The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, Walter R. Martin, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 252 pages, $3.50.
This is the long-awaited book that Walter R, Martin, contributing editor of Eternity Magazine, was commissioned by a certain evangelical organization to write as part of "The Modern Cult Library" series.
We can safely say that no critic of Adventism ever took more pains to ascertain the real teachings of that body, and certainly none ever tried to handle his subject with more Christian grace than did Dr. Martin.
In 1949 when the author studied SDA history and theology in New York City, he "concluded that Adventists were a cult of Christian extraction, but with enough heretical error in their doctrine to exclude them from the body of Christ." However, in 1955 he began a research project "to discover just what comprises Seventh-day Adventist theology. As he burrowed under the surface of Adventist semantics and teaching, the number of doctrinal heresies markedly diminished." Adventists could wish that they had all disappeared, but this statement, and others like it in the book, represents the best attempt we have yet seen to examine with an unbiased mind the beliefs of another fold. More we could hardly expect in the field of Christian apologetics.
The author read every major anti-Adventist publication, as well as every pro-Adventist book and pamphlet, and his book is based upon seven years of intensive study, interviews with hundreds of Adventist believers and laymen, including a mission field survey in Europe and Asia.
Pages 48-86 of this book set forth Seventh-day Adventist teaching taken verbatim, without comment, from our own book Questions on Doctrine.
The areas in which the author finds his major disagreements with Seventh-day Adventism are; The gift of prophecy through Ellen G. White, the Sabbath, the law, the sanctuary question, and the punishment of the wicked.
No criticism is found in the book of the sincerity of Mrs. White's convictions, and she is admitted to be an extraordinary woman with a fine Christian personality. The author simply does not accept the evidence for her inspiration. He lists certain of the so-called mistakes of Mrs. White, including the well-known charge that in Testimonies, volume 1, page 563, Mrs. White admitted that she was wrong in a certain matter. Dr. Martin quotes the reply to this charge in Ellen G. White and Her Critics by F. D. Nichol, pages 495-503, but he does not accept the explanation there offered of Mrs. White's comments.
On the Sabbath question, Dr. Martin accepts the view that the first day of the week is to be celebrated as the day of the resurrection, but that there is no legally binding Sabbath on any day of the week. To him there is but one law throughout the whole Bible, and not two or more as taught by some others, Seventh-day Adventists included.
On page 135 the author sets forth his belief in the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment, all of his proofs being based on the usual "hell-fire" texts used by the traditional churches.
There is a discussion of the scapegoat (page 186) that contains these words: "To be sure, the Seventh-day Adventists have a unique concept of the scapegoat, but in the light of their clearly worded explanation, no critic could any longer with honesty indict them for heresy where the atonement of our Lord is concerned. The Adventists have stated unequivocally that Jesus Christ is their sole propitiation for sin and that Satan has no part whatsoever in the expiation of sin. This writer agrees that Satan is the master criminal of the universe and that it is axiomatic, therefore, that he should suffer as the instigator of angelic and human rebellion."
In this chapter he expresses the wish that some "earlier unrepresentative Seventh-day Adventist statements on the scapegoat teaching had not been made. . . . However, to ignore their honest current declarations is, we believe, fundamentally unfair. It appears to us to be little more than blind prejudice." No more serious charge was ever leveled against Seventh-day Adventists than that they make Satan their saviour, and that they therefore do not believe in the atonement through our Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Martin's statement gives the lie to these charges.
He devotes a short chapter to a discussion of the expression, the "remnant church," and is at pains to make clear that Seventh-day Adventists do not claim that they alone constitute God's people today. They recognize earnest individuals everywhere as part of the church of Christ. He is also just as definite in declaring that officially the Adventist Church does not teach that they alone have the seal of God and that Sundaykeepers have the mark of the beast. He quotes Mrs. White to show that the mark has not yet been given.
A book review is not a forum for the refutation of opposing theological opinions. They will be dealt with by others in the appropriate place, but this writer hopes that those who engage in discussion on, or answer to, the book under review will do so in the same spirit of Christian love and fellowship that obviously motivated Dr. Martin.
It is also to be hoped that all who read this book may be led to think carefully about terminology, proofs, conclusions, and Christian attitudes in such a way that we shall all be more grounded in the faith and more devoted to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If this should be the case, then all the interviews, discussions, and investigation instituted by Dr. Martin before producing this book will be worth while.
H. W. Lowe
Light Beyond Shadows, Robert Frederick West, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1959, 160 pages, $3.75.
If you desire to understand the problems of the mentally ill—what it means to have "blacked out" and have to fight back to normal living again— this book is a must.
Dr. R. Frederick West, a minister of the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church), has distinguished himself as a writer for his denomination and in other books for the public. His present work is the record of his own personal experience compared with many encounters with those of similar experience. It is his earnest conviction that the book will be worth while if it will help stem the tide of heartache and misery so common in our society.
This is the throbbing and intensely stirring drama of a man lost to reality, waking at last to find only a hostile world staring back at him. At first bewildered, then alarmed, then angry, he deciphered his new world, until weary and spent he admitted that he needed help, for he was a patient at Dix Hill State Hospital for the mentally ill at Raleigh, North Carolina.
Deeply moving, and written out of an experience only too real, it takes the reader through the trials and woes of patient, family, and friends as Dr. West treads back to rehabilitation and recovery—slowly at first, then with the thrust of the sprinter.
One of the crucial points of Dr. West's experience came when he faced himself squarely and admitted what he really was. To quote him: "On the night after I wrote Mary my first letter, I learned to see life as a whole. This facing of reality came from a lasting new focus and under an entirely different light. The salt of my own tears finally let me taste within my innermost being the bitterness of my self-pity. This enabled me to see myself, not as I had pretended or preferred to, but as I really was. . . . That night, especially, I felt like a lost sheep, lonely and confused, in a lifting fog. Discouraged and depressed, I sat on my bed after our usual early supper. Profoundly I thought, 'I myself—and no other person or thing—am my own worst enemy.' "
From this point he describes his struggle to return to a normal, useful life in the service of God and his fellow men. He primarily attributes any success in his recovery to the living connection he found with God the crucial night he first wrote his wife a letter from Dix Hill.
This is the story of a perplexing and ever-present problem that faces the Christian minister today. The inspiration and insight that Light Beyond Shadows affords will be of illimitable value in our world of an increasing population of the mentally ill. Harry A. Van Pelt
The Power of God in a Parish Program, Joseph E. McCabe, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1959, 164 pages, $3.50.
Dr. McCabe, formerly pastor of the Chestnut Hill Presbyterian church in Philadelphia, presents in this volume his personal testimony of how he met pastoral problems in his ministry and with what results. His unusually practical approach to pastoral problems ranges from the first pastoral call—including right and wrong ways to make it— to methods for conducting various forms of the "Every Member Canvass."
Many ideas contained in these chapters could be used by Adventist pastors. His list of "Twelve Times to Call the Minister" could well be adapted to any of our pastorates and effectively placed in the hands of church members upon arrival of the pastor in a new district. His discussion of the pastoral call offers a possible new approach to make this member-contact most effective.
The excellent suggestive book list for the "Counseling Shelf" will aid many of us in finding books and their proper use in the counseling program that will enhance our ministry. One chapter on visitation as a means to evangelism is thought provoking. Two chapters in particular are worth the price of the whole volume: "The Christian Wedding" and "The Christian Funeral." Pastor and layman may well heed the author's sage counsel regarding befitting music for both of these services. Naturally, his theology concerning death does not harmonize with ours, but this need not hinder our adapting his suggestions to our own advantage. The book is most constructive and educative, and in many of our congregations it could well be followed with benefit.
Further creative material is provided in the promotion of family and personal devotional life, and may prove helpful in our pastoral leadership. The final chapter in the book, "The Church a Power in the World," offers choice detailed ideas in the education of church members in systematic giving. His "Six Steps to Stewardship" will intrigue the reader. Dr. McCabe recently became president of Coe College at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His book is the result of experience, tested and proved. My best recommendation for the volume is that having read it, I shall now add it to my personal library as a must.
Raymond H. Libby
Sermons on Simon Peter, Clovis G. Chappell, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee, 1959, 128 pages, S2.00.
" 'You are Simon . . . ? You shall be called Cephas'" (John 1:42, R.S.V.).
"Thus Jesus greeted blustering Simon when he came face to face with him for perhaps the first time. No sooner had Andrew performed the introduction than our Lord told this Galilean fisherman that he was destined to become a man of rocklike character. That must have sounded a bit incredible even to Simon. Had his friends heard it, they would doubtless have looked at one another with tolerant and knowing smiles. Had his acquaintances heard it, they would have laughed with cynical laughter. 'Whoever of the followers of Jesus is destined to become a rock,' all would agree, 'that man is surely not Simon.' "
These are the introductory words of the first paragraph in chapter one of Clovis Chappell's newest book, Sermons on Simon Peter. Then follow twelve sermons depicting the impulsive fisherman through his heights and depths, his vacillation and his determination, his pride and his humility. All these chapter sketches are for the purpose of describing the secret of his new dimension found through Christ Jesus. How often I found myself smiling, thoughtful, even weeping, as I met myself in the ups and downs of the life and experiences of Simon Peter.
From the author's long list of books, written with an understanding of the Bible and of human needs, Sermons on Simon Peter will undoubtedly be classed as one of the best. A. C. Fearing
The Epistle to the Ephesians, Joseph Parker, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan (Reprint Library, 1956), 272 pages, $2.75. This book, besides showing excellent workmanship on the part of the publisher, furnishes delightful devotional reading. The author was an English Congregational preacher of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Joseph Parker's exceptional pulpit eloquence is here matched with his poetic-prose skills. He is also the author of The People's Bible and the six-volume Studies in Texts. The deep spiritual appeal of this book is its most commendable feature. The writer's theology is basically sound, and there is a true note of understanding of the times. Joseph Parker knew the beauty and depth of preaching, but always with practical application. This is reflected in vivid language in his book The Epistle to the Ephesians. Ministers will find this work of value. It is also recommended to English and speech teachers.
Louise C. Kleuser