Anything But A Bore
Handel got a devious boost in my newspaper last week with the front-page headline: “TWO MUSICIANS CHEWED AS CHOIR SANG MESSIAH.” It sounded like the sort of thoroughgoing villainy that makes the day for editors who know what pulls in the customers. Contemptuously dismissing the offending ones’ puerile plea that they were busy manufacturing saliva for their next instrumental onslaught, any discerning preacher will see in the whole sorry business the makings of a semon on this bedeviled world and its wrong priorities. Messrs. Elijah, the Pharisees, Eutychus the Elder (Dr. Clowney will not misunderstand), sundry Roman emperors, and O. Henry could be cited in confirmation of the human plight. Mind you, I doubt whether the choir in question was entirely, to coin a phrase, on the side of the angels. It should stimulate thought that their performance evoked an ennuyé reaction. Maybe they weren’t very good at their job, or repetition had dulled appreciation. Maybe the accused were chewing and listening.
In my very first summer pastorate, one of my warmest supporters was a farmer who invariably sat in the second front pew, and just as invariably survived the sermon in a state of soulclogging oblivion.
Admittedly James (“always full of difficulties when he looks deceptively simple”) exhorts to swift hearing, slow speaking, but I imagine he was urging thoughtful preparation rather than coy diffidence. This, come to think of it, is a point that might profitably be taken by all whose oratory is reminiscent of W. G. McAdoo’s allusion to “an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea.”
Confronted by such, I know that I ought to make an effort to be a good listener, but that in itself is a criticism, for “good listening” in some sense implies defective talking, and lays the onus on those who mount platforms and pulpits to think before they thunder.
A similar responsibility devolves upon scribes, which thought struck me recently when I read that Witold Gombrowicz had died. This writer who reportedly was in the running for a Nobel Prize in literature said once: “I am a humanist … joker … acrobat … provocateur. My works do handstands to please. I am circus, lyricism, poetry, horror, fights and games … But if there is a writer who writes in terror of boring the reader, I am he!” For this single utterance (I’ve made myself vulnerable) he should have got that Nobel Prize.
Life In Acts
I rejoice to see the space given in the March 13 issue to the current moving of the Holy Spirit on college campuses (“Asbury Revival Blazes Cross-Country Trail”).… Here at Greenville College we continue to say with recurrent awe that we feel ourselves to be living in the Book of Acts, in a way that none of us can exactly parallel within our collective recollection.
Many of us seminarians were disappointed with the reference made to Northern Baptist Seminary. We felt that, in the context of the article, you intimated that our school was swept up in a revival.… The fact is that such a phenomenon did not occur. Several students were genuinely inspired and encouraged by the visit of our two Asbury friends, and on the whole, our campus accepted them warmly with a real affirmation of the authenticity of their own experience. However, widescale revival did not “break out.”
We also regret the implication that because of the Asbury visit, we “got turned on to community needs, particularly those of drug addicts.” Since the middle of January there has been a renewed spirit of enthusiasm on our campus, shared by a large group of seminarians. Out of a sense of awareness as to the impact that true Christianity (that in which we serve Christ in the world as he has served us) should be having today, a good number of students transformed their concerns into action. One such area is our involvement in a “Drug-Counseling Program,” set up a month before the Asbury visit on February 23.
Oak Brook, Ill.
Perhaps Malone College students weren’t touched by the spark that kindled fires elsewhere, but something unique did happen. A group of men called the California Team led the campus to search the Scriptures for Christian living on God’s terms.… A large number of new commitments to Christ were made. And many of them aren’t “Wesleyan-oriented.”
MRS. ROBYNE BRYANT
“The Jewish Conception of The Messiah” (Mar. 13) was one of the most informative and realistic approaches to spiritual reality I’ve read in many a day. Too bad it wasn’t longer and more detailed.
LESTER H. MATTISON
I read with interest the article “Christian Roots of Science” by Joseph L. Spradley (Mar. 13). It was enlightening, but I believe it was out of balance. The greatest concern today is not with the advance of science and technology, but with its proper restraints and controls. Unrestrained exploitation of the world by science and technology threatens to destroy the environment, and hence to destroy life on this planet. To this problem he only devoted one paragraph.
Some people have blamed the Judeo-Christian heritage for this disrespect of nature. After all, the Bible says that man is to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. This would imply to many that the earth is an enemy that must be conquered and spoiled.…
It is time for us to emphasize the biblical foundations for sound conservation policies. Our natural resources are a great blessing—they are also necessary for our very survival.
The Plan Of The Aces
Thank you for devoting several pages to the Middle East (Feb. 27). The several articles were written, as far as I can tell, soberly and accurately. This is fortunate since many evangelicals root for Moshe Dayan, amen every economic advance of Golda Meir’s administration, and bless God when Israel conquers Arab lands.…
Israeli foreign and domestic policy is not the same as God’s plan of the ages. His plan is to bring men not to Jerusalem but to Christ.
ROBERT L. ALDEN
Asst. Prof. of Old Testament
Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary
Cartoons And Dignity
I can’t resist a word on recent cartoons. The pollution one (Feb. 27) was great, but the book-issue one (Feb. 13) was superb. It cut so many ways and really dignified the term cartoon.
St. Louis, Mo.
Out Of The Clouds
God’s blessings upon L. Nelson Bell and his column. “Another Gospel” (Feb. 27) seemed to me like a voice crying in the wilderness. While so many theological and philosophical “eagles” sail around in their ethereal realms, far above my head, Dr. Bell is consistently down to earth and to the (very pertinent) point.
WAYNE C. YODER
Mountain Home, Ark.
L. Nelson Bell brought out a most timely application of the Pauline expression, “another gospel.” Few realize the grave danger the evangelical church faces in becoming one with the world and thus severing in the process its attachment to the crucified Lord of glory. Heretofore I had more or less applied this anathema to the various cults, but the point emphasized was well taken. Perhaps the word “separation” may sound too strong to some, and I noticed the word was not used. Yet when properly understood it has a dual concept: from the world and unto Christ.
F. CHESTER CHAPMAN, JR.
St. Paul’s Congregational Church
Pine Island, N. Y.
I have just read two juxtaposed articles: “Another Gospel” and “A Cordial Welcome—If You’re White” (Feb. 27). I would hazard a guess that the congregations at First Presbyterian, Sumter, and Tattnall Square Baptist, Macon, receive precisely the original, genuine Gospel which Dr. Bell deems so necessary—and which I wholeheartedly believe. If he’s interested in the reason that so many activist Christians are turned off by so much orthodox preaching and teaching, he’ll find the answer in the behavior of the genuine, orthodox Christians in Sumter and Macon and churches all over the South (where I was born and reared)—and, no doubt, other parts of the country also. Dr. Bell can wish for and call for the good ole days when “man’s inhumanity to man” was largely ignored as a part of the gospel message, but those days are gone forever. The “gospel” Christians … should have been concerned for people—body, mind, and soul, now as well as hereafter. They blew it!
In this day when the Church is bemoaning the disinterest of its youth, it seems incredible that any church would turn college students away … whether they came to worship or just to see if they would be admitted. Whatever happened to “Bring them in, bring them in …”?
EUGENIA B. WATKINS
Dr. Bell has put his finger on the greatest single issue, in my judgment, facing the churches today, that is, the matter of the mission of the Church. It involves the definition of what the biblical “gospel” is, and divides itself into three options: (1) personal gospel, (2) social gospel, (3) personal/social gospel. I hold without wavering that the New Testament knows only (1). This is also the position of the ACCC. The NCC, WCC, COCU, socialists, communists, humanists, secularists, atheists, agnostics, and many others hold to (2). I am very sorry to see that a vocal group of leaders of the NAE, and from time to time writers for CHRISTIANITY TODAY, and speakers at the U.S. Congress on Evangelism (including Dr. Bell’s own son-in-law) are espousing (3) or are going along with those who hold to (3). This is, I feel, indeed “another gospel” (Gal. 1:6–9), just as (2) is.…
I hope you sound this note again, and often, and that many will both hear and heed and be converted from their anti-biblical position on this matter.
D. A. WAITE
Radio and Audio-Film Commission
American Council of Christian Churches
Valley Forge, Pa.
I would like to make note of an important omission in “Poland’s Protestants” (News, Jan. 30): the very significant contribution of the Assemblies of God, which would be second in size only to the Evangelical Church … among Poland’s Protestants. This growing Pentecostal fellowship of complete New Testament Christianity encompasses 10,500 actual Christian believers, who worship in 185 churches and missions, served by 155 ministers.
(The Rev.) LARRY SOUTHWICK
New Life International
The report did not mention the activities of the Polish Evangelical Baptist Church, which has a membership of over 3,000 adults, a Bible school (seminary), and an old people’s home in Narewka, Poland. They also publish a monthly magazine entitled “Slowo Prawdy” (Word of Truth).
Another movement calls itself Evangelical Christians, consisting of the so-called Plymouth Brethren, in which are now also affiliated the Pentecostals and similar movements. Their total number is over 4,000, and they publish a monthly magazine entitled Chrzescijanin (The Christian).
Catching The Spirit
Your reporter at Mission 70 (News, Jan. 30) … failed to catch the spirit of the gathering. Anyone who really understood it would hardly have spent almost one-third of his column on the opening speech to the neglect of the other speakers. If he had really bothered to look for information he could not have written “nine Michigan blacks … were refused housing by an Atlanta church.”
The reporter was on the brink of describing those at Mission 70 as a group of rebellious youth demanding change now. How could he fail to hear their spirited hymn of dedication: “Here is my life … serving my fellow man, doing the will of God …”?
OSCAR S. BROOKS
Professor of Religion
William Jewell College
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