For the generation before World War I, “Protestantism” almost came to be synonymous with “progress.” Although the majority of pastors and parishioners may well have been basically conservative on theology, an optimistic, progress-oriented liberal theology dominated the theological faculties and came to prevail in many of the most fashionable pulpits.

World War I with the carnage and the worldwide upheavals it brought changed all that. There was a reaction against the unrealistic platitudes of liberal theology and a revived interest in the Bible as the Word of God. People talked about doctrine again and worked to recover the adulterated Reformation heritage. Among the scholars and teachers who became prominent in the years following World War I, there was a cast of intellectual giants such as has seldom been seen at one time on the stage of church history.

The most eminent name is that of Karl Barth, but there are others of similar stature such as Emil Brunner, Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich, and Reinhold Niebuhr, as well as less prominent but also significant figures: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, cut off by a Nazi execution, H. Richard Niebuhr, Karl Heim, and Anders Nygren, to name but a few. With the exception of the “demythologizer” Bultmann, who will soon be ninety, all of them have passed from the scene. Their direct influence has waned, though their works will continue to be studied for decades. The renewal of “biblical” theology that neo-orthodoxy seemed to augur in the inter-war years has not come from the great faculties where those men taught. Barth and Brunner gave us elaborate dogmatic systems, while Tillich spun a pantheistic dream out of his own new terminology. Bultmann’s program, which has remained influential longer than the others’ work, has led those who adopted it to a withering skepticism about the historical foundation of the Gospel and has reduced the miracle of new life in Christ to a purely anthropological level—a new way of looking at existence.

The giants of the 1930s–1950s are now gone. And who will take their place? From Germany, the home of so much theological ferment and productivity in the past, we hear that serious theological work has been largely abandoned there. In the Anglo-Saxon world, some liberal theologians have settled for cleverness rather than wisdom, while the more perceptive among them, such as John B. Cobb, Jr., warn that liberalism is at a crossroads and in danger of losing all its momentum as well as its sense of direction.

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The evangelical enterprise, by contrast, is flourishing. Evangelism is big. Conservative theological seminaries are growing. Evangelical publishing is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise shaky field. There is vitality among biblical Christians, in spite of—or perhaps in part because of—the great variety of denominational, doctrinal, and cultural emphases found among them. But what will all this vitality produce?

There was a man, only slightly older than Bultmann, whom God saw fit to call home in 1936, five years before Bultmann launched his now famous project of demythologization. J. Gresham Machen was one of the few evangelical scholars whom Bultmann felt obliged to take seriously and who could challenge him on his own ground. Machen is not without spiritual and theological successors: the names of Cornelius Van Til and Francis A. Schaeffer spring to mind. Yet almost every time that the theological conflict is joined, when evangelicals look for intellectual support it is to a previous generation—to Machen, or Benjamin B. Warfield, or even further back, to the Princeton professors of the last century.

A generation of giants has quit the field—some liberal, some neo-orthodox, some, like Tillich, defying classification. Who will succeed them? The liberals are disillusioned and tired; the evangelicals, vigorous and confident but busy. Yet if among all those evangelicals now teaching or studying theology, only one in our generation could have the vision, accomplish the work, and achieve the stature of a Machen or a Warfield, it would be a tremendous gain for the whole people of God for decades to come.

Evangelicals are producing men of the front lines—evangelists, missionaries, and pastors—who in their own field rival the great liberal and neo-orthodox luminaries of the past generation. But the theological stage is still vacant. It is time to work, to study, and to pray that God will give us teachers with the faith of the apostles, fathers, and Reformers, and with the energy and ability to produce new works to take their place alongside the great classics of our heritage.

Open Questions, Dangerous Notions

Among those suffering from the energy crunch, scapegoating is back in fashion. Right now the oil companies are getting it. But the Israelis and the Arabs will not be far behind. Either or both of them will no doubt become the objects of major and perhaps long-term criticism for the oil shortage. And the Western nations will show little willingness to admit to any culpability on their part.

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It would be foolish to suppose that an enduring settlement has been reached in the Arab-Israeli struggle. Both the Arabs and the Israelis will continue to get plenty of sophisticated military equipment from the Soviets, France, the United States, and other nations. Whether a balance of power can be achieved is unclear. Among other unanswered questions are: Will—or should—Israel give up the territories it took in the 1967 war? Will the United States guarantee, by force of arms if necessary, the safety of the State of Israel, and if so, under what conditions of territorial adjustment? How long will the Arabs play their nasty game of oil blackmail?

To believe that the Soviets take détente seriously one must be woollyheaded or naïve. Détente Soviet-style is a ploy to gain military superiority—a momentary pause in the struggle to defeat “imperialism” and bring in Communism.

Among other dangerous ideas that we should not fall prey to are these: (1) that a long period of peace lies before us; (2) that it is better to lose freedom than to go to war to preserve it; and (3) that we can trust government—or other institutions run by sinful man—to deliver us from the evils that are so glaringly apparent in our world.

We Love Liberty

Defenders of religious liberty owe Wisconsin an expression of outrage. State officials upheld a fine levied against Friedrich W. Rau of Kenosha for failing to attend Sunday-morning union meetings. Their action denied the right to put church obligations above union obligations. It seems quite clearly to contradict a 1963 Supreme Court decision that a Seventh-day Adventist was entitled to unemployment compensation even though she turned down job offers, because the prospective employment required Saturday work. What would civil authorities do if a church fined absentees who argued that their presence was demanded at union meetings?

Smugglers Are Deceivers

A kind of hero image has settled upon some individual Christians and organizations for their smuggling exploits. These Christians hold themselves up to public praise for having cleverly outwitted border guards in order to get Bibles and other Christian literature into Communist lands. Some seem to show little regard for the ethical principles involved. They get financial support from Christians who readily rationalize the law-breaking: here is an anti-Christian state bent on wiping out the free world; why obey their laws? What they are really saying is that the end justifies the means.

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A few of the Bible smugglers obviously have a twinge of guilt, however, and they are now saying that smuggling Bibles into Communist countries is legitimate because the countries do not have laws against such importation. It is gratifying to learn of this implicit appreciation for the biblical injunction to render unto Caesar the things that are his. Unfortunately, in the case of the Soviet Union, this argument does not apply. Every tourist coming into the country is required to sign a form saying he is aware that Soviet law requires him to declare, among a number of other things, “printed matter,” and that all objects not declared are subject to confiscation as contraband (see illustration). Therefore the Bible smuggler is already breaking the law by not presenting everything for inspection, and he cannot truthfully claim ignorance of the law.

Unquestionably, there is a dire need for the Word of God among people who live under Communism. But we should limit ourselves to legitimate means for meeting this need. Let’s not play into the hands of Communists and stoop to their underhanded tactics. By doing so we lend credence to their charge that Christians are hypocrites.

Christians should try to apply political pressure to force Communist governments to let the people have Bibles. And they should encourage tourists to take in declared Bibles. This is permitted; few are ever prohibited from taking in one or two Bibles, and some are allowed half a dozen. If every American tourist took in just one, that alone would mean thousands. There are, moreover, some organizations that are getting substantial numbers of Bibles into Communist countries legally. It is efforts like these that should be encouraged.

More On ‘The Exorcist’

In our highly relativistic, secularistic society, it is surprising that a realistic film portrayal of the power of evil spirits is the great box-office attraction that The Exorcist is proving to be. It is as though people have a hunger for something that portrays the reality of the spiritual, even of the evil elements of the spirit world. The film does presuppose, and correctly so, that evil spirits are real and that they must yield to the power of Jesus Christ. At the same time, it apparently promotes or caters to a fascination with evil that may involve its viewers in the evil rather than in Christ’s victory over it.

In some localities, no one under eighteen can view the film—yet the lead role is played by a fifteen-year-old girl, who will make a small fortune for it. Is she being exploited, or worse still, does the whole enterprise of making money from The Exorcist involve a kind of Mephistophelean contract with the devil?

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While we do not call for a total boycott of the film, we feel that it is potentially degrading and harmful to viewers, and that a person who does not have a compelling reason to see it—for example, for critical or review purposes—should stay away.

Pious Platitudes About Genocide

In the shock and horror that followed the revelation of Nazi extermination policies in World War II, the fledgling United Nations Organization passed a convention on genocide, 55–0. President Truman sent it to the United States Senate for ratification in 1949, but the Senate has never been willing to vote on it. Most recently, supporters of the bill failed to muster the two-thirds majority necessary to throttle further debate—which has now degenerated into an anti-convention filibuster—and bring the matter to a vote. Outraged were the treaty’s supporters, including representatives of the American Jewish Conference, the American Baptist Convention, and the National Catholic Conference. Satisfaction was voiced by the non-partisan American Bar Association as well as by several right-wing groups vehemently opposed to the treaty.

It is not exactly clear what good an anti-genocide treaty would do. Do we really expect the U. S. S. R. to allow the U. N. to supervise its treatment of Jews, Christians, and other minorities? Or China to render an account of its actions in Tibet? Or even Uganda to face charges on its treatment of its East Indians? It would, however, provide a convenient tool for such powers’ intervention into the internal affairs of Western nations, where a relative scarcity of “genocidal” practices coincides with a comparatively greater willingness to answer to challenges and assaults by international tribunals. Furthermore, the treaty is so loosely worded that it could be interpreted as forbidding missionary work—“proselytization”—for after all, the attempt to win members of a particular non-Christian religious group to Christ potentially poses the threat of the disappearance of that group, and anything that tends in that direction, even the arts of persuasion, is forbidden by the treaty.

The anti-genocide treaty would have little or no influence on powerful forces inclined to genocidal behavior. And the potential nuisance factor, at least to those other nations, such as the United States, that make some pretense of trying to abide by international conventions, is very great indeed.

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Two Crimes

The arrest of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst were presumably unrelated events. Both persons were seized in their apartments and led away without any immediate explanation, and the resemblance between the two cases ends there. Yet they are worth discussing together if only because each relates to some basic reasons for the tensions that the world is experiencing today.

Solzhenitsyn, arrested by Soviet authorities in Moscow on February 12, had refused to heed a summons to report for questioning, and technically he can be faulted at that point. What is clear to virtually everyone, however, is that his real “crime” was his exposure of the illegalities and inhumanities of the Soviet system. Publication of The Gulag Archipelago apparently was the last straw. Kremlin leaders whisked him away and expelled him from his native land.

Miss Hearst was seized not by the police or the FBI but by a group of political radicals who claim to have the best interests of the masses at heart. Her “crime” is that she is the daughter of a prominent figure in the “ruling class.” Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of food was demanded as evidence of “good faith” in negotiating for her release. What a misuse of words. What kind of moral response can one expect from a small group that takes upon itself the right to threaten the life of one person so that the lives of others may be bettered?

There are many people in North America who deserve help, but extortion is a despicable as well as an unlawful technique for providing help. It is perhaps too much to expect that individuals steadfastly refuse to ransom kidnapped loved ones for the sake of the principle that to yield to extortion is to invite further extortion. But it could be made illegal for governments, government agencies, and businesses to pay ransom. This would deprive kidnappers of the possibility of holding not only individuals but larger groups or a whole nation to ransom.

Perhaps the Solzhenitsyn and Hearst “crimes” are more similar than is at first apparent. The Soviet government could not stand the fact that through his writing Solzhenitsyn has wielded so much power that he has attracted a large, sympathetic, and potentially dangerous audience in opposition to the Kremlin’s ruling class. Perhaps members of the Symbionese Liberation Army have been envious of the Hearst access to the masses. The point that they apparently fail to perceive is that they have the freedom in the United States to seek such access.

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Under Marxism, whatever its form and wherever it has come into power, freedom of speech and action are taken away. No one is permitted to speak for or promote alternative systems, economic or political. Wherever Marxism is a minority in democratic countries, its adherents demand freedom because that is democracy’s principle. But when Marxists assume control they promptly deny freedom because that is not their principle.

Solzhenitsyn knew what was coming. The day before his arrest he met with Western newsmen and reportedly emphasized a point:

“O freedom-loving leftist thinkers of the West. O leftist laborites. O progressive American, German, and French students. For you all of this counts for little. For you my book amounts to nothing. You will understand it all when they bellow at you, ‘You are under arrest,’ and you yourselves trudge off to our [prison] archipelago.”

Advertising Kudos

Advertising can enrich or degrade us, depending on the moral intent and aesthetic sense of the creators. Christians should be taking the lead in producing ads that do their job while maintaining high moral and aesthetic standards. To encourage this, CHRISTIANITY TODAY has inaugurated an annual awards competition, which begins with the advertisements in this issue (see page 5).

Professionals in the field are deciding which advertisers will win the awards, but we are also interested in finding out what non-professionals think. We invite you to help us compare readers’ opinions to the judges’ opinions by filling in and mailing the coupon at the right.

Yes, Cain, You Are Your Brother’S Keeper

Among the most memorable words of Jesus are those in which he admonishes the hyprocrite first to “cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote of thy brother’s eye.”

The practical effect of this instruction, unfortunately, is often slight. Sometimes we fail to cast out the beam, and so we never get around to the mote, either. Other times we do manage to do away with the beam, but we think the passage minimizes the mote, so we again pass up the second step. But Jesus was not saying that we should forget the mote in our brother’s eye: he was simply declaring that the personal beam should be dealt with first.

Paul makes it quite clear that we should be concerned about the faults of others, and admonish as a way of being helpful. And modern secular man, without any conscious reference to the Scriptures, is realizing that there is something about human psychology that makes mutual chiding a good thing, if it is done properly. We need each other as a check on ourselves. Accountability to peers is a big factor in, for example, the success of Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous. Many churches have “sharing” times in which people cite blessings, but how many Christians ask fellow believers for help in overcoming failures?

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Many of us recoil from having to be accountable to others. Pride and fear undoubtedly figure in. We need to realize that it is in our own best interests to be reviewed by others. They can not only help to identify problems we may not even recognize, but also help to propose solutions.

In a recent issue of the Christian Leadership Letter, an excellent service put out by World Vision, there is a discussion of the principle of accountability as it relates to individual Christians, churches, and religious organizations. The letter contends, “Holding others accountable and being held accountable is at the root of the life that is Christian.” That’s not only good theology but plain common sense. It is nothing short of tragic that today’s believers are so insensitive to this truth.

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