* Heroes and Role Models
Thank you for adding to my list of heroes and role models who practice and proclaim a "whole gospel" that includes God's justice and his care and concern for the poor and oppressed ["The Pragmatic Prophets," June 14]. John DiIulio, Millard Fuller, and Jim Wallis are men in positions of power and influence seeking to honor God with what they have been given by "preaching good news to the poor" and seeking to love and serve them. May God raise up many more like them who will lead the church into a greater understanding of God's nature and character as a God of justice and righteousness.
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
The profile of Prof. John J. DiIulio of Princeton ["The Criminologist Who Discovered Churches," June 14] credits DiIulio as the first crime expert to recommend religious faith as the solution to the crime problem—a common misimpression, for in 1994 I published a book titled Crime and the Sacking of America. Its thesis—controversial and novel then—was that crime is the most extreme form of selfishness, and that the only true solution to crime is religion. Through God's grace, the book became the most ac claimed conservative book on crime in two decades.
In September 1995, William Bennett told me he had recommended my book to DiIulio. Up to that time, DiIulio had not recommended religion as an antidote to crime. Indeed, only four years before, in his 1991 book No Escape: The Future of American Corrections, he took essentially the opposite view.
Less than three months after my conversation with Bennett, DiIulio published a now-famous article in the November 27, 1995, issue of the Weekly Standard. In CT he proclaimed that religion was the nation's best hope for reducing our high crime rates. No mention of my work was made. In fairness, perhaps his conversion was a result of an epiphany he experienced; God does work in mysterious ways.
Tim Stafford, the writer of your article, was justified in questioning DiIulio's assertions about the genesis of this idea. "The way DiIulio likes to tell the story," Stafford wrote, "he got to faith-based ministry strictly by following the data." The record suggests that I proffered the idea first.
Andrew Peyton Thomas
* Thank you for the article on Jim Wallis ["Mr. Wallis Goes to Washington, June 14]. As a conservative (theologically) evangelical Christian, it was refreshing to see Wallis seriously considered in CT. Wallis has been a refreshing voice in evangelical circles for many years, and one that needs to be taken seriously.
Rev. David Haberer
Far Rockaway, N.Y.
I read your article "God's Contractor" on Millard Fuller; my prayers to God are for him and the hard work with Habitat for Humanity. One statement bothered me: "Jesus wouldn't want us to kill this so and so because he killed my daughter." True, Jesus doesn't want us to kill, but he never condemned the Romans of his time for capital punishment. Apparently God thinks it works or he wouldn't have had laws for capital punishment in the Word. Since studies show that our prison system doesn't deter crime, let's do away with prisons and let the unjust go on doing evil.
In June 1997, three teens came to my home claiming their car broke down. I agreed to give them a ride home. They held me in the car seat and slit my throat, but I got away from them, received 80 stitches in my throat, died once on the operating table, and should be dead by all doctors' accounts. At the trial I told the boys I forgave them and they needed to turn their lives around and get saved because there is a Judgment Day coming. Since studies show that prison doesn't deter attempted murder, robbery, rape, etc., I asked the judge to let them go. Not. Capital punishment is not an individual doing murder; it's the government, which is ordained by God to carry out laws to protect. Fuller should rethink his capital punishment statement.
* My nephew (age 16) was very changed after coming back from a one-week (school vacation) project with Habitat. My sister said he took down the Kurt Cobain and Marilyn Manson pictures in his room and started listening to dc Talk, the W's, etc.
S. Hamilton, Mass.
Glorious God, Glorious Salvation
Thank you for "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration" [June 14]. Reading this article was a feast for my soul and one I will come back to again and again. May we love these truths more than life. May they be deeply rooted in our hearts and minds. May they burn in us like fire so we cannot keep silent. What a glorious salvation! What a glorious God and Savior! Thank you for making the gospel shine so brilliantly by publishing this statement.
* I am confused about the need for Christians to put the gospel into a supplementary document drafted by man to include and exclude people from Christ's family and his mercy. God says, "My thoughts are completely different from yours," and "My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine."
Affirmation 4 of the "Celebration" says the Bible offers no hope that "sincere worshipers of other religions" will be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ. This group includes some of the poorest people on earth who put their faith in their ancestral religion, for that is all they know. Do we not limit the love of God by our own lack of faith in his unimaginable love? Do we really want to proclaim that God eternally damns billions of his children who lack the opportunity, teaching, and/or energy to consider the gospel and make a choice?
Forest Park, Ill.
The fate of the unevangelized is one of the most active areas of theological discussion among evangelicals. And the statement's affirmation of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation elicited the largest number of letters. —Eds.
Evangelical preaching has been long preoccupied with expounding, even parroting, John 3:16: "The gospel of Christ in a nutshell." In fact, Christ himself may have seen things quite differently. For him, the critical verse might well be John 6:53: [" … unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."] That and the verses immediately following separated the wheat from the chaff. Evangelicals, however, are generally slow to grasp its essentiality, its weight. The multifarious evangelical notables subscribing to this latest "Call to Evangelical Unity," which headlines John 3:16, hardly advance needed theological dialogue by their participation. Is it not time for evangelicals to listen more attentively to the theological representations of their Roman Catholic and Orthodox brethren? Then, perhaps, they may be better prepared to speak of Christian unity.
* I was much impressed with the statement of faith for evangelicals and of the evangelical Christian leaders assembled to draft the statement. It was super! I think that for a statement such as this to meet its objectives it must contain two basic criteria. First, the statement must contain only those articles of faith that can be signed by members of the evangelical community without reservation or hesitation. Second, the statement must contain articles of faith that are anathema to people who reside outside of the evangelical community, and that they reject or would be very uncomfortable with. This statement meets both criteria with flying colors.
* It seems to me that before Christianity Today has earned the right to call for evangelical unity, it must get past the cliche of unity and charity and get down to the business of setting forth how believers are to obey God's calls to separation. Unity at the expense of obedience is idolatry, and disunity for the sake of obedience is countercultural. How can a believer maintain any level of integrity by maintaining a visible and supportive membership in a religious organization that disavows the gospel both by written statement and active practice? What are believers to do with those who refuse to obey the calls of God for separation? Until these questions are answered, calls for unity are so much chaff blown in the wind.
Pastor Darrel Cline
Parkwood Evangelical Free Church
* I was disappointed that the "call for evangelical unity" manages to do the opposite. It says something when such a document would have excluded people like C. S. Lewis who believed that it was possible for people who had never heard the gospel still to be saved. It also says something when this document seems to go out of its way to exclude from salvation other Christians who do not agree with us on doctrinal issues. If God is willing to accept all who call upon him (Acts 2:21), are we saying that God doesn't know what he's doing?
David P. Graf
The reader doth protest too much. The statement was not designed to encompass the beliefs of respected non evangelical thinkers like Lewis, but to serve as a summary of evangelical belief about the gospel. Nor did it exclude from salvation those who disagree with the document, but rather warned that denial of gospel truths (certainly a couple of rungs above mere disagreement) can bring spiritual ruin. —Eds.
I applaud your call for charity in dealing with the differences in interpretation among the followers of Christ. During this decade John Stott and a growing number of scholars have spoken against the eternal torture of the lost. They have faced considerable opposition but have chosen the scriptural total annihilation of the wicked and those who have refused to humbly learn love for God and man. The next century will surely see the end of this inhuman view of our loving Lord.
The nature of man and the state of man in death must be vigorously investigated and discussed. It is imperative for the hour in which we live.
God has promised salvation to all who truly call on his glorious name and accept his atonement and repentance as you have stated. I rejoice with my fellow Christians for what you have done. Your challenge was and is awesome and shall ever be as long as this sinful life lasts. Without Jesus Christ we are all undone and lost.
Sri Lanka's Tamils
Ajith Fernando ["Bombs Away," June 14] relates well to the feeling of ex-colonial Asian countries facing Christian evangelism in the light of recent happenings in Kosovo. Yet his article is troubling be cause from reading it one could never know that ever since the British colonial power left more than 50 years ago, there has been an unrelenting effort by all successive Sri Lankan Sinhalese governments to get rid of the minority Tamil race, inhabitants of the island for thousands of years, and to make the island purely Sinhalese (race) Buddhist (religion). At first these efforts were social, cultural, and economic, but since the anti-Tamil riots of 1983 they have been openly genocidal. No amount of protests from humanitarian international agencies and reports to the Geneva Human Rights Com mission have stopped the Sri Lankan government from attacking and killing Tamils, even Christian priests working in the many refugee camps, and from bombing schools, churches, and hospitals in the North and East where the Tamils mostly live. What makes this ethnic cleansing so tragic is that the U.S. State Department is fully aware of all these atrocities yet continues to give aid to the Sri Lankan government, including military help.
Canada's Grief and Witness
* Your editorial on the lessons of Littleton was much appreciated ["The Long Road After Littleton," June 14]. How ever, CT readers who live in Canada have often noted that your articles focus too narrowly on American issues. One week after the Littleton shooting, a teenager entered the high school in Taber, Alberta, with a rifle and killed a 17-year old boy and seriously wounded another. The teenager killed was Jason Lang, son of the Anglican priest in the community. The clear public witness of the Lang family in the days following made the national news in Canada, and the name of Christ was clearly lifted up before the whole country. It would have been nice had this at least been acknowledged in your editorial.
The Rev. Tim Chesterton
Valleyview, Alta., Canada
* However the two assailants may have acquired their weapons for the Littleton massacre, we must resist government-sponsored efforts to add to the thousands of already existing laws and restrictions on privately owned firearms. The Second Amendment is not primarily concerned with weapons for sporting or self-defense purposes, but as a check-and-balance against government tyranny—the basis upon which the whole Bill of Rights depends. Are the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo better off for having been a largely "gunless" society, a goal openly advocated for our nation by many antigun organizations and some in the federal government?
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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