Persons Of The World, Arise!

For about the fiftieth time in recent weeks, a bit of correspondence crossed the Eutychean window-sill signed by a “chairperson”—in this case, a male. Inasmuch as (1) “chairwoman” is common in both early and recent literature and (2) the masculine-sounding ending-man can be used to designate a person of either sex, “chairperson” seems a deliberate provocation.

Of course, radical thinkers will be quick to note the possible connotations of these changes in our language. According to Orwell’s prophecy in 1984, the government of the future would attempt to alter language so that it could no longer express the traditional values and thus alert people to what the government was doing to them. In fact, America’s own beloved Department of Labor has issued a number of directives intended to banish from spoken and written Middle Bureauc-ratese, if not from English altogether, all words related to labor matters that could be interpreted as referring to only one sex and not the other.

In most cases the -man ending in English isn’t sexually specific, any more than are the masculine endings -or and -er in words like doctor and teacher. But -man (and -woman) is somehow a little more human than -person. Person comes from the Latin persona, as in the old expression dramatis personae, and originally meant nothing more than actor. It is a legal, an abstract term, as shown by the fact that not only friendly small-town corporations but also giant international ones such as ITT are considered persons by the law.

The abstract, legalistic, fundamentally inhuman associations of person are further revealed by the fact that it has been successfully attached to “chair-” to describe a sort of abstract, legal, or governmental functioner, but so far not to professions where the human element is primary and essential: we still have firemen (and women) for example. When the policeman or -woman on the corner becomes the policeperson at the “security organ” (cf. The Gulag Archipelago), something rather gruesome will have happened. Maybe it would be wise to demand masculine and feminine endings for Social Security numbers, before it’s too late.


A Matter Of Motive

This is to clear up a misunderstanding which was apparent in Ronald J. Sider’s otherwise favorable review of my book The Evangelical Renaissance (July 5). I would not say that secular work per se is spiritual work, but I would affirm that secular work done in the name of Christ and for the advancement of the kingdom becomes spiritual work, since it then has a spiritual motivation and goal. I think it is necessary to distinguish between the sacred and the secular if we are to avoid a kind of pantheism, but we must never separate the two lest we fall into either an other-worldly mysticism or a this-worldly naturalism. I rejoice in the growing social witness of the evangelical community, and my only hope is that it will always be integrally related to the spiritual message of the coming kingdom of God.

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Professor of Theology

Dubuque Theological Seminary

Dubuque, Iowa

Limited Production

In his “Response” (June 21) to Carl F. H. Henry’s article on the young evangelicals, Jim Wallis writes that his goal was “to clarify some points that could foster division and misunderstanding among evangelicals.” May I say that he missed his mark considerably. His arrogant, “we’ve-got-the-goods” attitude will do little to promote any unity or understanding. If Wallis could only muster the same sort of sweet openness toward the members of Christ’s body with whom he disagrees—such as the dispensationalists, whom he excoriates as ethically crippled heretics—as he advocates toward those who promulgate true heresy, he might then make a unifying contribution. Until that time he can expect to produce little but strife.

As an evangelical who is young, I sense that Wallis and company have something to say I need to hear. But their shell of belligerent self-righteousness and sophomoric iconoclasm is difficult for me to get past. Wallis sounds more like the New Left than the New Testament. I have not yet been able to obtain Quebedeaux’s book, but I hope he writes with a more sensitive and humble spirit of his fellow Christians than does Wallis.


Metea Baptist Church

Lucerne, Ind.

After reading Dr. Henry’s original article, “Revolt on Evangelical Frontiers,” I felt that there needed to be a response from some of the “young evangelicals” themselves. Jim Wallis’s article is precisely what needed to be said. His response brought into focus many of my feelings regarding the role and contribution which we have to make to the Church today. This seems to be particularly significant at the point of our understanding of the claims of the Kingdom of God, in the light of the economic and political system within which we find ourselves. I also would affirm Wallis’s comment that it is possible that the young evangelicals take biblical authority more seriously in their socio-political attitudes than do some of their “establishment” brothers. Too often I have sensed the tendency to respond to society from the standpoint of the status quo, rather than lead society from the foundation of our biblical commitment. In short, Jim Wallis’s article was a concise expression of what some of us are struggling with today.

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Trinity United Methodist Church

DeLand, Fla.

Worship With Watts

The concise, informative articles in the July 5 issue under the title “Young Man, Give Us Something Better” (William L. Coleman, Norman V. Hope) were greatly appreciated. Upon reading them, I began formulating the next Sunday’s service around the hymns of Isaac Watts found in the Lutheran Hymnal. The people really appreciated this worship experience.


Zion Lutheran Church

San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Tools Of The Trade

On reading in “Eutychus and His Kin” (June 7) the reactions to Carl Henry’s review of Richard Quebedeaux’s book, I wonder why your correspondents are uneasy about having “acceptance of higher criticism” imputed to them. Since higher criticism is neither more nor less than the assessment of the structure, date, and authorship of literary works (biblical or non-biblical), it is part of the business of every serious Bible student. I know that in some uninstructed quarters it is viewed with suspicion, if not used as a term of abuse, but a practitioner of this discipline expects to see it treated more accurately in the pages of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.


Rylands Professor of Biblica Criticism and Exegesis

University of Manchester

Manchester, England

David Moberg repeats a commonly held conception when he says, “To my knowledge, the first use of the term ‘new evangelicalism’ was by Harold J. Ockenga in the October–December issue of the Bulletin of Fuller Theological Seminary.” I am not certain who coined the term “new evangelicalism.” I do know that Carl Henry used the term in a series of three articles on “The Vigor of the New Evangelicalism” in the January, March, and April, 1948, issues of Christian Life and Times.


Professor of Theology

Bethel Theological Seminary

St. Paul, Minn.

Covering Celebration

I hasten to compliment CHRISTIANITY TODAY and Cheryl Forbes on the magnificent article she wrote covering the installation of our new presiding bishop, John M. Allin (The Refiner’s Fire, “Te Deum Laudamus,” July 5). I don’t know when I’ve read such a beautiful story. The whole article was splendid, but the first three paragraphs were outstanding!… Just a few weeks ago I sent in my subscription renewal for a five-year period; glad that I did it then, for after reading this article I might have been moved to make it ten! Again, my compliments on a well-produced Christian magazine.

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St. John’s Episcopal Church

Kansas City, Mo.

More Than Observers

It is good to see that CHRISTIANITY TODAY mentioned that which has previously been untongued (to use Michael Novak’s phrase) (“That Roof Over Your Head,” July 5): the return to the city by whites’ and the housing problems for the poor which accompany this move.… I was disappointed, however, that the editorial states, “Christian concern for the poor ought to be manifested in this situation but how? The problem is too new to hazard specific corrective proposals.”

As an elected representative to SEPAC, established by the mayor’s office to watch-dog urban renewal in the South End of Boston, … I wish we Christians could have helpful advice to give one another before it is too late to be of any practical value. Already the shape of future housing in the South End is probably irreversably determined, and many feel the poor are not receiving just consideration, largely due to local economic and political considerations. We must do more than just observe changes in our society. By the time such movements are generally recognized by the population as a whole, it is probably too late to influence the direction the movement will take.



Boston Urban Ministries

Boston, Mass.

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