Gary M. Burge's "Are Evangelicals Missing God at Church?" [Oct. 6] starkly identified the frustrations and disappointments that I, a 29-year-old, have felt in traditional evangelical worship services for most of my adult life. Those feelings resulted last year in my joining a local Lutheran congregation that shares my evangelical views. I now look forward every week to a rich liturgical service that grasps the mystery and power of God while taking me directly to his throne. A close friend recently told me I am [now] a "monarchist" in worship style. He's right. Now I feel that I am worshiping God my King at church, not just talking to God my Friend.

Robert A. Abrams
Celina, Ohio

I mused over how evangelicals bored with singing hymns, prayer, the exposition and application of Scripture would react if they sat in on one of Jesus' services in a stone-cold Nazareth synagogue, reading from Isaiah. Then Jesus sits and applies the passage to the people. No icons, no stained-glass windows, no bells or incense. How boring! Looking through Scripture you see the apostles and prophets, the foundation of the church, and Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone of the church, singing, praying, preaching, and applying the Word. Don't they know that people need something to make them feel good?

Rev. Edward Gospodinsky
Pilgrim Congregational Church
Plymouth, Pa.

Burge emphasizes the primacy of the vertical relationship between God and us while de-emphasizing the horizontal relationship between believers. I, however, believe it is the horizontal relationships that give us distinction as Christians. God himself felt the need to establish a horizontal relationship with us and sent the Son to commune with humanity. Paul's purpose for the church is edification of the believers, not worship (1 Cor. 14).

Patrick Oden
San Dimas, Calif.

When a preacher really loves the Lord Jesus and earnestly seeks to win the lost, the worship meetings will come alive, and there will be genuine worship; the form and style will be taken care of nicely. Unfortunately, many preachers today seem to have come from the church at Laodicea. This kind will not preach on the coming Judgment Day, will not more than barely mention the word sin, and will avoid preaching anything from the Book of Revelation.

Burge also errs in even thinking of the pastor as the priest of the church, for Christians constitute a nation of priests, and we have only one Mediator, our High Priest, who now sits at the right hand of the Father.

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Richard O. Pierce
Cedar Park, Texas

* We often confuse what we want with what we need. Challenging sermons, stirring music, and cheerful spontaneity may be all we want. But for the human soul to deepen in God, we need more than that. Our spiritual diet also needs sacrifice, mystery, rhythm. Without dismissing the results of several amazing sermons in the Book of Acts, it is astonishing how often that same Book of Acts reveals the presence of the Spirit erupting among the apostles in the midst of ancient liturgical practice. Rather than killing the spirit, ancient liturgy is a garden in which succulent fruit may grow.

Sometimes old friends discover what I am doing now and ask how a Dallas Seminary grad who majored in biblical, expository preaching could leave the evangelical world to serve in the Episcopal Church. Often they are even more astonished by my answer: The evangelical churches were too rigid for a pursuit of a vibrant, full-fledged spiritual life. Like many others, I moved to the Episcopal Church in order to more freely practice both biblical preaching and biblical worship.

Rev. Richard Laribee
Christ the King Episcopal Church
Arvada, Colo.

As a former high-church Episcopalian, I read Burge's article with interest. I empathize with evangelicals who seek the liturgy's sense of encounter with the utter holiness of God. But for me, the tradeoffs involved in a return to a formalized liturgy would be staggering.

While liturgical churches provide a sense of the mystery of God, they do so at a great price. In my experience, their members miss the more important sense of the presence of Christ in their everyday lives. Mention a personal relationship with Christ to a liturgical Christian, and most won't know what you're talking about. What else can be expected when he is seen only as holy, and is met only in church?

David A. Anderson
Naperville, Ill.

* Woe unto us if we depart from the exposition of God's Word! Nothing will be left. In the words of William Temple, archbishop of Canterbury, worship is "to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God." How can this kind of worship be possible if it is separated from the clear, systematic, faithful exposition of the Word of God?

Mariano Gonzàlez
Lombard, Ill.

* Burge's excellent article could be summed up by saying that many evangelicals today want the best of all the Christian traditions: We want the biblical teaching and passionate personal commitment characteristic of the evangelical tradition; we want the theological seriousness of the confessional churches; we want the acute sense of the supernatural from the charismatic movement; and we want the dignity, transcendence, sacramentalism, and historical rootedness of the liturgical churches. There's a wealth in our faith that no single tradition encompasses.

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Nancy R. Pearcey
Annandale, Va.

In light of the two "can we just get along" articles ("When Christians Fight Christians" and "Fighting the Good Fight," Oct. 6), I found it strange that you would later include a [News] article [containing a quotation] that referred to Calvinism as "a perfect dunghill" ("Calvinism Resurging Among SBC's Young Elite").

One article (Tim Stafford) censured World magazine for using "sensational language" and the other (John Stackhouse) spoke of certain theologians of a Reformed or Calvinist bent as being "theological vigilantes." Maybe I am reading between the lines, but it seems that civility is to be extended to everyone except those narrow-minded Reformed types and their nagging insistence that there are actual categories of theological truth and error.

Pastor Gary L. W. Johnson
Church of the Redeemer
Mesa, Ariz.

Stackhouse's question for the "proponents of subordination" is, indeed, the big question that has never (to my knowledge) been adequately addressed but is instead routinely dismissed with the mantra that women are "equal in being but unequal in function." By contrast, his questions for the "biblical feminists" have not been dismissed or avoided but dealt with often and seriously.

Nor should it be assumed (somewhat facetiously, it seems) that God has only recently revealed the truth of biblical equality. I rather suspect there have been Christians in all eras of church history who have seen the matter in this light but have simply been silenced by those who held the culturally dominant view.

The repression of fair and open public discussion of this question is by no means a thing of the past. Precisely for this reason, Stackhouse's call for "sincere argument" and "real engagement" desperately needs to be heeded. I cannot think of a better place to start than in the pages of CT.

Rebecca Merrill Groothuis
Littleton, Colo.

Tim Stafford's article "When Christians Fight Christians" [Oct. 6] contained factual errors regarding what took place after our private meeting concerning the ECT [Evangelicals and Catholics Together] document. He characterized the meeting as follows: (1) the conferees left in a happy hopefulness; (2) peace began to unravel in 24 hours; (3) most of the leaders caught planes for home, but John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul headed for a TV set to film a prescheduled John Ankerberg Show critiquing the ECT statement; (4) when this show was aired nationally, the ECT signers were shocked.

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But MacArthur, Sproul, and I returned to our homes January 19 (the day of the meeting) like all the rest of the men. Second, we did not tape the television program until 20 days later (Feb. 8). Third, the article stated, "When this show aired nationally, the ECT signers were shocked." This could not be true, since Chuck Colson and Bill Bright were personally invited to participate in this taping. When they declined my invitation, I sent Colson (who was spokesman) every question and topic that I would present to D. James Kennedy, MacArthur, and Sproul. I asked him to change any question or topic he so desired. He, in fact, sent his response to me, and all of us complied. The purpose of the television show was to report on why the issues surrounding ECT were important, why there had been objection, and why the Clarification Statement helped rectify what we believed to be ambiguity in the original ECT document regarding the content of the gospel message.

John Ankerberg, President
Ankerberg Theological Research Institute
Chattanooga, Tenn.

Tim Stafford replies: I regret the error in my reporting of the date of the television show taping. Unfortunately, neither Dr. Ankerberg nor Dr. Sproul made himself available to be interviewed, and I was forced to rely on the recollections of others for this part of the article.

* Thank you for Kevin D. Miller's helpful article "The War of the Scrolls" [Oct. 6]. I would like to offer a minor correction, however. The article cites Peter Flint, an evangelical expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, in support of the claim that the Hebrew fragments from Qumran designated by scholars as 4QSam-b gives Goliath's height in 1 Samuel 17:4 as six foot, nine inches (more literally, four cubits and a span). First Samuel 17, however, does not happen to be included among the few surviving portions of 4QSam-b, which dates from the third century B.C. and is probably the oldest manuscript from Qumran of any Old Testament text. The reading in question comes instead from the much more extensive 4QSam-a, which dates only from the first century B.C. Nevertheless, as you suggest, many scholars would agree that this reading, which is also found in some important manucripts of the Septuagint and the writings of Josephus, is more likely to be original than the nine foot, nine inches (six cubits and a span) found in the Masoretic text. How can such errors, as minor as they are, arise in the manuscript tradition of our Bible? Probably, in the same way that this error arose in your otherwise excellent article. Knowing Peter Flint's reputation, I doubt that it was in the original!

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Gordon Hugenberger, Senior Minister
Park Street Church
Boston, Mass.

* In the article "Divorce: Assemblies Retain Ordination Ban" [North American Scene, Oct. 6], David E. Sumner is wrong when he states, "Current bylaws deny ministerial credentials to persons who have been divorced." As a general rule, the Assemblies of God does not withhold ministerial credentials because a person has experienced divorce. The issue is remarriage. Further, the ban on divorce and remarriage is not limited to those being ordained. The bylaws apply to those seeking credentials at all levels, including Certified Minister, Licensed Minister, and Ordained Minister. There are more than 30,000 credentialed ministers in the movement. My father was an ordained minister prior to marriage, then experienced divorce. He never remarried and continuously retained his ordination status (and active ministry as a pastor) until his death.

Marc Pearson
Poulsbo, Wash.

* Your venture into the world of fiction is welcome and helpful [Sept. 1]. Both Karon and Schaap have the gift of noticing small things in small worlds which illumine and enlarge ours. The authors who prefer the larger and louder world of evangelistic prophecy fiction shout rather than whisper. Real fiction written by Christians notices the fine print of providence and grace rather than the bold exaggerated headlines intended to scare us into the kingdom. Helpful fiction is not unlike the slowly unfolding stories of films like Ulee's Gold or Secrets and Lies—far removed from the spectacular and sensational Hollywood disaster movies.

So, in future issues, please point us to the Schaaps and Karons among us, and leave the not-so-hidden agendas of the prophecy pulp fiction writers on the supermarket tabloid shelves.

David A. Larsen
Palos Heights, Ill.

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* Fiction truly can be an act of subcreation, as Tolkien once said; the imitations that we small, trousered apes attempt, capering about in the shadow of God, are somehow creative reflections of the grandeur of God's acts. However, it hardly does anyone good to lump writers such as Lewis, Dostoyevsky, Percy, and Tolkien with authors like the Thoenes, Oke, and so on. It is not unlike saying Shakespeare's sonnets and advertising copy are in the same category of literature.

Second, excellence is certainly not going to be encouraged in Christian fiction—at least, fiction published by Christian houses—if they continue publishing more of the Thoenes and Okes. It is not that such writing is particularly bad; the problem is simply that these houses seem to publish only that type of fiction.

If Dostoyevsky walked into one of our Christian publishing houses today, The Brothers Karamazov tucked under his arm, I doubt that he would be given the time of day. Instead, it seems that the Christian fiction we are encouraging toward "excellence" consists of everything from pot-boilers written by famous Christian figures to questionable romances of thoroughly inconsequential natures. How are we defining "excellent" these days?

Christopher H. Bunn
Wheaton College
Wheaton, Ill.

If Dostoyevsky walked into most secular New York publishing houses today, The Brothers Karamazov tucked under his arm, he probably would not be given the time of day there either. —Eds.

How does a review of three end-times novels "encourage excellence in Christian fiction"? From what the reviewer noted of the characters in each, the books have glaring literary shortcomings. Are we really on the road to good Christian fiction or using "fiction" as a guise to look sophisticated as we recycle Salem Kirban and Hal Lindsey?

Though discussion of these three subverts your larger goal, thank you for publishing Michael Maudlin's stimulating and insightful review. His comments were profound and disturbing. He made a silk purse …

Dale Walker
Chicago, Ill.

Congratulations to CT for publishing "Rediscovering the Sabbath" by Dorothy C. Bass [Sept. 1]. Particularly striking is the accurate account by Bass of the gradual transition from Sabbath to Sunday. But why have Christians, in general, been apparently so careless in their reading of the fourth commandment, which says nothing about the observance of one day in seven? On the contrary, its insistence is upon a particular day—the seventh day—the birthday of the world. Nowhere in either the Old or New Testament do we find this concept of "one day in seven," or of the observance of a day to mark the resurrection of our Lord. Had this been the divine intention, the man stoned for gathering sticks on the seventh day could have said, to avoid his execution, "I keep a different day." We are never given permission to hallow a day of our choice. Only the seventh day has been set apart.

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The rest day has had no theological rest through the centuries of our era because of this incongruity between the divine command and our human perversion of it. Remembering that our Savior sanctified the seventh day at creation and in redemption; remembering that from a human standpoint it was his reform of Sabbath observance that contributed to his death; remembering that in the first chapter of Scripture where the Sabbath is named, it is affirmed to be a divine test of obedience—should not Christians be less cavalier in this regard?

Desmond Ford, President
Good News Unlimited
Auburn, Calif.

Brief letters are welcome. They may be edited for space and clarity and must include the writer's name and address if intended for publication. Due to the volume of mail, we cannot respond personally to individual letters. Write to Eutychus, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188; fax: 630/260-0114. E-mail: cteditor@christianitytoday.com ( * ).

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