One Body: Many Members
It was good to see an article on John Wimber and the movement arising around him [“Testing the Wine from John Wimber’s Vineyard,” Aug. 8], He is having a great influence on the church. Tim Stafford did an admirable job of pointing out the dangers that may come from this world view if it becomes unbalanced, dangers not too unsimilar in any Christian world view. We are still subject to the temptations of pride, “putting God in a box” (no matter what its color, size, or shape), and loving doctrine and ideas more than God.
I have heard Wimber speak several times. His sincerity is obvious, as are God’s call and working through his life. It seems to me he fosters first and foremost an intimate relationship with God through Jesus. While there is a danger of seeing only the healings and narrowly defined “miraculous” as the presence and manifestation of God, we should not “throw out the baby with the bathwater.” The church needs to hear what God is trying to say through us, his imperfect servants. We must always measure by the written Word, but fairly and with honesty. We need a body of many members, each ministering.
REV. STEVEN CHRISTY
First Christian Church
Having attended Wimber’s church a number of times and been exposed to other healing ministries, I am always struck by the way they limit God’s power. One never sees a healing of serious permanent things like paraplegia, quadraplegia, or Down’s syndrome. If God is in the healing business, he certainly would not limit himself.
JAMES E. CARLSON
Santa Ana, Calif.
Stafford’s account gives me the impression of a harvest of sour grapes rather than an expert sampling of the latest vintage. It’s axiomatic that churches relying upon charismatic gifts such as healing to move the masses into the kingdom tend to develop lopsided ministries. The apostle Paul had much to say in this regard. The Scriptures exhort Vineyardists and their critics to understand that the message is not whether we could, or can, or must do what Jesus did. Rather, it tells us we must do as Jesus did. We who claim to walk in the Spirit aren’t supposed to be looking to exalt our own efforts in any way that puts another down or causes division (Gal. 5:25–26).
Thank you for the excellent, balanced article. As one engaged in a ministry of deliverance (not “exorcism”—a false, pejorative term), I support Wimber’s belief that Christians may have demons that Christ needs to expel (ekballō, never exorkizō in the NT).
REV. GRAYSON H. ENSIGN
Overcoming Ministries, Inc.
Wimber’s approach does not discredit men like Moody, Sunday, Wesley, or Graham. It only points out they did not use all that was available to them. What disturbs me is Wimber’s willingness to lump all “healers” together without discerning the true from the counterfeit. We need discernment. No one counterfeits $19 bills! The genuine has to exist for counterfeits to appear.
Wimber is right on the church’s need to confront the demonic in people’s lives. This is an area of great neglect in the church. If one examines the Gospel of Mark, one finds about one-third to be about Jesus’ dealing with the demonic realm in people’s lives. If we wish to be Christlike, should we do less?
To have included (and highlighted) the quote by J. I. Packer is nothing more than a cheap shot that seeks to discredit those who believe in the Pentecostal revival. I am a Pentecostal pastor of 17 years. I have always believed that the miraculous is normative in the Christian life, and have never considered Wesley, Moody, Sunday, or Graham sub-biblical.
REV. GREGORY L. FISHER
Ponca City Foursquare Gospel Church
Ponca City, Okla.
Excellent article! One characteristic I have noted of the Vineyard is its aggressive proselytizing from other churches through home Bible studies.
REV. KENNETH D. HARRIS
Calvary Bible Church
A Court Dictatorship?
Thank you for Charles Colson’s “Is the Constitution Out of Date?” [Aug. 8], It ought to be evident that, apart from the original intent of the document’s author, the Constitution can have no “essential meaning.” The Court’s “power to give meaning” to the Constitution has effectively destroyed it as a governing document. If this principle becomes firmly established, we may as well dismiss Congress and acknowledge we are under a dictatorship of nine justices appointed for life.
The battle between judicial activism and revisionism, a la Justice Brennan, and judicial restraint and “jurisprudence of original intent,” a la Attorney General Meese, is of great importance. Sadly, it is largely neglected by evangelicals. Had our law schools not been overrun by hermeneutical relativism, our courts would not have been. Had our courts not been overrun by it, many egregious court decisions (like Roe. v. Wade and Engel v. Vitale) would have come out opposite the way they actually did.
A question for pastors and theologians: Had pulpits—which have a shot at forming legal minds before most law schools do—not turned to hermeneutical relativism, would law schools have done so anyway? And a challenge for Christian associations of professionals in law: Can you prepare a workable philosophy of jurisprudential hermeneutics similar to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics adopted by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, and then strive to implement that in your own legal teaching, practice, and decisions from the bench?
E. CALVIN BEISNER
Pea Ridge, Ark.
A pastor friend of mine, Larry, thought he had hospital calling down pat—until the other day when the convalescing Bud Bratski interrupted his customary hospital intercession.
“You know, Preacher,” said Bud, “you don’t need to pray about my hernia. The does have that under control. If you want to pray about something, pray about my hospital bill.”
Larry was speechless. He’d been reading Psalm 23 and praying about hernias and hysterectomies for 40 years. Never had he been asked to pray over a statement of account.
Later that afternoon, Mildred Peterson, recovering from an infection, told Larry she identified with the woman in Mark 5. Like that ailing sister, Mildred “had suffered much under many physicians and had spent all she had.” How her doctor expected her to pay for all her tests was beyond her.
That evening at home, Larry discussed updating his bedside manner with his wife, Melody. He could, he joked, perform the laying on of hands for patients’ purses and wallets. Considering the costs of hospitalization, they need more help t h an the patients.
Christians Are “Visual Aids”
A footnote to Wayne Grudem’s “The Unseen World Is Not a Myth,” [July 11]: Everyone who has ever encountered a shock from the cold wires of our electrical system or been injured in a fall has experienced two forces of the “unseen world of nature.” We come to respect the dozens of abstract realities as they are registered on one or more of our five senses (or/and a “sixth,” that which is born of the spirit,” Jesus said). Ignorance and carelessness, not defiance, alter the consequence. The born-again Christian is the “visual aid” of spirituality.
DR. VERNON G. DAVISON
More Questions For Yancey
Yancey’s thought-provoking questions will result in an avalanche of letters crowding you out of your office! However, the Bible is a supermarket of ideas of all kinds. Modern-day preachers and prophets, like Bible writers of old, spout a lot of words from their various pulpits. Bible verses (thought-bombs) can be found to blast one free of the very Bible itself and all fundamentalist doctrines, while others depend on what verses one reads and thinks about. It’s all there in the supermarket.
Philip Yancey’s questions, “I Just Thought I’d Ask” [July 11], were insightful and provocative. I hope the editors will ask him to write an article giving his own answers.
WAYNE K. CLYMER
Yancey prophetically probes our carefully protected shibboleths of Christian ignorance. Too often we blindly assume shibboleths to be the divinely ordained program for our lives. I would add a few more questions:
If Jesus calls us to a lifelong pilgrimage toward godliness and servanthood, why are so many Christians looking for quick-fix solutions to their problems? Why don’t we question and challenge modern psychology’s assumption that we must remove obstacles and difficulties and stress from people’s lives when Jesus and Paul call us to carry our cross, endure hardship, and expect persecution? And how is it that so many people have time to read books, go to small group discussions, and attend seminars on the disciplines of prayer and contemplation, yet have so little time to put it into practice?
The Covenant Church
Why does God call more and more people into the ministry of book writing, magazine article writing, song writing, and so on here in the U.S., yet we see so little growth of the church? Is God reading all this stuff? Is anyone? Why, after 2,000 years of attempts, do we want a Christian government, and actually believe we’ll do better than the Holy Roman Empire? Now that we’ve acknowledged our former convictions were wrong, why are we so sure our new set of convictions is right?
I appreciated Yancey’s questions concerning guilt still carried by Christians after grace should have worked a miracle. If our concept of grace isn’t working, could our concept be lacking? We would never ask a friend to forgive us without first attempting to repay, as much as possible, and resolving to treat them better. Why should we suppose God is content with less? Or that we can forgive ourselves with less? If our faith produces no fruit, is it really alive? Jesus taught us to pray for forgiveness “as we forgive our debtors.” Could it be that grace sometimes waits until we add our part?
STEVEN C. BARROWES
Interesting that Yancey should begin with Walker Percy. Why do so few Christians read Percy? I suspect you know that a whopping percentage of people don’t read anything. Also, most of us prefer fluffy nonfiction or light entertainment.
But here is one man’s view: I checked out a couple of Percy’s books from the library. Fifty pages into The Moviegoer I paused to ask, “Why am I having no fun? Why does this seem like hard work?” Did I have to prove my intellectual stamina by finishing the blasted book? I decided not. On to The Second Coming I went. Nothing in it seemed the least bit believable. I jumped to the last page where Will is still crazy but asking profound questions of God and himself. Good for Will—but how many readers are left to cheer him on?
Presumably I lack some gift of appreciation. It may be irreversible, like tone deafness. But if it can be developed, how do you enjoy Percy? How do you get absorbed in caring for and identifying with his characters? Did I start with his two least palatable works? I, too, just thought I’d ask.
REV. GARY HARDAWAY
Greenhaven Neighborhood Church
Nowhere Else To Go
In the July 11 Speaking Out, James Robb argues persuasively that Christians need to develop greater interest and take action to stop the oppression of religious freedom occuring overseas [“The Real Religious Persecution Is Not in Nebraska”]. Robb deliberately (hopefully, out of ignorance) minimizes threats to religious freedom faced by American Christians, characterizing them as “marginal.” I agree that many American Christians are uneducated about the hardships faced by Jews in Russia or Baha’is in Iran, but I vehemently disagree that problems faced by American Christians are no “greater” than those involving “prayer in public schools.”
Many legal tactics used to restrict religious freedom overseas are being utilized in America today. Licensing of church ministries, over-broad and vague zoning regulations, discrimination against Christians in the work place—these methods are increasingly being employed here in America.
Robb is looking through rose-colored glasses. American Christians have a responsibility, not only to assist those suffering for religious convictions overseas, but to maintain this nation as an example of one where individuals are given the widest possible latitude to exercise religious beliefs free of excessive or unnecessary government entanglement. Let’s face it, there is nowhere else to go.
DONALD N. SILLS, PRESIDENT
Coalition for Religious Freedom
Robb is quite right saying real religious persecution is taking place in other countries, but to his suggestions for action should be added the creation of a broad international interfaith organization that can investigate, publicize, and stimulate action to end persecution.
Robb also errs when he claims that the freedom of children to pray in public schools is threatened. Not so. All U.S. students are free to engage in personal prayer in school pretty much whenever they feel like it. The only “freedom” the courts have inhibited is that of government and its agents to prescribe, mandate, or regiment prayer for our children.
EDD DOERR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Americans for Religious Liberty Washington, D.C.
As a native Nebraskan, I know the educational system in that state has always been considered among the better in the country. The state wants all of its children to read, write, and calculate. To do this they believe, as do I, that there must be qualified teachers. Just because a person is a Christian is no reason to assume he or she is so qualified. To demand such qualification is not persecution; it is only making as certain as possible that all children have adequate instruction.
I cannot understand why Christian teachers would not want certification—or do they think that subject matter is not as important as the Bible. It is not, in my judgment, persecution to require teachers to pass tests for certification. But making a fuss about it, I think, puts the church on the defensive in an area in which they do not have to be.
PAUL F. KEIM
Los Angeles, Calif.
Is The U.S. Abraham’S Home?
Bravo for Mark Noll [“Is This Land God’s Land?” Editorial, July 11]! Too many North American Christians act as though Abraham looked forward to a home in the United States (Heb. 11:10, 14–16).
Noll’s editorial is unrealistically critical of our country. We generously came to the financial aid of our enemies, Germany and Japan, after World War II, and poured billions of dollars into their bankrupt economies. Name another country in history that ever did that! And what other nation is as fast as we are to send relief supplies and personnel when disaster strikes in some other land? Let’s ask the 100,000 Hindus and 300,000 Moslems living in New York City if our record is “shameful” in assisting and sheltering the weak, the outcast, the persecuted.
No, we’re not perfect, but we live in a fallen world and struggle on—with all of our failures wide open for the rest of the world to see.
WILMA B. MITCHELL
Iowa City, Iowa
“Amen” to Noll’s editorial. His balanced presentation of American patriotism and of first loyalty to Christ should be required reading for all Christians.
REV. ALFRED D. SUNDERWIRTH
South Presbyterian Church Syracuse, N.Y.
Noll’s editorial is a step in the right direction of stemming ignorance, and you would do well to print more pieces like his.
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