The Hyphen And The Preposition

It was in the Screwtape Letters that the late C. S. Lewis cautioned us to beware of hyphenated Christianity: Christian-pacifist, Christian-vegetarian, Christian-socialist, and so on. Personally I am not as uneasy around the hyphen as I am around the preposition for.

Consider the power of that preposition: Campers for Christ, Cowboys for Christ, Carpenters for Christ (this one sounds as if it could have started in Nazareth, but I doubt it). Nurses for Christ, Truckers for Christ (known in some areas as Jammers for Jesus), Teachers for Christ.

Are there counterparts to these organizations? Are there teachers for Satan, cowboys for themselves, campers for a good time, nurses for Buddha, carpenters for the AFL-CIO, and truckers for the late Jimmy Hoffa?

Not too long ago I was talking to a faith-filled daredevil who called himself a “sky diver for Christ.”

“Do you yell ‘Jesus’ or ‘Geronimo’ when you jump?” I quipped.

He was annoyed. This was clearly a serious issue with him and I could see that if I pressed the matter it would only result in a non-Christian “chute-out.”

The word for is clearly overworked.

I have read I Was a Prisoner for Christ, I Was a Communist for Christ, and when I was in college I belonged to the H2SO4 (Help 2 Save Others 4) Christ Sunday school class. I have a born-again friend who wanted a specialized license plate that read FORGIVEN, but there were too many letters and he had to abbreviate it to 4-GIVEN. It was a kind of witness, I suppose, but it seems to me there is a difference between “four-given” and “for-given,” his license plate being in the former (or is it four-mer) category. It’s balancing either side of the preposition that gets tricky. Is the trucker in Truckers for Christ primarily a Kenworth driver or a Christian? Is the nurse primarily a scientist or a believer?

But the crucial question must be: Does the organization using the preposition really represent any abridgment of what Christ lived or taught? I once heard a hooker explain that she was a “hooker for Christ.” “Born-again gays” protest that they are “for Christ.” So are the “strippers for Christ.” Once on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” a land developer was building and selling condominiums under the corporate name of Condos for Christ.

Without hyphens and prepositions, the various parachurch organizations seem to grow in authenticity. The New Testament is refreshingly free of prepositions and hyphens. The Twelve did not form an organization called Apostles for Christ. Nor did Stephen’s friends build a society called Martyrs for Christ. A man’s commitment was his allegiance. Christians for anything were first called Christians, and prayer and Bible study were always in vogue with no prepositions to diffuse their understanding of what a Christian was or what he or she was to do in the world. As they saw it, every Christian was for Jesus.

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I applaud your editorial, “It’s Too Soon to Quit!” [Dec. 17], I am encouraged that growing numbers of evangelicals and fundamentalists are evidencing an interest in imparting biblical values to and into contemporary culture.

In my thinking, three things are essential if we hope to change our society: (1) commitment to a deep-rooted personal righteousness in our own individual lives, (2) collective organization toward common goals, and (3) perseverance.


Des Moines, Iowa

It seems to me CHRISTIANITY TODAY has adopted the same approach to social issues and involvement that characterizes much of evangelicalism. It is an attitude of embarrassment, of having been chastened by the liberal camp for not being up to snuff (according to their standards) in social activities, especially those kinds of activities approved of by them, of promising to do better.

Granted, we shouldn’t seek to trumpet our good deeds; but let’s not pretend they don’t exist, either. Let’s not also adopt the position of supplicants at the liberal throne and apologize for not measuring up to their expectations, promising to do better in the future.

Rather, let’s challenge them to produce the vast array of good deeds that the evangelical church has produced in the past and to be a little more forthright in telling of the deeds it does today. Let’s also stress that it is neither just nor fair to say that we have no concern for the poor only because we do not support tax-based, government programs for relief.


Dunwoody Community Church

Atlanta, Georgia

Wrong Relationship

I would like to point out an error in the Personalia item [Dec. 17] pertaining to the relationship of the David C. Cook Company to the Foundation.

The publishing company is owned by the David C. Cook Foundation, which is a not-for-profit corporation. The dividends of the company go to the support of the foundation. The foundation carries on a worldwide mission outreach with special emphasis on Christian literature, communication research, and the development of Third World national writers and editors.

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David C. Cook Publishing Co.

Elgin, Ill.


Thank you for Richard Dinwiddie’s “Messiah: Behind the Scenes of Handel’s Masterpiece” [Dec. 17]. The article fulfills my long-time wish to see a major Christian journal give this monument of Western music the attention it deserves and provide pertinent information about the composer and the circumstances surrounding its writing.


Clarks Summit, Pa.

This, to be honest, represented the best that has come out of your magazine.


Whiting, Ind.

Allegorical Interpretation

The 25 affirmations and denials by the Council on Biblical Inerrancy [News, Dec. 17] are interesting reading and commendable—unfortunately, neither Paul nor Jesus could pass their tests of correct scriptural interpretation. Allegorical interpretations may cause more problems than they solve; nevertheless, throwing them all out is equivalent to tossing out the baby with the bathwater. Allegory was an acceptable way of interpreting Scripture in Paul’s day, and for many hundreds of years afterward.

Scripture does not contradict itself, but the statement presented in number 17 goes beyond that, and makes of every verse a new law. If the 613 commands of the Torah are burdensome, how much more so is this!

Moses said that we have to keep the law for all time; Jesus said that he fulfilled the law; Paul told us that if we kept the law, we had turned away from God’s grace. Statements 17 and 18 cannot be applied to the Old Testament and still stay in harmony with the New. We live not under a dispensation of the law, but under individual and personal grace, and a dispensation of faith and Holy Spirit. The idea that there is one “right” set of principles contradicts the hope that the Messiah will “write the law on every human heart.”


Phoenixville, Pa.

Not Quite Perfect

I thought you had accomplished the issuance of a “perfect” example of what a magazine should be [Dec. 17] until I read the news article concerning drunk-driving laws. You almost made it; however, I believe the blood alcohol level in the blood test should be 0.10 percent rather than the 10.0 percent you indicate constitutes drunken driving. Even the most hardened drinker could not withstand the onslaught of a 10 percent solution of alcohol in the bloodstream!


Woodbridge, Va.

Further Explanation

I was surprised to see myself quoted in a December 17 news article [“Some Evangelicals and Jews Edge Close on Israel Issue”], and would like to explain my concern about the meeting in a fuller context.

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Evangelicalism has at its heart the evangel, the good news of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ to every man. Evangelicalism also has a mandate to proclaim that evangel. My dismay at what was being said at the Washington meeting came because I sensed that this mandate was being carefully avoided if not denied. That is what I meant by compromise. Evangelicalism and the Great Commission go hand in hand. If the purpose of this dialogue was to establish friendship so as to foster opportunities to present the evangel (an approach with which I agree), that is not what came across in the meeting.

While I am in favor of evangelical-Jewish contacts, and even cooperation on certain issues, the differences between the two groups must not be ignored nor the gospel obscured.


Lanham, Md.

Two Mistakes!

Arthur Williamson’s good article, “The Great Commission or The Great Commandment?” [Nov. 26]; had two mistakes that must be corrected. I did not, as the article said, coauthor my paper on salvation with Prof. James I. Packer; in reality my excellent coauthor was Dr. James Parker III.

Nor was it true that I was surprised to discover that biblical terminology supports a narrower rather than a broader usage of the word salvation. (I had already argued that in 1977 in Evangelism, Salvation and Social Justice.)


Philadelphia, Pa.

Another Tax!

My husband is employed as a church musician in the Lutheran state church. We would like to make a correction in World Scene [Nov. 12],

Church members pay a tax equal to 8 to 9 percent of their income tax (which is about 10 percent of the income) to the church. In other words, the church tax seldom amounts to more than 1 percent of the total income.

Church membership in Hamburg is about 53 percent Lutheran, 10 percent Catholic, 12 percent other religious groupings (Christian free churches, Islamic, cults), compared to 90 percent Lutheran and 10 percent Catholic after World War II. The remaining 25 percent are dropouts from one of the above groups. Proportions have changed partly because of internal migrations and the influx of guest workers. It is nevertheless true that an increasing number of people are leaving the church and that there is less social stigma attached to that move.


Hamburg, West Germany

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published. Since all are subject to condensation, those of 100 to 150 words are preferred. Address letters to Eutychus and His Kin, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, Illinois 60187.

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