After scientists profess their faith, further questions are raised

Something Old, Something New

Just after he retired from high office George Washington wrote a brief letter to Dandridge, who had served as one of his personal assistants. In it he said, among other things, “Only integrity can hold a man or a nation.”

It was Patrick Carnegie Simpson who recommended in one of his lectures, “There are some things a man ought to die for rather than do and some things a man ought to die for rather than not do. Just be sure, gentlemen, you don’t have too many of them.” He was expanding on Kant’s Categorical Imperative: the sense of “ought” any man has at any level of life which to deny is to destroy him.

In the long run I suppose that what a man is willing to do and what a man is not willing to do tells us some very important things. We all believe in salvation by grace or by faith; but early in the game the Church discovered the danger of antinomianism, the kind of lawlessness that tempts a man when he thinks that after all every man is a sinner, and that the point of emphasis therefore ought to be grace rather than works. As James says, “I will show you my faith by my works.” There is a place for Christian character based on Christian assurance.

Even Polly Adler, in A House Is Not a Home, was careful to set before her public the standards by which she herself operated. They were not everybody’s standards, to be sure, but she had them, and she refused to be overrun at such points. It was a constant theme of Damon Runyon’s that his nefarious characters always had their own standards.

So a professor of theology has written to the editor of Playboy, “It would be really tremendous if Playboy were to establish, for example, in this theological seminary, the Playboy Chair for American Church History and Ethics. Personally, I would be delighted beyond measure to occupy such a chair.” The new morality marches on.


Suffering From Psychology

I was impressed by the cogent remarks made by a number of scientists in the August 27 issue. It is reassuring to be reminded that science and evangelical faith are not at odds but that they may readily coexist in concert.

I was both surprised and dismayed by the absence of any remarks by behavioral scientists. While I am aware that there are a number of evangelical scholars in this field, such as those who are members of the American Scientific Affiliation, it is noteworthy to suggest that evangelical faith suffers more from psychological and/or sociological explanation than it does from the more traditional sciences. The very nature of behavioral science poses a perspective of man and his relationships which is in considerable contradiction to spiritual experience.

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It would appear that those scientists who are involved in the physical sciences may readily suggest that “science tells us what we can do, but it cannot tell us what we ought to do,” while the behavioral scientist is acutely concerned with moral and emotional behavior—the quest of man, his interpersonal relations, his “groupish” activities, and so on. He is, in fact, directly concerned with the psychological and sociological nature of religious experience. While to this point much of his discovery lacks empirical status, the evidence is sufficient to suggest that the traditional evangelical perspective has not been strengthened. However, it is my opinion that the evangelical message may well be aided by the insights of these and related disciplines if evangelicalism is prepared to discard non-biblical inconsistencies and other antiquated traditions of contemporary irrelevance. In this spectrum, behavioral science and the evangelical tenets of biblical faith as well as the experience of the new birth and associated God-man relationships are complementary rather than contradictory.


Graduate Teaching Asst.

Dept. of Sociology

University of Oregon

Eugene, Ore.

Regarding the [article] “What Some Scientists Say about God and the Supernatural,” it is true, as you say, that science cannot disprove God’s existence. But the intellectual community, which has long recognized that the methods of science neither prove nor disprove God, now asks the further question: “If empirical methods do not allow you to know of God’s existence, how do you know?” This is the question of most immediate relevance; let’s answer it more clearly and forcefully than we have in the past.


Asst. Prof. of History

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Mich.

The editor speaks of the transcendent God and “man’s rational competence to know the transempirical realm” (“Modern Theology at the End of Its Tether,” July 16 issue).

According to my dictionary “empirical” means (1) “depending on experience or observation alone, without due regard to science and theory”; (2) “pertaining to, or founded upon experiment or experience” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). Accepting this it would appear that the writer is saying that Christian faith deals with that which cannot be experienced or confirmed by experiment. Surely Christians deal rather with the empirical realm. How could we experience God if we did not do so empirically?…

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First Baptist Church

Delhi, Ont.

• The Christian view is that the truth of divine revelation is not a product of man’s experience but rather is authoritatively addressed to man. To say that man must personally know truth in order to know it settles nothing, since that is his epistemological predicament as a knower. The critical issues are whether all truth arises from experience, or whether experience itself is made possible by transempirical factors, and whether truth transcending man’s experience is addressed to him. Here revealed religion leaves no doubt: God is self-revealed, both in general revelation in nature and conscience and in special revelation in Holy Scripture.—ED.

The place to start is, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” To this must be added the understanding that the Creator is still at work carrying out his purposes, and that the Bible tells us how he has in the history of his people made those purposes evident. The Judeo-Christian tradition begins with God’s call to Abraham to leave the idol worship of Babylon and travel to the Promised Land, where he would find the one true God. From then on the Creator has continually intervened in the affairs of his children to teach them, guide them, and save them. What we call miracles are more truly God’s intervention for us. We rightly recognize that the Creator’s laws are dependable; otherwise we could not cooperate with him in improving our farming, building bridges, and harnessing the atom. But we must also understand that there is infinite possibility of variation in the limitless combinations and interrelations of these forces.


Reading Center, N. Y.

Lazarus, Calvin, And Billy Graham

Re “The New Birth,” by Billy Graham (booklet insert, Sept. 10 issue): It fails to proclaim the absolute sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in applying the redemptive work of Christ to the souls of men, a truth stoutly maintained by such men as Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, and Spurgeon. The author states: “The context of the third chapter of John teaches that the new birth is something that God does for man when man is willing to yield to God.” This is not quite correct. Man’s willingness to yield to God is rather a fruit of the new birth. And the new birth is a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit whereby a new principle of holiness is implanted in the soul. In the new birth man is passive. He is no more active in regeneration or prepares himself for it than Lazarus was active in or prepared himself for his resurrection from the dead.…

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The Evangelical Library

Portland, Ore.


“Do-It-Yourself Religion” (Sept. 10 issue) indicates again that CHRISTIANITY TODAY considers the greatest danger in Christianity something it calls “liberalism,” though the views of the minister outlined in the article represent a crude caricature of any responsible liberal.… Articles like this overlook completely the great dangers of extreme fundamentalism. Numerically, the danger from this side of the fence is much greater than from a radical liberalism.

How many churches are there that emphasize escape from a literal, burning hell, an escape that is available only by believing a certain way?


Thorntown, Ind.

‘Salaried Housekeeper’

Isn’t the most significant part of the Rev. Mr. Pitts’s article its title, “If I Were a Church Member” (Sept. 10 issue)? It suggests that the minister is not a church member; he does not have a part in the fellowship of the church, nor does he come under its discipline. He is rather like the salaried housekeeper who runs the household, and whose thoughts often naturally turn to how she would act if she were a member of that family. I don’t know if it is a pity that Mr. Pitts became a minister, but is it not surely a pity that he did not remain a member of the church?


Dept. of Philosophy

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Mich.

On Target

William Butler Yeats once said of Benedetto Croce’s “Philosophy of Spirit,” in which was presented the view that philosophy and history are identical, “I am now deeply in Croce.… I find this kind of study helps my poetry which has I believe been at its best in the last few months.”

My response to the splendid article, “Guidelines to a Christian Interpretation of History,” by Roger Rusk (Sept. 10 issue) is that I find this kind of study helps my preaching and teaching. While Croce identified history and philosophy, Rusk, going deeper, has identified history and the purpose of God. He has escaped the ensnaring Hegelian view of the dialectical process as determining history and has given us an “arrow flight” view, that there is a target at which the divine purpose is aiming.


Huntington Baptist Church

Huntington, L. I., N. Y.

I think you have really touched the crux of this thought and truth. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agree with you in your reasoning and in your theology.…

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Chairman, Chapel Committee

Anderson College

Anderson, S. C.

The Proportion Problem

I have just finished reading your fine editorial entitled “What Is the Church For?” (Sept. 10 issue). You went right into the confusion of my own heart these days as I constantly struggle to proportion my ministry properly between proclamation of the Gospel and service to the needy.…


First Baptist Church

Hamshire, Tex.

Speak Up, Preacher!

Blissfully at his ease the minister delivers his sermon and blissfully unaware that facing him are many who are not at ease—those who are tense from trying to hear what he says, those who are frustrated because missed words make his sermon meaningless.

I belong to a club of retired business and professional men, where I have walked out on the speaker several times because I could not understand him. When I had to make a speech there, knowing how bad the acoustics of the dining room was, I asked a retired minister to go in with me ahead of time and help me find out how to speak so I could be heard.…

Would it not be rewarding to a minister and his congregation, if he would take an old intelligent friend with him into the church to listen while he spoke at the altar, the lectern, and in the pulpit, and then make the necessary changes so all could hear him in every part of the building? What a difference such a simple experiment could make!

Last summer I was back at the factory for a retirement banquet for an old friend, where many speeches were made through a speaking system. When my turn came I shoved the microphone away with the remark that if my forefathers, the old Vikings, could see me using such a contraption they would turn over in their graves. In olden times they could make their voices heard from France to Scotland.


Santa Barbara, Calif.

Malaysia And Indonesia

I have much enjoyed reading the Asia issue (July 30). I felt it gave a very good picture of the situation in the Far East. I think however that there are one or two points that need clarifying.

In the article on “Continental Southeast Asia,” the statement is made that “religious instruction is prohibited in [Malaysian] mission schools.” This needs to be qualified with the explanation that in both mission and government schools, Christian students may request religious instruction after regular school hours. At a Teachers’ Christian Fellowship conference in Penang I met with over fifty teachers from fourteen different places who were having wonderful opportunities teaching the Scriptures. These Scripture courses are in preparation for their school exams, and they receive credit for the work they have done.

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Muslim students in Christian schools cannot be invited to attend chapel services, but they are allowed to be present if they come on their own initiative and their parents do not object.

There is even greater freedom in Indonesian government schools, where if there are as many as ten Christians they may request instruction from a Christian teacher. In Christian schools even if the majority of the students are Muslims there is full freedom to preach the Gospel. For three consecutive days I addressed the whole student body in a high school in Malang, Java. Most of the students came from Muslim homes, and a large number stayed for a follow-up meeting for those who desired to become Christians. Later they joined Bible study groups for new believers. The fact that there is not so much religious fanaticism in Indonesia as in Malaysia is due to the mixture of beliefs to be found among the Indonesian Muslims. The family next door to the home where I was staying resorted to animistic practices when there was a birth, marriage, or death in the home, but they were regular in their attendance at the mosque and also belonged to the Communist party.…


Assoc. Gen. Sec. for the Far East

International Fellowship of Evangelical Students

Kowloon, Hong Kong

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