We live in what the late Joseph R. Sizoo called “one of the ‘in-between periods’ of history.” One world is dying while another is struggling to be born.

It is also an age of sagging and sinking hopes. In the lives of many people, hope never seems to take firm root.

Once when the writer was traveling near the East German border the train suddenly lurched, jolting passengers against one another. That touched off an unexpected conversation with two refugees from the horrors of World War II in the Sudetenland under Russian occupancy. “We had only one hope that held life together,” said the elderly man, as his wife nodded. “That was to make it somehow to the Bavarian frontier where—according to the underground rumors—American soldiers would help us and we would be free.” The story of their escape and near-detection as they maneuvered to the American forward lines and finally made it to a life of new possibilities was full of drama. But many people today never make it to a hope that holds their broken world together. They are forever “waiting for Godot”—but Godot never shows. One world is dying; the other is stillborn.

Our age is one of haunting doubt, not only about the past but also about the eternal. Someone has said that modern Americans live little in the past, seldom in the future, and mostly in the present. Whatever barren hope remains seems tainted with atheism and secular materialism. Skepticism about enduring verities seems everywhere in vogue. Theologians no less than philosophers are stamped with question marks. As Roy Pearson says, “The pertinent question today does not appear to be ‘What is worth dying for?’ but ‘What is worth living for?’ Or, to be more exact, ‘Is anything worth living for?’ ”

Life in the twentieth century is turning sour for lack of real hope and a sense of permanent worth. Everywhere a search for human identity is under way—among the hippies, on the campuses, in the ghettos and slums, among the up-and-outers.

“Hope is what they want,” said an Air Force chaplain from Bolling Field, referring to servicemen headed for Viet Nam.

“Hope is what they need,” whispered a medical doctor of critically ill patients in his care.

“Hope is what they’ve lost,” said an attendant of his charges at a state mental hospital.

Even the seven-billion-dollar-a-year beauty market thrives on the sale, its leaders say, not of loveliness but of “hope.”

Because our generation is adrift from authentic hope, its headlines scream uncertainty and doubt. No generation ever had so much, yet grumbles so continually and wants ever more and more. God rebuked the Israelites in the wilderness who murmured far less. According to the late Dr. W. E. Sangster, Americans not only have more wealth, better homes, and more automobiles than other people but also write and buy the most books on “how to be happy.” As many as three million Americans now may be using marijuana regularly to “turn themselves on.” And Denmark, with a fully managed economy, has the highest suicide rate in the world.

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Men can, of course, continue to view human skill and ingenuity as the hope of the world. With self-sufficiency they can boast that, in effect, Jesus Christ was deluded when on Good Friday he cried, “It is finished!,” and that he only bequeathed the vision of a better world to be achieved not by the conversion of sinners but by the pursuit of political millennialism. To distinguish between a speculative and a biblical conception of hope is the big problem of our day. We are finished if our generation does not seek the will of God anew in modern life and society, and realize the purpose of God in Jesus Christ.

Twentieth-century man put Telstar into space and readied rockets to transport astronauts to the moon. But he also created the gas chambers of Auschwitz, fought gigantic world wars spawned by the most literate nations of Europe and Asia, engaged in the atomic incineration of cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, met racial animosity by assassination and by the burning and looting of major cities. Modern rulers still seek world revolution through political oppression of multitudes and the subjection of whole nations. The United Nations, projected as the world’s best hope for peace, has, for all that, been reduced to impotence in the Holy Land and Viet Nam. And on academic campuses that assert their role as the critical center of modern society, the rampant intellectual doubt and moral vacuum among many students virtually erase the Ten Commandments.

In apostolic times, hope was one of life’s three cardinal virtues. Today, only where Christianity is vital does hope give strength to those who have lost heart. As the Apostle Paul put it, believers shine like stars in a dark world; they proffer the word of life in a warped and crooked generation. Hope equips the Christian to help banish the bleak shadows of human despondency.

Times of human doubt need not end in ultimate despair. In fact, it is gain if men learn that some of their silent absolutes are in truth unjustifiable prejudices. Science may have put the stamp of modernity upon our century, but what science discovers is always subject to revision. Such recent modern beliefs as man’s inherent goodness and the inevitability of progress have already met a judgment day. Next in line may well be the notion that society is simply a reflex of economic forces or of the love of power.

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Critical re-examination of the ruling tenents of modern life can and ought to lead us to authentic hope. God is not accorded his rightful place in these views, and hope in our time turns on a recovery of his presence and blessing; without awareness of the reality of God, the world sinks into confusion and chaos. We need desperately to recover the finality of God’s commandments, the sure fact of moral laws and principles by which God brackets our lives. In a world groping for direction, anyone who scraps the supremacy of Jesus Christ is sure to lose the way, the truth, and the life.

The word “hope,” in the Christian religion, gains meaning and power not only in the dimensions of the present but also in relation to God’s future and man’s destiny, and in relation to God’s great redemptive promise and acts of the past. Hope is not a simple desire to look ahead to a happier tomorrow, or an adventurer’s wish to discover the unknown. Small wonder that the restless modern spirit exhibits a new curiosity about supernatural verities. In a major work on The Biblical Doctrine of Heaven (Moody Press, 1968), the prophetic scholar Dr. Wilbur M. Smith reminds us that the Christian revelation of the future differs from the vague speculations of the classical writers of Greece and of the non-Christian mystics in that the Christian hope is firmly related to God’s purposes accomplished in and through Jesus Christ.

Christ’s resurrection augured certainty about the future: he who triumphed over death was the first fruits of a general resurrection and is the ground and source of the Christian’s new spiritual life. All of human life gains new promise and prospect in the light of the Redeemer’s conquest of sin and death. For Christ assumed human nature in the incarnation, and in the resurrection carried human nature into the eternities. Since, in the resurrection, human nature as Jesus Christ published it is raised to the eternal order, we have not only God’s word but also his deed to remind us that sin and injustice and death have no future; Jesus Christ alone is the way into the world to come.

In the United States today the Christian religion increasingly faces an identity-crisis. Fewer and fewer people know what authentic Christianity means, and even many church-goers are asking: “Will the real Christian please stand up?” Seldom has evangelical Christianity faced larger opportunities in America, and seldom has its leadership been more needed.

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If evangelical Christianity does not pervade and revitalize American religiosity, the question will loom whether it has forfeited its historic vision and vitality. Surely its claim to cultural significance is not ideally based only on a capacity for erecting new churches, holding fast to the religion of the Bible, stimulating sacrificial support of evangelistic causes, and shunning the besetting personal vices that shape the current social outlook. But what is its larger mission? Amid the struggle for men’s minds and wills, does it hold out to the confused American masses a clear view of the nature of reality, the goal of history, and the meaning of existence? Does it mirror to the unreached masses in a winsome way the new life and purpose and hope to be found in Christ?

If evangelical Christians are not striving to achieve these purposes, if they are not making people aware of their high concerns for others in this time of national trouble, do they really deserve survival as a community of faith? When pacifists ask, “What is worth dying for?,” and activists ask, “What is worth living for?,” is not Christ’s Church called to discuss the issues of life and death with precision, power, and publicness? Are evangelical Protestants really involved at the frontiers of modern doubt and despair?

Strangely, although evangelical Christians are numerically the largest spiritual community in America, they get less mass-media exposure of their views and ways than a hundred minority causes. Consider the figures. In the United States, the religious population is 52.5 per cent Protestant, 37.1 per cent Roman Catholic, and 4.6 per cent Jewish; yet the national religious coverage is largely projected in terms of Protestant-Catholic-Jewish audiences. The National Council of Churches preempts most Protestant time but gives only token exposure to evangelical vitalities—even though at least one-third of its constituency is evangelical, and even though considerably more than half the Protestants in America are evangelical. There is every reason to think that evangelicals outnumber non-evangelicals within the Protestant population in the United States by at least 5 to 4; there may be, in fact, almost as many evangelical Protestants as there are Roman Catholics. Yet in mass-media visibility, evangelical Christians somehow seem to come off worse than the Black Muslims. Except for the attention given the crusades of Billy Graham, the gains made by CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Carl McIntire’s bold propensity for counter-picketing, and occasional special events, evangelicals are largely ignored unless they purchase time.

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The reason for this evangelical predicament is obvious. Evangelicals are woefully fragmented. Non-evangelicals like it that way and exploit this weakness to the hilt. A divided task force is a decimated force. Evangelical Protestants are the most disadvantaged religious minority in America, and they have themselves to blame most of all.

Evangelicals cannot forever thrive on their differences with one another. If they are to become a formative force, they must show their spiritual unity to the world. In the day of divine judgment, some influential leaders may find themselves in an ecclesiastical lineup trying to account for an opportunity they squandered at the high tide of the culture-crisis in America. Do these leaders not see the scandal of a situation in which evangelicals—who hold in common more of the truth of revelation than the pluralistic neo-Protestant bodies—insist that true unity is theological, predicated on that truth of revelation which they espouse, but are themselves splintered, sub-splintered, and supersplintered? Have not many issues that originally divided the American Council of Christian Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals long since been obscured by much more important concerns, and has not the time come for these groups to hold earnest conversations in hopes of lowering their fences? Do not evangelicals in isolated bodies like the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Churches of Christ, and a great many others—represented neither in the National Council of Churches nor in other transdenominational structures—see that the lack of intra-evangelical cooperation for common ends simply weakens the influence of evangelical vitalities and yields an unnecessary advantage to non-evangelical minorities? Can they not see that the issues of concern to the Protestant Reformation—before the unending proliferation of denominations began—are issues that distinguish evangelicals from neo-Protestants more decisively than the issues that now separate evangelicals? Cannot even Southern Baptists—11 million persons maintaining denominational separateness—see how pluralistic churchmen in the conciliar movements deluge evangelical vitalities? Can they not see that if evangelicals were to make common cause, they could shape a new spiritual situation?

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And is it not wholly clear that the conciliar movement continues to divide and subdue its evangelical contingents? Evangelical colleges and seminaries it merges or transforms into religiously innocuous institutions; new evangelical centers are resisted; denominational publishing houses promote liberal and radical literature but virtually boycott evangelical publications; theological consultations preserve a plurality of views that gives more publicity to doctrinal deviation than to orthodoxy. In these circumstances, the 14 million or more conservative evangelicals trapped within conciliar ecumenism find themselves woefully outmaneuvered, although they represent the historic Christian beliefs. When threatened by dissent, the establishment can always name a compromise committee that will slow the pace of evangelical dilution while further dividing the conservative element.

The hierarchy aside (and it is no small task to put aside a self-perpetuating hierarchy that pontificates its private views as those of the entire conciliar movement), there is within the ecumenical movement not only an evangelical vanguard but also a growing phalanx of disillusioned liberals who are casting a longing eye at neglected evangelical traditions. They are embarrassed by the flux of modern theology and its obvious loss of the note of authority; they are distressed over the deterioration of an aberrant social gospel to an abortive social revolutionism; they increasingly sense that man himself needs to be remade by supernatural grace; and they reach out hands to those who proclaim a divine Gospel and seek anchorage in the scriptural word. But they find themselves showered by evangelical cross fire and sometimes think it may be safer to retreat than to advance.

Since the ACCC has nothing to do with NAE and even less to do with anybody in the NCC, and since the NAE mainly serves evangelicals outside the NCC, the large host of evangelicals surviving in mainstream churches inside the NCC have nowhere to turn but to a Graham crusade for a show of common evangelical witness. Existing as they do in the very midst of theological confusion, these evangelicals are best positioned to confront and challenge the present ecumenical compromise. For their churches largely remain formally committed to historical evangelical standards, and their denominational institutions were founded and endowed by evangelical interests, though later misappropriated by liberal leaders. The establishment betrays that historic commitment whenever it penalizes the evangelical witness.

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If evangelicals understand this strategic situation, they will resist the growing temptation to confine leadership of their enterprises to those who are outside the conciliar movement and limited in their associations mainly to independent fundamentalist churchmen. Without a welding of evangelical forces inside and outside the conciliar movement, theological conservatives are not likely to gain significant exposure through the mass media and in the public scene. The need for broad evangelical cooperation in America ought to be a standing concern.

The NCC’s concentration on the “far out” in its television programming is producing liabilities, for now only what is novel seems newsworthy. Even Roman Catholicism seems to make news more for defections and distortions than for examples of faith. Yet the cooperating NCC denominations still are able to reflect what they are doing and what effect they are having more effectively than the disunited evangelicals.

But a second factor contributes almost as largely to evangelical weakness, and not even full-scale evangelical cooperation by itself can remedy it. That factor is evangelicals’ readiness to concentrate their energies on attacking unacceptable views, rather than on articulating their alternative. It is easier to get funds, and to preserve support, by exploiting and gratifying the anxieties of well-to-do critics of the establishment than by expounding a convincing and comprehensive position worthy of evangelical loyalties. Yet without the latter, evangelicals cannot hope to carry the day. A mere holding operation has no more future than has Chiang Kai-shek’s army in Formosa.

That is why it simply will not do to make it the Church’s main business to oppose Communism, or neo-Protestant theology, or the Church’s political entanglement, or anything else. Can one escape a lump in his throat when a well-intentioned evangelical posts a Christmas card bearing as its central message the conviction that the Church ought not to become politically involved? Surely we can win that battle—important as it is—and lose the main war. Of course, if we lose that battle, we may forfeit professional soldiers who know right from wrong in the public conduct of the institutional church. But evangelicals nonetheless must give priority to the precise proclamation of the truth of revelation, to a compelling exposition of revealed religion. In evangelical circles today there is an immense deficit in systematic theological studies and sustained biblical reflection. Many evangelicals find religious dialogue confusing because they do not understand the subtleties of theological semantics. Some have so long concentrated only on what they reject that Roman Catholicism suddenly seems evangelical to them because it accepts so much that liberalism discards. The Protestant Reformers saw these issues in a clearer light.

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A third requirement for evangelical renewal must certainly be more serious involvement in the academic arena. Today, only 15 per cent of the college and university students attend church-related institutions (such as these are). The great majority are enrolled on campuses where, in the main, the whole span of supernatural beliefs is either ignored or demeaned. The loss of youth to the evangelical cause ought to be a central concern of evangelical leadership. For more than a decade evangelist Billy Graham has been aware that many of the thousands of college-age converts made during his crusades are later adversely influenced by naturalistic university education. It may be too late to bring into being an influential Christian university whose graduates would permeate the secular arena with a compelling vocational witness to the enduring truths. Evangelicals stand today in dire need of a brain trust, a visibility trust, a money trust, to confront the present age with the biblical claim aggressively and effectively. The recently founded Institute for Advanced Christian Studies, were it to acquire a serviceable suburban estate near an influential university complex, could be a significant beginning.

A fourth factor in evangelical renewal in the next generation must assuredly be inter-racial liaison among Christian believers, particularly in the big cities. Great metropolitan areas are increasingly under the dominance of Negro majorities, and here are located the powerful radio and television stations and newspapers so critically important for the dissemination of ideas and the confrontation of culture in a mass-media age. Recent attempts to force a new era in inter-racial relations merely by legislation and coercive factors have had limited success and many liabilities. And no matter how successful they are, they cannot go beyond the stage, necessary in itself, of assuring equal rights before the law. The next step must turn upon interpersonal relations. Where can these be advanced better than in the climate of a mutual faith in God and concern for fulfilling the Great Commission?

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Ours is a decade when some Protestant churchmen think they are not really relevant unless they have been photographed with the Pope or on a picket line, or can call a prominent priest by his first name, or are on speaking terms with a neighborhood prostitute. Certainly there is nothing wrong with witnessing to one and all about the joys of new life in Christ. But the evangelical clergy glory above all in the fact that they are devout expositors of the Book. Amid the “dreary resources of twentieth-century nihilism,” those who have discarded Christian theology and morals “like so much antiquated rubbish”—to borrow Russell Kirk’s characterization in The Intemperate Professor—will not long convince the masses that they are curators of the churches. Many neo-Protestant theologians have laryngitis when it comes to articulating the truth of revelation, and some even hope to advance Christianity by affirming the death of God. There is no spiritual challenge in the “nod to God” programs; they produce dialogue when Christ calls for disciples.

The loyal evangelical followers of Christ and of the apostles see no reason for muffling the divine message of mercy; they are wholly unready to let the modern world rewrite the agenda of Christian concerns and action. They have no anxiety over the survival of the regenerate Church, and know that only doom awaits the alternatives. The despised ism of evangelism still holds out modern man’s best and only hope. That God has provided salvation from the guilt and the power of sin—this is the most exciting and relevant news for a sick society.

Evangelical Christianity has much to commend it. But unless it is making unwitting plans to go underground, it had best take a look at the plight of the evangelicals in the larger context of American religious life. The clouds are closing in, and soon there may not be enough visibility to get successfully airborne.


The Lord’s Day Alliance of the United States will sponsor a major Consultation on the Lord’s Day in Contemporary Culture at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, October 7–9. Leaders from all fields of endeavor and representatives from various denominations will participate in the three-day gathering. The project is a timely one, for the historic New Testament significance of the Lord’s Day is less and less apparent in modern society. Foundation papers will discuss “Sunday in a Pluralistic Society,” “The Secular Culture and the Lord’s Day,” “The Contemporary Church and the Lord’s Day,” and “Commerce, Industry and the Lord’s Day.”

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The Lord’s Day Alliance has called upon the members of the United States Senate to defeat the Monday Holiday bill that was passed by the House of Representatives. Dr. Samuel A. Jeanes of Merchantville, New Jersey, the alliance’s state and national affairs committee chairman, asserts: “The Churches have a mere fifty-two days in which to do the major part of their important work. We would urge you not to support this legislation that will work a hardship on the programs of the churches and temples of our land. The tensions of our times with a growing crime rate … strife and resentment in our cities … the bloodshed on our streets … the disregard for law and order … all indicate that we do not need less teaching of spiritual values, but more. If this legislation is adopted it will be another roadblock over and around which religious educators will have to go in the task of teaching spiritual values to a materialistically oriented society.”

This seems to us to add up to a bit of outfield logic. While it is true that three-day weekends will place added strain on the churches, particularly those that bulk their educational effort on Sunday, something more will be needed to advance spiritual values than opposition to the Monday Holiday bill. Hopefully the Valley Forge consultation will wrestle with such issues in depth and point the way to a creative Christian approach to the problems.


The conviction of Dr. Benjamin Spock, Yale Chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Jr., and two co-defendants on the charge of conspiring to counsel evasion of the draft should provide some satisfaction to American enlisted or drafted fighting men who are putting their lives on the line for the cause of freedom in Viet Nam.

Spock and Coffin contended that moral concerns over the Viet Nam war and the constitutionality of military conscription motivated them in their overt opposition to the draft. And many people respected their courage in acting in accord with their convictions. But they forfeited their right to this respect when after their arrest they did not willingly accept the penalty of civil disobedience but sought to show in their trial that what they said and did was permitted under the First Amendment.

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These protestors should be admired neither for moral courage nor for wisdom. In their moral judgment of American policy in Viet Nam, says United States attorney and Korean veteran John Wall, they have been “too self-righteous.” Like so many of the new clergy, they created the appearance, claims writer John W. Bishop, Jr., of saying, in effect, “what God would say if He understood the situation as well as they do.” It is quite evident that all responsible citizens—not only Spock-like moralists—and particularly federal decision-makers are deeply concerned about the moral ramifactions of U. S. policy and the suffering and death resulting from the war. They are fully cognizant of the arguments registered by anti-Viet Nam critics. But the American government maintains commitments in Viet Nam in order to stand for freedom—for others and for ourselves—and against the tyranny that Communists and other aggressors would inflict upon men unable to repulse them. Apart from the preservation of freedom, America has stood to gain nothing from a war that has so far cost 15,000 lives and $130 billion from an overtaxed economy.

The nation desperately hopes the current peace talks in Paris will end the conflict and establish an honorable peace. American negotiators, remembering the tragic American compromise that made possible the Communist takeover of China, must sternly oppose creation of a coalition government and reject any policy that would eventually lead to loss of freedom for the South Vietnamese. Any such concessions would mean that thousands had lost their lives in vain.

If peace talks break down, America must initiate a win policy to end the war swiftly. Prolonged conflict will mean greater suffering and death in Southeast Asia, deeper demoralization at home, and continued diversion of funds from constructive and humane projects.

Although Spock and Coffin undergird their Viet Nam viewpoint by an appeal to “morality,” their policies are in the last analysis hardly moral. America must not follow counsel that implies a disastrously weak stand against Communist tyranny and betrayal of an ally to a power-hungry world-wide conspiracy. Americans should turn a deaf ear to those who would dissuade us from doing our duty as a nation.


Religion is big business in America, but its tax-exempt ride to riches must soon come to an end. The recent “CBS Reports” hour on “The Business of Religion” spotlighted the need for the nation’s churches to make full public disclosures of their financial status and assume a share of the national tax burden. Church wealth is immense. It is estimated at $40–100 billion in property holdings and $8 billion in gifts per year, all tax exempt. In addition, churches are not required to pay taxes on income from properties, investments, and businesses unrelated to religious purposes.

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It is high time for all churches to report their incomes and pay taxes on business profits. Church land and buildings used specifically for religious and educational purposes should remain tax free, along with those of other eleemosynary institutions. But the Church must not shirk its responsibility to pay taxes on business ventures on the same basis as private enterprisers.

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