I Never Preached At The White House

The other day the local papers carried a picture of President Ford stooping to get under a rope barrier in Lafayette Park, on his way to Sunday-morning worship at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Of course as President he didn’t have to stoop. He could have walked around it, been driven, or had the National Park Service cut the rope. But somehow—accidental though it was—the President’s plight is symbolic of all that has happened since Watergate. He has to stoop to attend Sunday worship. In an earlier day, celebrated preachers would gladly have wrestled with one another in Lafayette Park for the chance to bring the Word to the East Room, converted into a sanctuary for presidential services.

During the 1969–74 era, President Nixon broke with precedent, and while the courts and other agencies were driving religion from public life, brought the church back into the White House. Celebrated pulpiteers, ranging all the way from Billy Graham through Norman Vincent Peale to Rabbi Louis Finkel-stein, filled the modest but imposing special pulpit in the East Room.

But what were the theologians doing? As usual, they were criticizing anything they hadn’t thought of themselves. If the President wants to worship, well and good. But why can’t he go to church like anyone else (as though he does anything like anyone else!)? And there is a certain spiritual rightness about having the Chief Executive occupy a pew with the humble and powerless (not all that many of them go to St. John’s, but the principle is right, in any case). After all, as Paul says, there is no respect of persons with God (Rom. 2:11). Why shouldn’t the President simply go to the church (or synagogue) of his choice?

Well, that’s what many of us said, in those days, not realizing the opportunity we were throwing away. Instead of saying that he should be like everyone else, we should have encouraged a good thing. It is certainly theologically defensible to suggest that the President go to church (instead of bring the church to him). But it would have been even better to say that he should worship regularly. Perhaps some of us were secretly vexed at his choice of spiritual mentors. But there are fifty-two Sundays in the year, and only a limited number of Grahams, Peales, and Finkelsteins. What a chance we were missing, all because of our pettiness!

It’s too late now. President Ford may be a serious Christian, and there’s no doubt that he is a brave man, but it would be too much to expect him to go back to the practice of White House services. And religious leaders helped to destroy it. Now we will all have to admit—except for the very few who were in on the ground floor—“I never preached at the White House.”

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No Limits

I greatly enjoyed your article, “ ‘Witness Art’: A Contemporary Expression” (Refiner’s Fire, Oct. 10). Martha Pollie mentioned two areas where she felt Witness Art could be strengthened. These were in making stronger use of color in a wider variety of styles, and not limiting sales to only the Christian community. Happily, for the past four months we have been doing both. For example, the fourth release—titled “Living Waters”—is a water color in a realistic style featuring an African plains scene with several different biblical animals. Other potential new releases are in process now, and are being done in a wide variety of styles and media. Also, we have been offering Witness Art in a variety of ways to many markets through catalogs, mailorder brochures, and sales through gift and furniture stores. We exhibited at the New York and Boston national gift shows and have been calling on all types of possible outlets. We never planned to limit sales through only Christian emporiums or only to Christians, but these have proven to be the most receptive.



Witness Art

Alexandria, Va.

Pietistic Pragmatism

In CHRISTIANITY TODAY I so often see a mixed bag—a contradiction between its basic Judaeo-Christian perspective and the superficially Christian perspectives of many of its advertisers. It seems that anything goes as long as there is a Christian tag of some sort. The latest is the full-page ad appearing on the inside cover of the September 12 issue in which a renewed slant to an old heresy is touted, complete with distinguished endorsement. I refer to so-called Witness Art. Without going into detail concerning the unbiblical confusion of beauty and truth implicit in such goings on, I simply want to say that the best witness in art is its excellence, not in hidden, quasi-didactic, spiritualized symbolisms.

If I want to witness, I don’t need an art work to prod me. On the other hand, if I do have one, it jolly well better be of such artistic integrity that I can say one of two things to a prospective Christian: (a) the artist, because he is Christian, believes that excellence is the norm of stewardship; (b) if the artist is not Christian, the excellence of the art is an indication of God’s gracious provision in allowing men at cross purposes with him to do beautiful things. In either case I am kept from using art as a false intermediary. I am kept from the age-old error of pietistic pragmatism, whereby a thing becomes good if it works. I am placed in a position of direct, living epistle, one-to-one witness, with truth, not beauty as my reference point.… I am totally convinced of the sincerity of those who founded Witness Art, but I believe them to be in error. How good it would be to know that a magazine with the perspective you claim to have, along with an informed staff, could actually guide, even teach, a customer. This could indeed lead you from Witness Art to the art of witness.

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Wheaton Conservatory of Music

Wheaton, Ill.

Some Savings

There were four advertisements in the September 26 issue that were risible or offensive, notably “Soul winning ways. Complete instructions and materials, Sample kit $2.95 postpaid. Satisfaction guaranteed” How many souls will the $2.95 sample save? Any discount for quantity? Any saving on jumbo size?

St. Andrews, Scotland J.


A Degree From Pike’S Peak

The news story by Joseph M. Hopkins, “The Word and The Way According to Victor Wierwille” (Sept. 26) was quite informative and interesting. However, the reader is left with the erroneous impression that Dr. Victor Wierwille, founder and head of The Way, received his “doctorate in theology” from Princeton Seminary, which granted him a master’s degree. He obtained the doctorate from Pikes Peak Bible Seminary in Manitou Springs, Colorado, in 1948, according to The Way’s press spokesman.

In a letter from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, a state official says that Pikes Peak seminary had no resident instruction, no published list of faculty, and no accreditation, and no agency of government supervised it. It offered its degree programs by “extramural” methods, involving the sending of book reviews and papers by mail. The degrees, the official says, have no status except with the institution that conferred them.

The institution itself, say state authorities, consisted only of a single residence that doubled as the headquarters of the operation. Pikes Peak changed its name several times after its incorporation in 1927. Following the death of its president, Fred E. Stemme, in 1965, it became Colorado Bible College and Seminary. In 1969 it was moved to Chicago under a new name, Evangelical Bible College and Seminary.


New York, N. Y.

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What Makes Marriage?

Though M. N. Beck’s “The Bed Undefiled” (Oct. 10) takes a much-needed “high” view of sexuality, it is, I believe, thoroughly wrong in suggesting that sexual intercourse makes a marriage.… The basis for marriage is, as Beck asserts, Genesis 2:24, a verse repeated by Jesus and Paul. Beck’s eyes jump over a rather important phrase—a man shall “leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife.” This precedes “and the two shall become one flesh.” What does it mean to “leave father and mother” to “cleave to a wife”? In a primitive society leaving home is a public act recognized by society; it asserts legal and emotional independence from the past, and a commitment to a new family.… Cleaving, I think, implies consistent, permanent love (though not necessarily romantic).… That sex is transcendent, and not simply an appetite, is something we ought to affirm. But to suggest that it is the sole basis of an eternally binding relationship is highly questionable. If the Church preaches this to the millions of young people who have had sexual intercourse with one or more partners (a third to a half of all fifteen-year-olds, according to the Sorensen Report), we will reap mass confusion.


Senior Editor

Campus Life

Wheaton, Ill.

Charismatic Cleavage

I have been a reasonably faithful reader and strong advocate of CHRISTIANITY TODAY for over ten years, since seminary days when due to someone’s generosity we received it free. Particularly, with scarce exception, have I enjoyed the “News” section. The 1972 Munich report of the unified Christian witness at the Olympic Games was a masterpiece.

Thus I find it hard to accept that the same magazine and the same reporter could be responsible for the lead news article in the October 10 issue: “The Deepening Rift in the Charismatic Movement.”

I am disappointed for several reasons. I believe that the title itself is exaggerated. It suggests a cleavage far greater than actually exists. Whole areas of the charismatic movement don’t even know a problem exists. Secondly, while to ignore a problem is spiritually and journalistically foolish, it doesn’t have to be couched in such negative language (both the title and the article). And thirdly, to take a negative, exaggerated title, and run it as a lead item on the front cover leaves a very unfavorable impression I question making such a heavy emphasis on Mumford. If there is any one truth heard loud and clear from Fort Lauderdale it is plurality of eldership.

Having heard and read the teachings of the men associated with Christian Growth ministries, I am even inclined to question the accuracy of some of the statements made in the article.

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Bushnell Presbyterian Church

Bushnell, Fla.

Force For The State

Those of us who come from the Anabaptist heritage are happy to see an article on Anabaptism appear in your excellent [periodical, CHRISTIANITY TODAY], Lester DeKoster’s article entitled “Anabaptism at 450: A Challenge, A Warning” (Oct. 24) is well written and enlightening at several places.… The author seems, however, to fail to distinguish between “pacifism” and “non-resistance” when he says, “It is imperative for the modern world to perceive that the alternative to violence is not pacifism but the legitimate exercise of force. Until, for example, terrorism becomes a capital offense, terrorists will force the release.…” The Anabaptists have always admitted that the state must use force to maintain order in an unregenerate society, but what the Anabaptist insisted upon was that the follower of Christ did not resist evil, for his Master admonishes that he turn the other cheek. The Anabaptist recognized that the representative of the state “beareth not the sword in vain,” but in Anabaptist thought there is a strict separation of church and state, and the church cannot participate in violence.


York, Pa.

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