The interview with Dr. Bill Bright in this issue raises the question whether a great spiritual awakening in North America or around the world seems likely. There has been no such awakening in this generation, nothing that can compare with those great eighteenth-century renewals, the Wesley revival in Britain and the Great Awakening in the American colonies. In fact, in North America the spiritual drift has been downward, not upward.

This does not mean that God has not been at work. Thousands of people have been converted, and many churches are spiritually alive and growing. Also, a growing chorus of Christians is calling for fasting and prayer, which are usually components of a revival.

But the conversion of many is only one aspect of the picture. The other has to do with decay and a deepening malaise that appears to be worldwide. Sociologists, economists, politicians, and writers constantly tell us that Western civilization is at an impasse. When so many voices, especially those outside the Church, sense the direction in which the Western world is moving, it would be the height of folly for Christian observers to bury their heads in the sand, assuring themselves and others that things are not so bad as they seem. Such facts of our life as high crime rates, sexual delinquency, pornography, ethical relativity, bribery, dictatorships, racism, and man’s increasing inhumanity to man tell an unhappy story.

Wherever great spiritual awakenings have occurred, they have been followed by vast changes in the social, economic and political realms. J. Wesley Bready (England: Before and After Wesley, published in 1938) and other authors have shown how the political, social and economic face of England was changed for the better because of Wesley and Whitefield. Elie Halévy (England in 1815, published in 1913) put forth the thesis that the Wesleyan revival saved England from a revolution like the French. Another notable fact about great awakenings is that they were accompanied by dissension, opposition, and criticism. Wesley was refused the use of Anglican church facilities, and Whitefield felt the thrust of clerical antagonism in New England. Church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote:

“Divisions in the churches accompanied and followed the Great Awakening. The more ardent preachers of the revival had sharp words for those ministers whom they deemed unconverted. Whitefield occasionally spoke caustically of those who did not follow him. Others were even more vehement. On the other side were many, both clergy and laity, who were alienated by the emotional excesses, were angered by the denunciations of the more ardent itinerant preachers, and held to the cold, rational approach to religion which was becoming characteristic of what was dubbed the Age of Reason. ‘New Lights’ and ‘Old Lights’ in Presbyterian and Congregational churches often separated into distinct units. The ‘Old Lights’ were critical of what they deemed the lack of education of the ‘New Light’ clergy, trained as many of them were in the ‘log colleges.’ Jonathan Edwards was forced out of his parish in Northampton (1750)” (A History of Christianity, Harper and Row, 1953, p. 960).

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How do great awakenings come about? The standard response is either that they are God-sent or that they are man-made. Charles Finney, at least in America, developed the evangelistic theorem that revival will occur when the conditions for revival laid down in Scripture are met. Therefore, if there are no great awakenings, Christians have failed to meet the conditions; revival is “man-made.” The “God-sent” advocates proclaim that awakenings come when God chooses to send them and that there may be no preliminary evidence that an awakening is about to occur. If Finney was right, then the churches and their people are horribly delinquent in assuming their God-given responsibilities. And it is evangelicals, who call loudly and persistently for revival and world-wide evangelization, who are the most delinquent.

Voices like that of Bill Bright seem to be telling us that we are on the threshold of a great awakening. Certainly we ought to be; whether we are is another matter. If there are signs of an impending awakening, many of us have not yet seen them. Anyway, no one can predict with certainty what the results would be if an awakening should occur. God’s ways are not necessarily our ways.

Among evangelicals there should be no disagreement that we need a real awakening in North America. Society in general gives ample evidence. The state of the church itself also demonstrates the need. Its mission and message have been compromised too often, and nothing short of revival seems likely to correct the situation. Any Christian with a biblical understanding of the church should agree on the problem if not on the specifics of the solution.

Let us keep on praying for a great awakening. Let us do whatever we are commanded to do in Scripture and through the leading of the Holy Spirit toward this end. Let us encourage any and every call to fasting, repentance, and prayer. The future does seem more ominous for the United States and for the world than it has for many decades.

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Fouling The Future

A particularly appalling aspect of environmental pollution has recently come to light: traces of poisonous industrial chemicals are being found in the milk of nursing women. A government survey revealed measurable amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in forty out of fifty samples of mothers’ milk in ten states. The PCBs are poisonous compounds with a variety of uses in industry, and they have been fouling the nation’s waterways. They are ingested by pregnant women, as well as by the rest of us, and would seem to pose a danger for breast-fed children. One environmental chemist notes, “The child is going to store this stuff in its fat tissue, so if it takes it in every day, you have a build-up. And it stays in the body for years.”

The only firm to produce PCBs in the United States halted sales in 1971. But imports have continued to pour into the country.

These disturbing findings remind us that we don’t get rid of our waste by pouring it down the drain. We are fouling our God-given resources and endangering not only ourselves but the future.

Eldridge Cleaver—The Exile’S End

Once again the world is being challenged to weigh the claims of a major spiritual conversion. Those still not fully convinced of the turnabout of former White House hatchet man Charles Colson are now obliged to consider what has happened to the chief rhetorician for the Black Panthers, Eldridge Cleaver. From a variety of media as well as private sources come the reports that Cleaver has received Christ as Saviour. He has repudiated his past Communist sympathies. After a number of years in exile he returned, and since then he has begun to say openly that Marxism in practice is not all that it is claimed to be, and that America is not such a bad place after all.

The author of Soul on Ice has spoken freely about reading the Bible and its effect on his life. He tells of an experience with Christ while still in exile. There was no publicity about this spiritual turnaround until long after he had returned to the United States and surrendered to authorities.

Is Cleaver to be believed? Down through history the Church has been confronted with a great variety of notorious figures who have repented. If we harbor doubt, we are in the company of those who wondered how genuine were the Damascus-road experiences not only of Saul of Tarsus but also of countless other enemies of the cross. We want to believe, and yet there is that lingering reluctance for fear of being duped.

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There are good reasons to believe that Cleaver means what he says. We find him credible. God is the God of the impossible; the divine power to transform is limitless. Cleaver, who faces serious legal charges, deserves the prayers of fellow believers everywhere. He represents a great opportunity for Christians to show compassion while rejoicing over a soul that is no longer on ice.

Marxists Miss The Mark

Herbert Aptheker, a Marxist theoretician who is a member of the central committee of the U.S. Communist party, recently lamented the scarcity of Marxist professors in American universities. Americans who think the universities (along with the media) are to blame for societal changes that they consider unwelcome will have trouble accepting Aptheker’s assertion that “political figures and directors of major corporations” control the schools and force them to maintain the status quo. He charged also that the educational institutions are largely responsible for the “racist, anti-semitic, male chauvinist, elitist character of the social order” in the nation. Apparently he thinks these evils could be cured by the addition of more Marxists to the faculties.

All this is a bit hard to swallow when one considers Aptheker’s longstanding loyalty to the Communist party in the United States, which has been slavishly pro-Soviet Union (not all Marxists are). Where is the demonstration of his theory? Have the committed Marxists who teach in Soviet universities eliminated the evils he cites from Soviet society? It has not been so with racism. Ask the Africans who have gone to Moscow to study, or ask a representative of the nearly one-half of the population that is not Russian. There is little need to comment about the Soviet Union’s record in anti-Semitism, when Jews around the world speak so eloquently of the difficulties of their fellows there. And about male chauvinism: how many women hold leadership roles in politics and commerce in the U.S.S.R.? As for elitism: is there any more powerful minority group anywhere than the top men in the Kremlin? The United States is indeed open to criticism in all these areas, but to improve its record it could hardly do worse than to look to the Soviet Union as an exemplar.

Aptheker says of America that “in the modern world a university that does not welcome Marxism and Marxists condemns itself in the eyes of all who comprehend learning.” Could he convince the Soviet authorities that they should appoint a few non-Marxists to their faculties? And would he concede that American universities should hire convinced capitalists to teach capitalism and strict constructionists to teach courses in constitutional democracy?

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And what about the field of religion? We wonder if Aptheker has noticed how few of the teachers of religion are really advocates of the subject matter. There are not many genuinely orthodox adherents of any religion—Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon or any other—in the university departments of religious studies.

We suspect that there is one main reason why there are not more Communists teaching on American campuses: to a large extent, America’s major state and private universities are committed to critical inquiry, and Marxism does not give a person that outlook.

Evil Is Evil Anywhere

Reporters covering the annual meeting of the World Council of Churches’ Central Committee last month got a little Bible lesson from Philip Potter. Said the WCC’s general secretary, “If you read the Old Testament, you’ll see the prophets call things by their right names—even if it means being attacked.”

The council’s top executive wanted the journalists to understand that when the WCC speaks out against the evils in society it is standing in good company. When such men of God as Nathan, Amos, and Jeremiah saw sin, they called it sin. Adultery was adultery. Stealing was stealing. Injustice was injustice.

Potter used the illustration to explain why the Central Committee has spoken so specifically about some of the world’s sore spots. During one of the debates, he said essentially the same thing to the committee. If the WCC is to be taken seriously, he warned, it must not speak in general terms.

The reporters hardly needed convincing that the World Council wants to be prophetic. It has made pronouncements on social evils for nearly thirty years. More convincing was needed on one point, however. So a Geneva-based correspondent brought up the question of the council’s consistency. Since the WCC speaks clearly against evil in the Western world, he said, why not speak that way about sin in the socialist bloc? Is the WCC being evenhanded when it fails to identify injustice in Eastern Europe as injustice?

Potter then delivered himself of a bit of novel doctrine. Christians, he informed the press corps, do not believe in evenhandedness. He made no attempt to cite biblical support for this interesting assertion.

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We agree with the general secretary’s conclusion from Scripture that the prophets called sin by its right name. But we can think of no reason to accept his allegation that evenhandedness is not a virtue that Christians should practice.

The fairness and consistency of the prophets was one of the reasons why they were regarded as men of God. Whether the sinners were princes or shepherd boys, Israelites or foreigners, they were called sinners. The misdeeds of kings as well as those of the ordinary men in the marketplace were called by their right names.

So far, the World Council has not chosen to stand in the tradition of the prophets on the matter of rights. It has said little about the denial of basic liberties in the Communist countries. Some observers were optimistic after the WCC General Assembly in Nairobi last year. They thought they saw a determination there to do something concrete about the question of human rights in the Soviet Union. In its final document on the issue, however, the Nairobi assembly cited differences in the religious-liberty question east and west of the Iron Curtain, but it did not label the Eastern situation as wrong. The assembly was persuaded to turn the problem over to the incoming Central Committee, and the general secretary was instructed to prepare a report for the August meeting.

In preparation for that meeting, Potter sent a questionnaire to member churches and convened a consultation on human rights (see June 4 issue, page 30). He has recommended that an advisory committee on the subject be set up within existing WCC structures; it may begin giving advice next year sometime. Meanwhile, the council still has not called religious repression in the Soviet Union wrong. Until it recovers from the malady of selective indignation, it does not stand in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets.

Democracies Take Note

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has taken the final step to stifle democracy and consign India to the uncertain fate of a dictatorship. Her move is based, she says, upon the necessity of achieving “socio-economic revolution which would end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity.” Even if it were possible for Mrs. Gandhi to accomplish all this, one would have to ask: Is the establishment of a dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise, based on the promise of bread worth the price of the loss of democracy?

In theory, at least, constitutional democracy presupposes the sovereignty of the people and always involves the rights of minorities as well as majorities. India’s democracy is based on the division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Mrs. Gandhi’s proposal virtually handcuffs the judicial arm of the government. Once the courts cannot review legislation or enforce civil liberties, democracy has been struck a death blow.

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To cap the proposed change, which probably will be passed by the legislature sometime in October, there is a provision to allow Mrs. Gandhi, on the advice of her cabinet, to amend the constitution for two years. The program of Mrs. Gandhi under the constitution of India as it presently stands has included restrictions on civil liberties, the incarceration of political opponents, and extensive news censorship. If she wants to make even more deviations from true democracy, it is a clear sign that she is committed to some form of dictatorship.

India is the largest nation in the world operating under a democratic constitution. At a time when democracy is losing ground everywhere, it would be a particular tragedy for India to sink beneath the weight of a dictatorship that cannot possibly accomplish the objectives for which it ostensibly was created.

British, Canadian, and American democracy are also under attack. Mrs. Gandhi is not influenced by the world and life view of the Christian faith. But the leaders of the Western democracies theoretically are. These democracies have their origins in the traditions of the Reformation and particularly in the idea of the universal priesthood of all believers. We fear that the day may soon be upon us when these few remaining democracies will yield to dictatorship, despite their indebtedness to Christian presuppositions. And the sign of that possibility was aptly expressed by Winston Churchill following World War II. Inscribed as a theme upon the last volume of his great history of that conflict are these words: “How the Great Democracies Triumphed, and So Were Able to Resume the Follies Which Had So Nearly Cost Them Their Life.”

On Enemy Pacification

One of the great promises in the Bible is rarely claimed today by believing Christians: “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7).

Certainly Christians in the modern world have plenty of enemies. Yet how often do we pray to God to make this principle operative? We are inclined to accept hostility, and even to nourish it with acts of revenge. Some Christians welcome conflict, as if they consider it a divine preference. They assert that proclaiming the truth inevitably brings persecution, and they are continually angling for sympathy.

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The generally accepted interpretation of this verse is that for those who walk in his ways, God intercedes and pacifies their enemies. We all know, however, that on occasion the Lord’s people from Joseph to Georgi Vins have had to suffer because of their faith.

The verse may mean that it pleases the Lord when a person is able to stand for what is right and yet ward off disfavor (the pronoun “he” in “he makes his enemies to be at peace …” can refer either to God or to the human being). If we accept this reading, we can cite the fact that there is a disarming element in true Christian behavior. Expressions of genuine biblical love have many times melted belligerence.

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