REFORMATION DAY, 1959
With just a bit of hesitation
I write requesting information;
I find that clergy of my station
Are asked to give an explanation
Of reasons for the Reformation.
I must confess in consternation,
Lacunae in my education
Create an awkward situation.
I’ve heard about predestination,
And even consubstantiation,
(And Henry’s royal irritation
About a papal dispensation
Refused without consideration,)
And Luther’s themes for disputation
That promptly on their publication
Electrified the German nation.
But I must ask with trepidation,
If we may speak with commendation
In days of church consolidation
Of worthies of the Reformation
Who labored in indoctrination
Were negative in altercation
And horrified their generation
By the crime of separation?
LEFT HIM COLD
Dr. Edman’s praise of Youth for Christ (August 31st issue) left me as cold as have the numerous Youth for Christ meetings I have attended. Most YFC leaders seem to be expressive at the drop of a hat in condemning the “formalism” and “worldliness” of the ecumenical denominations; yet I have seen few things within Christendom more “worldly” than the Youth for Christ movement with its plush international conventions, snappy choruses, meaningless ditties, jazz rhythms, and “spectacular” rallies (the latest one in my area featured a magician for the evening’s entertainment). The movement’s general disregard of the importance of the Church was typified in a leader’s remark to me that he didn’t get a chance to go to church much—he was too busy with Youth for Christ rallies.
What is there in this frothy stuff to make the knee bow and the tongue confess? Evangelically, it is without form and void.
DONALD E. WALDEN
The Methodist Church
The Writer’s Guide of the YFC magazine systematically sets forth a destruction of style, grammar, and good usage as being the desideratum of teen-age Christian literature.… There seems to be little stress on the … active participation in a normal church life that should lead the convert beyond his need of “shot-in-the-arm” rallies and entertainments. Naturally the weekly worship of a church is dull beside the Gospel cowboy singers and flamboyant speakers of the rally.… We in southern Ontario have also encountered a long, saddening series of attempts by YFC organizers to create internal dissent in active and effective Christian youth groups in order to establish their own program.
Certainly, the evangelistic efforts of Youth for Christ should continue—but, I feel, with less attention to “Youth” who are rapidly swamping out “Christ” in its programming; with less stress for the believer on the ease of forgiveness, and more on the reducing of our recurrent need for forgiveness by the encouragement of a personal devotional life conducive to ethical Christian living; and with a major effort at working with and supporting the local churches—becoming a feeder rather than a competitor, and hoping eventually as the churches revive, to become an unnecessary appendage that will decrease as they increase.
G. F. ATKINSON
UNRELATED TO NCC
The Assemblies of God have always been known to be one of “the most strictest sects” of the fundamentalists of today.… If there is any church in America that is distinctly and utterly separate from the National Council of Churches, it is the Assemblies of God. There is not a single Modernist among us anywhere as those who know us can testify. We are not and never have been associate members of the National Council of Churches (Editorials, Aug. 3 issue). As we consider engaging a suite in the so-called ecumenical building in New York, it is with the knowledge that the National Council of Churches does not own such building, and we are not leasing from them. We have contemplated such a move because it would provide us with more commodious and economical accommodations which we are greatly in need of. Surely the tenant is not responsible for the conduct or religion of his landlord, and in this case there is not even such a relationship anticipated.
R. M. RIGGS
General Council of the Assemblies of God
WORLD AT HIS DOOR
J. Marcellus Kik’s article, “Strengthening the Pulpit” (August 3 issue), points out one of the inherent weaknesses of evangelical preaching today. We need to apply the rule of “all things … decently and in order” to our sermon preparation. I believe the pulpit would have a far greater impact upon its hearers if more of our ministers would pray, study, and sweat over a sermon instead of relying on the shopworn clichés. Too often our evangelical preaching consists of a few stock phrases, some familiar memory verses and illustrations which fail to illustrate. This is followed by an impassioned plea for souls in an invitation that describes in minute detail everything from the furniture of heaven to the temperature of hell.
We could well profit from the statement of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap … though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”
W. NORMAN MACFARLANE
West Falmouth Free Baptist Church
West Falmouth, Me.
THE CHURCH AND THE ARMY
The article on “Why Army Churchgoing Lags” by Tracy Early (July 20 issue) compares Protestant attendance at worship services unfavorably with Roman in the armed services, but overlooks most of the reasons.
First (and most important) everyone who is not a Roman Catholic or a Jew is listed as “Protestant” statistically, whether or not he has any notion of what the word means. One of my buddies (I served three years as an enlisted man in WW II, USNR) thought it meant he had come into the service under protest! The point is, many “Protestants” might more factually be listed “secularists.”
Second, Roman worshippers find something at worship to remind them of home, in the mass, which is a stereotyped procedure that all worshippers are trained to understand. Protestants, on the other hand, come from such a variety of backgrounds that a typical service may be utterly foreign to them. Many Protestant clergy are themselves not too keenly aware of the significance of some of the acts in an “order” of worship, as anyone who has heard invocations that do not invoke and benedictions that do not bless, will readily appreciate. Romans and Protestants simply do not have the same reasons for attendance.
Third, chaplains are commissioned officers and there is a distrust of commissioned officers and their propaganda among the enlisted men, with the result that Protestant men who wish to attend services will, usually, prefer to attend a civilian service off the base, if at all possible. Romans do not have this problem, since the priest loses his human identity as he assumes the office of the Church.
Last, there is little or no connection between the life treated of in the sermons of most Protestant clergymen and the life actually lived by a young man under arms. The problems dealt with by the chaplain are not the problems they must face when celebrating a “liberty,” “shore leave” or “pass” in a city far from home. They get no help in religious services in making the kind of decisions and choices they must actually make. Romans do not face this problem, since they have never been led to expect correspondence between the religious and the secular life.
CHESTER J. HEWITT
First Evangelical United Brethren
Protestant denominationalism is a manifestation of rigid voluntary segregation, a unique phenomenon in our social life, not to say our religious expression. Two churches may be across the street from each other. To what extent does the one share in the joys and sorrows of the other? They may not glare at each other, but to what extent do they cooperate in promoting the Lord’s work? To what extent does each church leave with its members that feeling that Sunday worship is satisfied best, not to say only, by weekly attendance at their own church?
WALTER H. HARTUNG
I have been a chaplain in a Veterans Hospital for fifteen years. I have noted practically the same things among veterans as he has among those in the armed services now. I went into the room of an honest young man some time ago and noted that his bed-tag had him labelled as a “Protestant.” I began to talk to him about his faith. He said, “When I was admitted they asked me what my religion was, and I told them that I was an agnostic. The clerk looked at me sort of funny and wrote down ‘Protestant’.” I suppose the clerk thought that an “agnostic” was just another of the many varieties of Protestants.
I have often wondered since, how many “Protestants” are not really agnostics, in the sense that they don’t really know what they believe. I have run across a good many such “Protestants” both in and out of the army or veterans hospitals.
Our Protestant churches will continue to have in their ranks many “agnostics” and indifferent members until our ministers and church sessions, or other examining bodies, study and apply the conditions laid down by Christ himself for church membership.
C. REES JENKINS
Fayetteville, N. C.
Our G. I. foreign baby rate is fairly stable. But it is remaining high.… The many G. I. marriages are generally based on prior intercourse. At best they are arranged with girls of completely different culture, and the lowest of backgrounds are the well from which these wives are drawn, in most cases.… When men are not under battle conditions, when they train and wait, wait and train …, there is a toll in morals, and a pull at the very best of men.… In the Armed Forces, at all levels, beer or hard liquors are both cheap and always available. It leaks out into native shops in such great quantities that the supply has to exceed the G. I. demand. Pusan, Korea
A. B. SPOONER
Thanks to Tracy Early for a thoughtful and perceptive article, and my sympathy and prayers for him and other chaplains in this problem, which I know from three and a half years as air force chaplain in WW II. One suggestion: positive encouragement by the home church of regular chapel attendance as normative Christian conduct for a serviceman.
WARD J. FELLOWS
St. Louis, Mo.
Would the chaplain not make mint by self-analysis? A soldier years ago wrote me that his chaplain spoke on the World Series just before going into a battle. Another that he received more spiritual sustenance by reading his church papers than by attending.
The Roman Catholics have the mystery of the mass irrespective of the personality of the priest. We have the mystery of the redemptive love of God in Christ also irrespective of the chaplain. Let each pastor at the home base or in the chaplaincy remember that sacred task of preaching this mystery and then a worship “must” will become a worship privilege.
J. T. HOOGSTRA
Prospect Park Christian Reformed
SCHOLARSHIP WITH PIETY
The article of Dr. Calvin D. Linton entitled “The Service of Worship,” I read and reread. [This] was due to no lack of clarity.… Rather was it due to the fact that in my estimation, with reference to such a topic, here was biblical scholarship and spiritual piety at its best. For me, and I trust for others, the article was dynamically magnetic in its scholarship and piety.
God’s blessings upon your continued efforts to disseminate the historic faith with reference to every aspect of life.
BENJAMIN J. BOERKOEL
Second Christian Reformed Church
SCHOOL OF THE PROPHETS
Dr. Safara A. Witmer states, “Because Harvard was suspect of being Unitarian and rationalistic, Yale was founded ‘to be a truer school of the prophets’ ” (May 11 issue). This statement seems to involve some chronological confusion, for the best authorities (e.g. Latourette) give 1750 as the time when Unitarianism began to become powerful in the Massachusetts Colony, while Yale was started in 1702, about half a century earlier. The main reason for its establishment was probably that for young men the journey from Connecticut to Cambridge was too long, too difficult, and too expensive in those days.
As to the main thesis, I believe that the best way to meet the problem of Christian nurture in the colleges today is not more sectarian college education but young, active, well educated and spiritually minded chaplains on every university and college campus.
MONTGOMERY H. THROOP
South Orange, N. J.
It is true that one reason for the establishment of Yale was the distance of Connecticut settlements from Cambridge. The proposal of a college in Connecticut goes back to the earliest settlers, but it is evident that the theological crisis at the turn of the century was a definite factor in crystallizing the desire for a college. James H. Ropes, Harvard professor of history, summed up the situation thus: “In the struggle in the colony between the Congregational clergy and the more liberal elements, the college (Harvard) early tended toward the liberal side, and a crisis occurred about 1700.… It became increasingly evident that the orthodox Calvinistic party could no longer rely upon Harvard College.… The theological development in the direction of liberal views was completed in 1805, when, after a bitter controversy, Rev. Henry Ware, an avowed Unitarian, was elected to the Hollis professorship of divinity.” Twenty years after the founding of Yale, the Rev. Moses Noyes gave this account: “The first Movers from a College in Connecticut alleged this as a Reason, because the College at Cambridge was under the Tutorage of Latitudinarians” (Morison in “Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century”).
It is a fact that powerful conservative leaders in Massachusetts, including Increase Mather following his exclusion from the presidency of Harvard, backed the founding of Yale because of their dissatisfaction with Harvard. When the promoters addressed a letter to Secretary Addington and Judge Sewall of Massachusetts on August 7, 1701, asking their advice and a draft for a charter, they replied, “We shall be very glad to hear of flourishing schools and a college in Connecticut, and it would be some relief to us against the sorrow we have conceived for the decay of them in this province.”
As for the development of Unitarianism, while the middle of the 18th century may well have been the time when Unitarianism became a powerful force in the Massachusetts Colony, it does not follow that it was not present in its earlier incipient forms a half-century earlier. The 17th century, particularly the latter part, saw significant theological developments and crises in England. Locke’s writings in 1689–92 were a powerful influence toward liberalizing doctrine, and “the literature produced by the Age of Enlightenment was not without its effect on American theologians.” The Toleration Act of 1689 excluded those who denied the Trinity. “The Unitarian influence was so strong that Parliament found it necessary (1695) to threaten the obnoxious heresy with cumulative penalties” (Hastings). It would be improbable if Harvard, which was in the forefront of Colonial intellectual life, would not have been influenced by these developments in the mother country. As Morison says, “So it can readily be appreciated that around 1700 or 1701 many conservative church members may have regarded Harvard College as a place where young men were trained up to novel and dangerous principles, in spite of Mr. Mather’s efforts.”
As for chaplains in secular institutions, thank God for every true witness for Christ. They have a wonderful opportunity of influencing students. But what headway can one or several chaplains make against the mass of secularism and prevailing naturalism that characterizes the secular college or university? Why shouldn’t the faith of Christian chaplains find expression in institutions that are avowedly and consistently Christian?
SAFARA A. WITMER
Ft. Wayne, Ind.
FREEDOM AND THE BIBLE
I read your editorial in the April 27 issue.… I am glad to see that you understand that freedom is a gift of God and not a gift of democracy. I am also glad to see that your magazine is devoted to “biblical theology … biblical ethics … biblical evangelism … biblical studies.”
The Bible is and remains for man what it was for Luther, Calvin and the Reform fathers. It was on the strength of the Bible that they were able to attack the secularism of the Roman Catholic Church at that time and overthrow it. And it will be on the strength of the Bible that we will be able to overthrow the secularism of our own time. Totalitarianism is the fruit of man’s attempt to make himself into God. The century in which we live is the one that might well be characterized as “the self-styled sinless generation.” Like Paul it sees nothing against itself, but unlike him it assumes because it sees nothing against itself that there is nothing against itself. This is the greatest sin of all since only God is without sin.…
For the moment … He is permitting secular man to run the whole show, if for no other reason than to prove that he cannot run it. Once we are filled with despair at our own efforts to save ourselves, God will save us. In fact, God has already done so except that this generation is so lost in self-worship that it does not realize it.
CHANGE IN THE WEATHER
There were, no doubt, many flushed Pentecostal faces who read reader Van Winkle’s caustic statement, “I’d rather be a fool on fire than a scholar on ice” (June 22 issue). The fact that Bethany Bible College (a Pentecostal school) had a commendable letter on the same page did little to alleviate the embarrassment. Really, brethren, I’ve met thousands of Pentecostals who would rather be a scholar on fire than a fool on ice.
PAUL E. BILLS
Assembly of God
I, too, am a Pentecostal and I enjoy your magazine immensely.… It is indeed interesting as well as amusing, to see the Pentecostal doctrines of divine healing, baptism of the Holy Ghost with the miracle of other tongues and certain once-snubbed methods being accepted with reservations by our non-Pentecostal friends. The fact that Pentecostalists are the fastest growing movement in the world has made quite an impact on the religious world.
I am satisfied in my own study of the deeper experiences of our denomination, but I do add, that if the Pentecostal Fire can’t stand the test of sanctified scholarship, we should find it out immediately and secure a position and belief that is tenable according to Scripture. As a denomination we believe, among many other things, in the complete authority of Scripture, redemption through the blood of Christ, purity of heart, and the Spirit-filled life. We have felt, at times, the abuse of these doctrines in a mystical way, just as the other denominations have suffered the abuse of modernistic tendencies. Bible faith is not a mere leap into the dark, but “the entrance of thy word giveth light.” I had rather be a student of truth than a fool in wildfire.
O. TALMADGE SPENCE
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