Paul: An Outline of His Theology
by Herman Ridderbos
Translated by John Richard De Witt;
Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 587 pp. $i2.95hb.
This is one of the most significant productions of reformed – evangelical scholarship in the seventies. It deals with the main lines of Pauline interpretation since lS50, with the basic structure of Paul's thought, and – in ten long chapters – with the foremost themes of Paul’s letters. Three of these themes are especially noteworthy with reference to current theological debate. In the first place, Ridderbos shows that there is no tension between creation and redemption in Paul, that redemption in effect is the restoration of creation. Secondly, Ridderbos shows that in Paul there is no dualistic notion of man, no dichotomy between soul and body. Finally, Ridderbos beautifully describes how the church is not in the first place an institution or an organization, but is the new mankind redeemed in Jesus Christ.
I believe that the creation theme should have received more attention. Ridderbos mentions, but does not fully develop, the Pauline presupposition of the goodness of God’s creation as the setting of both sin and redemption. Perhaps this neglect is a consequence of Ridderbos’s hermeneutic - the "redemptive-historical” approach - which, in my view, though it begins with the center of the Cross-Resurrection-Ascension, neglects the alpha of creation because of its concern for the eschatological omega. If there is anything which christian theology needs today, it is a recovery of the doctrine of creation and its implications: the creation as the theatre of God’s glory, the creation of the manifold works of God, the creation with its many tasks and assignments for man’s cultural engagement, the creation where men and women - redeemed in Christ – are called to meaningful service, the creation where the New Jerusalem will be found. Without an anchor in creation, Christian life and thought fall into asceticism, passivism, or gnostic utopias.
Ridderbos is far too sane for this. But he could have given the grounds for his “sanity" more fully, I think, if he had explained the continuity between his first great book, The Coming of the Kingdom, and his last. My few critical comments should not be taken too seriously, since this is simply an outstanding book, which no theologian or preacher can afford to neglect and from which many of us who are not theologians can benefit immensely.
Vanguard April 1976 p. 26.