Symbols, not Riddles: A Review of William Hendriksen’s “More Than Conquerors”

more than conquerors

The son of Dutch immigrant parents, William Hendriksen (1900-1982) obtained his BA at Calvin College and went on to earn a doctorate from Princeton Seminary. In the early 1940’s, he was appointed Professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, where he served for nine years before returning to full-time pastoral work. He is remembered both for his scholarly commentaries as well as for his 1939 book, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation.

In the 75th anniversary commemorative edition of More Than Conquerors, the included biographical tribute shares with readers that Hendriksen was a disciplined and prolific writer who could read in twenty(!) different languages and worked on his biblical commentaries even into his final years (p.8).

Written as the escalating rumbles of violence and warfare echoed ominously throughout Europe and the rest of the world, More Than Conquerors gives readers a clearly-written exploration of Revelation that seeks to show why Christians of John’s day found this apocalyptic work full of hope and comfort, rather than fear and confusion. Hendriksen explains:

The theme is the victory of Christ and of His Church over the dragon (Satan) and his helpers. The Apocalypse is meant to show us that things are not what they seem… Throughout the prophecies of this wonderful book Christ is pictured as the Victor, the Conqueror… He conquers death, Hades, the dragon, the beast, the false prophet, and the men who worship the beast. He is victorious; as a result, so are we, even when we seem to be hopelessly defeated. (pp.14-15)

Continue reading

Advertisements

There is Nothing Outside the Text: James K.A. Smith’s treatment of Derrida in “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?”

whos afraid of postmodernismPinning down the essence of postmodernism as a philosophical movement can be an intimidating task. Engaging with it fruitfully from the standpoint of Christian thought can be even harder to pull off. James K.A. Smith, a professor of philosophy at Calvin College, admits an awareness of these difficulties in the opening pages of his 2003 book Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church, which grew out of a set of lectures he gave at the L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland.

Smith differentiates “philosophical postmodernism” from “postmodernity” as a cultural condition, arguing that in order to creatively engage with the latter, Christians must first acquire a good understanding of the former. Why? As Francis Schaeffer wrote, “Ideas have legs.” Smith expands on this phrase, telling readers that, “Schaeffer offers what we might call a trickle-down theory of philosophical influence: cultural phenomena tend to eventually reflect philosophical movements” (p.20).

Of course, Christians have responded to postmodern philosophy with varying levels of hostility and enthusiasm. As Smith puts it, “To some, postmodernity is the bane of the Christian faith, the new enemy taking over the role of secular humanism… Others see postmodernism as a fresh wind of the Spirit sent to revitalize the dry bones of the church” (p.18). Continue reading