Confronting Negative Influences
* I had just returned home from visiting two teenagers recently sentenced to life in prison for murder when I found my issue of CT with the cover story "Trained to Kill" [Aug. 10]. It was a wise choice to include this informative article. I have often cautioned our church families to employ discretion in what they allow their children to watch on television, and I found this article by David Grossman to supply additional and factual evidence for what many of us have suspected for a long time.
Though the most productive role of the church in influencing culture lies in the proclamation of the gospel, the church should be proactive in directly confronting the negative influences in our society. I concur with the opening comments stating "that parents, the church, scholars, and the government must come together" to address this issue. As a result of reading this article, not only do I intend to share this information with our church families, but I have scheduled an appointment with our state senator to discuss how we can encourage limits to the "probing lenses" of the network news media. Thank you!
Pastor Jack W. Bruce, Jr.
Elizabethton Alliance Church
* Though I have spent many hours thinking about and discussing this issue with my friends and family, Lt. Col. Grossman shed new light on it. I have a much greater understanding of how violence specifically affects children (and the rest of us) and numbs them (and us).
Tinker AFB, Okla.
* Grossman loses focus when it comes to charting a response to the problem raised. Curiously, after describing the dangers of extensive exposure to violence on TV, he minimizes the impact of an individual's decision to "just turn it off." If we agree that exposure to TV violence is a causal factor contributing to violent crime, it is obvious that if fewer people were exposed to TV violence, we would experience somewhat less violence at large. Although the remaining victims would still be real people with real hurting loved ones, it is fallacious to say that "it wouldn't have done a bit of good."
I applaud Grossman for gathering and summarizing research and raising awareness on this issue. However, considerable work must be done towards charting a comprehensive and effective response to the problem.
Redwood City, Calif.
Grossman says, "But it [killing] does not come naturally, you have to be taught to kill." Sounds good. Who taught Cain to kill?
Seldom do I reread articles. This one I have read three times. Thanks to David Grossman for boldly speaking out to the TV networks, calling for them to assume responsibility for the evident impact that violent programming has on the lives of our children and to "have the moral courage to censure people who think that violence is legitimate entertainment." This is an article that every parent should read and apply in ways that change the destructive trends in our culture. This is an article that calls for reprints for distribution to families in our churches and to the media that want to ignore the evidence of the effect of violent programing.
Pastor Richard Gerbrandt
Mennonite Brethren Church
* I think it's time to quit arguing and address the real issue. It isn't gun control or TV violence or violent computer games. They simply represent the serious and tragic consequences of the sin and godlessness that pervades our society worldwide. Whether we agree or disagree with some of Grossman's findings, it is clear our generation is becoming more and more violent. I've turned off my TV in the evenings simply because of the violence and sexual situations. My Bible tells me to think on those things that are lovely, pure, wholesome, etc. Where is the insatiable hunger for God today?
* While reading "Trained to Kill" I was reminded of my experience while watching Saving Private Ryan the day before. In one scene covering the invasion of Normandy, a bullet struck a soldier's helmet, but mercifully did not pierce it. In a daze, the soldier pulled his helmet off to inspect it and to feel the back of his head. While his head was uncovered, the soldier was struck in the back of the head and killed instantly by another bullet. The man sitting next to us in the theater laughed—and did so several more times during the movie, at equally horrifying moments. And he was not alone.
Oak Park, Ill.
Using Our Minds
* I was so pleased to read the article "Pray the Lord My Mind to Keep" [Aug. 10]. I have taught classes in church on the basis of CT articles and teaching guides, and then a less structured class, "Faith and Reason," also drawing from CT articles. I am a scientist, and I worship Christ who created what I research, and I struggle with the tensions between beguiling worldly philosophies and Christianity. This article articulates my beliefs and concerns better than any I have ever read. Praise God for Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., and for CT for delivering this important lesson! The image in which we were created requires that we use our minds, that we love with our minds, that we worship with our minds. It is a joy to let God reveal his truth to me, not only through the Word, but also through creation and to do so in proportion to how submissive and adoring I am of him!
Patrick S. McIntosh
What We Need to Know
"In Search of the Lost Churches of Paul," by Wendy Murray Zoba, is a choice piece of writing [Aug. 10]. She reminds us of Turkey's involvement in New Testament history and lucidly brings us up to date on why and how the present government operates. This is information the present generation of Christians needs to know.
Christians are discriminated against in Turkey, and they experience many obstacles in simply trying to survive. The article refers to the Armenian genocide during 1915-16 which took the lives of over one million Christians. My father, a mayor of one of the Christian communities, was arrested, his family murdered, and the entire village completely destroyed. He managed to escape, and with the cooperation of British forces, saved hundreds of orphans by taking them to Cyprus.
The genocide is well documented in primary historical sources, yet the Turkish government denies it. Not only are Christians persecuted even now, but Turkey does not permit any criticism of the government and routinely arrests and holds dissenters without the benefit of a trial.
Turkey has much to answer for, and as Christians we must pray that it will really follow the teachings of the Qur'an, which preaches equality. Presently equality exists only for nondissenting Turkish citizens.
Jerry G. Keshian, Ph.D.
Those Proxy Baptisms
The new "Directions" feature adds a welcome practical relevance to CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
One point needs to be added to D. A. Carson's otherwise fine explanation of 1 Corinthians 15:29 and the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead ["Directions," Aug. 10]. Carson concluded that, "In any case, Paul's clear emphasis is that people are justified by grace through faith, which demands a personal response." In fact, Mormon teaching does include the need for a faith response to the gospel on the part of the deceased for whom proxy baptism is performed. But it teaches that they can make this faith response in the spirit world, where the gospel is offered to all (Doctrine and Covenants 138). According to Mormon teaching, their vicarious baptism ordinance has efficacy only for those deceased persons who respond positively to the gospel in the spirit world.
To really shut the door to this Mormon error two points must be made: (1) The biblical teaching that our eternal destiny is fixed at death (Luke 16:19-31; Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 6:2), and (2) The fallacious nature of the Mormon interpretation of 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6, which they say establishes that the gospel is offered to all in the spirit world.
Rev. Luke P. Wilson
Institute for Religious Research
Grand Rapids, Mich.
I would like to add an opinion I have reached by researching this verse of Scripture since two of my children have been married to those of the Mormon faith.
In Walter Bauer's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, huper is stated to mean "for, in behalf of, for the sake of someone or something." Since there is no historical proof of anyone being vicariously baptized in the place of someone who is dead, can Carson's "most plausible interpretation" really be the most plausible? I contend that the most plausible interpretation is that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then why are we baptized "for his sake" or "on his behalf?" After all, it is common for Christians to pray "for Jesus' sake." Could Carson be wrong about his "most plausible interpretation?" After all, I was baptized "for Jesus' sake" to make his vicarious atonement efficacious for me.
Rev. Marvin L. Ellis
A False Dichotomy?
* After reading Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey's "The Devil in the DNA" [Aug. 10], I'm continuing to discover (as I also found in Phillip Johnson's Defeating Darwinism), that in regard to human origins, I'm left with two choices. Either I accept the naturalistic explanation with its "purposeless," "materialistic," "arbitrary" processes or I adamantly reject naturalism in favor of intelligent design. And by design, apparently one immediately decides that, in spite of a universe that seems to exhibit endlessly complex processes, human existence itself must have been the result of an "instantaneous" and "supernatural" event (another first cause which came after the first first cause). Consequently, I can investigate origins in some "atheistic," "secular," and "cynical" academic arena, or I can abandon the study of origins, arguing that explaining the means by which humans came into existence lies beyond the scope of scientific investigation. Can a false dichotomy be any more obvious? Evidently not. Clearly there is no middle ground, absolutely no possible harmonization. Is life this simple?
Forgive my "liberal" Christianity and my contentment with some ambiguity, but the descent of humans from other animal ancestors does not necessarily lead one to apostasy and "moral nihilism." Buying into evolution isn't surely boarding a one-way flight to the land of atheism any more than enjoying a hot fudge sundae certainly leads one to purchase a lifetime supply of ice cream.
Korey D. Kwilinski
St. Louis, Mo.
Colson properly recognizes that evolutionism is inimical to Christian theism. But he also constructs a straw man, for no proponent of genetic determinism claims that the genes are the sole causes of actions. Even strict determinist B. F. Skinner recognized the place of environment in Walden Two. Others have noted that, were an adult cloned, the result could not be an exact duplicate of the original because the environment during development would be different. Further, genetic tendencies may be battled: most genetic determinists claim only that heredity plus environment predisposes, not that they produce unconditional consequences. The straw man was unnecessary and improper, for there are more than enough genuine problems in evolutionism and evolutionary psychology and silly claims by adherents, and Christians must be strictly truthful.
David F. Siemens, Jr., Ph.D.
Los Angeles Pierce College
A True American Hero
Your article on Sen. Dan Coats highlights the important question of what is the proper role of faith in public policy or, put differently, whether the church (or synagogue) should be in and also of the world. Senator Coats who, together with Sen. Joseph Lieberman serves as chairman of our Center for Jewish and Christian Values in Washington, D.C., is truly an exceptional individual whose heightened sense of morality and evangelical Christian faith make him most worthy of lionizing.
What is not always recognized is that Senator Coats's ethical ethos and public-policy posture stems from his distinctly religious sensibilities, not just political motivations. He is a congressional treasure, a true American hero, and a model public servant, precisely because he so effectively expresses his religious convictions in the public square. Moreover, he does so in a manner that is tolerant and respectful of divergent viewpoints and civil toward individuals with whom he disagrees. This demeanor should not be seen as the suspension of religious values but their greatest manifestation.
It is the affirmation of Coats's Christian faith that shapes his morality, not faith's denial. He is, in my book, a paradigm for public servants. The Senate, and our nation as a whole, will not be quite the same, bereft of his leadership.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
With regard to John Stackhouse's article on evangelicalism today ["The Perils of Left and Right," Aug. 10], I oppose a gender egalitarianism that erases real differences between men and women but holds to the full equality of both sexes under God and to women in ministry. There is no cleavage between Barth and myself on this issue (as Stackhouse's remarks could imply), but we do part ways in some other areas of theology.
Donald G. Bloesch
University of Dubuque Theological Seminary
* Stackhouse misrepresents my delineations of the evangelical theological landscape. I specifically avoided labeling the ideal types of which I wrote (in my essays in Christian Century and CT) with the polemical labels "left" and "right." Furthermore, I do not see how calling for greater inclusivity through dialogue leading to mutual understanding and acceptance can fairly be called "divisive."
Roger E. Olson
Bethel College & Seminary
St. Paul, Minn.
In "Universities Question Orthodox Conversion" [Aug. 10], Scott Swanson continually states that evangelicals convert to Orthodoxy. In common parlance, conversion refers to changing religions. When Christians change churches, it is more appropriate to say that they joined another church. One could say that an evangelical converts to Orthodoxy if the Orthodox Church did not consider evangelicals to be true Christians. This emphasis defines salvation in terms of belonging to the right church. Inherently, this violates the ecumenical spirit. Since the Orthodox communion participates in the World Council of Churches, I doubt that it would publicly subscribe to this opinion.
In my dealings with Orthodox "converts," most were attracted by the church's colorful liturgy, rich tradition, and ecclesiology. They did not feel they were any less evangelical simply because they became Orthodox. As such, they were not converting from their old faith; rather, they were augmenting it. If Orthodoxy seeks to be more receptor oriented and less culture bound, it will attract many more searching evangelicals.
William P. Payne
Two errors should be corrected: On page 18, column 3, paragraph 1, Swanson misquotes me by writing "He joined the Orthodox Church, even though he detected 10 points of difference between Orthodox theology and CIU's doctrinal statement." What I said was that I joined the church believing that there were no significant differences between the CIU ten-point doctrinal statement and my own understanding of Orthodox theology. Since I could still sign the CIU doctrinal statement and since that statement is the standard used to define the theological parameters of the university, there was no doctrinal reason for asking me to resign.
On page 18, column 3, paragraph 2, Swanson writes, "In November, the school agreed to allow Rommen to teach for a two-year trial period." The veracity of this statement depends on how the terms school and university are used. If school refers to the seminary (CBS, a school within the university) the statement could be considered true, since the dean of that school and his provost approved and champion the proposal. If school refers to the university (CIU) the statement is false, since the university's president rejected the two-year proposal and it was never brought to school's board for approval.
War and Drought in the Sudan
Thank you for your News article [Aug. 10] drawing attention to the tragic situation in the southern Sudan where war and drought have put 2.5 million people at risk of starvation. A word of caution, however. To portray this interminable war as Muslim persecution of Christians is to oversimplify a very complex situation. Religion is a factor. But differences in culture, language, race, and politics are also responsible for the conflict between the peoples of northern and southern Sudan. One key issue, for example, is control of the country's centrally located oil fields.
No one's hands are clean in this war. Fratricidal fighting among the Christian and animist "rebels" who claim to represent the Dinka, Nuer, and other peoples of the southern Sudan has also wreaked havoc on the civilian population. We can end the famine if we can stop the fighting. We can stop the fighting if we can deal with all the issues in all their complexity.
Dean R. Hirsch, President
World Vision International
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