Emerging from the horrors of World War II, men wondered whether another cycle of uneasy peace would smoulder into further world conflagration, or whether somehow, through the purging of affliction, they had unknowingly passed through darkness toward the dawn. Since the first postwar flush of victory, the latter possibility seems less live than ever. Whatever purging or cleansing effects war may have, they lack enough potency to accomplish the desirable end. Social evils are such that some evangelicals find themselves wondering whether there yet remains on earth the equivalent of “ten righteous in Sodom.” But the so-called “prophets of doom” are not confined to the pulpit. Eminent physicist Edward Teller predicts Russia’s unquestioned world leadership in science ten years from now and sees the world modeled after Russian ideas rather than Western by the end of the century. Men are asking, “For earth, what time is it? Are these still her evolutionary birth pangs, or are we hearing the final cadence of God’s countdown for her history?”
In such an hour CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S 50 contributing editors, scattered around the globe, have been asked to assess the past year’s impact of a purifying Gospel laboring within the toils of a world system with a vast capacity for evil and to relay portents for the immediate and more distant future.
Light shimmers from a distant corner as several contributors rejoice over the signal triumphs of grace manifest in Billy Graham’s Australasian crusades. From the antipodes, Principal Stuart Barton Babbage, of Melbourne’s Ridley College, sounds an apocalyptic note: “In Australia, through the Billy Graham Crusade, we have seen afresh the power of the Gospel, and we have seen the citadels of unbelief challenged and shaken. We thank God and take courage. We believe that, in God’s own time, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ: that he will reign for ever and ever (Rev. 11:15).” Kansas Professor Fred E. Young, speaking from America’s heartland, sees evangelistic cooperation behind Billy Graham producing for evangelicalism a “status that must be recognized by all groups—secular and religious.” Boston’s Harold John Ockenga writes, “The impact of mass evangelism under the phenomenal leadership of Billy Graham has had its effect upon all camps.”
Dr. Ockenga notes other causes for optimism: “Evangelicalism, after falling into obscurity because of the proliferation under decades of fundamentalist bickering, is emerging to challenge the theological world. A new respect is being gained for its position by the efforts of the younger scholars. Publishing houses like Harper, Macmillan and Scribners, which formerly shied away from evangelical work, are now courting evangelical scholars.…
“There is a change in the intellectual climate of orthodoxy. The present tendency is to repudiate the separatists’ position … to re-examine the problems facing the position of orthodoxy, to return to the theological dialogue and to recognize the honesty and Christianity of those who hold views other than our own.… There is a patent willingness on the part of the new evangelicals to acknowledge the debt to the old fundamentalist leaders who maintained the orthodox position during a time of persecution and discrimination.… There may be a difference of attitude but there is no difference in the creedal content of their Christianity.”
Professor Faris D. Whitesell discerns two evangelical gains: frustration in enlisting church workers to man the “multiplicity of programs and gadgets” has led to greater dependence upon the Holy Spirit; and the forbidding world conditions have influenced evangelical preaching toward a “more serious and biblical mood.” “There has never been so much real Gospel preaching throughout the world as there has been since World War II,” declares Professor J. Theodore Mueller. Dr. Andrew W. Blackwood, author of many books for ministers, writes, “There is among many laymen an increasing desire for preaching from the Bible and for pulpit use of doctrine. Among pastors there is a dawning sense of need for pulpit use of Bible ethics, both for one person and for various groups. As soon as ministers can reserve sufficient time for hard study and private prayer, many of them will learn how to use God’s Written Word in meeting the heart needs of men today. What a golden opportunity for non-belligerent evangelicals!”
Dr. Paul S. Rees believes the past year to have witnessed a growing maturity in evangelical self-awareness and responsibility. “CHRISTIANITY TODAY has more than pulled its weight. Slowly we in the United States are learning the difference between confronting issues and cuffing ears, between informed apologetics and indiscriminate personal attacks.” Dr. Richard C. Halverson points encouragingly to the “spontaneous generation of the fellowship, Bible study, and prayer group movement, with or without organizational sponsorship.” “Many things show that the hosts of the Lord are actively at work,” summarizes Dr. Oswald T. Allis. “Printing press, radio, and television are carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth; the evangelist with his challenge, ‘The Bible says,’ is reaching the ears of multitudes; age-old injustices of man to man are being righted. God is at work!”
From Great Britain too come heartening reports of evangelical advance. Indeed, ecclesiastical anxiety has been voiced in the British Council of Churches over the resurgence of “a very evangelical form of the Christian faith.” The Archbishop of York recently complained that the Graham crusade in Britain had strengthened fundamentalism. As Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of England, the Rt. Rev. F. P. Copland Simmons has travelled thousands of miles about England and spoken in churches of all the major Protestant denominations the past year. His impression is that “a quiet but vitally important revival” is taking place within the British churches. Though church membership figures remain fairly constant, attendance has been much improved, “finances have doubled, trebled, and (in some cases) quadrupled” and “offers of Christian service have come … in embarrassing numbers.…” “To some of us, this is a real answer to prayer and God’s clear guidance to his Church in the battle with secularism and apathy. The thousands of Bible study and prayer groups, which have arisen lately, are sending men and women back to the reading and study of God’s Word.” Also heartening is the appointment of Contributing Editor F. F. Bruce as Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis on the University of Manchester’s faculty of theology. The Rev. Maurice Wood, President of the Islington Clerical Conference, has been named to a new permanent “Committee on Evangelism” constituted by the Church Assembly of the Church of England. He writes, “The Church of England is remembering once again that if it is to be the Church of the Nation, it must, under God, increasingly become the evangelizing agent of God to the nation.”
Methodist W. E. Sangster sees “no signs yet of wide revival” in Britain, “but evangelicals are taking the growing agnosticism in our land with more seriousness and giving more time to pre-evangelism than they did. Direct evangelism can run both concurrently with it—and consecutively.”
From France, Pierre Marcel writes of a complete change in the fortunes of Calvinism in France—more than a third of the Protestant pastors are members of the Calvinist Society, of which he is vice-president. He is also director of publications of the Reformed Church of France and reports the release of 15 volumes in two years with heartening acceptance by the French public. He notes deficiencies in stewardship and evangelism—“We do not know how to fashion genuine evangelists.”
Dr. Halverson, recently returned from the Orient, sees solid evangelical gains in the Asian churches’ “new awareness” of their evangelistic mission, with “their assumption of its obligation upon the withdrawal of Western dominance,” and also in the “awakening in the Church in Japan coincident with its centiennial.”
But the contributing editors are not oblivious to evangelical shortcomings. Dr. Ned B. Stonehouse, Guest Professor this academic year in the Faculty of Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam, observes: “To a large extent evangelicals continue to be impeded by tendencies toward sectarianism, ecclesiasticism and traditionalism. But even where these are largely left behind, the forces at work often appear to be precisely those which are operative in the larger realm of Christendom: tendencies to vagueness or latitudinarianism with regard to the Christian faith, including especially the doctrine of Scripture and that of the Church. Schism and self-righteous isolationism are heinous sins, but unless evangelicalism shows greater evidence of growth in perception of and commitment to the truth, it can hardly hope to meet the threat of secularism to engulf the Church.” Professor Gordon H. Clark hears “no great voice … proclaiming total depravity, election, the atonement, justification, perseverance, and the other major Reformation themes.” Dr. Clyde S. Kilby feels that “some vital element is missing: there is no strong basic intensity, no underlying will to Christian witness.…”
In the area of social responsibility, Dr. Rees charges theological conservatives with being too willing to settle for negations and meek acquiescence in the status quo. “Robust belief in Christ’s coming again needs to be married to an informed concern in the minds of Christians with regard to their citizenship responsibilities.” Director R. Kenneth Strachan, of the Latin America Mission, calls for greater effectiveness in evangelism and education on the part of evangelical missions as they confront communism, Romanism, and nationalism—“they must develop a keener understanding of the social tidal wave.…”
Dr. Ockenga declares the contemporary church’s greatest need to be revival within, for the purification of its life and testimony. Ecclesiastical weaknesses are mirrored in the body politic. Political leaders decry the lack of purpose in American life but are loathe to grapple with spiritual solutions. The London Timesrecently commented on the American substitution of morality-concern for religious interest. Dr. Stonehouse points to the inordinate American preoccupation with science, chiefly motivated by fear of what Russia may do next. He sees the two nations racing “in this process of secularization.” “Is not the Western world moving rapidly away from Christianity?” “The Church’s witness has become largely vague …, doctrinally indifferent, if not blatantly heretical. The widely affirmed disjunction between loyalty to Christ’s person and to ideas about Christ springs from an utterly heretical, non-Christian philosophy. The inclusive church tends to be as broad as the world, and thus a society which is only nominally Christian may be as worldly as one in open allegiance to secularism.”
Dr. Clark looks with disapproval upon certain government trends: “An autocratic state is always a danger to the free propagation of the gospel, and such a tendency in the United States advances with governmental interference in the steel strike (not only by present injunction, but more by previous legislation), with Dr. Blake’s proposal to tax churches, and with the candidacy of John Kennedy for President.” “Khrushchev’s too cordial reception has still further weakened America’s already weak resistance to communism.…”
The contributing editors list many American societal ills stemming from spiritual deficiencies; among others: juvenile delinquency, overemphasis on sex, blatant dishonesty in entertainment, and the continued growth of crime. Professor William Childs Robinson asks: “Have violence and murder become our entertainment and our practice? Has truth fallen in the street, in television and in sport, in our relations one to another?”
Professor Harold B. Kuhn laments the fact that coincidently with the Soviet Union’s appeal to uncommitted peoples through space achievements, “our creative artists—on canvas, on the stage, on the screen, and on the printed page”—are “ingraining decadence at home, and demeaning the United States abroad. One is tempted to ask how long we can afford the ‘luxury’ of this abuse of freedom for the sake of royalties and box office receipts.”
Scientists wonder out loud how long a nation can come in second and still hold first place. What makes a power first class? Intellectuals muse that perhaps a totalitarian nation with a hard core of false convictions may possess greater dynamic than a democracy of varied philosophies. Dr. Rees offers as one description of 1959: “the year when the West was humbled.” “Hidden in the mystery of God’s judgments is the stark fact that in the technological conquest of space those who deny him are out-pacing those who do him lip service. Still, the Hebrew prophets faced something similar. The philosophy of history God taught them needs recovery now: the ‘more wicked’ are used to shatter the pretensions of the ‘less wicked’ who have, nevertheless, more light for which they are accountable.” Speaking of the weakness of the Christian witness, Professor Geoffrey W. Bromiley bemoans the fact that “a nation like the U.S. can still pursue on a large scale wrongly conceived educational policies, and that there is no answer either in the preaching or the lives of Christians to the theoretical or practical materialism which threatens to engulf both East and West.”
Some of the contributing editors tentatively agree with Professor Teller’s predictions as to Russia’s future dominance, although notably Frenchman Pierre Marcel looks for the ultimate supremacy of the U.S. over the U.S.S.R. He accords a strategic role in determining the future course of world history to the faith and works of American Christians. Barring an atomic war, Dr. Earl L. Douglass feels that communism and democracy will greatly modify each other within 50 to 100 years.
General William K. Harrison sees social evil and the anti-biblical nature of much that passes for Christianity both calling forth the wrath of God. “This time I believe that wrath will be the Great Tribulation so clearly prophesied in the Bible.”
Professor Bernard Ramm is daily confronted with two items: the mystery of iniquity and the triumph of the Gospel. Despite communism and anti-missionary nationalism, he expects to see fully “as much triumph of the Gospel as there is evident mystery in iniquity. The fiery furnace, the blooded sword, and the imperial decree have never yet extinguished the gospel or the Church; and I do not expect them to do so in our generation.”
Dr. Bromiley is “not unhopeful” that by the end of the century “we may see the fruition” of many evangelical movements now in early stages. “God may confound our present estimate of their inadequacy as he takes our little and makes it much.”
Dr. Cary N. Weisiger, III, sets the present task within its eschatological orientation. “With the world’s population multiplying at a frightening rate and the possibility of world evangelization seemingly more difficult, we can pray, witness and serve courageously if we keep looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ.” Anglican Maurice Wood sees the combination of shallowness within a “mixed church” (wheat and tares, Mt. 13:24–30) along with increasing missionary endeavor as indicative of the nearness of Christ’s return. He pleads for a greater evangelistic effort as does Dr. Sangster, who describes this as our plain duty regardless of the lack of unanimity among British evangelicals (he could have added American) as to “whether the world will soon end in a holocaust or continue for many centuries.”
When a man stands in the arid Kidron Valley, he is on apocalyptic ground. Both Jews and Moslems believe this to be the site of the Last Judgment. Moslem tombs are on one side, Jewish tombs on the other. The Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, is but a continuation of Kidron. In one direction the observer looks up to see the tawny wall of Jerusalem, city of history’s most horrifying event. But happily he may turn and lift his eyes to the Mount of Olives, scene of the Ascension with its steeling words: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations …: I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” And the white-robed men said, “This same Jesus … shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
Whatever the hour on God’s clock, the ultimate triumph is secure. But the countdown is not yet ended … and there is yet work.…
READING REQUIREMENTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIAN SEMINARIES
The Christian theological institutions of Southeast Asia have been presented with a preliminary and tentative listing of books for guidance in stocking their libraries. The work of Dr. Raymond P. Morris, professor of religious literature and librarian at Yale University, the list aims to suggest “a good collection of books,” and an up-to-date research library will do well to give heed to it.
Fortunately, however, the compilation disowns any intention of selecting the “best” or definitive books, or even of proposing a core library. It simply provides a “prompter” sheet (of 154 pages), highly useful as such, but not without deficiencies in its reflection of historic evangelical Christianity.
This defect becomes the more apparent if one keeps an eye on the volumes designated by an asterisk as “books considered by the compiler as of unusual value for the purposes of this list.” Apart from the omission of distinctively evangelical works worthy of inclusion (B. B. Warfield’s writings are excluded, as is the five-volume International Standard Bible Encyclopedia edited by James Orr), the section on “Christianity and Other Religions” seems woefully weak. Under “Dictionaries and Encyclopedias” Southeast Asian librarians are prophetically informed that “the forthcoming Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary … and the forthcoming revised Dictionary of the Bible by Hastings, may be expected to supersede older English Bible dictionaries.” No mention is made of the forthcoming Dictionary of Theology by evangelical scholars. The section on the “Authority of the Bible” is marked by its absence of volumes defending the high and historic view. The Interpreter’s Bible is specially commended. The listings seem frequently to defer to critical schools of thought now widely under challenge in scholarly circles. One will search the recommended list of commentaries on specific Old Testament books almost in vain for a reference to consistently evangelical works, although in the New Testament sections some older works survive from previous generations, while contemporary evangelical scholarship is virtually ignored. J. Gresham Machen’s classic works on The Virgin Birth of Christ and The Origin of Paul’s Religion do not appear. In the few places where evangelical works are included, the theological standpoint of the list apparently requires special indicia of caution; F. F. Bruce’s The Acts of the Apostles gains the explanation: “Conservative.” Liberal and neo-orthodox works are not specially designated.
We are not suggesting that the Yale list is valueless. A competent library reference room must consider the great bulk of these works if it is shelved with care. Nor do we charge that the list is anti-evangelical. Some evangelical works are included, even in the section on contemporary theological thought, and these selections are worthy. But the list is heavily weighted in the liberal and neo-orthodox directions, and it does not really reflect the weight of evangelical scholarship in our century any more than it does full justice to historic biblical Christianity. The kindest verdict would be that the list lacks objectivity. One may hope that it will not serve finally as a basis for approving theological libraries of Southeast Asia as adequate for “accredited institutions,” since it weights essential reading matter in the direction of theological bias at the expense of the evangelical heritage to which the foreign missions enterprise owes its very life.
From an additional standpoint the Yale list, in its present form, seems regrettable. In our generation evangelical schools have been striving more and more to reflect alien points of view with fairness and accuracy, and not simply to condemn them on bias. An examination of evangelical institutions will disclose that their libraries incorporate proportionately more literature reflective of modern theological deviations than theologically-inclusive centers include of the competent evangelical literature of the day. Evangelical institutions have awakened to the fact that historic Christianity has nothing to fear from any quarter, and that the critical assaults upon it are soon deflated. But it would hardly serve the cause of Christian unity in our day were the theological seminaries of the Occident to be reinforced at the expense of evangelical Christianity. What is needed is not simply a grudging supplementation of the Yale list. Perhaps some agency like Evangelical Theological Society could be invited to designate competent evangelical literature worthy of inclusion in the reference reading of Southeast Asians in a time of growing evangelical concern and evangelistic urgency.
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