The Acts Of The Church

According to radio commentator Paul Harvey, a problem arose in Milwaukee recently. The association of tavern owners was upset with the Roman Catholic Church. The church was hurting their business, they said.

It wasn’t that revival had struck Milwaukee and that all loyal beer drinkers had abandoned the bar for baptism. The problem was more direct than that. The church was attempting to get a hard liquor permit for New Year’s Eve and the bartenders were upset.

It was bad enough that the church could serve beer at bingo, they contended, but now the Catholics were going all the way and the tavern owners felt they couldn’t compete. After all, whose side would God be on anyhow?

But if the Catholic church is competing head to head (or mouth to mouth) with the tavern owners in Milwaukee, then the conservative Protestant church is competing claw to claw and jaw to jaw with the circus in America. All you have to do is look at almost any major metropolitan area church page.

How can any law-abiding, conscientious circus promoter compete with “Ronald McDonald in person at First Baptist’s Sunday School,” or Fred Heyerbrund, Christian skydiver, parachuting to earth in a chute that reads, “Jesus Saves. Yes, even you.” And all the while Fred is floating “into church property from 5,000 feet,” he speaks to the crowd in the parking lot via two-way radio.

And Ronald and Fred aren’t the only acts at the church. We now have gospel magicians, talking birds, Christian karate experts, and strong men who speak. We have pastors who swallow goldfish, preach from the roof if over 600 attend the service, and generally make animals of themselves.

If the tavern owners can complain to the City Council of Milwaukee, then Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey ought to complain to pastors across the continent. But there’s a bright side to the picture. If the church keeps perfecting its act, it can soon move to circus life all together and quit messing around with the gospel. After all, what can the gospel compete with?


Who And Where

In a recent essay (Footnotes, Jan. 16) Dr. Carl Henry made reference to the volume we edited entitled The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Who They Are, Where They Are Changing. He wished to know who among the authors defined what “authentic Christianity” is. The answer is that the editors did (pp. 18–19), Dr. Kantzer did (pp. 38–67), Dr. Gerstner did (pp. 21–37), and Dr. Ahlstrom (pp 270, 271) and Dr. Williams (pp. 211–48) reinforced their definitional work.



Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Deerfield, Ill.

Provoking Redefinition

Thank you for your thought-provoking issue, “The Church in Black and White” (Jan. 30). I found the article “Down With the Honky Christ—Up With the Funky Jesus” particularly stimulating. The phrase “personal salvation and little beyond that” occupied my attention for more than an hour.

We hear much today from evangelicals concerned with social issues to the effect that personal salvation is an inadequate solution to the problem of sin—particularly collective, institutionalized, social sin. Perhaps we need to redefine “personal salvation.”

If by personal salvation is meant the passive acceptance of an alleged change in one’s standing before God upon condition of a supposed sterile “faith” that does not necessarily produce a moral rebirth in the life … then it could be truthfully said that “personal salvation” is ineffective.… But if by personal salvation is meant the active experience of the grace of God that brings salvation … and that is accompanied by the personal moral revolution that Jesus said consists in supreme love for God and equal love for our neighbor … then it can be truthfully said that “personal salvation” is the basic solution for everything human.


First Assembly of God Church

McMinnville, Oreg.

The January 30 issue of your magazine opened a door and let fresh air into what had become a stuffy room. If you would like to send sample copies to the seniors at George Fox College … this is the issue to send.


Professor of Religion

George Fox College and Philosophy

Newberg, Oreg.

It should not surprise Mr. Hilliard that central in the preaching of the “honkey gospel” is the cross on which Christ died. This cross, not the ones Christ carried before, was central in the writings of Paul (1 Cor. 1:18; Gal. 6:14). It is the message of this cross that is an “offense” to unbelieving man (Gal. 5:11), not the ones Christ carried “before He shouldered the last one,” nor “the crosses he expects us to lift.”

Mr. Hilliard seems to be calling the white middle-class church to deliver the Gospel from its social and cultural accretions, since “the call of the gospel is to join the black nigger Jesus at the very bottom of the social order.” I am wondering if Hilliard would interpret this literally or in a “spiritual” sense. It would seem that he means this “move to the bottom of the social order” in a literal way. If this is the case, do we not end up with a Christ who is still locked into a certain cultural and social level as much as He supposedly is in the “honkey gospel”? Putting Hilliard’s statements into a cross-cultural context, would he tell a Brahman that he must become a low caste person in order to become a Christian? Does not Christ rather both identify with and transcend every culture? Hilliard seems to have merely moved Christ from one social level to another and in the process lost sight of Him as the Son of Man who meets all men where they are. DR. JOHN GRATION Wheaton Graduate School Wheaton, Ill.

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In the article “Committing Seminaries To the Word” by Carl F. H. Henry (Feb. 13) the three lines above the featured quote on p. 8 should read: … earnestness tend to be committed mainly to relativism. Scripture speaks of those who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of truth”.…

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