We go back 80 years with today’s column to see what was being discussed on Christian Standard’s editorial pages on April 8 and 15, 1939.
Easter fell during that time—April 9—and of the 13 editorials published during that short span, the longest two focused on Jesus’ resurrection and on the folly of “trying to accomplish the aims of Jesus without the methods or the help of Jesus.”
Our next column will center on Easter, but this week we will zero in on some shorter editorials. The subjects of these pieces include: dead churches, Adolf Hitler, Pentecost, and immersion.
The first, from April 8—yes, Christian Standard carried a Saturday publication date for many years—commented on a Bible school exposition by S.S. Lappin (the magazine’s editor from 1909 to 1917) that appeared April 1.
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Those Dead Churches
Commenting upon the churches established by Paul in Asia Minor, and the fact that they are no longer in existence, Brother Lappin last week noted the fact that many a church that has died has none the less been a success.[Here is what Lappin wrote April 1: “Our Western Christianity is the result of Paul’s work. He moved about industriously among the populations of his world, inoculating the human seed that would soon flow into Britain and across the Atlantic. Even though the congregations he assembled have been dissipated, each was a glowing center of gospel truth while it lived, and each had its part in ‘seeding down’ the areas that in turn would send its populations Westward.”]
This is an important point. It needs always to be kept in mind. It is no excuse for allowing any congregation to languish that may still have a mission, but it is an adequate answer to those who sometimes discourage aggressive effort on the ground that so many congregations have perished. The fact that so many mothers have died is surely no reason for having no more children born!
The effectiveness of a church is not to be measured by its mere perpetuation. Many a frail little woman has given the world giants of manhood to whom the whole race is forever indebted. And many a congregation that has lived a short, gasping life has been the means of converting and inspiring some boy or girl to become a spiritual leader whose good influence is immortal.
It would be worth while to have a list of these dead congregations that have mothered influential preachers and missionaries. Will our readers please give us the information?
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People with even a passing knowledge of history will remember that World War II “officially” started on Sept. 1, 1939, when Adolf Hitler’s German forces invaded Poland. That event was still a few months off. The editor of the time, Edwin Reeder Errett, was no fan of Hitler, it seems.
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The Man Who Lied
The Chancellor of the German Reich is manifestly somewhat irked and embarrassed. The powers are not taking his word at face value any more. He is trying to give them new promises for the ones he has broken and he can’t understand why they will not believe his promises to take no more territory. Of course, the rest of us remember that he promised not to take Austria and then to respect the territory of the Czechs and then that Germany wanted only control over Germans.
His book “Mein Kampf” makes provision for such breaking of promises as this; in other words, when the interest of the nation seems to require it, pledges are to be broken.
What we have here is an example of a man who has set up his standard of righteousness within himself. His own inner consciousness determines what is proper to do. He has no horror of being false. This is a warning to us of the moral wreck that results from that sort of philosophy. It is the only consistent outcome of the “experience-centered” standard of education.
Over against it we set the Man who said, “I am the truth,” the Man whom Hitler quite consistently rejects. George Washington, in his great Farewell Address, warned the American people of the importance of religion as a bulwark of truth and honesty and all morality. Hitler’s moral collapse is a striking illustration.
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Moving on to April 15, Errett comments on a letter I presume the magazine had received.
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That word, manifestly an effort to spell the word “Pentecost,” occurred in a letter we saw recently.
Perhaps comment would but gild the lily. Certainly some who seem to get a great thrill out of talk about Pentecost, its doctrine and its evangelism have put an interpretation upon the freedom brought by the gospel that warrants the suggestion that they have made Pennycost out of Pentecost. For the early Christians the day meant taking up the cross and sacrificing all to follow Christ. For too many of us it means putting our names upon a church roll and proceeding to get as much of the world in money or pleasure as we can grasp. Until that attitude is overcome no system will succeed in financing the church.
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And finally, another short item from April 15.
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Who Can Immerse?
A remark in a letter from a preacher to Miss [Henrietta] Heron [writer of “The Friendly Counselor” column], raises a question that deserves attention. He is troubled by physical inability to baptize and wonders if it means the end of his service.
To us this seems to indicate a misunderstanding. Why should it be assumed that the preacher must do the baptizing[?] Everything about baptism in the New Testament indicates quite the contrary—except the work of John the Baptist, perhaps. Jesus Himself did no baptizing. Paul did very little. Surely some one other than Peter baptized at Pentecost, and perhaps some one other than the apostles.
To us it seems rather dangerous to assume that the preacher must do it. That smacks of priesthood, and surely if those who preside at the Lord’s Table were to act in baptism under the careful tutelage of the minister, if necessary to preserve the dignity, there would be some disposition to defeat the tendency to conceive of our loyalty as belonging to the preachers. This is pointed out by Paul when he says to the Corinthians, “I thank God that I baptized none of you.”
There was a time when it was supposed that the preacher must serve at the Lord’s Supper. It is an improvement to work the elders into that. Let them also be trained to do the baptizing.
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Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard