|1. CALVINISTIC ANTINOMIANS||3|
|2. OBADIAH 21||9|
|3. THE PROSPECTS OF AMERICAN THEOLOGY||12|
|4. MARTIN BUCER: A REVIEW||53|
|5. BOOK REVIEWS||64|
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The names John Saltmarsh, Tobias Crisp and John Eaton are not familiar to most of us. Nevertheless, their names were well known in 17th century Calvinistic circles. Saltmarsh (d. 1647), Crisp (1600-1643) and Eaton (1575-ca. 1631) were Antinomians. 17th century Calvinistic Puritans especially were alarmed by their preaching and writing.
Antinomianism is a compound word literally signifying "against" (anti-) "the law" (nomos, Greek). The law in question is: the moral law of God; the Decalogue or ten commandments; the law given at Mt. Sinai by God to Moses and Israel (Ex. 20:1-17; Dt. 5:6-21). Antinomianism has traditionally expressed opposition to the moral law or ten commandments because (so they argue) the grace of God in and through the justifying work of Christ surpasses, indeed makes passé, the Decalogue as a rule of life for the Christian. In the 17th century, the Calvinistic Antinomians: denied the morality of the Sabbath day under the New Testament; suggested that sanctification was a "legal bastard"; and accused Christian ministers of turning the new covenant of the New Testament into a Mosaic covenant of works. Their rhetoric concluded that Christ had fulfilled the moral law for the Christian and hence the moral law was abolished ("dead") to the believer.
Here are some sample statements from the 17th century Antinomians.1
"The moral law is to a believer as a cancelled bond to one whose debt is paid."
"A believer is so dead to the law that as a man cannot command his wife when she is dead, nor a master command his servant after he is made free, so cannot the law command any after he is in Christ."
"After a man is justified by Christ, he is no more subject to the commandments of the moral law; he must do nothing in conscience of the Law; he must not take himself to be bound to or by it."
"He that makes the Law a rule of his life, whatever he be in heart, he is a Papist in practice."
"A believer is free from the lawthe moral law."
The 17th century Antinomians emphasized what they called the "Third Time" or "Third Era". The "First Time" was the era of Adam in the garden; the "Second Time" was the era of Moses and the Law. The "Third Time" was the era following Christ's death and resurrection, i.e., the time of the church up to the second coming. In this third era, the believer so willingly and cheerfully practiced all Christian duties, according to these Antinomians, that law codes and the so-called "ten whips" delivered in Exodus 20 were obsolete. The Decalogue as a moral code was annulled, canceled, indeed abolished by the new covenant.
Recently, we have heard and read such statements as these.
"The Decalogue has also been made obsolete along with the first covenant of which it was an integral part."
"The ten commandments then are not the universal moral law binding on all mankind in all ages."
"If the Mosaic covenant involves a works principle with regard to
Israel's probation in the land, and if the Decalogue is merely a compendium of
"We are not under the law. Paul uses that phrase ten times in his writings. This means that we are free from the condemnation of the law and we are freed from the commanding authority of the law as the Old Covenant."
"The teaching of Paul and the New Testament [is] that the Mosaic Law no longer has binding authority over New Testament believers."
It is apparent that the 21st century Calvinistic Antinomians are echoing the themes (even using similar expressions) of the 17th century Calvinistic Antinomians.
Reformed theology has historically affirmed the threefold use of the lawmeaning the moral law of God written on the heart, codified in the ten commandments, fully revealed as the law of the kingdom of heaven. First is the so-called political use of the Law referring to the Law as a mirror to restrain and convict us of sin (cf. Rom. 3:19, 20). Second is the pedagogical use of the Law referring to the Law as a tutor to direct us to Christ (cf. Gal. 3:24). Third is the normative use of the Law referring to the Law as a rule or canon of sanctified or holy living (cf. Rom. 7:12). This position is embedded in the struggles of Luther, Calvin and the fathers of the Reformation and Calvinism with various guises of Antinomianism in the 16th and 17th centuries: anarchists/Munster radicals (Luther), libertines (Calvin), 'evangelicals'/English Civil War radicals (Puritans). The summary of those struggles may be found reflected in the Reformed Confessions in which the moral law of God (enshrined in the Decalogue) is considered under the Old and the New Testament.
". . . we confess all our life ought to be ruled in accordance with the commandments of his holy law in which is contained all perfection of justice, and that we ought to have no other rule of good and just living, nor invent other good works to supplement it than those which are there contained, as follows: Exodus 20: 'I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee,' and so on" (The Geneva Confession of 1536, chapter 3).
"We do not mean that we are so set at liberty that we owe no obedience
to the Law . . . but we affirm that no man on earth, with the sole exception
"Why, then, does God have the ten commandments preached so strictly since no one can keep them in this life? First, that all our life long we may become increasingly aware of our sinfulness, and therefore more eagerly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ. Second, that we may constantly and diligently pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that more and more we may be renewed in the image of God, until we attain the goal of full perfection after this life" (The Heidelberg Catechism, 1563, Question and Answer 115).
"We teach that this law was not given to men that they might be justified by keeping it, but that rather from what it teaches we may know our weakness, sin and condemnation, and, despairing of our strength, might be converted to Christ in faith . . . The law of God is therefore abrogated to the extent that it no longer condemns us, nor works wrath in us. For we are under grace and not under the law. Moreover, Christ has fulfilled all the figures of the law. Hence, with the coming of the body, the shadows ceased, so that in Christ we now have the truth and all fullness. But yet we do not on that account contemptuously reject the law. For we remember the words of the Lord when he said: 'I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them' [Mt. 5:17]. We know that in the law is delivered to us the patterns of virtues and vices. We know that the written law when explained by the Gospel is useful to the Church, and that therefore its reading is not to be banished from the Church . . . We condemn everything that heretics old and new have taught against the law" (The Second Helvetic Confession, 1566, chapter 12).
"Q. 96. What particular use is there of the moral law to unregenerate men? The moral law is of use to unregenerate men, to awaken their conscience to flee from the wrath to come, and to drive them to Christ; or, upon the continuance in the estate and way of sin, to leave them inexcusable, and under the curse thereof.
Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?
Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from
Q. 98. Where is the moral law summarily comprehended? The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments, which were delivered by the voice of God upon Mount Sinai, and written by him in two tables of stone; and are recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus" (The Westminster Larger Catechism, 1648).
In each of these Confessional documents, the moral law of God is regarded as God himselfperpetual and ever authoritative. The genius of the Reformed fathers and their Confessions is that they have recognized what may be termed the heavenly character of the moral law. In other words, as God himself is a heavenly being, so his ethical or moral character is heavenly too. He therefore reveals that heavenly moral character of himself in history through the law written on the heart (Rom. 2), the ten commandments (Ex. 20; Dt. 5) and the fullness of "all righteousness" (Mt. 3:15). Jesus expands on his statement to John the Baptist in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5-7 is a description of the law and life in the heavenly kingdom, i.e., the kingdom of heaven.
Since God's own moral character in his heavenly being and glory is the ultimate pattern of that which is holy, just and good; and since God reveals that character to man, his image-bearing creature, at creation, under the law and under the gospel, it is clear that the moral law per se (in and of itself) is as perpetual as the One whose moral character it mirrors and reflects. God is eternal; God's moral character and moral law is eternal. To be or do otherwise would be for God to deny himself, to annul himself, to abolish himself. The heavenly or eschatological character of the moral law of God is as heavenly and eschatological as the source of that lawGod himself.
Thus what is revealed in the ten commandments at Sinai shall endure
as long as God and heaven endure. These "ten laws" could no more pass
The error of Calvinistic Antinomians old and new is the error of reducing the moral law (ten commandments) of God to a temporary and provisional aspect, along with the temporary and provisional elements of the Mosaic theocracy (cult, sacrifice, civil statutes, etc.). That is, these Antinomians, in their zeal for the liberty with which Christ has set us free from the curse of the law, from the beggarly elements of the former era, overreact by wanting to set us free from the moral law per se (in and of itself). Their love for Christ and freedom from condemnation in Christ has carried them to the extreme of throwing out the heaven-oriented moral character of the Decalogue with the bathwater of its condemnatory aspect. As with most errors for which historic Calvinism is a remedy, this is not an either/or matter; it is a both/and matter. Not either freedom in Christ or the rule of the Decalogue (moral law), but both freedom in Christ and the rule of the Decalogue (moral law). In fact, freedom in Christ is the wonderful liberty to seek to obey the rule of the Decalogue (O Lord, "How I love thy law!" Ps. 119:97).
"Do we make void the law [moral law/ten commandments]? God forbid!" And so our Reformed Confessions teach; and so we believe; and so we preach.
makes bare, faint
To tones drawn well
and accented in gräve
he lays siege
to promised walls
Above, a sanctuary
an unassailable rock
beckons but hides
the poisoned pool
Those at top
inside deride and sneer
since Edom sits
in Zion now
to blast, to scowl.
"This king of glory,
who is he?"
they spit and snarl;
their quarrel mutes
the small response
And silences the stones;
the little man
is lost from off
and crushed below.
Each turns his gaze;
the drama done,
resurrecting those ancient
On the morning of September 4, 1888, Geerhardus Vos was installed as Professor of Didactic and Exegetical Theology for the Theologische School (now Calvin Theological Seminary) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The twenty-six year old Frieslander, freshly back from a three-year sojourn on the continent and Ph.D. in hand, gazed out upon an audience familiar to him in the Spring Street Christian Reformed Church. After all, it was his home churchthe church to which his father had crossed the Atlantic in 1881, six-member family in tow, in order to begin a New World pastorate. The dignity of the occasion was not lost on the dutiful, well-traveled son (Grand Rapids, Princeton, Berlin, Strasbourg, not to mention Amsterdam and Utrecht, from 1883 to 1888). With his family and Grand Rapids friends about him, the son was charged by the father, Jan Hendrik, from 2 Timothy 2:13 ("Study to show thyself approved unto God"). But that was the business of the morning.
On the evening of September 4, 1888, Geerhardus Vos delivered his acceptance address (or inaugural speech) in the same venue, to what must have been much the same audience. After all, here was the first professor at the School to earn a Ph.D.and that a European doctorate from Germany. The title of the address, as reported in De Wachter for September 12, 1888, was De Uitsichten der Amerika Theologie ("The Prospects of American Theology").
The manuscript copies of this address are extant in two forms in the
Heritage Hall Archive of Calvin Theological Seminary. The first, in a kind of
Dutch shorthand, contains two signatures and two dates. The first date is August
29, 1888 followed by the signature "G. Vos." This is undoubtedly the date
Nearly a year before (October 23, 1887), Johannes B. Hoekstra (1855-1949) had been ordained a minister in the Christian Reformed Church following his graduation (diploma) from the Theologische School in Grand Rapids. Like Vos, Hoekstra was born in Frieslandcame to America and received his seminary education in Grand Rapids. (NB. He died in October 1949, in Grand Rapidsthe same year and place in which Vos himself died two months earlier.) At his ordination, Hoekstra was installed as pastor of First Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa where he served from 1887-1891.
How did Hoekstra come to be involved with the manuscript of Vos's address? From this distance, we may only speculate. Was Hoekstra present on September 4, 1888 and subsequently asked Vos for a copy of his remarks which he later recopied in Pella, Iowa (hence the later date)? Or does the date on Hoekstra's copy suggest that Vos traveled to Pella and delivered the address again to the Dutch Reformed community there? Hoekstra's copy then may represent a Dutch 'speed shorthand' version of the original, perhaps produced as Vos was speaking. Or is there/are there other possible explanations?
We remain in the dark about the provenance of Hoekstra's version,
but we no longer remain in the dark about what Vos said on the occasion of
occupying his chair at Grand Rapids. Our translator has let the light of
English shine on a remarkable speech, full of typical Vosisms (as the informed
reader will note). We have a new window into the brilliant mind of our subject,
freshly back from study in Europe, reflecting on the cultural scene of America and
its inordinate pragmatism. There is much to note here which indicates
things have not changed all that much. America and America's churches are
still dominated by the pragmatic practical. Vos labels this empiricism. It is
certainly philosophically grounded, not biblically (let alone confessionally)
rooted. And so, with the Reformed biblical-theological giant, we continue to
observe the omnipresent tyranny of the practical. Will American theology ever be
any other than practice-driven pop culturism? Many contemporary churches
James T. Dennison, Jr.
It was not easy for me to find a suitable topic for the address which (according to an old and venerable custom) I must give to you today. Although the multitude of subjects which the Curators of the School have assigned me to teach gave me a wide range of choices, the choice was, on the other hand, limited by more than one consideration. I could expectas is indeed the caseto face a mixed audience, and it would be inappropriate, at the beginning of a teaching position in a discipline that seeks to be eminently practical, to deal with a topic that for most of you lies outside your field of vision. I trust that you will not take it amiss when under these circumstances I have made a virtue of necessity and have deliberately resisted the urge to discuss a concrete topic with you. Allow us to encourage you at this time to undertake an exploration of the broad field of our own entourage and in broad, though not incoherent, strokes point to
The Prospects of American Theology. We will look successively at
I. The obstacles that stand in the way of its development;
II. The advantages that benefit its development;
III. The demands that it must therefore impose on itself.
When we Hollanders, who for the most part still have a faithful memory of the conditions in the old Fatherland who, indeed, in our personal life here feel in more than one area the aftereffects of the forces that shaped and moved the life of the nation, when we set out to assess the conditions in the New World, then it goes without saying that by dint of contrast the verdict must turn out rather severe. But if this is true of virtually every area of life, it is especially true of the large area of religious and theological life we want to explore today. Whereas, however, an evaluation of conditions here from the perspective of a foreign national perspective falls under suspicion of narrow-mindedness and one-sidedness, in this case it brings with it a measure of commendation. We Hollanders, after all, have in our heart always been theologians. In all of God's earth there is no nation to be found that has stood under the influence of theological ideas as has ours. It is not too much to say that its art, its scholarship, its industry, its entire history have developed from religious motives. Thus even that which seems to stand in contrast to the religious and theological life has in Holland been born from the womb of theology and been cultivated under its auspices. What we find, for example, of independent philosophy in our history owes its existence exclusively to this theological bent of our national character.
When, influenced by these memories, we look at the phenomena of American life, we unavoidably encounter a sharp contrast. Here one breathes in a different atmosphere than that of theology. Here religious questions are not the dominant issues of daily life. It is not an interest in things theological that propels the mighty machine of American life. The life of the church in its theoretical aspect is not the soil from which the tree of the whole of this modern culture draws its sap, and which in turn it overshadows with its broad branches.
True, there is enough that can be called "interest in religion." We are richly endowed with it especially in things external and practical. In the areas of missions and Christian philanthropy exceedingly much is being done. Theology also has its Maecenas.1 Nevertheless, no one who takes a deeper look
The contrast we mentioned earlier remains therefore, and it cannot be called unjust that, when we speak about the Prospects of American Theology, we always keep it at hand as a corrective. Even if we grant that people both here and there have fallen into extremes, it nevertheless remains true that every extreme is best brought into awareness by means of its opposite. Therefore it should not be considered a naïve prejudice when we more or less use this [contrast]2 in trying to illuminate the obstacles to the flowering of our theology. These obstacles can be traced mainly to three phenomena. These seem to us to lie (a) in the influence of practical empiricism3 [/realisme/]4 ; (b) in a lack of thinking through our principles5; and (c) in the lack of a sense of historical continuity.
A. The Influence of Practical Empiricism
The first thing that draws our attention is the separation that exists between theology and everyday life6, the isolation in which the former stands vis-à-vis the latter. It is one sphere beside other spheres, without the development of [real] contact with them at the many points where they touch, so that its driving force can flow over into them.7 But if we are not mistaken, this is only one of a group of similar phenomena, and as such we must view it in connection with that general law to which it is subject, in order to arrive at a correct understanding and, if possible, an explanation. One can say, we think,
3 The words in brackets and framed by slashes [/.../] are words written above the line as an emendation or alternative; from the nature of these emendations, it would appear that these are Vos's insertions.
4 The word used in the text is Empirialisme, which is most likely a copyist's error. The condensed version reads practh empire, with reale written above empire.
5 principieel doordenken; approximately "principled thinking through."
6 volksleven, lit. "life of the people".
7 zonder dat er op tal van aanrakingspunten voeling met dezeontstaan en uit haar bewegende kracht in hen overvloeien kan.This is an ad sensum translation.
The question is thus no longer, What is the cause of the isolated position of our theology? This [question] has resolved itself in the broader question, What are the causes of this general fragmentation, of this lack of unity and vitality? What divisive and centrifugal force is it that permeates our life and causes to shatter into a thousand worthless pieces that which was to constitute one harmonious11 whole, joined together and kept together by the holy order of the principia?12
It won't do to derive an answer to this question from incidental, nonessential circumstances. To be sure, the multiplicity of elements from which our nationality is in the process of being formed is to blame in part for the inco-
9 bedding breken. The more common, related phrase is baan breken, i.e., blaze a trail or break new ground.
10 het rijke leven, lit. "the rich life."
11 schoon, lit. "beautiful."
12 Vos uses principia derivatively from the Latin principium, which means "foundation" or "fundamental principles."
We must therefore look for a more absolute and deeper cause. And we thought we had found it in that practical empiricism [/realism/] that, as the most recognizable trait of the American national character, has left its imprint on all manifestations of that character and not least on its relationship to theology.
Practical realism! I regret that I have to make do with two foreign words to convey [that] which as the most concrete and palpable of all phenomena should17 not be alien to us. By realism we mean here the worldview18 that lets
14 When Vos speaks of unity, it would appear that he has in mind an integral or organic unity.
15 oorsponkelijk, lit. "originally."
16 eenheid, lit. "unity."
17 Lit. "does not have to be."
18 levensrichting, lit. "life-orientation."
This contrast between realism and idealism permeates our entire conscious life. There is a realistic, or if you prefer, empiricistic epistemology, that assumes that there is no other guarantee of truth than the immediate manifestation of the inner and outer world, as it thrusts itself upon us in our primitive experience of seeing, hearing, touching, etc., or through inner observation of ourselves. On the other hand there is, then, an idealistic epistemology, that, convinced of the inadequacy of that direct experience, takes, in order to give us unfailing certainty, its higher point of departure in the idea, in order to judge experience from that perspective. She may chose this basic point of departure in the solidity of intuition, in the certainty of logical thinking, or on the "earthquake-proof" rock of faith in the Almighty, [but] in all those cases she begins with faith, and stands with this, her ideal character, in direct contradistinction to any realistic epistemological principle.
But there is also a realism in the will, where it reaches for the material and tangible, for the sensory and experiential world as the highest reality, a seeking after all that is before our eyes and lies on the surface of existence, a delighting in the treasure on earth, which moth and rust can destroy and the tunneling hands21 of thieves can reach. And over against that again [stands] that thirst for [a] higher and holier reality that wells up from the depth of the soul and seeks with spiritual urgency also in the real external world the revelation of a higher, divine thought.
Finally, there is a realism of the emotions that reacts only when touched directly by what lies outside us in the area of lower urges and that makes its
21 doorgravende dievenhand. This phrase is based on the Dutch Staten Vertaling: waar de dieven doorgraven en stelen; Luther: graven en stelen.
In all three respects, gentlemen, but especially in the practical arena, is there a strong, realistic current in these habits. Unconsciously, but therefore no less swift and sure, do the spirits pull in that direction. People want, both in theory and in practice, only naked reality. There is in the first place in science a tendency to make experience the sole criterion of truth. This is evident already in the dominance that the study of the natural sciences has among us, in their exceptional flowering, in the predilection with which people devote themselves to it. In this area we can, notwithstanding the youthfulness of our strengths,23 well nigh compete with the old world. And as proof that there are no accidental causes in play here, but rather a deep-rooted orientation of the spirit that expresses itself, if the fact can serve, that this subconscious urge has also sought and found its philosophical expression in the evolutionary theory.24 In no other system perhaps has the spirit of our time, the spirit also [/especially/] of the land where we live, so clearly reflected itself as in that of Herbert Spencer, the great English thinker. He is the prophet at whose feet the children of this age have sat, and still want to sit. Everything, including logical thinking, is by him derived from the processes of experience. According to the law of evolution, the sum of experiences brings about a habitus of mind that is the foundation of all scientific axioms, including the theory of evolution itself, as well as of all moral and religious concepts. There is no idea that is not the product of the reality that can be experienced, not only abstracted from it but created by it. Moral concepts come into being because experiences of usefulness and harmfulness, acquired by earlier human generations, have through consolidation and organization exerted a certain influence on the nervous sys-
23 Lit. "our youthful strengths."
24 Vos uses the term evolutieleer, "doctrine of evolution," rather than evolutietheorie, theory of evolution. However, "doctrine" has religious connotations that leer does not have. "Theory" would therefore seem to be more appropriate.
But this is only the theoretical, self-conscious expression of what as a subconscious practical striving dominates and moves the millions. Few may have accepted this system in its totalityindeed, for this we are not thinkers enoughbut they can be numbered in the hundreds, also among Christians and neologians of this country, who have adopted with approval its main idea, the theory of evolution. Now it is not our intent, nor in our power, to submit the philosophical ideas of such a giant mind to our insignificant critique, but we only want to look at the phenomena and try to understand them in their inner coherence. And how then would it then be possible that in an age whose deepest philosophy of life26 is the image and product of such a philosophy, how would it be possible that in a country where we, in spite of ourselves, again and again betray our sympathy for such ideas, how could [in this country]27 the plant of Sacred Theology have flowered and borne fruit?
All true theology must by virtue of its [core] principle stand diametrically opposed to such an orientation with its strongly developed sense for the external. We cannot think of theology other than as an expression of a healthy and vigorous idealism, of a life view that has a richer content than the sum of the external things of this world. [It is] not as if it wants to sacrifice reality for chimeras or for mirages of the mind.28 She recognizes rather that there is a higher, truer reality than that of naturethe reality of the realm of grace. But she denies (and therefore she is idealism) that that reality can be found in nature and understood by natural man, indeed, that also nature in itself could have value and significance apart from the knowledge of God. Rather, she confesses that in all areas of life God's glory as the highest idea must, as ultimate goal, be introduced and worked out, and that only for him who by the
26 Levensgedachte, lit. "life thought."
28 Lit. "thought mirages."
Not only directly, but also to a much greater degree indirectly through its consequences, this realism has a harmful effect on the development of theology, because it leads to the dividedness of life to which we pointed earlier, which is also indebted to the isolated position of theology. Sin and empiricism that in a sinful manner views the creature apart from God, cannot bring about a true unity/integration of life. They may centralize facts and data around a core conceptachieving an organic whole they cannot.30 Precisely because they are continually turned outward, they lose themselves in the multiplicity [of] phenomena, in the sheer quantity31 of things, and they get lost in the labyrinth of the world, wrenched away from God and no longer an organic whole.32 This process also begins to move beyond life33 to have an impact on science. Here also are innumerable spheres standing side by side, without mutual connectedness, and who[ever] wants to have an overview of science as a whole, must be satisfied with a sheer arithmetical listing of the individual disciplines. He can melt them together into a skeleton, but it lacks the spirit of lifea body it does not receive. Empiricism is lethal for all [theological] encyclopedia. It has no eye for the whole, but remains stuck in the individual
30 Zij mogen centraliseeren, organiseeren kunnen ze niet. Lit. "The may centralize, organize they cannot." Clearly, the translation is highly interpretive.
31 massa der dingen: "mass of things." The point here is quantity.
32 gedeorganiseerde wereld, lit. "disorganized world." This is not merely a world that is poorly organized but rather a world that has lost its organic wholeness (see note 30).
33 Van uit het leven, lit. "from life."
35 Omitted de wetenschap des geloofs, lit. "the science of faith."
Every dogma is the fruit of an attempt to bring unity to the world of our thoughts. And because this need for unity of thought has withered in us, an anti-doctrinal wind blows around us that has the effect that theology is ignored. It is not contested but ignored. O, it would be a thousand times better for her if she were sought out on her own territoryeven if with inimical intentionsand turned her garden into a jousting field. In the heat of battle, as the swords sound, she would perhaps regain her self-awareness, and she would perhaps wrest from her enemy the conviction that henceforth she had to be reckoned with. It is not a shying away from dogmatism that is at work here, but an antipathy toward dogma itself. Hence the ambivalence, which is expressed in church circles without murmur, albeit without interest, bowing under it, but ignoring it outside the church. This is why the effort is made to separate the practical side of Christendom, for which people still have living sympathy and that is acknowledged to have a measure of effectiveness, from the theoretical. Hence the disappearing of catechetical instruction, the preparatory school for theology, not only as [a reflection of] practical Christendom but also as a system of Christian truth in the consciousness of the young people. Hence preaching that has lost virtually all its dogmatic content, through which, in the past, she nourished the conscious life of the church and cultivated a clear-headed Reformed generation. Hencebut why go onyou sense already that what is at issue here is a matter of life and death, because when our theology is anything, it is a worldview taught by God that does not only involve the method of the expansion of Christendom, but that gives, although not exhaustive but nevertheless definite and absolutely certain, information about the meaning of heaven and earth, of life and death, and about all problems that torment the human heart and the human mind.
However, she has long since not been adorned with that glory among us. She has lost much of that splendor even in the estimation of the church . There the fullness36 of faith is also lacking, which, in the possession of the rich di-
39 ten onzent.
But not only is theory pushed into the background, what remained of theoretical effort was steered onto a wrong track. That can be deduced already from the fact that the studies of our best theologians today focus by preference on the critical and exegetical disciplines, again, for no other reason than that in these areas there can be found much more that is concrete40 and that appeals to realistic, and beyond that to skeptical inclinations, than in the areas of ethics or dogmatics, not to speak of encyclopedia. Theology is essentially a systematic discipline. However, the fact is that in spite of all interest in what is peripheral, it is precisely there where the actual systematization begins, the enthusiasm wanes. But this shortcoming finds its most pronounced expression [not merely]41 in the lack of an encyclopedia but in the utter absence of a deeply felt need for it. It is not an arbitrary criterion we establish here. For we can judge about the state of the consciousness, whether it be normal or not, only according to (or out of) whether or not there is a presence of a self-awareness. If the latter is absent or is muted we conclude that [the person] is incompletely developed or insane. But what is theology other than the truth of God, taken from the Scriptures and taken into and processed by the reflective consciousness of the church? And what is encyclopedia of theology other than the self-awareness with which theology thinks about her own essence? Thus42 a theology that has not yet reflected on the necessity of this work or on its absence, certainly cannot be the ideal of [what it means to be] scholarly. Any true organism must come to an awareness of its unity, and if this is absent, it is indistinguishable from a mechanical structure. The fact then is that all too often theology in this country is absorbed in a collection of subjects and skills of whose interconnectedness the young student must remain in deep darkness even in his most lucid moments, because he has never as yet seen the architectural structure of his discipline rise before his mind's eye. And who can enumerate all the harmful effects that flow from this lack? Not only must
41 It would appear that the word niet, "not," was inadvertently omitted in the manuscript.
42 The ms. appears to read Zoodaat, which may be a misspelling of zoodat.
B. A second difficulty which the development of theology in this country runs into, and which we must briefly mention, is a remarkable lack of thinking through the implications of principia.45 It can easily be shown how closely this concept is linked with the matter we just touched on. It is actually only the obverse, or rather the result, of a realistic-empirical view of things. If it is a fact that this world is not merely an aggregate of matter and forces, but the battleground on which principia, be they divine, be they demonic, jumble against and collide with one another, then it follows that every thing has, in addition to the side it turns outwardwhich is the only [side] realism takes into considerationalso has another side, with which it is anchored in the higher, invisible world of ideas and [with which it] is involved in this battle of principia. From this flows a double evaluation of things: one can assess them for what they are, i.e., according to their bare, independent content, regardless of their origin; but one can also view them as legitimate members and servants of a circle of family members related to the principium, which one measures fairly, not according to what they appear to be in themselves, but on the basis of their origin. The true essence we deal with here is the ideal meaning
45 thinking through the implications of [our] principia: lit., "principial thinking through" (principieel doordenken). I have translated this phrase elsewhere "principial reflection."
47 Vos inserts here "M.T.," probably an abbreviated form of address similar to "M.H.," Mijne Heeren (Gentlemen). "M.T." could possibly mean Mijne [Heeren] Theologen.
48 The Dutch reads En niet alleen dat elke gedachte , "Not only is every thought " This appears to be an error, since the rest of the sentence does not continue this construction.
49 The text has were, which is the subjunctive of weren, "to resist, keep out." This would appear to be either a misspelling of weer, "keep out," but more likely of wee, "woe." Above the line is added eere, "honor," which is contrary to the meaning of the sentence.
51 Principieel doordenken. Lit, "principial thinking-through."
52 Lit. "with which only a judgment long since not used to synthesis, can be satisfied."
55 "Fanaticism ... principia": beginseldrijverij.
56 It appears that a word has dropped out here. The ms. reads Het is echter geenszins haar bestaan van de ware . I have inserted the conjecture moeilijk after geenszins.
57 Ms. reads theoloog, "theologian," which is masculine in Dutch. Since in the sentences that follow Vos uses consistently the feminine possessive haar or hare, the antecedent must be "theology," which is feminine. Hence the emendation to "theology."
But precisely because [this theology] is keenly aware of these limitations does it seek to more clearly draw the line between the knowable and the unknowable, and the smaller the area that remains under her control, the more fully she attempts to establish her sway. There where she cannot know, she attempts if possible to discover the reason for her lack of understanding; there where she is in doubt, [she attempts] to indicate clearly the two emotions between which she oscillates and to trace the cause of the doubt. Especially a Reformed theologian, who owes it to his discipline to maintain its fame as science through clear thinking, should know, not only that he believes, but also why, and must not cease digging until he has reached the bottom and sees the sunlight of the Spirit sparkle on the bedrock58 of God's truth. Over against not only the power of unbelief and scepticism, but also over against the impotence of that intolerable indifferentism that faces him everywhere with a "Where do I stand?" and "Can I do differently?" [the Reformed theologian] should make the manly word of Luther the motto of his life and the conviction of his theological conscience: "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, so help me God. Amen."
C. Again intimately related to the preceding is the third defect to which we want to pay some attention. We described this defect as a lack of a sense of historical continuity. If it is true that every thought (and thus also the thoughts of God), instead of standing alone, stands as a link in a logical chain, so that when we pick a link up or let it go we at the same time pick up or let go of the entire chain, so it is with the thoughts of God, of the entire structure of theology, that constitutes a part of a historical line that reaches back from the present to the earliest times of the church. There is thus not only a logical but also a historical coherencethe latter is in fact nothing but the former as it took
61 The ms. has doordenken, "thinking through," which would appear be an error, since it makes no clear sense in the context. The sentence becomes clear if doordenken is emended to overzien or, less likely, doorzien.
63 A word te appears to have been omitted in the ms.: van ons leven te overweldigen.
66 huisje, lit. "small house." The diminutive has a mild connotation of coziness, comfort.
67 dekken, lit. "cover."
And what70 calling do these curious conditions demand of us? After all, we undertook this exploration not for the purpose of unprofitable critique but in order to learn to understand what this time requires of us. Were this not the case, fairness would require that over against these objections we would point also to the many important benefits that favor the flowering of American theology, whereas we can now limit ourselves to a quick enumeration. It will be sufficient to mention them to convince you that here, as always, conditions have their bright as well as their shadow side. Do we not live in a country where the relationship between Church and State is virtually to conform to the ideal that hearts that thirsted for the freedom of God's church have imagined through all ages? And behold, this glorious freedom has fallen into our lap as a peaceful gift from heaven without a drop of blood having been spilt. To be sure, the earliest history of these regions has its blemishes, it has not always been the pure expression of the spirit of ecclesiastical freedom that should have ruled according to her founding principles.71 Specifically our Presbyterian Reformed brethren have in the colonial era had to endure persecution and interference for the sake of their faith from the side of Congregationalists and Episcopalians. But we who came later, and found the seed of freedom having grown up into a proud tree, have been able to settle ourselves freely in its branches, and neverit must be acknowledged with thanksgiving to Godnever has anywhere in the world greater freedom been enjoyed to serve God in accordance with his Word than in these regions. The "sphere sovereignty" after which our forefathers strove, but whose day they did not see, God has created here as a miracle, and we have been allowed to rejoice in its blessings. Here for the first time did theology find the opportunity to go its own way, without being forced, through interference from the state, into a matrix different from that which fit the law of her own life. Here the state is ordered in such a way that it is very careful not to bring moral and spiritual
71 founding principles: uitgangen.
73 "in this country," lit. "with us."
74 het oudste historische bestaan.
When external dangers [/difficulties/] threaten [/impede/] the development of an organism, there are two possible avenues along which we can arrive at an improvement of such an evil. The first is that we remove the harmful influences themselves, in other words, that we change the environment. Since, however, the influences and factors of which we speak here lie far beyond our reach or governance, the second avenue will probably be the only one that remains [open] to us. This avenue consist herein that we seek to strengthen the organism, and to develop its threatened functions, in such a way that they naturally expel the harmful matter and transcend the danger in a healthy flourishing of their own life force.
Every healthy system must react forcefully against disturbing influences if it is not to succumb eventually in spite of its health. And if we are concerned with self-preservation, we must not neglect for a moment to arm, through healthy nutrition and loving treatment, the threatened parts of the body of our theology against all illness-bearing germs that come to us through the atmosphere75 of our environment through the flow of time. On the basis of this requirement our theology must strive to hold high its character as ideal science over against all practical, realistic striving; continuously reflect on its principium and maintain it without weakening over against all lack of principial reflection; and protest unflaggingly against all lack of historical sense by means of a calm taking up and continuing the historical line of our forefathers.
As long as there is thirst after knowledge, after absolute truth, in the hu-
77 In the ms., there is a blank space here. The same blank space is also found in the "shorthand" version.
Thus positivism and relativism and agnosticism emerged in an ever more rapid current. And wherever today a superficial materialism is not held to and yet the claim is made of an abstract [/absolute/] science, it happens because unawares a principium of faith is adopted and built upon. It would not be difficult to show that even in the most relativistic79 natural science [one] must in the end begin with faith if [this science] is to take even a single step forward.
We sketch this development for you in broad strokes, because it is best able to convince us of the character of theology as the ideal science. When, as has become apparent to us, the tearing away from God has brought all of modern science to despair over its own objective validity, it immediately strikes us that the true science can only be recaptured with God as our starting point and by returning to [his] voice, and that therefore pre-eminence among the sciences belongs to theology. That problem [of objective validity], which is part of all human knowing, and that has led to despairing of its possibility, is overcome in theology, and in her alone. In theology the object is not a matter [/substance/] that is stubbornly resistant, into whose essence no one can penetrate, that does not create her in the same moment, but the living God, who is transparent to himself, who actively moves outside himself, reveals himself, presents himself as object to, and in the subjects of, science. He reaches his goal in the first place because he creates this subject according to his likeness and image, in order that he might be grasped by it. The possibility of our
79 Lit. "relative."
But let us go on. Theology, more than any other academic discipline81, has therefore also claim to the name of science because in her, as she exists originally in God, the gulf that always exists between subject and object has vanished. This gulf is alien to the Theologia Archetypa, the patterning theology, the knowledge that God's Being has of himself, because in the simplicity of that Being all distinction between the known and the knower disappears. Now it is true that we lay no claim to possessing this Archetypal Theology; we must be satisfied with a Theologia Ectypa, a representative knowledge of God. But this also is, after all, the immediate impress of the perfect self-knowledge of God, which he presents in clear thoughts to our consciousness. Here, therefore, reality does not have to be translated into science, it is science from the beginning. Finally, it is God himself who, through his Holy Spirit himself, takes care that this impress of his own theology enters our consciousness in unadulterated form. This is why we speak wisdom among the perfect, because the Spirit of God, who also searches the deep things of God, has revealed them to us and makes us inwardly receptive to the external revelation of the Scriptures.
The development we just sketched teaches us still more. She proves that to the degree to which one lets go of God, to that degree is also the involvement of the scientific conscience smothered and the healthy sense of truth,
When this conviction is allowed to be among us, when the church of God learns to appreciate once again that she possesses in her knowledge of theology an ideal that the world never has been able to reach, because [the world] in its foolishness did not want to know God, then this ideal will once again become full, rich reality, and the isolation of theology will come to an end. People will once again learn to live and breathe out of their dogmas and not hesitate to apply the highest and most sacred of principia in a wide range of ways in all areas. Not knowledge in books, but knowledge that penetrates life and is worked out in life, enriches life, and creates unity in life through her principium. Every theology that is based on a conflict or on a radical separa-
82 "assurance": plerophorie.
83 "Not" is missing in the ms.
84 "in the" is missing in the ms.
Theology must before all things prove its viability and its reality by her growth. The truth is living, and she shows herself to be alive because she sends forth again and again new shoots from the trunk that has already grown up; no part of her may be unfruitful. But the development of our science, the fecundity of her thoughts, the harmony that unfolds in her growth and that makes her at every stage perfect, yet not finished, the urge with which she strives after broader developmentall this, conversely, will guarantee her genuineness and divinity. A theology that was only a practical aid in the spread and establishment of Christianity could still be profitable and useful in case of a complete standstill, but a theology that wants to be the outworking of the knowledge of God in the church through the Spirit must never stand still, since otherwise she will [not]87 be convinced of her own genuineness. The
86 markt des publieken levens.
87 The insertion of "not" is conjecture; without it the last part of the sentence would appear to be unclear.
He therefore who feels himself to be in possession and under the influence of the living truth, for whom [this truth] is not something abstract or unreal, but the complete truth, i.e., something that works and emanates power, shall automatically feel himself compelled to enunciate the principium clearly and draw its consequences fearlessly. He will receive in the first place the courage to address only his science to ask how it wants to be handled, to get out of the habit of seeking the approval of an unbelieving world, and to unfold the truth of God in contrast to [the world's] sensibilities. Or is this not precisely where the distinction lies between a dead, inorganic mass and a living organism, that the first must receive its form from outside, whereas the latter carries the law of its development within itself and, in the free unfolding of that law of life, creates a form for itself? Only that which is alive and active can be free and independent; and this is why no true theology may timidly organize itself according to, or make itself subservient to, the demand of the time or the forms of its science. We do not speak the wisdom of this world, and therefore dare not boast that by means of natural arguments we convince every doubter of the truth of our faith. We are not of the opinion that every thesis that is not in agreement with the insights of a superficial common sense must be defended by us with the same superficiality. The foundation of our theology does not lie outside but within her, not in scientific consent but in the
But also within our own sphere we will not be ashamed of our principia. Neither the mistaken notion that [the principia] are useless in practice or even dangerous, nor the fear that they would inadequately respect human freedom and responsibility, may lead us to keep silent about them.92 The sovereignty of God over his creature must be the great thought that dominates all our other thoughts. We can only walk soundly if we follow this guiding principium, since God in his Word has given us his sovereignty as the guiding principium of all his works and ways, and our theology is theocentric, that is, thinks from God as its starting point, or rather, thinks after him at a sacred distance. Even in its counterpart, the doctrine of the covenant, which emphasizes the moral responsibility and freedom of man, we can only learn to understand when,
90 Ms. reads zedelijke ("moral," "ethical"); I have amended this to redelijke, "reasonable."
91 The ms. reads en geluwd, which in the context is nonsense. Above the line is written geleerd, "taught."
92 The antecedent of "they" and "them" in this sentence is principia. The ms. has the singular "it."
Nor can it be to our harm but only to our advantage when we try to develop and logically think through, on the basis of their own principium, systems that deviate from ours. Not a small-minded apologia, which balances the individual dogmas of the various systems for so long that in the end all appear to be equally heavy or lightwe have need of a true historical perspective that is sufficiently fair and careful to recognize each dogma as a full-fledged part of a coherent whole, and to determine from this its meaning and significance. Reformed doctrine, whose beauty lies more than that of any other doctrine in the harmony of its form, can claim above all that its parts must be judged, not torn asunder, but as a whole that falls or stands together.
From this can be deduced to what extent we should be in agreement with the feeling that all apologetics in our school should for the time being move into the background. It is not difficult to comprehend that there are two kinds of apologetics, of which under the present circumstances the one is as objectionable as the other is indispensable. An apologetics that, while bypassing the principia, ours as well as those of the opponents, would seek to commend the content of theology as credible and reasonable, such an apologetics truly
But, gentlemenand here I approach my final commentin spite of all this, our best efforts must be devoted to this, that we once again take up the historical line of our fathers, and do all the work that our hands find to do only in continuity with what their diligent hands did. The sad experiences that have brought about the standstill in the development of our science since that line was left will not be entirely without fruit if they have at least taught us that we cannot with impunity sever the ties of history. No independent unity is possible without sacrificing the false independence that does not want to acknowledge predecessors and trailblazers. Whoever shies away from this sacrifice and thinks that he has escaped from the power of tradition and authority because95 he exchanges the old, tried and tested teaching for the new, so much
95 Ms. reads waar, "where." In the context daar ("because") would seem preferable.
96 dienstbaarheid: "servitude." Above the line is written afhankelijkheid van, "dependence on."
97 In this sentence several words are written above the text. With these insertions the phrase "with the unconscious dependence on an alien thought world that is valid" becomes "with being unconsciously /caught/ in alien thought /processes/ that are valid."
98 Lit. "of."
100 Ms. reads M.T. after "true".
101 landen, "lands."
102 geleden is missing in ms.
Time was when the name of Martin Bucer (1491-1551) was invariably linked with phrases like "the forgotten Reformer" or "the neglected Reformer", and when he was taken notice of, Bucer more often than not was mentioned in one of two contextsthe influence he is thought to have exerted on John Calvin during the latter's sojourn in Strasbourg between 1538 and 1541, or the role he played in the English Reformation between 1549 and 1551 (particularly with reference to the revision of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer). Increasingly, those days are past, but it is nonetheless remarkable that prior to the appearance of the book under review one has to go back to Hastings Eells's work of 19312 to find a full biography of the Alsatian Reformer in any language. If for no other reason, Greschat's biography, first published in German in 1990 and now made available in an English translation, is a notable achievement. Indeed, while there has been a burgeoning of scholarship on Bucer since the middle of the last century, most of it continues to be in either German or French, so the appearance of Greschat's work in English is doubly welcome.
It would be vain to argue that Bucer stood in the first rank of Reformers, alongside of Luther, Calvin, or Zwinglior even on a par with Melanchthon, the Lutheran Reformer who is temperamentally the closest to Bucer. He was
2 Hastings Eells, Martin Bucer (New Haven, 1931).
Although Greschat does not formally structure his study in this
fashion, we can see from his narrative that Bucer's career divided into three
chronologically unequal phases. In chapters 1 through 3 (covering the years down
to ca. 1529), the groundwork for his career is laid, and in this we can observe
the manner in which numerous streams flowed into the thought of
BucerAlsatian humanism (which includes the biblical humanism of Erasmus
of Rotterdam), late medieval scholasticism (particularly that found in the
Dominican context in which Thomas Aquinas was dominant), and the
thought of Martin Luther. One of the strengths of Greschat's study is the manner
in which he clearly sets forth the eclectic nature of Bucer's intellectual
development, and the tensions this embodied. Impelled by the influence of the
last named, Bucer openly embraced the cause of the emergent Reformation,
and by 1523 arrived in Strasbourg as a religious refugee. Although he was
excommunicate as a renegade priest (and a married one, at that), within a few
years Bucer became one of the leaders of Reform in Strasbourg, along with
Wolfgang Capito and Matthäus Zell. Greschat describes the complexity of the
unfolding Reformation in Strasbourg, and the role Bucer played as organizer,
preacher, and biblical expositor. Part of this complexity was owing to the politics of
an Imperial city, and part of it was due to the religious cross-currents that
The heart of Bucer's career (from 1529 to 1545) is also the most substantial portion of Greschat's biography, and is covered in chapters 4 through 6. If there is an overarching theme to these years, it is the search for unity. Probably more than anything else, Bucer is known as a voice for rapprochement in the Reformation, and a rapprochement that had two aspects. While we should not lose sight of the fact, as Greschat makes clear in these chapters, that another aspect of Bucer's career in these years is that of an organizer of Reformation not only in Strasbourg, but also elsewhere (Ulm in 1531, Augsburg between 1534-1537, Hesse from 1538 to 1539, and Cologne in 1543), Bucer's most significant efforts were focused on composing the differences between the Lutherans and the Zurichers over the matter of the Lord's Supper (the first aspect mentioned above), and then his work in the various colloquies between Protestant and Catholic intended to secure a religious peace within the German Empire. In respect of the first effort, the subject of chapter 5, Bucer was only partially successful, for in the process he earned the lasting enmity of his erstwhile allies, the Swiss, owing to Bucer's movement back towards a more Lutheran stance (though it is not fair, as some aver, that Bucer returned to a Lutheran stance full stop). Nevertheless, Bucer was able to reconcile the Lutherans and many of the southwest German cities, an achievement that made possible the creation of the Schmalkaldic League, a defensive association of Protestant cities and states to preserve the Reformation from the threats of the German Emperor, Charles V.
For all Bucer's activity on the wider European stage, Greschat also
draws attention to his continued work at Strasbourg, and his persistence in the
face of mounting resistance to a fuller Reformation (especially seen in chapter
7). It was in these years that Bucer's increasingly pronounced emphasis on
the role of discipline in the Christian life became evident; indeed, for him it
became one of the identifying marks of the true Church. Foiled in his attempts
to institute his ideas regarding discipline in the city as a whole, Bucer looked
to the establishment of christlichen
fellowships") as the way forward. These gathered congregations within the Strasbourg
Church were intended to serve as examples of what could be achieved, and thus
become the nucleus for a later, wider institution of discipline within
The final phase of Bucer's career was also the shortesthis exile in England, which lasted from April 1549 to his death on 28 February/1 March 1551, a phase which is the subject of chapter 8 in Greschat's biography. Bucer's relationship with England, and in particular with Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, had long antedated his arrival, beginning in 1531 and the canvassing of Continental Reformers by the English of opinion on the propriety of Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Cranmer had been urging Bucer to come to England since 1547, and Bucer's changed circumstances led him to accept the invitation. Bucer came to England as the Continental Reformer with perhaps the widest experience in advising and implementing reform, and he no doubt expected to be put to use in that capacity. However, he found the advancement of the cause of Reform to be as difficult in England as it had been on the Continent, and he exercised probably his greatest personal influence in these years not in Cranmer's immediate circle, but as Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, where he composed what has often been regarded as his magnum opus, the treatise De Regno Christi (On the Kingdom of Christ). This work was written for the young King, Edward VI, but not published until 1557 and on the Continent. His lasting legacy to English Reform may well have been his part in the revision of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, on which he was consulted, and for which he produced the Censura, which proved to be the only substantial evidence on the process of revision that we have (and which may lead one to overestimate Bucer's importance for the 1552 version of the Book of Common Prayer).
Greschat's biography is quite readable, and the translator is to be
commended for his work in rendering the German original into clear English.
Yet the work is not without points on which it can be criticized. The chapter on Bucer's development as a budding Reformer demonstrates the extent to which he was influenced by biblical humanism, and yet the tensions between biblical humanism and late medieval scholastic method tend to be glossed over. Here an interaction with the work of Charles Nauert, as well as Erika Rummel,3 could have added nuance to this discussion, with their attention to the sometimes fierce debate between biblical humanists and scholastics over the question of method in the handling of the Bible. This is especially regrettable in view of the fact that some of the most important of Bucer's published work consisted of commentaries on the Bible, and that all of his teaching while in Strasbourg and subsequently in England was focused on the exposition of the Bibleand in both instances, the method he followed was that of biblical humanism.4 While it cannot be denied that his training as a
4 In this connection, while Greschat does give space to a consideration of Bucer as an exegete, more could and perhaps should have been said, given Bucer's importance in his own time as a commentator on the Bible. A good deal of work has been done of late on the Reformers and their use of and interpretation of the Bible (one thinks in particular of the work of David Steinmetz and his several students), and more attention to this aspect of Bucer's career would have been welcome.
By the same token, the emphasis on the "dialogic" character of Bucer's thought, particularly as it is seen by Greschat to be manifested in the 1530s and early 1540s, also tends to smooth over the stark tensions that obtained between Bucer and his Catholic collocutors. Greschat builds his case in part upon such factors as Bucer's favorable citation of Thomas Aquinas, and his recourse to demonstrating the extent of agreement between Catholic and Protestant, both of which have resonances with Greschat's earlier argument about Bucer's own educational background. There is no gainsaying that dialogue was a central element of Bucer's labors in these central decades of his career, not only in the context of Catholic/Protestant discussions, but in discussions between Lutherans and Reformed as well. Yet two points should be made in respect of this aspect of Bucer's career. First, it is too easy to lose sight of Bucer's absolute commitment to the Bible, and in particular to the preaching of the Word, in the midst of all this ecumenical dialogue with Catholic theologians. Bucer saw in the colloquies the chance to carry the advance of Protestantism into territories hitherto closed to Reform provided that the Evangelicals were prepared to make what he viewed as temporary concessions in the service of the long-term goal. He was aware of the pitfalls of drawing too close to the opposing side (not the least of which would be the hostility and suspicion of his own side), and that such a tactic might result in a stagnation of the Reformation. But, as he wrote to Philip of Hesse, he was confident that if room was made throughout the Empire for an open debate on the Reformation and for the free preaching of the Word, "the power of the Lord through His holy Word will certainly effect and do such things, for which we shall have to thank Him." It is unfortunate that while Greschat refers to this letter,5 he does not emphasize the full implications this has for our understanding of Bucer's motives in engaging in the colloquies, and in particular Bucer's confidence that the preaching of the Word would ultimately lead to the success of the Reformation in all areas of Europe as more and more people came to hear
Second, for all that is positive about Bucer's efforts to reach concord, perhaps more weight could have been accorded to Bucer's critics in this narrative, and to their deep reservations about the enterprise in which he was engaged. From a modern, ecumenical perspective, there is much to be said in praise of what Bucer was about in these years, and thus a corresponding lack of sympathy for those who did not follow him in the paths he chose to walk. But we must reckon with the fact that the disputes were much more than differences over words, which all too often Bucer seemed to believe (especially in the case of the Lord's Supper controversy between Lutheran and Swiss). There were fundamental differences at stake which no formula, however carefully or ambiguously crafted, could paper over. Bucer was (and is) rightly criticized for the extent to which he was willing to devise the verbal equivalent of prestidigitation in his effort to reconcile the irreconcilable, and we do not do justice to Bucer's critics in the sixteenth century if we fail fully to acknowledge this, his pragmatic motives and long-term aims notwithstanding.
In terms of presentation, the book is for the most part well done. Much more in the way of illustrations would have been welcome, though the (only) one given on p. 226 demonstrates why many scholars have avoided working on Bucer. His handwriting was notoriously bad (as this illustration makes all too evident), and has long proved to be a major obstacle to historians.6 The maps at the end are helpful; however, one of the German Empire as a whole,
Greschat's biography will undoubtedly remain the standard reference for the life of Bucer for some time. He demonstrates a comprehensive grasp of the man and his era, particularly with respect to the broader social and political setting, and is thus the starting point for any further investigations of a Reformer who is deserving of closer examination.
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_____. 'Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer and the Church Fathers.' In The Reception of the Church Fathers in the West: From the Carolingians to the Maurists, 2 vols., ed. Irena Backus, pp. 627-660. Leiden, 1997.
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_____. 'De Regno Christi.' In Melanchthon and Bucer, ed. Wilhelm Pauck, 155-394. Philadelphia, 1969.
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Van't Spijker, Willem. The Ecclesiastical Offices in the Thought of Martin Bucer, trans. John Vriend (text) and Lyle D. Bierma (notes). Leiden, 1996.
Vogt, Herbert. 'Martin Bucer und die Kirche von England.' Dissertation, Münster, 1968.
Wendel, François. 'Introduction,' Martini Buceri Opera Latina XV: De Regno Christi, ed. F. Wendel, ix-liv. Paris, 1955.
Wright, David F. 'Bucer, Martin.' In Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, ed. Donald McKim, 157-164. Leicester, 1998.
_____, ed. Martin Bucer: Reforming church and community. Cambridge, 1994.
Center for Christian Study
Karl Möller, A Prophet in Debate: The Rhetoric of Persuasion in the Book of Amos. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003. 352 pp. Cloth. ISBN:0-8264-6568-4. $130.00.
This is an important book on a stunning prophet (and his
galvanizing Hebrew) on several counts. First, the footnotes and bibliography display
a massive acquaintance with the study of the book of Amos over the past
century. Möller knowns Julius Wellhausen, William Rainey Harper, Klaus
Koch, Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman (Anchor Bible), Hans
Walter Wolff and Shalom Paul (two Hermeneia commentaries) and David
Dorsey, among many others. Second, Möller is refreshingly conservative in his
respect for the integrity of the text (he resists form and redaction critical
methodologies) and the provenance of the book (8th century B.C. for the origin
of the material). Third, our author is a skilled Hebraist with penetrating
insights into the organizing structure of the entire book (he provides a complete
rhetorical outline of all nine chapters), as well as detailed rhetorical analysis
of chapters 1 through 4. Careful study of this portion of Möller's work (pp.
154-296) will reward the reader with even deeper appreciation for this
prophet "out of due time" (cf. Amos 7:14-15). Fourth, Möller makes a very
persuasive (he's a good rhetorician!) case for retaining chapter 9 as coming from
the prophet Amos. This, of course, runs counter to the critical fundamentalist
approach of the higher-critical fraternity (recall Wellhausen's dismissal of
this portion: "roses and lavender, instead of blood and iron"). These elitists
consider eschatology (cf. Amos 9:11 with Acts 15:16-18) to be anachronistic
to an 8th century B.C. social critic (i.e., Amos has tunnel vision and can only
Möller has some salient remarks about chiastic structure and the rush to discover chiasms everywhere in the Old Testament (Dorsey, take note!). He rightly scores the French commentary by Bovati and Meynet for finding chiasms in every chapter of Amos, as well from beginning to end in Amos. Surely this is a word of caution to all of us excited by chiastic patterning. Let it come from the text, in the words of the original Hebrew (or Greek). Do not read it into the text on the basis of alleged parallels. The latter flows from the temptation to force the structure into a chiastic pattern by imposing a thematic coherence upon it from outside the original, inspired version.
If I have one regret about this volume, it is the exorbitant price. Sheffield has priced so many of its important monographs out of the reach of the average pastor and studentthe very people who will benefit most from using and communicating the insights of their better titles to the church. Let us hope that Möller will shortly be available in a more affordable paperback version. Then the church will benefit from his thorough and commendable labors. And may we also hope to see a thorough rhetorical analysis of the subsequent portion of Amos (chapters 5-9) from our author's pen some time soon?
James T. Dennison, Jr.
Dr. Haddon W. Robinson is the dean of homileticians. He has taught the subject at Dallas Theological Seminary and Denver Seminary. He is now the Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Robinson has written many volumes on preaching. The most famous is Biblical Preaching, The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, which has sold over 100,000 copies. Torrey, his son, is an ordained Baptist minister.
In this latest work, Dr. Robinson describes a minister who came to him for help. He had been in the ministry for forty-five years and was the pastor of a large and successful church with a staff of seven persons, but found his own sermons boring. He was not bored with studying the Scriptures or with the repetitiveness of preparing a sermon each week. What bothered him was the result of his study: the sermon he preached. Dr. Robinson came to the conclusion that the minister's problem was the form of sermon making he had learned in seminary: "Find a key word, arrange the points around that word, if possible alliterate them, review the points at the conclusion, toss in some application and pray. The only variety was the central word he used to hold his sermons together" (p.10).
Dr. Robinson proposes that the solution to this problem is to find other forms to use. And since the Bible does not dictate any particular forms, then a minister should choose one from the many possibilities. And since Jesus was so successful in his preaching ministry by telling stories, Dr. Robinson recommends narrative preaching. And, if narrative preaching, then why not first person preaching, since one of the best ways to develop a story is by representing a person at the scene. From this point, Dr. Robinson instructs his readers in the technique of developing such sermons and preaching them. He follows this instruction with a discussion of solutions to problems that may arise.
This book concludes with seven sermons that were preached
illustrating this method. They are most intriguing. The first is by a minister in a
Montana Bible Church. He assumes the identity of an elder in Bethlehem at the time
We go to the second sermon in the hopes that moralism and humanism might be avoided. But what do we find? A sermon delivered by a professor at Gordon-Conwell Seminary at a chapel service where he assumes the role of Eliab, David's oldest brother, and describes the battle with Goliath, as he saw it (1 Samuel 16-17). Once more, the story is told in an interesting manner, but for what purpose? "For potential leaders to recognize how courageous they can be when they trust themselves to God" (p. 88).
There is no question that many sermons are boring. It must also be admitted that the form in which they are preached can add to that boredom. However, is the answer to the problem, the use of a narrative form, especially in the first person? I think not. The problem with the narrative form is that it only reiterates the story. When we do that, we emphasize the human side and place the divine dimension in the background. This is giving a moral lesson, but it is not preaching. Preaching, according to the Biblical definition, is bringing the good news of God's work of salvation which culminates in Jesus Christ (euangelizo). Preaching is also described as heralding the coming of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom (kerusso). It is God's victory over sin, death and hell that must be the center of every sermon. All passages of Scripture must be read in their redemptive-historical setting to be properly understood and preached. Instead of using a new and intriguing form of preaching, we should draw our people back into the text to see what God is doing there to lead us to Christ. Such sermons, prepared and preached properly, are never boring.
J. Peter Vosteen
Paul for Everyone proposes to be a study of Galatians, and first and second Thessalonians foryou guessed iteveryone. Dr. Wright's writing style is simple, clear, and conversational in tone. This conversational tone is set as he begins each section with a story to illustrate his main point. The book also includes a glossary of terms to help everyone.
So, written for everyone? Probably not. It seems better suited to "Western Christians in mainline churches" (p. 159). Most of its insights are those that many people might gather from a second or third reading of these texts with added bits that might require some outside study. Some of these additionsas we might expect from Wrightare influenced by the New Perspective.
From such a well-known biblical scholar, we might expect some insights into these texts as texts. And we do get a few. For instance, he suggests that 2 Thessalonians 1:12 "'so that the name of the Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him' is full of echoes of Jesus' great prayer in John 17" (p. 145). He also sets out the contrasting associations of Isaac and Ishmael clearly before our eyes (pp. 59-60). And, while he doesn't note the function of thanksgiving sections in Greco-Roman letters, he does indicate that 1 Thessalonians 1:2 through 3:13 is framed by thanksgiving (p. 105; alluded to on pp. 89 and 93).
But in many other places he says nothing about framing devises, key words, or other literary conventions. As a result, the book lacks coherence, and Dr. Wright appears free to emphasize whatever themes he pleases. This tends to support the general moralistic orientation of the book. (The book often seems like the ruminations of a British moralist.)
For instance, when dealing with the closing parenetic sections of 1 &
2 Thessalonians he does not unfold their semi-eschatological context. To
make this clear, let's take a brief look at the two texts. In 1 Thessalonians 5,
the semi-eschatological context of the parenesis is noted by the repetition
of "peace" in verses 13 and 23. In verse 13 Paul tells them to live at peace
with one another. Then he concludes by saying, "may the God of peace
himself sanctify you wholly" (v. 23). In calling God the "God of peace," Paul
Therefore, Paul is calling the church to live by the peace of the kingdom. When people focus on what they can get out of the world, when they focus on the horizontal as their supreme good, there is discord (for there is only so much to go around). Besides, it can never satisfy. But when they are content with the heavenly gift of Christ (who transcends this world), they can be at peace. They are lifted with Christ into heavenly places (to use the language of Ephesians). Paul is telling the Thessalonians, you have heavenly peace in the heavenly kingdom of Christ now. Therefore, don't be unruly (1 Thess. 5:14) or repay evil for evil (5:15), but "rejoice always" (v. 16), etc. The God who rules in heavenly peace is sanctifying you unto his own heavenly habitation for the coming day of Christ (v. 23).
The concluding parenetic section of 2 Thessalonians is similar, though lacking framing key words. Instead 2:16 and 17 introduces this section. Paul states that the Lord has already given us eternal comfort. This is the semi-realized comfort of the Messianic kingdom. ("Comfort, O comfort my people" has been semi-realized.) As a result he calls them to "comfort" their hearts "in every good work and word." This is similar to his prayer that "the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peacein every circumstance" (3:16). They are to comfort their hearts in the peace of the Messianic kingdomand so to live in every work and word. Paul elaborates those words and works in 3:1-15 (verse 5 providing another bracket with the repetition of "hearts" and the theme of the stedfastness of Christ). They are to work (vv. 8, 10, 11, 12) out of the comfort of Christand not be "unruly" (3:6). Christ's heavenly (semi-eschatological) comfort will allow them to suffer hardship in their labors (3:8)for they possess him who is above.
Much of human laziness arises either from discontentment and despair
or the sense that hard work is depriving us of worldly ease and pleasure.
I have elaborated these texts (and their implications) partially to show that Dr. Wright's approach cannot provide this comfort to the church. His own eschatological perspective forbids itfor it doesn't appear to be anything more than earthy and linear. And his failure to pay close attention to literary devises hasn't helped him. Therefore, his comments on the parenetic sections are fundamentally moralistic (for instance, see pp. 116-122).
From Dr. Wright's other writings and lectures, we learn that the kingdom is earthy in nature. And this book seems to flow from that assumption. This may fit with his claim that "heaven" in "kingdom of heaven" only refers to "God" and not also to the place (heaven, p. 170). Dr. Wright says that "the New Jerusalem descends from heaven to earth, joining the two dimensions for ever" (emphases his, p. 168). His emphases (on the earth as the end point) seem to indicate a renovated earth that doesn't transcend the first creation. Thus, its semi-realized aspect cannot transcend this world and overlap it (recall Geerhardus Vos's diagram). It is not vertical. It is only horizontal. Dr. Wright is known for making much of the Messianic kingdom, but his semi-realized Messianic kingdom is purely linear.
Dr. Wright's kingdom is not heavenly. Thus, he cannot understand the peace of the heavenly kingdom vertically intruding into this present world. As such it cannot inform his view of life in Christ or the parenetic sections of Paul's letters. In fact, his exposition of the letters as a whole is flat (eschatologically speaking).
Here his debt to the New Perspective is evident, especially in his
treatment of Galatians in which he misses Paul's semi-eschatological
perspective. Paul himself framed Galatians with semi-eschatological deliverance
in Christ. Dr. Wright doesn't even comment on the first part of this frame,
in which Christ died to "deliver us out of this present evil age" (1:4). And we
Dr. Wright comments on 6:14 that "Calvary was the turning point of history" (p. 82). This results from the fact that the "world itself has been crucified." But again, Dr. Wright's "eschatology" seems to be purely horizontal.
The fact that Paul's own eschatological statements have a vertical orientation is especially evident when he contrasts the "present Jerusalem" (4:25) with the "Jerusalem above" (4:26). These correspond to "according to the flesh" and "according to the Spirit" (4:29) respectively. This is the already/not yet contrast of chapter five. The eschatological gift of the Spirit is "above." The Spirit gives himself to his people and raises them "above" with Christ. Paul's eschatology is vertical.
The New Perspective (followed by Dr. Wright) is purely horizontal in its approach to justification. And this is evident in the book. Jewish covenantal nomism put up horizontal boundary markers (circumcision, dietary laws, etc.) to bar Gentiles from horizontally entering into the covenant community. But Christ has taken away these boundary markers so that Gentiles may horizontally enter into the new community. That's basically what justification meanseven when Wright gives it eschatological overtones.
But Paul's eschatology is vertical, and justification inherently possesses
a vertical eschatological nature. As a result of the new vertical deliverance
in Christ, the Jerusalem above is "free" (4:26) in contrast to the present
Jerusalem which is in "slavery" (4:25). This new freedom results from the new
justification brought in Christ. The era of the law (relatively speaking) was
one of slavery (4:1) "in bondage under...the world" (4:3). But this era "in
custody" (3:23) looked forward to the day "that we may be justified by faith"
(3:24). This is a historical referent. Thus it points to something new brought to
God's people with the coming, death, and resurrection of Christ. It results in
freedom from custody (3:25, 4:7). Thus, it is the source of the Jerusalem
Wright recognizes the historical background to justification. The curse of the law (Gal. 3:10) is reflected in the "curse of exile" (p. 33). In this way, justification must be Israel's future vindication. While this is eschatology in some way, it is not Paul's vertical and horizontal eschatology. That's why it is finally reduced to the horizontalthe inclusion of Gentiles into the covenant. But for Paul, justification provides Jews and Gentiles entrance into a fuller vertical covenant fellowship with God, a semi-eschatological fellowship above. This covenant fellowship surpasses what Israel had under the law (but only relatively speaking).
From this point of view, we can see why the Reformation was right to view "faith" as the alone instrument of justification, and why Dr. Wright is wrong to make "faithfulness" the instrument uniting us to Christ's justification (p. 39, 167). For in Galatians 3, Paul is contrasting two different means of receiving an "inheritance" (Gal. 3: 12, 14, & 18), one under law and the other with the coming of faith. Whatever "faith" is, it is different than the means by which Israel increased her blessings in Canaan. However, even those in the New Perspective would have to confess that Israel received her blessings in the land by grace through her faithfulness to the covenant. Or, as we might say, through her faith and obedience. Thus, Paul is contrasting "faith" as the means of eschatological justification to "faithfulness" as the means of Israel's possession of inheritance blessings in Canaan. For Paul, "faith" cannot equal "faithfulness."
This relative contrast (between two eras of redemption) reflects the absolute contrast between God's people (per se) and those judicially in Adam (3:10). Thus, David participates in this eschatological verdict before the time and is justified by faithnot works (Romans 4:6-8). But Dr. Wright does not provide us any of this doctrinal insight. For, unlike Paul, he doesn't recognize the vertical dimensionwhich is present in the Old Covenant and simply comes to its fullness in Christ's resurrection (Gal. 3:10-14).
Yes, Dr. Wright defines faith as "both the specific
belief that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead . . . and the response of grateful
Justification may be the means of entering the covenant judicially, but covenant is a broader category. It also includes sanctification. Dr. Wright has stripped justification of its specific character by making it equivalent with the broader category of covenant. He has done the same thing with faith by equating it with the broader category of "faithfulness," which includes faith and obedience.
Dr. Wright's failure to deal with the vertical eschatology of Galatians finally leads him to moralize Galatians 5 in spite of his comment that "God's new age has broken in upon the world, and winter will never come again" (p. 62).
For Paul, the relative vertical contrast between the present Jerusalem and the Jerusalem above (4:25, 26) informs his Spirit/flesh contrast (4:29) in chapter five.
Christians possess the eschatological arena of the Spirit at the same time that they live in this world. This is the semi-eschatological tension. "Envy" results from a focus on this world. But Christians possess all that this world points forward to in Christ's eschatological resurrection. Thus, they may be content with whatever provisional gifts God gives them here. The joy of the Spirit is the joy of receiving a heavenly Jerusalem that cannot be cursed like the Jerusalem below (in exile). For Christians have received the eschatological Jerusalem the prophets predicted. Thus, they need not despair, in spite of the sufferings of this age. Wright can't provide this comfort and joy because his eschatology is purely linear.
But perhaps, even if Dr. Wright is a moralist, we will find in him a
friend of Christian orthodoxy. He appears to hold several conservative positions
on these Pauline letters. He regards them all as genuinely Pauline. He rejects
the argument that someone else wrote 2 Thessaloniansplacing a forged
In addition, he believes that the Old Testament itself teaches the resurrection of the dead (pp. 173 and 174). All this might seem to imply that Wright believes that both the Old and New Testaments are the very word of God from heaven.
However, while claiming that the Old Testament teaches the resurrection of the body, he only sights the prophets, saying, " When ancient Israelites wrestled with the goodness and justice of YHWH, the creator, they ultimately came to insist that he must raise the dead (Isaiah 26.19; Daniel 12.2-3)" (emphasis mine). If they ultimately came to believe in the resurrection (with the prophets), then by implication, they did not believe in the resurrection before that. By implication Abraham was not looking for a city whose maker and builder was God (contrary to Hebrews 11:10). This is not biblical orthodoxy (see also Job). And it would gut all pre-prophetic revelation of its eschatological orientation.
Wright also questions the personal nature of Satan (p. 105) and the reality of the final judgment (p. 141). On the later, he writes, "This notion of a coming judgment, in which would be righted and evil would receive its just deserts, was commonplace among Jews of Paul's day. In this Jewish thought . . ." (p. 141). This seems to be the writing of a man who wants to please everyone. He can say to some that he hasn't denied eternal judgment, and he can say to others that he hasn't affirmed it. At least, we may say, he doesn't want to commit himself in print to the reality of final judgment.
Therefore, his view really isn't eschatological. On the other hand, traditional orthodoxy, while it has more to learn about the eschatological nature of Christ's kingdom, is instinctively eschatological in its best doctrinal formulations. For the Reformation's doctrine of justification recognizes the need of forensic imputation before the throne of God's justiceinherently eschatological.
However, Dr. Wright has denied forensic justification, and with it
questioned the reality of eternal judgment. These go hand in hand. Whatever
he may make of Dr. Wright's Messianic kingdom, it is not the intrusion of
We can also say that, apart from his repudiation of circumcision, it may be difficult to distinguish Dr. Wright's view from that of the Judaizers themselves. For they were focused on this world, its transformation and dominioni.e., its justification. And, as a result, they refused to distinguish their justification from their sanctification (by which they were to justify themselves and their world). Perhaps that is why Dr. Wright is so interested in making Paul into his own imageso that he can dodge Paul's strong critique of himself. Thus, in the end, remaking Paul into his own image, N.T. Wright is not right about the N.T.
Scott F. Sanborn