Biblical Compassion

Sharon Fish is treading on shaky biblical ground when she argues that Joe Cruzan “knew best” in starving his daughter to death [Speaking Out, Feb. 11]. We err when we add an asterisk to the biblical injunction “thou shalt not kill,” and by making exceptions due to “extenuating circumstances,” we lapse into the morass of situational ethics. At issue is not the right to “die with dignity,” but rather the right to kill, and there is a vast difference.

On a different front, is starving to death somehow “dignified”? Wouldn’t lethal injection be more so? And why go to the trouble and expense of making starvation less “excruciating”? Why not rather wheel the patient out behind the barn and end it all with a bullet to the head?

Compassion for the dying? Certainly; but true compassion never runs counter to biblical command!

Rev. Byron D. Harvey

High Point, N.C.

Someone has the facts wrong. Was Ms. Fish there? Did she talk to the hospital administrator or nurses? Did she talk to the Missouri reporters? It is my understanding that: (1) Nancy was not in a coma; (2) she responded to certain stimuli with responses of pain, pleasure, and so on; (3) she was severely handicapped only; (4) removal of her tube (food) caused death by starvation—a very painful, sadistic death. (We treat severely handicapped horses better!)

Please publish the “other story” by supporters of Nancy’s life who were there and are knowledgeable.

Rev. R. W. Henson, O.D.

Waukesha, Wis.

So happy to see you have elected to feature “responsible Christians.” That way, at least, we know that whatever other issues are dealt with in the future—whatever other crimes are endorsed—will be treated in a responsible and Christian way. A non-Christian, or a nonresponsible Christian, I suppose, would have perhaps simply taken the comatose patient out and finished him/her off with a club on the head! It is so much nicer, so much more Christianly, to provide a Tylenol suppository and a bit of oxygen for the person you are responsibly doing in. May I suggest that some soft background music might add that little extra touch to an already delightful death by starvation?

Ron Huggins

Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Ortiz a Cumberland Presbyterian

With pleasure I read your news article “Evangelicals Win Latin Elections” [News, Feb. 11]. Lo and behold, there was Jaime Ortiz Hurtado’s picture and description of the momentous events in Colombia. My first thought was, “They stole my idea”: I am using a story on this subject written by one of our missionaries. But when I finished the article, I noticed, to my dismay, there was no mention of Ortiz’s church affiliation beyond his role as a seminary president. Egad!

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To set the record straight, Ortiz is an ordained Cumberland Presbyterian minister, a member of the Presbytery of the Andes. Your readers should know he ministers in a historic, connectional, mission-minded Protestant denomination.

Rev. Clay Brown

Editor, The Missionary Messenger

Memphis, Tenn.

Acceptance and restoration

I want to respond to the case study “Can Mr. Mombasa Keep All His Wives?” [CT Institute, Feb. 11]. Having more than one wife is considered to be continuing an adulterous relationship. Continuing in sin cannot be condoned by the church. The same can be said about divorce and remarriage. However, Jesus also makes it clear that all of us fall short of God’s ideal. Neither polygamy nor divorce and remarriage is God’s ideal, but the Bible stops short of condemning a man to hell because of it. God is merciful. We should show the same mercy that Jesus demonstrated.

Ron Severns did the right thing by advising acceptance and restoration.

Walt Pattison

Wallins, Ky.

Reasons for the clergy dearth

As a pastor in a rural area whose synod has about 20 pastoral vacancies, I think your editorial on “The Coming Clergy Dearth” [Feb. 11] is fairly on target. Regrettably, my suspicion is that the clergy shortage is a lot like the drug problem. Until the shortage is felt in metropolitan and suburban communities, it is nonexistent in many people’s minds.

I also think the church has “shot itself in the foot” with the emphasis on church growth and financial-giving statistics as a means of affirming successful ministry. That does not make small, rural, struggling congregations an appealing option to do “successful ministry” in. We need to strongly affirm the small, remote struggling church ministries as just as important and necessary for the work of God’s kingdom as the larger church organizations. We need to tell candidates that they will have to take up their crosses despite the mixed signals they might receive regarding the glorious, thriving, exciting ministries going on elsewhere.

Rev. David Coffin

Malinta, Ohio

“We should ‘care enough to send the very best’ to serve the church and its agencies.” With this, you have the answer to why there is a clergy shortage: the “church” has set them above the rest, rather than drawing them from the rest. If “pastors” would teach elders in their charge to share in the ministry and to carry it on when they are gone, there would be no shortage of ministers.

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Worthy Paul, J.D., M.Div.

Wheeling, W. Va.

Dangers of counterfeit conversion

Thank you for David Wells’s article on Conversion [Jan. 14]. I remember one of Haddon Robinson’s most passionate messages to us at Denver Seminary, in which he said the evangelist always needs to be a theologian in order to faithfully represent truth. And the theologian always needs the evangelist so that his theology will be practical and applied.

Dr. Wells has done us a great service by daring to address the problem of counterfeit conversions and dangers of slipping into a purely decision mentality. As a pastor encouraging authentic, Spirit-led experiences with Christ, not just hollow human decisions, I found “Conversion” to be right on target.

Rev. Paul Atwater

North River Community Church

Pembroke, Mass.

Peterson’s psalms; God’s smile

Few things have excited me as quickly and as thoroughly as my initial readings of Eugene H. Peterson’s translations of Psalms 3, 5, 11, 14, and 29 [“Listen, Yahweh,” Jan. 14]. I am no scholar in Semitic languages, nor am I a poet. However, I got the distinct feeling that God was smiling at me and my reactions to this poetry written for himself a few thousand years ago—poetry I was seeing for the first time as really poetry. Thanks for the sample. And please let us know when Peterson completes his project and his translations are published.

Daryl Funk

Burnaby, B.C., Canada

“Listen, editors.” Look! Psalms in poetic form! Five of them, exclaiming their message “Read me and learn.”

But you, editors, protect me from eye strain. You don’t numb my brain with wordiness.

I take my dictaphone and pace back and forth in my office writing this letter.

I cry out to you, editors, please do not hold back the psalms from me! Tell me where I can go, where I can find the 42 missing psalms, in the translations of Eugene Peterson.

Andrew Magee-Davey, M.D.

Burlington, Oreg.

KC prophets are not apostles

Concerning the Kansas City prophets [“Seers in the Heartland,” Jan. 14]: Have they read Revelation 22:18–19, where John declares that the last word on consummation has been written, and that we are not to add to it? Prophecy now means explaining what is the written, canonized Word.

The New Testament is the commandment of our Lord, spoken by the apostles (2 Pet. 3:2), and there are only 12 of them all the way to the end (Rev. 21:14). None are around now to make or approve canonical statements. Revelation has been limited to the 12 apostles and writers sanctioned by them. Have we forgotten how the Canon was formed?

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Winn T. Barr

Orange, Calif.

These prophets appear to walk along the fringe of orthodox Christianity, and after having received a new revelation, they cross the line into a quasi-Gnosticism. Angelic visitations were reported by Joseph Smith. Out of the body experiences are reported by some adherents to the Eastern religions. Are we dealing with a mystical aberration of Christianity? Only time will tell if these modern-day prophets are from God.

Greg Hagan

Madisonville, Ky.

I was reminded of Simon the Sorcerer, “to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying this man is the great power of God.” Pity the church that cannot discern the difference between “Thus saith the Lord” and what “Simon says.”

Bill Cantelon

Word Letter Ministries

Seattle, Wash.

Two sides, two stories

It is an interesting commentary on the nature of the Southern Baptist conflict that the review of my book (Baptist Battles) by Paige Patterson has required such elaborate explanations by all concerned [Books, Jan. 14]. Since many who are part of the conservative movement don’t trust people outside their camp, Patterson’s endorsement of my research required explanation. On the other side, Patterson is assumed to be hopelessly biased, resulting in numerous inquiries to me from “moderates” about my reaction to his review.

Do I think he read the book correctly? Mostly—more correctly, in fact, than some “moderate” reviewers have. People who are outside the system almost always have a clearer view of what they are up against. When Patterson ticks off the “facts” my book documents, he is right on target. Not surprisingly, he interprets those facts in a way that justifies his cause, believing that there could be only one logical or righteous response to such facts. He is so confident, in fact, that he recommends my book for “confused” Baptists who, when confronted with the facts, will surely see the light. In many instances—as the success of his crusade would testify—that is exactly right. However, moderates are also eager to use this text to convince equally confused Baptists of the rightness of their cause. And that is exactly the point. These two sides have lived through the same events, but they do not tell the same story.

No author can, of course, take responsibility for the interpretations that are given to her work. All we can hope is that we have presented a picture of sufficient clarity and depth that readers can recognize themselves and be challenged to think about their lives in some new ways.

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Nancy T. Ammerman

Emory University

Atlanta, Ga.

Wrong Impressions

We recently witnessed a battle over [the] Impressions [reading series] in a small school in our valley [News, Jan. 14]. Unable to defend the quality of Impressions against the 16 state-approved reading series, the pro-Impressions forces waged a campaign of intimidation and marginalization. The school staff initiated this campaign by redefining the issue from textbook selection to censorship. Hundreds of hours of research by concerned parents was summarily disregarded. Every speaker against Impressions or for another series was followed by one denouncing him or her as a censor, a book banner, or a religious person.

My wife and I were present as observers, not speakers, but we felt we were caught up in a 1984 Orwellian nightmare. The hostility against both liberal and conservative articulate Christians was frightening in its intensity. Even polite regard for pluralism was nonexistent. The school board voted to retain Impressions without any discussion whatsoever as they equated “concerned parents” with “censors.” Welcome to the new age of Newspeak.

John L. Wiester

Buellton, Calif.

It occurs to me that with the Impressions series being taught in so many schools, not only are many of our young people going to be functionally illiterate upon high school graduation, but atheistic or deeply involved in the occult as well. Teachers educating our nation’s children need to stick to reading, writing, and arithmetic and leave philosophy and theology to parents and churches.

T. K. Ekart

Oak Harbor, Wash.

Nonbiblical Assumptions?

I find it sad that while J. I. Packer blames the ordination of women on a supposed misreading of Scripture based on “secular, pragmatic, and social factors,” not once does he suspect that his own need for “manly men” and “womanly women” might be equally influenced by patriarchal, sexist, and other nonbiblical assumptions.

Rev. Steven A. Sathre

Trinity Lutheran Church

Bismarck, N.D.

My wife and I are both ordained, serving two different churches. [This article] offended and degraded us and our ministry. We have been able to overcome discriminations, harsh words, and even rejection because we truly believe God has called us both to the ordained ministry. I sincerely pray for those who support the perspectives of J. I. Packer, that God will open their hearts, eyes, and ears to all the people God calls to the ordained ministry.

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Rev. Wm. Blake Spencer

Associate Pastor

The First Presbyterian Church

El Dorado, Ark.

Thanks to Jim Packer for having the courage to take an unpopular stand. As secular culture moves toward a sex-blind androgyny where the God-created differences between the sexes are deemed irrelevant or nonexistent, he has prophetically called the church back to her biblical roots. Men and women are equal in worth, different in roles.

Kevin Offner

Cambridge, Mass.

Packer tried very hard to be gentle and pastoral, but he failed. All his soft language and kind concern for women could not hide the old argument: separate but equal. Substitute blacks or negroes for women and we have the same kind, gentle argument that sensitive whites used for so many years.

Patricia Pabst

Del Norte, Colo.

Three cheers for Packer’s excellent article. I have been a vestry member, lector, Bible class leader, and Sunday school teacher. However, I totally agree that women should work in partnership with a male leader, rather than as a sole pastor. A favorite quote says: “Woman was made neither to stand in front of man, nor behind him, but rather beside him.

Bunnie Corwith

Lake Forest, Ill.

If there is some doubt how Paul would apply his teaching today, wouldn’t Paul want us to give the “benefit” of that doubt to our sisters who affirm that God has called them to ministry?

Craig S. Keener

Durham, N.C.

I couldn’t help hearing “separate, but equal” throughout the article. Isn’t that the theological platform on which the Dutch Reformed Church built apartheid in South Africa? Isn’t that what we heard from white Christians in the South during the more militant civil rights years? I can just hear Packer saying, “Some of my best friends are women.”

Rev. Alice J. Petersen

College Hill Presbyterian Church

Cincinnati, Ohio

Let’s STOP Making Women Presbyters

Readers tell us when they disagree more often than when they agree with something we have published. However, letters are running three to one against J. I. Packer’s position in “Let’s Stop Making Women Presbyters” (Feb. 11). Here are excerpts from our avalanche of mail:

Certainly Packer’s model has a deep appeal. I am ready to become my wife’s owner as Boaz was Naomi’s owner. I am ready to return to the biblical, male-dominant society. I acknowledge that I am power hungry! I admit that I resent my wife’s inherent interpersonal ability to minister, the same ability that I am trying to learn. I admit my sexism.

Rev. Peter S. Freytag

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United Methodist Church

Fort Morgan, Colo.

It is disappointing to see the depth of scholarship and caliber of J. I. Packer argue for the right position from the wrong reasons. Male headship and leadership is grounded in Creation, but so many modern ideas foreign to New Testament Christianity are read into the situation that one wonders how many egalitarians will ever hear what Jim is saying.

Chris Criminger

Edinburg, Ill.

Let me see if I’ve got this straight: anatomy qualifies men for ordination and disqualifies women, even though Packer is no longer convinced the Bible prohibits the ordination of women. I don’t understand his logic, but then I didn’t go to Oxford.

Karen Hiner

Boise, Idaho

It was interesting to read an article by an Oxford graduate and Anglican priest insisting that only “manly men” ought to be ordained—especially in an issue with Bishop Felton May, an African-American, on the cover. It was not very many generations ago when Princeton theologians were defending slavery and suggesting that black men were something less than “manly” men.

Ruth A. Tucker

Grand Rapids, Mich.

This is the first time I’ve read anything helpful on a point of view I’ve secretly held for 20 years—since our church decided women should serve Communion. As a deaconess, I opposed the change, but was outvoted. I’ve continued to have a deep inner opposition to women doing what God designed men to do.

Karen Gronvall Larson

Rochester, Minn.

Can Professor Packer be serious? Phasing out the female presbyterate as part of our cure? C’mon! Females in equal ministry with men is an essential part of the cure for prejudice such as Packer so eloquently personifies.

Joan Skyrme, Pastor

United Methodist Church

Lake Mills, Iowa

Packer says the role of presbyter is for “manly men rather than womanly women.” He sounds more like John Wayne than an “Oxford man.”

J. Bruce Kilmer

Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

Three cheers for Packer for both seeing through and bucking the trend of the times. No doubt his presentation will catch lots of flak from those who see themselves as wiser than the apostolic writers of Scripture.

Dick Fuller

Reno, Nev

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