At E.A.S.E. In Zion

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for getting rid of the old and making fresh starts. That is, of course, what New Year’s Resolutions are all about.

The genealogy of the New Year’s Resolution has been ably traced by Heinrich v. Schlunk in his five-volume introductory work, Einführung in das Studium der Neujahrsverbesserungsbe schlüsse mit Rücksicht auf erkenntniswissenschaftliche und existentielle Zusammenhänge. However, because this work is difficult to obtain, and because only portions of it are relevant for evangelicals, we will summarize its most salient point.

The New Year’s Resolution, it seems, arises from a reflective self-awareness of the fact that—to quote one ancient source—“we have done those things we ought not to have done and have left undone those things we ought to have done.” This self-awareness was called conscience in traditional theology, and conscience, despite its obsolescence, remains one of the most distressing psychological characteristics of present-day evangelicals, including many among the staff and subscribers of Christianity Today. (Was this perhaps why the late Karl Barth waggishly suggested that it ought to be called Christianity Yesterday?)

This reflective self-awareness, or conscience, used to produce a “purpose of amendment”—or a “commitment to greater obedience,” expressed, for example, in the above-mentioned New Year’s Resolutions. However, as was already noted by v. Schlunk in the historical work that laid the ground for his great “Einführung,” Die Neujahr-sverbesserungsbeschlüsse von Hammurabi bis Hubert Humphrey, most Resolutions remain inoperative, hence leading to further problems with conscience.

At one of the familiar academic conclaves held over the Christmas vacation, a number of concerned evangelicals banded together to form the Evangelical Association for Situation Ethics (EASE). Because the leading situation ethicists today are non-evangelicals, and because the leading evangelical ethicists are non-situationalists, some initial difficulty is being experienced in recruiting qualified members for EASE. However, once the familiar frustration with failed New Year’s Resolutions again descends on the evangelical community, it is felt that many will be led to take comfort from EASE and its persuasive way of adjusting ethical requirements to the changing situations and temptations of modern life. Its motto, with apologies to Kipling, is, “If you can keep the rules/When all about you break them/Perhaps you don’t understand the situation.” The twilight of good resolutions is upon us, and a more comfortable self-awareness is sure to await us. As a spokesmen for EASE told us, “We anticipate no problems for evangelicals from the widespread adoption of situation ethics, provided our exegesis is correct.”

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Discerning The Devil

I want to tell you how glad I was to read the editorial “Witchcraft P.R.” (Dec. 6). You rightly discerned the character of this group, and you are to be commended for taking a public stand against them. I’ve known Tim Zell personally since our work began in St. Louis three years ago. He and nine other witches came to one of our services (an ex-warlock was preaching against the occult and witchcraft) and they disrupted the meeting, mocked the altar call, and Tim Zell tried to take over the service. He and his followers have started a Church of All Worlds and have actively spoken out against Christianity and tried recruiting people to witchcraft on many of the high school and college campuses. It seems that many of their followers got into this cult because they were searching for a spiritual experience—a hunger increased by drug use. This seems to be the next step down among Americans. As drugs die out in popularity, witchcraft and Satanism will increase. Now, more than ever, we need to be reaching America with the Gospel, saturating the hungry souls and reaping a great harvest.



New Life Evangelistic Center, Inc.

St. Louis, Mo.

Viewing The Evidence

I was amazed at the level of editorial irresponsibility on the part of CHRISTIANITY TODAY in publishing the letter from a Dan Trotter suggesting that I, the Post-American, the “young evangelicals” etc. (his “kooks on the left”) be “excommunicated” from evangelicalism. The statements Trotter attributed to “one of the staff members of Wallis’s journal” are of course ridiculous, as any responsible checking would have uncovered. Where Trotter got such distortions is unknown to me or to our staff and associates.… In the recent controversy between “young evangelicals” and “establishment evangelicals,” there are probably some who would like to see further division and would be willing to help draw the battle lines. We oppose that divisive spirit that would provide a new way to split ourselves into opposing and hostile camps. We must together raise the issues involved in coming to a more holistic and biblical proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel, and not merely find new labels to increase fragmentation among us. That is our commitment and I hope that those who know us and have been involved with us in the recent controversies have seen evidence of that commitment.

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Chicago, Ill.

From Churchill

It is unfortunate that the writer of your editorial “Churchill and His Tryst” (Dec. 6) did not show greater awareness of the scholarship on the subject. It has been the judgment of several historians that some of this country’s foreign-policy problems stem from the fact that, far from being “largely disregarded,” Sir Winston’s Fulton speech was too well heeded, and that he had lost his touch in foreign affairs by that time. This is not to deny the military threat posed by the Soviet Union but to note that the threat was erroneously identified with unstable situations all over the globe, resulting in policies too broadly and fearfully conceived. Certainly a stand in favor of freedom and morals need not be tied to reckless or unrealistic policies. I wonder, incidentally, if many who applaud Churchill’s hard line in post-war policies realize that in the same speech he proposed that the United Nations “must immediately begin to be equipped with an international armed force.”

Instructor in History

Judson Baptist College

Portland, Ore.

At Least As Moral

I was startled to learn (Footnotes, Nov. 8) that since I (allegedly!) implied in the Chicago Declaration that “American economic structures are per se ‘racist and unjust,’ ” my only moral option was to renounce my U.S. citizenship. Nowhere in the Chicago Declaration did I assert that American economic structures are per se racist and unjust. I am not even sure what it would mean to assert that. Would one be talking about some pure form of laissez-faire capitalism that has not existed for decades? Would one mean the Keynesian economics as practiced in more recent decades? Is there some particular economic pattern that existed at some particular historic movement that is the “true, genuine” American economic pattern that one might then consider per se just or unjust?

If the abstract question is ambiguous, the immediate situation is not. I do believe that present economic structures are unjust. It is unjust when our President rejects a proposal for giving one million more tons of grain to starving Third World people because it would cause inflation in the United States; it is unjust when trade patterns, etc., force half the world to go to bed hungry while we live in unprecedented luxury.…

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However, even if I had written (which I did not) that American economic structures are per se racist and unjust or even if I knew (which I do not) that this were the case, would the only moral option be a prompt renunciation of citizenship? I am strongly committed to the democratic process (and the events of the last two years have deepened that commitment). Hopefully the fundamental promise of democratic theory, viz., that every citizen has the right to work within the democratic process for desired changes, applies just as much to legislation on economics as to legislation on abortion or drugs; just as much to legislation producing fundamental structural change as to window-dressing legislation producing only superficial change. If then I think (as I do) that substantial changes in our economic structures are needed if we are to escape divine punishment for our injustice and oppression, surely working in a democratic way for orderly change would be a second option at least as “moral” as renunciation of citizenship.


Messiah College

(Philadelphia Campus)

Philadelphia, Pa.

Correcting Information

I am writing to correct false information [in] “Grenades in the Archbishop’s Mercedes,” by Lester Kinsolving (Oct. 11). I have never driven the two Arab sisters named Odeh in my car (Hilman). I never had anything to do with the blowing up of the Jewish supermarket in Jerusalem that took place on February 23, 1969.

When my house was attacked by Israeli troops at 1:30 A.M. on March 2, 1969 … my house, the church building, sanctuary, pulpit, and every corner of the church and all the surrounding church premises in Ramallah were thoroughly searched, but no explosives, no guns, no bombs, nothing at all was found.

Amman, Jordan


Carl F. H. Henry was mistakenly identified in “Doing the Declaration” (News, December 20 issue, page 28) as a member of the workshop planning committee. He was one of the meeting’s speakers; his son, Paul Henry, is a member of the committee.

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