E.T., Phone Obi-Wan Kenobi

In spite of my evangelical background, I confess that I love movies. An analyst at heart, I strain to see secondary meanings in characters and plots (my friends say I look for symbolism in detergent commercials). Christ’s symbolism sticks out of many modern movies like a tract rack in a church vestibule.

Take E.T., the latest of the Messiah images. As a Christ symbol, he sticks fairly close to the New Testament plot from which he was drawn. He comes down to men from heaven in a flying saucer. He is understanding, loving, heals a little boy’s finger, and lives only to talk to the other world from which he has come. He dies, comes back to life, and finally ascends. About the only thing missing is a choir to sing the alleluias.

On the other hand, some movies leave me confused. Take Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi (may the Force always be with him) from Star Wars. Here is the saint of the sand people, a desert monk, who seems a Christ symbol. Like Christ in the wilderness, he beats the plastic-faced satan symbol, Darth (“Emphysema”) Vader, in a showdown. He collects an interesting group of disciples: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, a Wookie, and two ’droids. But unlike Christ, Ben loses, checking out just when the going gets rough, leaving his disciples on their own. Still, when Luke is really in trouble, Ben whispers over his shoulder, “Trust the Force!” which sounds a little like Psalm 37:3.

I wish Ben could spend some time with E.T., especially now that E.T. has won the victory over death and the grave. Ben must learn that good and evil are not opposite sides of the same force. And E.T. might correct his concept of the Force as the combined life energy of all living things—which makes it sound as though Ben had spent far more time with Gautama than with Jesus. Oh well, it’s only a movie; so how much can you expect of its Christology?

Still, I am convinced that E.T. plays his role straight. Wrinkled and burdened with cares, he is moved with compassion on those to whom he came, and he knows how to say a meaningful “ouch.”

The picture has made so much money we can expect the planet traveler to come back in Son of E. T. At the end of the film you can almost hear two producers counting their box-office chips and saying, “Ye men of Hollywood, why do you grieve? This stubby messiah which was taken from you into heaven will come back in like manner, and once again there will be Reese’s Pieces for the whole world.” As for Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi, they’re coming back in The Revenge of the Jedi. All we can say is, “May the best man win”—in spite of their Christology.

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An unintentional error crept into “Blood: The Miracle of Cleansing” [Feb. 18]. One sentence read, “Filtering is what the kidney is all about, but in very little space and time—a new heartbeat pumps another gallon of blood through the floodgates each second.” Actually, the kidney processes one gallon of blood per minute, not every second. The kidney is fast, but not that fast.


Inclusive Language

A question for Vivian Clark [“Was Jesus Christ a Man’s Man?” Feb. 18]: Was Jesus Christ also a woman’s woman? Can we look at the female aspect of Jesus Christ and find a theology of femaleness, a picture of femininity, a role model for girls to follow as they grow up learning to be women?

Inclusive language is a matter of evangelism. It is not cosmetic; souls are at stake. If our emphasis on “Son of God,” “man of God,” and so on, and our idolatrous desire to make Jesus a “man’s man” deny the gospel message to women, their blood will be upon our hands.

Inclusive language is not a modern fad; it is the deepest theological issue of our day, a matter of life and death, heaven and hell.


Atlanta, Ga.

Evangelical Smugness

I suspect that I am not alone in my irritation and embarrassment over CT’s evangelical “triumphalism” of which the recent editorial “Liberalism’s Rise and Fall” [Feb. 18] is but the most recent example. The passing of “old-line” liberalism over which CT crows is a matter of fact here in Chicago as it is in Carol Stream. So what? Smugness over this prevents us evangelicals from recognizing and dealing with present problems.

For example, no contemporary American evangelical scholar (except for, perhaps, Carl Henry) stands in the front rank in theology, biblical studies, or church history. Just ask even evangelical graduate students whom they study. Nonevangelical scholars have filled the void left by the departure of this liberalism. Second, American churches are filled by people who live by the liberal credo of “follow-the-good-example-of-Jesus-and-things-will-be-fine.” This despite CT’s preoccupation with the profession of so many Americans that they are “evangelical.”


University of Chicago Divinity School

Chicago, Ill.

The Real Basic Issue

“Catholicism 20 Years after Vatican II” [Feb. 18] was interesting. My question: Has Protestantism accepted Catholicism or has Catholicism accepted Protestantism? There is no middle ground on the basic issue that still remains.

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How is a man reconciled to God? Is he accounted righteous by the merits of Christ, accepted by faith alone, or not? Are there any saving merits in works or not? Is a man accounted as righteous though he is yet a sinner? Is Christ’s righteousness imputed to man?


East Point, Ga.

The author fails to mention that Vatican II never had any pretensions of being a doctrinal council—but that it was a pastoral-affairs gathering. To this end it succeeded. The article misses the point completely in reporting on the window-dressing changes in the Roman church. It would have been better to have emphasized that although there have been evident outward and physical changes, the church is still the hard-line doctrinal church of the Council of Trent.

As born-again evangelicals we must not be lulled into believing that the Roman Catholic church is a viable option for those seeking after truth, for those seeking the Jesus way to heaven, for those seeking to live a life free from fear and superstition.


Caronport, Sask., Canada

Sour Grapes

Regarding “Why Does Harvard Want an Evangelical Connection?” [Feb. 4]: What a bunch of sour grapes! It is hubris to equate the rationalistic scholasticism of inerrantists with the full range of evangelical theologies. An evangelical is not someone who has staked his or her life on the whale’s swallowing of Jonah, but on Christ’s resurrection from the dead. An evangelical is someone who believes the evangel, the good news, and whose life has been radically transformed and empowered by that news, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, for a new life of witness, service, and worship. The good news is not that one man wrote all of Isaiah, but that Christ died for all, and lives that all may have life, and have it abundantly.


Louisville, Ky.

The notion of appointing an evangelical to the Harvard Divinity School faculty is an excellent one so long as several facts are kept in mind. It is no more than theological tokenism. It will not change the basic theological undergirding of the school, which is far removed from historic orthodoxy. It will simply add one more dish to its cafeteria-style education, which has no central tradition and allows for the student to pick and choose from divergent and antithetical systems of belief and unbelief. Since it is already committed to representation from spokesmen of ethnic religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, the addition of an evangelical more or less completes the circle—until Mormon, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science, and Moonies representatives are added to the smorgasbord.

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Laguna Hills, Calif.

Copyright Restrictions

“God Gave Me a Song: Copyright Restrictions Took It Away” [Feb. 4] is long overdue. While something remains yet to be done about “bootleg” transparencies and photocopied choir arrangements, publishers and licensing agencies have overstepped their rightful bounds.

Publishers and licensing agencies would do well to take a second look at polices and practices that show too little interest in accommodating requests by musicians who, like Bigelow, are trying to function ethically and Christianly within the law. Companies have responsibilities as well as rights.


Springfield, Mo.

The attitude that a church should automatically be able to use music for free because music is a gift from God ignores the fact that, for better or worse, Christian music is an “industry,” with all of the legal and economic implications. Without support from churches and the Christian public, all of those popular songs that are “recorded, published, and spread widely” would not be accessible to most congregations. The very people who are making it possible for popular choruses to be used in worship are the ones being attacked.

It would be good if all music publishers would follow the lead of those in the industry who allow congregations to use music at no charge. However, the tension between musicians and congregations is not one-sided. It is a struggle between those who want to make a profit and those who want to get something for nothing.


Adams, Wis.

Scribal Error

In “Documenting the Dramatic Shift in Seminaries from Liberal to Conservative” [Feb. 4], there was an obvious scribbled scribal re: Scott College being accepted into ATS; it was Scarritt College of Nashville that was accepted into ATS in June 1982.


Canadian Theological Seminary

Regina, Sask., Canada

Enrollment figures for several of the larger accredited seminaries were omitted from the editorial.

In 1981 (the year cited) Dallas Seminary had a total enrollment of 1,663, which placed it near the top of any list of theological schools by student enrollment.


Dean, Dallas Theological Seminary

Dallas, Tex.

Lean On!

Right on for “The Midnight Church” [Feb. 4]. There are good historical parallels between Alcoholics Anonymous and the early church structure. Some of us who are experiencing the simple but dynamic house structure of the first-century church believe it is still the best answer to the overwhelming need of dependency, where “members consciously lean on each other.” Lean on!


Wheaton, Ill.

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