Some years ago in an article entitled “Japan: Three Obstacles to the Gospel” (Christian Century, March 7, 1962), William P Woodard developed the thesis that this Far Eastern land had built-in social and psychological factors that made it essentially non-responsive to the Christian Evangel. This idea—that elements in the psyche of a people either make that people susceptible to the Christian message or cause it to present an indifferent or perhaps hostile face—may be timely for us to consider in relation to the climate of our own nation.

Our Lord commended the builder (mentioned in Luke 14:28) who, if he planned to build a tower, first took note of the cost. The same kind of prudence would suggest to the evangelical that he appraise realistically the climate into which he is to project his message. Such an assessment would not limit the efforts at making Christ known; it does provide guidelines for faith and limits upon expectations.

During the times of protest in our colleges and universities, we heard a great deal about commitment. Youth leaders called upon the rank and file to renounce objectivity and detachment, and to become active in causes—to “get a piece of the action” even if it proved to be costly.

The trend was short-lived. In its place has emerged, in almost cultic fashion, an anti-commitment mood that is creeping over old and young. The rejection of commitment seems to be pervasive enough to be considered a dominant social and intellectual motif. This has to be a source of deep concern to the Christian who takes seriously the central demand of the Lord Christ for total allegiance.

This frame of mind has a certain complexity in that it has roots in both the public psychology ...

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