How do we harmonize the findings of science with the revelation of Scripture? Were there errors in the original manuscripts of the Bible? What of those who willfully bend a verse to say whatever they want? Blocher, who is former president of the European Fellowship of Evangelical Theologians, provides a persuasive primer on apologetics.
Hendrickson have sent a copy for review.
This small volume can easily be read in an afternoon and read straight through at that. Engaging and informative, it seeks to guide readers into the basics of apologetics; a task which the author is not ashamed of nor afraid of.
Those familiar with Barth’s view of apologetics will realize right up front that for Barthians such an art is outside the boundaries of good taste. And yet it is, I think, precisely the Barthians and those uncomfortable with the apologetic enterprise who may benefit most from a reading of this volume.
Blocher’s writing is homey and familial and it warmly invites readers to view things from his perspective. Here, he begins with a discussion of the relationship between faith and reason. Next, he brings Scripture into the fray and offers some quite helpful remarks concerning its usefulness in discussions with those of a ‘rationalistic’ bent. He even offers some advice concerning when to call it quits in terms of dialogue with skeptics!
The meat of the book, past these introductory and foundational topics, is a discussion of various objections to the Christian perspective: against those who suggest that the Bible can be made to say anything; against those who see a conflict between faith and science; and against those who deny the miraculous.
Each of these discussions is quite intriguing and whether or not one agrees with either his method or his conclusions, one has to admit that Blocher knows how to make his case.
Blocher’s little work will not appease those who are looking to find fault with Christianity and it won’t convince skeptics to abandon their skepticism and embrace the Christian faith. But it will give Christians a bit of an intellectual footing in discussions with skeptics without hostility or rage and I suppose that, given the acrimonious debates so common in our day about everything under the sun, that’s quite an achievement.
For a fuller discussion of the relationship to faith and reason, allow me to recommend, as a sort of follow up volume to Blocher’s book, Emil Brunner’s quite industrious ‘Revelation and Reason‘. Beginning with Blocher and moving towards Brunner, those interested in the apologetic enterprise will be well armed and effectively equipped to engage the doubting world.
No one does this kind of work like Rudolf Smend. He is, hands down, bar none, the BEST biographer of Old Testament theologians who has yet lived. Truly, no one knows more about OT scholars than he does.
Die Hebräische Bibel der Juden, das Alte Testament der Christen ist seit dem Beinn der Neuzeit Gegenstand vielfältiger historisch-kritischer Bemühung gewesen, an der sich eine große Zahl bedeutender Gelehrter aus verschiedenen Nationen und Konfessionen beteiligt hat.
Das Buch von Rudolf Smend, Ergebnis jahrzehntelanger Forschung, führt 54 von ihnen vor, darunter J. Buxtorf, B. Spinoza, J. Astruc, R Lowth, J. D. Michaelis, J. G. Herder, E. W. Hengstenberg, A. Kuenen, J. Wellhausen, B. Duhm, R. Kittel, H. Gunkel, M. Buber, A. Alt, W. Vischer, G. v. Rad, M. Noth, I. L. Seeligmann, W. Zimmerli, H. W. Wolff.
Rudolf Smend ist der Meinung, dass jeder von ihnen zu seinem Teil, auf seine Weise und natürlich auch in seinen Grenzen das Ganze dieser Wissenschaft repräsentiert und dass sich von jedem noch heute etwas lernen lässt. Besonderer Wert wird darauf gelegt, sie auch mit ihren eigenen Worten zu charakterisieren. In der Begegnung mit ihnen begegnet man auch dem großen Gegenstand, dem sie alle gedient haben.
V&R have sent a review copy via their distributor here in North America, ISD. After the several months it took to work through it I’d like to offer the following observations about it:
Along with most of the most important Old Testament scholars, Smend also introduces us to some of the less familiar like Bleek, Kamphausen, Guthe, Meinhold, and Veijola. He includes, as he has in most of his previous works in the genre, a portrait of almost every scholar as well. Quotations from each abound and biographical details are naturally interspersed voluminously in the discussion of each. Smend also indicated their chief theological and historical contributions and supplements every detail with rich bibliographic entries.
In short, readers are offered here a biographical encyclopedia of biblical scholars. The order is chronological (the most remote from our day in time appear first and the nearest to us chronologically appears last).
The more interesting entries concern Delitzsch, Alt, Budde, Rudolf Smend (the elder; the author would never include himself in such a volume merely because he is far too humble although by rights he belongs among the luminaries), whom he notes he does not remember, though he does his grandmother, R. Kittel (whom I personally find one of the most fascinating of persons), Baugmartner, and the greatest of all the greats, von Rad. Smend remarks, so very correctly of him, that no one in the field of Old Testament studies has contributed more broadly or deeply.
The consequences of reading this volume are twofold- first, readers will fall in love, again, with the giants upon whose shoulders every Old Testament student stands today, even if they are not familiar with their names; and second, readers will be compelled to re-examine books long dust covered and yet filled with undiscovered and unremembered riches.
In a day when Biblical Studies seems stuck in the mud with little real forward progress, returning to our roots to rediscover where we have come from is the first step in moving forward. Knowing our past helps us to realize that so many of the ideas we think are novel or groundbreaking are actually old hat and only seem new to us because we are deeply and profoundly ignorant of the work of those who have come before us.
The chief problem with many Old Testament scholars today is that they actually believe they’ve come up with some new ideas. The truth is, what they think is new was discussed ages ago, and better, by our betters. Smend’s work, then, is a cure to pride and a signpost pointing the way forward.
The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gain of oppression, Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil: He will dwell on high; His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; Bread will be given him, His water will be sure. (Isa. 33:14-16)
One of the Baptists, Rudolph Thomann of Zollicon, examined by the Council of Zurich on February 7, 1525, thus described the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as observed in the Zollicon gatherings:
“He had eaten the Lord’s Supper with the old assistant (Brötli?), and him from Witikon (Röubli), and had invited them into his house.… There many had assembled so that the apartment was full; there was much speaking and long readings. Then stood up Hans Bruggbach of Zumicon, weeping and crying out that he was a great sinner and asking all present to pray God for him. Whereupon Blaurock asked him if he desired the grace of God and he said ‘Yes.’ Manz then arose and said, ‘Who will hinder me from baptising him?’ Blaurock answered, ‘No one.’ So Manz took a dipper of water and baptised him in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Jacob Hottinger arose and desired baptism; and Felix Manz baptised him also.… Seeing the loaf on the table, Blaurock said: ‘Whoever believes that God has redeemed him with His death and rosy-coloured blood, comes and eats with me from this loaf and drinks with me from this wine.’ Then each one present ate and drank as invited.”
Weekly debates with the Baptists were held in Zurich during March and one especially on March 20, 1525. But they only widened the breach, and the punishment of banishment which the Council inflicted for rebaptism did not lessen the numbers of the Baptists. Yet from the Council’s point of view the punishment was defensible as the Baptists were enemies of the standing order.
Among those openly to adhere to the Baptists was the famous theologian Balthasar Hubmaier. He quickly became their leading man, and it was with him that Zwingli was engaged in hot debate—all the more painful because Hubmaier had been a bosom friend.
The fight was now on and it was bitterly waged. But no space can be given to it. Both sides went over the now well-worn arguments and were as far apart as ever. The action of the Zurich authorities was determined by practical considerations. They could not tolerate a body of schismatics who denounced Zwingli and themselves. If there were to be any abuse let Zwingli and them have it all to themselves.
The conflict got ugly. Very ugly, very fast. It is, however, my view that had the rebaptizers simply allowed Zwingli his measured pace and careful reformational development he would have come to the same conclusion as they. But pushing him into a corner was the mistake they made.
1519 kam Huldrych Zwingli nach Zürich und begann, eine neue Auslegung der Bibel zu verkünden. Er teilte die Ansicht Martin Luthers, dass alles, was nicht der Originalfassung der Heiligen Schrift entspräche, aus dem religiösen Leben verbannt werden sollte: Er liess Heiligenbilder, Kirchengesang und das Fastengebot aus den Kirchen entfernen und sprach sich gegen die Verehrung von Reliquien, das Zölibat und die Eucharistie (Abendmahl) aus. Zudem beseitigte er den Ablasshandel und das Söldnertum.
Die neue Regeln legten gleichzeitig den Grundstein für die reiche Schweiz, wie wir sie heute kennen. Zwingli propagierte eine neue Arbeitsethik – Fleiss, Disziplin, Sparsamkeit und Genügsamkeit – und führte das Sozialwesen ein, das sich auch um die Ärmsten und Randständigen kümmerte. Und während erste Fabriken, internationaler Handel und neues Gewerbe ausschliesslich in den protestantischen Gebieten entstanden, blieben die katholischen Kantone weiterhin geprägt durch ärmliche Bauernhöfe, die ihr spärliches Einkommen den umso prunkvolleren katholischen Kirchen abgeben mussten.
Heute laden Kirchen und Denkmäler dazu ein, Zürich auf den Spuren des Christentums und der Reformation zu erkunden. Auf einer der geführten Rundgänge durch die Zürcher Altstadt können Interessierte mehr über die Rolle der Frauen während der Reformation, Zwinglis Nachfolger Heinrich Bullinger oder die Geschichte der Reformation im Allgemeinen erfahren.
On January 21st, 1525 the Council forbade the private meetings of the Baptists and banished the foreigners among their members.
Up to this time the Baptists merely protested against infant baptism, but had not ventured upon baptising adults who had already been baptised in unconscious infancy. Now, in the village of Zollicon, on the north shore of the Lake, and six miles from the city, whither persecution drove them, they proceeded for the first time to take the logical step.
Conrad Grebel seems to have been the leader in this. He rightfully argued from their accepted premise: baptism should follow a confession of faith, that only those who understood what the rite meant should be baptised; and baptised the former monk George Blaurock, who, in turn, baptised fifteen others. This baptism was by pouring, not by immersion. The idea found quick acceptance and soon all their adherents were baptised. They all agreed that the “baptism” they had received in infancy was invalid. Yet because the entire Christian Church in all centuries up to that time, and with the exception of Baptists ever since, has proclaimed that infant baptism was valid the party got the name of Anabaptists, i. e., those who baptise again those previously baptised. One of the Baptists, Rudolph Thomann of Zollicon, examined by the Council of Zurich on February 7, 1525, thus described the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as observed in the Zollicon gatherings:
“He had eaten the Lord’s Supper with the old assistant (Brötli?), and him from Witikon (Röubli), and had invited them into his house.… There many had assembled so that the apartment was full; there was much speaking and long readings. Then stood up Hans Bruggbach of Zumicon, weeping and crying out that he was a great sinner and asking all present to pray God for him. Whereupon Blaurock asked him if he desired the grace of God and he said ‘Yes.’ Manz then arose and said, ‘Who will hinder me from baptising him?’ Blaurock answered, ‘No one.’ So Manz took a dipper of water and baptised him in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Jacob Hottinger arose and desired baptism; and Felix Manz baptised him also.… Seeing the loaf on the table, Blaurock said: ‘Whoever believes that God has redeemed him with His death and rosy-coloured blood, comes and eats with me from this loaf and drinks with me from this wine.’ Then each one present ate and drank as invited.”*
*Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (Heroes of the Reformation; New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 244–246.