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
Ed. by Philip E. Satterthwaite and David F. Wright. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994. Pp. viii+344. $24.99 (paper). [Reviewed by Herman Hanko.]
The Holy Scriptures continue to come under attack by today's evangelicals. One is reminded of the words of Theodore Beza, spoken to the king of Navarre, which, although meant to refer to the church of Christ in the world, can also be applied to the Word of God: "Sire, it is truly the lot of the Church of God, for which I speak, to endure blows and not to strike them. But may it please you to remember that it is an anvil which has worn out many hammers." This book adds to the attacks made against Scripture.
The book contains revised versions of papers given at the Jubilee meeting of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of the English reformer, William Tyndale. These papers are meant to commemorate Tyndale's work of translating Scripture into the English language and are intended to honor this noble reformer who gave his life for the cause of an English rendition of God's Word. Tyndale would turn over in his grave if he could read this book; we are thankful that he is in heaven.
What prompted Tyndale to work at his translation and what finally resulted in his martyrdom was his firm belief that Scripture is God's very Word. The authors of these papers do not believe that. The evidences in the book are many.
- The authors are commited to higher critical views of Scripture. See, e.g., pp. 7, 52, 237.
- Blomberg pleads for an evangelical liberation theology (p. 66) and for a less egalitarian interpretation of "women passages."
- In treating of Paul's quotations from the Old Testament, Rosner does not seem to understand that these quotations need not be literal because the Holy Spirit can and may interpret His own writings.
- Thiselton repudiates Lindsell's books and claims that that authority of Scripture lies in its ability to save, not in the book itself - as if the book itself can save apart from its divine authority which is rooted in the Bible's infallible inspiration.
- Thiselton also claims, perhaps with some justification, that Carl Henry, James Packer, and Sinclair Ferguson are moving away from Warfield's position on infallibility. (Warfield was a staunch defender of infallibility.)
- Thiselton also scornfully says that Scripture does not have the accuracy of a photograph (p. 116), in an obvious jab at those who hold to infallibility. Whether the comparison is warranted or not, Scripture does indeed have more accuracy than a photograph, for it is God's very Word.
- Van Hoozer is blunt. In the only chapter on the doctrine of inspiration, he says that verbal inspiration "does not require that every thing in Scripture be treated as 'absolute' assertions, only that what is said is taken to be divinely intended" (p. 156).
- Cameron insists that Scripture is to be treated as any other book, even though inspired (pp. 245, 246). We dissent. Scripture is to be treated in all respects as the very Word of God which gives to Scripture a place unique to itself and different from any other book.
The book has other interesting features about it. In two chapters on the relation between Biblical Theology and Systematics, it becomes clear that Biblical Theology inevitably leads to Dispensa-tionalism. In dealing with the historic creeds of the church, Bray makes bold to say that these creeds are inadequate for the church today because of their time-bound character. Noble, in conscious disagreement with the reformers, claims that, while Scripture is indeed the final authority in matters of faith, it is not the sole authority. Among other sources of authority he includes prophecy.
In an interesting section on "Scripture and Criticism" Cameron makes a scathing and justified criticism of conservative defenses of Scripture. He points out that, because conservatives attempted to defend their position on infallibility on rational grounds, conservatives lost the debate. The section is worth quoting.
That obstacle (the obstacle of higher criticism, H.H.), of course, was surmounted in the course of the century. From an evangelical perspective, it makes a dispiriting story; since as the century progressed most conservatives - including Evangelicals - gave up in some measure their commitment to the traditional position. They generally did so in order, as they saw it, to engage their opponents more effectively. But what began as an ad hominem debating ploy had the unintended effect of withdrawing the conservatives from their commitment to the relevance of doctrine to the debate. That is, in their concern to engage the 'critics' on the merits of their historical-critical arguments, the conservatives unwittingly eva-cuated their own distinctive position. They engaged in detailed historical discussion as they sought to establish the unreasonableness of critical reconstructions. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes they did not; but the net result of their tactical decision to abandon the defence of distinctive theological warrants for their view of Holy Scripture was the collapse of their position. What began as apologetics was transformed, for many, into hermeneutics; in place of maintaining the traditional view of inspiration and infallibility they entered vigorous historical argument for conservative conclusions on particular issues. This metamorphosis went largely undetected until, by the end of the century, the remaining conservatives found themselves marooned in a new consensus in which appeal to dogmatic or traditional considerations was no longer possible, and in which their attempts at historical-critical defense of particular positions no longer carried any weight. As Harvey observes, to "enter the lists of the debate and to attempt to vindicate the truth of the sacred narrative," it was necessary "to pay a costly price ... to accept the general canons and criteria of just those one desired to refute. This," he continues, "was fatal to the traditionalist's cause, because he could no longer appeal to the eye of faith or to any special warrants. The arguments had to stand or fall on their own merits" (pp. 244, 245).
How true this is!
The doctrine of infallible inspiration, long held by the church, was sacrificed on the altar of scholarship. As Cameron observes, conservatives wanted to meet the higher critics on their own ground, on a battlefield of their choosing. In permitting the enemy to choose its own battlefield, the conservatives lost the war. And the result is that it is almost impossible to find today a Seminary which holds uncompromisingly to the truth of Scripture.
The church has always maintained that Scripture is self-authenticating. I.e., Scripture gives testimony itself to its divine origin and inspiration. This is the sole ground for our defense of this truth. Scripture is the sole and final authority for all our faith - including the divine origin of Scripture itself. If the believer is asked why he holds to the divine origin of Scripture, he answers: Scripture itself says so.
The argument against this claim of the believer is then raised that he argues in a circle. He claims that Scripture is divinely inspired and proves it by claiming that the Scriptures cannot lie because they are divinely inspired. And so the argument of the believer is scorned as a petitio.
But such is not in fact the case. We ought to be clear on the point, for it is of vital concern.
The whole argument is the argument of faith. The child of God believes that Scripture is the Word of God. He believes this by the power of faith. And this puts the battle where it ought to be. The battle is not between one group which claims that Scripture is of human origin and offers considerable proof for it, and another group which claims that Scripture is of divine origin and offers his own body of extra-biblical proof for it. This reduces the argument to mere intellectual argumentation. Who has the best arguments? Who can come with the best proof? Whose proof will carry the day?
The debate is not one of mere intellectual argumentation, but of faith. It is a battle between faith and unbelief. It is a spiritual battle between those who give witness to the cause of God and those who oppose God and His cause.
Unbelief is not mere ignorance, but hatred of God and His Word. Faith humbly bows before God in joyful and willing worship. Unbelief does all in its power to destroy God's truth; faith reaches out to appropriate that truth in the joy of salvation in Christ.
Let us pursue this line of thought a bit more.
The unbeliever cannot and will not be persuaded of the truth no matter what the argumentation. Jesus makes this as clear as crystal in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man in hell wanted Abraham to send Lazarus back from heaven to give testimony to his brothers concerning the life hereafter. Abraham dismisses this request with the simple statement: "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." But this does not satisfy the rich man. He wants something more than Scripture: "Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent." Then comes the devastating reply: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets (Scripture), neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
Faith is the gift of God which God gives to His people so that they come, by its power, to know Christ personally and savingly. Faith puts the believer in living communion with Christ, marries the believer to Christ. Faith banishes all unbelief, all hatred of God, all enmity against God. Faith clings to Christ.
There is sense to all this, marvelous sense which arises out of the power of faith.
The truth can be illustrated in different ways.
I am married to my wife and know her. If I am separated from her for a long time and she sends me a letter, I know with absolute certainty that it is written by her. If someone should ask me for proof, I do not marshal all kinds of intellectual arguments to prove it. I say: There is no proof which can convince me that this letter is written by someone else. I know her. I know what she talks about. I know how she writes. I know that what she writes about are things which only she can know and about which only she can write. I know that this letter is from her.
So it is with the believer. He responds to the critic with the words: I know this book is from Christ. He writes about things which He wants to tell me. He writes as only He can write. It is His penmanship, His style, His letter to me. He writes to me because I am His bride and every page breathes His love for me. The Bible is self-authenticating.
Another illustration can be found of a different kind. If the authorship of a book, any book, is in question in the courts - perhaps because of matters of royalties, the courts will accept the fact that on the very first page the book says it was written by Mr. Foote, e.g. It takes an enormous amount of proof to overthrow the simple claim of the title page. Only if it can be shown beyond doubt that the name on the title page is a forgery can the courts accept the fact that the book was, after all, not written by the one whose name appears in it.
God's name appears on every page on Holy Scripture. God claims to have authored this book. God cannot lie. What proof can possibly be found which will overthrow such proof? Denials of the divine origin of Scripture are not rooted in lack of proof - or proof to the contrary. They arise out of unbelief - foolish, wicked unbelief. The "proof" is adequate, for the book itself claims to be written by God.
When we are given faith, we believe what the Scriptures say. Faith is a certain knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed in His Word - including His testimony that He authored Scripture.
While some interesting and enlightening observations can be found in the book, it will hardly do to serve as a "pathway into the Holy Scriptures."
by John M. Frame. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 1995. 463pp. $24.99 (cloth)/$19.99 (paper). [Reviewed by David J. Engelsma.]
In commemoration of the one hundreth anniversary of the birth of Cornelius Van Til, Professor John Frame has written what must be the definitive single-volume analysis of his mentor's thought. Frame is a sympathetic analyst. He acknowledges Van Til as "the major theological influence upon me" and lauds him as "the most important Christian thinker of the twentieth century."
Indebtedness and admiration do not, however, blunt Frame's critical faculty. He recognizes Van Til's weaknesses, e.g., his lack of clarity in teaching and writing; his related failure to define terms; and his heavy-handed, take-no-prisoners conduct in the controversy with Gordon H. Clark. Frame sufficiently differs with Van Til in the area of apologetics as to leave an outsider wondering whether certain "gnesio-Van Tilians" might not charge Frame with apologetical apostasy.
The value of Frame's magisterial study is that it presents the whole of Van Til's thought in a systematic manner, making the distinctions, venturing the definitions, and offering the careful explanations of difficulties that are lacking in Van Til's own writings. Van Til becomes intelligible.
Frame devotes some 240 pages to Van Til's theology, including his doctrines of the Trinity, the sovereignty of God, revelation, the antithesis, and common grace, before treating of Van Til's "apologetics proper." He concludes with some observations on Van Til's successors and influence.
Of greatest interest is Frame's explanation, defense, and criticism of Van Til's presup-positionalist apologetics. Van Til "believed that God's revelation has absolute authority (and thus a certain priority) over all human thought" (p. 135). With this, Van Til urged the reality of the antithesis between believer and unbeliever. Spiritually, believer and unbeliever have nothing in common. The unregenerated sinner is totally depraved. Depravity affects the sinner's mind so that he can know nothing truly. It is senseless to reason with him, appealing to his mind and attempting to prove the verities of the Christian faith to him on his own grounds. Worse, this approach is the acknowledgment of his autonomy.
The trouble is that Van Til, rather than consistently holding the Reformed, biblical doctrine of total depravity, compromises the doctrine by his "limiting concept," common grace. Common grace is fundamental to Van Til's theology and apologetic. There is a gracious operation of the Holy Spirit "'deep down' in the heart of the unbeliever" that produces knowledge of God in him. This is the "point of contact" in the natural man for the practice of Reformed apologetics (p. 206).
This work of grace in the unbeliever occurs with and through the revelation that God gives of Himself in creation, according to Romans 1:18ff. - "general revelation." There is grace in the revelation spoken of in Romans 1:18ff., according to Van Til, so that the knowledge of God that the ungodly has from creation can serve the revelation in Scripture. At least, it can serve as a positive point of contact for the Reformed defender of the faith or evangelist: "all men know the true God through natural revelation, to which special revelation adds supplementary content" (p. 248; cf. pp. 116-119).
But this is nothing other than the natural theology of semi-Pelagian Rome. There is no point of contact in the natural man for the gospel, whether the gospel is being defended or proclaimed. The unregenerated sinner is dead spiritually. The gospel finds nothing in the unbeliever, appeals to nothing in the unbeliever, attaches to nothing in the unbeliever, builds on nothing in the unbeliever. In the unbeliever whom God has chosen to salvation the gospel creates its contact by the regenerating Spirit. We call this contact faith, and faith is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).
The knowledge of God that the pagan has from creation is at once held under in unrigh-teousness. Not for one split second does, or can, the unregenerated sinner use this knowledge rightly. The sole purpose of God with this knowledge is to render the pagan inexcusable. This knowledge, turned as it is immediately into the lie of idolatry, is never a point of contact, but always a point of conflict. It rages against the gospel; the gospel wars against it. There is no room in the inn for Christ.
The Reformed criticism, therefore, of the apologetics of Van Til is not at all that this apologetics is presuppositional and antithetical, or even that it is too presup-positional and antithetical. Rather, the criticism must be that Van Til's apologetics is not presuppositional and antithetical enough. Van Til has compromised Reformed apologetics by the semi-Pelagian notion of common grace.
Frame, however, is favorable toward Van Til's weakening of his own antithetical stance by means of the "limiting concept" of common grace. The vehemently antithetical Van Til is troublesome to Frame. In this connection, Frame shows himself soft on Armini-anism:
Arminianism ... (has) much in common with the Reformed faith at the deepest level.... I am confident that Reformed believers are, in general, of one heart with their Arminian brothers and sisters (p. 212).
That Van Til holds, or claims to hold, both the antithesis and its opposite, common grace, points up the contradictory nature of Van Til's theology. This is the significance of "limiting concept" in Van Til's thought. Every doctrine is contradicted by another doctrine that is its "limiting concept." The "limiting concept," in reality, does not limit, but contradicts. Not some, but "all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory" (cited in Frame, p. 159). "Apparently" is misleading. For there is no possibility of reconciling the contradictions. Nor does Van Til make any effort to demonstrate the real harmony of the apparent contradictions.
There is no difference between Van Til's theology in this fundamental respect and the neo-orthodox "theology of paradox" that Van Til castigated as the new modernism.
Contradictory thought makes knowledge impossible. A theology of contradiction makes the knowledge of God impossible.
Frame recognizes the gravity of the problem in Van Til.
Once we allow that Scripture contains contradictory teachings, we must also admit that anything at all may be validly deduced from Scripture. Indeed, if Scripture contains even one contradiction, it implicitly teaches everything, and therefore nothing. The presence of contradictions in Scripture would entirely invalidate the statement of the Westminster Confession that the counsel of God is to be found in the "good and necessary consequences" of Scripture as well as in Scripture's explicit statements. If there are contradictions in Scripture, then everything, and therefore nothing, is a "good and necessary consequence." ... apparent contradiction poses the same problems as real contradiction for the logical analysis of Scripture.... If we are to draw logical inferences from Scripture, as the Westminster Confession prescribes, will we not find ourselves in the same bind, deducing nonsense from apparently contradictory premises? ... if "all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory," then any logical deduction from scriptural premises would seem to be ruled out. Since there are apparent contradictions not only in the doctrine of the Trinity, but also in the doctrine of the divine attributes and the doctrine of God's overall relation to the world, how can we draw any logical inferences at all from biblical teaching? (p. 160)
Fair enough, although Frame ignores the implications of the charge, or admission, that "all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory" for one's doctrine of Scripture. If the entirety of Scripture is contradictions, can Scripture be divine revelation? Can the Word of God be essentially apparent contradictions throughout?
Frame tries to mitigate the seriousness of Van Til's view of Scripture by observing that, in fact, Van Til is usually quite logical in his theological work. But this only suggests that, in accordance with his view of truth, Van Til himself is paradoxical: affirming one thing, namely, the contradictory nature of all truth, he proceeds on the basis of its opposite, namely, that truth is logical.
This paradoxical position enables Van Til to inhabit the best of all possible theological worlds. When teaching, he can be logical to a point (and how else can one teach?). But when someone challenges one of his teachings, e.g., that the predestinating God also loves all men and sincerely desires to save all, he can readily take refuge in the "apparent contradiction."
Frame too opts for the paradoxical nature of truth. He does so in a statement that ranks with the classic examples of paradox: "revelation presents apparent contradictions to our minds, while also overwhelming us with its own logical unity" (p. 175).
For Van Til and Frame, the first and fundamental contradiction is the biblical doctrine of God as Trinity. Frame defends Van Til's controversial statement that God is one person as well as three persons. Frame's defense compounds the confusion. For Frame proposes that "it is also orthodox to say that God is one substance and three substances."
It is surely not orthodox to say this, but heterodox. Orthodoxy for Presbyterians is determined by the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Confession clearly says, "In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance ..." (2.3). But to say this creates mass trinitarian confusion. Now we have a purportedly Presbyterian doctrine of the Trinity that teaches that God is one person and three persons, as well as one being and three beings.
Frame thinks that such a formulation is "valuable in curbing human intellectual pride." In fact, such contradiction amounts to nonsense. It makes mockery of the sanctified mind of the Christian, reduces theological affirmation to meaninglessness, and destroys faith's knowledge of God in His trinitarian life.
The source of this bad theology is "the idea of the apparently contradictory" (pp. 65-71).
I challenge any practitioner of Reformed apologetics, whether presuppositionalist or evidentialist, to explain, defend, and promote such a doctrine of the Trinity to an unbeliever, cultist, or heretic: one person and three persons; one substance and three substances. Will he not say that the defender of the faith is mad?
by John Calvin. Audubon, New Jersey: Old Paths Publications, 1995. 923pp. $30 (cloth). [Reviewed by David J. Engelsma.]
To the library of every student of John Calvin may now be added Calvin's 46 sermons on Galatians. Calvin preached this series in 1557, 1558. These sermons were taken down by the competent scribe, Denis Raguenier. T. H. L. Parker remarks that the Galatians sermons were among those "taken down by Raguenier when he had become thoroughly experienced in his task" (Calvin's Preaching, Westminster, 1992, p. 71).
Arthur Golding translated the sermons into English in 1574. It is this translation that Old Paths has republished. About Golding as a translator of Calvin, Parker observes that he "stands out in the quality and bulk of his work.... Golding writes a strong, energetic prose, keeping close enough to the original to do justice to Calvin's own style" (Calvin's Preaching, pp. 72, 73).
The Old Paths edition is the first English edition of the sermons on Galatians since 1574. For all practical purposes, therefore, the sermons are now available to us for the first time.
Although this edition is a reprint of the old Golding translation, complete and unabridged, it is not a facsimile. The text of the sermons has been newly typeset and edited to give contemporary spelling and forms of letters. This is, of course, more expensive than merely reproducing the old text. But it makes the book far more attractive and useful to the modern reader. The old English letters and spelling are offputting to even the motivated reader.
In addition, publisher Ernie Springer has had antiquated words and phrases explained in modern terms in brackets following the archaic words. Where the 22nd sermon on Galatians 3:21-25 originally had Calvin saying, "God was fain for a time to weeld them like little babes," the new edition has "God was fain (willing) for a time to weeld (handle) them like little babes."
Calvin's sermons on Galatians are distinct from his commentary on the same book. The sermons are explanation of the Scriptures for the congregation at worship in the form of proclamation. The explanation in the sermons is fuller and more careful. There is also lively and pointed application.
A taste of it - hear Calvin preaching on Galatians 6:14, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ ..."
Seeing then that our Lord Jesus Christ is he out of whom we must draw all things that we have need of; now we see why Saint Paul saith he will not seek any glory but in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And why? For inasmuch as he suffered so painful and bitter a death, yea and was set against God's justice for us, and took all our cursedness upon him: therefore was he given unto us to be our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, strength, and all that ever we want. But first of all we must learn what we be, to the intent to beat down all our own glorying, and to settle ourselves upon our Lord Jesus Christ. For we see many men burst with pride, and they wot (know) not why. There is nothing but wind and smoke in all the things which they surmise of themselves. Howbeit the very cause why they seek not Jesus Christ, is for want of due examination of themselves: and such are the Hypocrites, and the Counterfeiters, and those that are puffed up with overweening (high opinion) of their own works. Therefore (as I have touched already) it behooveth us to look to our own state, and to see how wretched we be till our Lord Jesus Christ pity us. That is the way to prepare us to come unto him. And that shall serve for one point (pp. 902, 903).
At $30, this book is a bargain.
by Donald G. Bloesch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994. 384pp. $24.99 (cloth). [Reviewed by David J. Engelsma.]
This is volume two of evangelical theologian Donald G. Bloesch's projected seven-volume systematic theology. The first volume, A Theology of Word & Spirit: Authority and Method in Theology, was prolegomena (see the review in PRTJ, April, 1994, pp. 69, 70). This volume presents Bloesch's doctrine of Scripture.
It is a thoroughly neo-orthodox, or Barthian, doctrine of Scripture, although Bloesch strives mightily at the impossible task of bringing this unbelieving view of Scripture into some connection with the Reformation, particularly the Reformed, orthodoxy. Scripture is not the written Word of God by the wonder of inspiration. Rather, "the Bible contains (my emphasis - DJE) the perfect Word of God in the imperfect words of human beings" (p. 115). But even this is misleading. For Bloesch, as for Barth, the relation between the Bible and the Word of God is that the Bible is "the channel" by which some "Word of God" that is altogether apart from and above the Bible may now and again break into one's life and into our world (see pp. 119, 120).
Inspiration was merely guidance of the biblical writers so that their writings are "compelling witness to revelation" (p. 119). For this reason these writings may be said to be divine. But these writings are also a human word. To deny this is "heresy" (p. 97). As a human word, the Bible is fallible, that is, filled with errors. These errors are not only factual, historical, and scientific but also theological and ethical.
Inspiration does not guarantee that the Bible is inerrant in the sense of being exempt from human misconceptions and limitations - even in the areas of ethics and theology. Nor does it imply that the Bible is free from textual and linguistic errors (pp. 121, 122).
Bloesch is not afraid to point out the errors. Psalm 139:22 ("I hate them with perfect hatred") is an instance of "contradictory theological assertions in the Bible," since Jesus tells us to love our enemies. The solution is that in Psalm 139 the Psalmist "may well be expressing a personal frustration rather than a divine imperative" (p. 111). One could as well opt to explain the "contradiction" by suggesting that in Matthew 5 Jesus may well be expressing personal sentimentality rather than a divine imperative.
Another alleged error is the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke inasmuch as they "obviously conflict" (p. 110).
If Bloesch must speak of Scripture's "inerrancy," he will not mean by it that "the Bible is true in the sense of being fully accurate in everything it reports." Scripture's truthfulness rather means only that its "central claims" are true and that "its overall witness" is reliable and dependable (p. 299). To which, the obvious question is, "What is Bloesch's ground for saying that Scripture's 'central claims' are true? His own personal feelings? The opinion of a majority of neo-orthodox scholars?" One thing the ground is not, and that is Scripture itself. For, first, according to Bloesch Scripture can and does err. As a fallible book, it can be mistaken also in any declaration it might make as to the truthfulness of its "central claims." Second, if Scripture is to be the ground, the declaration that Scripture makes is not that its central claims are true, but that everything it teaches is true (cf. John 10:35; II Tim. 3:14-17).
Similarly, when Bloesch states that the truthfulness of the Bible is "its fundamental agreement with God's own interpretation of his redeeming action ... in Jesus Christ" (p. 299), the response must be, "Where is 'God's own interpretation of his redeeming action' to be found? What and where is this other standard of truth by which Scripture itself is to be judged and its truthfulness determined? Is it altogether outside the Bible in the minds of theologians or in a mystical revelation? If it is within the Bible, as a kind of infallible core, show us specifically - books, chapters, and verses. Or, is not this infallible, ultimate standard, which performs the important work of showing parts of the Bible to be true and parts to be erroneous, capable of being made known to the laity? Is it, perhaps, the secret knowledge of theologians, particularly the Barthian scholars?"
Bloesch will not admit Scripture's own claim to be the authoritative Word of God, as a book, in its entirety, by the inspiration of it, as a book, in its entirety, by the Holy Spirit (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:19-21). To dismiss this claim as an invention of B. B. Warfield and as a pet notion of "sectarian fundamentalists," as Bloesch does, is theologically irresponsible. One glaring, destructive implication of neo-orthodoxy's doctrine of Scripture is its acknowledgment that large and important sections of Scripture that present themselves as historical and have always been understood by the church to be historical are, in fact, mythical. This is, today, a vital issue for evangelical and Reformed churches.
Bloesch defends myth in Scripture. Indeed, he speaks of Scripture as myth. The "mythical elements" that are undeniably present in the Bible are couched in "mythopoetic" language (p. 259). "The first eleven chapters in Genesis are probably saga, but the remainder are likely saga history" (p. 264). In a footnote, Bloesch informs us that "saga history ... is roughly the same as narrated history, but with the probable addition of legendary elements" (p. 356). Nothing in the entire book of Genesis, therefore, is dependable history. "Saga" for Bloesch is the same as "myth" in its denial that the stories were real events in history that actually took place as described.
Bloesch quotes the church father, Origen, on the historicity of Genesis 3 with approval: "... these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history and not through actual events" (p. 266). Also the events in the life and ministry of Jesus as recorded in the gospels are mythical (pp. 267ff.). Nevertheless, these same events are historical inasmuch as "the stories may have a firm anchor in history" (p. 269). "May have"! Christianity may be grounded in real events and actual deeds of God in earthly history, none of which we know since none of them are made known to us in Scripture.
At the same time, mythical and historical. This is the language of "paradox," that is, the language of sheer contradiction. For Bloesch, as for neo-orthodoxy generally, the theology of the Bible (or, better, the theology by means of the Bible) is a theology of contradiction. He rejects the law of non-contradiction, the rule that "two opinions cannot both be true, when one denies what the other affirms" (p. 301). There can never be "a comprehensive, rational system of truth" (p. 301). Indeed, the Bible itself does not contain such a harmonious body of teachings.
Truth is not propositional. Of course not, for the Bible is not an inspired book. Truth is rather the encounter: "The knowledge of God ... can break into our lives from the beyond and become ours if only for a moment, but then we must seek for it again and again" (pp. 53, 54).
Denial of the inspiration of Scripture and, with this, of the historicity of the events recorded in Scripture is theological liberalism, the old liberalism of Schleiermacher and his disciples, drawing from the Enlightenment. And liberalism's doubt and criticism of the Holy Scriptures are unbelief. Against this unbelief regarding Scripture, the faith of orthodoxy, particularly Reformed orthodoxy, defiantly and confidently affirms, "I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word" (Heid. Cat., Q. 21).
Bloesch's volume shows that liberalism's profound doubt and hostile criticism of God's Word are deeply entrenched in evangelicalism. So deep does this doubt run that Bloesch is open to every kind of higher criticism of Scripture - literary, redaction, source, genre, form - and contends for an open canon (pp. 177, 151).
This doubt and criticism must radically affect every doctrine of Bloesch's evangelical theology. We intend to take note of it.
by Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) xlvi + 497pp., $34.99. [Reviewed by Herman Hanko.]
The New International Commentary on the New Testament, of which this volume is a part, is, on the whole, a helpful set of commentaries on the New Testament which ministers and laymen alike will want to have in their libraries. Because the commentaries are written by different men, the volumes are not of uniform quality; but, in general, they are excellent helps in the study of Scripture.
This volume on Philippians is no exception. The author has written the commentary in such a way that it is useful to laymen and ministers alike. Most of the more technical material (i.e., material which refers directly to the original language of the New Testament) is put into the footnotes so that the body of the text is, for the most part, easy to read and understand. In fact, the footnotes constitute no less than one third of the book.
A commentary on Philip-pians was originally prepared for this set by Jac. J. Müller, and this volume is a replacement for that older volume, now out of print. It is more extensive than the older volume, contains much new material, and is in general better. Those who have already the older volume will want to add this book also to their collection.
One aspect of the book which is somewhat troubling, though not unexpected, is its commitment to literary criticism. The author begins on this note by calling attention to the fact that Paul's letter to the Philippians can be classified according to various types of correspondence then in vogue in the ancient world. And his approach to the epistle is this literary viewpoint. Hence, much of the commentary is a literary analysis of the book within the framework of his classification.
While there are certain good aspects to such a literary analysis of Paul's letter, the commentary falls short in more specific analysis of the divine truth revealed in this part of sacred Scripture. The "blurb" which accompanied the book speaks of its "equal concern to the letter's theological and spiritual relevance." Nevertheless, I found this latter to be in short supply. More emphasis is placed on what the blurb calls the "scholarly insights that resolve many of the formal and structural issues that have long puzzled New Testament scholars."
An important principle of Hermeneutics is here at stake. Many students of the Scriptures give themselves to literary and historical criticism in the explanation of Scripture, justifying this approach on the basis of Scripture's "human element." They claim to hold to the fact that Scripture is indeed the Word of God. But when Scripture is in fact treated and their position put into practice, one discovers that far more attention is paid to the "human element" than to the "divine element," to the "human factor" than to the "divine factor."
Apart now from the question of whether it is proper and sound to ascribe to Scripture such a human element or factor, the fact is that, when the actual work is done of interpreting Scripture, the human element receives the weight of emphasis. The divine factor is overlooked, forgotten, or ignored.
While this book is by no means the worst example of this error, it remains a fact that insufficient emphasis is placed upon answers to this fundamentally important question: What is the Spirit saying to the church? What is God revealing concerning Himself and His works in this important epistle? Would that the author had paid more attention to this question.
by J. Van Genderen. Tr. C. Pronk. Neer-landia, Alberta, Canada/Pella, Iowa, U. S. A.: Inheritance Publications, 1995. 110 pp. $9.25 (U. S.); $11.95 (CN) (paper). [Reviewed by David J. Engelsma.]
In the context of vigorous controversy within Reformed churches over the covenant of God with the children of believers, Dr. J. Van Genderen defends that covenant conception which refuses to allow election to "dominate" the covenant. Dr. Van Genderen, Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken (Christian Reformed Churches) professor at Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, holds that God establishes His covenant by promise equally with all physical children of believers. He addresses the promise at baptism alike to all: "I will be your God, and you will be my child." The promise, however, is conditional, depending for its fulfillment upon the faith of the child. The demand of faith as a condition accompanies the promise.
The Dutch Reformed theologian is critical of the covenant conception that permits God's eternal election to govern the covenant. According to this view, the electing God addresses the promise of the covenant to the elect children only. The power of the promise brings the elect children, and them only, into the fellowship of the covenant. "The danger is that by letting eternal election dominate everything, the significance of the covenant of grace is greatly diminished" (p. 53).
Two theologians whose covenant views Van Genderen criticizes are G. H. Kersten and Herman Hoeksema. Kersten, of the Gereformeerde Gemeenten (Reformed Congregations), influenced the Reformed Congregations to make six pronouncements on the covenant in 1931. The first was that "the covenant of grace is dominated by election to salvation; that therefore the essence of the covenant concerns only the elect of God and not the natural seed" (cited by Van Genderen, pp. 10, 11).
Hoeksema's theology produced the doctrine of the covenant that the Protestant Reformed Churches set forth as that of the Reformed creeds in their Declaration of Principles in 1951.
The covenant, for Hoeksema, is not an agreement, but a living relationship of friendship between God and those whom He has chosen in Jesus Christ our Lord. The children of the congregation must receive baptism as a sign of the covenant, but the covenant promises are only meant for the elect, for they are the children of the promise. Whereas the sign and seal of the covenant is a savour of life unto life for the children of the promise, it is at the same time a savour of death unto death for the reprobate who tread upon the covenant of Jehovah.... Theology here is so dominated by the idea of election that we have to speak of an election-system whereby the doctrine of the covenant is seriously deformed (p. 24).
Van Genderen's doctrine of the covenant makes plain that the only alternative to "domination" of the covenant by the electing God is "domination" of the covenant by the will of the covenant child. God makes His gracious promise to all the children alike; the promise is sealed to all equally by baptism; God is even "willing to give" all the children the faith that He demands (p. 70). The fulfillment of the promise, however, the actual union of the child with God by the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart, depends not upon the electing, promising God but upon the child's performance of the condition of faith.
This implies, first, that no infant is ever brought into living union with Christ in his or her infancy, since infants cannot fulfill the condition. Whereas Canons I/17 assures believing parents that they have no reason to doubt the election and salvation of their children who die in infancy, Van Genderen's covenant doctrine casts doubt on the salvation and, presumably, the election of every child of believers who dies in infancy.
In addition, Van Genderen's doctrine makes the child's work of faith decisive for the efficacy of the promise and, thus, for the child's own salvation.
As far as the mediation of salvation in a covenantal way is concerned, it is the Lord our God who takes the initiative as the One Who establishes the covenant of grace. But there is also the appropriation of the covenant by us. This is an essential part! To say it with Van der Schuit, "In the way of the covenant of grace the Holy Spirit reveals the Mediator to the heart that seeks God. It finds the way upward because it is drawn from above" (p. 67).
Van Genderen will acknowledge that the Lord God takes the initiative in establishing the covenant. He will not say that it is the Lord God who also realizes the covenant in the heart of every child who is united to Christ by a true faith. Rather, "there is the appropriation of the covenant by us" (my emphasis - DJE). This "appropriation of the covenant by us" is "essential." God takes the initiative in making the promise to all the baptized babies. But this promise accomplishes and makes certain absolutely nothing as regards salvation. The salvation of the baby depends on the baby's "appropriation of the covenant." This is precisely the heresy that the Canons of Dordt condemned as Pelagianism:
The Synod rejects the errors of those ... who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as He is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that, while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace. For these, while they feign that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors (II, Rejection of Errors/6).
Van Genderen's quotation from Van der Schuit, another minister in the Christelijke Gerefor-meerde Kerken, is damning to Van Genderen's covenant doctrine. God merely takes the initiative to establish the covenant with the child, whereas the child must appropriate the covenant, so that "the Holy Spirit reveals the Mediator to the heart that seeks God." Is this indeed the "mediation of salvation" in the covenant, that the Holy Spirit "reveals the Mediator to the heart that seeks God"? Where is the heart of a child, or of anyone else, that seeks God before the Holy Spirit reveals the Mediator to that heart? Where did this heart that seeks God come from? For "there is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11).
The truth is that the Holy Spirit reveals the Mediator to the naturally rebellious hearts of some children of believers, thus regenerating these hearts, in distinction from the hearts of other children that are no worse. There is one reason for the discrimination. This reason is the covenant promise effecting the gracious purpose of sovereign, eternal election.
G. H. Kersten was right when he wrote that those who say that the covenant of grace is not governed by election teach a new doctrine which emasculates the covenant. All that is left of the covenant, in this view, is an offer of salvation on condition of faith and repentance. "But," says Kersten, "faith and repentance are not conditions of the covenant; rather, they are benefits which flow out of the covenant" (cited by Van Genderen, p. 12).
Although he is still constrained to confess election, Van Genderen does not wholeheartedly love the doctrine. Deep-down he is afraid of it. Election is a dangerous element in theology. It must be watched closely and guarded carefully, lest it work evil on the gospel, especially the precious truth of the responsibility of man. It is so often "abstract." It "easily tends to a false passiveness.... It can also lead to carelessness ..." (p. 62). If election is allowed to have a prominent place in the gospel of the covenant, it will detract from "the full validity of the promise and the reality of the covenant" (p. 34).
Fear of the doctrine of election characterizes much that comes out of the Reformed Netherlands of late. Berkouwer's Divine Election (Eerdmans, 1960) was an extended warning about the dark shadow cast over the gospel by the doctrine of the decree of predestination as taught by the Canons of Dordt. Election accompanied by reprobation threatens assurance. H. Venema, theologian of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands ("liberated"), was so impressed by the dangers of eternal election that he transformed the divine decree into a mere historical event (see his Uitverkiezing? Jazeker! Maar hoe?, Kampen: Uitgeverij Van den Berg, 1992). Now the theologian of the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken chimes in.
Where in the Netherlands is there any longer the heartfelt, bold love of sovereign, eternal predestination so evident in the Canons of Dordt? Perfect love would cast out fear.
Rejection of election as governing the covenant requires Van Genderen to deny that Jesus Christ is Head of the covenant of grace (pp. 19-21, 56). Here he acknowledges disagreement with the Westminster Larger Catechism. In Question 31 the Larger Catechism confesses that "the covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed." The sole reason for denying that Jesus Christ is Head of the covenant of grace is that this necessarily implies that the covenant is established only with those who are in Christ, that is, the elect.
The price paid for the privilege of extending the covenant more widely than the elect is high. Christ is no longer the representative of all the members of the covenant of grace, obtaining for them the right to belong to the covenant of grace and, on this basis, uniting them to Himself by His regenerating Spirit. The covenant of grace is headless! In the covenant of grace, it is every man for himself and by himself. This is the implication of Van Genderen's explanation of the actual realization of the covenant in the hearts of the children. It is not the Head of the covenant who both initiates the establishment of the covenant and consummates the covenant in all the children who are His by divine election. Rather, each individual child "appropriates" the covenant for himself or herself.
Denial that Jesus Christ is Head of the covenant of grace violently conflicts with the teaching of Romans 5:12-21. There is, according to this passage, similarity between the position of Adam and the position of Christ in that just as Adam was "federal," or covenant, head of the entire human race in the covenant given with creation before the fall so Christ is "federal," or covenant, Head of the new, elect race in the covenant of grace. Christ is legal representative of "many." This is His relation to them in the covenant of grace. And this is Headship. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (v. 19). Such is the fundamental importance of this truth that to deny it, whether as regards Adam or as regards Christ, is to destroy the Christian gospel.
Van Genderen is unable to find the Headship of Christ in the covenant of grace in the Canons of Dordt, II, 8: "It is remarkable that this forceful upholding of the covenant as a covenant of grace has not led to a system limiting it to the elect. Christ is referred to as Surety and Mediator of the covenant rather than Head of the covenant. Covenant and election are not the same thing " (p. 56).
What is truly remarkable is that the Dutch theologian cannot see Christ's covenant Headship in the article. This is one of the few articles in the "Three Forms of Unity" that explicitly mention the covenant of grace. The article describes the substitutionary death of Christ that redeemed the elect, earned for them the gift of faith, and made certain their fellowship with Christ as "confirmation of the covenant." The cross was covenant business conducted by the representative of the members of the covenant of grace in their stead and on their behalf. In keeping with the whole of the second head of doctrine of the Canons, the article determines the members of the new covenant by election: "... all those and those only who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to him by the Father."
Significantly, in the rejection of errors attached to this second head, there is sharp warning against a view of the covenant that makes faith a "condition" to membership in the covenant (Canons, II, Rejection of Errors/3, 4).
The issue at stake in the controversy in the Reformed churches between a covenant governed by the electing God and a covenant governed by the appropriating child is not whether covenant and election are "the same thing" (p. 56). No one thinks that covenant and election are the same thing. Election is the eternal decree of God in Christ appointing some to salvation in distinction from others. The covenant of grace is the relationship between God and His people in history. But the issue is whether membership in the covenant of grace as living communion with God is determined by election, yes or no. With this, the issue is whether election determines who they are to whom God promises covenant fellowship and blessings and who they are in whose hearts God fulfills the covenant promise.
Every conception of the covenant that cuts covenant loose from election is dashed on the rock of Romans 9. The very purpose of the Holy Spirit in this chapter is to distinguish children of the flesh from children of promise among the physical children of believers according to God's eternal predestination (vv. 6ff.). By promise, God establishes His covenant with the elect children of Abraham, and with no others. With this agrees Galatians 3 which addresses the covenant promise to Abraham's seed, Jesus Christ, and to those who are Christ's (vv. 16, 29).
Refusal to view the covenant as governed by election results in grievous injury to the promise of God, that is, to the promising God Himself. For on this view the promise is addressed by God to all children of believers without exception. God promises every child, the one who eventually perishes as well as the one who finally inherits glory, that He will be the child's God and that the child will be God's son and heir. Van Genderen readily acknowledges that God makes this promise to every child "in mercy."
One implication is that the promise of God is the oddest promise that ever was. For it does not include the good that is promised. Whereas the value of men's promises is that they guarantee and bestow the good that is promised, e.g., the lifelong fidelity vowed at a wedding, God's covenant promise does not include the covenant communion with Himself and salvation that it speaks of. Obviously not! For many receive the promise who never enjoy the good that is promised! The good spoken of is not included in the promise but is rather produced from the demanded condition of faith.
Another implication is that the promise does not include the means by which the promised good is received, namely, faith. Obviously not! For many receive the promise who never have faith. Van Genderen goes so far as to say that God "is willing" to give faith to all. To this, the question at once is, "Why then does He not give faith to all?" Van Genderen leaves this question unanswered. Fact is, for Van Genderen, faith is the condition that the child himself must provide in order that the promise may be fulfilled in the actual bestowal of salvation.
Yet another implication is that Van Genderen is dead wrong when he astoundingly affirms that "on the basis of God's promise we may expect that He will also do what He says" (p. 69). The truth is that on Van Genderen's doctrine of the covenant we can expect that God will not do what He says. He promises to be Esau's God and to have Esau for His son, and, lo, Esau is eternally damned. In reality, God's promise assures nothing. That which assures something is the child's fulfilling the condition of faith.
If the covenant is not governed by election, a Reformed theologian can say about the promise what Van Genderen does indeed daringly say: "Where faith is lacking, the promise is useless" (p. 65). The promise of God is "useless"! To use the comparable language of Romans 9:6, where man does not fulfill the condition of faith, the Word of God is of none effect!
Despite Van Genderen's strong objection to a doctrine of the covenant that is "dominated" by election, he admits that this has been a prominent view in the Reformed tradition. This was the view of Herman Bavinck and of Abraham Kuyper (pp. 25-29). The second part of the book, "Covenant Theology - Past and Present," which gives a brief history of the dogma of the covenant, acknowledges that "the doctrine of election has greatly influenced the doctrine of the covenants" (p. 92). Van Genderen suggests that this was "a result of the ... attempt to prevent Arminian ideas from corrupting the covenant doctrine" (p. 92).
by Robert M. Kingdon. Cambridge, Massachusetts/London, England: Harvard University Press, 1995. 214pp. $15 (paper). [Reviewed by David J. Engelsma.]
Robert Kingdon is a leading Calvin scholar. He is presently working on a notable project, supervising a team of scholars in transcribing the twenty-one volumes of the Register of the Consistory of Geneva for the period of Calvin's ministry from 1542-1564.
Out of this work with what we would call the consistory minutes of the church of which Calvin was the pastor comes this study of divorce and remarriage in the Reformed church of Geneva while Calvin was president of the consistory.
Kingdon sees the worth of the book both in its treatment of the development of divorce in Protestantism and in its account of the workings of the consistory in Geneva under Calvin's direction.
In the main, the book is a study - a fascinating study - of several cases of adultery brought before the Geneva consistory. Although the consistory always worked hard for reconciliation and, in one of the cases, virtually forced reconciliation upon the married couple, the outcome often was divorce with the right of remarriage for the "innocent party." One of these cases involved Calvin's brother Antoine, who with his wife and children was living in Calvin's home when the offenses took place.
In one instance, that of the Italian convert to the Reformation, Galeazzo Caracciolo, Calvin and the consistory approved divorce and subsequent remarriage on the ground of religious desertion. Allegedly, Caracciolo's Roman Catholic wife had deserted him. In fact, upon his conversion, Caracciolo had left her, and their children, to affiliate with the Reformed Church in Switzerland. In effect, Calvin approved divorce and remarriage on the ground of a believer's abandonment of his unbelieving (Roman Catholic) wife. Appeal was made to I Corinthians 7:15. But this turns the text on its head. For I Corinthians 7:15 speaks of the unbeliever's desertion of the believer, not of the believer's desertion of the unbeliever. Even then, there is simply no mention of the right of the deserted believer to divorce the deserting mate, much less of a right to remarry.
Understandably, Rome used such incidents to blacken the Reformation:
Catholic polemicists ... were by this time frequently claiming that people turned Protestant and fled to places like Geneva solely to escape wives they no longer wanted and in the hope of a new sexual partner (pp. 155, 156).
Calvin was sensitive to the charge, first urging Caracciolo to remain celibate and then sending the Italian off to others for the advice that resulted in his remarriage.
Kingdom himself is more than dubious about the expedient of grounding Caracciolo's remarriage in I Corinthians 7:12-15. He calls it "an audacious and dangerous argument" (p. 156).
The Reformation, particularly the Calvin Reformation, broke with the Christian tradition of indissoluble marriage. Although Calvin and the Geneva consistory wanted to restrict remarriage to the "innocent party," it became evident already then that also the remarriage of the guilty party had to be allowed (pp. 89, 90).
Kingdon believes that "the modern explosion in divorce ... (in) the twentieth century ... began in the sixteenth century ... with the Protestant Reformation," with the consistory of Geneva playing a leading role (p. 180).
As to the judgment that ought to be passed upon the Re-formation's opening of the floodgates of divorce and remarriage, Kingdon is ambivalent. On the one hand, he likes to recognize that some marriages "simply fail, and can become painful and destructive to everyone involved. In all decency they should be ended" (pp. 183, 184).
On the other hand:
There also can be no doubt ... that the dissolution of a marriage can be enormously destructive, often to innocent parties in no way involved in the marriage's failure, most obviously children, often other relatives. This sad reality is one of the reasons Protestant authorities, despite their willingness to make divorce possible, continued to make it difficult. These are still problems that anyone affected by an unhappy marriage must face (p. 184).
Ambivalence is not enough. The teaching of the Reformers allowing for divorce as the breaking of the marriage bond and for a subsequent remarriage is the scandal of the Reformation. Protestants must confess it. They must then take another, good, hard look, not at unhappy marriages among them, but at the teaching of the Word of God on marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
by William Webster. Edinburgh: Banner Of Truth, Publishers, 1995. Pp. 243. $28.95 (hard cover). [Reviewed by Herman Hanko.]
With Evangelicals moving closer to Rome, this book is an important one. Written by a layman, it compares all the main teachings of Rome with both Scripture and history. In the treatment of history, Mr. Webster is interested in examining the question whether Rome's preposterous claims are genuinely supported by the history of the church. This is an important question, for Rome itself claims legitimacy for its position on the grounds of history; i.e., it maintains that all its views have the stamp of history's approval.
Proceeding from the truth of the infallibility of Scripture to its sole authority, the book examines such questions as the authority of tradition, the notion of clerical ordination as held by Rome, the doctrines involved in Rome's Mariology and Mariolatry, the sacramental system of the Romish Church, and the doctrine of justification alone without works. In every respect the book finds Rome's claims spurious. They do not agree with the canon of Scripture and they do not stand the test of the history of the church.
Important in the book is voluminous quotes from the church fathers from Clement of Rome through Luther and Calvin. And of great value is a lengthy appendix composed exclusively of quotes from important Papal documents such as the Papal Bull, Unam Sanctam, the decisions of Vatican I and Vatican II, The Decrees of the Council of Trent, etc.
Those who are interested in the important differences between apostate Rome and Protestantism will want to read this book and have it in their library for reference. It will be a valuable addition.
by Leon Morris. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995. Pp. xxii+ 824. $42.00. (cloth). [Reviewed by Robert D. Decker.]
This is a fine commentary on The Gospel According to John. It is part of the New International Commentary on the New Testament series Eerdmans is publishing and is a revision of an earlier commentary on John by the same author.
The commentary is extensive and well researched. It is written in easy to read paragraph form with the comments on the Greek text in footnotes. This makes it a valuable tool for the preacher and scholar as well as useful for those who have no knowledge of the Greek.
In his comments on chapters 6 and 10 Morris stresses the impossibility of man saving himself and the necessity of what he calls the "divine initiative" in the salvation of sinners.
At some points one would have expected a more thorough explanation of the text.
The Commentary is enhanced by two indices: the first is a General index (subject and persons), the second is an index of Scripture passages cited in the commentary.
If the reader can afford only one commentary on John he should purchase Calvin's. If the reader can afford two commentaries on John, he should purchase Calvin's and William Hendricksen's. If he can afford three he should purchase also this commentary by Morris.