I must confess that I found myself agreeing with Lauren Winner's article on single Christians ["Solitary Refinement," June 11] but was also gently and rightfully rebuked. Why do I, more often than not, talk about relationships primarily in the realm of dating and marriage? Why don't I affirm that God's will is not always the cookie-cutter approach that we often make it out to be?
Her statements on the assumption of marriage producing maturity are bang on. Those who are immature and marry may actually pass this on to their spouse and even their children. It is as if we are saying that single adults will never experience the maturing strains of job stress, mortgage payments, car loans, and unexpected bills, let alone spiritual trials and testing.
If anything, I suspect that they may even become more mature in their faith since they must learn to lean on our heavenly Father for guidance and strength and not just the "arm of flesh" of a spouse.
Pastor, Faith Baptist Church
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
With approximately 45 percent of the U.S. population 18 and older being single, there is no other era in which I'd rather be single.
We have more opportunities than ever for participating with acceptance in the lives of our communities and churches, but we are still perceived as an aberration to "the system," with marriage being next to godliness in evangelical thinking.
Too often the potentially nurturing contexts of church and family have been used to stifle and depreciate the value of living singly. Singles learn to love broadly and compassionately, as did Jesus.
Winner's article clearly called for the need to be far more intentional about calling out and upholding singleness, and for a new theology of sex.
I was disappointed that the subsequent articles failed, in my mind, to address these issues adequately.
Living as a single evangelical for 12 years, I shared many of Lauren Winner's concerns about the ways singleness is viewed in evangelical churches. Like her, I was disturbed at singles-only activities in the wonderful Baptist megachurch I attended.
I did not want to miss out on the insights and fellowship of a broader range of Christians. I also wondered how singles, many themselves divorced or from dysfunctional families, were to learn how to have Christian marriages if the only people they associated with were also single!
Three years ago, after much prayer, study, and deliberation, I became a Catholic. One of the many things I found appealing about the Roman Catholic Church is that it sees the single life as a vocation, and not just for priests, monks, and nuns.
I would have become a Catholic in any case, but it's awfully nice to be part of a church in which my singleness is looked on as a vocation and I'm not "you poor thing."
An Open Debate
In the "Openness Debate" ["Does God Know Your Next Move?" June 11], Christopher Hall tells us emphatically that God could not have meant what he said in Genesis 22:12 with his "now I know," but Hall never tells us the true meaning. In fact, he never defends his theological stand in either Part 1 or Part 2, but either presents a new challenge to John Sanders or changes the subject.
Hall finishes with a threat of a "domino effect," that questioning what the Bible teaches concerning predestination and foreknowledge will unravel "classical Christian orthodoxy." Should we stop asking "What does the Bible really teach?" because we will have to change our thinking?
As noted in the debate, openness theology must be tested by the implications it produces.
I'm inclined toward the openness model, as it has enormously increased my time in prayer.
Greenwood, South Carolina
Billy graham probably would have remained an obscure itinerant evangelist had William Randolph Hearst not insisted editors feature Graham's 1948 Los Angeles campaign in his newspapers. If Christianity Today had not featured the openness theology in two issues, would it have gone beyond the boundaries of a single denomination, or eventually vanished into the oblivion of history?
Any person who has been a Christian for very long has to explain the conundrum of personal tragedy, and even has to come to grips with it firsthand.
I find and give comfort in knowing that although God's ways are mysterious, they are perfect and absolutely certain. I find the ability to go on in the certainty that though my dreams are shattered, God's ways are still perfect.
Where is the motivation to pray to the God who acts out of nothing more than informed guess work? Let's call the theology what it is, heresy, and minister the grace of a sovereign God to those whose lives are shattered by unexpected tragedy!
Vestal, New York
Christopher Hall and John Sanders share a key assumption that all but forces them into opposed camps. That assumption is that foreknowledge and predestination are two sides of the same coin.
Hall begins with an unshakable belief in God's foreknowledge and therefore must proceed to an equally unshakable belief in predestination. Openness theologian Sanders, starting from the other side of the coin, begins by affirming human choice and freedom (against predestination) and therefore must conclude that God does not have perfect foreknowledge of the future.
This impasse is not a necessary one. From our limited human view, foreknowledge does necessitate predestination, but God lives outside of time and space in a realm where all is eternally present. As C.S. Lewis (after Boethius) has argued in many of his works, God does not, technically speaking, foresee anything. To foresee suggests that the viewer is locked into a temporal system of past, present, and future. God sees the future in the same way that we see the present.
With this vital distinction, an interesting proposition emerges: If my seeing of a present event does not determine it, why should God's eternally present seeing of a future event (future to us) determine its outcome? Or, to put it another way: Since God's knowledge is ever and always a present knowledge of our present choice, our freedom is not violated.
Such a view suggests that openness theologians can carve out a niche for human choice, freedom, and dignity without having to throw into doubt God's knowledge of the future or compromise in any way his sovereignty.
Associate Professor, English
Houston Baptist University
Prof. Markos's suggestion that God has exhaustive knowledge of an eternal present is helpful. But Prof. Hall's argument did not proceed from foreknowledge to predestination. In classical theology, meticulous foreknowledge does not require predestination as its logical conclusion, as the Arminian controversy demonstrated. That argument was not over foreknowledge per se, but over whether knowledge held logical priority over election or vice versa. —Eds.
Jesus Beyond Karma
Recently I became Buddhist, but my spiritual search led me to study many religions. I was never able to accept Christianity, but ironically, Buddhism has shown me the truth in Christianity and in Jesus Christ. Although I would like to address many issues in James Beverley's disappointing "Weighed Down by Karmic Debt" [June 11], I will limit it to one.
Beverley asks, "What does the Buddhist say about the death of Jesus? Did he deserve to die by crucifixion? If so, it is hard to imagine how Buddhists can still consider him even an enlightened teacher." Beverley also implied that Buddhists must believe Jesus had bad karma in order to die such a terrible death.
As a Buddhist, I do believe that Jesus was enlightened, and because he was enlightened, he was beyond karma. Jesus prophesied his own death; therefore he could have fled if he'd wanted to—if he was capable of walking on water, he was capable of fleeing from the Romans.
This implies that Jesus chose to die. But why would Jesus choose to die? In Buddhism, an enlightened one is so compassionate and loving of all other beings that he wouldn't think twice about trying to save anybody from death or suffering, even if he had to give his own life.
Even an unenlightened man can show this compassion for another being, which in turn would create good karma. For example, a man was hit by a bus and killed while trying to save a child in the middle of the road. This man's action was very honorable, just as it was very honorable of Jesus to die on the cross to save all of you.
Kings Beach, California
Plantinga on God
Thank you for including John Stackhouse Jr.'s excellent summary of Alvin Plantinga's work as a Christian philosopher ["Mind Over Skepticism," June 11]. It is very easy to relegate philosophical ideas to dusty libraries and classrooms on university campuses, but many of the issues (although usually not using the same terms) are also discussed at the lay level as well.
The question of evil, for example, is one of concern for all Christians. Unfortunately, our answers are often inadequate.
Some Christians respond by agreeing that, yes, the world is evil, and we simply need to get through our lives here in Satan's territory (practical deism), while others resort to the clichés "God is in control," or "everything occurs for a purpose," emptying evil of its evilness and subtly implying God is its author.
Plantinga's work does much to cut through the simple answers, finding the reason for the existence of evil, ironically, in God's love and patience with us as fallen and sinful creatures.
Professor of Sociology
Kalamazoo Valley Comm. College
A Hen-Free Home
Thanks for discussing my music group, Over the Rhine ("Three Chords and the Truth"). I would like to make the following correction regarding my family's history. I was described as the "son of an itinerant Amish minister who forbade the family to have a piano in the house but did allow one in the chicken coop."
Actually, my father left the Amish as a young man, and changed my life forever by bringing an upright piano directly into our house and encouraging his children to paint and make music.
I had relayed a story to the author of the article of how one of my cousins in Iowa kept her piano in the chicken coop because of church rules forbidding musical instruments in the home. When we visited her family, I would play her piano and there would be a Rhode Island Red roosting up on top, two octaves above middle "C."
I'm happy to report there were no hens roosting in our living room.
What Would Jabez Do?
Is anyone else troubled by The Prayer of Jabez mania ["Significance in a Small Package," June 11]? Criticizing not only a bestselling Christian book but one at the top of the secular lists may be like speaking against Mother Teresa, but I'll take the chance.
I like Bruce Wilkinson and appreciate all he and the Walk Thru the Bible people have provided for the church. I also like the book—sort of. Jabez's prayer is certainly worth noting, and no doubt the promises in 1 Chronicles 4:10 have application today.
What troubles me is that this prayer is all about us and focuses on little other than "what God can do for me." I wonder how many young believers or seekers have stumbled onto this book and now only seek the four things in this prayer for themselves. Or how many older believers think they have now found the prayer that will finally work.
Is not prayer also about getting to know the Father, seeking his plan, listening to his voice, and enjoying his presence? Where is the adoration, the confession, and the thanksgiving so essential to intimacy with our Lord? I'm thankful that a Christian book has been this popular, but I caution us to not use this prayer as another magic wand. God deserves more and so do we.
The Rev. Gary Sinclair
Wilkinson has repeatedly explained that his book is not "about us" but about ministry —Eds.
Mark Galli is troubled by the simplicity and so-called "exaggerations" of The Prayer of Jabez. But I am not troubled that Wilkinson omits "a qualifying adjective here, a cautionary sentence there."
Those who swallow the bait will be hooked on prayer for a lifetime, knowing that while God does not necessarily give us everything we request, he is good to his Word: "The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much."
The issue is not Wilkinson's lack of caution, but our overcautious and unbelieving spirit in prayer!
Edward M. Eastman Jr.
Pastor, Grace Bible Church
Ashley Falls, Massachusetts
NAE's Dangerous Path
I do not share Kevin Mannoia's almost triumphalist view of the progress of the evangelical movement ["What Are We For?" May 21]. To the contrary, the evangelical community in the United States is fractured and in theological flux.
If surveys of evangelical churchgoers and college students are to be believed, many of us are unsure of our theology, complacent about evangelism, and unsure of how to respond to our culture. To be wary of engagement with those whose denominations charitably could be called neo-orthodox is not a sign of uncertainty but of healthy skepticism.
When the believing church starts down the road of cooperation with those whose lukewarm faith is the tepid breeding ground of compromise, it is not the lukewarm who become hot but the hot who cool down.
Maybe the NAE should welcome National Council of Churches members, maybe not. But let's not kid ourselves about some sort of emerging evangelical dominance.
That's more than wishful thinking—it's dangerous.
I know not everyone has approved of the idea of allowing churches membership in both the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Council of Churches, but this is an idea whose time has come.
There are many of us evangelicals in mainline churches today who would be thrilled to have our denominations also allowed in the NAE. Many of us have felt called to stay in mainline churches, and although it is not easy, there are signs that God is bringing renewal to some of our mainline churches.
To allow membership in the NAE would be a great encouragement and would allow a freer flow of ideas from evangelicals into our mainline churches.
Presbytery of San Joaquin
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The article, "Babywise Almost Dropped" (July 9, 2001, p. 20), incorrectly described a plan for meetings between author Gary Ezzo and his critics. A May statement from Multnomah Publishers Inc. said the publisher has "developed a review process by which both Mr. Ezzo and his accusers will have the opportunity to address the accusations in a forthright, constructive manner during face-to-face meetings." CT regrets the error.
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