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Volume 7, Issue 6: Ex Libris


Signs of the Apostles
Walter Chantry
Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1973
Reviewed by Douglas Wilson

Walter Chantry has given us a good basic book for understanding the issues surrounding the charismatic gifts, and the claims of the charismatic movement.

For example, many make the assumption that those who believe that the remarkable "sign gifts" have ceased also believe that God no longer answers prayer, or that He no longer intervenes wonderfully in the affairs of men. But Chantry shows how false this assumption is. "[T]here is no biblical reason to limit God to performing miracles to certain seasons only. No doubt God is yet executing unusual feats of power . . . . Whatever way we choose to describe the fact, it is plain that God's working of wonders cannot be limited to ages past." Chantry goes on to show that the real issue is whether the power of God to work miracles today has been invested in men , as it was during the time of the apostles. Of course God has not lost any of His power or any of His sovereignty in which He moves. The issue is not whether God is God, but rather whether the apostles were apostles .
Chantry also goes to the heart of the debate over charismatic gifts, which is the integrity and sufficiency of Scripture. "I know that some pentecostal leaders would heartily deny that contemporary revelations are infallible truth to be equated with Scripture in their authority, but it is the essential impression necesssarily conveyed by any claim to the 'gifts.'" Nevertheless, any claim to revelation necessarily challenges the unique position of Scripture. It is this which makes the charismatic movement a doctrinal threat to classical Christian orthodoxy.
Signs of the Apostles is well worth reading, especially for any who have doubts about the cessationist position.

The Final Word
O. Palmer Robertson
Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1993

Reviewed by Nathan Wilson

The Final Word is a good critique of the view that tongues and prophecy are around today. Robertson here puts forth all the traditional, biblical, arguments against tongues, and does a good job of keeping it clear and concise. On the other hand, his writing is not at all exciting. He assumes his readers will already have an interest in the subject; so he makes no effort to liven things up a bit. The book is both true and necessary but many leagues away from being a pageturner.

Nevertheless, it is a good book. If you are a charismatic, read it (just don't plan on staying up all night). If you know a charismatic, get them to read it. Tell them it builds character. If you are no relation, neighbor, friend, team-mate, employee, employer of any charismatics, do not read it. The Final Word is like a Kleenex. It's dry and scratchy but very useful to those with colds.

Lights! Camera! Blasphemy!
Eric Holmberg
Cantonment, FL: Reel to Real, 1995

Reviewed by Douglas Wilson

This video is the fifth and last video in a collection called the "Hollywood Collection." Given the canons of teaching through video, the presentation is well-made, and professionally done. Of course, it is also limited in what it can do or say by the very nature of the medium but in spite of those constraints, a number of sound and important issues are clarified.

For example, the video outlines the history of the relationship between Hollywood and Christianity, showing how Hollywood's earlier respect for things spiritual (which is not the same thing as understanding the gospel) has now deteriorated into an all-out assault on the faith. Earlier movies of the life of Christ were playing around with violating the Second Commandment, but at least they were respectful. But now movies have come to the point where idols are made of Him for purposes of taunting and ridicule.
The fact that numerous Christians need to get and digest this material is quite true; it is also quite an indictment of the condition of the modern church. Although the information presented here is basic, Christian parents who let their kids listen to "Nine Inch Nails" need that basic information. Holmberg, and those who are working with him, are providing a valuable service. Many Credenda readers may have frequently found themselves in the position of wanting something to give Christian friends who are spiritually trapped by their VCR. They should get a copy of this video to put in it.

State of the Arts
Gene Veith
Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991

Reviewed by Douglas Wilson

Gene Veith is a solid and edifying writer. His contributions are consistently good, and State of the Arts is no exception.

The work is divided into three sectionsthe first being an introduction to the whole idea of art in the first place. What is it? What are we talking about? And, as a brief glance at the modern art world quickly demonstrates, we must also ask, how did we get into this mess? Not surprisingly, many of our problems in the art world stem from problems in the Christian world. As Veith puts it, "Many Christian bookstores stockand sellmore kitsch than books." While so much is obviousor at least obvious to any Christian bookstore patron who has had a run-in with "Footprints" Veith goes on to make application in insightful ways. "In evaluating religious art, we must keep in mind the solemn warnings of the Ten Commandments, not only the admonition against graven images, but also the admonition against taking the Lord's name in vain."
The second major section of the book discusses the biblical foundations of art. One of the most helpful portions of the book is Veith's discussion of Bezalel, the artist upon whom the Spirit moved in the construction of the Tabernacle. Nothing is clearer than the fact that Scripture contains the only possible basis for a high view of art and the sub-creativity of man. Part of the reason Scripture protects art is that it hedges the artist away from certain temptations which will devour himand devour his art as well. It is the Word which protects, and not our common sense. As Veith points out, the oxen which held the laver in which the priests of the Temple washed and the golden calf must have looked a lot alike.
In the third section of the book, Veith competently discusses certain contemporary Christian artists and their work. He concludes with a helpful discussion of art in the church art that has potential both for edification and idolatry.
The value of this book is Veith's insistence upon a biblical foundation for art. The modern Christian world produces so little fine art precisely because this foundation has long been neglected. This leaves us with manufacturers of KitschbytheTon on the one hand, and anguished and lonely melancholics parading as misunderstood and wrongly excluded "artists" on the other. Neither of the two understand the biblical foundations of art, and both are consequently enemies of art.
The implication of this book is that a return to classical Protestantism is the only real hope for a return to art. The modern Christian world has lost its soul because the modern Christian world has muffled the message of the Word. When the Word is heard again, clearly and pointedly, we should not be surprised to find again in our midst men like Bach, or Durer, or Rembrandt, or Spenser, or Bunyan. Until then, we must content ourselves with "Footprints" on coffee mugs.

Prophecy: A Gift for Today?
Graham Houston
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989

Reviewed by S. Stephen Thomas

Has all prophecy ceased with the closing of the biblical canon? "No" according to the pastor of Letham St. Mark's Church (Church of Scotland). Asserting the Scriptures contain two types of prophecy differing not in degree, but in kind, he posits a form of prophecy which " . . .may take the form of inspired speech which makes no claims to be a communication of the very words of God, and which involves speaking under the influence of the Spirit" (p. 57).

In preparation for this book, Houston carried out a survey of evangelical church leaders in Scotland. Most were from the Church of Scotland which is Presbyterian and Reformed. "Is prophecy a spiritual gift which God no longer gives to his church?" "No" was the response of seventy-four percent. This belief of prophetic continuity could well be due to the influence of the First and Second Books of Discipline, a staple of the theological diet in those parts, which use the words "prophet" or "prophecy" to denote sanctified wisdom in handling the existing, revealed Text. The Scottish church certainly did not believe in an open canon or continuing direct revelation. There was no reference made to these works in Houston's books however although he appeals to Tertullian, Aquinas, and Calvin as providing (weak) historical support for his view which he calls "New Testament prophecy."
But Houston is promoting a Spirit-induced, yet fallible message. This is akin to charismatics who are, thank God, inconsistent in their understanding of the nature of revelation. Desiring to preserve the unique place of Scripture, they must account for other "Words from the Lord." Citing Agabus' prophecy in Acts 21:10-14 (wrongly) as an example of false prophecy uncensured, he maintains there is "prophetic activity in which the message of prophets is subject to scrutiny and may contain elements which are not absolutely accurate " (p. 62, emphasis mine). It is curious indeed when a major wing of the Christian faith thrives because civil governments are fat with rebellion and remiss in their duty to execute false prophets (Dt. 13 & 18:20-22).
To his credit, he denounces real false prophets but is merely uncomfortable with "prophesying" in the first person, as though hearing directly from God. He opposes those who "believe themselves to be experiencing a restored gift of prophecy in the primary sense, proclaiming insights with a claim to absolute verbal authority. . ." (p. 173). He still retains honor for the uniqueness of Holy Writ, yet is unwittingly doing his part to threaten the doctrine of sola Scriptura.
"One of the greatest dangers we as evangelical people face is to exchange our biblical inheritance for a mess of 'prophetic' pottage!" Well said, Mr. Houston.

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