God of Pain?
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the article by Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, I tend to doubt they had anything to do with the cover title, “And God Created Pain” [Jan. 10]. Not once in the body of the article did Brand and Yancey intimate God had “created” pain and reflected: “It was very good.” Your cover title may give the wrong impression that God concocted pain because he is a sadistic, almighty Being who delights in bringing pain to his creation. To the contrary, he loved us enough to allow us the choice between obedience and sin, the sin bringing pain on ourselves.
David B. Danner
Terre Haute, Ind.
In his article, Paul Brand fails to make a proper distinction between pain as a warning signal, as in appendicitis, which is a blessing, and pain as a wearing, warring tyrant, as in terminal cancer, which is a blight.
Not once does he tell personally of having felt prolonged, excruciating pain. Wait until he does, and then he will likely change some of his opinions.
Ralph E. Ringenberg
South Bend, Ind.
Paul Brand and Philip Yancey’s article was most provocative. As a survivor of multiple cancer surgeries, a major stroke, and other life-threatening situations, I can assure you that I have never heard such love expressed as by caretakers of us disabled.
My husband has said, “One must suffer to learn to love.” I would add, “One must suffer to learn to know God and be a partner with him in this world.”
Brand’s article is, at one level, a wonderfully inspiring essay on perseverance and sacrifice, as well as a needed indictment of our pleasure-seeking culture. But it is also a flawed essay on suffering.
To build a theology of suffering on the fact that some Londoners found the period of Nazi bombing the happiest of their lives trivializes the horror of war. Polish and Dutch families hardly count the war years as the best years of their lives. And the women of Bosnia, raped systematically in a war crime of monstrous proportions, who now see their children shot to pieces in the bombardment of Sarajevo, would hardly consider this the happiest period of their lives.
Brand inspires us with his stories of graced living amid poverty and of sacrificial devotion to alleviate suffering. But he’s tragically wrong in his minimizing of evil and deprivation.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Delight and disappointment
I was both delighted and disappointed with the review of Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit in your January 10 issue. Delighted by the above-average amount of space given to it because I believe it is one of the most significant titles of 1993, but disappointed because the reviewer struck out on two important points.
1. The title, “Dispensing with Scofield,” trivializes Jack’s argument. “Dispensing with Warfield” is what he really is dealing with—check the footnotes. I don’t think Scofield even is mentioned in the footnotes, but Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield appears on almost every page. He is a much more formidable historical adversary of Wimber. His contemporary counterpart is John MacArthur, whose head could be depicted as falling off another pedestal in Mitchell’s excellent accompanying cartoon.
2. The reviewer leaves the reader a negative impression of the book by severely overemphasizing the role of experience in Deere’s paradigm shift. How could she miss his clear statement: “This shift in my thinking was not the result of an experience with any sort of supernatural phenomena. It was the result of a patient and intense study of the Scriptures” (p. 23). The italics are Jack’s. Contradicting this amounts to little more than a public slap in the face to a recognized biblical scholar.
C. Peter Wagner
Fuller Theological Seminary
A Class Act That Isn’T
The Bible says some things never change: God, love, the Word. But, based on my adult Sunday-school experience, one more item should be added to that list.
Some classes seem to live forever, honoring departed saints (“The Bertha Pickleheimer Memorial Class”) or Greek words, whose meanings have long since been ignored (“The Koinonia Class”). Acronyms were once the rage (“The JOY Class”—Jesus, Others, and You), but during the Cold War spy craze (“The Class from UNCLE”), that practice seemed a trifle silly.
Some classes are in danger of being sued for false advertising: The “Fishers of Men” hasn’t enrolled a new member since 1961, and “Grace Class” is at war with the junior-high ministry after a softball crashed through a memorial window. Maybe Grace was a teacher instead of a virtue.
Some names are more on target. “The Samsonites” class is losing its strength, and its members are losing their hair. However, unlike the luggage, that class is seldom packed. We now have classes called “Boomers” and “Busters.” I was under the impression that these were Major League Baseball expansion teams. But I’m told the references are demographic. It’s hard to predict how these new class names will stand the test of time, but at least they look good on the church’s softball jerseys.
Next Saturday, it will be a generational showdown on the ballfield when the “Boomers” meet the “Samsonites.” I expect the oldtimers to live up to their biblical namesake and jawbone the competition into confusion.
I don’t mind having someone disagree with one of our authors, but I feel this review misrepresented Deere’s book in several ways. First, the review states that “[Jack] claims to have seen fingers grow and legs lengthened.” The book never mentions any healing of fingers or legs.
Second, the review gives the impression that Jack bases his arguments primarily on personal experiences. Blumhofer states, “[Jack] leaves the reader with the impression that it is the religious experience itself that validates what he says.” These comments are particularly unfair in light of Jack’s strong attempt to argue primarily from Scripture rather than from experience.
Third, the review implies that Jack is manipulating God’s Word: “In laying aside Scofield’s grid, has Deere replaced it with another that is equally or more manipulative in its use of God’s Word?” The author is entitled to her opinion, but that opinion seems strained given the book’s strong endorsements by such people as Gordon Fee and Bruce Waltke.
Finally, the review implies that Jack has rejected Scofield and dispensationalism, when, in fact, he still considers himself to be a dispensationalist. His primary argument is against cessationists, who may be found in a variety of theological traditions.
Zondervan Publishing House
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Being part of the dispensational tradition myself, I have never been able to understand why the cessationist position regarding miraculous spiritual gifts is so often credited or—in the case of your reviewer—charged to dispensationalism. Thinking that perhaps Deere himself had done this, I looked in vain throughout his book for any attribution of the source of this teaching to Scofield (as implied in the heading and cartoon) or to “dispensationalism.”
Rather, the book tended to trace this view back to the days of the Reformers with the most frequently mentioned source of more recent time being B. B. Warfield’s classic Counterfeit Miracles. Are we to assume that Warfield got his teaching from Scofield—which I am sure would be news to those in the Reformed tradition? Whether one agrees with cessationism or not, this teaching is not and has never been any more inherent to dispensationalism than to nondispensationalism.
Robert L. Saucy
Talbot School of Theology La Mirada, Calif.
The late theologian Bernard Ramm once said, “In the New Testement the movement is always from truth to experience. But it is never truth for truth’s sake, but truth for experience’s sake.” Blumhofer’s review fails to understand this basic assumption.
Pastor George Mallone
Grace Vineyard of Arlington
It seems to me that Deere’s personal testimony woven through the entire book clearly indicates that his experience challenged his understanding of truth. Writing of his early years, he states, “My practice and my beliefs were determined by the teaching of the Holy Scriptures—or so I thought. Only in recent years has the arrogance of that kind of talk become apparent to me” (p. 46). Experience drove him to the Scriptures for another look at teachings that, until then, had seemed adequate, and when his fresh look at the text corroborated his experience, he changed his mind. He admits his prior understanding of Scripture was also rooted in experience—for example, he did not believe in miracles because he had not seen any miracles (p. 102). This book is both argument and autobiography: it is instructive to ask what each of those modes of presentation—the reasoned approach and the experiential dimension—reveals. The story line constitutes a subtext that indicates the importance of experience.
The review was prepared from galleys, not the final text. If no testimonies to lengthened legs appear there, reference to such types of miracles persist—neck muscles changed (p. 70); a “dead” kidney restored (p. 127); a resurrection from the dead (pp. 204–5); an affirmation that we can ask God to restore amputated limbs (p. 128).
Deere tackles Warfield and others who have argued the cessation of miracles and spiritual gifts. Scofield mediated that point to many of the masses of Protestants who became the fundamentalists, few of whom studied Warfield, but many of whom diligently studied the notes to the Scofield Bible.
From felon to victim?
It is rather amazing that it only takes the passing of time to turn the felon into the victim [“Free Jim Bakker Now,” Speaking Out, Jan. 10]. When the judical system finally follows through, we read that requiring a convicted felon to serve his sentence is “discrimination” and “persecution.”
Is jail a hardship? Of course it is. It’s supposed to be. Does a convicted felon have the right to complain because he is subjected to the full penalty of the law while another convicted felon receives better treatment at the hands of the justice system? I think not.
Winzenburg complains that the system has treated Michael Milken better than it treats Bakker. The complaint is well-founded, but the better cure for this wrong would have been to keep Milken in jail longer, not to let Bakker out sooner.
New York, N.Y.
Why don’t you contact some of the poor, elderly widows unsuspectingly bilked out of their small pension checks and ask them what they think of your opinion of Bakker’s justice? Methinks he was fortunate that some of them did not have the privilege of meting out justice to him!
Pastor Jim Evatt
Riverview Baptist Church
Give me a break! The last thing Christendom needs is for Bakker to hit the road again.
Pastor J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Church of the Nazarene
Questions about Dake
The damaging article in your January 10 News section, “Scholars Scrutinize Popular Dake’s Bible,” is full of untrue statements about what is in the Dake Bible: (1) Dake’s view promotes nine persons in the Trinity; (2) Dake denies the Trinity; (3) Dake’s view on the Trinity is similar to Mormon theology; (4) Dake’s writings imply “God is always dependent on a body”; (5) Dake’s view is that God “is about six feet tall, weighs about 190 pounds, and has a hand span of 9½ inches”; (6) Dake rejects “if it be thy will” prayers; (7) Dake teaches that resurrected saints will give birth to their own kind in heaven; (8) Dake says “Adam and Eve flew back and forth from the moon”; (9) The Dake Bible promotes racism. We expect an acknowledgment that such concepts cannot be found in the Dake Bible.
Annabeth Dake Germaine, Vice President
David L. Germaine, Vice President
Finette Dake Kennedy, Vice President
Finis J. Dake, Jr., Vice President
Dake Bible Sales, Inc.
Clarification: The article about Finis Dake’s writings presented commentary by critics that was based on their interpretations and perceptions of Dake’s teachings. The statements in the letter above do not appear in the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible or in his book God’s Plan for Man.
For example, Dake nowhere states there are nine persons in the Godhead. He does teach that each member of the “Divine Trinity,” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has a “personal spirit body, personal soul, and personal spirit in the same sense that each human being, angel, or any other being has his own body, soul, and spirit.” CT regets any statements that appeared to be textual quotations from Dake’s works instead of interpretation by critics.
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