The June 19 exchange between James Dobson ("Why I Use 'Fighting Words' ") and John Woodbridge ("Why Words Matter"), which grew out of Woodbridge's earlier article, "Culture War Casualties" (March 6), produced yet more words from readers. Scores of letters arriving by mail, fax, and e-mail revealed little neutrality. While total response gives the edge in the debate to Dobson ("Dr. Dobson won!" wrote one), most writers sided passionately with one or the other. Yet many took the measure of each: "I had the feeling that both men are right," said Ruth Ann Arnold of Bedford, Texas. "We need Dr. Dobson's fervor, and we need to be reminded by Dr. Woodbridge that we cannot come to hate people we disagree with, and that there is no place for disrespect, distortion, and sarcasm." If nothing else, the articles served to get the juices flowing for many to think through this issue on a deeper level.

The June 19 cover article, "Why Evangelicalism Is the Future of Protestantism," by Alister McGrath, also elicited earnest response. Fred Hutchison of Columbus, Ohio, believes evangelicalism's problems are greater than the author indicates: "A large part of evangelicalism is spiritually shallow," he wrote. "Protestantism does not have much of a contemplative or deeper-life movement." Yet e-mail comments from Bill Burns found the article to be "exceptional in its breadth of understanding of the problems facing the mainline Protestant church in the twentieth century."

One war is enough

John Woodbridge's article critiquing the language and spirit of "culture wars" and James Dobson's response [June 19] were painful illustrations of another war. As a pastor in a university community working with academics, I know about the "paralysis of analysis." As a pastor working with young idealistic activists, I also know the importance of keeping "fire in the fireplace." It seemed to me that the lack of irenic spirit among Christian activists, whom Woodbridge was critiquing, was embarrassingly illustrated in Dobson's response.

The activists among us seldom listen to the analysts, and the analysts seldom support the activists. I sense that Dobson missed not only Woodbridge's point but also an opportunity to model openness and thankfulness. ct readers who are activists will no doubt respond to Dobson with a loud "Amen," while analyst readers will say of the same article, "I told yo- so."

Let's acknowledge that activists and analysts need to receive and respect each other's gifts while not demanding that the other be like his or her counterpart. One culture war is enough.

Article continues below

Pastor Jim Abrahamson

Chapel Hill Bible Church

Chapel Hill, N.C.

- There is a world of difference between "I hate you" and "I must oppose you." I believe Dobson would never condone hate, and I hope Woodbridge would never fail to oppose evil. The crux of the matter deals with the amount of enthusiasm ("zeal") an individual brings to his or her position. Even a casual reading of the Gospels reveals a Jesus who was not shy about his positions and quite infuriating to his opponents.

Mike Bare

Denver, Colo.

The Roman pagan of Jesus' day was committing the same sins as the American pagan of today (homosexuality, infanticide, child abuse, etc.). Nowhere does the Bible quote Jesus condemning the Romans or their sins. There is no biblical or historical evidence that Jesus engaged in any anti-Roman political activity. Jesus' fighting words were all directed at his Jewish Sanhedrin brethren.

Nan Van Andel

Ada, Mich.

We must not forget that the warfare rhetoric of Scripture is intended for Christians. It is to be used in our "war planning rooms" before we engage the enemy or in our "locker rooms" before we walk onto the playing field. It's intended to inspire us, not our opponents. When we constantly use "fighting words" in the public arena, it comes across as glorified "trash talking," which incites the world and spooks the church.

David L. Bateman

Isle of Palms Baptist Church

Isle of Palms, S.C.

Bravo for James Dobson, who speaks and writes with conviction, courage, and truth. In contrast, ct and John Woodbridge have acquiesced to a wimp-like defensive posture when it comes to our battle "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12).

Pastor Orville W. Jenkins, Jr.

University Blvd. Church of the Nazarene

Jacksonville, Fla.

To read Dobson, one would think Woodbridge had never heard of the idea of Christian warfare and had no interest in the decline of American culture-which is complete balderdash to anyone who read "Culture War Casualties" [Mar. 6]. Dobson says he is exhausted by fighting the culture war and frustrated by fellow Christians who "invest their energies not in the struggle itself, but in criticizing those who are putting their lives on the line to defend their beliefs." He is implying that all Woodbridge does is criticize. To anyone who read the March 6 article, this is obviously both a caricature and a misrepresentation.

Article continues below

Jesus said that his disciples would be known by their love for one another. I certainly sensed that love in both of Woodbridge's articles; it is difficult to see in Dobson's defensive pique.

Anita Middleton

Minneapolis, Minn.

It seems to me that Dobson is right: there is an intense struggle going on between good and evil, and only evil benefits when we elect to deny the reality of the war. We need to name the adversary.

Pastor Richard A. Bayles

Trinity United Church of Christ

Scranton, Pa.

- We are indeed engaged in spiritual warfare. The goal, however, is to win over the enemy's soldiers, not destroy them.

Gene Hartquist

Spencer, N.Y.

Taking postmodernism seriously

Thanks for the excellent article by Alister McGrath ["Why Evangelicalism Is the Future of Protestantism," June 19]. Whether evangelical Christianity continues as a force is up to us as evangelicals, and we face a grave foe. The alarm must be sounded loud and clear: Postmodernism is a mighty and growing force. Let's not repeat this century's mistake. If early twentieth-century Christians would have taken the Enlightenment seriously and tried to comprehend science and philosophy, they would have understood their audience and presented orthodox Christianity in a clear and understandable way.

We need to take postmodernism seriously and work to comprehend it so we may understand our secular friends and present them with the attractive message of God's grace. Let's not spend the twenty-first century behind our culture, finally responding correctly to postmodernism one hundred years from now.

Jeffrey P. Gordon, M.D.

Columbus, Ohio

Were it not for the sake of modesty, Alister McGrath should have included his own name among those cited as having made significant contributions to evangelicalism's rising "academic credibility and respectability." McGrath rightly asserts that "a central task of evangelism is to make Christianity credible in the modern world." Then, in the very next paragraph, he observes the loss of confidence in reason and values so characteristic of "postmodern" culture. How curious that the evangelical subgroup that seems to be making the most dramatic gains around the world is distinguished by an apparent indifference to God's propositional revelation and an irrational acceptance of intuitive and enthusiastic experience as truth. How convenient that intuition and experiential phenomena are entirely subjective and, therefore, closed to verification.

Regardless of the future of Protestantism, the future of orthodox, historic evangelicalism hinges upon whether its "expansion and consolidation" continues at the expense of objective truth.

Article continues below

David A. Green

South Bend, Ind.

For the following reasons we need to be cautious about comparing ourselves with the orthodoxy of the centuries: (1) We have not passed the test of persecution and suffering for the cause of Christ. Kingdoms have risen and fallen, yet the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church have stood for centuries. (2) We have not passed the test of time nor history. "The gates of hell shall not prevail"; over the centuries American evangelicalism knows little or nothing about enduring the times. (3) Our American ethnocentrism obstructs our cross-cultural reach and our understanding of the rest of the world. We need to hear more about the world evangelical church as an evangelizing force for the future.

Richard Shumaker

Christian Bridge

Carol Stream, Ill.

In reading McGrath's glowing article on evangelicalism, I could almost hear the upbeat martial music accompanying the newsreel as the announcer proclaims the inevitable victory of truth and justice in its unstoppable conquest of the future. If it were only true.

I am an evangelical, more conservative than most, a Southern Baptist. But I am regularly in contact with fellow Christians of all shades of practice. What I see is a deliberate abandonment of the historical and intellectual heritage of Christendom in the name of "reaching the lost at any cost," resulting in a lightly "Christianized" version of American secular culture, and presented so as to "eliminate all alienating factors that are not essential to the gospel itself." I privately wonder, when I see this in action, which member of the church staff will be assigned ultimately to inform the converts that the church is essentially and radically different from the world, and that they were deceived in order to get them in the door. The liberals, on the other hand, are so afraid of proclaiming the gospel as intrinsic truth, and so terrified of not being intellectually aloof, that they fall off the other edge into the gelded version of Christianity not particularly distinguishable from Unitarianism.

What's not happening is the pastoring of the flock, the equipping of the saints, and the transmission of Christendom from parents to children. In the mad dash to make the gospel either culturally or intellectually inoffensive, it is robbed of both its power and its poetry.

Article continues below

Wesley Knox Ramsay

Burns, Tenn.

Illegal and sinful

- Congratulations on the fine article about amg and Moody ["AMG Compensates Moody for Plagiarism," News, June 19]. Besides being illegal, plagiarism is a sin. If those guilty of it are believers who do not confess it, Scripture is clear that God will judge it. Cash payments and royalties may mitigate any copy infringement, but they can never absolve it.

Ray Staszewski

Harrison, Tenn.

Biblical principle violated

The news item about New Era's road to bankruptcy illustrates how "easy" it is to be tempted by covetousness [" `Double-Your-Money' Scam Burns Christian Groups," News, June 19]. "All your other friends were bragging about their checks," said Gardner. "These are not small potatoes-these are big bucks." This quote from the article is really the heart of the "trap."

Christian colleges, who all state in their advertising that they want their students to grow spiritually, academically, and socially, were caught in this trap. How can they hope to grow students spiritually when they violated the number-one biblical principle: faith in God to supply needs?

Sheryl Tedder

Omaha, Neb.

The pope's book

I commend you for the review of Crossing the Threshold of Hope, by John Paul II [Books, June 19]. Not only are you worthy of praise for taking the time to critique his meritorious book, but also for printing such a positive and nondivisive study of the pope's publication. Thank you for being sensitive to the Roman Catholics who read your magazine-for not pointing out how "wrong" we are for the doctrine we hold to be true and dear.

Marcie Impastato

Houston, Tex.

Truth delayed

The ct article on fea's problems ["Failed Ventures Lead Fuller Institute to Cut Staff, Budget," News, June 19] did not get to the heart of the matter. When litigation is pending, many truths are suppressed. The truth will come out. We want to be honoring to Christ. The major causes of fea's dilemma remain undisclosed.

Carl F. George


Simon says

Several months after the publication of Tim Stafford's article "Are People the Problem?" (Oct. 3, 1994), University of Maryland economist Julian Simon protested that while Stafford had quoted him accurately, he had left the wrong impression about Simon's character. A tardily published excerpt of Simon's letter follows:

I agreed only reluctantly to an interview because I prefer that journalists work from what I have written, where there is no chance that I might say something loosely or ambiguously. I hope that my grandchildren do not read me saying, "Everyone else is wrong." But I'll bet dollars to donuts that those words pop up in some subsequent newspaper or magazine story as evidence of my supposed arrogance.

Article continues below

Stafford gives the impression that I, along with Paul Ehrlich, am given to insulting language. I do not comment on motives, character, or intellectual capacity of others, except for a few cases where I use strong language about a towering intellectual figure. I put a very high premium on courtesy both in person and in professional interchange.

Stafford also says that I am "fractious" when he recounts an incident of a "fray" that I had in 1970. It happens to be the only fight I have ever started, although I confess to a certain pride that I ended it quickly. And though Mr. Stafford refers to other "frays," on the telephone afterwards, he admitted that he knows of no others.

Mr. Stafford also pitted Mr. Ehrlich and me against each other as "extremists." As Daniel Seligman recently noted in Fortune, why call my work "extreme" if it has been correct?

Julian L. Simon

Chevy Chase, Maryland

Brief letters are welcome. They may be edited for space and clarity, and must include the writer's name and address. Send to Eutychus, Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188; fax: 708/260-0114. E-mail: Letters preceded by - were received online.


Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.