Some years ago Professor David Cairns wrote about The Faith of a Modern Christian. It is high time someone wrote another volume under the title The Loss of Faith in Modern Christianity. For what remains of faith when God is considered dead and the Bible is demythologized? When Christianity is secularized and heaven is thought to be empty of the reigning Christ?

Of course, we can still believe in humanity and the world, for these are realities to be seen. And these, we are now often told, are enough for any man who would still be religious; for here is life—self-creative, surprising, and forward-moving; here are our fellow men, the concrete objects of our human concern; here is the world, as a challenge to be subdued for the general good. What more religion can any modern man want than these? For too long, it is said, Christian faith has been bogged down by overweight baggage carrying antiquated labels.

Quite clearly, modern theology has rid itself of its “theos.” It keeps its “ology,” but with other prefixes: anthropo-, psycho-, socio-. Man, self, society—these are our “theoi”; these are our gods, which have rescued us from our out-of-date-ness.

A host of titles take note of current theological “trends,” “developments,” “perspectives,” “varieties,” “types,” “directions,” “crises.” It is hard to keep pace with these trends and developments. We soon run out of breath as we are led first down one road and then down another. Often along the way we discover that we are approaching a dead end; either God is not there or what is called “God” is so unlike the Christian characterization that we cannot discern divinity at all.

A generous lot of options are offered to us; we can choose the Ground of Being, or the Principle of Cohesion in Society, or the Ongoing Purpose of the Universe, or the Human Spirit, or any number of others. He who would be a “modern” Christian will have to make do with one or another, for the Christian God is presumed to have died some time ago. Yet somehow the God of the Bible has an amazing capacity for resurrection. No wonder those biblical men called him the living God.

Modern theology must at all costs keep up with the times—with or without God. If it cannot get firm hold on the living God, belief in some sort of religious reality will serve its ends just as well. Today’s theology must be radical, not reiterative; it comes with its “This is what we can now accept,” rather than with, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Yet it cannot be denied that modern theology is in the doldrums. It squeaks where it should shout, whispers where it should roar. It has lost its sure note, its clear message. In trying to be up to the minute, it passes from divine proclamation to a human “perhaps.” Its predicament is not at all new. The intent of the very first theological question, “Hath God said?,” was to get behind the Word of God and by reading God in terms of human wants to proceed to “demythologize” him. Man took it upon himself to judge God’s concrete Word according to his own idea of the sort of God that made the best appeal to his judgment. Now as then, when the program is carried through, an amazing variety of theological options open up. Today we have the existential, the radical, the irrational, the progressive, the atheistic—enough brands with religious flavor and filter for all tastes and types, and some to spare.

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How has modern theology got itself into such straits? By its loss of essential notes. First of all, it soft-pedaled Christianity’s possession of truth-content and gave metaphysics the go-by. Many theologians, half afraid of the logical empiricists, accepted the positivist contention that the term “God” is meaningless. But in the long run religious propositions that can be falsified lose their religious value. The Gospel comes as truth to man—God’s truth.

Another note neglected in modern theology is creation, though this is found right at the start of the Apostles’ Creed. Aquinas rightly asserted that they hold a plainly false opinion who say it does not matter what a man thinks about creation as long as he has a correct opinion about God. Christian faith holds this to be God’s world, over which he has not lost control. As William Temple said, “While we deliberate, he reigns; when we decide wisely, he reigns; when we decide foolishly, he reigns; when we serve him in humble loyalty, he reigns; when we serve him self-assertively, he reigns; when we rebel and seek to withhold our service, he reigns—the Alpha and the Omega which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

What modern theology needs, if it is to get back its message, is the reality of a living and redeeming Christ. It must understand again that, as P. T. Forsyth reminded the Church so forcefully, what it took a whole God to create, a half God cannot redeem. An Arian Christ may be enough for the Pelagian man. But modern man is not greatly concerned about the inherent goodness of the human heart, nor does he think that all he has to do is to pull himself together. Christ did not go to the cross on the green hill to make an impression, as an example to man at his best. He went there to redeem man at his worst. For that cross is at once the supreme expression and evidence of man’s sinfulness and the place where God in Christ met and mastered man’s sin. This is the distinctive note of the New Testament; it must ever be the center of any theology that claims to be concerned with the living God of the Bible.

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An observer at the recent World Council of Churches assembly at Uppsala was struck by the absence throughout of the note of an eschatological hope. This is one of the great absentees in modern life. Men today founder uncertainly under a starless sky. But they wish for a light on their way, for a presence to lead them into the unknown tomorrow, for a word to assure them that the business of living for righteousness and for God is worthwhile. All this is wrapped up in the Gospel of Christ. And more is assured, for in the grace of the resurrected Christ, the life redeemed is carried on into the eternities—there to explore, in the totality of a fully renewed personhood, the profundities of God.

The change in editorial leadership of CHRISTIANITY TODAY leads to appreciative assessment of the work of Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, the founding editor. Twelve years ago, this magazine was an idea—indeed, one of the most significant ideas in the history of Christian journalism. Yet an idea must be acted upon to become a reality, and the concept of CHRISTIANITY TODAY found its embodiment through the highly creative and devoted efforts of Dr. Henry.

The measure of his achievement is evident in the present position of the magazine. Under his direction, it has become a leading voice for evangelical Christianity. Its subscription list numbers 155,000, of whom 95 per cent are paid subscribers, and it is now indexed in the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature by vote of subscribing librarians. By holding without compromise to historic biblical Christianity and to an ideal of intellectual competence, Dr. Henry has led the magazine to gain the respect and attention, if not always the agreement, of the religious community, liberal as well as conservative, Catholic as well as Protestant.

For Dr. Henry’s colleagues on the staff, the experience of working with him has been exciting as well as demanding. He has not been afraid of change and experimentation in format and content. His alertness and sense of strategy have been manifest in a keen feeling for Christian propaganda (to use the word in its best meaning). He has not let his staff or his readers forget that Christianity is in a continuing battle against the forces of unbelief and secularism. For him, that battle, while assuredly for the souls of men, is also being fought on the level of their minds. And under his direction CHRISTIANITY TODAY has been the means of showing many spiritually hungry ministers who have drifted toward unbelief that the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation, and of helping others gain a firm hold upon the evangelical faith.

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From the perspective of these dozen years, it is clear that Dr. Henry’s unique contribution has been to move evangelical theology and scholarship out of the study and away from the campus into the continuing struggle for the minds and souls of men, and to do this with a journalistic flair and expertise that have simply compelled a hearing.

Carl Henry is an evangelical. For him that word is far more than an intellectual category. For him being an evangelical means wholehearted devotion to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and unswerving loyalty to the great doctrines of the faith. It means submission to the authority of the Bible. It means love for others.

Our founding editor has left CHRISTIANITY TODAY this legacy of single-minded commitment to Christ and the evangelical faith expressed through twelve years of distinguished editorial achievement. We congratulate him on his achievement in bringing into reality the concept of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. We wish for him and Mrs. Henry a happy sojourn at Cambridge University and look for the continuance and expansion of his distinguished Christian leadership through both the written and the spoken word.


Worldwide dissent over Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on birth control, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), has provoked a serious crisis in Roman Catholic authority. Cracks in the once invincible walls of papal authority had begun to appear in the deliberations of Vatican II. Departure from Catholic orthodoxy was further seen two years ago in the publication of a new liberal catechism by Dutch Catholics. Dissent from traditional doctrine among many younger clergymen and Catholic college students in America and Europe has recently gained momentum. “Underground” Catholic worship services have increased greatly in the past year. Confronted with the same type of problem that the U. S. S. R. faced among the freedom-seeking people of Czechoslovakia—erosion of authority—Pope Paul VI chose to halt the threat to his ecclesiastical structure by the means that the totalitarian inevitably must use: a show of power.

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The Pope’s encyclical condemning all systems of birth control except rhythm, along with his reaffirmation of an orthodox creedal statement three weeks earlier, called upon all Catholics to submit to papal teaching regardless of the dictates of individual conscience. As a result, loyal cardinals and bishops are now issuing “canonical warnings” to priests who refuse to obey. Priests who persist in refusing to follow the papal edict are being relieved of their duties (see News, page 33), in one case causing rightful protest about due process for a priest accused of indiscretions by the hierarchy.

What are Protestants to make of the current crisis in Catholic authority? Those whose theological roots rest deep in the biblical theology of the Reformation recognize the present challenge to the papal authority that elevates church tradition over biblical teaching as a possible step toward Christian freedom and truth. They join with dissenting Catholics in their opposition to a position on birth control that exhibits a non-scriptural misunderstanding of the role of sex in marriage. And, more important, they hope that the convictions that lead Catholics to follow conscience in the matter of birth control will also guide them to a complete rejection of the false doctrine of papal infallibility and an openness to God’s truth as revealed in Scripture. Freedom from the tyranny of institution and tradition could open the way to the full life of revealed truth and service. Such a life is possible for men whose source of life and authority is Jesus Christ. God’s living word, revealed by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, God’s written word.

Protestants, however, must not view the retreat from authority among Catholics as an unmixed blessing. In some cases, the dissent stems from humanistic, secularistic presuppositions that would reject all authority except that of man himself. To the extent that Catholic dissenters accept a strictly existential basis for truth and refuse to recognize sola scriptura as the infallible rule for faith and life, they are in danger of leaving the walled prison of Catholic tradition only to be cast adrift on a sea of existential meaninglessness and eventual despair.

Roman Catholics and all men need to recognize that “God-breathed” Scripture—not loyalty to ancient tradition and ecclesiastical institution or obedience to immediate human perceptions—must form the basis for true faith and doctrine. Absolute authority exists only in the God who has made himself known in the Bible that proclaims the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Any man—be he Catholic, Protestant, agnostic, or atheist—who will accept the biblical message will find a solid foundation for life in the present and for the life that is to come.

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In the wake of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, many government leaders have expressed concern that a similar fate may await Rumania and Yugoslavia. Even while Soviet tanks were still parked in Prague’s Wenceslaus Square, Russia began to flex its muscles in the direction of Rumania, another “counter-revolutionary” and “anti-socialist” neighbor. Soviet troops assembled along the 826-mile border dividing the Soviet Union and Rumania. Was it simply an attempt to bluff the smaller nation into submission, or were Soviet leaders planning to exterminate all effective opposition to Moscow in Eastern Europe? One senior West German government official was quoted as saying, “A Soviet intervention in Rumania is fully possible. They have already paid the political price for Czechoslovakia. So why not go ahead and finish the cleanup job?”

Now is the time for Christians to raise their voices in opposition to yet another threat to human dignity and freedom. When Soviet tanks rolled into Prague, the free world was joined by many of the world’s Communist parties in expressing anger and dismay at such a brazen display of military might. Certainly this tragic suppression of the aspirations of an enslaved people called for immediate and strong denunciation from all who would advance the cause of human rights.

When world tension following the invasion of Czechoslovakia was at its peak, one organization that has repeatedly spoken out against any intrusion upon human rights was strangely silent. Only after tension had eased was any word heard from the World Council of Churches, and even this belated word was not nearly so vigorous in condemnation of the Soviet action as were previous statements criticizing U. S. involvement in Viet Nam. The WCC was in session at Uppsala when the rapidly deteriorating Soviet-Czech situation was leading up to the invasion, but nothing was said in defense of the human rights of the Czech people. Surely this was an opportunity for the WCC to speak out strongly, not only in defense of human rights in general, but also for the cause of Christ in particular.

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The situation is still explosive. The freedom of another people is threatened. World peace is in jeopardy. Those who would champion human rights cannot stand silently by while a big bully roams the world, picking on others smaller than himself, coercing them into subjection. Let Christians and all free men raise their voices in protest before and not merely after another act of aggression takes place. Perhaps even the Soviet Bear will hear the outcry and, for the time being at least, cease his plundering of innocent and virtually helpless peoples.

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