Civility-What The World Needs Now
I remember my undergraduate years at Harding College when Dr. Clifton Ganus, Jr. was president. Dr. Ganus is a remarkable Christian gentleman. He is among the greatest administrators I have known in Christian higher education. He is also an expert historian. Ganus and Arnold Toynbee, the late prominent British historian, were friends. I recall a chapel speech Dr. Ganus delivered in which he shared part of a conversation he had with Toynbee. The latter said, “Dr. Ganus, civilizations fall when men start hurting one another.”
Civility is the word. Civility is a basic thread that holds civilizations together. When civility goes, civilization goes. Today the thread is unraveling before our eyes. From the rising tide of Islamic terrorism; racially motivated hatred and violence; secularism that has resulted in a degenerating decadence; vitriol that spews from various media; rancor that characterizes political campaigns, talk shows, reality TV, and street protests; epidemic litigation; all of this, and more.
Civility and apologetics connect because, as the Blaiklocks wrote in a 1960s book on the existence of God: “To imagine that love’s fundamental virtue . . . 'civility' . . . and all that makes life gentle, can survive the loss of their divine foundation calls for a hardihood of optimism not easy to achieve” (Is It—Or Isn’t It? 50).
I have seriously tried to study apologetics for 44 years. I have not read, or heard, anyone whom I thought was more able to defend the Christian faith than the late Thomas B. Warren. His intellectual abilities did not exceed the loving concern and kindness he manifested toward his fellow disputants. As an example of this, at the conclusion of his historic 1978 debate on the existence of God with atheist Wallace I. Matson (philosophy professor at the University of California Berkeley), I heard Warren make one of the kindest, most loving appeals on behalf of Christianity, which I have heard or read. Before thousands who were present, Warren addressed Matson:
. . . I assure you, Dr. Matson, that . . . I try to preach that every man ought to love every other man on this earth; that if there is any answer to the racism we find in the world, it is in the religion of Jesus Christ; that the gospel has the great purpose of drawing all men into one body, that we may all be one in Christ, no matter whether you are from Africa, Europe, China, South America, or wherever. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 2:13-16. And to intimate that we Christians do not love those who live in adultery or in homosexuality or that we do not love those who are even guilty of murder is to simply and flagrantly misrepresent us. The fact that we point out that these things are sin . . . does not mean that we do not love them!
. . . [T]he Lord Jesus Christ who loved every person, even Wallace Matson, . . . aware of his unhappy childhood, . . . his problems even today, . . . loves him in spite of all that he has said against Him and who would forgive him . . . as he would have forgiven Judas, if Judas had come to Jesus in penitence and, in effect, fallen down and said, “O Lord forgive me, I know I have been wrong.” Our Lord would have been as willing to put His arm around Judas, in loving kindness and forgiveness, as He did around Peter. Peter denied Him; Judas betrayed Him. But Peter repented! And whose sermon do we have recorded in the second chapter of Acts but that of Peter? Dr. Matson, that’s Christianity! (343-44, emp. added)
The above implies the answer to the loss of civility in the United States, Western civilization, and the whole world. We see here why the philosophies of atheism and agnosticism must be challenged. They are attacks on the only absolute moral foundation of human civilization—the God of the Judeo-Christian ethical system. Beyond this, the true answer to the hate and ill-will in the world ultimately resides in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Charles C. Pugh III