The Claim For Equal Names

It is a well known but little considered fact that the Roman Catholic Church, thanks to the simple historical accident of being older, has taken over almost all of the good names for churches, church colleges, and other religious institutions. It has most of the attributes of God and major doctrines and almost all of the canonical saints. This sometimes leads to droll results, especially on the sports pages, as when we read, St. Paul Slays Our Lady 46–6.

Some old-line Protestants have managed to name a few things after the Great Reformers (Calvin Dumps Holy Cross, 22–0), but this is rare. The Lutherans have contrived to secure a few common doctrines (Church of the Resurrection), but have generally failed to nail down those that are characteristic of Protestantism (Church of Plenary Inspiration). So much Lutheran effort was expended in the effort to capture some doctrines and a few saints’ names that the Missouri Synod threw in the towel and calls all its colleges and seminaries Concordia (not to be confused with Principia, which is Christian Scientist).

Episcopalians, hearkening back to the squatter’s rights enjoyed by their Anglican cousins in Britain, do go on using saints’ names. But the Reformed tradition (Congregationalists, Presbyterians, “Dutch Reformed,” et al.) and most Baptists, Methodists, and independents have just given up and settled for place and denominational names and numbers (First Congregational Church, Presbyterian Hospital, Countryside Bible Chapel). When they dare to claim individuals’ names, it is only those of recent heroes undisputedly theirs (Moody Bible Institute, Spurgeon’s College), or even—to make certain, perhaps, that no one will try to take the names from them—those of still living luminaries.

Obviously the working principle is that Roman Catholics may claim all common saints and doctrines, with the Episcopalians and some Lutherans allowed to share a few of them, while most evangelicals are absolutely forbidden access to them. What fundamentalist could get away with establishing a St. Athanasius Bible Church?

As is usual in cases of long-standing discriminatory practices, it will be argued that Protestants are happy with the names they have, that they don’t want any of the others, that they would feel uncomfortable going to Irenaeus Theological School or Atonement Hospital, and the like. Indeed, Protestants have been deprived in this way for so long that many of them no longer even recognize it as deprivation.

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What is clearly called for is legislation, with mandatory enforcement and equal-opportunity safeguards (perhaps on the level of a U. N. resolution, since the problem is worldwide), enjoining Catholics from continuing to use more than their quota of saints and doctrines. Protestants who lag behind in taking over the vacated names could be encouraged by suitable federally funded programs. If no such safeguards are enacted, evangelicals may someday lose even the rights they now have—and this magazine could become First Evangelical Fortnightly of Washington, D. C.


Key Of Excellence

Congratulations on the especially worthwhile issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY for January 4. It would seem as if everything in it is keyed up to excellence and interest.


Professor of Theology

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

South Hamilton, Mass.

Unity’S Highlights

Klaas Runia’s article, “A ‘New’ Christology Challenges the Church,” in the January 4 issue was an excellent review and reminder of the absolute importance of a biblical doctrine of Christ. His conclusion that the advocates of the new Christology begin with a faulty view of Scripture is certainly valid. The article highlighted the need for unity on the doctrines of the written and living Word of God in Christian endeavors such as evangelism and missions, be those endeavors churchwide or on an individual basis. There is one point that could have been clarified by Runia. The uninformed reader may assume that the H. Berkof to whom he refers is the same as L. Berkof, the systematic theologian.


Assistant Professor of

Systematic Theology

Dallas Theological Seminary

Dallas, Tex.

I would … like to point out a painful but obvious inconsistency in Runia’s work. After describing the current trend in Christology and correctly identifying its basis, he then indicates the ramifications thereof by stating that “we can be saved only by God himself.” Quite so! If Christ is less than God, then he cannot save or even be an instrument of salvation. Rather he himself must be no more than an object of salvation, not essentially different than you and I. Yet with all this behind him, Runia writes, “I do not deny that the advocates of the new Christology also see Jesus as their Saviour and Redeemer.” Using his own reasoning, it follows that those who do not accept the scriptural teaching on the deity of Christ have abandoned the very basis of his saving and redeeming work.


Associate Professor of Bible

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Western Baptist Bible College

Salem, Ore.

I am surprised Runia didn’t make reference to C. S. Lewis’s sermon “Transposition,” in The Weight of Glory, for it helps greatly in the debate. Lewis’s main point is that there is a principle operating in life in many ways. The principle always involves the reduction, the simplification of something complex down to something simpler. A painting is thus the reduction of a three-dimension scene to a two-dimension scene. Translation sometimes involves the cramming of twenty-six vowel sounds into five. When you take complex music for an orchestra and reduce it to a single melody for a flute, you are transposing. We have a complex array of emotions, says Lewis, and they have to be channeled in groups through our less numerous physical reactions so that one “feeling” has to do double duty for being in love and experiencing fear. In the Christological debate this applies to the necessary simplification of God so man can understand him. God, therefore, is the orchestra. Christ is the flute. Christ is, therefore, God within reach of our understanding and experience. We understand man perhaps the best of anything in this whole creation because we are men—so God transposes himself down into a man so we can get the picture.


Polson, Mont.

Fitting Theory

In reading “The Refiner’s Fire” in your January 4 issue, on Dali’s “Christ of St. John,” I was much taken by the analysis.… Between the foot of the cross and the horizon of Port Lligat is suspended a nuclear mushroom cloud. This, I think, fits her theory well, and explains “the mysterious, dim beam of light that seems to fall from the cross.” I appreciated the article. It is about time that someone competently demolished Dali’s blasphemous stuff.


Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Janet Johnson’s critique on Salvador Dali’s art reflects a classic example of extensive research and shallow thinking. It doesn’t take much interpersonal communication and observation of church decorum to realize that most Protestants automatically reject art relating to the crucifixion of Christ by way of association with “catholic” or “worshiping a dead Christ.” This would be reasonable if it related to the adoration of the host or unbelief in the resurrected Christ. However, it does not validate a rejection en toto. After all, is not every picture of Christ merely an artist’s conception? To answer the author, does any picture of Christ really speak the Truth?… I find it disturbing that many evangelical Christians cannot appreciate a person’s artistic talent because of their interpretation of a presumed philosophy. Certainly an individual’s concept of Christ, to some degree, will reflect his own experiences, personality, and perhaps even his occupation (mathematician, architect, scientist, etc.).

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Philadelphia, Pa.

Blatant Breach

I read David Haddon’s article on Transcendental Meditation (“New Plant Thrives in a Spiritual Desert,” Dec. 21) with alarm, and promptly forwarded a copy to my congressman, Omar Burleson of the Seventeenth District of Texas. He forwarded my letter to HEW, and they verified that $21,540 had been spent on TM to alleviate drug abuse. Deputy Director Besteman said: “The retrospective accounts obtained from the meditator sample indicated that the use of drugs declined sharply during the period of practicing transcendental meditation.” The Maharishi Yogi “donated his services to this training effort.…” My protest to the congressman that this was a serious breach of the separation of church and state was to no avail. He perfunctorily mailed their reply to me. I think we should flood Congress with mail on this subject. The legal niceties used by the Supreme Court to prevent tax rebates for private education are in vivid contrast to this blatant attempt to introduce an Eastern religion into the public schools. My congressman’s letter justified this program on the basis that “the grant … was done on an experimental basis in the hope that it might alleviate the national drug problem.” I would venture to say that Christianity has done more than TM to alleviate drug abuse. How about an NIH grant to the “Jesus People” to fight drug abuse?

Washington, D. C.



In the January 4 news story “Rome-ward Bound?” the phrase “papal infallibility” was incorrectly referred to as the main reason for the split between Rome and England. The term should have been “papal authority.”

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