Twelve Christian leaders respond.

What hook has influenced you most in recent years?
Some surprising answers emerged when CT asked this question of a wide ranging group of Christians.

WILLIAM H. LESLIERichard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (Harper & Row, 1978). Dr. Leslie is pastor of the LaSalle Street Church in Chicago and a specialist on the role of the church in urban areas.

A thorough “burnout” early in 1979. during which I felt “raped” both by God and his friends, pressed me into moving into a new place. As an activist pastor in a crisis-oriented inner-city parish, my pursuit of an intimate relationship with the Lord was frequently put aside in order to care for very pressing needs. Then I hit rock bottom—completely depleted, with nothing to give.

A visit with a nun and Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline profoundly altered my life, and brought into better balance the outward and inward journeys. The nun made an analogy between my experience and a farm pump. She reflected that I had spoken as if everyone I encountered in life took the handle and pumped off resources, without giving anything back. My problem, she said, was that the pipe attached to the pump was too short, reaching only to the surface water, which was soon pumped dry. A longer pipe would connect with the cool, inexhaustible underground streams that never run dry. Connecting this image with Jesus’ saying in John 7:39 where he envisaged “streams of living water which would flow from within.” she issued a clear call to undertake an inward journey.

About that time. I was given a copy of Richard Foster’s book describing 12 historic Christian disciplines associated with both the inner and outer journeys. What I now know to be the best “port-of-entry” book for this twin undertaking was to become, along with that nun’s counsel, the guide for my journey into new spiritual territory. I had tried many of these disciplines before and found them boring and burdensome. Foster disarmed my defensiveness by affirming that they were “meant to bring the abundance of God into our lives” and not be “another set of soul-killing laws” (p. 8). They were not to be seen as ends in themselves, but as the means whereby we come into the Lord’s presence, where we are renewed and transformed.

This volume contains many helpful ways of looking at the various disciplines as well as suggestions for their practice. Foster’s presentation of meditation as listening to the “living voice of God” sounded very radical to one whose prayer experience consisted solely of talking to God. A whole new experience of listening opened up for me because of the notion of listening by “centering.” This involves the use of one’s imagination to visualize Bible stories or to practice process meditations, or to be in touch with one’s dreams.

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I learned to use my imagination in intercessory prayer in this way: I began to visualize the person for whom I was praying as if he or she were standing in the Lord’s presence, receiving whatever was needed. This transformed a routine prayer time into one that was alive. Frequently I found that this new way of praying was followed by surprising answers.

Foster’s reference to a spiritual director led me to seek an experienced “guide” for my journey. We meet together every other week. Also, I plan two retreat days each month and try to keep my mornings free until 11 o’clock in order to “enjoy God,” which is life’s highest priority.

Foster’s section on corporate disciplines also struck a warm response in me. I came out of a Christian background that stressed exclusively individual experience. Foster’s discussion helped me to undertake a “relational” journey and discover the riches of the Lord’s family.

Finally, Foster’s extensive references to other writings on each of these disciplines opened the door to a new body of literature and also a number of relationships that have been a great impetus to me on my twin journeys. Among the many, Morton Kelsey’s friendship and his Other Side of Silence and Adventure Inward have been instrumental in my spiritual growth. I look back with amazement and praise to the ways the Lord has choreographed my journey.

RONALD H. NASHRobert C. Roberts, Spirituality and Human Emotion (Eerdmans, 1983). Dr. Nash is head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. He has recently written The Concept of God (Zondervan, 1983).

Robert C. Roberts is claiming in his latest book that Christian growth can be nourished by serious reflection, by mature thinking.

As he sees it, spiritual growth is inseparable from reflection. He writes to help people grow in their faith as they achieve, at the same time, a better understanding of that faith and themselves.

Spirituality and Human Emotion is about the emotional side of Christianity. In the past, I’ve been so anxious to defend the rational side of Christianity that I have appeared to put down the place of feelings. Robert’s book will help me be more balanced. Obviously, Christianity is more than a collection of emotions; but he has shown me that I must not ignore the emotional side of my Christian life. But added to this emphasis, Roberts also makes it clear that I should not divorce the emotional side of the Christian life from reflection, thought, and knowledge. My emotions are ways of seeing or construing my circumstances. As a Christian, my emotions are ways of seeing that are influenced by Christian truth and the Christian scheme of beliefs.

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Roberts traces the ways emotions develop out of a person’s concerns. He analyzes the relationship between a person’s concerns and character, and notes how our dispositions influence which emotions arise in response to particular circumstances. Why does a particular person remain an unbeliever after hearing the gospel? Why does a particular Christian fail to grow in spite of hearing Christian truth proclaimed? According to Roberts, what is often missing in such cases is not just a matter of information. Something is wrong with the individual’s emotional life. When our emotions are wrong, we have difficulty seeing ourselves and our circumstances correctly. People must come to care about certain things before they can be brought to the proper emotions.

An emotion is always a way we view our circumstances relative to some concern. Which particular emotion actually arises depends on how a person sees his situation. Proper Christian concern begins when a person develops a yearning for eternity and the kingdom of God. Until we actually yearn for a life of moral purity, we will be unable to make emotional sense of the Christian gospel. When people open themselves to the inevitability of their death, and reach the moral plateau where they both know what sin is and learn to hate it, then the Christian gospel can become the ground of a new moral life.

Robert’s Spirituality and Human Emotion is an example of evangelical scholarship at its creative best. Many readers may be reminded of some of C. S. Lewis’s better books.

HAROLD LINDSELLAndrew Murray, The Full Blessing of the Pentecost: The One Thing Needful (Revell, 1908). Dr. Lindsell was editor of Christianity Today from 1968 to 1978.

I was working on a book on the Holy Spirit. I pored through everything I could find on the subject, including Andrew Murray’s The Full Blessing of Pentecost; The One Thing Needful. Rereading this book stimulated me to a more intensive study of the Bible on the subject of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movements challenged me to examine some of the diverse viewpoints about which good Christians differ. Some of these are: speaking in tongues, the propriety of the term “the baptism of, with, or by the Spirit,” and the phenomenon of being “slain in the Spirit.”

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I have learned in a new way about the threefold work of the Holy Spirit in my life: He is my teacher, my guide, and my infiller. As a result, the Bible has taken on a new freshness. I read it with greater delight, and as I read, things I had never seen before jump out from the Scripture. I ask the Holy Spirit to teach me, and he does.

Murray’s lovely little book has caused me to stop more frequently to ask, and to wait on, the Holy Spirit to guide me before I make decisions. And he does.

Most of all, I have been made to see more deeply what it means to be Spirit filled, and to know that I am. The Holy Spirit gifts us by endowing us with abilities we need for service. He also empowers us so that the gifts produce results. All the great evangelists had some kind of an infilling experience by the Spirit that transformed them and made their ministries powerful—including such men as Charles Finney, George Whitefield, John Wesley, D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, and Billy Graham.

Murray’s splendid book has challenged me to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and to walk in holiness before the Lord God.

WILLIAM L. ARMSTRONGMichael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (Simon and Schuster, 1982). Mr. Armstrong is U.S. senator from the state of Colorado and ranking Republican member of the budget committee.

Not many Christian leaders would openly agree with theologian Paul Tillich who once stated, “Any serious Christian must be a socialist.” But a huge number of believers are uneasy about free enterprise and worry that market economics are somehow incompatible with Christian values.

A recent survey of teachers of candidates for the clergy and other church vocations revealed a profile of persons far to the left of the American mainstream of economic and political thinking. Of those polled, 37 percent thought the United States should move in the direction of socialism; 70 percent said the U.S. treats the Third World unfairly.

And, as one article summed it up so well, “No day passes without a prominent clergyman denouncing the gross immorality of some large capitalist concern; and, in most schools, children are encouraged to hold their noses when notions such as ‘profit’ and ‘private enterprise’ are discussed.”

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Now Michael Novak, a Catholic theologian and leading neoconservative thinker, has written an important new book that meets head-on various leftwing clichés about alleged abuses of capitalism. His critique is simply devastating. More important, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism examines the virtues of capitalism from a theological point of view.

In undertaking this task, Novak makes a mighty contribution to the thought life of the nation, particularly of believers.

Fortunately, Novak avoids the temptation of those who try to make God a socialist by arguing that he is a capitalist. Nor does Novak dwell unduly on the evident economic success of democratic capitalism. Instead, he shows how the values of democratic capitalism are coherent with Christian teaching, a long-overdue demonstration.

The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism is a valuable book. Even those who come, as I do, from a very different Christian tradition than Michael Novak will find it thought provoking and entertaining.

RUTH GRAHAMMrs. Graham looks after her husband Billy, and resides in Montreat, N. C.

The Confessions of St. Augustine are currently stirring me at a very deep level. Some years ago I read a copy of Louis Bertrand’s biography of Augustine. Perhaps it is good to read that biography before reading the Confessions. Against the background of Augustine’s life, the pouring out of his heart to God takes on additional meaning.

The pouring out of any soul before God is something one approaches prayerfully, reads reverently, and thinks about. But such a soul as Augustine moves one into the presence of God. We have all responded to his now well-known statement: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it rests in Thee.”

Elsewhere, referring to God, he says, “O Thou my tardy joy!” He also recounts the sins and follies of his youth, the influence of his mother, and many of his experiences. These teach me, for instance, that sin, when confessed—truly confessed—will not be described in all its lurid details. True confession implies a genuine sorrow for sin that would negate any desire to say anything more about it than absolutely necessary.

I question the wisdom of anyone today writing a confession of private sins without first reading the Confessions. Here sins are alluded to only enough to let us know why the author is so forever and eternally grateful to God for his goodness and mercy in Christ Jesus. God’s forgiveness captivates the whole of his life and being, which pours itself out in worship and love to God who has redeemed him.

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We also learn of the faithful persistence of Augustine’s mother. He tells us that she went to a certain well-known bishop in Carthage to plead with him to talk with Augustine, who had already developed a distaste for the Scriptures and been led into doctrinal error by the Manichaeans. But the bishop, aware of Augustine’s brilliance, did not want to tangle with him. When his mother, Monica, persisted, the bishop replied, “Go thy way and God bless thee, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should perish.”

Then comes the moving account of how he slips away from his mother by lying to her and proceeding to Rome and Milan. His mother prayed that he would not sail, but Augustine says God regarded not what she then asked, that he might make of him “what she ever asked.”

Often I have made a request of God with earnest pleadings even backed up with Scripture, only to have him say “No” because he had something better in store.

A fine new translation, by Pine-Coffin, is available from Viking Press.

GORDON MACDONALDHugh Evan Hopkins, Charles Simeon of Cambridge (Eeerdmans, 1977). Dr. MacDonald is senior pastor, Grace Chapel, Lexington, Massachusetts.

Charles Simeon (1759–1836) played a key role in the evangelical revival in the Church of England in the early nineteenth century. When he was born, the Church of England was in a state of disrepair. But when he died, 77 years later, evangelicals were enjoying a remarkable impact upon English society. Hugh Evan Hopkin’s book, Charles Simeon of Cambridge, which is now hard to find, masterfully treats us to a description of Simeon’s role in that great spiritual resurgence.

Primarily, Simeon was a pastor. Hopkins recounts the agony of the first dozen years of Simeon’s pastorate when members of the congregation resentfully even went so far as to lock the doors to their pews to force those who came to hear Simeon to stand in the aisles. Most pastors would have quit.

Simeon was not tradition-bound. If you believe small-group ministry to be a contemporary concept, for example, think again. The old apostle, as he was called, divided his people into subcongregations, and trained lay leaders to oversee their spiritual health.

If you are prone to think of hospitality as a new means of ministry, you’ll want to read how Simeon invited students by the dozens into his apartments every Friday evening for what he called “conversation parties.” Eyewitnesses recount how Simeon would sit on a stool and commence the evening by saying to the 80 or 90 present, “Now gentlemen, I’ll be glad to take any questions you may have.”

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Simeon’s interest in world evangelization led him to search aggressively for men to do the job. Then he trained them, sent them, and encouraged them by inexhaustable correspondence. Among them, the most famous was Henry Martyn, who translated the New Testament into Arabic.

Simeon was also committed to placing evangelical preachers in Church of England pulpits. This was done through the incredible Simeon Trust, a fund created through a family inheritance that Simeon trustees could use to support young evangelicals in once-spiritually dry pulpits. The result is incredible: a century-long, evangelical effect upon the Church of England.

God used Simeon to stimulate my vision of what He wants to do in our day.

CAL THOMASFrancis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Tyndale). Mr. Thomas is vice-president for communications for Moral Majority in Washington, D.C., and the author of Book Burning (Crossway, 1983).

I came to understand that the brain and faith are not contradictory, through reading Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality. It was the “door” through which I entered (in Narnia-like fashion) to this new idea.

On the first retreat I ever attended, in November 1972, I picked up a copy of True Spirituality at a book table and began thumbing through it. Earlier I had attempted to tackle The God Who Is There, but became hopelessly lost. I found in True Spirituality a writing style and a definition of terms that served as an introduction to all of the other Schaeffer books.

I discovered the most profound thought I have yet encountered in the Christian life—that Christianity is true objectively. Regardless of the faith or lack of faith of men and women, God is! Christ died and rose again and is coming again for his church. Man suffers from true moral guilt. A person’s disbelief in the truth does not diminish truth any more than his sincere belief in falsehood makes a lie any less false. In 1972, when I was 30, this was an important breakthrough in my spiritual development.

True Spirituality also helped me understand the importance of a literally true, inspired, and inerrant Bible; again, not because it has to be true or my faith is groundless, but because it is true.

The book also helped me to understand for the first time the reality of the spiritual or supernatural universe. Again, as Schaeffer puts it, the supernatural is objective reality. It doesn’t exist because I say it does. It exists! It is a place, because the only one to come from there to here and to return to there has told us so. And he has made reservations and guaranteed them for us in a dwelling place—a real place, not a “philosophical” place. Since reading True Spirituality, I have developed my own analogy. If we had the spiritual equivalent of longitude and latitude we could find heaven, because it exists.

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Schaeffer helped me in True Spirituality, and, subsequently, in his other books, to understand the nature of the infinite personal God who is there, and to understand myself and the nature of man better. That may sound very simple and basic to some. But to a young man struggling between the god I had made of my career at NBC News and the God of the universe, it was a significant breakthrough that shaped all of my future thinking and action.

RICHARD C. HALVERSONOswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Revell, 1981). Dr. Halverson is chaplain to the United States Senate.

Nine months after I met Jesus Christ, a copy of My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers, was given to me for Christmas, 1936. On January 1, 1937, I began to read this daily devotional book, and with relatively few exceptions it has been my daily spiritual nurture ever since. One year I put it aside and experimented with several other daily devotionals, but they did not satisfy me.

No book except the Bible has influenced my walk with Christ at such deep and maturing levels. Nor has any influenced my preaching and teaching so much.

The book’s strength lies in its stubborn insistence on the objective reality of redemption as the only secure foundation. Today subjective experience is often accepted as the criterion for authentic faith. In Chambers I am constantly being reminded that the ground of faith and experience is the person of Jesus Christ.

Chambers makes the point that Christian faith is rooted in events. The historicity of the gospel is its validation. Propositional truth is important, but the basis of faith is always Jesus Christ himself.

Through the years Chambers has kept me on course by bringing me back to Jesus. Believing Jesus, not just believing my beliefs about Jesus, is basic.

NATHAN O. HATCHDaniel Yankelovich, New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside-Down, (Random House, 1981). Dr. Hatch is associate professor of history, University of Notre Dame. With Mark Noll and George Marsden he has just written The Search for Christ in America (Crossway, 1983).

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New Rules is the most compelling account I have read of the ways self-fulfillment has come to permeate American culture. To show this, author Daniel Yankelovich uses a vast array of survey findings, census data, economic information, and life histories.

He argues that in the last 15 years a new duty-to-self ethic has arisen to challenge America’s social norm. New Rules suggests that at least 20 percent of the U.S. population is caught up in some form of intense thought about their inner needs and unfulfilled potentials. Robert Nisbet has sharply referred to this as “self-spelunking, ego diving, and awareness intoxication.”

Another 60 percent of Americans have been at least touched significantly by this kind of intense subjectivity. Yankelovich suggests it has been borrowed from the “need” language of self-psychology. The drive for self-actualization—once a fairly radical agenda—clearly has been domesticated.

As late as 1960, the vast majority of Americans accepted the traditional values about marriage, family, work, and duty. Now only 20 percent find them gripping.

Yankelovich suggests that self-denial is quickly losing its normative power in America. This is because a new ethic counsels that it is our moral duty to yield to our impulses.

“You mean I don’t have to do what I want to do?” one puzzled young person asked. He had been asked to consider some goal larger than being true to one’s self.

I find it arresting that these shifts are going on. The responses of evangelical Christians are even more striking. Three kinds of reactions seem evident: Some proceed as if nothing has changed. Others, preoccupied with the crumbling of traditional values, have moved to reassert a tough, disciplined style of faith that clings to the past above all. Others, calling for Christians to be more audience centered, proclaim a gospel that revels in the dignity and self-esteem of the person.

None of these responses to the quest for self-fulfillment—ignoring, denying, or assimilating it—seem adequate. And all fail to appreciate its profound influence upon them.

If our chief end is to glorify and enjoy the Creator, one cannot underestimate the poison of an ethic of self-fulfillment. It dethrones God, and makes us jealous of our own rights and hostile to sacrifice and self-denial. Yet we must likewise avoid the reflex of throwing up bastions of safety in hope of reconstructing the supposed virtues of bygone days. The challenge is to comprehend the shifting values of the age God calls us to live in. We must follow resolutely the one who came to serve rather than to be served. We can then offer a word of certainty and hope to those who have given in to idolizing themselves.

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FRED SMITHMr. Smith is president of Fred Smith Associates, a food packaging company in Dallas, Texas. He was chairman for Billy Graham’s earliest Cincinnati crusade, and has been an active layman in such groups as Layman’s Leadership Institute and Youth for Christ.

I have read My Utmost for His Highest since it was given to me in December 1955. Chambers’s thinking has become part of my reflex thought. As “the mind of Christ” is in us, so are the minds of our favorite authors. They have taken up residence. Let me illustrate with five of Chambers’s thoughts.

“Sit loose to things.” Recently I got a phone call that cost me several thousand dollars. My first thought was, “Sit loose to things.” Enjoy them, work for them, use them, but sit loose to them.

Chambers defines lust as “I must have it now.” Lust is often a matter of timing rather than possession. Psychiatrists tell us the most common evidence of American immaturity is “the inability to delay gratification.” This goes all the way from premarital sex to installment buying. No one can fail to see the economic disaster to so many in the installment system of buying to satisfy a want before it can be practically afforded. Lust is a much broader concept than I would have recognized without Oswald Chambers: it is refusing the normal rhythm of life and failing to mature in it.

Today the improper use of Scripture and scriptural knowledge is a plague, particularly among the orthodox. Chambers sets it in context by observing, “So often we sharpen a verse of Scripture and jab another with it.” Our concepts of inerrancy can come into this area. I have never seen a statement of faith that included “living in love with fellow Christians.” But I have willingly signed the standard statement, all the while knowing that it is still possible to be unloving in my attitude without violating its strict letter. I think this is wrong and should be corrected. “Behold how they love one another” is part of inerrancy.

Chambers’s concept of “the white funeral,” in which we truly die to our self before we go through our black funeral of physical death, has placed a judgment on my lack of commitment. I know I have not been through the ultimate experience, but knowing it exists makes much more sense of life, and explains what is wrong with most Christians. We have not completely died and been through the “white funeral” out of which comes the complete resurrected life, unhampered by the problems of human ego and self-righteousness.

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This book is not entertaining or even exciting. It is compelling.

KENNETH S. KANTZERStanley H. Goodman. How to Manage a Turn Around (The Free Press—a Division of Macmillan, 1983). Dr. Kantzer was editor of Christianity Today from 1978 to 1982. He is now president of Trinity College, Deerfield, Illinois.

I wish the book that influenced me most in the past year were Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life or Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest, or even some masterwork in theology. But this would not be the truth. The book was Stanley H. Goodman’s Howto Manage a Turn Around.

What would you do if you were handed a college on a platter. Don’t know? Neither did I. It was a good college, basically sound in its Christian commitment and with great promise for the future. But it needed a turnaround financially and in its relationship to its natural constituency. Goodman’s volume proved to be a gold mine.

For the most part, the book is just common horse sense. But common sense is always uncommon. For example, I always thought the right plan is the one very best plan. Not so, says Goodman. Napoleon never went into a battle without at least a half-dozen different battle plans. Start with a realistic “disaster” plan to avoid the defeatism that follows missing the mark. But add second and third plans that stretch you to your limit.

And how about this insight: “If all you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as a nail. And nails don’t move unless driven.” Another gem is cited from that most mediocre of generals, Ulysses S. Grant, to Abraham Lincoln: “I was successful because you believed in me.” But this book is much more than a series of aphorisms. It is a practical, simple-to-understand tool to guide an executive in what to do and what not to do. Although written to turn around the bottom line in dollars and cents, with a little imagination most of the book is easily adaptable to a nonprofit organization, a church board, or a Sunday school department.

At $18.95, the book is greatly overpriced, and I borrowed my copy from the public library.

RICHARD D. DINWIDDIEEdith Schaeffer, The Tapestry: The Life and Times of Francis and Edith Schaeffer (Word, 1981). Mr. Dinwiddie is music director and conductor of The Chicago Master Chorale.

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My life had become complicated. I was trying to sort out conflicting strands, to relate the past to the present and to possible opportunities. How were my wife and I to fulfill our calling? Did the diversity of our ministries truly interrelate into a meaningful whole?

As I read Edith Schaeffer’s autobiography, The Tapestry: The Life and Times of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, I felt more determined to persevere. The book’s very length (650 pp.) and discursiveness heightened its sense of reality and honest immediacy. I could relate to others who experienced frustration, opposition, even confusion and failure. As Schaeffer put their lives and ministry into perspective, relating details to an emerging overall pattern, she showed what they are becoming. She came to see that God was integrating apparently unrelated experiences, relationships, and gifts. He was still weaving a highly significant tapestry.

I became elated that God is at work, in my own life. I was encouraged to be patient as he weaves together the varying strands of our lives and ministries, and to believe that the greatest ministry for my wife and me was yet ahead.

God used this book to assure me that he is still weaving our tapestry, and that his pattern will come out just right.

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