The Gospel and Social Problems

Under The Sun

I see we now have another writer getting news space because he has said that Jesus didn’t really die. If he is right, this goes rather hard on the God-is-dead boys. Anyway, his theory is that Jesus fainted away, and that he revived in the cool of the tomb.

Something clicked when I read this. I looked up an old textbook of mine and was surprised to discover that it really is old—published in 1912. The book is Vollmer’s The Modern Student’s Life of Christ, and I refer you to page 326. There Vollmer sets before us the various views of the Resurrection and answers them briefly. This is not to say that he is a final authority on these matters but rather to point up that the newest idea on the Resurrection is a pretty old one at that.

Vollmer discusses the swoon theory, the theory of fraud, the spiritual resurrection theory, the legendary theory, and the subjective vision theory. One of his answers is significant; namely, that whatever support any one of these theories may have, each in turn undercuts the other theories. We can’t have it all five ways even from the critics, and what one says is a criticism of all the others.

This sort of thing is rather entertaining to observe in all our new theology. In an article in Christianity and Crisis last October written by George D. Younger, one of their contributing editors, we have a study of Karl Barth over against Cox and The Secular City. In discussing The Secular City, Younger says that “one of the primary faults of the social gospel was overreliance upon the categories of immanence.” This should take care of the death-of-God boys, but this is only a touch. You can’t have both Barth and Altizer, and you can’t have both Barth and Bultmann; and if God is dead, everything that anyone ever said in support of the existence of God, even Tillich’s “ground of being” or “ultimate concern,” no longer stands up.

Some people think we have a clear line from Barth to Altizer. As a matter of fact, when we accept one, we dismiss the others. It is an old, old story but not the old, old story.


The Bulkley—Bell Debate

No similarly concerned person could miss the deep sense of honesty and urgency evinced in Robert D. Bulkley’s letter (Mar. 4 issue). I am sure my Presbyterian compatriot wrote out of the depths of “a good heart and conscience undefiled.” For this reason, I am the more hopeful that he will seriously consider the question I would like to ask.…

Did you, Dr. Bulkley, first gain your passionate concern for our unfairly disadvantaged brethren through some change in social structure based upon legislative process? Or did you come to that position of concern through hearing and heeding a Gospel which changed your own heart and outlook?…

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The priorities suggested by L. Nelson Bell seem to me to give only added power and focus to the social concern we share with all men of good will, by providing our efforts with a common, Spirit-directed imperative.


First Presbyterian Church

Waukegan, Ill.

“Priorities First!” was an excellent answer to Dr. Bulkley’s letter. With all due respect to Dr. Bell, however, I believe Howard Kershner’s “The Church and Social Problems” (Mar. 4 issue) is probably the best article on this subject that I have ever read.…


East Taunton, Mass.

The issue which Dr. Bulkley and Dr. Bell debate is surely one of the most significant in American Protestantism today. To me there is an inconsistency in Dr. Bell’s approach which leads me to believe that even the churchmen whose position he articulates quite readily use coercive efforts and political activity to achieve their ends when certain issues are involved.…

Are not most of us quite ready to express political convictions and use the coercive power of the state when the issues are important enough to us? Is the difference between Mr. Bulkley’s position and Dr. Bell’s really where their articles seem to indicate?


Grace Covenant Presbyterian

Asheville, N. C.

Bulkley, Bell, and Kershner all made valid points in their contributions to the debate over the legitimacy of political and social activity on the part of Christian leaders, but they all weakened their cases by the usual errors of overstatement and by falling into precisely the either-or, all-or-nothing thinking they condemn.

Bulkley, while professing to believe in the primacy of individual regeneration, in effect condemns it for not bringing converts to instant perfection, forgetting that the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit takes a full lifetime. Bell, in presenting the other side, seems to want to imprison the minister in a rigidly defined role that leaves little room for specific guidance from the Holy Spirit. Kershner, in keeping with the philosophy of the journal he represents, lumps all government programs for social relief and welfare under the emotionally charged label of socialism.…

Let us as Christians approach our serious responsibilities in the social and political arenas with some measure of logic and restraint. Where God has spoken, let us be unequivocal. Where He has not spoken, let us be more reticent.

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Hartford Seminary Foundation

Hartford, Conn.

Dr. Bell’s answer amounted to a sidestepping of the letter’s main charge: that the Church has proved incapable of influencing its own people to practice the virtues of brotherhood and love.…

True, social concern is not all of Christianity, but there can be no Christianity without it.


Chapel Oaks, Md.

I have been a conservative, evangelical Christian for about fifty years with most of them spent in rescue mission work.

Personal commitment to Christ and a genuine salvation is necessary, but that alone does not erase injustice and prejudice. I intend to continue to preach salvation through Christ, but I am also going to strive for equality of citizenship enforced by law.…


Chicago, Ill.

Neither “either/or” nor “individual conversion, first; social change, second” seems to me the best way of approaching this debate.… For to begin with the Bible, I do not find either the spiritual/secular or individual/social distinction made by these men made so strongly there. I do find the Word of God, sometimes spoken to individuals (John 3), sometimes addressed to social situations (Isa. 5).…

As a Christian man, then, I begin with the Word.…


Memorial Church

York, Pa.

You are to be commended for your strong stand on evangelism and the evangelistic effort that brings forth answers of protest like that of Dr. Bulkley of our United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. His attitude toward evangelism, conversion, the new man in Christ, we have known from his kind in our denomination for a long time.…

I am … tired of … social visionaries who infest our higher administrative areas and … who sneer habitually at all who profess to believe in conversions.…


Second Presbyterian Church

Altoona, Pa.

Won’t you … help the evangelical world to see what constructive expressions of social concern should characterize those of us who have no intention of neglecting, disparaging, or relegating to second place evangelism and personal spiritual growth?


Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship

Chicago, Ill.

Birth Control

The thoughtful article on “How to Decide the Birth-Control Question” (Mar. 4 issue), by John Warwick Montgomery, seems to be saying what the Anglican Bishops said at Lambeth in 1958.…


Camp Webb

Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee

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Milwaukee, Wise.

Vicarious Response

Thomas Howard’s essay, “Arts and Religion: They Need Not Clash” (Jan. 21 issue), brings a much-needed emphasis to a subject too often ignored by otherwise well-informed Christians.…


Western Springs, Ill.

Last year as I completed my M.A. in English literature, I knew vicariously the artist’s experience with “beauty, ambiguity, and tragedy.” My responses to T. S. Eliot, John Donne, Pope, and the rest, would be difficult to convey. I can only thank God for the artist, out of whose struggle comes such profound, and sometimes terrible, meaning. And that there is ultimate meaning surely all art declares, even when the artist’s aim is quite otherwise.…

Perhaps the burden of Mr. Howard’s remarks can somehow be impressed upon the evangelical mind of today.… Salem, Ore.


Mcintire Replies

Have you, too, joined the vultures? Your report of the Harrisburg meeting and my picture (Mar. 4 issue) indicates that I am having the same trouble with you that I am having with the ecumenical press. You report I was “censured” without giving the substance of Resolution #160. You make the issue operational control of Station WXUR while the issue of the Harrisburg Convocation for Religious Freedom was a transgression by a state legislature of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and similar provisions in the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania. The entire content of the resolution was an attack upon my religious ministry, activity for thirty years, “ousted from the clergy,” my ideas were declared to be dangerous to the country and equated with extremism. The American Council of Christian Churches was reflected against and the National Council of Churches aided by the judgment that I made “vicious attacks” upon the NCC.

Sir, if you are devoted to religious liberty in this country your editorial columns should come alive regardless of what you may think about me, my ideas or activities in support of our heritage of religious tolerance and the free exercise of religion. A political unit under the control of the liberal Democrats sought to defame a religious movement, the ACCC, and come to the assistance of the ecumenical cause. The vultures are gathering, Sir, and they will pick you up next. Incidentally, there were 8,000 to 10,000 people present at the Harrisburg Convocation.



International Council of Christian Churches

Collingswood, N. J.

Rethinking Rethinking

I have to take sharp issue with Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein (“Rethinking the Church’s Role,” Feb. 18 issue) on the matter of “dual enrollment, or shared time”.…

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Every one knows that there is a deep and fundamental difference between the Roman Catholic system of government and our own American system. Witness Spain and Colombia, to name but two countries under the Roman Catholic system.

Any support given to the Roman Catholic parochial school, therefore, is support given to the support of a system of government that is both alien and foreign to our democracy in its inmost nature.

The American taxpayer cannot be expected or required to contribute to the support of an educational system which trains its pupils in principles of government so totally different from those principles set forth in our basic documents of government.…


Binghamton, N. Y.

The article surely is most challenging. Why should such a condition or attitude toward Christian teaching exist today? Is it possible we have tried to “intellectualize Christ?” …


Lincoln, Neb.

I am sure that your emphasis on a renewed and revitalized education program by the Church is a valid one.…


Galilee Baptist

Denver, Colo.

More Questions?

It is to be hoped that Dr. Anthony A. Hoekema (“Ten Questions to Ask Christian Scientists,” Mar. 4 issue), will have a condensation of the other three cults in your magazine, which he so ably exposed in The Four Major Cults.


West New York, N. J.

It is good to begin to consider the views of groups other than those of Protestants and Catholics who take the name of Christ.…

Dr. Hoekema’s questions are challenging, but he stops short of raising the all important question: “What are the fruits?” … Are people being healed through Christian Science? Are there men and women finding their way to Christ, the Word of God, through Mary Baker Eddy’s preaching? Do Christian Scientists read and study the Bible? Are there signs of good following their Church’s efforts?…

We need the facts. For the record, could we not have a serious study of Christian Science to bring to light the truth concerning their fruits? Surely God would bless the effort made if the study were made for the sake of truth.


New Sweden Methodist Church

Fairfield, Iowa

They Didn’T Dodge It

In “Church Channel to Homosexuals,” by Jerome F. Politzer (News, Mar. 4 issue), it is stated, “Religious journals, excepting a few of the avant-garde, have dodged the issue.”

Almost a year ago (May, 1965), Together magazine dealt with the church’s ministry to the homosexual as an example of how Christian trailbreakers are busy on what our editors term “today’s frontier,” the large cities.

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Associate Editor Carol D. Muller was one of two staff members who reported on the aims and outreach of the Glide Urban Center in “Engaging the CityWith Love”.… She cited the work of ministers in promoting communication with San Francisco’s 50,000 “untouchables”.…

What we believe is worthy of note is that Together is not avant-garde but is a general-interest magazine for Methodist families.



Church and Press Relations

Christian Advocate and Together

Park Ridge, Ill.

From Cover To Cover

It is very seldom that I as a parish pastor find a theological publication that I feel is worth spending the time to read cover to cover. This issue I did, (Christian Education issue, Feb. 18) for every article has struck home.…


Lutheran Church

Luverne, N. D.

Close to twenty years ago, I observed that the International Bible lesson arrangement of selected Scriptures is a disconnected, fragmentary, screened patchwork that removes many passages out of their biblical context. This hodgepodge of Scripture makes systematic Bible teaching with reasonable continuity severely difficult for the trained teacher, and more so for the large number of untrained teachers.…

Personally, I have conscientiously abandoned the International lesson plan. And I teach the Bible by books with nothing added and nothing subtracted.


Drayton Plains, Mich.

May I most sincerely congratulate you. Many of our men—all ministers met yesterday—spoke well of it [the editorial on Sunday school curricula].…


Temple Baptist Church

Brantford, Ont.

Your [editorial] should be required reading for all to whom the Christian education of children is of moment. It is very high time for all who have the souls of children and the community of saints at heart to realize that not all Sunday school materials are scripturally sound. The child taught uncertainties today will be the adult of tomorrow who falls for, “Yes, hath God said?,” and not know the answers.…


Ashley, Ill.

Intriguing But Unjust

I was greatly intrigued by your editorial “What About the Sunday School?” (Feb. 18 issue).… This editorial does great injustice to at least one, and I suspect to most, of these curriculum efforts. I speak particularly of the Covenant Life Curriculum, which you have simply lumped together with hundreds of other books from all denominational sources. There are five conclusions, or innuendos, which I believe do injustice to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Moravian Church in America, the Presbyterian Church in the United States, and the Reformed Church in America. The five supposed conclusions which you reach and to which I object are as follows:

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1. That the curriculum is based upon the view of a “fallible Bible.” You say in your editorial that “these views grow out of theologies ranging from liberalism through neo-orthodoxy to a position that, while holding classical doctrine, does so within the context of a fallible Bible.” This simply is not true of the Covenant Life Curriculum.

2. That the newer curricula adopt uncritically the results of higher criticism. You say, “Most of the newer curricula adopt critical results with little if any acknowledgment that not all scholars agree and that archaeology and linguistic studies have overthrown some important critical conclusions.” Your own sentence destroys your argument. The results of higher criticism are not uniform. No two scholars fully agree. The fact is that the new curricula very carefully sift and evaluate the views of scholars who have worked within the past half century. The fact is that Covenant Life Curriculum is thoroughly conservative as far as all the major doctrines of the Church are concerned.

3. Your complaint that the biblical supernatural is watered down. Again, quoting from your editorial, “But instances of watering down the biblical supernatural could be multiplied.” Evidentally … you did not read the basic core book on the Bible entitled “The Mighty Acts of God” in which (pages 300–307) is a most excellent description of the miracles and a resounding affirmation of belief in them.

4. The insinuation that the decline in Sunday school attendance is due to weak doctrinal teaching. Without any kind of documentation you say, “Does the doctrine reflected in the curricula have anything to do with the decline? The answer would appear to be yes.” In the first place, the Covenant Life Curriculum is not weak in doctrine. In the second place, we do not find through the use of Covenant Life Curriculum that there is loss of enrollment in the church school.

5. The complaint that the call to dedication is less insistent in the new curricula. In your editorial you recognize that not every lesson is susceptible to an evangelistic appeal to pupil and teacher to receive Jesus Christ. Such an appeal does not need to come in set phrases and old formulas. In fact, such appeal to dedication to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour ought to be brought with freshness and vigor from beginning to end. The Covenant Life Curriculum sets forth from beginning to end the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. It magnifies the Scripture as the Word of God to be heard, studied, accepted, and lived by, from the beginning of life to the end of it. It is the only way to salvation, both for the individual and for the Covenant community. In that deep sense every lesson is evangelistic.

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I am in no position publicly to evaluate the work of other denominations, but I do share in the representation of five conservative denominations who have developed together a curriculum which is conservative, based upon the Bible, honest in its presentations, and trusting in the Power of the Holy Spirit to work through the Word in the hearts of mankind. Its purpose is “that all persons may respond in faith to the call of God in Jesus Christ and be nurtured in the life of fellowship with Him, that they may face all life’s relationships and responsibilities as children of God.” While no curriculum can perfectly fulfill this noble purpose, we believe that the Covenant Life Curriculum is the finest tool that our five denominations have for fulfilling our God-given teaching responsibility to the constituency which we serve. For you to undermine this confidence is no service to the Kingdom.


Executive Secretary

The Board of Education

Reformed Church in America

New York, N. Y.

• The purpose of the editorial was to discuss Sunday school materials in a fair and irenic way.

The view of inspiration is indeed a watershed. There are many who are not willing to give up the classic doctrine of a Bible that is verbally inspired and thus inerrant. The one reference to the Covenant Life Curriculum concerned the question of inerrancy. But at once the good points of this curriculum were acknowledged and a fair estimate of it given—that it “contains much good teaching material, upholds the doctrines of salvation [which are of course supernatural], and assumes certain critical positions [which it does].” Personally the writer of the editorial rates it high among the newer denominational materials. But to return to the view of Scripture, if we are wrong and if the Covenant Life Curriculum does hold to biblical inerrancy, we should like to know this. “Fallible” means “liable to be erroneous”; and if the view that Scripture is inerrant is given up, then the Bible must be considered fallible.

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We know that the denominational curricula do not adopt all the critical positions. The editorial does not say this but uses enough qualifying words—“some,” “many,” and the like—to avoid generalization. (Although the sentence Dr. Walvoord quotes does not use “some,” it must be read in the context of the whole editorial, which establishes qualifications.) Some critical positions as are mentioned are important to multitudes of evangelical Christians who are not persuaded of the “mythical” or non-historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch, the dual authorship of Isaiah, or the non-historical character of Daniel. It is significant that the beginning of this paragraph cautions against the tendency of some conservatives to lump the newer denominational curricula together as wholly bad or to consider independent materials uniformly good.

About watering down the biblical supernatural, the statement is not made specifically of Covenant Life Curriculum but rather refers to instances throughout various curricula.

Dr. Walvoord complains that we link the decline in Sunday school attendance to weak doctrinal teaching and at this point quotes two sentences from the editorial. Again these sentences should be taken in context. We wrote, “The answer would appear to be yes” [italics added], following this with a conditional sentence and then going on to say that to make this matter of doctrine the only reason would be oversimplification. This paragraph is, of course, editorial opinion.

Regarding the call to dedication, it is true that, in the light of comparative examination of materials, independent curricula are more persistent in evangelistic emphasis and more insistent in their challenge for pupils to receive Christ. We do not say that the denominational materials never stress personal commitment to Christ. We know they do and are happy that they do.

We object to the approach that indiscriminately condemns as “atheistic,” “un-Christian,” and the like those who hold certain critical and doctrinal positions. Therefore, we spoke against “de-Christianizing” those who, while holding to the Gospel, differ from us in certain matters. The final sentence of the editorial is important: “Therefore, on pastors and local churches rests the inescapable obligation of knowing and evaluating what is being taught in their Sunday schools and of choosing spiritually as well as intellectually qualified persons to teach it.” What more could any of us desire than for pastors and churches to evaluate Sunday school materials for themselves?—Ed.

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It was a marvelous issue, and I particularly appreciated the editorial on Sunday school curricula.…



Dept. of Christian Education

Calvary Bible College

Kansas City, Mo.

A Continuing Crisis

I was … interested in the analysis of Dr. Hutchison in “Can the Christian College Survive?” (Feb. 18 issue) on the continuing crisis in recruiting faculty members for the Christian college.… But I think salary-lag is only part of the reason why Christian Ph.D.’s hesitate to enter Christian college teaching. There is a very real sense in which the Ph.D. is asked to surrender his academic training when he enters a Christian college. A Ph.D. degree is a research degree, and a man with that degree should be motivated to work at the frontiers of knowledge in whatever field he has specialized. Research requires grants for equipment, extensive leave time, and a large library. The Christian college is usually unable to provide any of these necessities in any meaningful quantity.…

There may be a way out of this unfortunate situation. In the fact that they need primarily teachers and not researchers, the Christian colleges are on common ground with many secular institutions which are also teaching-oriented. Could not the Christian colleges unite with these secular institutions with like personnel needs to demand that the major universities institute doctoral programs that are both research and teaching oriented? The University of Michigan, I know, at one time offered (and perhaps still does) an Ed.D. degree in several fields; for example, one could take his doctorate of education in literature, or history. The dissertation process was considerably curtailed as was the number of fields required for a candidate’s general examinations. And this program of training in a specialty was combined with courses in higher education, so that the candidate was well versed both in field content and in teaching methodology. This kind of program … offers a middle ground.… The Ohio State


University Asst. Prof. of History Columbus, Ohio

Cup Of Blessing

On a Good Friday evening, I stood beneath the starry dome of heaven. As I meditated on the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, I observed in a preoccupied way that the “Big Dipper,” Ursa Major, hung upside down in its giant swing around the North Star, drained and empty, as it were. It seemed almost to be trying to speak, but I was too cast down in mind and heart to heed what it might be saying.

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Sad thoughts of Passion Week overwhelmed me. Oh, if only one might go straight from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday to the Hallelujahs of Easter without the heartbreak of the week between. The sufferings of my Saviour seemed all the more poignant when reviewed in the loveliness of that soft April evening. Snatches of Handel’s Messiah, to which I had been listening, kept bringing back the words of Isaiah: “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief … wounded for our transgressions … bruised for our iniquities.… All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Again I glanced upward at the Dipper. Once more I recalled the Passion Week: our Lord’s foretelling his death, his agony in Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas, the trial, the spitting, scourging, mocking, Pilate’s craven surrender of his prisoner at the insistence of the inflamed mob with its cries of “Crucify him! Crucify him!”—and then the cross itself. Why did it have to be that way? Could not God have done it differently?

As if in answer to the unhappy questions, the stern words in Hebrews came to mind, “Without shedding of blood is no remission [of sins].” Without quite realizing it, I looked hard at the upside-down Dipper. And suddenly its message reached me. “Behold in heavenly symbol,” it seemed to say, “behold, the cup of wrath which the Son of God thrice besought the Father might pass from his lips but which he drained to its bitterest dregs to redeem his lost creation.”

Yet another event of Passion Week flashed to mind—our Lord’s institution of the Holy Communion. “He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” So this was the cost of my redemption, the precious blood of God’s own Son. What an incredible price God had to pay to ransom me! As I dwelt upon the sacrament and its vicariously sacrificial meaning, lo, the cup of wrath and desolation which the Lord Jesus Christ had drunk on that Good Friday long ago became a veritable cup of blessing, and indeed a sign of his boundless love. Heavenly chalice! Gone now all heaviness from my heart, as soaring it sang in Easter triumph:

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed.

With joy shall I lift up my head.

This spotless robe the same appears,

When ruined nature sinks in years;

No age can change its glorious hue,

The robe of Christ is ever new.


Richmond, Virginia

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