‘Blithe Spirit’

Now that spring has come along some very nice things will be said about skylarks and nightingales, and I am not such a one as would oppose these freshening thoughts. In all honesty, however, I must point out that the most beautiful sound in the springtime is the crack of the bat on the horsehide (although a good word can be said also for the whack of the number three wood on the fairway). There are friends of mine who are enthusiastic about the ballet, but they have missed grace at its finest if they have failed to appreciate the pivot and throw of a second baseman when the spikes are flying in high on a double play. I have always felt that there are some arts which the artists miss.

Once at the Polo Grounds I had a chance to see the great Carl Hubbell warm up before he began to pitch. I was surprised to see him sent into the game before I thought he was ready, but he was ready all right. He was just so smooth that he was doing what he had to do so well that the grace and ease covered up his power.

“Everything God does,” says Tertullian, “is marked by simplicity and power.” I never get over how God moves tons of water around in perfect quietness and beauty as the clouds float by. The stars in their courses are matters of mass and distance, and they move in silence through eternity—unless the ancients were right when they thought they heard “the music of the spheres.”

Too many of the unobserved wonders of life can get away from us because in our days of din they hardly have a chance to be heard, and it is hard to look up past the neon signs to the skies. Some of the grandest truths of our holy faith disappear because of their quiet simplicity. It’s a shame, isn’t it, to miss the best things in life because we are submerged in so many other things.


In Search Of Damascus

Re James Wesley Ingles’ excellent, scholarly, provocative article “Masefield’s Poem of Conversion” in the April 12 issue: it is obvious that neither “The Everlasting Mercy” nor “The Western Hudson Shore” is much good, either as verse or as doctrine. I cannot agree that Masefield here—or at any time, as far as I know—“caught perfectly the psychology and the experience of Christian conversion.”

Students of the British Poet Laureate might well read or reread his “Truth,” “The Passing Strange,” and “Sea Fever,” to which Dr. Ingles does refer; “On Growing Old”; a half dozen Masefield sonnets; and, of course, “Lollingdon Downs: XV.” Masefield here reads more like the brothers James (William and Henry—no! no! I do not mean the Missourian James Brothers) and like Thomas Hardy; less like Paul (Saul) of Tarsus-after the Road to Damascus—than anybody I know.…

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(The late Dr. Henrietta C. Mears of Hollywood, memorialized by CHRISTIANITY TODAY on page 38, was one of the greatest women of all time.…)

Unitarian Minister (ret.)

Hollywood, Calif.

Hope For Sunday Evenings

Thanks for the challenge expressed in “What’s Happened to the Singing?” (Apr. 12 issue).

… We have doubled the evening attendance in July and August for the last two summers in this 108-year-old downtown church by having a 30-minute sing-a-long each Sunday evening. We conclude by doing Malotte’s “Lord’s Prayer” in unison. I’m looking forward to the Sunday evening service this summer!

First Baptist

Portland, Ore.

Showers And Flowers

The article “Spring Thaw for Baptists” (Apr. 12 issue) was much appreciated. Not only because it told of Northern Seminary (of which I am a graduate, and former part-time teacher in the college department), but also the plain delineation of universalism on the part of some in places of convention responsibility.

Osburn Community Baptist Church

Osburn, Idaho

Your article appears to me to be biased and irresponsible.… Your attacks upon our evangelism director appear to be founded upon hearsay and rumor, and upon a few isolated quotations. Dr. Morikawa has told me personally that he does not hold a universalist position, and that if he did, he would want to be the first to admit it.… Morikawa is one of the most authentic Christian men that I know.

Exec. Sec.

Kansas Baptist Convention

Topeka, Kan.

There is every reason to doubt the accuracy of the statement attributed to “One observer” in the article “Spring Thaw for Baptists” that states, “Only two of the Convention’s state secretaries are said to favor Dr. Morikawa’s retention as the Convention evangelism director”.…

The charge of universalism is hardly an honestly critical evaluation of Dr. Morikawa’s teaching. Let those who accuse him of such read him fully, and they will find the thrust of his work sourced in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Dr. Morikawa has let some fresh air into the Church. American Baptists will be wise to keep the windows open.

First Baptist

Rochester, N.Y.

There are far more than two who would support Dr. Morikawa’s continuation in his present position, and not necessarily because we agree with every detail of his Christian belief.

Ex. Sec.

New Jersey Baptist Convention

East Orange, N.J.

I much appreciated your excellent write-up of Northern Baptist Seminary’s Evangelism Conference. I felt it was a positive presentation of the “good news” of evangelism for those who love the Gospel.… There was a natural opposition to “universalism,” as there always is when the full Gospel is presented.

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Foster Park Baptist Church

Chicago, Ill.

To Reinsert The Negative

Your Book Review section in the April 12 issue (p. 44) made an unfortunate misprint. The sentence should read: “Kepler views the resurrection of Jesus as a real, but not bodily, etc.” You … left out the negative and it reads now: “Kepler views the resurrection of Jesus as a real, but bodily, etc.”

Golden Gate Baptist Seminary

Mill Valley, Calif.

Ten In All, But Not King

In your April 12 issue I read the column “straws in the Wind” (p. 5). I really believe the writer is in error when he says that “young clergymen were conspicuous by their absence. Rev. Martin Luther King was the rare exception.” I can recall this issue of Life, and remember at least three Episcopal priests among the 100.…

St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church

Muskegon, Mich.

I hope more of this commentary type of column can be included.…

The weekly paper in this town of c. 35,000 has just discontinued running the Church Directory. Protestant, Roman Catholics, Jews—we’ve all been dropped! Secularism rapidly advances. D. T. Niles said a year ago, “Christians in the U.S. are in for a hard time of it.”

Fewsmith Memorial Presbyterian Church

Belleville, N.J.

James, Sartre, Tillich

Shortly after the turn of the century, William James returned to America from Germany and wrote Varieties of Religious Experience. The book was not considered “heavy” enough for denominational seminaries, but it did appear in the colleges and became required reading for many of the colleges in their departments of religion.

Recently I picked up the book again, after an interval of fifty years, and was amazed to discover the word “existential” and counted the use of it to be forty-eight times. James equivocated it to “empirical” and “pragmatic,” but only in a religious sense.

Going over my seminary notes, both in England and America, I did not find the word “existential” used in any sense or in any place, nor do I remember ever having heard the word used. Bethune-Baker was my tutor at Cambridge, and I have my notes from the lectures of Oman, Tennant, Skinner, and Sorely.

All through the twenties, thirties, and World War II, I have no recollection of ever having heard or read of the word being used. It was not until I attended the summer school at Princeton in 1946 that “existential” was brought to my attention. One day I had lunch at the Princeton Inn with the younger Farmer from Westminster College (I had known his father at Cambridge), and Dr. Farmer explained to me that existentialism was a subjective theory of knowledge whereby we know what we know through our own experience, and denied any objective intrinsic [quality] of God apart from our experience of him.

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Hromádka, from Prague, was lecturing at Princeton that summer and also had a good deal to say about the existential in Christianity as the norm of authority.

It was also during that summer that Professor Lowry brought out his book on Kierkegaard and magnified the word existential.

Imagine my surprise upon returning home to read of the Parisian Existentialists, led by one Jean-Paul Sartre, who in the bistros of Paris was conducting a strange atheistic movement through such plays as “Let the Chips Fall.” Sartre’s main contention consisted of a denial of any objective seat of authority in any category of thought. “One must depend upon his own existence-experience to postulate any true epistemology” (“Let the Chips Fall”).

In the spring of 1947 the newspapers were full of the “goings on” of the existentialists in Paris, which were highly irregular.

Upon further investigation of William James’s sojourn in Germany in the late nineties, I discovered he had come in touch with Heidegger and Jasper at Marburg and Tübingen, where James had picked up the religious implications of existentialism—as corresponding to the general pragmatism of Pearce, which James had developed in his own book Pragmatism.

William James gave a good deal of credit, in explaining his pragmatism, to the empiricism of John Locke—away back in the seventeenth century. Locke, however, never denied an epistemology of an intrinsic value of God. Locke quoted Jesus, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I.” A multiple experience of Christ would postulate His objective being. This led to the “great awakening” in England and America. George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and later the Wesleys were inspired to mass evangelism by Locke’s multiple empiricism.

Without an objective seat of authority one finds an incredible variety of religious experiences. It is not so much in what men affirm as it is in what they deny that irregularities creep in.

Of course we must have an empirical Christ. “For me to live is Christ,” wrote the Apostle Paul, but in this great affirmation there was no denial of his knowledge of Christ as an intrinsic value. “In him dwelt the essence of the Godhead bodily.”

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We can go along with the existentialists, such as Paul Tillich, in their affirmations of the living Christ, but we cannot entertain their negations of an objective epistemology of Christ. We do know “Him in Himself” and not just our experience of Him.

Stated Supply

Harmon Presbyterian

Montgomery County, Md.

1925 In Dayton, Tennessee

The strong weapons of William Jennings Bryan, John Roach Straton, and other fundamentalists of the early 20s, were the books by George McCready Price.

Corresponding with Professor Price a few months before his recent death, I asked him about Bryan’s “failure” at the Tennessee evolution trial. In England at the time and unable to respond to Bryan’s urgent request that he be on hand for the trial, Price did offer him some advice, which, if heeded, might have changed the whole story of the Scopes trial. In substance the advice was:

If scientific testimony is admitted, take the offensive and hit hard at evolutionary geology’s prime weakness—shuffling of fossils and strata into a chronological arrangement on assumption that evolution is true, and trying to prove evolution is true by pointing to the “convincing evidence” as contained in the chronological arrangement.

Go armed with such statements as Le Conte’s that evolution “effects profoundly the foundations of philosophy … (and) determines the whole attitude of mind toward nature and God” (Evolution and its Relation to Religious Thought, pp. 3, 4).

Produce the available historic proofs that the philosophy of evolution originated with the Ionic Greeks as a pagan rival of supernaturalism.

Take a firm position that, because of its undeniable religious implications, the teaching of the theory of evolution in tax-supported schools must be stopped under a corollary of the Bill of Rights, which demands on the part of public institutions an attitude of neutrality in religious concernments.

But Bryan ignored all this advice and allowed the Darrow-Hays-Malone trio to pull a diversionary tactic. Boasting that he was “not afraid to be cross-examined by Darrow,” he walked into an irrelevant defense against the warmed-over mouthings of soap-box skepticism.

As for the attitude of the atheistic and theological evolutionists toward Price and his “New Geology,” they raised a quibble about his “scientific standing” and blinded their eyes to his devastating exposé of the circular reasoning undergirding the geological case for evolution.

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Reseda, Calif.

Cost Of Worship

I am very much impressed by Mr. Blackmore’s arguments (“A Plea for Fasting,” Jan. 18 issue) and entirely agree with him. Our Protestant shortcomings in the respect of fasting are obvious.… We shall not be able to meet the challenge of this turmoil-age with its countless embarrassments without a revival of this religious exercise. Think of the hungry millions of the world! Think of the martyr-churches of our days behind the Iron Curtain and elsewhere! They have to carry on without so many comfortable things of modern civilization. Today I read a letter of a member of the Lutheran church still living east of the river Oder/Neisse. Before, millions of Protestants were living and worshiping there. Most of their churches have been closed down or handed over to the Polish Roman Catholics. Only a very, very few Lutheran Christians still are living there in extremely poor conditions. Now an old lady is writing from that part of the world: “Through God’s grace I had a chance to take part in a harvest-thanksgiving service in—. Two weeks my husband and me, we did not eat any butter, in order to save the money for the trip.…”

As a matter of fact, the next church and service for these people are so far away, that they have to make an expensive journey in order to reach them. But they make the journey, and they keep a certain fasting, so that they may be able to make it.

Cloppenburg, Germany

The Cross And The Tomb

It has just been brought to my attention by the Reverend Gerald Leo Borchert that in the March 16, 1962, issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY he had called attention to an inaccuracy in an article that appeared in the Journal of Biblical Literature, 74 (1955), pp. 277 ff., concerning crucifixion procedure. In that article I had amplified details in the thesis of the distinguished Alsacian scholar, Guillaume Baldensperger (Le Tombeau Vide …, Paris, 1935) in support of a twofold burial of the body of Jesus.

Mr. Borchert seems correct in saying that the death consequent on breaking the legs of the crucified was “because of respiratory failure.” In the article I had assumed it was from shock in consequence of intensified pain. Physicians consulted support Mr. Borchert’s view as regards the majority of victims; my view applies only to a minority. For five years I have been making this correction in presentation offprints, but I may have omitted it from the copy given to Mr. Borchert. I thank him for publishing the correction and herewith formally retract my error.

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At the same time I must call attention to the irrelevance of his establishing “the trustworthiness … of the Johannine account” in this very minor detail to the article’s central thesis. There remains the untrustworthiness of the Evangelist as regards the pertinence of the empty tomb to the resurrection appearances. The “tomb” seen by the women, in which the bodies of the three executed persons had been placed by the soldiers prior to the hour of sacrificing the Paschal Lamb (that year, 1:30 P.M.), had nothing to do with the secret grave to which Joseph took the body of Jesus that evening. To Paul, rather than to the Evangelists, we must look for the historical resurrection appearances. The Church is not founded on a violation of natural law but on Peter’s triumphant faith in his living Lord.

Kendall Park, N.J.

J. Spencer Kennard is at present engaged in writing a four-volume work which will amount to a complete rewriting of the Gospel records of the life of Jesus. Accordingly, I shall delay further criticism of most of his views in anticipation of Kennard’s complete statement. With respect to the Resurrection, however, I would point out that Kennard has considered it necessary to set the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection over against the account of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Accordingly, he would make the Pauline statement normative for interpreting the Gospel records. In fact, following Kirsopp Lake he would undoubtedly make Paul’s experience of the risen Lord the standard for all resurrection experiences. Such a view is of course tempting, but it neglects the fact that even though Paul had an experience of the risen Lord it may not have been identical with those experiences of the earlier Apostles because Paul himself states that the appearance of Christ was as to one untimely born (to ektromati). Moreover, Kennard would relegate the story of the empty tomb in the Gospels to the category of a shrine myth because of the fact that it amounts to “a violation of natural law.” In Kennard’s view, therefore, the resurrection appearances become little more than appearances of a ghost. It seems that he is not very far from splitting the Jesus of History from the Christ of Faith!

Kennard has also given a new face to an old theory in which he proposes that the last ending of Mark contained heretical material, and he seeks to support this theory by a questionable parallel to the non-canonical Gospel of Peter. Such a theory is built on nothing more than hypothesis and is an attempt to make silence speak!

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Now when it comes to the tomb itself, Kennard attempts to turn back the pages of history and completely reconstruct the site in and around Jerusalem in order to show that Joseph of Arimathaea would never have had a tomb close by the place of crucifixion. Moreover, Kennard proposes to reconstruct the road which Jesus used on the way to the crucifixion. Now Kennard may be quite correct in questioning the Roman Catholic reconstructions of the sites of the crucifixion, the tomb, and the via dolorosa, but despite all of his interesting arguments his own reconstructions are hardly of more value than those proposed by Roman Catholic tradition. Accordingly, such reconstructions should be employed only with the greatest amount of caution and especially so when judging the historicity of the Gospel records, because the area in and around Jerusalem has been subjected to so much alteration that contemporary reconstructions of first-century Jerusalem prior to the destruction (pre A.D. 70), although useful, are yet open to serious question.

Princeton Theological Seminary

Princeton, N.J.

Revelation In History

I am very much interested in the article “Eschatology and History” which appeared in the September 28 issue. Although I come out of a liberal tradition, I find myself in quite close agreement with your insistence that revelation occurs both in history (in the usual sense of that word), but that it provides a new kind of history, particularly in the church. These problems deserve much more careful treatment than they have so far received in American theology.

Trinity College

Hartford, Conn.

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