Leave Punishment to God

Charles Colson’s “Criminals Are Made, Not Born” [Jan. 16] lets in a lot of light from one who has been in prison. Obviously, prison did not just turn Colson into a more sophisticated criminal, as the reformists frequently aver.

However, I take issue with him—and even C. S. Lewis—about the righteous purpose that should infuse the prison system. Though punishing a man shows him more respect than “treating” him, punishment is not the prerogative of human beings. Punishment belongs to God. But we humans do have an obligation to protect the innocent, the weak, the vulnerable. Prisons serve a righteous role in isolating those who prey upon the innocent. We should try to make those prisons clean, decent, and even helpful, but we should remember their primary function is the protection of society. If we step beyond that to vindictiveness or punishment, we step out of the spirit of Christ.

D. T. SAMUEL

St. Cloud, Minn.

Of all the men who are contemplating a run for the White House, I would recommend Chuck Colson—if he can be persuaded to do so. That he has proven himself a man of high caliber, intelligence, and uprightness, no one would care to deny.

REV. J. E. BRINK

Portage, Mich.

Secret Episcopalians?

I read with interest your article on the religious affiliation of corporate executives [News, Jan. 16]. The article declared that 3 percent of the U.S. population are Episcopalians. This is a woefully inaccurate figure. The latest count in the Episcopal Church is 1.2 million members—around.5 percent of the U.S. population, a figure six times less than the one quoted. Could it be that executives who left the Episcopal Church years ago are still writing “Episcopalian” on questionnaires? If so, they are Episcopalians only by nostalgia and not by current practice.

REV. JOHN B. HAUG

All Souls Episcopal Church

Jacksonville, Fla.

Where’s the manuscript?

In the news report, “Battle of the Lexicons” [Jan. 16], about the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta, David Neff quoted Gordon Fee as suggesting “that 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 … was not part of Paul’s original text, but was instead a scribe’s marginal comment that was mistakenly incorporated during the copying of some early manuscripts.” No manuscripts, according to our printed Greek texts, omit the verses, although a few, notably D and the Latins, transpose them to the end of the chapter. Such a statement is therefore surprising from Professor Fee, who in the past has been an advocate for external manuscript evidence as opposed to internal (stylistic) criteria for judging readings. Does Fee know of some new manuscript evidence?

REV. PETER R. RODGERS

St. John’s Episcopal Church

New Haven, Conn.

I think it is important to note that when Gilbert Bilezikian contends that, in 1 Corinthians 11:3kephal means “source” rather than “authority,” he is denying the deity of Christ since the passage also states that God is the “head” (kephal) of Christ.

ROBERT H. GATES

Centerville, Mo.

Our most troublesome topic

“Intimacy: Our Latest Sexual Fantasy,” by Tim Stafford [Jan. 16], is an impressively well-written piece on the singular most troublesome topic of practical Christian living.

I was a “child of the ’60s,” however, and know we did not rebel from our parents’ or society’s attitudes. As a teenager (before television was a major factor in our culture), I/we learned exactly what was taught by adults behaviorally. It’s true the words were there—but virtually every community was a “Peyton Place.” I/we saw, learned the insanity of the bigotry and hypocrisy, and merely dropped the façade. I saw little evidence of change until the AIDS scare, which has made people reconsider their values/ethics and hasten to relearn (or learn for the first time?) the time-honored values—usually for self-preservation. There are consequences to violation of natural laws, which break the violator—sometimes dramatically.

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DONALD C. THOMPSON, M.D.

Morristown, Tenn.

How Carter sees it

We were pleased that CHRISTIANITY TODAY reported on the consultation, “Reinforcing Democracy in the Americas,” which former President Gerald Ford and I cochaired at the Carter Center of Emory University last November [“How Democratic Is the Sandinista Government?” Jan. 16]. At its conclusion, we agreed to establish a Council on Freely-Elected Heads of Government to reinforce democracy in the Americas. I regret, however, that your report concentrated almost exclusively on Nicaragua and neglected to mention this result or the very interesting wide-ranging discussion of how and why democracy has failed and succeeded throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

I particularly regret that one quote attributed to me—“The Sandinistas’ human rights abuses have equalled or exceeded Somoza’s”—is erroneous. I never made any such statement. As you indicated, I am concerned about Sandinista human rights abuses, but I am also very concerned about the terrible human rights abuses of the contras. Most objective human rights organizations state that the abuses by the contras equal or exceed those of the Sandinistas.

PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER

Atlanta, Ga.

A model Eutychus

You recently ran a letter asking you not to show John Lawing’s Eutychus. I like the little character, but I disliked him when he first appeared; John Lawing told me he had used me as his model for drawing the cartoon. When I first saw Eutychus, I dashed off this note to John:

John Lawing, I have you to cuss

For drawing me as Eutychus.

Now you, immortalized in rime,

Shall also stink throughout all time.

Church artists, sculptors, and painters have always used common people as models for their paintings and sculptures. Lawing’s little Eutychus cartoon character should be pasted on the pulpit of every long-winded preacher in the country as a reminder that people do fall asleep during long sermons!

PAUL HUNSINGER

CBN University

Virginia Beach, Va.

Death, the enemy

In “Reflections” [Jan. 16] you quote William Sloane Coffin as saying that “death is not an enemy.” He goes too far in attempting to make a point and contradicts Scripture, which states: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is a curse and wears an ugly face, often bloody and cruel. There is nothing in death to give anyone hope—only corruption, decay, and utter finality.

MRS. DONALD FREAM

Christ for the Amazon

Artesia, N.M.

A major problem

I’m saddened and frightened by your response to The Seduction of Christianity (“Open Season,” Nov. 21). The problems outlined seem to be of critical importance and concern. I’m surprised you don’t see it as a major problem.

A. R. MEREDITH, M.D.

Ilderton, Ont., Canada

The thrust of my original letter [“Responsible ‘Witch Hunters,’ ” Jan. 21] is this: by appropriating the title, “Healing of Memories,” and similar terminology already identified with many who advocate the inclusion of hypnosis and occultism in the exercise of Christian faith, David Seamands himself creates a vulnerability to becoming identified with deviant philosophies.

Editing by your staff would seem to indicate a lack of perception as to what the letter actually stated.

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REV. BURL RATZSCH

Akron, Iowa

Terry Muck’s editorial made a number of serious charges against the authors of The Seduction of Christianity. As one of its coauthors, I welcome valid criticism; however, Muck makes sweeping condemnations of my character and of the book without documentation and specific examples of error. To the serious charge that I lack integrity, he adds malice, and to malice he adds avarice. Moreover, he purports to expose the “three-fold formula” we have allegedly used in our nefarious money-making scheme. Here is character assassination par excellence!

Muck next asserts that in Seduction “the issues themselves are not really engaged.” On the contrary, Seduction deals with issues and urges readers “not to judge specific individuals, but rather the teachings and practices that are being pointed out.” Muck then appears to defend the entire field of “inner healing”—he offers no support for Seduction’s warnings against the many occultic and unscriptural practices of some well-known inner healers. Does he really believe it is “theologically impeccable” to advocate, as David Seamands does, the Jungian/occult practice of visualizing “Jesus” because it works?

Seduction has raised important concerns that cannot be easily dismissed. CT would render a valuable service by presenting articles dealing with issues rather than suspected motives.

DAVID HUNT

Northridge, Calif.

Oops!

Thank you for printing my letter on Mr. Ewer’s quatrain [Jan. 16, “Who Said It First?”], though I hardly expected the sex change. If I had been free to pick the name, however, I would have chosen one more to my style. How about Marvin or Myron?

MIRIAM WEISS

New York, N.Y.

Our apologies, Miriam! Changing you into a William was purely unintentional!

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Bright Lights

A friend tells me his church’s attendance has dropped 10 percent since his pastor began a video ministry.

The idea was to produce videotapes of Sunday services for the sick, shut-ins, or out-of-town regulars. No one should be forced to miss one of the pastor’s long-running series on Bible passages and personalities: What—or who—was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”? After recovering from Bathsheba, would David ever recover his lost love? How did Elijah cheat death on a mysterious chariot ride?

Some inquiring minds would never know the shocking answers without the Monday mailing of the latest video installment.

At first my friend thought it was a good idea. But that was before the bright video lights replaced the Williams family in the front pew. Before the high school audio-visual whiz became a fixture behind a tripod halfway up the center aisle. And before the pastor began his sermons by whispering, “Test, test,” into his new lapel microphone.

The church now misses their pastor’s warm smile and the winks with which he ended his stories. In his enthusiasm for reaching those beyond the camera lens, he’s forgotten those in front of him.

In short, the pastor they know and love is still available—but only on VHS or Beta.

EUTYCHUS

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