‘Isn’T That So, Dear?’
Some years ago I went to a New England town to further a research project. During my time there I worshiped in a church where the minister was a Welshman and (naturally) a splendid biblical expositor. One bizarre habit he had, however, for recalling the flagging attention of his listeners: he would use some homespun illustration, then make a public appeal for confirmation to his wife, who sat in the middle of the congregation. On such occasions his “Isn’t that so, dear?” never failed to electrify the semi-somnolent, the more so since the lady’s embarrassment showed it to be no preplanned gimmick.
Many a time and oft did I wonder what would have happened if Mrs. Dear had got up just once and retorted, “No, it is not so. Why can’t you ever learn to tell a story properly? Now this [here she would turn to the congregation confidentially] is what really happened.…”
What induced that stroll down memory lane was the re-perusal of a booklet that was sent to me a while ago from Scotland, entitled The Minister’s Wife—Her Life, Work and Problems. It is edited by that doyen of Scottish evangelists, Dr. D. P. Thomson, and within the limits of fifty-two pages the scope is as comprehensive as the title suggests.
Excerpts from the feminine contributions: “One could become spiritually starved in a manse more quickly than anywhere else, if one didn’t stick to a routine.” “Fear of middle-aged women—so kind, really, but so terrifying to the new wife!” “It would be a good idea if ministers’ wives could from time to time attend services at another church.”
The booklet has also a poignant word on manse children, whose resentment at being used as illustrations in father’s sermons is sometimes unbounded. “It wasn’t just when he got you on the raw by saying ‘I’ve got a little boy at home,’ but that every time a little boy or girl, otherwise unnamed and unidentified, figures in a children’s address, all the other youngsters made certain they knew what was meant—and took care to tell you so afterwards.”
Beware then, brethren. Such utterances put in proper perspective the intriguing plea feelingly advanced in court by a young man facing criminal charges: he said he had not had a chance in life, having been a pastor’s son.
Church In The State
Congratulations on your editorial on “Christian Social Action” (March 14). I thought this expressed the viewpoint that many of us hold in the very best possible way and made it very clear and definite. I also thought that the article by Malcolm Nygren on “The Church and Political Action” was very well stated and a very important article. Keep up the good work!
Chairman of the Corporation
May I express my appreciation to you for your editorial, “Christian Social Action,” and to the Rev. Malcolm Nygren for his article.… Each of you confirms what I have felt ever since various church denominations began getting involved in politico-social affairs.…
What I … cannot fathom is how national, state and local church bodies can presume that they have the authority to take positions on questions affecting the citizenship rights of their members without first giving every member the privilege of voting on whether this, that—or any—stand should be taken by the Church on such subjects.…
I do not imply … that it would be proper for the Church to enter the secular fields of politics, etc., if the membership voted to do so. The basic point is that the Church does not belong in such areas. But I present the situation pertaining to the denial of membership voting as a warning of how much farther some church leaders might go if their assumption of power in the name of the Church is not curbed.
Your editorial loses its effectiveness by your insistence on creating what, to my mind, is a false dichotomy between the Church and the Christian. It may be that certain practices have fallen into the province of congregational life. Baptism is administered by the Church; but Philip did not call an emergency meeting of the Jerusalem Christians before he immersed the eunuch. The Lord’s Supper may “belong to the Church” now; but Christ certainly would not deny the right of remembrance to the “two or three” to whom he promised his presence. On the other hand, there are some distinctly personal ministries; but Paul’s “social action” for the Jerusalem saints was a rather corporate venture.
Perhaps your warning that social action not be carried out “in the name of the Church” would not be necessary if we did all things in the name of Christ. What is the Church if not Christians bound by the love of Christ?
Milligan College, Tenn.
Despite this editorial’s merit as a whole, I must take exception to your affirmation that “baptism belongs to the Church.… Individual Christians have no right or biblical basis to go about baptizing people.… So also with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper”.… Well, it’s really not much of an invitation. After all, this kind of news gets around pretty fast. Especially to hundreds of people searching for a growing fellowship.
And, yet, in thousands of churches numbers on the attendance board tell a much happier story. They tell about Sunday School classes growing-both in attendance and in spiritual maturity. Many of these classes are now using Scripture Press All-Bible Graded lessons to stimulate inquiry into the very problems that trouble class members all week long.
See for yourself why hundreds of churches nationwide are turning to “Youth Illustrated” for high schoolers and “Living Today” for adults. Both are all new, contemporary lesson magazines that motivate faster understanding through the Word, and encourage more lasting decisions for Christ in the lives of your class members.
The Lord’s Supper belongs to Christ, as does baptism, which he has given to us. He said, “Go … baptize,” and, “Do this in remembrance of me.” To me, this means that if a Christian family wish to spread the Lord’s Supper in their home and take it individually or collectively, they have this right as individual Christians. Also, individual Christians in the congregation here take the Lord’s Supper to homes and hospitals and serve it, not in the name of the Church, but in the name of Christ, who ordained it.
Northside Christian Church
While agreeing with much of what Malcolm Nygren says in his article, I feel that he dismisses too readily the obligation of the Church to address itself to social evils. I agree that the Gospel is not a political platform and that the Church as a church should beware of proposing specific solutions to the many social problems of our time. Yet the Church is obliged to bring the Law of God to bear upon these social problems and evils, and it must do so from the pulpit as well as in denominational pronouncements. Our ministry as churchmen is not only one of compassion but also one of correction and reproof. The whole counsel means that the social responsibilities of the Church go beyond Good Samaritan service. There were, by the way, Christians who had the courage to speak out against Nazism in Germany, and they did so out of a fidelity to God’s Word. So, too, we need Christians today who will fearlessly denounce the social evils of our time, including racism and militarism. I am acutely aware of the danger of converting the Gospel of Christ into a purely social or secular gospel, but the alternative is not a withdrawal of the Church’s witness from the social scene.
Professor of Theology
Dubuque Theological Seminary
It was delightful to read your timely and significant editorial.… Your position that the “Church as Church” is not to engage in socio-political action … needs special emphasis today.
What impressed me particularly was your apparent stress upon corporate Christian action. You mention the right of Christians to band together for such purposes as the organizing of labor, poverty, even political parties. I wholeheartedly agree and look forward to the day when many concerned Christians from a variety of backgrounds do find each other for this type of action.
Already there is a Christian Action Foundation which is experiencing surprising interest and growth across our nation. This organization is strictly committed to the implementation of what your editorial recommends.
Sioux Center, Iowa
Medium Of Music
The article on church music (March 14) stated many correct ideas, but so what? Whether religious or not, people today recognize the importance of spontaneity, feeling, and a sense of unity in singing, but this can be achieved either by professional groups or by the uninitiated. Traditional church music has had its professional choirs and organs and its popular hymns and gospel songs; “popular taste” has its professional orchestras and rock groups and its popular folk songs and hootenannies. The real question the Church should be asking, assuming Dr. Beveridge’s conclusion of the uniqueness of Christian worship and the importance of the music to the text, is not professional versus non-professional, but “Are we communicating with either the Christian or the non-Christian (especially the young) with the kind of music we are using today?” I say we are not.
I agree with Dr. Beveridge that in music “it is the words that make worship uniquely Christian.” This, of course, results from the facts (1) that all music is amoral and (2) that there is no kind of music anywhere that is specifically Christian except by connotational associations. Electronic music is no “passing fancy”; it is the wave of the future. The sooner the Church thinks Electric the sooner it will communicate. I know. I am part of that new wave. I cut my teeth on hymns and gospel songs. At first I was frustrated, but now I know why.
Reality For Ringing
Your editorial concerning personal holiness (March 14) was well received. With the incessant buzz of the secular and liberal theologians ringing in our ears, godly and righteous life-patterns are vitally needed if the man on the street is to be confronted with Reality in Christ.
First Evangelical Church
Of Merger And Mission
Those Presbyterian conservatives who are smacking their lips gleefully over the defeat of the union presbyteries and synods (“Ecumenical Showdown for Southern Presbyterians,” March 14) ought to spend a bit more time in examining what is going to further the mission of the Church and a lot more money toward that end instead of their present devious pursuits.
Those who are involved in the work of the Church in Kentucky and other border areas realize how seriously our work is impaired by continuing separate organizations when we should be united.… To think that such union is going to “set back” the work of evangelism, Christian education, and ministry through our churches is ridiculous.…
Instead of worrying about back-door merger and other supposed detrimental effects, “concerned” Presbyterians should get on the ball and seek for the upbuilding of the Church of Jesus Christ. We in Kentucky are going to demonstrate that we are one, that we can work together for the furthering of the Kingdom of God (regardless of what the Constitution allows), so that the world may believe. Would to God that some others would stop fighting battles they are not called to wage, that do not affect the areas where they live, and get on with the work of Jesus Christ where they are.
Buckhorn Presbyterian Church
I would like to suggest that your simple little get-tough policy for “Ending Campus Chaos” (Editorial, Feb. 28) shows both a lack of knowledge and a lack of sensitivity to the situation. It would seem that a magazine one of whose purposes appears to be to represent the voice of disenfranchised evangelicals could be a little more sympathetic with students and others who face a similar plight with respect to tradition-bound colleges and universities. Has it ever occurred to you that the “processes created to bring about peaceful change” you speak of might not be open to student participation or for that matter to most elements of the community? In such an instance the choice might well be either a passive resignation to the situation or some form of active protest.
Your attitude confirms a suspicion of mine that if evangelicals wish to have an effective voice on social issues, they are going to have to become more informed on the full range of problems and less bound by conservative cultural biases that have little if anything to do with the Gospel. Please make an effort to acquaint yourself with more than one perspective before making grand pronouncements, even if the tactics of the demonstrators aren’t always the most laudable. You may find you have a lot more in common with the hippies and the yippies than you think.
We were particularly grateful for the clear statement in your recent editorial (Feb. 28) that some of us utilize primarily single-engine planes for reasons of principle—not just expediency.
At times like these, pilots like to point to statistics. Like how much safer statistically the missionary is flying over the jungles than his pastor is driving the freeway? Or, now that our twenty-three-year fatality-free flying history has been so dramatically shattered, to point out that the next largest operator, Wycliffe’s JAARS, still has a no-fatal-accident record—also true of our colleagues of the British MAF.
But we’re taking little comfort. We are doing a study among all known missionary pilots to discover, cross-correlate, and weigh (with computer assistance) the multitude of factors contributing to known missionary aviation accidents—and near-misses—to date.… Any past or present missionary pilots who have not received questionnaires from us were not intentionally overlooked. We hope they will write us, stating how many questionnaires they require (one for each accident or near-miss). These may be submitted unsigned if desired.
Director of Flying
Missionary Aviation Fellowship
Ho, ho! That’s rich! The Salem cigarette coax, “Go-on-take-a-puff,’, at the 8:30 break of the local TV Sunday-night movie, to which CHRISTIANITY TODAY objects in its editorial (“Waging War on the Weed, Feb. 28): “Strange indeed that in this matter of life and death the voice of the Church has been pitifully weak, if not silent,” was immediately followed by another coax: a closeup shows a tray of long-stem cocktail glasses; a hand reaches and takes one.
The subtle, silent ad for booze occurs many times on a wide variety of programs during the TV week, but what do we hear from CHRISTIANITY TODAY? Silence.
I greatly appreciate the ministry of CHRISTIANITY TODAY—particularly your news section. Don’t ever let it get “news-less”!
I do enjoy reading CHRISTIANTY TODAY.… Only wish I could afford to read many other periodicals for their worthwhile content, but with five children and a husband also holding demands on my time, I just do not have all the hours in a day it would take to read them all. I am praying for the outreach you have.
MRS. DUANE G. PIPER
Costa Mesa, Calif.
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