* A big yes to your section on fiction [Sept. 1]. I like the way Michael Maudlin's article on three end-time novels points out what these books say about evangelicals. I appreciate your calling attention to the delightful work of Jan Karon. And I thank you for publishing the story by James Calvin Schaap. My only disappointment is that you plan to make us wait another year for more.
Please do use the magazine to encourage excellence in Christian fiction, to help evangelicals develop a taste for such fiction, and to inform us about what is out there. Who will do these things if CT doesn't?
* Michael Maudlin's analysis of recent apocalyptic novels ["The Bible Study at the End of the World"], including Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye's series juxtaposed against popular American Christianity, is intriguing and thought-provoking. A story of this successful series would not be complete, however, without mentioning why the authors first teamed up for this series, as well as mentioning reactions of readers who, upon reading these books, have rethought life priorities.
More than ten years ago, Tim LaHaye shared his desire with Jerry Jenkins to write a novel about the "What Ifs" of the end times. When their schedules finally opened up for them to work together three years ago, they wrote the first book. LaHaye provided the basic ideas and theological research, while Jenkins used his fiction-writing skills. Jenkins said they hoped "this story will challenge Christians to live like they are expecting the Rapture at any time and will be a book that Christians could give to non-Christians without embarrassment. Using fiction makes the truth of the Rapture come to life—it gives it that 'Wow' factor."
Every morning I download E-mail responses from people commenting on the series. Most not only comment on their enjoyment of the books, but more important, tell how they are becoming concerned about ministry focus, sharing faith, and becoming grounded in God's Word. Here's just one example: "Please let Tim and Jerry know that these books drove me to the Book of Revelation, and I have now begun a serious study of the book." Now, that's not just an "icing on the cake" response from a reader; that's also substance.
Strange to "read apocalyptic novels for a portrait of evangelicalism at the end of the millennium"? Perhaps, but your writer rightly concludes that these novels serve as a mirror—one that causes many to look into their souls.
Tyndale House Publishers
Carol Stream, IL
You editors would be better aware than anybody else that busy pastors and seminary students and others are swamped in the flood of information of all facts, which we can hardly strain out daily and remain "oriented." Please, feed us with only solid (factual) foods instead of fictional ones, and guide us toward a sound evaluation of the events of today's world. Fictions only confound our minds, which have already been overloaded.
Pastor T.Y. Chung
Southwest Korean Baptist Church
Farmers Branch Tex.
* I have never been one to chase celebrities, but when I heard Jan Karon was going to be signing her books at my local bookstore, I just had to meet her. Ladies who work in that small bookstore in an out-of-the-way enclave near Los Angeles (that is not at all unlike Mitford) had introduced me to her first book. I had just started a new, challenging job and took a refreshing trip to Mitford every day during my lunch hour. It was a delight to meet the citizens of the charming fictional village in North Carolina.
How wonderful it has been to confidently recommend these books to everyone, knowing they will be reading wholesome fiction that exhibits God's work through and among very real people.
Lakeview Terrace, Calf
COMPASSION FOR THE POOR
Your article on Congressman Tony Hall was interesting and informative ["The Hungry Congressman," Sept. 1]. I thank the Lord that the Democratic party has such a witness among its members. I have only one criticism of an otherwise excellent article: Both the writer and Hall call the Democratic party more compassionate than the Republican. You should have allowed at least one sentence in defense of the Republicans. The truth is that the members of both parties are compassionate toward the poor; they only disagree on the methods of helping the poor. Hall's apocalyptic vision of the poor after welfare reform simply never happened. Hall doesn't like others criticizing his voting as being unchristian, but he doesn't mind calling Republicans uncompassionate. All Christians should quit calling each other names.
Roger D. McKinley
I am a conservative Republican, so it is obvious that there are issues on which we disagree, but I must take issue with the sentence, " … [Hall] is 'solid on the issues' that he can find in Scripture—he cites abortion, pornography, guns, homosexuality, and the poor."
I have been a life member of the National Rifle Association for 22 years, and I have yet to find anything in Scripture to justify a position that would bar honest citizens from owning firearms for hunting, target shooting, self-defense, or any other legal purpose.
Rev. Bob Newman
Sierra Vista, Ariz.
THE GIFT OF SABBATH
* I enjoyed the article "Rediscovering the Sabbath" [Sept. 1]. It was good to see the history and meaning of Sabbath dealt with in such a positive way. I would like to add another perspective. When God blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy, he did something to that particular period of time he did not do to the other days of the week. He made the seventh day different from any other day for all time. Nowhere in the Bible did he remove the Sabbath's holiness and place it on another day, and he gave no indication that he wanted humans to try to do that. If s interesting that Jesus himself "rested" on the Sabbath in the grave. Early Christians were motivated to "change" the holiness of Sabbath to Sunday by several things, but how can a person honor God by disobeying his plain command? It's a little like a husband trying to celebrate an anniversary a month late every year. ("She doesn't really care what day I celebrate as long as I manage to get it in once a year. She knows I love her.") At this point in time, when so many things in this world are in a mess, it seems to me that Christians need the true Sabbath more than ever.
The title is a problem for me. This seventh-day worship experience is called "the Lord's Day." The Jewish people are proud of their Sabbath day. In fact, each of their holy days is deemed to be a Sabbath. Please let them have these holy days to themselves. Whenever they see the word Sabbath listed outside a Christian church they are reminded of medieval Christology that taught that Christians have a duty to supplant the Jewish faith.
Thank you again for your review of our early history, when the church fathers moved from the Sabbath to the Lord's Day. It reminded me of my days in Religion 101.
Leon G. Johnson
Bath, N. K
* As the secular world honors its "English Rose," your story on Baroness Caroline Cox was a ray of sunshine that revealed a true "English Rose" ["Through Bombs and Bullets," Sept. 1]. Thank you so much for telling her story and publishing her dispatches in future issues.
* Thank you very much for James Beverley's review of Hank Hanegraaff's book Counterfeit Revival [Books, Sept. 1] . In my experience, that book is recommended and relied upon as the authoritative commentary on the "revival" leaders. I'm very grateful that Beverley has been willing to point out the error and misrepresentation in it.
It is human, but not Christlike, to have a fear and distrust of the unknown. I would rather see Christians admit that this is one reason they are hesitant to accept what happens in the "revival" meetings rather than pretend that their objections are entirely Scripture-based. And I would like to sec them investigating for themselves whether God is at work in these meetings rather than relying upon books like Counterfeit Revival.
Oak Park, Ill.
* What a terrible and inaccurate critique by James A. Beverley of Hank Hanegraaff's Counterfeit Revival. I have to wonder, did he actually read the book as I did, or listen to the accompanying tapes? I'm afraid Beverley's theological bias may have gotten in his way. Surely CT could have chosen a more objective reviewer. To impugn Hanegraaff for using some dated material is to say that leopards frequently change their spots. Anybody ever heard of any of these faith teachers recanting lately?
Pastor Don Kimbro
* I am most concerned with the fact that the author [of the review] is guilty of the very charges he brings against the author of the book. He very subtly misquotes the book, leading to the building of straw men and knocking them down.
I have to wonder if this isn't a case of someone on the inside of this so-called revival using a review to try to defend an indefensible position.
Pastor Geoff Kragen
Dozens of Vineyard pastors and leaders have privately, if not secretly, thanked me for my contributions to their church's recovery from the deceptions outlined in Counterfeit Revival and in the foreword to the book. However, to dismiss the theological seedlings of Wimber's early teachings, which became the cornerstones of the Toronto and Pensacola movements, as "outdated" is like relegating E=MC2 as irrelevant because it's old. If Counterfeit Revival was meant to be a retrospective history of Wimber's theological roller-coaster ride, then Counterfeit Revival would never have been released. As it stands, Counterfeit Revival has already helped pastors and their churches, who represent multiple thousands of people, get back to a practice of their Christian faith that is free of the pollutants and poisons exposed by Hanegraaff's work.
James Beverley's lack of objectivity is hardly surprising in light of the fact that he self-publishes materials in support of counterfeit revivalists. He uses a term-switching tactic and accuses me of "nasty misrepresentation of key charismatic leaders." To make his point, he writes: "Consider, for example, Hanegraaff's assertion that [Rodney] Howard-Browne denies the deity of Christ in order to elevate himself." Here's what I actually wrote: "Counterfeit Revival leaders like Howard-Browne denigrate the deity of Christ to elevate themselves" (pp. 104-5). While I provide ample evidence in Counterfeit Revival to substantiate the fact that Howard-Browne denigrates the deity of Christ, I nowhere attempt to demonstrate that he denies the deity of Christ.
Furthermore, Beverley attempts to impugn Counterfeit Revival for "outdated and limited research." To do so he engages in "time twisting." As a case in point, he writes, "Hanegraaff refers to a 1979 service where Wimber 'turned his church into a laboratory and his church members into guinea pigs.' " Beverley goes on to assert, "The evening service in question was on Mother's Day in 1980, not in 1979." It is Beverley who should be impugned for "limited research." Not only does Wimber agree with me on the date, but had Beverley objectively looked at the facts as I carefully documented them in Counterfeit Revival (pp. 286-87), he would have realized that 1979 is the only date that fits with undisputed facts in Vineyard history.
Finally, Beverley's counterfeit critique is replete with shrill and inappropriate language. While trashing me, he self-righteously accuses me of "trashing [Todd] Hunter." Anyone who takes the time to check out Hunter's words in context will agree that I have accurately represented his remarks. Counterfeit Revival has become the catalyst for open and honest dialogue between Hunter and CRI. It is my hope that Beverley will refrain from further "term switching," "time twisting," and "trashing," and return to open, honest dialogue as well.
Hank Hanegraaff, President
Christian Research Institute
Rancho Santa Margarita, Calf
Professor Beverley responds:
First, I stand corrected that Hanegraaff did not use the word denial on Howard Browne's view of the deity of Christ. However, Hanegraaff continues to ignore the crucial clarifications Howard-Browne made on the one statement used to denigrate him on the topic. Second, as to "time twisting," Hanegraaff avoids the major issue of his outdated and biased research on Vineyard doctrine to focus on the minor issue of a Vineyard date. Third, if Hanegraaff "accurately represented" Hunter's "remarks," why did Hunter write a long letter of complaint about the portrait of his beliefs? As for "open and honest dialogue" with Hanegraaff, I share many of his concerns. On these and on our significant differences, I'll gladly join him and Tom Stipe on "The Bible Answer Man" anytime.
Prof. James A. Beverley
Ontario Theological Seminary
North York, Ont., Canada
THE CONTROVERSIAL ICC
* I would like to commend you for recognizing the significance of the International Churches of Christ ["The Cost of Discipleship?" News, Sept. 1]. As Randy Frame stated, the ICC continues to grow at an impressive rate as well as provoke controversy in the U.S.A. and abroad. But the ICC has received little scholarly attention, although the group has generated numerous newspaper and magazine articles that are predictable hostile and dismissive. The ICC also continues to provoke the negative attention of vigilant "anti-cult" critics. Unfortunately, Frame offers no surprises in his coverage of the movement, and he adds little if anything new to the hackneyed caricature of the ICC that dominates the media's representation of this interesting and controversial religious group.
It would have strengthened the article considerably had the author integrated some comments from ordinary members of the ICC into his analysis. Had Frame interviewed some of the African-American members active in the Triangle Church (a local ICC affiliate group near Durham, N.C.), he might have heard stories of urban adolescents on the fast road to nowhere, heavily involved in drugs and crime; some even attempted suicide before they began to study the Bible with members of a local ICC congregation. Their involvement in the ICC's intense and structured religious lifestyle helped them (so they now believe) turn their lives around to become responsible friends, spouses, parents, and employees.
It would have enhanced the credibility of Frame's article had he included the perspectives of scholars of new religious movements not so predictably "anti-cult" and openly hostile to groups like the ICC as some of those cited in the article.
I certainly thought it appropriate to include the painful experiences of former members of the ICC in this article— religious groups should be held publicly accountable for their casualties. But I think the author—as well as the editors and readers of CT—would not appreciate the publication of an article about their own religious traditions that uncritically privileged the negative testimony of ex-members. (For the record: I am not presently nor have I ever been a member of the ICC.)
Chapel Hill, N. C
* The article can leave a false impression about the mainstream Churches of Christ. We are a part of the American Restoration Movement, begun by Barton W. Stone in Kentucky in 1804 and Alexander Campbell in western Virginia in 1812, and we have not taught exclusively baptismal regeneration as part of biblical doctrine. It is evident that Kip McKean and Al Baird have gone to extremes both in terms of biblical truths and practical expediency. I would have wished you had made the separation from International Churches of Christ by Churches of Christ more pronounced.
Prof. Jim Mankin
Abilene Christian University
Your article was well balanced, but overlooked an important delusional factor that propels and sustains the group, just as it does so many other cults: "Opposition and criticism from nonmembers is proof that we are right." You can be certain that your article has already been used as a welcoming visual aid, a badge of honor, a dramatic example of how Satan opposes those who do the will of God.
Bowling Green, Ohio
SOMEONE ELSE'S WORDS
I wish to correct the impression that may have been conveyed by a quotation attributed to me in the September 1 edition of CT. After leading a workshop entitled "Developing a Theology to Prevent Domestic Violence and Abuse," I was asked about the work of Promise Keepers. Not being a Promise Keeper, I have never attended one of their meetings. I did, however, cite many of the highly commendable things which I have heard and read about them, along with some of the concerns that I have heard voiced by others. The quotation that appeared in CT was actually the expression of a reporter with whom I spoke recently. Perhaps I did not adequately clarify this.
I feel that Promise Keepers has an important ministry and am particularly impressed with the challenge for men to assume responsibility within their own families. I cannot help wishing that they would devote as much time to gender reconciliation as they do to racial reconciliation, and that they would seriously address themselves to the protection of women and children in a nation whose number one public-health problem is domestic violence.
Catherine Clark Kroeger
Christians for Biblical Equality
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: email@example.com ( * ).
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