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DEATH OF THE PRAYER AMENDMENT 

Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen (Republican Senator from Illinois) had worked hard to get his amendment through the senate. Since the time when the Supreme Court outlawed prayers in the public schools, many people have warned that our country was drifting more rapidly in the direction of atheism now that the highest judicial body in the land erased all vestiges of religion from the nation’s schools. Senator Dirksen determined to do something about it. He introduced in the Senate a proposed amendment which reads:

Nothing contained in this Constitution shall prohibit the authority administering any school, school system, educational institution or other public building supported in whole or in part through the expenditure of public funds from providing for or permitting the voluntary participation by students or others in prayer. Nothing contained in this article shall authorize any such authority to prescribe the form or content of any prayer.

It appeared as if the larger majority of people in this country were in favor of the amendment, while the organized religious bodies, through their leaders, opposed it. Those organizations with lobbies in Washington and those called to testify while the amendment was being considered in committee were, on the whole, opposed to any efforts even to modify the Supreme Court decisions. Some of these organizations were the National Council of Churches, Americans United For Separation of Church and State, and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Some predicted that the amendment would never come out of committee to the floor for debate and voting. 

Nevertheless it did. It failed also. But the final vote was something of a surprise, for it was only nine votes short of the two-thirds vote needed for passage. Of course, even if it had passed the Senate, it would still have needed the approval of the House of Representatives and of three-fourths of the state legislatures. 

Senator Dirksen promised to renew the campaign to gain passage for his amendment in the Ninetieth Congress next year. 

We have written before that we are not very much interested in whether or not prayer is permitted in the public schools. The fact of the matter is that the question is the wrong kind of question. We ought not to be asking the question of whether or not prayer should be permitted in the public schools; we ought rather to be asking the question whether the state has any business at all in the work of education when the responsibility is parental. And the fact that the government nevertheless assumes responsibility for this only hangs the state on the horns of a dilemma. The state is supposed to remain neutral in matters of religion. But neutrality is, in the nature of the case, atheism. That atheism has taken over the schools is also apparent in every subject which is taught — especially those subjects which are to be found under the natural sciences. 

A few prayers introduced into the schools are not going to change all this. In the nature of the case, they cannot.

WORLD CONGRESS ON EVANGELISM 

Sponsored by Christianity Today as a Tenth Anniversary project, the World Congress On Evangelism will meet October 26 through November 4 in Kongresshalle, Berlin. Delegates have been invited from all over the world to “plan for the global fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission in this last third of the twentieth century.” — in the words of a recent editorial in Christianity Today. Billy Graham has been appointed honorary chairman and will probably lead several of the meetings. The purposes of calling such a meeting are:

1) to define biblical evangelism, (2) to show the modern world the relevance of Christ’s mission, (3) to stress the urgency of evangelistic proclamation throughout the world in this generation, (4) to discover new methods of relating biblical evangelism to our times, (5) to study the obstacles to biblical evangelism and to propose the means of overcoming them, (6) to consider the types of evangelistic endeavor currently employed in various lands, and (7) to summon the Church to recognize the priority of its evangelistic task.

A “prayer-News Bulletin” is sent out periodically to rally support for this meeting and to provide information concerning the progress of plans. In a recent issue, C. E. Aubrey writes on the subject of “Congress and Pentecost Similar.” A few quotes from this article will show the areas in which the author believes there are comparisons to be made.

There is striking similarity between the needs which preceded Pentecost and the needs which precede the World Congress on Evangelism. The world needs today the same spiritual effects that came from Pentecost. Spiritual religion was in a state of decline. . . 

. . . . The philosophy, methods, message and spiritual concepts which are prevalent now are inadequate for our day. The philosophical and theological mentality which prevails now is not, for the most part, conducive to New Testament evangelism. A realization of this makes the World Congress on Evangelism an imperative. 

There is another similarity relative to the personnel at Pentecost and those who are to attend the World Congress. At Pentecost, “devout men out of every nation under heaven…” were gathered for a religious festival…. In Berlin it is hoped that every evangelical body will be represented…. 

There is an even more striking similarity in the objective of Pentecost and the World Congress on Evangelism to be held in Berlin. At Pentecost they came with a great sense of spiritual need and purpose. . . . 

The objective of Pentecost was to receive spiritual power to do what Jesus had already commissioned them to do. 

Devout men from every evangelical group in the world will come to the World Congress to receive spiritual dynamics. . . . 

The early disciples went away from Pentecost to change the world.. . . All evangelicals must join hands in evangelism to see revival of spiritual religion in our time. 

. . . . . . Let every evangelical body call its people to prayer. Pray that all who attend will see visions and be so embued with the Spirit of Jesus that they will be able to carry back to every section of the world spiritual qualities and insights that God can use to give rise to a spiritual upsurge unprecedented in the history of Christianity.

As if this comparison is not enough, the same editorial quoted above says: “The congress recalls the Jerusalem Council about A.D. 50, which supported the extension of evangelism to the Gentile as well as the Jewish world, and will include delegates from some of the oldest as well as the youngest churches in Christendom.” 

We consider such comparisons highly presumptuous. And inaccurate. The Jerusalem Council was under the direction of the apostles who occupied a unique place in the church; and it was called together to interpret for the church the implications and significance of Pentecost. Pentecost itself was a unique event in the history of the church. For through the outpouring of the Spirit of the resurrected and ascended Lord, the church was brought out of the gloomy dispensation of types and shadows into the dispensation of the reality of the fulfillment of God’s promise. This same Spirit given by Christ has dwelt in the church since that time and dwells in her today. Pentecost was not revival time. There never will be any event similar to it. Nor need there be. 

The purposes of this congress include among them this one purpose: “to define biblical evangelism.” We sincerely hope that this purpose will be accomplished. We hope that most strenuous efforts will be put forth to change the entire concept of missions in vogue today to fit once again the data of the Scriptures. The church has strayed far from this, ignoring the Scriptures on this important point. A total revision is necessary. It is necessary to define the work of missions as the official preaching of the gospel. It is necessary to put missions once again into the perspective of the great truths of Scripture: total depravity, limited atonement, election, the covenant. It is necessary to consider missions in the light of the preaching of the gospel as a sign of the return of Christ. If the congress would undertake this task, we could hope for a profitable session.

NATURE STILL BOSS 

In a candid article which recently appeared in the Grand Rapids Press a noted scientist took a long, hard look at man’s efforts and claims to control his environment. He was not impressed. “For all his trying, man has controlled virtually nothing,” is his opinion. 

But the interesting comments he had to make had to do with the fact that, in his opinion, man’s efforts to control “nature” have most generally backfired. He refers to the pumping of ground water in the central valley in California which caused the earth to slump and ruined costly canal systems, highway grades and building foundations as an example of this. Another example is to be found in the matter of weather control. In his opinion, weather control has not only been a failure, but if further efforts are made, the results of such efforts could very well be disastrous. He imagines that hurricane control could result in massive droughts so that by avoiding one disaster, man creates a far worse one. “Man acts for his own purposes, and nature reacts according to her own immutable laws. Nature is neither friendly nor inimical. She is merely implacable. We had best come to terms with her,” is his concluding comment. 

Of course, this scientist speaks from the viewpoint of an unbeliever. We cannot accept his positing of nature as a force to be reckoned with apart from God. But what does strike us very forcibly is that even sinful man can see that his efforts to subdue the earth have, for the most part, ended in creating new and more dreadful problems. This is the truth of the matter across the whole range of scientific advance. This is to be understood. It cannot really be any different. For one thing, man does not rule in the creation any more as God’s friend-servant — as a benevolent and loving king who labors in the service of God. Rather, he is a cruel and heartless tyrant who abuses the creation, twisting it and wrestling with it in order to force it to serve his own lusts. He is cruel, high-handed, rebellious against God. The creation must serve his own evil purposes. Because it is God’s world, man cannot expect to get away with this sort of thing. But, for another thing, the creation itself is under the curse. Not immutable laws of nature operate, but the frightening reality of the curse. It is this curse of God which makes men’s efforts futile and which results in the creation turning upon man to destroy him. God’s wrath cannot be overcome with the greatest skills of science and by the most astonishing accomplishments of wicked men. Creation remains man’s implacable enemy, seeking ever to devour him. The result is inevitably death and destruction. 

And, the more men insist on tampering with creation, bending the world to serve their sinful goals, the more the creation will turn against him to destroy him. Wicked men could well take warning from this man of their own ranks. Especially as they seek now to tamper with the processes of life itself, they would do well to pause and listen. God will not be mocked.