As Sir Winston Churchill was carried on a stretcher from the London airport after an accident abroad, he held up his hand in his familiar sign for victory. Commenting on the incident, the Manchester Guardian Weekly said, “Never has so complex a network of emotions been reduced to so common-place a symbol.” But there is a far greater and more universal symbol than Churchill’s gallant sign. That symbol is the Cross of Jesus Christ, and it gathers round it all the issues of life and eternity. It stands for victory not just in a single war but in the conflict of the ages.

What is that conflict? It is the war against sin, the struggle between good and evil, between Christ and Satan. It is the age-old, universal conflict which, ever since the Fall of man, has continued and which involves every man, woman, and child. Only shallow thinking fails to recognize that God hates sin and is the implacable foe of every form of evil.

One of the paradoxes of a day in which the threat of extinction hangs over civilization is that so few understand that God must by his very nature judge the unreconciled sinner. As the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews said, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Nuclear catastrophe is a dreadful possibility, but divine wrath against sin is a certainty. Let those who will, dismiss the concept of God’s judgment as medievalism not worthy of twentieth-century thought; judgment is yet an integral part of the biblical revelation.

A kind of piety found not only in Roman Catholicism but also in evangelicalism is sentimentally preoccupied with the sufferings of Christ to the partial obscuring of their purpose and glorious outcome. Even to raise a question here is to step upon sensitive territory. Yet the gospel accounts of our Lord’s crucifixion combine with their stark objectivity a divine reticence we do well to follow. The brutal facts are there—the nailing of God’s Son to the Cross, the shame and the nakedness, the mocking and the thirst. But with all the pain and suffering, the Cross is the place of victory, not defeat. In the long conflict with Satan and with sin, the Cross stands as the decisive battlefield on which all subsequent victories depend. And the Resurrection is its seal and authentication.

Christ did not go to the grave a defeated Messiah. He went there having tasted in the dark hours of his atoning agony the bitter separation from a holy God that sin inevitably entails. But as the first three Gospels unitedly say, before Christ gave up his spirit he uttered a loud cry. That cry was not wordless; what he said was, as John’s Gospel tells us, “It is finished” (Greek Tetélestai). That shout of victory, surely one of the greatest words in Scripture, comprehends all the mystery and glory of God’s redemptive plan. Christ’s work as the Sin-Bearer, the Lamb of God, was fully done. He paid the price for the sin of the world. He satisfied divine justice. And, although the great conflict continues because Satan, while dealt his death blow, is not yet bound and man still rebels against God, there is through the Cross reconciliation for all who believe. The Resurrection is indeed a triumph; it is a triumph validating the victory of Calvary by proving that he who shouted, “It is finished,” was the God-man who could not be held by the bonds of death.

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The last book of the Bible is more than a preview of the future of the nations; it is the unveiling of the glory and ultimate victory of Jesus Christ. This book that portrays him as King of kings and Lord of lords also refers to him as the “Lamb” twenty-eight times—more often than all the rest of the New Testament. Over and above its inspired predictions about the course of the ages, the Revelation is essentially the book of the Lamb, to whom it assigns the central place in heaven: “Then I saw standing in the very middle of the throne, inside the circle of living creatures and the circle of elders, a Lamb with the marks of slaughter upon him” (Rev. 5:6, NEB). The Saviour who is in the center of God’s throne must be in the center of Christian life and service. To give him who won the victory of victories any lesser place is to dishonor his redeeming work.

The measure of the Church’s spiritual power is her fidelity to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the heart of the witness of the Church; his Gospel is the dynamic that energizes her widespread ministry and her continuing struggle with evil in all its Protean forms. As the late Francis L. Patton, former president of Princeton University, said, “The core of Scripture, the core of the Old Testament and the New, is the doctrine that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.… the bleeding Christ is the central fact of Scripture.”

Only as the Church goes back to the Cross on which the Victor cried, “It is finished,” will it go forward to victory in the conflict of today.

Salvation-History And Its Meaning

Theological debate on the Continent is now especially intense between those who contend that God’s redemptive revelation is historical in character and those who dismiss salvation-history as myth. The debate is marked by many compromises and inconsistencies. While a dialectical theologian like Barth deplores the vagaries of Bultmann’s existentialism, his own strongly asserted “objectifying elements” remain inaccessible to objective reason and historical research. Brunner also disdains Bultmann’s reduction of the New Testament miracles to myth; yet he himself rejects the Virgin Birth as mythology, depicting it as “the crucial negative idea” and contending that whoever insists on it is bound to “go wrong.”

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Advancing beyond the dialectical consignment of revelation to the mere margin of history, the Heilsgeschichte scholars emphasize historical revelation by locating divine disclosure in the very time-line of sacred events. So Oscar Cullmann, for example, wholly rejects the reduction to myth of any link in this temporal sequence of salvation-history. Cullmann nonetheless retains the notion of myth, applying it to events beyond the time-line both past and future—events that cannot be investigated by historical method. Such are the Adam story and the events of eschatology, Old Testament and New.

Thus we come upon a curious disjunction in Cullmann’s thought. While he describes such events not as actually historical but rather as myth, he concedes that the biblical writers regarded them as historical (as Christ’s descent from Adam, and so forth) and therefore placed them on the same level with events on the time-line. As the biblical writers “tried to demythologize” (in Cullmann’s view) in a way that extended the historical into the non-historical past and future, so Cullmann aims also to illumine such past and future “myths” through Christ as the mid-point of salvation-history. But Cullmann has not really reconciled this supposed misjudgment of historical realities by the biblical writers (and presumably by Jesus of Nazareth also) with the high view he elsewhere insists upon—that sacred history and its biblical interpretation are both rooted in divine revelation.

In his newest work, Heil als Geschichte, Cullmann lifts the contemporary European discussion of revelation as history and of revelation as truth to new and significant dimensions. He notes the “meshing of historical fact and interpretation” in Old and New Testaments and recognizes the reality of revelation both in “the event as such and in its interpretation.” In the theological controversy over history and kerygma, Cullmann emphasizes a series of vital points—particularly the following: that the New Testament itself relates salvation-history to eyewitness and thus places it in a truly historical setting; that New Testament revelation not only carries forward and enlarges but also reinterprets the earlier scriptural interpretation in connection with this new saving history; that in New Testament times the revelation of new events and meanings is compressed into a much shorter time-span than in the Old Testament era, and that these divine realities now center in one person; that the New Testament reinterpretation is linked to a dual history of salvation—on the one hand to the Old Testament kerygma, on the other to the great central event along with Jesus’ own kerygma about it; that the meaning of events after Jesus’ death was disclosed to the apostles simultaneously with those events, not subsequently or progressively, as when they were eyewitnesses of his works; that while as eyewitnesses they saw and heard yet lacked full understanding, the later complete revelation reinterprets the kerygma so that they remember what Jesus himself had told them, and that this along with their eyewitnessing is of greatest importance in designating Jesus as the originator of the reinterpretation of the kerygma.

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These positions are obviously so firmly evangelical and of such cardinal importance to the current dialogue over the historical Jesus and the kerygmatic Christ that CHRISTIANITY TODAY has arranged for publication in this issue of an excerpt from the forthcoming English translation of Cullmann’s Heil als Geschichte. The work is being translated by Professor Sidney G. Sowers of the Department of Religion at the University of Tulsa, and a section appears in these pages with the special permission of Harper and Row, who will publish the English edition of the book.

A Hundred Years Later

John R. Mott was born one hundred years ago, the same year that J. Hudson Taylor established the China Inland Mission, forerunner of and model for faith missionary endeavors. These men and their movements provide an interesting contrast.

Mott was moved to service for God at Mt. Hermon in Massachusetts at a missionary conference convened by Dwight Moody in 1886. During his lifetime he became what Dr. George W. Carpenter of the WCC has called the “Ecumenical Engineer.” Mott’s name has been indelibly tied to the International YMCA, the Student Volunteer Movement (now the Student Christian Movement), the International Missionary Council, and the World Council of Churches. In 1946 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

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J. Hudson Taylor moved along other lines. He was not primarily concerned with the creation of structures through which to advance the cause of Christ, although he was not opposed to structures as such. Yet at one significant point the labors of these two men coincided. Both longed for the unity of believers to fulfill the missionary task, and at the great 1902 Toronto international convention of the Student Volunteer Movement of which Mott was the chairman, the son and daughter-in-law of Taylor were present and spoke. This was only a temporary confluence, however. After this conference new structures emerged, and the hardening denominational lines left almost no room for unstructured agencies like the CIM.

Today the agencies in which Mott was interested (with the exception of the YMCA, which has virtually surrendered the spiritual principles of its founder) have been combined into one monolithic organization. The International Missionary Council has been integrated into the World Council of Churches; so has the Student Christian Movement. The “independents” have remained independent, albeit with loose connectional arrangements with one another. The faith missionary agencies have the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association. The parallel, and indeed the real spiritual descendant, of the Student Volunteer Movement is the missionary arm of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, which attracts seven or eight thousand students to its missionary conclaves every three years.

There is no prospect that these diverse movements will intersect again in the near future. Indeed, everything points to the exact opposite, particularly in view of the courtship between the Roman Catholics and Protestants which faith missions, with their opposition to inclusivist theology, regard as a further sign of departure from orthodoxy. As we salute John R. Mott and J. Hudson Taylor a hundred years later, it is noteworthy that the movements represented by them met to part and that parting they have become two great streams in the history of the Christian Church.

Christ-Centered Theology

It is theologically fashionable today to interpret the Bible Christocentrically. Every part of the Bible is presumably viewed in reference to Jesus Christ. Karl Barth is the greatest exponent of this theological fashion. For him, Creation itself is the external ground of the covenant of God with man in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ, the embodiment of this covenant, is himself the inner meaning of Creation. Even the Fall is regarded by Barth as an event that occurred within Jesus Christ and that therefore has its ultimate meaning, no less than its ultimate resolution, in Jesus Christ.

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Barth, however, is by no means the only modern theologian who interprets the Bible in terms of Jesus Christ. The whole historical critical effort to discover the so-called historical Jesus was another attempt to interpret the Bible Christocentrically. The most glaring difference between “the questers” for the historical Jesus and Barth is that the latter takes all parts of Scripture with much greater seriousness than do those who search for the “real Jesus of Nazareth” in, or behind, the words of the Bible (even if Barth nonetheless puts much of the revelation on the rim of history).

The difference between this “Christocentric” method and the older traditional method of interpreting the Bible is not small. This is apparent if we look at traditional Reformed or Lutheran systematic theologies. In these the doctrine of God, his attributes and being, his sovereign decrees, was treated first, and was defined apart from Christ. Similarly, the doctrines of man’s creation and his fall into sin were treated prior to, and apart from, the doctrine of Christ. Only after the doctrines of God, man, and sin were explained was the doctrine of Christ set forth, and set forth in reference to what preceded it.

In this traditional method of interpreting the Bible, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man’s creation and fall into sin were the background for knowledge of the person and work of Christ. Such a theological method allowed for the recognition of general revelation, of orders of creation regarded as distinct from the orders of redemption, and of the legitimacy of speaking of Christ as the Logos in distinction from Christ as the Logos in the flesh.

The difference between the traditional and the current methods of interpretation becomes plain if we consider the first chapters of Genesis. In the former view, these chapters present historical material imparted by divine revelation. In the latter view, these chapters are projections, not indeed of religious fantasy, but of Israel’s understanding of her own creation as the people of God. God’s creation of the world and man’s fall into sin are knowledge that came to Israel through her self-knowledge—given by revelation—as the people created and redeemed by God. Thus creation is understood in terms of redemption, which is to say, in terms of Jesus Christ.

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It is in this light that the Church must evaluate the current fashion of writing theologies and new creeds in terms of the Christocentric approach. The difference between the traditional approach, reflected in the traditional creeds of the Church (the Heidelberg Catechism is a classic exception), and the current approach is a big difference and has wide consequences all across the theological board.

The place and the honor Christ has in the thought and love of the Church ought not to mislead the Church into an unthinking acceptance of any theology merely because it pleads the centrality of Christ. The fact that a theology makes some great truth of the Christian faith central is not a guarantee that the theology is biblical. The history of Christian thought is replete with theologies that centered on such cardinal Christian truths as the love of God or the grace of God and yet were far from authentic biblical theologies.

Moreover, the Church must also be alert to the possibility of employing the Christocentric method of interpreting the Bible in order to be relieved of whatever biblical teachings it is not prone, for some reason, to accept. Not every theology that is formally centered on Christ is centered on the Bible. Any number of theologians today committed to a Christocentric interpretation of the Scriptures have eliminated many scriptural teachings on the ground that they contribute nothing to our understanding and evaluation of Jesus Christ. The biblical doctrine of the Virgin Birth is a case in point. On the ground that Christ could be God in the flesh without the medium of a virgin birth, this doctrine is surrendered as mythological.

Christ said that Moses “spake of me,” and that the Scriptures bore witness to him. There is a legitimate Christocentric interpretation of the Bible, one in which the whole of Scripture is honored as the Word of God and is allowed to throw its light on Christ. But in this legitimate Christocentric theology, it is recognized that we have no knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth apart from the Bible, and that any proper understanding of Christ is not one that judges the only source of our knowledge of him. It is essential for the Church today to recognize that much of modern Christocentric theology is a judgment over the Bible in the name of Christ. When this judgment occurs and when one thus frees himself from biblical authority, one is also free to remake Christ in terms of one’s own preferences, or in terms of what one thinks is demanded by modern historical or scientific knowledge.

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In the history of theology the last word has not been spoken. No systematic theology is final; there is always room for advance, and always the obligation remains to evaluate past theological methods in the light of the Scriptures. Like a woman’s work, theology’s work is never done. But the Church ought not to be misled by the mere fact that a theology professes to be Christocentric. Even a presumably Christocentric theology can be profoundly unbiblical.

Crime And Christianity

Once again the Federal Bureau of Investigation reports an increase of crime. The crime index for 1964 rose 13 per cent above that of 1963, and the number of serious crimes increased by more than 250,000. This is a shameful record. It marks the progressive decay of American culture at a time when the emphasis is on the creation of the Great Society.

Let it be said plainly that there can be no Great Society, now or ever, when crime continues to mount and persons and property are attacked wantonly by evildoers. President Johnson knows this to be true, and he is to be commended for his strong desire, as stated in a recent Message to Congress, to attack the problem of crime head on. Curiously enough, suburbia, the segment of American society which is least likely to include the underprivileged, experienced the largest increase in the crime rate. Crimes in suburban communities increased 18 per cent; the rate for cities with population in excess of 100,000 was 11 per cent. City slums are regarded as the breeding places for crime, and they are; but suburbia with all of its material blessings is losing out fast, even when the crime rate has been adjusted to allow for any increase in population.

The strangest anomaly of all is that the crime rate has increased so markedly at a time when the proportion of Americans holding membership in churches is greater than ever before. In 1900 only 36 per cent of the people were church-related. In 1962, 63.4 per cent were members of Jewish synagogues or of Protestant, Roman Catholic, or other churches. To what can this anomaly be attributed?

At the least, it must be said that the churches have increasingly neglected the full-orbed Gospel of Jesus Christ and turned to lesser interests. During this period the churches have been filled with unregenerate new members or with regenerate members who have not been taught “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” while the crime rate has soared to alarming proportions. The churches have not been the salt of the earth or the light of the world. Their influence in society has diminished as they have failed to preach this full-orbed Gospel.

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When will we learn to put first things first? The true foundation for all enduring societal action is the regeneration of the individual and his obedience to all the teachings of Christ. “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Anyone can predict with certainty that the crime rate will continue to increase unless and until the churches concentrate their energies on the preaching of the whole Gospel.

Flood Tide In Selma

All citizens of good will must feel a sense of outrage at the brutality of the Alabama State Police at Selma. The use of tear gas against unarmed men and women, the attack upon them with clubs, whips, and ropes, the scores of casualties seem like an episode out of Nazi Germany rather than news from an American city. The spectacle was disgraceful and deplorable. It cannot but sicken every American who cherishes his freedom.

The issue at Selma goes to the root of democracy. It is a constitutional matter. What the Negroes were dramatizing in their “Freedom Walk” was the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution: “The right of the citizen of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” For ninety-five years this right has for multitudes of Negro citizens been abridged and even denied. What is in question in Selma is whether a nation will act consistently with its constitutional guarantees to its citizenry. And because consistency with national commitment to liberty is indissolubly linked with justice, the question is one of morality. As such it cuts deeply into the conscience of the great majority of Americans. It probes the very heart of respect for law and order. It underlines the difference between lip service to liberty and justice and their actual administration to all alike.

Every tide must turn. It may be that Selma, Alabama, will stand in history as one of the places where the tide turned for justice to Negro citizens. Paradoxically, the blows they received may prove a crucial strike for freedom. Surely the answer to the question, “What will be the end of such disgraceful scenes?,” is in sight. The Governor Wallaces of our nation must realize that they can no longer frustrate and abridge the Constitution. The concept of first-class citizenship for just one race must go. Only thus can Americans and their children pledge with clear consciences their “allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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One hopeful aspect of the Selma situation should not be overlooked. It is the demonstration in this unhappy city by a little group of white residents of Alabama. Small though the group was, its action showed that within the state there are white citizens willing to stand publicly with the Negroes in their struggle for justice and freedom. Moreover, the clergymen from northern cities who flew to Selma to join the second march chose the right moment. To be sure, it would have been better had white Alabama clergymen stepped into the places they occupied and better still if hundreds of white laymen had rallied to the ranks and led the way. Yet this response from the North was existential identification with the rightness of the Negro cause at a time when police brutality compounded the evils of a sad record of racial discrimination. Tragic evidence of the cost of that identification came not in any march to Montgomery but on the downtown streets of Selma, where the Rev. James J. Reeb was fatally clubbed in an attack by a group of white men.

What About The School Aid Bill?

After only ten days of hearings, the House Committee on Education and Labor reported favorably on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, H.R. 2362. This legislation, popularly known as the school aid bill, demands careful scrutiny because education is of key national importance.

What does H.R. 2362 propose? Its purpose is, according to the committee report, “to meet a national problem”—one reflected in high draft rejection rates because of basic educational deficiencies, in more than eight million adults’ having less than five years of schooling, and in the 20 per cent unemployment rate of 18-to 24-year-olds. On the basis of the connection between educational underachievement and poverty the bill aims to bring to “millions of disadvantaged youth,” to use the President’s term, a better education.

This is a complex piece of legislation. (See CHRISTIANITY TODAY, News, January 29, 1965.) It raises major questions in three areas: (1) distribution of funds, (2) federal intrusion into education, (3) separation of church and state.

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The largest amount of federal grants (over $1 billion in all) will come under Title I, which is especially planned to help children from poverty-afflicted homes, defined as those with annual incomes under $2,000. The money is to be distributed on the basis of multiplying the number of children from these homes by one-half the state average per-pupil expenditure for elementary and secondary education. (A school district would in some cases need only ten low-income pupils to receive aid; a county would need to have no more than one hundred.) But because even the nation’s wealthiest suburban communities have low-income children, some of the most affluent school districts, able to build and maintain outstanding school systems, will receive large grants, whereas deprived areas with similar numbers of children from low-income homes will receive much smaller amounts. Though the minority of the committee attacks the bill on this ground, its alternative of state apportionment of aid offers an uncertain guarantee of equitable distribution.

In supplying grants to local public educational agencies to set up model and experimental schools and other supplemental instructional centers under the direction of the United States Commissioner of Education, to whom very large responsibilities are necessarily assigned, the bill steps out upon the thin ice of federal control of local education. While it may be possible to administer these centers so as not to break through the ice, the prohibition of Title VI against federal control must be scrupulously applied.

Of deep concern to evangelicals and many others who would preserve separation of church and state is the relation of H.R. 2362 to federal aid for non-public education. It endorses shared time (called in the bill “dual enrollment”) and provides various forms of aid (textbooks, instructional materials, and the like) to non-public school children. Also available are subsidies for research, sabbatical leave, fellowships, and traineeships at non-public as well as public higher institutions.

Among the major amendments adopted by the General Sub-Committee on Education in reporting the measure to the full committee are several designed to mitigate any trespass of church-state separation. Thus textbooks and other instructional materials are to be made available on a loan basis only. Supplemental educational centers are to be set up only by public educational agencies. No grants are to be made for training in sectarian work or research in sectarian fields.

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Yet there still remain constitutional questions. The shared-time or dual-enrollment program (although admittedly difficult to administer and not applicable in many school districts) may prove to be constitutional. But such things as the provision of funds for special educational services and of textbooks, even on a loan basis, to non-public school children may be constitutionally even more doubtful.

In summary, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 involves the federal government in the schools more largely than ever before. Had education been more adequately supported on state and local levels, such involvement would not be called for. The basic relation between inadequate education and poverty is plain. One wonders, however, whether the ticklish provisions of various kinds of aid to non-public schools may not leave the door ajar for wholesale federal support of sectarian education later on.

To rush this complex legislation through Congress may in the long run prove to be a disservice to the very cause it seeks to advance. The bill demands additional thoughtful consideration. It should have full congressional debate.

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