David J. Fidati
Kraybill's "Apocalypse Now" is presented beautifully. Too bad the only illustrations you could find were from the more hysterical approach, but then careful thinking has never made very good pictures or sold many books.
Kraybill's "Apocalypse Now" is the best article on Revelation available. It is sound biblically, full of helpful insights, and practical. In a day when some writers are reaping large rewards from playing games with the apocalypse, it is refreshing to read an article that provides a good antidote.
West Lafayette, Ind.
I found Kraybill's essay condescending and arrogant. He implies that modern dispensationalists had never considered his enlightened view before leaping to their sensationalistic literalist hermeneutic. There is a lot of phony scare-mongering spread by wacko date-setters, and I agree that we must be cautious. But we must never become scoffers who make fun of biblical prophetic truth.
Signs of Christ's return are increasing in frequency and intensity. World economies are merging through global networking in cyberspace. World militaries are uniting under the United Nations. World religions are growing tolerant of the concept that there is no absolute truth. All of the these signs indicate that the sand in earth's hourglass will soon run out and that a literal fulfillment of God's final prophetic book, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, is shortly at hand.
It will be thrilling to see the surprised look on the faces of my misguided preterist brothers when they discover that Revelation's prophecies were never intended to be allegorized as "political cartoons."
The updated seven letters ["You've Got Mail"] were brilliant. Each one spoke to me as pastor of a mainline, evangelical, suburban congregation with rural roots, charismatic touches, urban concerns, and a desire to reach seekers. I do note, however, that only one of the seven authors was introduced with a word about her spouse. I hope that telling us that Susan Wise Bauer's husband is a pastor wasn't a way of making her letter more acceptable. Her letter was outstanding.
Harry J. Heintz
Ronald Reagan, Antichrist?
It saddens me that Christianity Today showed approval of listing Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II as "Antichrists We Have Known" (photos in print copy) by allowing this picture to be published.
There must be some explanation for the display of such a bizarre mix of unrelated individuals under such a sweeping title. I am appalled that your magazine would include an item like that, out of context and with no disclaimer or comment. I suspect you have upset at least the British, the French, the Russians, the Catholics, and the Republicans all in one go.
Several readers wrote to register outrage at our picturing Ronald Reagan among several world leaders, past and present, as "Antichrists We Have Known." Our intent was to highlight those who have been targeted for this ignominious moniker. We did not mean to suggest that the esteemed former U.S. president or the pope deserved that title or the association with some of the others pictured. We apologize for the confusion. --Eds.
Addicted to Caesar?
George W. Bush's support for "charitable choice" and school vouchers ["Bush's Faith-based Plans," Oct. 25] can only threaten the independence of religious institutions, making them addicted to Caesar's gold, and undermine the First Amendment principle of church-state separation that undergirds religious freedom. Would Jesus have accepted Rome's coin?
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Md.
This piece was apparently written by a sup porter of George W. Bush. There was not one hard question nor one honest answer. The candidate is proving himself as one who will say and do whatever we the voters want to hear in order to get elected. We already have a President like that, and it's time to get rid of him and those like him.
Loving the Sinner
Thanks for Jody Veenker's expose of the gay basher Fred Phelps ["Called to Hate?" Oct. 25]. However, she was wrong in claiming that the gay community hates conservatives because they believe that homosexuality is a sin. A prime example is the way they defend Anthony Campolo, who personally believes that homosexuality is wrong, but who takes great pains to explain that gays deserve the same respect as other who may disagree about religion.
Paul R. Johnson
Two Sides of One Coin
As I understand it, the Lutheran/Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification [World Report, Oct. 25] doesn't say that the Reformation-era condemnations on justification no longer apply, but something more interesting: that they condemned extreme positions that the other side didn't hold.
Any biblical doctrine on justification has to explain Eph. 6:8-9; but it also has to explain Eph. 6:10 and James 2:24. Catholics say that they never doubted that it was all a work of grace (in fact they use the term "actual grace" to describe God's gift of our actions and "sanctifying grace" to describe God's gift of sanctification) but may have confused the Lutherans by using "justification" to refer to the "act of being made righteous," our sanctification as well as the initial imputed righteousness. Lutherans say that they never doubted that only a living faith, that is acted out, will save. Maybe, as C. S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, asking "whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ … [is] like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary."
Thank you for your articles on Columbine. As parents of a Columbine student, all we can say is that this whole tragedy has been comparable to living inside a Frank Peretti novel. As more stories are shared we stand in awe of our mighty God and his complete sovereignty.
Tim and Stephanie Price
Your writer took me to an emotional state that was very painful as I read about how frightened these kids were as the shooters approached them. She also touched my heart with an understanding that I yearned for in all this. She helped me grasp some small understanding of how God shined through all of that evil. It made me realize that I need to pray daily for all of our kids, especially those who fight so many battles within themselves daily.
The Forum Debated
It is encouraging to note that some Christians, however few, recognize that gay and lesbian individuals are as deserving of our love and respect as anyone else who is created in the image of God ["Just Saying 'No' Is Not Enough," Oct. 4]. An approach to this issue which stigmatizes, alienates, and demonizes homosexuals will only perpetuate an ugly ideological war in which everyone loses. Regardless of our differences, we must accept that we are all earnest, complex individuals looking for the truth. We can only find it if we make Jesus' two great commandments, and his example, the guiding principles in all that we do. Some of the ideas presented in this forum represent a giant leap forward in the debate.
May your sympathetic and intelligent panelists who participated in your ct forum on homosexuality and public policy please explain why homosexual Christians are absolutely bound to God's creational in tent, whereas we discover just a few pages further ["You're Divorced—Can You Remarry?"] that heterosexuals are not so bound?
Gay and lesbian people are being turned away from salvation in Jesus Christ by the hypocrisy of evangelicals.
Richard Davis and Milton Romine
San Francisco, Calif.
The Canadian author, Lee Bryant, and I were somewhat startled to read about ourselves in CT's forum on homosexuality, and especially so because some details are inaccurate; Lee wrote honestly and openly in her two books, Come, Fill the Cup and The Magic Bottle and readers know her story. But this brief item in CT's current issue will be read by many who are not familiar with that. Aged 72? No—she is still in her sixties, and a very hale and hearty sixties at that. She has done a lot of research for her next book, addressing Christianity and lesbianism. Next weekend she will be conducting a women's retreat. She is currently a facilitator in an Alpha course and also teaches a home Bible study group.
I, Betty, was reported as "feeble and likely to die soon," which surprised us both. To be with Christ, Paul assures us, is "far better," but please, don't rush me.
Betty L. Gardner
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Mary Van Leeuwen suggests, quite correctly in my judgment, "that one of the major questions is how to think about domestic partnerships." Although Van Leeuwen does not explicitly condemn existing homosexual domestic partnership legislation, she makes it clear through a series of illustrations that other types of domestic relationships are equally worthy of public support. In other words, homosexual domestic partnerships (which all participants in the forum agree "are not scriptural and are incompatible with the holiness to which God calls Christian disciples") are, indeed, receiving preferential treatment. Christians should oppose these unjust preferential arrangements and should not hesitate to state their opposition publicly.
John Vanden Berg
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Floyd's Alma Mater
Lauren F. Winner's fine article on Carlisle Floyd's opera, Susannah [Oct. 4], is marred by a serious error. The world premiere in 1955 was not at the University of Florida but at Florida State University, where Floyd was a professor from 1947 to 1976. For musicians and sports fans the two schools should not be confused.
Virginia C. Thomas
Whom God Has Joined
I appreciate your question and answer feature in the Directions column ["You're Divorced—Can You Remarry?" Oct. 4]. The issue has affected the social fabric of the Christian community like few others. I was also glad to see that the New Testament was seen as the place to get the answer.
It is disappointing that Gary Burge left out one of the most significant statements on the issue: "What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder" Matt. 19:6.
Burge is entitled to his belief that Jesus was granting the right of remarriage to those who divorce for the cause of spousal adultery--"unchastity"--but his answer to those seeking guidance is neither complete nor intellectually honest. The grounds for exception from Jesus' condemnation of divorce and remarriage may have referred only to premarital sex in the context of a culture very different from ours.
The Greek word for unchastity was capable of conveying a wide range of meaning, including Burge's interpretation of adultery. But it could also convey the concept of premarital sex, raising the question about which meaning Jesus intended. Because of the way marriages were contracted and consummated in Jesus' culture, had he not stated this exception as he did, Jewish men who found themselves in the situation that Joseph thought himself to be in would have been forced to consummate and maintain their marriages to women who had been sexually unfaithful during the betrothal period.
We know that he used the word unchastity as separate and distinct from the word adultery, but we have no evidence that Jesus used it to include adultery in its meaning. Burge's conclusion seems to involve a risky leap of faith and he should have acknowledged that at least some uncertainty is attached to his answer. Such an admission would undoubtedly temper his readiness to interpret the other passages garnered as support for the right to remarry.
Ole Lillestolen, Pastor
Bethany Lutheran Brethren Church
East Hartland, Conn.
Burge ignored the force of vow-taking in the wedding ceremony. How does God view vow-breaking? Marriage is profoundly theological in that it should foreshadow the marriage of Rev. 19:7, rather than merely provide convenient fulfillment of desires here and now.
Arlie D. Rauch
Is God able to provide renewal and new hope? Of course he is! But let us not think that he does so by violating his own laws. That we can point to situations where Christians have remarried in obvious violation of the Scripture, and observed that the new marriage "worked" or was "a blessing," is to only fall further into the ends-justifies-the-means rationalization of our secular activities.
It is profoundly disappointing that, when called to take an unpopular stand, both Burge and Christianity Today chose to provide the soothing answer that many living in sin wanted to hear. It is not I who called such relationships adultery, it was Jesus. In 2,000 years, I see nothing to make me believe that his standard has changed.
Christopher R. DeLuca
San Bernardino, Calif.
Boone's Metal Mission
I read with interest your article on Pat Boone by Edward Gilbreath [Oct. 4]. Apparently he has changed his code of dress to reach those in the Metal Mood and feels good about this change. I am wondering: has he won any of them to the Lord Jesus?
Irving Ball, Chaplain
Retirement Village at Copper Lake
Big Brother Bully?
It is high time that Christians in this country take a good look and ask themselves earnest questions about materialism ["Keeping Up with the Amish," Oct. 4]. I certainly believe that America, as a Christian nation, is suffering from that evil more than ever before. Nations of the Third World are getting deeper and deeper in debt with the Western Christian industrialized nations, under the leadership of the USA.
I read the Wall Street Journal daily and one writer said the following: "It seems to me that we are standing on the shoulders of those nations whose heads are under water." Very little has been said about how we treat lesser nations. Let's not forget that the West and Christianity are one in the minds of most people around the globe.
H. D. Schmidt
Loma Linda, Calif.
Liberty Corner, N.J.
Contrary to the article by Tony Carnes, "The Anti-Madams of Asia" [Oct. 4], Zothan Saimi Ralte is not an American Baptist Missionary in Thailand. The Vocational Center she developed was funded initially through donations from various mission organizations related to the Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship. The Center is independently operated by Mrs. Ralte at this time.
International Ministries, A.B.C., U.S.A.
Central Baptist Theological Seminary
Kansas City, Kans.
An Attitude of Gratitude
Oak Harbor, Wash.
Culture War Casualties
The loss of prestige by the Christian teachers within the school has been a tragic consequence of the Christianity vs. Culture war. One witnessing relationship I had been building was fatally sabotaged by the attacks of Christian parents to ward this non-Christian coworker. After the attacks, an attempt at mentioning the gospel was greeted with waved hands and the proclamation, "Don't give me any of that hypocritical garbage!" Why are respect and a willingness to listen so out of fashion with the Christian right?
This year, my room mother is Jewish. I have to admit—it's a relief.
As a Christian and a preacher, I simply cannot lament the decline of the Religious Right. Though many of the leading voices no longer claim to be speaking for the whole church, these brothers and sisters are certainly welcome at the table of Christian dialogue and public discourse. But to the extent that they still (naively) present their culturally bound interpretations of the Bible, manifest little understanding of the diversity that marked early Christian thought and practice, confuse public morality with Christian piety, and cast the church's role primarily in terms of morality police rather than alternative community, they eat from a rather selective menu. The church deserves a better diet.
David L. Matson, Ph.D.
The "Religious Right" are not so much religious conservatives as social conservatives who are also religious.
Newport News, Va.
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