Christians have a stewardship stake in three major areas: their time, their talents, and their treasure. What they do with these three assets is a good index of their surrender to the Lordship of Christ, Lordship that is to apply to the totality of the Christian’s life. And in a culture that continually urges “Buy! Buy more things, costlier things!,” the Christian’s use of his money makes a particularly clear point about the depth of his Christian commitment.

The figures in the accompanying graph are for 1971. The church membership figures are for full or confirmed members (excluding children) and are from the latest Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. (We did not include Canadian churches because we did not have the per capita income figures for Canada.) Using statistics for 1971 supplied by the U. S. Department of Commerce, we based our survey on a per capita income of $4,164.

A tithe of the annual per capita income would be $416. The table compares the annual contribution figures for some of the leading denominations with the amounts that would have been contributed had all the members tithed. In addition to the statistics for individual denominations we include a composite of forty-two church groups to give a general picture.

What conclusions can be drawn from these figures? First, of denominations with 400,000 or more members, only one came close to obeying the tithing commandment of the Scriptures. This was the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose income was in excess of $169 million, around $10 million less than a full tithe. This is a remarkable performance compared to that of other groups.

Second, if the forty-two churches had given a tithe, the amount would have exceeded $17.5 billion. The actual amount given was $4.4 billion. The difference between what was given and what should have been given by the tithe was $13 billion. (It should be noted that many church members also contribute to a variety of Christian and charitable enterprises as well as to their churches; this is not, of course, reflected in our figures.)

The third conclusion is obvious. Had all church members given a tithe of their income the following things could have happened: (1) Many more clergymen could have been paid decent salaries; (2) the missionary outreach of the churches could have been expanded rather than retrenched and the Great Commission brought much closer to fulfillment; (3) the churches could have offered very substantial help to needy people, especially those of the Third World who suffer greatly from malnutrition or are even starving to death.

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At a time when Americans are the most affluent people in the history of mankind, the practice of tithing would go a long way toward solving some vast problems. It would also counter the trend of depending on government to meet all human needs and would keep Christians and churches in the forefront of the battle against poverty, sickness, and suffering.

The Humble Voice

Christians who speak out on political and economic issues must be continually reminded of the need to speak with humility, to communicate the awareness that they might be wrong. The editors of CHRISTIANITY TODAY often receive such reminders, as did the two who attended the recent Conference on Christianity and Politics (see News, page 53).

The evangelicals who gathered at Grand Rapids hold in common a commitment to the Lordship of Christ over every dimension of life. But they differ in their views on a number of timely issues. There was evidence at the conference of the ever-present danger of laying exclusive claim to the authority of Christ and his Word for views and programs that are in fact shaped at least as much by one’s own economic, ethnic, social, and psychological situation as by biblical exegesis.

This is not to say that Christians should be silent on affairs of state. (Indeed, sometimes silence in the face of wrong conveys indifference or worse.) It is to say that when we speak we should take care to distinguish between the explicit commands of God and the inferences we draw—however compelling they seem—in applying these commands to the issues of our time.

Finding Our Foremothers

The Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. are giving the old slogan Cherchez la femme a positive twist. They are embarking on a three-year search for “hidden heroines” as part of the American bicentennial celebration. The idea is to come up with unknown or little known women and girls who have contributed to the building of our nation, and others who are doing it now.

Like Eliza Tibbetts, who introduced the navel orange to California in the 1870s, and sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington, whose late-night horseback ride roused the militia in the New York area during the American Revolution, and Namahoyke Sockum Curtis, a nurse and pioneering volunteer worker in the nation’s capital at the turn of the century, and the first black woman to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

This is a commendable undertaking, and Girl Scout groups connected with churches would do well to make special efforts to find overlooked women in American religious history. Their success could conceivably make necessary the revision of some standard works of religious history!

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With Mother’s Day now upon us, what better impetus could we ask for?

Strange Bedfellows

To counter the growing activity of religiously motivated “right to life” organizations, a “Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights” was formed earlier this year in Washington, D. C. Located in the United Methodist Church Building, it numbers among its members several boards and divisions of Christian churches, as well as the American Humanist Association, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The coalition’s prime reason for supporting abortion “rights,” as given in its own publicity, is absurd: “In a pluralistic society it is essential that all religions have the right to practice their beliefs freely and that the state remain completely neutral.” Some religions have beliefs that no government can allow them to practice without interference—the burning alive of a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband, for example.

If the RCAR uses deceptive rhetoric to substantiate its position of total support for the present Supreme Court-imposed status quo on abortion (i.e., abortion on demand), it is also rather deceptive in attempting to give the impression that major Protestant bodies endorse its position. A recent RCAR press release announces that the General Executive Board of the Presbyterian Church in the United States has “become a member.” When asked what it meant for their General Executive Board to be a “member” of a “coalition,” Southern Presbyterian officials responded that their membership should be understood as going only so far as their General Assembly resolutions directed. But the relevant General Assembly resolutions, passed when most of the states had moderate to severe limitations on abortion, call for legitimatizing abortion under certain circumstances. The resolutions are not to be understood to mean, CHRISTIANITY TODAY was advised, that the Presbyterian Church in the United States supports abortion on demand (the situation prevailing today), and hence the “membership” of the General Executive Board in the RCAR cannot mean that either.

However, the RCAR, intent on giving the impression of broad Protestant support for its position, which is essentially affirmation of abortion on demand, has no interest in broadcasting the fact that the Presbyterians’ membership means anything less than total support. Therefore, unless Southern Presbyterians wish to be understood—and pressed into service—as advocating abortion on demand, they had better publicize their reservations themselves. Perhaps one way to do so would be for their General Executive Board to join a “right to life” organization as well. If a less than total endorsement of abortion on demand lets them join the RCAR, logic would also suggest that, since they do not totally repudiate the concept of a right to life for the unborn, they should also support a right-to-life lobby. Otherwise the General Executive Board will appear to be parlaying its parent body’s reservations about the legitimacy of totally forbidding abortion into an endorsement, without reservations, of abortion on demand.

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Preaching The Son At Sun Devil

In a sense evangelist Billy Graham often finds himself in the devil’s territory. That’s where the sinners are. But in this the year of The Exorcist his schedule calls for him to hold a crusade in Sun Devil Stadium of the Arizona State University at Tempe, May 5–12 (the stadium’s name comes from the nickname for the university’s athletic teams).

No one needs to be reminded that so far 1974 seems to be the year of the devil. Fascination with Satan and demonic powers has definitely been on the increase, and the film The Exorcist exploits the trend. This is lamentable. To the extent, however, that this trend simply means that the devil is being taken seriously, it is to be welcomed. The devil is real, and needs to be taken into account!

Time magazine reported recently that acknowledgment of the devil’s existence is growing. A survey by the Center for Policy Research in New York was said to have suggested that 48 per cent of American adults are certain that the devil exists—and the sampling was taken long before the debut of The Exorcist. A 1964 poll showed only 37 per cent believing that way. It certainly helps Graham and every other true evangelist if hearers do not first need to be convinced that human beings must cope with Satan.

Graham had what might be called a devil of a time getting the place. A months-long legal battle preceded a unanimous ruling of the Arizona Supreme Court that Graham’s use of the 50,000-seat stadium is constitutional. The court was asked to bar the crusade on grounds that it would violate the principle of church-state separation, even though the crusade sponsors planned to pay $39,995 in rent. We hope the hassle is over so that those connected with the crusade can get to the job of evangelization and let the Sun of Righteousness shine in.

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Watergate: How Widespread?

Perhaps the most tormenting worry put upon us by Watergate is, How wide, how deep, and how pervasive is the immorality now being laid bare? Was it “merely” a brief, irrational binge, or is this the way government, business, labor, and individuals operate all the time? Americans used to look down their noses at other nations whose leadership circles were known for their graft and corruption. Now we must wonder how much this is true in our own land. We have an idea of how much morality or lack of it there is in the circles in which we move, but how about that big “out there”? Who knows how bad things really are on a wide scale? Only God knows.

Clare Boothe Luce recently said, “Watergate is the great liberal illusion that you can have public virtue without private morality.” Truly it is an illusion, but it is not limited to liberals—or even to non-Christians, unfortunately. Countless people of all political persuasions believe in their hearts that what they do personally does not matter so long as the system is ethically intact. Such an outlook may be a direct result of the false notion that religion is and should be a private affair and that ethics must follow suit. Is it surprising that we cannot agree on the proper means of social order and justice?

Seeking The Last Word

The arrogance of certain contemporary religious thinkers is something to behold. Consider, for example, this quotation from the introduction to the Pentateuch that appears in The Jerusalem Bible:

For many centuries all five of the books were attributed to Moses as the sole or principal author. However, modern study of the texts has revealed a variety of styles, a lack of sequence and such repetitions and variations in narrative that it is impossible [italics ours] to ascribe the whole group to a single author.

This is yet another restatement of the documentary hypothesis, which has been widely debated for many years. It began from what was regarded as an open-mindedness toward the Bible, which is part of the broader arena of academic freedom. It has concluded, at least for the editors of The Jerusalem Bible, with not simply rejection of the prior view but outright dismissal of it as an impossibility. They are saying that no one need bother to try to prove Mosaic authorship; it cannot be done.

We have previously sought to defend Mosaic authorship, but we are not bringing the matter up again simply to reiterate our position on this particular point. We here address ourselves to the larger context, namely the paradoxical narrowness of today’s supposedly “liberal” theological thought. True, scholars today often have more information than those of bygone days upon which to base conclusions. But perhaps data previously available have been lost. Should it not also be granted that more data may turn up in the future? And if those contingencies are possible, on what grounds can the term “impossible” be used?

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Much such dialectic unfortunately dots the theological landscape in the time in which we live. The Jerusalem Bible simply reflects a mentality that writes off the infallibility of Scripture only to substitute its own.

Recruiting The Recruited

Is a big new student mission movement in the offing (see Ralph D. Winter’s article, p. 12)? No one can answer that question in the affirmative—yet. But signs point in that direction.

A second question is no less important. If a vast reservoir of missionary recruits became available, under what agencies would they serve to finish the job of evangelizing the world? Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship is a non-denominational, para-ecclesial organization, and some large denominations have regarded it as competitive. But Inter-Varsity brought together at the Urbana missions convention more students than any other group has assembled for a similar purpose.

Although the missionary zeal among students was stirred by a non-church-related organization, every denomination ought to thank God for the Urbana conference. And the denominations ought to use the impulse to fill their dwindling missionary ranks.

The Road To Bankruptcy

The United States’ public debt in 1920 after World War I was $24 billion. By 1930 it had been reduced to $16 billion. A decade later, as a direct result of the great depression and Franklin Roosevelt’s spending policies, the national debt rose to almost $43 billion. By 1950, following World War II, the debt increased to $257 billion, and it continued to rise for twenty-three years to $458 billion. Now it appears that the deficit for the current year will be $20 billion.

The United States has a “pay as you go” policy for taxpayers but a “spend now—pay later” policy for the federal government. Right now the Congress is considering legislation that would provide life-long medical benefits for all citizens. Certainly we need to be concerned about the skyrocketing costs of medical care, and we ought somehow to assist persons who are inadequately served by existing programs. But, in view of our huge deficit, we should do this only after careful scrutiny.

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As with Sweden, for example, there is a limit to how much national debt even a wealthy country can afford, for no nation can provide all of the services its citizens want without going bankrupt. Also, the welfare state saps individual initiative, increases the size and cost of the sustaining bureaucracy, reduces the citizenry to dependence on the largesse of the state, and at last assures some form of totalitarian control that spells the death of democracy. The old cliché is still true: everything costs something. And men and nations go broke and deserve to go broke when they try to consume more than they can produce and pay for.

Pleasing To God And Men

We are often and rightly told that Christians, in the words of the apostle Paul, are to “speak, not to please men, but to please God” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). But those who use this verse to justify harshness and brusqueness in “telling it like it is” forget what Paul goes on to say about how he did deal with these Thessalonians.

Contrary to a “letting the chips fall where they may” attitude, Paul says “we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children” (v. 7; notice also that Paul was not hung up on his masculinity—he was able to use figuratively an attribute that is literally feminine). In addition, Paul was not like the self-proclaimed “soul” winner who has no concern for others as whole persons: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (v. 8).

Neither was Paul the kind of person to say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Instead, Paul was able to write, “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our behavior to you believers” (v. 10). God can and does use us to minister his word in spite of inconsistent living, but this is not his preference, and the Christian spokesman, even though his aim is to please God rather than man, must nevertheless do what he can to have the kind of reputation of which Paul was able to speak.

Only after speaking of his being a nurse, a friend, and an example does Paul mention again the kind of speaking that we tend to associate with pleasing God, even if it displeases man: “Like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God” (vv. 11 and 12). Observe that even here Paul cannot refer to his responsibility of exhortation without also mentioning the ministry of encouragement.

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We are to conduct ourselves with the aim of pleasing God, and this may result in displeasing men. Paul himself had “suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi” and had to minister in Thessalonica “in the face of great opposition” (v. 2). Because Paul’s aim was to please God, he did not let such rejection by men discourage him. But those who did accept the message God had entrusted to Paul also found in his behavior that which was very pleasing indeed. Gentleness, fatherliness, exemplary behavior, genuine friendship—such should characterize the servant of God.

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