Besides making friends, modern theology also has a knack for collecting critics


The current summer volume of Horizon is given over largely to “Dante, Giotto, and the Future.” The timeless message of Dante’s poetry and Giotto’s art is set plainly before us. In terms of the “future,” however, it is more timely than timeless. Alvin Toffler, in a startling article, “The Future as a Way of Life,” sounds more like what we are getting used to in 1965. The editors in introducing this piece of “summer reading” say this: “Alvin Toffler suggests that the changing conditions of life we are now experiencing are so profound that they represent a break in historical continuity comparable in importance only to the shift from barbarism to civilization.… We are urged “to prepare for, and brace ourselves against, the shock of a future way of life which is arriving with such distressing speed that it could eliminate us from our most cultural traditions.” What ought we to do in preparing for a day for which we cannot possibly prepare?

Put over against this a quotation from Wilhelm Windelband’s A History of Philosophy (Vol. I, p. 264). He is describing the impact of Augustine in a day when civilization was falling apart: “… whole worlds of the intellectual life sank to the depths from which they could only be drawn forth again long after by toil and conflict. The church had grown to its great task of becoming the educator of the European nations.… Amid the dissolution of political life [it] presented itself as the only power that was firm and sure of itself.… In her inner life she had proceeded with the same certainty amid numerous deviating paths, and had attained the goal of a unified and completed system of doctrine.… She was presented with the sum-total of her convictions, worked out into the form of a thorough scientific system by a mind of the first order—Augustine.”

For snakebite, something more is demanded than a pleasant bedside manner.


What splendor of illumination shone from the July 16 editorial, “Modern Theology at the End of Its Tether,” and Dr. Bernard Ramm’s article, “The Labyrinth of Contemporary Theology”! It is on the highest intellectual levels that this crucial struggle is joined; there it will be settled, and there you have given us this Spirit-moved writing.…

Memphis, Tenn. ROBERT M. METCALF, JR.

Upon returning home from the Open Theological Conference on “Worship in a Secular Age” at the American Baptist Assembly in Green Lake, Wisconsin, I was pleased to find in my mail the July 16, 1965, issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. After wading for a week through a plethora of modern theological opinion based for the most part upon the death of traditional transcendence and even the death of God himself for some, it was quite refreshing to read your editorial … and Bernard Ramm’s [article]. It seems quite clear to me that to try to theologize apart from the knowledge of God given in Sacred Scripture is not only ludicrous but is indeed an exercise in the vanity of vanities.… MYRON R. CHARTIER

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Baptist Campus Minister

Fort Hays Kansas State College

Hays, Kan.

Congratulations on that editorial, “Modern Theology at the End of Its Tether”.… You struck some much-needed blows.

United Press International LOUIS CASSELS

Washington, D. C.

May I say how valuable and much needed is your editorial.… I would like to add my testimony to the barrenness of modern theology. I was converted five years ago and for two years lived a rather shallow Christian life. Then through circumstances I was jogged out of my complacency and felt led to proclaim Christ as my Saviour in believer’s baptism. It was from this point that I had a great hunger to discover what the Bible was all about and how relevant it was to life. I had certain ill-conceived ideas what was meant to be “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” and decided that I had better read some of the modern theologians. Surely, I reasoned, they know what the Bible is all about.

So I read—bits of Tillich, second-hand Barth, Bultmann, and Bonhoeffer, on through Honest to God and finally on to Van Buren’s The Secular Meaning of the Gospel. I confess I never got much more than halfway through the latter, for I am convinced that God through his Spirit was working in my heart and mind. I was becoming increasingly sickened by what I read—strangely enough since I didn’t know why or where to turn.

It was becoming clear that if these men were right, then the Gospel wasn’t a simple thing that “anyone” could believe in—salvation could only come to someone with a degree in philosophy, at very least! Well I haven’t got such a degree, and yet I was certain that Christ had died for my sins and lived in my heart by faith. Clearly then these men, for all their learning, hadn’t the answer.

In desperation I turned, at last, to the Bible itself and, having been recommended to a copy of the Revised Standard Version, I read First Corinthians, especially chapters one and two. Here in a God-illumined way was the answer—“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing … for the foolishness of God is wiser than men.…” As for the truths of God, “God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything.…”

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It was a long painful struggle with my objections being met at every point by God. I was forced to the conclusion that if God has revealed anything to man, then he has revealed all to us in his Word. Anything short of an authoritative source of God’s revelation leaves us floating on the quicksands of “the wisdom of this world.”

Then in January of this year I “discovered” CHRISTIANITY TODAY, and I would like to express my gratitude, under God, for the way in which it has helped to build up my scanty knowledge and belief in his Word. It has been tremendously helpful to discover a magazine which is not afraid to discuss the broad spectrum of “modern theology” and yet makes it very clear where it believes that the source and touchstone of truth is to be found. R. E. IRELAND

Scraptoft, Leicester, England

At hand is the July 16 issue, with it reversion to a worn-out contention between two dead causes, fundamentalism and modernism.… Fundamentalists base their entire theological position in the accurateness and reliability of logical philosophy. And since life cannot even begin to have any part in logical philosophy, then obviously fundamentalism has nothing to do with life. Modernists based their theological position naïvely in scientism and had regarded themselves as superior to any philosophical view of life. This is where they had their most serious fault that was summed up succinctly in the main difference between modernism and fundamentalism: Modernists were lacking in clarity, and fundamentalists were lacking in charity. That is why both are defunct today, even though there are attempts by some so-called evangelicals to revive fundamentalism, and some liberals persist in defending modernism.

As for the neo-theologians, they are not looking for an infallible theology even as they are not looking for an infallible Bible. For that reason they aren’t concerned at all about the impossible differences among them, nor about logical coherency of their own positions. If after thorough examination they find their position to be untenable or impracticable, they feel no compunction at abandoning it and seeking for a more certain position.… The subject of analytical philosophy is raised in the editorial, the search for meaning and for clarification. But the neo-theologians are more intrigued with the ambiguity of their assertions than they are with any clarity of what they mean by what they say. Thus the neo-ists have the same fault as the former modernists, and haven’t settled anything.… A reader who is not dependent on logical tethers but only on faith in God can venture beyond those who are bound and witness to the truth of life as it is, and not as it is distorted in dead and dusty theologies that never were vital.

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The Methodist Church

Kellerton, Iowa

• Whoever wants a religion that abandons reason and logic can have it; biblical Christianity has no use for it.—ED.

Bernard Ramm has discerned the times and penetrated deep into the ills of contemporary theology in “The Labyrinth of Contemporary Theology.” This is no “uncertain sound” but rather a clarion call to a return to the “Holy Scriptures as the infallible source and norm of Christian theology.” West New York, N. J. MARY L. LYONS

Is it not the case that he wants to get out of intellectual perplexity, to escape from the labyrinth, and does he fail to consider the possibility that perhaps the assurance that we are meant to have is not the assurance that we know the answers?…

It seems clear to me that we do not know and cannot know ultimate answers about man, nature or God.… PHIL W. PETTY

Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland

Much of the abstract writing that pours off the presses as theology today is dead before the ink is dry. I suppose that much of this nit-picking in metaphysics and epistemology, etc., in graduate schools must be done, but one wonders whether the results impress either the Church or the world. Too much of it is like a vapor that vanishes almost as quickly as it appears.…

Euclid Avenue Methodist Church

Oak Park, Ill.


The debate on the Confession of 1967, when it was presented for the first time to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (UPUSA) at Columbus in May, centered mainly around the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures as expressed in the new confession. Our historic creeds have referred to the Bible as the Word of God. The new confession reserves the use of that phrase, “the Word of God,” to Jesus Christ in his person. The Bible is spoken of merely as a “normative witness” to the revelation of God in Christ.

Whether, in the end, the witness of the Bible be declared “normative” or authoritative,” as some propose, the end result will be about the same. In either case the Bible will no longer be referred to as “the Word of God.” and its “authority” will be human and fallible.

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Important as this is, the implications of the new confession about the person of Christ may be even more serious. Yet this matter received scant, if any, mention in the debate. Here are some basic questions that need to be asked:

1. If, as the preface of the Confession of 1967 states, “the Trinity and the Person of Christ are not redefined, but are recognized as forming the basis and determining the structure of the Christian faith,” why does Part I. Section I, Paragraph A, contain a long essay entitled “Jesus Christ”?

2. Why does the language of this section then paint a picture of Christ utterly different from the historic doctrines of the Church?

3. Since the humanity of Jesus is so strongly emphasized—as, for instance, in the first two sentences: “In Jesus of Nazareth true humanity was realized once for all. Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, lived among his own people and shared their needs, temptations, joys, and sorrows”—why is there not some equally clear statement as to his deity?

4. Why is the phrase “the Son of God” so studiously avoided? It is never used in the new confession.

5. Would there be objection also to the mention of the pre-existence of Christ, quite clearly taught in the New Testament and in all the ancient creeds?

6. Such recognition as there is in the confession of the uniqueness of Jesus seems to be connected entirely with the resurrection, where it uses the phrase, “vindicating him as Messiah and Lord.” Is it not implied that his “complete obedience” earned for him such recognition by God?

7. If the new confession even went so far as to call Jesus the Son of God, does it not leave the way completely open for an “adoptionist” view?

8. Why is there nothing in this confession to which a convinced Unitarian could object?


The First Presbyterian Church

Weslaco, Tex.


It was annoying to find that my review of Father von Balthasar’s Word and Revelation (July 2 issue) had been deprived of any reference to the fact that it is a translation (by A. V. Littledale and A. Dru) of a volume originally entitled Verbum Caro. Since this omission disturbs the sense of what I say about the book, let the fact at least be registered by means of this letter. East Boston, Mass.



You were right when you reported that as editor of Operation Understanding I had said I believed CHRISTIANITY TODAY most reliably reflected the opinions of the majority of American Protestants (Editorial, June 18 issue).

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You were wrong when you said I “tempered the tribute” by adding I thought the Christian Century and Christianity and Crisis were more influential. There was no tempering of the tribute intended, only a recognition of some facts that, I believe, should concern the editors and readers of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

There are few libraries in the nation that do not subscribe to the Christian Century. Far fewer subscribe to CHRISTIANITY TODAY. The Christian Century and Christianity and Crisis reach many of our nation’s editors of daily newspapers, many of our legislators.

May I suggest that CHRISTIANITY TODAY would be much more influential if its subscribers made certain that their own public libraries subscribed and that local editors were on the mailing list.

Such an action by the readers of CHRISTIANITY TODAY would make this publication more influential, because to be influential it must reach the general public and especially the opinion-makers of the nation.

As a Roman Catholic, I sincerely hope for an increase in dialogue between the evangelicals and our church. We hold so many important things in common that it would be wrong for us not to communicate with one another. In Christian love we may discover that many barriers that seem to exist do not really exist, and with charity we may discover that barriers that do exist may not be as insurmountable as they now seem. Our Sunday Visitor

Huntington, Ind.



Thank you for your excellent editorial on the subject of “The ‘New Morality’ and Premarital Sex” (July 2 issue). I consider it to be the best capsule statement of the Christian response to the question of premarital sex that I have read to date.… Playboy has little appeal to many of us who have seen the tragic results of premarital pregnancy and the discord and hurt it brings to homes.… Suddenly the fun is gone, and the rationalization of such permissiveness fades away with tears of shame and fear.…

Wesley Methodist Church

Dallas, Texas


Why do you have to be always carping and criticizing the liberals in theology? They are as good Christians as fundamentalists and more needed in the world today where most people think for themselves.…

First Presbyterian Church

Clifton, Ariz.

I differ profoundly from you in my religious point of view, and just for that reason I read your columns the more carefully. Nothing is so deadening to the intellect and constricting to the personality as reading and listening exclusively to those with whom one already agrees. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge so well said: Until you understand a man’s ignorance, consider yourself ignorant of his understanding.…

East Falls, Pa.

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