Cleaver, Charlie, And Chuck

Last month the Los Angeles Times ran a front-page story on the spiritual revival supposedly sweeping the prisons of our land. According to reporter Russ Chandler, Eldridge Cleaver “accepted Christ,” three former members of the Manson gang professed their faith in Jesus, and Charlie Manson himself asked a chaplain for a Bible. In his front-page story Chandler also recounted the conversion experience of ex-Watergater and ex-con Chuck Colson.

Personally, I’m all for conversions And I’m not trying to be like the self-righteous crowd in Luke 19 who scoffed at tax collector Zacchaeus’s newfound interest in Christ. But I am concerned with what the media and the Christian community will do with these new converts.

I hope we’ll let them alone long enough for them to mature in their faith. But if we do, it will be unusual. I can’t read through a month’s worth of Christian periodicals without coming across an interview with Charles Colson or an excerpt from his new book. Charles Colson is hot stuff in the Christian world.

Why? Is it because he’s an extremely knowledgeable Christian? Probably not. Is it because he has walked with God for many years and has insights to share with us who are relative rookies in the faith? No. Is it because he’s new to the scene and has a great deal of fresh enthusiasm to share with some of us who have lost the initial glow? That’s partially true. But there are lots of other new Christians we could listen to if that was our prime motive.

I think we’ve made Colson our latest Christian celebrity because he was a former hatchet man for Richard Nixon. He was a celebrity before he even knew us. Colson was infamous. A bad dude. And because of his infamy and former badness, we want him to come to our meetings, appear in our magazines, and speak to our people.

I call that spiritual abuse on our part. We’re so excited about having our ears titillated by “pre-Christian exploits” that we never stop to consider what it means to “bring along a brother too fast.” What does it do to a new Christian to thrust him suddenly into the limelight? I contend it does very little good. Colson may survive; I certainly hope he does. But if he does it will be in spite of, not because of, us.

And I hope in our excitement for Eldridge Cleaver’s new birth and our desire for Charlie Manson’s conversion that we analyze why we’re excited and why we’re desirous. I hope it isn’t because we’re looking forward to having a new celebrity when we’ve exhausted Colson. That wouldn’t be good for us. And it certainly wouldn’t be good for Cleaver, Charlie, and Chuck.

Article continues below


Good News

Harold Lindsell’s column “Egalitarianism and Scripture Infallibility” (Current Religions Thought, March 26) contains some very good news for Christian women. He makes the declaration that even within the church most people generally agree “that women should have the same rights as men: equal pay for the same jobs; equal opportunity for positions generally limited to men; the right and freedom to pursue any career, to own and control property, to obtain credit cards, and the like.” Nor does he exclude married women from this list of freedoms—a significant advance in the evangelical position.

Furthermore, Lindsell is willing to grant full equality to the single woman without any reference to “coming under the umbrella of a man’s protection”—whether it be her father, the elders in the church, or some other “guardian.” This, too, is a considerable concession for the evangelical church. Apparently, so long as a woman does not marry, she is fully equal with all men. That is good news indeed.


Westerlo, N. Y.

Praise God for the likes of Harold Lindsell and Elisabeth Elliot, who are willing to question the new wave of “biblical feminism.” Lindsell rightly points out the deeper issue of biblical authority which is at stake in the demand for egalitarianism in the family and church. Somehow the Scanzoni and Mollenkott crowd have seemingly polarized the issue between those who are pro-women and those who have chauvinized the Bible. Lindsell speaks for many of us whose desire is to love our wives and sisters as Christ loves his church, without giving up Jesus’ hierarchical view of the universe.

Mrs. Elliot rightly points out (Eutychus and His Kin, Feb. 13) the “cultural” origins of the feminist position as the liberation movement which finds its liberty not in biblical submission but in the power-plays demands for self-rights. Certainly women and all others towards the bottom of the social totem pole have had their civil rights ripped off, and these inequities should be corrected; but as evangelicals we must refuse to give the feminists a “carte blanche” to decimate the body of Christ and the Christian home with their demands.


Twelfth Avenue Baptist Church

Emporia, Kans.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations just recently issued a “Report on the Equal Rights Amendment” which addresses some of the same issues raised in Dr. Lindsell’s article.… While encouraging efforts to give women equal rights before the law, our commission expressed major reservations regarding the Equal Rights Amendment. The assumption that equality in its absolute sense will promote the general welfare, an assumption on which the ERA appears to be based, conflicts with the Scriptures’ insistence that unity in and under God is the intended goal of God’s redemptive activity (Gal. 3:28, “… for you are all one in Christ Jesus”). Equal rights for women is a commendable goal, but not at the cost of the denigration of what the infallible Scriptures have to say about the roles and relationships inherent in God’s creation of the two sexes.

Article continues below


The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Commission on Theology and Church Relations

St. Louis, Mo.

I appreciated Dr. Lindsell’s discussion of egalitarian versus hierarchical views of the marriage relation. Two items, however, cause me some concern. One is Lindsell’s equation of Paul’s witness to the resurrection of Christ with his views of the marriage relationship, which later Paul himself plainly says are peculiarly his own (1 Cor. 7:6, 25). Does this mean that one cannot accept the inerrancy of Paul’s view of the Resurrection without also insisting that Christian women wear veils in worship (1 Cor. 11:4–13) and maintain absolute silence in church (1 Cor. 14:34)?

I am also disturbed by the implication that those who do not share Lindsell’s particular interpretation of inerrancy are therefore “not evangelical.” The Bible itself puts the distinction between “evangelical” and non-evangelical in quite another place, namely, affirmation of the deity and lordship of Jesus (1 John 4:2–3).


San Diego, Calif.

Not ‘Best’ But Worthy

With respect to Eutychus VII’s unhappy communion experience in a Midwest church (Feb. 13), be assured that Decision magazine did not vote it or any other church into a category of “ten best churches.” Over a period of several years we studied eighteen churches around the world, and carried the results in a series called “Great Churches of Today.” We did not presume to consider these churches better than others, but we did find them worthy of treatment.




Minneapolis, Minn.

Wonderful ‘Truth’

God bless Edith Schaeffer for her wonderful contribution to your splendid magazine! Currently, her wonderfully illuminating article “Truth Translated” (The Witness Stand, Feb. 27) especially blessed my soul!

Article continues below


McPherson, Kans.

Whose Responsibility?

In a recent editorial (“Clear Away the Cloud,” March 12) you strongly urged government action at the executive or legislative level that would make missionaries “off limits” to the CIA. You have tacitly endorsed Senator Mark Hatfield’s bill (S-2784), which states in part, “… no person shall solicit or accept the services of any member of the clergy or any employee, or affiliate of a religious organization, association, or society, to gather intelligence for the Agency (CIA) or to participate in any Agency operation.” The laudable intent of this proposed legislation, as well as the motivation for your editorials, is widely recognized. However, I have some rather serious reservations about the methodology being advocated to solve this knotty problem. I don’t believe Senator Hatfield’s bill would be found constitutional in the courts, and you may be encouraging the missionary community to look in the wrong direction for a solution.

One of the sensational news stories of 1964 was the murder in Mississippi of civil-rights activists Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney. The case was broken by the dedicated efforts of a Methodist minister, Delmar Dennis, who was a principal FBI underground operative in the Ku Klux Klan. A current news story is that of a United Methodist laywoman, Adelle Noren, who told a U. S. Senate subcommittee that she reported on activities of clergy and lay persons to the Chicago police department as an undercover agent between 1972 and 1975. Mrs. Noren was concerned about certain Methodist lay groups which had been cited as “Communist fronts.”

Some people may argue that the roles assumed by the Rev. Mr. Dennis and Mrs. Noren in those instances were highly inappropriate for church leaders. However, I think our constitution guarantees them and others the right to assist the FBI at home, or the CIA abroad, if they elect to do so

Missionary boards are at liberty to adopt whatever policy they determine best for their own missionaries, and missionaries are bound by those policies. This is where the integrity of the missionary must be established and maintained. It is not the responsibility of the government to do it for them. The nonrecruitment policy announced by the director of the CIA is in order and helpful, but the missionary community should take it from there.


Secretary of Public Affairs

National Association of Evangelicals

Washington, D. C.

Article continues below
Both Sides Of Inerrancy

Francis Schaeffer does not speak for a very responsible or historically defined evangelicalism when he seeks to make his own understanding of biblical inspiration the watershed issue which determines whether true evangelical commitment is present in a group or an individual. Regeneration is the only valid such watershed issue, and it is disturbing to find CHRISTIANITY TODAY supporting Schaeffer’s stance (“Are Evangelicals Outward Bound?”, March 26), and thus fostering division among evangelicals. There are many fine evangelicals who hold to a high view of Scripture without the demand for strict inerrancy which Schaeffer feels is necessary, and there is at present a great deal of concern among many evangelical scholars to define this area in a way which specifically does not compromise the heart issues of evangelical belief and practice. CHRISTIANITY TODAY would be playing a more constructive role for all evangelicals if it were open to both sides of the current debate.


Madison, Tenn.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.