Learning From The Teeming Ditch

Are the persuaders coming more and more out of hiding? I’d suspected this for some time before spotting a brazen advertisement while on my travels last week. “DON’T GO TO PIECES ON SUNDAY!” it pleaded, offering a well-known newspaper as a steadying influence. On that view Sunday is potentially a drag, a put-upon, a space to be filled.

The thought sent me back to something jotted down a while ago from Dennis Gabor’s Inventing the Future. He begins by suggesting three dangers that confront our civilization: “The first is destruction by nuclear war, the second is being crippled by over-population, and the third is the Age of Leisure.” If the first two happen, says Gabor, life will be very unpleasant, but people will know what to do. “Only the Age of Leisure will find man psychologically unprepared.” (Surely not to the extent that our resourceful Sunday newspaper couldn’t cope?)

Gabor’s statement seems to imply that man at the moment of going to press is putting up a creditable psychological front to the changes and chances of this mortal scene (at least for five or six days in the week). A further implication is a great dichotomy fixed between labor and leisure, a bittiness altogether alien to an epitaph once seen: “God give me work till my life shall end, and life till my work is done.”

Yet Gabor is right if he means that ennui is the enemy for those who, in Chesterton’s words, “because they are entirely unacquainted with life … know nothing but distractions from life.” It was Chesterton, the genial creator of Father Brown, who went to the root of the problem when two years before his death in 1936 he said: “Unless we can make daybreak and daily bread and the creative secrets of labor interesting in themselves, there will fall on all our civilization a fatigue which is the one disease from which civilizations do not recover. So died the great Pagan Civilization; of bread and circuses and forgetfulness of the household gods.”

Chesterton was, however, no pessimist: he liked to think of himself as “always perfectly happy,” with a real faith and a real zest for life, which two don’t always go together. “I have,” he said, “experienced the mere excitement of existence in places that would commonly be called as dull as ditchwater. And, by the way, is ditchwater dull? Naturalists with microscopes have told me that it teems with quiet fun.”

To believe that is not to go to pieces on Sunday, and is to freewheel unafraid even into a leisurely age.

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A Manner Of Speaking

Thanks for inviting Howard M. Ervin (“As the Spirit Gives Utterance,” April 11) to say his piece, which was a pretty good one as I saw it.

Thanks also for a fairly succinct editorial (“The Gift of Tongues”) in the same issue. However, some of us are a bit weary of the “yes, but” approach, i.e., yes, speaking in tongues is bona fide but love is so much better. That is like saying, “A church is a fine place to meet God, but heaven is so much more conducive”—well, obviously!… But as we Pentecostals are prone to reply: certainly we ought to enjoy God’s “least gift,” at least.

Assoc. Editor

Campus Life Magazine

Wheaton, Ill.

Gobbledygook! Dr. Ervin’s interpretation of the Corinthian languages as “unintelligible” tongues, until God reveals the meaning, is the crux of his presentation.…

But … how can unintelligible sounds manifest anything? Furthermore, would not the gift of required interpretation ultimately render the gift of unintelligible languages quite unnecessary, if not meaningless? Is not God then put into the position of providing an intelligent gift to explain an unintelligent one?

Zion, Ill.

I am thoroughly grateful for Dr. Ervin’s complete, concise report on this sensitive issue, and for a treatment of the subject that is intellectually stimulating and theologically sound. He has done much to clear a lot of the smoke from the flame.

The Word Of Faith Broadcast

Orangeburg, S. C.

It would appear to me that a close look at the conditions existing in the church at Corinth when Paul wrote First Corinthians would cast some light on the source of the ecstatic utterances experienced by some in that church.

The church was in a state of carnality (3:3). It was divided into four factions (1:12). Fornication such as would cause even the heathen Gentiles to blush was permitted to go unrebuked (5:1, 2). Disagreements among various factions led to individual airing of their complaints before civil courts of the metropolis (6:1). The communion service was profaned by the conduct of some of the participants (11:21, 22). Against this backdrop, Paul asks a question: “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation” (14:26).…

Paul, conscious of the genuine (Acts 2), was cautious—“Forbid not to speak with tongues”—but he understood what was needful—“Covet to prophesy.” The very absence of any comment dealing with tongues in Paul’s other epistles speaks strongly of the uniqueness of the problems at Corinth, a problem complicated by unrestrained sin in the church. Such a questionable situation is a poor basis for any major doctrine, much less a mandatory spiritual experience.

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Florence, Miss.

Or Not To Budge

In his appraisal of the Consultation on Church Union (April 11), Dr. Cary N. Weisiger III has neatly set forth the very reasons why evangelicals can have no share in this ecumenical effort.

With remarkable insight, Dr. Weisiger states, “It is manifestly impossible to have a union if two conflicting viewpoints will not budge.” He can be assured that evangelicals will not budge on their historic Protestant view of Scripture. They will not be dazzled by fancy verbal footwork into a union which is not catholic, not evangelical, and absolutely not reformed. Nor are evangelicals likely to welcome a presiding bishop or another kind of pope. But most repulsive to the evangelical is the weird notion that when men can agree even in unbelief, the Holy Spirit is working therein.

COCU asserts that “we will, in the course of time, become something other than the church that any of us now knows.” To that, anyway, evangelicals can agree. Without budging an inch!

Portland, Ore.

If others are using the term “evangelical” as does Dr. Weisiger, I will be forced to return to the term “fundamentalist” to describe my position. The modern press and the man in the street have an image of snake-handling and foot-stomping when their ears hear “fundamentalist,” but I am not sure that that image is worse than the one created by linking evangelicals with COCU.

First Conservative Baptist Church

Birmingham, Ala.

Animated Living

We agree! The manner of Christian life described in Diognetus (“The Manners of the Christians,” April 11) is an appropriate expression for our day. You might also have observed, however, that this apologetic makes no brief for the current sport of Christians to huddle in quasi-sanctified enclaves, e.g., resorts and suburbs et al. Diognetus argues that the second-century “manner of Christian living” animated the barbarian cities, “not their own.” I covet especially this author’s conclusion: “It is to no less a post than this that God has ordered them and they must not try to evade it.”

Innercity Athletic Mission.

Chicago, Ill.

Thanks for the stimulation which started me reading again in those resourceful and meaningful Christian classics!

Johnson City, Tenn.

Battle Of The Taxes

I enjoyed your “Tax Funds for Religious Education?” (March 28).… As a direct result of these two well-reasoned expressions of opinion, I am certain that your readers will be more tolerant of both sides in this complicated issue. Dialogue will become more calm, more reasoned, and more loving and prepare the way for a solution that will intensify love and understanding.

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New York, N. Y.

I have long been against state support for religious day schools and high schools, so I read the comments of C. Stanley Lowell with much approval. But I must confess that the arguments of Gordon Oosterman were very convincing. I still have reservations about the matter on one count, however, and I wonder about a reasonable answer to it. It has been my opinion, based on what I have observed over the years, that when the government gives financial aid to any segment of our society, they soon follow this by regulations and restrictions. This would lead, I feel, to a deplorable church-state situation, causing most participating schools to regret their haste in rushing to the feed trough.

Valinda, Calif.

The very title of the essays naïvely presupposes that the state schools are not religious schools. Here is the nub of the entire question. No education is religiously neutral, not even the humanistic secular one of public schools.…

One task of the government is to be religiously neutral between conflicting religious interests. Under our current system it opts for one kind of religion against theism. This is neither Christian nor just nor wise. Let the government give tax money for all education that meets the state’s compulsory educational laws regardless of race, color, and creed.

Wayne, N. J.

In the news article “Parochial School Crisis Fuels State Aid Debate,” the quotation from the 1965 resolution of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod should read: “that federal aid for children attending nonpublic schools, as authorized by Congress and defined [not “defended”] by the courts, be deemed acceptable so long as it does not interfere with the distinctive purposes for which such schools are established.”

Secretary of Schools

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

St. Louis, Mo.

Authority Alarm

Just recently I read Dr. Carl F. H. Henry’s articles entitled “The Reality and Identity of God” (March 14 and 28).… In reflecting upon them I could not help but begin to see what he was driving at. “Process-theology” postulates that God is himself always becoming and changing.… Thus one finds himself in the peculiar predicament of worshiping a “God” who is perhaps “not yet,” but rather “a God of temporality and becoming.”

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Now what alarms me in all this is that … then indeed God is not the absolute in the universe but rather subject of the “process” or change.… What is even more frightening is the fact that this is not revealed from any outside source, but is only a concept which has come from inside the thinking and reason of man.…

This brings us right back to the hideous and sinister evil in the very heart of man which began the entire sinful mess in the world, namely, the rebellion of man against the authority of God.…

As Dr. Martin Luther once said, “From this preserve us, Heavenly Father.”

St. John’s Lutheran Church

Brunswick, Mo.

Those ‘Slithering’ Students

My righteous indignation was greatly aroused by a comment in your magazine concerning Oral Roberts’s program “Contact” (“Oral Roberts: Rousing Return to TV,” March 28): “And in their choreography ORU students slithered across the stage at a pace somewhere between Lawrence Welk and the cavorting on the Smothers Brothers program.” … I saw no slithering, only movements related to the singing which to me edified the greatness of God.

I am not a hippie, dippie, or yippie. I am a thirty-year-old Christian, very conservative school teacher, and the only comment I can make about the program “Contact” is that I feel it is the greatest “happening” of the century.

Sparks, Okla.

Of Tape And Terror

Although aware of Rev. R. B. Thieme’s ministry for many years, it has been only recently that I have found the time to review and study his doctrinal studies by tape.

Therefore, I personally resent being lumped with terrorist activists (“Bible and Bombs,” News, March 28). Or, as is slyly implied: Thieme is spreading “racism in the 6,000 tapes a month he mails across the nation”.…

You do your readers a disservice without providing us with a bit more information about Rev. Thieme and his ministry, which God has blessed.

West Bend, Wis.

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