Socialism and the Great Commission
The Classic Plot
I am just back from a conversation—or maybe a dialogue, but hardly a dialectic, although it could have been a plain argument—with my barber. Since he had his scissors in hand and gesticulated more than somewhat, he was able to make his points better than I.
To get the facts straight (though nothing ruins a good dialogue like facts), he told me that something he had read in some magazine—he couldn’t remember which one—had convinced him that a very strange thing has happened in these United States.
His information went something like this: although everyone is against the fact that 50,000 people are killed on our highways every year and about 500,000 very badly wounded, the whole economic system of the United States would end up worse than it was in the depression of 1929 if it weren’t for all “them” accidents.
“It’s a funny thing,” he said (using the word “funny” rather loosely, I think), “but when a man has a wreck on the highway, that gives business to the junk dealers or the body repairmen or the engine men, and the doctor, the lawyer, the policeman, the insurance companies, and the undertakers, not to speak of preachers and florists.”
“When you think about it,” he said, “what about all that money that circulates around just because of one accident? And how many accidents does it take to kill 50,000 people and hurt 500,000 other people? Then there are the hospitals, too, and you know those bills are pretty high. Where would we be if all that money wasn’t put into circulation?”
“It’s a funny thing,” he said again, “when your whole economic system depends on people getting killed and hurt. And then there are all those crazy wars, too.”
I tried to point out that this is what the preachers are saying when they talk about our participation in a sinful society. There is something dead wrong about the whole show.
Back in the gay twenties it was pretty hard to get people to talk seriously about sin. Everyday things were getting better in every way. Now everybody from Sartre to Camus to my barber has suddenly discovered the “exceeding sinfulness of sin.”
But the classic plot is as follows: Sin, Guilt, Redemption. What the world is waiting for now is some “good news”—in case anyone has any.
Standing By The Money Bags
Your advance treatment of the World Conference on Church and Society in Geneva (“The World Council and Socialism,” July 8 issue) correctly pointed out the dangerous continuing association between ecumenists and socialistic theory at the expense of the prime Christian witness. However, I believe CHRISTIANITY TODAY and other evangelical mouthpieces are continuing to slide into an equally dangerous anti-socialistic and pro-capitalistic rut.…
You state that “the Bible nowhere advocates Marxist theory,” but you fail to state what also follows—neither does the Bible advocate capitalistic theory. You also fail to draw a distinct line between Marxist economic theory and Marxist political theory. The latter is the only one the church can properly dispute since it suppresses religion and the dignity and freedom of the human conscience. Socialism per se is an economic, not religious, matter.…
JOHN ROSS THOMPSON
First Methodist Church
I wonder if you realize that your attack on all liberals who may have socialistic tendencies puts you in a position of being the “churchmen” who are always found standing by the “money-bags.” I would not like to detail the proofs of this condition in the Church today. Would you like to have to make a detailed report on the sources of your income? It might be a reflection on the Church. Jesus himself would not carry money. Why should we as Christians be so devoted to it today … and all those who have it?
JOHN C. HIRSCHLER
Congratulations on the excellent issue of July 8, and especially the incisive and informative article on “The World Council and Socialism.” Splendid!…
V. R. EDMAN
Contrary to the apparent opinion of these men, the Christian faith is not whatever you care to make of it but is the faith once for all delivered to the saints by Christ, his prophets and apostles. If they don’t care to accept their testimony, that is their perfect civil right; but one would think that honesty would prohibit them from invoking our Lord’s name in describing their latest brainstorms.… If your purpose was to try to influence these men to rethink their positions by your able and valid critique, then I doubt if you’ll succeed, as these men obviously couldn’t care less if their thoughts are contrary to Scripture. They are their own authorities in matters of what they consider faith.
EARL A. BIELEFELD
Zion Evangelical Lutheran
I am astonished to read both your article and your editorial (July 8 issue) and to find that you attribute a series of quotations to me that are from Richard Shaull’s article. You must have read my name as the author of the Foreword and then failed to notice that on page 23 a new chapter begins by Shaull. I have some responsibility for printing Shaull’s chapter first because of its provocative character, but my own emphasis, especially on the issue of contextual ethics, is quite different. You do not give any indication of having read my Epilogue, but you will find an analysis of this subject on pages 375, 376. Also my whole way of dealing with “The Responsible Society” idea preserves principles. I refer to them as “the deposit of previous revolutions.” The deposit is the institutionalization of the principles rather than the principles themselves.
I am sure that you would disagree with my position, but your article does give to some of the ideas that belong especially to Shaull and to Paul Lehmann a disproportionate place. I am sure that the book as a whole is opposed to your emphasis on what would seem to most of the authors to be biblical legalism and also to your great preference for economic individualism.…
I am very glad that Shaull’s chapter is in the book because he provides the kind of shock that is most needed in the American churches, and not least by readers of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
JOHN C. BENNETT
Union Theological Seminary
New York, N. Y.
• We apologize for attributing quotations from pages 26–41 of Christian Social Ethics in a Changing World, edited by John C. Bennett, to Dr. Bennett rather than to Richard Schaull. As he notes, Dr. Bennett does not identify himself with contextual theories of ethics but promotes principles (of a sort, we should add). While he affirms principles as “the deposit of previous revolutions,” he rejects universally fixed principles grounded in divine revelation and applicable to all concrete situations. How this repudiation of revealed principles maintains an assured devotion to the will of God and avoids moral relativism in concrete situations it is difficult to see. And why ought the Church to elevate to priority the promotion of particular policies and programs that God has not disclosed?
Ecumenical social theory today often differs from Marxism mainly in the rejection of the Marxist view of history, but the social changes it promotes are no less radical. On the ground of the supposed dynamic evolutionary character of history and its unique situational elements, it switches from principles to pragmatic political strategy, espousing socialist convictions piecemeal and advancing socialist institutional goals.
For all his affection for “principles” and dissociation from situational ethics, Dr. Bennett is no advocate of revealed biblical principles. Moreover, he views socialism as morally preferable to capitalism, as if collectivism were a divine social goal. All such programs of “Christian Marxism” seem to us to be based on a self-righteous illusion about modern man and society.
The New Testament indeed holds out the possibility of a new society, but it does not view socialism as the embodiment of justice. The new society exists in miniature in the regenerate Church, and only as men are spiritually renewed does it come into being, until Christ at last establishes it in power. Protestant liberalism, a generation ago, sought to bring in a new society not of regenerate believers but of socialist ideals inculcated by education and moral persuasion. Ecumenical social ethics retains much the same vision, and more and more approves government compulsion and even revolution as means.
It is noteworthy that Union Theological Seminary, with a capitalistic endowment of over $17 million has made no distribution of these assets to any “share the wealth” program.—ED.
Mosques In The East
The essay, “Why Did Churches Become Mosques in the East?,” by Hermann Sasse (June 24 issue), is a fine outline of Christian history, covering, as it does, much that has scarcely been mentioned by ministers from the pulpits. Just why ignorance of the Church’s failures in history has remained such a hush-hush matter remains no credit or value to the churches. The slogan: “Where ignorance is bliss ’tis folly to be wise” turns out to be a rather tragic strategy. You have done yourself and your magazine an honor by printing the essay.…
SHEPPARD O. SMITH
When I read [the essay] the question came to mind whether American churches will soon become political convention halls or simply social centers. As Prof. Sasse pointed out, Christians should be concerned about political and social matters, but the task of the Church as an organization is not political and social reform. It is rather the faithful proclamation of a Christian faith and life based squarely upon the Word of God. According to that Word, the Gospel is the message of a forgiveness that leads to a life of sanctification and service. As long as this is recognized, American churches will never be corrupted into mere political and social centers.
Hermann Sasse’s article should be studied by all Christians, but especially by our Orthodox Christians.… I wish I could have fifty reprints.…
St. Mary’s Orthodox Church
Hitler’S ‘Christian Subhumans’
Your reference to 6,000,000 Jews in your editorial “The Church in Politics”. (May 13 issue) reminded me of something I had read recently.…
Max I. Dimont, in Jews, God and History, says:
From that first day in power to that April day in 1945 when, with Berlin ablaze, Hitler shot himself through the mouth, the Germans exterminated with systematized murder 12 million men, women and children, in concentration camps, by firing squads and in gas chambers. Of these 12 million victims, 7 million were Christians and 5 million Jews—1.4 Christians for every Jew. But because the Nazis shouted “Kill the Jews,” the world blinded itself to the murder of Christians.…
The “final solution,” as envisaged by Hitler, included not only the murder of all Jews in Europe, but also the enslavement of all “Christian subhumans” like Russians, Poles, Rumanians, Hungarians and Yugoslavs, and their reduction in number through a ruthless program of planned extermination [pp. 373, 379].
I appreciated very much your recent article, “Pseudo-Psychology in the Church,” by Richard H. Cox (June 24 issue). It is a healthy warning to the Church at this particular time and reminds us especially that the working of God and a thorough education along with professional skills do not contradict each other.
Mennonite Mental Health Services
Richard H. Cox … mentioned “qualified marriage counselors,” but he did not include the name of a professional organization. I take the liberty, therefore, of listing the American Association of Marriage Counselors (27 Woodcliff Drive, Madison, New Jersey 07940). The association maintains a directory of professionally trained marriage counselors of demonstrated competence, who have fulfilled the requirements for membership in this professional body.
ROLLIN J. FAIRBANKS
Prof. of Pastoral Theology
Episcopal Theological School
In my opinion, Cox has listed excellent guidelines to help churches in their selection of qualified psychological consultants. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to find psychologists who are both professionally qualified and evangelical Christians. Hopefully this situation will improve as more Christian young people are encouraged to prepare for service in the field of psychology.
GARY R. COLLINS
Assoc. Prof. of Psychology
St. Paul, Minn.
Graham In London
In your thrilling London report (News, July 22 issue) you mention, “Another significant fact: Two-thirds of the inquirers are under 25,” and contrast this with Harringay in 1954, “where those going forward were predominantly middle-aged.”
It would appear that this latter statement relates to some special phase of the crusade rather than the final results. When in his Psychology of Christian Conversion Dr. Robert O. Ferm states (p. 86): “The Billy Graham converts, though they include many adolescents, are noticeably among the more advanced age group,” one envisages his observing on a night like June 11, 1958, in San Francisco. That night 55.6 per cent of the inquirers were in the over-thirty age bracket. But the other extreme was May 22, when 6.9 per cent were such.
The actual final figures for the Harringay crusade given by Dr. Billy Graham (Intelligence Digest, May, 1954, p. 186) showed 65 per cent of the male inquirers and 62 per cent of the female as under nineteen, and eighty-three and seventy-eight per cent respectively under thirty. The official report, Rev. Frank Colquhoun’s Harringay Story is in agreement, as also is Dr. Charles T. Cook’s London Hears Billy Graham.
LIONEL A. HUNT
Beyond The Ivy-Covered Walls
Regarding the article, “Is There a Prophet in the Land?” (June 24 issue), written by, of all things, an associate professor of applied Christianity, who apparently has not gotten beyond the “ivy-covered” wall long enough to know what is going on in the Church and the world: … I would hope that Dr. John Thompson would move about in the Church and see some of the inspiring things that are being done in local parishes where ministers of the Gospel are actively engaged in leading their people to understand the challenge of the Gospel of Christ as they face the difficulties of life in the world.
I could not deny that there are many failures, but these failures are not defeats. It has been my experience in over thirteen years of parish life that men and women are anxiously receiving the challenge of the Gospel and responding to it just as they did at the time of Christ, no more enthusiastically and no less hesitantly. I believe that there are many “prophets in the land.”
EDWARD W. HOF
Bond Hill United Presbyterian
There are few prophets in the land. Dr. John Thompson discerningly states the case. His is another of the stabbingly correct analyses of the pulpit these days.
However, our numerous seminary critics should never forget that today’s pulpits are filled by yesterday’s seminarians. Maybe if the seminary profs were a bit more prophetic in the classrooms and a bit less tedious in their pursuit of “academic excellence” for learning’s sake, there might be a few more Isaiahs, Jeremiahs, Elijahs, and Pauls in the pulpits of our land, and fewer time-serving “pulpit politicians and money-raisers.” Or possibly we might suggest that the seminary professors go back to the parish ministry and show the world what real modern prophets are like. Or is that too humble a calling?
MAX R. GAULKE
First Church of God
The idea of a Christian university is sound in every respect and ought to be a priority item on the evangelical agenda. I’m for it 100 per cent.
ORVILLE L. WOLFF
Instituto e Seminario Biblico
Registrar Londrin, Parana, Brazil
In your July 8 issue (News) you discussed “the 230,000-member Reformed Church” and “the 272,000-member Christian Reformed Church.” These figures are not arrived at from the same base. The Reformed Church in America has 232,414 communicant members and the Christian Reformed Church has 142,961 communicant members. The Reformed Church has 385,587 total baptized members and the Christian Reformed Church has 272,461. I was glad to hear of a closer fellowship between the two churches including pulpit exchanges. It has been my privilege to speak in a number of Christian Reformed pulpits.…”
I suspect that the reaction of a large part of the Reformed Church toward studying COCU will be similar to the reaction of many Southern Presbyterians toward joining COCU. Many of their leaders in this area speak of it as “cuckoo.”
JOHN H. MULLER
(Reformed Church in America)
I would like to express my appreciation for the June 10 issue, “The Gospel and the Inner City.… It was most helpful in showing an awareness of the challenge and problems of the city and the relevance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.
HOWARD R. KEELEY
Evangelistic Association of New England
Berlin Congress Hymn
The new hymn “Macedonia” (July 8 issue) is beautiful. The words are heartfelt and fitted to a grand old tune.
WINNIFRED M. DYER
The hymn is meaningful to me as, so far, I have only read and reread the words. Surely we will all be singing it, one day.…
J. KENNETH GRIDER
Prof. of Theology
Nazarene Theological Seminary
Kansas City, Mo.
As I read “The Gospel According to LSD,” by John Warwick Montgomery (Current Religious Thought, July 8 issue), I thought immediately of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and a paraphrasing of Moffat’s translation: “And never get drunk on LSD—that means profligacy—but be filled with the Spirit …” (Eph. 5:18).
This is just another example of man trying to make a shoddy substitute for the real thing. The tragedy is that so many will pass by the “reals” and flock to the phonies.
GARDNER KOCH, JR.
Rock Hill, S. C.
Rename The Magazine
I am appalled at the lack of insight and the abundance of criticism aimed at those who have been progressive in their thought. I therefore suggest, in as loving an attitude as I can muster, that you rename your magazine: 15th Century Dogmatism and Christian Backbiting Today.
Los Gatos, Calif.
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