Before the close of the International Congress on World Evangelization last July, the participants agreed that there was a need for an ongoing committee to carry out what was started there at Lausanne. The resultant Continuation Committee met for the first time last month in Mexico City. Its members had been chosen from lists voted on by regional meetings at Lausanne and therefore were representative and selected democratically.
The Lausanne Covenant affirmed that the mission of the Church comprises more than evangelism. There are, moreover, some responsibilities of Christians that are not direct responsibilities of the Church. At Mexico City the mandate of Lausanne was neither ignored nor circumvented. The statement issued by the Continuation Committee said:
“The furtherance of the church’s mission” means the encouragement of all God’s people to go out into the world as Christ was sent into the world, to give themselves for others in a spirit of sacrificial service, and that in this mission evangelism is primary. More than that within our primary task of evangelism, our two particular concerns and burdens must be the 2,700 million unreached peoples and the other millions of people in nominally Christian areas who have not yet heard or responded to the true gospel.
At Mexico City the Continuation Committee said that its primary business is that of evangelization. In this it followed in the tradition of many other para-ecclesial organizations that choose to emphasize some important segment of the Church’s mission and thus become specialists rather than generalists. The Student Volunteer Movement was a specialized ministry. So were the Faith and Order and the Life and Work movements. The London Missionary Society was founded in 1795 “to spread the knowledge of Christ among the heathen.…” The principle is a common one. In medicine there are brain surgeons, chest surgeons, pediatricians, obstetricians, and so on. In seminaries where there are Old Testament and New Testament experts, church historians, systematic and biblical theologians, and the like. The Lausanne Continuation Committee followed the principle of specialization in making world evangelization its primary business.
A second important decision was to create no large, bureaucratic structure that could be construed as competitive to existing structures. Furthermore, the members decided that the committee should not attempt to do other tasks within the mission of the Church that are being done by existing agencies. A large number of relief agencies, many operated by evangelicals, are at work in the world today. The committee intends to encourage and support the relief efforts of other agencies rather than attempt to set up another.
Many people wondered whether Lausanne would produce a counterpart to the World Council of Churches, or to the World Evangelical Fellowship, or to the various evangelical alliances that exist around the globe. It did not, and the Continuation Committee left the matter of structure for further consideration at the next meeting of the committee a year hence. In the meantime it can consider the opinions of Christians from around the world on this matter.
The Continuation Committee (and surely the name itself is a sign of the modesty of purpose) did express the desire to keep its work decentralized, and it adopted a program of regionalism. Each geographic group is free to do what is called for by its own culture, needs, and evangelistic aspirations. Each is free to develop structures or to adopt no structures at all. Each is free to cooperate with existing organizations in line with the purpose to reaching the whole world with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Committee members from North America met as one region. Before the meeting an Evangelization Forum had already been started in North America. The American members of the Continuation Committee plan to meet with this forum to consider cooperative action and to enlist the churches in programs of evangelism designed to reach every North American.
The central concern in all this is the salvation of multiplied millions of people who have never heard the true Gospel. The success or failure of Lausanne will be determined, not by ensuing programs and structures, but by the acid test of whether it enables unreached women and men around the world to hear and respond to the gospel invitation. And this can be accomplished “not by might nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 6:4).
On Balancing The Budget Critics
The President’s budget is under a lot of fire from all directions. We offer a few comments on matters of principle rather than specifics. First, the budget has historically been both an executive and a legislative activity. It is not insubordination for congressmen to disagree with it. With the formation of the new budget committee, Congress is in better shape to coordinate its budgetary activities.
Second, those who criticize should have alternatives to offer. For example, to insist that “we must have a balanced budget” without considering the feasibility and the good and bad side-effects is irresponsible.
Third, those who want to alter the budget need to speak of changes that would affect not only others but also themselves. A tax “loophole” is a benefit that some other person or company receives—one’s own “loopholes,” such as deductions allowed for contributions or for mortgage-interest payments, always seem to be unarguably in the public interest! Similarly, it is easy to talk about reducing payments to the poor and elderly if you are neither, or expenses for the military, or subsidies for regional airlines. But when it comes to subsidies in one’s own interest (such as, to speak of something vitally affecting this magazine, subsidies to the Postal Service so that second-class mailing rates do not go as high as they otherwise would), it is easy to come up with numerous reasons why they should be continued.
The point is, let cost-cutters and revenue-raisers speak primarily about reducing expenses and raising taxes that will affect them directly. The splinter in someone else’s eye is always easier to spot than the log in one’s own. But in budgeting, as in many other activities, the easier way is not the right way.
More Questions Than Answers
Contemporary theology is now in such disarray that one should perhaps be grateful for any countercurrent of consensus that resists the tide of radical deviation. When eighteen ecumenically oriented thinkers from nine or ten denominations can in the Hartford “Appeal for Theological Affirmation” agree on thirteen points, its challenge to the theological arena becomes noteworthy.
The Hartford statement reflects not so much a dramatic agreement on the indispensable content of the Christian revelation as a revolt against certain current theological fashions. It signals no triumph for systematic theology as such nor a clear victory for theology of any kind. If on first reading the declaration looks impressive, it does so because contemporary religious thought is a shambles.
Other than focusing on “the apparent loss of a sense of the transcendent,” the signers identified no real theological enemy; instead, they simply slapped the backside of a wriggling centipede and crippled some of its legs. Specific disclaimers include facets of the secular theology promoted in recent decades by Harvey Cox and Paul van Buren; of the situation ethics of Joseph Fletcher and John A. T. Robinson; of the liberation theology of Gustavo Gutierrez and James Cone; of the process-perspectives of Schubert Ogden and the late Teilhard de Chardin. By eclipsing divine transcendence in whole or in part, such religious theorists had acclimated Christian theology to secular naturalism and humanism. The Hartford theologians—mostly non-evangelical—have now laid down certain limits of tolerance.
While their statement rejects the superiority of modern thought over all past forms of understanding reality, it identifies no alternative norm. While it rejects the total independence of religious statements from rational discourse, it does not stipulate the cognitive significance of such statements. While it rejects referring religious language only to what is finite, it nowhere defines the metaphysical import of that language. The statement denies that Jesus can be understood only through contemporary models of humanity, but ignores Chalcedon. It rejects the equal validity of all religions but makes no claim for the uniqueness and finality of the Christian revelation. Although it refuses to equate salvation with self-fulfillment, it affirms only that salvation “cannot be found apart from God.” It rejects defining good and evil in terms of human potentiality but offers no alternative. It rejects the notion that the world sets the agenda for the Church’s mission but then nebulously derives the norms for activity from the Church’s “own perception of God’s will for the world.”
The “Appeal for Theological Affirmation” is so lacking in the affirmative and so replete with the negative that any comparison of it with Luther’s Ninety-five Theses and with the Barmen Declaration could only embarrass great theologians of the past. The Hartford consensus vindicates church tradition more than it proclaims scriptural authority; the lone reference to the Bible is a verse added just in time to serve as a caboose; and even the passing reference to Christ’s resurrection leaves room for all sorts of objectionable interpretations.
According to the Hartford enclave, recent theology has undermined “the Church’s ability to address with clarity and courage the urgent tasks to which God calls it in the world.” Unfortunately, Hartford too has done more to raise questions than to provide answers. It’s fashionable these days for free-wheeling clusters of conferees to meet unofficially on multitudinous issues. An atmosphere of ecumenism that rejects creeds as “tests” of faith but welcomes divergent “testimony” as enriching can give rise to a quite contrary witness some following week on a parallel circuit. In their 1,150-word declaration the Hartford theologians said nothing whatever about the problem of religious authority, which, after all, is the basic dilemma of ecumenical theology. Their wording, moreover, was technical and not without ambiguity; it hardly carried “good news” intelligible to the man in the street and in search of a viable faith.
The fast-fading twentieth century is still waiting for Christian theologians to say something compelling not simply to themselves and to some of their fellow theologians but to all the world.
The Damper On Détente
When Soviet authorities gave Georgi Vins his latest prison sentence (see News, page 41), they showed that they are afraid of Christians who are willing to stand up for what they believe. Their ideology bares its inherent weakness as a social system when it takes away the rights of religious activists. The Kremlin politicians see Christianity as an enduring threat, and how right they are!
First they canceled the trade agreement with the United States rather than grant concessions to restless Jews. Now in spite of protests they have decided to put away Vins. Not even an expression of concern—long overdue—for persecuted Christians by the World Council of Churches seemed to help him. The WCC appealed unsuccessfully to the Soviets to permit a non-Soviet legal observer to attend the trial.
Christians in the free world must do a great deal more for their brothers and sisters in the faith in the Communist countries. Jews have raised the matter of religious freedom to the level of a major world issue, and Christians should do all they can to keep it there.
Eschatology At The Enthronement
Frederick Donald Coggan was enthroned at Canterbury last month amid the sort of pomp and panoply that only the English can produce. Among the 3,000 or more who thronged the cathedral were the heir-apparent to the throne, the prime minister, and dignitaries lay and clerical whose solemn procession down the aisle took forty minutes. Three cardinals ensured papal representation for the first time since the Reformation. Another first, and almost as impressive, was the security operation launched, including the personal searching of visitors (the cathedral had been closed since the previous Sunday).
The ceremony was essentially the same as that followed in the cases of William Temple the social reformer, Geoffrey Fisher the ecclesiastical statesman, Michael Ramsey the scholar. With the sermon, however, the new primate was identified as Donald Coggan the preacher. His text was John 16:33. He saw in it realism and confidence, suffering and victory, Calvary and Easter. The twentieth century has parallels in the early Church, said Coggan: “tribulation; violence; materialism which shuts its eyes to extremities of wealth and poverty existing side by side; abandonment of the old gods, and a pathetic inability to replace them with anything adequate for the needs of modern man; fear on every side; and, because iniquity abounds, the love of many growing cold.”
It must have fallen strangely on the ears of those who had not realized that here was the first evangelical at Canterbury since J. B. Sumner’s appointment in 1848. More was to follow. The Church, said Coggan, is heading for tribulation, and Christians will have to face it—“no whining when that comes, no complaining when the winds are contrary. No crying to the world, for the sake of popularity, ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace!”
But with realism there is also confidence, continued the 101st archbishop, because of the One who has overcome the world. Then the Primate of All-England quoted General Booth: “We must grow till our arms get right around the world.” The sermon ended on a triumphant note: “We are on the victory side of Calvary. We are the children of the Resurrection. We are the sons of the Holy Spirit.”
We rejoice that the seat of St. Augustine is occupied by a pastor who so clearly enunciated biblical principles, including a strong eschatological note, before the most distinguished congregation he is ever likely to have. His opportunities are greater even than the cares of his high office. At this time when the Church of Christ needs wise and courageous leaders, we thank God for Donald Coggan’s witness, and pray that he may be continually strengthened and upheld as he carries out his ministry.
A million children run away from home every year. One out of three marriages ends in divorce. A White House Conference on Children in 1970 concluded that America’s families are in trouble “so deep and pervasive that it threatens the future of our nation.” These are reasons enough for a project called the Continental Congress on the Family, to be held in St. Louis in October. Among its worthy goals are to “clarify and redefine our biblical mission to the family,” “provide a forum for dealing with the hard, real issues affecting today’s family and church,” “awaken Christian conscience to the special family needs of minorities, singles and the aged,” and develop a program “for marriage-strengthening ministries.” This kind of clarifying and awakening and developing is sorely needed, and we wish the congress planners great success.
Charles Colson’S Future
Charles Colson has a problem. Now that he is free from prison, people will be watching him closely. His widely publicized conversion to Christ has been received with doubt or skepticism by many.
He can take comfort in the fact that even the Apostle Paul’s conversion was a matter of skepticism. Only after Barnabas acted as his sponsor would the twelve apostles meet with him.
Colson also has an opportunity. Although living under critical scrutiny is difficult, it provides an unusually great opportunity to witness to Jesus’ life-changing method.
We do not take lightly his offenses against our democratic traditions—but then, we suspect, neither does he now. We assure Colson of our joy in his profession of faith in Christ and commit ourselves to pray for him and his family as they begin to face their problems under the Lordship of Christ.
The “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” one of American television’s most popular situation comedies, is not usually a source of significant social commentary. But an episode early this year blended entertainment with veiled concern. Mary and her colleagues were determined to produce a documentary news program on a fine, upstanding public official. The media, she argued, had surfaced enough bums, and it was time to accentuate the positive. The show flopped.
This episode was shown, interestingly enough, as former White House lawyer John Dean, fresh out of prison, prepared to go on a campus lecture tour that was to bring him a handsome financial return. Meanwhile former White House press secretary Ron Ziegler also was coming back into the news as a result of college speaking engagements.
Like Mary, we bemoan the public’s apparently great interest in the notorious. But let’s not let it deteriorate into envy of the apparent prosperity of some lawbreakers. “Fret not thyself because of evildoers,” said the Psalmist. Whatever the past misdeeds, God will forgive if Christians through love are able to bring sinners to the point of seeing their need of the Saviour.
G. Richard Hook—In The Romantic Mode
G. Richard Hook, whose head of Christ superseded Warner Sallman’s in popularity, died last month at the age of sixty-two. Hook turned to religious art after the demise of a number of magazines for which he illustrated. He brought to this work considerable technical excellence. His illustrations, which provide a more virile and Jewish Jesus than much religious art, have had a spiritual impact on many Christians. Prints of his paintings are in great demand. Tyndale House’s Children’s Bible Story Book features the illustrations of Richard and his wife Frances.
As long as Christians demand religious art in the romantic mode, it’s better that they have Hook than many others. However, if they will broaden their aesthetic appreciation they will find for their enjoyment a rich store of good and significant art in a variety of techniques by artists ranging from Rembrandt to Rouault.
Two Ways To Get The Word
What is the import of Colossians 3:16? What point was Paul trying to make in admonishing believers to let the Word of Christ dwell in them richly? Commentators differ on whether “Word of Christ” refers to the Saviour’s preaching or to a broader concept such as the whole Gospel. Moreover, adverbs and adjectives don’t count for as much in modern English usage as nouns and verbs, with the result that some of the impact of “richly” may be lost upon us.
These two factors may tend to diminish the meaning of the verse for Bible readers today; that is regrettable, because it is without a doubt a key passage. We are here being urged to soak up Scripture; the obvious analogy is of a sponge absorbing liquid. Perhaps the calendar will help us heed the admonition, now that we are in the Lenten season.
The word “richly” appears in three other places in the Bible. In 1 Timothy 6:17 it refers to the way God gives us things to enjoy. In Titus 3:6 it describes the magnitude with which the Holy Spirit is imparted to believers. In 2 Peter 1:11 it suggests the extent of the welcome into the kingdom awaiting God’s faithful.
Many clergymen and lay church workers bypass Colossians 3:16 because they feel they are already into the Word in sermon or lesson preparation. But it might be advantageous to consider another kind of Bible study beyond the purpose-oriented kind. Traditionally all kinds of research have been divided into basic and applied, and in one sense the distinction carries over well into the matter of searching the Scriptures.
The analogy has its limitations because the theologically orthodox student of the Bible approaches it not as a scientist facing the unknown but as a seeker of that which God has already objectively revealed. At the same time, however, a difference can be made between looking into Scripture for answers to specific questions and studying it fundamentally, in a way not geared to immediate practical value. Isn’t the latter a way of letting God speak to us as he sees fit, and not simply in the context of questions and problems we sense as needing resolution?
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