The quarter-century since World War II has witnessed some dramatic changes in theological education in America. A number of institutions with a strongly evangelical doctrinal basis—including some founded since the war—are flourishing. At the same time, several major universities, both private and state-related, have expanded their divinity schools and/or religion departments. In some major centers, theological schools have pooled their resources into a kind of academic conglomerate. The non-denominational, evangelical seminaries on the one hand and the university-related schools on the other have been training progressively larger percentages of those studying theological subjects. But at the same time, the total number of candidates for the ministry has been falling.

The losers in all this have been the denominational seminaries, from which, traditionally, the majority of pastors in the main branches of Protestantism have come. Some seminaries, unable or unwilling to identify themselves as clearly evangelical and lacking the academic prestige of association with a famous university, have been forced to consolidate or close entirely. Many denominations are contemplating further mergers and closings, spreading an aura of defeatism and gloom among faculty members and students.

The increasing popularity of schools known for their clearly evangelical stand can be partly explained by the influence of dynamic undergraduate Christian organizations such as Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and Campus Crusade. When a student hears the call to fulltime Christian service, these groups encourage him to enroll where he is sure teachers believe the Bible, rather than where members of his denomination may have traditionally gone. The dilettantism, syncretism, and universalism rampant in many non-evangelical schools make them very unattractive to students who have deliberately turned away from the spirit of the age to listen to the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, despite the problems they face, theologically inclusive denominational seminaries continue to train the majority of the upcoming pastors for their denominations, and will probably go on doing so for many years to come, unless graduates of non-denominational schools return in increasing numbers to their denominations. Obviously leaders in several denominations are being forced to come to terms with the declining condition of many of their seminaries. As for the student drain to the independent evangelical schools, a spirit of fairness would demand that denominations accept the qualifications of such students after graduation, just as they frequently do for students graduating from non-denominational university schools.

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At present, most denominational schools can be called broadly liberal and ecumenical. As plans are being considered for merging seminaries that are no longer viable separately, it would be good if a fairer representation of evangelical sentiment could be secured for those schools that will remain in operation. Today there is a tremendous outcry for more participation in the educational process for blacks, women, and other neglected groups. In the field of denominational education, evangelicals constitute a large but underprivileged and oppressed minority. A 1965 CHRISTIANITY TODAY survey indicated that from 35 to 50 per cent of the total constituency of the National Council of Churches is evangelical in theology, but evangelicals have little representation in seminaries related to NCC member denominations. Is it any wonder that many students forsake their own denominational seminaries to attend the independent, evangelical schools?

During the past two years, the Church of England has been involved in consolidating theological education, and has shut down some well-known old theological colleges. As this has taken place, the bishops have tried to ensure that not one of the three major tendencies or parties within the Church of England should be left without a suitable seminary for its students. Some theological colleges have been closed from each faction—high church, evangelical, “liberal”—but pains have been taken to see that no Church of England group need fear being “orphaned” with respect to seminary-trained clergy.

From one perspective, it might seem like compromise to plead for “equal time” for the evangelical faith, for evangelicals consider that faith not one among many Christian options but the only consistent expression of biblical religion. From another perspective, however, both common sense and fairness require denominations that have deliberately avoided splitting along evangelical-liberal lines to do no less than the Church of England: to avoid orphaning any of their ministerial students who take their denominational loyalties seriously.

Orderly Arm-Twisting

If the pressure keeps up, the Soviet Union will soon be obliged to face up to the demands of religious groups for a freer hand. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s recent indictment of Russian Orthodox prelates for knuckling under to the state causes more embarrassment to the government than to the churchmen. A “Statement of Conscience” adopted last month by the National Interreligious Consultation on Soviet Jewry will not be lost on the ears of the Kremlin, either. President Nixon is to be presented with the statement before his visit to the Soviet Union in May.

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These kinds of protest deserve encouragement and emulation. They represent a rational approach that will help stave off violent confrontation and other illegal action.

‘Has The Catholic Church Gone Mad?’

John Eppstein, like many converts to Roman Catholicism a stalwart defender of the traditions, asked this question last year as the title of a book published by Arlington House and answered it in the affirmative. If he lacked anything to make his case, John S. Dunne, theology professor at the University of Notre Dame, has done much to supply it with The Way of All the Earth: Experiments in Truth and Religion (Macmillan, 1972). Noting that centuries have elapsed since a new great religion shook the earth (Islam in the seventh century A.D.), Dunne seems to think it is time for a new religious synthesis. His instrument to create it is something he calls “passing over,” which begins plausibly enough: he suggests that a sympathetic understanding of the great Eastern religions enables one to return to his own tradition with new insight.

Dunne seldom speaks in the indicative mood, leaving the reader to wonder whether he actually means to advocate what he introduces with “Could it be …” and “Let us suppose.…” Nevertheless, he does say that whereas a Christian should begin and end his “passing over” with Christianity, a Jew should do so with Judaism, a Muslim with Islam, a Buddhist with Buddhism (p. ix). Conversion appears to be precluded by this statement in his preface, and Dunne subsequently makes it perfectly clear why.

The Bible, in his eyes, is a story much like the Bhagavad-Gita. Gandhi (who rejected Christianity and opposed Christian missions) is Dunne’s ideal, “experimenting with truth” his procedure. Although he writes some thoughtful words about “enforcing the meaning” of the Gita and the Sermon on the Mount—living so as to demonstrate their truth—his “experimenting” seems basically to consist of retelling the stories of the “higher religions,” especially Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, to make them all say substantially the same thing. The infinite-personal God of Israel blends with the Nirvana of Buddhism:

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The Bodhisattva is one whose essence is enlightenment; the Avatar, when he reveals himself as Krishna did to Arjuna, is a revelation of all things gathered into one; and the Logos, doing humanly what God is doing, is a revelation of God to men” [p. 94].
This is the way things appear when you are passing over, “You are what man is,” and, “You are what God is.” Besides passing over, nevertheless, there is an equal and opposite process which we have called “coming back”.… In passing over, the two figures, man and God, merge into one; in coming back they resolve again into two.… In passing over one is led to turn the truth of one’s own life into poetry [p. 220].

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the new name for the old Holy Office of the Inquisition) is now examining Professor Hans Küng’s apparently un-Catholic views on papal infallibility. We wonder what good it will do to stabilize Catholic teaching about the authority of the pope if theology professor Dunne’s book is tolerated as in any real sense Christian. We can accept Dunne’s syncretistic “passing over” with or without his “coming back” as Christian only if we define Christian so loosely that (to use Eric Mascall’s example) no one, not even Mao Tse-tung, can say with any assurance that he is not one.

Dollars For Democracy

The United States is one of the very few countries in the world that regularly have genuinely competitive political elections. What most of us take for granted is in fact a rare and fragile condition. One of the enabling factors is the citizen’s freedom to contribute money to the candidate of his choice; and one of the factors that have limited the range of choice, and that could conceivably cause the demise of true competition, is the unwillingness of most citizens to do this. The result is that candidates of both parties must turn for help to men of far-above-average income or to organized special-interest groups. If there is a bias in the making and enforcing of laws of this country in favor of such persons and groups, then much of the blame goes not to the lawmakers and enforcers but rather to the masses who by keeping their dollars to themselves force politicians into unwritten, informal, but real dependence upon the men and organizations that readily invest thousands.

Some argue that Christians should have as little as possible to do with government. But the Apostle Paul did not hesitate to claim the privileges of his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:25; 25:10); we can assume he would not be so inconsistent as to claim the privileges without fulfilling the responsibilities. One of the responsibilities entrusted to us in the form of government God has placed us under is to make possible competitive elections. This we do in part with our dollars. If Christians with average and below-average incomes joined with millions of other American citizens to contribute modestly to campaigns, we could be sure that candidates would arise at every level of government—some of whom would win—who would not be beholden to special interests.

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We urge that readers, without cutting back on their contributions to specifically Christian agencies, make political contributions as well. The government has recently encouraged this by allowing tax deductions, or, alternatively, tax credits, for modest contributions.

Postal Oppression

A number of religious magazines will cease publication in the next ten years if the U. S. Postal Service has its way. A 351 per cent increase in mailing costs is being proposed for non-profit publications with second-class mailing permits. A 1 ½ cent surcharge for each magazine mailed is to be put on top of these increases, and the whole package has been endorsed by the chief hearing examiner of the Postal Rate Commission. We feel that the raise in rates is entirely too steep and that proposals merit the urgent attention of those in government now responsible for stabilizing wages and prices.

A Salute To Trees

In this hundredth anniversary year of the first Arbor Day, it is encouraging to learn that people are more interested in planting trees than ever before. Thanks to growing public interest in conservation and ecology, this observance—begun in Nebraska on April 10, 1872—has taken a new lease on life. The National Arbor Day Foundation is promoting it with a catchy slogan, “Try to say trees—without smiling.”

Arbor Day owes its origin to the tireless campaigning of Julius Sterling Morton, a nature-loving newspaperman who became U. S. secretary of agriculture. Some states observe Arbor Day on his birthday, April 22.

Another newspaperman who helped fix an appreciation for trees in the minds of many was Joyce Kilmer. His “Trees,” though too sentimental for some poetic taste, is nonetheless memorable and serves to give credit where it is due. As Kilmer put it,

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

The Evangelization Of The World

Billy Graham has announced the convening of an International Congress on World Evangelization in Europe in 1974 (see News, page 38). This promises to be a unique gathering in the history of the Church. It will build upon two of the great missionary conclaves of the twentieth century, the Edinburgh missionary conference of 1910 and the World Congress on Evangelism held in Berlin in 1966.

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The main thrust of Edinburgh was missionary. Its genius lay in its emphasis that sending churches and agenices should cross geographical, linguistic, and cultural barriers with the Gospel. Berlin built a firm theological foundation for evangelism in the post-Christian era and stimulated Christian witness in every culture by those within the culture.

In 1974 an effort will be made to unite evangelical missionary and evangelistic forces in a concerted endeavor to reach every person in the world either by evangelism within each culture or by missionary outreach that will cross cultural lines. In many cases it will be necessary to supplement indigenous evangelism with the work of missionaries sent from other cultures.

We think Mr. Graham’s call for a congress, which has the backing of key evangelical leaders around the world, is a hopeful sign and could lead to the greatest evangelistic outreach since the days of the apostles. But this can happen only if the people of God take the prayer burden of this congress to their hearts now. We hope every reader of CHRISTIANITY TODAY will keep it on his prayer list in the months ahead.

The Ingredients Of Joy

If we can take their word for it, religious people are “notably happier” than non-religious ones. That is one finding in a survey taken recently by the public relations firm of Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborn.

Far be it from us to question such a conclusion. But it seems that few people, even few Christians, manage to avoid completely the tension and anxiety that are common to our age and debilitating to our spirits. Indeed, we tend to question those who claim to be free from the effects of pressure, wondering if they have achieved their “peace” through some neglect of responsibility. Given today’s ideological and moral climate, we wonder how we can possibly do what Paul prescribes, “Rejoice [i.e., be glad] in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).

Part of the answer lies in a better understanding of what the New Testament means by the term joy. The Old Testament talks of joy in salvation. The New Testament adds a dimension, bringing out the idea that there can and should be joy in testing, which always includes suffering (James 1:2). Surely joy has much more to it than mere happiness, pleasure, or delight, all terms we associate with it. Possibly a better way to get the idea across in English is to use the words quiet confidence, for this enhances the truth that trust is an essential element of true joy.

It may help if we also grant that we in the twentieth century may be no worse off than those in the first. They had problems hard for us to comprehend. They also had a childlike, authentic trust we find very difficult to fathom. And in that may lie the reason for their potency and our impotency.

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