the Reformers recovered the biblical faith, and that no Protestant ministry has excelled that of the seventeenth century. Reformers and Puritans have together given the churches an enormous wealth of theological learning and pastoral insight. Our attention to the past is reinforced by the present failure of the churches, and by the ways in which the Reformation is ignored by Christians at large. It is enormously beneficial to be made aware of our heritage in this way, for besides educating us in the faith the Reformers and Puritans remind us that in an important sense the Christian message does not change, and is not to be made to change; they counter the half-belief of many of our fellow-evangelicals that the years between Acts 28 and the coming of Moody and Sankey were of little importance; and, in a day of small things, they connect us to the historic Christian faith in an exhilarating way.
The question is, how do we stop this historical interest becoming a strait-jacket for out thought and action? How can the balance be struck between the historic faith and our modern situation? How do we avoid the charge of culpable escapism? For we surely cannot doubt that our day has its peculiar stamp and character, to put it no higher. To mention a few things–enormous wealth, vast urban populations untouched by the gospel, growing leisure, the absence of social restraints, the omni-presence of the mass-media, an enormous variety of thought and outlook on moral and social questions, and, perhaps more important than all these, a society that is rapidly and continuously changing in all these ways. Yet an outsider might be forgiven for thinking that our only pressing problem was the ecumenical movement! To some the very idea of applying the biblical faith anew seems to be anathema, while to other Christians there is no problem–the latest just is the best. But for those who value the biblical and Reformed faith, and wish at the same time to be all things to all men (like the apostles), it is a problem. How is it to be faced? In what sort of terms can we meet it? What sorts of considerations are relevant?