A Balanced View of C. S. Lewis

I want to commend you for printing J. I. Packer’s column on C. S. Lewis. [“What Lewis Was and Wasn’t,” Jan. 15]. It’s the first balanced article on Lewis I’ve ever seen. A few months ago I read an article praising Lewis as an evangelist to the intellectuals. That’s going a bit far! As Packer pointed out, Lewis had a great intellect and was marvelous at communicating the reasonableness of Christianity and the moral demands of discipleship, but he was hardly a standard-issue evangelical. With his “non-penal view of the Atonement, his nonmention of justification, his belief in purgatory,” I find it difficult to think of him as “evangelical.”


Herington, Kans.

I’m writing to express my strong disagreement with J. I. Packer’s opinion of C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. I realize that for me to say I like the book means no more than for someone else to say he thinks it’s hideous. I just enjoy the book enough to want to protest the harsh and brief dismissal it received. There are so many completely hideous books around, that to call this one hideous seems to me an exaggeration.


Pandora, Ohio

Is forgiveness the difference?

Philip Yancey’s experience in Washington [“We Have No Right to Scorn,” Jan. 15] certainly was interesting, and he raises some deep questions. However, the last paragraph raises another question: Is the only difference between the Christian and the non-Christian forgiveness? If Jesus is truly our Lord and Savior, if we’re really repentant, if we’re saved for works (Eph. 2:10), if we have the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t that also affect how the Christian lives?

First John says self-sacrificing love is what distinguishes the child of God from the world. The real issue then, it seems to me, is how we show that love. Yancey judged the “true believers” to be condemning. Perhaps they were, but it may also have been their way of warning that that lifestyle leads to AIDS and maybe worse, and they were calling for repentance. On the other hand, the gay-rights activists were expressing their love by singing “Jesus loves you.”

I have always appreciated Yancey’s writing. Perhaps he has a solution to how we are to obediently show the love of Christ in such situations.


The Christian Reformed Church

Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

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Party change needed?

I was somewhat saddened in reading the News article on the Iowa party caucuses [Jan. 15]. I, like Sen. Paul Simon, am a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The Missouri Synod has taken a prolife stand, yet Senator Simon has taken one of the most proabortion stances of all the Democrats seeking the presidential nomination. Either our synod has not emphasized prolife issues enough, or Senator Simon has chosen to ignore the synod’s teachings. I know many people have warned against Christians identifying with a particular political party or ideology, but I find it hard not to do so.

As a former Democrat and activist in Democratic campaigns, I now find it impossible to support the Democratic party leadership’s radical humanist agenda. There is no other choice left for me or for other Christians who are concerned as I am about issues such as abortion, pornography, the role of religion in public life, and strong opposition to Marxist totalitarianism abroad, but to vote for and become active in the Republican party.


Madison, Wis.

Pastors are not CEOs

Robert W. Dingman in “Fallen Leaders Are Not ‘Damaged Goods’ ” [Speaking Out, Dec. 11] completely missed the point. By drawing a direct analogy between fallen secular business leaders and fallen Christian leaders, he fails to take into consideration the obvious differences. One would expect a competent businessman to be hired after finishing a prison term. Business is run for profit.

A pastor is not a chief executive; he or she is a spiritual leader. He holds his position because of what he is. Moral failure is often a sign that we were mistaken in placing that person in leadership in the first place. Dingman’s statement that one who has sinned “often receives an inoculation that gives a future immunity” is difficult to prove and does not take into account the underlying factors of pride, self-centeredness, and individualism that caused the leader to fall

Certainly there is reconciliation and restoration. But vocational restoration ought to come more slowly, if at all. A few years of secular work are needed to clarify whether the fallen leader wants to be in full-time ministry because of God’s call or because it is the only way he or she knows how to earn a living.


University Christian Fellowship

Seattle, Wash.

Dingman fails to distinguish forgiveness and pardon. Christian organizations, particularly the church, belong to God, and the selection criteria for leadership are established by him. We may forgive a person if his or her failures/sins offend or directly wrong us, but we do not have authority to pardon them for not meeting God’s standard; that is God’s office alone.

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Charles Colson, mentioned as an example of one forgiven his preconversion past, but unlikely to be so forgiven should he stumble now, is a particularly interesting example. In one sense, he was not restored: he will never practice law again, and he has not been named to or sought after a public office. He was not asked to represent in leadership a large prison ministry as evidence of his restored state. Instead, God hugely blessed him for being faithful in small things as he began to minister privately to previous fellow prisoners.


Detroit, Mich.

Dingman’s apology has a little merit, but it must be remembered that his company makes a profit only if search committees accept his candidates. It is possible, therefore, that he starts from a biased viewpoint. No wonder that he finds this “increasingly difficult to accept.”


Anchorage, Alaska

Polka Backmasking

The latest exposé recently hit our church. It’s not the New Age. It’s not even rock music. This exposé was entitled, “Polka: Over the Barrel.”

Even the casual polka listener knows, said the seminar leader, that the number one polka of all time is “The Beer Barrel Polka.” How many poor souls have listened and been swayed into a life of alcoholic despair? Subconsciously, he said, the song sets up an evil thirst.

And what sort of person would play polka music? Consider that the musicians wear lederhosen (or leather shorts)! Need anything more be said?

For years, the seminar leader reminded us, this suspicious music was confined to sleazy roadhouses and dimly lit biergartens. Who would have believed it would climb out of such pits into America’s living rooms? But the invidious Mr. L. Welk has been the polka’s greatest ally, popularizing polka among unsuspecting, innocent folk with his “champagne music” (again—it was carefully pointed out—the drug connection).

The seminar also featured a couple of videotapes, taking us into the sordid “private lives” of polka musicians. And there was a session on polka backmasking.

To tell the truth, I don’t know too much about the videotapes and the backmasking session. I left earlier. It seemed like I’d heard all this before.

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Needed: A unified voice

Kenneth S. Kantzer’s editorial, “A Farewell to Harms” [Dec. 11], was much appreciated. His challenge regarding the need for a more unified voice among evangelicals, for a biblically based political philosophy, and “cooperation on selected moral issues” was very challenging. I would like to encourage CT to explore some specific, practical means by which these objectives might be pursued.


Baker Foursquare Church

Baker, Oreg.

Beyond conversion

“The Good life” by Richard Foster [Dec. 11] is one of the most refreshing articles I have ever seen. How encouraging that you would print an article boldly stating the need to go beyond conversion to a daily walk with God. Thank you for allowing Foster to challenge us in a forthright manner about “a half-gospel.” It is so true that if our lifestyle does not say, “If you want to know what it means to a believer, do what I do and say what I say—imitate me because I imitate Christ,” we are merely reproducing something other than disciples of Jesus Christ.


White Harvest Christ Fellowship

Indianapolis, Ind.

In his article, Richard Foster states, “From Augustine we must learn once again that a discipleless conversion is no conversion at all.” To the contrary, John 3:16 says “believes,” not “believes and behaves.” The answer to shallow Christianity is not adding works to grace for salvation; the solution is for the church to do its job of nurture and discipleship.


Texas Bible College

San Antonio, Tex.

Kudos from Eastern Europe

I want to thank you very much for your magazine, which is one of the best in the world. I love very much Christianity Today and I have a special feeling of joy when I receive it.


Seminarul Theologic Penticostal

Bucharest, Romania

An important “trend”?

Amidst several subheadings for 1988 and beyond, there is also “the prolife movement” [“Trends: Looking to 1988 and Beyond,” News, Dec. 11]. With the absence of legislation in the works, the most prodigious “trend” is the growing “direct action” movement. Across the country bands of Christians are blocking abortion clinic doors, suffering arrest, and being jailed. The largest mass rescue effort in the history of the movement took place in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on November 28, 1987. But ct ignored the event and did not even bother to report it as news, and substituted a counterfeit prolife trend: It touts Sider’s JustLife as the more progressive prolife trend. But JustLife argues for the abortion of children who are produced by rape or incest, as CT has reported. JustLife serves only to divert the energies of those who are devoted to the preservation of the lives of children threatened with imminent destruction. CT often provides good information and theologically incisive articles. But this is a horrible blind spot.

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Ray Brook, N.Y.

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