Back to the Future
The debate between Christopher Hall and John Sanders over openness theology ["Does God Know Your Next Move?" May 21] properly focuses on Scripture, but as a scientist, I am troubled that some of Sanders's statements are incompatible with modern science.
He says that God's knowledge of the future is not really limited because "the 'future' does not yet exist so there is nothing 'there' to be known. … God knows all that can be known, and to say that it is a limitation for God not to know 'nothing' is ridiculous."
The actual existence of past, present, and future is required by Einstein's theory of relativity. All space and time form a four-dimensional continuum that simply exists; the theory does not permit time to be treated as a dimension in which the future is open or incomplete. The theory of relativity has measurable consequences and has been validated by rigorous experimental tests. It is only with great trepidation that one should abandon it.
From a Christian point of view, it is reasonable to conclude that the temporal and the spatial extent of our universe were created together, and thus the entire four-dimensional structure resides before its Creator in an eternal present. Thus our modern scientific understanding of the nature of time fits quite well with the Christian tradition that God has knowledge of all time, past, present, and future: "Before Abraham was, I am."
Michael G. Kane, Ph.D.
Skillman, New Jersey
A.W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy) is surely spinning in his grave. He wrote that "the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of him," and that "so necessary to the church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it."
I think this very debate can be traced back to the Garden of Eden. In effect, the first humans pridefully said, "Is God really that much bigger than us? Can't we figure things out on our own?" This so-called openness theology reduces God to a level where we, his creatures, can manage him. We must not allow this temptation to gain any foothold in our lives or our theology.
It was Voltaire who said, "If God has made us in his image, we have certainly returned the compliment."
Rowland Heights, California
Did God know I would come to prison? I don't know. I think so. After reading about openness, I read "Death Row Chaplain" [May 21], which was so cool. My wife of eight years, my 2-1/2-year-old son, my momma—they love me and long for my return, and because I had a good chaplain, I can say with total confidence that I'm a new creation because of Christ and the message of love that goes beyond understanding—not because of a debate on whether God knew it beforehand.
Arizona State Prison
I am always amazed by the holier-than-thou arrogance with which those who have done nothing condemn those who have done something for not having done enough. Have the Jubilee players ["How To Spell Debt Relief," May 21] sacrificed any of their own assets to alleviate world poverty or repay debts of the poor?
It must take a great deal of chutzpah for Jubilee's Dan Driscoll-Shaw to haughtily blame the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for poverty in undeveloped nations, when those institutions have already advanced $207 billion to those countries and forgiven $71 billion of their debt.
One wonders how the Jubilee know-nothings suppose the current infrastructure for education, health care, and basic human services came to exist in those nations, such as it is, were it not for IMF and World Bank loans. One wonders how they naïvely assert that forgiven funds will be spent on human services—rather than Swiss bank accounts—if not for the IMF-imposed poverty-reduction conditions.
Corpus Christi, Texas
In "How to Spell Debt Relief," Jeff Sellers accepts the notion that we ought to forgive the debt that poor nations owe rich nations so they can provide services to their poor. Providentially, Steve Hanke in "Africa and Economics" (Forbes, May 28) points out that it is the lack of property rights and warfare over valuable natural resources, along with AIDS/HIV, that has devastated many African nations.
As a result, Africans who have capital park it outside the continent in "safe" places. It is doubtful that debt relief, by itself, will do anything to reverse the structural problems, corruption, and incompetence facing poor countries.
Further, I wonder how we taxpayers and depositors are going to react when it becomes clear not only that these nations will never pay us back, but also that we must make good the worthless paper held by our government and private investors. In a word, we, the public, will have to pay twice.
Why is it a "moral imperative" for us to pay twice (whether discounted to present value or at full stated maturity) and not a "moral imperative" for debtors and crooks to pay their bills?
Why is it a "moral imperative" that we must be taxed, that is, coerced to provide for the needs of those exploited by their own leaders?
Jubilee 2000 is like apple pie and motherhood—who in his right mind can oppose it?
Yet, I think debt relief will allow church leaders to thrust out their chests and pat each other on the back but will not accomplish anything close to what they are claiming.
Christian leaders assume that local governments aren't spending money on social needs because of their debt payments, but most of these governments don't care about the people. Debt payments to the IMF are a convenient target, but nowhere have I seen reports on how much those governments spend on their militaries.
I'm afraid that in a few years (if they can pay attention that long) promoters of Jubilee 2000 will discover that local governments in Third World countries will have taken the savings from debt relief and stashed some of it in Swiss bank accounts, used some of it for new homes in Europe and the United States, and beefed up their militaries with the rest. But they will spend no more on the social needs of the people.
Nevertheless, I'm not opposed to such debt relief because it's a very small amount of money for the institutions involved. And you never can tell. I might be wrong.
Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
In Philip Yancey's "Replenishing the Inner Pastor" [May 21], what he calls "the unique burden of isolation and loneliness" is precisely what drives many pastors to seek affirmation and a sense of control through inappropriate relationships and various addictions.
Couple that burden with unremitting congregational expectations and scrutiny, add some unresolved childhood issues along with the nagging feeling that seminary left one unprepared, and you have the recipe for a discouraged pastor.
Pastors are leaving the ministry in record numbers. Research indicates several reasons, but it boils down to loneliness, isolation, and stress. Yancey is right to urge that a pastor put time and effort into nurturing his relationship with God, and that congregations give priority to the pastor's spiritual health.
So often these servants of the Lord feel pressured to keep their sorrows, failings, and frustrations secret, until they finally explode—into unhealthy behaviors and relationships, or into a new career.
James L. Schlottman
As a pastor, I appreciated some of Philip Yancey's concerns for "Replenishing the Inner Pastor." I was deeply troubled, however, by his reference to "plumbers, salesmen, and engineers, many of whom know little about ministry" evaluating pastors. Such people who serve Jesus in their daily lives may know more about ministry than many pastors.
He goes on to say, "This hodgepodge of laypeople votes on salary and housing allowances behind closed doors as the pastor sits like a schoolchild in another room." I serve in a church where there is no hodgepodge of laypeople—we are a congregation of ministers.
I don't know how church can really get better when we perpetuate a two-class understanding of it. One way this pastor's heart gets replenished is by being freed from people thinking of me as "the minister" rather than a faithful pastor among a congregation of ministers.
And, yes, I need to do better at not trying to be an omnicompetent pastor and to take generous times for silence, reflection, meditation, and personal study.
Harry J. Heintz
Troy, New York
In Steve Turner's review of Howard Sounes's unauthorized biography of Bob Dylan ["Watered-Down Love," May 21], nowhere does Turner acknowledge the cross that Dylan has borne for his belief in Jesus.
Dylan boldly proclaimed the gospel for the simple reason that he knew people looked to him to speak and sing about what is truth. Dylan wrote that he could continue on and keep his faith to himself, but it wasn't his purpose to gain the admiration of the world and lose his soul.
The effort to have Dylan renounce Jesus over the last 20 years has come up empty. For his faithfulness he has received scorn from the media, fans, record-company executives, friends, the Jewish/church communities and family members.
Clearly, there have been rocky times in Dylan's spiritual journey, but Dylan's "light" for Jesus is not the flickering flame that Turner would have us believe, but rather an eternal flame. The simple fact that it exists can be credited to the eternal security that acceptance of God's grace brings, and it is the one true relationship that sustains Dylan each day.
Dylan now takes the stage before a mostly nonseeking audience and confounds them with the fact that this "Jesus" still has a hold of his heart. Dylan is perfectly willing to be seen as one who has been broken, shattered like an empty cup, and who is waiting for the Lord to rebuild him.
I can only imagine the Lord looking upon Bob Dylan and saying, "If this is watered-down love, then give me more, more, more . …"
Author, Dylan & the Frucht
Fountain Valley, California
Out of the Subculture
Cheers to Louis A. Markos for his "Myth Matters" [April 23]. Not only is there polarity in the literary world between secular fiction and Christian fiction, but this dynamic exists in every sphere—artistic, musical, political, commercial, and educational.
Rather than exposing truth via any and every medium, or in any subculture (secular or religious), evangelicals tend to limit their means to those things they have "Christianized" (i.e., "Christian" music, business, radio, schools, etc.). Mix in religious lingo, draw a fish on it, or tag it with a Bible verse, and suddenly it is holy—and, sadly, separated from those who might sincerely be searching.
Secular society is tired of Christian subculture. It's not appealing, and it is viewed as just another minority group in the societal pool fighting for social, political, and economic power.
Markos points out that Lewis had the right strategy when he chose not to write "Christian" allegories but simply good fiction, fiction containing both virtue and evil, each personified in mythological characters.
One reads Lewis because he is brilliant, not because he is Christian. And then, unknowingly, the reader finds himself considering what might be noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
It has always been the case that truth must be smuggled into an age, be it pre-Christian, Christian, or post-Christian. After all, Jesus didn't exactly embody the religious ethos of his own time.
San Antonio, Texas
Colson & T-Bone
I appreciated Charles Colson's challenge concerning Christians imitating the worst in culture ["Slouching Into Sloth," April 23]. He quoted Toynbee stating, "One clear sign of a civilization's decline is when élites begin mimicking the vulgarity and promiscuity exhibited by society's bottom-dwellers."
As a high-school guidance counselor in a public school, I couldn't agree more. Honor and at-risk students alike imitate the fashion, lingo, and habits of our culture's finest. Daily I see guys trying to keep their sagging pants from falling off just like their hero, Slim Shady, or girls instinctively tugging at their painted-on shirts to cover their navels (as the dress code dictates) just like cultural icon Britney Spears.
In the same issue, I was greatly amused by Douglas LeBlanc's desperate attempt to redeem T-Bone as a "Christian artist" with his review of The Last Street Preacha ["Rap's Demon-Slayer"]. Although he did offer some light criticism, his conclusion was that maybe T-Bone could take the gospel "where the best response we could expect is derisive laughter." The Last Street Preacha is the perfect example of "the élite (or in this case 'the Christians') imitating the vulgarity exhibited by society's bottom-dwellers."
Has our vision of Christianity slipped so far that the only way to entice our youth is to imitate the worst of our culture?
Is this what Paul meant by "becoming all things to all people"? How will we ever challenge our youth to aspire to something noble if we present "the gospel" hidden in, arguably, one of the worst possible media—gangsta rap?
Next time I'm in the hall at school, I'll console myself with the reminder that students with the greater part of their rears hanging out of their jeans are simply imitating CCM artist T-Bone and not Slim Shady.
I was pleased to see the review of Christian rap artist T-Bone's latest CD, The Last Street Preacha. Although T-Bone's music is not exactly my cup of tea, I am happy to see a young man reaching out to a segment of the population with the gospel in a language they can understand. Like the Apostle Paul, we must be willing to be all things to all people so that by all possible means we might save some.
I was somewhat surprised when I turned the pages and came across Charles Colson's column, where he states that "Christian art and music should not mimic even the styles of their degraded secular counterparts."
I have been blessed and enriched by the music of such artists as Rebecca St. James and Newsboys in a way I never could have been by more traditional music.
It is sad that some wish to see Christianity relegated to a cloistered subculture that is completely irrelevant to the larger society.
Your article about Vinita Hampton Wright and her Grace at Bender Springs was a great disappointment ["The Wright Stuff," April 23]. Do you see nothing good between the syrupy romance of Grace Livingston Hill and Janette Oke and this new dark "fried green tomatoes" stuff?
There is literary Christian fiction out there, and there are writers who make the reader think yet still give hope. I challenge you to read The Secret of the Rose series by Michael Phillips (Tyndale) and his Caledonia series (Bethany), and the 18 George MacDonald novels that Phillips has edited.
Phillips' recent series, The Secrets of Heathersleigh Hall, has a dozen powerful messages that challenge the reader to think and grow, while presenting a knowledgeable picture of the church during turn-of-the-century Britain.
Grace at Bender Springs? Give me a break. This book does not represent the life that Christ came to demonstrate to us. I hope that the church at large has more hope than you are trying to show. It seems that you are a little too hungry to please the world.
Letters to the editor must include the writer's name and address if intended for publication. They may be edited for space or clarity.
Mail: Letters, CT, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
Address changes, subscriptions: email@example.com
Customer service Web site:
Copyright © 2001 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.