In this initial issue of a new decade, CHRISTIANITY TODAY presents thoughts of fourteen young evangelicals. They speak—sometimes in strident tones—to the great issues that face the Church in the seventies. Their views are important for younger as well as older readers who are concerned that Christian options gain greater visibility in the cultural crisis.

Mass Evangelism

Tom Skinner, 27, is an evangelist with an international reputation. He attended Manhattan Bible Institute and Wagner College and is an ordained Baptist clergyman. He has conducted evangelistic crusades in a number of large American cities and is heard throughout the country on a weekly radio broadcast. He was one of the major speakers at the U. S. Congress on Evangelism in Minneapolis last September. He is the author of “Black and Free.”

An article in the Wall Street Journal last November stated that we can expect more changes in business, politics, and economics in the next five years than took place in all of the last twenty. If this is true, and I believe it is, then the Christian Church is faced with an immense challenge as it prepares to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the seventies.

1. Education. Education will change its emphasis from the study of history to creative preparation for the future. The message of Jesus Christ then must be preached in that vein.

2. Population. A majority of the population will be under twenty-five years of age. This means the Gospel of Christ must be preached in the language of that age group and in a way relevant to its life-style.

3. Black power. Black power will be a reality; many of the large cities will be controlled by a very highly trained, articulate, aggressive black constituency. If the message of Jesus Christ does not penetrate the black communities of America now, our cities will be lost then. The average age of black people in the 1970s will be twenty-one.

4. The Church. The Church will have to be less organization-oriented and more people-oriented if it is going to fulfill its task of reaching people in the 1970s.

I believe that we have the resources to do the job; but we need to change some basic attitudes and pattern our approach more after the New Testament.

The Preached Word

The Rev. Peter J. Marshall, 29, is pastor of East Dennis (Massachusetts) Community Church. He holds the B.A. from Yale University and the B.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the son of the late chaplain of the U. S. Senate.

Some people doubt seriously whether the sermon is still a legitimate method of communication in our fastchanging world. There are those who feel that the sermon belongs to the bygone days of leisurely Sunday dinners, afternoon snoozes, and long strolls in the countryside—the halcyon days when a particularly stirring offering from the pulpit might bring a basket of eggs to the back door of the parsonage. For many of these ecclesiastical “moderns,” the sermon has been relegated to the attic of life, along with grandfather’s old Bible commentaries.

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I would like to gently remind these people that the sermon has never been more popular—nor, I might add, more effective as a means of communication—than it is today. The orators for the new left can certainly draw good crowds and get definite responses from their preaching, too!

Let us not excuse our own failure with the lament that this age cares nothing for biblical preaching—that claim is given the lie in hundreds of churches throughout America every Sunday. Let us rather look to ourselves to see if perhaps the failure is in our preaching, and ultimately within our own hearts. I do not think the answer lies in better seminary courses on preaching. The trouble often is due to a lack of personal enthusiasm about the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel. Even an inarticulate man can be an exciting preacher, if his own heart is on fire with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Sermons are always going to be of importance to those experiencing (or wishing to experience) life in the true Body of Christ. First of all, the Lord Jesus Christ himself “came preaching the Gospel.” He chose preaching as an effective means of communicating his Gospel, and we cannot beg the issue by contending that preaching was the cultural norm of his day for itinerant rabbis. Maybe it was, but the son of God was not culturally bound to preaching as a method any more than he was bound to healing by the use of the medicinal herbs of his days. Yet he preached.

Secondly, Jesus Christ chose men to go out and preach sermons to the whole world. This was, and still is, one of the main ways in which the Gospel is to be spread—the apostolic preaching of the early Church was instigated and carried out by rather obvious divine guidance. Our Lord has said: “As the Father sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” That “as” applies to methods also, and Jesus “came into the world preaching.”

But why should Christ use men to preach? Because the truth must come through human personality if it is to interest humans. God’s truth is always communicated best through the warmth and vitality of the human voice coming from a person who is present to be seen face to face. Long ago, the Word became flesh. He still seeks to do so, again and again. Preaching will not die.

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Foreign Missions

Howard L. Biddulph, 26, is under appointment for missionary service to Colombia under the Oriental (Inter-american) Missionary Society. He was reared as a missionary child in Medellin, Colombia, and holds the A.B. from Asbury College and the M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary. He is currently associate pastor of the Central Alliance Church, Dearborn, Michigan.

The dawn of the new decade is exciting for missionary enterprise. Missionary strategy has felt the impact of the studies on church growth. Seminary extension education has discovered ways to train large segments of church leadership that until recently had been neglected. Saturation evangelism has demonstrated the potential of a church mobilized for witness.

In the midst of optimism, however, some serious questions must be posed. Will missions of the seventies establish a healthy relationship with the national church? Or will historical paternalistic patterns prevail? The watchword of evangelical efforts overseas has been the “indigenous” church. But even a self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating national church can remain stalemated under the heavy-handed, insensitive influence of the founding missionary organization.

The new decade calls for church-mission integration: national representation at every level of decision—whether involving policies, funds, or personnel assignment. For the most effective performance of his task, the missionary must shift to the “partner-servant” role. In the first century, the Holy Spirit operated through persecution in radically changing the pattern of missionary outreach. Rising nationalism may prove to be his tool in forcing a change in the paternalism of modern evangelical missions.

Will missions of the seventies place a high enough priority on spiritual qualifications of the missionary? In recent years, more and more emphasis has been placed on the techniques and methods of mission. But beware of losing sight of the truth: God’s method is men. The best educated and fully dedicated, he fills with His Spirit as the enduement for service. Without this spiritual enduement, all the human qualifications do not and cannot make a missionary.

Missions of the seventies will prosper as their programs are subject to the guidance of the national church. Missionaries will prosper as their methods are subservient to the Spirit of God.

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The Rev. John M. Frame, 30, was Phi Beta Kappa at Princeton University and has completed doctoral work at Yale. He is an instructor in systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.

I do not see a new Barth on the theological horizon; the seventies will not be dominated by any single figure. But neither will they witness another bewildering array of theological fads (“new hermeneutics,” “radical theologies,” “process theologies,” “history-theologies,” “hope-theologies”) like that which we desperately tried (or pretended) to keep abreast of in the sixties. Theologians are just plain tired of all this, and they are not at all sanguine about discovering “the key to Christianity” in some new scheme. To be sure, they will still talk about “language-events,” “existential self-understanding,” “Heilsgeschichte,” “dialectical self-negation,” “universal history,” “hope,”—even “encounter” and “crisis.” But they will discuss such concepts with less of a party spirit and more careful analysis. There will be more “metaquestions” asked: questions about questions; questions about theological language, argument, structure; questions about the meaning, function, and value of such conceptual schemes as those noted above. For such questions the techniques of analytic philosophy will be indispensable, and the theologians will have to quit talking so much about “analysis” and learn how to do it. As they thus move from a frenzied activism to a quieter self-examination, I suspect they will discover that Christianity is richer—more multi-centered—than most recent theologies of this and that have even hinted. They may even find that there are “keys” to Christianity other than those obtainable through conceptual sophistication.

This development will significantly advance the decay of that synthesis of Kantian philosophy and Christianity that has supplied the presuppositions of all the fashionable theologies of the last century and a half. Theologians of the seventies will be more prepared than ever before to challenge this synthesis at a basic level. But what will replace it? A new synthesis of the Gospel and a secular philosophy? Or (as in similar periods of ideological decay in the fourth and sixteenth centuries) might the orthodox perhaps seize the theological initiative?

Indeed we could, by God’s grace. But to do so, we must, like Athanasius and Luther, (1) recognize keenly the sharpness of the distinction between the Word of God and human theological traditions, (2) resist adamantly any temptation to compromise the former in the interest of the latter—even if such compromise appears to make the Gospel more “relevant” to our age, (3) develop gifts of knowledge and love so that we can speak to nonevangelical theologians, especially those who are themselves asking basic questions, and yet (4) be willing to endure the scorn of the theological mainstream if we must, determined to obey God’s Word even when it separates us from the sphere of the respectable—especially then, for this is always the direction of genuine advance. For these reasons and for many others, the courageousness of our commitment will determine the impact of our theology.

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Physical Science

Carl Reidel, 32, holds a master’s degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He is assistant director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Williams College. He is a member of the First Baptist Church in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

God commanded man in Eden to “be fruitful and fill the earth and subdue it.” In seeking the good life east of Eden we have subdued the earth in selfishness and ignorance, endangering the quality of life for all mankind. Our excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides and the careless discharge of home and industrial wastes have polluted land and air, fresh waters and oceans. In the name of progress we have ravaged the land with erosion, urban sprawl, and highways. Unchecked world population has reached the point of sure starvation for millions in this decade. We have subdued the earth east of Eden and stand on the brink of a global environmental crisis in 1970. The Christian, as steward of God’s creation, cannot escape responsibility.

Ecology—the study of the interrelationships of living organisms and their environments—tells us that Nature is a community to which man belongs, linked to all of creation by the complex web of life in our natural environment. Man, however, is capable of altering his relationship in that community, and with his scientific technology is threatening the balance and function of fundamental natural systems. In so doing, ecology clearly indicates, he affects the lives of men everywhere. As God’s stewards we are our brother’s keeper. With this understanding we do well as Christians to heed our Lord’s warning that “as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

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A Christian environmental ethic must, however, be more than a humanitarian response. Neither ecologist nor poet can interpret all of nature in terms of man’s physical or aesthetic benefit. We are stewards of all God’s creation, not just that portion from which we can benefit. In response to the depth of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ, our love of his creation should have no bounds. An environmental ethic based on Christian stewardship requires an extension of love to all of nature.

Church And Society

Howard M. Moffett, 26, is currently an aide to U. S. Congressman John B. Anderson. Moffett holds the B.A. from Yale and the M.A. from Cambridge University, and served as a Newsweek correspondent in Viet Nam. He is the son of Dr. Howard F. Moffett, superintendent of Presbyterian Hospital, Taegu, Korea.

Political pundits are fond of saying that President Nixon’s two greatest problems are the Viet Nam war and inflation. Conventional wisdom has it that if he can settle these, he will be re-elected in 1972 and the nation can settle down to another four years of relatively peaceful Republican rule. I believe that our political problems are deeper and vaguer than this, and that Mr. Nixon may end up presiding over the disintegration of our society if he does not address himself to two other serious problems.

The first is that individuals are finding less and less meaning in our corporate life. The central institutions of our society, the organizations that dominate our waking hours—the corporations, the universities, the government, the news and entertainment media, the armed services—are now so big and impersonal that individuals feel less and less able to have any impact on them or within them. No matter what we do, they seem to carry us mindlessly in a direction that is rapidly becoming impossible to identify, much less control. For personal meaning and satisfaction we are forced to look outside these central institutions—to leisure, family, and spiritual pursuits, which as we ask more of them are less able to bear the whole burden. At the core of our life together, apathy threatens to bring on a winter of the soul.

Our second great problem is the sense of impotence we are coming to feel in the face of mounting social and environmental threats to this most affluent, most effluent of nations. The Viet Nam war and inflation are long-standing and serious, but even they seem more tractable to us now than the pollution, violence, urban disintegration, moral decay, and racial hatreds that inflame our middle-class fears as they tax our middle-class consciences. We are poisoning our streams with filth and our hearts with hate, all with the oblivious ease of children who do not understand that poison kills. To the apathy brought on by the impersonalization of our institutions, we add malaise over a shrinking ability to cope with our deteriorating social and physical environment.

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I see no panaceas for these problems—Christian or otherwise. I believe that one of the most serious sins of the Church has been to suggest that to convert our society would be to save it. The evidence is to the contrary in many cases, most notably that of race relations, where the monumental indifference and hypocrisy of many churches has added to the problem rather than helping to solve it. I can offer no easy answers, only the thought that these problems will be with us a long time, and that it is worth putting some of our most committed and enlightened thought into dealing with them.


Merold Westphal, 29, is assistant professor of philosophy at Yale, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. He is a member of the Community Baptist Church of New Haven.

During the seventies Christian philosophers will continue to employ theologically neutral methods in the exploration of technical issues whose relation to faith is at best remote. But they will also continue, as always, to address those philosophical issues that open themselves to distinctively Christian development.

What is new is the explosive situation which defines the philosophical present, and which philosophy can ignore only by being untrue to itself. The new challenge is for philosophy that can serve as prolegomena to living in a rapidly changing national and international society. In short, the task is the development within evangelical perspectives of a contemporary Christian humanism. For example, the problem of appearance and reality needs to be explored in relation to the drug scene and the rising attraction of Eastern thought. And the debate over universals needs to be reopened in light of the inhuman distortions that collectivism and individualism impose on so much contemporary experience.

There also needs to be a continuing concern with the traditionally primary task of Christian philosophy, prolegomena to theological systems. But these prolegomena dare not be merely apologetics for old and familiar styles and systems of theology. They need rather to be the stimulus to genuinely new evangelical theologies, as new as Luther’s was in his day. As handmaiden-gadfly to these new theologies, Christian philosophy needs to develop a biblical ontology, an eschatological ontology of reality as history. Such an ontology would seek to develop the categorial scheme that gives form to theology from the biblical content it seeks to articulate.

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Finally, and above all, evangelicals in philosophy need to break free of the Cabot-Lodge syndrome, of speaking only to themselves and to God.


William C. Wood, M.D., 29, is a clinical associate at the National Institutes of Health. He is a graduate of Wheaton College and Harvard Medical School. He is a member of Wallace Memorial United Presbyterian Church in Hyattsville, Maryland.

The cornucopia of medical science faces a worsening bottleneck, and delivering the fruits of research from the laboratory to the sickbed has become of prime concern. The next decade will see a doubled volume of all the medical information previously amassed in man’s history. Attempts to utilize this information in treatment will require increasing sub-specialization, a greatly expanded role for para-medical personnel, and the use of data-processing methods for mass screening and diagnostic procedures. This will demand increasing organization and institutionalization of health-care delivery with attendant depersonalization of this care.

Although our society has come to consider medical care a right of all men, many barriers inhibit the fulfillment of this concept. Costs will continue to rise geometrically as nurses, hospital aides, resident physicians, and laboratory workers are allowed to approach the pay scales and work hours in industry and government for equivalent positions. The consumer (government, insurance companies, corporations, unions, and individual patients) will demand a greater voice in regulating costs and determining what quality of medical care society can afford to provide.

Financial considerations will be overshadowed by matters of supply and demand. Medicine is decreasingly productive, as illustrated by the dozen or more physicians and surgeons, equal numbers of nurses, and innumerable laboratory tests required for an organ transplant or open-heart surgery. Minimal increases in training of personnel contrast sharply with the mushrooming demand for health care swelled by increasing medical sophistication of the lay public and overpopulation. The consequences of overpopulation on the provision of health care are beyond comprehension. The geographical barrier of maldistribution of health resources results in an excess of health care in certain areas balanced by a lack of care among great masses of the world’s population. And even in our own society educational and psycho-sociological hindrances to adequate care are manifold.

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As research turns increasingly from mechanisms and treatment to causes of disease, we must focus on preventive medicine. It seems hypocritical to suggest to “underdeveloped” nations that they improve sanitation by moving their privies farther from their wells, when in America our industrial and urban offal is piped directly into our water and air. On the personal level, cigarette smoking, overeating, underexercise, alcoholic consumption, and driving habits are factors having a major bearing on our health.

Many moral problems will arise from the role of medical science in the generation, termination, and modification of life. This last involves the increasing use of psychotropic (mind-changing) drugs, which in ten years will probably be almost universal in our society, at least on an intermittent basis. These are largely tranquilizers or mood-elevating drugs. How much to be preferred is Christ’s offer of “peace, such as the world cannot give.”

Christian Education

Vicky Smith Hess, 27, received the B.A. and M.A. from Wheaton College. She has served as director of Christian education at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Washington, D. C., has taught at Washington Bible College, and served as dean of women there.

Education in the seventies will be an issue more of practice than of theory. Educators have long cried for individualized learning that starts where a pupil is and not where he should be. The challenge comes to understand people as well as subject matter and to equip these people for full and productive lives in a modern world. However, as this world becomes more complex, the achievement of a relevant education becomes more difficult.

The granting of a degree even now signifies obsolescence because of rapid mushrooming of knowledge. Education must become a continuing, lifelong process. College enrollments and adult-education programs will see astounding growth in the seventies. The further application of technology to learning promises increased efficiency.

Struggles are inevitable. Creative teachers attempting to meet needs in a non-traditional setting face the harsh reality of pupils whose homes have offered little training in discipline or structured learning. They see children receiving more and more freedom, not all of which they are able to handle responsibly. As protest spreads, schools will be pressed to offer constructive reform and to avoid convenient concessions. For example, the crisis in inner-city education demands answers in the next decade. The largest problems will be lack of money and of courageous, trained leaders to administer changes and to use funds wisely.

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While public education faces a theory-practice gap, the Church finds itself in a similar predicament. Can it relate the vitality of the Gospel to an Apollo 12 world? The Church is pressed for viable answers. These answers won’t come from a new audio-visual method. They won’t come from those who are satisfied to perpetuate tradition or from those who are bound by stunned reaction to current trends. The Church in the seventies must agree to move in new and varied ways and to trust the veracity of the Gospel to win and change men.

Social Ethics

Paul B. Henry, 27, is completing doctoral work in political science at Duke University. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia and Ethiopia and is a member of Watts Street Baptist Church, Durham, North Carolina. He is the son of Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, editor-at-large ofCHRISTIANITY TODAY.

To say that there is a generation gap between the post-thirty establishment evangelicals and their pre-thirty offspring is not only to state the obvious but to border on understatement. The entire apologetic mentality of establishment evangelicalism is out of tune with the problems being faced by the under-thirty generation. While the establishment debates concepts of organic evolution with scholastic precision, we face the challenges of social revolution. While the establishment continues to split hairs as to how we are to be separate from the world, we wonder how we can become meaningfully involved. These current issues are as apologetically meaningful to the contemporary mind as were the older issues in generations past.

Twentieth-century evangelicalism has failed in the task of giving social and political expression to its commitment to Ghrist. Its own mentors have attested to “the uneasy conscience of modern fundamentalism.” Evangelicalism needs an awakened conscience that will no longer take lightly its de facto alliance with privileged interests and conservative socio-political forces. It must repent from its tendencies toward cold-blooded rationalism in the face of human need, and remember the compassion of Christ, who literally wept for the city of Jerusalem.

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The under-thirty generation rejects the sectarian tendencies and the overly personalistic ethics of establishment evangelicalism. This highly individualistic temper within the evangelical community has made it functionally incapable of relating to the broadly based and interdependent social structures of contemporary society.

At the same time, the under-thirty generation does not totally repudiate all it has learned from its tradition. It realizes that the ultimate questions are not political, but spiritual. It realizes that man’s utopian quests are always frustrated by his nature as sinner. It realizes that it, too, shall be judged by its children, just as we are now casting judgment on our elders. Above all, it realizes that all mankind shall someday be judged by God himself, and that only then will the questions of history and the social order be resolved.

Military Life

Peter M. Smith, 22, is a 1969 graduate of the United States Naval Academy now on active duty with the Navy as an ensign. He is the product of a Presbyterian manse, the son ofCHRISTIANITY TODAY’SDirector of Development.

Traditionally the armed forces has not been an organization known for its religious leadership. Much of this can be attributed to the frequent lack of family life experienced by the career personnel. The family is the seat of religious conviction and practice, but the career serviceman can expect to spend nearly half his adult life away from this stronghold of Christianity. This forces the Christian to have a much more personal relationship with Christ in the midst of many who seem content without Him.

There is great pressure on the officers and enlisted men who live their job twenty-four hours daily. One wrong decision or even a slight hesitation may cost many lives and millions of dollars in equipment. To many, adding Christ to a myriad of minute details of which one must be readily knowledgeable is almost unthinkable.

The “squareness” of Christianity also seems to be magnified in the armed forces. The byword is conformity, and many find it difficult to decline to patronize local nightclubs, which offer such a change of pace from the rigorous daily routine.

There are no simple solutions to these problems, but credit must be given to the chaplains, who are daily showered with problems that seem unresolvable. It is mainly through these pillars of strength that the message of Christianity is initiated and nurtured. With the opportunity, many men renew their dedication and lead a changed life after this exposure to Christian leadership. This is shown by the tremendous impact made on the troops in Viet Nam by Dr. Billy Graham.

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It seems to me the best vehicle for spreading the Gospel of Christianity is on the personal level where others learn through observation of, and discussion with, an active disciple.

The Arts

Kathleen Norell, 25, is an instructor of English at Prince George’s Community College, Largo, Maryland. She holds an M.A. from Loyola University and is a member of the Evangelical Free Church.

The arts, always a year or ten ahead of Madison Avenue and the institutions of our society, are already voicing the themes and concerns of the seventies.

The “Age of Aquarius,” that epoch of peace and community heralded by pop culture, is struggling to be actualized in the poetry, music, painting and life-style of artists who seek to transcend the conflicts and anxieties of the sixties through drugs.

The forces of a dehumanized, technological environment are being confronted and often reshaped in the experiences of “total” theater, junk sculpture, and “habitat” architecture.

The individual artist of the early sixties, speaking of his personal alienation through a private symbolism, now begins to search for the common voice. Racial and ethnic backgrounds form the basis of a shared vision for many; common social class or geographic region provide the same for many others. In the visual arts and literature, especially, the quest for identity begins to give way to assertion.

Sex-and-violence, almost a cliché in our culture, has moved far beyond mere tawdry exploitation, pervading the arts with an obsessive quest into the nature of man. Although movies and best-seller lists draw public attention, the walls of little galleries and the offerings of contemporary theaters reveal more profoundly a serious and intense search for freedom from guilt.

The arts in the seventies will present problems as old as man himself—but in the language and media of a space age that touches no finite boundaries and of a nuclear age whose boundaries are too well defined. The contradictions of man’s seemingly unlimited ability to conquer his environment through technology and research and his apparent inability to cope with uncontrolled population, poverty, war, and pollution will find vivid expression in the arts.

And these are the problems which the Christian artist and layman must confront. Will the Church, faced with the art of Afro-American solidarity or hippie commune, recognize the inherent value of all human attempts at community—and yet bear witness to the truth that wholeness centers in Christ? Will Christians take seriously the sometimes creative, sometimes destructive response of the junk sculptor to a mechanized environment, realizing that man needs to find God’s presence in this world? Will we condemn the serious explorations of human sexuality, even in its perversions, as malicious exploitation? Or will we, out of our own deep understanding of guilt and shame, respond with an art and interpretation that points to release?

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The arts burn into our consciousness the realities of these changing times. The coming decade provides us another opportunity to express through them the Reality that does not change.

The Urban Problem

Ozzie L. Edwards, 33, is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle. He holds the Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin.

Apart from some very radical change in the nature of man and in the nature of his modes of social and political organization, we can expect that the decade which has just begun will be marked by a persistence of patterns of urbanization and polarization of social groups, both of which have significant implications for the Christian Church. While urbanization is not a new trend, its rate has been greatly accelerated in recent years. In the half century between 1850 and 1900, the world population increased from 1,171,000,000 to 1,608,000,000. During this period the proportion of a population in cities of 100,000 or more increased from 2.3 per cent to 5.5 per cent. In the first half of the twentieth century, world population increased to 2,400,000,000 and the proportion in large cities increased to 13.1 per cent.

Social psychologists have observed that these large dense settlements produce persons possessed with a sense of isolation and powerlessness, persons whose life-style is marked by a rational, reserved, sophisticated approach. They are not readily converted to new positions. Lest a positive value be placed on this psychological predisposition, we hasten to note that the rates of suicide and mental illness are considerably higher in urban places. Moreover, a greater incidence of various forms of social deviance is found in the urban setting. Murder is one and one half times greater, burglary three times greater, and robbery twelve times greater in urban places. With an increase in urbanization of the population, we can expect an intensification of these problems.

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While urbanization has involved a decrease in physical distance, it has been correlated with an increase in social distance. As we enter the seventies we find ourselves in a society characterized by cleavages of social groups. We find intense conflict between rich and poor, old and young, non-white and white. The urban setting proved to be the primary site for the joining of battles. Although some would classify these as “social issues,” more careful and honest evaluation reveals the basic underlying moral issues involved. Morality, right, and truth are the stuff of Christianity. We must not abdicate our responsibility to meet these challenges in the decade of the seventies.

Mass Media

Richard N. Ostling, 29, is religion reporter for “Time” magazine. He holds bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He is former news editor ofCHRISTIANITY TODAY.

As an American Indian demonstrator was reading a statement of protest at the U.S. Congress on Evangelism, a key official put his hand in front of a TV man’s camera. A few months earlier a lay leader in a big Northeast evangelical church argued with me that Time and most major media are infiltrated by the Communist party. So I suppose many evangelical “Amens” were muttered at Spiro Agnew’s attacks on TV news and the press.

Like Agnew, evangelicals often blend ignorance and distrust with the idea that comments shouldn’t oppose their own interests. This approach stifles the spirit of the Reformation, and now that evangelicals are a minority group they have a vital stake in free discussion. How many have read the great Puritan Milton in Areopagitica: “If it comes to prohibiting, there is not aught more likely to be prohibited than truth itself.” Those are words for the seventies.

While he was putting some important problems (well discussed by journalists) into a partisan context, Agnew was ignoring the greater problem. Our minds and culture have been trivialized by the TV cult of the sixties. Christianity and many other matters of weight have not been profitable enough to get into the limited prime time. If the 1970s bring cable TV, religion suddenly will have a crack at eighty-two channels in each home. Quantity of outlets is no cure-all, however. Evangelicals already have quantity in radio, but much of it is aimed at fellow evangelicals. Relatively few non-Christians listen in except in drunken derision. The print media in religion are also over-extended. Why not pool 300 Protestant publications into a dozen or so of real quality and variety? Maybe even those non-Christians will take interest.

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Evangelicals, often trapped in the culture of Middle America, have special communications problems. They must strive for content first. They must learn to listen to outsiders so they can respond to them. Some favor puffery to candor. Others don’t care about public opinion at all. These foibles are getting dangerous, because communication of Christianity as a live option in the seventies depends greatly on evangelicals. The spiritual sap of tradition is not running in ecumenical Protestantism. Catholicism is preoccupied with inner turmoil. Eastern Orthodoxy is parochial.

One more facet of the seventies: Christianity has always depended on rational, verbal forms to communicate the Logos; now all the non-print media are becoming machine guns of image and emotion. In such an atmosphere, Christians will be in danger of divorcing heart from mind—always a strong temptation for evangelicals.

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