Volume 11 - Issue 3
Survey of recent journals
A selective review of significant articles by our Associate Editors and other contributors.
AfRH Archive for Reformation History
BJRL Bulletin of the John Rylands Library (Manchester University)
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly
ChHist Church History
EQ Evangelical Quarterly
ExpT Expository Times
JEH Journal of Ecclesiastical History
JPH Journal of Presbyterian History
JSNT Journal for the Study of the New Testament
JSOT Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
JTS Journal of Theological Studies
KTR King’s Theological Review (King’s College, London)
NTS New Testament Studies
RS Religious Studies
TynB Tyndale Bulletin
VC Vigiliae Christianae
VT Vetus Testamentum
The unity of Isaiah, a topic beloved of generations of evangelicals, is reappearing in a fresh stream of articles, though the current of that stream is very different from the traditional issue of authorship. One of the first writers in this new phase was P. R. Ackroyd (‘Theological reflections on the Book of Isaiah’, KTR 4/2 (1981), pp. 53–63; 5/1 (1982), pp. 8–13; 5/2 (1982), pp. 43–48). He stresses the value of an overall view of Isaiah, though he understands the final form of the book as the result of later reinterpretation overlaying a variety of inconsistent theological traditions. The route to this questionable conclusion is somewhat tortuous, but on the way the highlighting of three key themes, viz., kingship, worship, and Israel and the nations, opens up fresh vistas on Isaiah which are much more than a tourist attraction. R. E. Clements’ initial article on the unity of Isaiah (‘The Unity of the Book of Isaiah’, Interp 36 (1982), pp. 117–129), has been followed by a second in which he too takes a thematic approach (‘Beyond Tradition-History: Deutero-Isaianic Development of First Isaiah’s Themes’, JSOT 31 (1985), pp. 95–113). His treatment of the ideas of deafness/blindness and divine election is especially instructive. Clements’ main point, however, is that chs. 40–55 should be seen as a redactive development of First Isaiah. For him, this kind of internal reinterpretation is a distinctively prophetic feature bound up with the nature of prophecy itself, deriving primarily from a general cultic setting rather than an individual prophet named (Deutero-) Isaiah.
Perhaps the most imaginative article in this area is W. Brueggemann’s attempt to provide a social context for these canonical and literary linkages (‘Unity and dynamic in the Isaiah Tradition’, JSOT 29 (1984), pp. 89–107). Brueggemann’s interpretation is a broad-brush oversimplification, but he offers a real life context for the modern as well as the ancient world through his assessment of chs. 1–39 as a radical critique of pre-exilic culture, of chs. 40–55 as spoken to a community experiencing the pain and suffering of that judgment, and of chs. 56–66 as a new social vision. Also on Isaiah, R. Rendtorff considers kerygmatic themes common to all three sections (‘Zur Komposition des Buches Jesaja’, VT 34 (1984), pp. 295–320), while students should also be aware of an important contribution from an evangelical perspective by W. Dumbrell, who sees the city of Jerusalem as the main connecting factor throughout the book (‘The Purpose of the Book of Isaiah’, TynB 36 (1985), pp. 111–128).
Any student reading Old Testament theology will want to avail himself of G. F. Hasel’s latest survey of an area which is becoming more and more like a supermarket where the student/customer is increasingly bewildered by the number of varieties on offer (‘Major Recent Issues in Old Testament Theology 1978–1983’, JSOT 31 (1985), pp. 31–53). Hasel’s range is comprehensive, his comments generally apposite and judicious, and the desire to see theology as ‘the crown of OT study’ welcome. He isolates four issues, of which two, viz., methodology and the ‘centre’ of the Old Testament, are well-worn garments, but the remaining two, viz. ‘story’ and canon, are more modern fashions. Both these latter issues, however, deal with matters of first importance, and there is plenty of room for evangelicals to make constructive and more visible contributions. W. Brueggemann has offered yet another suggestion for the shape of Old Testament theology (‘A shape for Old Testament theology’, CBQ 47 (1985), pp. 28–46, 395–415). He argues that the Old Testament participates in the ‘common theology’ of the world, which is essentially a contractual moral framework, and moves beyond and above that theology by embracing the world’s pain and suffering. The Old Testament remains in the tension created by these two emphases, but it is through that tension that hope and healing are made available. One may criticize Brueggemann, e.g., for a failure to grasp the distinctiveness of the Old Testament’s view of law and righteousness, but his exposition of the significance of pain in e.g., Moses’ intercessions or the laments of the Psalter, is instructive. Indeed, the article is worth reading just for the comment on the judgment of the flood that ‘Yahweh has heart trouble’ (cf Gn. 6:6–7).
Monotheism is a key area of Old Testament thought where little fresh thinking has been done in recent years, which is rather strange in the light of the emergence of religious pluralism in contemporary society. It is good, therefore, to be able to mention a recent debate in this area. It revolves around J. F. A. Sawyer’s claim that the Old Testament is in fact far from monotheistic (‘Biblical Alternatives to Monotheism’, Theology lxxxvii, May 1984, pp. 172–180). Sawyer also believes that trinitarian theology is not really monotheistic, and that Islam is more monotheistic than Christianity. R. E. Clements, in reply, contends that Sawyer’s basic plea is only a half-truth (‘Monotheism and the Canonical Process’, Theology lxxxvii, Sept. 1984, pp. 336–344). Clements moves in the right direction by stressing the importance of historical development towards monotheism and the Old Testament’s preoccupation with cultus rather than philosophy, though he concedes too much in both cases. However, his support for monotheism in the Old Testament is based essentially, though perhaps questionably, on a canonical interpretation of key texts like Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 6:4 and on the unity of biblical revelation.
Daniel was the subject of the entire issue of Interpretation 39/2 (April 1985), in which two articles catch the eye. K. Koch argues for Daniel as essentially a prophetic work rather than a wisdom or apocalyptic one (‘Is Daniel Also Among the Prophets?’, pp. 117–130), and J. G. Gammie has written a particularly helpful historical survey of the interpretation of Daniel (‘A Journey Through Danielic Spaces’, pp. 144–156). Focusing primarily on the early church fathers (e.g., Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Jerome), Aquinas, and the Reformers, Gammie’s conclusions leave us with the impression, as expressed in the editorial (p. 116), ‘of the impoverishment of our modern, almost antiseptic interpretation in face of the riches found in other times’.
Many students have only a passing acquaintance with Hebrew poetry, and yet all of us who preach or teach from, e.g., the psalms and the prophets need to know how to handle it sensitively. This area is also a growth industry among scholars, and one useful way of entering into recent advances is through the discussion in JSOT 28 (1984) of J. L. Kugel’s ground-breaking work, The Idea of Biblical Poetry. Contributions by F. Landy, a specialist in literature, W. G. E. Watson, whose own magnum opus in this field appeared in 1985, and P. D. Miller, give a guarded welcome to Kugel’s main proposal that Hebrew parallelism is best understood by seeing the second half of the line as climactic rather than merely synonymous or antithetic. If this proposal becomes more widely adopted, it will significantly affect Old Testament poetic interpretation. Other proposals by Kugel, such as the abolition of any real distinction between prose and poetry, are received less warmly, though Landy in particular has a range of insights to offer.
Finally, a word about the task in which we are all involved, ‘Interpreting Scripture’. This is actually the title of a two-part article by J. Goldingay in the new evangelical Anglican journal Anvil (vol. 1 (1984), pp. 153–162, 261–281). By drawing on a wide variety of modern sources as a guide to this age-old question, Goldingay reminds us that we really interpret God’s Word best when we cease to adopt the attitude of master over that word and become instead its servant. Academic and believing approaches are essential partners in that process, so that we learn not only to listen to Scripture, but make its words our words too.
We begin our (very selective) survey of recent New Testament articles with one by Douglas Moo in JSNT 20 (1984) 3–49 on ‘Jesus and the Authority of the Mosaic Law’. Moo helpfully surveys the relevant gospel passages, not least Matthew 5:17–20, and he concludes that ‘Jesus upholds the continuing validity of the entire OT Scriptures, but also asserts that this validity must be understood in the light of its fulfilment … the validity or abrogation of laws appears to be decided entirely by their relationship to Jesus’ teaching and to the new situation which his coming inaugurates.’ Among particular points he makes are that Jesus taught the priority of love within the law, not love in place of law, that ‘all these things’ in Matthew 5:18 refers to the ‘whole divine purpose’ and that the ‘commands’ of 5:19 are the laws of the Old Testament (understood in the light of their fulfilment in Jesus) rather than Jesus’ own commands. Other articles in JSNT include the following in vol. 22: P. W. Barnett on ‘Opposition in Corinth’ (pp. 3–17), Craig Blomberg on ‘The Law in Luke-Acts’ (pp. 53–80), Colin Hemer on ‘Epiousios’ (pp. 81–94), Gordon Wenham on ‘Matthew and Divorce’ (pp. 95–107).
The title ‘Son of man’ is of the greatest importance in the gospels, but scholarly opinion continues to differ on its origin and meaning as much as ever. Two recent books (both reviewed in Themelios) take opposed views on the matter: Barnabas Lindars in his Jesus Son of Man (SPCK, 1983) believes that Jesus used the phrase ‘Son of man’ self-referentially to mean ‘a man like me’ but without Danielic overtones; Seyoon Kim in “The ‘Son of Man’ ” as the Son of God (Tübingen, Mohr: 1983) argues for the Danielic origin of the phrase and sees it as implying a significant claim on Jesus’ part to be the authoritative representative of the people of God. The scholarly debate over the title has gone on in the periodical literature with articles by Matthew Black in ExpT 95 (1983–1984), pp. 200–206, by Maurice Casey in ExpT 96 (1984–1985), pp. 233–36, by Richard Bauckham in JSNT 23 (1985), pp. 23–33 and in the same issue of the same journal, pp. 35–41, by Lindars replying to Bauckham. But perhaps most worthwhile is William Horbury’s quite technical article ‘The Messianic Associations of “The Son of Man” ’ in JTS 36 (1985), pp. 34–55. Horbury argues that there was a widely shared expectation of the Davidic Messiah in the first century AD and that Daniel 7:13 and the expression ‘son of man’ were probably interpreted messianically before the Christian period. Of Jesus’ use of the title he says, ‘The range of meaning allowed it to be both self-referential and messianic; in its aspect of opacity which the hearer was invited to pierce, it resembled the parables.’
Another important debate going on among New Testament scholars at present concerns Paul, Judaism and the law. The debate arose to a considerable extent out of E. P. Sanders’ book Paul and Palestinian Judaism(London: SCM, 1977), in which Sanders argued that the Judaism of New Testament times did not teach justification by legal achievement, but saw the law within the context of a covenant of grace (‘covenantal nomism’). That obviously raises the question of how we are to understand Paul’s sharp critique in his letters of those who teach justification by ‘works of the law’. Scholars have proposed different answers, some suggesting that first-century Judaism was more legalistic than Sanders recognized, others seeking to understand Paul in new ways. James Dunn has now contributed two significant articles to the debate, the first in the BJRL 65 (1983), pp. 95–122, ‘The New Perspective on Paul’, the second in NTS 31 (1985), pp. 523–542, ‘Works of the Law and the Curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10–14)’. He argues that in criticizing those who trust in ‘works of the law’ Paul is criticizing Jewish national pride in the outward marks of Judaism, such as circumcision, rather than moral striving as such. Paul can be very positive about the law and doing the law when this is in its proper perspective within a context of faith in Christ; but he objects to the outward signs of the law being used as an exclusive badge of salvation. Dunn’s view is attractive, but that it is not the whole story is suggested by Heikki Räisänen in another article in the same NTS, pp. 543–553, ‘Galatians 2:16 and Paul’s Break with Judaism’, in which he suggests that Dunn underestimates Paul’s radical break with the whole Mosaic law (not just with the external signs of Judaism), and even more significantly by Robert Gundry in a wide-ranging article (discussing Sanders, not Dunn), ‘Grace, Works, and Staying Saved in Paul’ in Biblica66 (1985), pp. 1–38. Gundry concludes that, although first-century Judaism did not teach works-righteousness as the way into the covenant, it did lay stress on legal piety and achievement as crucial for staying within the covenant. Paul, on the other hand, emphasizes faith in Christ as decisive for staying in the covenant, as well as for getting in, and sees works as evidence of salvation not as a means to retaining it. In the course of his argument Gundry defends the view that juristic categories were important for Paul’s view of salvation. Yet another worthwhile article on Paul and the law is C. Thomas Rhyne’s ‘Nomos Dikaiosynes and the Meaning of Romans 10:4’ in CBQ 47 (1985), pp. 486–499, in which the author supports the view that Christ is the end of the law in that he is its goal. Pertinent to the same topic is John Fischer’s ‘Paul in his Jewish Context’, EQ 57 (1985), pp. 211–236, and not unrelated is F. F. Bruce’s ‘The Church in Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles’, BJRL (1985), pp. 641–661. Another noteworthy article in BJRL is Graham Stanton’s ‘The Gospel of Matthew and Judaism’, vol. 66 (1984), pp. 264–284.
Other Pauline articles include Ronald Fung’s ‘Revelation and Tradition: the Origins of Paul’s Gospel’, EQ57 (1985), pp. 23–41, in which he shows that the initial understanding of the gospel that Paul received at his conversion (cf. Gal. 1:12) was subsequently confirmed and filled out through the tradition that he received (cf.1 Cor. 15:3). Peter R. Jones has an interesting article in TynB 36 (1985), pp. 3–34, entitled ‘1 Corinthians 15:8: Paul the Last Apostle’, in which he argues that the phrase ‘last of all’ in 1 Corinthians 15:8 is very significant, indicating that Paul saw his apostleship to the Gentiles as concluding the eschatological servant-ministry of the apostles, which had begun with Peter and the other apostles working among the Jews. His thesis tells against the views of those who believe in an ongoing apostolate in the modern church and against those who suggest that the early church was pluralistic in its theology.
In the same issue of the Tyndale Bulletin, Colin Hemer contributes two articles, one on ‘First Person Narrative in Acts 27–28’ (pp. 79–109) and another on ‘The Name of Paul’ (pp. 179–83). Mention must finally be made of Howard Marshall’s article ‘New Testament Perspectives on War’, EQ 57 (1985), pp. 115–132, in an issue of the journal devoted to ‘Perspectives on War’ and including articles on the Old Testament by Derek Kidner, on church history by David Wright, and on biblical-theological perspectives by George Carey.
Dogmatic and systematic theology
In a foreword to the first issue of the recently launched Reformed Theological Journal Professor F. S. Leahy comments, ‘It would be interesting to know how many such journals are now in circulation.’ One is tempted to give the same answer as Origen offered to the question who wrote Hebrews: ‘God only knows.’ Certainly there are more than any student or minister can cope with and each of us will have to make a careful personal choice dictated by cost, time and the’ quality of what is available. From the standpoint of systematics the two most useful publications in English are still the Westminster Theological Journal and the Scottish Journal of Theology.
The number of studies appearing on the question of the Son of Man is such that all self-respecting theological colleges will soon have to consider appointing Professors of Son of Man Studies. The first number of vol. 47 of the Westminster Theological Journal (1985) contains an excellent and important article on this subject by David R. Jackson. Entitled ‘The Priority of the Son of Man Sayings’ it comes to a series of conclusions which are of considerable significance for Christology. In particular, it argues from the tendency of the early church to replace the Son of Man designation with some other title that it was Jesus who coined the title with reference to himself (which means that we have every right to use the designation as a key to his self-understanding).
The fall issue of the same journal contains two articles which deserve a mention. One is a very thorough review of Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement by Roger Nicole. This is very much oriented to R. T. Kendall’s Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649. Nicole makes clear that there is nothing at all new in Kendall’s thesis. As early as 1646 Moses Amyraut himself was quoting Calvin in support of his own position and in 1655 Jean Daille published some 43 pages of extracts from Calvin which, he claimed, favoured universal grace. Nicole’s own conclusion is that ‘Definite atonement fits better than universal grace into the total pattern of Calvin’s teaching’.
The other noteworthy article in this issue is one by Fred H. Klooster entitled ‘Barth and the Future of Evangelical Theology’. This is in fact a review of Bernard Ramm’s After Fundamentalism: The Future of Evangelical Theology. Klooster is sharply critical of Ramm’s thesis that the future for evangelicals lies along the road charted by Barth: ‘Ramm apparently reads Barth through evangelical glasses: he does not seem to grasp how Enlightenment objections led many theologians, including Barth, to radical reinterpretation of historic, doctrinal terms’. The alternative proposed by Klooster is that we should take our programme from the work of Abraham Kuyper.
Among several interesting studies in the Scottish Journal of Theology mention may be first of all of ‘An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman’ by Dr Alan Sell (in vol. 38, no 1). This is a historic-theological study of three major representatives of British Methodism, Presbyterianism and Congregationalism respectively: William Pope, Robert Watts and Andrew Fairbairn. The same issue contains some reflections on Karl Rahner’s monograph The Trinity by Dr C. M. LaCugna in an article entitled ‘Reconceiving the Trinity’. Its overriding concern is to reinforce Rahner’s insistence that the doctrine of the trinity must not be isolated from the doctrine of salvation: ‘There is indeed a mutually determining relationship between God pro nobis and God in se.’
In vol. 38 no. 3 of the Scottish Journal of ‘Theology, Dr David Ferguson has a useful contribution under the title ‘Interpreting the Resurrection’. Is the resurrection an event in the life of Jesus or in the life of the believer? Ferguson discusses three possible approaches: the radical (represented by Bultmann and others), the liberal (Schillebeeckx, Küng and Mackey) and the traditional. He himself is inclined towards the traditional interpretation because otherwise it is very difficult to answer two crucial questions: why should faith take the primitive form of confessing ‘Christ is risen’ if this is only an inference from faith? And why should the New Testament reverse the logical order and call upon people to believe because Christ is risen rather than conclude that Christ is risen because people continue to believe in him after his death?
But probably the single most interesting article to appear during the past year was one by Dr Alister McGrath in Scottish Journal of Theology 38, no. 2. It is entitled ‘The Moral Theory of the Atonement: an Historical and Theological Critique’. Dr McGrath argues very convincingly that Abelard did not teach an ‘Abelardian’ exemplarist theory of the atonement. The idea that he did has prevailed only because scholars have isolated a single, small portion of his Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans as if it represented his teaching as a whole. In fact the doctrine of the atonement expounded by Hastings Rashdall (The Idea of the Atonement in Christian Theology, 1920) was the product not of Abelard, as he thought, but of the Enlightenment. Furthermore, as set forth by the theologians of the Aufklärung, it was subjected to a penetrating critique by Immanuel Kant, ‘with the result that the moral theory of the Atonement, where it was held at all in the post-Kantian era, was held in a significantly modified form. Rashdall appears to be quite unaware of this point.’ Through McGrath’s own critique one other fact emerges with striking clarity: no satisfactory doctrine of the atonement is possible where there is a shallow view of sin. The Exemplarist Theory and Pelagianism are natural bed-fellows.
Taking a broader perspective one can see certain themes running clearly through recent periodicals. One of these is Process Theology which is the subject, for example, of an article in the Westminster Theological Journal (vol. 47, no. 2) entitled ‘An Exposition and Critique of the Process Doctrines of Divine Mutability and Immutability’ by Bruce A. Ware. One of the major representatives of this school also presents an up-to-date account of his thought in ExpT (July, 1985), ‘How Was God In Christ?’ by Professor Norman Pittenger.
Another recurring theme is hermeneutics. There is a panoramic article on the subject in Theology Today(October, 1985) from the pen of Albert C. Oulter (‘Towards a Postliberal Hermeneutic’). In fact, all the articles in this particular issue ‘either reflect hermeneutical interests or demonstrate hermeneutical procedures’. Mention may also be made of two other studies. Luther’s hermeneutic is discussed by the Rev C. Clifton Black in the Scottish Journal of Theology (vol. 38, no. 3: ‘Unity and Diversity in Luther’s Biblical Exegesis: Psalm 51 as a Test Case) Calvin receives similar treatment under the more general title ‘Brevitas et Felicitas: Toward an Understanding of Calvin’s Hermeneutic’ by Richard C. Gamble (Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 47, no. 1).
The other theme currently in vogue appears to be war (a variation on the quest for a political theology). This is by no means confined to the more radical theological stream. The April 1985 issue of the EQ is devoted entirely to ‘Perspectives on War’, with contributions by Derek Kidner, Howard Marshall, David Wright and George Carey. And the Churchman (vol. 99, no. 1) has an article which appears to be the last word in relevance: ‘A Theology for the Nuclear Debate’ by David Kibble.
Back to our starting-point. The newly arrived Reformed Theological Journal, published by the Reformed Theological College, Belfast, does not contain any material relating directly to dogmatics. It does however, contain two interesting reviews: one of T. F. Torrance’s The Mediation of Christ by F. S. Leahy and the other of Paul Helm’s The Divine Revelation by W. D. J. McKay.
The influence of Platonism on the patristic formulation of Christian beliefs is the question tackled by C. J. de Vogel in ‘Platonism and Christianity: a Mere Antagonism or a Profound Common Ground?’, VC 39 (1985), pp. 1–62. Taking issue with a distinguished German scholar, Heinrich Dörrie, he argues that several leading fathers, including Athanasius, betray an impact of Platonism going beyond language to metaphysics. This is a careful survey, concluding that ‘Platonism did contribute to the expression of Christian faith in the Trinitarian and Christological dogma of the fourth and fifth centuries’, but not warranting talk of a wholesale Platonizing of biblical Christianity.
Two articles challenge common interpretations of Erasmus’ work. In ‘Novum Testamentum a nobis versum: the Essence of Erasmus’ Edition of the New Testament’ (JTS 35 (1984), pp. 394–413), H. J. de Jonge claims persuasively that Erasmus’ main objective was his new Latin translation. The Greek, whose inadequacies as a ‘new edition’ have often been pointed out, was intended only to serve the reader of the Latin and, like the Annotations which also accompanied it, to justify its deviations from the Vulgate. Even more surprising is M. O’R. Boyle’s study, ‘Erasmus and the “Modern” Question: Was He Semi-Pelagian?’, in AfRH 75 (1984), pp. 59–77. She believes that his book on free will has been misread because note has not been taken of its proper genre. The title, Diatribe seu Collatio, shows it to be a disputation based on comparison, in this case of apparently conflicting biblical texts. Erasmus’ position was ‘patently the Augustinian formulation’, which he argued for not as church doctrine but as reliable (satis probabile) opinion. The article is a salutary reminder of the problems involved in reading medieval texts.
What was it in late medieval Catholicism that led so many to embrace the new gospel of the Reformers? According to L. C. Duggan, ‘Fear and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation’, AfRH 75 (1984), pp. 153–175, it was not widespread religious Angst nurtured by an oppressive penitential system, for there is no evidence that confessional practice, which was lax rather than severe, could have acted ‘as an incubator of overheated consciences’ by the million. While this warns against slick generalizations about pre-Reformation Catholicism, it leaves the undoubted appeal of Protestantism unexplained.
In ‘Luther’s Impact on the Sixteenth Century’ (Sixteenth Century Journal 16 (1985), pp. 3–14), S. H. Hendrix makes some sensible points in contributing to the important debate about the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the German Reformation sparked off by G. Strauss’ book, Luther’s House of Learning. Hendrix suggests that Strauss’ categories are not helpful in this context. Luther’s achievement may have been more to abolish the old practice of religion than secure the acceptance of the new, but he provided the space for the new forms to be cultivated. In any case, the new gospel directly authorized greater involvement in non-religious activities.
The roots in Calvin himself of the Calvinists’ advocacy of rebellion are further clarified in C. M. N. Eire’s study, ‘Prelude to Sedition? Calvin’s Attack on Nicodemism and Religious Compromise’, AfRH 76 (1985), pp. 120–145. Nicodemism was the (Protestant) practice of outwardly conforming, without inner assent, to (Catholic) religion. Calvin’s unqualified opposition to it (because, inter alia, he refused to separate body and spirit in worship) laid the basis for a ‘politics of purity’, which exempted the true Christian from civic obligations involving pollution from idolatry. This ‘righteous distancing’ remained passive in Calvin’s own writings, but helped to ease Protestants, especially in France, away from total allegiance to rulers.
‘Jonathan Edwards’s Most Popular Work: “The Life of David Brainerd” and Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Culture’, by J. Conforti (Ch Hist, 54 (1985), pp. 188–201), analyses the influence of an enormously popular evangelical classic. In Conforti’s view, it supports claims that Edwards materially contributed to religious reform and Christian activism. The work’s most important gift to evangelical America was ‘a high-flown doctrine of true virtue as consisting of radical disinterested benevolence’.
Another famous evangelical is J. H. Moorhead’s subject in JPH 62 (1984), pp. 95–110—‘Charles Finney and the Modernization of America’. This suggestive interpretation magnifies Finney’s historical significance, but at the cost, many will feel, of a further diminution of his theological stature. Moorhead pin-points ‘his role in promoting a standard religious culture, his commitment to a voluntaristic, functional view of community, his love of efficiency, utility, and rational calculation, his faith in human capacity to shape the future, and his eager embrace of innovation’—such that he did not expect ever to be able ‘to stereotype my theological views’.
Other skeletons from the evangelical cupboard are exposed by R. Nutt in ‘Robert Lewis Dabney, Presbyterians and Women’s Suffrage’, JPH 62 (1984), pp. 339–353. Dabney opposed women’s political rights as stalwartly as preaching by women, for they must be free for ‘higher duties’—which reveals an ardent Calvinist espousing a quite un-Calvinian depreciation of political responsibilities.
The Tyndale Historical Theology Lecture for 1983 also points to lessons for the present from the evangelical past. ‘Inspiration and Criticism: The Nineteenth-Century Crisis’ (TynB 35 (1984), pp. 129–159), by N. M. de S. Cameron, argues that ‘What led to the break-up of the infallibilist consensus in nineteenth-century Britain was a loss of confidence in its dogmaüc warrants. The result was an attempt to hold them in tandem with warrants historical and critical, which latter imperceptibly took over the Conservatives’ self-understanding.’ What conservatives lacked (and no doubt lack still), was not biblical scholars but dogmaticians. While they pleaded for a ‘truer’ criticism, they were in fact advancing the growing credibility of the critical case, by abandoning the appeal to dogmatic considerations. The lessons of this historical analysis are, however, unlikely to be learnt unless more guidance is offered on how the challenge should have been met. Also required is some sharper definition of what is meant by ‘criticism’.
Finally, something completely different. The Orthodox loom increasingly large in world Christianity. G. L. Freeze in ‘Handmaiden of the State? The Church in Imperial Russia Reconsidered’ (JEH 36 (1985), pp. 82–102), presents an emerging reassessment among scholars which rejects the caricature of an Orthodox Church supinely subservient to the Tsarist regime, even in contravention of clear religious duty. If such a stereotype should prove more false than true, we should all rejoice.
D. F. Wright
An example of the contribution made by specialist journals to ethical debate can be found in the Journal of Medical Ethics (published by The Society for the Study of Medical Ethics, London). Over the past couple of years it has given quite a lot of space to the issues raised by the British ‘Warnock Report’ on human fertilization and embryology. An example of the excellence of some of these contributions is to be found in the March 1984 issue in which Teresa Iglesias and Gordon Dunstan contribute to the ethical debate about the status of the human embryo. Iglesias makes the more conservative case that, ‘to be a human being is to be a person’ and, therefore, there are no stages in our existence at which we are not to take it that this is the case. What makes us persons is the kind of being we are. This clearly is an ontological sort of way into ethics. Dunstan, by contrast, argues that the claim to absolute protection for the embryo from the beginning cannot be said to represent the historic Christian tradition even though it is the contemporary Roman Catholic one. He argues the case for increasing protection as the embryo develops and that this has roots in the use of Scripture in the Christian tradition. The debate will, doubtless, continue. It is to be hoped that it will continue with this level of argument and discussion.
Another secular journal which is worthy of note is the Journal of Applied Philosophy which is the journal of the society of the same name. The latest issue of this journal contains a closely argued article by Richard Tur providing another way into the Devlin/Hart debate on morality and the law. He rejects the view that the law is merely concerned with the prevention of harm and argues that in some sense the law is, in itself, a moral system. Attempting to plot a middle course between naturalism and positivism he develops the notion of ‘normative positivism’. Law may be seen as community morality and everyone has an interest in its moral content. The latest issue of Law and Justice (Hilary/Easter 1985) published by the Edmund Plowden Trust, contains some very interesting articles on the question of privacy with particular reference to the Irish constitution and marital privacy, and to the decisions of the US Supreme Court in Roe v Wade over the woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy being guarded by her constitutional right to privacy.
Turning to the religious journals, it is worth noting that the Modern Churchman, upholding the liberal tradition in the church, has published some good material on a range of issues. Two articles by Kimmet Edgar on I. T. Ramsey’s Method in Ethics (Vol. XXVII Nos. 3 & 4) are particularly stimulating. The contribution made by Ian Ramsey to Christian thought has been formative and not least, as the articles point out, in the area of some of the most complex issues of our day. The articles give insight into Ramsey’s careful attention to the facts, to his openness to the moral claim arising from encounter with particular situations and his sensitivity to the personal and the human.
The magazine Crucible produced by the Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England, contains a regular run of articles on social questions. The July–September 1985 issue contained a series of articles on the subject of work. David Eaton raises the question of worth at work and explores how human worth is affected by work (or unemployment) experiences. He rejects the idea that work is about justification and affirms work rather as a place of potential growth and enrichment. Ian Gaskell, in the same issue, provides a modern parable of coal and steel from Rotherham and Barnsley.
The magazine Third Way continues to provide a serious evangelical contribution to social and cultural issues. From November 1984 for seven issues the magazine ran a series by Richard Bauckham on ‘Using the Bible to do polities’. The articles mark a valuable contribution to such issues as the relation of Old and New Testaments, whether the Bible speaks only to personal issues and to individuals, if it is addressed to the church and not to society, etc. The hermeneutical question is a crucial one for evangelicals in particular. These articles provide much good sense!
Lesslie Newbigin has contributed much already on the question of the relationship between Christianity and world religions. In ‘Christ and the World of Religions’, Churchman 97 (1983), pp. 16–30 he looks again at some of the central issues in terms of the debate between Hendrik Kraemer and A. G. Hogg which has been resurrected recently by authors such as Eric Sharpe and O. V. Jathanna. Newbigin clearly defines the heart of the debate: ‘It is the issue between a view which takes the religious consciousness as the fundamental datum for discussion (Hogg) and the view which takes history … as fundamental (Kraemer).’ In developing his position Hogg, who has been followed in this by Wilfred Cantwell Smith, distinguishes between ‘faith’, which is a universal quality, and ‘faiths’, the concrete and historical forms in which faith is embodied. Newbigin, following Kraemer and developing his arguments, shows that such a distinction is untenable. Towards the end of the article he returns to the difficult question of the fate of those who never hear the gospel and makes some very helpful suggestions.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s distinction between faith (the essence of religion) and belief (its form) is examined in ‘Wilfred Cantwell Smith on Faith and Belief, RS 20 (1984), pp. 353–366 by William J. Wainwright. Wainwright argues convincingly that the gulf which Smith opens between faith and belief is not valid and that to insist upon it will not prove helpful as the world religions come into increasing contact. Wainwright concludes that: (i) doctrinal schemes are important and that, therefore, the relationship between religions is a much more difficult matter than Smith is prepared to admit; (ii) ‘to take people seriously we must take their beliefs seriously’; (iii) taking truth seriously involves assessing the truth of ‘reasoned affirmations’.
Another article which deals with one of Cantwell Smith’s theories is ‘Words and the Medieval Notion of “Religion”’ by Peter Biller in JEH 36 (1985), pp. 351–369. Smith argues that ‘religion’ in the sense of a system (Christian religion, Jewish religion, etc is a meaning which only appeared in the sixteenth century. This is part of Smith’s argument that exclusivism is a modern phenomenon. Biller’s detailed linguistic evidence does not support Smith’s theory but suggests that the idea of religion as a system can be found in the medieval period.
One argument which John Hick uses in calling for a Copernican revolution in theology is that the world religions were developed in isolation from each other but that in the global village they must develop together. This argument from separate development is obviously questionable in the case of the Semitic religions or the Indian religions though it might be more justified when applied to links between the Semitic and Indian religions. There is some evidence of communication, however, and some of it is discussed by David Scott in ‘Christian responses to Buddhism in pre-medieval times’ Numen 32 (1985), pp. 88–100. The early evidence does not amount to much, although it is interesting to learn that Clement of Alexandria and Jerome at least had some knowledge of Buddhism. The Chinese Nestorian documents from the sixth century onwards are much more detailed and say much about the opportunity and dangers of culturalization in spreading the gospel.
John Hick is also taken to task in a powerful article by Roger Trigg in RS 19 (1983), pp. 297–310 entitled ‘Religion and the Threat of Relativism’. Trigg argues strongly that if the possibility of objective truth is abandoned then logically a major step has been taken in the direction of relativism and religion is threatened with subjectivism and nihilism. ‘Religion’, he states in his conclusion (p. 310), ‘must be seen to be making claims to truth of which all men should take account, if it is not to wither away’. J. Kellenberger has responded to Trigg with ‘The Slippery Slope of Religious Relativism,’ RS 21 (1985), pp. 39–52 in which he argues that it is possible to stop on the slippery slope. His argument is factually correct but does not undermine Trigg’s argument that to try to stop anywhere on the slope is illogical and that to take the first step onto the slope is a step away from truth.
In a short article entitled ‘Choices’, in his quarterly bulletin Co-ordinate 23 (1985), pp. 1–3, Christopher Lamb reflects on a recent programme on Religious Education in which he took part. The programme concentrated on the questions that arise in the context of a multiracial and multifaith context. Lamb provides a very good framework for discussing the host of issues that arise in this sensitive area.