God Works Through Children
“I had been deserted and divorced,” the woman told me. “I had custody of my two children, little girls.
“One day as I worked at the kitchen sink, a wave of loneliness came over me, and I began to cry. Softly, trying to keep my children from seeing it.
“But they did see, and the six-year-old dragged a chair over to the sink, got up on it, and looked into my eyes.
“ ‘Mother, you’re crying,’ she said. Then as she climbed down off the chair, ‘Come on. Let’s pray about this.’ And she sat down at the breakfast table.
“I sat down beside her, and she took my hand with a firm grasp and said, ‘Dear Lord Jesus, help my mother to be happy. Amen.’
“I looked up. Suddenly the day was radiant. I was full of true joy that had no room for self pity or my troubles. If I had these two children, nothing else mattered. I wasn’t alone, with them and God.”
On the Death Penalty
I have seen a copy of the editorial “Consciences and a Crusade” (Jan. 13). Thank you for your kind words about Amnesty International’s work on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and on the subject of the Nobel Peace Prize. Receiving the Prize was quite a surprise for all of us, and we are particularly pleased that this recognition brings our work to the attention of yet more individuals all over the world who are concerned about the urgent need for individuals, churches, and other institutions to work on behalf of those whose human rights are violated.
Your editorial appears to suggest that Amnesty International’s world-wide campaign against the death penalty was initiated last winter, about the same time as the Nobel Prize was received. In fact, the abolition of death penalties has long been an essential part of Amnesty International’s work.
As you quite correctly state, Amnesty International works on behalf of prisoners of conscience, those imprisoned for their beliefs, ethnic origin, race, or language, who have not used or advocated violence. It also works for a fair trial for all prisoners, and against all torture and cruel treatment of all prisoners. Because torture is cruel and wrong, it is cruel and wrong to inflict it on any person, no matter what crime he may have committed. As death penalties are cruel and inhumane, and as they are known not to be effective deterrents, they should, therefore, not be used.
In working against death penalties, Amnesty International is working not only against judicial capital punishment but against political murders, which are carried out in most violent and degrading fashion, all too often ignored and condoned by governments. Murders acquiesced in by authorities in power are surely violations of the rule of just law necessary for the preservation of civilization.
Amnesty International’s campaign against the death penalty was formally launched at the Stockholm Conference in December, 1977, but in fact had been a part of our commitment for many years. While this work has been done by Amnesty International for some time, it was felt that the urgent situation in many countries demanded a special effort on the part of our members. We hope that through this effort, which complements and does not contradict our work for prisoners of conscience, we can help to improve the present serious violations of human rights occurring throughout the world.
The Real Problem
Your editorial “He Made Religion Readable” (Feb. 24) in connection with Dr. William Barclay’s death was a model of charitableness. In it, however, you pointed out only what you felt were positive aspects from the impact of his books.
Are we to assume that there [were] no negative results from the writings of a man committed to the negation of cardinal biblical truths, such as the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement and so on? The genial dexterity of Barclay’s pen became an excellent instrument by which his liberalism filtered through his writings. His “Spiritual Biography” is more forthright in the presentation of his repudiation of the historic orthodox position on the aforementioned doctrines.
You commend Barclay for his tolerance toward evangelicals. The real problem is the tolerance by the evangelicals of Barclay’s writings in that no mention is made of his liberalism in the promotion of his books. Evangelical readers ought to know what they’re getting when they purchase his works.
HARRY W. POST
Hartwell Alliance Church
Right Question, No Answer
Your editorial “What Is to Be Done About World Hunger?” (Feb. 24) presents a most discomforting answer to a most important question. The answer seems to be that most of your readership should do nothing! Is the total initiative for action dependent only on overpopulated Third World nations?
The weakness with this article is that you have tried to deal with a complex problem in an overly simplistic manner. Overpopulation is one problem contributing to world hunger, but not the only one. Maybe rich and fat nations like ours are not to be directly blamed for overpopulation; nevertheless we can certainly involve ourselves in the struggle for not only this solution, but also the ones for which we are more directly at fault (stripping natural resources from developing nations at low cost and returning manufactured goods at highly inflated costs, eating too much grain-fed cattle, demanding that profits and the standard of living go higher here no matter what happens to the world food market, just to name a few).
Again, I was disquieted by your article, but not in the same way I was shaken when I recently read the book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald J. Sider, nor in the way I was disquieted when Sider’s book led me into God’s book. When I read your article I was tempted to settle into the complacency of Deuteronomy 6:10–12. Truly all that we own is from God’s gracious hand. May he free us to share it even with those who would blame us for their starvation.
VINTON A.N. UPHAM
First Baptist Church
Red Bank. N. J.
I was disappointed in your editorial—disappointed because I didn’t see any effort to try to understand why poorer nations might be unwilling, if not unable, to check their population growth. There are very understandable reasons, such as children being a man’s only social security in his old age coupled with the fact that in parts of many nations infant mortality rates are still fifty per cent or above by the age of five years. Asking for a population growth reduction in such a situation is something we wouldn’t ask of ourselves. Medical, agricultural, educational help to correct this high mortality rate must surely precede such a demand.
THEODORA M. ROBINSON
Which Philosophical Framework?
Roger Sider’s article on “The New Biology in Search of a Soul” (Feb. 10) is good news to my ears, since I hear some people predict, to the contrary, that materialism and behaviorism are slowly sweeping the field. When you teach philosophy you run up against that ingrained empiricism that says, “Well, after all, isn’t the mind just the brain?” Proving that the mind is more than the brain takes … time and takes arguments that many people can’t follow. It will be nice to be able to say, “Most biologists nowadays believe that the mind is more than an epiphenomenon.”
I think it’s important that we realize that this coming rapprochment between biology and theology can only take place within a carefully prepared philosophical framework. If evangelicals need to rediscover the reality of the body, it can best be done in a framework like the hylomorphism of Aristotle and Aquinas, not the Platonism of Augustine. We should make clear to secular humanists that Christianity isn’t necessarily wedded to any particular philosophical framework. Too long have modern thinkers looked at Christians as just resurrected Platonists who hate the body and the physical world that God made.
ARLIE J. HOOVER
Columbia Christian College
When dealing with the question of the relationship between science and Christianity, many evangelicals show a disturbing amount of insensitivity and lack of understanding. This fact was aptly illustrated by Roger Sider. Sider’s depiction of Christianity coming to the rescue of a biology on the defensive and in a state of crisis is both inaccurate and divisive in its effect. The aspects of crisis which he details are no crises at all. Most modern biologists are aware of Karl Popper’s and Michael Polanyi’s works, or at least with their philosophical implications for biology. While striving to be objective in their studies, few, if any, biologists would deny the subjective involvement of the knower in what is known. Likewise, the requirement that a scientific hypothesis be falsifiable, with the result that its truth cannot be conclusively established is a generally accepted working premise among biologists today. These modifications, over the past century, in the approach of science to its subject matter do not indicate crisis, but rather are part of the process of maturation.
DAVID P. CRUMP
Department of Biology
University of South Florida
The Brighter Side
I feel I must respond to Mr. Daniel J. Evearitt’s very one-sided article in “Refiner’s Fire” (Feb. 24). I have enjoyed the Rolling Stones’s music for as long as I have known of them. As a committed Christian I am well aware of the so-called darker side of their music. What Evearitt fails to point out is the positive side to their music. He fails to note that those “fun-loving, mop-topped entertainers,” the Beatles, were also arrested for drugs and do not have exactly a clean record vis-a-vis the Christian faith. The Beatles have not endured as have the Stones and their careers have nearly all gone downhill since their breakup. McCartney may be the exception to that.
Evearitt fails to give the Stones credit for being very good entertainers in their own rights. Perhaps more than any other group around, the Rolling Stones are able to capture the feelings of their audiences and to sing about them, something which is not easy to achieve. A brief look at the better hymns of the church in the face of a contemporary glut of so-called religious music should bear out the difficulty of such a task.… The Stones have their share of high quality social criticism, love songs, and they make several attempts at grappling with biblical material, more than can be said for many Rock bands. I can’t help but feel that some of the lyrics to “Just Wanna See His Face” off of their Exile on Main Street album apply to Evearitt: “Don’t wanna walk and talk about Jesus/Just wanna see his face.”
GEOFFREY G. NELSON
Community Presbyterian Church
American Fork, Utah
One Coup Too Many
I have heard of a coup d’état and a coup de grâce, but a coup de chicken is something else again (Witness Stand, “Sanding Sailboats,” Feb. 10). I have occasionally been moved to wonder if some writers are so “special” that their copy is beyond reach of the editorial pencil. Or was it the proofreader’s day off?
I must confess to some surprise and, well, a feeling of discouragement—if not embarrassment—when I come across verbal blemishes in a journal of CHRISTIANITY TODAY’s caliber.
LEROY M. LOWELL
• So do we.—ED.
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