It Is Not Every Question That Deserves An Answer

If there are questionnaires in heaven. I will demand in-and-out privileges.

Questionnaires frighten me. I panic when I see one, and I am a basket case by the time I am through filling it out. The people sitting around me all move away one by one. They do it in subtle ways, like going for a drink and never coming back, or throwing their pen across the room and retrieving it.

I can never remember my auto license number, and I haven’t a ghost of a chance when it comes to my social security number. I can remember the name of my third-grade art teacher, but not my mother’s maiden name. I get migraine headaches trying to recall my blood type.

Last week, I had to go to the dentist. You guessed it: his receptionist had me fill out a questionnaire. (No, in a dentist’s office, you fill in the questionnaire. Sorry about that.) Well, I remembered my name and address, and I had my social security number on the Blue Cross card in my wallet. So far, so good. The question that gave me apoplexy was: “Are you now pregnant?” Having been born male, I have never had to answer that question. I wrote: “I hope not, but I think my guppies are.” The receptionist didn’t think it was funny.

“What prompted you to come here?” stultified me. I replied: “I was driving past, saw your sign, and thought I’d stop.” What prompts anybody to go to a dentist? “My left lower wisdom tooth sent me.” I should have added: “This is the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth.”

Of all types of questionnaires, ministerial questionnaires are the worst. They are sent out by pastoral search committees who are searching for pastors. The last one I received (who is suggesting my name?) had 10 pages to it, and half of the questions my own mother couldn’t answer. “Has anybody in your family ever been tried for heresy? Burned at the stake?” How about this one: “What do you wear when you preach?” (A smile? A black suit? A morning coat? A robe?) I became so desperate filling out one questionnaire that I wrote down any answer that came to my mind. “What is the title of your latest book?” Answer: Teach Yourself Embalming. In their acknowledgement letter, the committee enclosed a gift certificate to any local counseling center.

Are all these religious questions really necessary? I can just hear Jesus calling, “Fill out this questionnaire, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!” After all, Paul’s quick spiritual survey had only two questions to it: “Who art thou. Lord? What wilt thou have me to do?” Now, that’s the kind of questionnaire that accomplishes something.


On Being An Imitator

Your comments on plagiarism (Eutychus. Feb. 6] were both enlightening and entertaining. Many of us have heard more of Spurgeon’s sermons than we’ll ever know.

Not wishing to be accused of the same crime, I’ll give credit and quote a beloved pastor of my teen-age days in Oklahoma. Rev. W. E. Lowe, who has been with the Lord for many years now, used to say, “It’s better to be an imitator than no ’tater a’tall.”


Tempe, Ariz.

“How Much Profit?”

I read with interest Cronkhite’s “Making the Gospel Free” [Feb. 6]. The crucial point is, as he says, “How much profit is too much?”

I appeal to CT to initiate exploration of this moral question on a broader front. It’s true, of course, that the issue of profit versus ministry is more clearly drawn in “Christian work.” But the basic notion of acceptable profit is one to which Christians should direct their attention; after all, all of the life of all Christians is to be “unto God.” The essential tenet of capitalism seems at times to be “whatever the market will bear.” We might well ask the extent to which Christians should be involved in the financial concerns of the oil companies, or the practice of law or medicine, all of which in our present society might be seen as having inordinately high rates of return in a monopolized market, and indeed for commodities which everyone in our society needs. Other such examples might be present too, of course.

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It is said by some that greed is one of the driving forces behind the economic troubles facing our country. Perhaps Christians are not immune. I hope CT will face the question of whether it is a disease of the soul, or just “good business.”


Cedar Hill. Tex.

Science And Biblical Truth

My problem with the editorial lies in the strategy of insisting that “scientific creationism” be included in a discussion of origins.

Whatever the validity of “scientific creationism” as science, the imposition of such a two-model system raises a number of questions. First, this approach asks the student to make a choice between two options, either or both of which may not be understood or equally well stated by the teacher. The result could be a case so weighted in one direction that the other is barely seen—a result all too evident in many Christian schools.

Second, is “scientific creationism” a good statement of what Christians believe about origins? It seems highly improbable that such a statement would find agreement among more than a narrow segment of evangelicals.

Third, is science the place to impose one’s Christian view on the public school system? I find the ideas expressed in the social sciences at the school my children attend far more destructive of their faith than those few points in science where Scripture and science are said to conflict. Is the two-model approach in biology to be followed by two-model legislation in psychology, history, art, physical education, and music?

I would suggest a different approach—one that would involve clerics and laity in a dynamic relation with the public schools. This would require Christian involvement in the schools at all levels. If one is willing to give time to working with children, school teachers and administrators are far more willing to invite people in to express alternative views on religiously sensitive topics—quiet infiltration rather than bombastic confrontation.


Gordon College

Wenham, Mass.

Women’S Role

Your lead line on the cover of the February 20 issue, “Women’s Role in Church and Family: Going Back to Scripture,” intrigued me. It is unfortunate the editorial that introduced the subject did not follow that high and proper strategy. In one interpretive leap, the editor jumped from the solid rock of Galatians 3:28 to a highly speculative and debatable conclusion, “the right to ordain women.”

If CT is going to take this position on the ordination of women, let us at least have the benefit of your own biblical scholarship in support of this conclusion. To do less is to jeopardize your credibility. How did you arrive at such a firm and sweeping conclusion after reading the articles pro and con? I could not.


Galilee Baptist Church

Denver, Colo.

Frankly, I’m a bit dismayed that CT has taken a public stand in favor of the ordination of women. It seems to me that both you and Stouffer [“The Ordination of Women: Yes”] make the mistake of reading too much into Galatians 3:28. It is my firm conviction that Paul is not making a broad statement there to the effect that men and women are equal in all situations—in the home, church, and marketplace—as well as in the kingdom of God. To me, it seems obvious that the context of his argument in the whole epistle restricts his statement to the last sphere only. In Galatians, Paul refutes the idea that there were different classes of Christians, namely, those who have “merely” believed in Christ, and those who have both believed and been circumcised. Paul is at pains to insist that there is only one basis of acceptance by God, and that is the completed work of Christ. He does not deal with ecclesiastical or domestic order in this letter.

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But Scripture does teach, on the grounds of Creation and Fall principles, that men and women have differing roles and functions in the domestic and ecclesiastical economies. To deny that men and women can be unequal in authority and role in the home or church while at the same time being equal (or “one”) in Christ must lead to denying that the Father could be “greater” than Christ (John 14:28) while at the same time being “one” with him (John 10:30). There is no more inconsistency on the human plane than there is on the divine.


Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

The writer of the editorial evidently believes that Paul forbade women speaking in the church because they were “untaught women.” He also says that in 1 Timothy 2:11–12 Paul had in mind “immature, ill-taught Christians.” This, I believe, is his own supposition.

What was not mentioned in the article was that the apostle Paul falls back upon what God had previously said about the role of women. “They are to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (1 Cor. 14:34).

Today we hear it said that Paul based his teachings about women on the culture of the day, the unlearned condition of women in his day. But not once does Paul resort to such an argument. His argument is based on “as also saith the law.”


Trinity Lutheran Church

Cantonment. Fla.

Stouffer seems bent upon equating submission with inferiority and authority with superiority. This is the position of the women’s liberation movement, but I am surprised to find it in the thinking of an evangelical pastor.

One thing he overlooked is the obvious fact that in the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3, God requires the individual to be the husband of one wife. If ordination of women is taught in Scripture, why are there no qualifications for female elders?

It is strange indeed that women’s advocates such as Stouffer didn’t come along until the world began to put forth such antibiblical teachings. Where have such men been all these years? And how could they have overlooked such an important doctrine as women’s rights?


Baytown Community Church

Baytown, Tex.

Thank you for your excellent articles on “Women’s Role in Church and Family.” The picture is wonderful. Maybe that stiff breeze will help blow away some cobwebs!

About two years ago, I was asked to teach a young adult Sunday school class. I agreed to do so only if my husband would agree to teach with me—keeping me “under his umbrella.” Their questions regarding this thinking started my husband and me on a journey. We had to face the possibility that our position was more traditional than biblical. The ensuing process of in-depth study and prayer has been difficult, painful, and finally rewarding. Our position has been articulated by Pastor Stouffer.


Orinda. Calif.

The Mickelsens’ approach to the meaning of headship (kephale) was interesting [“The ‘Head’ of the Epistles”]. But is it not true that one of the major reasons why “traditional” churches are so ineffectual today is that they have ignored the leadership role (authority) of Jesus Christ? He is the originator, completer, and enabler of the church, to be sure. But he is also its Lord. He is the one from whom we in the church should receive marching orders. How many disappointments have arisen because we ask the Lord to support and nurture our own plans rather than his! The Mickelsens bring out a frequently neglected meaning of kephale, but at the same time they diminish the richness and fullness of the word in its 1 Corinthians 11:3 context.

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West Lafayette, Ind.

Simply because she is asked to submit to her husband (Paul’s overwhelming use of the word aner in man-woman texts), a woman is not thereby compelled to submit to every male in the congregation on the basis of 1 Timothy 2:12. And then there are lots of single and widowed women who are free of a husband’s special direction. In any case, all our women need to be functioning within the body appropriate to their abilities apart from sexual bias.


Silver Spring, Md.

I am too well aware of both sides of the argument. But perhaps we are concentrating on the wrong questions. Jesus never seemed to notice male or female, but was constantly aware of ministry! Is a conversion brought about by the power of God’s Holy Spirit through a female vessel worth less than if God had used a male? Balaam was “saved” by an ass! God will use who he wants and what he wants. (I find no Pauline theology covering the virtue of being an ass rather than a horse.)

Surely the tempter reads with relish our debates. As we draw line after line of jargon, who is minding the church? Certainly Jesus is the Lord of the church, but he has appointed, called, and commissioned earthly stewards. Clergy operate in ministry uniquely equipped with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Those gifts are asexual. There is no masculine list or feminine list. God uses our whole selves to express his truths, not the other way around. In my home, I am wife, mother, and woman. In my church, I am pastor, not woman pastor. I have joys and struggles in my parish—victories and problems. But none of them stem from my gender.

Brother Austin and Brother George. I appreciate your scholarship and attention to detail. But in the long run, I must ask the question, “Are you winning anybody?” Let’s put this part of the debate to rest and ask God’s questions about harvest instead.


Galloway United Methodist Church

Franklin, Pa.

Your recent issues covering a Christian’s response to war and the role of women in the church deserve special recognition. They do so not just for the quality of the articles, but also for placing detailed arguments for two different positions side by side. I want to thank you for this approach for two reasons. First, it exposes us to a wider range of knowledge than is normally allowed. Though you must exercise your conscience in stating editorial positions and your prerogative to convince others of their validity, you need not deny access to competing views. Any journal that cannot present in detail the logic of the “other side” never gives any credence to the reader’s intelligence and argues from the most repressive stance imaginable: “Believe me, because you’re ignorant of any other alternative.”

Second. I’m grateful because it points up weaknesses in our attempts to bring biblical wisdom to current issues. Two different people use the same Scriptures, the same Greek study, and the same exegetical guidelines to prove two entirely different positions. This should well remind us that our understanding of the Word cannot be totally entrusted to academic tools, valuable as they are, but to the cry of our hearts, “Father, teach us your ways, that we might walk in your paths.” In our own exegeses, we would be reminded that our defiant arrogance in our presently held positions is our greatest barrier to truth and growth. The prayer cannot be prayed alone, but must be the humble search of all of us together.


The Savior’s Community Church

Visalia. Calif.

Your description was quite accurate [“Does Your Husband Need Jesus?”]. The unequally yoked wife is not a full member, either in the home or in the church. This is, however, an angle that your article has not exposed. Any program that includes unsaved husbands should warn its participants that these husbands are carnal, tuned to the world, and therefore “brotherly” embraces and other familiarities that take place among Christians are not always in order.

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Washington, D. C.

How can you talk about “Women at the Helm” and not have any articles by women who are currently acting as ministers? The weight of the articles you printed did not take seriously the ability or the call of women to minister in the body of Christ. Out of five articles and two vignettes dealing with the role of women in their families and in the church, only one took seriously the responsibility of women to say “yes” when Christ calls them to minister to others in and for him. I am firmly convinced that when the church or individuals in it keep anyone, Jew. Greek, slave, free, male, or female from following the call of Christ to minister to his body, then that church or individual is in sin.


Salem Friends Meeting

Liberty, Ind.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after reading Lillian Hitt’s “My Submission Brought Freedom and Fulfillment.” It brought to mind a recent tiling project my husband and I worked on. When the 10-inch squares coincidentally worked out perfectly in one corner of the floor on which we were laying them, we laughed, and tongue in cheek, pointed to it as an obvious sign from God that it was his will that we lay floor tile. I’m sure Mrs. Hitt is very happily married, but how sad that we Christians look for omens of God’s will and presence in the material parts of our lives like our coffee containers and floor tile. How much better it would be if, instead, we would look harder for him within ourselves.


La Habra, Calif.

Proselytizing Without Pressure

I am grateful that the barriers that have existed so long between Jewish religious thinkers and the Christian church are gradually being lowered and that meaningful discussion is taking place across the divide [News, Jan. 23]. I was rather perplexed, however, by the distinction that certain evangelical participants made between witnessing and proselytizing. It seems to me that the word “proselyte” is very much a Humpty Dumpty word. “ ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is.’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean different things’ ” (Alice Through the Looking Glass).

Historically, the word meant a convert from Judaism to Christianity, and correctly used today, it means a convert from one religion to another, without any ominous overtones. The particular connotation given by the participants where they said it “includes coercion and propaganda techniques unworthy of the gospel” is a purely subjective definition with no lexicographical authority. I feel that when evangelicals refute proselytizing they unwittingly fall into a trap that effectively means denying the divine command to preach the good news to Jew and Gentile, and first to the Jew.


Kent, England

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