If the Christmas mail was once a Christian post, it is now overwhelmingly post-Christian. The saint who replaced the Saviour in our greetings is a secular Santa, a nylon-bearded imposter in whose lap we place our children that they may be taught to pray selfishly. Of course our adult Santa-cult moves on a higher plane. We have the sticky Santa-mentality which appears in this litany from a would-be popular song: “May Santa fill our hearts this Christmas with love for ev’ryone ev’rywhere.…”
Such gush almost invites the off-beat and off-color cards that will make a beatnik out of Saintnik, with bongo drums under his beard.
Other cards in the best of taste also avoid any Christian sentiments. A series designed by international artists for UNICEF cautiously restricts its greetings to “Happy New Year” in the five languages of UN. Purchasers who want to say “Merry Christmas” may have this personal message imprinted for an extra charge.
One set of designs links Christmas Eve in Canada with the Devali feast in India; international understanding finds a “Time of Joy” in every culture. After looking up the Devali lamp festival, I must admit it has features that could be much admired here. There is spectacle in scores of lamps floating down the rivers. A forthright ceremony known as Sharada puja might be even more popular. Since the feast honors Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, this ceremony centers on the businessman’s account-book, which is put on a stool, given various marks and sacred inscriptions, then topped with a rupee while a lamp is waved before it. The closing incantation is to secure a thousand profits in the coming year.
This sort of thing might close out the Santa season beautifully. It could be adapted, I suppose to IBM machines. Soon Krishna cards, with lucky rupees, could join the season’s greetings.
It is about time for Christians to contribute to world understanding a reason for the hope that is in them. Our age has got past Christianity without ever meeting Christ. It has accepted the Hindu doctrine that all religions are paths to the same goal without hearing the Word of God that there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. It is too late for the vague benevolence of Christmas. It is time for the greeting of the Gospel, in the name of Jesus Christ.
I am particularly interested in Dr. Elson’s criticism of Protestant methods in public expression (Oct. 26 issue). I think it is a timely word, even if long overdue. However … how can there be a Protestant witness when any expression has to surmount the hazard of sectarian walls? Roman Catholicism is heard and listened to because it speaks from the ramparts of a united church.
H. LINCOLN MACKENZIE
Cardigan, Prince Edward Island
In terms of what approach Christians may use responsibly, I find that his pastoral solicitude first and issues second has only succeeded in separating private from public morality.
W. THOMAS APPLEBEE
Community Congregational Church
Clear-speaking article.… [Dr. Elson] voices what a number of us have been feeling. It is time that Protestantism changed from a negative approach to a positive one, to one of protesting for those things in which we believe. I hope and pray that his article will do much good in helping to crystalize opinion in favor of a more positive approach to national problems by Protestants.
GALEN E. RUSSELL
Mont Clare Congregational Church
THE TRUE CATHOLICS
Your October 26 issue was especially enjoyable, expressing so many of my convictions.…
I disagree radically with many of the ideas put forth in CHRISTIANITY TODAY. On the other hand, I am happy that there is such a paper as yours, endeavouring to get Protestants to think and to consider the fundamental teachings of Christ. There has been too much prejudice on the part of “fundamentalists” and too much wishful and sloppy thinking on the part of the so-called “liberals.” Such a periodical as you represent ought to pave the way for a more dynamic and effective Christianity in these United States.
Professor Geoffrey W. Bromiley in his article “Who Are the True Catholics?” refers to the old Anglican Bishop Jewel and his refutation of Roman heresy on the basis of the “old fathers … many doctors … many examples of the Primitive Church,” Holy Scripture and the Councils. This is somewhat typical of Hooker and the famous Carolingian Divines of the Church of England. It is certainly typical of the Orthodox Church’s thinking. As the various Protestant, Anglican, Roman and Orthodox scholars (clerical and lay) study carefully and reverently the writings of the Fathers of the Early Church together with the “many examples of the primitive Church” and the Holy Scriptures, laying aside local customs and petty prejudices, the Holy Spirit will grant to them the precious gift of unity. There must be a serious and reverent return to the “ancient landmarks” before real progress can be made, in my opinion.
May God bless you all as you strive for holiness and righteousness and the application of God’s truth to every situation.
St. George Orthodox Church
Terre Haute, Ind.
May I commend the article by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. At this time when Roman Catholicism, according to its statistics, is growing so rapidly and so many Protestant leaders consider it simply as another Christian church—a bit conservative and liturgical, perhaps, but one of the branches of the Vine, it is good to read an article like that. The Reformers had a clear vision of what they had come out of.…
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen is quoted … as saying, “The hardest thing to find in the world today is an argument. Because so few are thinking, naturally there are few to argue.… Never before, perhaps, in the whole history of Christianity has [the Catholic Church] been so intellectually impoverished for want of good, sound, intellectual opposition as she is at the present time. Today there are no foemen worthy of her steel. And if the church today is not producing great chunks of thought, or what might be called ‘thinkage,’ it is because she has not been challenged to do so.… The church loves controversy, and loves it for two reasons: because intellectual conflict is informing, and because she is madly in love with rationalism. The great structure of the church has been built up through controversy.”
Is not this a challenge from the Roman Catholic Church for Protestants to challenge her? Should not the spiritual sons of the Reformation be as courageous as was Jewel. Or have we lost the conviction of our spiritual forefathers?
HENRY F. BROWN
NORTH OF THE BORDER
Your editorial, “Canadian View,” (Oct. 26 issue) is true, discerning and well written.
W. GORDON BROWN
Central Baptist Seminary
If you knew what a tremendous step forward the booklet is, considering the very liberal stand the United Church of Canada has taken in the past, you would not have been so eager to “quench the smoking flax.” In fact, in all Christian love you ought to have rejoiced.
It should be noted that this “study” does not represent the membership of the United Church of Canada as a whole; the evangelical people within the United Church certainly would not agree with this hook, and from what we can gather, the church head office in Toronto has been flooded with calls since its publication of Life and Death from concerned people who disagree with the views expressed. You are correct in the conclusion that it would have been better to return this book to the committee for further Bible study, but we doubt if that would have done much good. It is not so much the study of the Bible that would make the difference, but rather the attitude towards the Bible: You either accept it on face value as the Word of God, or you don’t. In the latter case you are not expressing yourself regarding God’s Word, but simply regarding what you believe to be a collection of human writings about God and universe. Life and Death seems to be a result of thinking based on this latter view of Scripture. And that is why its content is mere confusion.
H. J. AAFTINK
St. Andrew’s United Church
Kaslo, B. C.
I sincerely believe that Dr. Bell’s articles are the most valuable of them all. I have cut most of them out and filed them for several years.… I was particularly interested in his article “Foundations” (Sept. 28 issue) and naturally, being a priest of the Anglican or Episcopal Church, I wondered why you did not mention the Apostolic Ministry as held by all the so-called “historic churches” such as the Roman, Anglican, Orthodox, and the Lutheran in the old country.… While not mentioned by our Lord, for he had no reason for doing so during his time on earth, his apostles and those who followed certainly carried on what we now know as laying on of hands in succession. It was the practice of New Testament teaching, and so much so that Protestant ministers are continually applying for Anglican ordination. As chaplain to the Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles, I am with him and assisting in all ordinations, and every year the Bishop is ordaining men from other ministries, particularly from Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregationalist, seemingly more from the latter. I feel sure this would not be done if these communions possessed the Apostolic Ministry.
SAMUEL H. SAYRE
St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church
Los Angeles, Calif.
The statement in “A Layman and his Faith” (Oct. 26 issue) is superb. I am convinced that modern theological scholarship has almost committed the unpardonable sin. I am preaching a sermon this Sunday night on the subject “The Power of Conviction” and the material is a great help to me.
W. O. VAUGHT, JR.
Little Rock, Ark.
ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
In … Jacob Vellenga’s … “Is Capital Punishment Wrong?” (Oct. 12 issue) … there are … things with which I take exception.… It is not my … object either to deny or affirm Mr. Vellenga’s position for certainly the problem is a moot one.
It is not only for taking human life that the Old Testament demands capital punishment but also as the penalty for other offenses: idolatry, adultery, incest, cursing of parents. To be consistent then, Mr. Vellenga must also insist on the death penalty in these other areas.… If … the answer is made that we no longer believe in the death penalty for witches, then the dam is opened. If, as theologians of old have been wont to do, we distinguish … [among] the moral law and the ceremonial law and the forensic law of the Old Testament, and then claim that only the Old Testament moral law is now binding, we have to face the possibility of its being said that the death penalty is part of the ceremonial or forensic law and also not binding for us today.
This problem now carries itself into the New Testament area, the second area of Vellenga’s proof. Jesus says he came to fulfill the law and the prophets. And yet what law? Did he intend to fulfill the law killing witches and others convicted under the Old Testament law? If so how [do we] explain the story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1–11)? Clearly this is an instance of Christ abrogating the Levitical and Deuteronomic codes. In fact if you want to you can say it’s an example of Christ suspending capital punishment. Of course there is the possibility of denying the authenticity of John 8:1–11 as is done by many scholars. The only trouble with this method is that it opens again the possibility of denying the authenticity of other areas of the New Testament and ultimately the whole New Testament itself.
I certainly further take exception to the equation of “judgment” in Matthew 5:21–22 with capital punishment. Judgment could well imply a futuristic judging by God in that context. If we equate “judgment” with capital punishment, then it would seem no less spurious to further equate the verb “to judge” in a like manner. Thus, “Judge not that ye be not judged” could also be made to fit the argument.…
If the early Christians did not meddle … with laws against wrongdoing … it was only because they were not strong enough to meddle.… Around the time of Constantine, they did “meddle”.…
Not having a real position of my own, I must commend the author for being on one side of the fence. My thoughts are, however, that accepting the canonical authority of Scripture does not force anyone to the side of capital punishment. Where they do force one I am not sure.
C. F. PAULING
Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
That Mr. Vellenga is actually associate executive of the Synod of Illinois is incidental. What needs to be clarified is the fact that the views expressed by Mr. Vellenga are not in agreement with the representative conscience of the church as expressed by its highest judicatory in a social deliverance adopted by the 171st General Assembly which states: …
The 171st General Assembly
Declares its opposition to capital punishment,
Calls upon the judicatories and members of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to work for the abolition of the death penalty in their respective states,
Urges the judicatories to seek the improvement of our various penal institutions and systems to the end that society may be protected and persons convicted of crime be rehabilitated, and
Encourages the Department of Social Education and Action to continue its study of other aspects of crime prevention and correction.
HOWARD C. MAXWELL
Dept. of Social Education and Action
United Presbyterian Church in the USA
Thanks for publishing Dr. Vellenga’s article.… He is absolutely correct—according to the Bible.
E. W. L. LEHNE
I have personally known of too many miscarriages of “justice” in our civil courts to be willing to give them the right of life and death. The question raised by Dr. Vellenga has two sides, and the answer he suggests is not the biblical answer, but is only his interpretation of the Word of God on this matter.… It is probably true that the Church should not “meddle” with capital punishment since we obviously cannot “legislate” morals, [but] we had better remember that we are not merely Christians, but are Christian citizens. Our citizenship … implies a responsibility for the justice, mercy, and integrity of government and civil law.…
ROBERT HALDANE, JR.
Arbor Grove Congregational Church
I am convinced that the Old Testament is no longer valid for either religious or moral law for the Christian, and that the New Testament was never meant to be an Apostolic or Divine Constitution. The new humanity in Christ is dead to sin and dead to the Law. He who would argue for obedience to even one moral law because it is given to man in the Law, would deliver us back to the bondage of the Law.… The Holy Scriptures point us to Christ. When they become the basis of authority, then they make denominations and not Christians. This is for me the teaching of St. Paul, and I hope that he understood Jesus, and that I understand Paul.
OVERTON LOVE TURNER, JR.
It is ridiculous to see a supposedly well educated man quote the Old Testament as a rule and guide on morals when some of the greatest heroes in it were murderers in their own right.
MYLES D. BLANCHARD
Universalist Church—New York State
Auburn, N. Y.
While I certainly cannot agree with his basic thesis, I find some very interesting food for thought.
There may be cases in which man cannot see any alternative to killing his fellow man in defense of others for whom he bears an overriding responsibility—as in the case of a madman who must be stopped from slaughtering a group of innocent people—but when society has taken such an offender into its custody, there can be no Christian excuse for killing him. Although I am a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Committee to Abolish Capital Punishment, I do not see in abolition any panacea. It is rather only a first step toward a system of penology which would have as its purpose the spiritual and moral redemption of offenders.…
WILLIAM ROBERT MILLER
Nyack, N. Y.
God is more interested in the rehabilitation of any criminal than he is in the senseless murder by society … of an emotionally unstable sinner.
G. H. FISHER
St. Johns-Immanuel Parish
Bancroft, S. Dak.
Punishment is a wrong word. I have read about forms of execution with plenty of [pain] to them. Today in this country executions take a few seconds. If there is any [pain], the time is too short for it to be noticed.…
EATON R. BURROWS
Newfield, N. J.
I am appalled to think that a journal of the Christian faith would carry such an article.…
C. DANIEL MATHESON
Danforth Avenue United Church
The article … was needed and … good.
I am so concerned that I shall not be able to sleep until I write you.… We who live lawful lives can only enjoy this freedom of breaking laws through others who do the actual lawless acts.… After [they have] been punished and our super ego is satisfied, then we can begin to love the person.… This is sin.…
DANIEL P. MATTHEWS
Holy Comforter Episcopal Church
Thank you.… In these days of increasing disorder among citizens, I think the article and its conclusions are most timely. I was in the correction field for nearly five years … as a state prison chaplain and this subject is of particular interest to me, as it well should be to all citizens.
CLARENCE M. LUTHER
West Newton, Mass.
Such reasoning affirms that there is a difference between “nice” sins and “dirty” wanton sins. We sin “nice” sins and live until the judgment of God. The murderer commits “dirty” sins and is judged by man and put to death. Since when is sin anything but sin? Now I’m not implying that anyone sinning against society should go scot free until the judgment of God, but as long as they live there is hope.
Hasson Heights United Presbyterian
Oil City, Pa.
I … object to the statement: “Capital punishment should not be classified with social evils like segregation, racketeering, liquor traffic, and gambling.”
To place segregation alongside … the other items mentioned is unthinkable.… Multitudes of honest and sincere Christians with a sincere appreciation of the worth and ability of peoples of all nationalities and colors well know that the present drive for “integration” is not a surface matter of sitting together in schools, restaurants, etc., but has a much deeper significance that would eventuate in intermarriage to the detriment of everyone. Too many folk are endeavoring to unchristianize any who do not all at once … throw aside age-old relationships and understandings which have brought the colored race further along the road to social acceptance and self-determination than any other race, over the same span of time. The white man of the South has been, and is, the best friend the Negro has had. I speak this out of a life-long association with Negroes, some of whom I count my good friends.
GEORGE E. BLANCHARD
St. James Methodist Church
I think Dr. Vellenga’s article perceptive, reflecting courage and insight. It is one of the very best on capital punishment. Every Christian should read it.
HAROLD F. GREEN
Golden Gate Baptist Seminary
Mill Valley, Calif.
CREATOR, NOT CREATURE
I cannot agree with [Dr. Heltzel] when he tries to explain … “firstborn” as “meaning that [Christ] was himself a creature” (Oct. 12 issue).… It seems that the author holds … Arianism.… As [he] says elsewhere, “[Christ] is Creator, not creature.”
Yonkers, N. Y.
A. T. Robertson … on prototokos [first-born]: “Paul here is speaking of the Eternal Word as early theologians (Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen) understood it. The Arians made Paul mean that Christ is a ‘first-born’ creature like the rest, though the first in time and in rank.”
Oak Hill Baptist
KEY TO LUTHER
Asked, “What is Christendom’s Key Issue?” A. W. Blackwood tersely trumpets, “We need a new Christ-centered Reformation” (Oct. 12 issue). But how will this be realized? A former Professor of Theology at Wittenberg University has a clear and forthright answer: “Whenever thou art occupied in the matter of thy salvation setting aside all curious speculations of God’s unsearchable majesty, all cognitions of work, of traditions, of philosophy, yea, and of God’s law, too,” … “run straight to the manger and embrace this infant … and behold him as he was born, growing up, conversant with men, teaching, dying, rising again, ascending up above all the heavens and having power above all things.”
What will happen? “By this means shalt thou be able to shake off all terrors and errors, like the sun driveth away the clouds. And this sight and contemplation will keep thee in the right way that thou mayest follow whither Christ is gone” (Dr. Martin Luther on Galatians 1:3). T. M. Lindsay says the Reformation succeeded because men rediscovered the Christ of the Gospels. Is it now too late to go back and find Him?
PALMER G. BROWN
Christology Institute of America Ex. Dir.
Only self-contained mental midgets could presume to give a nutshell answer to such a question. This confidence is typical of conservatism and CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
PAUL B. BROWN
Court Avenue Cumberland Presbyterian
The most vital issue facing contemporary Christianity is the salvation of mankind. This was the issue when Christ was born and this is still the issue. The only difference is that in Christ crucified we have the answer to the question.
Dr. Charles Fama … served here in the Bronx all these years. I am afraid … you have confused us with the old Bedford Church of Brooklyn (News, Oct. 12 issue).
CHARLES A. DAROCY
Bedford Park Presbyterian Church
New York, N. Y.
The paper still continues to bring refreshing sidelights on current affairs. I appreciate the insight into the American scene, and value the coverage of the Australian Crusades. My own church has benefitted greatly. I would not say that we have seen revival—as some have stated. But we have seen what the Church of God can do when united to achieve a common purpose. It only enhances my own conviction that attempts to achieve organic church union are futile unless based on a common basis of mission. I conceive the only basis to be that of a New Testament view—evangelistic. While the church shirks its major task, divisions will continue. The Crusades have shown what can be done when all are concerned with the salvation of men and women.
Strathmore Methodist Church
Caulfield, Victoria, Australia
POLITICS AND RELIGION
In reply to my friend, Dr. Russell C. Stroup (Eutychus, Sept. 28 issue), regarding the religion of the late Fiorello La Guardia, may I say that I am well-aware that he was not a Roman Catholic. Neither, in my opinion, was he a Protestant. Close associates of his whom I questioned on this point have informed me that he was a freethinker and was not a church-going person. Besides this, it has been many years since Mr. La Guardia retired as mayor in the face of a resurgent Tammany Hall he knew he could not defeat in a re-election campaign.
I think that nothing Dr. Stroup has offered in his letter in any sense obviates my statement “In New York City where 80% of the Catholics regularly vote the Democratic ticket, no Protestant would have a chance to be mayor.” This has been true for many years and is true today.
C. STANLEY LOWELL
Protestants and Other Americans United
Washington, D. C.
Mr. Lehman (Eutychus, Sept 28 issue) informs us that Roosevelt appointed three Jews to the Supreme Court.… To my knowledge, there have been three Associate Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court of the Judaic faith. The first Jew to be so honored was Louis Dembitz Brandeis (1856–1941), appointed by President Wilson in 1916. Brandeis was an ardent liberal and Zionist. The second, Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870–1938), was appointed by President Hoover in 1932. Cardozo was admired for his great mind and noble character.… Felix Frankfurter is the only Jew on the U. S. Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Roosevelt in 1939. Once a strong liberal and New Dealer, Mr. Justice Frankfurter is now quite conservative in his judicial thought. He is far from liberal in the field of civil liberties—in fact, he places national cohesion above religious loyalties. (See his decision for the Court in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U. S. 586, 1940.)
New Brunswick, N. J.
FOR ENFORCING TRUTH
I believe … that the first evangelist to use the inquiry room was not named “Ashland Middleton” …, but Asahel Nettleton (“Evangelism: Message and Method,” Aug. 3 issue). The Connecticut Congregational association appointed him a minister to the hinterlands where his evangelistic endeavors included an inquiry room “for the enforcing of truth and instruction of seekers.”
DAVID S. MCCARTHY
Advent Christian Church
New Bedford, Mass.
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