More than sixteen years ago on a January day in Washington the General arose and said, “Since this century’s beginning, a time of tempest has seemed to come upon the continents of the earth.” The General, who had become President of the United States, was Dwight David Eisenhower. Now he has marched from our midst, and the tempest has grown worse. It is well to recall that he never quit smiling. Gloom overtook the spirit of the earth, but the General’s signal to mankind shone like a flame and left a gentle glow in the world.
He himself probably never realized the power of that smile, which was something like a quiet banner flying from a tough garrison. For that matter, he never seemed to understand how much the people cared for him. Ike had faith in the people, for in the truest sense he was always one of them; and they responded by trusting him.
Eisenhower was a soldier in quest of peace, and history will accord him a prominent place among the “men of good will” in the earth. In a strongly critical review of Ike’s book Waging Peace, Henry Kissinger of the Washington Post, after maintaining that the President’s “abstract and excessive moralism” had clouded his world-view, said, “Still, when all is said, one is left with a residue of good will, dedication, efficiency—of an honorable and decent man striving devotedly for peace in the world with only the welfare of mankind, as he saw it, as his aim” (The Washington Post, Oct. 17, 1965). This was one of Ike’s finest qualities, and perhaps the secret of his power over people. He was a great and good man, and even critics had to salute his moral manhood.
The General was downgraded by some for his handling of government affairs. But time may show that character is even more important in the White House than executive ability. Goodness is, as Thoreau observed, an unfailing investment, and this is especially true of goodness in the head of a mighty nation.
Eisenhower’s personal faith in God was the indestructible bastion of his life. Reverence for the Lord was hard-driven into his spirit during his boyhood days in a railroad worker’s home where prayer and Bible reading were a way of life. That faith engirded him when his command launched a thousand ships at Normandy. It sustained him in his climb to the White House. It was reflected in his devoutness as President. His Washington pastor, Edward L. R. Elson, instructed Ike in the meaning of the Cross, before he laid his hands upon the head of the United States President in Christian baptism.
Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton once discovered Eisenhower praying in his office. The President brushed off Seaton’s apologies. He had been asking God for guidance, he explained, in a crucial decision that could mean peace or war in the Far East. Scoffers may doubt that God answered that prayer; but the war did not break out in the Far East while Ike was President. The General’s brother, Milton, once said that the President prayed as naturally as he ate his breakfast. He opened his Cabinet meetings with petitions for God’s direction, and again and again he exhorted the American people to pray and to practice their religion.
Millions have heard about an experience Ike had when he was sixteen. Blood-poisoning developed in his leg, and doctors advised amputation. But Ike refused. (Had he not refused he would not have been commander at Normandy and, later, Commander in Chief in Washington.) The entire Eisenhower family went to prayer. The doctors said nothing short of a miracle could save Ike’s leg. The miracle came, and less than a month later the future President walked on two good legs. In later years Ike felt that he survived severe heart attacks because of the prayers of people around the world.
In the zero hour of the assault on Sicily, a storm threatened both the landing craft and the airborne troops. Saluting the roaring planes, Ike knelt in prayer. And God, Ike believed, “came through.”
The General ever insisted that faith and prayer were necessary for the preservation of democracy. He underscored the fact that the founding fathers dreamed not of a godless liberty but of freedom “under God.” Without personal faith, he said, he himself could never have accomplished his task as chief of state. He accepted the discipline authentic religion imposes on individuals and urged the people to accept it.
Perhaps Eisenhower unwittingly pointed to some of his own finest qualities in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in 1956: “We must have the vision, the fighting spirit, and the deep religious faith in our Creator’s destiny for us … that out of our time there can, with incessant work and with God’s help, emerge a good life, good will, and good hope for all men.” He himself possessed those things: a fighting spirit, a deep faith, a strong belief in the good life, good will, and good hope, and the conviction that it was “with God’s help”—an expression he often used—that men could discover authentic existence.
‘The Manners Of The Christians’
Somewhere around A.D. 130 The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus was written. The anonymous author, who gave himself the name Mathetes (a disciple), described the manner of life exhibited by Christians who suffered gross persecution in an age that resisted Christianity. Perhaps the Church in our day would display the power of the early Church if Christians lived, acted, and died as did the believers around A.D. 130.
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They many, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass then-days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.…
“To sum up all in one word—what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world.”
A Check Of Czech Theology
The Comenius Faculty in Prague is the theological training school for most of Czechoslovakia’s Protestant churches. In a recent article published by the Department of Theology of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the World Presbyterian Alliance, Professor F. M. Dobias, vice-dean of the faculty, describes the development of the institution in the present century.
The seminary had been closed under Nazi rule and was reopened in 1945. When Czechoslovakia became a socialist country in 1948 the school remained open, but the curriculum was changed to include instruction in the philosophy of Marxism during the first four years of a five-year course.
Christianity in Czechoslovakia suffered a hard blow when the Nazis stopped theological training, but it is highly questionable whether there is really much improvement in a Communist-regulated theological education. Some might contend that the study of Marxism is included to acquaint students with the kind of alien philosophy they will encounter as they seek to minister the Gospel (though most are probably all too familiar with Marxism already). But on the basis of past procedure in Communist-controlled countries this seems highly unlikely. Marxism will be taught in the right way and by the right people, in the eyes of the State. At any rate, political ideology is not a part of theological education.
Instruction in Marxism has no place in a theological education—especially when that instruction extends over four years. Marxism is absolutely antithetical to the Christian faith. There is no possibility of a meaningful synthesis of these ideologies. And there is no justification for forcing the theological student to immerse himself in a philosophy that opposes everything he stands for.
The Gift Of Tongues
Last December our readers deluged us with mail after we published an essay on speaking in tongues. In this issue we present another, this one from the Pentecostal perspective. All this has served to kindle our own interest in tongues, and to send us to the Bible to examine the subject. The resulting information and opinions, summarized below, will no doubt find both agreement and disagreement among readers.
Scripture says, “Do not forbid speaking in tongues,” but it also says that love is “a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 14:39; 12:30). We think that speaking in tongues is a truly biblical phenomenon supported both by Scripture and by empirical evidence. But love is better than tongues or the other gifts of the Spirit. We find nothing in Scripture to support the notion that every Christian should speak in tongues. It is a “gift” of the Spirit, who “apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). Like any other gift it can be abused; this happens when its possession produces pride or causes a person to elevate the gift to a place of supreme importance and make it normative.
Tongues can be used personally and devotionally, or congregationally. What believers do in their own homes is one thing; what they do in public worship is quite another. Paul lays down rules for speaking in tongues in public worship: Not more than two or three shall speak, and they shall do so one after another; there must be an interpreter present; women are not to use the gift in the church; the gift is for the edification of the saints; everything is to be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:3, 27, 28, 34, 40).
We learned recently of a splendid church that has been split wide open over the issue of tongues. This is lamentable. Surely the gifts of the Spirit are intended to heal division and promote spiritual health. When division occurs over tongues, it cannot be the Spirit’s doing.
This leaves unanswered the touchy question whether those who possess the gift of tongues should insist upon its public use in a church where tongues have not been used, or whether they should use the gift only personally and devotionally, at home. If disruption takes place because of tongues, perhaps the best rule of thumb would be for those who have introduced divisively what was not common to the church’s practice to withdraw; likewise, if a tongues church has a group in it who want to stop what has been a common practice, that group should withdraw. But the best solution would be a baptism of Holy Spirit love that would bring together those who hold varying views of a matter that is not part of the central core of the Gospel.
An Example Of Lay Power
The verdict on RCA-PCUS merger is now in: the proposed union has been rejected by the Reformed Church (see News, page 48). Was this defeat of the Plan of Union good or bad? This will, no doubt, be the topic of many a theological bull session.
Some had predicted that merger would bring about a denomination more biblically oriented and more firmly committed to the traditional creeds of the Church than either denomination standing alone. If this were true, defeat of the merger is unfortunate. Others had foretold that the new church would be subject to greater liberal control and would quickly depart from historic Reformed theology. If these prophecies were accurate, evangelicals can breathe a sigh of relief at the failure to unite.
But these predictions are purely speculative. Now that the plan has been defeated, any attempt to evaluate the probable outcome of merger is fruitless.
Perhaps the most interesting phenomenon in the RCA vote was the substantial lay opposition to the plan. Motivated by a deep concern that union would weaken the church both in doctrine and in polity, laymen were far more active in this issue than in any other in modern times. Apparently it was through their efforts, particularly in the western wing of the church, that the measure failed.
Whether or not one is happy with the results, it is encouraging to realize that laymen can still have an effective voice in church affairs. Not only is there room but there is also a need for active lay involvement in the critical decisions now facing the Church. Laymen who are concerned that the Church remain true to historic biblical Christianity can have a convincing voice as they speak out and act in a loving, informed, and responsible manner.
Now that the RCA laymen have accomplished their goal in the defeat of merger, we encourage them (and others with them) to involve themselves just as deeply and enthusiastically both in strengthening the Church and in spreading the Gospel of Christ in word and deed.
The A.B.M. Decision
The burdens of the presidency, fell heavily upon Richard Nixon when he was obliged to decide whether the United States should go ahead with an anti-ballistic-missile system. Newsweek said the decision could prove to be the most crucial one of his presidency. Should the nation take a “risk for peace” by curtailing the ABM program or phasing it out altogether? Or does the security of the free world require the expenditure of vast sums for such a defense system?
The irony of the decision lay in the fact that virtually everyone agreed in theory. They were agreed that it would be well if the whole idea could be scrapped. Why then carry it out?
The answer seems to hinge largely on one’s view of the enemy. In an ideal world there would be no need for an ABM defense system, and the billions it costs could be saved. But we do not live in an ideal world. The ABM program is senseless to those who trust Moscow and Peking and who are convinced that these two great powers pose no present or future danger. But to those who take the Sino-Soviet threat seriously, the ABM system represents an effective deterrent and a hope for survival in the event of nuclear attack.
President Nixon’s choice was to modify the program so that it protects not the American population but its nuclear striking force. This suggests that we are willing to pay dearly in blood to forestall, hopefully, a continued arms race. But it also says that we reserve the capacity to come back, to avoid being wiped out altogether.
Surely that is as much of a concession as a realist could be expected to make. Mr. Nixon seems to be saying that, as yet, he is not convinced that the leaders of the Soviet Union and Red China are to be trusted. He does seem to have history on his side; Communists have a notably bad reputation for keeping treaties and agreements.
If the ABM shield is not tested because no one fires any missiles in our direction, it will be easy to argue that the system was wasted money. But if there is an attack and the system saves the lives of millions of Americans, its value will far exceed the cost.
On this issue we are neither dovish or hawkish—we are awed by the realities of the problem and uncertain as to the outcome. We will have to live with a decision we wish could have been made differently, but we can fully understand why Mr. Nixon chose as he did.
Youth Speaks Out—For Decency
American young people have repeatedly been exploited by a minority of headline-hunting radicals. In the midst of reports of violence, nudity, and obscenity on the campus, it is refreshing to hear a word in behalf of the thoughtful majority of American youth.
This came recently in reports of a gathering of 30,000 people in Miami’s Orange Bowl stadium in support of a teen-agers’ crusade for decency in entertainment. A group of young people were fed up with the indecent performance of Jim Morrison, lead singer of a musical group known as the Doors, during a Miami concert, and they decided to make their feelings known in this unusual, dramatic way.
The rally was not so much a negative protest as it was a positive declaration of belief in God and his love, love of planet and country, love of family, reverence of one’s sexuality, and equality of all men. The generation gap proved no problem as young people and an equal number of adults, some waving signs saying “Down with Obscenity,” gathered to hear teen-age speakers affirm these virtues between performances by professional entertainers, who donated their services.
This was not a specifically Christian undertaking, and such an approach is no substitute for the Christian’s responsibility to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. However, we heartily commend these young people for their initiative and courage in speaking out for concepts held dear not only by adults but also by the mainstream of responsible American youth. At a time when even some in the Church are advocating obscenity (see editorial, January 31 issue, page 27), it is gratifying to see young people taking a stand in behalf of decency.
Vandalism In The Name Of Peace
Nine persons smashed into the Washington offices of the Dow Chemical Company last month. They broke glass, rifled file cabinets, threw records out a fourth-floor window, and poured what they said was human blood over furnishings. Police arrested and jailed the group on charges of burglary and destroying property.
The incredible aspect of this incident is that six of the group identified themselves as Roman Catholic priests, and all claimed to be motivated by a hatred for war. They said they acted to protest Dow’s “refusal to accept responsibility for … programmed destruction of human life.” They accused the company of “seeking profit in the production of napalm, defoliants, nerve gas.”
By what strange line of reasoning does one commit vandalism to promote peace? We grant the sincerity of the now imprisoned priests, but to what extent can one ethically trample upon another’s private rights in the presumed interests of universal tranquillity?
The irony in the case is that Dow also produces chemicals that help science fight disease and save lives. But the basic principle is that the Viet Nam struggle necessitates a choice between two evils. The reason for napalm is not profit. Certainly Dow would rather produce more anti-cancer chemicals. The justification for napalm, and for all implements of war, is the survival of a free world, and the continued existence of a society in which dissidents can engage in legitimate protest. One can object that Viet Nam is not the most strategic frontier against Communism, but he cannot say that it is not such a frontier at all.
To suggest that Americans are killing themselves and the Vietnamese to make a profit is an outrageous judgment. Men who have worked at Dow—and sons of Dow employees—have lost their lives in Viet Nam along with all the others.
Cocu In The Days Ahead
The Consultation on Church Union is well on the road to fulfillment. The merger it is working for will probably become a reality in less than ten years. Many signs point to a giant church comprising twenty-five million people who seek to manifest a visible unity so that the world will believe. No one can fault the search for unity based on a truly biblical foundation. But the question must be asked: What will the world see in this new church when it emerges? Even now some things seem rather clear.
The new church will have a theological base that is weak and unsteady when compared with that of confessional churches that sprang from the Reformation. It will be a church in which the Hegelian dialectic flourishes, where opposites have been brought together to form a synthesis that defies logic and opens the door wide to theological vagary. Anybody will be able to find what he wants, since the unsystematic basis of the merger is inclusive and allows plenty of room for everyone from evangelicals to existentialists, so long as they all operate on a basis of “live and let live.”
The ecclesiology of COCU, though somewhat disguised, can be seen to lean toward episcopacy and insure that the ministers of the future will be ordained by the laying on of the hands of a bishop. One cannot help thinking that perhaps this will ultimately lead to reunion with the Roman Catholic Church and the acceptance of papal primacy.
It is easy to predict that when the merger occurs small groups of people from all the denominations involved will refuse to become part of the new church, and continuing churches will exist. In this sense the quest for unity will be partly defeated.
Whatever the merits of merger, there are possible undesirable consequences that the merging churches would do well to ponder. The record of history suggests that the new church will quickly suffer from a decline in missionary outreach overseas; also, that biblical evangelism at home will not be pressed and membership will decrease. The theology of the new church will become increasingly syncretistic and eclectic. This will be reflected in declining seminary enrollments.
We foresee that large numbers of evangelicals will remain in the new church, desiring to witness to their own convictions and hoping God will send a great awakening that will turn the church toward historic orthodoxy. If this happens, it will mark a new day in history and will be a cause for great rejoicing.
Anguish In Anguilla
We all suffer from fiasco and failure. In recent years the United States has smarted over some of its shortcomings, and the nations of the world have not hesitated to rub salt in the wounds. Perhaps we will be forgiven if we suggest that Great Britain, a longtime friend and critic, has painted itself into a corner with its invasion of Anguilla, an island most people never heard of, located in a place few people could pinpoint on a map. There must have been a better way.
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