THE MIRROR OF THE MINISTRY IN THE MASTERS

In the Context of the Demise of Cultural Significance

 

                        Great literature is one of the paramount indices to a general cultural attitude toward the Church and its ministry.  No full orbed Christian apologetic is complete apart from serious study of the literature of our day or any other period.  It is an indispensable source for the knowledge of real cultural images which are being disseminated to a larger audience than the total church addresses.

 

Literature and Christian/Non-Christian Culture:  There was a time in the history of the Church when all great literature was Christian, but this day has passed from the earth.  With the rare exception of Anglican and Roman Catholic authors, there are no great Christian authors in this decade of the twentieth century.  There are some very fine works by conservatives, e.g., Peter de Vries’ The Mackerel Plaza.  This fact hardly generates the conclusion that  they must be numbered with the great literary minds of the ages.

 

                        Martin Luther said, “I am persuaded that without skill in literature genuine theology cannot stand, just as hitherto in the ruin and prostration of letters it too has miserably fallen and been laid low.”  All one needs to do in order to realize that Christian letters and literature in general has fallen upon evil days once more is to examine the image of the ministry in the masters.  May God grant the Church at least one who is in the same spirit as was Elizabeth Barrett Browning when she declared—“We want the touch of Christ’s hand upon our literature as it touched other dead things.”

 

                        Before we turn directly to some of the great literary masters, in order to study their images of the ministry, we would first point out some very disturbing phenomenon concerning a more general image of the Church and its ministry. The news has apparently not reached many ears, that there is, in fact, the most radical revolt against biblical Christianity in the third quarter of the 20th century that has appeared in the history of the Church.  The image of the Church and its ministry is one of the central reasons why we are not winning the world to Christ.  Since this is the task of the Church, any matter which hinders its fulfillment requires our immediate attention.  (See the work of the conservative writer, David Moberg, The Church as a Social Institution (Englewood Cliffs, NY: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962), the section on clergy as community leaders.

 

                        One of the rally themes of the Muslim evangelists is “Save the World from Christianity.”  In Europe, the Church has been warned that ministerial reorientation is imperative within the next decade or there will be a general outbreak against the clericalism of Protestantism also.  In Europe (and America) the Roman Catholic Church is busy with its operation “Image Change” of the priesthood.  This problem received attention at the 15th National Conference on Church and State February 4,5, 1963, in Denver Colorado (everyone should hear the records available from POAU, 1633 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. regarding the challenge of clerical powers and clericalism in today’s world). 

 

                        The Roman Catholic Church has lost Italy and France; the Church of England has lost England, but one might ask, “What does that have to do with biblical Christianity?  We must take serious notice that we are part of this “bad” image, like it or not!  The image of the Christian ministry in Japan and on our university campuses is also most disturbing.

 

                        Just before Billy Graham went to Europe a few years ago, a very comprehensive image study had been made with special reference to Germany, but it was not limited to the German population.  The four major conclusions reached after serious attention had been given to the popular attitude toward the ministry were:  (1) the ministry thought it was a special group deserving special attention; (2) the ministry wins people because they need them to kept their job, or to be successful; (3) the ministry is intellectually inferior to doctors, lawyers and scientists; (4) the ministry cannot deliver what it is selling—salvation, peace, joy, etc.  It will not do merely to deny validity to these conclusions because they were the actual attitudes of masses of Europeans.  We need to know what the actual image is before we can take steps to rectify it, if it requires change in order to win people to Christ as Lord.

 

                        Even those who are no longer committed to the uniqueness of biblical revelation were so concerned over the image of the ministry that three volumes came out of their research.

 

The publications contain the general data analyized by The Survey of Theological Education in the United States and Canada:  H. Richard Niebuhr, The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry (Harper, 1956); Niebuhr and D.D. Williams, eds., The Ministry in Historical Perspective (Harper, 1956); Niebuhr, Williams and James Gustafson, the Advancement of Theological Education (Harper, 1957).

 

These volumes should be compared with the earlier, similar studies: William A.B. Brown and Mark A. May in The Education of American Ministers (New York, 1934); Robert L. Kelly, Theological Education in America (New York, 1924).

 

For a sample survey of Roman Catholic attitudes toward their priests see Frank A. Santopola, The Priest: A Projective Analysis of the Role (Fordham University, NY, 1956).  We should not neglect to trace the changing attitudes toward the ministry by noting the changing theological attitudes at Harvard and Yale, (G.H. Williams, ed., The Harvard Divinity School—Its Place in Harvard University and in American Culture (Boston, 1954); also Yale and the Ministry by R. Bainton), and Princeton, etc.; since these institutions came into being in order to train a qualified ministry.

 

Before one could delineate how the ministry should be educated (not education versus no education as Edwin V. Hayden aptly remarks in his study “What Kind of Education for Your Preachers?”) it would be necessary to know the function of the ministry.  What are the roles of the contemporary minister?  The “successful” minister today must be a public relations man, orator, student, teacher, administrator, etc..  (Note that in the secular world these qualifications might pay a salary from $50,000 to $100,000 per year.)

 

                        Dr. Martin E. Marty spoke to the pastor’s conference of the Kentucky Council of Churches in the first week of November, 1961 (see his excellent books, The New Shape of American Religion and The Infidel).  He related much vital information and some serious understanding of the American religious situation.  He spoke concerning the rise of unbelief in the churches, as he discussed the psychology of affiliation or the new “cult of togetherness.”  In many of the most successful congregational efforts the Christian faith takes on the appearance of being subsumed under those activities that are easiest to promote—new building programs, non-participating worship, and education of children.  Prayer meeting, special Bible study, consistent calling programs, etc., the things that make up the food stuffs of a healthy Christian body, are all but absent!  Ladies’ teas, Scouting groups, bowling leagues, class parties, etc., though not sin per se, are hardly the highest level of Christian living and witnessing.  What is the actual level of biblical literacy and spiritual condition of our most successful congregations?  This is not an abstract question; the congregation could be examined to determine the answers to these questions. 

 

Sociological Analysis and Ministerial Types:  In contemporary literary and sociological data, we encounter various ministerial types:  (1) The Status Seekers who measure success by newness and size of the parsonage, the salary, size of membership, reputation of the pulpit, etc.; (2) The Young Executive, the successful go-getter; (3) The Committee Correlator; (4) The Hero Type; (5) The Father Type;  (6) One of the Boys, a good Joe or all around good fellow; (7) The Religious Task Master; (8) The Holy Handy Man for religious errands; (9) Program Instigators and Propagators, keep busy and be happy; (10) The Prophetic Type; (11) General Stereotypes of Priesthood, Preacher Type, leader of local group (provincial concepts; (12) The Successful Type; (13) The Minister as an Ecclesiastical Do-It-Yourself-Kit, etc.  These ministerial images have created the new cults of sincerity, popularity and success.

 

                        With this brief background in mind, we will now turn to consider the images of the ministry expressed in some of the literary greats of Western literature.  We will begin with Shakespeare, and progress through the period of decadence to the era of the collapse of creative Christian literature (the 19th and 20th centuries).  There are almost no counter claims to the assertion that today literature comes from the minds and pens of pagan poets, those who have repudiated the Christian worldview, a view of nature and destiny of man and morality.  (The only serious exceptions are Roman Catholic or Anglicans, e.g., T.S. Eliot, the late C.S. Lewis, G. Greene, F. Mauriac, et.al.)  This fact alone indicates the extent of the intellectual, spiritual, and cultural revolt against the Christian view of men and things.  We will now turn to the master of the masters of the English tongue—Shakespeare.

 

The Challenge of Images Past and Present:  God send another Shakespeare to fire the souls of men with the Word of truth!  Shakespeare avoided religious controversy as much as he could.  How does this affect his image of the ministry?  It must not be forgotten that Shakespeare wrote for the mass media of his day.  His views were surely shared by London’s masses or his “popular success” would be all but inexplicable.  (See the excellent study in Robert Stevenson, Shakespeare’s Religious Frontiers.  The author is primarily concerned with Shakespeare’s treatment of the “clergy” in his plays.  (Martinus Nijhoff: The Hague, Netherlands, 1958).

 

We note some very sharp words in Hamlet, act one, scene three, as Shakespeare says:

 

                        Do not as some ungracious pastors do,

                        Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,

                        Whilst, like a puffed and reckless libertine,

                        Himself the primrose path of dalliance tread,

                        And recks not his own read.

 

Here is the perennial warning against hypocrisy.  These words are all the more amazing in light of the public status of the clergy in Shakespeare’s day.  He wrote for public consumption, and therefore, challenged the high attitude toward the English clergy.  The tension between word and behavior is brought to the fore in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, act one, scene one.

 

                                                                                                Thou art reverent

 

                        Touching thy spiritual function, not thy life. . .

                        Who should be pitiful, if you be not?

                        Or who should study to prefer a peace,

                        If holy churchmen take delight in broils?

                        . . . .    I have heard you preach

                        That malice was a great and grievous sin:

                        And will you not maintain the thing you teach,

                        But prove a chief offender in the same?

 

Shakespeare’s accusation that the clergy were the “chief offenders” is continued in another speech where the holy men are brought under scrutiny, because of a “counterfeited zeal of heaven.”  These are very serious charges for Shakespeare to have made in the London of his day, the seat of churchly power.

 

                                                                              It better show’d with you.

                        When that your flock, assembled by the bell,

                        Encircled you to hear with reverence

                        Your exposition on the holy text,

                        Than now to see you here an iron man,

                        Cheering a rout of rebels with your drum,

                        Turning the word to sword, and life to death.

                                                . . . .    Who hath not heard it spoken,

                        How deep you were within the books of Heaven?

                        To us, the speaker in his parliament;

                        To us the imagin’d voice of Heaven, itself.

                        The very opener and intelligencer,

                        Between the grace, the sanctities of Heaven,

                        And our dull workings:  O, who shall believe,

                        But you misuse the reverence of your place;

                        Employ the countenance and grace of Heaven

                        As a false favorite doth his price’s name,

                        In deeds dishonorable?  You have taken up,

                        Under the counterfeited zeal of Heaven,

                        The subjects of Heaven’s substitute, my father;

                        And, both against the peace of Heaven and him.

                                                                        II Henry, IV, 4.2

 

John Milton, Under the Taskmaster’s Eye:  The English Clergy and Its Power Over People and Education: John Milton dedicated himself to work and lived “as ever in the great Taskmaster’s eye.”  The intellectual and literary status of Milton had not diminished even in the Romantic era.  William Wordsworth sang his praises in his poetic work, London (written in 1802).

                        Milton!  Thou shouldst be living at this hour:

                        England hath need of thee:

                        She is a fen of stagnant waters:

                        Altar, Sword and Pen - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                       

                        We are selfish men; Oh! Raise us up,

                        Return to us again;

                        And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.

                        Thy soul was like a star and dwelt apart;

                        Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:

                        Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,

                        So didst thou travel on life’s common way,

                        In cheerful godliness; and yet they heart the lowliest

                                                Duty on herself did lay.

 

                        Milton held low opinions of Church fathers (except Augustine) as well as the contemporary clergy (see Harris F. Fletcher, The Intellectual Development of John Milton Vol. I, 1956, Vol. II, 1961, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL—indispensible, interpretive source).

 

                        In January, 1624, Bishop Hall published his Humble Remonstrance against the revolutionary projects of the Parliament in the matter of ecclesiastical discipline.  Milton was little concerned with the content of this pamphlet, but he endlessly repeated that any sort of true reformation has been made impossible in England by the ambition and the caste system of the Bishops.  He charged the Church with having desired too precise a God; in this he sees the origin of all superstition.  The Church sought to make God earthly and fleshly, because they could not make themselves heavenly and spiritual.  It fained a necessity and obligation to join the body in a formal reverence and worship circumscribed; they hallowed, they fumed up, they sprinkled, they bedecked it, not in robes of pure innocence, but of pure linen, with other deformed and fantastic dresses.

 

                        Milton’s was a day when the idea that England was a chosen nation, for a holy purpose, dominated even the Church.  Milton was not pleased with Cromwell’s religious policy.  His pamphlets written in 1659 abundantly show why:  he wanted the Church to be disestablished and he wanted the suppression of all paid clergy.  But Cromwell, for his own ends, went the opposite way.  Milton warns him in the Second Defense:

 

Then, if you leave the Church to its own government, and relieve yourself and the other

Public functionaries from a charge so onerous, and so incompatible with your functions; and will no longer suffer two powers, so different as the civil and the ecclesiastical, to commit fornication together, and by their mutual and delusive aids in appearance to strengthen, but in reality to weaken and finally to subvert each other; if you shall remove all power of persecution out of the Church, (but persecution will never cease, so long as men are bribed to preach the gospel by a mercenary salary, which is forcibly exhorted, rather than gratuitously bestowed, . . .) which serves only to poison religion and to strangle truth, you will then effectually have cast those money changers south of the temple, who do not merely truckle with doves but with the Dove itself, with the Spirit of the Most High.

 

                        In August of 1659, he went on with his Considerations Touching the Likeliest Mans to Remove Hirelings Out of the Church.  “The likeliest means” fall but little short of suppressing the clergy entirely.  Tithes are to be done away with; priests can be fed by their flocks, or preferably they can have some other profession. 

 

                        He asserts that priests need not go to the universities, where their influence has always been for evil:

 

I answer, that what learning, either human or divine, can be necessary to a minister, may as easily and less chargeable be had in any private house . . . though, to say truth, logic also may much better be wanting in disputes of divinity, than in the subtitle debates of lawyers and statesmen, who yet seldom or never deal with syllogisms.  And those theological disputations there held by professors and graduates are such, as tend least of all to the edification or capacity of the people, but rather perplex and leaven pure doctrine with scholastic trash . . . and to speak f freely it were much better there were not one divine in the universities, no school divinity known, the idle sophistry of monks, the canker of religion . . .                                                                                                          

 

And here is the conclusion, surely decisive enough:

 

This is that which makes atheists in the land, whom they so much complain of:  not the want of maintenance, or preachers, as they allege, but the many hirelings and cheaters that have the gospel in their hands; hands that still crave and are never satisfied.  Likely ministers indeed, to proclaim the faith, or to exhort our trust in God, when they themselves will not trust him to provide for them in the message whereon, they say, he sent them; but threaten, for want of temporal means, to desert it; calling that want of means, which is nothing else but the want of their own faith; and would force us to pay the hire of building our faith to their covetous incredulity! . . . Heretofore in the first evangelistic times, ministers of the gospel were by nothing else distinguished from other Christians, but by their spiritual knowledge and sanctity of life, for which the church elected them to be her teachers and overseers, though not thereby to separate them from whatever calling she then found them following besides; as the example of St. Paul declares, and the first times of Christianity.

 

O which hireling crew, together with all the mischiefs, dissensions, troubles, wars merely of their kindling, Christendom might soon rid herself and be happy of Christians would but know their own dignity, their liberty, their adoption, and let it not be wondered if I say, their spiritual priesthood, whereby they have all equally access to any ministerial function . . . .

 

These words are eloquent enough; our lesser minds will only mar the marvelous flow of condemnation, so we will leave it with Milton’s words—the words of a man who sought “to live and work under the great Taskmaster’s eye.”

 

(For the relationship between Christian culture and Christian literature and the collapse of both, and the origin of non-Christian culture and literature, see H.O. Taylor, The Classical Heritage of the Middle Ages, (F. Ungar, NY 1957, chps. 8 & 9), and Gilbert Highet, The Classical Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1957); both are classics and indispensable, now in paperback.

 

The era of great creative Christian literature was in process of passing from the fact of the earth.  The next era we choose to consider is enveloped in another intellectual, spiritual, cultural milieu—the day of Jonathan Swift.

 

A Dubliner’s Image of the Ministry:  Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was a man whose fame rests primarily on his books, Gulliver’s Travels, The Battle of the Books, and A Tale of a Tub.  The words of Dryden expressed well the prevailing intellectual and spiritual atmosphere in these words, “’Tis well an Old Age is out and time to being anew.”

 

                        Swift was ordained to the priesthood and appointed to the prebend of Kilroot, near Belfast in 1695.  By 1732 Swift was castigating the Irish bishops and the Presbyterians.  In a letter, written and published (1719-20) before his sustained attack on the status of priesthood and the condition of the 18th century Church, Swift addressed a letter to a ‘young gentleman, lately entered into holy orders.’  The popular image is clearly stated in the following excerpt from the letter in which Swift declares that ‘the bulk of the common people have been universally seduced into bribery, perjury, drunkenness, malice, and slander.’

 

Although it was against my knowledge, or advice that you entered into holy orders, under the present dispositions of mankind toward the Church. . . Ignorance may perhaps be the Mother of Superstition; but Experience hath not proved it to be so of Devotion: for Christianity always made the most easy and quickest Progress in civilized countries.  . . .Whereas, now-a-days our Education is so corrupted, that you will hardly find a young person of Quality with the last Tincture of Knowledge; at the same Time that many of the Clergy were never learned, or so scurvily treated.  Here among Us, at least, a Man of Letters, out of the three Professions, is almost a Prodigy.  . . .For, I dare appeal to any Clergyman in this Kingdom, whether the greatest dunce in his Parish be not always the most proud, wicked, fraudulent, and intractable of his Flock.

 

                        Swift, unlike the other writers mentioned in this essay, was concerned with stabbing the conscience of the ministry, Church, and the populace, so that they would strive to overcome the ‘premeditated mediocrity’ which dominated every level of 18th century Irish and English Church and society.  This same attitude dominated much of English and American Literature very late in the second and third decades of the 20th century.  A paramount example comes from Sinclair Lewis.

 

The Hyper-Hypocrite:  Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry

 

Harry Jaeger calls Elmer Gantry “that infamous caricature of a clergyman—the picture of clerical compromise, both in theology and morality  (see his article, “The Clergy in Modern Fiction”, pp. 14-16,18, Christianity Today, February 15, 1960).  There is no question but that Sinclair Lewis’ theological racketeer was his own image of the evangelical ministry of the late twenties in America (book published originally in 1927).  Lewis says that Gantry “never had anything to say and he always said it sonorously.”  This criticism seems highly relevant to many of Gantry’s 1962 counterparts.  Horton Davies’ brilliant analysis is apparent in these penetrating words.

 

The conversion, when it comes, must be skin deep, because so was the narrow and superficial Christian culture he had imbibed.  Religion was taught to him as a series of melodramatic possibilities and sentimentalities.

(Mirror of the Ministry in Modern Novels (NY: Oxford University Press, 1959, p. 29).  “How could a young man as irresponsible and nearly illiterate as Elmer Gantry think of entering the ministry? (Ibid., p. 31)

 

                        Lewis’ merciless attack on revivalists’ techniques (see chapter 14 of Elmer Gantry) exposes the distorted place of emotion, faking of statistics, mercenaries of the entire approach, and the greed of the religious racketeers.  The antics of his lively Sunday evenings are reminiscent of the brain washing and manipulation techniques of those dominated by a messianic complex.  People were turned away every Sunday evening.  They could have the double feature of a sermon on vice and a saxophone solo for the same bargain price.  There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight.”  Elmer once entertained the congregation with a professional juggler who wore a placard stating that the stood for the “Word of God” and continued to show how easy it was to pick up the symbolic weights of “sin, sorrow, ignorance and Papistry.”  (See Elmer Gantry, NY: Harcourt Brace and Co., p. 358).

 

                        During his youth, Sinclair Lewis made a decision to accept Christ and wrote in his diary—“I am trying to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.”  He wanted to become a missionary but his face was disfigured with acne and he felt that everyone avoided or ridiculed him.  Later, when he had become a famous novelist, Lewis wrote of one of his characters that he”got everything from the Church and Sunday School except perhaps any longing whatever for decency, kindness and reason.”

 

                        Throughout his adult life, Lewis was bitter and unhappy,.  How different his life might have been and what a power for Christ his talent might have been if someone had showed that acne-scarred boy some kindness, acceptance, and love.  How different his image of the ministry could have been and his influence for Christ, if he had met the master through a concerned informed ministry.

 

 

Peter DeVries’ Great Caricature:  The Liberal Liberal!

 

                        DeVries’ serious comedy is a satire on the life of Mr. Mackerel, minister of the People’s Liberal Church in Connecticut suburbia.  If we were to follow Mackerel on one of his guided tours of his now famous dialogue. . . .

                       Our church is, I believe, the first split-level church in America.  It has five rooms and two baths downstairs, dining area, kitchen and three parlors for the committee meetings, with a crawl space behind the furnace ending in the hillside into which the structure is built.  Upstairs is one huge all-purpose interior, divisible into different sized compartments by means of sliding walls and convertible into an auditorium for putting on plays, a gymnasium for athletics and a ballroom for dances. . . . .  There is a small worship area at one end.  This has a platform canti-levered on both sides, with a free-form pulpit designed by Noguchi.  It consists of a slab of marble set on four legs of four delicately differing fruitwoods, to symbolize the four Gospels and their failure to harmonize.  Behind it dangles a large multi-colored mobile, its interdenominational parts swaying, as one might fancy, in perpetual reminder of the Pauline structure against ‘those blown by every wind of doctrine.’  Its proximity to the pulpit inspires a steady flow or more familiar congregational whim, at which we shall not long demure, going on with our tour to say that in back of this building is a newly erected clinic, with medical and neuro-psychiatric wings, both indefinitely expandable.  Thus the People’s Liberal is a church designed to meet the needs of today, and to serve the whole man.  This includes the worship of a God free of outmoded theological definitions and palatable to a mind come of age in the era of Relativity.  (See The Mackerel Plaza (Boston: Little, Brown and Co, p. 58).

 

                        Mackerel’s effervescent liberalism is quickly divulged as the opening scene shows the minister of People’s Liberal Church complaining to the municipal zoning board about revivalist sign in orange and green phosphorescent paint with the vulgar legend “Jesus Saves.”  In the process of conversation Mackerel says. . . “How do you expect me to write a sermon with that thing staring me in the face?  How do you expect me to turn out anything fit for civilized consumption?”  (Ibid., p. 40).

 

                        Devries’ conservative, Calvinistic education at Calvin College is most apparent in his ridicule of the up-to-dateness and uncertainties of liberal and social gospel type of Christianity.  The irrelevance of a community church and its ministry has never received more eloquent articulation than in the author’s irony of Mackerel’s Plaza.  Yet, we must not forget that in many areas of contemporary suburbia no other type of “minister” would be tolerated; if for no other reason we should take DeVries’ caricature with utmost seriousness.

 

The Image Makers:  Reasons and Causes

 

                        We have mentioned only a very small number of leading authors who show hostility to the Christian ministry, or at least to certain segments of the ministry.  Why do the great literary people feel and express this animosity toward the servant of God?  Our concern is not to analyze the fairness or accuracy of the foregoing “images” in light of the Word of God, but rather to raise the general problem of the image of the ministry within the context of changing cultural, spiritual, and intellectual milieu.  It is impossible to consider here the motivations of the above authors, but we will raise some general issues confronting anyone seriously engaged in literary criticism, biblical or otherwise.  Unless a Christian critic could acknowledge psychological behaviorism (which he could not), there must be a careful distinction between reasons and causes.

                        In modern times, Nietzsche was the first who raised the psychological problem, which obsessed him, why an author wrote what he did.  He never seriously examined what an author actually said, whether it was true or not; but raised the question of the “psychological causes” of a given literary expression.  Nietzsche always thought that he always knew why a given author wrote what he did.  Freud deepened the Nietzschean insight into literary criticism!  The psychological condition (neurotic, etc.) of an author in no way necessarily impinges on the validity of what he says.  Those who are persistent in their asking for the psychological causes of creative imagination need to balance their investigation by giving more attention to the truth of falsity of what is written.  Only then can we logically prove that a distinction between reasons and causes can and must be made in any critical literary investigation.  If reasons are to be distinguished from causes, then the reasons must be true or false; but if we limit our investigation to the “subconscious causes” which supposedly necessitate that a given author attacks the ministry, etc., because of his subconscious hatred, or real but universalized concern for the ministry.  If an author is caused to write a given view by his Freudian subconscious, then we might be tempted to consider only the psychological aspects (or the why) of literary criticism, instead of giving attention to an evaluation of the truth or falsity (reason-giving) of the assertions of an author.  Both views need attention, but must not be subsumed into one problem!

 

                        Dialectical materialism (Marxism) sets forth the thesis that literary productions are solely caused by psychological and sociological factors, which determine the author’s views.  Such a theory will not stand up under serious scrutiny.  Men have made attacks and continue to attack the biblical authors from a psychological perspective only.  The assertion has been made that certain of the prophets exhibit pathological characteristics of behavior.  Theoretically this is a possibility, but this by no means provides the critic with the logical ground with which to conclude that the content of the literature produced by such a personality is in fact false.  The content may be either true or false, but here we must consider the reasons for our conclusions.  One has no necessary logical right to conclude from certain psychological premise that the author was (or is) wrong in what the asserted because his personality exhibits certain neurotics, etc., tendencies.

 

                        The multiple issues involved in literary criticism cannot here receive serious attention, but in light of our immediate concern for the “bad image” of the ministry in the masters we can only direct your attention to the fact that most creative literary people of our time are opposed to Christianity and to its official representatives, the ministry.  I personally doubt that their attacks are “motivated” by a desire for the Church to correct this image.  (But this belief would require rational justification or it becomes nothing more than an emotional expression.)  A very competent friend of mine recently suggested that if the ministry were insignificant, the literary world would pay no attention and just not mention it.  There is no a priori, logical reason to doubt this thesis as a possible hypothesis, but in view of explicit negative and derogatory remarks about the Christian faith in general, I doubt that the above is a reason for the bad image of the ministry in the Masters.  This would require an extensive critical examination of motivational theory, and relationship of sociological environment to specific attitudes (as caused?).  If we accomplished this criticism, we still would have the problem of considering the truth or falsity of the assertions contained in the literature.  We must not confuse causes with reasons (although in a very limited sense a reason can also be a cause, but the class of causes cannot be reduced to the class of reasons).  Why an author expresses a given attitude must not be confused with the further problem of what he has expressed.  The same problem must be brought before the contemporary image makers (bible Colleges, College Board members, Deans, and Presidents, etc.) what are the reasons and causes for the image being structured?

 

                        Those of us who are seriously committed to biblical Christianity must give immediate attention to “The Mirror of the Ministry in the Master.”  It will avail us very little to merely announce to the religious world that we are not “professional clergymen.”  Please do not call us Reverend!  We need to modify this undesired image by restoring the biblical image of the servant ministry and the priesthood of all believers!

 

                        Since this paper was written over thirty years ago when I lived in Minneapolis, MN,  (it is now 01.04) there has been a plethora of literature on the subject of images of the ministry in the masters, we no longer live in the world of the 1960’s, so further research would be required on the explosive power of the postmodern mind on Christian communication (see especially Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, i.e., the radical move from an audibility to a visibility culture. See also these important basic sources on the postmodern mind and its impact on the entire Christian enterprise: Douglas Groothius, Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenge of Postmodernism (InterVarsity Press, 2000); J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind (Nav Press, 1997); and San Anson Vaux, Finding Meaning at the Movies (Abingdon Press, 1990, esp. chp 4, “Vocation”, pp. 83-100); Finally, see my paper “The Gospel According to the Simpsons” at http://www.worldvieweyes.org/strauss-docs.html.  

 

Dr. James D. Strauss

                                                                                                                                                Professor Emeritus

                                                                                                                                                Lincoln Christian Seminary

                                                                                                                                                Lincoln, IL 62656