Three Views Of The Congregation
Is the Day of the Denomination Dead?, by Elmer L. Towns (Nelson, 1973, 160 pp., $5.95), Will All the King’s Men …, edited by Robert Carvill (Wedge [229 College Street, Toronto 2B, Ontario, Canada], 1972, 255 pp., $3.95 pb), and The Base Church, by Charles M. Olsen (Forum House, 1973, 167 pp., $4.95), are reviewed by Dale A. Sanders, pastor, Barnam-Moose Lake United Methodist Church, Moose Lake, Minnesota.
The future and nature of the Church is the subject of wide interest in these uncertain days, and all three of these volumes address themselves to this interest. But if these books were comrades, they would quickly fall out.
Elmer Towns, fundamentalist, would initiate the falling out as a test of tribal loyalty. The pedagogical doyen of American fundamentalism has written the most readable of the three, but also the most vexing. What Towns presents is a vigorous style of American Christianity that purports to be New Testament Christianity of the earliest strain adapted to modern times. The word is adapted, not adjusted. The adaptation is not in principles or practices but pragmatic. Three B’s here: Bible principles, Baptist practices, and the bus.
This is a breezy survey of the nation’s largest, fast growing, mostly severely independent Baptist churches. This is not a review of dying mainline denominations. Nor is it, as the ads misleadingly put it, a call to a “long-needed awakening” in the moribund bodies. Towns is a propagandist rather than an analyst.
He is also the amanuensis of negativism, one of the enduring fruits of fundamentalism. That negativism rests on frustrated individualism and the erosion of Americanism. Dallas Billington, late pastor of the huge Akron Baptist Temple, is described ...1
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