The Book Corner
The Battle for the Bible. By Harold Lindsell. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976. 218 pp. $6.95.
The strategy of this book is evident. It is to present to the Christian community the fact that errency is penetrating some of our evangelical colleges, seminaries and churches. The reader will soon come to realize, whether he likes it or not, that the battle lines are drawn. The Christian life is a warfare (Eph. 6:10-18), and within a war, as any soldier knows, are many batttles. The reader is not left in doubt that one such battle is inerrancy versus errancy, for Dr. Lindsell states early in his book: “A great battle rages about it (i.e., infallibility) among people called evangelicals. I did not start the battle and wish it were not essential to discuss it … keeping silent would be a grave sin.”
The book is well planned:
THE SUBJECT is stated by the author as being, “Is the Bible a reliable guide to religious knowledge?” Or more clearly, “Is the Bible infallible?”
Inerrancy is carefully DEFINED.
SCRIPTURE’S INTERNAL EVIDENCE supporting inerrancy is developed in a chapter entitled, “Inerrancy A Doctrine of Scripture.”
EXTERNAL EVIDENCE from church history (referred to in 58 footnotes) demonstrates that the church through the ages has held to infallibility and that “the dogma of biblical inerrancy never was an acute issue in the church until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”
A CASE BY CASE REPORT illustrates the penetration of fallibility into Christian groups and seminaries. The “Strange Case of Fuller Theological Seminary” is given special attention. The signing of statements of faith which attested to infallibility by men who held thinking contrary to such statements is indeed an “ethical dilemma.” We in the assemblies might be surprised to see that we are included, not necessarily directly, but certainly by association.
The CONCLUSION contains a final appeal which is at least twofold: first, to evangelicals who are moving away from biblical inerrancy to rethink the situation and move back to full commitment to basic truth; and second, to evangelicals who still hold to biblical inerrancy that they may earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.
Additional subjects discussed in the book are:
1. Discrepancies in the Bible. The author treats the so-called discrepancies with the touch of a master’s hand.
2. Deviations that follow when inerrancy is denied.
3. How infection spreads.
Technical terms are kept to a minimum and when used are well defined. The book is well documented. The author is careful not to quote anyone out of context or to slant statements to prove a point. Those who hold to errancy or are indifferent to the subject will no doubt say that the book is divisive. Here is the author’s reply: “We are always confronted with the dilemma of having to choose between truth and unity. Where truth is not at stake and there is disunity, it is not only unfortunate, it is also wrong. But where unity must be foregone because of adherence to truth it is a different matter.”
When Dr. Lindsell deals with the autographs of Scripture he makes a comparison between the written Word and the living Word. His suggestion that both have been and will be attacked is well stated. However, he then begins searching with the probe of reasoning into the mysteries of the Godhead when he states that “God did not shield His Son Jesus from the possibility of sin in His humanity … and that Jesus in His humanity was able not to sin. He did not sin in His humanity, because He always chose to do the right.” Attempts to separate Christ’s humanity from His deity always lead to confusion. Our Lord is unique. He can be known only as He is revealed to the heart by the Holy Spirit through the Word. When we depart from the Word of God by attempting to explain His nature, we are in waters over our head. Scripture states, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). The angel Gabriel, when referring to the Lord’s incarnation, uses the expression “that holy thing” (Luke 1:35). He cannot be fully comprehended by finite intelligence. “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father” (Matt. 11:27). We don’t explain, we adore.
With this exception, the book is excellent and timely. Get a copy; you’ll enjoy it as I have.
The Community of the King. By Howard A. Snyder. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1977. 216 pp. Paper, $4.25.
Some of you have read Howard Snyder’s book, The Problem of Wineskins, but this, his most recent book, probes more deeply into the subject of church renewal. A number of keen evangelical scholars are thinking and writing in this area today. It is almost becoming fashionable in some circles to model your church fellowship after the New Testament churches! This is a radical change from the past. And it is all to the good.
Snyder pleads for a church with a “kingdom vision” (p. 27). The person who accepts Christ as Lord and Saviour places himself under the authority of a new King. This means “a life-style of discipleship” (p. 30). The goal is not members of an organization but transformed people living in a new community relationship. While denominational churches stress organization and institution, the New Testament stresses community.
The author states: “I am convinced that a properly biblical understanding of the Kingdom of God is possible only if the church is understood — predominantly, if not exclusively — as a charismatic community and God’s pilgrim people, his kingdom of priests” (p. 40).
The influence of this transformed community of believers then radiates out to the surrounding culture, restraining evil and promoting healing. The kingdom in its full manifestation is future, but its present influence should be strongly felt through the church (p. 50).
The church that follows the guidelines of Scripture will flourish. “…a church not structured in harmony with biblical principles will never achieve the quality of growth and the authenticity of discipleship which God intends” (p. 139).
But like many others Dr. Snyder is reluctant to jettison the many denominational and inter-denominational structures which exist. What does one do with the multitude of institutions which have proliferated through 2,000 years of church history? Snyder lumps all such under the heading of “para-church structures.” “Finally,” he says, “this distinction makes it possible to see a wide range of legitimacy in denominational confessions and structures” (p. 161). Because they are “para-church” they are freed from Scriptural guidelines for the church.
Within these larger structures Snyder believes small groups should function under a “charismatic leadership” (p. 146). These would function as the early churches did, providing teaching, fellowship and worship. Here the disciples would grow.
Dr. Snyder has many helpful insights. He does not seem to perceive, however, that these “para-church structures” which he cannot seem to give up, too often sap the energy and loyalty of Christians. Often their methods and goals are contrary to those of the early church. Why not start with a clean slate and put one’s energies into building churches modelled after the New Testament?
—Donald L. Norbie