Archive: Where Evangelism Comes Alive

Archive: Where Evangelism Comes Alive

Archive: Where Evangelism Comes Alive

By Eddie Robb, Associate Editor, Good News

What could bring 1821 pastors, their spouses, and seminarians from 99 denominations to Metropolitan United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit?

a) A settlement of Howard Hughes’ will, giving each of the 99 denominations a piece of the pie?
b) The premiere unveiling of Noah’s ark?
c) A school for evangelism?
d) 20,400 cups of free coffee and 18,000 free donuts?

Unlikely as it may sound, the answer is c and d. It happened last October when Billy Graham came to Detroit for an evangelistic crusade. Each night, October 15-24, people from southeastern Michigan Ohio Indiana, and southern Ontario poured into the Detroit Lions’ 80,000 Pontiac Stadium to hear Billy Graham proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

This crusade had all the familiar characteristics—big stadium, huge crowds, wide publicity, and many decisions for Christ.

But behind the scenes, unknown to the crowds, was another aspect of the crusade—the five-day School of Evangelism. In terms of lasting significance and multiplied influence for Christ, it may have been the most significant part of the entire crusade effort.

Each day from 8:45 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon, students at the School of Evangelism were bombarded with learning experience opportunities. Worship, major addresses, seminar workshops, and discussion groups all zeroed in on one subject: evangelism.

Seminars included Biblical Basis for Evangelism … Evangelistic Preaching … How to Share Your Faith … How to Develop a Growing Church … The Use of Media in Evangelism … How to Give the Invitation. In all there were 18 seminars—all thrusting toward conversion of the lost.

“Every pastor I know would like to be a more effective leader, ” said Dr. Kenneth Chafin, dean of the Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism. “This school is an honest effort to meet this need.”

Apparently, this “honest effort ” is bearing fruit. Rev. Donald Rossman, UM pastor from Bryan, Ohio, wrote Good News: “The weeks since the Evangelism School have not only been great ones in my personal life, but also in the life of my church. Prayers have been answered. Souls have knelt at the altar of prayer …. The doors have swung open and I believe God has begun to send a fresh breeze of His Spirit upon us.”

Reasons for attending the Schools of Evangelism were as varied as the people. Rev. Randy Brown, a pastor from Sterling, Illinois, told me, “I came to be spiritually fed.” A pastor from Pennsylvania explained, “I came to hear the rich resource persons of evangelical persuasion.” And Jack Harnish, a young pastor from Michigan, bluntly stated, “I came to hear Robert Schuller!”

The program lineup does feature big names: James Kennedy of Evangelism Explosion fame … Robert Schuller … Charles Allen, pastor of America’s largest UM Church … Cliff Barrows . . . Jeannette Clift George (who played Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place) … George Beverly Shea … Oswald Hoffman of the Lutheran Hour … the list of talent goes on and on.

And it was all free! In order to enable the maximum number of pastors and laypeople to attend, no tuition was charged. Many pastors were even given scholarships to help defray their travel and lodging expenses.

In a sense, the School of Evangelism began at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1958. Billy Graham was holding a crusade there and Lowell Berry, who was on the crusade executive committee, made a new commitment to Christ.

“The ’58 crusade was a wonderful experience for me, ” he told Good News. “I met so many fine Christians and saw the fine organizational effort to get churches to cooperate in counseling, in the choir, in finances, attendance, and follow-up. And above all, I saw a unique opportunity for folks to witness the evangelization of Christ’s Gospel when properly presented.

“I thought: Wouldn’t it be wonderful for young pastors and seminarians to share in this experience!

Mr. Berry recalls, “I approached Billy with the idea of starting a School of Evangelism. But a lot of people bring good ideas to Billy. He said he liked my idea but he wasn’t sure how much interest there would be among pastors. ‘Besides,’ Billy said, ‘it would cost a lot of money.’ ”

As a successful businessman in commercial fertilizer and chemicals, Lowell Berry had a lot of money and he didn’t give up easily. In 1960 a trial balloon was sent up at the Phoenix crusade, when Mr. Berry flew in some seminary students for a week-long “learning experience.”

But it wasn’t until 1967—nearly 10 years after the idea was conceived- that the first official School of Evangelism began in Kansas City, Missouri. Since then over 23,000 pastors, seminarians, and laypeople have attended in the U.S.A. In addition, more than 19,000 people have participated in Schools of Evangelism in as far away places as Tokyo, London, Melbourne, and Rio de Janeiro.

The great expense, the time involved, the logistical problems—is it all worth it? Lowell Berry thinks so. “I believe the local church is the most important single institution in the world, ” he said, “and ministers need all the help they can get.”

That’s what Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism are all about: strengthening local churches in their task of fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [people], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20 RSV)

Archive: Where Evangelism Comes Alive

Archive: I Remember Harry

Archive: I Remember Harry

I am living unafraid because the Lord holds up those who stumble and straightens backs which are bent.

by Charles W. Keysor, Editor of Good News

I shall always remember Harry.

He was a milkman—or, more correctly, Harry owned a small dairy. For years he serviced a growing community. Finally the business got too large and complex. His wife died, and Harry sold out to a bigger dairy company.

In retirement, Harry went back to the thing he liked to do most—working in gardens. Anything growing liked Harry and vice versa. This included small children, young families, and plants—fruit trees especially. Harry knew just how to plant them, water them, prune them, and finally pick their fruit.

He used to go visiting friends with a bunch of baby trees in the back of his old Buick sedan. He would show up and begin planting apple trees—sometimes to the consternation of the homeowners who were both delighted and appalled because Harry sometimes forgot to ask, “Do you want an apple tree?” or “Where should I plant it?” He just planted trees wherever he thought they ought to be.

Once he planted two saplings in the back yard of our parsonage. I was unhappy because they were right where I had wanted a garden. But Harry was so delighted! These were English walnut trees, imported from California. They were the only trees of this type in the city—maybe the state. Just wait until they began to bear those large thin shelled walnuts ….

It was hard to be angry with Harry. Even the time he showed up in our backyard and asked for a free haircut.

I was giving a Saturday haircut to one of my four sons. This was a matter of necessity, and over the years my home barber kit had saved us probably hundreds of dollars. I was clipping away when Harry came by to kibitz.

“That’s a pretty good haircut,” he said, admiring my son’s scalp. (This was in the days before the long hair fad put father-barbers out of business.)

“Say,” Harry said, “how about giving me a haircut?” The thought scared me.

“Now wait a minute, Harry,” I protested. “I have cut my sons’ hair for years, but I never gave any adult a haircut. You might have to go into hiding for a week after I worked you over.”

“Well,” Harry said, “my Social Security check hasn’t come yet, and I have just enough money for a haircut. If I have to go downtown to the barber this afternoon I won’t have any money left for the offering in church tomorrow. I’d a whole lot rather give $2.00 to the church than to the barber.”

This is how I started cutting Harry’s hair. At first I resented it. But always he would say the same thing, “I’d rather give $2.00 to the church than the barber.” So Harry had me trapped. I went along the best I could.

Gradually, though, I began to look forward to the haircutting sessions with Harry. It gave us a chance to talk. And sometimes, as I was snipping and clipping, I thought about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.

It happened very slowly. Then it became painfully noticeable … Harry was getting more stooped month by month. He bent forward when he walked. As he sat or dug in the garden, his tired, old back was bent into a C. I even noticed it as Harry dozed in the back pew through my sermons. (He had a part-time job cleaning a supermarket Saturday nights. Sometimes he got only three hours sleep before getting up for Sunday school and church. So I understood Harry sleeping in church—at least he didn’t snore.)

Harry never complained. When we sat out in the parsonage backyard, with a towel around his neck and the hair flying from my clippers, he would tell me what chapters he had been reading in the Bible … about calling on this or that inactive church member … or how he was going to send away for some new variety of apple tree next spring.

Never a word about his back … or his leg.

Long ago, when Harry was a boy, a horse had kicked him in the right leg. The bone was bruised or chipped, and it never healed. All these years he had lived with an ulcerated leg. Twice we took him to the hospital when the leg swelled and turned an ominous, scaly brown. He hobbled to church, to visit people, and over to the parsonage for that regular haircut. But he never mentioned his ailments.

Often Harry talked about his son. The boy had been a top athlete and served as an infantryman in World War II. Returning home safely after months of combat in Italy and Germany, Harry’s son got married, began a family. Then young Harry was stricken with polio. Paralyzed from the waist down, he had learned to live and do business from a wheel chair. Harry Sr. was proud of his son and his grandchildren.

Time passed. Harry’s leg grew worse and his back seemed to bend lower and lower. But Harry always said, “The Lord keeps me going. The Lord is good. He’s so good to me.”

I think about Harry when I read in Psalm 145: “The Lord holds up those who stumble and straightens backs which are bent.”

The last time I saw Harry he was practically bent double. But he was in church. And he said with a smile, “The Lord is good. So very good.”

One day we shall meet in eternity. There by the throne of God, by that crystal, shining river, Harry will be standing straight. And he will be saying, “The Lord is good. He straightens backs which are bent.”

Reprinted from Living Unafraid, by Charles W. Keysor. 7975, David C. Cook Publishing Co., Elgin, IL. Used by permission.

Archive: Where Evangelism Comes Alive

Archive: A Call to Biblical Evangelism

Archive: A Call to Biblical Evangelism

We would like to share with you a few portions of the address our Chairman, Ed Robb, delivered recently at our Good News Convocation in Anderson, Indiana. – Charles W. Keysor, Editor

We may be experiencing the beginning of the Third Great Awakening!

Extreme darkness preceding dawn is a regular event in the history of revival, and truly we are in a dark period of our history.

Malcom Muggeridge said at the Congress on World Evangelization in Switzerland in 1974, “We may be entering another dark age and the tragedy is we don’t even realize it.”

Situation ethics is taking its toll.

Homosexuality is considered by some church leaders as a valid alternate Christian lifestyle.

Marriage as a sacred institution is in peril. There will be one divorce for every two marriages in America this year.

Permissive abortion has been legalized with the blessing of the church. We are seeing the slaughter of millions of unborn children in an increasingly amoral society.

Despite the indiscriminate use of the pill and millions of abortions, there were more illegitimate births than legitimate ones in Washington, D.C. in 1975.

 

There is little wonder we have lost our moral influence. I quote from a letter written by a United Methodist minister to a friend of mine. “… Many people have wonderful meaningful experiences of love and sexual intercourse apart from any marriage covenant … many extra-marital relationships are not casual. They have their own contract or covenant. ‘Sacred marriage vows’ are what each couple agrees [their vows] will be … they define what loyalty and commitment to the relationship means. Whether a person is a virgin or not has nothing to do with [his or her] ability to enter a binding covenant in the present.”

Alas, antinomianism from the ministry!

I have a letter in my files from a lay leader of one of the strong conferences in United Methodism. He recently had a conference with the cabinet and bishop because of their concern about charismatic activity in the laymen’s program. As a non-tongues-speaking United Methodist I have a question: “Why do we become so concerned about the excesses of those who are excited about the Gospel, but seemingly are undisturbed by the statements of radical secularists who question or deny the faith?”

For example, a minister on the west coast was quoted recently as saying he had come to see that the Bible was not the Word of God—but the word of man. This same man is reported to have joined homosexuals in a covenant service.

Ichabod! What cabinet and bishop have questioned him?

Dr. Dow Kirkpatrick has written of a recent trip to Cuba in the “Here I Stand ” column in July 22 issue of The United Methodist Reporter. He quoted Dr. Sergio Arce, the president of a theological seminary in Cuba as saying, “The first task of evangelism is to confront Christians who are not atheist in the head, but are atheist of the heart. Marx was an atheist of the head, but not of the heart.” A strange description for Karl Marx who advocated class hatred and violence! Dr. Kirkpatrick also writes, “Aldersgate announces it feebly, May Day celebrates with a shout—the creation of the new humanity.”

And he is on the staff of the Board of Global Ministries!

Shall we be discouraged?

Shall we quit?

Never!

It is darkest just before dawn.

We have seen the impotence of liberalism and the destructiveness of the radical secularist.

There has never been a greater openness to the Gospel. There are encouraging signs in the church.

 

We can be encouraged.

There are 40 million persons in America today who profess to be regenerated Christians.

The New York Times book review section has confessed that if it were to include evangelical books among its nonfiction best sellers, they would fill the top ten places.

Evangelical seminaries are training a large proportion of our new ministerial candidates.

Most of the nation’s large churches are now evangelical.

Dr. Richard Lovelace of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary has reminded us, “All too often evangelicals are unrealistically pessimistic about their growth, and prepared to abandon a church which is just waking up to the meaning of [the evangelicals’] success.”

He continues, “The fictitious truism that ‘once a denomination starts downhill it never recovers’ is being steadily disproved. Those who doubt should look at the history of the Anglican Church, which has bloomed again and again with new life when the tide of spiritual life rose in the people, and which has developed strong evangelical leadership again today.”

Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York are evangelicals, and 45 percent of the newly ordained in the Church of England are evangelicals, according to Dr. John Stott.

Too often evangelicals have adopted an outlook on history which predicted decline and apostasy in the nation and the church. Most Christians stopped praying and working for revival, and proceeded to dig into spiritual bomb shelters and wait for the coming of Christ.

 

I have learned that if you want the maximum ministry out of the church, you must begin by putting the maximum of Jesus into the program of the church! If you do that, then the biggest problems you will have will be—where you are going to seat all the people, and how you are going to spend all the money.

Let us not be afraid of the power of the Holy Spirit that comes when men and women surrender their lives to Jesus.

Most of our evangelism in The United Methodist Church has been ineffective because it is difficult to win persons to a corpse. When the church comes alive—a warm, caring, sharing, redeeming fellowship- persons will be attracted and open to the message of Christ.

 

We must stop pretending that everything that calls itself evangelism is legitimate, laudable, and worth supporting.

Social action may be needed, but it is not evangelism.

Christian education is necessary for nurture, but it is not necessarily evangelism.

Worship is the heart of the Christian faith, but it may not be evangelism.

Membership recruitment is not synonymous with evangelism. In the 50s we brought many into the church who had no personal experience with Christ and did not follow Him in discipleship.

 

It is time we stopped majoring on secondary things and realize that the supreme task of the church is the evangelization of the world. This is the day of the evangelical!

Archive: Where Evangelism Comes Alive

Archive: Special Report from Kansas City

Archive: Special Report from Kansas City

 by Kevin LaGree, United Methodist Attorney, Shawnee Mission, Kansas

About 1,000 United Methodist charismatics met in Kansas City July 21-24, with nearly 49,000 others, as part of the ecumenical Conference on Charismatic Renewal in the Christian churches. The United Methodists gathered every morning for worship, teaching, singing, and praise.

Each worship session featured a special speaker, but preceding the message, Rev. Bob Stamps, chaplain at Oral Roberts University, led an hour of singing, prayer, and praise.

At the first session, those gathered reveled in a freedom of worship they obviously did not enjoy regularly in their home churches. After the first rousing, toe-tapping, handclapping chorus—which featured Rev. Bob Stamps, Rev. Ross Whetstone, and Rev. Tommy Tyson forming an impromptu chorus line and dancing a jig across the stage Rev. Stamps told the joyous audience, “I just told Brother Ross that this sure isn’t like General Conference!”

The audience erupted in laughter as Rev. Stamps went on, “But I thank the Lord—it’s a lot more fun!”

Rev. Tommy Tyson, a United Methodist evangelist from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, set the tone of the United Methodist meetings with the keynote speech.

“There is no such thing as a Christian who is not charismatic,” he began, striking a note of Christian unity that was repeated throughout the conference.

“You cannot have the Spirit of Christ without having the gifts of grace, the charisma,” Rev. Tyson explained.

“That means,” he continued, “that all true Christians are charismatic since all carry the indwelling Holy Spirit in them. “That means you’re one and didn’t know it! But since you are one now you can enjoy it. You don’t have to be afraid anymore!”

Speaking both to the charismatics before him and to those in the United Methodist Church who do not count themselves in that group, Rev. Tyson urged all United Methodists” … to reproduce Jesus in the realm where you are threatened.

“Life in the Spirit is not imitating Jesus but rather responding to His love. Ministry is learning to respond to Jesus in the presence of each other,” he said.

“Remember one thing I’ve said to you today if you remember nothing else: Jesus will never send you to anyone who doesn’t need you and whom you don’t need.”

In the second United Methodist meeting, Dr. Bill Thomas, pastor of the 4,000-member First UM Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, spoke to the audience at the invitation of Dr. Bob Tuttle, professor of Wesleyan studies and evangelism at Fuller Theological Seminary (the featured speaker). Both men are members of the Good News Board of Directors. “There’s a new wind blowing in The United Methodist Church,” Dr. Thomas told the crowd. “Renewal must come from the local church level.

“I learned early in my ministry that the pastor’s job was merely to create an atmosphere of faith so that the Holy Spirit can minister in the church. What has happened at our church can happen in any church, if the Holy Spirit is allowed to move freely in the church.”

Mentioning that he was leaving Kansas City to speak at the Good News Convocation, Dr. Thomas shared a part of what he planned to tell those assembled in Anderson, Indiana. He issued a call for evangelicals and charismatics in The UM Church to overlook those issues which separate them and to join together to renew the church.

“All the charismatics want the evangelicals to say is that tongues is a legitimate gift of the Holy Spirit today. The evangelicals can say that: it’s Scriptural. All the evangelicals want the charismatics to say is that not everyone must speak in tongues. And the charismatics can say that: it’s also Scriptural. It’s time to come together to renew The United Methodist Church,” Dr. Thomas concluded to loud and sustained applause.

Dr. Bob Tuttle’s message, “The United Methodist Church: Pentecost or Holocaust,” picked up on the same message. He said he saw God creating a church ” … where we are so secure in our own experience that we can allow the experience of others to work.

“It will take a lot of different kinds of leaven to renew The UM Church,” he said, “and we must remember that our security and our source must be in Him.”

After Dr. Tuttle’s remarks, a panel of discussion began that became the focus of the UM conference. Rev. Ross Whetstone, chairman of the evangelism department at Scarritt College and coordinator of the United Methodist Charismatic Conference, told the audience that several participants had asked him whether the United Methodist charismatics would organize themselves within the church.

“A number of us have discussed this question, and it is our view that there is no need for an organization at this time,” Rev. Whetstone said. He then asked the various members of the panel to speak to the question.

Dr. Tuttle predicted that the organization of the charismatic renewal would mark the beginning of its death.

“We’re not concerned about being charismatic,” Dr. Tuttle stated, “we’re concerned about being Christians.”

Dr. Bill Thomas cautioned that organizing another group would fragment the evangelical wing of the church. He emphasized that an organization already exists within the church which deals with issues important to charismatics—Good News. And he urged charismatics and evangelicals to work together through Good News.

Dr. Thomas also expressed his concern that the charismatic renewal remain local.

“We can only renew The United Methodist Church from the ground up,” he warned.

Dr. William Wilson, professor of psychiatry at Duke Medical Center, also a Good News board member, echoed the concern Dr. Thomas had that the renewal remain unstructured and local.

However, it soon became obvious that a number of participants believed some organization was necessary. Rev. Larry Eisenberg, Marlow, Oklahoma, told the audience that he was ” … coming out of the woodwork when I get home.

“You may not organize, but I’m going to try something when I get back home. I’ve never joined Good News because I thought it was too controversial, but I see now that I’m here because of some of the battles they’ve fought,” he said.

Other participants expressed their views on both sides of the organization question at a microphone provided for questions. On the whole, they seemed to agree that an organization would weaken and perhaps kill the charismatic renewal, but they also gave voice to the painful isolation and loneliness they experience in their local churches.

“You guys travel all over and see this renewal happening, and you can be confident about it,” one man said. “But we don’t know what’s happening. I didn’t believe there were this many charismatic United Methodists in the world, let alone the U.S.”

“I agree that institutionalization will destroy the renewal,” one woman told the panel. “But it would be such a comfort just to know what was going on. I don’t know about any of you,” she said, turning to the crowd. “But I didn’t hear about this meeting through any Methodist publication.”

After the Thursday UM discussion, Revs. Whetstone, Tuttle, Tyson, Stamps, Thomas, and Dr. Wilson met with those who felt strongly that some sort of organization should be set up. They lunched together and worked out an interim solution that was revealed to the participants the following day.

Rev. Whetstone asked for six weeks in which to work out what he termed, “an idea we came up with yesterday.”

“I can’t tell you all the details, because we have to talk with some other people,” he told the participants, “but I’m asking you to trust us for six weeks. You can call me if you don’t hear anything in that time.”

He bravely gave his telephone number as well as his address. Most participants agreed to the six week grace period, and most took down Rev. Whetstone’s phone number.

Archive: Where Evangelism Comes Alive

Archive: Good News and Charismatics

Archive: Good News and Charismatics

By Charles W. Keysor, Editor, Good News Magazine

I should like to reflect publicly and personally about a very important matter. At the Conference on Charismatic Renewal of Christian Churches in Kansas City, Missouri (see page 41), and at this summer’s Good News Convocation in Anderson, Indiana, people asked: What is the relationship between Good News and the charismatic movement? DOES Good News encourage speaking in tongues?

Actually, these are not new questions. They were first asked back in 1972, following our third convocation in St. Louis. There, for the first time, we began to face the reality of the charismatic movement. We scheduled a workshop titled The Evangelical and the Charismatic Movement, “a frank and open discussion giving two different perspectives on the charismatic movement as it relates to the evangelical.” One speaker was a United Methodist who sometimes speaks in tongues privately; the other a United Methodist who does not. Each spoke and then they interacted graciously with each other and the audience. As a result, two distinct viewpoints were clearly presented. Perhaps more important, a demonstration was made that all evangelical United Methodist Christians are not identical twins in spiritual experience!

This workshop, plus a sprinkling of raised hands in the worship services at St. Louis (and sometimes since then) caused some to say, “Good News has gone charismatic.”

We have sought no identification except with the historic Biblical faith, so we felt it necessary to clarify the Good News position with an editorial, “Tongues-Speaking: Good or Bad?” Thousands of reprints have been distributed since it was published early in 1973.

What Good News believes concerning the Holy Spirit was stated more recently in the Junaluska Affirmation, adopted in 1975 as our summary of Biblical faith, in the Wesley-Otterbein tradition:

Scriptural Christianity affirms that the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, was active from the beginning in creation, revelation, and redemption. It was through His anointing that prophets received the Word of God, priests became intermediaries between God and His people, and kings were given ruling authority. The Spirit’s presence and power, measured in the Old Testament, were found without measure in Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed. The Spirit convicts and woos the lost, gives new birth to the penitent, and abides in the believer, perfecting holiness, and empowering the Church to carry out Christ’s mission in the world. He came to indwell His Church at Pentecost, enabling believers to yield fruit, and endowing them with spiritual gifts according to His will. He bears witness to Christ and guides God’s people into His truth. He inspired the Holy Scriptures, God’s written Word, and continues to illuminate His people concerning His will and truth. His guidance is always in harmony with Christ and the truth as given in the Holy Scriptures.

Looking back over more than 10 years of Good News history, it may be helpful to further comment upon our position. When we say “charismatic,” we use the word on the basis of its root meaning: having to do with the various charisma (Greek for a gift of grace) which God, through the Holy Spirit, gives according to His will for the good of all (I Corinthians 12:4-11). We acknowledge any and all Scripturally specified gifts when these are received and exercised in harmony with the Bible’s plain teaching. And we urge every Christian to seek the fullness of all that God, through His Spirit, has to offer. Above all, we must seek after the gift of perfect love, that crown jewel of Christian character (John 15:12; I Corinthians 13).

Concerning the charismatic question, Good News has resisted pressures from two extremes. Some loyal supporters have urged us to acknowledge that speaking in tongues is the “pearl of great price” in Christian experience. We have not found this opinion justified by the full weight of Scripture. Other loyal supporters have urged us to condemn tongues-speaking, but we have not found clear Scriptural warrant for such an exclusion. Therefore, we have said that speaking in tongues can be a legitimate gift of the Spirit.

We have sought the fine balance found in God’s revealed Word. This has led us to find unacceptable the tendency of many liberals who find themselves uncomfortable with the supernatural and therefore minimize the vibrant dimensions of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we have disagreed with those who avoid or suppress the Holy Spirit because He often sets people on fire with zeal for Jesus Christ, the Bible, salvation of lost sinners, and much needed reform in the church. (One Good News leader has said that our church needs to become as comfortable with the spiritually alive as it is now with the spiritually dead.)

Our desire for Biblical balance leads us to avoid regarding Acts as the true heart of the New Testament. And, we have not wanted to emphasize disproportionally the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Giver, we believe, deserves more attention than the gifts.

The fulcrum of Biblical balance, is found in Jesus Christ. His coming to earth as the God-man. His teachings. His lifestyle. His atoning death for sinners on the cross of Calvary. His glorious resurrection from among the dead. His heavenly ministry now as our Intercessor with the Father. And, finally, His cosmic coming again at the close of this age. Jesus Christ, in all His majestic power—He is the full Gospel! Christ, as predicted in the Old Testament, documented and taught in the New Testament. He has been the cutting edge of real Christianity in every generation.

Where ought “the action ” spiritually to be? Not in education. Not in our feelings or personal experiences. Not in our particular church. Not in our philosophy, culture, or in social reform. We should not ignore them, but neither should we allow them to occupy the central place in our thinking, our witness, our programs, our giving of time and money.

The central place belongs, after all, to Jesus Christ only! When anything usurps His rightful place, that is, at best, a serious mistake; at worst it is heresy.

Good News desires Christian unity centered upon Jesus Christ as we meet Him through Scripture quickened by the Holy Spirit. No other common ground is possible or adequate for authentic Christian unity. If we are united in our understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us, then we can abide in love despite occasional variances.

We don’t all have to worship the same way … but we must all adore Christ! We don’t have to agree on everything the church does or does not do … but we must gladly acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Church’s Supreme Head!

The proper ground of Christian unity is this: “I have been put to death with Christ on His cross, so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me.” (Galatians 2:10, Good News)

If tongues speaking or non-tongues-speaking should become the basis of fellowship (or of separation), then something else would be put in the central place that belongs only to Jesus Christ. God forbid!

The final word is best spoken by John Wesley. Once he said, “I desire a league offensive and defensive with every soldier of Christ.” That is where we stand concerning the charismatic movement. We are eager to work and worship with all who will unite in Jesus Christ, regardless of how we may differ in things not essential to our salvation.

Archive: Where Evangelism Comes Alive

Archive: The Authority of Scripture

Without the Bible to guide us in the Christian life and the church, we are like an airplane without a compass … a ship without a rudder. That is why it is vitally important to consider

Archive: The Authority of Scripture

by G. W. Bromily, M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt.
Rector, St. Thomas’ English Episcopal Church, Edinburg, Scotland
Condensed from the New Bible Dictionary
Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Used by permission

The second of two articles

The first portion, dealing with Roman Catholicism, is omitted for reasons of space.

An unorthodox teaching is that that of liberal Protestantism. This is a modern movement in every sense, for, though there are historical parallels, its development has been largely during the post-Reformation period. It has provided a view of the Bible which, allowing for varieties of presentation, is still that of many Protestant theologians, ministers, and laymen. Rome weakens the authority of the Bible, not by denying its divine origin and unique position, but by adding to it other authorities which rob it of its power. Historical Liberalism knows nothing of these subtle methods of peaceful penetration. It attacks the Bible frontally, denying the absoluteness or divine nature of its authority, willing to grant it authority—a limited and relative authority—only on the human level.

A full analysis of this complex liberal movement, in which so many different forms of thought coalesced, is unfortunately quite impossible in this context. All that can be done is to outline the various thought forms and to indicate the points at which they come into conflict with the orthodox doctrine. Five main movements combined generally speaking, to produce this modern view of the Bible:

  1. Rationalism, which at its best as with the German Neology, sought to reduce revealed Christianity to the level of a religion of reason. And at its worst, as with Voltaire [it] sought to laugh Christianity out of court as contrary to reason.
  2. Empiricism, or Historicism which had as its main aim the stud; of Christianity and all its phenomena along the strict lines of historical observation.
  3. Poeticism, which, as with Herder and many of the early critics, approached the Bible as a primitive poetry book, in which religious truths-partly emotional, partly religious truths—partly emotional, partly rational—are set out in aesthetic forms.
  4. Emotional Pietism, the special and most important contribution of Schleiermacher, by which the doctrines of Christianity (including that of Holy Scripture) are reinterpreted in terms, not now of reason or history, or poetry, but of emotional religious experience.
  5. Philosophical Idealism, which, in its final form in Hegel, gave a new rational interpretation upon a different philosophical basis: a basis which has as its starting point the individual thinking ego.

It is not to be supposed, of course, that there are not opposing tendencies in these movements, or that all of them are necessarily present, or present in equal proportions, in every liberal theologian. But generally speaking-and making full allowance for the many points of divergence—these are the movements which together constitute the liberal and humanistic challenge to the orthodox doctrine of Bible authority.

In what does that challenge consist? It consists first in the rejection of a transcendent Deity and of supernatural acts of God. This means that the Bible has to be explained as reason, or history, or poetry, or religion, but not as the Word of God. The Bible is reduced to the level of a human book, outstanding perhaps of its kind, but not above all other books. The Bible has to be studied comparatively, with other books of religion, poetry, history, or rational truth. It is inspired, but only in the same way as all other books are inspired, i.e. by the God immanent in all things. It is liable to error, because it is human, and all things human are equally liable to error. Thus the Bible ceases to be studied as a divine message, a Word of salvation.

Instead it comes to be studied as a product of human spirit. In its investigation, questions of authorship, date, circumstances, style, and development of thought replace the first and fundamental question, the question as to the content of the revelation of the Creator—Lord and Saviour.

The challenge of liberal Humanism to the orthodox view of the Bible consists also in the comprehension of the Bible within a world-scheme of human progress, although this scheme is, in actual fact, quite contrary to the teaching of the Bible itself … According to this doctrine, the thought of the Bible, the history which it records and the culture which it represents, are all approached from the human standpoint and forced into the universal humanistic scheme.

At two points this has serious consequences. First, it means that the sequence of the Bible history, as the Bible gives it, has to be rejected, because unfortunately it does not fit the evolutionary interpretation. The facts have to be sifted from the so-called additions of religious fancy and worked up into a new scheme. Second, it means that the message of the Bible has similarly to be treated and amended in order that a neat progression of religious thought may be observed. Even if it is granted that in the teaching of Jesus Christ the highest point of all religious thinking is reached, this teaching is still part of the development of the religious instincts and faculties of the race. The Bible has no superior authority as such, only the authority of the highest human achievement in religion thus far. …

The challenge of liberal Humanism consists again in the individualistic subjectivism[1] which it opposes to the objectivism[2] of the orthodox doctrine of the Word of God. Outward authority is cast off and is replaced by the inward authority of the individual thought or experience. Reason here, emotion there, usurps the place of God. The thought or experience is valid and valuable, not because it accords with an external standard of divine truth, but because it is individual, a single manifestation of the divine spirit immanent in and working through all things. The thoughts and feelings of the great Biblical figures have of course the same validity and value, possibly even the highest value—but only as similar manifestations of the same spirit. This means not only that the basic authority of the Bible is rejected, not only that all religion is approached comparatively and judged relatively, but that every individual becomes a law unto himself in religious matters. God is dethroned, humanity reigns, and in practice humanity means little more than individual man, the thinking or feeling self.

Some specific instances of Old Testament and New Testament criticism might serve as illustrations. In the Old Testament the first and most persistent theme was that Moses could not have been the author of the Pentateuch[3] or the founder (under God) of the institutions and practices recorded therein. Instead, a theory of gradual literary and religious development was propounded which, instituted by Eichhorn, finally took shape in the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis of the later 19th century.

The heart of this view is that Old Testament religion comes by evolution from below rather than by revelation from above. The documents are analyzed, dissected, regrouped and redated (J, E, D, and P in the Pentateuch) to provide the historical sequence of evidence for this view. More recently the documentary hypothesis has had to be considerably modified, but it has been replaced by similar concepts.

In the New Testament field the triadic,[4] Hegelian concept of historical development, which regarded conflict as the mark of authenticity and harmony as the sign of a postapostolic age, produced the wild excesses of the Tubingen school, so that only a few Epistles remained to Paul. Strauss’s Life of Jesus, with its attempt to sift the genuinely biographical material from legendary accretions, brought a first wave of demythologizing.

Not unrelated was the Jesus-of-History school, which might lead on the one side to Harnack’s reduction of the Gospel to divine fatherhood and human brotherhood, and on the other side to Reitzenstein’s derivation of Paul’s Christology, not from revelation, but from Hellenistic[5] myth and mystery.

Sweitzer made an important contribution early in the 20th century with his appreciation of the eschatological[6] character of Jesus’ teaching, though he himself, regarding it as mistaken, substituted a not very Biblical mysticism, while others, such as Dodd, evaded the issue by putting all the emphasis on realized eschatology.

The impasse reached in synoptic source-criticism[7] combined with other factors to produce the form-critical theory that the Gospels are made up of oral traditions[8] which evolved in the church according to set patterns and on the basis of widely-varying authenticity.

An even more developed historical skepticism reappears in Bultmann’s demythologizing, which presupposes a mythological form for an essentially existential kerygma.[9] Linguistic statistics might seem to bring back a refreshing objectivity on questions of authorship. Unfortunately, however, the use of computers is no safeguard against controlling presuppositions, at least in the New Testament field. Nor can findings based on implicit rejection of Biblical authority be expected to prove anything about this authority either one way or the other. The ultimate problem lies, not in the data, but in the positive or negative response to the self-understanding which is in its way a primary datum.

This, then, is the liberal Protestant challenge to the authority of Holy Scripture. Apart from the detailed work which it necessitates in Biblical theology and religion, and in relation to the individual writings, it also raises fundamental issues on which careful thought, definition, and statement are demanded. The whole question of an absolute and authoritative revelation has to be considered, the question of that revelation in its relation to history, to Israel, to Jesus Christ, to the Bible itself as a literary product; the question of that revelation in its relation to the world religions, or to so-called natural religion. Again, there is the question of the inspiration of the Bible; the question of that inspiration in its relation to the ordinary poetic inspiration of which literature speaks; the question of special working of the Holy Spirit of God in its relation to the general working in those activities which can be considered as products of common grace.

These matters have been dealt with in the past, but the new challenge carries with it a call, not for the abandonment of the old doctrine, not for its amendment, but for a new, careful, and solidly-grounded statement of it. In one respect, too, it may be asked whether there is not something to be learned from liberal Protestantism even though its presuppositions are unhesitatingly rejected. … The Bible is first of all God’s book, as Jesus Christ is first of all Son of God; but it is a human book too, God’s book in the world, as Jesus is the Son of man, the Word made flesh. Naturally, no one who truly accepts the Bible’s authority as the Word of God will wish to study the historical setting at the expense of the revealed message. But may he not wish to investigate the historical setting as the means to a better understanding of that message?

Another unorthodox teaching, which has grown up in recent years, largely as a reaction against contemporary Humanism, is that associated with the theology of Karl Barth, or at any rate with the development which that theology has undergone at the hands of many of his looser disciples. It is not easy to make definite pronouncements with regard to this movement, for Barth himself in his definitive Church Dogmatics both disowns much of his dialectical stage and also differs plainly from what has commonly come to be called Neo-orthodoxy. Indeed, his discussion of the precise question of the authority of Scripture brings him very close to Biblical and Reformed teaching. Hence the wisest course will be to take a broad view of the Neo-orthodox movement and to discuss the tendencies within it which are obvious deviations from the orthodox doctrine of Holy Scripture.

These deviations fall into two distinct classes: the one relating to the form of Scriptural revelation, the Bible as a book; the other to the content of Scriptural revelation, the Bible as the Word of God.

As concerns the form, Neo-orthodoxy is at pains to emphasize that the Bible is, outwardly considered, one human book among others. This means that the principle of errancy is accepted. If some theologians, such as Barth, hesitate to list specific errors, others, such as Bultmann, regard the whole scientific and historical side of Scripture as unreliable. God is not the Author of Scripture in the sense that He bears responsibility for its detailed words and phrases or backs its information. The Bible is truth in so far as God works through it in self-revelation. It is not truth, however, in the sense that all its statements are true. If God works only through the Bible, as some among the Neo-orthodox allow, it is by the sovereign choice of God, not because there is anything different about the Bible itself. If God uses a fallible book as the agent of revealing grace, this is no contradiction; it is the putting of divine treasure in earthen vessels, the mystery of divine grace, which forces us, as Bultmann puts it, to believe even though we cannot see. Lawful mystery is thus replaced by sheer irrationality, for while it is no doubt a mystery that eternal truth is revealed in temporal events and presented in human words, it is sheer unreason to say that this truth is revealed in and through that which is erroneous.

The second deviation relates to the content of Scriptural revelation, the Bible as Word of God. The essential point of Neo-orthodoxy is that the Bible becomes God’s Word as the Holy Spirit illumines and applies it to the individual soul. Inspiration is thus identified with what the Reformers call illumination. The authority of the Bible is the authority, not of the abiding text, but of the living voice of Scripture in the here and now of a given situation. Revelation in or through the Bible is revelation as the act of God, God’s present revealing of Himself, not the given objective reality of what God has already said and done.

It is along these lines that Barth makes an important distinction between revelation or inspiration as an active present on the one side and revealedness or inspiredness as a past passive on the other side. The former is endorsed as the genuine Biblical and Reformed view, whereas the latter is rejected. It is interesting that Barth, as distinct from the majority of the Neo-orthodox, displays an awareness that the objective historical reality of the Bible’s testimony must be given its due and proper weight. Nevertheless, he does not withdraw the fundamental distinction.

Now within the limits that there can be no objective Word of God without also the application to individual souls, there is truth in this distinction. But beyond those limits it leads in a dangerous direction. Pressed too far it means that the Bible can be authoritative, not as an outward word, but only as the Bible in the individual ego, as an inward experience. Thus, even with insistence upon the fact that Christianity rests upon unique historical events, even with stress upon the transcendence of God, in the last analysis we may easily be left with a faith which depends upon a subjective experience, and with the substantial autonomy of the individual ego. It is only a step from the anthropocentricity [human-centeredness] of Schleiermacher to the existentialism of Bultmann which is the complement of his demythologizing.

The questions raised by this theology are, of course, the central questions of all thinking upon the authority of Holy Scripture. They bring us to the very heart of the problem. Neo-orthodoxy has at least performed a service by showing that the categories of a dead (as opposed to a living) orthodoxy simply will not do.

Ought we to think that the Bible is trustworthy merely because we can demonstrate its historical accuracy? Ought we to think it authoritative merely because we have come to know the truth of its message through the Holy Spirit, and irrespective of its historical reliability? Ought we not to seek the authority of the Bible in the balanced relationship of the history (the objective Word) and the preaching (the Word applied subjectively by the Holy Ghost)—the history as that which is preached, the preaching as the application of this history?

It may be suggested, in closing, that a true doctrine of history and revelation in the Bible will be formulated only when the problem is studied in the light of the similar problem of the incarnation.[10] Christ, the Word revealed, is both God and man, the eternal Son historically incarnate, two natures, one Person. Neither if one denies the deity nor if one ignores the humanity is the true Christ perceived and believed. The man Jesus, very man, is known, confessed, and obeyed as the Lord Christ, very God. As there is no incongruity in the Person, for He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, so there is no irrationality in the confession, for it is made in and by the Holy Spirit. This Man has the authority of the Lord.

Similarly Holy Scripture, the Word written, which bears witness to Christ, is both divine revelation and human record, the divine message historically written, of twofold origin, yet one book. To ignore either the divine or the human authorship is to miss the true reality of the Bible and the full profit of its teaching and direction.

The parallel must not be pressed too far. For Jesus Christ is Himself God, the Creator, Lord, Revealer, and Reconciler, whereas Holy Scripture, even though what is read therein may be read with full persuasion of its authenticity and truth, is still the creature and instrument of God. Nevertheless, the incarnational analogy, properly apprehended and developed as such, may well be the best guide to an understanding which is fully Biblical and orthodox and which safeguards the authority and integrity of Scripture both as message and also history.

[1] Individual subjectivism: the tendency to see everything only, or largely, in terms of one’s own experience, thoughts, and feelings, with little or no attention paid to truth that lies beyond one’s experience.

[2] Objectivism: emphasis on truth/reality which exists outside of one’s personal experience or perception.

[3] Pentateuch: first five books of the Old Testament.

[4] Triadic: a trinity of three closely related persons or entities. Here it refers to the Hegelian principles of thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

[5] Hellenistic: relating to Greek history, culture, or art after Alexander the Great.

[6] Eschatological: concerning the final events in human history.

[7] Synoptic source-criticism: seeking to learn about the various literary sources supposedly comprising the synoptic, or first three, Gospels of the New Testament.

[8] Oral tradition: wisdom passed orally from one generation to the next. Some critics believe some Scriptures were written from oral traditions rather than by the authors identified in Scripture itself.

[9] Kerygma: the essence of the Gospel as preached in the early Church—Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture and has risen from the dead to reign in glory.

[10] Incarnation: the eternal Son of God coming to earth as a human being, fully human but at the same time fully God.