Just Who is a Liberal Anyway?

Once again this question is bound to be discussed in connection with Dr. Addison H. Lietch’s resignation as professor of systematic theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

The professor has appeared before the board of the school to explain the reasons why he decided to leave that institution. There he openly claimed that the present structure and future plans of the seminary could not enlist either his sympathy or his loyalty. “I believe that, theologically speaking, the seminary is taking the road to liberalism. It’s a kind of neo-orthodox pattern to which I cannot subscribe.”

These views were challenged by Dr. Clifford E. Barbour, president of the seminary, who argued that the seminary .is more conservative today than twenty-five or thirty years ago.

In commenting on the charges and countercharges the editor of Southern Presbyterian Journal had this to say:

“Thus it is possible for a leading churchman to say that an institution is liberal and for another leading churchman to say that it is no such thing…For a long time we have been impressed by the fact that too many arguments of one kind or another have been carried by the convincing first personal: “I know so-and-so; or such-and-such -and it is the most Christian…; or, he is the finest…’ Such a testimony means only as much as the viewpoint of the testator. Only a minority of ministers (of any Church) are liberal, these days, in their own eyes. Very few institutions are liberal, these days, in the opinion of those who make them liberal.”

“The way to determine the evangelical calibre of any religious structure or venture is not by the route of any subjective testimony,” the editor concludes, “but only by the bright light of the only truth which is completely objective: the Word of God. In the case of Pittsburgh Seminary, the questions raised by the resignation of Dr. Leitch can be answered only in one way: how much of an effort does the seminary make to orient every teaching in terms of strict fidelity to the Word of God?”


As national and international tensions mount in intensity and frequency, the human race seems to be driven into a corner out of which there is little hope of escape. In an article, both beautifully and brilliantly written, the editor of Christian Century describes “The Drivenness of Man.” He analyzes compellingly the situation of our times. In the light of the collapse of summits, the rush to arms and the plunge toward the war to end man, it appears that “a cog is slipping in the universal machinery.”

Man is being driven deeper into situations from which there seems to be no way out.

Having described the plight of the nations and their leaders, the editor looks for an explanation. He repudiates the Greek notion (prevalent among many who are still infected with the older liberalism) that the race is “swept up in a spiral of inexorable circumstances.” To understand the plight of mankind “we must exchange Greek words and Greek concepts…for biblical words and biblical concepts.” Now in language radically different from that which this leading Protestant journal employed two decades or less ago, we hear overtones that are clearly Scriptural. “One of these words is wrath. The universe is still, as it always was, in the hands of an almighty and righteous God. And, as always, it is the deliberate wrath of this God, and not some impersonal Nemesis, some Emersonian principle of inexorable compensation, which brings human history to impasses, which uses the wicked to chastise the faithless, which destroys the mighty empires and lets the little Edoms and Moabs drift into oblivion.”

In addition, stress is laid upon “man, responsible, at the center of the events in travail…Man is not the product of events in travail; they are his products. They do not ruin him; he ruins them. He fell, and creation fell with him; he falls and the whole realm of nature—he with it—suffers.”

But no one should conclude from this that Christian Century at this point bows to a truly God-centered amI Bible-grounded view of human history. The solution to man’s ills, according to the editor, lies with man himself. Indeed, there are limits to his ability. But “he has alternatives; he has recourses.” Here we listen to sounds that are strangely unscriptural. For the solution to the drivenness of man does not seem to be found in the Crucified and Risen Christ as the Savior of the world and the Lord of history. It is rather the United Nations. “To bypass the United Nations in the Berlin crisis or in any other of such moment and proportions is to bypass the hope which appears ordained for the human family in our time.”

With much of the diagnosis of man’s incurable malady we may agree; the remedy prescribed looks to us like putting soothing ointment OIl a cancer. Whatever use God is pleased to make of the United Nations, there can be no doubt that he commands us in the present critical period of history to turn to him. Not until the driven men and nations of this century consciously return to him from whom they have turned away is there any hope. The caIl comes to repent of our sins and follies, both personal and corporate. The only door to hope is Christ. God urges the reconciliation of men to each other, also as nations. on the basis of the divine command to love our neighbors as ourselves. And that, alas, not only for the political leaders of the world but also for many who claim to be Christians, is still a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.


Religious News Service informs us that “the so-called Christian Amendment” to the Constitution of the United States of America has been receiving increased bipartisan support. Recently two identical resolutions were introduced into the House of Representatives by a Democrat from Texas and a Republican from Illinois. Together with five similar ones these are now referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which seemingly has not scheduled any action on them for the present. Nor has any similar resolution found its way into the Senate.

This proposed amendment deserves the careful attention and support of all Calvinistic Christians.

It would provide incorporation into the Constitution of the words that “this nation devoutly recognizes the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Saviour and Ruler of nations, through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God.” For years the Reformed Presbyterian Church has been interested in seeing such a resolution introduced, convinced that all nations ought to acknowledge the rightful sovereignty of Jesus Christ over the world. To be sure, the resolutions properly spell out that the amendment shall not be interpreted so as to result in the establishment of any particular ecclesiastical organization or in the abridgement of the rights of freedom of speech or press or peaceful assembly.

Much must happen before such a resolution is finally adopted. It must be adopted by two thirds vote in both houses of Congress and thereupon submitted to the several states for ratification. Only if 38 out of the 50 approve, will. the Constitution be amended to include an official recognition of the Lordship of Christ. It will be interesting to see how the legislators will react, if the bill ever gets out of committee. Even more, we wonder what many Protestants and Roman Catholics will say about it in the religious press. Most of all, we wonder just how much recognition of Jesus Christ as Lord of the nations is still alive among the people of the United States.


In a world which so quickly forgets the sorrows which weigh down multi hIdes to engage in self-pity because of some petty problem, it is refreshing to hear what can be done by one or a few inspired by the love of Christ.

In a recent article Robert Merrill Bartlett has discussed the contributions of Dominique Georges Pire, Belgian priest, who has dedicated himself for some years to ministering to the needs of the “hard core” refugees found in several camps spread through Europe. These are people usually too old or too feeble to qualify for emigration to the free nations of the world. Forgotten by the international bureaucracy, they and their families seemed doomed to spend out their lives in the refugee camps without any prospect of a normal, decent, worthwhile existence. Through the efforts of Father Pire some seven European villages, each complete with little houses wherein the refugee families could begin a new life, have been opened. The organization which has gradually developed out of his concern bears the name of the title above and is supported almost entirely by voluntary contributions.

Father Pire has stated his aims clearly. “I am bound by no frontiers. I fight against barriers, prejudices and stereotyped social ideas. The only common denominator is our shared humanity. I am not interested in converting people to my way, to Roman Catholicism. My aim is to build a bridge of light and love across the turbulent waters of imperialism, anti-imperialism and racial hatred.”

We may disagree with Father Pire’s views; we cannot help but admire his self-sacrificing love for men and loyalty to ideals.

Today there is so much that needs doing in the field of Christian mercy. In the past our diaconates were active on behalf of Spanish, Hungarian and Korean refugees. But too frequent1y we forgot those who could not be helped by ordinary means and in ordinary ways. Pressing needs within Our church communities have tended to close our eyes to the desperate need of others. The life and labors of Father Pire remind us what great things can be accomplished by a few. Our consciences need this stinging prick. And may its pain be sharp and strong enough to stimulate our diaconates and congregations to engage more heartily in consecrated Christian mercy.