Recently a reputable author of religious books spoke on the radio about a volume he had written on the Apostle Paul. Before Paul’s appearance, he said, the Christian Church had never expected to be anything but a small sect. This contention conflicts sharply with Jesus’ order to his disciples: “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples.… And remember! I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19, 20, Today’s English Version). It conflicts also with Peter’s statement on the Day of Pentecost that God’s promise was “to you and your children, and to all who are far away” (Acts 2:39).

For centuries the Bible, speaking with what J. B. Phillips calls “the ring of truth,” has convinced men of its authenticity. But today many prominent scholars snap a lock on the Word so that it is not given a chance to speak for itself. And then they try to speak for it. The Word is light; it is a fire, a sword, a life-giving force, a purifying power—but to what avail, when the masses hear the words of men rather than the Word of God? One man said, “Prior to becoming a Christian, I faced the pulpit in my church a thousand times. I heard philosophy, psychology, literature, and theology—but never did I hear the Word of God actually proclaimed!”

The paradox confronting us, then, is that men inside the Church are confirming the unbelief of those outside it. These misunderstanders and misquoters of the Bible are heard. They have made formidable names for themselves. They write books that catch the world’s fancy and make statements that shock people. Their churches shelter goings-on that are nearly, if not actually, blasphemous.

The atheists of today must be greatly heartened as they see their cause supported by men who wear the robes of religion. All the while innumerable Christians writhe silently, embarrassed and angry, but with few outlets through which to reply to the enemies of the Word. When Methodism’s Christian Advocate published an article in which Charles Keysor pointed out the voicelessness of the multitudes in the denomination who embraced the Bible as God’s Word, the response was tremendous—so large that a “forum for scriptural Christianity within the Methodist Church” was founded, with a magazine called Good News.

Is it not high time that the millions in all denominations who believe in scriptural authority speak out? The false prophets loudly hawk their unholy theology from lofty places. The presses pour out print-rivers of heresy.

No valid reason exists for the success clever minds have had in silencing the Word—save that evangelicals may be allowing their slight theological differences to keep the gospel trumpet hushed. In their ranks are enough voices to shake the world! Let them but find a speaking-stand. Can we not afford to forget little family quarrels in the face of the far greater quarrel—with heresy?

Article continues below

We should not sound a call to some mere “protest” march; we need not exert our energy in diatribes against the foe. For false prophets will be unmasked and silenced when the lovers of truth outspeak them with the positive Word of God.

We have much to unite our spirits. The Christ, the Cross, the dynamism of the Spirit, the eternal Word, the Apostles’ Creed, the disciplines and confessions of the Church, mighty hymns with blessed history, the inspiring memory of those who died for the faith—all these should influence our creation of a global evangelical voice.

This is no time for petty claims or self-interest. We must open our hearts to all who still believe. We must not only stand up and be counted; we must stand up together. The false prophets are not kidding; they mean to have the world. Shall we let them? The longer they shout from the high places, the smaller our chance of being heard.

One trumpet note, sounded loud and clear, could gather the host at the Cross. We are restless, humiliated, frustrated, anxious to accomplish something large for our Lord in this time when he is being “crucified afresh, and put to an open shame.” We might move the world. We have the numbers, the sense of urgency. We have the Spirit and the Word. If only we could hear again the sort of cry that rose from a long-ago prophet: “Blow the trumpet in Zion … Call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders.… Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach.… Wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (Joel 2:15–17).

We are ready for a long charge. Will we hear a bugle blow a “forward” command? If so, we might give history a fresh start. The evangelicals did it in the early Church, and again in the times of Luther and Wesley. We might set the Cross over kingdoms, and kindle a hope in the troubled world. We might hear truth ring again “to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Is it not worth at least a Herculean effort? Not only might it be later than we think; more of the future might be on our hands than we know.

Article continues below

Where are adequate ethical guidelines to be found?

Distinguishing a right course of action from a wrong one is a vexatious problem none of us can escape. It is a recurring fact of experience that issues are not clearly labeled black or white; often a gray region makes the right difficult to discern.

Recent discussions of ethical principles and motivations that govern our Western society have thrown into prominence four competing views.

On the unreflecting level there is a style of life called hedonistic, the belief that what gives us pleasure is right. This attitude toward life runs through much of our Western social structure and comes out chiefly in the areas of sex and status-seeking. Advertisers on TV and radio have set this to music; the publishers of the “entertainment for men” glossy magazines and the producers of consumer goods are successfully persuading our generation that life demands an ever increasing satisfaction of the sex appetite and an ever greater supply of those gadgets that contribute to our material prosperity and pleasure. The chief count to be brought against this outlook is one of irresponsibility. It debases what is noble, cheapens all that is worth preserving in our national heritage, and is at root a selfish, “I-take-what-I-want” philosophy that is destructive of true civilization.

Another commonly accepted attitude toward moral decisions is called aesthetic. This approach says: What is nice is right. What is distasteful, ugly, or embarrassing is wrong. Canon Herbert Waddams (in A New Introduction to Moral Theology) comments on this view: “Deformed children and foetuses are rather disgusting to the aesthetic senses, and may therefore be abolished. A hanged man is equally distasteful and he should therefore not be hanged; the same principle applies to opposition to war and blood sports.” Along with this aestheticism goes the notion that every person can do what he wants to, provided he doesn’t cause a public nuisance and unduly offend society. An obvious illustration of this type of moral theory is the campaign to legalize homosexual acts between consenting adults.

Prescriptive ethics finds the genius of morality in the divine commands for human life. It appeals to some principle or set of principles as regulative for conduct at all times, though the degree of fixity and absoluteness is not the same in all areas of life. This is not the exaggerated legalism that Paul Lehmann castigates as “a standard of conduct which can be and must be applied to all people in all situations in exactly the same way” (Ethics in a Christian Context). Prescriptive ethics is a type of ethical thinking according to which human behavior must be shaped by the presence and authority of external laws. Sometimes these laws are indecisive in a given situation. Sometimes various principles conflict. Often, however, a course of action can be prescribed in advance in obedience to principles. For instance, adultery is wrong because it violates the seventh commandment; therefore the moral man, loyal to his prescriptive code (which he as a Christian finds grounded in God’s will for his life and human society), will never consent to or condone adultery.

Article continues below

In our day prescriptive ethics has come under heavy fire. One gun (inscribed Honest to God) is aimed at the transcendent character of God and his office as lawgiver. Another attack is mounted from the platform of man’s autonomy: modern man will not be told what to do—even by God! His experimenting with law-breaking has (he believes) succeeded, for sanctions and penalties that used to deter him can now be neatly averted. Thus sex taboos, for example, are now largely outmoded, thanks to penicillin and contraceptives. Not the least significant factor in the moral breakdown in Western democracies has been the exposé of the lapses of men in high office, as in the Christine Keeler-Pro-fumo scandal that rocked the British government and in the Bobby Baker and Walter Jenkins affairs on this side of the Atlantic.

Out of this moral collapse there has arisen a new “school” that claims to deal realistically with our predicament. Known popularly as the new morality, it begins with two assumptions: first, that all men do, as a matter of psychological fact, experience the transcendent claim of love in some personal relationship; and second, that provided men understand the facts of the situation, they need only ask themselves, What would love do here?, and the correct answer will occur to them. Joseph Fletcher spells out this philosophy: “Christian situation ethics has only one norm or principle or law (call it what you will) that is binding and unexceptionable, always good and right regardless of the circumstances. That is ‘love’ ” (Situation Ethics).

Here is the pith of the new morality. It says: No line of action may be prescribed before the event; and what is wrong in one set of circumstances and personal relationships (e.g., sexual relations outside marriage) may in another situation be a response to the claim of love. This ethical theory thrives by meeting the needs of a generation that eschews all external authority (the state, the church, the Bible, parents), yet seeks for a directive, albeit one that does not legislate in advance for moral choice.

Article continues below

Today the new morality is popular, but it is not to be accepted on that count. We do well to heed the protest the situationists are making. To dismiss the approach as only the “old immorality” is lamentable, for often there is a serious grappling with moral issues that makes some evangelical codes look trivial and antiquarian. Nevertheless, the approach they advocate must certainly be judged inadequate and their examples remarkably naïve and jejune.

First, the situationist assumes that men in general feel the undisputed claim of love upon them. This is a mighty assumption to make; indeed, it can be made only if we gloss over the real meaning of “love.” Love is a word batted to and fro like a shuttlecock in Fletcher’s Situation Ethics. Little attempt is made to give it a New Testament content by reference to the transcendent God self-revealed in Christ, the Son of his love. “God is love” is not the same, whether theologically or semantically, as “love is God,” and it is a disastrous mistake to say that love per se is the absolute norm for human conduct. The absolute norm is God’s will, albeit expressed in love. Once grant that and we are bound to ask: Can the will of God be read off from a set of human circumstances without reference to some prior revelation of that divine will, especially in Scripture and its witness to the perfect Man?

Second, situationism does not escape the charge of perfectionism, for it has an unbounded, almost naive confidence in human ability. But this overlooks human sinfulness. Man’s warped nature makes him adept at evasion, rationalization, and self-excuse. Situational ethics commendably deals with overt acts but culpably ignores man’s nature; and what he is delimits what he will do. A railroad ticket has only a token value to a man in jail. He would use it if he could!

Third, as an exercise in psychologizing, situational ethics—like all other existential systems—lies open to the charge of atomism. This descriptive word carries the idea that life is made up of a succession of independent and isolated acts. Fletcher’s book in particular forgets that life is a network of habits, dispositions, and desires, partly inherited and partly acquired, which we cannot shed as an old suit of clothes. And it overlooks the fact that acts that seem innocent to us may hurt others, even years hence.

Article continues below

A follower of true biblical ethics stands upon a far more adequate foundation. He recognizes the ethical norms of Scripture and submits to them as to principles which reveal the love and will of God. Where Scripture is not explicit he seeks God’s will in more general guidelines for personal and corporate conduct. The guidelines embrace such elements as: (1) the character of Jesus, who sets the standard and to whose attitudes we are drawn as we seek the mind of Christ, (2) our social responsibility for our brethren within society and especially in the household of faith (1 Cor. 8), and (3) a call to nurture the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23), who seeks to shape our lives within the polarities of love (the first in the list of fruit) and self-control (the last fruit mentioned).

Love and self-control are perhaps the two aspects of Christian morality most in need of definition. The first word is so elastic in modern discussions that it has virtually lost its identity. Rightly Henlee Barnette says, “If love is not defined in terms of objective ethical guidelines, such as chastity, charity, and concern for others, and grounded in the living Christ, it has no adequate dynamic and dissolves into sentimentality” (The New Theology and Morality, p. 71). “Self-discipline” is a term not even used in the modern debate. Critics of the ill-timed British Council of Churches’ report on Sex and Morality have been quick to note this missing element.

It becomes clear that while there is no place in Christian morals for a legalism that leads to bondage and offers no guidance for circumstances not covered by the original prescriptions, still less is there justification for a vague situationism. What is needed is an ethic that is God—ordained and thus authoritative, and that offers direction for the needs of the future. We need deliverance from the clutches of subjectivism and relativism, from the tyranny of our whims and fancies, from the invitation to libertinism.

Legalism and libertinism, though they stand at opposite poles, are equally deplorable, because both are distortions of what is true. A true ethic finds its polarity in law and love, which are not opposites and which, held together in Scripture and in the actions of God, are the only valid basis for determining God’s will for man and his society.

Article continues below

Not long ago someone observed that CHRISTIANITY TODAY seems not to view tolerance as a Christian virtue. And that set us thinking. Actually, tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Christians rightly condemn acts of intolerance and remember with sorrow centuries of religious persecution, often in the name of Christianity. Yet the word “tolerance” never occurs in the New Testament, and the great lists of Christian virtues omit it. The Middle Ages spoke of wisdom, justice, courage, temperance, faith, love, and hope. But not tolerance.

Is there a failure here on the part of Christian ethics? Not really, for tolerance falls short of Christian standards. Tolerance is ambiguous; it can be good or bad. It can mean a willingness to co-exist with vice or error as well as a proper accommodation of ourselves to other people. It can be a substitute for conviction, for courage in defense of what is right. It can even be a substitute for love.

The real Christian virtue is love, love patterned after the love of God for us and motivated by it. Such love is not intolerant. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. But it is not noncommittal. It learns from others. Above all, it seeks to lead men out of error and to introduce them to all that is good, particularly to the full salvation, liberty, and purity of the Christian Gospel.


The irrational, ill-tempered, and illegal demonstrations of raw power that defiled American streets, campuses, and public buildings during the long, hot summer and cool, unruly fall of 1967 are far from finished. Americans must steel themselves to withstand even greater attempts at social disruption by young revolutionaries committed to breaking “the American system.”

A month after the Pentagon demonstration, Jerry Rubin, a leader of protests in Berkeley and Washington, D. C., urged New Left rebels to look forward in anger to a continuing program of “disruption as a leading strategy for the white peace movement.” His stated goal is “a massive white revolutionary youth movement which working in parallel cooperation with the rebellion in the black communities could seriously disrupt this country and thus be an internal catalyst for a breakdown of the American ability and will to fight guerrillas overseas. Thus defeated abroad by peasant revolutionaries and disrupted from within by blacks and whites, the empire of the United States will find itself faced with rebellions from fifteen different directions.” Rubin claims future tactics will be more militant and will include draft resistance, sit-ins, tax payment refusals, a nationally coordinated paralysis of major colleges, traffic disruptions, massive symbolic demonstrations, encouragement of young people to run away from their middle-class homes, and recruitment of “full-time revolutionaries” to transform “the peace movement into a liberation movement.” “That’s where it’s at,” said Rubin. “We’re angry. We’re angry like Che.”

Article continues below

Staging of simultaneous anti-American Viet Nam demonstrations on October 21 in Washington, the San Francisco Bay area, London, Bonn, and elsewhere points to the well-planned world-wide scope of these radical so-called peace protests. Recently House majority leader Carl Albert charged that the Pentagon demonstration was “basically organized by international Communism,” apparently basing his statement on information the President gave orally to congressional leaders. Minority leader Gerald Ford urged the White House to make public the information on the true nature of the Pentagon demonstration. Subsequently, he claimed, Attorney General Ramsey Clark visited him to argue against release of the information. Nevertheless Ford, on the floor of the House of Representatives, called for a full report so that the American people could know “the extent of Communist participation in organizing, planning, and directing the disgraceful display.” This disclosure, he said, would also be beneficial “to the well—intentioned Americans who participated in this demonstration not knowing who had organized the demonstrations at the Pentagon and elsewhere throughout the free world.”

The past rash of riots and violent protests has caused serious destruction and created disunity within the nation. Future radical strategies promise even more serious internal strife. If America is to prosper as a democracy, maintain her domestic tranquillity, and fulfill her commitments abroad, the government must make greater efforts to halt illegal protest activities that weaken our national fiber and aid and abet our enemies. One means is for the President to give the American people the full story of Communist penetration of disruptive social movements. If all Americans could know of the devious means now being used by Communists and their sympathizers to subvert the American way of life, the impact of such demonstrations would be significantly lessened, and fewer naive but loyal citizens would be lured into alliances with them.

Article continues below

The complex issues and increasing peril facing America without and within today demands not only that freedom to dissent be zealously safeguarded but also that our laws against civil disorder be stringently enforced and our enemies’ true strategies be clearly revealed.


Secular religionists are reviving the sanctuary concept as a means of escape from the draft. Thirty-five clergymen promised sanctuary in churches and synagogues to young Americans who refuse military induction. Yale Chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Jr., said that “any man who asks asylum will be given it.” Last month the student body of San Francisco Theological Seminary (United Presbyterian) passed a resolution offering sanctuary “to those who in good conscience choose not to cooperate with the Selective Service System.” The offer was made in “a context of Christian fellowship in which this community can identify with those who have chosen” non-cooperation with the draft. Thirteen seminarians turned in draft cards; more planned to follow.

The modern version of sanctuary is hardly in accord with the biblical institution. The right of asylum is mentioned three times in the Old Testament—Exodus 21:12–14; Numbers 35:9–34, and Deuteronomy 19:1–13—and in no case is it ever made a right to escape from justice. It was a protection against revenge by relatives of a dead man for accidental homicide. It was meant to save innocent life. The Old Testament “cities of refuge” and medieval sanctuary were established to prevent vengeful killings and to insure justice.

American law allows conscientious objection to military service. But the secularists’ sanctuary policy affirms the sanctity of the dissenting conscience at the expense of law and order. It appears to be an irresponsible grandstand play to dramatize a questionable viewpoint. It can only hinder the Selective Service System, demean the Church’s reputation, and encourage disobedience of legally constituted authority.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.