A FINE HOW-DO-YOU-DO
A refreshing and diverting quality in college students is their ability as well as their willingness to say what they think—or even better, to say what a lot of other people think and don’t say; for example, the college in Ohio that refers to its religious emphasis week as “Be Kind to God Week.” This might be blasphemy; but if it is, it is a description of the blasphemy of that single week of tremendous effort in the direction of religion after fifty-one weeks of irreligion, anti-religion, and a general attitude on the part of the administration that everything else except religion ought to come first. Then in one week everyone has a whole lot of religion; but it is probably the kind of religion Bonhoeffer is talking about when he says he is in favor of Christianity but not in favor of religion, or perhaps what William Temple means when he says, “A lot of people are going to be surprised one day to find out that God is interested in a lot of things besides religion.”
All this comes to mind as I prepare myself today to give the invocation at a college rodeo. What does one pray about in such a situation? Most people don’t know what an invocation is in the first place; but when we recognize that the invocation “invokes” the presence and blessing of the Holy Spirit on the activities which are about to follow, the equation between calling God in and what does follow can be a little cloudy. Is this a prayer for good sportsmanship (something never mentioned in the Bible), or good success, or kindness to the horses, or kindness to the riders? That God is interested in all this sort of thing I am certain, but the guidelines for invocations are not readily apparent.
What shall we say of getting everyone in on the program, as, for example, at presidential inaugurations, so that the prayers shall be Christian in Christ’s name and Jewish not in Christ’s name and everybody on hand will be satisfied? Clergymen can check the power of their religion by how it is utilized at weddings, funerals, and confirmations. I think we can purify a little, too, by deciding how many things we shall try to make respectable just because we open them with prayer.
CHRISTIAN LOVE ENFORCED
Dr. Ilion T. Jones’s article, “Enforced Christianity?” (Apr. 10 issue), is a probing analysis we all need of the racial crisis, but it is long on sentiment and short on reality. My old professor falls into the familiar trap of dividing the world into spiritual and secular spheres and assuming that the Church is charged with responsibility for the first but not the second, that men will some day heed the Gospel enough to do right by their fellow man just because they overflow with good intentions. The great majority of Christians never have become that loving, and they aren’t likely to as long as they think the Church should say nothing about social issues.…
Christian love has to be expressed in practical terms and enforced with more than pious sentiment or the Church will become even more ineffectual than it is today.
WARREN C. MCCLAIN
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Often when thinking of the civil rights movement my heart has bled for the Negro who has been treated so unjustly, but over and over again the word of Christ comes to me: What shall it profit the Negro if he gain all the civil rights guaranteed him but lose his own sold? The latter is the dynamic work of the Church—it is committed to this one great task, and the sooner we get to it the sooner will injustices be solved.
JOHN C. WILLIAMS
The appropriateness of Dr. Jones’s significant article … was heightened by its appearing at the same time as news of the accidental death, in Cleveland, of a minister during a civil rights demonstration.…
It is to be hoped that Dr. Jones can lead his own denomination to reconsider the proposals set forth by Dr. Wilmore. For when a church chooses first to use pressure and coercion to achieve its objectives, it is sadly lacking in understanding of its true and distinguishing power. And if it should have no other recourse, if indeed it knows no other alternative, then “Ichabod” is written large above its door.
HARVEY L. MITCHELL
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Should be read by every professing Christian. Someone should have spoken out months ago against the curious and apparently common assumption that a Christian label is attached to anything done in the name of justice and equality.…
THOMAS W. CREWS
Why cannot the religious leaders sense the futility of enforcing legislation where hearts have not been set right in Christ?
The present world conditions should surely point up that the real need is for changed hearts from which only right action proceeds.…
The enforcing power of the Gospel of regenerative grace in Christ is needed, not enforced religious precepts on unregenerated hearts which only stirs up rebellions and confusion, yes, and every vile deed.
HENRY M. HANSEN
Hamlin Lutheran Church
TREATMENT FOR NEW MORALITY
Howard Carson Blake (“ ‘The New Morality,’ ” Mar. 27 issue) exposes the wide metastasis of a long present, quietly progressive theological malignancy. The originator of this cancer is Satan himself. The mechanism of growth of the neoplasm is quite subtle.
Initially, well-meaning but unregenerate men don the Cloth. Eventually they realize their Spiritless ministry is but an ecclesiastical sham. Then, to prevent total collapse of themselves and their positions, they cast about for a topic which will penetrate the skeptical ear of the preoccupied world. Since mankind has always cherished the delusion that new and varied sexual experience is the universal panacea, the spiritually insolvent pulpiteer has a guaranteed, headline-getting subject.…
There is only one cure for this cancer, but it is radical. No conservative measures will avail. The patient must realize his perilous condition. He must turn to the Great Physician. Sin must be confessed. The atoning Blood must be applied. Spiritual rebirth must take place. A holy life must ensue. All other treatment has repeatedly failed.…
JAMES A. SHANE, JR., M.D.
As a former student of Dr. Tillich and a postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church I can only emphatically agree with Mr. Blake’s opinions concerning Bishop Robinson’s efforts to rid the Church of all which is essentially at its very core, as well as of all living implications of these central truths.
DONALD K. WILLIAMS
Excellent, well documented article.…
New York, N. Y.
R. N. USHER-WILSON
It is clear and convincing on the issue of faith and morality that many try to abuse and confuse.…
JOHN WARNER MOORE
Captain, Chaplain Corps, USN (Ret.)
PAYING IGNORANCE HER TOLL
As a Presbyterian, howbeit of the Reformed persuasion, I found your news article, “Presbyterian Frontiers in New York” (Apr. 10 issue), quite interesting and very telling. Particularly interesting was the quotation, “Some people are waking up to the fact they are Presbyterians.” It is true that few Presbyterians realize that the Presbyterian church is not a democratic organization. But in the past (before the Auburn Heresy) this knowledge was not, it seems to me, particularly necessary. The direction of the General Assembly via Synod via Presbytery via Session was, on the whole, fairly close to God’s will on the matter.
But then apostasy set in in high places and in some cases took command. Now, many years later, some church members are awaking to the fact that ignorance of church government is costing them a virile testimony.
JOSEPH MCDONALD, JR.
BURDEN AND CROSS
In the article, “The Cost of Being a Christian” (Mar. 13 issue), we read: “A burden is something that a man bears because he must.… The cross of a Christian is voluntary.” But a burden is a heavy load, which may be voluntarily taken up. We are told, “Bear one another’s burdens.” We are not told to bear another’s crosses.…
JOHN Y. CROTHERS
Thanks to Dr. James McDowell Richards for his article on “The Church and the World Today” in the March 27 issue. He has been a constant source of inspiration and strength to many of us in the South as we have witnessed his strong courage, his calm witness, and his devotion to Christ, the Head of the Church. I am a student of his, not a “former student,” for I [have] continued to learn from him after completing my formal education at Columbia Seminary.…
I was surprised to read in your columns a devastatingly negative review of Gösta Lundström’s The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus (Mar. 27 issue). The fact that there are several notable flaws in the book does not merit its unqualified condemnation. I agree with the reviewer that the book is incorrectly named; it would have been more accurately titled The Interpretation of the Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus. But is the author to be condemned for writing a history of recent interpretation of this controversial theme? We need such books that every serious student of the Bible may be aware of the great diversity in the history of interpretation. We are fortunate to have such classics as Albert Schweitzer’s Von Reimarus zu Wrede, and his Paul and His Interpreters. W. F. Howard’s The Fourth Gospel in Recent Criticism and Interpretation is an important tool in Johannine studies. Lundström’s book is a mine of information for the student who wishes to know the main currents of scholarship concerning the Kingdom of God. To be sure, Lundström does confuse T. W. Manson and William Manson; but more famous Continental scholars than Lundström have been guilty of this same confusion. Possibly Lundström can be charged with misinterpreting Joachim Jeremias; but Jeremias’s position is capable of diverse interpretations. In spite of unambiguous statements to the effect that the Kingdom of God is present as well as future, it is possible to interpret Jeremias as having a view of the Kingdom which is itself altogether future although the series of events which will bring the Kingdom have already been set in motion. What is present is not the Kingdom itself but the process which will soon bring the Kingdom. While Lundström could have handled this problem more effectively, lie has illustrated a real ambiguity in Jeremias’s position. In his own conclusion, Lundström stands with a growing number of scholars who see the Kingdom as both present and future. I do not feel he is guilty of the accusation of merely selecting bits and pieces from the scholars he has reviewed in an entirely uncreative synthesis. I am personally grateful that Oliver and Boyd in Britain and John Knox in America have made this book available in English. It is interesting that another study has appeared with precisely the same title which attempts the same history of interpretation, which was done by Norman Perrin as a doctoral dissertation under Professor Jeremias at Göttingen. Apparently we have needed such a book for some time.
GEORGE ELDON LADD
Prof. of New Testament History and Biblical Theology
FOR WHITES ONLY
I feel that the letter from Dr. Harold T. Commons in the March 13 issue demands an answer. In effect, he is trying to make a very inadequate amount of whitewash cover a very large and very nasty situation.
The situation at the tip of South Africa when the first Dutch settlers arrived in the seventeenth century was analogous to that which obtained in Massachusetts and Virginia during the same period. Population was sparse, but it was there. From where else would the present Cape colored population have come? These people, largely Hottentots, were either enslaved or driven out, and they now live in desert refuge areas of southwest Africa.
In the nineteenth century, when the Dutch moved inland to escape the British government, they met the Xhosa and Zulus in the areas of the Fish and Kei Rivers and in Natal. Both groups arrived at the same time, and the conflict was a savage and bloody one on both sides.
But what we are dealing with is a present situation, in which there are 3,000,000 whites classifying 13,000,000 nonwhites as nonpersons. Ignoring who got there first (as I imagine Dr. Commons does in evaluating his own rights in America), what is the right thing to do? Surely the imposition by force of apartheid upon a majority who want no part of it bears little resemblance to the ideals which a “white civilization” is supposed to embody. If democracy and human rights are only for whites, then let’s say so and quit being hypocrites about it.
More important, however, for us, is the question of Christian responsibility and Christian ethics. In such a context as the South African one, and that in our own country, what does the Christian do who heeds without mental reservations the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”?
Hartford Seminary Foundation
WE ARE ALL GUILTY
I wish to express my appreciation for the article, “The Anatomy of Anti-Semitism,” by James Daane (Mar. 13 issue), and wish to add the following thoughts:
1. In the Gospel of John a clear distinction is made between the “Jews” and the followers of Jesus who also were Jews. It was a religious distinction rather than racial.
2. If it is a racial question anti-Semitism would logically imply an anti-Jesus attitude.
3. The followers of Jesus at that time, though not yet called Christians, were in fact such. Judas was one of them. Hence, it was a Christian who betrayed Jesus. From the racial side, it was a Jew who preached with such great power at Pentecost. It was a Jew whom God chose as apostle to the Gentiles, and who gave us thirteen books of the New Testament.
4. It was the human race which crucified Jesus. Theologically, all are sinners. It was God’s eternal plan to save sinners through the death of his Son. But this does not mean that those who crucified Jesus were guiltless. If there had been no sin his sufferings and death would not have been necessary. We are all guilty.
5. If a different race had been chosen as God’s special people to whom the Messiah was sent, the result would have been the same.
A. J. STIREWALT
Lutheran Church in America
It seems to me that the author overlooked the statement of our Lord himself, as we find it in the Gospel of St. John 19:11. Pilate was interrogating the Lord for the second time; when our Saviour refused to answer Pilate, he said: “Dost thou not know, that I have the power to release thee, and power I have to crucify thee?” Jesus answered him: “Thou hadst no power against me, if it were not given thee from above (anothen); therefore the one who handed me over to thee, has the greater sin (hamartian).” The Lord has solved the problem for both, the Jews and us, pagans—Gentiles.
In the eyes of our Saviour the sin of his nations leaders is greater than that of Pilate. But this does not give us any excuse for treating the Jews as our enemies; to the contrary, it gives us the divine opportunity to prove to them that—with God’s help—we love them as persons and as our Lord’s Church both in deeds and all contacts with them.
ANTONI M. TURKIEWICZ
FAILURE OF METHOD
Having just concluded a winter of study with Mr. T. A. Burkill on the Gospel of St. Mark, I would like to make a few observations concerning the review of his book Mysterious Revelation by Robert Preus (Mar. 13 issue). In his review Mr. Preus expressed some misgivings concerning Mr. Burkill’s approach, particularly with regard to his use of form criticism. As an alternative method, Mr. Preus offers an exegetical approach which does not “isolate” Mark but takes into account the “whole analogy of Scripture.”
First, may I suggest that there is an inherent danger in the particular approach which Mr. Preus, as a theologian, suggests. Too often a method which employs the “analogy of Scripture” obliterates the individuality of the Gospels. This refusal to “isolate” a Gospel reduces the accounts of the life of Jesus to a homogeneity which distorts their particular emphasis and obscures their distinctive beauty.
Second, under the influence of the Spirit of God there can be and is a legitimate development and interpretation of the life and ministry of Jesus in theological terms. Why must all of the theological insights of the New Testament be exclusively limited to the writers of the Epistles, as though the Evangelists were writing nothing but brute fact? It is the function of source criticism to enable us to see how the disciples have arranged, employed, and interpreted their material, whether it be in the form of written tradition or personal witness. To determine whether there is a Tendenz, what it is, and how far it goes, is the task of form criticism. Surely, Mr. Preus will agree that there are differences between the theology of Matthew and that of Mark.
A far more serious criticism of Mr. Burkill’s study is his acceptance and use of H. J. Cadbury’s methodological assumption that there are mixed motives in the Evangelists’ minds. These competing motivations allegedly prevent the gospel writer from working out his scheme with perfect logical coherence. In the case of Mark, Mr. Burkill concludes that “the Gospel affords ample indications that St. Mark is not completely satisfied with his general theory of the (messianic) secret …” (p. 280). Although Mark wishes to show that Jesus’ Messiahship was hidden from the public until his Resurrection, he is forced to reveal the secret prematurely. He does this in order to attribute the responsibility for Jesus’ death to the Jews and to synthesize … Jesus’ humiliation and glorification. Thus, Mark invents the story of the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin and has Jesus confess the secret, even though it is not yet time. This, and other premature “leaks” in the messianic secret (such as the open confession at Bethany), Mr. Burkill ascribes to the tension between Mark’s scheme and his other motivations, such as his hostility toward the Jews.
Mr. Burkill’s attempt to get behind the Gospel and to read the mind of the author is admirable. But to present a theory which employs only part of the evidence, subsuming the rest under a presumed “conflict of motivation,” is hardly sound method, even on the grounds of form criticism. (Yet is not the “analogy of Scripture,” which eliminates the differences of Scripture in favor of some theological systematization, open to the same charge?) At this point Mr. Burkill’s failure of method threatens his entire theory, or at least, makes us wonder if there is not a more adequate interpretation of Mark’s Gospel and the messianic secret beyond that given by Wrede and Burkill.
GLENDON E. BRYCE
Calvary Baptist Church
RETURN TO INTEGRITY
I was overjoyed to read Addison H. Leitch’s comments under Current Religious Thought in the March 27 issue. With all of the legitimate and profound questions that always have and always will arise from the depths of the gospel stories and the biblical witness, he strikes a telling blow for a return to integrity of language for all of us who deal with the matters of the faith, whether from the pulpit or the seminary lectern. May his word spread far and wide and goad us all to a dearer statement of what the gospel witness plainly says and where we stand in relation to it.
JOSEPH C. FOWLER
Community Presbyterian Church
Edison, N. J.
Certainly we need men of knowledge in our seminaries and pulpits, but when any of them confuse those to whom they minister they should look to the future. A future when the laity finally deride that there are no understandable answers in the church—who do you think is going to be looking for a job? For those of mercenary bent, that is something to think about.
Charleston, W. Va.
Somewhere in the midst of all our myriad programs and feverish activity we must learn to teach and preach the prime necessity for a true conversion—a new birth, first and foremost. All else has meaning only in relation to this all-important experience.
ROBERT L. LOWRY
West Chester, Pa.
He says what needs to be said so clearly, so pungently, and yet with such good humor that it is hard to wait four or five issues for his next essay.
HARRY T. SCHUTTE
Columbia, S. C.
I have just finished reading your … February 28 issue.
You have crowded onto these few pages the best evidence of concern that those of us interested in Christian values should take a look at what is going on in American education. I have seen these and other forces at work in American higher education during the past five years.…
R. T. WILLIAMS
With all due respect for Dr. Gaebelein’s viewpoint concerning Conant’s book, The Education of American Teachers (Books in Review), I should like to point out that many people who have dedicated themselves to the training of teachers are very much disturbed by some of Conant’s recommendations. Dr. Conant may not have been “encumbered by the hazy professionalism that marks many educational theorists today,” but some feel that he certainly was encumbered by some other prejudices that stuck out all over the place. As a balance, readers of CHRISTIANITY TODAY would do well to read another evaluation of Conant’s book in the January, 1964, issue of The Educational Forum. Here Dr. Broudy of the University of Illinois, a respected philosopher of education and one who has been in the business of training teachers for many years, raises some basic and serious questions about the Conant proposals.
Also, I think that we ought to be careful how we draw inferences from Conant’s book for Christian education. It could be that, if Conant’s recommendations were adopted, Christian education would fare no better than teacher education.
WILLIAM R. SHUNK
It is just exactly what a review ought to be and gives the meat of an important book to a lot of busy people.
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