What? Sue the Preacher?

Who says ministers don’t need malpractice insurance? Do they never make mistakes? Is it thought that no one would ever want to sue a minister? Do people think clergymen and -women are so poor that a plaintiff wouldn’t get much money even if he won?

Could a minister be sued for quoting the Bible—if “Go and do thou likewise” is the wrong message for the wrong person? Now, sending a minister to jail for incorrect exegesis may not be a bad idea, but we would soon have to build a new network of jails just to house blatantly poor exegetes.

While most people realize it rather quickly if the prescription a medical doctor gives them is making them worse, they don’t always perceive it when they are getting sicker using a prescription from the preacher. Doctors read the literature put out by pharmaceutical companies about indications, side effects, antidotes, and so on. Even the right medicine in the wrong proportions can result in something worse than the original disease. Ministers should ask themselves, “What will happen if someone overdoses on this verse?” Maybe seminaries should have a course in Biblical Pharmacology.

Working out the scale for ministerial malpractice insurance will be an actuarial nightmare. Why, suits might include an entire church! Someone placed in a church group with boring people, for instance, might sue. And what if the pastor’s wife is in charge of the church supper and everyone gets ptomaine poisoning? Who will be sued then? Could the minister be sued only for what he says? What about things he doesn’t say? Or doesn’t do? Consider a suit brought against a pastor who fails to attend the piano recital of an elder’s 11-year-old daughter.

A number of good things are bound to happen once people get into suing their ministers. The ministers will be much more frugal with words. Parishioners will see the possibilities of getting rich by coming to church and listening carefully to the sermon. And insurance companies will have a new lease on life!


Inerrancy—Where Does It Rest?

I apppreciated the article “Jesus Takes the Stand: An Argument to Support the Gospel Accounts” [April 9]. It is a buttress to apologetic argument to show that biblical accounts of historical events are trustworthy. However, the conclusion leaves something to be desired.

My knowledge that the Bible is accurate and true cannot rest on the intellectual honesty of the writers. It must rest on the inspiration of the writers by the Holy Spirit.

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Jackson, Tenn.

Simple Faith Needed

“The Battle for the Bible, 1982: A Report from the Front” [April 9] expressed the opinion that the acceptance of a 1982 Trinity Evangelical Divinity School graduate by Princeton Theological Seminary is “a sign that such schools are beginning to value conservative scholarship more highly.”

If some “liberal” schools today do value more highly “conservative” scholarship, it is because of its excellence, not its conservative character. If “conservative scholarship” is indeed receiving more respect these days, it is because recent generations of scholars have achieved a level of excellence that many of their predecessors, more involved in defensive apologetic and reactionary rejection, failed to attain.


St. Paul, Minn.

Recently you have repeatedly reported on discussions of inerrancy. We have witnessed little consensus at these congresses and conferences. When will a united effort bring forth a definition of inerrancy that is mutually agreed upon by those who insist the Bible is inerrant?

Please refrain from labeling mainline churches “liberal.” We fear that among your readers, “demon-possessed” or “Communist,” not “Christian,” are synonyns for “liberal.” Why don’t you accept the challenge to define the labels—“liberal,” “conservative,” “evangelical”—they seem so intent on placing on churches?




Salem Lutheran Church

Lake Mills, Iowa

Literary and Spiritual

As a Jew I have obviously had limited exposure to your periodical. But I happened upon “The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ” [April 9].

I found it not only rich in the literary sense, but the impact of the spiritual message was not lost. I find it heart-warming that literary excellence and a spiritual message can be combined to touch the intellect as well as the heart.


Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Improper Perspective

It is unfortunate that your report on one of the resolutions adopted at the fortieth annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals was not presented in proper perspective [News, April 9].

The full text of our resolution clearly refers to other resolutions adopted in 1952, 1977, and 1979. There are those within our membership who are committed to peace through strength as well as those who renounce the use of force as a matter of conscience. But we have all consistently joined together through the years to urge our government to exercise reasonable restraint in the production and use of its military capabilities and to encourage other nations to do the same.

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Chairman, Resolutions Committee

National Association of Evangelicals

Wheaton, Ill.

Your readers would have been interested to know that our theme was “Save the Family”; that plenary sessions were addressed by Pat Robertson, Elisabeth Elliot, Charles Swindoll, and William Brownson; that 40 workshops were led by leading marriage and family experts; that significant resource material for local churches emerged; that a national Task Force on the Family was named to provide a continuing ministry to families; and that James Dobson received our Layman of the Year award.

Individuals representing 47 denominations and more than 50 Christian organizations from 36 states and Canada were in attendance.


Executive Director

National Association of Evangelicals

Wheaton, Ill.


Hooray for the United Methodist bishops for placing ecumenism at the bottom of a list of 15 priorities for the church in coming years [“COCU Still Struggles for Mainline Church Union,” April 9].


First United Methodist Church

Pensacola, Fla.

Material to Ponder

Your beautiful coverage of a delicate subject [“A Proposal to Tilt the Balance of Terror,” April 9] prompts me to communicate in total agreement. My experience as an infantry soldier in New Guinea and the Philippine Islands in World War II placed me in the “kill or be killed” position for two-and-a-half years.

You have thoughtfully and courageously expressed the futility of pacifism in a realistic world and given Christians excellent material to ponder.


First Baptist Church

Bellflower, Calif.

In today’s confused world, no one knows exactly who will fight for what. We do know that anyone and everyone will fight. What we need to know is that there is someone who will stop making others pay for his freedom, even if he has to die to make that statement. The Christian is not called to fulfill Romans 13:1–7 but Luke 9:23.


Free Methodist Church

Greenville, Ill.

As a member of a historic peace church, I have often felt and stated that across the board pacifism does not address Christian responsibility, nor face realistically the issue of the depravity of man.

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I pray passionately that we will find a therapy for our national, and international, nuclear neurosis. Publicly renouncing the prerogative of a first or preemptive strike could be at least a bud on an olive branch.


Niagara Christian College

Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada

Wrong Impression Left

Your article [North American Scene, Mar. 19] leaves the impression that I delivered a blanket condemnation of fundamentalists, creationists, and biblical inerrantists. Such is not the case. I was discussing the current attempt by some who hold one or more of these positions to discredit those who do not agree with their interpretations or espouse their particular causes. My concern was that an absolutist position concerning God’s Word can be and sometimes is used in ways that in fact deny God.


Executive Director

General Assembly Mission Council

United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

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