Have evangelicals abandoned their role as social critics?

‘The Agony And The Ecstasy’

I see in the papers that 20th Century-Fox has brought us the screen version of Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. By all means read the book. It will tell you a lot you ought to know about Michelangelo and a lot of other things besides. I can’t imagine how the picture could come up to the book, but I hope it does.

This word from Michelangelo is worth remembering. One time when he was doing a work that he was pressured into doing, someone warned him, “It may cost your life.” The great artist’s response was, “What else is life for?” We’re all aware that our days keep on getting used up. It takes somebody like Michelangelo to figure out what we ought to figure out for ourselves—that life, which is going to be used up anyway, can be used up purposefully and redemptively.

A long time ago I heard a story about a young man who was beginning his work with the Coast Guard. Very early in the game he suddenly was called to take part in a desperate assignment, a terrible storm and a ship in distress. As the men began to move the big boat to go to the rescue, the young man, frightened by the assignment, cried out to the captain. “We will never get back.” Above the storm the captain cried back. “We don’t have to come back, but we do have to go out.”

You might try this the next time you are faced with a hard decision. In most decisions the hard part is not knowing what one ought to do; it is being willing to pay the price. I suppose that is one more reason why the Cross is the symbol of the Christian faith.


Social Action And Reaction

“Evangelicals in the Social Struggle” (Oct. 8 issue) is a welcome contribution to a neglected area of discussion, but I wonder if evangelical leadership has, avoided the social struggle of the past fifty to seventy-five years for the theological reasons you advance.…

In any case, society will likely be with us for a while, and it is good to have evangelicals discussing it.


Washington, D. C.

In a publication that is uniformly excellent and timely, the October 8 number is a stand-out. To the laymen, “Evangelicals in the Social Struggle” and “Love Without Law” could hardly be improved upon.…


Melbourne Beach, Fla.

Your editorial … is one of the best statements on the conservative Christian position that I have read. You are to be commended for a thoughtful treatment of a difficult topic.…

As much as I appreciate your effort, I must point out what I believe to be some serious weaknesses.…

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I think it can be demonstrated historically that … the evangelicals in the mid-nineteenth century abandoned their tradition as social prophets and critics, after which came the social gospel. Finney was both a major evangelist and an influential critic of slavery, but evangelicals since the time of Finney have failed to produce a single important spokesman for social justice.…

The editorial assumes a role for the slate which bears an eighteenth-century label. You would limit government to the establishment of justice and then define justice so narrowly that it excludes benevolence and service which might mitigate human deprivations and unequal circumstances.…

A more important error regarding the state is the assumption that justice is the exclusive function of government, which rules out social welfare by government as a legitimate object of Christian social action.…



Dept. of History

Oklahoma Baptist University

Shawnee, Okla.

What is the essential difference in positionizing the Church on behalf of social justice and positionizing the Church in defense of an oppressive status quo? Time after time evangelicals have been discovered in the role of chaplaincy to the establishment, but somehow we never see this as “social involvement”.…

What about evangelical influences, usually reactionary, relating to welfare programs, medical care for the aged, capital punishment, or legislation regulating such problems as gambling, pornography, or beverage alcohol?…


Director of Communications

The Christian Life Commission

The Southern Baptist Convention

Nashville, Tenn.

I was surprised when I ran across Henry Drummond’s sermons to see how deeply into the field of social ethics he went. I had always known him through The Greatest Thing in the World and for his association with Moody.…


First Presbyterian

Weslaco, Tex.

Both my husband and I have thoroughly enjoyed … “Evangelicals in the Social Struggle.” In fact, he said that it was the social overemphasis in Protestant Christianity in part that motivated him to become a Catholic about a decade ago. From first to last we found the articles informative and heartening, too. “Psychiatry anti Religion” is certainly interesting, timely, optimistic. So did I enjoy “When Sankey Sang,” just preceding the use of my poem.…


Athens, Ohio

I do not see how the evangelical position could have been spelled out with more clarity or brilliance.…

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First Church of the Nazarene

Norman, Okla.

Mavrodes Vs. Pitts

For his “Salaried Housekeeper” comment (Eutychus and His Kin, Oct. 8 issue) on Mr. Pitts’s article, “If I Were a Church Member” (Sept. 10 issue), I nominate Mr. Mavrodes for a Nonbright Scholarship Award.…

Mr. Mavrodes’s irrelevant, nit-picking criticism shakes my faith in the professorial eminence traditionally associated with Ann Arbor, and also makes me wonder if your selection of letters to the editor is the result of throwing them all up a flight of stairs and printing those that land on the top three steps. Surely, someone must have written words of praise and appreciation for Mr. Pitts’s article—not to mention comprehension.


The Federated Church

Charlemont, Mass.

• We received many letters of appreciation of Dr. Pitts’s article and approved many requests to reprint it.—ED.

The letter of George I. Mavrodes (of the University of Michigan philosophy department) in your current issue puzzles me. He seems totally to have misunderstood the point of my article.…

Apparently Mr. Mavrodes does not know that a Presbyterian minister is not a member of the local congregation in the usual sense—he is a member of presbytery. But I should think that a person who has presumably wrestled with the Platonic theory of ideas and Kant’s “synthetic unity of apperception” would realize that every minister is of necessity involved intimately in the fellowship of his congregation and is always under the discipline of the church.

His analogy of the “salaried housekeeper” is stupid as well as snide. It is obvious that he needs to do his “homework” before writing to the press.…


Calvary Presbyterian

Pompano Beach, Fla.

Readers On Ramm

It is always a joy, fraught with anticipation of being spiritually edified, to note that your magazine contains an article by Dr. Bernard Ramm. This is also true of “The Continental Divide in Contemporary Theology” (Oct. 8 issue).…


West New York, N.J.

Never have I read such an enlightening article.…


West Chester, Pa.

Which is better: An orthodox ecclesiastic who burns his opponents alive and damns them to hell, or a kindly follower of Jesus who cannot agree with all the creeds and theology of the Church?


First Presbyterian

Clifton, Ariz.

• A kindly orthodox follower of Jesus.—ED.

Praise For Poetry

Your magazine has done more than anything else in recent years to raise the standards of Christian verse, and to give it outlet. I myself, having written verse for many years, have learned a great deal by studying what you produce. I think that countless other writers likewise study your pages to see what they can learn about contemporary writing in verse form. I don’t always like what you use, but mostly I do, and sometimes I am lifted to cloud nine by something in your columns.… You are to be greatly commended for the contribution you are making.…

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It is my suspicion that the more good contemporary verse you, and other magazines of standards, publish, the more will be written. I feel your magazine has literally pioneered a new field here.…


Toronto, Ont.

Sankey’S Organ

I particularly enjoyed “When Sankey Sang” (Oct. 8 issue). We have the Sankey organ here in our office. I made a contribution to [the remodeling fund of the] Carrubers Close Mission [in Edinburgh] and brought the organ back in 1954. It went some ninety-five years ago to England from Chicago. It is a Baldwin organ manufactured in Chicago. Enclosed are a couple of recordings done on the organ.


Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Minneapolis, Minn.

I really appreciated your recent article by Bernard R. DeRemer. As a lover of gospel music, I am especially interested in the field of evangelistic music.…


Logan, Ohio

God And Science

Enclosed is my subscription for the year. This one article (“What Some Scientists Say about God and the Supernatural,” Aug. 27 issue) alone was well worth it.


Grace Brethren Church

Waterloo, Iowa

Man’s capacity to know God continues to increase as he increases in knowledge and wisdom. There are more people who are aware of God today than ever before in all history.… “Faith” is getting rid of old-fashioned ideas, which you seem loath to shake.


Cardigan, Prince Edward Island

In Re: The Pope

The United Nations does not need the Pope. It needs Jesus Christ.


Seattle, Wash.

On Our Ninth

Happy, happy birthday to you and yours. I am just a layman and enjoy your magazine immensely.


Deepwater, Mo.


Love is—because God is

from everlasting to everlasting.

It is in the waiting—in the brooding—in the silence—before

Let there be light was spoken.

Love is a bush burning without ash on a mountain.

Love is a voice in the night—“Samuel—Samuel”—calling.

Love is a coal of fire pressed against lips chosen for accolade.

Love is a gift wrapped in the womb of a virgin, delivered in a stable.

Love is a pattern of nails and flesh embroidered on wood with a hammer.

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Love is recognition in a garden—“Mary”—“Master”—

in the breaking of bread at Emmaus.

Love is an ascension—witnessed.

Love is flame crowning the wind—descent of the Spirit.

Love is seed in the heart’s ground swelling toward harvest

sown for the need of the world.

Love is the speech of God—for God is Love.

Excuses char before His mandate, alibis are shattered.

Neither is there flight.

Nor hiding.


CHRISTIANITY TODAY helped me free myself from the shackles of membership in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.…


Chapel Oaks, Md.

I have subscribed for over a year to CHRISTIANITY TODAY. It has been to me an anchor amidst stormy seas. It has been God’s saying again: “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal.”

You have aired both sides to many issues, and although some of the theological terms and phrases are too deep for my background, I have continually been “rooted and grounded in the faith”.…


Dover, Del.

You have the outstanding evangelical publication in circulation today, with high scholarship, sane understanding, and deep dedication. I read you every fortnight with joy and delight. Also, you are on my prayer list! Keep the fires burning.


Central Park Baptist Church

Birmingham, Ala.

I was among the first … subscribers to CHRISTIANITY TODAY when it began publication a few years ago. It is well edited, and it is constructive and positive. I wouldn’t be without it.


Victor Federated Church

Victor, Mont.

It is always a pleasure to receive and read your fine magazine, which is defending the old and yet always new teaching of God as written in the Bible. The articles reflect the struggle between faith—true faith—and the so-called scientific knowledge. Judging on the ground of the articles published in your magazine, I am convinced faith as created by God in human hearts will be victorious at the end.


Nativity Lutheran

Windsor, Ont.

I want to commend the breadth of your coverage of the affairs of the churches round the world. CHRISTIANITY TODAY keeps me informed.…


Danville, Ill.

Of all the publications that come to our desk, CHRISTIANITY TODAY has come to be the one that holds first place in our reading. I am thankful for this wonderful publication; it fills a need that for many years went unmet.…


Evangelical United Brethren Church

Boone, Iowa

Which Dante?

Wonderful article on Dante (Sept. 24 issue), but why leave out the bibliography? What is the best edition or translation to buy?… I am anxious to start right in. CHRISTIANITY TODAY gets better every issue.

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Herrin, Ill.

• The following are recommended: Dorothy Sayers’s translation (Penguin, three volumes) and the Carlyle-Wicksteed prose translation (Modern Library).—ED.

From The Front Line

I am in Viet Nam with a combat headquarters. The very day I left Fort Hood for the Far East your edition on Asia (July 30) hit my desk. Of course I brought it with me on the jet plane, and I have reread it several times since arriving. This one copy simply illustrates the relevance of most every edition to the world situation and to those of us in the field who are trying to interpret the Gospel in our particular area of responsibility.…

Thanks again … for your contribution in the middle years of this century.


Chaplain (Col.), United States Army

Hq. U. S. Army Task Force ALFA

Viet Nam

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