THE EIGHT-DAY WEEK
One of the gifts of my life has been a series of great professors, including Patrick Carnegie Simpson, an Australian turned Englishman. Why do I remember his saying twice in class, “The men a generation ago, if you will just study their pictures, had character in their faces. Look at Gladstone, for example. Where would you find a face like that in public life today”? Since I worry about my face every morning in the mirror, this word of Carnegie Simpson’s is never very far from my mind.
Simpson has a book, virtually unknown, called Recollections. His subtitle is, “Sometimes theological and sometimes interesting.” I can’t tell you where to get it, but I am delighted to have it myself. He tells in there of his undergraduate days when he set for himself the task of working meticulously through Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. What he had in mind was to take notes, write briefs, work out précis, do whatever he had to do to master that one big piece of writing.
How was a man driven to do this? How do we get undergraduates motivated to do the same thing now? Why do our own scholarly resolutions disappear like the morning mist? Most of us believe we don’t have enough time. A brief reading of Arnold Bennett’s How to Live on Twenty-four Hours a Day will beat down that excuse forever.
Maurice Kelley of Princeton University has a study on Milton called This Great Argument: A Study of Milton’s De Doctrina Christiana as a Gloss upon Paradise Lost. Among other things (and this is not a book for reading while you are running) he quotes something of Milton’s purpose in drawing up his own body of Christian doctrine, De Doctrina Christiana. Listen to Milton: “I termed it … advisable to compile for myself by my own labor and study some original treatise which should be always at hand derived solely from the word of God himself and executed with all possible fidelity.…” There’s the sort of thing we all might do “if we only had a little more time.”
The pastoral theology theme of the June 5 issue was excellent. The article, “Once Married … Twice Wed” (by Edith Rees), was so good I read it aloud to my wife. Knowing that Dr. Rees, now with World Vision, travels greatly I expected the statement which came toward the close of the article, “No husband can travel over 2½ million miles by air alone … without a deep concern for a wife at home. Let’s face it, perhaps I am lonely.”
The veracity of this sentence was revealed as we turned a few pages to find Dr. Rees’s article (The Minister’s Workshop) in the same issue beginning, “This is written in India.…”
Newport, R. I.
Thank you for the article, “A Layman Speaks to the Pulpit.” We need comments from our laymen. But let’s have them from laymen, not a man with a Bachelor of Theology degree, who has been an assistant pastor.…
Speaking of not communicating, if I began talking about “bombastic histrionics, obfuscating illogicality, and oft-strained, dogmatized tradition” in a sermon, as Mr. Samarin did in his article, people in my parish would wonder what I was saying. And I might even wonder myself.
Mr. Samarin’s problem is not his pastor but his position “on the bench.” He no doubt has many years of active, fruitful service in him and needs to be put back on the firing line again.
D. J. BRAKE
If there has ever been a time when there has been a famine of the Word of God, it is today.… Too many take a text out of context and make a subject that has no Bible meaning.… [On] August 20 I will be 92.…
W. S. ROSE
Many laymen are like small children. They delight to sample the pie before dinner. No pastor can justify his position with one hearing, nor can any visitor be fair in his judgment of my message without knowing the motive of my sermon. I would suggest that Professor Samarin get away from the bright lights to some humble place of worship and then write again about preachers with a message of salvation that feed the sheep. I stand with these great men of God, highly educated or not, that have remained faithful to the divine call. I’ve always found it a good idea to find the best place to eat. They have a better variety of food.
F. L. HAGLEY
Probably a dozen times at least I have read the same criticism in the last forty years.
Why does not Dr. Samarin come up with something new?
I used to drive a horse when a boy. If the horse was thirsty, you could not keep it away from the watering trough. If it was not thirsty you could not force the horse to drink.…
Campbell, N. Y.
In regard to your editorial, “Preachers and Their Making,” which is very pertinent to the times, I want to say I attended Biblical Seminary in New York City some thirty years ago. In all that time there has never been a week in which I was ever at a loss in “finding a message to preach.”
As Dr. Samarin, in the same issue, might express it: thank you for hitting a “home run.”
S. N. CRAMER
Lookout Mountain, Tenn.
Re: “Counseling Unwed Parents,” I wish to endorse Tom Carter’s constructive … approach to this growing problem. Just recently at San Diego Billy Graham stated that sexual immorality was the worst sin there was (I presume worst in its effects upon the persons involved), and yet one could not miss his sharing his Saviour’s compassion and love for the one who had committed this sin. It is not easy to remain on the knife edge between hating the sin and loving the sinner. The minister must strive not to be misunderstood in his words or attitude as either condoning sin or, on the other hand, condemning the sinner so harshly that he shuts the door for repentance and forgiveness.
Christians too long have preached against sin without bearing the burden and sharing the shame with those who commit a specific sin, and especially is this true regarding sexual sins. I have seen those who have matured and come to Christian conversion through their experience in a home for unwed mothers and later establish a happy home. I have also seen those whose very spirit of life has been crushed by the rejection and lack of understanding and forgiveness of church people.…
Certainly every situation will have unique factors that may not make a good maternity home the best solution. Nevertheless this has proved valuable in multitudes of cases.…
To say that we encourage illegitimacy by providing help is as foolish as to say we encourage alcoholism by having a mission on the Bowery.… It is good that half of the unwed mothers come to ministers for counsel, but it should concern us that half feel that the minister is unable or unwilling to be of help.
To emphasize the rehabilitation end in no way denies that much could be done in our churches and homes on the preventive end of this problem. A deep and meaningful commitment to Christ as Saviour and Lord, and the thinking of one’s body as the temple of the Holy Spirit is the best surety that one will not fall before this heartrending sin.… There is no promise in the Bible that our children will never sin, but there is the promise of forgiveness and hope for a new life in Christ.
Sycamore Methodist Church
May I remind the editors of CHRISTIANITY TODAY that the kind of bald polemic expressed in James Wesley Ingles’s poem “The Uncommitted” (May 8 issue) does not constitute or even approximate poetry. The versified theology you are prone to publish each fortnight, of which Mr. Ingles’s poem is an example, is embarrassing.
“The Uncommitted” serves as an excellent example of what a Christian poem is not, and in some ways, of what any kind of poem is not.… It picturesquely refers to the “bright” sun, to “a wrinkled brow,” and to a dogwood leaf which is “red as blood”.…
The imagery is fortuitous, unpatterned, and, in one instance where the uncommitted sees “on the dark sea, too many stars” (assuming stars are generally seen in the sky), incoherent. The uncommitted is “still testing all things” in the last line, but there is no prior indication in the poem that he was engaged in testing anything.…
The Pietà “impresses only as a work of art.” Is it supposed to stimulate a good healthy cry? If it has some specifically Christian function distinct from it being a work of art, then the statue is rather an affront both to Christianity and to art.
The crucial confusion, however, is the inability of the poet to distinguish between the uncommitted and the impenitent. The poem’s title and incipient concern are with “the untrammeled mind” which steers clear of the questions of beauty, good, truth, and, of all things, who the guilty are. A later concern, however, is not with the uncommitted but with the impenitent … with unbowed head and unbent knee.…
DAVID N. HOLKEBOER
Grand Rapids, Mich.
• We thank Mr. Holkeboer for his vigorous dissent from our choice of poems. But we go along with Mr. Ingles, who, to us, seems to state clearly a single theme; is not afraid to say simply that the autumn dogwood leaf is “red as blood” (which it is); knows, with Masefield, that sailors on a dark sea choose one star to steer by, that “a wrinkled brow” symbolizes perplexity, and that an unbowed head is a sign of refusal to worship.
The poem’s consistent theme is that the uncommitted soul, seeing no unmistakable course but testing different ones, wanders through life. The beauties of nature fail to move him to see a creator. After a little sleeplessness and perplexity over what truth is or what evil is, he washes his Pilate hands. Even the agonies of Gethsemane and the Cross—or the despair of Mary over her dead son—fail to move him. So he goes into death uncommitted.
Mr. Ingles is not, we admit, of the school of poets whose words must be startling, whose dogwood leaf explodes into some strange color, and who feel that if a Pietà or a poem “says something” to us instead of just being, it is an affront to art. That rather rules out “The Hound of Heaven” and other poems that affirm.—ED.
NOT ALWAYS WELCOME
Donald Moffett humbles most of us men of the cloth when he suggests (“At the Church Door,” May 8 issue) that we are more concerned about our plan books than about “doing good to all men, as we have opportunity.” But his words have a most unreal ring to them, for he greatly oversimplifies the situation by suggesting that the unconverted are panting for the minister to come and that they will cherish every word he offers when he knocks and says, “Let me in; I’ve come to solve your problems.” Mr. Moffett should know from experience that true pastoral work is hardly that easy, for Christ is still “a stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” And the natural man of today is as undiscerning about spiritual matters as the Corinthians ever were.
Feed the hungry? Clothe the naked? Visit the sick and imprisoned? Welcome the homeless? Of course. But let us not disillusion ourselves (or the neophyte pastors graduating this spring) into thinking that every visit will result in a conversion. Many will, praise God, but others will only bite the hand that feeds them.
MERWIN VAN DOORNIK
Little Falls, N. J.
If any of your readers in suburban Lanham read your May 8 issue, they’re going to be somewhat surprised and perhaps disappointed that you have moved their exciting Episcopal Church of St. Christopher from their Maryland town to Paradise Valley, California.
Just in case no one has pointed out this error on page 53 of this issue. Thank you, nonetheless, for covering the National Conference on Church Architecture in Dallas.
Protestant Church Buildings and Equipment
New York, N. Y.
• Paradise Valley did have a winner, however, which our story did not list: Hope Lutheran Church.—ED.
THESE MINISTER GRACE
We must not forget that “Christian writing” that does not mention Christ is not Christian.
A poem so fine as “Like as the Hart” (April 10 issue) might have been produced by a Unitarian, a Universalist, a Jew, or almost anybody. But a Christian “cannot but speak” of his own experience with Jesus.…
“Never a word about Jesus” should be our touchstone to determine values or the lack of them for the Christian. Portia Martin … should make Christ definitely known to me …, or her words lack relevance.…
MRS. FRANK J. MARSHALL
Munnsville, N. Y.
• Our spiritual heritage includes Psalm 42 as well as Psalm 22. We do not consider the story of the Prodigal to be Unitarian because it speaks only of the Father. These also minister grace to the hearers.—ED.
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