The Workers' Reading Program

PULPIT: The Workers' Reading Program

How Books Are Chosen for the Ministerial Book Club

Associate Secretary, General Conference Ministerial Association

Twice in the last ten years the ministerial reading program has been enriched by the inclusion of a Spurgeon volume. No one will forget the delightfully inspiring biography of this prince of preachers by Ellsworth Day, The Shadow of the Broad Brim, included in the 1942 Reading Course. Then in 1946 Spurgeon's Lectures to His Students strengthened the homiletic section in our workers' libraries. For the third quarter of 1952 we once again choose from this seemingly inexhaustible source of preacher counsel and inspiration.

"Spurgeon's Expository Encyclopedia"

Two publishers are at present compiling Spurgeon's sermons in encyclopedic form. From the three thousand, five hundred sermons published through the years they are selecting the messages of lasting value. We believe the Baker Book House compilation is excellent. It is so arranged as to give the worker immediate access to a wide range of representative pastoral and evangelistic homiletic material. This first volume of Spurgeon's Expository Encyclopedia offers several choice Sermons under each of the following topics: "Abraham," "Adoption," "Affliction," "Angels," "Assurance," "Atonement," "Backsliding," and the "Beatitudes."

Little need be said in defense of this great Puritan mind. In reading his sermons one still stands in wonder and in admiration before this mighty intellect aflame with a simple faith and a boundless love for souls. No doubt our safety in choosing this volume lies in Spurgeon's consuming passion for Biblical preaching. He believed that long hours of exposure to the Bible and the works of the men who knew the Bible best were his avenues to Spirit-guided messages. The Bible, then, and the Puritan writings were the great mines out of which Spurgeon dug his mental wealth. The Puritans, however, were considerably influenced by Calvin, and Calvin by Augustine. As significant as their contribution to theology was, we can expect an occasional statement or conclusion somewhat foreign to the light given to our people. We believe every mature worker will be instantly able to recognize and relegate these statements to an appropriate place in his thinking which brings me to an explanation that ought to be shared with the readers of THE MINISTRY.

Selecting volumes for the Ministerial Book Club is a pleasant but arduous task, and more times than not a perplexing experience. Behind the array of four choice volumes a year .lies the work of critically reading scores of books. In fact, well over a hundred volumes were carefully examined in the selection of this year's offering. The Ministerial Association is also indebted to a number of workers in the field with wide reading habits who suggest volumes that have been exceptionally helpful to them. Many factors guide in the final choice of a book club offering. A book is examined for its doctrinal emphasis, its accuracy of facts and statement, and its strength of contribution to the work of the ministry. Care is exercised in covering representative fields each year and over a period of years, such as biography, history, Scriptural exegesis, homiletics, science, and so forth. We believe there should be a balance between Seventh-day Adventist writers, Spirit of prophecy material, and a sample of the thinking of other good writers outside our own ranks. It is in this latter field that our difficulties arise.

There have been keen disappointments at times to discover an otherwise marvelous book riddled through with unfortunate allusions to either higher criticism on the one extreme or popular "fundamental" errors of dispensation-alism on the other. In fact, it is increasingly difficult to choose a meaty volume without a score of objections. This, we believe, would be misunderstood if offered to the field bearing the sanction of the Ministerial Association and its representative advisory council, which includes much of the leadership of the de nomination.

"The Flood"

Take, for instance, our selection for the first quarter The Flood, by Rehwinkel. No book chosen for several years from the ranks of non- Adventist writers has been accepted with more interest and enthusiasm than this volume. Repeated words of warm approval are coming in from the field. We feel it only fair, however, to share with our workers a few words of caution regarding one or two statements in this otherwise excellent book, which if used freely in a public way, might give opportunity for some to question the strength of our argument. Dr. Sieg fried H. Horn, of the Seminary, while enthusiastically endorsing the book for the ministry, urges that the reader mark carefully the statements made on pages 38, 48, 49, and 172. On page 38 the author endorses Woolley's views about the Flood in Mesopotamia. Dr. Horn states:

"It should be known, however, that Woolley's interpretation is not Rehwinkel's. Woolley thought that he had discovered a flood level in Ur, and he considered it as the proof for the Babylonian and Biblical flood, which in his estimation was only a local affair. Rehwinkel uses the same discovery as proof for the Biblical flood which he considered to be universal. That Woolley's discovered flood level was not the evidence of a universal flood is recognized by everyone who knows the facts, because even Woolley could not detect this flood level in the neighboring site of Tell el-Obeid.

"On page 48 Rehwinkel states that he considers the royal tombs in Ur as coming from the predeluvian period. I think this is very dangerous reasoning. If the earth was disturbed, as he reasons in several chapters, so that mountains appeared and others disappeared, the royal tombs of Ur would show signs of that catastrophe. But they remained completely undisturbed, and are certainly to be dated after the flood in the historical period as every archaeologist does.

"Rehwinkel speaks on pages 172, 173 about a flood level found in the excavations of Susa. No re liable archaeologist has ever considered the level to which Rehwinkel refers as a flood level.

Dr. Horn concludes, "If we somehow could point out these objections to our ministers in order that they will use the book wisely, I would wholeheartedly recommend it." With this counsel in hand we felt that the supreme value of that book would outweigh the dangers, and so we included it in this year's group, believing that no volume published by non-Adventists could equal it in the field.

Now back to the Spurgeon volume. As a classic in its field, few books would offer such a wealth of helpful Scripture exegesis with so few questionable statements. We are confident that our readers will not be disturbed by an odd statement or two concerning hell-fire, and we are sure that every type of worker will be delighted with this volume. Might we suggest that before your next camp meeting appointment, Week of Prayer, or evangelistic meeting, you read the section on the atonement. The influence of these pages of pure gospel truth so clearly yet refreshingly said will certainly strengthen our Christ-centered approach in our preaching.



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Associate Secretary, General Conference Ministerial Association

June 1952

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