Our Sunday Storm Amid Calms

For two centuries the Sunday school has been on the scene. Christian educators have instructed us how to use that hour profitably. We have curricula and visual aids that are wonderful. Planning for Sunday school is as easy as pie. (Nobody actually knows how easy pie is, which is why I used the cliché. I get enough complaint letters now.)

In recent years, the liturgists and renewal experts have shown us how to use the worship hour to best advantage as well. We have learned to balance praise with prayer, standing with sitting, introits with extroits (not to mention Detroits). Planning the morning worship hour is as easy as cake. (Caught you, didn’t I?)

Now, I think it is time for some genius to tell us how to handle the time period between these two main events. I am talking about that ghastly time when the children, newly released from their curriculum confinement, burst into the church sanctuary, waving lesson sheets and chewing on candy. That time when the soloist gathers herself around the piano to prepare the “special music” for the morning service. That time when strange sounds are heard creeping out of the choir room where the brave volunteers are making a noble effort to conquer the John Peterson anthem they have been working on for three months.

Yes, this is that indescribable time (although perhaps Poe and Kafka could describe it) when the ushers run to and fro upon the earth, searching for the offering plates. That time when nobody can find the key that opens the door to the sound equipment. That time when the Sunday school superintendent blanches as he reads the morning attendance report, and then, pocket calculator in hand, figures out devious ways to make it look good.

We need some spiritual genius to tell us how to use this storm between two calms. It is the time when the pastor most feels like resigning and taking an easier job, like herding bison from a pogo stick. Of course, we could sit calmly and meditatively, and benefit from the organ prelude. We might even look at the bulletin and read the Scripture selections for the morning. Or, we could pray for the pastor and the congregation. But these are only suggestions; I’d be happy to hear your ideas. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep carrying my earplugs to church.


Much Roar and Smoke

Certain denigrations of my book’s factual accuracy, and not incidentally my own integrity as well, are being widely distributed, suggestions such as that I took absolutely no notes through the course of all those interviews (“The Graham Image: A Parable of America’s Blindness?” Nov. 16, 1979).…

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In fact, those interviews resulted in several dozen notebooks of raw notes. The typed transcription of those notes runs to some 240 pages. Further, a well-nigh microscopic review of the book’s factual integrity involved over 60 pages of citations of sources on uncertain points.

It seems marvelously transparent—that old defensive device of booming away with much roar and smoke at the trivial and peripheral, in the hope that it might possibly work somehow to discredit the truly central and meaningful. Indeed, what is most significant are those far more pertinent factual elements and details of the story which you have chosen not to address.…

You said the book “betrays an essential misunderstanding of evangelicalism and the gospel.” Come, now. Neither the gospel nor evangelicalism has been appropriated quite yet as the exclusive franchise of any particular community of the faith—not even yours—to define and to arbitrate and to preside over—certainly not to the extent that anyone can presume to decree, as you did of my book, that it “simply never enters empathetically into the life and thought of mainstream evangelicalism,” or “biblical Christianity’s consuming desire that everyone know Jesus Christ.” It most strenuously does.


Atlanta, Ga.


Your entire issue of January 4 merits the attention of every pastor. The recapitulation of historical events of the 1970s could hardly be surpassed.

Carl Henry always stimulates our thought. His article “Evangelicals: Out of the Closet but Going Nowhere?” provided me with nuggets which will be incorporated into many of my forthcoming messages. I particularly appreciated his recognition of the role of the university students on the evangelical horizon. Thank you for moving us on to cultural identity in today’s world.


Winnetka Bible Church

Winnetka, Ill.

I found Carl F.H. Henry’s article to be very informative and in many ways encouraging. I think his well-balanced suggestions for us as Christians to concern ourselves with social needs and problems as well as spreading the gospel are a definite advance in the right direction.

The Bible speaks to us many times about ministering to the whole person. This article has shown very clearly the need for such ministering as we move into the next decade. All too often, the church has lost credibility because of its “other-worldliness” and lack of concern for people in this world.

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St. John’s College

Winfield, Kans.

As a recent graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, I was surprised to discover in Carl Henry’s article that my alma mater is not only part of the “destructive trends” of the 1980s, but guilty of “theological dilution.”

The Fuller of my experience has been and continues to be a place where the body of Christ joins together to learn in an atmosphere that is both open and submitted to Scripture. People there are more interested in learning to live in obedience to God and properly understanding his Word than defining other people out of the kingdom.

Perhaps those who are so concerned about inerrancy ought to become equally concerned about taking the apostle Paul seriously when he speaks of those who would divide the church (1 Cor. 3:16–17).


Santa Barbara, Calif.

Professional Task

I was very happy to see Ed Dayton’s article “The Road from Urbana” in the January 4 issue. Ed has been doing a lot of thinking about candidate preparation for overseas work.

Many student volunteers are not aware that being a missionary church planter or educator is really a professional task that requires a corresponding preparation. They think that missionary work is simply full-time witnessing, which in turn implies that intensity of faith and willingness to share are the two prerequisites. These are essential, but anyone who would participate with Christ in laying the foundations for his church across cultures needs the kind of in-depth development about which Mr. Dayton speaks in his article.

The process for getting from Urbana to the mission field may sound dishearteningly long, but the road itself can be filled with productive and satisfying service for Christ.


Candidate Secretary

The Evangelical Alliance Mission

Wheaton, Ill.

‘Slow Train’ Reviews

The reviews by Noel Paul Stookey and David Singer of Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming album (Jan. 4) were on target. The album clearly establishes Dylan’s Christian identity. For a new Christian, he reflects a remarkable maturity that is refreshing considering so many surface lyricists in Christian music today.

It is more than coincidence that the Dylan reviews occur in the same issue with the articles on “giving substance to the surge.” Bob Dylan brings to the Christian community an identity that not only represents a revolutionary subculture of the 1960s and 1970s, but also a powerful influence that will give outreach in the 1980s to this subculture.


Ebony, Va.

The gap from the 1960s to the 1980s has been bridged by a peculiar communion between Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming and many of Dylan’s “followers” turned Christian. I hope this record gives others like myself a chance to thank God for the change in their lives and the freedom from that subculture of which Dylan was a leader.


Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Deerfield, Ill.

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