A good friend of mine who rather shies away from systematics in theology wrote to me a word of criticism about one of history’s greatest theologians and gave his criticism a nice turn of phrase: the theologian had the ability, my friend said, “To paint himself into a corner.” We all know the picture: a man begins to paint a room, and is doing very nicely, whistling a merry tune, concentrating on the swish of the brush immediately in front of him, only to discover to his chagrin that he has painted himself into a place where his only escape must be messy and embarrassing. You have probably caught yourself in an argument, especially in a theological argument, slowly closing yourself into a spot where you have no longer a neat logical outlet. Preachers have been known to raise more questions in the introduction than they can answer in the next twenty minutes—or the next twenty hours! Sometimes we dig up more snakes than we can kill.
I am wondering in all this about whether the World Council of Churches is not painting itself into a corner, and I mean a theological corner. Concern over the New Delhi sessions has centered primarily on the acceptance of the Orthodox Church of Russia. Will the Russians be able to be churchmen first and communists second or the other way around? Will the orthodox churches generally, simply by virtue of their numbers, carry too much weight in Council policies? Has the Council taken on a different total character by the nature of this new heavily liturgical thrust? Others have raised mild demurrers over the ease of the Russian entrance and the difficulty of the Pentecostal entrance at the time of voting. Does the spirit of ecumenicity really move happily in only one direction? So the questions go. ...1
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