Soviet Evangelicals: An Authoritative Guide

Soviet Evangelicals Since World War II, by Walter Sawatsky (Herald, 1981, 527 pp., $19.95 hb; $14.95 pb), is reviewed by Paul D. Steeves, director of Russian studies, Stetson University, DeLand, Florida.

“Because a serious struggle for the faith of people is going on, it is the responsibility of fellow believers elsewhere to take Soviet evangelicals seriously.” At last, the authoritative history prerequisite to responsible understanding of evangelicals in the Soviet Union has appeared. In this masterful work, Walter Sawatsky provides information and provocative suggestions that will help the reader find answers to questions that have perplexed aware Western Christians: How have evangelicals fared under Communist rule? What is the nature of the differences dividing them? How can believers in the West relate to them most effectively?

Sawatsky is uniquely qualified to write this exposition of the complex experience of Soviet evangelicals. He possesses the rare research, linguistic, and personal skills that give him access to the essential information. At the same time, he combines admirably the qualities of disinterested scholar and concerned Christian that a trustworthy study of this difficult and controversial subject demands.

For over a century, the story of the Soviet evangelicals has been one of revival and triumph amidst repression. Sawatsky briefly surveys the decades before World War II in order to establish that theme, which he develops in copious detail for the postwar period. He describes the formation in 1944 of the union that draws together evangelicals of various denominations—Baptist, Evangelical Christian, Pentecostal, Mennonite—across the county. Then he narrates the subsequent burst of revival that eventually evoked stern governmental restrictions against evangelicals in the early sixties. This vivid account portrays a surprisingly vigorous gospel witness in Communist society. When the Khrushchev administration tried to throttle this witness, schism rent the movement as believers disagreed on their responses to official pressures. Sawatsky analyzes this division thoroughly.

The study is enriched by Sawatsky’s lucid discussion of numerous facets of the spiritual life of evangelicals—in church, home, school, work, and society at large. Thus, this book is much more than an account of church-state relations or persecutions, or even institutional history.

Sawatsky’s analysis is so responsible and thorough that there is not much room for criticism. He has a mild bias in favor of the schismatic evangelicals for whom he uses the questionable label “Reform Baptists”; I would consider the adjectives “dissident” or “independent” more appropriate.

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A much stronger bias emerges when Sawatsky discusses pacifism. The Russian evangelical tradition has a surprisingly strong pacifist strain that continues to stir vigorously, despite formal rejection by the evangelical unions. Undoubtedly influenced by his Mennonite heritage, Sawatsky lapses from his scholarly objectivity into admonition and exhortation when he recounts the growth and subsequent curtailment of pacifism by Soviet evangelicals.

This book is for the serious thinker. Its length and scholarly tone may discourage the casual reader seeking entertainment or sensation; but it commands the attention of Western evangelicals. The chapter evaluating mission agencies that purport to serve the evangelical cause in the Soviet Union especially deserves thoughtful consideration. Time spent in exploring Soviet evangelicalism, with Sawatsky as guide, will be well rewarded.

The Pastor As Counselor

Pastoral Counseling and Preaching, by Donald Capps (Westminster, 1980, 156 pp., $8.95), is reviewed by Wallace Carr, professor of counseling, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi.

Can a pastor preach and counsel from the same theoretical stance? Yes, says Donald Capps. There can be a similarity in structure when “theological diagnosis” is its primary element. Also, preaching and pastoral counseling both have a central purpose—the proclamation of the Christian gospel.

Capps suggests that the four elements of counseling are also the four elements of preaching. They are: (1) the identification of the problem; (2) the reconstruction of the problem; (3) the diagnostic interpretation of the problem: and (4) the pastoral intervention.

“Theological diagnosis” (distinguished from the “diagnostic attitude”) can be an “empathic, participatory enterprise” when “the pastor succeeds in assuming the internal frame of reference of counselee,” or congregation. Capps then identifies six different ways theological diagnosis can be used in preaching.

Preaching and pastoral counseling can also be linked in a common purpose—to proclaim the Christian gospel. Counselors who have relied exclusively on “relationship to make whatever affirmation of the Christian faith they deem appropriate and have used ‘secular’ psychotherapies as their primary medium of verbal communication … have not had a very clear sense that pastoral counseling has a Christian purpose.”

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How, then, “can Biblical thought inform pastoral counseling”? Capps discusses three models:

1. The “Psalmic” model, emphasizing feelings (Seward Hiltner, Carroll Wise, and others).

2. The “Proverbic” model, emphasizing doing (Jay Adams and others).

3. The “Parabolic” model, emphasizing insight. (Capps adapts the concepts of James E. Dittes to counseling.) The “Parabolic” model is proclamation in an indirect way. Its focus is perceptual restructuring.

All are legitimate, but each is most effective at one particular stage of human development.

As an epilogue, Schleiermacher’s touching sermon at the funeral of his nine-year-old son, Nathaniel, is presented in full and analyzed according to Capp’s four stages of counseling.

The author has seriously addressed a source of tension that has plagued pastors since the rise of the modern counseling emphasis. He has moved beyond fencing with prooftexts. While there is still much work to be done, Capps has added a solid rung to the ladder leading to a more congruent and therefore more authentic ministry. His assertion that counseling is proclamation warrants more attention. Paying attention to the perceptual factor in therapy through the “Parabolic model” offers real possibilities. What is probably of equal importance to Christian counseling is his recognition of the legitimacy of both “client-centered” and “nouthetic” counseling in a developmental framework.

It Really Happened

Reading the Bible As History, by Theodore Plantinga (Welch, Canada, 1980, 110 pp., $4.95 Can.), is reviewed by Robert Rogers, Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The author, a professor of philosophy at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, disagrees with those who wish to use the Bible only as a source book of moral lessons, while rejecting it as history. He argues convincingly that not only are there no good reasons for not reading the Bible as history, there are good reasons for it. In his opinion, without that understanding, even the nonhistorical passages will not reveal their full meaning.

Discussing the nature of history, Plantinga maintains the belief that all the world is subject to God’s work of salvation and judgment. Nevertheless, salvation history must be seen properly as part of covenant history. God’s working in history, whether for salvation or judgment, should be seen as the historical fulfilling of his covenant promises. But, in addition, he holds that even this work of salvation and judgment must be seen as happening for the sake of God’s glory and honor.

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The author discusses why men have eliminated heaven’s influence in earthly affairs and asserts that “the events and struggles in heaven are decisive for the fate of those who are on the earth.” He sees “progress” in history in terms of the promised battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. But he also does justice to man’s role in responding to God’s calling. He sees man’s freedom in light of the “distance” that God employs with respect to his creation, either temporarily leaving man to his own ways or drawing near in redemption or judgment.

The Bible, for Plantinga, must be read as seeing God making himself known to man through the course of time in a “progressive revelation,” and he gives helpful guidelines for reading the Scriptures in that light. He also shows how a historical reading of the Bible can apply to us who are living in new covenant times. He concludes with a rather brief hermeneutical study regarding the translation of normative concepts in the Bible into the thought patterns of today, and he comes down somewhat negatively.

This book is a curious mixture. It is the work of someone both knowledgeable in philosophy and history, yet skillful in his handling of Scripture. At the same time it is written in straightforward language that is suited to, and helpful for, the average Bible reader.

A Look At Jesus’ Life

The Work and Words of Jesus Christ, by J. Dwight Pentecost (Zondervan, 1981, 576 pp., $16.95), is reviewed by Robert H. Stein, professor of New Testament, Bethel Theological Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota

This work is the result of the author’s 30 years of teaching the life of Christ. In it he seeks to approach “the inerrant Scriptures from a literal method of interpretation that Jesus Christ was introduced to the nation Israel as her Messiah,” that this offer was rejected, and that as a result Jesus turned from a public ministry to preparing chosen men who would continue his ministry after his death and resurrection. Pentecost patterns his approach on that of Tatian’s Diatesseron and seeks to combine the four Gospels into a chronological history of the life of Jesus.

I have a number of serious problems with this work. For one, Pentecost denies any interrelatedness of the synoptic Gospels and chooses to ignore any insights provided by the disciplines of form and redaction criticism.

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Second, he chooses to ignore many of the major problems that exist in seeking to write a life of Christ. Some specific examples of this: (1) The question of the cleansing(s) of the temple is avoided. Pentecost simply assumes that there were two, and this may be correct; but should this not be discussed? (2) The canonical status of Mark 16:9–20 and John 7:53–8:11 are assumed and never discussed, even though the NIV text he uses implies that both were not part of the original text. (3) The differences in the reply of Jesus to Pilate are ignored. Matthew 26:64 is assumed to be historical—but what about Mark 14:62? (4) The different times of the cleansing in relation to the triumphal entry (in Matthew it is the same day but in Mark it is the next day) are not discussed.

A third problem involves Pentecost’s use of sources. Except for one reference to the Mishnah, he uses only secondary sources.

A final problem that must be mentioned involves the numerous quotations in this work. There are approximately 460, and of these, 30 percent (i.e., 138) come from A. Edersheim’s The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883); 31 percent (i.e., 145) come from J. W. Shepard’s (always misspelled as Shepherd) The Christ of the Gospels (1939); and 9 percent (i.e., 40) come from F. W. Farrar’s Life of Christ (1874). The amount of space taken up by these quotations is also disturbing, for out of 558 pages of text, approximately 226 consist of quotations. This means approximately 40 percent of the work consists of quotations from other works.

It is difficult to recommend this volume. Certainly one cannot envision it in a seminary setting, for what is needed there is a work that deals forthrightly with the various problems found in the text. Regardless of what attitude one may take toward form and redaction criticism, these problems cannot simply be ignored. In a college setting, if one uses a synopsis of the Gospels, then this work will likewise be inadequate. I also have reservations in recommending this work to lay people, for whereas it is not fitting or wise to introduce them to detailed scholarly problems of the text, it is neither truthful nor wise to give the impression that no such problems exist.

The Holy Spirit

Several books on the Holy Spirit are reviewed by Robert L. Saucy, professor of systematic theology, Talbot Theological Seminary, La Mirada, California.

Although the spate of books on the Holy Spirit has abated somewhat in recent years, it has by no means ceased—as evidenced by these five recent works. Nor has there emerged a consensus of interpretation on the key issues that have been so ardently discussed in recent years relative to the charismatic renewal.

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Bob Slosser, a popular writer formerly with the New York Times, gives us an easy-reading overview of the current charismatic renewal movement. Laced with personal experiences with the Spirit, including his own, the work gives a good glimpse into the religious practices of those involved in the movement. Along with the positive elements, certain early weaknesses such as a tyranny in the name of discipleship and and other-wordly mindedness are noted. Slosser, in See How the Wind Blows (Logos), sees the prime direction of the renewal movement as focusing on the goals of power for ministry and unification of the church.

In The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today (Logos), J. Rodman Williams, professor of theology at Melodyland School of Theology, seeks to provide a biblical theological base for the contemporary experience of the gift of the Spirit. His method is first to explore the biblical data of the experience almost exclusively from the Book of Acts, and then to show the same experience from the contemporary scene. This methodology underscores perhaps the most serious weakness in the work. An integration of all of the relevant material on the Spirit from the epistles is not attempted, leaving the reader only with the impression that all of the experience of the early church is normative rather than proving it to be so.

A further questionable area involves Williams’s discussion of the effects of receiving the Spirit as a second blessing of salvation. Listed among these effects are the assurance of salvation (Rom. 8:15–16) and the Spirit as the earnest of final salvation (2 Cor. 1:22). In context, it would appear that these blessings of the Spirit belong to all believers and not just those who have had a second experience.

The work, supported by copious footnotes, includes discussions of the nature of the gift, its purpose, and the means of receiving it as well as the effects. It thus provides a valuable interpretation of the contemporary renewal movement from a biblical and theological perspective.

Believing that Finney’s teachings on the Holy Spirit can contribute to the present-day discussion, Timothy Smith has made available in The Promise of the Spirit (Bethany) his lectures on sanctification, delivered at Oberlin College in 1839–40. While not emphasizing the sign of tongues so characteristic of the modern day, Finney expresses a similar two-stage experience of the Spirit.

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Focusing on the New Covenant as belonging to New Testament believers, Finney presses the demand that Christians go on to claim the promise of the Holy Spirit involved in that covenant for the purpose of attaining entire sanctification. Finney’s discussions of the love and the heart as involving more than emotion are especially worthwhile. An excellent introductory chapter tracing Finney’s theology of the Christian experience and its place in the contemporary scene is provided by Smith, who is professor of history at Johns Hopkins University.

The Holy Spirit, Lord and Life-Giver (Loizeaux), by John Williams, presents the other side of the controversy over a second experience of the Holy Spirit. In this work, the English-born and -educated pastor/evangelist/Bible teacher gives us a systematic treatment covering the entire scope of the person and ministry of the Spirit suitable as an introductory text on the subject. With the contemporary scene in mind, special attention is given to the baptism and gifts of the Spirit, including excellent discussions on tongues and healing. In a comprehensive work of this nature, one could have hoped for more on the relation of the ministry of the Spirit to the exalted Lord. Also, the development of the experience of the Spirit under the Old Covenant to that of the New was somewhat obscured by a blurring uniformity at certain points—for example, regeneration. Altogether, however, this work provides a readable, practical exposition of the doctrine of the Spirit that should prove useful in both churches and schools.

A different but effective approach to the study of the Spirit is R. E. O. White’s The Answer Is the Spirit (Westminster). Structured around the fact that the New Testament teaching of the Spirit comes in response to particular situational problems in the lives of the early believers, White expounds the teaching of nine New Testament books on the Spirit in the light of the background problems of each.

For example, the problem of evangelizing the world in Acts is solved by the Spirit; that of personal freedom faced by the Galatians is likewise met in the freedom of walking by the Spirit. The pertinent passages in each book are handled with exegetical skill and woven together in a convincing manner supportive of the main thesis. The chapters on Ephesians, “the diverse community,” and II Corinthians, “the question of ministry,” are particularly pertinent and valuable for the contemporary church. In sum, the book presents a refreshing, practical look at the biblical picture of the Spirit, reminding us that he is still God’s provision for the problems we face today.

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Briefly Noted

The Holy Spirit. Several studies relating to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit have appeared recently. Philip J. Rosato has examined the pneumatology of Karl Barth in The Spirit As Lord (T & T Clark). It is a full-blown study and probably the best available today. The Holy Spirit of God (Nelson), by Herbert Lockyer, is a traditional noncharismatic study of the Person and work of the Spirit. For some reason, spiritual gifts are not discussed.

The Holy Spirit (Fortress), by Eduard Schweizer, is a nontraditional, somewhat liberal analysis that looks primarily at the biblical material. Bill Bright, in The Holy Spirit (Here’s Life), sees the Spirit as the key to supernatural living. G. Campbell Morgan’s The Spirit of God (Baker) is a reprint of a 1953 devotional study that still speaks today. The Holy Spirit in Action (Servant), by F. J. Sheed, is a simple (not simplistic) look at the Spirit as Lord and Giver of life.

Five books deal rather specifically with the charismatic phenomenon. Arthur J. Clement’s Pentecost or Pretense? (Northwestern Pub. House) concludes, “We can only conclude that it is not Pentecost! Rather it is pretense and has no basis in the Bible.” John F. MacArthur, in The Charismatics (Zondervan), argues that “tongues ceased in the apostolic age and when they stopped, they stopped for good.” More irenic and open is Tongues and Spirit-Baptism (Baker), by Anthony Hoekema, being two earlier books reprinted as one that still bears reading today.

Including a psychological look, yet affirming the essentially Christian nature of the phenomenon, is Tongue Speaking (Crossword), by Morton Kelsey. This, too, is a helpful reprint. The WCC’s evaluation is in The Church Is Charismatic (W.C.C., Geneva), edited by Arnold Bittlinger. It is quite affirmative, on the whole, and well worth reading.

Christian Education. Two excellent introductions to the subject are: Making Disciples (Christian Studies Center), by Norman E. Harper, which presents the challenge that confronts us today, and Philosophy and Education (Andrews Univ.), by George R. Knight, which is designed to be a textbook from a Christian perspective.

Written with church school education in mind are: Christian Education Handbook (Broadman), edited by Bruce P. Powers, and Education That Is Christian, revised (Revell), by Lois E. LeBar. These two books ought to be read carefully by all concerned.

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The importance of the college is looked at in Christianity Challenges the University (IVP), edited by Peter Wilkes. It is a series of lectures by five senior professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison challenging the secular values of today’s universities. Students, Churches and Higher Education (Judson), by R. T. Gribbon, is a study of how the church can relate to college students. The Recovery of Spirit in Higher Education (Seabury), edited by Robert Rankin, looks at campus ministries, Jewish and Christian. It is a very helpful book. Teaching Religion (Univ. Press of America), by W. Clinton Terry, is a case-study look at the secularization of religious instruction in a West German school system. There are some chilling lessons to be learned here.

Jacques Barzun’s classic Teacher in America (Liberty Press) is available again in a beautiful new edition.

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