“If that isn’t exactly like Americans: they bring us to one of our own 900-year-old castles and involve us in something so futuristic that it seems like science fiction.” So remarked a German pastor at Schloss Mittersill, near Salzburg, Austria, during the three-day All-Europe Conference on Computer Technique for Theological Research (September 16–18), which brought together thirty-five stellar European theologians and Christian leaders to discuss the establishment of an international computer network to aid the Church’s apologetic task. The sponsoring organization was the Christian Research Institute of Wayne, New Jersey, which is at work activating the network in the United States and on the European continent. Walter R. Martin, the institute’s general director and a renowned authority on contemporary cults, flew to Mittersill for the conference, as did the undersigned, who is serving as executive director for CRI’s European operations.

Present at the fairy-tale castle in the Austrian alps—which inevitably reminds one of The Sound of Music and regularly resounds with hymnody now that it is owned by the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students—were such realistic persons as J. Levery, director of non-numerical research applications for Compagnie IBM France (Paris), and Monsieur Lellig, representing the Strasbourg agency of IBM. Strasbourg, the seat of the Council of Europe and the center of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s annual European Program at the University’s Protestant Theological Faculty, will serve as the site for the main European computer, containing the “apologetic memory” to which a network of “consoles” (terminal receivers) will be connected. These consoles, placed in Christian institutions across the continent, will offer immediate access to the central memory bank, containing evangelical apologetic resources, past and present.

In an exemplary address, simultaneously translated into German and English, M. Levery demonstrated the technical feasibility of such a project and provided valuable illustrations from analogous systems now in operation outside the theological field. So sophisticated is current computer technology that a student at the lycee or gymnasium level can type questions in ordinary language on his local console keyboard, and answers—or clarifying questions to him!—will flash almost instantaneously on the cathode screen of his receiver. With a print-out attachment, he can be the immediate recipient of a bibliography, a quotation, or extended passages dealing with his apologetic problem.

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A plenary session was devoted to CRI Director Martin’s analysis of “The Needs of the Hour and the Aims of a Christian Computer System.” Martin described the effect of contemporary secularism on Christian testimony: “The spirit of secularism is an agnostic skepticism about almost everything that the Church of Jesus Christ has taught as Divine revelation. Indeed, the revolt against Heaven has in some areas even become a revolt against reason.” The bewildered Christian in such a milieu—in a Europe even more secularized than America—finds himself “shamed into silence by the almost deific pronouncements of professors who present only one side of the case and leave it to the student to ‘come to his own conclusions.’ ” Such a tragic imbalance will be overcome by the computer network, which will put at the believer’s disposal “the combined contributions of the great minds of the Church in all ages, augmented by the contributions of contemporary evangelical scholars.”

To tap the apologetic resources of the participants, intensive small-group meetings were held in Old Testament, New Testament, dogmatics, religion and science, and religion in contemporary society. In each group, efforts were made to explore (1) the fundamental non-Christian objections to the Christian world view in these areas, (2) the structure of informed Christian response, and (3) the most significant bibliographical resources for meeting the objections posed. The contributing presence of such men as the following established a uniformly high level of discussion: Professors Blocher and Külling of the Free Faculty of Evangelical Theology and Pastor Courthial of the Eglise Réformée (France); Dr. David Hedegaard of Sweden; Dr. Uuras Saarnivaara of Finland; Elio Milazzo of “Parole di Vita” (Italy); Dr. Wilhelm Oesch of the Lutherische Theologische Hochschule and Dr. Kurt Koch, world’s authority on the theological treatment of occult phenomena (Germany); President Kreiss of the Free Lutheran Church of France and Belgium; Dr. Harold J. Brown of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students and Professor Frank Horton of Institut Emmaus (Switzerland); Juan Gili and Angel Blanco of Spain’s Youth for Christ; Irving Hoffman of the North Africa Mission; George Clark of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and Messrs John Bolten, Sr. and Jr., of F.E.S., Christianity Today, and Schloss Mittersill.

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Letters and telegrams of encouragement were received from distinguished invitees who were unable to attend: Dr. Heinrich Bornkamm of Heidelberg; Jean Cadier, dean of the Protestant Theological Faculty at Montpellier; Old Testament specialist Edmond Jacob of Strasbourg; Dr. Walter Künneth of Erlangen; Pierre Marcel, secretary general of the French Bible Society; David Mellon, dean of Fleming College and the Institute for European Affairs, Switzerland; Pastor Poetsch of the German “Lutheran Hour”; Dr. H. Rohrbach, rector of the University of Mainz; and Dr. Carl Fr. Wislöff of Norway.

In contrast, one respondent—who did not attend the conference—wrote that he could not support the project because (1) the computer memory “will very rapidly swallow up the human user, blocking his capacity for individual thinking”; (2) the system will encouage citing material out of context; and (3) automated apologetics will detract from a “living testimony of faith” and from “prophetic and apostolic confrontation.”

In a French-English lecture on “The Apologetic Application of the Computer System,” the undersigned dealt with these objections, pointing out that the computer revolution of the twentieth century has remarkable parallels with the introduction of printing from movable type in the fifteenth century, and that Christians are called to use intelligently the technology of our time for the spread of the unchanging Gospel.

The judgment of Servan-Schreiber, one of Europe’s foremost political and economic analysts, was underscored: “The arrival of the computer is the most important event of the twentieth century. Many people are afraid of the computer here, a Middle Ages conception. But it is only a servant of the human mind.” No one at the conference suffered from this irrational fear, however. The participants demonstrated once again the supreme relevance of an uncompromisingly biblical theology: its eagerness to bring all things, new and old, into captivity to the mind of Christ.


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