Dear Verbal Militiamen:
The theological revolution that has roared through major American seminaries in recent years has resulted in a glorious display of linguistic goose-stepping. Following their academic leaders into the name-game war, hordes of pastors have joined the cliché parade and now use the proper theological terminology calculated to capture the mind of modern man. But have you enlisted as a linguistic warrior? The following test will indicate whether you are a member of the new breed. Complete each statement with the best alternative:
1. The major problem of man is: (a) estrangement from essence; (b) angst; (c) his existential plight; (d) alienation from his true self.
2. The trouble with traditional theology is that it does not adequately recognize: (a) true secularity; (b) the cultural crisis; (c) the world come of age; (d) that church is mission; (e) truth in myth.
3. The Christian witness must now concentrate on: (a) dialogue; (b) encounter; (c). confrontation; (d) the I-thou relationship.
4. Ministers should place renewed stress on: (a) kerygma; (b) koinonia; (c) Geschichte; (d). the eschaton.
5. The Church today must strive to be: (a) relevant; (b) where the action is; (c) ecumenically involved; (d) engaged in liturgical renewal.
6. The dwelling place of God is: (a) certainly not up there or out there; (b) only in here; (c) really under there; (d) nowhere or else he’s hiding.
7. Contemporary ministers must carefully avoid speaking of: (a) the lost; (b) the saved; (c) the blood; (d) the regions beyond.
8. Americans committed to decentralized government, balanced budgets, anti-communism, and America’s Viet Nam policy should be described by socially involved clerics as: (a) the radical right; (b) dangerous extremists; (c) super-patriots; (d) misguided zealots; (e) kooks (but say it with a smile).
9. The ecumenical movement is: (a) kairotic; (b) kenotic; (c) catalytic; (d) irenic.
10. The greatest need of men is: (a) agapeic calculus; (b) a space-age church; (c) grass-roots renewal; (d) acceptance of the fact that they have been accepted.
If you answered any of the questions with any of the answers, you have fallen into line with the come-of-age troops. Let us all march upward and onward to greater linguistic victories.
Relevantly, EUTYCHUS III
Thanks For Thanks
I wish to commend you for your excellent editorial, “How Not to Give Thanks” (Nov. 25). You touched upon the most pressing and complex problems (except Viet Nam) facing our nation—problems so intricate and in so desperate need of solution that they cry out for the application of all the sophisticated scholarship, imagination, and understanding of Christian principles at our command as evangelicals.
But on the very next page you exhibit, I feel, in another editorial the very naïveté and lack of sophistication that prevents the Church from addressing itself in a meaningful way to the pressing problems of our day. In referring to this fall’s election you say, “The American voter had a mind of his own. He refused to mimic either prophecies from computers or urgings from big-name politicians.” Apparently you feel that the fact that some candidates lost who had been supported by well-known political leaders and some polls (computers) went wrong indicates the voters exercised critical, independent minds. I fail to see the logic in such a conclusion.… Proper interpretations of the 1966 election—as well as finding solutions to staggering social and political problems—must start with a realistic, sophisticated understanding of the current situation and not with superficial observations.
STEPHEN V. MONSMA
Asst. Prof. of Political Science
State University College
Plattsburgh, N. Y.
You missed one of the most important issues before the world today: “By destroying a people and its country in order to save them from Communism through genocide.” Genocide is what our war in Viet Nam has become, when for the sake of killing 1,000 Viet Cong we are willing to make 15,000 civilians homeless. I fear that the God who is the Lord of history will not judge us kindly.
ALVIN J. BEACHY
Zion Mennonite Church
Instrument, Not Idol
I enjoyed and appreciated the November 25 issue. I particularly was drawn to the article by Vernon C. Grounds, “Building on the Bible,” where he leads us to the conclusion that the Bible is a vehicle of the revelation of God and not an idol in itself. In my own mind, we must lead our people away from a worship of the Bible to the understanding that it is an instrument in the hand of God.
Windsor Park Baptist Church
I enjoyed the two articles by Neiswender and Grounds (Nov. 25). The Bible must be our only norm, our only Truth. However, to “carry through the logic of our positions with unrelenting thoroughness” is a task I have not seen done consistently in CHRISTIANITY TODAY.We who, on the college campus, speak for the authority of the Bible are not provided with tools to combat the usual arguments against a real Genesis, a real Noah’s ark, a real Jonah.
JOHN M. BATTEAU
How it is possible in our day to consider the Bible as that which “gives truth immutability, infallibly, inerrantly” (Nov. 25, p. 9) or Bible passages as sleeping pills (p. 13) leaves me dumbfounded. These two gems did not leave me with nausea—they were far too humorous for that.… I wish, too, that I could ask you to cancel my magazine subscription—but I simply can’t; the humor of such articles far outweighs the nausea of others.
BARRY L. RALPH
Lutheran School of Theology
Wrong Foot Forward
Eutychus III got off on the wrong foot … in his first column (Nov. 25). In illustrating what he considered to be the “absurd side of the religious scene” he referred to his “pleasure” at hearing that Mrs. Joan Kruger of the Chandler Park Drive Baptist Church here in Detroit won a pew-packing contest and was rewarded with a prize of a red Scofield Bible. I suppose the old technique of finding a “goat” to take the brunt of his humor is sometimes legitimate. In this case, I don’t think so.
Dept. of Christian Education
Detroit Bible College
On The ‘Anti’ Side
In your November 11 issue I find two statements that give me concern. In one news article it is said, “… Cardinal Mindzenty, who took the anti-Communist side during the 1956 revolution …” (p. 51). And in the next one, “The first night of the twenty-fifth anniversary meeting of the fundamentalist, anti-Communist American Council of Christian Churches …” (emphasis mine).
In view of the fact that the Manifesto (which has never been renounced by any Communist country) denies belief in God, what side but “anti” can a Christian take where Communism is concerned?
JOHN S. BECK
Summit, N. J.
Will The Editors Enlist?
And so some of the church leaders and church papers are at it again. This time they want “the use of force” by the United Nations in the Rhodesian affair.
Who’s supposed to do the fighting? Are the clergy and church editors all set to enlist—since they favor such action? Frankly, some of us get a bit tired of this sort of propaganda. Time was (in the hungry thirties) when the same folks—or some of them—were vocal pacifists, even when Hitler and Mussolini strutted across Europe.
L. H. SAUNDERS
The Berlin Papers
My thanks and appreciation for the November 11 issue with the messages from the World Congress on Evangelism. These are inspiring and help to build up and give assurance of faith in our Christian belief. A prominent Toronto daily carried a reporter’s headline re the congress: “Evangelical Christianity? It is here to stay!” Thank God for this statement. May the influence of the congress make a powerful impact on the Church throughout the world.
MRS. ARTHUR FORBES
No Idle Bouquet
I am not one given to idle flattery, and my bouquet of praises goes to Pastor Webb Garrison with all sincerity … for his article entitled “The Joy of Memorizing Scripture” (Nov. 25).
Menomonee Falls, Wis.
Riled As He Reads
I enjoy reading your magazine if for no other reason than it riles me up.…
ALVIN D. JOHNSON
First Baptist Church
New Haven, Conn.
They Are Pentecostals
In your “Soviet Baptists Rap ‘Modernism’ ” (News, Oct. 28) you say, “The council adopted a new charter which encompasses as full members the ‘Evangelical Christians,’ ‘Fiftieth Day Evangelical Christians-Baptists,’ etc.” Someone with a very meager knowledge of the Scriptures and of the Russian language and no imagination produced a literal translation of the term pyatidesyatnike as “Fiftieth Day.” The Fiftieth Day Evangelical Christians-Baptists are nothing but Pentecostals.
G. J. HARDER
Senior Government Russian Translator
Dialogue On The Bible Continues
In recent issues of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, several letters have appeared relating to the Wenham Seminar on the Authority of the Bible. As one of the participants who was privileged to attend this seminar from beginning to end, I deem it desirable to record my own reaction in contrast to that of the brethren whose letters have been published in your columns.
In my judgment, the official communiqué, approved by the participants themselves without dissenting vote, and the comments appearing in CHRISTIANITY TODAY (July 22, 1966, pp. 27 and 41), far from being an “incomplete picture,” represent a very fair and balanced portrayal of the proceedings as a whole In these texts the presence of difference; of opinion in certain areas was acknowledged forthrightly, and yet the dominant impression conveyed to my mind by the conference was expressed correctly as a pervasive sense of unity among scholars of evangelical persuasion in their attitude of submission to the authority and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as the infallible rule of faith and practice.
There was much discussion at Wenham concerning the inerrancy of the Bible, with a variety of opinions expressed as to the precise scope and bearing of biblical infallibility. Some of the scholars present indicated that they favored the term “inerrant” and construed it as implying accuracy in every respect. Others suggested we might legitimately expect some representations in Scripture which would not coincide with modern standards of reporting. Still others indicated that they disliked the term “inerrancy,” not because they held that there are in fact errors in the Bible, but because they felt that the term is open to misunderstanding and is likely to precipitate debate about peripheral minutiae in which the evangelical may be called upon to vindicate the Scripture in areas where we lack the full data for explanation. Many did not indicate what their personal preference might be in respect to the use of this term. It seems, therefore, unfortunate if the impression be given that anyone who objects to the term “inerrant” is automatically endorsing the view that there are in fact errors in the Scripture. As one who has no qualms about using this word, I feel that in all fairness those who prefer to avoid its use ought not necessarily to be denied recognition as thoroughgoing evangelicals.
Also, a comment is needed with respect to the allegation that in the seminar of Wenham there was a deep cleavage among those present with respect to the proper method of ascertaining the biblical doctrine of inspiration (letter of Drs. Kantzer and Young, Sept. 16, p. 18): the one method operating by induction on the basis of the phenomena of Scripture, and the other proceeding by deduction from the statements of Scripture concerning itself. Those two approaches ought never to be viewed as mutually exclusive; in fact, they are complementary. To be sure, we need to be controlled first of all by the express statements of Scripture about itself. When we do attempt to assess precisely what these statements mean, however, inevitably the phenomena of Scripture will need to be brought within the purview of our examination, to function as factors supplementing other data and sometimes correcting our fallible interpretation of the precise range of implications involved in the direct teaching of the Bible itself about inspiration. A portion of Dr. Packer’s paper dealt precisely with this matter, and I myself used almost the full time of my response to pinpoint this issue. No objection was raised at the time, and, if memory serves me right, there was no further reference to any such disjunction in the conference after that day. I find it, therefore, distressing that this issue, which appeared to have been laid to rest, should be resurrected in this way.
It may be wise in closing to emphasize that the participants in the seminar were not representatives, chosen as delegates by evangelical constituencies. Rather, they were individuals invited as private persons to engage in a very free type of discussion on some of the most significant biblical issues which confront us at present. Under those circumstances, one would expect that quite a spectrum of viewpoints might be reflected, and the presence of some scholars with whose positions one might have a fairly wide range of difference is not necessarily to be looked upon as an ominous threat to the evangelical cause. If there is one thing which evangelicals do not need at the present juncture, it is to splinter their effectiveness by excessive divisiveness. It would be unfortunate indeed if the importance of some areas of legitimate differences among conservatives should be exaggerated, or false impressions created, to the point of raising questions about the evangelical character of some men who are stalwart upholders of the faith.
My personal view of Scripture, I believe, is closely akin to that advocated by Drs. Kantzer and Young, and lately by Dr. Carnell (letter in CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Oct. 14, p. 23). As a charter member of the Evangelical Theological Society, I subscribe yearly to its statement of faith and do heartily believe that the Scriptures are “inerrant in the original autographs”; but I doubt that we can make this term a shibboleth by which evangelicals should be separated from non-evangelicals. Perhaps this is the time to remember that Warfield was willing to welcome James Orr for the Stone Lectures at Princeton (1903), while Orr as editor-in-chief of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia requested Warfield to prepare the articles on “Inspiration” and “Revelation” for this work. Present-day evangelicals might do well to exercise a similar degree of forbearance with one another.
Gordon Divinity School
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