When news came of the death of J. Howard Pew on November 27, some words from Second Samuel seemed an appropriate response: “A prince and a great man has fallen” (3:38). Mr. Pew died in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, in his ninetieth year. He left a great mark for good on the world.

The New York Times recently called this Presbyterian layman “a fundamentalist who takes the Bible literally.” J. Howard Pew did take the Bible literally, and he knew it well. His knowledge of the Bible led him to the firm conviction that “all of our so-called freedoms stem from Christian freedom. Without Christian freedom no freedom is possible.” In a Reader’s Digest article he said, “The Christian Church is surely the most amazing of all the institutions of human society”; he regarded the Church as “the only hope of the world.” But he wanted it to be the Church by preaching the Gospel, and he was convinced that it had defaulted its role in recent years. “We’ve allowed a lot of humanists to get control,” he regretfully observed.

Mr. Pew was a big man physically as well as spiritually, with a rugged constitution, a deep voice, and a keen sense of humor. He played excellent golf and until a year ago was still able to break ninety. He had a fondness for cigars and a thorough antipathy to alcohol. He was a man of strong convictions and great integrity; his word was his bond. His mind was keen, and his interests ranged wide.

From 1912 to 1947 Mr. Pew was president of the Sun Oil Company. Thereafter he was chairman of the board. Founded by his father, Sun Oil is now the forty-eighth largest company in the United States. It was the source of the Pew family wealth, so much of which has been placed in foundations for the benefit of mankind and—especially in the case of J. Howard Pew—for the advancement of Christian causes.

His father was president of the board of trustees of Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and J. Howard succeeded him. His lifelong interest in Christian education was primarily channeled through this institution. A United Presbyterian, he was president of his denomination’s Presbyterian Foundation for many years. He was critical of what he viewed as his church’s failure to engage vigorously in biblical evangelism and was convinced that it had moved in the wrong direction by channeling its energies into the task of changing social structures. By making these opinions known he incurred the hostility of many. He opposed the union of the northern and southern Presbyterian churches. He was a staunch opponent also of the Presbyterian Confession of 1967, and a stalwart supporter of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which he called “the greatest document of its kind ever written.” He firmly believed that men will not be reconciled to men until they are reconciled to God. He was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, an organization designed to champion the historic biblical viewpoint within the United Presbyterian Church.

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Mr. Pew sought to bring into being a Presbyterian seminary that would stand firmly for theological orthodoxy and would promote the view that the Church has been entrusted with a spiritual mission and should not meddle in non-ecclesiastical affairs. Failing in this, he became interested in the revival of the Conwell School of Theology in Philadelphia, which later became a part of the now strong and expanding Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. As a member of the board he threw his financial support behind the school and behind Harold John Ockenga, its president, who was his long-time friend and confidante. Dr. Ockenga called him “a truly great Christian patriot and a wise evangelical churchman who courageously and consistently acted on biblical principles with unequaled personal and material commitment to Christian causes.”

Mr. Pew was a member of the board of directors of CHRISTIANITY TODAY from its inception. It is fair to say that, humanly speaking, the magazine would never have survived or even have gotten off the ground without his generous support and enthusiastic backing. Critics of both him and CHRISTIANITY TODAY have said the magazine was a “tool of the oil interests.” The charges might have had some validity were the point of contact a man of lesser principle than Mr. Pew. He took his place like any other board member and did not attempt to dictate policy. The magazine’s statement of purpose originated with then editor Carl F. H. Henry with the endorsement of the board and was restated last year by editor Harold Lindsell with board concurrence. Mr. Pew carefully divorced his business from his specific Christian interests. At no time did he ever attempt to use the magazine to further his business pursuits. Those of us who had the privilege of spending time with him quickly realized that he had a consuming passion for the things of God and said little about the Sun Oil Company or business.

He nonetheless held up work as therapeutic and not to be avoided. Allyn R. Bell, Jr., president of the Glenmede Trust Company and a close associate of Mr. Pew for the last fifteen years, recalls that he “prescribed productive work as the tonic for man’s physical and mental strength. Up to the time of his final illness he could be found in his office every day deeply involved in business, church, and broad community affairs.” Mr. Bell has also saluted Mr. Pew as “a great American,” “a believer in the Christian principles upon which our country was founded,” and “a staunch supporter of the free enterprise system which provided its economic growth.”

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Mr. Pew became a warm friend and faithful supporter of Billy Graham and his ministry. Because he believed in evangelism and held tenaciously to the conviction that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, he was right at home with Mr. Graham and sought his counsel. The evangelist has characterized Mr. Pew as “one of the greatest, most courageous, and best informed Christians I ever knew.”

J. Howard Pew had some uncommon ideas. Despite his wealth he lived relatively simply. He would never permit any building for which he gave money to be named for him or his family. When he sent gifts, he always specified that the source not be disclosed. He sought anonymity, and not men’s praise. Probably few men in America have given as much help over the years to evangelical causes as this man and his family. His two sisters, both in their eighties, are steeped in the same tradition of support of Christian work.

The One who sent J. Howard Pew has called this faithful servant home. We do not sorrow at his going as those who have no hope. For we know we will meet him again—in the resurrection morning.

1971: Religion On The Rebound

The most remarkable phenomenon of 1971 has been the “return” of Jesus.

This “return” is not to be confused with the still anticipated Second Advent, but it is nonetheless an event in its own right worth noting by historians. Just when the Church’s avant-garde had agreed that Christianity was becoming extinct, the God-man has reappeared in ways that are making an impact around the world. The Divine Lord again commands attention.

The Jesus movement is the most visible and welcome aspect of the return, but there are many other signs of revival. They were well summarized in the June 21 issue of Time (a condensed version of the article appears in this month’s Reader’s Digest). Now Jesus has been made a nominee for Time’s celebrated “man of the year.”

“Christianity is generating fresh life and a new thrust that may make it as it never had been before, an approximation of what the Founder intended,” writes Dan L. Thrapp, religion editor of the Los Angeles Times. “There are signs of a new birth of life, a real universality and effectiveness undreamed of except by the pure visionary.”

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Worth Recycling?

Not long ago a disappointed reader of CHRISTIANITY TODAY clipped and returned a paragraph that offended him and canceled his subscription. “Your magazine isn’t even worth recycling,” he charged.

The truth is that content notwithstanding we are worth recycling, especially in view of dwindling forest reserves. Indeed, CHRISTIANITY TODAY has been one up on the slick competition in that respect. The paper on which this magazine is printed is much easier to recycle than glossy stock.

Conservation of God-given natural resources becomes an ever more critical Christian responsibility. In the case of paper, this means increasing reliance upon recycled fibers. Ecology Today reports that several companies are selling recycled-fiber Christmas cards this year and suggests that an even better way to extend sincere greetings is to send personal messages on excess paper that might be lying around the house.

Song For A Christmas Journey

’Tis the season to be singing, “Deck the car with kids and presents,” but somehow the fa-la-las seem to trail off into bah, humbugs. For their peripatetic urge at Christmas, tired travelers might cite the precedent set by Mary and Joseph. Cheerlessly clogged highways and airways bear resemblance to Bethlehem’s inn.

Especially in Mulberry, Florida. There the police chief’s Christmas greeting to motorists—“Pull over, mister”—must summon up feelings akin to those inspired by the innkeeper’s “Sorry, no room.” And, of course, Mulberry would not have its “Christmas Law” requiring out-of-state motorists to stop at City Hall for a gift if the Magi had not followed the star to worship the Christ child with a presentation of treasures.

Government As Guardian

Congress seemed to be on its way last month toward final approval of a private bill extending for seventy-five years the copyright on Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. While we grant that problems are created when such religious works come into the public domain, we regret that Christian Science has been considered worthy of special protection. This legislation suggests favoritism for one religion that is in violation of the U. S. Supreme Court’s consistent interpretations of the First Amendment.

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Catholics And Credibility

In a new book, Worldly Goods, James Gollin estimates that the Roman Catholic Church is worth $34.2 billion in the United States, and twice that worldwide. No other religious institution even approaches this much financial clout, and few institutions of any kind belong to that league. But for all its wealth and potential for influence, the Vatican seems to be losing power. The so-called faithful are becoming more and more rebellious. And the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome made it seem that dogma is ever more detached from reality.

Still, there are occasional signs that winds of openness and candor still stir in the Roman church. We commend the U. S. Catholic bishops, for example, for finally (after twice voting against doing so) opening most of their business meetings to newsmen and observers, beginning next spring. The Catholic hierarchy will gain from this exposure, as will the faithful and the questioning multitudes on the sidelines.

On the other hand, we regret that the American prelates still refuse to issue public financial statements disclosing full details of their stewardship of the corporate assets and annual gift income of this giant organization. Diocesan financial reports would preserve credibility and integrity, especially in the light of the nationwide campaign the bishops are waging to secure federal and state tax support for Catholic schools.

A Word To Suffering Saints

Every Christian sooner or later finds himself engulfed in difficult circumstances. Then the question is likely to come: “Why did God let this happen to me?” Christian mothers do give birth to mentally retarded babies; Christian teen-age children do die in car accidents; marriages are not always happy; husbands or wives do die, or suffer physical calamity or business failures; some children of Christian parents do go far astray. All this occurs even though Christians pray to be delivered from such things.

Surely the Apostle Paul was a great prayer warrior. Surely he asked God to keep from him things that would hinder his efforts to preach the Gospel. Yet God permitted him to suffer hardship far beyond that which most of us are called upon to undergo. Paul bears testimony to his sufferings of “far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.” Five times he received the thirty-nine lashes administered in the synagogues to convicted Jewish offenders. He was shipwrecked three times, and many times he was hungry, thirsty, sleepless, and cold. He also suffered the pressures and anxieties that come to a church planter for the people he has won to Christ and for those whose conduct or doctrine has brought disrepute to the Christian faith. Beyond all this he was given “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass” him. He prayed earnestly for deliverance only to have God say no to him. For some this would have been the last straw, but not for Paul. God’s explanation brought understanding and comfort to him and through him to us.

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Paul learned that God does not always deliver his people from disease and failure and other kinds of suffering. But he does promise to grant them grace and overcoming power to endure these things. The song of many a saint has been sweeter because of the suffering he has undergone. Stamina is developed not on flowery beds of ease but on thorny paths.

The victory for the Christian does not come merely from experiencing tribulation or distress, persecution, famine, or sword. Rather it comes when the glory of Christ shines through us as we react to these things—when to a world that also suffers and that lacks the knowledge of God and the salvation in Jesus Christ we show that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

An Appreciation

During the nearly twenty years that I had the privilege of a close friendship with J. Howard Pew, I was constantly aware that he had traits of character only too rarely found today.

Mr. Pew was far more concerned about spiritual matters than material ones. He had an unswerving faith in the authority and integrity of the Word of God and was deeply distressed by the downgrading in the minds of many of the inspiration of Scripture.

This concern began some twenty years ago when he was given a copy of a church-sponsored book that openly questioned and even denied many things to be found in the Bible. Shocked at discovering unbelief in God’s Word in some church circles, he began a campaign to refute error and theological liberalism in his own denomination and throughout Protestantism. In this campaign he spent, in various ways, millions of dollars.

Mr. Pew was convinced that this lowering of faith in God’s Word was the basic cause for a shift in emphasis in the Church from its primarily spiritual mission to secular concerns, and that the effect on the influence of the Church was disastrous.

We conversed for many, many hours on numerous occasions over the years, and always Mr. Pew was primarily concerned with spiritual things and with the purity of the Church and its message. Despite his distress over its growing secularization, he remained loyal to the Church—determined to bear his witness within the organization and confident that in time God’s truth would surely prevail.

He was truly “faithful unto death,” and for his memory I thank God.—L. NELSON BELL, executive editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY and author of the column “A Layman and His Faith.”

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