Williams on Van De Walle, 'The Heart of the Gospel: A. B. Simpson, the Fourfold Gospel, and Late Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Theology'

Author: 
Bernie A. Van De Walle
Reviewer: 
Roy Williams

Bernie A. Van De Walle. The Heart of the Gospel: A. B. Simpson, the Fourfold Gospel, and Late Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Theology. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2009. xvi + 210 pp. $25.00 (paper), ISBN 978-1-55635-940-8.

Reviewed by Roy Williams (North Hills Classical Academy) Published on H-Pentecostalism (January, 2010) Commissioned by Gene Mills

A. B. Simpson's Fourfold Gospel

The shadows of more luminous figures in late nineteenth-century church history often obscure A. B. Simpson. Consequently, only a few scholars have explored his life, work, and thought. Simpson's organizational and theological contributions to missions, publishing, and education as well as his participation in the holiness, Pentecostal, and evangelical movements warrant greater attention.

Bernie Van De Walle, associate professor of theology at Ambrose University College and Seminary in Calgary, Alberta, adds to our knowledge of Simpson and the late nineteenth-century holiness and evangelical movement through his monograph The Heart of the Gospel: A. B. Simpson, the Fourfold Gospel, and Late Nineteenth-century Evangelical Theology. Simultaneously, Van De Walle's study adds to our knowledge of someone whose life, work, and ideas at least indirectly and inadvertently contributed to the trajectory that would give way to the Pentecostal movement.

Van De Walle analyzes the central theme in Simpson’s preaching and writing, Jesus Christ: Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King, the “fourfold gospel.” Van De Walle examines Simpson’s understanding of each point of the fourfold gospel. He identifies the influences that shaped Simpson’s thinking on each point, and summarizes Simpson’s proclamation of it. He also shows that Simpson was not alone in emphasizing the fourfold gospel. Although A. J. Gordon, D. L. Moody, and A. T. Pierson did not use the expression “fourfold gospel,” they, like Simpson, emphasized the theme of Jesus Christ: Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. Van De Walle compares Simpson’s treatment of each point of the fourfold gospel to Gordon, Moody, and Pierson’s treatment. Although Simpson, Gordon, Moody, and Pierson differed in some details, they were united in emphasizing Jesus Christ’s work as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. Together, according to Van De Walle, the four men shaped late nineteenth-century evangelical theology.

According to Van De Walle, the fourfold gospel was the standard for late nineteenth-century evangelical theology. Those who disagreed with the fourfold gospel stood outside the evangelical community. Thus, only a small subculture within what historians generally classify as the evangelical movement was truly evangelical. Specifically, for example, Benjamin Warfield, who criticized Simpson’s theology, and indirectly Gordon, Moody, and Pierson’s theology, “placed himself and the Princeton Theology beyond the borders of turn-of-the-century evangelical theology” (p. 196).

Van De Walle’s argument is not persuasive. He demonstrates that Simpson was a leading figure in the late nineteenth-century evangelical movement, and that his fourfold gospel resonated with themes prominent in the theology of other well-known figures in the late nineteenth-century evangelical movement. However, Van De Walle does not give sufficient attention to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century criticism of Simpson, Gordon, Moody, and Pierson’s emphasis on the fourfold gospel and their interpretation of it. If Van De Walle is to demonstrate that the fourfold gospel is the paradigm for interpreting late nineteenth-century evangelical theology he has to thoroughly analyze this criticism and the quartet’s response to it.

Although Van De Walle’s argument is unconvincing, his work is valuable. He shines additional light on a worthy subject, an industrious figure who spurred Christians to preach the gospel in the United States and around the world. Anyone interested in Simpson, the late nineteenth-century holiness and evangelical movements, or the pre-history of the Pentecostal movement will find Van De Walle’s work useful.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=24038

Citation: Roy Williams. Review of Van De Walle, Bernie A., The Heart of the Gospel: A. B. Simpson, the Fourfold Gospel, and Late Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Theology. H-Pentecostalism, H-Net Reviews. January, 2010. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24038

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