Science in Christian Perspective
From: JASA 17 (March
A panel of fifteen prominent evangelical scholars gave their forecasts in Christianity Today (October 9) about "what factor, more than any other, is likely to decide Christianity's influence upon the secular thought of the next decade."
Six of the fifteen (including Carl F. H. Henry and Bernard Ramm), thought theological considerations would be determinative. Two (Edward J. Carnell and James P. Martin) listed the application of love to social as well as churchly concerns. Two (John H. Gerstner and W. Stanford Reid) thought honest facing of the intellectual problems of the day the most decisive factor.
Merrill C. Tenney stressed the role of the laity. Wilbur M. Smith emphasized the need for "a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit," but was not optimistic. Gordon H. Clark mentioned the sovereignty of God, and wasn't very optimistic either. W. C. Robinson thought school prayers the decisive factor, while James S. Stewart held out for "a radical return to the basic creed of the early Church: Jesus is Lord; for this destroys the false antimony between 'sacred' and 'secular' and reveals the whole of life, including its 'secular' thought and science and culture, as Christ's domain."
Is there any significance in this grouping of answers? Maybe. It should be noted that all these men are theology professors (except Carl Henry, who was for a number-of years). This may account for theology's prominence among the pressing concerns. But while six voted for theology, nine didn't. One can't help wondering why some prominent pastors and evangelists weren't consulted in this survey. Would Billy Graham for example, or Martin Luther King agree that theology is the crucial issue?
Nobody in this sampling listed either Christian education or evangelism as the decisive factors. Such surveys used to turn up several and sometimes a majority of votes for evangelism as the key. It is true that in this poll evangelism came In as an important by-product of: (a) love (Carnell); (b) revival (Smith); (c) militant laity (Tenney); and (d) Lordship of Christ (Stewart). But it may be important that evangelism is no longer offered unfailingly as the cure-all. We may be digging now beneath the blanket clich6s.
History should convince us that theological orthodoxy
was never in itself the solution. It has often co-existed
with social wickedness, as in colonial New England,
present-day Mississippi, and South Africa (to name
a few prominent but by no means exhaustive examples). Sound doctrine must be integrated with social
concern. (Only two of the above theologians saw this
as the crux.) Unless people see love among Christians, and love applied in large doses to social
relationships, our churches will increasingly become exclusive clubs, and our theology an antique curio preserved in wax for the amusement of coming generations.
James W. Reapsome, Editor, The Sunday School Times, Nov. 7, 1964. Reprinted by permission.