The last fifteen years probably have been the most turbulent in the history of the United States since the adoption of the Constitution and the inauguration of President George Washington.

During the last decade and a half John F. Kennedy was assassinated; the armed forces fought in Viet Nam and finally came home; Lyndon B. Johnson was eliminated from the 1968 presidential campaign by the pressures of an unpopular war despite his election in 1964 by a great landslide; Robert Kennedy was assassinated at a time when his candidacy for the office of president was reaching a high tide; Richard Nixon won the election in 1968 with the promise to end the war in Viet Nam and bring peace to the world. The end of Nixon’s first term was marred by the Watergate charges, but his re-election was an overwhelming victory against Senator George McGovern, whose campaign never got off the ground.

Early in his second term Nixon succeeded in bringing U.S. participation in the Viet Nam war to a conclusion. Not long thereafter came the exposure and finally the resignation from the vice-presidency of Spiro Agnew, whose “law and order” mentality was grossly at variance with his personal practices. Meanwhile the Watergate situation was moving slowly but inexorably to a climax, which finally came on the evening of August 8, when President Nixon announced to the nation that he would resign the following day.

During the time that the Watergate break-in was being investigated Mr. Nixon was changing the face of the global struggle with Communism by his rapprochement with Red China and the Soviet Union. This new direction in American foreign policy and the political realignments wrought more profound changes than have yet been realized by the citizenry; the effects are still to be fully understood.

The resignation of Richard M. Nixon meant that for the first time in almost two hundred years the White House would be occupied by a man selected not by the people but by his predecessor, with the approval of Congress. And he would then propose his own successor for the vacant office of vice-president, for confirmation by Congress. This meant that the two chief offices of the United States would be filled by men not chosen by popular ballot. Truly the United States has come through a radical series of events, the meaning of which the historians will try hard to grasp and interpret for years to come.

In the confusion surrounding Mr. Nixon’s resignation some things stand out clearly. On August 5 he released a statement in connection with the surrender of three tapes of conversations with H. R. Haldeman. Mr. Nixon admitted that the tapes were at variance with earlier statements he had made and that he had ordered a halt to the investigation of the Watergate break-in for political reasons as well as for national security reasons. He acknowledged that he had kept this damaging information from his attorneys and that he had failed to notify the House Judiciary Committee of the variance. It became apparent immediately that the House would vote to impeach him, and there was little doubt that the Senate would then remove him from office. His guilt was established beyond reasonable doubt; his claim that the cover-up was done in the interest of the nation revealed his commitment to situation ethics. His most loyal defenders were left helpless by his announcement of this deception, and his cause was lost.

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Many unresolved problems remain. Will the full truth of Watergate be made known to the American people? Will Mr. Nixon be prosecuted, or has his resignation from office been sufficient punishment? Will it be considered just for those who aided and abetted the commission of these crimes to serve prison sentences if their leader himself remains free? And if he is not to be sentenced, should not the lesser luminaries be pardoned, too? Until these questions have been answered satisfactorily the unsavory odor of Watergate will linger.

America’s new president, Gerald Ford, seems to have grasped the central demand of the nation from the ethical standpoint: the need for truth, honesty, and integrity in the White House and throughout the government. He has promised to make these principles the pole-stars of his administration. No government can long stand when these virtues have disappeared. We hope that Mr. Ford will clearly exemplify them, that in his conduct of the government there will be an openness and honesty and an obvious commitment to righteousness.

President Ford would be well advised to choose men and women of Christian faith and prayer to work with him—not just career bureaucrats, businessmen, and financiers. He should appoint to high office people who have shown their spiritual colors and their commitment to the same standards of morality he himself has professed. He should be prepared to espouse the cause of persecuted Christians even as men like Senator Jackson have that of persecuted Jews. He should not kowtow to either Red China or the Soviet Union—friendship, yes; blind collaboration with injustice, no!

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One of his chief priorities should be the battle against inflation, and at the heart of this struggle is the need for a return to honest fiscal policies in which the nation spends no more than it takes in in taxes from its people.

Mr. Ford assumes the presidency after a decade and a half in which the nation has suffered one tragic event after another. We wish him well and assure him of our prayers and, we hope, of the prayers of the nation. With them the going will still be rough; without them he stands little chance of solving the grave problems that beset the American people.

Another President Topples

Earlier this year we carried two reports on Cyprus (see “God and Caesar,” February 15, and “A Long and Winding Road,” April 12). We claim no prophetic quality for them—they reflect rather this magazine’s routine coverage of international affairs—but are glad that the background thus supplied might have helped our readers understand the current crisis in that Mediterranean republic. More than the toppling of a president was involved here: Makarios since 1960 had combined in himself offices that in England are held by the queen, prime minister, and archbishop of Canterbury.

He made no attempt to be all things to all men. His Beatitude forgot the word about peacemakers. His treatment of the 18 per cent Turkish Muslim minority has done little to commend Christianity, particularly since his 1964 abrogation of the 1959 treaty eroded that minority’s rights. The latter complained, indeed, that Greek children were brought up in the home, educated in school, and indoctrinated in church to hate the Turk. So the Turks stayed in their own sectors and for a decade have spoken of harassment, deadly assault, violation of their mosques, and discrimination against them in areas such as public services. For a decade the government of Cyprus has been entirely Greek.

It is ironic, therefore, that the present troubles in Cyprus should have been precipitated by a Greek-versus-Greek confrontation in which the Turks were not involved. The mainland Greek officers serving in Cyprus, coupled with nationals who sought union with Greece, successfully overthrew Makarios but otherwise were astonishingly inept from their own viewpoint: they failed in their assassination attempt; replaced Makarios by a notorious killer; forced two NATO allies (Greece and Turkey) to the brink of war; brought down the detested Athens junta and so opened the way for the restoration of democracy in Greece itself; and presented Turkey with a long-sought opportunity for legal invasion of Cyprus under international treaty. The results were therefore a mixture of good and bad.

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Meanwhile this beautiful island is once more the scene of dreadful atrocities. The Turks have old scores to settle, are determined that their co-religionists shall never again be left dependent on the mercy of the Greeks, and are demanding a federation similar to the Swiss cantonal pattern. For their part the Greeks are not prepared to accept this new challenge without a bitter fight, and like the Turks have taken hostages for bargaining purposes.

Although they have had mixed success in standing between implacable enemies, the United Nations troops in their thankless task have alleviated much suffering, and have played their peace-making role in unpromising places while the island’s two British bases have given sanctuary to thousands of refugees. We pray for the success of the present Geneva peace talks. At the same time it is difficult to resist the conclusion that Makarios’s dual role has perpetuated old antagonisms. His enemies warned him that “no man can serve two masters”; the discreditable involvement of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus in political intrigue has something to say to all of us.

The Power Of Obedience

The last fifteen years have been marked by a drastic decline in respect for and obedience to the authority of society’s traditional institutions: family, church, school, government. Now there is evidence of a longing for a recovery of legitimate authority. In conservative church circles, teachers such as Bill Gothard and Jay Adams who speak about family structure and parental authority have a wide appeal. And in the secular community as a whole there are signs of a growing willingness to accept authoritarian solutions to the increasingly complex problems of life today. At all levels of society it is becoming increasingly evident that total liberty leads to total chaos, which is an intolerable situation for almost everyone.

The tension between chaos and control has been familiar throughout human history. At certain times and in certain societies it has found a relatively successful and bearable resolution; elsewhere it has degenerated into chaos or tyranny. This tension is not a feature of the social structures alone; it is in fact rooted in the fundamental inner conflict of fallen man, made in God’s image and intended to inherit eternal life, but self-enslaved to the power of sin and death. In Romans, Paul evokes the frustrating perplexity of the spiritually awakened man constantly confronted both with the evidence of a “law of sin” in his members and with the good and yet apparently impossible demands of the Law of God.

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The resolution that Paul proclaims in Romans 6 lies first of all in what we may call the power of the Resurrection, the real victory won over sin and death in the finished work of Jesus Christ, culminating in his resurrection from the grave. This victory is already ours by anticipation, by virtue of our identification with Christ, which Paul speaks of as “baptism into [his] death,” and it will be ours fully when we ourselves are raised. The reality and finality of the work of Christ is the ground of true freedom, not merely from oppressive structures but more fundamentally, from death itself, and from the law of sin and death operating within us.

Beyond this foundation of our freedom in the Resurrection, there is its exercise in obedience: Romans 6:12–23 has been appropriately entitled “the power of obedience.” The power of the Resurrection liberates us from slavery to sin, which is bondage resulting in temporal and eternal death. But this liberation is exercised, developed, and lived out in what Paul refers to as obedience “from the heart” to the doctrine to which Christians have committed themselves.

On a practical, interpersonal level, the practice of obedience to those human agents to whom God has delegated a relative authority creates a certain order and fosters a healthy emotional life, and hence a situation in which true personal freedom can be experienced. Over and above this relative good there is the still greater reality that it is actively obeying the God who has liberated us from the power of sin and death that we experience the most essential and meaningful freedom.

Marxist Inroads

On January 16 the Russian Student Christian Movement (composed of Russians living outside the U.S.S.R.), one of the early member movements of the World Student Christian Federation, withdrew from that organization. This dramatic step was largely overlooked by the news media until it was brought to light by the Reverend Blahoslav Hrubý, editor of the documentary periodical Religion in Communist Dominated Areas, and later picked up by the Religious News Service.

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The WSCF is the student counterpart to the WCC. If the World Council has been justly accused of using its new slogan “Salvation Today” to cover a grab-bag of social, political, economic, and military programs more of Marxist than of biblical inspiration, the WSCF has been even more explicit in replacing Christian concerns with a zeal for “liberation” based on the Gospel according to Marx. Under the leadership of its former European secretary, Czech Milan Opovenský, the WSCF manifested not merely a pro-Marxist but an actively pro-Soviet program. It discreetly overlooked the brutal Russian repression of the “Prague spring” in 1968 and the subsequent Polish suppression of the workers’ revolt in 1970, as well—of course—as religious persecution in the U.S.S.R., while continuing to agitate against both real and imagined racial and economic injustices elsewhere. In October, 1973, the WSCF proposed that as “a means of rapprochement and détente among nations … history books containing unsavory facts about the Russian regime of the 1930s should be modified.”

The WSCF is characteristically a bit more dramatic than the WCC in substituting Marxist-inspired doctrines about “liberation” for the Gospel of Christ. However, the same trend is evident in the World Council. Christians who permit their contributions to be used for the support of these “ecumenical” bodies should understand and ponder these increasingly inescapable facts.

God’S Inerrant Word

Church history offers much evidence that it is difficult, if not impossible, to create a creed or statement of faith that will protect a denomination, fellowship, or institution from losing the vitality of its faith. Within some denominations the great confessional statements are retained but honored only as museum pieces, not really accepted and held to be true.

It is good for a Christian fellowship or an institution to have a forthright confession of faith to which its members can wholeheartedly subscribe. But over and over again we see that the most vital document for the preservation of faith is not a specific confession but the Holy Scriptures. Where the doctrine of the inspiration and authority of the Bible is relativized or downgraded, no matter how orthodox a group may be on other points, including those of the major creeds, theological and spiritual decay is almost inevitable. Where the authority and truthworthiness of Scripture is accepted without reservation, a fellowship can survive quarrels, confusion, and even error on other points, because the teaching of Scripture will eventually set matters straight.

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In the fall of 1973 several noted Christian scholars met at the Ligonier Valley Study Center in Pennsylvania, and out of this meeting came the Ligonier Statement, a reaffirmation of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scripture. Now, under the general editorship of John W. Montgomery, Bethany Press has made available the seminal papers presented at that meeting. God’s Inerrant Word deserves to be recognized as a major reaffirmation and defense of a crucial doctrine in an age of crisis.


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