The Truth Hurts
Quick! Fax a copy of “Nine Election-Year Temptations” [by Vernon Grounds, Sept. 14] to every pastor and politician in America. It’s too bad these nine probing religio-political truths couldn’t have been beamed onto those huge TV screens in Madison Square Garden and the Astrodome this summer. I would challenge any CT subscriber to read them without saying “ouch” at least once.
As president of the Religious Public Relations Council, I can attest to the political diversity of America’s faith community. In our ranks are deeply devout men and women of every denomination; their party sympathies are amazingly unpredictable. I find it happily ironic that even should I wish our organization could exert some political clout for one side or the other, our members would never let me. If God has picked his party, he certainly hasn’t sent a press release out to our mailing list yet.
David B. Smith
Religious Public Relations Council
Thousand Oaks, Calif.
In New England communities like ours, pastors are often catapulted into the arena of public decision-making. Dr. Grounds’s very specific warnings help to define the ethical boundaries.
Pastor Wayne A. Detzler
Calvary Baptist Church
Politics over God’s creation
Hats off for your interview of Albert Gore [“Preserving God’s ‘Very Good’ Earth,” Sept. 14]. Questions regarding the environment were excellent. As to his answer regarding abortion, I stand amazed: He carefully avoided a hint at his position. The bottom line is that he is very concerned for seals and dolphins with overtaxed immune systems but looks the other way as millions of unborn children are slaughtered. His political savvy is impressive, but his lack of conviction for the right of the unborn to life is unforgivable.
He will likely be elected along with Bill Clinton. On their watch the Freedom of Choice Act will most certainly be passed with a swiftness rarely seen in political circles. We may have to answer to our children as to how we treated the Earth they inherit from us. Gore will have to answer to God for allowing political expediency to overshadow God’s most wonderful creation: Life.
Battle Creek, Mich.
I am disappointed that CT would publish this interview at this time. It is almost as though the publication is attempting to aid Clinton-Gore in their efforts to win the confidence of evangelicals. The candidates’ views on abortion and homosexuality certainly precludes the giving of any confidence or vote.
Thank you for the interview with Al Gore. You have been featuring so many Republicans recently that I had begun to wonder if I had mistakenly subscribed to Republicanism Today. I hope this article signals a less politically partisan approach in the future.
Stephen Tarr, Pastor
Port Orchard United Methodist Church
Port Orchard, Wash.
My wife and I were offended by the interview. What place does a purely political environmental (New Age) discussion have in a supposed Christian magazine?
Leslie F. Smith, Jr.
The sidebar states that the interview occurred “a few months before he became a vice-presidential candidate.” Was that before Gore switched from his prolife position—which he expressed in several legislative votes—to embrace, as he now does, a party platform that advocates unlimited access to abortion?
David H. Fosselman
Notre Dame, Ind.
It appears that the environment, and courting the evangelical vote, are more important to Gore than biblical truth.
Frank Chin, M.D.
Joyful Noise Department
My nephew Wally Watts, a pastor in Southern California, decided to introduce the great hymns to his upwardly mobile, self-esteemed, praise-chorused congregation. In a few weeks he had produced a new hymnal that, he says, “adapts our great hymn heritage to a new church culture.” He began by organizing the hymnal by interest group.
He knew praise chorus fans would howl (over and over and over again), so for them he included:
“Sing Them Over Again to Me” and “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Singing.”
Wally also knew self-esteem advocates would balk at stanzas full of worms and wretches. Such hymns are replaced with:
“Glorious Things of Me Are Spoken,” “Jesus Loves Me, This Is Only Natural,” and “Expected Grace” (“how sweet the sound, / That self-actualized a pretty swell person like me”).
My nephew’s hymnal assumes nothing, so it’s probably the first to be “seeker sensitive.” For such people it has:
“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Much,” “Lord, (I Think) I Want to Be a Christian,” “Tell Me a New, New Story.”
But the bulk of the hymnal is devoted to the category that makes up most of that congregation—the lukewarm:
“A Pretty Good Fortress Is Our God,” “Open My Neighbor’s Eyes, That He May See,” and “I Need Thee Every Month or So.”
This hymnal has more: “Hymns for Real Christian Families,” for instance. More on that next time. For now, I’m considering a new hymn title myself: “There’s a Limit to God’s Mercy.”
Senator Gore is not a Christian. He is running with another hypocrite who advocates the choice for a woman to kill her child and who has yet to repent of his adultery with godly sorrow and shows only a pattern of being self-seeking. Not only should you have not supported Senator Gore, you cannot even eat lunch with him.
The same courage Senator Gore has mustered to speak to environmental issues is the same courage he and others can and should muster to speak to the threat to the earth’s most endangered species, the unborn child.
Scott Patty, Associate Pastor
Park Avenue Baptist Church
Al Gore’S “Double-Talk”
Few articles in recent months have drawn more mail from CT readers than the interview with senator Gore. The foregoing is a small sampling. One theme is predominant: How can the senator espouse environmental causes that champlion the rights of endangered species, ye ignore the protection of unborn humans?
Some readers missed the environmental discussion entirely in their dismay at the space given the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in an election year. None who accused CT of partisanship appeared to recall the lengthy interview with Vice-president Dan Quayle published in the June 22 issue.
If nothing else, the mail response has once again proved how important the abortion issue is to evangelicals.
Changing philosophy of theological education?
The News article “Grace Brethren Split Over ‘Doctrinal Drift’ ” [Sept. 14] contains a statement by David Plaster, vice-president of academic affairs at Grace Seminary, that is misleading: “We continue to teach our own convictions, but our students are required to read materials from opposing viewpoints. Dr. Whitcomb objects to that.”
Dr. Plaster, one of my former students, should know that I have always taught the importance of consulting original sources representing all significant viewpoints in biblical research, and the absolute necessity of guiding students in the evaluation of such viewpoints against the objective standard of God’s inerrant and infallible Word.
It is significant, however, that Plaster “does acknowledge a change in methodology, a change that preceded Whitcomb’s departure.” This new methodology appears to be a shift of philosophy of theological education toward a confusing exposure of students in the classroom to a multitude of viewpoints at the expense of consistent and careful indoctrination in the entire counsel of God.
John C. Whitcomb
Winona Lake, Ind.
The fundamental mark
“The Forbidden Fruit,” by John Stott [Aug. 17], is one of the best Meditation pieces I have ever read. Truly, love is the most fundamental mark of a true Christian. One caveat: I would have to note the conflict, in my estimation, between “If agape is sacrificial, how can it be self-directed?” and “Jesus said we find ourselves when we lose ourselves” and the statement “When we love, joy and peace follow as natural consequences.” One of the “good news” aspects of the gospel and the God who scripted it is that we do not live in a “tragic” universe, where “good guys finish last.” Instead, we live in a triumphant universe, where “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Thomas F. Harkins, Jr.
Fort Worth, Tex.
Please send me a pair of scissors. With three authorities like John Stott, Martin Luther, and Thomas Cranmer all agreeing we are justified by faith only, I need to cut James 2:24 out of my New Testament.
John Stott’s fine meditation on love was flawed by his faulty exegesis of Galatians 5:24—“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” To say that “Paul is not being literal … but means that we are ruthlessly to reject the claims of our fallen nature to rule over us” is a far cry from the meaning of crucifixion, which Webster defines as “to execute or put to death.” Paul makes this perfectly clear in Romans 6:6: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” CT should protect its readers against such theological bias.
A glitch like this does not keep me from appreciating the magazine, and I compliment you on its contribution to Christianity today.
Eugene L. Stowe
Kansas City, Mo.
One-sided abortion story
I enjoyed reading Tim Stafford’s article “Inside Crisis Pregnancy Centers” [Aug.17]. I ama strong supporter of CPC and believe the workers and volunteers in these centers are the “true” soldiers on the frontline in the abortion battle.
As a newspaper reporter in the secular press, I know the media is only telling one side of the story, thereby leaving the wrong impression in the minds of many people. Articles such as Stafford’s are helpful in that they present the side not told in the national media. I hope CT continues to publish such needed information.
Bruce E. Goolsby
Step out of the comfort zone
I was surprised to see CT turn to an associate college professor for an article on Christian compassion rather than to one of the hundreds of inner-city parachurch leaders in this country who are putting their theories into practice by working alongside the poor and desolate [“Dependent No More,” by Marvin Olasky, Aug. 17].
At the Denver Rescue Mission, as in many other missions, we believe that men and women often must fill that hungry gap in their stomachs before they can open their hearts to the nourishing words of Jesus Christ. In addition to providing premeal chapel services, we turn Christian volunteers’ compassion into action via job training, literacy education, babysitting, parenting-skills training, and numerous other services. There’s room for all in these trenches—if you’re not afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
Rev. Del Maxfield
Denver Rescue Mission
Those “truly human values”
In the editorial “American Babel” [Aug. 17], you used many words to enforce your position that Christianity should be reconciled with the world. Your premise—“Nevertheless, truly human values are God’s values”—is scripturally false and blasphemy.
“Truly human values,” according to Scripture, are that “there is no one righteous, there is no one who does good … the way of peace they do not know” (Rom. 3). Lest we forget, the whole point of the cross was because man’s “time-tested traditions,” which you put on the same level as the wisdom found in the Bible, cannot uphold law or values.
Mrs. Melissa Maschler
Woodland Hills, Calif.
I came to the conclusion that CHRISTIANITYTODAY stands for what is Christianity today. David Neff proposes joining forces with other traditions to win more hearts. He even wants to pay attention to the ideas of upright, moral pagans in “American academia.”
This kind of thinking is not found in the Christianity of the New Testament. I am sure the Pharisees wanted to promote “honesty, sexual fidelity, family loyalty and the dignity of work,” but Jesus did not join forces with them.
Paul E. Montero
No abuse at the Vineyard
In your August 17 review of Ron Enroth’s book Churches That Abuse, I came across the name of my own denomination as a potential suspect. I found myself checking Enroth’s criteria. On my first perusal, none related to my experience with the Vineyard. Then, as my husband and I recollected our church experiences from conventional roots to Vineyard praise and worship, some understanding began to emerge.
We remembered the mainline setting, when church was a comfortable place and we served on committees. Then came the switch to a more evangelical setting. We found ourselves like fish out of water. It was bizarre and invigorating all at once. People’s problems and hurts were evident. We felt like fleeing, but were intrigued—especially enjoying the worship and coming to recognize the presence of the Lord. We found ourselves participating instead of spectating.
Next, we found ourselves involved in other people’s hurts. We began to work through healing together. We had to establish rules in the growing process. Could this be what Enroth sees as abusive? Discipline is a delicate matter.
Structure and order are obviously necessary. Those of us whom God has led to minister to people in the process of change must ask: “Am I constantly aware of this individual’s choice to accept my help or to reject me and my offer? Do I trust the Lord enough to let them go, or am I demanding to be the authority in their lives? Am I trying to fulfill my desires, or am I ready to be spilled out for God’s purposes?”
If a church group is not allowing individuals to choose their own paths, free to leave, with their love, and not their scorn—they are practicing abusive behavior and not the love of God. In some cases there is abuse, which Enroth is right to address. In other situations, confrontation or discipline grounded in the love of the Father could be perceived as abusive.
In my years of experience with John Wimber and various Vineyard Christian Fellowships, abuse of authority has not reared its ugly head.
I read with interest Kim Lawton’s article “Estranged Bedfellows” regarding the Democratic National Convention and its frustrated evangelical faction [Aug. 17].
Regarding the confusion of Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio), a professed born-again Christian, and the malady affecting professing Christians Gov. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) as well as Rep. Floyd Flake (D-N.Y.) and entertainer Phil Driscoll, these participants (and others like them) suffer from schizophrenic loyalty, which has led to separation anxiety.
What the aforementioned are broadcasting loud and clear is that life (which entails the mandatory ingredient of potential) as it relates to the sixth commandment, is suggestion—not commandment. These men affiliated with the Democratic party now look at the fetus the way the Communists surveyed our shores: “What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is negotiable,” all the while claiming mental anguish, which, if they would run a reality check, is in reality a spiritual anguish.
Would Jesus accept the line politicians give when they say they are men of deep convictions on moral issues but do not vote for them (or cast off affiliations in antithesis to them) in the public arena because these convictions, born in private, have nothing to do with their public, secular life?
Roger A. Raker
Rep. Hall says the Democratic party “offers many views that should resonate with evangelicals. ‘The Democrats have always had the reputation of being for the downtrodden and the oppressed … the powerless and the hungry.’ ” That he can speak of the homeless, the poor, and the environment in that way without including the most “oppressed” and “powerless” entity on the face of the earth, our unprotected unborn, is mystifying and an outrage—especially because he pretends to represent the evangelical community in saying so.
Joe Grier, Pastor
King of Glory Fellowship
“Colorizing Church History” [July 20] is one of the most inspiring articles I’ve read in CT. I think it is consistent with the teachings of Christ to say that the less the church values itself as a (Western, white, male) institution, the more potential it will have to do the work of God in the world.
Tamara J. Jaffe-Notier
Oak Park, Ill.
Letters are welcome; brevity is preferred. All are subject to condensation. Write to Eutychus, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.
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