Series on “God and Man in the 20th Century” available to colleges and churches as well as television outlets
“In ten years we will have an instant communications ability, world-wide. But as to what we are going to say to the world when we have their attention, I’m not certain yet. That’s the thing that worries me.…” Thus muses CBS-TV executive John Schneider.
American television, as it now operates, perhaps car say very little. Schneider himself symbolizes some of its binding mediocrity, since he was the man who overruled network news chief Fred Friendly last February and substituted profitable reruns of reruns of “I Love Lucy” and “The Real McCoys” for George Kennan’s testimony on Viet Nam.
Television offers some noteworthy news programs, and the new season promises a return of significant drama to what has become a wasteland. But, generally speaking, blandness pays. The commercial sponsorship system makes controversy or serious discussion unlikely. And nothing is really more controversial or serious than Christianity, which often cuts across prevailing social patterns like a buzzsaw. This may be one reason why an American TV market that includes 120 million church members does not have a single religious series in “prime time”—the evening hours when most people watch TV. The pattern is broken occasionally, as last month when Billy Graham purchased prime time station-by-station to preach to millions for four nights. But most religious programming is confined to what is called the Sunday “cultural ghetto.”
The normal sponsorship system is inappropriate for religious programs. Although the camp communications theories of Canada’s Marshall McLuhan may be suspect, there is some validity in his catch phrase, “the medium is the message.” The means of transmission and the environment of a message have tremendous effects on content. Divine truth cannot be mixed with idiotic fantasies about the Ajax white knight or one-minute playlets portraying bad breath as the ultimate human crisis.
In his last column before the New York Herald Tribune ceased publication, TV critic John Horn raised a related objection: commercial television talks to consumers and sales units, not human beings. “Nowhere, in prime time, does commercial television speak to us, the audience, on an unselfish basis, with no strings or commercial interruptions attached.… If television wants my attention to sell me things, it is not talking to me. It is exploiting me.…”
Most nations have government-run television instead of commercial networks. But anyone who wants the government to take a hand in religious programming should listen to some recent programs in the “Religion and Ethics” series produced by the Voice of America. This U. S. agency could provide objective journalistic reports on contrasting trends and ideas, or interview a variety of seminary and university experts. Instead, most of the Protestant material comes from a handful of parish clergymen with a debatable point of view. On a July arts program, a Lutheran quickly moved into a defense of the new morality in sex (“We can no longer apply certain rules to every case …”). On an August program about the Bible, an Episcopalian decided that although it isn’t exactly obsolete, “a book which comes out of so distant a past can have little immediate bearing on many of the most acute problems of our rapidly changing present.”
Another system is pay-by-the-program TV, but tests so far do not inspire confidence, and it is questionable whether a mass audience would purposely select and pay for a religious program.
A final possibility remains—the nation’s educational channels. At present, their programs are lackluster, their audiences small. And, through either their own apathy or that of the religions, they provide little spiritual programming. But because of the stations’ potential, Christians have a vital stake in the current, cosmic debate before the Federal Communications Commission. The agency set an October 1 deadline for major statements on the future of domestic TV satellites and, by implication, the fortunes of educational TV.
The most sensational proposal comes from the Ford Foundation. A new, quasi-public corporation would create a satellite system to blanket the United States. Instead of renting ground transmission from American Telephone and Telegraph, networks and stations would rent the satellites, producing a $30 million annual profit that would pay for educational TV production. The satellites would also offer the non-profit channels a free national hook-up, solving their present problem of stale programming. The networks like the idea. COMSAT Corporation claims legal rights to domestic satellites and AT&T contends Ford’s economics are faulty.
Perhaps the Ford Foundation does not have the magic formula, but any boost toward a good national network of non-commercial stations would increase chances for getting Christian concepts before substantial audiences in prime-time slots. An improved educational network would attract the opinion-makers, who are growing increasingly disenchanted with commercial TV. In August, the Louis Harris poll reported a “mounting boycott” in New York City. More than a quarter of the city’s TV sets—mainly in homes with the most education and income—were turned off all evening.
A series of thirteen half-hour TV panels aimed particularly at this leadership group has just been completed by Educational Communication Association under a Lilly Endowment grant. The series, “God and Man in the 20th Century,” is a significant step in communication of the Judeo-Christian heritage in an age of relativism and doubt. The forty participants are men and women of distinction in their fields of learning who are abreast of contemporary problems and skilled in approaching them in an incisive, constructive way. Prints of the films, which will be offered for public-service use to commercial and educational stations later this year, are also available for church or student discussion groups at modest rentals. To their credit, a growing number of commercial non-network television stations are interested in this type of program. Information is available from the E.C.A. field operations office at 143 Meridian Street, Suite 61A, Indianapolis, Indiana. Each program has a discussion by three experts, moderated by Carl F. H. Henry, editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. The complete list of subjects and participants follows:
The Bible and Modern Science.Can we still believe in creation, providence, and miracles?DR. WILLIAM G. POLLARD, executive director, Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies, Oak Ridge, Tennessee; DR. MARTIN BUERGER, distinguished professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; DR. CHARLES HATFIELD, chairman, Department of Mathematics, University of Missouri, Rolla.
Crisis on the Campus.Why does spiritual unrest haunt the universities?DR. JOHN W. SNYDER, dean of the Junior Division, Indiana University, Bloomington; DR. RODERICK JELLEMA, associate professor of English, University of Maryland, College Park; DR. CALVIN LINTON, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, George Washington University, Washington, D. C.
The Bible and the New Morality.What of the formula: “Love, and do as you please”?DR. LEON MORRIS, principal, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia; DR. JOHN W. MONTGOMERY, professor, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois; DR. JAMES DAANE, director, Pastoral Doctorate Program, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.
The Crisis in Communications.New challenges in the era of space travel and mass media.DR. GEORGE L. BIRD, professor and former director of the Graduate School of Journalism, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York; MR. LOUIS CASSELS, religion editor, United Press International; DR. DAVID E. MASON, associate director, Laubach Literacy, Inc.
The Gospel and World Religion.what non-Christian religions offer—and what they don’t.DR. RICHARD C. HALVERSON, executive director, International Christian Leadership, and vice-president, World Vision, Inc.; DR. JOSEF NORDENHAUG, general secretary, Baptist World Alliance; DR. CLYDE W. TAYLOR, executive secretary, Evangelical Foreign Missions Association.
Is God Dead?Are modern theologians playing with words, or are they playing god?DR. GORDON H. CLARK, chairman, Department of Philosophy, Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana; DR. BERNARD RAMM, professor of Christian theology, California Baptist Theological Seminary, Covina, California; DR. RUSSELL V. DELONG, educator and evangelist, Tampa, Florida, and former president of Pasadena College, Pasadena, California.
Last Chance for the 20th Century?What light does the Bible shed on the future?DR. FRANK E. GAEBELEIN, author, headmaster emeritus, The Stony Brook School; MR. ALBERT C. HEDRICH, head of the Communications Research Branch, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland; DR. RICHARD L. MILLETT, assistant professor of history, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.
Christians Examine Communism.What is the outlook in the clash of theism and atheism?DR. CHARLES WESLEY LOWRY, president, Foundation for Religious Action in the Social and Civic Order; DR. DANIEL A. POLING, chairman of the board and editorial consultant, Christian Herald magazine; DR. D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, author and professor at large, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana.
The Arts as a Spiritual Force.A musician, novelist, and artist discuss aesthetics and the churches.DR. R. WAYNE DIRKSEN, director of the advance program, Washington Cathedral, Washington, D. C., and for twenty-two years associate organist and choirmaster; DR. J. WESLEY INGLES, novelist and poet, chairman of the Division of Language and Literature, Eastern Baptist College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania; MR. GORDON KELLY, artist, currently sponsored by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., and formerly of the faculty of the Art Students League of New York.
Do Christianity and Psychiatry Conflict?What is being done—and what can be done—to promote reconciliation?DR. TRUMAN ESAU, psychiatric director of the Covenant Counseling Center of the Swedish Covenant Hospital, Chicago, Illinois; DR. DAVID STEWART, psychiatrist, Louisville, Kentucky, and instructor in psychiatry, University of Louisville School of Medicine; DR. ORVILLE S. WALTERS, director of health services, University of Illinois, Urbana, and professor of psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois.
The Church and Social Concern.How shall we perceive and promote God’s will in public affairs?DR. CLARENCE W. CRANFORD, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D. C.; DR. GEORGE R. DAVIS, pastor, National City Christian Church, Washington, D. C.; DR. EDWARD L. R. ELSON, pastor, National Presbyterian Church, Washington.
What’s the Value of Work?Why is the daily job becoming distasteful to modern man?DR. JEAN AUSTIN, former medical missionary to Congo, surgeon, and mother of six children; DR. H. LEO EDDLEMAN, president, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisiana; DR. SHERWOOD WIRT, editor, Decision magazine.
The Gospel and a Lost World.is evangelism necessary—and whose responsibility is it?MR. JOHN WHITNAH, branch chief, Division of Biology and Medicine, Atomic Energy Commission; THE HONORABLE WALTER JUDD, former medical missionary to China, former congressman; DR. JOHN BROGER, director of education and information, United States Armed Forces; comment by DR. BILLY GRAHAM, evangelist.
World Congress on Evangelism may prove “a watershed in the history of evangelism”
The World Congress on Evangelism to be held in Berlin from October 26 to November 4, will be the first worldwide gathering of regional evangelists and other leaders in evangelistic effort. Coming from more than 100 nations, they will plan for the global fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission in this last third of the twentieth century. The congress recalls the Jerusalem Council about A.D. 50, which supported the extension of evangelism to the Gentile as well as the Jewish world, and will include delegates from some of the oldest as well as the youngest churches in Christendom.
The World Congress reminds all disciples of Jesus Christ of the supreme virtue of love of neighbor and concern for persons, and of the duty of identifying with others in their spiritual and material survival needs. The offer of new life in Christ to individuals lost in disillusioned modern masses holds out a new prospect of peace and joy and purity and power to people of all races and nations.
The congress calls Christians everywhere to return to the evangelistic priorities of the Church in summoning all men to personal repentance and decision for Christ. In contrast to other recent ecumenical conferences, such as the Vatican Council, World Council of Churches’ assemblies, and conferences on Faith and Order and on the Church and Society, it assumes both the Reformation principle of the final authority of the Bible and the apostolic emphasis on the evangelization of mankind as the primary mission of the Church.
For half a century, ecumenical and liberal forces have minimized the contribution of evangelical Christians and considered them a declining minority. Increasingly the vast evangelical wing has been ignored in ecclesiastical planning. Both the urgent need for a return to evangelistic priorities and the erosion of evangelical influence in ecumenical circles have made necessary a bold demonstration to the world that a significant segment of the Church refuses to overlook or denigrate the great commission of Jesus Christ.
The congress marks an effort by many mass evangelists to restore evangelism to the local congregation as a continuing individual concern, and thus to put themselves out of business as a separate professional class. It is a concerted attempt by leaders in evangelism to enlist every professing Christian in active evangelistic and missionary engagement.
It is an effort to surmount the conflict between current theology and traditional evangelism by re-emphasizing biblical theology and mission. Recalling the role of the apostle Paul as theologian-evangelist, the congress recognizes that doctrinal revival and evangelistic vitality must go hand in hand, thereby overcoming the tensions between pietism and confessionalism.
It points to a new strategic relation between Christianity and science in an age of computers, mass media, and space travel, whereby scientific methods and techniques will be fully utilized in the service of the Gospel.
What significance the World Congress on Evangelism holds for the future depends upon a visitation of the Holy Spirit and the obedience of the delegates. In the providence of God, it could be no less significant than the modern ecumenical conferences that gave rise to such movements as the International Missionary Council and the World Council of Churches. The World Congress could be the effective dynamic for a global evangelistic strategy engaging Christian believers of all denominations in overcoming the major defect of twentieth-century Christendom—its indifference to the Great Commission. Evangelist Billy Graham has commented that the congress will hopefully prove “a watershed in the history of evangelism.”
The congress seeks to clarify the biblical basis, motivation, and definition of evangelism, issues that divide the evangelism department of the World Council of Churches as sharply as theological concerns divide its faith and order department.
The announced purposes of the congress are: (1) to define biblical evangelism, (2) to show the modern world the relevance of Christ’s mission, (3) to stress the urgency of evangelistic proclamation throughout the world in this generation, (4) to discover new methods of relating biblical evangelism to our times, (5) to study the obstacles to biblical evangelism and to propose the means of overcoming them, (6) to consider the types of evangelistic endeavor currently employed in various lands, and (7) to summon the Church to recognize the priority of its evangelistic task.
Let Student Editors Speak Out
Student newspapers at Christian colleges too often carry the musty smell of yesterday’s homilies or the bland taste of authorized publicity. When they have been less timid, some publications have been suspended, and editors have been fired or even thrown out of school (not always, we admit, for journalistic reasons).
So we are pleased that the alumni magazine of Seattle Pacific College says “a burst of creative vitality in student publications” was a highlight of the school’s seventy-fifth anniversary year. The Publications Board has decided the weekly Falcon is not a “tool of public relations.” The board gives students full editorial control and tells them they have a “responsibility” to report student opinion and criticize the administration. Thus armed, the Falcon went to war last year on cafeteria food, administrative red tape, wages paid to student employees, the desirability of pool tables on campus, academic freedom, and the philosophy behind daily chapels.
It is significant that this Free Methodist college wants good journalism and free inquiry and, moreover, takes pride in telling the old grads about it. Other Christian colleges should borrow Seattle Pacific’s policies. Colleges, as centers for alert questioning, must welcome assessment of their practices, not inhibit it. Administrators might learn something. And such freedom will contribute to Church and society, both of which need trained writers equipped with evangelical commitment and intelligent candor.
The Church, Politics, And The Ncc
In matters of politics, a growing number of clergymen are doing what Adlai Stevenson said was characteristic of politicians: they are approaching every subject with an open mouth. This new inclination of many ministers to use their positions for openly promoting political policies is in line with the new theology’s conception of the mission of the Church.
Dr. Truman B. Douglass, executive vice-president, Board of Homeland Missions of the United Church of Christ, has said, “The mission will become increasingly this-worldly. The outcries of those who are forever pleading that the church confine itself to ‘spiritual matters,’ that it stay out of politics and economics and civil rights and public affairs generally are becoming more and more absurd and anti-Christian. Reactionaries had better be warned that mission is to become more political, not less.” This view was affirmed by theologian Harvey Cox who in The Secular City wrote “that evangelism, the speaking about God, is political, and Phillippe Maury is right when he says that ‘politics is the language of evangelism.’ ”
Concerted effort to make the Church a sanctified political-pressure group may be seen clearly in the repeated drumbeating by the National Council of Churches for entry of Red China into the United Nations and for American diplomatic recognition of the Peking regime. Despite Communist China’s past and present record of ruthless violence, rampaging atheism, iron-fisted tyranny, and aggressive imperialism, NCC leaders and agencies have for a decade issued statements favorable to these Red Chinese objectives.
The latest NCC policy statement on China, adopted by the General Board on February 22, 1966, called upon the United States to develop “a new policy of support to the seating of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations” and requested “that careful study be given by the United States to regularizing diplomatic communications with the People’s Republic of China and to the conditions under which diplomatic recognition may appropriately be extended.” These recommendations and others seeking trade, cultural exchanges, open travel, technical co-operation, and international negotiation with Red China were approved by ninety out of ninety-four members present at a meeting of the 250-member General Board.
The action taken by these ninety people became the official policy of the NCC and ostensibly represented the majority opinion of members of the thirty Protestant denominations that belong to the NCC. It put the nation and world on notice that mainstream American Protestantism strongly favored these policies on Communist China now rejected by the nation’s elected leaders.
To ascertain the actual convictions of Protestant clergymen on the Red Chinese question, Dr. Daniel Poling, chairman of the board of the Christian Herald, recently polled a random 65 per cent of the Protestant ministers in the United States. Of the 30,000 who replied, he found that 72.9 per cent opposed a United Nations seat for Red China, 71.4 per cent were against diplomatic recognition of the Peking regime, and 93.7 per cent rejected the expulsion of Nationalist China from the U. N. The findings of the poll offer strong evidence that the NCC General Board’s policy statement on Red China decidedly contradicted the position of the vast majority of American clergymen. One suspects that the vote might have been even more conclusive if lay members of NCC-affiliated churches had been polled.
NCC policy on Red China is only one of many examples of the heavy-handed attempts of ecclesiastical strategists to forge a political policy and pass it off as the official position of the Church. While denominational leaders and pastors must as individuals always be free to express their political convictions without fear of pressure from their constituencies, they must remember that their offices do not entitle them to speak officially for the Church in matters of politics. They are called to proclaim biblical doctrine, not political doctrine. The Bible is hardly a handbook of political science. The Church was not established as a political debating society or pressure group. Rather, the Church exists as a spiritual body to exalt the Triune God, call men to repentance and faith in Christ, and equip them for his service. The Bible declares the eternal truth of God, which, if preached and believed, will enable Christians to live as responsible citizens in the city of man.
In the complexities of politics it is often difficult—and sometimes well-nigh impossible—for anyone to assert that a given viewpoint is the Christian position. For ecclesiastical leaders to make political pronouncements in the name of the Church is irresponsibly presumptuous and violates the duties of their offices. Clergymen have no mandate to make the pulpit or the organized church a sounding board for political dogma or strategy. Their task is to sound forth the Word of God to man and fearlessly address the moral problems of our day.
Contrary to Dr. Douglass’s claim that it is absurd for the Church to stay out of politics, great dangers await the Church when it deteriorates to the place where its evangelistic program emphasizes political action to redeem social institutions. Such a conception of the mission of the Church is a distinct denial of the great commission Jesus Christ gave his Church. For Christian theologians to propose that the mission of the Church is political in character is itself the height of absurdity. To follow such counsel is to disobey God, to destroy the effectiveness of the Christian witness, and to dissipate the Church’s service to the world.
The church that takes the political plunge will soon move away from its devotion to God’s Word. It will inevitably find its unity ruptured as divergent political viewpoints vie for ascendency. It will finally see its fellowship grow cold. Its uniqueness as a Christian body will be lost as it increasingly becomes assimilated into secular groups that care not for the things of God but seek only this-worldly objectives. The net result will be that such a church will forsake its love for Jesus Christ, and the world Christ loves will be poorer because of it.
If the Church of Jesus Christ is to have the greatest possible effect on individual lives and society as a whole, it must devote itself to the God-given task of preaching the Gospel and serving mankind in love. To register political convictions, the individual Christian can and should take part in the political parties and organizations that exist for this purpose. No responsible Christian citizen can remain oblivious to social and political problems. He must work actively to solve them. Yet he must not make the organized church the political instrument for solution of these problems. Christians must actively repudiate ecclesiastical strategists who would use their offices and church organizational structures as a platform for advancing political policies. By witness through word and life, Christians must dedicate themselves to making the Church what God intends it to be: his means of bringing to all men the message of salvation in Christ.
Let’S Escape ‘The Religious Ghetto’
The Church needs to consider the potential involved in witnessing by a more creative use of mass media. These are the only vehicles which actually say something to the “mass” daily.
Several years ago Eugene Nida of the American Bible Society suggested that some schools are run as though books had never been invented. It might be just as true to say that the Church conducts evangelism as though mass communication had never been discovered. If we are to get a hearing for the Gospel in our day, the Church must give its best thought and its finest talent and its most earnest consideration to a more creative use of the mass media in evangelism.
Although some very creative work has been done on the denominational level by such groups as the Radio and Television Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and by the National Council of Churches, there is still much room within the denominations and at the local church level for a great deal of study about the use of the mass media. The multitude of religious programs broadcast over radio and television on Sunday morning are in the time slot known as “The Religious Ghetto.” They are beamed to the people who already believe.
A very fine church was left a large sum of money with the instruction that the money was to be used in some ministry outside the church. In addition to supporting various missionary efforts, the church sponsored a thirty-minute television program. They had an excellent pastor, and he did a splendid job with the program. They decided to conduct a survey concerning the listening audience and found that the program was being listened to by the “already convinced.” This is true of the majority of the church efforts with mass media.
The pastor and church members involved in the production of this program were very discouraged and sought various solutions. One prominent individual in communications made the following suggestion, “Pastor, up to now you have been the program. Why don’t you let somebody else be the program and you be the sponsor?” This is what American advertisers do. They choose a program with a desirable audience, and they use that program as a medium by which they introduce their idea for their product.
The group went to work preparing, not thirty-minute religious programs, but sixty-second “religious commercials.” Instead of using one station, they used all the stations. Instead of running them on Sunday, they set them in spots which were considered “prime time.” This represents one good creative effort on the part of one church. What this one church has done could be multiplied many times by other congregations.—Dr. KENNETH CHAFIN, associate professor in the Billy Graham Chair of Evangelism at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, in Help, I’m a Layman (Word Books, Waco, Texas, 1966), pp. 110, 111.
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