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Journal Journal

David Hall

"Calvin Bibliography 1990" compiled by Peter De Klerk; Calvin Theological Journal, Nov. 1990, vol. 25, no. 2

In one of the very nice annual features of this journal, Peter De Klerk, Emeritus Librarian of CTS, has saved the Calvin student hundreds of hours with the compilation of this excellent bibliography. Since 1973 De Klerk has supplied these in CTJ. This one (actually spanning about 5 years) records the recent publication of Calvin's Works, biographies, writings on his relations with other reformers, studies of his theology, and writings on various theological loci. This well-organized bibliography is a must for further studies. And De Klerk has done most of the work for us.

Also from CTJ, vol. 25, no. 2, Nov. 1990 in an article on Calvin's integration of the intellect and the will, Richard Muller concludes, lest we imagine Calvin as a hardened, disconnected cerebrum with no feeling or will,"These conclusions confirm the basic insights of Doumergue and Lobstein concerning the experimental and practical character of Calvin's thought and indicate the need to modify somewhat the frequent claim that Calvin equates faith with knowledge and adopts an essentially cognitive approach to doctrine: Calvin's language of faith as cognitio tends to balance intellect and will rather than to emphasize intellect alone, while Calvin's soteriological interest creates, in the doctrine of faith itself, an emphasis on the primacy of the will in the cognitive act. Finally, if this perspective on Calvin's concept of faith is accepted, then the attempt to create a contrast between Calvin's thought and the voluntaristic leanings of later Reformed theology must also be reassessed and, most probably, set aside" (p. 224).

Richard Muller is a scholar that reformed persons should know. In a recent book by Muller, Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins (1986, Labyrinth Press), his apology for scholastic orthodoxy, Muller makes this insightful remark, which is a good come-back to our Neo-Orthodox friends: "...the dictum finitum non capax infiniti (translated loosely as "the finite mind is unable to comprehend the thought of the infinite") used by later exponents of Reformed doctrine... does not appear to have been used by Calvin himself. Several modern scholars have argued that the phrase is not even a proper description of Calvin's doctrine.... The phrase finitum non capax infiniti is better rendered `the finite is unable to grasp the infinite.' As Oberman argued of Calvin, the inverse, infinitum capax finiti reveals the positive implication of the doctrine. The infinite God grasps finite human nature sola gratia" (p. 21). That's worth re-quoting.

"Was Jesus a Disciple of John?" by William B. Badke; The Evangelical Quarterly, July 1990, vol. 62, no. 3

Don't be alarmed by the title. Far from diminishing the Deity of Christ, this article by a Canadian theologian is a short one, containing great substance. It argues that the earliest meaning of Baptism is "adherence", and that there were two kind of Johannine disciples: (1) followers, and (2) remote disciples who adhered to the teaching of the Baptist, but remained in their homes. Badke argues that Jesus was one of these disciples of John and that explains why the Baptizer had such difficulty baptizing Jesus. If Jesus was declaring His adherence to John, the Baptizer would certainly feel uncomfortable with that. However, if Jesus insisted, and if it was understood that John was to decrease, that would go a long way toward explaining some other key NT passages. This is especially fruitful in explaining the disciples of John in Acts 19, still needing the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is an excellent article; well-researched and exegetically sound. It could also be instructive on the subject of Baptism (as was an earlier EQ article by this author).

"The Solidarity of Mankind in Jonathan Edwards' Doctrine of Original Sin" by Randall E. Otto In the same journal, this author finds Edwards' metaphysic to be wanting, as he views the imputation of sin in rationalistic/realistic categories. This provides a good window into Edwards' work, as well as a suitable introduction to the topic itself. And, I must admit, it is refreshing to see Edwards, great as he was, criticized for a change.

"Wittgenstein: On Seeing Problems from a Religious Point of View" by Dallas M. High; The International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion, Oct. 1990, Vol 28, no. 2

An article on one of the most influential philosophers of the late 20th century is always welcome. However, what makes this one unusual is that the author has gathered comments about Wittgenstein's own life and views of religion, including the assertion by his sister that Ludwig was a Christian. Drawing widely from Brian McGuiness', Wittgenstein: A Life, High has provided an excellent article about the religious dimension and experience of this epic philosopher, an area much neglected. If this is true, Christians may want to review Wittgenstein in a different light. But recall the warning, "Not everyone whose biographer retrospectively says unto Me...."

Another insightful article on Wittgenstein, "Wittgenstein's Gift To Contemporary Analytic Philosophy Of Religion" by J. Kellenberger is found in The International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion, Dec., 1990. Vol 28, no. 3. In this article Kellenberger states, "The theology drawn upon by contemporary analytic philosophers of religion includes that of Aquinas and others, but it is primarily the theology of John Calvin that is looked to. This is not to say that contemporary analytic philosophers of religion who cite Calvin always agree with him. Calvin, who, like Plantinga, was well aware of the distinction between belief in God and belief that God exists, says of the latter that `this kind of faith is of no importance'--for this kind of faith is held in common with the devils who believe and shudder (James 2:19). Plantinga, on the other hand, acknowledges the distinction and then focuses on the belief that God exists. Most often, however, there is agreement. This is not accidental. Several of those following the new analytic approach to philosophy of religion -- such as Plantinga and Wolterstorff -- are seeking to develop a `Reformed epistemology.' At times Plantinga appeals directly to passages in the Institutes that carry epistemological implications. Calvin is quoted affirming that there is innate or implanted awareness of God in human beings, and he is cited as one who discounted `rational proofs' for God's existence as a basis for faith" (p. 154).

Kellenberger continues, "It is interesting to note that Wittgen-stein agrees with the general direction of some of these intuitions. Wittgenstein agrees that faith does not need evidence in its support. While he allows that evidence may be spoken of, it is not what we `normally call evidence.' For Wittgenstein, if religious faith were supported by evidence, it would be unreasonable. And, he says, `if there were evidence, this would in fact destroy the whole business.' However, it is not clear that this is precisely Calvin's view. For, though Calvin discounts `rational proofs' as irrelevant to faith, he allows that `evidences' that affirm God's majesty are in abundance. For Wittgenstein, rational proofs are irrelevant to faith, or, worse, if construed as evidence, would destroy religion. Plantinga's rejection of arguments for God's existence is more circumspect. Plantinga, as a `Reformed thinker,' agrees with Calvin that `one needs no arguments to know that God exists,' but he allows that it is worth knowing whether any theistic arguments are good and that they may be useful in moving others toward religious belief. Still, it remains that Wittgenstein and contemporary analytic philosophy of religion agree in rejecting the idea that proper religious belief requires evidence in its support, even if they come to this view from different quarters" (p. 155).

Although we do not see Calvin and Wittgenstein as operating from the same presuppositional grid, it is nonetheless gratifying to observe a modern philosopher recognizing the excellence of Calvin and other reformed thinkers, on par with Wittgenstein.

"Reflections on New Testament Testimony Concerning Civil Disobedience" by O. Palmer Robertson; Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Sept. 1990, vol. 33, no. 3.

In chronological succession, this author lists and summarizes the NT teachings which touch on this recently controverted ethical issue. Acknowledging that this question has been generated from the womb of Operation Rescue, Robertson, most deftly deals with most of the verses claimed by OR. He handles the texts with precision, without excessive verbiage, and with sound exegesis. This is an article to save, not only for this particular C-D issue, but for future ones as well. It also lends itself to use in an adult class, being non-technical.

Also of note, but not in the highest category of quality, in this same journal, is "Toward an Evangelical Theology of Religions", Clark Pinnock's latest expression of broadening horizons, to put it charitably. Also the ongoing "battle" between Norm Geisler and Murray Harris over the nature of the resurrection body is capsulized by three articles: (1) "Identity and Resurrection: A Review Article" by Francis J. Beckwith, (2) "The Recent Evangelical Debate on the Bodily resurrection of Jesus: A Review Article" by Gary R. Habermas, and (3) "The Nature of Bodily Resurrection: A Debatable Issue" by Scot McKnight. These three short articles will be enough for most to cry, "Uncle!". Sufficient for the day.

"A Precarious Balance: Two Hundred Years of Presbyterian Devotional Literature" by Mark A. Noll; Journal of American Presbyterians, Fall 1990, vol. 68, no. 3

As part of the ongoing reflection on the demise of American Presbyterianism, this article is also a portion of a recent presentation by Noll, on the predicament of the declining mainline Presbyterian church. This essay, which is somewhat anecdotal, analyzes classical Presbyterian devotional works, as well as their theological psyches. Noll characterizes traditional Presby piety as "affective objectivity", but observes a definite turn in the 1960's toward "affective subjectivity" (p. 213). The very language of devotion takes a noticeable turn, and a theology which is "impatient with traditional theological foundations for piety [becomes]...fascinated with the self" (p. 214). Besides faulting such spirituality with the "inability to lead the reader to the inestimable riches of Christ," Noll also sees devotional literature as an accurate barometer of the faith of a denomination. This article is helpful both in its analysis, as well as in its review of this oft-neglected topic. One can also find his concluding observation, which sees the partition between 20th century Presbyterian conservative and liberal denominations along this axis, as insightful.

"Cephas and Peter" by Bart D. Ehrman; Journal of Biblical Literature, September, 1990, vol. 109, no. 3

In an absolutely enthralling, even if unconventional article, Bart Ehrman takes up one of those traditional interpretations and strings together a nearlyconvincing exegetical argument. His thesis is that contrary to the accepted interpretations, Cephas is a different character altogether from the Apostle Peter. As radical as that sounds, one ought to read this short and clear article. It may not persuade you, but it will certainly force you to return to Scripture. Except for the statement on John 1:42, Ehrman is quite compelling. He furthermore documents this two-person theory dating from the early second century AD. His article concludes with a listing of the exegetical implications of this theory. According to Ehrman, this view would simplify, as well as clear up a number of difficulties in harmonizing Galatians. If this is correct, it could revolutionize a few character studies (e.g on I Cor. 15). This is well worth fifteen minutes of your time.

"Collected Essays" -- In a welcome feature of JBL, its editor has put together in only fifteen pages the summaries of twenty-three recent volumes of essays or Festschrifts. This is a nice meta-library, albeit liberal in orientation.

"Sin, Narcissism, and the Changing Face of Conversion" by Donald Capps; Journal of Religion and Health, Fall 1990, vol. 29, no. 3

This professor of Pastoral Theology at Princeton Seminary has collected data on how people view their own sinfulness today. In contrast to the classic view of sin in William James' psychology, Capps claims that most no longer feel any sense of guilt. Instead sin, if felt at all, has come to be seen in narcissistic terms or as "destructive habits". The remaining sense of sin, therefore is that we hurt ourselves (not God) by sin, and sin is a deprivation of positive living. Capps rounds out this study with an application of the classic "Seven Deadly Sins" to the life-cycle of most people, again illustrating sin, not as an offense against God, but as self-oriented in definition. Contained in this article is some excellent homiletical fodder.

"Forward to Basics in Family Medicine" by Paul Glanville; The Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine, Summer 1990, vol. 4, no. 3

This is a radical article -- self-consciously so. Dr. Glanville, a fugitive from statist thought, is seeking to have a thorough-going Christian medical practice. To do so, he must challenge many of the existing assumptions and practices. He calls for "a new missionary zeal in the medical profession, a fresh look at the ministry of medicine, and a turning away from the `big business' approach to medical practice" (p. 47). This article will definitely challenge all of us, and enhearten a few. Could this Doctor be the Luther of the medical reformation? It will certainly be appreciated by Pastors who call all Christians to live out the Lordship of Christ.

"Behavior or Disease" by Martin and Deidre Bobgan; The Journal Of Biblical Ethics in Medicine, Fall 1990. vol. 4, no., 4

In an article which warns of the ever-encroaching attribution of "disease" to a behavior forbidden by Scripture, the Bobgans observe that according to one recent list, "the number of people with behaviors-called-diseases adds up to a whopping 390 million. Those numbers exceed the population of the US by about 140 million cases of disease, which until recently were not even considered disease" (p. 67). Further they cite one study which says, "By revising notions of personal responsibility, our disease conceptions undercut moral and legal standards exactly at a time when we suffer most from a general loss of social morality.... Disease notions actually increase the incidence of the behaviors of concern. They legitimate, reinforce, and excuse the behaviors in question." (p. 68). Later they remind us that "The Bible identifies behavior as sinful or not sinful.... Drunkenness is listed among the works of the flesh" and warn that "There is hardly a Christian leader who has not bought into the AA mentality and a Twelve Step world view" (p. 68). They quote Stanton Peele as: "Disease conceptions of misbehavior are bad science and are morally and intellectually sloppy.... Once we treat alcoholism and addiction as disease, we cannot rule out that anything people do but shouldn't, as a disease, from crime to excessive sexual activity to procrastination" (Ooh! Now he's gone to meddlin'). "With `anything people do but shouldn't' labeled as `disease', those who oppose Christianity may very well call prayer, worship, reading the Bible, faith in Christ...`diseases' or symptoms of religious `disease.'" One more quote and I promise to quit: "The psychotherapeutic and addiction industries are proliferating so rapidly that nearly every citizen will join the ranks of patients whether he wants to or not"(p. 69). These authors of PsychoHeresy I and II (probably with III on the way) have served the church well with this short article.

At a summer church meeting, someone cited the following quote from Warfield: "But let us equally loudly assert that progressive orthodoxy and retrogressive heterdoxy can scarcely be convertible terms" (cited by Mark Noll in The Princeton Theology 1812-1921). The citation is a helpful warning against all the new methods of the modern church, which may be ancient heresies, long since refuted, yet resurrected in new dress. Indeed that should be equally and loudly asserted.


David Hall is a Contributing Editor of Antithesis and Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He has contributed articles to various theological journals and is Editor of The Presbyter's Review, a digest of theological journals.
Copyright © by Covenant Community Church of Orange County 1991
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