Ze Question Ist …

Some years ago the late Paul Tillich was fond of saying, in his impressive Teutonic English, “Ze question dot efery chilt has asked itself zince reaching der age of zix years ist, How did I come to be part of ze zum totality of being?” This is the root, no doubt, of Tillich’s own life-long concern with ontology. I always thought it a bit farfetched until the other morning when my four-year-old daughter asked before breakfast, “Daddy, how did we get to be real?”

My first reaction was, “Already?” And I was preparing to launch into some kind of explanation of biological reproduction. But fortunately my wife was equal to the occasion. Her philosophy is: Never answer a difficult question—ask another. So she asked, “What would we be if we weren’t real?”

The answer was prompt: “Puppets.”

You see, the second question sorted out the first. My daughter’s concern was ontological, not biological. (It’s always good to know the question before you give the answer.) She wanted to know about the very nature of being, not about how she came to be biologically.

And her question has a good answer, ontological and theological at the same time: We are real and not puppets because God made us to be able to respond to his love, to love him and serve him.

We take curiosity about biology, especially sex, to be basic and primary, natural questions, so to speak. Ontological questions, those relating to being and the nature of reality, we think of as unnatural, sophisticated, and abstract—questions demanding a high order of intellectuality to pose or answer.

But, in fact, they too are fundamental—and even before the age of six.

The Bible presents us early on with the statement that God made man in his own image. Man is first of all a creature and God’s image bearer; biology, psychology, sexuality, and all other aspects of human reality make sense only in the light of that primary fact.

We have accused past generations of suppressing or diverting children’s questions about sex and reproduction. We recognize that such questions should be answered, not evaded. But we are likely to evade the ontological question. To “Why am I here?” we answer, “Well, God made mommies and daddies …” That may be the modern ontological equivalent of the biological evasion, “The stork brought you.”

And when all is said and done, it is far more important to know from an early age why we are not puppets than to be perfectly enlightened about storks and their limited role in the production of babies.


Article continues below
Messianic Oneness

Congratulations for your excellent articles on the Messianic Jew (Feb. 1). I believe Dr. Goldberg scripturally justifies the unique position we hold in the body of the Messiah. Unfortunately, a few have accused us of “rebuilding the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile.” May it never be so! To quote Dr. Goldberg’s article, “In the Messiah’s body there is a oneness of all believers in the spirit, but the Jewish person does not lose his ethnic identity and it should not be stripped from him.”


Executive Director

Young Hebrew Christian Alliance

Chicago, Ill.

Seldom have I seen a magazine put theory and practice back to back like this issue did. Dr. Goldberg’s article certainly presented the theology and philosophy of Hebrew-Christianity while the article by James Hefley presented the theology in practice.… It was good to know that the voice of Messianic Jews or Hebrew-Christians is being heard.


Missionary and Editorial Assistant

American Board of Missions to the Jews

Englewood Cliffs, N. J.

Prophetic Musings

Your editorial “A Becoming Modesty” (Feb. 1) is so apt and needed in our day of budding prophets who seem to divide the future so clearly from the Scriptures. The constant bombardment of the public from pulpit, radio, and TV about the end times, rapture of the Church, tribulation, pre-tribulation, and other millennial musings has confused the thinking of millions. Your editorial deserves reading by every honest believer, especially preachers, with the last paragraph capitalized!



Gulf-Coast Bible College

Houston, Tex.

Alas and alack! Your editorial was a source of no little tribulation to this and other pre-trib readers of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. Undoubtedly both pre- and post-tribs would agree with several of your major observations. The popularity of the modern sport of prognostication has indeed brought about some unbiblical ideas about the Second Coming. Current events may or may not indicate the proximity of that blessed event.

However, the rather strong inference that those who hold to a pre-tribulation rapture are guilty of date-setting is a somewhat tenuous generalization. In eight years of college and postgraduate study in institutions subscribing to the pre-trib position I have yet to hear the first intimation that “God would never let his people suffer.” Christian suffering could hardly be equated with undergoing the Great Tribulation! Furthermore, no pre-trib really claims to know when Christ will return. We pre-tribs aren’t the occupants of your “predictive limb.”

Article continues below

Finally, it seems that a “becoming modesty” would recognize that evangelical pre-tribs are “looking for Jesus and not the rapture of the Church,” just as their evangelical post-trib brethren are. After all, Paul’s encouragement to the Thessalonians was not merely that “we … shall be caught up” but “so shall we ever be with the Lord.”


Moss Bluff Bible Church

Lake Charles, La.

Bangladesh Brief

One of the valuable features of CHRISTIANITY TODAY is the significant place it gives to world-wide missions, and I am grateful to you for this emphasis. May I draw attention to “Bangladesh in Brief” (News, Feb. 1). Here it is stated: “Protestant work in the land, then East Bengal, was pioneered in 1815 by British Baptist missionary William Ward, who traveled to India with ‘the father of modern missions,’ Baptist William Carey.”

May I respectfully point out:

1. William Ward did not travel to India with Carey. Carey arrived in India in 1793, Ward in 1799.

2. Joshua Marshman, one of the famous Serampore Trio of Carey, Marshman, and Ward, went on a tour of the Jessore area of East Bengal in July, 1802, and preached the Gospel to crowds there. The Baptist Missionary Society of Great Britain gives 1805 as the year Jessore became a mission station. The date of 1815 for pioneer work in East Bengal is not correct.


Thornley B. Wood

Professor of Missions

Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Philadelphia, Pa.

Examining Exorcism

I am one of the many evangelicals who would observe a strict boycott of the film The Exorcist. I am totally appalled that in two articles in your February 1 issue you give at least passing approval if not encouragement for Christians to attend this film. I have already warned my people and trust others would do the same that this film is from the pit of hell.

In the editorial entitled “Who Believes in Exorcism?” you state that “the eerie film shows the reality of that which our secular society has scoffingly relegated to the superstitious Middle Ages”.… It would seem far better to examine the Bible, God’s infallible Truth, on the subject rather than consult something which in your own words is not “truly Christian”.… We must heed the many warnings concerning the conduct of our lives such as “abstrain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).


First Baptist Church

Fallbrook, Calif.

I thought you took the right line. I bought a copy of the 1614 Roman rite for exorcism after seeing the film. It is overpowering. Tremendous.… St. Michael the Archangel is called upon once or twice in this rite that I have, which seems biblical to me. I tried to read it aloud to some friends, and found it too much. I couldn’t carry on. I also felt that perhaps one ought not simply to read it like that—it seemed a bit like reading the Canon of the Mass out loud—you wonder if you’re treading on ground that you ought not to be treading on.

Article continues below


Associate Professor of English

Gordon College

Wenham, Mass.

The review of The Exorcist I believe does disservice to the Christian reading public. Ms. Forbes correctly perceives the mistakes of either preoccupation or denial in these areas. Her displeasure at the film’s lack of portraying the power of Christ as the way of freedom is also admirable. However, the disservice comes from a lack of clear biblical warning in her writing of the dangers of such a film.… Only a removal from the people who wrestle with phobias, obsessive thoughts, etc., could enable Ms. Forbes to make such a banal judgment of the film’s dangers. To study the depths of such possession is not something the Christian is called to do; he is called to exorcise demons by the power of Christ in prayer. There are types of knowledge we avoid (remember the temptation of Eve). The intense psychological involvement with bizarre evil that this film requires is a certain cause of stumbling, and we had better take heed lest we fall.… David Elliot, in the Chicago Daily News, writing from an admittedly non-biblical perspective (Jan. 13), roundly condemned the film as gross, a banal portrayal of religion, demeaning to the viewer in exposing him to such gross horrors, immoral and pornographic.… Is it not sad that a Christian reviewer would say less?


The First Hebrew Christian Church

Chicago, Ill.

Hope For Openness

Thank you for your review of Dr. Mildred Wynkoop’s book, A Theology of Love (Books in Review, Feb. 1). Naturally, I was gratified by the generous treatment afforded by the reviewer since I am of the Wesleyan-Arminian persuasion; however, of even greater satisfaction was the very fact that you devoted time and space to such a book.… I trust that this review is a ray of hope in the direction of a new openness to the editorial skills of some who are not of the neo-calvinistic school of thought.


General Superintendent

Church of the Nazarene

Kansas City, Mo.

On Celebrating Lent

Sherwood Wirt seems to assume in his article on observing Lent (“Let’s Lengthen Lent,” Feb. 15) that all liturgical churches observe the church year for reasons that are basically legalistic. He says, for instance, “Non-liturgical churches … consider the forty days before Easter to be no holier than any other time of year,” assuming that liturgical churches do. He asks, should we “observe Lent or ignore it? Follow the disciplines or celebrate our Reformation heritage?,” assuming that those in the Reformation heritage would would have nothing to do with Lent. I wonder what Martin Luther would have thought of that.

Article continues below

I am a member of a church that is liturgical and evangelical, and I see no reason whatever why “the approach of the Lenten season [should bring] a furrow to the evangelical brow.” “What are we to do with it?” Wirt asks. I would humbly, evangelically, liturgically, and within the domain of Christian liberty suggest that he celebrate it!


St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church

Clare, Mich.

Reminder Of Freedom

Thank you for the excellent article “The Mystery of Scripture,” by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes (Feb. 15). Dr. Hughes has brought out a point that many of us need to ponder: the paradox that we become free in direct proportion to the degree to which we let God control us. So often we are tempted to think and act as if such freedom and control were opposites like wet and dry, when actually they are nothing of the kind; one supports the other as surely as bedrock supports a skyscraper. The product of man’s initiative will topple if it is not anchored in the more solid result of God’s initiative.

C. S. Lewis, perceiving a similar truth in his conversion experience, wrote in Surprised by Joy:

In a sense I was not moved by anything. I chose to open, to unbuckle, to loosen the rein. I say, “I chose,” yet it did not seem possible to do the opposite. On the other hand, I was aware of no motives.… Necessity may not be the opposite of freedom, and perhaps a man is most free when, instead of producing motives he could only say, “I am what I do.”

In our day, when freedom is so much discussed and so little understood, Dr. Hughes has given us a useful reminder of the word’s true referent. He has also given us an intellectual standard against which we can measure our own view of Scripture, showing us the integral connection between inspiration and the Christian life.


Assistant Professor of English

Tarrant County Junior College District

Fort Worth, Tex.

Article continues below
Responsible Argument

I would argue with the article “Should the Christian Argue?” (Feb. 15), but it is too good to argue with.

While serving as editorial editor for our student newspaper on a Christian campus, I many times asked myself, “Are we as a staff being unspiritual by printing comments that people frequently disagree with?” I thank you, Robert W. Smith, for not only showing a true perspective of argumentation, but also stating it is the responsibility of the Christian to oppose error openly.


Winona Lake, Ind.

Comic Communication

In the February 15 issue, the article by John Lawing, Jr., under “The Refiner’s Fire,” I thought you made one of the greatest contributions your publication has ever made. This keen and incisive insight into the comics, American style, is terrific! I have long felt that perhaps the American comics are a door through which we can more readily communicate more things (both good and bad) than in any other one thing on the American scene.


Central Baptist Church

Gainesville, Ga.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.