Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 129:513 (Jan 1972)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“Conservative Evangelicals Deserve a Better Hearing,” Russell T. Hitt, The Christian Century, August 18, 1971, pp. 975-77.

This article by the editor of Eternity magazine is the second in a pair which in turn is the first in a series entitled “The Price of Reconciliation.” The lead article in this pair is “Toward Ecumenical Convergence” by J. Robert Nelson (pp. 972-74).

Assuming that the point of this pair of articles is to discuss “the price of reconciliation” between liberal ecumenical Christians and conservative evangelical Christians, Nelson’s article makes it clear that the liberals are setting the price at their own terms and Hitt declares that evangelicals will not buy because the price is too high. The conclusion is that neither side is willing to pay the price: the conservatives because it would mean liquidating their basic convictions, the liberals because they feel they hold the position of strength from which to dictate the terms.

Hitt loses no time in joining the issue. He opens his article with the question, “Can conservative evangelical Protestants ever walk in harmony with liberal ecumenical Christians?” and he responds, “The answer seems to be a resounding No—unless a revival of vital faith comes to the whole church and sweeps away wide differences in theological presuppositions and deeply entrenched attitudes” (p. 975).

Some of the reasons why Hitt answers “No” to his question surface in the article. First is the fact that “evangelicals are convinced, and I believe rightly, that they and not the Christians to the theological left are in the broad central stream of the faith” (p. 975). The theological distinctives of the evangelicals are spelled out in the paragraphs that follow. A second major reason is that “conservative evangelicals will not readily walk with those who have virtually replaced the evangel with social activism” (p. 977).

Hitt makes the telling point that the evangelicals were the ecumenical pioneers, organizing the Evangelical Alliance at the middle of the last century. Furthermore, the liberals were the separatists, who left the Alliance at the end of the century to form their own organization which finally developed into the National Council of Churches.

A specific point illustrates the wide gulf that separates liberal ecumenicals and conservative evangelicals. Billy Graham is perhaps the leading representative of the evangelicals. Hitt refers to the Billy Graham Crusades as an illustration of the interdenominational character of the cooperation of evangelicals. Yet to the liberals Billy Graham is a stigma. Nelson concedes, “Person...

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