A Pathway into the Holy Scripture, Reviewed by Herman Hanko
Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, Reviewed by David J. Engelsma
Sermons on Galatians, Reviewed by David J. Engelsma
Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration & Interpretation, Reviewed by David J. Engelsma
Paul's Letter to the Philippians, Reviewed by David J. Engelsma
Covenant and Election, Reviewed by David J. Engelsma
Adultery and Divorce in Calvin's Geneva, Reviewed by David J. Engelsma
The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, Reviewed by Herman C. Hanko
The Gospel According to John (Revised), Reviewed by Robert Decker
Two subjects dominate this issue of the Journal: common grace and missions.
Concentrating so much attention on missions is surely warranted when we consider that the missionary calling of the church is her marching orders from Christ the Captain of her salvation. A church without an active mission program is a church which withers on the vine of the church of all ages. The Lord, to change the metaphor, will remove her from the candlestick.
Prof. Robert Decker, professor of missions here in the Seminary, continues his examination of "cross-cultural missions," the name for many aberrations of the church's missionary calling which have become so popular today. It is the sincere prayer of the faculty that his articles will give to those addicted to this aberration sufficient pause to reconsider their position and return to the tried and true paths which Scripture lays down.
Into this emphasis of Prof. Decker, Rev. Bassam Madany's article fits perfectly. It applies the Reformed critique of cross-cultural missions to specific mission work among the Muslims.
The Seminary was favored to have Rev. Madany on its premises for two speeches on the subject of mission work among the Muslims. His first speech was published in the last issue of the Journal. Rev. Madany, though now retired, was an effective and biblically Reformed missionary to the Muslims. His work was, in his last years, concentrated on radio ministry. Perhaps no one knows the nature of the work better than he, and surely no one is better able to evaluate mission work among the Muslims than he.
We take this opportunity to thank Rev. Madany for his willingness to give the Seminary the benefit of his expertise and for his kind permission to republish his speeches in our Journal.
Some critics of the PRC might carp at the fact that so much space is devoted in the Journal to the subject of common grace. We here at Seminary are not unmindful of the fact that the PRC have been criticized for "playing only one string on the harp," for "riding the same old hobby horse," for defining its existence only in negative terms of our opposition to the doctrines of common grace.
It is without apology that we continue to speak of these matters.
But before the carping gets too loud, let me remind our readers of a few pertinent points. In the first place, the simple fact of the matter is that those whom God used to establish the PRC were indeed expelled from the fellowship of the CRC because of their refusal to agree with common grace. It was indeed the occasion for the establishment of the PRC.
In the second place, the whole question of common grace continues to be an issue in Presbyterian and Reformed circles. It is not only a doctrine that has pervaded the theology and practice of many denominations (whether implicitly or explicitly), but it has also reappeared on the agenda of the church - though sadly enough, usually to condemn the PR position.
In the third place, the emphasis on common grace in PR circles is not by any means a negative emphasis. It is simply not true that our whole existence is bound up in "being ag'in it all." Under the initial work of those who were instrumental in the establishment of the PRC, the churches have been busy developing the implications of the positive truths of sovereign and particular grace. Nowhere has this appeared more obvious than in the development of the doctrine of the covenant.
While I continue my analysis of common grace and offer some positive ideas over against various implications of common grace, Prof. Engelsma introduces a translation of an important brochure which belongs to the archival history of our denomination. It is a printed copy of a speech which one of the first fathers of the denomination delivered some six years before the denomination began. It has to do with the relation between common grace and God's covenant. It draws, with stark clarity, the lines along which all biblical development of this doctrine has taken place within our circles. We offer this introductory material in this issue, and the translation of the brochure will follow in subsequent issues.
Do not overlook the book reviews. Especially important is Prof. Engelsma's book review of John Frame's analysis of the thought of Cornelius Van Til.
Van Til's writings have never been easy to understand. Frame, in an excellent description and analysis, lays Van Til's thought bare. At the same time, Frame's own criticism and defense of Van Til's thought is an excellent occasion for Engelsma to look at both Frame and Van Til from a distinctly Reformed perspective. Because of the importance of Van Til in both Presbyterian and Reformed churches, Frame's book is must reading.
We send this issue of the Journal out with the prayer that it will be a blessing to all those who desire to be Reformed and put current theological thinking in a Reformed perspective.
Herman Hanko, Editor