Brief letters are welcome. They may be edited for space and clarity and must include the writer's real name (and preferably city, state, and country) if intended for publication in the Christianity Today online letters area. Due to the volume of mail, we cannot respond personally to all e-mail messages.

Did Open Debate Help The Openness Debate? (Feb. 19, 2001)
I want to commend you for printing the "Open Theism Debate" article. I was unaware that this was such a hot potato among the Baptist General Conference. The subject is of vast interest and the use of the computer for good and bad responses was interesting. I am saddened that when we discuss theology we often throw bricks instead of roses. Thanks for publishing this.

Ronald Ricketts
Plainfield, Indiana

Trained to Thrill (Feb. 13, 2001)
I am writing about the computer game Catechumen. While it was a noble effort for N'Lightning to try to make a computer game without blood and gore, their game is a failure in several respects. First, the quality of the game is terrible. As a professional computer game developer and someone who enjoys playing games frequently, I can say that Catechumen is one of the worst first-person shooter games I have seen. The graphics are poor quality, the player movement is awkward and unrealistic, the first three weapons (available in the demo) are virtually identical, and I could go on. For USA Today to state that it "deftly matches its secular counterparts challenge for challenge and thrill for thrill" is completely untrue. Secular titles selling for the same price or less are miles ahead in terms of art quality, gameplay, special effects, etc. If this game indeed had an $850,000 budget over 18 months, those investors put their money into the wrong developers. Second, Christians thinking that the game offers a healthy Christian message are misled. Perhaps the game characters and setting are based on some historical information from Rome, A.D. 171, but the point of the game is to run around zapping people into repentence or dissolving demons. Is it not the power of the gospel that saves? What an awful image to present that salvation comes from a mortal hero who races around with a holy sword emitting colorful electrical bolts of lightning.

Perry Board
Indianpolis, Indiana

Watchtower Society Corporate Shakeup (Feb. 2, 2001)
I very much appreciated your article relating how Jehovah's Witnesses in New York are rearranging their corporate structure. (It would appear all large corporations follow this course for tax purposes.) Jehovah's Witnesses were told quite a different story in their recent publication, The Watchtower. Funny the message a person receives on the inside of the organization versus the outside of the organization! I was a Witnesses for 30 years, we were told only what "came down from God" through the Watchtower organization. This is how they keep so many honest, good people inside the Watchtower walls—which is such a pity.

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Dorothy Rafuse
Nova Scotia, Canada

Whatever Happened to God? (Feb. 1, 2001)
I would like to respond to Donald G. Bloesch's article "Whatever Happened to God?." The perspective that the church needs to return to the great commission and a move back toward evangelism is absolutely correct. We frequently become too involved with our own spiritual state, and we forget that there are millions around us who don't know the redeeming, saving grace of Christ.
However, we need to remember to be "wise as serpents" in this Gospel endeavor. Because of the nature of our culture, many people will not respond (and have not responded) to the traditional way of doing things. We need to address the reasons that people are not responding to the way we are doing things, and find ways that will reach them. This is not to say that we water down the message or compromise its integrity, but rather that we find different ways of communicating it. This may include technological methods and different forms of music.
Bloesch's statement that contemporary praise music "is essentially a spectacle that appeals to the senses rather than an act of obeisance to the mighty God" is a gross misrepresentation of what modern praise music is all about. I agree that, in some churches, worship has "become performance rather than praise," but most of the time, contemporary praise music simply seeks to meet people where they are. Bloesch implies that one church or individual might turn from traditional worship to contemporary worship (or vice versa) because of their unhappiness of one form over another. Usually, though, the reason that people prefer one method of worship over another (and indeed why we should seek to respond to this preference) is because one method will be more successful in bringing them into the presence of God and allowing them to feel that they are worshiping more effectively. The good feeling that we get is not why we worship God. We get that feeling because, after worshiping in a style we are comfortable with, we are more able to sense that we have actually drawn near to and pleased God.
As a musician, I strive to specifically embrace music that effectively reaches different groups of people and how they will respond and worship. The music style will bring people in, the Spirit of God will move them, and the response is to worship. And nothing glorifies God more, I believe, than someone turning from sin and repenting. In this sense, one great way we can worship is by bringing new believers into the fold. This is what it means not only to take up our crosses and follow, but also to "Go, therefore … "

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Matthew Brown
Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

I thoroughly enjoyed the article "Whatever Happened To God" by Donald Bloesch. It struck a nerve and gave voice and clarity to the feelings I have experienced after years in my church. I have seen the changes, especially with so much praise music, and I think we are missing out on a lot of beautiful edifying music, music that is grounded in God's word and which illumninates the purposes of God. Thanks for such a fine article. I will be sure to pass it on to others to read.

Ken Stover
Weaver, Iowa

Deliverance Debate (Jan. 29, 2001)
I thought most of Kevin Bidwell's report on Theophostic Ministry for inner healing was fair, but I wish the title were different. In the basic seminar and in the advanced seminar I took from Ed Smith in Campbellsville, he never referred to this powerful method of healing as a traditional "deliverance ministry." Instead, he referred to the lies that blind us needing the enlightened truth of Jesus, and casting out demons was not the main focus. One may encounter demonic inhabitation, especially in survivors of satanic ritual abuse, but their banishment is easy once the power of the lies has been broken. As Neil Anderson wrote in Victory Over Darkness (Regal,1990) "Since Satan's primary weapon is the lie, your defense against him is the truth."
I appreciated the cautious optimism of researchers like Fernando Garzon. It will be good to have more outcome studies, since you can best judge a tree by its fruits. I was puzzled by Millard Erickson's statement on whether Christians can be possessed by demons. If you look carefully at Smith's ministry, or books by the Sandfords, Charles Kraft, James Friesen, and James Wilder, they only warn that the enemy and demons can attach or inhabit a portion of the mind, but never "possess" the spirit of a believer. I suppose many thought Luther was not theologically correct either, in A MightyFortress when he wrote "And though this world with devils filled/Should threaten to undo us/We will not fear, for God hath willed/ His Truth to triumph through us."

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Stephen C. Mory
MD Chief of Psychiatry St. Vincent Health Center
Erie, Pennsylvania

Regarding "Theophostic" healing, it seems to me that the process is a marriage of secular psychology, hypnosis and a desire for immediate results by Christian seekers. It may well be another indication of this generation's "quick fix" motivations and a misguided theology that overlooks growing in grace which process includes illness and personal loss.
Does God want everyone to be physically and psychologically well at all times? If so, then why does the Bible teach that we should be content in whatever state we find ourselves? Personal trials, the Bible states, are for maturing character. If Mr. Smith and friends believe that Jesus is healing (delivering?) these people by guiding them (regressing them) back to traumatic events for release, why doesn't Jesus simply deliver them from the former traumas rather than travel the path of secular psychology and hypnosis?
It isn't at all clear that those who have had "deliverance" by this new path are recipients of Jesus' intervening care. Of course Jesus could do this, but it certainly is not biblical nor historical. Like "holy laughter", its advocates, bless their hearts, are compassionate and longing for personal contact with Deity, but I fear that they are very much misguided. I, too, long for the personal touch of the Master, but have found it through His providential guidance and care over the span of my fifty-three years as a Christian.
I am disappointed that Christianity Today gave this phenomenon so much space but will not touch biblical-historical issues that are enormously pressing for today and tomorrow.

Gordon Ginn, Ph.D.
Hartsford, Montana

What If They Didn't Know? (Jan. 8, 2001)
I found Richard Besancon's answer to the Question, "What If They Didn't Know?" exciting and refreshing. I teach Sunday school for teens in my church and run up against this question quite often. Often times when I pass these types of questions along to the church vestry and/or the education committee, they are argumentative about the subject and try to bury it by quoting the same scripture reference that you had (John 14:6). It seems that this is only one of many questions that Christians and followers of Jesus Christ avoid. It's good to see a series of opinion columns on the hard to address issues or questions that many people have. My desire as a Sunday school teacher and soon to be parent is to reach kids where they are. I know that there are many other teachers and parents who are looking for this kind of advice in a column. This type of teaching is extremely relevant in society today.

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Stephen J. Dinning
Baltimore, Maryland

Learning the Ancient Rhythms of Prayer (Dec. 29, 2000)
I read with great interest your recent article about how Christians today are using ancient liturgical Christian prayers. I am presently involved in what has to be one of the most curious church situations in the U.S.. About a year ago several students from conservative, evangelical Biola University began attending the very formal, traditional Episcopal Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Placentia, CA.
In the span of one year, the number of students regularly attending has now swelled to over 20. Each Sunday we pack five automobiles full of students and drive twenty minutes to Placentia. The vast majority of these worshippers are 19- to 20-years-old, honor students, and come from very conservative, non-denominational Bible/Baptist churches. Disillusioned with the lack of substance and history in contemporary worship, they are falling in love with the beauty and richness of liturgical, high church worship. Needless to say, this has for many of the students caused rifts with both family and friends who view the high church as everything from a little strange to downright evil. I never thought I would see the day when fundamentalist college students would flock to an Episcopal Church, but it is happening before my eyes!

Marc Kepler
Anaheim, California