The liberal-fundamentalist debate of the first half of this century has for all practical purposes reached a stalemate. Yet it appears that the issues will not subside. One’s sympathies may rest with the liberal or with the fundamentalist position, but one can hardly ignore or bypass the debate. It is a part of our history, and the present generation inherits the conflict.

I have felt for a long time that neither party to the debate has presented a biblically adequate definition of the Christian mission. Each has an undeniable strength firmly rooted in God’s Word, but each has also a crippling defect resulting from a truncation of that Word. In articulating its own position, each group has adopted a genuinely biblical principle as its basis but has developed this principle in a manner so distorted as to produce unbiblical conclusions. This distortion arises, it would seem, from the development of antithetical positions, each of which remains largely indifferent to the biblical rootage of the other.

It is to the credit of liberalism that it has preserved and emphasized the truth that responsible participation in human society is a sine qua non of man as man, and therefore most certainly of man as Christian. The liberal definition of man insists that man is man-in-society, man-in-culture, man-in-civilization. The liberal ethic insists, quite properly, that a Christian must be concerned about the affairs of this life, that his faith must involve the giving of the cup of cold water, that his hands must be dirtied in the binding up of wounds, and that this must be true not only on an individual level but also on a corporate level.

This emphasis of liberalism is solidly rooted in God’s command to Adam in Eden: “Be fruitful and multiply, ...

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