Many people—mathematicians mostly—prefer numbers to words. Just why that is, I’ve never been able to cipher. But I’m sure there are some readers of Eutychus who would rather balance a checkbook than read one. There are even some people who think you can understand the Bible more by its numbers than its words. Certainly for testing the theological tenor of Eutychus this is true. Just how theological is number nine?

The editors of The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible don’t seem to think much of the theological pretensions of nine. But what do they know? I think nine is theological. It rates more attention than just noting that nine is one less than ten. Why should ten be so much more sacred? (Let’s ignore the fact that we have ten each of fingers and toes. I never heard that those appendages were so holy, though Jesus did mention something about offending hands and their cure.)

Now, I’ll go a certain way down the ledger with the IDB. Nine may not carry the same theological weight as three. We all know that three stands for the Trinity and can’t be divided and means completion. Also, nine might not be as important as one, which symbolizes God. Then there’s seven. It’s not only a lucky number, but right up there at the top of the sacred numerical system. But once you pass them, I modestly submit that nine has significant theological connotations, particularly for staunch trinitarians who do everything in threes. Anyway, one and three and seven have all been taken by previous Eutychi, so I’ll just have to make do with nine.

Look at that number. It’s a drawback that nine can be divided, but at least it’s divided by three. In fact, nine can be divided by three threes. That makes it three times more like the Trinity than three itself—a trinity within a trinity, you might say. And it looks whole: 9. See that circle? (We’ve all heard about the circle being unbroken.) And what about the ninety and nine. Or the number of entries under “Nine” in Strong’s concordance. Or the nine rings for the elven kings. Oh, that’s the wrong book. But if Tolkien thought nine significant.…

Yours for more creative theology,


Sentence Counter

I just received your January 5 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. In trying to read the article “The Touchstone” by Thomas Howard, professor of English, you almost convinced me to not renew my subscription. I really don’t know what kind of English this professor teaches but it must be something out of the dark ages. His first sentence is a four-and-one-half-line paragraph. After a few short sentences I find a five-line sentence, a nine-line sentence, an eleven-line sentence, a seven-and-one-half line sentence, a six-and-a-half-line sentence, a five-line sentence and a seven-line sentence. Eight long, long sentences all within the first two subheadings. At that point I gave up. I’m glad that most of your articles aren’t that “word-logged,” difficult to read, and almost impossible to comprehend. This long-winded fogginess of thinking should have stayed back in the dark ages.


Placentia, Calif.

Catching up on my reading today, I have been tremendously challenged by Thomas Howard’s “The Touchstone” (Jan. 5). This invitation to return to the basics of Christianity and “old-timey notions” is worth the entire year’s subscription. Mr. Howard may think he’s only a professor of English, but he’s a purveyor of profound thought. May our lively awareness of where we stand truly guide us through the cultish trends of today to that discipline of discrimination which comes only from reading the Word.


Westlake Village, Calif.

Job’s Friends

I appreciated Virginia Stem Owens’ fine article on depression (“Naming the Darkness” Jan. 5). It was a well-written reminder that easy formulas, when carelessly applied, can place a counselor in the role of Job’s friends. However, in my opinion, the article will not banish forever the fact that many depressed persons have been lifted out of depression by a timely, well-spoken word. Other depressed persons have been helped through understanding the psychological, spiritual or even physical causes of their problem. Then there are those who seem to find the greatest help in the realization that their “slough” is something that must be slogged through. Their comfort may come in knowing that someone understands and is walking with them.


Alpha Counseling Services

Poulsbo, Wash.

Sacrilegious Satire

Your satire in the January 19 issue entitled “A Meeting of the Board” by Richard Wallarab has completely disillusioned and disheartened me. I was in the process of reading the very excellent article on psychotherapy by Dr. Humphries when all of a sudden I was slapped by your editors’ idea of humor. It was more like sacrilege to me. How CHRISTIANITY TODAY could even have thought of printing it, let alone actually done so, is beyond me. Please tell me where I’m wrong.


Noblestown United Presbyterian Church

Noblestown, Penn.

Article continues below
A More Appropriate Title

Mark Noll’s article might have been more appropriately titled “The Christian’s Battle About the Bottle.” Nevertheless it was generally well balanced and timely. Thanks to the WCTU zealouts of a bygone era the word “temperance” when used in the context of alcoholic beverages has lost its meaning, having been changed from “moderation” to “abstinence.” Evangelicals would have a difficult time arguing from Scripture for a position of immoderation (i.e. drunkenness). And there may indeed be valid reasons why an individual should practice abstinence such as recognition of a particular physical vulnerability. But to impose his conviction on others by insisting that the only valid theological position is one of teetotalism misses the point entirely. Some would argue that a Christian should practice teetotalism in protest to the excesses of contemporary culture. But by the same logic, one should also abstain from lawful sex because of the prevalence of fornication, adultery, and various sexual perversions.… Personally, I’ll go along with what is claimed to be the minority evangelical position in support of John Winthrop, or in a more contemporary vein, with C. S. Lewis, of whom it was said that he enjoyed … “tea, tobacco, and public house ale.”


Santa Rosa, Calif.

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.