When the popular newspaper of today is challenged as to its portrayal and treatment of news, it answers, according to popular custom, that it is what it is because the public wants it so. It is merely catering to public taste, and if the public wanted to be different, the paper would readily adjust itself to the demands made upon it. A statement like this is, of course, an admission that the paper concerned has lost its sense of public responsibility, that it has neither vision nor mission, that publishing involves no moral obligation, and that it intends to make a livelihood out of the dissemination of filth and disaster.
The press has again and again announced itself as mightier in influence than the pulpit or the teaching profession, and claims that its only real competitor is the radio. We are facing an evil day when these mighty agencies lose sight of their moral accountability and become mere reflectors of public opinion, catering to the morbid, the sensational, the vulgar, or even the vile and degrading. While there are still many that have a lively sense of their public trust as purveyors of news, there are altogether too many that have lost in the battle with the circulation department. The editorial policy is determined by the public as indicated by circulation figures and the intake of the advertising department.
Our periodicals are not exempt from the struggle for existence. They have the double problem of presenting an appearance to the public that will attract and hold circulation, and at the same time maintaining the high standards demanded by the dignity of the truth committed to them. They must at once be popular and dignified, progressive and conservative, attractive without being sensational. Our editors deserve much commendation for the work they are doing. While they may not be in the position of the public official who stated that he was expected to have both ears to the ground while riding two horses going in opposite directions, and at the same time straddle a fence, their position is not an easy one. We can thank God that they are doing as good work as they are. We have reason to be proud of the literature which this denomination publishes. We are proud of our editors.
If we accept the evident truth that our periodicals are to be moral and intellectual leaders and not mere reflectors of public trends and beliefs, the position of editor is a most responsible one. While he must have due regard for popular taste, to the extent that he furnishes his paper sales appeal and attractive appearance, he must carefully guard against all cheapness of content or appearance. Jazz is not confined to music. It is found in literature as well. The thinking, cultured, substantial individual recoils instinctively from certain popular exhibitions of current literary taste. As our denominational belief has special appeal to the thinking, conservative class, we must not clothe our doctrines in a sensational dress that will repel the very class of people to whom our message should especially appeal.
As surely as our ministers ordinarily attract and bring into the truth very few people above their own intellectual and spiritual level, so surely do our periodicals select by their appearance and content the kind of people attracted by the form of the message presented therein. Sensational, loose, inconsistent statements will attract people of like characteristics.
When the loss of even one soul should cause us serious concern, can we afford to close our eyes to the disturbing increase of apostasy among us ? As men of God charged with the cure of souls, we cannot longer afford to ignore the conditions which confront us. As in times of national peril men are called together to consider the state of the nation, so in times of crisis in the church men should seriously consider the state of the church. We are now in such a crisis. Defections from an army are always grounds for serious concern. When the defections reach the total which they have with us, the time has come for action. We should not delay.
IN this work we are counting on the editors of our journals and periodicals. They are set for the defense of the faith. They are reaching larger audiences than are our ministers, and their responsibilities are correspondingly greater. They speak to our own people, and they speak to the world. They are reaching statesmen and officials to whom few of our ministers have access. To a large extent the denomination is judged by the work done by our editors. When the time comes when we are called to defend our faith before councils and kings, it is the work of our editors that will tip the scales.
Our ministers are representative in a much smaller degree than are our editors. What a minister spoke twenty years ago is largely forgotten. What an editor wrote twenty years ago is still a witness against him and against the denomination, and someone may dig it up and present it, at an inconvenient time, to confound him. We hope and pray that when we have to appear before representative assemblies and in courts of law, our editors will not have permitted to appear in their papers that which is capable of misunderstanding or perversion, or worse still, that which cannot be misunderstood, but is definitely anti-Christian and antidenominational. The responsibility of the editor is not easily overestimated.
May I call attention to some things in connection with which I believe our editors can be of definite help? There are certain tendencies in the church that may be considered danger signals which we will do well to heed. We are admonished in the book of Hebrews to give "earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." Heb. 2 : . Other translations present the idea of the danger of drifting. The picture is a significant one. A person who is drifting may be unaware of the fact. He is making no effort of any kind; he is not actively attempting to get away; he is merely passively drifting. His immediate surroundings give no indication that he is moving; to all appearances he seems to be standing still. Only as his eyes are fixed upon some landmark does he discern motion.
There are certain landmarks that we will do well to keep in view. As we do so, we may be able to discern the drift, if indeed there be any. Some of these landmarks we shall mention. It should cause us tremendous concern if we discover that we are drifting away from any of them.
Maintain True Fundamentalism.—This people is a people of the Bible. Belief in the Holy Scriptures is a cardinal doctrine among us. We have taken our stand upon the inspiration of the word of God as opposed to the claims of higher criticism. We are Fundamentalists in every sense of the word, and destructive criticism is not once to be named among us. We are among the few church bodies who are not divided upon the issue of inspiration. We believe the Bible to be the word of God in verity.
It causes us some concern to find statements in print that savor of higher criticism, doubtless not intentional, nevertheless tending in the wrong direction. There are those who find difficulty with some of the miracles mentioned in the Bible, and follow the lead of the higher critics in considering them largely the result of natural causes. But why should any who believe in a religion that is based on the miracle of the incarnation and on the miracle of the resurrection make any attempt to explain that which God has not explained? What is gained by it? Is the intent to make faith easier? Is the intent to show that a so-called miracle is really not a miracle ? Does such reasoning help to establish faith in the truly miraculous nature of the new birth, or can this also be shown not to be miraculous?
It is our opinion that it is both useless and dangerous to attempt to do away with miracles, and that no good purpose is served by such "proof." Neither the church nor the world is served by such explanation.
True Concept of Godhead.—Belief in the Godhead is the most vital factor in any religion. By the Godhead is here meant Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have not had from the beginning a perfectly developed conception of all that we now believe. We have not always observed the Sabbath from sunset to sunset. We have not always taught and practiced tithing. We have not always made health reform a vital part of the message. All these were a matter of increased light. So with the Godhead. We have not always had a developed doctrine of the Trinity. We have not always given the Son His place as God. It was only in the nineties that this doctrine came into prominence. It was the new book, "The Desire of Ages," that saved the day. That definitely taught the doctrine of the Trinity.
There are countries in which Jews are not wanted, and some countries in which they are persecuted. It is not a far cry from a Jew to a Seventh-day Adventist. We keep the Sabbath as do they. We abstain from pork as they do. We reverence the Old Testament as they do. By many we are called Jews. We may yet find that the doctrine of the Trinity will stand us in good stead in the days to come. It might be well if our papers had this in mind, so that once in a while references would appear that would make our stand clear in this respect. Such references are altogether too few. The world should be made aware that we are Trinitarians. This does not appear from a perusal of some of our journals.
By this is not meant that we should begin to argue the theological side of this doctrine. It is better to leave this alone. But there should be left no doubt in the mind of the public that we are Trinitarians, and thus Christians. And this should be done not merely as a defensive measure for a possible future situation. It should be done because we in very truth are Trinitarians and are giving the Saviour of mankind His true status as God.
Right Use of Testimonies.—We are concerned about the use of the Testimonies. There are those who use them, there are those who misuse them, and there are those who neglect them. We are concerned about all three classes.
Some use the Testimonies when they should use the Bible. They spend more time on them than they spend in reading the Word. This should not be. What Christ said concerning another matter may apply here: "These ought ye to have done, and not . . . leave the other undone." There is no substitute for the Bible,
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