You could’ve fried eggs on the pavement—which made it a typical July day in south Georgia. We had made a special side trip on our vacation to see the Okefenokee swamp that straddles the Georgia-Florida line.
Having walked over the grounds of the park and peered at the totally motionless, sleeping alligators, we were now seated in the open pavilion waiting for the scheduled 2:30 talk by the naturalist-in-residence.
In all honesty I expected the “naturalist” to be a young college student type with a memorized message about the swamp’s animals.
To our delight the young man who appeared turned out to be a very knowledgeable student naturalist with a mind of his own.
He opened his talk by explaining, “Well, you all came here to see the alligators. Now you’ve seen ’em. What did they do for you? Nothing.
“People come here from all over the country. They rush into the park and say, ‘Show us the alligators!’
“At least the alligators are smarter than people. Some of you drove hundreds of miles to see them but they won’t even open their eyes to see you.
“Well, you’ve seen ’em—the ugliest, laziest creature God ever created. If you watch long enough (about ten minutes I estimate) you may see one of ’em take a breath.
“You came to see alligators but I came to talk about snakes. So if you want to leave now you can. It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me, although you ought to know about snakes because snakes, unlike people, do mostly good.”
His role as serpent’s advocate suited his personality. “I try to be as obnoxious as possible,” he admitted. “I was a Jew for one whole day last week—we had a group here from Germany.”
Our host continued to demythologize snakes. He pointed out that while people claim to have actually seen milk snakes suckling at a cow’s udder any such cow would have to be “udderly insensitive.”
“The snake’s bite isn’t nearly so bad as the fright people get from it. Most people who die from snake bite,” he assured us, “die from fear.”
He went on to dispel at least a dozen other snake myths.
I got to thinking later that the snake indeed has suffered a bad press. Beginning with Moses, the writers of Scripture seem to suffer from herpetophobia.
It was a serpent who deceived Eve, we are continually reminded. David describes the wicked as having venom like the serpent. Isaiah pictures the day of judgment as one in which the Lord will punish the fleeing serpent with a strong sword. John sees God’s triumph partly in terms of his imprisoning “that ancient serpent, who is the Devil.”
Our naturalist-host added as an afterthought, “Oh yes, some people’s religion teaches them to be afraid of snakes. If your religion teaches that, then be afraid of snakes!” He didn’t need to add, “you idiots”; it was in his tone of voice.
It’s doubtful that your garden variety snake descended from the subtle beast of Genesis, which just goes to show that symbols are what you make them … I think.
A WARMING BLEND
I have just finished reading rather thoroughly … your August 6 issue. I simply want to say that … I must write and thank you for CHRISTIANITY TODAY. I take a number of religious periodicals and journals, some extremely conservative and others extremely liberal. I personally favor neither extreme. However, I find that your own magazine, which is certainly conservative, is not extreme, nor is it anti-intellectual but rather blends a dignified, intellectual approach with a warm evangelical spirit.
I especially appreciated Carl F. H. Henry’s “A Question of Identity” (Footnotes). However, I found the other articles and editorials both excellent and stimulating. Thank you very much.
The Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church
Carl F. H. Henry is right—and right on! There is an “emerging evangelical vanguard” of radical Christians who (1) profess unswerving allegiance to the historic faith and (2) believe the New Left’s social and political analysis best shows how sin has infected our society. Thank you for his accurate and sympathetic article. (May I remind your readers that Arthur Gish’s The New Left and Christian Radicalism and Dale Brown’s The Revolutionary Christian also give an exceedingly helpful introduction to the Movement?)
Let me add however that I find no evidence in this movement that some naïvely believe “that the program of the political left is identifiable with the content of God’s New Covenant” or that they “have been taken in by a Marxist antithesis of personal and property values.” Henry should know that a specific “program” is precisely what the New Left lacks—and what Christian radicals can supply in the hope of the coming Kingdom. As for the Marxist question, no one I know has been “taken in” let alone to the point of depreciating personal property. These were misleading statements.
For us the “question of identity” is actually settled: with the “great cloud of witnesses” of Hebrews 12, we confess we are “strangers and exiles on the earth” who are looking for a “better country, a heavenly one,” while “fixing our eyes on Jesus.”
We genuinely appreciate the visibility you have given us. Now if you will just continue to hear and print us, perhaps you will be instrumental in bringing us together into a true Movement that will both serve the Lord and serve the people.
OR VICE VERSA
“Right Answers, Wrong Questions,” by Maurice Blanchard (Aug. 6), says that the Greeks asked, What is man’s relation to God? Why this is a wrong question, even though asked by Greeks before the time of Christ, is not clear. The answer, however, seems to be wrong.
According to the article the Greeks answered that “Man is finite, God is infinite; man is temporal, God is eternal; man is weak, God is almighty.” Later on, after the Gospel came to Greece, there was difficulty in adapting Jewish answers to Greek questions.
The answer quoted is wrong, [although] not in an absolute sense: it is a good question and a relatively good answer. But it is wrong in the sense that the Greeks never made this answer. Did the homeric Greeks say that God was infinite and almighty? Did the presocratics? Heraclitus and Anaxagoras may have come close to saying that God is almighty, but neither of them made God infinite. Plato subordinated his Demiurge to the World of Ideas—which itself was neither infinite nor almighty. Aristotle’s God was ignorant of much or even all that goes on here below. Surely not the Epicureans. What about the Stoics? Who were the Greeks that gave the answer the author assigns to them?
Professor of Philosophy
THE PULSE OF APPRECIATION
I want to write a general word of appreciation for your magazine which I have been reading for about as long as it has been published. It fills an important place in the circles of evangelical witness. I depend on it to help keep me posted on throbbing currents of thought.
Second Baptist Church
THE CHURCH AND THE FLAG
I am responding to the editorial entitled “United Presbyterians and Angela Davis” (July 16).… I am a seminarian attending Princeton who is taking a summer of field education in Newburgh. When I arrived here, the Angela Davis controversy was gathering momentum. A New York state senator had denounced the UP church on the floor of the legislature for taking such action. Needless to say, this was most inappropriate. However, what he did serves to illustrate what I am about to say, namely the draping of Jesus Christ in the American flag.
Your editorial is another expressions of this mind set. To the Church of Jesus Christ what is the significance of Angela Davis’s ideology? The editorial argued that she would oppress the very system and church that had given her support in her time of need. Is this a determiner of action on the part of the Church? Another way of putting it is, is the love of God limited to those most like those in the Church? It is interesting to note that Christ did not turn off those opposed to him. As a matter of fact, he loved them with the love of God which earnestly seeks the welfare of the other person. There are no qualifications to God’s love. One need not be white, middle class, conservative, and American or non-communistic. One need be only a person. Let’s not forget “that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Remember, Christ was crucified by the very people he came to save and heal. Note that this did not stop him.… Ultimately, I believe the issue is not racially or politically oriented. Rather, the question has become whether or not Angela Davis is a worthy object of God’s love or not. What other agency does the Lord have for expressions of his love for people but the Church? What greater act of love than for Miss Davis to be given funds from the Church? Not to back her politics and religion but to help her defend herself in a system that has been unjust to blacks in general. What does this say to the world? It says that the God of the Christians—some Christians anyway—is a God of love who, while not condoning sin, loves people no matter what their political leanings. It has shown just what Christ’s love is all about.
In your July 16, 1971, issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY we noticed the editorial “Why Smile?” along with a little smiling face. We want to let you know that we think it’s important to spread smiles in this world of problems and difficulties.
Our youth group has undertaken the project of selling bumper stickers and buttons. Our bumper stickers and buttons have been distributed not only in the United States, but all over the world. Constantly we have people write for additional bumper stickers to give friends. Blessings to you. I enjoy your publication very much.
Redeemer Lutheran Church
THE RANGE OF COLOR
James Daane should be commended for his perceptive comments regarding the exercise in spiritual narcissism which the synod of the Christian Reformed Church performs from year to year (News, “Christian Reformed Synod: ‘Mirror, Mirror …’ ” July 16). For me, especially, it has been a sad experience to realize that on this point the synodical deliberations are a rather accurate reflection of what is true of the CRC in general.
Six years ago I left the CRC with very mixed feelings: not so much for doctrinal or personal reasons, but because of the negligence and refusal of CR ministers in the Chicago area to witness against a growing tide of racism there. As I see it, the synod of the CRC has again spoken with beautiful, yet cheap words, but has refused to follow up with meaningful acts in the case of the black children who are kept out of Timothy “Christian School.”
There have been moments when I have longed to return to the church in which I grew up, but as long as the CRC almost exclusively caters to the third and fourth generation of those who are of Dutch descent, and my Christian brothers are kept out of even one of its institutions because of the color of their skin, I cannot be part of it in good conscience.
I am colored too. During this season of the year my skin ranges from pink to red, and I am red-faced all year around, when I consider the way in which even Christians are willing to hurt one another.
HOW NOT TO SUCCEED
Your annual contest and awards for unpublished books (July 16) is nothing short of brilliant. I hope you will write a book giving fullest details of the contest and containing sample sentences, paragraphs, and perhaps even whole tasteless chapters as examples of how to succeed never getting into print. You could see that it would never get into print, but just have the typewritten manuscript mailed to all would-be unwriters, much like a chain letter. You might well walk off with the first year’s first prize, and the whole venture could have you retiring in style to busy yourself with editing a newfounded “Reader’s InDigest.”
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