Reemphasis on the ministry of the whole Church is one of the gratifying turns in contemporary theology. Until the recent Montreal study conference this subject had not appeared on an ecumenical faith-and-order agenda for twenty-five years. While Montreal settled none of the central problems, aspects of the recent dialogue mirror some of the main issues under debate.
A new framework in biblical and dogmatic studies is expanding the discussion of apostle and apostolicity far beyond the unique role of the Twelve, even beyond the task of the ordained ministry, to emphasize that the apostles serve also as prototypes of all who follow Christ. Is Christian ministry, it is asked, really the exclusive prerogative and duty of the clergy-man? Much is being said about a rediscovered ministry of the laity. Are churches to slam the door on laymen who think they have a genuine “ministerial” call outside the pastoral office? Such concerns are shaping a self-conscious study of the larger implications of ministry, and particularly of the relationship between all ministries and the special (often called the “ordained”) ministry.
The “general” ministry is increasingly discussed not simply in the specific context of Christ’s pastoral ministry to the Church, but also in the broader context of Christ’s evangelistic ministry to the world, and even in the context of the doctrine of creation. New emphasis is thus given to ministry as service to and for the world, and not merely as service in and for the Church. In many circles the formula minister-church-world views the minister in relation to the world (as contrasted with the missionary) like the queen bee who stays in the hive while the others penetrate the world. Is the missionary then the exception, or is he really the norm, in depicting an ideal strategy of penetration? If the norm, why are almost 1,000 seminary-trained graduates reportedly “biding their time” in the Dallas-Fort Worth area “waiting for pulpits”?
Doubtless this new emphasis has its perils, such as a growing disposition to regard the slogan “Christ and the world” as an acceptable substitute for “Christ and the Church.” A statement in one of the Montreal reports that “the Church recognizes joyously that God does not spend all of his time in the Church” was deplored by one of the delegates as “little short of blasphemous.” There is much confusion abroad today about the relation of Christ to the world (a term of many meanings). Christ and world are indeed not in every sense alternatives, since the Church is made up of that segment of the world that has heard and received the Gospel.
But to say that Jesus was first and foremost “a man of the world” and not “an ecclesiastical leader” can lead to all sorts of absurdity. From our Lord’s obvious concern for the world some religious theorists derive an open-end theology which unlocks the gates of hell and assures everybody an ultimate place in the kingdom of God. The teaching is also ridiculed that Christians are in any sense to be “not of this world.” Others minimize the Church in expounding God’s concern for mankind. In New Delhi it was sometimes implied that the Church is in all respects an obstacle to Christian witness in the world; the plea is widely sounded for “a new doctrine” of “an open church in time and space devoted to healing all men, non-Christian as well as Christian.” The relation between congregation and world becomes an increasingly bewildering concern for those who are prone to transmute Christ’s ministry of reconciliation into other efforts at reconciliation and peace (based on broad ethical tenets) and whose bold emphasis is that the Church has “God’s plan of order for the nations.”
Insofar as these emphases remind Christians that they are “called out” to be sent, and are summoned to obedience in the midst of community life, they are instructive and helpful. It is tragic indeed if Christian vision is confined strictly to “tasks in the Church” and lacks feeling for the outside world where many of the cultural patterns are being shaped. Yet we dare not forget that the Church is the basic fabric to which the various Christian ministries to the world must be appliquéd. As the regenerate body of believers, the Church stands not in an optional but in an indispensable relationship between Christ and the world, unless the redemptive work of Christ is to be obscured as the central theme of the Christian message.
At its best, the new emphasis tries to recover the lost missionary character of the ministry and of the Church. It begets a widening uneasiness over locating churches only where the community can support them in their established character, rather than where they can contribute the fullest missionary service. And it has raised mounting discussion over the relationship between the “set-apart” ministry and the service of the entire Church.
Some conversations about the “general” ministry, in fact, show a definitely anti-clerical mood. Is not the Church’s distinction between laity and ministry quite an arbitrary one? it is asked. Since the term laos includes ministers, too, ought ministry and laity to be contrasted? Some say that to perpetuate two permanently classified corporate groups in the Church merely promotes an arbitrary “Constantinian” cast of thought, and thereby minimizes the New Testament emphasis on one Body with many members, each with a personal and particular calling. The dichotomy of ordained ministers and non-ordained members, it is suggested, creates the impression that the clergy are somehow outside and above the Church.
The revolt against ministry as conceived only in clerical terms is especially pronounced in student circles. A university student in New Zealand recently argued openly that “the whole business of the Church should be flushed down the john.” In European work camps many young people laugh at the special phrasing of Christian vocation in clerical terms. In some seminaries only 25 per cent of the students are preparing for the pastoral ministry, while 75 per cent aspire toward other types of Christian work. There is growing impatience with the usual discussions of “apostolic succession” while “the apostolic succession of the whole Church” is in danger of dying.
Often stated as a biblical basis for general ministry is the Petrine emphasis on the “royal priesthood” of the believer (1 Pet. 2:9). Since the term “priest” in New Testament teaching does not imply a distinction within the Church, there is a fresh plea for recognizing the lay apostolate which makes each church member a shepherd of his neighbor. In lands like Czechoslovakia wholly new forms of lay ministry have arisen. In some places growing interest in a “tent-making ministry” could topple the usual requirements of seminary training and ordination and related standards of financial compensation. Observers on various frontiers are asking what new “forms” of ministry are necessary to reach those outside the churches and indifferent to them. On many mission fields today part-time non-professional ministries are the only way whereby Christian work may be carried on. Are such efforts to be considered as merely auxiliary exceptions, and the “Constantinian pattern” of the ministry alone assumed to be the norm? Or is there a danger that ecclesiastical over-precision might rule out authentic calls of God? Does the obligation of Christian witness and ministry exist at all Christian levels and in all Christian relationships?
The term diakonia has been suggested as an appropriate covering designation of the ministry of the whole Church, that of the special ministry included, with increased emphasis on the concept of a servant-ministry. Since monarchial views of ministry which rule out the ministry of the whole community of the faithful are especially under fire, there is growing disposition to speak of special diakonia and more general diakonia. Over against the exaltation and magnification of ministers and a professional spirit of domination, stress is mounting on the servanthood and responsibility of ministry that proceeds from a minister’s true relationship to Jesus Christ. The ordained ministry, it is urged, is to be justified on the basis of service that contributes to the effective performance of the whole body of Christ. No categorical distinction is to be made between minister and members, however, or between the special minister and one who fulfills his general ministry. Where such a distinction remains, it is argued, the whole congregation no longer participates decisively in the ministry of the Church.
In some discussions of the ministry of all God’s people ordained ministers have sometimes sensed a disposition to minimize the special ministry. They see the danger that those who favor only a non-sacerdotal ministry will speak so negatively and critically of other ecclesiastical patterns that they will abet an excessive reaction against the whole tradition of special ministry. Some who insist that we must not belittle the ministry of the whole Church seem to imply the question whether there ought to be any special ministry at all. The Protestant Reformed tradition, while insisting on an ordained ministry, rejects sacerdotal views of ministry common to the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic communions. The latter assert a necessary connection between apostolic succession and ordination as a sacrament, and see this “unbroken succession” as an essential constituent of the Church itself. Some of the reaction against sacerdotal misunderstanding of how God’s grace comes to his people reinforces views like those of the Society of Friends, which wholly dismisses the notion of ordination. If justification, the New Birth, and the work of the Spirit are central, says the evangelical Quaker, what does he lack that other believers are assured through sacramental views of the Church?
Many clerymen would reply that the lay ministry must not be exalted at the expense of the special ministry, and that this special ministry, for all its risks of professionalism, pomposity, and pride, is indispensable in the Church. Avoid both extremes, they would say—that of clericalism and that of “laicism.”
Although the Montreal Faith and Order Conference asserted the validity of both the special and general ministries, it wavered on several issues. Ought the special ministry to be discussed in the larger context of the general ministry, or is the general ministry to be comprehended in and through the apostolic and special ministries? Montreal implied but did not insist on the latter. While its concern was to validate both the ministry of the whole body and the special ministry, it confined the term “minister” to the special ministry. Some delegates emphasized that the special ministry must be honored and that the image of the “set-apart” minister must not be used of others engaged in the ministry of the whole Church. They sought to avoid promoting an untenable dichotomy that suggests the inferiority of the general ministry by shunning such vocabulary as ordination to “the holy ministry,” on the ground that the evangelistic imperative devolves upon all believers and that there is but one New Testament standard of holiness.
What is it then that distinguishes special from general ministry? Not all denominations (Disciples of Christ, for example) contend that ordination is necessary to ministerial calling. But most communions insist upon the link between ordination and ministry. Some ask if there is a way to ordain the congregation, too, making it responsible to the minister. (Some in order to validate the ministry of the laity urge that ordination to the general ministry inheres in every member’s baptism as it involves God’s call to fill one’s part in the apostolic ministry. If baptism is, indeed, ordination to ministry in which the whole church shares, then questions are inevitable concerning much of the present practice of baptism.) Then, too, what does special ordination itself accomplish, and how? If every believer who witnesses to Christ does so with the same authority as the minister—except in another place and station—does ordination lose any of its special significance? How is the gift of the Holy Spirit to the ordained minister to be distinguished from the spiritual gifts in which all Christians were expected to share? Does not what is often ascribed to the minister belong really to the Holy Spirit? Is the Spirit to be cited only in respect to calling and authorization, or also in respect to the minister’s work? And does not the Spirit endow all believers to perform their particular ministries? If the special function of ordained ministers is to keep the Body in closer fellowship with the Head, is not Christ himself the guarantee of the Church, clergy included, rather than vice versa? Or is it true, as some argue, that Christ is available to us only through what he imparts by the clergy—Word, sacraments, and so forth? In other words, must all Christian realities be mediated through the office of ordained ministers? If the ordained ministry guarantees the Word, or its truth, one can only observe that historically they have not been impressively successful. An educated ministry and the laying on of hands seem to assure true proclamation of the Gospel no more than does an uneducated ministry untouched by hierarchical hands.
Does the special ordination of candidates for the pulpit then lead to ministry as a lifelong profession? Today, when clerical “professionalism” is under increasing criticism, and when the ministry of the Church is understood as service, all notions of special privilege or hiring for a job, it is emphasized, must vanish into the sense of calling, in which all divine vocations have equal status. While the ordained minister may have a higher function, it is noted, to which he is separated at ordination, he nevertheless represents no higher class. Yet the concept of life service doubtless has roots both in the Old Testament priesthood and in the New Testament apostolate. And even if the inference to an ordained ministry is invalid, some say, what is unbiblical about offices for ministers if local churches feel this makes them more available to their congregations?
But those who view ordination as a sacrament, and as the maintenance of apostolic continuity through the imposition of hands, think this undervalues succession. Relying heavily on the sub-apostolic church, the Orthodox insist on the preservation both of apostolic succession and of apostolic faith, and they protest that the Reformation almost discarded the former. They stress that it was apostolic succession in the Orthodox church which preserved the apostolic faith from the perverse “secret wisdom” of the Gnostics.
But the clergy are increasingly under pressure to articulate the similarities and differences between the specific and the general ministries. They are asked to demonstrate their preservation of the apostolic faith and to exemplify in life the teaching that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
The fact is being stressed anew that the ministry of the Church as a whole is inseparable from the ministry of Jesus Christ taken both as a historical and as a continuing reality. The Church’s Basic Minister is Jesus Christ, whose ministry is such that no one—not even the apostles—can participate in its completed work. He is the Apostle, according to the New Testament. On the basis of his final and unique ministry, moreover, it is not the ordained ministry as such, but the apostolic ministry which provides the foundation stone of Christianity. Yet all Christian ministries share somehow in the apostolic task, and the ministry of all members of the Body is a proclamation and illumination of Christ’s ministry for and to the world.
But one need not rest the case for a special or ordained ministry simply on a specialized doctrine of the general ministry. Some foundation for a distinction between a special and a general ministry may be found in Christ’s selection of the Twelve. Moreover, in Ephesians 4:11 f., the Apostle Paul writes of Christ’s gifts to the Church: “He gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” He gave them, we read, “for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering.” Obviously, then, the work of ministering is not to be confined to a few church officers; every member has a divinely ordained ministry. The Protestant Reformers located the basis of the special ministry not in hierarchical or ecclesiastical succession, but rather in doctrinal and pastoral succession. So, too, the Puritans stressed that the authority of the clergy is ministerial rather than magisterial, pastoral rather than coercive. In Montreal, no precise justification of special ministers was articulated. The problem of the relationship between special and general ministries was referred for study to the churches, and to the WCC’s theological commission. While the clergy inquire afresh into the nature of their special ministry, the rest of God’s people need just as earnestly to probe the obligations of the general ministry.
To one who had twice enjoyed the rather sedate Edinburgh Festival of music and arts, it came as a distinct shock to read in American newspapers that the festival was this year enlivened by a blond model doing a strip tease. There was some relief in reading on to find that the performance was not part of the planned program. To the accompaniment of some cheers and some shocked gaping, a nude young art-college model was wheeled across the organ gallery. She explained in buck-passing fashion: “My friends thought the whole thing should be jazzed up.” But dismay on our part followed upon our reading both of the American source of the action and of the reaction of the stellar observer, the Earl of Harewood, cousin to Queen Elizabeth. He had barely concluded a sober conference on “the theater of the future” when the spontaneous strip performance got underway. The earl’s reaction—“I wasn’t in the least annoyed”—was not reassuring, particularly in view of the prominent place of British royalty in setting an ethical tone for their nation. Only the week before, he had complained that Edinburgh’s tradition of stern Calvinism was hurting festival finances. (See also News, page 41.)
“Success at any price” is a popular concept these days so long as the price is not financial loss. High cost in morals can be abided. Disintegration of the personality is to be preferred to deterioration at the box office.
In a day when inconvenient inhibitions are banished and costly standards are hurried into exile, it is common to look back smilingly, even indulgently, on the Edinburgh of John Knox. “Calvinism,” “Puritanism”—these have become signals for scorn, to be dismissed with the easy charge of patent self-righteousness. The latter is indeed a universal malady which the student of Calvinists and Puritans finds they readily confessed. In contrast, those who today point the finger at the Calvinists seem to feel they are absolved from self-righteousness, having so little righteousness anyway. Alas, it does not follow. They have not plumbed the mystery of iniquity which finds it possible to be self-righteous over lack of righteousness. Legalism can bounce from Puritan to stripper simply by lowering its standards. It is more relentless than a camel’s nose.
A single incident like the above may serve as a portent for our day, for we read of far too many like it. Another news story of a different sort, which came out of New York City two days later, related how defeat was averted at the polls for reform Democratic candidate Edward I. Koch, in a district leadership race against ex-boss Carmine De Sapio. Mild panic pervaded Koch’s headquarters about an hour before polls closed at 10 P.M. They discovered that voting had been relatively light in areas favoring the reform group and heavy in pro-De Sapio sectors. So in a last minute do-or-die effort, Mr. Koch and his supporters manned telephones and rang doorbells in Greenwich Village. Voters were rushed to the polls in nightgowns, pajamas, and topcoats. Koch personally persuaded three would-be sleepers to forswear their beds temporarily for a trip to the polls. He won the election by forty-one votes.
If this sort of effort can be expended for temporal goals, one wonders about the possibility of parallel effort for eternal purposes, particularly in view of the drift in morals since the Second World War and accommodation to the drift by political “leaders.” Election, fire, flood … these call forth the voices of warning. But where are the compelling external cries to match the inner voices of the soul which at times murmur darkly and other times shout clamorously that all is not well, that wayward feet are treading the way of wrath, the path of judgment?
The answer is not simply in passing more laws. These can tower formidably over the “natural man” so as to provoke mockery or hasten despair. Society’s solution cannot be found outside Jesus Christ. It is to be found in regeneration by his Spirit, who alone can set men’s souls on fire with a divinely sent thirst for greater purity, both for the individual and for the body politic.
Apart from such spiritual burning and purging, men sink beneath the weight and corruption of their own sin. This often takes the form of their seeking to free themselves from the vestigial conscience of Christian forebears. But the moment of such a triumph for humanity is the moment in which mankind is seen to be smitten with paralysis and the hand of death.
And after this the judgment.
War And Peace At Winona
Should a Christian support and even take part in a war, no matter how just he may believe it to be? This question was given serious consideration for two days, at Winona Lake, Indiana, by some thirty evangelical scholars. They devoted one day to a discussion of “biblical perspectives” in papers by Professor George S. Ladd of Fuller Seminary, Professor Glen Barker of Gordon Theological School, and Professor William Klassen of Mennonite Biblical Seminary. The following day they considered “theological perspectives” under the guidance of Professor Henry Stob of Calvin College, and Professor John H. Yoder of Goshen College. Dr. Paul Peachey also presented a paper on “War and the Christian Witness,” with particular reference to missions.
Before the conference had gone very far, it became clear that the division over the lawfulness of Christian participation in war included a more basic question: the Christian’s relation to the world. Should the Christian regard the world around him as basically evil and therefore something from which he should separate himself as completely as possible? Or should he, while acknowledging the impact of sin upon the world, also recognize that God in His grace restrained sin by means of various institutions, such as the family and the state, to which the Christian has some responsibilities?
Klassen and Yoder as well as a number of other participants made very clear their feeling that Christians, set apart from the world, must not participate in warfare on the ground that it contravenes Christ’s law of love. The state, knowing nothing of Christ’s redemptive work, follows a pagan course with pagan means, so that all the Christian can do is refuse to support the war and suffer the consequences.
To others such as Ladd, Reid, and Stob, the Christian has to recognize on the basis of Romans 13:1–5 that the state was ordained of God to maintain peace and justice. Therefore, as long as the state fulfills its God-given duty, the Christian has the responsibility of participating in its actions, even being willing to bear arms in a just cause. At the same time they insisted that the Church must continually call the state to a recognition of the ultimate kingship of Jesus Christ.
On the matter of atomic warfare, while the non-resistance group opposed any Christian participation, Stob held that since war always takes place to remedy a situation, if we believe that the total destruction of all men would possibly result, then men should refuse to fight. War would destroy all society and would thus frustrate its own purpose.
Although discussion waxed long and sometimes loud, the conference reached no unanimous conclusion. The Anabaptist and the Reformed traditions remained as far apart as they were four centuries ago. On the other hand, both groups felt that they had obtained a new understanding of each other’s position and a new appreciation of each other as Christian brethren.
Ordination And Special Ministry
One facet of the problem of ministry which is being discussed in many church circles is the flexibility and scope of the term “ordained ministry.” Since World War II a new breed of ministers has emerged, a floating ecumenical staff—ecumenical bureaucrats among them—who shepherd no flocks. Are they special ministers, or are they to be considered within the diversity of general ministry? Ought only the “ministers of Word and sacrament” to be ordained? If a Christian is ordained to the pastoral ministry, does this ordination apply also to non-pastoral ministries? Theological professors and editors of religious magazines are often former pastors who see no reason for becoming “unordained” in their new tasks. Ought the Church to ordain a minister to factories? to artists? If this seems ludicrous, some observers would reply: why relate the pastorate only to the private residential life of church members and not to their vocational life? What are the limits of ordination? Does it ideally include women? deacons? all dedicated laymen?
Among Baptists in England and Ireland, the local church (together with representatives of other churches) performs ordination; such ordination, however—in contrast with the sacramental ordination of “apostolic succession”—does not confer a lifelong status, but ends when an ordinant no longer fulfills the functions for which he was ordained. If ordination, some say, is simply a matter of local church order, then not only pastors but also any member with a specific church responsibility (nurses and wardens too) could be ordained. But is an installation ceremony then preferable to ordination for non-pastoral special ministries and for general ministries as well? In a study group of Swiss Reformed ministers, moreover, half the conferees considered ordination for lifelong ministry to be wrong because it divides the Church into two classes; only the apostles were ordained, they argued, and ministers ought rather to be installed. It is curious to find some Presbyterian bodies in America venturing to ordain women to the ministry while Reformed ministers in Switzerland are asking whether ministers ought to be ordained at all.
Trends In ‘Inner City’ Church Effort
Announcement of the sale of the National Presbyterian Church properties in Washington, D. C., was happily linked to word that the imposing denominational church and national center under discussion for a decade would thereby become a reality on a sixteen-acre site at 4300 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
The sale to commercial interests of the present church properties on Connecticut Avenue (Washington’s “Fifth Avenue”), where John Witherspoon’s monument has long beckoned worshippers inside, nonetheless dramatizes the pressing problem of many downtown churches to which serious attention is being given by the so-called “inner city” movement. Commercial building booms, residential transiency and flight to the suburbs, and shifting population complexions and tides have given short-term survival notice to many city churches of past greatness, Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church among them. Some big downtown churches have long been kept alive not so much by a virile local membership as by a pulpit ministry attractive to a “floating attendance” generously sprinkled with discontented members of other churches.
If relocating churches are not wholly to forsake our giant metropolises, fresh emphasis is needed on a theology of Christ’s identification with sinners everywhere-indicating its implications for the large city church no less than for the storefront mission—and on the importance as well of registering the Christian witness upon the social needs and public problems of the inner city. When Pacific Garden Mission had to relocate back in 1922, one of its trustees moved about Chicago’s street corners with an adding machine to learn “just where the fish are.” His evangelistic instinct was much sounder than the current ecclesiastical tendency to follow (or even to anticipate) the exodus of the current membership to suburbia.
Perhaps to relieve its guilt complex somewhat, the suburban church tends now to “identify” itself with the socio-political aspirations of big-city minorities and masses, while it remains as aloof as ever to their prime spiritual needs. And much of the “inner city” movement, of which we are now hearing a great deal, compounds this same error. What the man in the street most needs from the Christian religion is not a political advisor but prophets and apostles, and above all else, the forgiveness of sins and new birth. Instead of relying upon political dynamisms for achievement of spiritual objectives, the Church ought to be confronting and challenging the political strategies with spiritual power and redemption. Better laws, to be sure, are always necessary. But new laws without new life will produce only a mummy society aware of the form of godliness but lacking its power in conscience and life.
It is distressing when some champions of the inner city effort—particularly those who manage to get the ear of the press—feel they must debunk individual piety and mass evangelism while stressing social relevance. That is like trying to fly a string without the kite. The Church can stand more personal piety—a great deal more—and the disparagers need the same double dose as the rest of us. Evangelism is Christianity’s very lifeline from generation to generation. Mass evangelism, indeed, may be but a methodical compensation for the lack of individual evangelism; when churchmembers fully recover a passion for lost souls the former may well dissolve into the latter. But snide criticism of mass evangelism today often slides into a veiled rejection of the evangelistic thrust as such and a ready disposition to exchange spiritual rebirth for socio-political alertness.
We are not saying that Christians have no stake in socio-political outcomes. But getting people politically active does not also make them spiritually alive, despite the fact that some churchmen today prefer being identified by a placard in a picket line to reading a Bible in the crowd. Corporate activity in political affairs is no sure mark of a living church; more and more, it becomes a sign that a church is confused about its authentic corporate mission. It is remarkable that our political institutions sometimes recognize religious principles more soundly than our churches themselves preserve them. At any rate, the churches are granted tax exemption because they presumably engage in a spiritual ministry, and not in direct corporate political activity.
What are the marks of a virile church, whether inner city or suburbia? The Scriptures are studied, treasured, and practiced. The Gospel is truly proclaimed. Men are reminded individually that they are lost and doomed without the forgiveness of sins, and they are invited to a personal experience of salvation in Christ. The multitudes are told that God desires everyman’s restoration to a life of holiness and justice—and that He has gone the vast distance to Calvary to open the way of fellowship with himself. People are confronted with the news that Christ is Lord of all—and the whole of learning and life is called anew to reflect the light of the Lamb slain for sinners.
If these are among the marks of a virile Church—and surely one must say this of the apostolic Church in the Roman Empire—the primary issue facing our inner-city churches and suburban churches alike is not methodical change but theological and missionary renewal. The death or life of a church is more than location and strategy. Some churches in the remote African jungle have more spiritual virility than others in our proud metropolitan centers. The Church’s true life is supernatural. Where a church is regarded mainly as a matter of buildings, of location, of a socio-political esprit de corps, one looks in vain for that regenerate body of devout believers whom the crucified and risen Christ heads and whom the Holy Spirit indwells. The hope of our big cities remains Christ walking among the candlesticks, not churchmen circulating among the picket lines. Where sinners are twice born, where Christian virtue flows freely from men’s lives, where church members eagerly lead their lost neighbors to Christ—there neither the gates of hell, nor suburban vices, nor downtown decline, will prevail against the Church.
Protestants And The President’S Library
When the first definitive list of book titles for the White House library was made public last month it was evident to many observers that the future library would furnish presidents with an adequate impression of the influence of grass-roots Protestantism upon the life and culture of our nation only by religious histories or by selections from early American literature. Perhaps it would not succeed at all. Missing from the list of fifty-six religious works are many Puritan classics, all of Protestantism’s great dogmatic theologies (Hodge, Strong, Warfield), and all productions of the Protestant pulpit. Well represented are the social-gospel movement, the theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, and some of America’s older religious sects. Five versions of the Bible will occupy the White House shelves.
Evangelicals my be encouraged by titles in American literature which represent the historic religious faith of the American colonists. Included are The Works of Jonathan Edwards, William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, and Cotton Mather’s Ecclesiastical History of New England. Perry Miller’s definitive study of The Puritans finds a place under literary history and criticism. The conservative tradition thus represented is not recent, but the selection may inspire evangelicals to increase their efforts in proclaiming the historic Protestant faith and to recapture the modern mind and the American culture for Christ.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more