Taste and distaste in religious art

The Sound Of Muzak

In a way it is too bad that more Christians don’t read Esquire magazine. I find air trips or waiting periods in barber shops good opportunities for picking up a little outside reading—or maybe I should call it “off-side” reading. Across the years Esquire has changed considerably. However much it may jar you with some of the cartoons and a few far-out articles, I know of no place to turn for better reading on movies and books. Dwight Macdonald handles the movies, and that delightful writer Malcolm Muggeridge (former Punch editor, I think) writes about books.

In the August issue Muggeridge gives over his whole article to a review of Evelyn Waugh. You ought to read it. He is wise and witty and he is very satisfying; but specifically you ought to read it because of a wonderful comment he makes on Waugh’s conversion to the Roman Catholic Church and on how the general loosening in the joints of the Roman Catholic Church since the time of John XXIII has given great distress to many Roman Catholics, especially to new converts like Waugh. Maybe the Roman Catholic Church will be like the “one hoss shay” (this, of course, originally referred to strict Calvinism): when one thing fell apart, it all fell apart.

It was Macdonald, however, who did for me what I needed to have done. He put his finger on The Sound of Music when I couldn’t do it myself. As you may recall, the whole picture is a delight from start to finish; and yet it made me uneasy about something. Who can fault Julie Andrews or cute children or beautiful scenery or gay music? And yet there it was again. The plot is built around “poor old Dad” and the wonderful little woman who can make everything come out right (to the sound of music, yet). Just to cap it all, those nuns outsmart the Nazis.

Once again, hurrah, women are too much for men. That has become a tried and true plot for our day, but it is strictly soap opera. Sic semper tyrannis.


Shocked And Humbled

I wish to thank CHRISTIANITY TODAY and Mr. Gordon Kelly for some of the most beautiful art it has been my privilege to behold (Sept. 2 issue). I turned from one to another, “tasting” each as I studied them. Then to the last of these treasures, and I was shocked! I was humbled, and even as I look at it now I have an indescribable feeling of longing.


Charleston, W. Va.

I do not know whether to weep, to rage, to feel sad or to be mad.…

I do not know who the museum director in New Jersey is that praises them, but I am quite certain that, let’s say, all museum people in Washington will agree with me that these works are completely below the level of acceptable art. They have nothing to do with Rembrandt—any comparison in that direction is only emphasizing that this Mr. Kelly, even if he is a real Christian, is not an artist that can be talked about seriously as an artist. If this is Christian art it would mean only that we Christians have no art, probably not even the mentality or will to have art at all.…

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Professor of the History of Art

Free University

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

To my mind the reproductions of Gordon Kelly’s paintings were worth the price of the magazine and then some. You have done the Christian public a service in introducing the works of this man in this very effective way.



Wheaton College

Wheaton, Ill.

To me Kelly’s paintings are artistic, but they are not true to facts! To me these pictures, however good they may be, are like “hearsay” evidence in court. They are of no real value to Christianity, which is based on truth.…


Wakiman, Ohio

Thank you for the four paintings by Gordon Kelly, and for an excellent magazine.


Coosada Baptist Church

Coosada, Ala.

“Whom do you say that I am?” A northern European.


Ann Arbor, Mich.

I have framed two of them, and they are now hanging in my home where they can be a source of inspiration and beauty to myself and my friends.…


DeBary, Fla.

No wonder that, in an increasingly thoughtful age, many believe that “God is dead”! The concept of an anthropomorphic God is indeed dead. But this represents no recent demise. God-in-man’s-image-and-likeness never existed in the first place!…


Captain, USAF

St. Louis, Mo.

Mr. and Mrs. Donald A. Hilsee and I … ask that you remove our names from your magazine mailing list.…

We were truly shocked when we saw … the “unholy” pictures in it—the product of man’s imagination—following in the footsteps of the Greek and Roman churches of adding such ugly imaginations to the pure Gospel of God.…


Philadelphia, Pa.

Will you please inform me whether I can buy copies of the paintings by Gordon Kelly … and if so at what price.

Mrs. J. M. BAKER

Asheville, N. C.

• Reprints are available from:

Mr. Gordon Kelly

1443 North Meridian Street

Indianapolis, Indiana 46202 Cost: $1 for a folder of four or $1 each for framable copies.—ED.

The reproduction of these pictures is splendid and the article along with the news item should produce significant results.…

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Wheaton, Ill.

Praying For The Berlin Congress

We are continuing to pray that the Holy Spirit will make the World Congress on Evangelism God’s great event for our times. We pray this not only for the world and for the churches but also for our own church, and I pray God that this renewal may begin with me.


American Lutheran Church

Minneapolis, Minn.

We will be praying twice daily and I into late hours each night.


Long Beach, Calif.

Our house will pray for you and the congress at each meal, and I will fast rather than take Friday dinner.


Paramount, Calif.

$500 Mark

I send $6 for our family of six and prefer Boston environs for proposed institute.


Emeritus, Calvin Seminary

Grand Rapids, Mich.

• With this one, gifts for the proposed Institute of Advanced Christian Studies—mostly individual dollar contributions—reach the $500 mark. If each of the 250,000 readers of this magazine were to respond, the project could be swiftly launched.—ED.

The Penny Or The Cake

Although I am commenting upon a previously published letter (Sept. 16 issue) and not upon a feature article, I nonetheless feel constrained to say that I wholeheartedly agree with the manner in which both Dr. Kantzer and Dr. Young defend the doctrine of biblical inerrancy (even though the defense is actually a reconstruction of the procedure set down by the inimitable professor of didactic and polemic theology, B. B. Warfield).

Warfield clearly perceived that a Christian has no more right to construct a doctrine of biblical authority out of deference to the (presumed) inductive difficulties in the Bible, than he has to construct a doctrine of salvation out of deference to the (actual) difficulties which arise whenever one tries to discover the hidden logic in such events as (a) the Son of God’s assumption of human nature or (b) the Son of God’s offering up of this human nature as a vicarious atonement for sin.

This means that whether we happen to like it or not, we are closed up to the teaching of the Bible for our information about all doctrines in the Christian faith, and this includes the doctrine of the Bible’s view of itself. We are free to reject the doctrine of the Bible’s view of itself, of course, but if we do so we are demolishing the procedure by which we determine the substance of any Christian doctrine. If we pick and choose what we prefer to believe, rather than what is biblically taught, we merely exhibit once again the logical (and existential) fallacy of trying to have our cake and our penny, too.

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Prof. of Ethics and Philosophy of Religion

Fuller Theological Seminary

Pasadena, Calif.

Nyack Flack

We must take strong exception to your implication (“Rebel Spirit Jolts Church Colleges,” Sept. 2 issue) that Nyack’s faculty is “avant-garde” in the sense of being in revolt against traditional thought and behavior. The suggestion that we tend to the far-left extremity of the “rebel spirit” spectrum is both inaccurate and unjustified.

Nyack Missionary College must confront its share of the unsettledness and frustration that characterizes much of today’s campus population; moreover, we trust that our students will continue to engage in an honest and responsible quest for meaningful and purposeful living. Our desire as a faculty is to assist the student to relate this spirit of inquiry to the eternal absolutes of Scripture, the established tradition of evangelical Christianity, and the particular emphasis and ministry of The Christian and Missionary Alliance.

While today’s Christian student, as your article observes, may “require a type of faculty that provides more than spirituality and piety,” he certainly cannot afford to attend a Christian college whose faculty fails to demonstrate these indispensable qualities. To these essentials, we who teach at Nyack are pledged to give living testimony.

Nyack Missionary College

Nyack, N. Y.

Berlin Congress Hymn

The editor of the East German paper Die Kirche asked the question: “Is a new church hymn at all possible?” and then answered it himself as follows: “According to human estimation this question must be answered with a No. The possibility of the new hymn is directly connected with the question of faith.… When faith becomes weak, there is no ground on which a valid new hymn can grow.… The time for a new hymn can come only when we can again doubt less and believe more”.…

How pleased I am that CHRISTIANITY TODAY has been able to provide an affirmative “answer” to that editor’s question by publishing this wonderful World Congress hymn so full of faith and vision (July 8 issue).



Zeichen der Zeit

Mountain View, Calif.

Why Universalism?

I have been a missionary of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, in Chile, for forty years, and have had close contact with universalism, as a couple of the churches placed under my care had been split by universalism a couple of years prior to my arrival on one field. I made a careful investigation as to the causes that led to that division and found that it was chiefly caused by the extreme preaching on the so-called theory of “everlasting conscious torment of all the lost for all the endless ages of eternity, or as long as God exists.” Such extreme preaching had driven some of the best and outstanding members to the other extreme concerning the destiny of the lost, or “universalism.” I have found that usually the real truth is to be found between two extreme positions. I have combated universalism all my life in its various forms, such as restorationism, second probationism, remedial punishment, purgatorial purification, and other false theories. But I am convinced that as long as the churches preach the above extreme idea, they will force others to the other extreme of universalism.

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As a rule I have found that the churches are holding an unbiblical attitude regarding the final destiny of the lost. The Bible teaches in many places various degrees of punishment according to the responsibility and guilt of the individual.…


Chicago, Ill.

No Wonder They Stay Away

After sixty-some-odd years of reading the Bible and observing the results of the leaven of Christianity in the world about me, I am absolutely convinced that, even if it were a myth, Christianity still would be the greatest thing that ever came into this world which “God so loved” (John 3:16). It definitely is not a myth.…

Many theologians seem determined to make the Divine Word as difficult as possible for the laymen to understand. Some appear to tell their readers, or listeners, “Now, let’s pretend that you have never heard before what I am about to tell you.” Others speak or write in a manner that says, “I’ll mow you down with my erudition! I’ll bury you under a plethora of multisyllabled words!!!” If these guys are teaching young men to be pastors, or rather, have taught, it is no wonder that laymen and the unsaved stay away from church by the thousands, every Sunday.


Liberal, Kan.

A Free Religious Press

Thank you for your thorough and detailed coverage of the Conference on Church and Society under the auspices of the World Council of Churches which met recently in Geneva (“Geneva: Brainstorming for Secular Revolution,” Aug. 19 issue). I also want to thank you for the fine editorial analysis of the conference. In this you have again demonstrated the value of a free and independent religious periodical.

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As for the increasing number of extreme partisan political pronouncements made by many modern churchmen and theologians today, as well as the partisan political directives issued by their various church organizations, these may well be evaluated in the light of the RSV translation of Jeremiah 10:21, “For the shepherds are stupid, and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.”


Bethany Reformed Church

Grand Rapids, Mich.

A Good Word

CHRISTIANITY TODAY is a terrific magazine. It is most thought-provoking. Most of the ministers in our town read and enjoy it very much. I advertise it every chance that I get. May your circulation increase.



Warrensburg Association Of Churches

Warrensburg, N. Y.

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