‘Where Are the Mainline Funnies?’

A friend of mine, a state university professor, recently suggested that the impact of our evangelical movement in recent years caught the liberal theological/ecclesiastical establishment by surprise. The reason: they had persuaded themselves that there were no bright men and women of evangelical persuasion.

Snake handlers, anti-intellectuals, King James Bible devotees, Sinclair Lewis creatures, mindless ranters, yes. Theologians, educators, top people in the arts, professions, business, government, communications, no.

Then suddenly bright evangelicals flooded the American scene.

Now a new tack seems to be developing. We may be bright, but we have an edge on the “funnies.” No less an authority than church historian Martin Marty assures us of this.

According to Marty, writing in Christian Century, there are no “mainline funnies,” only conservative (i.e., evangelical) ones.

I think he really means liberal mainliners, since he singles out a Southern Baptist and some conservative Episcopalians as laughable. (Tee-hee, chuckling, thighslapping, roaring laughable, to use Marty’s words.)

Hey, Marty—Anita Bryant is a “funny” and Malcolm Boyd isn’t? The Denver bishops are “funnies” but the House of Bishops who let James Pike destroy himself and devastate the church weren’t?

Marty quotes Arthur Koestler (in Janus, Random House): “We laugh because our emotions have a greater inertia and persistence than our reasoning processes.”

And it’s hard for bright people, even, to answer ridicule.


A Soothing Breeze

After reading the interview with Dr. Kantzer (April 7) I suspected that a fresh wind was blowing at CHRISTIANITY TODAY. After reading the article on evangelicals (“Evangelicals and the Inerrancy Question,” April 21) my suspicions have been confirmed. I, for one, want to express my appreciation to the selection committee and to Dr. Kantzer for providing us with a Christian statesman of his caliber.

I especially applaud his willingness to soothe the sores of the evangelical “radicals” (evidenced by the selection of questioners), yet unequivocally, albeit graciously, state his own convictions. I hope this spirit of reconciliation will be contagious through all the ranks of evangelicalism (in its broad sense).

Perhaps most encouraging is Kantzer’s predilection for orthopraxy along with his orthodoxy. I look forward to this emphasis in the pages of CHRISTIANITY TODAY and in the lives of its readers.


Emporia, Kans.

I am thoroughly impressed. Dr. Kantzer’s inerrancy article is worth filing both for its boldness and balance. More important, it leaves us with no qualms as to his ability to edit a magazine of your caliber.

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Topeka Bible Church

Topeka, Kans.

I wish to express appreciation for CHRISTIANITY TODAY as a valuable resource in my ministry. Congratulations to Kenneth Kantzer as he assumes his editorial leadership. I look forward to the marks of his stated aims in future editions. His interview was excellent.


Community Christian Church

Twin Falls, Idaho

From one longtime subscriber, a sincere welcome to Kenneth Kantzer as editor. CHRISTIANITY TODAY had seemed to hit a nadir for me several years ago. Articles were becoming all too predictable, from a too-small number of contributing voices. Still I felt the subscription price was justified, if only for the unique quality of News and the annual book issue; for some time that was about the state of things.

With the coming of Harold Myra as publisher, a noticeable promise of rebirth seemed to emerge. I caught myself reading lead articles again. Some of the puffy pontificating of editorials turned towards more responsible interaction with complex issues. The Refiner’s Fire has offered quality and information more often than not. Minister’s Workshop seems to have greater variety and practicality of content. The magazine still helps more than any other in sorting out, “What’s being newly published that appears worth my investment of time to grapple with?” In short, this reader finds CHRISTIANITY TODAY presently more creative, informative, and stimulating than it was five years ago.

Dr. Kantzer’s broad experience and balanced integrity were evident in the April 7 interview. It is pleasing to see he has little romanticism concerning present evangelical problems and shortcomings. One senses that there is just enough “radical” in his notion of “radical biblical commitment” to promote increased kingdom usefulness for CHRISTIANITY TODAY in days to come.


Randall Memorial Baptist Church

Williamsville, N.Y.

Standing Ovation

About Leland Ryken’s article, “Were the Puritans Right About Sex?” (April 7): Bravo! Bravissimo! (ah-hemmm.… wonderfully refreshing).


Dallas, Tex.

I want to applaud the article by Leland Ryken. I consider it instructive, refreshing, and edifying.


Belleville, Ill.

I must take issue with the article on Puritans. My knowledge of mainstream Puritan theology is, I admit, as small as Ryken assumes, but upon reading his account of church history in the fourth and fifth centuries, I am afraid that a grave shadow … is cast over the entire article.

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I was astonished at the several blatant errors that reveal Ryken’s apparent disdain for the rich heritage we have in the early centuries of the church’s history. Indeed, Athanasius was a bishop of the fourth century, but to say that for him “the supreme message of Christ was the need for virginity” is preposterous. The man’s entire life was exhausted to preserve the very foundation of our faith, i.e., the doctrine of the Trinity. And then in the next paragraph to refer to Tertullian and Ambrose as having lived in the century after Athanasius shows nothing but shoddy research on the part of Ryken. Tertullian, in fact, was a Christian apologist in Carthage during the latter part of the second century. He died in 220 A.D., 80 years before Athanasius was even bom. Also, it would have been appreciated if Ryken had substantiated his summaries of the teachings of these church fathers. If he is going to take issue with them, they deserve at least that much respect.

As for Origen, he truly did castrate himself in the name of religion, but he is hardly a good representative of the early church’s view on virginity, for Ryken neglects to mention the fact that he was excommunicated from the church for that very act. In addition, several Egyptian synods of the third century, as well as the fifth and sixth Ecumenical Councils, branded him as a heretic and a rebel.

Finally, it was very grievous to me when he supposed that the apostate Council of Trent climaxed the teaching of the early church fathers. It did not.

It is obvious that Ryken lacks not only knowledge but also regard for the history of the early church. I would ask, Who was his teacher? Why would CHRISTIANITY TODAY print an article containing such disgraceful errors? Let me encourage Dr. Kantzer, as the new editor, to continue to safeguard the credibility of your magazine by printing articles that contain a little more respect for our church fathers and, if not respect, at least accuracy.


Goleta, Calif.

• Origen was not excommunicated for that act.—ED.

Missing The Focus

In this review of my book Youth, Brainwashing and the Extremist Cults appearing in the March 24 issue, Mr. Melton comes to the inaccurate and unfortunate conclusion that I “advocate” kidnapping and all forms of deprogramming. My treatment of this controversial topic is essentially a description of the phenomenon, not a blanket endorsement.

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Regardless of one’s views on the rightness or wrongness of deprogramming, to categorically conclude (as the reviewer does) that it “does not work,” is a gross distortion of the facts. Furthermore, Melton’s assertion that ex-cult members who have been deprogrammed are incapable of leading a normal life or are in need of long-term psychiatric treatment ignores the clear evidence to the contrary presented in my book and supported by the research of other behavioral scientists.

It is unfortunate that your readers were left with the impression that the focal concern of my book is deprogramming rather than the spiritual and psychological seduction of American young people by the cults.


Professor of Sociology

Westmont College

Santa Barbara, Calif.

The Purpose Of Pain

I commend Mr. Yancey on his fine article (“Pain: The Tool of the Wounded Surgeon,” March 24). However, the statement that no hymn has been dedicated to pain is not quite correct. Consider for instance, “More Love To Thee,” by Elizabeth Prentiss (1818–1878). The third stanza reads:

Let sorrow do its work,

Send grief and pain;

Sweet are Thy messengers,

Sweet their refrain,

When they can sing with me,

More love, O Christ, to Thee,

More love to Thee, More love to Thee!

Is this not the purpose of pain in essence? Too bad this is a third stanza—that’s why we missed it!


Grace Evangelical Free Church

Sacramento, Calif.

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