The extreme need of so many human beings … the deeper tragedy of spiritual deprivation … kaleidoscopic change …
Nowhere does Christianity face a more complex challenge than in Asia. The largest and most populous of continents with great island areas contiguous to it, its climatic zones ranging from the frozen passes of Tibet to the steaming jungles of Malaya and its shores washed by the greatest of oceans, Asia has human complexities matching its physical diversity.
While the tremendous speed of air transportation today blunts apprehension of Asia’s problems, not even the tourist can escape certain overwhelming impressions. And if he remains for a time in key areas such as Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, or India, these impressions are intensified.
Foremost is the sense of need. All but the most callous traveler must be shocked at the extreme deprivation of so many human beings. Flimsy huts and shacks housing hundreds of thousands of refugees from Red China who exist almost on the doorsteps of the new housing developments and the luxury hotels of Hong Kong, families living and dying on the streets of India’s great cities, multitudes of villagers on the verge of starvation—these cannot but stir compassion.
The Christian traveler, while profoundly moved by such dire physical need, senses at the same time the deeper tragedy of spiritual deprivation. Knowing what Christ can mean to the human heart, he is staggered by the immensity of spiritual need—particularly if he has any idea of the paucity of Christians in Asia, who number only about 3 per cent of the total population of nearly 1,650,000,000 souls. The visitor to Tokyo, now largest of the world’s cities, seeing its alert and restless crowds and its marks of Western civilization, is startled to learn that Japan with its crucial potential for Asian leadership has a total Christian community of less than 1 per cent. And the sense of spiritual tragedy deepens as he also realizes that the greater part of Asia has either closed its doors to Christian missions or is in the process of closing them, while elsewhere in Asia missions face new tensions and growing opposition.
But to view Asia’s spiritual plight only with pessimism would be a mistake. Small as the Christian community is, it weighs more than it numbers. Christ’s liberating truth is working even where government is inhospitable. In countries like Burma and Indonesia, where doors are closing, the effect of missions is deep and far-reaching; and in Communist China, where doors are tightly shut, the ineradicable fruit of missionary endeavor lives on (see “Christianity Behind the Bamboo Curtain,” CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 6 issue, and page 11 in this issue).
Again, there is the impression of kaleidoscopic change. Social, industrial, intellectual, and political ferment are all working together. Yet paradoxically, underneath is the immeasurable patience of the Orient. With its expanding millions, Asia knows that it can wait just as it has waited through ages past. But with its sudden transition from quiescence to a time of science and nuclear power, it is also impatient for self-assertion.
If Asian leadership is impatient, the Christian Church must feel the divine impatience of the Gospel. This is a day when Christianity is losing ground numerically, as even the most liberal estimates show. And it may well be that in no area are competing religions and secular philosophies gaining on Christianity more rapidly than in Asia.
Along with physical and spiritual problems, Asia is subject to centrifugal forces of a political, religious, and ideological nature. It is a divided continent, and the conflicts between Communist China and India on the Himalayan frontier, between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, between North and South Korea, between Indonesia and Malaysia, and between North and South Viet Nam symbolize its inner turmoil.
Mainland China is the emerging giant not only of Asia but of the entire world. With a population growing annually by 15 to 17 million, in ten years the Chinese will have increased by a number equal to the United States’ population after 300 years of growth. With China’s militia (part-time army) of 200 million, and with her capacity to develop within five years the ability to deliver nuclear bombs in southeastern Asia and a fair part of Soviet Russia, it is understandable that leaders of other Asian nations are wondering whether the day of Western power in Asia is over and whether it is possible to build bulwarks of Asian nations to stand over against China.
Add to these things the pressures and influences of the new world-civilization with its manifold industrial and technological elements that the more advanced Asian nations are adopting, and it is apparent that traditional approaches to Asian missions will no longer do. This is a time for the exercise of consecrated Christian statesmanship, for resolute putting aside of non-essentials and centering on key issues.
Granted that missions must always be viewed in the biblical and eschatological perspective of God’s purpose for this age—a purpose that is not world conversion but proclamation of the Gospel until the ecclesia is complete—missionary leadership must acknowledge that other voices are threatening to drown out the Christian witness. Among these voices, quite apart from the clamant tones of Communism, are certain contemporary Buddhist sects in Japan, notably Rissho Kosei-Kai and Soka Gakkai. Since World War II these new religions have gathered a following very conservatively estimated at ten million, ten times more than the present total of Christians after the long history of missions in Japan.
Amid confusing complexity, what of evangelical missionary concerns in Asia?
For one thing, an evangelical theology of missions is needed. It is significant that in the writings of most evangelical theologians there is little approaching a theology of missions. Rather, it has been the more ecumenical-minded writers, like Bavinck, Kraemer, Vicedom, and Blauw, who have articulated such a theology.
Surely the time has come for evangelical leadership to work out its own theology of missions. That it must do so within the biblical framework goes without saying. What is needed is not only a firm restatement of such basic matters as the priority of the Gospel and the essentiality of faith in Christ alone for salvation, as over against liberal dilutions of supernatural Christianity with their inevitable universalism, but also inquiry into matters of structure, methodology, and goals. That evangelical missionary thought is moving in this direction is evidenced by the beginning of the new Evangelical Missions Quarterly, the first issues of which show careful consideration of strategy and problems. Significant also is the new basis of operation developed by the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (formerly the China Inland Mission). After 100 years of service as an expression of Caucasian and Western concern without real involvement of nationals in its direction and structure, the Overseas Missionary Fellowship has recognized the rising tide of missionary concern among nationals in the East by opening to national Christians key positions of leadership and places on its various councils. With such an instrument, the missionary concern of national Christians will be fostered, so that they will continue to accept responsibility to cross frontiers and send more workers to other nations rather than being primarily recipients of support from the West.
As it develops a stronger theology of missions, evangelicalism needs to keep central the concept of the individual church. As one evangelical leader points out, evangelicals are so habituated to the concept of the invisible church that they have a defective concept of the local church. Yet it is from the local church that missionary candidates and support must come. Or, as another theologically conservative leader put it, missionary theology must take into account the necessity of the church in missionary lands standing on its own feet and learning to support itself. From the local indigenous church must come missionary and social action; otherwise the population explosion will more drastically outpace missionary endeavor
Again, evangelical missionary leadership must consider problems of ecumenism, particularly in the light of ever-increasing evangelical emphasis upon self-supporting indigenous churches. While integrity requires evangelical missionaries to be true to their homeland sponsors, most of whom are non-ecumenical, many of them are manifesting a kind of practical ecumenicity on the field. Observers of missions in Asia cannot but be impressed by the way some evangelicals work with their ecumenical neighbors, while maintaining firm convictions about the inadvisability of organic union and while holding fast their biblical theology. In such situations, the spiritual oneness of believers finds outward expression in cooperative efforts apart from the drive toward union.
Another central concern of missionary endeavor in Asia is literacy and education. In nations having a low literacy rate, such as Pakistan and many parts of India, students and the educated minority form an elite wielding great influence. Thus the kind of education these students receive has far-reaching effects. Quite apart from its support of foreign mission boards and agencies, the evangelical church in America has on its threshold a field of direct missionary action of highest significance—namely, Asian students in American colleges and universities. The future influence of these students, who are picked for their ability and personal promise, can hardly be overestimated. To introduce them, in the midst of disillusionment with our materialistic and secular culture, to authentic Christian living, to witness not just by argument but by the power of love—these are an indispensable evangelical contribution to Asia.
Educational institutions within Asia that teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures are of missionary importance and deserve support. Contrariwise, educational institutions within Asia that bear the name of Christ yet do not teach the Gospel according to the Scriptures are hindrances to the missionary enterprise. Despite the prospect of immediate gains through doctrinal and syncretistic compromise, such compromise can only cause confusion. In a time of competing religions and ideologies about which lines must be clearly defined, doctrinal purity and evangelical purpose are of crucial moment for Christian education in Asia. While literacy is the indispensable tool for progress, it is spiritually neutral. How it is used depends upon the commitment of those who possess it.
If medical missions have so far not been touched upon in this discussion, it is because their claim to support is so clear. Certainly the Christian hospitals and medical schools of Asia have exercised a determinative influence. And when such institutions, as is happily true of many under both denominational and independent auspices, combine healing with the presentation of the Gospel, the results are as fruitful as in any other kind of missionary endeavor. This is true not only of hospitals but also of the ministry of healing in many outstations in remote areas.
With its manifold challenges, Asia offers unsurpassed opportunities for Christian stewardship. The following list of eight needs in Asia is representative of how much comparatively modest amounts in this day of multi-million dollar philanthropy can do to advance the evangelical cause in the Far East:
1. Union Biblical Seminary, Yeotmal, Maharashtra, India. This is one of two theological seminaries in India granting the B.D. degree, and it is thoroughly evangelical. Twenty-seven denominations and missions cooperate in its work. The student body this year numbers ninety-one and has an international outreach. The most pressing need—dormitory facilities for men and women—would be met by $50,000. American address: Free Methodist Church of North America, Winona Lake, ‘Indiana 46590.
2. Far East Broadcasting Company. Thirty missionary groups cooperate in this endeavor, which is based in Manila. Aside from special programs just for the Philippines, shortwave programs go to japan, mainland China, Viet Nam, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaya, Pakistan, and Tibet. The company recently obtained five 50,000-watt transmitters. To place these transmitters in operation, $10,000 is needed for each (one is already provided for). More new stations mean more evangelical programs. Address: P. O. Box 1, Whittier, California 90608.
3. Japan Lutheran Hour. Broadcasting over ninety-seven stations in Japan, this evangelical program of documentaries and semi-documentaries has a listening audience of ten million and receives a greater amount of mail than any other religious program in Japan. In the use of radio, the Japanese are among the leaders of the world. Time for the Japan Lutheran Hour for a year in a small center can be purchased for $9,000, and $15,000 will purchase time for a year in a larger city. Address: The Lutheran Hour, Box 2185, Hampton Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63139.
4. World Vision Pastors’ Conferences and Orphan Program. In its Asian pastors’ conferences, which have been held in Korea, the Philippines, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and Japan, World Vision gathers groups of national pastors for lectures on the Bible and the ministry and for fellowship. Fifteen dollars pays for the travel, food, and lodging of a pastor for a five-day conference. Thus $15,000 will cover a large conference of 1,000 or $7,500 a conference of 500 pastors. World Vision is also currently responsible for 20,528 orphans, most of them in Korea. Ten dollars a month will provide care for an orphan. Five hundred orphans are awaiting sponsorship. Address: World Vision, Inc., 919 West Huntington Drive, Monrovia, California 91016.
5. Korean Nationwide Evangelistic Campaign. During the next twelve months, nearly all Protestant churches in South Korea will unite in a great evangelistic effort, during which campaigns will be conducted in all major cities and the endeavor made to reach every person in the nation individually, to talk to him about Christ, and to present him with a Bible or tract. In connection with this effort, a mass meeting of 250,000 by the River Han outside Seoul is planned as a national witness. Prayer support is earnestly solicited. Substantial gifts, such as $5,000, will do much to further this outstanding evangelistic effort. (CHRISTIANITY TODAY will forward contributions.)
6. International Students, Incorporated, and International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. The former group works with foreign students in American colleges and universities, providing Christian conferences and fellowship for them. Undenominational and evangelical, it serves a large number of students from Asia. Among its sixty full-time workers are a number of Asian nationals. It costs approximately $3,000 a year to support an unmarried worker and $5,000 to support a worker with a family. Support of workers is urgently needed. The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students has a worldwide ministry in foreign colleges and universities, including work in Japan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Viet Nam, and Taiwan. Asian nationals serve as full-time staff members of indigenous movements affiliated with IFES. This witness to students in Asia would be greatly helped by $10,000, which would provide salaries of a number of workers. Addresses: International Students, Inc., 2627 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D. C. 20008; International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, 1519 North Astor Street, Chicago, Illinois 60610.
7. Ahlman Academy. This is an independent Christian school operating in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, a completely Muslim land. It serves children of American and foreign personnel in Kabul and also some children of nationals. Its approved elementary program is based on a Christian philosophy of education. This strategically located school, which is sacrificially supported by parents and faculty, would be greatly strengthened by $15,000. Address: Dr. J. Christy Wilson, Treasurer, Incorporated Kabul Community Christian Church, 1420 Santo Domingo Drive, Duarte, California 91010.
8. Evangelical Christian Education Fellowship of India. This arm of the Evangelical Fellowship of India is engaged in an intensive program of producing Sunday school courses based on the best evangelical materials used in America, adapted for Indian usage. Translation of the materials into basic English has been completed and will be followed by translation into six of the national languages. The sum of $10,000 would do much to expedite this program and also help promote Sunday school work, which so urgently needs development in the Indian churches. Address: Dr. Everett L. Cattell, President, World Evangelical Fellowship, 515 25th Street, N.W., Canton, Ohio 44709.
Elections On Sunday?
At a time when the American people are trying to achieve proper separation of church and state without eliminating religion from government, a bill has been introduced in the United States Senate proposing that National Election Day fall on the first Sunday in November. Senate Bill 1211 was introduced by Senator Everett M. Dirksen, who, according to reports, has been surprised by the amount of opposition the bill is receiving from Christian people.
Passage of the bill would impose on millions of Christian Americans a conflict of civic and religious duties. Many would simply refuse to vote. Why place them—particularly when there is no real necessity for it—in a situation where they would feel compelled to forego the duty to vote in loyalty to what they regard as a higher duty?
After all, much more is involved than stopping at the polls on a Sunday to vote. The day on which a Presdent of the United States is elected is a day of great excitement even for the citizen who does no more than cast his personal vote. But for the many people who work within the vast election machinery—operating the polls, counting the votes, computing results, and presenting the election over radio and television—the day is a long day of hard work, leaving no time for private religious matters and public worship.
No one in this country has a right to impose his idea of Sunday observance on another. This is proper. But it is equally a matter of right that society not impose Sunday civic obligations upon the religious conscience that would keep many Americans away from the polls and outside the exciting activity of a National Election Day.
We already have too many Americans who do not vote. Why increase their number, as the passage of Senate Bill 1211 will surely do?
If all concerned American Christians write their congressmen, the good and affable Senator sponsoring the bill will be even more surprised.
No Reason For Liberalism
Sometimes we wonder what has happened to objectivity and sound scholarship in the attacks against conservative Christianity. It is easier to honor a liberal churchman as a conscientious objector to biblical views if he does not resort to distortion of the alternative he rejects; when he resorts to “straw man” techniques, the impression grows that he is simply rationalizing an unjustifiable revolt.
What prompts these remarks is a recent essay in the Christian Century by Dr. John R. Opie, who is leaving his post as director of the United Protestant Education Board to become a member of the faculty of Duquesne University, a Roman Catholic institution.
Writing on “The Modernity of Fundamentalism,” Dr. Opie instructs his readers—who should know better—that fundamentalists have “claimed Karl Barth as one of their own,” and that fundamentalism seeks the perpetuation of “19th century [rather than New Testament] patterns.”
But most remarkable of Dr. Opie’s comments is that spokesmen for evangelical Christianity are rationalists because they champion Christianity as a rationally coherent religion. Fundamentalism is “rationalism within Christianity.… no modern religious movement depends more upon reasonableness.”
We do not think this confusion merits more attention than a simple reiteration of the facts. Modern liberal theology (post-Kantian and post-Ritschlian), dialectical theology, existential theology, linguistic theology, and secularized “death of God” theology, all are anti-intellectualistic in that they reject universally valid cognitive knowledge of transcendent, supernatural realities. Evangelical Christianity holds that revelation (not reason) is the source of truth, but that revelation is rational; it holds, moreover, that the Holy Spirit is the source of faith and life, but that the Spirit uses truth as a means of persuasion.
Conservative Christians do not want to deprive liberal Protestants of full opportunity to insist on their anti-intellectualism. But in rejecting the evangelical option, it would be well to let the facts, rather than prejudices, speak.
The New Confession: A Responsible Critique
The leaders of the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. make no secret of the fact that their church is moving away from fidelity to its only official confessional standards, the Westminster Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Their hope is that this dominant trend will gain official recognition two years hence with final adoption of the “Confession of 1967,” which gained its Initial approval at last May’s General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio. This confession is part of a proposal that calls for adoption of a book of eight confessions, including the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism but eliminating the Larger Catechism, partly because of tendencies that are termed “excessively legalistic.”
Church history bears witness to the frequency of church bodies’ departing from the convictions of their historic documents, but almost as often it tells of counter-movements to preserve the ancient heritage. Westminster Theological Seminary of Philadelphia is well known among both liberal and conservative Presbyterian churchmen for its scholarly defense of the classical system of Presbyterianism embodied in the Westminster standards. Thus a critique of the new confession by the acting president of Westminster Seminary, Dr. Edmund P. Clowney, is of special interest. He observes that the proposed confession contains assertions flatly contradictory to statements in the Westminster Confession and follows tendencies of the liberal Presbyterian Auburn Affirmation in asserting the fallibility of the Bible, omitting the Virgin Birth and the physical resurrection of Christ, confessing no miracles of Christ, and describing the substitutionary atonement as the “image” of a truth that is beyond the reach of theory.
In analyzing the confession in connection with its motif of reconciliation, Clowney concludes: “The urgency of the church’s mission according to the new confession is therefore not to plead with lost sinners, ‘Be ye reconciled to God,’ but to promote the reconciliation of estranged races and nations.”
But Clowney’s major criticisms are reserved for what he terms the new confession’s “Barthian theology of the Word.” He charges: “Under the guise of exalting Christ above the Bible, this theology abolishes the rule of Christ in his church through his written Word. The Reformation principle of sola scriptura is set aside.… Modern scholars may not share Jesus’ view of the absolute authority of the Old Testament as the Word of God, but they can scarcely deny that he held it. If the witness of the Bible to Christ is fallible, then Christ’s witness to the Bible is also fallible. The words of Christ and of the Bible stand or fall together. In the theology of the new creed they fall together.”
The Turmoil In Protestantism
Look magazine shows a sure instinct for ultimate issues in American Christianity in entitling its panoramic survey of the religious scene (July 27 issue) “The Battle of the Bible.” In a wide-ranging essay, Senior Editor T. George Harris notes the cresting and clashing tides of religious life and thought and reflects the widespread Protestant restlessness and growing dissatisfaction with the institutional church. So searching are some criticisms that the reader wonders whether institutional Christianity as presently compromised has not forfeited its right to survival.
Look recognizes that the alternatives are the deformation of the historic Christian Church or the dawn of a new reformation, and it shows the violent disagreement in Protestant circles over which tendency will lead to which outcome. The non-evangelical forces think the tragedy of Protestantism lies in its aloofness from secular concerns; the evangelical forces locate the fatal flaw in the aloofness of modern Christianity from the God of the Bible.
For the ecumenists who are ecclesiologically and theologically inclusive, the new reformation will annul the stance of the Reformers in respect to Rome and the Bible; theological orthodoxy is deserted, traditional concepts are filled with new meanings, and the question “What would Jesus have us do?” is answered largely in terms of social concerns. One sometimes gets the impression that Bishop Robinson’s Honest to God has become the Calvin’s Institutes of this movement. And the comment of Louis Cassels, religion editor of United Press International, is timely—that Robinson aims to defend Christianity “by abandoning its basic precepts.” Reinhold Niebuhr is quoted as saying that “the race crisis saved the church from irrelevancy,” but Editor Harris himself remarks that “if the churches become no more than extensions of the civil-rights movement, they will be only pieces of sociology or special sects.”
Alongside the despair of the institutional churches (CHRISTIANITY TODAY has often remarked that their sickness cannot be healed by mergers that perpetuate their ailments in a grandiose way), Look recognizes the vitality of the evangelical ingredient in American religion. Notice is taken of the emergence of hundreds of prayer groups, of Campus Crusade, Inter-Varsity, Christian Business Men’s Committees, Young Life, the Graham crusades, and CHRISTIANITY TODAY. The evangelical reader will sense that such efforts are especially important amid the turmoil in Protestantism because of their emphasis on personal redemption. The fact that these movements have largely arisen to offset deficiencies in the institutional churches should cast its own light on the problem of Protestantism today.
Adlai E. Stevenson
The death of Adlai Stevenson brought a national and international response more usually accorded the passing of a head of state than of a defeated political candidate. For his stature in defeat was greater than that of many victors, and his personal magnitude and subsequent service were such that he could never be dismissed simply as an also-ran. Nor for that matter can “losers” like Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Bryan, Hughes, and Robert Taft. Governor Stevenson taught us much about responsible opposition leadership, and he brought to the American political scene a culture and refinement often lacking there. His sensitivity, urbanity, and wit did much for America’s reputation abroad.
The West has lost yet another eloquent spokesman for freedom at a time when there are few enough. His speech was sprinkled with quotations from the Bible and from Shakespeare. He concluded his acceptance speech to the 1952 Democratic national convention by saying: “In the staggering task you have assigned me, I shall always try ‘to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [my] God.’ ”
As the effective American spokesman in the United Nations, Stevenson is perhaps best remembered for his vigorous confrontation with Soviet delegate Valerian Zorin during the Cuban missile crisis. He once said that Communism “is without spiritual content or comfort.” On the other hand, he asserted that Christian faith has been the “most significant single element” in American history and tradition. His words should be remembered: “There is one thing of incalculable worth which this religious outlook has given us as a nation. It is our protection against the moral confusion, which is too often the moral nihilism, of this age.… Here is the ultimate foundation beneath the strength and the security of the Republic. Here, not in our wealth, not in our productive ingenuity, not in our arms, but here in the religious convictions of our people is our stability for the future.”
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