Street barricades. Alternate singing of the Internationale and the Marseillaise on the Champs-Élysees. Near-total paralysis of the economy. Near-anarchy everywhere. This was Paris during the already historic “days of May.”

For church history, a Paris Congress of Evangelical Theology attended by 140 theologically sophisticated persons from the French-speaking areas of Europe may be no less significant. The meeting, projected in February by a committee of stellar French theologians and pastors, was providentially scheduled for the days immediately following the end of the three-week general strike that reduced transportation and communication to zero.

Organizers made the aim clear: to affirm to Christians and the general public “the sovereign authority of the Bible as the Word of God. After the assaults of Modernism at the end of the last century and the early part of the present century, currents of still another New Theology are now disturbing the minds of many. The Congress will be a reminder that there is only one Gospel, and that to believe it and to preach it does not presuppose either ignorance or obscurantism.”

The three intensive days focused on the necessity of an unadulterated biblical theology and the relevance to the problems of our day that results only when such a message is proclaimed. The Paris congress came like a fresh breeze in a Europe where for a century theology has been characterized by rationalistic dogmatism and the changing fashions of the German professorial caste. It was as if the spirit of the Monods, d’Aubigné, and Gaussen—those firebrands of early nineteenth-century orthodoxy—was once again animating the life of the Church.

In the opening address, General Secretary Pierre Marcel of the French Bible Society argued that the post-Bultmann “new hermeneutic” is by no means new, since it rests squarely on rationalistic presuppositions expressed (more clearly) by Semler in the eighteenth century. For the critical interpreter past or present, “the Holy Spirit is dead,” since the Bible is a product of its human authors and not, as it claims for itself, the work of a single Divine Author. The result: a “pathological state of jesiology” where the interpreter, caught by his own debilitating humanistic presuppositions, speaks only of “Pauline thought,” “Petrine thought,” and, by extension, “Jesine thought”—never of the Word of God. Marcel said reports he receives from all parts of the world show beyond question that the Bible is “not merely the opinions of human writers, for whenever it is placed in men’s hands, regardless of their cultural diversities, it speaks to them, and it speaks the same unequivocal message.”

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Henri Blocher, young, dynamic professor at the new government-approved Faculty of Evangelical Theology at Vaux, presented the concept of myth developed by Eliade, Ricour, and Gusdorf, then demonstrated that on no single count could the New Testament message, centering on the death and resurrection of Christ, be regarded as mythical. The Bible’s stress on historical localization (versus the timeless quality of myth), on removal of the sacred-profane distinction, on salvation once-for-all accomplished in Christ (versus the “eternal return”), and on the specific power of the Gospel to free men from ritualistic myth—all this demands that man’s fall and Christ’s redemptive work be faced as historically true, he said. “The natural man prefers myth to history because he can thereby avoid facing his own historical responsibility for sin.”

Rector Hans Rohrbach of the University of Mainz, a mathematician, said today’s biblical critics assume that science is still operating in closed nineteenth-century categories that exclude the miraculous, a view that fell by the wayside in the Einstein revolution. And they erroneously assume that the Bible presents a primitive three-story cosmology. Rohrbach told how he found the reality of the biblical world-view and personal salvation in Christ during the chaos of Germany as the war ended.

Professor Frank Michaëli of the Protestant Theological Faculty at Paris stressed the amazing relevance of the Old Testament in terms of re-establishment of the State of Israel, progress in biblical archaeology, and rediscovery of a unified Old Testament theology after years of efforts to fragment its message.

Marc Lods, dean of the Theological Faculty, and Editor René Lovy of Positions Luthériennes agreed that neither the Church Fathers nor the Reformers would allow any other authority than Holy Scripture as the ultimate norm in the Church. Lods asserted that in spite of the cultural diversity among patristic writers spanning seven centuries, “none of them allowed any other final authority than Scripture.”

Professor Jacques Ellul of the Law Faculty at Bordeaux posed again Jesus’ question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Ellul said we have no guarantee of any given amount of faith or church success, or of personal well-being. We are guaranteed only his Coming.

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“We are tempted to be conformed to this world in our theology and in our lives,” he said. “It’s up to us to give the full evidence that God is alive before the bar of this world. We cannot live in the past, not even in our great confessional traditions. We must help society out of the secularistic prison it has made for itself, and this is only possible when the authenticity of Christianity is seen in the authenticity of our faith.”

This idea of relevance was reinforced by Walter Martin of the United States, who drew rapt attention as he presented Christian Research Institute’s ideas for dissemination of theological and apologetic insights through world-wide computer networks.

Underlying all such evidences of the supreme vitality of orthodox theology was the congress theme, repeated in magnificent French hymnody: “Thy Word, Lord, is our strength and our life; the torch that illumines the darkness of our path; the sun that enlightens our way.”


Design for seminaries of the ’70’s: a small number of major ecumenical clusters of schools in big cities near universities, with a more diverse curriculum providing training in many types of ministries and making direct use of community institutions and social-action agencies.

The design came in a 35,000-word report to last month’s biennial meeting of the American Association of Theological Schools. The St. Louis delegates discussed the report for the better part of a day, then sent it without specific endorsement to the 156 member schools.

AATS Executive Director Jesse Ziegler, who initiated the “Resources Planning Commission” study more than two years ago, said his concern was to find ways in which seminaries could survive in the face of mushrooming costs, enabling the Church to keep control of religious education rather than losing it to secular universities.

The report says that “isolated seminaries can go it alone” and still make some contributions but that big cooperative efforts are the major need. The St. Louis discussions showed, however, that a significant number of seminaries will stay in the go-it-alone camp.

Such tokenism as putting one Protestant on a Catholic seminary faculty, or cross-registration between schools, is inadequate, says the report. It specifies that the new clusters should have a common campus, incorporating at least three Protestant and three Roman Catholic seminaries—and if possible Orthodox and Jewish schools as well.

As for courses, the eight-member commission thinks students must interact with emerging social issues rather than just learning “theological and doctrinal material formulated by others.”

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The report says one major obstacle to radical change is lack of lay enthusiasm. So “building broadly based constituency support” is a major task for seminary administrators. The report characterizes “many” seminaries as “extremely stimulating and interesting places, alive with concern about a wide spectrum of issues ranging from the ‘secular city’ to ‘situation ethics,’ … in which almost any layman would be likely to find himself at home in terms of his own interests and concerns.”

In other business, the AATS elected as its new president the chairman of the study committee, Dr. Arthur R. McKay, head of Chicago’s McCormick Seminary (United Presbyterian).

The AATS granted full accreditation to: Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Illinois (Missouri Synod Lutheran); North American Baptist Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (North American Baptist General Conference); and Woodstock, Weston, and Maryknoll—the first three Catholic schools to gain full membership.


In facilities rented from the University of Chicago, the Winona Institute for Continuing Theological Education opens a summer graduate program this week. A contract cancellation had threatened to keep “America’s unique summer seminary” out of the plush quarters of the university’s Center for Continuing Education.

John A. Huffman, president of the Winona enterprise, has announced that eight top evangelical scholars will be on hand to teach courses said to be geared to the post-B.D. level. Among faculty members scheduled are Dr. Stuart Barton Babbage, president of Conwell School of Theology, and Dr. James G. S. S. Thomson, noted Old Testament scholar from Glasgow.

Huffman says he was informed on Good Friday that a contract for use of the University of Chicago center signed last December 2 would not be honored. He appealed to university President George W. Beadle who intervened and assured Huffman that the facilities would be made available as originally agreed.

Spokesmen for the center had cited misleading advertising that left the impression that the center facilities were actually those of the Winona Institute. A Winona brochure carries color photographs of the center with captions like: “This four million dollar air-conditioned neo-Gothic structure houses Winona Institute for Continuing Theological Education.” Copies were distributed that gave no hint that the pictured facilities were actually those of the University of Chicago. Huffman said the center had approved the brochure, but he agreed to add imprints stating that the institute was being held at the University of Chicago center and that the photographs were of the center.

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In addition to the dispute over the brochure, pressure was reportedly brought to bear by Dr. Jerald C. Brauer, dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School. Brauer is a Lutheran described as a one-time theological conservative who now demeans evangelicals.

The Winona episode recalls a major academic dispute at the University of Chicago when Dr. Robert M. Hutchins was president during the thirties and forties. Hutchins fell into disfavor with his philosophy professors because he insisted that if a philosophy department is to be justified, it must be devoted to metaphysics. But the philosophy faculty was dominated by naturalists, so they moved to the divinity school and called Hutchins a fascist. Today the divinity school has moderated its antagonism toward metaphysics, but not toward evangelical Christianity.

Northern Baptist Theological Seminary was founded in 1912 as a protest against the University of Chicago Divinity School, which itself had been founded as an evangelical Baptist seminary but had subsequently became interdenominational and liberal in its theological orientation. The divinity school for a time tended to admit only those Ph.D. candidates who subscribed in advance to its naturalistic philosophy.

The Winona summer seminary also stages an annual series of courses at Winona Lake, Indiana, a place that became well known for Billy Sunday’s meetings many years ago.

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