Dying In Leviticus

While I generally like expositional sermons, I find myself turned off by long series. I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I remember one church member who said that his pastor had preached for a year and a half on Philippians. When it was over, most people still loved the pastor, but everyone hated the Book of Philippians.

A kind of marathon presumption in some Bible preachers leads them to believe that while others do not have the substance to preach 23 sermons on “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), they indeed do. But such sermons seem to get more “iso” than “exe” into their “gesis.”

Ever and anon, one hears of a pastor who, in preaching his way through the Bible, died in his fortieth year of ministry still in the table of contents. I know of a pastor who spent 18 years preaching through the entire Bible. His members testified of their joy at his excellence in handling the books. Some rejoiced that they had joined the church in Joshua; the newer members said that they had come to Christ in the seventh chapter of I Corinthians. One man was married when the pastor was preaching on Zechariah, his first child was born in Matthew 25, and he became president of the board of his company in Jude 3.

It’s all a way of reckoning, I suppose.

But most people do not handle an 18-year series all that well. Instead of rejoicing that they joined the church in the Passion of Saint Mark, they are more likely to admit disconsolately that they went to bifocals in the begat passages of Genesis and died in Leviticus.

Overall, I think it is better to preach shorter series. If we do not, I think the pastor will meet the little old lady at the front door who honestly testifies, “Oh, Dr. Smith, I just love your sermons. Every one is so much better than the next!”

Revelation is usually a pitfall to those pastors who love long series. I have known several who felt the millenium was about the right length of time for a sermon series on the subject. And so Sunday nights become seven years of tribulation which the church does have to go through. The entire series leaves the congregation crying, like those under the altar, “How long, O Lord, … dost thou not judge and avenge” us.

It’s a fault of Revelation series that they mire down in the incidentals of the Apocalypse. I have heard so many such series now, that I havè lost all interest in finding out the true identity of old 666 or the woman on the beast or the tenhorned confederacy. Speak to me not of OPEC, the last days of the European Common Market, and the wounded head that lived again. Still, such series make me fear for the Second Coming as a kind of sermonus interruptus. This we may be sure of: when our Lord does return, somewhere he is sure to deliver a grateful congregation that has survived “the time, times, and half-a-time,” and are now sure that the “abomination of desolation” must be the very series that gratefully doomsday interrupts.

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Commendations Due

You are to be commended for printing “What Shall We Do About the Nuclear Problem?” [Jan. 21]. Dr. Kantzer has spoken for millions of evangelicals whose opinions have tended to be obscured by the proponents of the positions he correctly rejects. These opinions have so dominated both the religious and the secular press that a statement by CHRISTIANITY TODAY was needed to restore some kind of balance.


Bartlett, Ill.

I was deeply disturbed by the editorial. While Kantzer’s conclusions (that evangelicals must strive for a freeze in nuclear arms buildups, followed by a nuclear cutback, and eventual destruction of all nuclear and conventional weapons) are very close to mine, his arguments proceed along dangerous and possibly heretical lines.

The major problem is in the attempt to justify a Christian’s participation in a war of any kind. Nowhere does Paul guarantee a citizen his rights. Paul simply states that authorities will punish wrongdoers, which they do. However, if Kantzer’s paraphrase is accepted, this opens an ugly can of worms. The Christian must then choose between “good” and “evil” authorities, and be willing to surrender his or her life (as well as the enemy’s) to insure that the will of God is properly carried out.


Bloomfield, Conn.

Tragically Typical

As a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor, I found David Scaer’s observations in “Lutherans and Episcopalians Pair Off” [Jan. 21] historically accurate, articulate, rather objective on the surface at least, and tragically typical.


Concordia Lutheran Church

Wilmington, Del.

I found David Scaer’s article disappointing. I should have expected more information with regard to his comments on the Holy Communion. Scaer’s position is that the Lutherans “historically have insisted that the earthly elements of the sacraments [sic] must be viewed as Christ’s body and blood,” whereas among Episcopalians Christ is present only in a general way and “not specifically in the elements.” This is hard to square with any source for Episcopal worship, not least the Prayer Book itself. All of its eucharistic prayers speak specifically of the bread and wine being made, by the action of the Holy Spirit, the Body and Blood of our Lord.

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That “consubstantiation, the view that Christ’s body and blood is given with bread and wine, without further specific definition, correctly describes the Episcopal but not the Lutheran view,” will come as quite a surprise to Episcopalians, and Anglicans in general.


St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Cedar Falls, Iowa

A Powerful Article

I’m grateful to Lewis B. Smedes for his powerful article, “Forgiveness: The Power to Change the Past” [Jan. 7]. He understands how I can erase those tapes of hurt and frustration, and he knows how to put that understanding into my hands. I applaud his clarity and his comprehensive concern.


Burbank, Calif.

Author Smedes is exactly right in some of the excellent insights he presents in his article—particularly his distinction between tolerance and forgiveness and his denial that forgiving is excusing. But his statement, “Forgiveness happens only when we first admit our hurt and scream our hate,” goes too far. We forgive after feeling the hurt, yes, and maybe only after screaming the injustice, the iniquity of the act against us. But we need not descend into the abyss of hate before knowing the joy of forgiveness. Stephen and Jesus set the standard.


Seventh-day Adventist Church

Huntington Station, N.Y.

Impropriety Denied

The January 7 issue contains a news item concerning the World Council of Churches. It is reported that a West German source has charged the WCC with transferring funds from other programs to the Special Fund of the Program to Combat Racism.

Mr. Patrick Coidan, WCC assistant general secretary for finance and administration, has denied emphatically any impropriety in the management of WCC funds, maintaining that only contributions so designated are used for the PCR’s Special Fund. Further, Mr. Coidan has stated that the accusation “is part of a campaign to discredit the World Council of Churches.”


WCC, New York Office

New York, N.Y.

Dilemma Uncovered

Joe Aldrich really uncovers a serious dilemma when he estimates that “95 percent of those in the pastorate today have no non-Christian friends” [Jan. 7]. The issue of clergy burn-out is serious and growing. When are seminary professors, district superintendents, and even the laity going to help those in full-time pastorates to reassess their priorities and heed the timely plea of Dr. Aldrich?

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Wichita Evangelical Church

Milwaukie, Oreg.

Wrong Perception

I would like to correct a statement in “What Catholics and Evangelicals Have in Common” [Nov. 26] suggesting that the “Ann Arbor Community” is Roman Catholic. The community is The Word of God, an interdenominational group consisting of Christians from many different churches. It began in 1967 as a prayer group organized by people who were involved in the Catholic charismatic renewal, some of whom subsequently became well-known members in that movement. Because of this fact, and because New Covenant magazine is published in Ann Arbor (though it is not controlled by The Word of God), we have been perceived as a Catholic community.


Ann Arbor, Mich.


The sentence beginning in line seven of the second column on page 58 of the December 17, 1982, issue should read as follows: “The 1290 touters, for example, keep faith (so they say) with 1 Kingṣ 6:1 by interpreting the 480 years as 12 generations—not of 40 years each (a conventional biblical generation) but of 25 to 30 years each (a more realistic figure).”


San Diego, Calif.

Reports And Reporters

Arthur Williamson’s report of the Grand Rapids Consultation, “The Great Commission or the Great Commandment?” [Nov. 26]·, underlines the need to read the official report. If the consultation was as divided in its views as he suggests, it is hard to see how the official report could have been written.

In view of the import of such gatherings from the church worldwide, maybe a reporter is also needed from a Two-Thirds World viewpoint, to partner perspectives limited to Northern Ireland.



Partnership in Mission-Asia

Bangalore, India

Correction And Clarification

I would like to correct your report [News, Nov. 26] that “Jonathan Chao, dean of the China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong, is launching a ‘Seminary of the Air’ ” radio program to be beamed into China’s mainland.

I have been the dean of the China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong since August 1978. The China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong does not have any radio program of theological training to be beamed into China’s mainland.



China Graduate School of Theology

Kowloon, Hong Kong

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