Thank you for the transcript of the air-home conversation of Drs. Henry, Wirt, and Wilson (Jan. 19 issue). I am fascinated at the picture of these busy men settling down with a tape recorder for a good, old-fashioned chat. To be sure, they settled down at a supersonic speed, but that is the minor accommodation to our age. People used to sit and talk around firesides. Now they can sit and talk around the world. You have blazed a contrail for conversation.
As a matter of fact, I belong to a conversational circle too. We haven’t tried a tape recorder yet; I’m afraid of a short circuit. Our group is called the Society of Ageing Killjoys (SOAK) and we meet weekly, after prayer meeting, in the YMCA pool. We have a corner at the shallow end that is most conducive to quiet reflection.
It isn’t the place that is important. In the startosphere or at pool level, what counts is concentration on the lost art of conversation. We must recapture the atmosphere of the ancient Hebrew Sod. Ludwig Kohler described it in his book, Hebrew Man. In the evening, while the women washed the dinner pots, the men would gather in their circle. The Sod was informal, but the elders sat in the center and the teen-age boys listened respectfully on the outskirts. Conversation ranged over the past day and back to the beginnings of creation and redemption. It stretched forward to the plans of tomorrow and beyond to the hope of the ages.
Songs were sung; great events recalled. At times a proverb would be interjected, or a riddle propounded. Someone might begin: “The door turns upon its hinges,” and another respond, “And the sluggard upon his bed.” Humor had its place: “He that blesses his friend in a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him!”
The key to good Sod conversation is not leisure, or The New York Times, or Dale Carnegie training. There are two requirements: respect and wisdom. The first makes a man a good listener, the second a good speaker. Conversation is a Christian art.
Our poolside Sod lacks the polish of the flying doctors. But we mean to keep talking—and venture toward the deep end.
Distinction Is Pre-Barth
May I express … appreciation for “Barth’s Critique of Modernism” (Jan. 5 issue)?
Then may I add a word to the discussion on Barth’s use of Geschichte and Histone. In my opinion, this distinction is not original with Barth but is part of the German language. For example, in 1892 Prof. Martin Kaehler published his Der sogenannte historische Jesu und der geschichtliche biblische Christus, or the so-called historical Jesus (that is, the Jesus of the positivist historians) and the actual biblical Christ of historical events. The word Historie is of Greek origin and means inquiry, learning by research, narrating what one has learned, and thus brings in the subjective point of view of the historian who institutes the inquiry and narrates his results. Geschichte seems to be of German origin and refers to events, things that have objectively occurred.
In Philip Schalf’s History of the Christian Church, vol. 1, p. 2 f., we seem to have the same distinction.… And this was in 1890 according to my third edition, that is, long before Barth began to stir the theological world.
WILLIAM CHILDS ROBINSON
Professor of Historical Theology
Columbia Theological Seminary
Room For Pious Opinion
In the article “Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics” (Jan. 5 issue), Fr. Read makes the statement: “… it is the basic Anglican position that nothing is to be held or taught except what is believed to be ‘concluded and proved by the Scriptures.’ ” Page 542 of the Book of Common Prayer is quoted to support this statement.…
Fr. Read’s unwarranted conclusion is drawn from a question the bishop asks of the person to be ordered priest: “Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined, out of the said Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge; and to teach nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture?”
I submit that there are serious differences between “… nothing is to be held or taught …” as interpreted by Fr. Read, and “… to teach nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by Scripture?”
In several places the Anglican Communion makes clear its belief that nothing may be taught as necessary to salvation except what can be proved by Scripture. However, there is clearly room left for pious opinion and speculation and for the difficulties and blessings of the personal, since the bishop’s question is “… that which you shall be persuaded.…”
CHARLES I. KRATZ, JR.
St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church
At Sea Of Reeds: Mystery
I am very glad that Professor Muilenburg insists that Israel was truly chosen by God to be his people (Eutychus, Feb. 2 issue), and I apologize to him if I misrepresented his position in this respect. The conclusions in my review were based upon the following statements in his book, “If one is tempted to raise the legitimate and necessary question, ‘What was it that happened at the Sea of Reeds?’ then there is the equivocal answer that the historian is forced to give because he really does not know. There is also the answer that faith gives: ‘Our God delivered us from bondage.’ ”
To me, this shows the influence of Kant’s distinction between the noumenal and the phenomenal.
EDWARD J. YOUNG
Westminster Theological Seminary
Boston Bookies: Unbanned
One item (“The Bookies of Boston,” News, Dec. 22 issue) reminded me again that there are matters of greater consequence challenging the Christian church today than interfaith relations.…
I firmly believe that if America goes down, it will not be under the impact of megaton missiles, but due to the final collapse of that inner moral structure that makes a nation great.…
There should be no mistaking what is at stake. William Blake (Auguries of Innocence) knew; so should we:
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation’s fate.
The harlot’s cry from street to street
Shall weave Old England’s winding sheet.
The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
Dance before dead England’s hearse.
RAYMOND B. WILBUR
First Congregational Church
Liberal Label Liable To Libel
“Evangelicals and the Right-Wing Renascence” (News, Dec. 22 issue) carried some weak features along with its rather timid critique of the extreme right-wing anti-communist movements. May an otherwise appreciative reader voice his dissent?
The first weakness of the piece was its undiscriminating use of the term “liberal.” … I found it strange that a writer who rebuked “liberal” news reporters for “lumping all (conservatives) under the same umbrella and assigning them a common identification” failed to suggest that there may be responsible as well as irresponsible liberals. Would it not be useful if a responsible journal such as CHRISTIANITY TODAY junked labels once and for all?
A second weakness was the article’s implicit assumption that “responsible evangelicals” are naturally anti-liberal, whatever the term “liberal” may mean. It may be true that evangelical conservatives, for a variety of reasons, do tend toward political conservatism. But I do not believe that an evangelical commitment logically or necessarily involves a given political conviction. In this regard, I am delighted when you speak courageously and clearly on the specific issues confronting our society, but I would prefer that you speak to me rather than pretending to speak for me.…
LEWIS B. SMEDES
Professor of Bible
Grand Rapids, Mich.
• Language has shortcomings, and we note that even reader Smedes is obliged to toss about a few “labels.”—ED.
CHRISTIANITY TODAY must realize that any group (repeat: any group) which effectively and resultfully opposes Marxist infiltration in America is marked for destruction by the left-wingers. The Left recognizes no “moderate”; to them, all opposition represents a danger and must be destroyed. No matter how circumspect your walk, no matter how correct your procedure, or how impeccably documented your accusations, you are a target for Marxist calumniation if they judge that you are jeopardizing their subversive plans.…
Sea Cliff, N. Y.
Your recent article and comments on the New Delhi meeting (Dec. 22 issue) puzzled me. I must confess myself a liberal, but one who is unalterably an evangelical.…
These names … we apply to one another are often invidious.… How I wish we could all quit carping at one another, and see that we have our shortcomings regardless of our theological positions, and help and pray for one another in Christian brotherhood.
HENRY H. ROWLAND
Berkeley Springs, W. Va.
W. Edwin Collier of Philadelphia (Eutychus, Dec. 22 issue) is correct. A. P. Herbert, the English M.P. did try to disassociate Dr. Buchman’s Oxford Group from Oxford University without success. It seems the English courts didn’t follow Herbert’s (and Collier’s) line of reasoning; so the international legal name today remains The Oxford Group, Moral ReArmament, MRA, Incorporated.
Oxford Group was the name casually scawled by the South African pullman porter to identify the railroad car carrying the “group from Oxford” in 1929.
ROBERT W. YOUNG
North Presbyterian Church
How High The Wall?
How high should the wall be which separates the “state” from the “church”?… If, as all our leading churchmen admit to be true, our land is blighted with statism, materialism, and nihilism, is it not the result of the novel American “state” system of education of the last thirty-five years? (it being held in mind that we are the only land, apart from Russia, where state education taboos the basic principles of righteousness as espoused by the “church.”) How much longer will our people remain blind?…
I would seek to change at the earliest possible moment every so-called Protestant educational building into a five-day-in-the-week actual school.…
There are enough such buildings in our churches … to care for every child in every Protestant home without spending one cent more for buildings.… This multi-billion dollar investment is not being used more than thirty minutes per week.
G. A. WOODS
No Pharisee He
Judging from the article captioned “Clergy Dispute Value of Religious Statistics” (News, Jan. 5 issue), the customary thing is to belittle the work of faster-growing denominations by claiming their work is superficial while that of the non-growing or slow-growing bodies is more thorough and genuine. I have heard pastors in my own denomination make that claim in comparing our work with that of the Southern Baptists. This sort of thing reminds me of the Pharisee … who thanked God he was not like other men for he thought himself better than they. “Go ahead, Southern Baptists and Lutherans,” I say; “Make up by your success for the failures of the rest of us.”
FREDERIC I. DREXLER
Mill Valley, Calif.
Theology And Worship
Your report on a recent poll of America’s favorite hymns causes me some distress (News, Dec. 22 issue). The top six mentioned include only two or three worthy hymns. Taken as a whole the list presents a picture of sentimentality and overemphasis on human experience.
It is a paradox that gushy, egocentric hymns seem more popular among the theologically conservative than among the liberals, whose theology would be more in keeping with this froth.
The same situation prevails in the visual arts. How many evangelical churches are decorated with sentimental portraits of some effeminate young man who is supposed to look like Jesus?
All this seems to indicate that many Christians, conservative in their creedal affirmations, have let their imaginations and emotions be captured by the equivalent of nineteenth-century liberalism.
Footnote On Lambarene
I note the review of Bowie’s book (lead review, Jan. 5 issue), in which is mentioned the learned theologian’s treatment of Schweitzer.
One word of caution: … Schweitzer has said, “In the earliest Christian period writings were allowed to appear bearing quite falsely the names of apostles.” … And elsewhere: “His (Christ’s) announcement was shown to be wrong.”
Erroneous Messiahs and unauthentic books should not be too highly recommended, should they?
LEROY V. CLEVELAND
Westminster Congregational Church
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