In an editorial introduction to a recent issue of Columbia College Today featuring the place of religion at the college, George Charles Keller tells how an undergraduate asked him one day what this alumni publication was going to discuss. When told that the subject would be “Religion on the Campus,” the student, obviously taken aback, exclaimed: “But, sir, there is none.” The young man went on to say that, while some students attended church services, took religion courses, or belonged to religious clubs, their motivation came from anything but “a deep sense that they owed reverence to a God who created the world and is still involved in everything men do or try to be.”

With this Mr. Keller expressed substantial agreement, saying, “Religion in the traditional sense of formally offering awe and gratitude to a mysterious, omnipresent being has departed for the most part from college campuses.… However, religion in a new sense is growing rapidly at American colleges.” And he defined religion as “mainly a personal quest by young men for some reasonable guidelines for their own actions and clues to the meaning of history.”

Unquestionably the place of religion in school and college is one of the livelier subjects of the time. The churches are probing it; witness Professor William Hordern’s articles published simultaneously in Presbyterian Life, The Lutheran, and The Episcopalian. In the “Survey of the Political and Religious Attitudes of American College Students” that appeared in the National Review Protestant students in comparison with Catholic students made a poor showing in stability of faith, and one Protestant church college had the highest rate of apostasy of any college polled.

As for the public schools, the religious discussion continues in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on Bible reading and prayer. When a parent visiting his child’s classroom in a Rochester (N. Y.) elementary school sees on the blackboard, “The heavens declare the glory of nature,” and is told by the teacher that the quotation of the Nineteenth Psalm was revised at the principal’s request, the role of religion in public education is still very much confused.

The instinct that leads Americans to be concerned about religion in education is a sound one. Few if any institutions in a nation influence its citizenry more than its schools; and in America, with education for all, this influence is especially pervasive. According to Francis Keppel, United States commissioner of education, more than one in every four in our 188 million population is enrolled in public and private schools and colleges, the total for 1962–63 being some 51.3 million. Only recently the Educational Policies Commission of the National Education Association announced as the new goal for the nation’s schools “universal opportunity” for all youth to have two years’ education beyond high school at “non-selective” public colleges on a tuitionless basis together with provision when needed of the expense of living away from home. Moreover, the rise in independent school attendance from 1899–1900, when 91 per cent of children were in public and 9 per cent in private schools, to 1962–63, when only 85 per cent were in public schools and 15 per cent in private schools (the vast majority of which are religious), underlines widespread parental concern for the spiritual training of youth.

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Against this background, where does Protestant Christian education, particularly that of evangelical persuasion, stand? The first answer to the question is statistical. If the great majority of the 15 per cent minority (6.7 million in total) of elementary and secondary school pupils are in Roman Catholic parochial schools, as they are, and if only a comparatively small number of the remaining private schools are evangelical, then such schools are only a minority of a minority—and a tiny one at that. For the colleges, the situation is broadly comparable; Christian institutions are again in the minority and those that are evangelical are again a sub-minority.

But is Protestant Christian education in general and the drop-in-the-bucket evangelical minority in particular therefore negligible? Are evangelicals so far behind educationally that their influence may be written off? To both questions the answer is an emphatic No.

Look once more at the background: the increasing number of religion courses in many colleges, yet the undergraduate saying of religion on his campus, “But, sir, there is none”; the repudiation of supernatural religion, and its redefinition as a quest for guidelines and clues to the meaning of history—all this is far from authentic religion even according to the broad Judeo-Christian tradition, let alone its expression in the grand particularities of the historic evangelical faith. It is rather the search for a philosophy and the desire for purpose and for personal identification. And the result may be that, with all the meticulously objective study of religion, the student may merely work out his own philosophy of life which will be, as Canon Bryan Green said, only “My-anity” and not vital Christianity.

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But what about authentic New Testament faith on the campus? To overlook its presence and to belittle its relevance betokens a kind of spiritual myopia. Not all practicing Catholics and Jews worship only by force of habit. Not all Protestants are superficial formalists. And there is on the American campus a committed minority (faculty as well as students) that crosses denominational lines and includes in a practical biblical ecumenism those who out of a personal, saving encounter with Jesus Christ recognize their oneness with all believers and who find the Bible essential spiritual food as well as the infallible rule of faith and practice. Measured against the millions in higher education, this minority is numerically insignificant. Measured against the little group of disciples who turned the world upside down, it is large. And it is worldwide. At Oxford, Cambridge, and other British universities, among college and university students in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America, and the Orient, there is a remnant of evangelical students and teachers. And where it is found, there even on the secular campus is religion in its worldwide, biblical aspect.

Protestant colleges are of two kinds: those that are church-related and those that, while independent of denominational control, yet maintain a thorough-going Christian position. In the first group are the colleges—and their number is considerable—that differ little from the private secular colleges. To be sure, they have departments of Bible and religion, chapel services, and religious emphasis weeks (a singularly patronizing term); but these are peripheral to an education in other respects indistinguishable from its secular counterpart. Here the adjective “church-related” betrays a kind of second-cousin-once-removed relationship quite different from whole-hearted commitment of administration and faculty to a denominational and theological position.

Yet there are also some church-related colleges that are unreservedly committed to the biblical world view and that, along with the group of evangelical but denominationally unaligned colleges, comprise institutionally a conservative Christian minority in higher education. For this minority, Christ and the Scriptures are central to the program and the unity of all truth in God is a major premise. For them the faculty is a fellowship of believers, not an eclectic company made up of Christians, adherents of non-Christian religions, and more or less benevolent unbelievers. In a day of doctrinal indifference they hold to the biblical doctrines of supernatural Christianity and know their position to be compatible with good scholarship. While the number of such colleges is small yet growing, their influence for the Kingdom far transcends their size. From them has come significant national and world evangelical leadership. They too are a part, and a not inconsiderable one, of the remnant in education today.

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But any estimate of religion in education cannot be confined to the colleges and universities. It must also take account of the formative years of childhood and the crucial years of adolescence. Here the lines are sharply drawn. By constitutional interpretation public schools are secular. But independent schools are free to use their independence for Christian education as fully as they desire. The number of Christian day schools, both denominational and parent-controlled, is growing. Some boarding schools are thoroughly committed to the unity of education in Christ and the Bible. Would that more of the non-Roman Catholic independent schools might be like-minded!

As for public education, it would be a mistake to assume that because of its religious neutrality it is devoid of a believing remnant. Wherever a Christian who knows whom he has believed and trusts the Bible as the Word of God teaches in a public classroom, there is something of Christ. Such a teacher must adhere scrupulously to state-imposed limitations on sectarian religion in the schools. Yet no teacher, least of all a devoted Christian, teaches out of a convictionless vacuum. The feeling tones of his classroom are bound to reflect the One to whom the Christian in secular education belongs. And in his community he has full liberty to witness by word and life.

Yes, there is religion on the campus—college, secondary and elementary school, public and private. Through the believing remnant, Christianity is in education every day. It is there for the age-old purpose of witness and response. Let objective college courses in religion continue. They have their place in the academic program. But their upsurge on the secular campus is of lesser significance than the consistent witness of the believing remnant to the living God of the Scriptures and to his Son.

Youth seeks reality and responds to it. Youth penetrates pretense and sham. Christ is himself reality. Amid the sophistication, moral ambiguity, and longing for personal fulfillment, the unchanging Christ, when lifted up in his saving reality, still draws youth to himself.

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One of the encouraging signs of our day is that American education, apart from the public school, is more ready to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ than it was twenty years ago. And of those who are hearing it on the campus, some like C. S. Lewis are “surprised by joy.” The reception accorded Billy Graham at secular colleges and universities is genuinely significant; with commendable liberalism many a college chapel is more open to evangelical preaching than in the past. Organizations such as the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and Campus Crusade for Christ that have opportunities parallel to those of the denominational student ministries should take full advantage of them.

Let the Christian remnant in education proclaim their Lord with conviction and by faithful word and consistent life. The God who brought out of academic communities in the past a Luther and a Calvin, a Wesley and an Edwards, a Drummond and a Mott, may be trusted to bring forth his leaders for today.

Christian Conscience And The Vote

The adoption of a new amendment (the twenty-fourth) to the United States Constitution, prohibiting poll taxes as a requisite for voting in federal elections, is a reminder of a basic civic duty. In signing the document on February 4 certifying ratification of the amendment by three-fourths of the states of the union, President Johnson said: “Nothing is so valuable as liberty and nothing is so necessary to liberty as the freedom to vote without bans or barriers.”

While the amendment will increase the voting record of the few states with poll taxes, the nationwide average (63.8 per cent in 1960) of participation in elections continues to need improvement.

A citizen who carelessly refrains from voting might be regarded as displaying inexcusable ingratitude for the liberty he enjoys under God. To vote or not to vote is certainly a matter of Christian conscience. Nor is the privilege of the franchise rightly exercised by going to the polls with only a sketchy knowledge of candidates and issues. Christians ought to be in the forefront of the informed electorate. This means day-by-day interest in public affairs rather than a last-minute scramble for information prior to an election. Consistent and considered participation at the polls will do more than increase the national voting average; as an expression of civic responsibility, it will help make for better government.

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Look Before You Give

Not long ago a teacher at a Christian school received a “most pathetic appeal” from a missionary society he had never heard of. Funds were urgently needed, it said, for work in India and other far-off lands, where missionaries were seeing wonderful results. “Brother and his associates presented the Gospel so powerfully that many came forward weeping, accepting Christ as Saviour,” the appeal stated. “Rev.——, his pastors, evangelists and Bible women, are doing a magnificent job for the Lord.” There were sketches, statistics, and plenty of references to the Holy Ghost, prayer—and money.

This teacher did what most people do not do: he decided to investigate. A former missionary to India who lives near the alleged mission’s American headquarters was asked to do some checking, and other inquiries were made. Investigation failed to turn up any record of the preacher. The district in India given in the literature as a base of operations proved to be non-existent, and the American headquarters were found to be located in a wedding chapel.

Whatever the truth about this organization, its activities are at least highly dubious. Moreover, it is a fact that some so-called missionary societies are begun by people who have decided that the needy-works-in-the-distant-lands gambit can produce a very easy dollar. Some of these opportunists may even make a good living from their unctuously worded appeals, while managing to stay on the fringes of legality. When the news about them does get around, it tends to cast a shadow on the whole missions movement, especially on the relatively unknown but sound missionary society.

What can be done? Aside from the denominational boards, probably no other organizations know as much about missions, genuine and spurious, as the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA) and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA). Membership in either body amounts to a guarantee of reliability. If the mission in question is not listed by either one, the prospective giver can do his own checking. In a magazine article last year, Clyde Taylor, executive secretary of the EFMA, recommended securing a financial statement, a list of the board of directors, and some information about the mission’s policies.

What we have, we hold in trust. Our responsibility is not discharged simply by making out checks to any organization that calls itself a mission and spells “Saviour” with a capital S. Stewardship implies careful and thoughtful giving.

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Another Memorial In Washington

In his remarks at the annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington on February 5 (see News) President Lyndon Johnson proposed that “a fitting memorial to the God who made us all” be erected in the capital city. This memorial, he said, might be “a center of prayer, open to all men of all faiths at all times,” and he suggested that International Christian Leadership, sponsor of the Prayer Breakfast, “undertake the mission of bringing together the faiths and the religions of America to support jointly such a memorial.”

The proposal raises two main questions: (1) In a city that already has several national denominational churches, including a great cathedral open as a house of prayer to all people, is such a memorial necessary? (2) Can a joint endeavor of the kind proposed by Mr. Johnson be carried out without the assumption that the various religions are but different roads to God? While Christian Americans recognize the inalienable right of their fellow citizens to worship God according to conscience, they cannot go beyond the words of their Lord, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” This Lenten season reminds us once more that Christ’s arms which were stretched out on the Cross for the redemption of the world are still beckoning all who labor and are heavy laden to come to him. But his invitation is unique; “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

If, however, the President desires a recognition of the historical Christian roots of the nation that go back to the Pilgrim fathers, and if the suggested memorial would clearly be a Christian place of prayer open to all, then the proposal might well be considered by the Christian churches of the country. Otherwise it would seem best to forget the memorial idea and to focus attention upon the opening of the President’s remarks in which he spoke movingly to his fellow believers of his need of prayer and of the way in which prayer has helped him “to bear the burdens of this first office which are too great to be borne by anyone alone.” Remembrance of the President in prayer is in itself a living memorial to God.

Church Schools: Symptoms Of Decline

Trends in two essential aspects of present-day Christian education—the Sunday school and the daily vacation Bible school—are cause for concern.

Although often criticized, the Sunday school is a major instrument of Christian education, and its health is of critical significance to the Church. Therefore, its present slow but steady decline in enrollment (1960–40,241,650; 1961–40,239,020; 1962–40,096,624) despite consistent increase in church membership is a symptom not to be overlooked. It must be taken seriously lest the Sunday school slip into a major slump in enrollment like that which took place between 1926 and 1947. The Sunday school is a lifeline of the Church not only in respect to membership but also in developing a biblically literate laity. Churches cannot afford to accept complacently any signs of retrogression on the part of this essential arm of their work.

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The other trend relates to the daily vacation Bible school. Here the shift seems to be away from the traditional two-week pattern to a session of only one week. Various reasons for the shift are given, but they all spell one thing—lack of volunteer teachers. Surely it is strange that when parents have more leisure time than ever before, evangelical churches must go begging for volunteers to teach children for the usual two-week period. The demand for the shorter period of instruction does not come from the children; it is rather dictated by what is convenient for their teachers.

To be sure, half a loaf is better than no loaf, and no one argues that the one-week period of daily vacation Bible school is ineffectual. Still, retreat of any kind in Christian education cannot but be disturbing when secular education is steadily moving forward and when, because of the removal from the public schools of Bible reading and prayer, both Sunday school and daily vacation Bible school are more urgently needed than ever before.

The Road To Freedom

The road to freedom in the West does not always lead through Berlin. Since erection of The Wall, human ingenuity has more closely scrutinized other avenues. Recently there has been Innsbruck, scene of the ninth Winter Olympics. Overwhelming Soviet victories, to a large extent the result of a sort of “State professionalism” that proved too much for Western amateurs, did not seem sufficient palliative for loss of political freedom to some spectators and athletes from Iron Curtain countries, and they defected.

Another doorway has been Geneva, site of current disarmament talks and of a more spectacular defection. Requesting political asylum in the United States was Yuri I. Nossenko, 36, an expert of the Soviet delegation who told United States officials that he was a staff officer of the top Soviet security agency KGB and that he had been sent to Geneva on temporary duty from security headquarters in Moscow.

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Inasmuch as Nossenko presumably had access to Soviet disarmament and defense secrets, Western intelligence agencies regarded him as a rare prize indeed. Initial Soviet reproach turned against Switzerland rather than the United States was interpreted as an indication that the Soviet Union did not wish the incident to poison the atmosphere of the disarmament talks. The Soviet request that the Swiss “take all necessary measures to return Nossenko” seemed to point to the high importance of the defector.

Western governments do not ask similar favors. And the fact that the East-West defection traffic is so largely one way bears a striking witness to the enduring desire for freedom God has implanted in the human heart.

Perhaps we should mention one further tribute to the virility of Western liberties as they relate to freedom of movement, which does have its liabilities as well as its glories. Take England’s Beatles (the verb is in the imperative mood). The United States State Department could not readily claim that these hirsute young men were subversive of American tastes, for there was obviously a certain adolescent taste ready and waiting on these shores—though we had taken comfort in the fact that rock and roll seemed to be dying here. Yet the ecstatic reception accorded the Beatles bears a rather appalling witness to the emptiness of youthful heads and hearts. But since America has already plagued Britain with many such exports, perhaps there is in the latest exchange a certain poetic justice.

An Overwhelming Response

Our issue of November 22 announced a new feature, “God’s Sword Thrusts,” which invited readers to tell briefly how a text or passage of the Bible has spoken to them. So prompt and abundant has been the response that, with sufficient material for many months already in hand, we are discontinuing this invitation until further notice.

The many who have through their response to the feature borne witness to the power of the Bible in their lives have confirmed this statement in the announcement: “Christians today, no less than yesterday and just as surely tomorrow, gain comfort, hope, guidance, and spiritual power from Bible passages made alive for them by the Holy Spirit.” Contributions have come from various parts of the country and from abroad, from young and old, from laymen and ministers. And the editors who have read the “Sword Thrusts” have recognized in them authentic evidence of the vitality of the written Word of God.

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