Perhaps we all have, in some way, fallen short of the mark in our public engagement by permitting our convictions to race ahead of our thinking. By failing to grasp both the nature and the limits of politics, Christian activists were more easily beguiled by its promise. Disillusion was the inevitable consequence of wishful and naive presumption. Our inability to persuade our fellow citizens through compelling argument in the marketplace of ideas led to our reliance upon coercion and threats—weak instruments that cannot last. Don Eberly is right: concentrating on the politicians while ignoring the culture—and the public sentiment it shapes—is myopic and futile.

Kudos to all those who argue that we not quit the field but stay engaged. Our failure to do so a half-century ago abetted the cultural crisis.

Still, we must not only understand but embrace pluralism and diversity. We must come to see that, as Jefferson put it, "Every difference of opinion is not a difference in principle." Finally, we must encourage our children to enter politics as a noble and worthwhile vocation.

Jack Wyman
East Haddam, Conn.

Cal Thomas writes about iniquity in government. Yet, he believes Christian men and women of valor should re treat from the political battlefield and flee into spiritual noncombat zones. But this would suit Satan, who excels in ruling governments. America needs more warriors like James Dobson and fewer people blowing the bugle to retreat in the war for the nation's soul.

Gordon L. Cameron
Camano Island, Wash.

Since Pentecost, have Christians even a "moral majority"? If some of today's Religious Right are upset because everything doesn't go their way, may be they should take their marbles (what's left of them) and go home.

I do appreciate Chuck Colson for his humility and his refusal to demonize anyone who doesn't agree with him.

Eileen Scorsese
Slidell, La.

Is the radical Christian Right about to abandon its public crusade to take over U.S. politics from the school board to the Presidency? Please, in the name of entertainment: No!

Robert Price
Leetsdale, Pa.

* It is curious to me that Falwell, J. Dobson, and, to a lesser degree, Colson characterize Thomas's and E. Dobson's critique as calling for a "retreat" from political involvement. This is not true. Thomas and E. Dobson call for a shift of emphasis and tactics, not an abandonment of political involvement.

I was raised in an evangelical tradition that emphasized the importance of political involvement and active citizenship deriving from our mandate to be salt and light to a fallen world. However, in earlier years, there was a healthy acknowledgment that faithful believers could legitimately differ politically as to how various social problems should be addressed. What has changed since the advent of the "Religious Right" is that the gospel has been equated with conservative Republican political philosophy. It is disconcerting when the same individuals who condemn Bill Clinton's moral failure hail Oliver North as a hero and invite him as a radio talk-show guest. Is it that sexual sin and Clinton's lying is inexcusable, but North's lying and destroying evidence is permissible? Or is it that North simply has the right politics? Does the end justify the means? Likewise, it is disconcerting when Christian political conservatives proclaim the importance of character in leadership (and rightly so) but in the next breath patronizingly dismiss former president Jimmy Carter's principled stance on human rights as politically naive.

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Daniel R. Henderson
Grand Rapids, Mich.

* Too many evangelical churches and organizations are little more than religious PACS in the political landscape, preaching a politically charged "gospel of Christianity" rather than the life-changing gospel of Christ. As a movement, we are in danger of being more concerned with the salvation and sanctification of the American political system, and especially the Republican party, than with the lost souls of the American people and the purity of the church. That would be not only tragic, but fatal for evangelicalism. After reading the differing views by leaders in this debate, it would appear that those who have the most to lose in terms of contributors (money) and influence (power) are less willing, or less able, to listen to godly voices in the church calling them into account. There certainly is no black-or-white answer to this important debate, but evangelicals must struggle together to find a firm place to stand in the gray. It should be fairly solid biblical ground that the church, in order to zealously guard the gospel, must stand apart from the culture it inhabits; yet, at the same time, it must equip its people to incarnate that gospel and to stand up for its truths within the culture they inhabit. If we cannot agree on that, then it is we evangelicals who stand in most need of change, not our culture.

Clay Clarkson
Monument, Colo.

* I am most impressed with the vision of Don Eberly, who appears to understand that the place to build common ground with the majority of Americans, who are not religious or political fundamentalists, is on the level of basic cultural values. There is on that level a long-standing general public malaise (well articulated 20 years ago by President Carter) in which living expressions of true Christian standards, as salt, yeast, and light, could have deep-rooted consequences for our nation's future. The Religious Right, however, appears heaven-bent on expending its energies in rear-guard efforts, continuing to refight the Cold War, the Scopes trial, and bifurcated demonizing of anyone who advocates different views. I, for one, would like to hear more from Mr. Eberly.

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Daniel Liechty
Normal, Ill.

On our September 6 cover ("Is the Religious Right Finished?"), we labeled the forum, "An insiders' conversation." By "insiders," we meant "those who had an intimate knowledge of the movement." We did not mean to imply that all participants were active members of the Religious Right. Don Eberly, who contributed the essay "We're Fighting the Wrong Battle," is in the odd position of being an evangelical who served in the Rea gan White House but who has consistently and vocally opposed the strategy of the Religious Right. We regret any confusion that may have resulted from our title.


The Charismatic Dimension
I can identify with Roger Olson's article "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Arminian" [Sept. 6]. There has always been a form of Calvinist fundamentalism which attempts to demonize Arminians such as Wesley and Finney as being outside the pale of "sound" (i.e., Calvinist) evangelical theology.

As a matter of fact, the vast majority of evangelicals today are on the Arminian side of things and decidedly not moving toward liberal theology. They are the Pentecostals and charismatics who consider themselves basically evangelical with the added charismatic dimension. In fact, in many parts of the world, Latin America being the prime example, the word evangelical is almost synonymous with the Pentecostals who account for up to 90 percent of the evangelical populations of some countries.

Vinson Synan
Virginia Beach, Va.

I was again amazed at the implication in this and other articles I have read in CT that virtually all evangelicals are Reformed (though some may be Arminian). Whatever happened to Lutherans? Perhaps if Roger Olson had studied Lutheran theologians in seminary he would have found an evangelical approach not dependent on "unconditional election and irresistible grace" but not Arminian in concept either. Many writers in CT are given to quoting Martin Luther. It would be nice now and then to hear from some of his current theological descendants.

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Roger D. Randall
Bakersfield, Calif.

* Though he movingly encourages Calvinists and Arminians to appreciate and work with each other, Olson does not recommend a hybrid theology, or a "Calminianism." I agree, but perhaps not for the same reason. He says such a theology would be "paradoxical and therefore unstable." I ask, what's wrong with paradox?—provided we understand it not as absolute contradiction, but as the affirmation of two things that seem contradictory from our limited human perspective. Aren't many central theologically affirmations paradoxes? For instance: that Christ is fully divine and fully human. Don't the characteristics of God (e.g., omnipotence) and humans (with our many weaknesses) seem contradictory from our limited human perspective?

On Calvinism-Arminianism, it seems to me that Christians should affirm that: (1) we must depend entirely on God's grace, and (2) we must actively choose to obey God. It seems that at least some of the Calvinist-Arminian debate results from unwillingness to let paradox be paradox. Of course, one cannot artificially limit theorizing about such things. But to make detailed theories a basis for deciding who is or is not a good evangelical or Christian seems not only inappropriate, but perhaps to deny a creative tension at the heart of faith.

Thomas Finger
Harrisonburg, Va.

I hope we will heed Olson's plea for evangelical unity. At an hour when evangelical scholarship and piety have the opportunity to impact our society more than at any time in this past century, we are fighting each other over many issues worth discussing but not worth breaking fellowship over. Divisions made the church easy prey for Islamic conquests in North Africa and Nubia; disunity between Eastern and Western churches led to the sack of Constantinople. When Christians misrepresent and slander fellow Christians with different views, don't we merit God's judgment? Can't we see that our failure to love one another and join forces for evangelism is weakening God's church?

Prof. Craig Keener
Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wynnewood, Pa.

* The notion that Arminianism is antievangelical is both unfair and a hindrance to meaningful dialogue. Many of my fellow Baptists who like to call themselves "moderate Calvinists" are actually four-point Arminians who resist the label because of its stigma. If we could agree that this debate is not about orthodoxy versus heresy, perhaps we could carry on a more candid and fruitful discussion of the substantive issues without fear of where it might lead us.

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Stanley K. Fowler
Cambridge, Ont., Canada.

Our Responsibility for Consumerism
* I want to express my appreciation for Mark Buchanan's careful and effective dissection of consumerism ["Trapped in the Cult of the Next Thing," Sept. 6]. All too often, critiques of consumerism deteriorate into plugs for left-wing politics and varying versions of socialism. But Buchanan put the basic responsibility right where it belongs—in our own choice of which god we worship. I think his best insight was that consumerism actually trains us to value things too little and thus destroys both contentment and thankfulness. It also nullifies compassion. If we don't value shoes, we don't really comprehend a poor woman's need for them.

Wayne Shockley
Brooklyn, Wis.

Continuing Confusion over Schools
* The editorial "Stay in School" [Sept. 6] exhibits the continuing confusion over Christian participation in the public school system in our nation. I am a Christian schoolteacher and vice-principal driven by conviction, not convenience, when it comes to Christian schools and Christian education. For me, public education of children is not an option. I believe Christian teachers have a mission in public schools; children of Christian parents have no place in public education.

I have witnessed far too many cases of Christian kids leaving eighth grade in Christian schools for the wonderful universe of public education only to hear horror stories resulting from the choice. No, I cannot support Christian parents even thinking of exposing their children to the potential hazards of public education, whether it be peer pressure or godless, secular philosophy.

While many Christian parents cannot afford to send their children to Christian school, perhaps they can homeschool them. Either option protects the God-given prerogative and duty to teach children godly values and the gospel. The most important "mission field" of Christian parents is their children.

Rodney Nelson
Richland, Wash.

* As a Christian teacher in an urban public school and also the daughter of veteran public-school teachers, I was overjoyed to read the recent CT articles regarding Christians' obligations to serve and participate in the public school arena. While I do see benefit in some cases for private education, I have been deeply grieved to watch Christians remove themselves en masse from public education because of "the evils it might bring." I fear at times that it reflects a complacent attitude toward evangelism and our own faith to tell the world it is not worthy of our children, and likewise tell our children they are too good for the world.

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On the contrary, children need to see the necessity of Christ's salvation in a broken and fallen world. If we are so afraid that public schools will rob our children of our faith, how much faith do we really have to begin with?

Jody Wiley
Indianapolis, Ind.

* Christian parents have a distinctive, God-given responsibility to teach their children a Christian world-view in every area of academics. Why would we send our children to pagan temples to fulfill this mandate from God?

Bill Smith
Sulphur, La.

* As I just watched my three boys mount the steps of a bus to our neighborhood public school, I am encouraged by the sound reasoning and biblical perspective your editorial presents. I rarely receive that kind of encouragement. My children have been in public education for 10 years, and my wife and I have been involved in their schools throughout that time. We have been thoroughly satisfied with the quality of their education and their teachers. We have become ingrained in our community because of our presence in the schools, and thus have had many more opportunities to be salt and light than if we had chosen the Christian school option.

Too often, the views of Christian parents on schooling are shaped by fear and peer pressure. Conversely, in our experience we have found public educators to be caring, responsive, highly skilled, and open to parental involvement. I have often found them to be people of Christian faith.

It is our conviction that God calls us to live among unbelievers, but not be like them (1 Cor. 5:9–10).

Paul T. Clark
Beavercreek, Ohio

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