It is a truism—though one we continually need to learn—that there can be no effective Christian work apart from the empowering of the Holy Spirit. We can build up congregations. We can supply impressive buildings. We can accomplish organization. We can promote and finance activity on a scale unprecedented, and we can harness new and effective instruments. Ministers and workers can even have the most detailed kind of training. But the fact remains that the work of regeneration is still the work of the sovereign Spirit, and a genuine reviving of Christian life, vigor, and evangelism may be expected only as the Holy Ghost gives life and power to all that we bring for his service.
Yet when we say this, and realize what it means, and pray for a reviving of the Spirit in the Church, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit is associated directly in the New Testament with Jesus Christ himself. That is, we do not pray for the Holy Spirit as though he were any other than the Spirit of Christ. We do not seek to be filled by the Spirit in order that the Spirit himself may have the pre-eminence apart from Christ. We do not aim at life and activity in the Spirit which would be different from, or supposedly superior to, life and activity in the Saviour himself. We do not desire a higher stage of Christian living denied to those who “only” know Jesus Christ and his presence—as though this did not meet all the needs of the Christian. To drive a wedge between the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, to concentrate on the former when he is pointing us to the latter, to pray “Come, Holy Ghost,” as though this were something different from praying that Christ himself might fill, strengthen, direct, and empower us, is to defeat the very point and purpose of our praying, and to hinder rather than promote the revival that we desire.
We can set ourselves at odds with the Holy Spirit rather than in harmony with him. As the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is in fact the one by whom Christ is now present and active in and through believers. He is the one who testifies to Jesus, our incarnate, crucified, and risen Saviour and Lord. He is the one whose work is done when there is response in human lives of penitence and faith to Christ.
When Christ took leave of his disciples, he made it plain that, apart from his appearances during the 40 days, they were not to expect his continuing presence in the body. Yet he also said that he would come to them (John 14:18), that he would pray the Father to send them another Comforter (John 14:16). He said that he himself would send the Comforter from the Father (John 15:26). Or, as we learn from Matthew, he promised his own abiding presence to the end of the world (28:20), and told the disciples to wait until they received the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon them (Acts 1:8 ff.)—a power which they were to recognize clearly as “shed forth” by the ascended Lord himself (Acts 2:33). In other words, it is the Lord who is still present to his people by the Holy Spirit, and who continues in the works which during his earthly ministry he “began both to do and to teach.” The gifts of the Spirit, as Paul puts it, are the gifts of the ascended Lord (Eph. 4:7 ff.). Christ himself is present and exalted in their outpouring and exercise.
We know that the office of the Holy Spirit is that of testifying to Jesus Christ as our incarnate, crucified, and risen Saviour. The Spirit does not put himself into the forefront so to speak. He does not speak of himself (John 16:13). His work, as Jesus plainly shows us, is to testify of the Lord (John 15:26). It is to glorify Christ, to “receive of mine, and shew it unto you.” What this means in practice is seen in the New Testament Church. When the apostles were filled with the Spirit, speaking with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance, they made it their main business to preach Jesus Christ, the Saviour (Acts 2:22 ff.), and to call their hearers to be baptized in the name of Christ (Acts 2:38) with the promise that they too should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Conversely, it was as Paul gave himself “not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” that he could speak “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:2 ff.). To know the reviving of the Spirit, to be co-workers with him, and to have him as supreme Co-worker with us, we must aim to do what Christ does (“And ye also shall bear witness,” John 15:26). That is to say, we must give Christ the preeminence. We must preach Christ, exalt him, put him in the forefront, and entrust our gifts and concerns to his direction. In a sense, we must not give primary attention to the Spirit, for we really give the Spirit proper credit only when we direct our attention to Christ. It is when Christ is the basis and center of our word and work that we are led into the truth and endowed with power, and may thus expect the Holy Spirit to come in saving and sanctifying sovereignty.
Finally, the work that is accomplished when there is the response in human lives of conformability to Jesus Christ in penitence and faith, death and resurrection, is the work Christ did at the Cross. By uplifting him, therefore, the Holy Spirit brings us continually to the Cross in conviction of sin and identification with our Lord’s crucifixion. By uplifting Christ, the Spirit brings us also to the empty grave, to the place of renewal, and to the new life which we live by faith in the Son of God (Gal. 2:20). To be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man means always that Christ himself dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). Where the Spirit is at work, sinners are converted to Christ and brought to newness of life in him; and saints are sanctified by the putting off of the old man outside Christ, and the putting on of the new man in Christ, that they should grow to the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13,22 ff.). This is the proper work of the Spirit, and in the face of this we can perhaps conclude why we do not see Christian work being done more widely and effectively in others despite all our prayers. If we genuinely want the reviving power of the Spirit, it is not enough merely to pray “Come, Holy Ghost.” What is required is that we should be ready for a transformation in us by Christ. What is required is that we seek and have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5 ff.). What is necessary is that Christ be our life (Col. 3:4), so that for us to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).
With him as our object, we may know the reviving which we long for. We may enjoy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We may see in our day acts of the Spirit. And we may know the privilege of being laborers together with God and seeing him give the increase (1 Cor. 3:6 ff.). All the while we must realize that it is Christ, the Lord of the Church, who is present and active in the Church by the Holy Spirit. We must see to it that it is Christ whom we truly preach, confidently, faithfully, and in all simplicity. And we must make it our business to be true disciples of our Lord by bringing all our thoughts, acts, words, and attitudes sincerely to the Cross. There, being “planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” The more glory we give to Christ, the more the Spirit has his way with us, and the more we can expect his outpouring on our lives and on our work for others.
Left Wing Attacks On Fbi And House Un-American Activities Group
Communist sympathizers in American life have long sought to destroy both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Un-American Activities Committee. These agencies have energetically exposed left wing activities and affiliations. Unfortunately, even prominent churchmen are now being drawn, even if for quite other reasons, into the left wing clamor for a revision of these agencies. Despite this public pressure by a small group of vocal leaders, however, a steady stream of mail pours into Washington from the hinterlands, and letters are spontaneously appearing in the public press, attesting the citizenry’s firm support of these agencies.
Twice in recent years spirited efforts to destroy the FBI have failed. Left wing forces in the early 1940s unsuccessfully used every means to weaken confidence in the organization and to discredit it. Max Lowenthal’s The Federal Bureau of Investigation was a more recent propaganda assault. It may be hoped that the Americans today are as alert to the continuing need for an independent fact-finding agency as they were then.
Representative James Roosevelt (Dem., California) has sponsored a resolution to abolish the House Committee. That agency has doubtless made mistakes, but its benefits to the nation far outweigh its liabilities. Only its foes identify it one-sidedly with McCarthyism. Were the Committee dissolved, Congress would soon feel the necessity of replacing it by a similar effort. In the meantime, radical left wing forces will have advanced their alien objectives.
An alert citizenry will stand guard against the Communist conspiracy to discredit the FBI and the UAC, and will voice indignation over attempts to smear J. Edgar Hoover. Mr. Hoover may keep one eye on juvenile delinquency while he trains the other on parimutuel odds, but he is not blind to forces that would strike a blow at our great traditions of freedom.
The Christian Citizen And America’S Rising Tax Burden
Good Christians believe in paying taxes. Christ set the example by paying his (Matt. 17) and Paul so advised the Roman Christians (Rom. 13).
We have no sympathy for men like the Rev. Maurice McCrackin of Cincinnati who was sent to Federal prison recently for refusing to pay his income taxes. The minister of St. Barnabas-West End Church (Episcopal-Presbyterian), a militant pacifist, withheld his payments because a portion would be expended for military defense. When he resisted officers of the law a la Ghandi he paid the lawful penalty.
Yet the matter of taxation is becoming an increasing problem in the United States. Governor Nelson Rockefeller is currently in the limelight because of his insistence that New Yorkers pay taxes equal to the cost of government. Tax increases to meet rising costs are anticipated throughout the nation.
On the right side of the moral ledger, Mr. Rockefeller is standing for a good principle. Fiscal responsibility and solvency are essential to sound government. Either we pay as we go or a score of difficult situations may arise. Heavy drafts on past reserves, deficit spending, and big bond issues tend to mortgage America’s future and impose heavy burdens upon the rising generation. No public official is doing a service to the people by undertaxing them for necessary current costs of legitimate and efficient government.
On the other side of the balance sheet is the policy of expediency by which government proposes to “tax, tax, tax” and “spend, spend, spend” the nation into prosperity. It seems never to occur to the political demagogue that it is possible for governments, as well as individuals, to live within their means and to practice the Christian virtue of frugality. There must, of course, be constant improvement and progress in our social order, as well as the preservation of sound fiscal policy. If the taxpayer could be assured that these ends would be accomplished without budget padding, boondoggling, nepotism, graft, and corruption he would gladly pay the bill. It is because both national morality and economic stability have been undermined by recent fiscal policy that even the Christian thinks twice before he pays his taxes.
America needs to beware that the arbitrary and immoral concepts of taxation, which obtained prior to the Magna Charta and the American Revolution, be not reinstated in our day under various forms of camouflage. We need to maintain such high principles as consent and representation, social justice and equality, equity and uniformity, and see that they are reflected in both tax principles and forms. Coupled with these should be wise and progressive yet sound and frugal fiscal policy in government.
America’s tax problems may well become worse before they are solved. In the meantime Christians in governmental life and in the citizenry at large may well make a fine contribution to that solution.
Ecumenical Free Speech And The Misrepresented Majority
Multitudes of American Protestants are disheartened by the NCC General Board’s evasive handling of protests against World Order Study Conference recommendation of a soft policy toward Communist China. The General Board proffered some quite irrelevant remarks about freedom of speech (implicitly defending Cleveland happenings), sidestepped official approval or disapproval, and now featherbeds while projecting long range mass media explanations.
Dissenters over NCC’s growing involvement of corporate Protestantism in specific politico-economic programs have not been asked for advice. Their opinions (though they run about eight to one against Cleveland commitments) seem, in fact, to be little appreciated by some ecumenical protagonists of free speech. Otherwise, some proportionate expression of contrary convictions on basic issues would be guaranteed. Instead, penetrating criticisms of what churchmen actually do are scorched by ecumenical journalists as false and malicious assaults on personal character and integrity, while these same scribes of discord dismiss men like Dan Poling and Norman Vincent Peale (J. Edgar Hoover is discreetly overlooked) with Carl McIntire as controversialists whose positions are well known in advance. How far the disease of flexibility infects the contemporary religious mind is apparent from the assumption that men are to be downgraded if they stand inflexibly for fixed and tried principles. Or is continuity of conviction defensible only when men look East rather than West?
CHRISTIANITY TODAY thinks sagging NCC prestige will not be bolstered apart from an unambiguous acknowledgement of Cleveland blunders. Not even costly and lengthy mass media interpretations, expertly polished by specialists in the word business, will help much. The one way to restore confidence is to stop prattling about free speech in defense of recommendations that corporate Protestantism enmesh itself politically in a “softer on Red China” policy, and start exercising free speech in the proclamation and practice of repentance and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the Church’s prime task.
A Congressman’S Plea For Deeper Spiritual Roots
The decisive place of vital religious faith in the tense moments of American history was graphically presented to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast from which President Eisenhower, preoccupied with foreign affairs, was absent for the third successive time. One of the Senate’s devout elder statesmen, Senator A. Willis Robertson (Dem., Va.), this session’s chairman of the Senate Prayer group, aimed a pointed question at International Christian Leadership delegates:
In the birth of a new nation, in the rise of a new empire, the Founding Fathers asked for and received God’s help. Do we no longer need that help?
Reaching into American history with a keen eye for lessons from the past, Senator Robertson called for humility, for prayer, for repentance that looks God-ward for national forgiveness and healing:
George Washington … knelt in the snows of Valley Forge to ask the help of God to carry on an unequal military struggle for independence. It was Washington who was presiding over the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787 when his friend Benjamin Franklin said: “In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of light to illuminate our understanding? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”
Again, in 1789, Washington said in his inaugural address: “It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.”
In their fight for religious, political and economic freedom, three million relatively poor and untrained colonists survived seven years of armed conflict with the 35 millions of the Mother Country. In that conflict the Founding Fathers asked for and received Divine interposition.
The possession by the Soviet Union of nuclear weapons, including intercontinental missiles, hangs over our heads like the Sword of Damocles. For the next fiscal year and as long thereafter as the present cold war lasts, our Government will spend more than half of its current revenue on its military establishment. Yet, our military experts frankly admit that we will suffer heavy casualties in the event of a surprise nuclear attack and an all-out nuclear war might destroy civilization as we have known it, if it did not, indeed, destroy all life on our planet.
In meeting the threat of nuclear destruction we, like our forefathers, should pray daily for God’s help.
Because of her dependence upon and reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the universe, America has been spared in two world wars.
She stands now at the crossroads of her destiny—threatened from within by spiritual indifference and moral deterioration and from without by a deadly foe.
The conflict is no longer might against superior might. The battle lines are already drawn. The one issue which faces us today is this: Will America accept the moral challenge of this hour, as she has accepted the military challenge of past years, or will she allow this glorious opportunity to slip from her grasp forever?
This, my friends, is the world leadership to which we are called today: to stand before the nations of the entire world and say with young David: “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts.”
The unseen forces of a mighty God are on our side, and we can go confidently forward in the power of His might if we will take Him at His word when He says: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Sentiments of this kind are a heartening phase of the Washington dialogue. They need desperately to be appropriated, not simply to be applauded. A floodtide of genuine spiritual vitality and moral energy is our great need. If God is to spare the modern world the terrible calamities now already crowding the horizon, our land must become nauseated by its rebellion, must flame with the hot fire of repentance, must know the gnawing hunger of a true longing for spiritual renewal, must be wooed and won for the eternal things.
Tributes To Tillich Amidst Protestant Reservations
Professor Paul Tillich has achieved what some call the ultimate tribute: the cover of Time. With the publication of Religion and Culture: Essays in Honor of Paul Tillich (Harper), commendation is due the Harvard professor for the breadth of his knowledge and the depth of his concern for modern man’s predicament.
Universal recognition has come to him despite the difficulty of his thought and writings. An American graduate theology student in Britain, on the eve of one of Billy Graham’s campaigns there, was heard to criticize the evangelist for an archaic message couched in archaic terms. A former student of Tillich’s, he praised his erstwhile professor for speaking to the condition of modern man with a modern message delivered in modern terms. Asked to describe the main lines of Tillich’s thought, he replied, “I don’t understand it all, yet.” Subsequent events seemed to indicate Londoners had little difficulty understanding Dr. Graham, archaisms or no. If the traditional Christian concepts have assuredly lost their meaning for all too many Christians, as Tillich claims, it may be asked how many of these could even initially grasp Tillich’s concepts to make possible such a later loss.
For those who stand anywhere near Protestant orthodoxy, an understanding of Tillich is not reassuring. That a man who denies that God may be declared to exist has now come to be regarded as America’s foremost Protestant thinker constitutes an effective Roman Catholic weapon directed at Protestant vulnerability in the area of the problem of authority. For Tillich, the Protestant principle of justification solely by faith gives way in importance to a vaguely bounded subjective experience of “ultimate concern.” Theologians Karl Barth and Nels F. S. Ferré, neither of whom claim identification with Protestant orthodoxy (nor enthusiasm for each other’s perspectives), are not the only ones who throw up their hands at Tillich’s system. For all Tillich’s analytic skill and penetrative brilliance, this distinguished Protestant falls much more comfortably into the category of the great philosophers of religion than into the circle of Christian theologians.
Time tells us that in his early professorial days, Paul Tillich became adept at his summer hobby of building sand castles. The 16th century Reformers would doubtless hold that in subsequently building his theology, he never quite got away from his earlier habit. Indeed, for bringing the modern groping soul to an experiential knowledge of Christ, this awesome system looks suspiciously like a theology of sand.
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