Those KC Prophets

As a former Baptist pastor who has spent the last four years in Vineyard Christian Fellowships, I found your article on the Kansas City prophets remarkably objective and well written [“Seers in the Heartland,” Jan. 14], considering it was written by one who admitted the goings on were “weird” and new to him. But after reading much of what the media have been saying about Vineyard churches, one thing is clear: Those who have not been part of a Vineyard meeting have a hard time understanding what is going on. Most people cannot determine its validity with just one meeting. For me, as the weirdness wore off, I found out why God brought me here.

The Vineyard places greatest emphasis on an individual, personal, and intimate relationship with the Father. It is also a place where the wounded and hurting will be welcomed and healed, and where we can all grow and learn.

Paul Watson

Lakeland, Tenn.

I appreciated your exposure of the “seers” but was disappointed in your positive attitude toward their theology. If Gamaliel’s words were given to us as prescriptive rather than descriptive, we should join the New Age movement as we “will not be able to stop these men.” The purpose and activity of the Wimber prophets is “not of human origin,” but neither is it “from God.” We would surely do well to focus on Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:24: “False prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.”

Carol K. Tharp, M.D.

Winnetka, Ill.

I was disappointed with the pragmatic approach of Michael Maudlin’s evaluation of the KCF events. In an age of deviant doctrine and false teachers, we must hold firm to the Word of God as our plumb line to evaluate all of life, and not let the test of time and success stand as authoritative.

Bob Tullberg

Dayton, Tenn.

The prophetic movement is considerably more diverse, both in its teachings and practice, than Maudlin recognizes. Had he interviewed some other groups, he would have found that not everyone in the current movement is making such startling predictions for the future. He is thus mistaken in seeing a “thoroughgoing apocalypticism” as a “key element to the prophetic movement.” Many prophetic ministers outside Kansas City differ sharply in their eschatology and in their expectations for our generation. Some are silent about the issue altogether.

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As far as I can tell, we can make only one accurate generalization about the prophetic movement: Those who make it up agree that God desires a restoration to the church of the powerful and life-changing gift called prophetic ministry; to the extent the church rejects that gift, it will be impoverished.

Paul Thigpen

DeBarry, Fla.

Because of the danger of being misled, the gift of prophecy is not a gift to be shunned, nor one to be sought from the Lord. Actively seeking the gift opens the door to visions from the chief of liars, and to disaster for the church.

Wesley P. Taylor

Ferndale, Wash.

“Freshest since Wesley”

Bravo, CT! Eugene H. Peterson’s “Listen, Yahweh” [Jan. 14] is the freshest thing since John Wesley went to church at Aldersgate Street. His “American” translations really speak to me. Please keep us posted on his progress in translating the remaining psalms.

Richard B. McKeown

West Point, Ga.

Then again, …

I commend you on “Conversion” by David F. Wells [Jan. 14]. It is one of the finest treatments of the subject I have seen in a long time. In contrast, however, is the article by Eugene Peterson. While recognizing the very human frustrations, even with the ways of God, in some of the psalms, and on occasion what might be called “earthy” language, surely it is not necessary to trivialize and banalize the language of Scripture by introducing such terms as zilch. If there is any value in treating the Word in this fashion, it must be for use with a limited subculture.

Roy F. Lambert

Fenton, Mich.

A Baptist ayatollah as reviewer?

The Ayatollah Khomeini doing a review of The Satanic Verses would make about as much sense as having Paige Patterson doing the review of Baptist Battles: Social Change and Religious Conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention [Books, Jan. 14]. To say the least, the two participants in this debate hail from opposite camps in the current struggle among Southern Baptists. Patterson’s review is scarcely unbiased.

While Patterson suggests that this book might offer help in clarifying the issues separating moderates and “movement conservatives,” I find the editorial approach of letting the wolf guard the sheep does not offer” Help for Confused Baptists.”

Jay Martin, D.Min., Pastor

First Baptist Church

Manistique, Mich.

Where do I file the class-action suit for misleading labels? Your cover copy, “Help for Confused Baptists,” had me eagerly flipping pages to find the review of Nancy Ammerman’s book. And what do I find? A bombastic, arrogant, self-righteous diatribe by one of the two major architects of the fundamentalist takeover of the convention. This poor excuse of a book review puts a serious stain on your reputation for fairness. I’d like to read a review that gives some idea of what the book is about instead of the reviewer’s wild rantings.

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Marshall Hacker

Covington, Ky.

If “confused” Baptists still wonder why there is a rift in the Southern Baptist Convention after reading Baptist Battles, then I suggest they read the review by Patterson. That will remove any doubt. One of the original leaders of the fundamentalist takeover in the SBC, Patterson’s writing reflects the attitudes of these people in typical fashion. He assumes that since Nancy Ammerman points out the factors that brought about conflict, she is admitting the fundamentalists are justified. She does no such thing, but her honest evaluation of the facts is beyond most fundamentalists, including Patterson.

Name withheld by request

Thank you for your help. I am a Baptist and must confess that, despite all notions to the contrary, I am not confused since I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to do anything he wants regardless of denominational tantrums to the contrary. However, I am confused about CT’s inability to do what we have committed it to do—to rise above the shallow practices of the secular press and offer a superior and sober view of the insanity around us.

Ammerman’s thesis deserves careful attention in light of the increasing urbanization of our society and the role a denomination with deep rural roots is now called to play in the diversity and harsh realities of our urban centers.

I will wait for the next issue of CT to appear at the supermarket check-out counter with a banner headline announcing “Girls of the SBC Revealed”—only to discover a photographic essay on the Women’s Missionary Union. Kyrie Eleison to the max, dudes!

German T. Cruz

Atlanta, Ga.

Is CT shifting ground?

I was more than a little surprised by the last sentence of the editorial “Testing the New Prophets” [by David Neff, Jan. 14], which reads, “But believers who ignore the words of those genuinely gifted in speaking God’s contemporary word to his contemporary people, do so at their own peril.” The Bible is God’s contemporary word for every generation. When we preach God’s prophetic word from the Bible, we do not have to worry over the authenticity of that word.

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I sincerely hope CT is not shifting from the more sure foundation of the Word of God. I am more than surprised; I am disappointed.

James Semple

Dallas, Texas

Neff is right in that we need to evaluate prophecy by wise standards. Can we apply the same criteria to the pronouncements of pastors, elders, and spiritual directors? Rather than singling out prophets for special caution, we need to exercise discernment (not bickering criticism) about everything said by those in authority. Currently, people accept pastoral utterances with the same blindness with which they greet prophets. Surely off-base elders and pastors—and laypeople—have done as much damage in the church as off-base prophets.

Karen Hinckley

Woodland Park, Colo.

Laughs come monthly

There was one minor error in “A Joke or Two from Kalamazoo” [Church in Action, Jan. 14]. The Joyful Noiseletter is a monthly, not bimonthly. We’ve been bombarded with telephone calls since the article appeared. For the curious, our address is: FMC, P.O. Box 668. Kalamazoo, MI 49005.

Cal Samra, Editor

The Joyful Noiseletter

Kalamazoo, Mich.

Believing the Virgin Birth

Richard Longenecker’s article on the Virgin Birth [“Whose Child Is This?” Dec. 17] is excellent. It is one facet of a shining story, but not more than that. I believe it because the Bible says so. But the Incarnation doesn’t hinge on it. I’ve always assumed that much disbelief in the Virgin Birth stems from excessive claims and extrabiblical interpretations of it.

Old-line Roman Catholics and right-wing Protestants will say this is the only way Jesus could be sinless. This, of course, assumes that our human sin is sexually transmitted (not a biblical idea).

Rev. Constant Johnson

Galesburg, Ill.

Thanks to Richard Longenecker for his thoughts on the Virgin Birth and for an opportunity to set straight the validity of Catholic teaching on Mary’s perpetual virginity—that she had no marital relations before or after Christ’s birth and that Jesus was her only child. That Mary had taken a lifelong vow of virginity is endorsed by her question in Luke 1: She would not have asked “how” she would “conceive and bear a son” if she already was planning to have children with Joseph.

Who, then, were the brothers and sisters of the Lord named in Scripture (e.g., Mark 6:3)? The key point is that nowhere is it said that Mary had other children. In fact, we don’t know exactly how these brethren were related to Jesus. The words brother, sister, and brethren could mean cousins, nephews, and nieces. The New Testament authors continued a tradition of using brethren to indicate a variety of relationships.

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The perpetual virginity of Mary and the Virgin Birth are both teachings supported by Scripture.

John P. Campbell

Dallas, Texas

Longenecker neglected the most important thing standing against the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. Why would the writers of two Gospels go to great length in establishing Jesus’ credentials as a legitimate heir to the throne of Israel-Judea from the line of David when it would be undercut if Jesus were the biological child of God?

Kenneth H. Bonnell

Los Angeles, Calif.

I have never seen the Virgin Birth problem so clearly delineated. However, the difficulty lies not with Mary. The problem is man’s refusal to accept the existence of any power greater than man’s own.

Alma Blanton

Torrance, Calif.

Suppose we believe the Virgin Birth is a fact of history and not just another religious symbol. Would it be any less a fact if the earliest preachers and confessions of faith failed to mention it, or the New Testament made no further references to it, or we were unable to produce empirical evidence regarding the mechanics of it? No.

I, too, have difficulty resolving the mystery of the Virgin Birth; but let us not destroy the beauty of the greatest paradox in history by confining it to our own feeble imaginations or reducing it to mere religious symbolism. Rather, let us stand in awe and be thankful that God, in history, did do this on our behalf.

Rev. James O. Lee

Tolarville, Miss.

The second- and third-century blasphemies about the birth being illegitimate came from the same place they do today. From unbelief of the Word of God.

Dight House

McCracken, Kans.

Resist interpretations

David Neff is absolutely right in his editorial “Apocalypse When?” [Dec. 17]. Christians must resist the temptation to interpret every current event as a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. I find it curious, though, that he should use William Miller as an example of this bad practice. Surely he knows that Miller’s primary reason for concluding that Christ would return in 1844 was his understanding of the 2,300 days of Daniel 8:14 and the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:25, not world events of his day.

Marvin Moore

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Pacific Press Publishing Association

Boise, Idaho

The editorial left me puzzled and wondering: What is the position of CT concerning biblical prophecy? The word escape occurs eight times in the editorial (about the same number of times it appears in the New Testament). The whole principle of salvation is a glorious offer of escape—from the penalty of sin, from the wrath of God, from hell. We are taught to pray that we might be found worthy to escape the tragic events of the tribulation. Let’s not be more spiritual than the Bible. Thank God for the hope that by his grace we shall be rescued out of a world destined for judgment.

It seems unfortunate at a time like this to sneer at biblical prophecy. To disagree about fine points, to warn against excess or unscriptural views is helpful; but to discount these things with a sneer is unbecoming your excellent journal.

Perhaps your editorial should be titled “Apocalypse Canceled.”

Daniel E. Johnson

Trans World Ministries

Tacoma, Wash.

False dichotomy?

James Coggins raises some important cautions in the quest for God’s supernatural empowerment [“Stop Looking for Miracles,” Speaking Out, Dec. 17]. However, I believe he seeks to establish a false dichotomy. Healings and the miraculous are not antithetical to repentance, humility, and a loving concern for others. Indeed, the Scriptures teach that the same Holy Spirit is the source of all these manifestations of the life of God.

Furthermore, the point is not to exegete cultural patterns of God’s activity. It certainly may be interesting—even instructive—[to see] how God seems to be working in the Third World or in North America. But we are called to be obedient to the Word of God. And the Bible quite clearly models both the miraculous and the costly, radical renunciation of worldliness. Shouldn’t we seek obedience to the one without leaving the other undone?

Rev. Rick McKinniss

Kensington Baptist Church

Kensington, Conn.

Amen, Brother Coggins!

Do I believe in, preach, and see miracles? Absolutely! Am I a “blessing seeker”? Absolutely not!

Rev. Tony Belarmino

First Assembly of God

Lovelock, Nev.

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