Since I first discovered the art form I have been a lover of nonsense. When I hear someone recite,
‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe …
I immediately respond,
All mimsy were the borogroves
And the mome raths outgrabe
knowing I have found a soul brother or sister.
Nonsense is essentially nouns and verbs and other parts of speech (or groups of letters that sound like them) marching along in proper order going nowhere.
It has a long and honorable history. You can find it from the ancient Greeks to “Laugh-In.” Aristophanes puts this wonderful bit of nonsense into the mouth of Socrates as he swings above the stage in a basket:
I contemplate the sun,
I could not search into celestial matters
Unless I mingled with kindred air
My subtle spirit here on high. The ground
Is not the place for lofty speculations.
The earth would draw their essence to herself.
The same too is the case with watercress.
Lewis Carroll, whose “Jabberwocky” is quoted above, was a master of the art. In addition to “Jabberwocky” and “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” there are great passages of nonsense in his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Theologians who use Carroll and others to establish something or other about logical consistency or inconsistency miss the great unmined lode of nonsense right in their own back yard. Consider this beauty by Alistair Kee in the Christian Century:
Insofar as belief in God is what makes Christian faith a religious faith, then religionless Christianity must be Christian faith without belief in God.
Magnificent! A perfect statement of the very faith of slithy toves gyring and gimbling in the wabe.
Or how about this gem from Rudolf Bultmann:
Therefore when I speak of the teaching of Jesus, I base the discussion on no underlying conception of a universally valid system of thought which through this study can be made enlightening to all.
The very reason the mome raths continue to outgrabe.
Editors of nonsense anthologies have missed a good thing by not including this from John A. T. Robinson:
To assert with the apocalyptists that there is a necessary correspondence between kairos and chronos is always to say the world must die on a certain date, and to give chronos the determination of kairos. But if one abandons this perversion of the prophetic truth, the eschatological principle still stands—the ultimate truth will be the final fact.
Way to go, Robbie! Lay it on ’em.
And when ultimate truth becomes final fact—
’Twill be nighttime in Italy
And Wednesday over here.
I’m sure you astute readers have encountered even more priceless treasures of theological nonsense. Don’t be selfish. Share them with
FIRST … AND LAST
Permit me to thank you for publishing the article “Faith and the Artistic Vision” by Nancy B. Barcus (Oct. 13).
As life is full of contradictions, so is this splendid article and the page of advertising which follows it. On that page, the book The Beginning of the End, by Tim Lahaye, is promoted. Putting Nancy Barcus’s article and the promotion of this book side by side causes me to feel hope and then despair. Her article is like opening a window to let in fresh air, only to have it promptly closed by someone who cannot stand the change. Every book I have ever read on the Second Coming is essentially the same, beginning with the Apostle Paul. They are all right and all wrong at the same time—right in saying the ultimate destiny of all things is in God’s hands; wrong in trying to say when and how God’s ultimate authority will be made manifest. Paul sincerely thought the Second Coming was right around the corner. So have other sincere believers in every generation and every century. Perhaps the problem here is that traditional Second Coming advocates do not see the idea of the Second Coming as a symbol of a truth too deep, awesome, and sublime to be captured either by words or time.
H. EDWIN BURKE
I vacillated between anger and amusement while reading J. Edwin Orr’s glib account of the turmoil in Northern Ireland (“The Agony of Ulster,” Nov. 10). Anger, not directed at Orr of course, but at the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Paris Monde, and hundreds of American and foreign journalists and television commentators who have given us the wrong impression about the B-Specials, ex-prime minister Faulkner, and the housing and employment situation in the utopia of pre-1969 Ulster—“Grievances there have been, but played up out of all proportion to the real situation,” and “almost every complaint has been rectified.…”
Orr provided some amusement for me, however, and I suspect some dismay in the British Colonial Office. For hundreds of years Englishmen taxed, jailed, robbed, and murdered Irishmen for the cause of the Reformers, without success. And now Orr tells us that the key to the treasure was a few Gaelic Bibles after all. What a tremendous waste of Anglo-Protestant savagery.
Fresh Meadows, N. Y.
OUT OF ORDER
It is clear that CHRISTIANITY TODAY’s stance is prejudicial, one-sided, and poorly informed. I want to comment here on the statement of J. A. O. Preus in his letter which you printed in the November 24 issue. In showing his indignation at what he considers poor procedures by which the name of Dr. Hoffmann has come before us as a possible candidate to replace him as president, he stated: “We have a proper method for election of officers that I and Dr. Hoffmann respect.”
Dr. Preus should know that had he really respected synodical procedures in this regard in 1969 he probably would have never been elected. I am glad to know he respects the proper procedure now. His nomination was put before Missouri Synod by the so-called Christian News and the Denver Post with a block ad at a time when nominations were to be made from the convention floor only. That’s history. The present situation is that nominations are to be made by the congregations before the convention. This makes what goes on presently among those opposed to Dr. Preus very legitimate now, whereas when he used the method it was not legitimate. His indignation at the use of the present proper method is hardly commendable since he used it long before it was proper. We know Dr. Hoffmann has nothing to do with trying to get himself elected. This can hardly be said of the previous election.
O. T. MCREE
Church of the Resurrection—Lutheran Yardley, Pa.
Harold Lindsell in “Tests For the Tongues Movement” (Dec. 8) lays out a very clear and perceptive description of the points at issue in the first five paragraphs of his article. He also points out that when a tongue speaker holds unscriptural doctrines, the validity of tongues as a test is rightly questionable.
I would like to question the validity of the doctrine of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” as a second crisis. I believe the Bible teaches that “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and regeneration are the same crisis. This comes from Acts 11:15, 16, First Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:5, 6, and Colossians 2:12. It also comes from the whole counsel of Scripture. And when tested by other parts of Scripture no contradictions arise. For instance, Acts 19:6 becomes the moment of regeneration for those believers.
A. B. JAHRAUS
I want to thank Dr. Lindsell for his perception and astuteness in writing, and commend him for the article.
ROBERT A. Box
Victory Hills Baptist Church
Kansas City, Kans.
I am certain that most of the Pentecostals you refer to as “classic” would accept [Dr. Lindsell’s appraisal].…
Regarding many of the great ministers of the past not speaking in tongues, please refer to the book entitled What Meaneth This, by Carl Brumback. You will find history says some did. Also, you will be interested in a quote from The Life, Work and Sermons of Moody, by Richard B. Cook: “It is reported that during his absence on his double mission in the East Mr. Moody had been gloriously baptized with the Holy Spirit.” You will note that this book was published years prior to the founding of the Pentecostal churches. What the author meant is not clear to me, but it is interesting that this came in Dr. Moody’s life after years of ministry!
Second, most Pentecostals would accept the position you have mentioned regarding the mainline denominational errors and the importance of making Scripture the central theme of interpretation. Interestingly enough, many of the so-called mainline denominations are falling into the same errors that Pentecostals rejected forty or more years ago (i.e., fake approaches to speaking in tongues, Spirit writing, to mention but two).
Third, contrary to what William J. Samarin writes in his book, there are dozens of documented cases where known languages have been spoken. I can personally cite perhaps a dozen if you would like. In fact, this would make an excellent book subject. However, in regard to your mention of the fact that no missionary has “permanently” spoken in a known language, this would be contrary to Scripture and thus falls into that area which you have mentioned regarding reliance on Scripture for a position. Since there is no scriptural indication that anyone ever was given a gift of “permanently” speaking a known language for missionary work, it should not be expected today. Rather, the cases that I can cite seem to fall into the position of answering real questions regarding the reality of the experience for many. For an example, missionaries have had nationals receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit and speak in English miles from anyone who knew the language.
CARL G. CONNER
First Assembly of God
Winston-Salem, N. C.
I believe that comparing Pentecostals with great non-Pentecostals of the past and present misses the point. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is not intended to make the least Pentecostal greater in Christian stature and productivity than the greatest non-Pentecostal. We are on the wrong track when we start comparing ourselves among ourselves. The question is not: “Am I a greater Christian than my non-Pentecostal brother or sister?” The question is: “Am I as a Pentecostal a more dynamic, victorious, productive, Christ-like Christian than I would be if I were not a Pentecostal?” …
The fact is that “all that baptism signified by tongues produces” has not been equaled, much less surpassed, “in the lives of Christians who have never spoken in tongues.” Great as such Christians are, were they to become Pentecostal in experience, they would find their lives enriched by the Holy Spirit in a way previously unequaled in their personal spiritual history.
J. W. JEPSON
College of Ministerial Education
First Assembly of God
[This] is the ultimate article on a most difficult and crucial subject. I found it profound and enlightening.
We have not had tongues-speaking at L’Abri. My pamphlet, The New Super-Spirituality, published by the Inter-Varsity Press, expresses our concern in regard to certain aspects of the new Pentecostalism, and we would ask all who read what was erroneously reported in the December 8 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY to read this pamphlet. There was a long excerpt from this pamphlet in article form in Eternity magazine in November, 1972.
FRANCIS A. SCHAEFFER
• We are rechecking what we considered reliable sources, but nothing we said implied that L’Abri endorses or encourages tongues-speaking.—ED.
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