Our neighbors in Cloverleaf Vista are back from vacation. They were having a post-mortem at our barbecue. Everything went wrong again this year: it rained, the fish didn’t bite, the flies did, the twins had the mumps, the car side-swiped a frozen custard truck when the trailer hitch broke.
Peter Peiper, who will be a junior at Mortarford College, ventured to explain that this was just a case of IFD. General semantics, he said, shows that we escape from reality by symbolic thinking. The American vacation is an example of idealization. All winter we dream of vacation bliss. Comes the vacation reality and the discrepancy fills us with frustration. The cycle is Idealization, Frustration, Disintegration. Unrealistic ideals always end in despair.
About half way through these observations it began to rain; in the regrouping on the porch, only Mrs. Peiper, Pastor Peterson, and I remained in Peter’s seminar.
The pastor remarked that we suffer from a bankruptcy of ideals rather than an overstock. He took issue with the view that ideals were only carrots to be dangled at a calculated distance from the donkey’s nose. The cynical philosophy that makes all ideals adjustable is disillusionment made permanent. If the way out of despair were the reduction of our hopes, Buddhism would hold the key to mental health; kill off desire and find bliss in unconsciousness!
Peter protested that semantics recognizes the usefulness of realistic ideals, but Pastor Peterson was now in full sermonic form. “Usefulness of ideals!” he snorted. “An ideal isn’t a technique, it’s a standard. We need to know that we must be holy, in the image of God. That drives us to total despair, but there is the gate of repentance and faith.”
It developed that the pastor had heard of IFD before, when a university lecturer had charged Billy Graham with offering escape from reality in religious symbols. The pastor promptly began to crusade for DRF: Despair, Repentance, Faith. The Gospel begins with real despair and leads to real bliss. Instead of counseling adjustment to a scaled down reduction of the broken hopes of a sinner, it lifts up his eyes to the heights of Zion, and then lifts him there too, in Christ’s triumph.
VACUUM ONLY APPARENT
John H. Gerstner’s June 8 column reflects a degree of appreciation and understanding of pacifist thought which is rare for your journal. If Mr. Gerstner is interested, he will find that the vacuum of pacifist literature is only apparent. The Church Peace Mission at 1133 Broadway, Room 1601, New York 10, can furnish bibliography and study papers.
I must comment on the uncritical assumption of so many conservative Christians that Christian pacifism means “peace at any price” or, in present-day terms, selling out to the Russians. We pacifists underline Gerstner’s words: “If Christianity be true and God be a fact, then obedience to His truth at the cost of extinction is a cheap price to pay.” This is the testimony of pre-Constantinian Christians and of the Anabaptist martyrs, among others.
But does obedience to God’s truth mean that we exterminate our national enemies? The irony of our international situation is that, barring divine intervention or an unparalleled movement of genuine faith, both East and West will be equipped for automatic mutual annihilation in just a few years, thus forcing a choice between co-existence or extinction. Pacifists agree that survival may not be the ultimate good, but by what twist can the Christian gospel be made to support the vengeful assertion that “if we’ve got to die, they’ll all die, too”?
While I would expect … popular, sensational magazines to glorify war and the god of American nationalism, I thought that CHRISTIANITY TODAY would extol the pacifism exemplified by Christ more than it has.
Mt. Union, Pa.
I am continuing to read and enjoy CHRISTIANITY TODAY. I am glad to see that logic has not been thrown to the winds or left to die in a philosophy class. Just as in his classroom, Dr. Gerstner’s logic and keen perception makes pacifism look sick with only untried emotionalism to undergird its precepts.
My disgust with the church’s over-emphasis on the diplomatic problem concerning Red China and the forgetfulness concerning the spiritual needs of the Chinese of the Orient and our lands led me to “scratch out” the following lines:
Old Fourth Church did not sit at ease
Concerning the fate of the Red Chinese,
For at its socials and frequent teas
The congregation lamented the diplomatic squeeze.
“It isn’t fair,” boomed Deacon Brown,
Wearing that usual committee frown,
“To keep away official recognition
From such a large significant nation,
For it has grown from the wreck
Left by dictatorial Chiang Kai-shek.”
Yet strange as life itself can be
A block away lived poor Chun Lee,
But he never heard anyone tell
The story of Jesus and the gospel.
His boys, hungry and unusually small,
Played at war along Old Fourth’s wall:
But no one ever was heard to say,
“What would be Jesus’ main interest today?”
I see no choice but to recognize a government that is ruling the lives of over 500 million people, no matter what our opinions be on the philosophy and the aims under which this government operates.… Let me ask of the bitter critics of such a move, “Where were you when the government leaders of Iraq were killed and dragged in the streets, and within 48 hours our government recognized the rebel government?” It would appear to me that the big difference in this case is that Iraq has many oil wells involving substantial American interests while no such comparable economic tie exists in Red China.
First Presbyterian Church
San Fernando, Calif.
My summer holiday has afforded me time to reread one of the significant books by the late Secretary Dulles who was a friend and colleague of mine.… I would respectfully suggest that you publish the following from Mr. Dulles’ book War or Peace (page 190):
I have now come to believe that the United Nations will best serve the cause of peace if its Assembly is representative of what the world actually is, and not merely representative of the parts we like. Therefore, we ought to be willing that all nations should be members without attempting to appraise closely those which are ‘good’ and those which are ‘bad.’ Already that distinction is obliterated by the present membership of the United Nations.
If the Communist government of China in fact proves its ability to govern China without serious domestic resistance, then it, too, should be admitted to the United Nations. However, a regime that claims to have become the government of a country through civil war should not be recognized until it has been tested over a reasonable period of time”.…
Why assume that those who continue to think now what he thought nine years ago (even though he changed his mind about it afterwards when Secretary of State) are “leftish”?
South Strafford, Vt.
In the April 13 issue (Eutychus), Paul A. Remick states: “Not to recognize Red China is like refusing to recognize a change of administration in our own country.” … Diplomatic recognition is far more than calling a spade a spade.… If my memory serves me well, there was but one time in the history of our nation that a change of administration was not recognized—namely the secession of the Confederacy. The Union did not recognize it, did not approve. Rather, it fought what is often termed the bloodiest war in history to force the “rebels” back into the Union. We today are faced with the same issue: “Can any person be allowed to trample another underfoot?” Communist brand slavery is a far worse terror than that seen in our country so many years ago. It cannot, it must not be recognized by those who name the Name of Christ!
Ventnor, N. J.
THE OLD AND THE NEW BARTH
What possibly could be of less importance than whether or not the old Barth is a ‘New Barth,’ or the differences between Barthianism vs. Bultmannism? I read, and re-read, Prof. Van Til’s article (June 8 issue) and couldn’t make sense of it.… This type of contribution … is hard for the ordinary layman to digest and also … 99.44 per cent of the clergy. The world is steeped in sin and there is a simple remedy, which needs neither a Barth nor a Bultmann to explain or explain away.
Van Til’s critique of “the New Barth” … is typical of a certain ultra-Calvinistic crowd who think that they are doing God a favour by trampling on his ‘enemies.’ What a shock it will be to them when they discover who the enemies of God really are!
United Church of Canada
Cedar Springs, Ont.
Writing of Karl Barth, Dr. Van Til touches the two important points that Barth still maintains biblical errancy and seems not to relate the Resurrection adequately to the objective accomplishment of Atonement. Development of these could have given a valuable article. But instead we then move on to several misconceptions.… Thus, no serious student would find a new Barth in 1952, but none could dispute the critical change culminating in 1931–2. As regards the useful German distinction between history as what happens (Geschichte) and as the record of what happens (Historie), Barth emphatically and rightly will not say what he is virtually made to say, namely, that because an event is not or cannot be recorded, it did not really happen. In miracles, he sees an element which is historisch, i.e., can be recorded in scientific terms, but for him the real happening, e.g., God’s actual raising of Jesus, is beyond the terms of reference of scientific depiction. Yet this neither negates nor reduces its factuality. Why should it? Only subjective rationalism could think so. The context of most of Dr. Van Til’s quotations (in IV, 1) demands notice, namely, Barth’s relating of the Resurrection to the prophetic work of Christ, Himself present to proclaim and apply the message of Atonement by the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 14:16–18; Heb. 13:8 and Rev. 1:18). In this setting, the statements presume a factual Resurrection and bear no conceivable relation to the subjectivizing of Bultmann. The final tour de force which makes Barth the exact opposite of his own intention … hampers the serious and fruitful criticism demanded of evangelicals by the Dogmatics.
Fuller Theological Seminary
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
I have read your article on the United Church of Christ and think that you have correctly analyzed the situation. Communications from all over the United States come to my desk revealing an uneasiness with the merger, or definite hostility to it. Many are determined to maintain a truly Congregational association of churches.
I think you are right in surmising that the framework of the United Church of Christ has been set up contrary to the desires of a large segment of the Congregational churches in order to make the framework for the merger of many Protestant denominations. You are doing a great service in thus analyzing these aspects of the ecumenical movement.
Park Street Church
Pastor McCrae’s dilemma (Eutychus, May 25 issue) resolves itself in his fine expression: “entire relinquishment of the sick one to God.” If he will do so and teach others, he will be in no danger of turning about and telling God precisely what He should do, which seems to be implied by those “positive and expectant prayers.” In sickness I look to Him who is powerful to heal me, who loves me as His own dear child in Christ, and I ask Him to heal me (and others) “if it be Thy will.” My prayer is both positive and expectant. I know He hears and will answer in His own way and at His own time. What more could His child want than this? If we but let God be God and refrain from every temptation to instruct Him, the dilemma disappears.
The Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer
My faith in the love and rightness of God’s will in every matter gives me all the confidence I need to ask him for his highest and best gifts for both myself and others. Then I serenely and eagerly trust his holy, healing will to reveal himself in the yielded human mind, body and spirit.
… How I am comforted by the adoring thought, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; Blessed be the Name of the Lord!”
North Presbyterian Church
FAILURE OF MISSIONS
Carlsen’s article on missions should be put into the hands—and hearts—of every evangelical missionary and mission board executive in our country. He has pointed up the basic reason for the obvious failure of Christian missions to evangelize effectively the world. And, as a former missionary, I know that what he describes is all too true.
Clymer, N. Y.
BACK INTO SERVICE
May I ask your readers in many parts of the world … if there is any person who could assist one who is struggling to master a new language. There are no doubt many amongst your readers who were missionaries in China and who used the Hokkien Dialect. My wife and I want to obtain a copy of “Chinese-English Dictionary of the vernacular or spoken language of Amoy” by the Reverend Carstairs Douglas and the supplement by the Reverend Thomas Barclay. These have been out of print for many years but there are doubtless many copies still extant and these could be brought back into service for the Lord and could also make our study considerably simpler. If several copies are thus found it will also assist several friends who are also searching for these dictionaries.
Overseas Missionary Fellowship
B 100, Tapah Road
A FLAME AND A BRIDGEHEAD
We here have just had the privilege of a “Billy Graham” Crusade, and it has unquestionably lit a very real “spiritual flame” in this land, such as could finally transform the face of the whole nation. I witnessed the “London Crusade” also, but Sydney has far surpassed it. Whilst “decisions” are an indication, they do not really measure the magnitude of the impact, in changed attitudes and the many unseen conversions. I feel a real bridgehead has been made, and it will be our own fault if it is not secured and expanded.
Royal Australian Air Force
Richmond, N.S.W., Australia
PREACHING THE BIBLE
The answer to Maurice Mahler (Eutychus, May 25 issue) and his hosts of friends who find that many of our seminaries do not instruct young seminarians how to preach the Bible and its passages to our people with emphasis upon what the real meaning of the text is, I believe, is found in the Bible Institute.
The three years, thought by many of my friends to be “wasted,” were the most fruitful of my theological training from the standpoint of preaching the Word with emphasis upon the context.
Baptist Missionary Church
La Porte, Ind.
“Relativity” (L. Nelson Bell, Sept. 15 issue) … brings out a … majestic … viewpoint! It should be particularly useful in college and Unitarian communities.
Too long I have thought of Jesus the Christ as having begun with his birth by the Virgin Mary. You made it clear to me that creation was in the hands of Christ, the eternal Son of God.…
THE WIDE GULF
Thanks for your brief news report (April 13 issue, p. 30) about the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.… Many of the new logia are obviously late or of little interest to any but specialists in Gnosticism. But those sayings that parallel synoptic sayings may throw real light upon the working of oral tradition. Perhaps one of the greatest values of the discovery of the Gnostic library is that it clearly demonstrates the wide gulf between the thought of the New Testament and that of the Gnostics. These writings show that although some of the terminology may have coincided, Gnostic influence could never have found any place in the minds of the New Testament writers.
St. Mary’s College
St. Andrews, Scotland
The writer wishes to announce the imminent appearance of the Reviled-Slandered Perversion of the Bible, a boon to that clergyman who rejoices in the progress of Christianity from its Humble Beginnings to its Present-Role-and-Status.
Embarrassed for years by claims of authority benighted dodderers have advanced on behalf of the Bible, yet a bit timid about replacing the old tome with a culling from Rousseau, Paine, Hegel, the Tübingen School, Schweitzer, Fosdick, and Wieman, the modern Marcion has felt somewhat sheepish about marching under a cellophane banner. Yet a real moral issue is involved. It would be a sacrifice of honor to expediency if one claimed to have faith in the Scriptures when one did not—something no honest liberal would do; therefore the happy solution suggests itself that the Scripture can be changed, in such a way that they may become a Manifesto of the Liberal Faith. After all, “if the patient isn’t doing well, change the medicine” seems considerably more sensible than “if the medicine isn’t doing well, change the patient.” Our experience is that such patients seldom can be changed.
One example may suggest our approach. Where RSV has for John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” R-SP reads the same verse (PPE 1:1—PPE—Probably Presbyter of Ephesus), “The archetypal logos originates from and participates in the summum bonum.” This is especially nice for showing the harmony between or, on a sunny day, the identity of Jungian analysis and Christian theology.
Other features of our Bible include these: 1. all miracles printed in italics to signify they are “faith events” rather than historical happenings; 2. all dogmatic statements introduced by the phrase, “It seems to me that …,” except when made by Christ: in such cases introduced by the phrase, “The second and third generation of the early Church thought that Christ said that …”; 3. all attributions of authorship followed by a question mark, sic: The Book of Hosea (?); 4. all statements reflecting mercy printed in red and all statements reflecting judgment printed in light grey.
Your cooperation is requested concerning one factor before the final galley proofs are sent to the printer. We are conducting a public opinion survey to see which three books of the Bible we should leave out altogether. Please send in your suggestions.
We are hoping for a big sale of R-SP. It should do even better than some of our earlier publications, such as Where Liberal Protestants Stand (a study of the architecture of a Unitarian Church with no pews); Building a Vital Theology (a do-it-yourself kit); and Authority in Liberalism Today (an exposition of non-directive counselling techniques).
If you wish to place an advance order for R-SP, just make out a check for ten dollars and send it on to us. Our address can be found in any standard study of witchcraft.
Lake Forest, Ill.
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