A Reshaped Heart
In the middle of a cold lasagna lunch, I flipped through CT. “Maundy Thursday” [by Walter Wangerin; Mar. 17] caught my attention. “Just the right length to coincide with the food on my plate,” I surmised. It caught me! Tears later, my lunch still waiting for my attention, I vowed not to read on until the next day. What right did I have to rush through the thoughts of others, grabbing “snippets” here and there to hang on myself as medals won at a Sunday school picnic?
My heart was reshaped for a moment, and I needed to savor the transformation.
Irvine Presbyterian Church
Wangerin’s story about seeing Jesus in his mother’s Communion was unsatisfying and unsettling. My evangelical heritage prompts me to resist the idea of Christ in the bread and cup. But even more, Scripture gives me no room to view Communion as anything other than an act of remembrance.
If, in someone’s experience, redemptive faith combines with the act of receiving Communion, I rejoice in that fact. But the Savior comes in the act of faith, not in the substance of the bread and wine. My unease at this article may be rooted in my growing sense that CT is on the road to Canterbury.
Macarthur’S “Old Debate”
I cannot restrain myself from answering the news article “Old Debate Finds New Life” [Mar. 17]. I am altogether too aware of my poor qualities as a Christian, but neither do I want to stand before Christ in the filthy rags of my own righteousness. There is one fundamental essential of salvation I believe John MacArthur has left out—that of being a hopeless, helpless sinner. We are all dead in trespasses and sin.
MacArthur’s doctrine is the same as that of the Scribes and Pharisees: even though Christ had changed water into wine and healed many of their ills, even raised some from the dead, according to the Sanhedrin he was not good enough. That same doctrine has left the door open for all of today’s cults. It is a hangover from the doctrine of the Catholic church of having to go through purgatory—that you cannot be sure of your salvation. I believe it was Moody who said we should be more sure of our salvation than we are of life itself.
The debate reminds me of family members who are always fighting. In our area a pastor is presenting his church as the only church preaching the true gospel, except for MacArthur’s. As a Dallas graduate, all I see is the egotism of those who are really saved and us who only think they are saved. Might there not be as many false professions under “lordship salvation” as by “easy believism” unless the Holy Spirit performs the work of salvation in the heart?
Rev. David J. Vohar
New Vineyard Congregational Church
New Vineyard, Maine
Three cheers for John MacArthur! He’s right on. Let his opponents get out of the classroom and into the marketplace and see what only changing one’s thought process does.
Rev. John W. Steinhausen
Union Gospel Mission, Inc.,
The evangelical community needs to be informed that “lordship salvation” is not a subject of secondary importance. We are dealing with a topic of eternal consequence. If MacArthur is correct, then Ryrie is propagating intellectual antinomianism, has subtracted from the gospel of grace, and is preaching a gospel that assures unbelievers of a salvation they do not possess, damning them to hell. If Ryrie is correct, then MacArthur is adding a requirement to the gospel of grace that is not necessary for salvation and is legalistic to the point of heresy. Both cannot be correct. Christians need to read and study for themselves what the Bible teaches about true saving faith and not what one theological system or another says it ought to be.
Dale M. Courtney
It is arrogant of MacArthur to allege that a large segment of the evangelical community across America is dwarfed spiritually—especially since the majority of these people are strangers to him. Does he have a crystal ball that he consults before making pronouncements?
I wish this “lordship salvation” thing would move past mutual name calling.
Sing and Cringe
Our pastor’s sermon ran overtime a couple of weeks ago. And though he tried to compensate, I still think it was a mistake when he closed the service by saying, “Because we’re running late, let’s sing just verse one of our closing hymn, ‘Take Time to Be Holy,’ ”
It prompted me to recall other occasions when I sang the closing hymn with something other than pious reflection.
Like the time the pastor was preaching on “Faith in the Nuclear Age,” and we closed with “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”
Or the time we had a presentation from the local suicide-prevention hotline, and a few minutes later we were singing, “Take My Life and Let It Be.”
Or the time a sermon on “The Dangers of Contemporary Music” was followed by the song leader directing us to sing “Rock of Ages.”
Or the time a presentation on the New Age movement was followed by singing several hymns, including “Channels Only” and “Make Me a Channel of Blessing.”
Or the series on the Seven Deadly Sins, which, after the sermon on gluttony and weight control, saw the congregation heartily sing, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” and “How Great Thou Art.”
When it comes to planning church services, Yogi Berra was right. It ain’t over till it’s over.
An “Unimpaired Communion”
In response to “Consecration of Bishop Stirs Episcopal Dissent” [News, Mar. 17], the “consecration” did not “stir Episcopal dissent,” it merely provided validation to the dissent that has been stirring for almost 15 years.
The real, significant news for the Anglicans of the world happened in Orlando, Florida, this year. Bishops from four continents formed an “unimpaired” Anglican communion. “Impaired Communion” is a phrase coined by the bishops at Lambeth to signify the condition that exists between provinces that ordain and consecrate females, and those that don’t. Twenty bishops from Australia, Canada, Guatemala, India, and the United States took steps to maintain the Catholic Faith and Order in an “unimpaired Communion” within the Anglican tradition. The door is wide open for whole provinces, dioceses, and even parishes in the “impaired communion” to join a properly structured body, without being swallowed up by a centralized power group.
Many Anglicans and Episcopalians, especially those who are disenchanted and distressed with the “liberal movement” and have fallen away from the church, can now be assured that there is a valid, continuing traditional church available to meet their needs.
The Rev. Gerald Keith McGibbon
The Anglican Catholic Church of Canada
London, Ont., Canada
Do More Research
I question your uncritical use of the Children’s Defense Fund [News, Mar. 17] as an example of groups who support the Act for Better Child Care. While CDF may be “the Washington-based lobby and educational organization [which] focuses on disadvantaged children and families,” it has a very explicit agenda, which includes school-based clinics. When a recent campaign for sex education was advertised in Phoenix, I telephoned the number given. When I asked who supported this organization, I was told the Center for Population Options and the Children’s Defense Fund were the prime movers. The Center for Population Options is the worldwide organization for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. I encourage you to do more research into the interlocking directorships and agendas between these organizations. Marian Wright Edelman may “take seriously the mandate to follow Christ,” but we are still obliged to discern the truth.
Rev. Ronald Friesen
Good Shepherd Mennonite Church
The entrance of the state into matters that, according to Scripture, come under the authority and responsibility of the family, is something Christians have good reasons to resist. Politicians tend to come up with and sell to the public incredibly idiotic and naïve “solutions” to the kinds of problems families have. Then there are more important theological considerations. Scripture clearly indicates that the authority and responsibility for child rearing lies with parents. Like any of God’s sinful creation, they may fail. But that does not authorize the state to usurp parental responsibility for the family. Even the most well-intentioned and seemingly benign moves to make the state the “helper” of families diminishes the role of families in society and further inflates the already overinflated role of the state.
Rev. Harold N. Orndorff, Jr.
Christian Student Fellowship
Highland Heights, Ky. 41076
A Small Splinter
Your article “Doctrine Splits Child Evangelism Fellowship” [News, Mar. 17] was accurate and well-written. I’m concerned, however, that the headline might give some readers a false impression of the magnitude of the secession. There are exactly seven local committees and one state-level officer known to have withdrawn from CEF. The more than 500 local committees that remain are explicitly noncharismatic in doctrine, but they do not insist that each worker be a pretribulational Calvinist. The charges of the “neo-orthodoxy” and “heavy-handedness” stem, I am sure, from a profound and very unfortunate personal misunderstanding among several individuals.
I continue to pray for reconciliation with the fine men and women who make up the “splinter” group.
Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Shusaku Endo’S Silence
Apparently Philip Yancey had not read Shusaku Endo’s best-selling novel Silence when he extolled the artist and his literary works [“The Message the Japanese Have Missed,” Mar. 17]. Otherwise, Endo’s spiritual struggles so captivated Yancey that he ignored the message communicated through the artist’s works.
The primary thrust of Silence was to manifest the unexplainable silence and inaction of God in the midst of the most severe persecution and torture of his more faithful. The silence of God at a time one would think a loving God could not be prevented from demonstrating his love and sovereignty was overwhelming. The author offered no glimmer of hope that the God of the Bible existed in repudiation of such perceived silence.
Paul H. Millican
San Angelo, Tex.
The column “Abolition Revisited” by John Akers [Mar. 3] may, no doubt, strike sparks from the antiabortionist and the abortionist alike. But the similarities Akers sees between the antislavery and the antiabortionist movements are somewhat simplified.
Somehow Akers believes (1) “Thoughtful evangelicals agree,” therefore, (2) “abortion is a great evil that should be eliminated.” But probably thoughtful evangelicals would not concur that all great evil can be eliminated with the stroke of the legal pen. Therefore, what is it about abortion that makes it evil? How does the thoughtful Christian take these statements and questions to rape and incest victims?
Furthermore, do Christians have the right to impose their moralistic position upon nonbelievers? And when, if at all, does an abortion begin to be evil?
Coquitlam, B.C., Canada
Inclusive Language Important
While I appreciated the spirit of your article on Roberta Hestenes [“Taking Charge, Mar. 17], your lack of inclusive language was disturbing. It is because of people like Hestenes that we at Fuller have become sensitive to this issue, and I am surprised that you do not share this concern. Hestenes cannot be the activist chairman of World Vision because she is not a man. She might be the chairwoman, the chairperson, or more simply the chair. While this may sound extreme to some, it is an important issue for enough that it should be addressed by the church as a whole.
Steven P. Moyer
I was irritated with Hestenes’s arrogant comment about women being sinful if they have gifts that could be used for a “broader family” but are not using them. This echoes the world’s value system in assuming that influence on the masses is more important than serving the few. Women who have given up this power or put it on hold until their children are grown are much more admirable to me.
North Hollywood, Calif.
I somehow thought your magazine was a biblically based Christian document. Wrong! It appears to be just another contemporary literary vehicle used to press liberal rhetoric onto a confused, scattered church. How can you headline Roberta Hestenes and Robert Bellah and still pretend to represent “Christianity”? The Word is quite clear about God’s intended, divine plan regarding the critical roles of men and women.
Jerry W. Adams
Put Faith Back into Management
After several “flops” following the use of gifted consultants hired to help our missionary organization improve procedures and manage growth, I have often asked myself, “How did we stumble? Did we place too much emphasis on management techniques? Were we following human guidance instead of God?”
I have not only raised those questions for my own work as a CEO; I also believe that Christian organizations in general are placing too much emphasis on secular management theories. Everywhere we turn we hear of another management seminar promising success and growth, or an expert offering specialty skills for whatever ails our ministry.
I by no means want to argue against organization. Nor is it that management systems are of themselves unbiblical. As a ministry grows, its leadership must regulate programs and put guidelines and parameters into place. The problem instead is one of emphasis: management methodology taking over and leaving little room for faith. In this day of computers, consultants, and schooled experts, the “mechanics” of doing business appear to be substituting for reliance on God. “Christian management” has become a modern-day fad—and a possible snare, if it leaves us without vision or faith.
Carl F. H. Henry voiced this same concern in last November’s Fund Raising Management magazine: “As budgets spiral ever upward, ministries often look for leadership skilled in public relations and in raising funds from large foundations. Sophistication is required in preparing grant proposals, and personal contacts in the financial world are important. All of this tends to treat God as a peeping Tom in economic affairs, except when deficits so threaten survival that no earthly hope remains but to return to the prayer meeting.”
Too often in Christian organizations, trust in God’s leading is fenced off as personal, abstract, and not very practical. We pray for guidance, but let statistics, forecasts, and experts give the final word. We are tempted to think we can win our Jerichos or cross our Red Seas by following the latest theories. But the God who reassures us by saying he owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” does not focus on the budget as his bottom line. His ways are far beyond our cozy conclusions and sophisticated business formulas. However we might “baptize” secular management procedures, they cannot substitute for knees bent in prayer and submission.
All this has brought me to a new conclusion: Wise ministry decisions come from a prayerful seeking of guidance. Our eyes must look most attentively to God, not the Wall Street Journal. We must get to know God, how he acts, what he desires. We need to spend time in prayer, Bible study, and conferring with other believers, and then make decisions that reflect what Paul calls “the mind of Christ.” Whatever we learn from secular theorists and experts must be weighed against our knowledge of biblical principles and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I fear that much of what I am hearing on management today comes from what John Bunyan aptly named “Worldly Wiseman.” Observing the zeal with which many follow modern management procedures, I wonder aloud, “What has become of concepts such as guidance, prayer, and the Lord’s leading?”
Management concepts are tools—no more. Let’s keep them in their place. Consultants, too, have useful roles in helping us discern next steps, but we dare not let them take the place of the Holy Spirit. God has honored us by granting us the privilege of participating in his work on Earth. For God’s sake, and the sake of a lost world, we must not turn management of kingdom matters over to the “organization man.”
Les Thompson is president of LOGOI, a missionary organization that develops pastoral leadership in Latin America.
Speaking Out offers responsible Christians a forum for their views on contemporary issues. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions ofCHRISTIANITY TODAY.
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