A tiny band of far outnumbered Christians once turned the world upside down. But in more recent years, the churches have often wandered into the trap of thinking that might makes right, so if we ever reached the time when there were more of “us” than “them,” we would really begin to see things happen. First came the post-World War II upsurge in religious interest and church membership, then the big evangelistic crusades, and next the “Jesus movement” of the late sixties. Right along came the boom in Christian publishing, education, missions, music, audio-visuals, camping, retirement centers, and so on. Then, for some, the proof that Christians had finally turned the corner and made the world sit up and take notice came in 1976, when Time Magazine called the country’s bicentennial year the “year of the evangelicals.”

The facts reported in the CHRISTIANITY TODAY—Gallup Poll in this issue confirm the conclusion that more and more people are affirming evangelical Christianity as their personal religious commitment. That in itself is cause for rejoicing, even as evangelical revivals in the past have been, because of the long-term consequences for the overall good of church and society. There is also ample cause for thanksgiving because of the confirmation of biblical truth that says, in effect, that when Jesus Christ is confessed and proclaimed as Lord and Savior, people recognize that he is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. No Christian dare be defeatist about the inherent power of God’s gospel of grace.

On the other hand, the facts about evangelical growth in the population as a whole may also stir up considerable skepticism. People always want to know if religious professions are genuine. Again, we need not apologize if some professions are spurious, because Jesus and the apostles consistently warned of this possibility, as well as of the danger of hypocrisy. Pollsters are not the only ones who form impressions on the basis of what people tell them: we all do the same. The fact that we know there is a possibility of false profession does not nullify the conclusion that there is a strong commitment to evangelical belief among the public.

But while we rejoice in those who, in one way or another confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and while we admit the possibility of confused and phony professions of faith, we also remind ourselves that certain areas for growth in both knowledge and practice are obvious. Evangelicals need clearer understanding of what they believe and why—even about the person and work of Christ. Their proclamation must be backed by both biblical doctrine and practice. We too easily slip into a vague, subjective gospel and fall short of full-orbed Christian discipleship. And we need exhortation and instruction regarding the grace of giving and the motive and dynamic of evangelistic witnessing.

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Beyond these practical matters there is the long-range task of the churches. We cannot at this stage go home exulting as if we had won the great cosmic Super Bowl. Both history and eschatology teach us that the forces of evil will never withdraw. In fact, if anything is clear, it is that the more the cause of Christ advances, the more serious and insidious will be the Enemy’s counterattacks. The parable of the mustard seed teaches us to expect phenomenal growth; the parable of the wheat and the weeds teaches us to expect continued confusion about and counterfeiting of God’s truth revealed in Jesus Christ. No doubt even the word evangelical itself is being used as a cover for various false religious schemes and promotions.

This is not the time to be gathered around our evangelical fires warming our hands and congratulating ourselves. The church of Jesus Christ faces awesome foes. We’re marching to Zion, but we haven’t arrived. Even if George Gallup, Jr., told us that 99 out of 100 people were evangelicals, as Christians we are committed to Christ’s own church-building mandate, so that all he desires for his own will be confessed and lived out in our lives.

Did Christianity Corrupt Lewis?

Probably no twentieth-century author has done more for evangelical Christianity than C. S. Lewis. His apologetic works have convinced skeptics, strengthened evangelicals, and established the credibility of the faith for today’s thinking person. Children, college students, and adults enjoy his fantasies. Sixteen years after his death, his books are still selling two million copies a year.

But you know all that. What you might not know is that recent reviewers in the secular press, especially in the New York Times, have tried to put Lewis in his place. Three times in the past year the Times’s Sunday book section has printed critical reviews of books about Lewis. The wry problem with these reviews is that their criticism seems to be aimed more at Lewis himself—and his faith—than at the books in question.

For example, the reviewers deride Lewis for dressing like a slob, tending to be reactionary, and hating modern literature. One review by Samuel Hynes labeled Lewis’s Christianity “an outsider’s religion” that “gave him a secure position apart from which to deplore the modern world that he couldn’t or wouldn’t belong to. His novels are myths of that rejection, of escape from history to another place where faith can function and even prosper, and where Christians can be heroic instead of just quarrelsome.” Comments like these leave one surprised, but not by joy.

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Now it’s one thing for people to say they don’t like Lewis’s mythopoeic approach to fiction. Who ever said everyone had to like fantasy? But Hynes’s distaste goes beyond fantasy: “To the realist, these fantasies make fiction too easy, dress up moral problems in fancy clothes and magic, and evade the difficulties of being merely human.” In other words, Lewis has retreated into the dream world of Christianity.

Why do these reviewers seem so eager to bring about Lewis’s demise? First, because they don’t share Lewis’s Christian faith, and second, because Lewis’s understanding of Christianity defies their stereotypic categories. Hynes states that all Lewis readers are either children or Christians, and that they “share one quality of imagination—a common willingness to extend reality beyond the visible.” He implies that supernaturalism is absurd.

Rather than admit that Lewis is a well-reasoned, articulate spokesman for the faith, critics prefer to retain the stereotype and brand him as an oddball—a man whose escapist books are the product of an unhappy childhood. That way they can avoid having to consider the truly biblical Christianity he sets forth.

On the other hand, some evangelicals probably spend more time reading Lewis’s books and quoting Lewis than they do reading the Book and worshiping the One Lewis sought to defend. Lewis would never have wanted it that way. He was only a “mere” Christian; like most of us, he claimed to understand more of Christianity than he was able to appropriate.

No one who has heard of the Fall can say that Lewis is above all criticism. But ultimately, the New York Times reviewers are denouncing not C. S. Lewis, but Jesus Christ. Fortunately, He will survive.

Cambodia: A Test Case For Christians

Christians sometimes are criticized as praying, but not acting. Fortunately, the church has responded with prayers and action with regard to Cambodia’s agony. Various church bodies and relief agencies, as well as individual Christians, have earmarked thousands of relief dollars for Cambodia, where millions may starve to death.

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Ironically, our intentions have been thwarted by maniacal Southeast Asian politics, in which two Cambodian factions, supported by Communist superpowers, block most outside relief assistance and watch their own people die. Television news coverage, showing the emaciated, stick-figure Cambodians, reminds us again of man’s capacity for inhumanity to man. We watch with helpless outrage.

But now is not the time for being shocked stiff. The U.S. committee for UNICEF says, “What is needed most now is money.” Christians must cry out against those barriers stopping distribution of this relief aid.

The Cambodian people require our prayers—the powerful Abramic kind that saved Lot from Sodom. Individual Cambodian Christians remain in the country and God may use them powerfully during, and after, this holocaust.

Christians have this knowledge: that God is far greater than any slaughter. And that history books, as well as the Judgment Book, will record whether we did our part to alleviate the suffering in Cambodia.

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