. It is a fine work. Modern Catholic Dictionary (Doubleday), by John A. Hardon, is a well-written, one-volume statement of where the Roman Catholic church stands on major topics. It is especially helpful for those who do not understand Roman Catholicism. The American Catholic Catalog (Harper & Row), by Bernard Hassan, is an illustrated survey, complete with bibliographies, of Roman Catholic distinctives, written for lay people.
Several studies examine Roman Catholicism as a part of the modern world. Catholicism and Modernity: Confrontation or Capitulation (Seabury), by James Hitchcock, is a serious look at a major crisis in the Roman Catholic church. Catholics and American Politics (Harvard), by Mary T. Hanna, looks at the dynamics of faith in changing social situations and how this affects political life. With Clumsy Grace (Seabury), by Charles Meconis, looks at the American Catholic left wing from 1961–1975. The Battle for the American Church (Doubleday), by George Kelly, is a powerful analysis of the church in America and the problems it faces.
Two books look at Catholic Pentecostalism: A Portion of My Spirit (Carillon), by Michael Scanlan, and The Theological Self-Understanding of the Catholic Charismatic Movement (Univ. Press of America), by James F. Breckenridge.
Toward Reunion (Paulist), by Edward Kilmartin, is a look at the problems that stand in the way of Roman Catholic and Orthodox reunion and a discussion of the progress being made in that area.
CHRISTIANITY AND THE ARTS. This much neglected aspect of the church’s life is receiving new attention these days. Fresh attempts are being made to relate Christianity to the arts as well as to see how the two have influenced each other in the past. Many well-done works have appeared in the last year.
Music. A wonderfully readable and comprehensive study of Christian hymnody is Sing With Understanding (Broadman), by Harry Eskew and Hugh T. McElrath. It discusses what hymns are, where hymns fit into culture, history, and the church, and concludes with an excellent bibliography and index. Two interesting histories are Christian Music in Contemporary Witness (Baker), by Donald P. Ellsworth, and Somebody’s Calling My Name: Black Sacred Music and Social Change (Judson), by Wyatt Lee Walker. Both are extremely helpful works and highly recommended. The former is more comprehensive and answers questions about music in the church today. Two practical works are The Church Musician’s Enchiridion (Northwestern Publishers, 3624 W. North Ave., Milwaukee, Wis.), by A. O. Lehmann, and The Ministry of Music in the Church (Moody), by Vic Delamont. Both are handy guides for leaders of church music, covering rehearsal to presentation.
A new hymnbook reprint is Christian Hymns, by the Evangelical Movement of Wales (Bryntirion, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Wales, U.K.). I found it to be a marvelous selection of meaty hymns, with little sentimentality or fluff. These are the great hymns of the faith and they are available again for our time.
Literature. Two of John Bunyan’s classics have been redone for today. The Annotated Pilgrim’s Progress (Moody), by Warren Wiersbe, is nicely done. The explanatory notes go a long way toward making the story live again. Chronicles of Mansoul (Regal), by Ethel Barrett, is Bunyan’s Holy War redone in a sparkling style that should appeal to readers of all ages. George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind (David C. Cook) and Sir Gibbie (Schocken), edited by Elizabeth Yates, attest to the growing interest in one of the nineteenth century’s most significant writers. There is a minor MacDonald revival going on just now, and all for the better. A beautiful new edition of W. D. Howell’s The Quality of Mercy is now available, complete with introduction and notes by James P. Elliot, published by the Indiana University Press. It is a nice piece of work.
A Long Perspective (Pacific Northwest Book Distributors, Box 15158, Wedgewood Station, Seattle, Wash.), by George Edward McDonough, is a sensitive book of Christian poetry, which, like all good literature, improves with every reading. Adam (Harold Shaw), by David Bolt, is praised by C. S. Lewis as being splendid, rich, and fresh, and so it is. This is a marvelous book. The Finale (InterVarsity), by Calvin Miller, is the thrilling conclusion of a three-part work beginning with The Singer and The Song, written in the tradition of Lewis and Tolkien. Book one of a new set of legends is Magician’s Bane (Nelson), by Charles Beamer. It begins what promises to be an exciting series about another world, much like Narnia. It is the classic struggle of good against evil told in compelling language. A fine collection of short stories dealing with providence, morality, revelation, and community is Faith and Fiction: The Modern Short Story (Eerdmans), edited by Robert Detweiler and Glenn Meeter. Sheldon Vanauken has done it again with Gateway to Heaven (Harper & Row). If you enjoyed reading Vanauken’s previous work, A Severe Mercy, you will welcome this beautiful story. Helen Steiner Rice fans will appreciate her latest book, And the Greatest of These Is Love: Poems and Promises (Revell).
Biographies.David Garrick: A Critical Biography (Southern Illinois Univ.), by George Stone and George Kahrl, will quickly establish itself as the best book on the subject. More than a biography, it is a virtual compendium of an age. It is a rare treat to read a book like this. Two more works of high quality and value are The Good Natured Man: A Portrait of Oliver Goldsmith (William Morrow), by Leonard Wibberley, and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Oxford Univ. Press), by Arling Turner. Heinrich Heine: A Modern Biography (Princeton Univ. Press), by Jeffrey L. Sammons, is very well done and provides valuable information on that period of time. Heine’s religious ideas are carefully handled. The standard biography of Matthew Arnold, by Lionel Trilling, is now available in paperback, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. This book is without peer. Yet another extremely well-done work is Lewis Carroll: A Biography (Schocken), by Anne Clark. Nicely illustrated and written, this should become a standard work as well. Christopher Milne’s beautifully written recollections of childhood, The Path Through the Trees (Dutton), will be read with delight by everyone, whether they like Pooh or not. Three biographies of Dorothy Sayers round out this list: Alzina Stone Dale’s Maker and Craftsman (Eerdmans), Ralph Hone’s Dorothy Sayers: A Literary Biography (Kent State Univ. Press), and James Brabazon’s Dorothy L. Sayers (Gollancz). In many ways they are all quite different, but they complement one another, and all Sayers’s fans will be delighted with this embarrassment of riches. Although not technically a biography, Amos Wilder’s fine book about his brother should be mentioned here: Thornton Wilder and His Public (Fortress).
Literary Studies. Daniel Berrigan has brought Dante up to date in The Discipline of the Mountain: Dante’s Purgatorio in a Nuclear Age (Seabury). King Arthur and the Grail (Taplinger, 200 Park Ave. S., New York, N. Y.), by Richard Cavendish, is a detailed study of the Arthurian legends and their meaning. The Seventeenth-Century Resolve (Univ. of Kentucky), edited by John L. Lievsay, is a valuable collection of religious “resolves.” It is the only one of its kind available today. Two books, both by Katherine Briggs, deal with an ever-fascinating subject: Abbey, Lubbers and Boggarts: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies (Pantheon), beautifully illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert, and The Vanishing People: Fairy Lore and Legends (Pantheon). The encyclopedia is magnificent. Two new books have appeared that ably open up the world of Narnia to new (and to old) readers: Reading With the Heart: The Way Into Narnia (Eerdmans), by Peter J. Schakel, and Narnia Explored (Revell), by Paul A. Karkainxn.
The David Myth in Western Literature (Purdue Univ. Press), edited by Raymond-Jean Frontain and Jan Wojcik, is a collection of 11 essays that discuss the role David plays in a wide range of literature. It is well worth reading. A fascinating study by Perry D. Westbrook is Free Will and Determinism in American Literature (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press). History, Guilt, and Habit (Wesleyan Univ. Press, distributed by Columbia Univ. Press), is Owen Barfield’s analysis of our dangerously one-sided world. It is impressive reading. Two books relate to Flannery O’Connor: The Habit of Being (Vintage), are O’Connor’s letters, selected and edited by Sally Fitzgerald and are an absolute treasure. Flannery O’Connor’s South (Louisiana State Univ. Press), by Robert Coles, is very helpful background reading.
Finally, two new books deal with Christianity and imagination: Triumphs of the Imagination: Literature in Christian Perspective (InterVarsity), by Leland Ryken, and Christian Faith and Creative Imagination (The Eastbourne Bible Centre, 91/93 Seaside Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England), by Harold T. Barrow. Ryken’s fine, comprehensive study is highly recommended.
PREACHER AND PREACHING. Strength in the church comes from clarity in the pulpit. Protestants have always stressed the importance of the preached word, even if they haven’t always done it very well. A series of new books have appeared to help rectify that situation.
A couple of older standard works have been reprinted: Sacred Rhetoric on a Course of Lectures on Preaching (Banner of Truth), by Robert L. Dabney, discusses sermons and delivery step by step. This remarkable Presbyterian was right on the mark. So was an equally remarkable Methodist, William A. Quayle, in The Pastor-Preacher (Baker), where homiletics is examined under four heads: the man, the student, the preacher, and the pastor. Al Fasol has selected classic material on sermon preparation from 14 well-known preachers in Selected Readings in Preaching (Baker).
A series of helpful books discusses various aspects of preaching: Preaching With Confidence: A Theological Essay on the Power of the Pulpit (Eerdmans), by James Daane; Proclaiming the Truth: Guides to Scriptural Preaching (Baker), by Donald Demary; Communication in Pulpit and Parish (Westminster), by Merrill R. Abbey; Preaching and Worhip in the Small Church (Abingdon), by W. H. Willimon and R. L. Wilson; and Evangelistic Preaching: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pulpit Evangelism (Moody), by Lloyd M. Perry and John R. Strubbar; and Preaching the Story (Fortress), by Edmund Steimle, Morris Riedenthal, and Charles Rice. I found all of these books to be very helpful and informative in the areas they set out to cover.
Warren Wiersbe, himself a well-known preacher, has produced a splendid volume. Listening to the Giants (Baker), in which 13 great preachers are viewed, preaching bibliography is developed and discussed, and a series of miscellaneous tidbits are offered. All of this is enjoyable and enlightening reading.
JUDAICA. A significant number of books continues to be written in this area, with a growth in material on Jewish-Christian relations. Many are realizing that in our secularized society, where human dignity is increasingly being undermined, that Jews and Christians have a great deal to lose by not drawing on their common heritage. Israel also continues to be a source of discussion.
Judaica. The Jewish World: History and Culture of the Jewish People (Harry N. Abrams, Inc.), edited by Elie Kedourie, is a magnificent, lavishly illustrated history of the Jewish people from 500 B.C. to the present day. It is without peer in its class. Salo Baron has revised and enlarged the second edition of Vol. XVII of A Social and Religious History of the Jews, dealing with the late Middle Ages from 1200 to 1650, published jointly by Columbia University Press and the Jewish Publication Society of America. It is a definitive and scholarly work. A newly revised The Holy and the Profane (William Morrow), by Theodor Gaster, is a discussion of the evolution of Jewish folk ways, from birth to death. It is packed with curious and interesting material, as well as down-to-earth facts. Judaism (Argus Communications, Niles, Ill.), by S. T. Lachs and S. P. Wachs, is part of the Major World Religions Series and nicely offers an introduction to the history and faith of Judaism. It is simply written and well illustrated.
Four new books deal with Jews in America. The American Jewish Year Book 1980 (The American Jewish Committee/The Jewish Publication Society of America), edited by Milton Himmelfarb and David Singer, is the authoritative record of events and trends in American and world Jewish life. There aren’t many questions that can’t be answered here. Hidden Survivors (Prentice-Hall), by Thomas Cottle, poignantly discusses America’s poor Jews. The Eastern European emigration of Jews to America from 1881 to 1920 is deftly handled by Azriel Eisenberg in Eyewitness to American Jewish History, Part III (Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 838 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y.). Congress and Israel: Foreign Aid Decision-Making in the House of Representatives 1969–1976 (Greenwood Press), by Marvin Feuerwerger, analyzes congressional activity during the critical Nixon and Ford years.
Five new books deal with the Holocaust. Father John Morley argues that the Vatican’s desire to preserve diplomatic relations with Germany led it to neglect its own moral responsibility in Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews During the Holocaust 1939–1943 (KTAV). Joseph and Me in the Days of the Holocaust (KTAV), by Judy Hoffmann, is the pitiful story of one who managed to live and tell about it. Her story should never be forgotten. The Stroop Report (Pantheon), edited by Sybil Milton, is a facsimile edition and translation of the official Nazi report on the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. Its chilling objectivity is a devastating commentary on Nazi inhumanity. By Words Alone (University of Chicago), by Sidra Ezraki, looks at the Holocaust in literature. Reeve Robert Brenner sympathetically analyzes The Faith and Doubt of Holocaust Survivors (Free Press).
Jewish-Christian Relations. A set of challenging (and hardly orthodox) essays is Antisemitism and the Foundations of Christianity (Paulist), edited by Alan T. Davies. Sharing Israel’s Messiah (B’Rit Shalom, Box 554, Highland Park, Ill.) is a manual on how to witness inoffensively to Jews. Jacob Gartenhaus has written up the lives of 33 Jewish believers in Famous Hebrew Christians (Baker).
Two books dealing specifically with Jewish-Christian relations are Issues in the Jewish-Christian Dialogue (Paulist), edited by Helga Croner and Leon Klenicki, and Evangelicals and Jews in Conversation (Baker), edited by Marc Tanenbaum, Marvin Wilson, and A. J. Rudin. The latter is a ground-breaking work that ably draws evangelicals into the discussion in a creative, irenic way.
A Gentile … with the Heart of a Jew: G. Douglas Young (Parson, Nyack, N.Y.) by Calvin B. Hanson is a biography of the late, well-known director of the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, a place where so many evangelicals have learned so much about Israel. It is fascinating reading.
The Israel Problem.The Untold History of Israel (Grove Press), by Jacques Derogy and Hesi Carmel, is a well-written, easy-to-read account of Israel’s hisotry. The “untold” part comes from previously secret documents used by the authors. Kenneth Ray Bain in The March to Zion (Texas A & M) carefully analyzes U.S. policy as it related to the founding of Israel as a state. Two interesting books look at the Jewish inhabitants of Israel: Belonging: Conversations with Men and Women Who Have Chosen to Make Israel Their Home (Holt, Rinehart and Winston), by James McNeish, and The Israelis: Portrait of a People in Conflict (Herald), by Frank Epp, which balances out his earlier work, The Palestinians.
Three new books are written with the Arabs’ interest in mind: The Question of Palestine (Times Books), by Edward W. Said, argues strongly for Palestinian self-determination; Beyond the Gunsights (Houghton Mifflin), by Yoella Har-Shefi, takes a sympathetic look at one Arab Israeli family and their struggles for equality in Israel; and The View from East Jerusalem (Herald), by John A. Lapp, takes a more general look at the problems Arabs face.
Carl F. H. Henry, first editor of Christianity Today, is lecturer at large for World Vision International. An author of many books, he lives in Arlington, Virginia.
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