I feel a special kinship with Kimo, the Auca Indian and ex-murderer who told the World Congress on Evangelism that he could not understand why not everyone was a Christian. To Kimo and me, being Christ-ones is amazingly simple, definable, and certain, and good beyond our fondest dreams. Despite the vast difference in our backgrounds, we share the same concept of the Christian mission: telling others, as Komo did at the World Congress, of the great things God has done.

Recently I met with several young men interested in missionary work. All were critical of the evangelical approach. Each was convinced that projects in engineering, public health, education, and the like rated top priority, and none of the clergymen present disagreed. I suppose I must have seemed an irrational fanatic when, too discouraged to try to explain, I simply expressed my opinion that what lost men need is to hear the Word of God. This is not a popular approach to missions. When delegates to the Miami Beach assembly of the National Council of Churches ranked missionary priorities, “preaching” trailed as least important. Higher priority was given to “meeting acute human need,” “working under indigenous churches,” and “leadership training” (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, News, July 21, 1967).

But God’s power to bring life to the spiritually dead does not depend upon improvement of the physical condition of the corpse. Indeed, one honest look at our own fantastically affluent society ought to convince anyone that improved social conditions have no marked effect upon man’s willingness to receive Christ. Neither Kimo nor I was reached by any kind of existential evangelism or social action. We were brought to Christ by the Holy Spirit through hearing the Word of God. There is no other way.

Jesus calls his followers to preach the Good News to every creature. The only question is: “To whom shall I go?” Some have gone to the Auca Indians. For others, the “uttermost part of the earth” may be the office across the hall. But there is no question about priorities. The mission is to go and tell what great things God has done. John R. W. Stott simply echoes the commandment of God when he says, “Evangelism is not soul-winning but rather proclaiming of the Gospel—whether anybody responds or not.” Although the new-breed clergyman finds this kind of preaching irrelevant today, true evangelists trust nonetheless in the foolishness of preaching Christ. They presume miracles, for they know that God is in the life-changing business.

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Failure in evangelism comes when the would-be evangelist fails to believe God. He may never have experienced rebirth himself, or he may have reservations about the Word of God. Like Cain, he may believe in God without believing God. Because there is no power in his preaching, he attaches greater value to other activities and soon buries himself in pitiful programs of do-it-yourself salvation.

Anyone who wishes to speak powerfully for Christ needs to recognize that power comes, not from ordination by men or from superior education or training, but from believing God. Every Christian is called to a ministry in this power. One of the best demonstrators of this I have encountered is Corrie Ten Boom, a former watchmaker who was a Nazi prisoner. This woman speaks with great power and authority, and everywhere she goes she brings people to Christ. Corrie believes God with a faith that seems almost foolishly childlike. Her faith, tempered and matured in the living hell of the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, is completely independent of increased cultural opportunities and clean sheets.

The second chapter of Genesis describes two trees in the Garden of Eden—the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man was specifically invited to enjoy the fruit of the Tree of Life, but he was commanded not to eat the fruit of the other tree. It is not enough to say that this means simply that man was to remain innocent of sin. The mystery of good and evil is not man’s business; Scripture says Christ has reserved this knowledge to himself. Man was created to glorify God—to make his greatness known among men. He is confused if he thinks he was created to try to eliminate what he calls evil.

To a world sick and tired of tilting at the windmills of presumed evil, to men who have become discouraged from striving to solve human problems by manipulating what they call good, Christ comes with an astonishing and unexpected message. Man looks for answers to the mystery of good and evil, but Christ offers a message of death and life. To all who receive him, he gives without regard to social condition, the power to become sons of God.

When Jesus’ disciples returned to the well at Sychar after buying food, they were astounded to find Jesus talking publicly with a despised Samaritan woman. “Lift up your eyes,” he said to them, “and see how the fields are already white for harvest.” He was talking about evangelism. I can hardly imagine that his companions thought he was suggesting agricultural reform.

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To his disciples Jesus says, “As God sent me into the world, so send I you.” Jesus, the perfect evangel of God, sends us in love, just as he was sent to this Samaritan woman. He did not suggest building a shanty town on the temple mall in Jerusalem to demonstrate against the hatred of the Jews. He did not teach her to disobey the laws under which she was downtrodden and oppressed.

To this miserable, outcast Samaritan woman, Jesus did not offer social justice, or the elimination of poverty, or improved plumbing. He gave her the gift of Eternal Life.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30, KJV).

After Death The Judgment

Satan lounged on a torrid crag, smoke curling about his face as if he were doing a TV commercial. He was perusing a copy of Time. Close at hand perched his underling, Spitfire.

“You look pleased,” said the underling.

Satan smirked. “Nietzsche said it some time ago. Scarcely anybody believed it; Nietzsche was an unbeliever. Now the Christians are saying it!”

“What can Christians be saying that Nietzsche said?” asked Spitfire.

“That God is dead, little brother. See, here are the names of the new theologians who speak thus. Messrs. Altizer, Van Buren, Hamilton and Vahanian. Altizer has written a book called The Gospel of Christian Atheism, in which he explains that God’s death is an act of redemption.

“Incredible are the ways of theologians!” remarked Spitfire.

“Give ear to these words from Mr. Altizer: ‘We must recognize that the death of God is a historical event; God has died in our time, in our history, in our existence.’ Shattering from a religious teacher, isn’t it?”

“Shattering!” agreed Spitfire.

Satan grinned. “These death-of-God theologians insist it’s no longer possible to believe in, or even think about, a transcendent God who acts in human history. Christianity, if it is to survive at all, must get along without any such God. And, says Altizer, men would waste their time trying to put God back into human life; instead, they should welcome the secularization of the modern world.”

“This,” said Spitfire, “is strange theology, even in an age of strange theology!”

“Attend me further, little brother. Altizer contends that only in the midst of the radically profane can man again recapture an understanding of the sacred. How this can be done he does not explain. However, he is sure that Christendom is finished, and that mankind must somehow discover the sacred in godless secularism.”

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The devil paused and Spitfire said, “Could it be, Mighty One, could it be that we have an ally in these theologians?”

“Perhaps. Then there’s Mr. Hamilton. In a way he amazes me more than Altizer does. He contends that the theologians have left to them nowadays neither faith nor hope. Only love is left. And, since God is dead, believers should all the more follow Jesus as the great exemplar of conduct. (Just how they should follow him in his personal commitment to a personal Father, Hamilton doesn’t say!) Christ isn’t a ‘person’ or an ‘object,’ says Hamilton; he is a ‘place to be.’ That place is not before an altar, but in the world, in the city, with needy neighbors, and needy enemies if need be.”

“God is dead! Long live Love!” chortled Spitfire.

Satan grimaced gleefully. “Now, about this other one, Mr. Vahanian. He also says that God is dead, and that he will remain dead until the Church becomes secular enough in thought and structure to proclaim a new way that will fulfill the cultural needs of the times.” A smile formed on the Satanic face. “I love the way these fellows talk of ‘the times’ and of ‘the modern world’—as if no other times had ever meant anything to mankind! Vahanian says that the spirit of the times is ‘irretrievably secular,’ and that all ideas of transcendence and otherworldliness are to be positively rejected.”

“Hmmm,” muttered Spitfire.

Satan said, “I also get a kick out of what Time calls these theologians—‘the godless Christian thinkers’! Such irony! Godless Christian thinkers—ha!”

Spitfire’s eyes began to glow. “With God dead, maybe we can raise the devil for real!”

Satan looked right at him. “I suppose it was only a matter of time until someone came up with the idea of God’s demise, since, to all practical purposes, God has long been dead for countless church members. They act as if he were dead. They live as if there had never been a cross or a Holy Spirit in the world. They appear, by their actions, to have witnessed God’s funeral.”

Spitfire nodded. “True. And isn’t this wonderful? Think what it means to our cause.”

But suddenly Satan was sad. He dropped his head, and smoke curled about his face as if he were doing another TV commercial.

“Why is your countenance fallen, Mighty One?” asked Spitfire. “Haven’t we got good news?”

Satan lifted a dark face. “Nietzsche knew God was dead. Messrs. Van Buren, Hamilton, Vahanian, and Altizer know it. But you and I, little brother, do not know it, do we? We have blasphemed God; we have tried desperately to overthrow his kingdom. But we have never been naive enough to think he is dead! Our theology causes us to tremble, because, at long last, we know who will be dead! Don’t we now?”

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Spitfire too was saddened. His head dropped. Smoke curled up as from a funeral pyre. Stillness lay in that place like the silence of death.—LON WOODRUM, Hastings, Michigan.

Milton D. Hunnex is professor and head of the department of philosophy at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon. He received the B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Redlands and the Ph.D. in the Inter-collegiate Program in Graduate Studies, Claremont, California. He is author of “Philosophies and Philosophers.”

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