Fact Of Life No. 1: The Religious Circuit
I believe that as Eutychus I have a responsibility to share with readers the religious facts of life. In this column I’d like to examine one of these.
Across this great land of ours there is a religious circuit—conferences, conventions, camps, and seminars sponsored by religious organizations. All the meetings require speakers. Some stops on the circuit involve thirty-four speakers. Others have only one. Some pay well. Others don’t. But regardless of the pay, the camps, conferences, conventions, and seminars require warm bodies to stand in front of other warm bodies, and inspire, instruct, inform, and/or convict.
On the circuit there are “big guns” and “lesser guns.” The big guns appear at many of the more prestigious events and usually have the keynote speech or at the very least a “plenary session.” (“Plenary session” is the current term. It replaced “general session” approximately nine months ago.)
If a person is an expert on a currently hot topic, he or she may be asked to speak at many conferences in a short period of time. Hot topics in the past have included evangelism, relational theology, prophecy, body life, spiritual gifts, and church growth. A topic now climbing to prominence is the family.
If the person does well on the topic and is authoritative enough, he or she may be asked to speak on another subject when the currency of the first topic wanes. In the past few years, there have been some versatile persons who have had little trouble shifting from body life to prophecy to cults (an increasingly hot item on the more conservative fringes of the circuit).
Some speakers come and go depending on their topic. Many of those who were strong on the occult, for example, have had a tough transition moving to the family.
But there are some speakers whose popularity never fades. Their subjects are timeless. Or their voices are. Deep. Melodic. Or foreign. Foreign accents have drawn well for years on the American circuit. The English and Scottish are especially effective. However, there is an exception to the rule: Oriental accents don’t go over well. This explains why Captain Fushida, the Japanese fighter pilot who bombed Pearl Harbor and was later converted through the ministry of Jake De Shazar, never succeeded, although he tried to crack the big time in the fifties and early sixties.
Each stop on the circuit also requires special music. For many years, gospel quartets, trumpet trios, and marimbaists were in. Lately mild folk-rock has gained respectability.
For those readers interested in getting on the circuit, I suggest one or more of the following: (1) Do an outstanding job in a local church and get some media exposure. (2) Write a book that sells more than 10,000 copies. (Be sure to take truckloads of the book to conferences for further sales.) (3) Develop a close relationship with the program chairman of one of the conferences. (4) Start your own series of meetings and invite yourself to speak.
I’m sure you will find that these tips will enrich your Christian life.
For The First Twenty
I have just finished reading your excellent issue of April 23. Cheryl Forbes’s article, “Narnia: Fantasy, But …” on C. S. Lewis’s children and adult stories, alone is worth the price of a year’s subscription! Please have her article issued as a CHRISTIANITY TODAY reprint! It should be given with every set of Lewis’s Chronicles. Consider this an order for the first twenty reprints!
TERRY L. MIETHE
University Honors Program
St. Louis University
St. Louis, Mo.
Politics And The Bible
It is curious that Congressman John B. Anderson should begin his “Get Active Politically” article (March 26) with an affirmation of “the full authority of the Word of God.” The remainder of his article is a reverential affirmation of the secular ideology of equality, into whose service Anderson presses Scripture. Anderson tells us there is an “admonition and reminder” in St. Paul “that all men are created of one blood and are therefore equal in the eyes of God.” His “quote” is inventive mischief. No Scripture exists with such an admonition (certainly not Acts 17:26, which Anderson apparently has in mind). Is it conceivable that Paul, who plainly teaches that nonworkers should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10), would assert with Anderson that “the emphasis of the church” should be equality of distribution? Would Paul ever believe St. Francis and Adolf Hitler are “equal in the eyes of God?” Would the Paul who (Rom. 9) shows that the notion of equality leads only to stupid dissatisfaction with God (who dispenses his favors unequally according to his own sovereign and free will), would this Paul really make equality the political ideal of the Church? Of course not. To do so would only suit the strategy of the Deceiver, whose first act of defiance was under the banner of equality, whose first temptation of mankind was to be equal to God, and who ever incites us to join his rebellion.…
If American Christians are to “get active politically”—and I agree they should—they must do so responsibly, and that means truthfully. They must constantly beware of the Tempter’s doctrinaire egalitarian enthusiasm, which corrupts both God’s Word and our precious liberties.
JOHN D. KLENK
The Cambridge Fish
Reading John Leax’s defense of Thomas Merton (The Refiner’s Fire, April 9) left me decidedly unconvinced. Leax’s insightful parallel of Merton with Aquinas serves helpfully to sharpen my suspicions of Merton’s later work, for it was precisely the elements which Aquinas imported from Aristotle that vitiated his attempt to develop a distinctively and consistently Christian system. Most notable of these anti-Christian elements is a concept which Aristotle and Aquinas appear to share with Merton, Buddhism, and the editors of the Jerusalem Bible: an ontological monism which “starts instead with a concept of Being which is ‘seen to be beyond and prior to the subject-object division’ ” (or, as the Jerusalem Bible puts it, the idea that “There is only Christ; he is everything and he is in everything.”).…
The fundamental problem in Leax’s understanding appears to lie in his claim that since “we are not here directly dealing with matters of faith but with a philosophical problem,” “any source that does not contradict Christian doctrine is available to us,” including Buddhist ontology. Leax’s naive separation of philosophy and doctrine leads him to accept a concept of “abiding in Christ” which, in fact, destroys the very basis of Christian doctrine.
KARL T. COOPER
Thanks to Harold Lindsell (Current Religious Thought, March 26) and to George Knight III (“Male and Female Related He Them,” April 9) for clearly stating the implications behind the so-called Biblical feminism and for soundly exegeting the biblical teachings on the issue. Regardless on which side of the issue one stands, one should be able to recognize by now that the real issue is no longer the rights and responsibilities of men and women within their respective roles. Rather, the issue on which we must each decide is the issue of ultimate authority in our lives and in our theology: are we going to be subject to the Scriptures or are we going to subject the Scriptures to our current cultural whims? Either the Scriptures are truly the authoritative Word of God to which we will willingly submit, or Paul, Peter, and even Jesus are mistaken, and so, alas, are the Scriptures. Although it may be in fact possible to be at once a Christian and an unbeliever in the infallibility of Scripture, it is certainly not possible to disbelieve in the infallibility of Scripture and to remain an evangelical, as evangelicalism’s supreme and primary tenet is the doctrine of inspiration and infallibility. To write Paul off as prejudicially misguided is necessarily logically equivalent to declaring the Scriptures as mistaken in fact and in intent.
RICHARD LARIBEE, JR.
I appreciated the April 9 issue. Each one of the lead articles was significant. “The Image of the Cross” and “The Cross in Modern Thought” I intend to use as the primary human resources for a message on the Cross. “Male and Female Related He Them” did a tremendous job of sorting out the biblical-theological errors associated with the evangelical (??) movement to erode the divine foundation of marriage. “Transcendental Meditation …” I appreciate for its forthright warning.
In the past I have thought of not renewing my subscription to CHRISTIANITY TODAY at its depletion. But if the articles continue to run like this, I hope to be able to continue.
PAUL M. ZOSCHKE
Without checking with me, Dr. Harold Lindsell has stated that I “cannot hold to an infallible Scripture” on the basis of one sentence from a hostile review of one of my speeches published in the Cambridge Fish. Although I do believe that Genesis 1 teaches the simultaneous creation of male and female, anyone who has heard me speak in recent years knows that I see no conflict between Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 2 is a poetical account using the “ring” effect of Hebrew poetry, describing the creation of Adam (the human race) by placing male and female in the first and last positions, the positions of greatest emphasis. Dr. Lindsell instead chooses to believe literally the chronology as presented in Genesis 2; what does he do with the chronology of Genesis 1, which is, as he says, the “general statement?” And if he is literal about the chronology of Genesis 2, is he equally literal about every other detail, such as the handful of dust? In Genesis 1, the vegetation and animals are clearly stated as being created before either Adam or Eve, whereas anyone who interprets Genesis 2 literally must explain the discrepancy of saying Adam was created before anything else. By my interpretation, there is no problem; by Dr. Lindsell’s, there is a serious discrepancy between Genesis 1 and 2 which forces him into a denial of scriptural infallibility—if, that is, infallibility is defined as the perfect harmonizability of all the data in all the Bible. In my forthcoming book Women, Men, and the Bible (Abingdon), I have based my thinking directly on Scripture. Never have I denied that the Bible is the infallible rule of faith and practice.
VIRGINIA RAMEY MOLLENKOTT
Since I have been slandered in the past two issues of your magazine on the basis of my alleged view of Scripture, I would like to clarify my position. I believe all Scripture to be inspired by God, the “infallible, authoritative word of God,” normative for all questions of Christian faith and practice. My views concerning the equality of women in home, church, and society are grounded solidly in what I contend is the clear teaching of Scripture. I base my interpretation of the Bible on the most literal readings of the texts, upon the most straightforward understanding of the Book in the light of serious study of its words, grammar, rhetorical constructions, literary styles, cultural settings and historical contexts.
Unlike some feminists, I do not rest my conclusions on any supposed contradictions within the writings of Paul, or between Paul and Jesus, on any alleged “rabbinic interpretations,” or on the cultural relativity of any text. I see no difficulty in harmonizing all of the Bible’s teachings on this subject nor in harmonizing feminism with the teaching of Scripture. I do not disagree with any teaching of Scripture on this issue. I disagree, rather, with the distorted interpretations based on patriarchal social patterns and neo-platonic philosophical systems which men have used to obscure the radical message of the Gospel and to oppress women.
Harold Lindsell.… quotes the unsubstantiated accusation that we “reject Scripture” and use it “irresponsibly.” George W. Knight III … accuses feminists of being “willing to appeal to the passages in Scripture that support their position and to minimize other passages.” Yet ironically, Knight in his defense of hierarchy concentrates on five passages which he contends definitely describe women’s role: Genesis 1:28–3:17, First Corinthians 11:3, 8, 9; 14:34–37; Ephesians 5:22–31, and First Timothy 2:11–14. I would argue that everything which the entire Bible has to say about human beings applies to women, and that to use only these five passages is to use an extremely selective hermeneutic which ignores many important principles of Scripture as a whole.
To illustrate: Knight has twenty-eight references to Genesis 1:28–3:17 but assiduously avoids mentioning Genesis 1:27; 5:1–2, or any of the New Testament’s theological passages on Genesis (e.g., Romans 5:12–19, First Corinthians 15:21, 22). Blurring any distinction between relationships in society, church, and marriage, he interprets Genesis through a very selective filter: his own interpretations of First Corinthians 11:8, 9 and First Timothy 2:13, 14, again carefully avoiding any mention of First Corinthians 11:11, 12 and Second Corinthians 11:3. By doing so Knight gives an interpretation of Genesis which coincides with that of the Jewish rabbis but misses that of the Christian Paul by a wide mark.…
In support of their hierarchical positions both Knight and Elisabeth Elliot Leitch, as quoted by Lindsell, espouse a subordinationist Trinity. Knight refers to “the ontological relationship of pre-in-camate and submissive Sonship” and Mrs. Leitch says that the Trinity “exist in a hierarchical relationship to one another.” Though this position is a logical extension of their misinterpretations of Scripture, it was declared unacceptable to orthodox Christians by the Council of Nicea in 325.
NANCY A. HARDESTY
The article by George W. Knight III is a welcome addition to the growing discussion on this subject. CHRISTIANITY TODAY is to be commended for printing this article and also giving publicity to the views of Mrs. Elisabeth Leitch. Such action helps to provide the evangelical community with an alternative to views being aggressively promoted by those having another perspective.
HUDSON T. ARMERDING
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