"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 2, Number 7, July 1999
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. They may also be downloaded at http://www.tegart.com/brian/bible/kjvonly.
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]
BROADUS ON THE RELATIVE MERITS OF EXEGESIS AND THEOLOGY
John A. Broadus (1827-1895), the pre-eminent American Baptist of the 19th century, a founder of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and professor of Greek and New Testament interpretation there, humorously chided his teaching colleague, James P. Boyce (1827-1888), a co-founder of SBTS and professor of theology, on the hindrance theological "systems" can be to correct interpretation of the Scriptures:
". . .[S]tudents of exegesis might have some freedom if it were not for these dreadful theological people who know beforehand what every passage ought to mean, in order to suit their creeds and systems, and who have not a proper respect for philology and criticism."
John A. Broadus, Memoir of James Petigru Boyce, D.D., LL.D.
New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893, p. 307]
A. T. ROBERTSON: A BIOGRAPHY by Everett Gill. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1943. 250 pp., hdbk.
As a student in Bible college, I first became acquainted with the name "A. T. Robertson," and soon became familiar with his highly valuable writings on the New Testament. In the almost 30 years since my first knowledge of Robertson, I have bought copies of 36 of the 45 books he wrote, and have read all or part of nearly all those I possess (and one I have not yet been able to acquire). Of all the authors I have read, none has affected my whole approach to Biblical studies to the degree Robertson has, and does. When I study any portion of the New Testament for a message, after working through the Greek text, I always make it a point to read Robertson's treatment in Word Pictures in the New Testament (6 vols.) which all but invariably points out some important grammatical feature I had somehow overlooked. Were I limited to using one man's writings on the NT, I would immediately choose the works of Robertson without the slightest hesitation. No other individual has produced such a shelf full of precious volumes.
Archibald Thomas Robertson, or "Archie" as his intimate acquaintances called him, was born in Southern Virginia in 1863. He was the seventh of ten children. His father was a physician by profession and the family owned an estate of some 1,500 acres which were worked by the family slaves. With Emancipation and the defeat of the Confederacy, the Robertson family fell on hard times, ultimately selling off what was left of their property in Virginia when Archie was 12 and relocating to central North Carolina, near the town of Statesville. Archie was converted in a special revival meeting in March 1876, and began private studies with a pastor in 1878. In 1879, he sensed a Divine call upon his life into the Gospel ministry, and at age 16, with $2.50 in his pocket and a promise of support from the local Baptist association, he left for Wake Forest College. Six years at that educational institution resulted in both A. B. and A.M. degrees, and distinction for his superior knowledge of French, Latin and Greek. This was followed by three years at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, under the instruction of J. P. Boyce, Basil Manly, Jr., and especially John A. Broadus, who was soon profoundly impressed with young Robertson's very thorough knowledge of Greek. Robertson became first Broadus' assistant in the New Testament department, and then his son-in-law, and, upon Broadus' death in 1895, his successor in the chair of New Testament Interpretation. In all, Robertson taught at Southern for 46 years, and taught 6,000 students in that period.
In his early years as a student and professor at Southern, Robertson conducted numerous evangelistic meetings and pastored several churches, besides being in constant demand for pulpit supply. Beginning in the 1910s, he was a regular speaker at the summer Bible conferences at Northfield, Massachusetts and Winona Lake, Indiana.
Robertson was a very demanding professor, often "terrorizing" unprepared students. He counted every minute of class time as a most precious commodity and sought to make the most of every opportunity to impart a greater knowledge of the Scriptures to his students.
Robertson 's first published book was his biography of John A. Broadus (reviewed in AISI, 1:5), which appeared when Robertson was 38.
Dr. Bob's magnum opus was his A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, first published in 1914, ultimately going through 4 editions (the last reaching almost 1,500 pages), and still in print. This Herculean task occupied more than 25 years of his life, and was his chief concern for 12 of those years. (He also prepared a shorter grammar of New Testament Greek). The prefaces to the various editions of the Big Grammar are worth reading for devotional purposes alone--if they won't kindle a fire for more devoted Biblical study, perhaps you are just too far gone.
From his intensive grammatical studies, Robertson spun off numerous topical books, among them:
--Epochs in the Life of Jesus;
--Epochs in the Life of Paul;
--Paul the Interpreter of Christ;
--Epochs in the Life of Peter;
--Epochs in the Life of the Apostle John;
--Luke the Historian (outstanding in every way);
--John the Loyal (about John the Baptist--an absolutely superb book);
--Making Good in the Ministry (about John Mark);
--The Mother of Jesus;
as well as several commentaries besides the Word Pictures set, namely,
--The Divinity of Christ in the Gospel Of John;
--Paul's Joy in Christ (Philippians);
--Paul and the Intellectuals (Colossians);
--The Glory of the Ministry (on 2 Corinthians 2:12-6:10--a precious volume indeed);
and a commentary on James.
Several of his books are compilations of articles he wrote for various journals and religious periodicals:
--Studies in Mark's Gospel;
--The Christ of the Logia (reviewed in AISI, 1:1),
and my favorite of all of Robertson books,
--The Minister and His Greek New Testament.
Some of Robertson's books were "born" as classroom lecture notes. Among these are:
--Studies in the New Testament;
--Syllabus for New Testament Study;
--Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament;
and the notes in
--Broadus' A Harmony of the Gospels (one of the ten most essential books for Bible study).
One may characterize Robertson's literary productions as having a full head and a warm heart, and being the product of his exacting thoroughness in research and meticulous attention to detail. Anyone who cannot or does not profit greatly from a careful reading of Robertson's works is a hopeless case.
A number of significant biographies of Baptist leaders have been reprinted in the past couple of decades. Is there no one who will reprint Everett Gill's biography of one of the greatest of Baptist scholars? Until that day, the reader is urged to seek out this book via inter-library loan (or purchase, if you are so fortunate to find a used copy for sale; mine cost $30--which I gladly paid). Because this biography was prepared for the "popular" market, it lacks some features that I would like to have seen, such as a complete bibliography of all of ATR's published writings, especially in periodicals, some documented summary of Robertson's views on the great fundamental doctrines of the faith as well as Baptist distinctives, a listing of his topics he addressed at Northfield and Winona Lake conferences over the years, a "typical" example of his yearly teaching load, some idea of the total number of his sermons annually, a listing of the books he read and the authors he liked, and especially some accounting of the fate of his literary remains--letters, journals, manuscripts, class notes--and of his extensive library. No biography, of course, can be all things to all men.
SOME QUOTATIONS FROM A. T. ROBERTSON,
taken from the biography by Everett Gill:
"The greatest proof that the Bible is inspired is that it has stood so much bad preaching." (p. 178)
"Tell the truth even if you are a Baptist preacher." (p. 178)
(Quoting Broadus)--"If some sermons had small-pox the text would never catch it." (p. 180)
"Give a man an open Bible, an open mind, and a conscience in good working order, and he will have a hard time to keep from being a Baptist." (p. 181)
"Never get out of a text what was never in it." (p. 188)
"The most vehement opponent is the man who is afraid he is wrong." (p. 188)
"It is astonishing how much ignorance some people can accumulate in a life time." (p. 189)
"I have never looked into the Greek New Testament five minutes without finding something I never saw before." (p. 189)
ON THE READING OF "TAINTED" BOOKS
Some years ago, a statement by Charles Spurgeon on the reading of theologically-corrupt books came to my attention. In the 1871 volume of sermons in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series, Spurgeon said:.
"I am asked sometimes to read an heretical book: well, if I believed my reading it would help its refutation, and might be an assistance to others in keeping them out of error, I might do it as a hard matter of duty, but I shall not do it unless I see some good will come from it. I will not go dragging my spirit through a ditch for the sake of having it washed afterwards, for it is not my own. It may be that good medicine would restore me if I poisoned myself with putrid meat, but I am not going to try it." (vol. 17, p. 440)
I know exactly what Spurgeon was talking about. When I was assistant to the editor of The Biblical Evangelist back in the mid-1980s, it sometimes fell to my lot to review books that fell into the category of "heretical," and reading and reviewing them was sorry business, but something deemed necessary to assist in warning readers away from their pages.
Once I was assigned the reading of Unification Church founder Sun Yung Moon's Divine Principle and God's Warning to the World, for the purpose of preparing a series of articles on the theology of Moon in contrast to the theology of Scripture (the nine-part series began in the vol. 19, no. 21, November 1, 1985 issue and ended with the vol. 20, no. 5, March 1, 1986 issue). Nothing I have ever done has exceeded the reading of these two books for absolute spiritual barrenness. Not a single page or paragraph or sentence had a single valuable spiritual insight or even worthwhile fact. It was one desolate, howling parched wilderness, and pure misery to read. I probably should be awarded a medal for having gotten through them!
Another time, I was assigned the reviewing of The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by Hyman Maccoby, a Jewish writer whose aim was to "rescue" Jesus, allegedly a zealous, orthodox Pharisee, from the imagined distortions of Saul of Tarsus, who was charged by the author with corrupting the "real" teachings of Jesus. Such a brazen misrepresentation of the facts, and highly selective use and non-use of evidence I never saw! (That review appeared in The Biblical Evangelist, vol. 20, no. 13, September 1, 1986). I cannot imagine a single person drawing any spiritual or intellectual benefit from such a book. I am sure I did not.
Back in Bible college more than 25 years ago, I was exposed in a course on contemporary theology to the likes of Bultmann, Bruner, Tillich, and Barth, and have never once since had any interest at all in anything they may have said or thought. I simply do not care. There is nothing of spiritual benefit to me in their writings. Why waste my precious time? I find I gain far more of value in a paragraph from Vance Havner or J. C. Ryle than the sum total of all which the "leading lights" of 20th-century spiritual darkness have to say.
Having said this, let me express my unending surprise at the widespread reading, recommending, and even requiring of theologically-heretical books in conservative circles.
Take, for example the writings of William Barclay. He might be characterized as a good "popularizer" but it must be recognized that he denied every fundamental doctrine of Christianity, a fact he makes no pretense at hiding in his books. I see his books commonly quoted by conservative preachers and writers, with no warning to the usually-unsuspecting audience that the man is doctrinally apostate and is to be consulted with extreme caution.
I remember back in the 1980s The Sword of the Lord, then edited by Curtis Hutson, ran a sermon by 19th-century American theological liberal Horace Bushnell (1802-1876). Yet there was no notice to the reader that Bushnell was no conservative (a fact which the editor perhaps did not know).
I have repeatedly heard preachers on the radio or from the pulpit quote the likes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), every inch an apostate, as though he were a man of great spiritual insights. His courage in opposing the Third Reich, even at the cost of his own life, does not atone for his heretical theological views, nor does it "sanitize" his writings and make them orthodox.
A couple years ago, I took a graduate course in Christology and Pneumatology at the Baptist Bible Graduate School of Theology in Springfield, Missouri. The required textbook for this course was Is Jesus Unique? A Study of Recent Christology by Scott Cowdell. The book is a survey of the Christological views of about 20 twentieth-century apostates of various denominations, all of whom reject Biblical inerrancy and the Christ of the Scriptures. Of what value was such a book to the impressionable young seminary students? It could only have a corrosive effect on their souls. Why on earth was such a wretched book chosen as the course text, when some really worthwhile, Biblically-based books are available--Wilbur Smith's, The Supernaturalness of Christ: Can We Still Believe in It? or Philip Schaff's The Person of Christ, or H. P. Liddon's The Divinity of Our Lord, or any number of others. To choose such a text for such a course was a colossal blunder.
At Central Baptist Seminary, a course in church history used as its basic textbook The Story of Christianity by liberal Catholic writer Justo L. Gonzalez. The volume is a massive revisionist history, both politically and theologically liberal in perspective, with such howlers as the suggestion that William Carey is the father of the modern ecumenical movement. Surely there must be a better choice more suited to a fundamentalist seminary classroom.
Now, this is not to say that there is never anything of value to be found in books by theologically corrupt authors. Obviously in matters of linguistics, grammar, archaeology, and history, non-conservative writers may and often are experts in a particular area. The late Catholic scholar Mitchell Dahood was an expert in Phoenician and Ugaritic, languages closely related to Hebrew, and his studies sometimes shed valuable grammatical light on obscure passages in the Old Testament, particularly the Psalms (but his speculations are many and often wild and must be approached with great caution, and only by someone with considerable background in Semitic languages). Greek grammarians Winer, Blass, and DeBrunner wrote grammars on the language of the New Testament that have importance, but their theology had a degrading effect on their knowledge of grammar, all three denying, for example, the clear grammar of Titus 2:13, which explicitly teaches the Deity of Christ, and rejecting the Biblical doctrine of Christ's true Deity on THEOLOGICAL grounds, contrary to what they knew the Greek grammar required.
An Israeli botanist may well be the best-informed source of information on Bible plants, and a Roman Catholic priest may well be the chiefest expert on the early church fathers (these two "possibilities" are in fact the case). But when their theology guides their interpretation of specific passages of Scripture, let the reader beware.
I am not advocating reading only stuff that will affirm what is already believed by an individual, that is, a very narrow sectarian focus, but the blatant enemies of Scripture are not to be examined as likely storehouses of spiritual wisdom. Jeremiah said it best: "They have rejected the word of the LORD, and what wisdom do they have?" (Jer. 8:9).
LUTHER ON THE VALUE OF KNOWING HEBREW AND GREEK
"While a preacher may preach Christ with edification though he may be unable to read the Scriptures in the originals, he cannot expound or maintain their teaching against the heretics without this indispensable knowledge."
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
[quoted in Bernard Ramm,
Protestant Biblical Interpretation
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970),
WISE WORDS FROM VANCE HAVNER
The late Southern Baptist evangelist Vance Havner was noted for clear thinking and plain talking, often simply stating the obvious, but doing so forcefully. Of late, I have come into possession of several of his books, some quotes of which follow, all taken from: Hearts Afire (Westwood, N. J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1952)--
"There is plenty of discussion of revivals, causes of revival, hindrances of revival, ways and means of revival: the only thing lacking is revival." (p. 12)
"But if instead of trying to work up carnal enthusiasm and whip our poor jaded nerves with religious excitement, we took time out to really get ourselves a burning heart we would accomplish more in a day than we get done in a year without it." (p. 13)
"Has [Christ] taken over your heart? Perhaps he resides there, but does He preside there?" (p. 16)
"The preacher who will not preach his heart out before a few people would be no good before a multitude." (p. 22)
"Jesus did not ask Peter, 'Lovest thou feeding sheep?' or 'Lovest thou sheep?' but 'Lovest thou me?' " (p. 23)
"Thomas Aquinas was being shown the glories of the Vatican. 'No longer does the church say, "Silver and gold have I none," ' said the Pope. 'Neither can she say, "Rise up and walk," ' replied Aquinas." (p. 34)
"We commemorate Wesley and Finney and Moody, but, alas, we do not duplicate." (p. 41)
"It is better to wake up five hundred Christians than to convert five hundred sinners, for if five hundred Christians really wake up, they will win more than five hundred sinners." (p. 51)
"Of course, there is a false and Pharisaic separation that renounces things but never self. A church full of such people would be remarkable: they would go to church, read the Bible, pray in public, give a tithe, be strict in conduct--and go to hell. Such separatists make much of not dancing, smoking, or going to the theater, but know nothing of real spirituality." (p. 53)
"Much is said about visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction--and well we may--but there is strange silence about keeping ourselves unspotted of the world." (p. 54)
"The early believers were not looking for something to happen, they were looking for Someone to come." (p. 56)
"There is no evidence that the church has had any influence on Hollywood, but there is plenty to prove that Hollywood has influenced the church." (p. 60; written in 1952--what would Havner say today!)
"While millions have never heard the Gospel and while multitudes even in our own land are pagans, with no knowledge of the Truth, we have the strange spectacle of thousands of Christians who have heard so much and read so much that they have reached the saturation point. Stuffed with Bible knowledge, they have become spiritual dyspeptics, rich and increased with goods and having need of nothing . . . . We sit like spiritual connoisseurs, glorified critics, inwardly sizing up what we hear, putting the truth into mental cubbyholes" (p. 62)
"Josh Billings used to say, 'I'd rather know a few things fer certain than be sure of a lot of things that ain't so.' " (p. 66)
"Dr. Torrey used to give as the first step toward a revival: 'Let a few members of any church get thoroughly right with God.' " (p. 82)
"For some years before the bottom fell out of civilization we heard much about the inevitability of progress. The evolutionists with all their kith and kin assured us that man was as sure to move forward as the sparks fly upward. We have not heard much of that lately. The only inevitability now mentioned is that of world destruction, at least the possibility of the extermination of the human race." (p. 85)
"Little did proud Rome know, little did cultured Greece imagine, little did religious Israel suspect, little did poor Nazareth dream, that in that little village, working at a carpenter's bench, was the Son of God and Son of man. Even a worthy Israelite asked, 'Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?' Indeed, all that is good came out of Nazareth, for in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (p. 87)
"But there are no unforeseen emergencies with God." (p. 88)
"Amid all the wreckage of civilization today one thing stands eternally certain: the purpose of God will prevail." (p. 91)
"Not only is the earth a wreck, but civilization is a ruin. Civilization is not going to the dogs, it is headed for the vultures." (p. 96)
"No influence on earth has contributed more to the paganization of America than our Godless schools." (p. 127; written in 1952 before prayer and Scripture were banned by the Supreme Court)
"The day is long gone when the movie was mere entertainment. Today it is a cult. The actors and actresses are actually called 'idols,' the theater is the church, the screen in the altar, the onlookers are the worshipers. It is idolatry in a vile and potent form." (p. 128)
"Yet Christians do dig their graves with their teeth, and McCheyne claimed that the devil could defeat a preacher by making him a lover of good eating." (pp. 130-1)
"Men love everything but righteousness and fear everything but God." (p. 134)
"Some of the saints are as straight as a gun barrel doctrinally and just as empty spiritually." (p. 136)
"We have lost our sensitiveness to sin." (p. 137)
". . . until we definitely trust Christ we have definitely rejected Him." (p. 143)
In the June, 1999 issue of "As I See It," we reviewed Wilbur M. Smith's biography of radio evangelist Charles E. Fuller, and indicated that we were unaware of any more recent biography of Fuller. A reader in Pennsylvania called our attention to Daniel P. Fuller's 1972 biography of his father, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: The Story of Charles E. Fuller (Waco, Tex.: Word). In retrospect, I had previously heard of this volume--that fact somehow got "misplaced" in my long-term memory files--but I have not yet seen or read it.