If there were no God, man would have to invent one. For without God man and life become meaningless. If there is no God, man is a biological animal one step removed from the beast. He is caught in the whirlpool of existence, cast about by blind chance. He knows not where he came from or where he is going. He peers out into a world that has no purpose; he lifts his eyes to a sun that blinds him and he huddles in a darkness that offers him no protection from a multitude of enemies.

Without God, man must look to himself. Looking to himself he accumulates possessions. But possessions bring him no final comfort, and as death’s cold hand reaches for his mortal soul he discovers that he must leave the world as he entered it—with nothing.

Without God man crawls from hovel or mansion at the break of day to search after power, by which he hopes to improve his lot and dominate nature and other men. As he gains it, he feels strong, and he glories in what power can do for him. He rejoices that the powerless are subject to his whims and pitilessly exploits others for his own benefit. He plays the role of a god made in his own image. But the time always comes when his power corrupts him, when infirmity overtakes him, when younger and more vigorous aspirants challenge what he can no longer protect. Even if he manages to hold on until the grave closes over his wasted frame, he finds to his chagrin that power does not solve the riddle of life. There is a void that power cannot fill. Something, he knows not what, continues to elude him; the fulfillment he yearns for escapes him. And in the sleepless moments of some long night he sees himself in a naked aloneness that his blankets cannot cover. Power does not bring peace.

Without God man works feverishly for fame. He wants to establish an identity by which all men will know him. He wants his name and his image paraded before the world in newspapers and books, over TV and radio, and he collects the clippings in scrap books to pore over and delight in. He wants the annals of history to note his presence and pay tribute to his genius. He establishes repositories for his papers so that scholars of another age can earn degrees by thumbing through his archives to praise (or damn) his name. But fame, like power and wealth, is transitory. It brings attention and adulation. But the price is high. Fashions change, heroes come and go. The hurrahs a man receives today become hisses tomorrow, while the younger generation stare at his name blankly and incuriously ask their elders, “Who was he?”

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Without God love cannot exist. Man follows the instincts of the beast. He hates and hurts, he crushes and tears. Survival of the fittest becomes his principle of action. If he is left to his own devices, selfishness, pride, and avarice take over. The only law he knows, the only commandment he follows, is this: Do whatever you wish so long as you don’t get caught. Laying down laws for others, he becomes a law to himself. Love is self-giving, but the man who knows no god cannot give himself. Love puts the interests of others before those of self, but the godless man gives priority to his own interests. Love flows from a fountain outside man, not within him. For him to drink of that fountain is to acknowledge something above and beyond himself, something greater than himself. To accept the idea of love is to accept the idea of God, for man is not love and never can be. Since love brings man full circle to God, he cannot embrace it without embracing God. To reject God is to reject love. And to reject love is to endorse hate.

Amid it all man constantly reveals that deep within him are ineradicable evidences of the existence of the divine being. Even atheists weep as they bury husbands, wives, and children in marked graves that testify to man’s never-ending quest for immortality. Day after day thousands troop by the coffin that contains the mortal remains of Lenin in Moscow. To them this lump of clay once was only material protoplasm, and whatever soul might have been housed in that body exists no more. Yet the Communists try to bridge the gap between their atheism and their desire to immortalize a man who, if there is no God, has no intrinsic worth (it could be said that for them a living dog is better than a dead Lenin). Even atheists, for want of a better way, still call on God to be witness to their veracity, for they well know that apart from an appeal to something greater than themselves their every assertion is suspect and their integrity (if material animal beings can have integrity save as a convenient but untrue invention) has no enduring foundation.

Man’s greatest discovery of all is the truth that without God, he himself cannot be. He destroys himself when he destroys God, for he is rooted in God. Homicide, fratricide, and suicide are bad enough. But deicide is man’s supreme offense. It carries with the act the irony that having, as he thinks, destroyed God, man discovers at last that he has destroyed himself while God continues to live and to laugh.

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But God is, and so is man. And because God is, man is more than beast, more than protoplasm, more than a transient visitor to this planet. He is not caught in the web of blind chance. He has dignity and worth. Because God is, man knows where he came from and where he can go. Because God is, man can know him, for God has manifested himself in nature, in providence, and supremely in Jesus Christ. Man can entrust himself to God in Jesus Christ. Then life takes on meaning. Purpose becomes apparent. Man with God becomes significant, even as man without God becomes meaningless. But the glory and the stumbling block is God’s demand that man choose him freely. By his own choice man determines his destiny; either he chooses life or he chooses death.

Mr. Nixon’S Opportunities

It augurs well for the nation that several well-known Negro leaders have voiced encouraging words for Richard Nixon since the vote was cast that elevated him to the Presidency. This commendable initiative should help Mr. Nixon get off to a good start. President Johnson’s spirit is also aiding in the transition. Churchmen too might pledge their cooperation publicly, whether or not they favored Mr. Nixon in the campaign.

The President-elect need not be troubled because he did not win a majority of the popular vote. It is some consolation that he carried such a decisive number of states. But even if he had not, he could still look to the fact that some of our great presidents have been ushered into office under similar circumstances; at least fourteen of his predecessors had less than half the popular vote.

As he prepares to take office, Mr. Nixon will need to focus upon some very pressing day-to-day problems, such as the need for national unity and for law and order with justice, and will need God’s guidance to do so effectively. But the new President should not let these important matters consume his interests and energies to the point that he neglects even larger and more far-reaching concerns.

One distressing drift in our nation has to do with the role of colleges and universities. As the noted scholar Jacques Barzun said recently, campuses have been turning into “a public utility” with faculty members “on the run” to do the bidding of government, industry, private donors, the foundations, and others who press for “service.” “I have nothing against the university studying social problems or commenting on what is going on out of its fund of knowledge,” he said. “But the university is getting to resemble the Red Cross more than a university, with direct help to whomever is suffering now.” He added pointedly if rudely, “Though I see signs everywhere asking people to ‘give a damn,’ I am convinced that nobody among the vocal and idealistic gives a damn about education.”

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Higher education in the United States had its start largely in a Christian motivation. Under the influence of alien philosophies it has lost much of its dynamic, and it now stands to lose even more. Mr. Nixon could do the country a great turn by publicly championing a higher cause for higher education.

Berlin Revisited

Two years ago this fall the World Congress on Evangelism took place in Berlin. Little did the conveners know what would grow out of this. A city where Adolf Hitler breathed his last, a city partitioned by conquest between the free and Communist worlds, a city marked by a dividing wall that keeps some in and others out—who would think that a new evangelistic thrust would emerge here? But it did.

Since Berlin, new life has come to evangelism. A regional congress is scheduled for Africa in January, one for Latin America a year from now, a U. S. Congress on Evangelism in Minneapolis next September. The Asia-South Pacific Congress on Evangelism just closed. If what happened there happens elsewhere, we can anticipate new vitality for gospel outreach all over the world. Only those who sat through the sessions, ate with the delegates, and caught the heart throb of the congress can sense the tremendous potential of such gatherings.

It all started at Berlin two years ago. The “one race, one Gospel, one task” theme is a leaven that can leaven the whole lump. Christians around the world should pray earnestly for these congresses, asking God to visit us with another great spiritual awakening.

Compassion In Winter Wonderland

A truism in Washington, D. C., allows that winter’s first snowflake boggles the minds that cope with wars, urban problems, and foreign aid. Those lacy bits of frozen precipitation highlight what one wag called “Southern efficiency” while they confound rich and poor, Senator and clerk, limousine and jalopy.

But a snowstorm is not a completely impartial leveler. In the Capital—as in countless other cities—far too many people will suffer this winter because they lack heat, warm clothes, and balanced diets. Christian compassion calls for tangible evidence of concern—additions to our Christmas gift lists, perhaps.

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The Superlative Word

Words are powerful. They can carry their reader on a trip that begins lightheartedly at dawn with cheerful chatter and lilting step. By nightfall the journey grows heavy and dark; only grim determination can place numb foot before numb foot when legs drag as with irons. At the end of the road, life-weary depression only deepens with the discovery that every hotel is filled and no one seems to care that tired travelers have no place to rest.

Words are beautiful when they paint a mother and newborn child in tender, tranquil strokes—the strong, gentle love she bestows with a whisper kiss on his tiny hands, her adoring laugh at his feeble attempts at sounds and his frustrated but hearty cry, her soft caress of the wrinkled-red body with its round head, wisps of fine hair, and button nose.

Words are exciting when they describe the eerie uncertainty of an atmosphere charged between storm and calm although the sky is clear. The night is not exactly placid, but not exactly agitated. Its strange, electrifying awfulness crests in an angel choir speaking the most powerful, beautiful, and exciting Word of all—the “priceless gift” who “became a human being and lived among us … full of grace and truth.”

The Interdisciplinary Challenge

Young people preparing for a future on the frontiers of Christian witness must resist the temptation to overspecialize. The effective apologist of tomorrow will probably know and understand two or more academic disciplines. The Christian literary artist will need a grounding in philosophy, for example. Evangelical historians may need expertise in journalism. And to carry forward the battle for men’s minds, many more Christians should have a solid foundation in theology.

Christian College Defection

Agnes Scott College, a Presbyterian U. S.-affiliated liberal-arts school for women in Decatur, Georgia, recently announced an end to its twenty-year-old ban on non-Christian faculty members. The ban received public attention last year when a Jewish graduate student at Emory University applied for a teaching post at the college. At the recommendation of college President Wallace M. Alston, a past moderator of the Presbyterian U. S. General Assembly, the board of trustees in a new hiring policy stated that it “shall elect those who can best carry out the objectives as set forth in the charter, giving consideration to any competent person who is in accord with these purposes.”

Dr. Alston said the new policy means applicants will be dealt with “as individuals.” Although this sounds commendable on the surface, closer examination raises serious questions. There seems to be a glaring contradiction between the new statement and the charter, which says the function of the school is to provide education “distinctly favorable to the maintenance of the faith and practice of Christian religion.” Can a non-Christian sincerely commit himself to this objective?

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It is not our purpose to single out one institution for criticism, however. The action taken by the board of Agnes Scott is representative of an attitude of permissiveness that pervades the Church today. Certainly Christian teachers can best carry out the objectives of a Christian college. We are in a sad state of affairs if Christian teachers cannot be found; we are in an even worse state if we are bypassing Christians to hire non-Christians in the name of academic freedom. Many colleges and universities have been lost to the cause of Christ through the gradual erosion of a firm commitment to the Christian faith. Although there are many areas in which the thought of discrimination by Christians is deplorable, surely this is one in which discrimination is called for.

A Noble Aim Unrealized

It is a small step toward a goal that demands leaps and bounds, but this TV season’s prime time boasts a number of black faces. The dialogue—frequently apologetic—that surrounded the breakthrough is revealing: although slavery died institutionally a century ago, it lives on in fact. Many Caucasians still consider themselves innately superior to Negroes.

Shortly after one of the world’s most violent Anglo-Saxon supremists was quashed, the United Nations proclaimed its Universal Declaration of Human Rights—a commendable document that maintains relevance twenty years later.

Though this document appeared at a particularly crucial moment in the history of human rights, it is not the first such declaration. Human rights are as old as the human race; his dignity was created with him when God breathed into man the breath of life. Man’s dignity was confirmed when God assigned him to subdue the earth. And it was confirmed finally and forcefully when God himself took on humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.

God’s declaration of human rights is also universal; dignity is an integral part of every man—no matter his race, nationality, or religion. And that dignity binds men together as tightly as their common biology does.

Apparently this inherent declaration of human rights is inadequate. Throughout his history man has felt compelled to write down his pleas for dignity, though their writing has not assured their practice. Even Christians—who ought to know better—contribute to the disunity declared at the fall and confirmed by Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Unfortunately, their reply is too often a tentative affirmative, if indeed it is the affirmative that true human unity demands.

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If intelligent men of good will acknowledge the rightness of human rights, as the United Nations delegates did on December 10, 1948, why in 1968 are Negroes still rare on American TV screens? Why are East Berliners walled in? Why do Biafrans starve? Why are Czech borders closed to Czech emigrants? Why are Muslim women uneducated? Why? The questions ring interminably.

Declarations are not easily executed. Our own Declaration of Independence required a revolution to effectuate. Preachers know their proclamations rarely guarantee practice. And the U. N. Declaration, after twenty years, has seen only a few steps toward concrete action.

Laws can enforce open housing, indiscriminate education, and equal-opportunity employment, but only on a superficial level. They cannot change deep-seated attitudes. While human beings will never practice human rights perfectly, they can continue legislating and declaring. Universal human rights is a noble aim.

Hollow Victory In Arkansas

In a recent decision the U. S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected as unconstitutional a forty-year-old Arkansas law banning the teaching of evolution in the public schools (see News, p. 38). The central figure in the modern-day “monkey trial” was Mrs. Jon O. Epperson, a former biology teacher at Little Rock’s Central High School, now living in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. Mrs. Epperson, a member of Washington’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, said her aim was not to promote Darwinism (which she does not believe conflicts with the Bible) but to eliminate the necessity of breaking an unfair law.

Mrs. Epperson is to be commended for the exemplary manner in which she approached the problem. Motivated by a desire to be an example to young people by demonstrating her respect for the law, she sought to have what she believed to be an unjust law changed through the proper channels. She did not resort to the more dramatic course of calling attention to a law by breaking it (as in the case of John T. Scopes).

However, Mrs. Epperson’s victory is a somewhat hollow one. Her efforts have removed from the books a law that really should not have been there and was never enforced. On the other hand, in recent years it hasn’t been the theory of evolution that has been shortchanged in biology classrooms. While we would maintain that the state should not be allowed to force the teaching of the doctrine of creation in public schools, Christians should insist on “equal time” for a fair presentation of the biblical position as a valid explanation for the origin of man.

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For ‘Laugh-In’ Viewers Only

From Beautiful Downtown Burbank (Elevation; Population: Yes) comes “Laugh-In,” a ver-ry interesting, very popular TV program that may be the censors’ major headache. In terms often risqué, the furiously fast-paced variety socks it to foibles that appear anywhere. On a recent Monday evening the target was the Church, and some shots were bull’s-eyes. An ancient clergyman, concerned about the drift of young people away from church, called for more exciting sermons—in a sluggish monotone that put him to sleep. A Public Notice warned, “Covet not thy neighbor’s wife—that’s his bag.” On the joke wall, a cast regular told of meeting a Southern intellectual—who said he was a Zen Baptist. At the end of the show, “Laugh-In’s” resident minister glanced nervously upward and said, “I’m going to have a hard time smoothing this one over.”

Many people are convinced that no amount of smoothing over can redeem such shows as “Laugh-In”; NBC’s censor leaves in more questionable material than Johnny Carson’s “Miss Priscilla Goodbody” gets credit for. One “Laugh-Iner” admitted it on a cameo spot: “ ‘Laugh-In’ reminds me of my wedding—something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.”

Many of “Laugh-In’s” lines are indeed unworthy of even one applau or chuckle, but at least their blueness shows up, even in black and white, against the apparently innocuous unrealism of many other shows—and commercials. Viewers deeply engrossed in the plots and characters of those programs may not realize the subtle influence of their basically anti-Christian presuppositions. Children are especially susceptible.


One of the signs of our out-of-joint times is the liturgically oriented religious service with a well-developed technique for producing neurotic guilt. Worshipers are called upon to confess their guilt for racism, starvation in India, the war in Viet Nam, riots in the streets, revolts on the campuses, underdevelopment in the poorer nations, and whatever else is wrong anywhere in the world. Some of this is nonsense.

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To inculate in Christians a sense of guilt for “sins” they haven’t committed, and to hold them responsible for conditions they neither created nor presently approve, is not only ridiculous but also dangerous. It can lead to neurotic guilt, which is not real guilt, and this creates a genuine sickness. It tends to overwhelm the victim, who then loses sight of any real guilt he has; this confusion leads to frustration. Furthermore, it keeps him repeating admissions of an unreal guilt without opening the way to adequate forgiveness and restoration to wholeness. Instead of being a genuine exercise of biblical repentence, this sort of mass confession appears to be a contrived routine that only debilitates the participants. But the misuse of congregational confession of sin should not persuade us to omit what is a necessary part of the worship service.

True repentance has five aspects: (1) Change of mind. In the parable of the two sons (Matt. 21:28, 29), one son said he would not work in his father’s vineyard. He later repented (changed his mind) and went to work. (2) Contrition or godly sorrow for sin. The psalmist says, “I am sorry for my sin” (Ps. 38:18). (3) Confession of sin. The prodigal son of Luke 15 went to his father and said, “I have sinned against heaven and before you.” (4) Forsaking of sin. It is not enough to admit wrongdoing; the sinner must cease doing the wrong. Isaiah says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts” (55:7). (5) A turning to God. Paul records that the Lord told him men are to “ ‘turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’ ” (Acts 26:18).

Biblical repentance brings forgiveness, cleansing, and wholeness. The guilt is gone, and no further confession for that sin is needed. Through God’s grace the forgiven one is enabled to go and sin no more. Forgiveness brings deliverance and freedom. This is the true function of repentance.

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