Where’s the Colosseum?

This being an election year, I am announcing to all present that I will not—I repeat, not—vote for any candidate who compares the present state of our country to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. I further announce that I will not send donations to any radio or television preacher who makes the same comparison. Believe me, I admire Mr. Gibbon’s classic work, but I will not change my mind. I have spoken.

To begin with, is there anybody around who ever wanted the Roman Empire to continue? I mean, what about Daniel’s prophecies and those grotesque pictures in Clarence Larkin’s book of dispensational charts? The Empire just had to go. (I must be honest and admit that I found one man who wanted the Empire to continue. His name was Lucius Contamulus, and he did a land-office business selling Latin correspondence courses to the Celts and Huns. The last anyone heard of him, he had a shop in Piccadilly Circus and was selling Roman candles.)

Furthermore, is there any direct relationship between what happened to Rome and what is happening to us? Other great empires have fallen; why do we pick on Rome? The United States government hasn’t been providing any games for me and my family. In fact, if taxes keep going up on tickets, we’ll have to stay home and watch reruns on TV. How’s that for a decline and fall?

Another thing: literary scholars are not so sure Gibbon wrote the work. He finished his last volume near midnight on June 27, 1787, and by his own admission “took several turns” in a covered walk. While his manuscript lay unguarded, it is possible that his neighbor, Lord Chumley Rumley, slipped his own material into the manuscript. When Gibbon read the proofs, he thought he had written it himself. After all, it is a large book.

I know my protests are in vain. We shall be bombarded with the decline and fall of Rome from podium, pulpit, and panel. All I can say is, “Gibbon, we who are about to be bored to death salute you!”


Fake Classified Ads?

I’ve written this letter a dozen times. This time I’m sending it.

The device of carrying a ridiculous ad by John Lawing is clever; I am living proof that it causes readers to look through your classifieds for a bit of humorous relief in a generally humorless world.

The problem is, apart from the name Lawing, I often can’t tell the real ones from the bogus. How many and which ones of the following are fake?

1. Retiree wants a sunbelt preaching assignment. Congregational or community church.

2. Introductory offer. Free postage and handling. The intimate diary of a divorce, Jason Loves Jane (But They Got a Divorce) is an honest account of one Christian’s divorce experience. One-month rental of the five 60-minute cassettes. $6.50. Quality guaranteed.

Article continues below

3. Prophecy outline on end times—today to Second Coming. 25ȼ (no checks).…

4. Free monthly newsletter preaching Jesus Christ and the Mark of the Beast.

5. Instant reference filing solves ministering filing problems.

6. Prepare for end of world system (economic, government, religious), tribulation, and return of Jesus Christ. Free Bible information.

7. Christian singles pen pal club for Bible believing Christians nationwide and Canada.

8. Single Christians—God did not ordain loneliness. Meet others through membership in S.C.F. Receive a monthly publication and means of writing to other singles.

9. Vacation in Germany—visit the colorful land which gave us Formgeschichte. Walk in the footsteps of Hermann Gunkel, Julius Wellhausen and Rudolf Bultmann. Full-color brochures available.

10. Visiting U.K.? Stay with Christian families—better fellowship, less expensive. Send $2 for information.…

11. Vacation at Christian guest ranch. Appaloosa and Quarter Horses. Write Heavenly Nook Ranch.…

Having now “field-tested” this letter, I can inform you that two highly intelligent readers guessed at every true ad before locating a bogus! [See bottom of page 8 for the answer.] Grand Rapids, Mich.


Pastor’s Pay

As a layman I heartily endorse your recent editorial, “Proper Pay for Pastors” (July 18). Several years ago in our local church we established a proper base salary for the pastor, which resulted in a sizable increase. Our annual review takes into account increases in the cost of living, current job requirements, and job performance.

Many churches say they cannot afford to pay a proper salary. The first step in meeting this problem is to adopt the philosophy that the first bill to be paid is the pastor’s salary. Second, after a thorough study, the facts should be presented to the congregation, along with a challenge from the church board. If this is done in the Spirit, a congregation will respond, and the church will prosper spiritually.

May I suggest the following principles for consideration: (1) Provide the pastor a housing allowance in lieu of requiring him to live in a church-owned parsonage or manse. The advantages to the church and the pastor are obvious. (2) Separate money paid into retirement accounts from salary, and do not take such amounts into consideration when setting the salary. Incidentally, many churches do not realize that a pastor not under Social Security can elect to establish his own annuity program. All persons entering the ministry for the first time should explore this matter. (3) Mileage allowance at least equal to the current centsper-mile allowance recognized by IRS should be provided over and above salary.

Article continues below


Saint Charles, Mo.

The editorial on pastor’s pay said nothing about the fringe benefits that pastors often get in addition to their salaries. If a pastor had housing, utilities, medical, and some transportation expenses paid for, his real compensation would be double his take-home salary.


Montreat, N.C.

Your editorial’s subtitle was misleading in contrasting 14 percent of pastors who earn less than $6,000 with truck drivers who average $18,300.

I agree that pastors should receive a proper salary. I also feel their salaries should be properly contrasted with other skilled and professional individuals.


Irvington, N.J.

Syncopated Drumbeat?

In “Tomorrow’s Missionaries: To Whose Drumbeat Will They March?” (July 18), David J. Hesselgrave unjustly criticizes John Stott’s inclusion of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc., in the definition of the Christian mission. He makes three dubious assertions: (1) that Protestants mean “apostle” when they say “missionary”; (2) that, therefore, a wide definition of mission is unwisely connected with “missionaries”; and (3) that Stott assigns “to the ‘missionary’ all that is involved in his definition of ‘mission.’ ”

In fact, Protestants should and usually do have a wider definition of “missionary” than the article’s narrow emphasis on evangelist and church builder (e.g., missionary doctor, teacher, pilot). Moreover, it is Hesselgrave himself and not Stott who connects the whole mission of the whole church to the “missionary” (by which Hesselgrave means evangelist/church developer). Stott’s balanced book is purposely titled Christian Mission.… not The Evangelist’s Mission …


Plainsboro, N.J.

David Hesselgrave’s article was timely and thought provoking. However, I have two observations to make.

Hesselgrave seems to dismiss the current developments in theology in the Third World like liberation theology or African theology without giving the reader the reasons for such developments. Could it be that these theologies have sprung up because Western theology, which some people might want to label “Christian theology,” has failed to speak to the needs of the people?

Article continues below

True, we don’t start with our experience or our situation, but with God and what his Word teaches. However, Hesselgrave does not go further to apply the teaching of the Bible in given situations; for example, in Zimbabwe before independence, or in Namibia.

Second, Hesselgrave points out the dangers of contextualization. I agree that a balance is difficult to achieve. But that is what we should be striving for. Liberals are not the initiators of contextualization. He writes: “All too often evangelicals sound like yesterday’s liberals. The current emphasis on contextualization is a case in point.” Contextualization is as old as Christianity itself, although it was not labeled so. The Incarnation is a good example. The early church dealt with the problem in Acts 15. The church leaders resolved that it was not necessary for Gentiles to be Jews in order to be Christians.

Missionary statesman Edwin Smith, who served in Africa during the first half of this century, observed: “Our aim must be to make of the Africans not European Christians but Christians, and to Europeanize them as little as we can in the process—to implant the Gospel of Christ deep within their hearts, and allow them to organize their faith in a manner suited to their traditions and environment” (The Golden Stool).

Anyone who is involved in cross-cultural communications, especially in the Third World, is aware of the rise of cultural nationalism. We can’t close our eyes to these issues, yet we have to remain uncompromisingly biblical.


Salisbury, Zimbabwe

Lyrics: Ho Hum

I read with great interest your recent articles on church music (June 27), mostly because as a pastor I’ve been inadequately trained and educated in the field, and partly because of a current struggle in my own mind over what music is most appropriate in worship. I feel there was an important issue that was not thoroughly explored.

Philip Yancey perceptively noted (“Sacred Music by the Masters: ‘Drippings of Grace,’ ” Refiner’s Fire) that “Music short-circuits the senses with a direct pathway into human emotion.” I would add that “enroute, it by-passes the intellect.” Music, whether it be classical, rock, country, or whatever, is something that “happens” to a person and, as with any other art form, is generally not thought through except by theoreticians. Most of us go to art exhibits, listen to rock, attend the theatre, or sing in church and enjoy doing so primarily because emotions are stirred up in us.

Article continues below

In music, the lyrics, though having intrinsic value, have little practical value. The average listener hears the words exactly as he does one of the instruments. The meaning behind the words is not primary. For example, if the lyrics of some punk rock tune were translated into Latin or German and set to Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis,” I’m afraid the elite at Yancey’s symphony concert would be just as thrilled, and any teeny-bopper types around would be just as bored.

I wouldn’t deny that the Jewish tenor on the third row belting out “Agnus Dei, Agnus Dei,” had a transformed look on his face. However, assuming that he and his listeners were being secretly evangelized is silly. The fact of the matter is that words don’t mean much in music. Perhaps the only time they did was in the “message” music of the 60s, but even then (I was a teen-ager at the time), only a minority really heard them.

I go to symphonies, rock concerts, Pentecostal camp meetings, folk festivals, and a lot of church services, and I see people from many diverse backgrounds truly enjoying what they hear. In most cases, though, the words are garbled or not enunciated well enough for listeners to understand. It doesn’t seem to matter! (Dinwiddie’s article is highly cogent in theory, but irrelevant in practicality.)

The profit of Yancey’s article is that it helps us to understand the motivations behind our church music. But most listeners or singers of that music don’t have the time to examine the background of every piece. Furthermore, they aren’t that interested. In our narcissism we care most about how much emotional value the music has for us. The senior adult begging the young pastor to sing the old favorites really wants to relive a past experience that was an emotional high, not to glorify God because the words send praise heavenward (Clarkson’s point).

There is, to be sure, a certain amount of emotion raised in praising God. But is this emotion the goal of our songs, or the by-product of real worship? I’m afraid that most of us judge the effectiveness of a piece of church music not so much by how much glory God gets as by how many goosebumps we get.


First Baptist Church of Peoria

Peoria, Ill.

Copy “Rights”

Our church music room is packed with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling music. I am praying for a handyman to increase the storage area. And our church budget contains funds for the purchase of additional music!

Article continues below

We do abide by the rules and restrictions of the copyright law. We too feel that Christian individuals and churches should be honest and obey the commandment “Thou shalt not steal.”

But let’s look at the other side of the coins lining the coffers of the multimillion-dollar gospel music industry. I am glad to buy new music, printed and recorded, and I belong to several choral clubs to keep up with new and exciting things in the gospel music field. But I am sad and frustrated that some of the music that has blessed us cannot be shared even in part because of the ridiculous restrictions publishers impose on law-abiding Christians.

I’m not talking about Xeroxed copies of an entire piece, but simply sharing a few lines of a chorus in a bulletin or in an aid to worship. I have written months in advance for permission to use music in this way and I often receive refusals. One publisher sent a long legal form with requirements no human could control, and then asked for a payment of $15 to $200 for the one-time bulletin use! These requirements are simply impossible for most churches to meet. We have another commandment we obey also: “Thou shalt be good stewards.”

But the last string on my “harp” has to do with my recent purchase of a tape (with legal tender). In addition to the usual warnings against copying or unlawful use, I noticed a new wording that actually said. “You cannot loan it out.” No other product that I purchase would have the audacity to so inscribe!

Somehow I was under the impression that in our constitutionally based society when I purchased an item, it was mine to use, abuse, throw away, give away, share with someone or dispose of in any manner as long as life or limb are not endangered. If the present law had been in force a few thousand years ago, we might not have the Twenty-third Psalm to sing or set to music or publish today.


Clarkston, Wash.

There are many instances where certain kinds of copying without the permission of the copyright owner (most often the publisher) are specifically exempted or generally exempted in the provisions of fair use. Such is the case with the specific exemption for churches to perform or display a nondramatic literary or musical work of a religious nature, during the course of worship or other religious services held on their premises.

This, of course, precludes the use of dramatic-musical works of a nonreligious nature. Making multiple copies for a performance would clearly violate the legislation and churches should abruptly bring such practices to an end by considering other alternatives, such as purchasing the copies, or copying and performing works that are now in the public domain and no longer subject to copyright protection.



Eastman School of Music

Rochester, N.Y.

Answer to Quiz:

The only fake classified ad was number 9. All of the others are authentic.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.