Well I’ll be!
A package arrived in the mail a couple of days ago from my buddy Darrell Paulk, Pastor of Hayneville Baptist Church in Hayneville, AL. I open it up and what do I see? Glad you asked. I see five old copies of Christianity Today dating from 1961, 1963, and 1967. They are, in a word, awesome. I mean, at this very moment I’m looking at the cover of the May 22, 1961, issue and what three names do I see? Francis Schaeffer, Herman Ridderbos, and Harold John Ockenga! Not too shabby! (The name Ridderbos makes me feel as if I’ll break at in whelps. It’s an old, painful seminary war story involving a little paperback by Ridderbos that I thought would be a piece of cake…but I digress.)
So I open said issue up and what do I see on p.16 but a letter from an Edward A. Johnson, the then Director of Alumni Relations at Carthage College, taking Carl F.H. Henry, the then Editor of Christianity Today, to task (no small thing to do, by the way) for some criticisms that Henry had made of something said by a Dr. Hazleton. In the context of Johnson’s protest to Henry, he says this:
“Sometimes a Faulkner or a Camus actually comes closer to basic religious truth, with or without Christ, than some of our preachers who piddle around Sunday after Sunday with pious moralisms and hackneyed, soporific platitudes…The works of men such as Faulkner of Camus are apraeparatio evangelica, a ‘preparation for the Gospel,’ serving to call to mind certain religious truths for men who would never come near either Bible or church.”
To which I say: precisely, absolutely! It is not to exalt a man like Faulkner: a man, by the way, who desperately needed, but apparently did not come to, Christ. Nor is it to denigrate modern preaching (in 1961 or now). It is simply but one more bullet-point in the growing list of why secular writing can play a role in introducing certain truths of which the secular writer himself likely did not grasp the full import.
For instance, there have been times in reading Faulkner when I thought, “How is it that this man seems to understand the gospel more than lots of folks who claim to have embraced the gospel?” (I often say that of a man like Umberto Eco, too.)
It’s an interesting thought…just as much so in 1961 as today.
Think about it.
And thanks, Darrell Paulk: a good friend with a keen eye for very cool stuff!