Vital Theological Issues: Examining Enduring Issues of Theology. Roy B. Zuck, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1994. 232 pp. Paper, $12.99.
This is the fourth volume in Kregel’s Vital Issues Series. Eighteen articles centered around crucial theological concerns are assembled from Bibliotheca Sacra, the journal published by Dallas Theological Seminary. The articles span a wide range of dates (the 1930s, when Dallas took over BibSac to the present) and subjects. Topics include such matters as miracles, the sovereignty of God, inerrancy, hermeneutics, dispensationalism, and premillennialism. The style is scholarly, yet quite “user-friendly” for the layperson.
Some articles follow typical Calvinistic orientations, such as “Prayer and the Sovereignty of God,” “Is Foreknowledge Equivalent to Foreordination?” and “The Role of the Holy Spirit in Conversion.” Others do not: “The Significance of Pentecost,” “For Whom Did Christ die?” and “The Purpose of the Law.” In “The Role of the Holy Spirit in Conversion” the author stresses the Calvinistic doctrine of inability. Unbelievers are said to be able to “comprehend divine revelation” and to “articulate the terms of the gospel.” Yet, they are unable to believe divine truth. It is natural to ask, “How are unbelievers capable of “comprehending” truth but incapable of believing it?” Further, how is it that nonChristians are unable to accept truth by faith but are still held accountable for unbelief? Are people condemned for something they are unable (not just unwilling) to do? Such questions are not addressed.
Since some of the articles were written several years ago, inadequacies may arise. A few comments are outdated (e.g., postmillennialism “has almost vanished”). Occasionally, current evangelical debate is not clearly addressed. In the article, “Untold Billions: Are They Really Lost?” there are no resources cited since 1980, despite the flare-up of this issue among evangelicals in recent years.
Yet all the articles, including the one just mentioned, are relevant to current trends, and some “voices from the past” (to use a JOTGES phrase) seem uncanny in this regard. In “The Present Work of Christ in Hebrews,” the author disavows that Hebrews places any emphasis on Christ’s present rulership over the world, despite the many commentators who suggest it. This comment is pertinent to recent discussions between classic and so-called progressive dispensationalism.
Those with theological interests should not pass up the opportunity to read two classic articles by Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Seminary, and one by Alva J. McClain, founder of Grace Theological Seminary. In his article on the mediatorial kingdom, McClain argues quite reasonably that in Acts a valid offer of the kingdom was presented to Israel and that this fact demands that the book be interpreted according to its transitional nature.
Nearly half of these 18 articles touch on issues pertaining to the doctrines of salvation and sanctification. Of vital interest to the subject of salvation are “Has Lordship Salvation Been Taught Throughout Church History?” by Tom Lewellen and “The Terms of Salvation” by Chafer. The latter was also the first “Voice from the Past” published by the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society in the autumn of 1988. I cannot avoid expressing a personal note about the renewed joy I experienced in reading again Dr. Chafer’s description of the freeness of eternal life.
John. F. Hart
Professor of Bible
Moody Bible Institute