Keeping Your Head Above Water

I respect everyone’s mode of baptism, but, as a Baptist minister, I must admit that immersion is still my favorite kind. Could I ask, however, that we who do immerse not add anything humorous or embarrassing to the liturgy. I have all too often heard the Trinitarian formula end with a startled exclamation or fall flat on some faux pas.

To help remedy this situation, I hereby offer for your consideration the following immersionist’s checklist:

Number one, remove your watch. I once heard a baptismal end with “In the name of the Father, the Son and … Great Scott, I forgot … my watch!”

Number two, instruct young children not to play in the water. I remember watching a father and his young son being baptized. While the pastor reverently lowered the father into the waters, his curious boy passed by—lightly flutter kicking before the white-robed tableau.

Number three, if the water is cold, instruct the baptizee not to say “Brrr” out loud. I remember one blue candidate interrupting the minister’s baptismal flow: “I now … [‘Brrr’] … baptize you … [‘Brrr’] … in the name of the Father … and [‘Brrrrr Brrrrrr’] …” At last the “Brrrs” had grown too loud to hear in whose honor the baptism was occurring.

Number four, don’t let the cares of the day interrupt your train of thought. Once a pastor I knew had officiated at a large Sunday afternoon wedding. It was a major church event, and that night, as he began the evening worship, the wedding was still on his mind. Entering the baptistry, he threw up his head and said in mixed liturgy, “Marriage is an ordinance ordained of God …” He suddenly realized his mistake and tried, unsuccessfully, to right the wrong.

He did not succeed by finishing “and so is baptism”!


An Aberrant Group?

While much of Ronald Enroth’s discussion of “aberrant Christian groups” [“Why Cults Succeed Where the Church Fails,” March 16] makes sense, his attack on our church as an example of such a group is unscholarly nonsense. Apparently Mr. Enroth has invested in hearsay instead of research, for he parrots the line of a small group of disgruntled people who have spread false rumors mostly in Southern California. In-person investigation would show that we practice no form of shepherding; indeed, we preach against it vehemently. Further, while we readily accept the label “Pentecostal,” we do not characterize ourselves as “Jesus Only” or “Oneness.” These labels—in addition to being inaccurate—connote legalism and imbalance. We are hardly “picking off Christians,” as Mr. Enroth contends. We are Christians in every sense of the word.

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Community Chapel & Bible Training Center

Seattle, Wash.

I agree with all Mr. Enroth said.

You would be interested to know that the Community Chapel and Bible Training Center is mounting a heavy letter writing campaign against the claims made by Mr. Enroth in the interview. I am enclosing a letter sent to a member of that group giving specific instructions on what to include in just such a “Letter-to-the-Editor.” I find it rather interesting that the group says it opposes “shepherding” and yet tells its membership what to write and what not to write. It talks about the freedom group members have from “church” interference in their personal lives, and yet tells those members to espouse only the “church” position.


Kent, Wash.

Another Kind of Giving

Bravo for Ross Lakes’s “Five Good Reasons to Show Caution in Giving” [April 20]. He has some excellent points. But may I offer an addendum?

Lakes briefly touches on one form of giving that too often is neglected when the subject of stewardship comes up: employing others. In many instances, what is needed is primarily the opportunity to work to support oneself and one’s family—not simply a handout of cash or material goods.

It costs roughly $30,000 to create one new job in today’s American economy. Thus, one of the most charitable forms of giving may be that in which someone risks his capital in the hope that a job he creates through investment—whether in his own business or another—will prove fruitful to the employee, his family, and to the buying public that benefits from the goods produced in that job.


Discipleship Journal

Colorado Springs, Colo.

It was an unexpected privilege to find Ross A. Lakes’s message. Our generosity within the earthly family of God must be tempered with the same prayerful discretion that should characterize our generosity toward our children and toward others we love. Those of us who receive gifts for institutions of our respective denominations must recognize and encourage such discretion in those we turn to for contributions.


Miami, Fla.

Insight on the KKK

I applaud you on the excellent “Insight” article [“The Counterfeit Christianity of the Ku Klux Klan,” April 20]. I don’t know whether this is going to be added to the other social issue articles in CHRISTIANITY TODAY, but I certainly will give it my vote.


Trinity Alliance Church

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Aberdeen, N. C.

If the members of the KKK in any way represent the white race—then color me black.


Branson, Colo

There is no curse of Ham. If you look at Genesis 9:25, you will see that Ham, who was the ancestor of the Egyptians, the Cannanites, and the black Africans, was not cursed, but that Noah cursed Canaan and his descendants. Although the sin was Ham’s, his Egyptian and black descendents were not included in the curse.


El Cerrito, Calif.

No Longer Unknown

Until this morning I had never seen or heard the name Jacques Ellul [“Answers from a Man Who Asks Hard Questions,” April 20]. But the combination of David Gill’s writing, and, I suspect, the influence of your editing, stimulated me to read with great interest. To think that I now want to read all the books of someone I had never heard of this morning is incredible!


Monument, Colo.

The Real “Self”

I believe that John Stott [“Am I Supposed to Love Myself or Deny Myself?”, April 20] missed the single most significant aspect of human nature worthy of self-affirmation: the regenerate nature or new man. Even though it is in vogue to affirm the “created self,” the New Testament writers refer much more clearly and directly to the regenerate nature of man as that which is worthy of affirmation. Texts such as Romans 6:11 and 2 Corinthians 5:16–18 extol the new nature and encourage Christians to affirm this aspect of their regeneration.

For the Christian, the new nature is the real self. That real self is and must always be affirmed, since the created self is corrupted while the new self is dead to sin and alive in Christ. Only then are redemption and regeneration real and vital aspects of the Christian life.


Trinity Lutheran Church

Pine Bluff, Ark.

Stott does well to point out that the command to love my neighbor as myself is a command to love my neighbor, not a command to love myself. But he is wrong, I think, to describe the command to deny myself as a command to repudiate the Hyde part of me.


Syracuse, N.Y.

Opposing the WCC?

The irony of your April 20 Editorial on the WCC unsettles me. You comment that “evangelicals were amazed at the serious attention given the Bible in study groups at Vancouver”; and that you were also “deeply impressed by the earnest piety evident in the worship services, and the commitment to prayer.” Yet even given your assessment that some members of the WCC are not consistent in “a basic Nicean and Chalcedonian Christology,” I am stunned that you should call us to “oppose it.” After all, where did the Christology of these two early world councils come from? Had the evangelicals of that day boycotted Nicea and Chalcedon, how many more millions would the heretics have been able to mislead?!

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No, God calls us today—as he did back then—to be as leaven or salt. And the call should be for evangelicals to earn the right to speak and lead in the WCC.


First Reformed Church

Muskegon, Mich.

You suggest dialogue with the WCC. You also suggest a major focus of that dialogue be theological, criticizing the superficiality of the Christological criteria for membership. Wouldn’t it be proper, however, to enter into the current agenda of the 300 member churches rather than call for a new agenda from one segment of a largely WASP portion of the body of Christ?

The points you raise are significant. But to ask a world body to reshape its agenda to your rhythm—if not your tune—may be a bit presumptuous.


Trinity Presbyterian Church

Stockton, Calif.

A Mirror Image

For someone who never responds to what she reads in magazines, I am enthusiastically endorsing the sentiments of Larry Hart in his succinct, cogent article, “I Am a Charismatic and …” [April 20]. I am the mirror image of Mr. Hart—an evangelical in theology and experience, yet a charismatic in heart. Thank you for the thought-provoking, well-reasoned article.


Amarillo, Tex.

We must remember that the unity of the Body of Christ transcends the differences that exist among saints.

On a recent trip to Israel, I encountered a lady, a leader in her church, with obvious charismatic convictions. I talked about our oneness in Christ. She immediately responded, “Your greatest blessing is still to come.” This superior attitude, “I have something you don’t have,” constitutes a barrier to unity.


Bay Ridge Baptist Church

Seminole, Fla.

Swedenborg’s Beliefs?

In the review of the Helen Keller movie [April 20], there is the astounding statement that Emanuel Swedenborg was “a promoter of Unitarian-like views.” The direct opposite is true! He denounced Arianism and Socinianism, the ancestors of Unitarianism, precisely because they denied the divinity of Jesus. He showed from the Bible that Jesus is Jehovah in his divinely human form. He points to our Lord Jesus Christ as the one and only God, the true object of worship.


Huntingdon Valley, Penn.

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