Weariness of the Flesh

You may recall that the professor in Ecclesiastes says, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Something pretty serious seems to have hit that old boy, what with one “vanity” and another. What he would have written in 1963 about much study being a weariness of the flesh I don’t know, but I could give him a little advice. The real “weariness of the flesh” in our day is that long list of “vanities” that keep us away from the study.

Do you remember some books by Charles A. Anderson-Scott? His name has dropped out of circulation for a while, but I think he was too great a scholar to be neglected. What I want to do here, however, is to review an unforgettable scene in his home when he had my wife and me for dinner. We were enjoying good table talk with his wife and daughters and him, when suddenly, as if on signal, the great man said, “This is enough. You will have to go home. I have to go to my study.” Contrary to normal expectations, no one was even slightly miffed at this departure, and I have envied his sang-froid ever since.

A friend of mine tells about the happy morning when he had a chance to get at a book that had been begging to be read for weeks. Sitting in his church study, he settled into the book with a happy sigh. Twenty minutes later there was a knock at the door, and the janitor put his head in. “I saw you weren’t doing anything, Reverend, so I thought I would come and keep you company.”

My wife was all settled for an evening’s reading, under a lamp by the window. Pretty soon a neighbor dropped in. “I saw you were all alone and thought I would keep you company.”

Even Shakespeare ought to know better, but in Hamlet, where the stuffy Polonius is advising Ophelia how to catch Hamlet off guard, he says (Act III, scene 1): “Read on this book; that show of such an exercise may color your loneliness.” Faugh, Shakespeare! Why should reading be lonely?

There is indeed a weariness of the flesh; but in the existential situation I think Ecclesiastes has it backwards.


Forward from Sinai!

Your issue of November 22 was superb, but I must find fault with Bruce M. Metzger’s contention in “Four English Translations of the New Testament” that Phillips’s use of the Textus Receptus “rather than a critically established text, such as that of Nestle or Westcott and Hort” is “deliberate … obscurantism.”

Article continues below

While most Christian scholars slept, much of modern English Bible translation and revision for the past century has been based upon naturalistic textual criticism which leaned largely and entirely without good reason upon a few manuscripts that had little to recommend them except high old age. Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort, along with the generality of textual critics of their day, were impressed with the idea that the older the manuscript the more nearly correct it must be. Tischendorf naturally favored Sinaiticus, his own adopted child. Westcott and Hort, as also Weiss, preferred Vaticanus. But these favorite manuscripts of the nineteenth-century critics suffer from grave demerits—interpolation, tampering, and, most conspicuously, careless omissions. In Vaticanus Dean J. W. Burgon (“The Last Twelve Verses of Mark”) counted words and clauses omitted in the Gospels alone to the number of 1,491. He remarks that in Sinaiticus “on many occasions 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness”.… That these two manuscripts are old is, in Burgon’s view, merely an indication that because of their serious shortcomings they were withdrawn from use and never had a chance to get worn out. Later manuscripts, as he justly observes, may well have a better pedigree.

There is today a reverence for Nestle’s and similar eclectic texts which amounts almost to superstition. Nestle founds his text, wherever possible, on the readings of the majority of three editors—Hort, Tischendorf, and Weiss—each of whom was partial to one or the other of the two much-touted Egyptian manuscripts—Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.…

Recent favorable mentions of Burgon’s work may lead one to hope that his prediction concerning the ultimate demotion of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus from their present exalted position may be fulfilled within the lifetime of some of us.…


The Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer

Peekskill, N. Y.

The article … is brief, accurate, and I consider the best I have ever read. [It] carries no bias, and is highly instructive. Any reader who failed to read the article should find his copy and read it with care.


McPherson, Kan.

I am looking forward with interest and pleasure to the receipt of my copy of The New Testament in Four Versions, ordered with advance subscriptions a month ago. You are rendering the church, its ministers and laymen, a distinct service by making so conveniently available these four outstanding English translations of the New Testament.

Article continues below

I was greatly pleased by the companion piece …, Bruce M. Metzger’s splendid article.… This comparative evaluation by a recognized scholar is terse yet meaningful.…

I liked this issue …, especially also the editorial, “The Educating Power of the Bible.”


Commission on Worship, Liturgies and Hymnology

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Orlando, Fla.

Please accept my congratulations on the November 22 issue.

At first I thought Cailliet’s “The Book That Understands Me” was sufficient to make the issue outstanding, but after I read the other major articles, I was doubly sure that the editor should be congratulated on the issue.


Kearney, Neb.

The President

The President has laid down his mantle, and the nation is summoned through deep waters of suffering.… We can but invoke the resources in the counsels of God. The posthumous entreaty in his last prepared text was, “Stand as watchmen on the walls of liberty!” … Two exhortations forcefully emerge. The one is a sharply discerning admonition to those who, by imperceptible measure, persistently contend to abolish any reference whatever to the Divine, from every facet of our United States democracy—this in distinct contrast to the means and source of mitigating our anguish of the present.… The other incites us to a sharing-participation in love—a “love stronger than death”!


Pasadena, Calif.

I watched the whole funeral ceremony with sympathy. Any other time I would have questioned the propriety of some of its features; but not today. Humanity was here before the throne of God presenting its horror and grief, and a loving sympathetic God was listening.

What is its meaning? There is no doubt that in all parts of the world there is a growing conviction that we are on the verge of a great spiritual movement from heaven.

The degree to which the human race has been affected and drawn together these tragic days is too unique not to portend some singular and decisive event aimed at the well-being of the race.…


Rabun Gap, Ga.

Open Letter

Dear Mrs. Shoemaker,

This week I received word that my dear friend and your husband passed on last week. I simply want to express my own thoughts to you in this letter.

Article continues below

I do not need to tell you what I think about him, for there are thousands of other young preachers who could say it better than I could ever say it. But I do need to express myself to someone who loved Sam Shoemaker and who can understand what I am trying to express.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German martyr who has become the young man’s theologian today, started a lot of things. He wrote wonderful books—and most of them were never finished. Having a deep appreciation for Bonhoeffer, because of what he has done for my life, I have often thought of him as a kind of “unfinished symphony.”

Dr. Sam Shoemaker, in his own right, has been to me and to thousands of young fellows an “Unfinished Symphony.” There are many things that I wish “Sam” could have told me, but time and miles have kept us apart physically. His letters have been refreshing streams into my life! His prayers have been felt. His books have penetrated to the life-level of my own experiences and needs. He has always been quick to say that he was not at all perfect, and that all of us shall be, in a sense, very real problems to ourselves as long as we live. He has made it easy for me to grow in the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

So, Mrs. Shoemaker, I want to thank you for sharing your husband with this nation of ours. I am sure that the influence of this man will live on through many, many years to come in the lives of those of us who have found Fresh Life in Christ Jesus through his ministry. I am interested in knowing if he ever finished his autobiography. If the book never gets written, I am sure it will be written in history, in the lives of fellows such as myself—for we shall not be the same since meeting “Sam.”


Minister of Education

First Methodist Church

Santa Ana, Calif.

• We understand that the autobiography will be published by Harper & Row in the near future.—ED.


Mr. Robb is right in implying that many are discontent with high liturgical services (“The Predicament of Methodism,” Oct. 25 issue). They simply want the so-called old songs dating back to the date of their arrival at Sunday school. They want to swing and sway with sentimental nostalgia. Some want to stay on an emotional binge all the time instead of facing up to the moral and ethical responsibilities of the Gospel. Mr. Robb needs only to visit some so-called liturgical churches to see many of the so-called common men’s faces light as they respond to the ancient collect and responses of the Church. I am sure that the average Methodist layman in the long run would prefer the litanies of the Church which Mr. Robb’s heroes have used (Paul, Luther, Wesley, and Clarke), than to hear a poor disorganized pastoral prayer.

Article continues below


Humphreys Memorial Methodist Church

Charleston, W. Va.

Ed Robb has cast the problem of social and personal righteousness in the mold of an “either-or” problem. I do not believe that he wishes to do this. Mr. Wesley did not make this distinction. Historically, Methodism has not done this. We cannot regain any lost personal moralism at the expense of social righteousness.

I directly challenge his statement that “personal morality is overlooked or given scant attention.” I refer him to the materials of the Methodist Board of Christian Social Concerns. I refer him to the church school literature of The Methodist Church. I refer him to the pulpits of Methodism.…


Coahoma Methodist

Coahoma, Tex.

Liturgical worship—genuine liturgical worship—is certainly not incompatible with good old-fashioned gospel preaching.…

Both liturgical and non-liturgical churches may be formal and lifeless. Formality is something apart from liturgy. It is liturgical worship, worshiping decently and in good order as the Apostle Paul suggests, and not what Mr. Robb may call “formal worship” which has kept the Word of God central and faithfully proclaimed.


The Methodist Church

Mountainhome, Pa.

The “theological calamity” and “liturgical crisis” especially are a concern to many thoughtful and loyal Methodists. We need more of such courageous self-examination.


Gilbert Methodist Circuit

Gilbert, S. C.

Evangelicals and the Campus

The lack of social concern among evangelicals has dismayed many university students who sympathize with evangelical theology. Thanks to [Dr.] Anderson’s clear accusation and ringing challenge (“Evangelicals and the Race Revolution,” Oct. 25 issue), we again use the word evangelical with pride—pride because we have begun to confess our sins. While sincerely confessing our past sinful negligence, we must, like our Lord, concern ourselves with physical, social, and spiritual healing.


New Haven, Conn.

Dr. Anderson, better than most, should recognize that you cannot legislate righteousness and that “mobocracy” can only lead to tyranny.

Article continues below


San Diego, Calif.

Choice of Weapons Disputed

Re: “Analytic Philosophy and Christianity” (Oct. 25 issue): Mr. Plantinga tries to accomplish the impossible when he wishes to challenge the positivist (so-called) “on his own grounds and [defeat] him there.”

Such a “defeat” for the positivist would mean a victory as well, since the weapons which were so effectively employed, were chosen from the latter’s own arsenal. If a pacifist, for example, wished to conquer the world to coerce it into peace, he would be no more inconsistent than the Christian who is willing to adopt non-Christian principles to make his convictions more palatable.

Christian apologetics can only face the unbeliever with the claims of Christianity as the basis of sound philosophy. Faith without philosophical concern is irresponsible, but philosophy without faith in God is foolishness (1 Cor. 3:19).


Philadelphia, Pa.

An excellent statement of what analytic philosophy is and how it can be of positive value to the Christian apologist. It is, I think, imperative that more Christian ministers become familiar with this very widespread philosophical movement. If we don’t, we shall fail in our task of communicating the Gospel in a clear and meaningful way.


Culver-Stockton College

Canton, Mo.

The Christian’s Future

Your article, “Pacifism Today” by L. Nelson Bell (Oct. 11 issue) was provocative but misleading.…

Too many critics of evangelical pacifism evaluate its merits on the basis of a political gain or loss. But as Christians we need to evaluate it on the basis of a gain or loss to the Kingdom of God. And certainly the basis we use for evaluation betrays our eschatology. The Christian’s future is not in the triumph of one country over another. His future is in the triumph of God’s Kingdom over the Kingdom of Satan.


Goshen, Ind.

As To Roots – On a Limb?

[Re] Professor Hall’s review of The New Community in Christ in the October 11 issue (I am one of the contributors to that book): … as [to his] comment that modern Lutheranism is rapidly drifting away from conservative evangelicalism to confessionalism—I take this to mean that Lutherans today are more deeply conscious of and appreciative of their origins in the Reformation than they used to be. I agree and I am glad. Professor Hall should know more about the theology of the Reformation before he climbs out on this kind of limb.

Article continues below


St. Paul, Minn.

I am prompted to write you …, specifically, because I am charged with denying the second coming of Christ. As this charge is made, the page number is given (p. 31), and this display of accuracy supposedly clinches the case. Naturally I turned to page 31 to read about my denial of the second coming of Christ, but I found nothing on that page to substantiate the charge. This was a relief to me since I have always been aware that Christ’s return is decidedly a part of New Testament teaching. If I may cite something from page 33, there is the following sentence: “For example, Paul writes that ‘our commonwealth (Greek: πολιτευμα) is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 3:20).

… Instead of entering into a discussion of salient points dealing with the thesis being advanced, your writer gives vent to his irritation by leveling broadsides, e.g., “The nine essays are of unequal value, but their general tone denies the heart of biblical faith and traditional Christianity.” Or in attacking my essay he either does not understand or will not admit that I was trying precisely to recover “the balance between the individual and the community,” which is not the same thing as attempting “to argue that the church is more important than the individual.”


Assoc. Prof. of Religion

St. Olaf College

Northfield, Minn.

Hold the Flowers

Your reference to Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church (Sept. 27 issue) must not go by without comment. Though it is an inner-city church it does not fit the usual pattern of such churches. While it has been in an area of decay for some thirty years—a period coincidently considered its greatest period—that area has now become one of renewal and residential boom. The church’s problem is not now how to minister in the typical inner-city pattern, but how to adjust to the new situation.

It is true that many elements of your analysis would seem to apply: members have gone to the suburbs, the area has known extremely high incidence of residential transiency, the concentration has seemed to be on pulpit ministry rather than virile local membership. But even this general analysis of the inner-city church type does not fit Moody Church. The members who have gone to suburban churches already lived in the suburbs, for the church has always been a city church. Our attendance is down; but our giving is higher per capita now than it ever was before, our total budget is higher ($400,000 the past two years), and we have more foreign and home missionaries than we did previously.

Article continues below

This is not to say that we do not have problems, the greatest perhaps being how to reach the middle and upper-middle class now nearly surrounding us. But by no means have we received or accepted any short-term survival notice. Don’t send flowers yet; many of us feel that greatness still lies ahead.


Chicago, Ill.

Two for the Price of One

John Vanden Berg’s review of Religion, the Courts, and Public Policy, by Robert F. Drinan, S. J. (Oct. 11 issue), was interesting in two respects. Not only was it an excellent review—it could have also passed as a review of Catholic Viewpoint on Education, by Neil G. McCluskey, S. J. Both of these books, written by prominent American Catholics, cover essentially the same topics. Both cite court cases involving parochial schools, emphasize the Protestant influence on public schools, and point out the discrimination which exists in the case of Catholic parents who must support two school systems. (Neither mentions the discrimination against property owners who have no children yet must support schools which they do not use.) …

Conservative population estimates indicate that, due to the proportionately high birthrate among Catholics, over a half of all school-age Americans will be Catholic by the mid-1980s. With equal [government] aid, then, half of the American schools will be Catholic, while less than a third of the taxpayers will be Catholics. About a quarter of the schools will be non-Catholic, parochial schools. The other quarter will be “public” schools. All of this could occur in less than one generation from now!…

Protestant churches cannot pass laws against public school attendance and birth control with religious sanctions … as the Catholic Church has done already. Equal aid does indeed respect “the establishment of religion,” since the ecclesiastical church stands to gain a great deal at the expense of non-ecclesiastical taxpayers and the education of their children.

Real, valid, and logical arguments exist which oppose equal aid to parochial schools. It would be refreshing to read a book giving a viewpoint which is unlike that of McCluskey and Drinan, but such a book does not exist. As long as lawmakers hear only one side of a debate presented in a logical fashion, we must accept the fact that equal aid will be approached with ever increasing speed. Evangelical Christians may soon awake to find themselves in the midst of a purely religious educational system which is dominated by an ecclesiastical hierarchy determined to strip the world of all heretical elements.

Article continues below


Ypsilanti, Mich.

I am pleased to think your magazine will keep alive the discussion on Christian day schools until the idea takes root and grows into a flourishing tree.

It is my conviction that Caesar has no Bible (or natural) ground for exercising control over education of our children.


Beaumont, Tex.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.