Frequently during our short existence we have had occasion to pinpoint the more unsatisfactory features in the modern ecumenical movement. There has been no desire to be critical merely for the sake of a negative obstructionism. But it has seemed impossible that a genuine or fruitful unity could be achieved on the basis of the vague goodwill, the amorphous theology, the unthinking expansiveness, the evasion of real problems and the ecclesiastical maneuvering which have so often appeared to be the characteristics of ecumenical speech and action. The criticism of the movement has been in the name and for the sake of a true but solidly grounded ecumenicity which must surely be the desire of every real disciple of our one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

With particular interest and some anticipation we view certain more recent developments in ecumenical affairs, particularly in relation to the work of the commissions of Faith and Order on theological and liturgical matters. Pursuing the basic theme enunciated at Lund, the commission on the interrelationship of Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Church is especially significant in view of the nature of the subject, the general biblical and theological nature of the approach, and the radical effects which must necessarily follow for the whole movement if real conclusions are both reached and applied.

The point is that work of this nature constitutes a summons to the movement to think out its basis and nature at the deepest level. If the summons is accepted, a good deal of what passes for ecumenism will be sifted and some painful readjustments of thinking, speech and action will inevitably be demanded. At the same time, however, the movement will be offered a solid grounding in Jesus Christ; it will be able to acquire the biblical and theological orientation without which there may be much goodwill but there can be no true communion; and there will be the chance of real integration instead of the ecclesiastical rearrangements which seem to be the limit of possibility in existing circumstances.

The execution of this work is thus of vital importance for the real future of the movement and for the hope of gaining the confidence of conservative evangelicals which has been sadly dissipated or estranged by so much in its previous record. Three suggestions may thus be made which are constructive in nature, which are not designed in any spirit of impertinent interference, but which may help forward the achievement of the true ecumenism which is both required and desired.

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First, to those engaged in the work of the commissions, more particularly in the sphere of theology, it may be suggested that the enquiry should not be treated as an academic exercise but as an urgent piece of service demanding the humility, prayer and urgency of all Christian work. In the desire for full investigation it is fatally easy to protract this type of work, to make it an opportunity for agreeable theological interchange, indeed, to turn it into a theological tournament in which favorite and contradictory ideas are ably but not very relevantly propounded. But if the relationship of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Church is truly and effectively to be seen, there must be a vigorous and united work of exegetical and biblical theology which will involve the subjecting of mind and will to the constructive teaching of the Word and Spirit.

Second, to the churches which await the fulfillment of this work, it may be suggested that they should not envisage it either as theological byplay of purely abstract importance, or as mere ballast for actions planned and executed on other principles, but as the real basis for future thought and action. While constructive discussion will be required, the conclusions, when they come, must not be shelved as of only academic interest nor readjusted for purely diplomatic reasons, but brought right into the future progress of the movement. If not, there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name; if so, there is hope of a true ecumenism which will achieve a worthwhile goal commending itself to all who truly confess Jesus Christ as Saviour and God.

Third, it may be suggested that this is a sphere in which the participation of conservative evangelicals on some level is perhaps both possible and essential. With much present-day ecumenical activity they have felt that they cannot make common cause. Towards a soundly exegetical and theological enquiry, however, they have something which they are able and willing to contribute in order that the relationship of Christ and the Church, and its implications for the churches, should be plainly perceived and established. Evangelicals are often accused of exclusivism and non-cooperativeness. But here is a case where there can be little objection to participation, and the genuineness of the desire for cooperation with them can be proved.

For the moment, it is obvious that little has been done, in America at least, to secure the representation of historic evangelicalism even from among those who are in any case members of churches committed to the ecumenical movement. No doubt there has been no deliberate exclusion. But at a point where cooperation seems both possible and desirable towards a particular goal, the incorporation of evangelical witness for specific purposes would meet any complaint that such exclusion in fact corresponds to exclusiveness, and would bring into the whole discussion a new and constructive and necessary element from the exegetical and theological standpoint.

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American ecclesiastical leaders are prone to ascribe any lingering disinterest in ecumenism to evangelical obstinacy and obstructionism. They turn a deaf ear to pointed theological criticisms of ecumenism levelled in Europe by neo-orthodox and evangelical spokesmen alike. In behalf of a spiritual view of the Church, Emil Brunner has frequently challenged ecumenical preoccupation with organization and externals. Karl Barth’s criticisms, if anything, drive even deeper. He protests the ecumenical—or world-wide—restriction of a Church whose real nature is catholic or universal, and hence inclusive of Christians in all times and places. Some modern ecumenists are not on speaking terms with Luther and Calvin and Augustine, or even with the New Testament apostles. Hence they are not genuinely catholic at all; despite their zeal for ecumenism, their devotion to essential Christianity remains in doubt. A further criticism of ecumenism is not wholly unrelated. The unity of the Church is best promoted, Barth contends, through the earnest effort of church dogmaticians, whereas the contemporary ecumenical program is advanced largely through the labor of ecclesiastical politicians.

Current addiction to “the inclusive ecumenical Church” has intensified rather than dissolved our modern need for Christian belief (as the Apostles’ Creed has it) in “the holy catholic Church.”


A Christian Answer To America’S Youth Problem

Alert churches with efficient programs of Christian education are already preparing for next summer’s Vacation Bible schools. This system of study is immensely successful in reaching increasingly large numbers of children and youth throughout America and deserves an even wider acceptance by the churches.

Vacation Bible schools offer classes for Beginner, Primary, Junior and Intermediate age groups. Included are Bible study, memory work, missionary stories, dramatizations, habit talks, instruction in worship, and handwork. The trend in recent years has been to develop these courses around a single Bible theme for the entire school, but graded according to the ages and development of the pupils. The usual length of the session is two weeks, although an extended program is possible.

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Vacation Bible schools are effective evangelizing agencies. In planning for them the churches lift their eyes beyond their immediate constituencies to new fields “white unto harvest” in the community at large. It is the experience of thousands of these schools that lives never before touched by the Gospel are brought into saving relationship to Christ.

Such an evangelistic thrust has been a decisive factor in combating juvenile delinquency. VBS leaders believe such schools act both as a preventive and a cure. They undergird the mind with Bible truth and keep alive the urges to Christian conduct. They supply contacts with parents in new and needy areas which often result in building real Christian home and family relationships.

It is frequently said that a child learns more about the Bible in the vacation school than in a full year of regular sessions in the Sunday school. This is easily demonstrated when it is realized that there are only about 25 Bible teaching hours in the Sunday school year. In the average two-week vacation school the pupil gets considerably more than this. The Roman Catholic Church in America gives some 300 hours of religious instruction to each pupil; Jewish synagogue schools 305 hours. In the light of this comparison it is small wonder that the average child in most Protestant churches can give no adequate reason for his faith. Many educators believe that a few weeks of continuous, intensive training, such as the VBS offers, are tremendously effective. The mind of the child is better able to retain lines of thought from one session to another. Teachers are not faced with the severe time limitations of the Sunday session. Thus churches in a few short weeks can double the effectiveness of their educational program. This factor alone should impel evangelical churches to hold these vacation schools every summer.

There are many other beneficial values to be derived from Vacation Bible schools. Publishers of evangelical church school literature provide a wealth of study courses and methods manuals. Committees, teachers and curriculum should be chosen at an early date if this summer’s work is to be truly rewarding.


The Call-Girl Racket And Work As A Calling

Radio listeners were stunned recently by a CBS network program on “The Business of Sex.” The narrator, Edward R. Murrow, introduced evidence that certain large corporations regularly hire prostitutes (now professionally active by thousands in some large American cities) to swing big contract deals.

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Testimony of prostitutes (who anonymously claimed a place on the regular payroll of public relations staffs for as much as $25,000 a year) may not be the public’s most trustworthy source of reliable information. But the very picture of corporation-financed prostitution as a business weapon is itself a shocking commentary on the times. Prostitutes’ pimps, who corrupt the world of legitimate work by their lucrative exploitation of female flesh, have apparently shown certain company executives a way to turn business contracts on considerations of vice more than on the virtues of their products.

Of the many perverse ways of earning a living, prostitution is one the Christian community views with compassionate disdain. The great change that Christianity wrought in the sex outlook of the ancient world is perhaps specially apparent here. In the Graeco-Roman world, to which the Gospel was addressed, prostitution—even religious prostitution as a part of temple worship—was not only prevalent and tolerated, but remained unrebuked by the highest philosophical moralists of that day. The remarkable reversal of conviction brought about by the Christian view of sex is evident from the fact that sacred prostitution would today be regarded throughout the West as utterly repugnant to a spiritual conscience.

Yet in the modern world of sex license and corruption, prostitution has become a world-wide vice. In many centers of the Western world racketeers who traffic in sex have sought to make the profession both glamorous and respectable. With this modern glamorization of sex deviations, public curiosity in sex aberrations has mounted; literature of sexual misbehavior soars regularly into best-seller ranks. In stark contrast stands the biblical condemnation of easy sex attitudes. One recalls Hosea’s words: “The land hath committed great whoredom.” Or Paul’s pointed words to the Ephesians: “For this ye know, that no whoremonger … hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.… And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

Although the modern designation of the call-girl (a prostitute available by telephone) is a reflex of our age of invention, it is also a tragic perversion of calling, a sacred term. The Bible requires every man and woman to justify the work-a-day pursuits of life as a divine vocation. How far the reprobate modern world has lost this sense of calling is dramatized by the gross perversions of our era which—as in the case of company-financed prostitution—corrupt the values of sex and work and business and life in a single night.

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Elusive Freedom In East And West

Just one hour after Anastas Mikoyan’s question-dodging performance on NBC’s “Meet the Press”—during which Americans must have marveled that a system playing so fast and loose with fact could actually dominate such vast multitudes—Adlai Stevenson spoke in Washington’s Constitution Hall of communism’s vigorous challenge to America. In the first of a projected series of addresses in memory of A. Powell Davies, famed Unitarian clergyman of Washington who died in 1957, Mr. Stevenson had some needed harsh words for his countrymen. Scoring the materialist and hedonist ways of life, he warned that the collapse of the French aristocracy and the corruption of imperial Rome “do not lose their point because the pleasures of today are mass pleasures and no longer the enjoyments of an elite. If we become a nation of Bourbons, numbers won’t save us.… Between a chaotic, selfish, indifferent commercial society and the iron discipline of the Communist world, I would not like to predict the outcome,” he said grimly.

Declaring that tyranny is the “normal pattern of government” and that freedom demands “infinitely more care and devotion than any other political system,” the former Illinois governor called for a rebirth of the vision of Dr. Davies, “who loved the truth and believed in man’s capacity and right to govern himself.”

Mr. Stevenson’s perceptive analysis of his country’s failings was better than his Unitarian solution which ultimately throws man back upon himself and denies him the power derived through mystical union with God Incarnate. The nation needs an Augustine to rediscover its true freedom in bondage to Christ.


God And Satellites And Modern Unbelief

The science of atheism—if it is really scientific—is getting new attention at Communist hands.

On television, Soviet Deputy Premier Mikoyan said he had discussed the existence of God with intelligent people, and had concluded that God does not exist.

As ludicrous is the Moscow radio announcement of Y. T. Fadeyev, head of the scientific-atheistic section of the journal Science and Life. Fadeyev said that jets and rockets and earth satellites have disproved God and discredited Christian dogmas (for example: missiles disprove the “religious dogma” that ascent to heaven is possible only through divine intervention!). Fadeyev notes that rockets and satellites have encountered neither angels nor a Supreme Being. This argument bares Fadeyev’s ignorance of the nature of the spiritual.

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The case for theism must not be detached from God’s unique revelation in Scripture and in Christ. But nature, too, daily puts God’s glory on parade. And we add this thought: if finite minds and wills are now able to hurl a satellite into space, setting it in distant orbit, is it not perverse for man to ascribe the planets unquestioningly to an aboriginal star dust and to doubt the possibility that God put the stars in their place?


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