The Yale Daily News recently surveyed 400 of this year’s graduating seniors, asking them whether they believed in God. Fifty-four per cent said no. The response to a question on political inclinations showed that 33 per cent considered themselves “capitalist,” 24 per cent “socialist,” and 10 per cent “anarchist”; the other 33 per cent were “indifferent.” Although experience shows that these percentages will moderate as the students grow older, still the findings are distressing.
Another survey suggests quite strongly that (in case anyone still has any doubts about it) the college experience has measurable effects upon a student’s outlook. This poll, conducted by the Gallup Survey at the request of Oklahoma Christian College, looked into fifty-seven schools across the nation and made more intensive studies at Princeton and OCC. Thirty per cent of the freshmen identified their political philosophy as left of center or far left. By their senior year the percentage increased to 53. As the students moved from freshman to senior status, larger numbers approved smoking, drinking, abortion, pre-marital sex, and legalized marijuana. At the same time their interest in religion decreased. Forty-one per cent of the students felt that their political views were influenced by the courses they took; twenty-nine per cent acknowledged the influence of individual teachers. The political and social views of the Oklahoma Christian students generally were in sharp contrast to the more liberal views of the total college sample. They were markedly different from those of the students at Princeton.
The very least that can be inferred is that, one way or another, colleges and universities play a significant role in determining the world and life views of their students. Quite obviously the drift is leftward, theologically, ethically, and politically.
The question this poses for America in general and the Church in particular is whether this state of affairs can be tolerated. If the leftward movement succeeds, America as we have known it will disappear. The question appears more acute when one realizes that most of the nation’s higher educational institutions are dependent on tax money. The American public, which includes multitudes of Christians, is financing through its government an educational system that promises to bite the hand that feeds it, and to undermine many things that most Americans, and particularly Christian Americans, hold dear. Do American citizens really want it that way, or are they simply ignorant of or indifferent to what is happening?
The deteriorating situation calls for a biblical alternative that is to be found only in distinctively Christian schools, some of which perform considerably better than others, but all of which together help to reduce the attrition rate among church-related young people. A widespread spiritual awakening, such as Yale experienced under Timothy Dwight when he was president from 1795 to 1817, could conceivably turn around some of the leftish schools, but this does not seem likely to occur.
As the costs of operating colleges have increased, one Christian institution after another has been obliged to look to government funds for survival. But when they get government funds they often must yield their Christian distinctives. So the dilemma at its worst is whether to shut down or do away with biblical teaching.
This has been illustrated recently in the case of Western Maryland College, which was originally a Methodist school. The state of Maryland instituted a program of direct aid to several Catholic institutions and to Western Maryland, which was held to be a sectarian school by Maryland’s highest court in 1966. Americans United and the ACLU have a suit pending in the U. S. Supreme Court in which Western Maryland was one of the defendants. But the college, with the agreement of the plaintiffs, was dropped from the suit because it has ceased to be a church school and has agreed to certain stipulations, among which are the following:
1. WMC will remain totally neutral as to the spiritual development (in a religious sense) of its students and shall not adopt, maintain, or pursue any objective, policy, or plan of encouraging or discouraging such spiritual development.…
2. WMC shall neither sponsor nor conduct any religious services.…
3. WMC shall require that the baccalaureate services, if any, shall be totally secular in form and substance and shall not include any prayer, religious hymns, or religious sermon.
4. WMC shall not accept any continuing or substantial support (a) from any church or agency thereof, (b) from any organization which suggests or imposes religious conditions or restrictions on the use of funds contributed or which prescribes any religious conditions or restrictions for eligibility upon the recipient of such support. WMC will not furnish reports to any such church or organization.
It requires no special prescience to foresee the day when Christian higher education will no longer be a viable option. Probably a few Christian colleges will survive, supported by people who really believe in what they are trying to do. When religion is restricted to a narrow compartment of life and eliminated from any role in education under the guise of neutrality, it leads inevitably to a de facto irreligious stance. Moreover, it opens the door to social, economic, and political views that are inconsonant with biblical revelation or even antithetical to it. And in institutions where atheism is not regarded as a religion and is given free rein, it can exert influences that are destructive of true religion and a violation of the intentions of the framers of the Constitution. For if the state is not to promote sectarian beliefs, neither should it be in the business of destroying them.
In Strategy We Trust
In the weeks since President Ford’s panel headed by Nelson Rockefeller rendered its report, shrill cries urging the abolishment of the CIA have been heard in the land. The CIA has indeed been guilty of improper conduct. However, its parameters have been set by legislative fiat and executive regulations, and the legislative and executive branches are duty-bound to see that the agency does not go beyond its limits. If it does and if it is not called to account, then the fault rests with those branches of government as well as with the agency itself.
Ideally, it would be good if the United States and all other countries stopped all intelligence and espionage activities. But we live in an evil world. For America to give up its agency while other nations retained theirs would be the height of folly. Nations that do not place their trust in God have to put their trust in strategies, and America’s trust in God appears only on its coins, not in the hearts of its people.
The CIA’s business by nature demands a good deal of secrecy, and its effectiveness is not helped by publicity. A blabbermouth congress compounds problems.
All this CIA flak is bound to have an adverse effect on missions. People abroad tend to suspect that all Americans are agents of the CIA. These suspicions are joined by the Communist claims that missionaries are agents of imperialism. Yet the missionaries are virtually the only Americans abroad who can really be above suspicion, since their first allegiance is to God and not to Caesar. We hope that somehow this message gets through to every nation where Christian missionaries are at work.
India: Up The Steps To The Slide
The dark pall of dictatorship now hangs over India. What has happened there may mean the end of this socialist democracy, an end that will have been brought about by Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s failure to practice what she has long preached. At the heart of her decision lie her conviction that she is indispensable to the democracy and her willingness to sacrifice it to her personal desire for power.
Adversity reveals the innate strength of a political system and its capacity for survival. The democracy of the United States recently passed through its most serious test and survived. Britain is locked in a battle right now to determine whether its parliamentary system will survive. India’s democratic process seems to be moving toward collapse.
Mrs. Gandhi’s arrest of multitudes of the opposition, her silencing of the press and other media, and her virtual institution of a police state are the exact opposite of what happened in connection with Indian independence. It was the non-violent demonstrations of Mahatma Gandhi and millions of Indians that brought India its freedom. The suppression of such demonstrations is a strong indication that this freedom will be taken away.
Mrs. Gandhi claims that dictatorship is necessary in order to preserve democracy. But once the dictatorial process has been set in motion, whether to the right or to the left, it builds momentum and is difficult to stop. India faces some dark days, days that may see the tragic fall of another bastion of freedom in a world that is fast sliding into the grip of totalitarianism.
Church Musicians—Worthy Of Hire
Good stewardship demands, particularly in our uncertain economic situation, that church leaders scrutinize their budgets to see where the money goes, particularly in the area of the church payroll. Pastors, of course, are first on the list of paid workers. And often church secretaries and janitors, or others who fill jobs that volunteers won’t or can’t, receive some monetary compensation. But what about the organist, choir director, and singers? Often skilled, highly trained musicians who would like to devote their lives to the service of God in the Church cannot do so because the churches put no money in their budgets for musicians. A written statement as to why certain church personnel—and not others—get paid would perhaps clarify a church’s priorities.
The church gathers for the primary purpose of worshiping God, and music is a natural medium through which to do this. Music and musicians appear frequently throughout the Bible. Numerous Psalms were addressed “to the chief musician.” David served as musician to Saul’s court, and after David became king and made a place for the ark he commanded “the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy” (1 Chron. 15:16). David apparently considered musicians desirable leaders in the worship of God. Since he specified that they should be from the Levite tribe, it seems clear that they functioned in some way as ministers or servants of God for the Israelites. When Nehemiah finished the wall of Jerusalem he appointed “the porters and the singers and the Levites” (Neh. 7:1). Paul, too, encouraged the use of music in praise of God (e.g., “Be filled with the Spirit … singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” [Eph. 5:18, 19]; “… singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” [Col. 3:16]).
Recognition of the centrality of worship—if the ministry of the word is intrinsic to it—will bring churches a heightened sense of the vocation and role of musicians in the church. As church leaders ponder why certain jobs are considered worthy of compensation, they ought to see if their concept of the function of musicians agrees with that of Scripture.
Sermons As News
The mass media are carrying more and better stories about religion than they did a generation ago, but coverage of sermons as such has been declining steadily. A significant plea for continuing reportage of preaching came last month in a parting word from Dan Thrapp, distinguished religion editor of the Los Angeles Times. Thrapp, who retired last month after twenty-five years at the job, said in a retrospective article that he felt it was “important for church-oriented people to know what spokesmen for the various faiths were saying from the pulpit, especially visiting speakers of some prominence.”
“To do this,” he reminisced, “it was necessary to work enough of a news angle into at least the lead of the story to get it past a sometimes weary, often cynical news editor who had at his elbow numerous competing stories that he naturally believed of greater reader interest. But the body of the pulpit reports always had a serious purpose.”
Thrapp, admired by colleagues far and wide as one of the best in his field, feels justified in persevering with sermons: “We think results of value were often generated by our stubborn continuance of sermon coverage long after most of the nation’s newspapers abandoned that field. The many stories originating with sermons we placed up front in the newspaper—some on the front page—supports that view, in our judgment, but we admit it takes a curious kind of conviction to do it.”
Good Start, Bad Finish
Except for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, probably no one in Scripture had more going for him than Solomon had when he became king of Israel.
David had built Israel into a strong and prosperous kingdom, and his son Solomon inherited a well established throne. Solomon had great wealth. He had been raised spiritually by a father who was a man after God’s own heart. Toward the close of his life David passed on to his son this prudent advice:
Be strong and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the LORD may establish his word which he spoke concerning me, saying, “If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel” [1 Kings 2:2–4].
Moreover, when Solomon mounted the throne he asked for and received wisdom from God that made him a discerning and noted ruler with great understanding. Then, too, God allowed him to do what had been forbidden his father: he built the Temple in Jerusalem, the most splendid house of worship Israel was ever to know. What a privilege!
Solomon had one consuming passion that ultimately led to his downfall. He had six hundred wives and three hundred concubines. This in itself was bad enough, but many of the women he married came from among pagan peoples such as the Egyptians, the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, the Sidonians, and the Hittites. God himself had commanded Israel against intermarriage with the heathen. Solomon, despite his wisdom, fell into the sin he had been warned against so many, many times.
Scripture says that when Solomon “was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4). As a result he lost God’s favor, and judgment was pronounced, though it was deferred until after his death because of his father David’s faithfulness. The kingdom was to be split into two parts, with Judah remaining to Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. That son was born of Naamah, an Ammonite, who no doubt was one of the women who turned Solomon to the worship of strange gods.
The Bible gives an example here of a man who had everything going for him and for his children. But sin entered in and ruined his closing days and in succeeding years led to the end of the Davidic throne. What a tragedy that a life so well begun should end on so melancholy a note. Solomon’s preaching was better than his practice, for it was he who wisely advised: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.… In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
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