For My Critics

This is my second column of the new year. You perceptive readers will realize this means the editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY has renewed my lease on this space for another year.

That’s good news for some of you and bad news for others. It’s good news for those who dig this column—a distinguished and peculiar people I like to think of as the great silent majority. (By the way, it wouldn’t hurt you folks to be a little less silent.) But it’s very bad news for those of you who find these columns to be utterly without redeeming religious significance.

The editor recently commented to me, “Eutychus [you’ll notice we’re on a first-name basis], your readers either love you or hate you. There’s no middle ground.”

There seems to be a great deal of truth in his observation. This dissertation is directed to those who fall in the second category—many of whom have sacrificially given of their limited and valuable time to write and call attention to the absolutely useless nature of my efforts.

What, dear critics, can you expect from someone who goes to sleep in church, falls out of the second-story window, and lands on his head?

Perhaps a part of the difficulty that exists between us is a problem of perspective. I was recently listening to an old recording of Paul Blackman, last of the professional one-man bands, playing “Alabama Bound.” On this record the soloist sings, plays the kazoo, jokes, and beats out the rhythm on an assortment of tin cans, a five-gallon drum, a wood block, and a cowbell. All in all he produces a wonderful lot of noise and fun.

It would be a loss of perspective to compare the Cleveland Orchestra to Mr. Blackman. As magnificent as that group is, it could never produce the great foot-stomping nonsense that emanates from this virtuoso. I dare say it wouldn’t even try.

So just try to think of me as the noisy one-man band trying only to please his audience and be a pleasant divertissement.

I leave you with an observation made by the famous radio funny-man Fred Allen. Upon having a script returned that had been heavily blue-penciled by a network executive, Allen turned to the executive and asked, “Where were you when the paper was blank?”



The four articles that led things off in the December 8 issue were superb and—of great importance to this country pastor—readable, thoroughly understandable, and free from the ponderous prose I have come to expect from religious magazines.

“The Men Who Missed Christmas,” by James Montgomery Boice [was] undoubtedly the basis of a number of fine and penetrating messages this Christmas season. “The Virgin Birth—A Broader Base,” contains material needful for us to know as we more perfectly proclaim what I know is fact and what my people question. Thanks to William Childs Robinson. Harold Lindsell’s “Tests For the Tongues Movement” places in a few pages some of the very real questions some of us have had to wrestle with, especially as we see those of our own congregations leaving the church with smug and superior airs as they follow their inner lights and ignore the solid evidence of the Scriptures and their doctrine. Well put! “Fierce Pragmatism in Missions: Carnal or Consecrated?” by C. Peter Wagner strikes home to one who has spent several years on foreign soil on behalf of the Christ. Missionaries do need a new and often rude sort of a shock to break them from the often invalid platitudes that form the basis of much of what is known as Christian mission today.

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Clarksburg Community Church

Clarksburg, Calif.


In the second paragraph of Barrie Doyle’s news story “ ‘Good Samaritan’ State: Federal Aid to Religion?” (Nov. 10), he states, “World Vision, for instance, gets more than $1.4 million dollars from the Canadian government, plus another $250,000 in ocean freight subsidies from Washington.”

According to the audited statements of World Vision of Canada, it received from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) $84,000 in its 1971 fiscal year and only $86,000 in our 1972 fiscal year. The $1.4 million dollars to which Mr. Doyle refers is the rounded-off figure of our total income for the year 1971. It should be noted also that World Vision of Canada is a separate organization from World Vision International (with headquarters in Monrovia, California).

Speaking for World Vision of Canada, we also take issue with Mr. Doyle’s paragraph which states, “Few groups are willing to publicize the government hand-outs, mostly because of fears that church-state separatists may stop giving.” First, World Vision of Canada does not look upon CIDA grants as “government hand-outs.” We take the view that development aid is taxpayers’ money and that there are many Christions who pay income tax. We would rather see this spent by a Christian organization with its stated set of values and a spiritual dimension than by secular agencies. We should also mention that “proselytism” has never entered into our conversations with CIDA officials.… We feel the Canadian government has a sensible view of giving aid through voluntary agencies. We reach for and emphasize that part of the social component which CIDA describes as “those things which in the end affect the spirit of man,” that is, the spiritual aspect of man’s life.

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Director of Projects

World Vision of Canada

Willowdale, Ontario


I would like to supply you with additional information which your writer evidently lacked in regards to the first Pentecostal (Assemblies of God) Bible Institute behind the Iron Curtain, located in Yugoslavia (News, “World Scene,” Nov. 24).

The news release was made by the American Assemblies of God missionary fellowship, which does have eight Bible institutes associated with the work in Continental Europe. But our sister fellowships operate one in England, one in Denmark (which the American fellowship helped to found), one in Finland, one in Portugal for the Assemblies of God there founded by the Swedish missionaries, a missionary Bible training institute in Norway, and one in Sweden. Besides these, other Pentecostals have a few Bible schools in Europe.

Also, not long ago you carried a fine news article on the Assemblies of God Spiritual Life Convention in Minneapolis this summer, stating that 5,000 people attended. But the fact is that crowds up to 7,500 attended the great rally with black missionary evangelist Bob Harrison as the speaker, who has been the only Assemblies of God or Pentecostal minister to serve as an associate evangelist for Billy Graham’s Evangelistic Association that I know of.


New Life International

Fresno, Calif.


William Childs Robinson in “The Virgin Birth—A Broader Base” (Dec. 8) perpetuates a myth that I have been hearing frequently. He says that “Jesus was using for Father the nursery term, Abba, Daddy, Papa.” Abba simply means “Father” in Aramaic, not “Daddy.” In fact, in the Western Aramaic that Jesus spoke it may have a vocative force, “O Father,” since the ending -a was meaningful in that dialect (in most Aramaic dialects its meaning was lost). By the same token, when Paul uses the term in Romans 8:15 it is no nursery term, and we should just translate it as “Father.” It is my belief that this misunderstanding of the word Abba has come about because of the influence of modern Hebrew, where it does indeed mean “Daddy.” This just points up how important it is for those of us who learned our Hebrew from Israeli teachers to maintain a clear distinction in our minds between biblical and later Hebrew.

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College Park, Md.

The article is intellectually irresponsible. It is inconceivable that an informed and fair-minded person could write such an article.

Dr. Robinson “finds” the virgin birth in Paul and John (where it has previously been hidden for 1,900 years) by breaking every rule of logical inference. If fundamentalist doctrines can be “proved” by exegesis such as this, then there is absolutely nothing which cannot be wrenched from the pages of Scripture.… The principal point, of course, is that Paul, in the earliest New Testament writings, makes no reference whatever to Jesus’ miraculous birth, an event which would seem to demand the most profound attention if true. Even more important, Paul four times refers to Jesus’ birth without once indicating that there was anything physiologically unusual in that birth. It is simply incredible that anyone would twist that bald fact around to make it appear that somehow Paul was authenticating the virgin birth in this way!… Robinson’s “arguments” concerning what Paul “must” have learned from Peter et al. after his conversion are of course logical nonsense. Only by assuming that Peter and the earliest Christians believed and taught the virgin birth (which is the heart of the question) can one then assume that Paul must have learned it from them. This is reasoning?

Dallas, Tex.


What text was Dr. William Robinson using when he wrote that Jesus used the term Abba in Luke 2:49 and in Luke 10:21? Nestle uses the word Patros in both instances (and also three times in 10:22), and lists no variant readings at all. I am puzzled.

First Christian Church


Lufkin, Tex.

I was much interested … until I came to the words, “Jesus continued to call no man on earth his father, knowing that his father was in heaven”—Matt. 23:9. This quotation was Jesus’ teaching to the disciples not to follow spiritual fathers and so is quite out of context. Robinson could make his point without this quotation, and using it weakens our trust in his whole line of argument.

Saskatoon, Canada



Harold Lindsell in his article “Tests For the Tongues Movement” (Dec. 8) seems to be unable to answer his own questions concerning “tests.” He asks questions such as, “How is it to be understood in the light of biblical revelation?” It is too bad he does not answer the question, especially in light of what he says of those who equate Spirit baptism with the manifestation of tongues.

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When he states in the next to the last paragraph of his article, “If he is inclined toward the Pentecostal viewpoint, let him by all means seek both the baptism and tongues,” he is stating positively that a genuine Christian may or may not have already received Spirit baptism. If they have, then he is persuading them to continue in erroneous doctrine. Is baptism of the Spirit a doctrine subject to give or take, or to allow or disallow according to whim; to give to some believers and not to others? This is a prime example of rhetorical doubletalk.

Dr. Lindsell has written some good articles, but the shoddy thinking and lack of scriptural verification in this article is appalling (there is only one scriptural reference cited, and that of exegetical unimportance). It is a tragedy that he mentions repeatedly the imperative of scriptural light and neatly circumvents any reference to passages that may throw light on the baptism of the Spirit (such as First Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:5). It is such articles as this that cause further confusion concerning this important doctrine.


Central Bible Church

Kansas City, Mo.

In reference to your news report on “Pneuma ’72” (Dec. 8), I would like to point out that the new president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies is Dr. Russell Spittler of Southern California College (Assemblies of God).

Also, in Lindsell’s article, I was impressed with his overall grasp of the current situation. Yet not one of my acquaintances among Pentecostals of any type accepts the appellation “tongues movement.” Although all Pentecostals see tongues as important, they are not exalted as the be-all or end-all of Christian experience. Pentecostals attempt to ascribe to glossolalia and the other gifts of the Spirit no more emphasis than does the New Testament—and no less. The phrase “tongues movement” has always had for us a pejorative sense, and I regret your use of the term. Instead of using the terms “tongues movement” or “charismatic movement,” why not use the term with which we have always identified—the “Pentecostal movement”?


Emmanuel College

Franklin Springs, Ga.

As a member of a conservative, doctrinal church and as one also involved in the charismatic movement, a tongue-speaker (though this now comes mainly for spiritual help or verification in some event—as dew on fleece), I feel that I can both subscribe to the article, and yet wonder and doubt. I think the tests which Lindsell wants to emphatically imply are valid, but his insistence on the application is much too strong. Lindsell is right when he says that a man is justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ. I doubt whether he can use this and other reformational doctrines as the test for fellowship. For truth, yes; but not strictly for fellowship. We must remember that, though one is saved by Jesus’ imputed righteousness, one is not saved by a thorough understanding of this doctrine. Only God really understands this truth and applies it to his people.

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Christian Reformed Church

Rapid City, S. D.

As a former Roman Catholic priest who has rejected Roman church authority for Bible authority (sola scriptura), I find your article super-excellent. The appalling ignorance on the part of charismatics regarding Roman Catholic teaching is disturbing to the serious Bible student. I hope your message will teach us never to compromise propositional truth.


Vista Hills Community Church

Richmond, Calif.

From time to time I have been thrilled by your handling of articles about the charismatic movement. You provide so much more coverage than other religious publications not exclusively charismatic. And you’ve been fair and said “almost” what I, a charismatic Methodist, would have said. Of course “I would that you were not almost but altogether.”

I realize that would not please the bulk of your readers, but let me make just two comments. All of your writers, including Harold Lindsell, almost completely ignore the private, devotional, “go into your closet and close the door” use of glossolalia. To most, this is the most blessed and most meaningful use.… [Also], you have never, in my memory, published a feature story by an experiential writer (one who himself spoke in tongues). This is like assigning that society in England, which still believes the earth to be flat, to write a commentary on an Apollo space shot. You cannot give fair treatment to a gift from God which you neither believe in or have experienced.


Riverside United Methodist Church

Houston, Tex.

Dr. Lindsell left out one of my favorite evangelists in his list of the spiritual giants from Martin Luther to Billy Graham—it is Charles Finney. In his official memoirs Mr. Finney says, “No words can express the wonderful love … and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart.” This is almost exactly the way I would describe my experience of speaking in “tongues.”

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I, like many others in the charismatic movement, was baptized with the Holy Spirit long before I ever even heard of “tongues.” While I later received this spiritual gift, I never had the slightest doubt that men of God like Mr. Graham are Spirit-filled giants whom I desire to emulate.


United Methodist Church

Tilghman, Md.


With due respect to … Dr. Carl F. H. Henry and his evaluation of evangelical life in Germany, I cannot but question seriously the validity of some of his statements made in his article “The Gospel in Germany” (Footnotes, Dec. 8).

I would challenge him to name the Baptist leaders who supposedly work to tie our union fully to the ecumenical movement. To be sure, there are some influential Baptists who may tend towards this direction. But the Union Council has affirmed again and again that membership in the WCC is not under consideration.

There is even less interest in joining it now than there was a couple of years ago—let’s say before Uppsala. And even those who basically favor such a move will refrain from advocating it in order to safeguard the unity of our union, which consists not only of Baptist but also of Brethren churches, the latter being violently opposed to ecumenism. And would Dr. Henry please define a little closer his rather enigmatic statement concerning the “noteworthy overtures” to German Baptists made by ecumenical leaders?

It is also an exaggeration to state that the Evangelical Alliance is largely free-church oriented. The free churches are very active in it, true. But at least equal in strength and influence are the pietistic groups within the “Volkskirche” or the “Landeskirchen,” such as the “Gemeinschaften,” Christian endeavor, the mainstream of the YMCA, and others. (By the way, a state church does not exist in Germany any more since 1918. What we call the “Volkskirche” might be rendered as “established church,” which enjoys several privileges due to its history and its size but is not controlled by the state.)

It seems to me that we are slowly but surely overcoming “evangelical fragmentation”—and from some impressions I got talking to British leaders I don’t even think we are lagging far behind them.


Informationsdienst der Evangelischen Allianz

Frankfurt, Germany


I have just finished reading C. Peter Wagner’s [article] “Fierce Pragmatism in Missions: Carnal or Consecrated?” (Dec. 8). On the whole I agree with his suggestions. However, I cannot help but feel that in the mind of contemporary missiologists, missions is still a predominantly Western Christian enterprise, and hence a West-centered endeavor.

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This can be seen in his suggestions on who should initiate and introduce a system of evaluation for the missionary enterprises. There he suggests three groups of people: the mission executives from the top, the pastor, and the Christian laymen who support missions. No mention is made of the national ministerial and lay leaders in the fields where the missionaries work.

In this post-missionary era when most former mission fields have produced their own local and sometime indigenous churches, shouldn’t the missionary, the mission executives, conduct “self-evaluations” by consulting national leaders? Shouldn’t the missionary enterprises be evaluated by the local national church in addition to one-sided evaluation and recommendations made by mission-broad representatives? If missions is to maintain one-way traffic in terms of decision-making, ignoring the leadership of the third world, then the non-Christians or the anti-Christians (sometimes Communists) of the nations are right when they call missionary endeavors “cultural imperialism” of the West, particularly of America.



China Graduate School of Theology

Philadelphia, Pa.

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