I think it was Charles Dickens who said, “It is always difficult to do something for the last time.” Or was it Richard Nixon? At any rate, whoever said it obviously never served on a church committee, purchased anything on the installment plan, or spent much time at the dentist.
This is the last column to be signed by Eutychus X. In a fortnight, Eutychus XI will take over. To him or her, I hand the torch: May your fingers not be burned and may the smoke not get in your eyes. It’s difficult to type while holding a burning torch, but you’ll get used to it.
I want to thank the eight people who wrote me complimentary letters. I also want to thank the people who sent hate mail. My, what a collection I have! I realize that you have had a difficult time writing nasty letters to an anonymous enemy, but now the veil is drawn, and your target is here for all to see. I plan to use your letters in a future book, which will be a study of humor in evangelical ministry. I hope to get access to the Youth for Christ International files, and several seminaries have invited me to sit in on their faculty meetings.
“But has this Eutychus X experience done anything for you?” asks my inner man. Of course it has! For one thing, I have learned that too many Christian people and organizations can’t laugh at themselves. They take themselves too seriously, and this makes them stuffy. I have also learned that some people are not serious enough about humor, and this makes them shallow. Schiller was right: “Nothing serves better to illustrate a man’s character than the things which he finds ridiculous.” That means I’ve been telling on myself all these months—but so have you!
Nobody said it better than Swift: “Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.”
No tears, now! Let’s not fog up the mirror!
A happy spring to you all, and to all—goodbye.
Lord of the Harvest!
Although it may be “inconceivable” to Bill Bright that “… God would come and terminate the harvest …” [News, Jan. 22], it is unthinkable to me that one of the farm hands would presume to know better than the Lord of the harvest!
JAMES R. PFEIFFER
Dismayed and Envious
Your report of “A Crystal Cathedral Spectacular” [News, Jan. 22] at first left me a bit dismayed and (I may as well admit it) somewhat envious. But then I sat back with my cup of tea and did some serious possibility thinking about our Easter pageant. Granted, we have no Disneyland with its makers of magic in our back yard, but there is one small, rundown grocery store whose proprietor is as ingenious as any Disney technician. Because our neighborhood is populated by poor folks who are incapable of shelling out from $6.50 to $12.50 a head for spiritual thrills (heaven knows they need them), I won’t get the money I need to bankroll a really good show.
This is precisely where the remarkable grocer will help me. If I just tell him what sort of lighting effect I’d like to have at the moment of the resurrection scene, I’m sure he could come up with one of those old World War II air defense lights that small businessmen like to use when they have a big sale. I’d like to work some famous show biz animal into the show, too. Everybody loves an animal on stage. Maybe I could get that monkey who costarred with Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way but Loose. He could play the part of some Pharisee who goes hopping mad when a soldier informs him that the stone rolled away.
The public must know the physical dimensions and numbers of things if a show like this is to be successful; folks like to be impressed. I’ll make certain they know it when the church’s huge, 96-inch doors swing open. (Ninety-six inches sounds better than eight feet, doesn’t it? It’s the number that’s important.) The old church floor might be threatened by a meager 300-pound rock for the tomb set, but if I put out its weight in grams, the people will marvel. The church choir is not exactly a large group—13 in all when old Hank Findley’s arthritis isn’t acting up. But by putting up mirrors on either side, I’ll be able to multiply the choir members to infinity. Think of the advertising appeal! Come and see a choir myriad in number! (Not quite on the up and up, you say? But people always expect to be fooled a bit whenever they see a show.)
Impressive sound could be a problem, but there are solutions there too. My pastor wants to be the narrator for the show—but can you imagine someone with the appearance and voice of Kermit the Frog sending shivers down the backs of an audience with, “Where, O Death, is your victory?” Perhaps I could find a rubber Billy Graham mask to fit over my pastor’s head and a tape recording of Orson Welles reciting Saint Paul’s lines. The Reverend would only have to move his jaw in “sync” with the tape. (“Syncing” is a very fashionable word these days.) The problem of our old organist’s failing eyesight and the condition of the ancient organ itself could easily be solved by playing an E. Power Biggs record on a little phonograph set close to the pulpit mike. As for the 13-member choir—what’s wrong with dubbing the sound of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the Philadelphia Orchestra?
Now, if CT would give me a little publicity before the big event, possibility could become reality.
GALEN H. MEYER
Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Crystal Cathedral Christmas Pageant did not cost $1 million. The actual cost was half that amount. Most of the cost was for capital expenditures and additions to the still-uncompleted cathedral that were necessary for the staging, but also capital expenditures that will be used to stage the Glory of Easter in 1983 and subsequent years.
Fifty-six thousand people voted enthusiastically by purchasing tickets, which enabled the cost to be almost entirely underwritten the first year. Subsequent performances should produce ongoing income to endow the missions and ministries programs of the Crystal Cathedral.
REV. ROBERT H. SCHULLER
Garden Grove, Calif.
What Does the Bible Teach?
Your generally accurate article on the Chattanooga TV discussion [News, Jan. 22] began with a gross misrepresentation. I hope your readers understood that the quote stating that Peter Macky and I “were representing the view that the Bible is … errant in certain matters” came from the Chattanooga News-Free Press before we came to town. It does not represent our position.
I would be happy to say that the Bible “is inerrant in all that it teaches.” The issue we came to discuss was: What does the Bible teach on matters such as modern science? Those who read the whole article carefully would find ample evidence of that.
One reason I prefer not to use the word “inerrant” is that it is a modern word with technological overtones that tends to bias people in favor of looking at the Bible as a science book. I believe it is wrong to impose our changing twentieth-century standards of science on the Bible in an attempt to make it conform to secular standards. What people in all times and cultures need is the message of salvation in Jesus Christ that the Bible proclaims. In my experience people do not first test the Bible as a book of modern science before they seek in it the answer to their need for eternal salvation.
No evangelicals that I know doubt or diminish the full authority of Scripture.
Fuller Theological Seminary
A Prophetic Voice
Regarding your editorial, “Why We Print the Bad News, Even About Fellow Christians” [Jan. 22]—hopefully your readers’ reaction will be, Hallelujah! I certainly am rejoicing to see you accept and announce your God-given responsibility to be a prophetic voice to the witness of Jesus Christ in the world today.
Alas, some readers don’t know the difference between information and propaganda!
But their attitude reflects the attitude of the “conservative” church as a whole: put on a good front, cover up the wrongs, but don’t face them honestly. Many a “victorious Christian” is a defeated saint with a good image.
“Speaking the truth in love” is still God’s way.
REV. WARREN W. WIERSBE
You seem to have overlooked the instruction of Romans 14:10 and 13: “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore.” Or 1 Corinthians 4:5 (NIV): “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.”
REV. ROBERT C. SAVAGE
Haslett Baptist Church
Breath of Fresh, Spiritual Air
The article “Israel Today: What Place in Prophecy” by Mark Hanna [Jan. 22] is an exhilarating breath of fresh, spiritual air!
May more like Hanna steer the biblical ship Grace back to the intended teaching that all apart from faith in Christ as Messiah/Savior and Lord will likewise perish, and receive no blessing in this life or the hereafter.
If we truly love Israel, we will not comfort them and anesthetize them in their blindness and rebellion to think God is with them apart from the Messiah, Jesus Christ!
The lostness of all men must be proclaimed and adhered to, in order for sinful men to find the grace and mercy of the living God in Christ.
REV. DENNIS L. FINNAN
Calvary Bible Church
Benton Harbor, Mich.
I was pleased to see continued exposure on the issues related to Israel and the church.
However, a corrective may be needed for evangelical knee-jerk responses that support all of Israel’s behavior; but this is not the tenor of Dr. Hanna’s article. Disappointing is his rigid distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Although this is a logically possible distinction, for most Jews it is not a practically possible distinction. Zionism is merely the belief in Jewish national self-determination. Only the Holocaust finally convinced world Jewry of its practical necessity. A state was needed as a refuge from the persecution of the nations. Although an odd Jew here and there might disagree, Zionism is overwhelmingly supported by 99 percent of the world’s Jews. Zionism is not Menachem Begin, but includes his opponents as well. To identify Zionism with strident, unyielding nationalism reveals an inexcusable ignorance of the facts. To give allowance to anti-Zionism, in distinction from anti-Semitism, betrays a great insensitivity to the historical factors that gave rise to Zionism. This shows insensitivity to Jewish people.
Hanna’s wholesale statement that “Israel is not the people of God and almost no nation in the world is more opposed to the Christian faith and its missionaries” is a gross distortion.
Israel allows missionaries to publish, to hold public services, and to proselytize adults. Yes, the power of the orthodox party in the state has made Israel, as a state, less receptive to Jewish believers in Jesus than we would like. Yet Israelis are open to the gospel. Tourists travel and witness freely, and Christians may distribute their literature!
REV. DANIEL C. JUSTER
Union of Messianic Jewish
While it is all too true that many dispensationalists declare that the establishment of the present State of Israel in 1948 was the “blooming of the fig tree,” thus heralding the return of Christ within one generation, that is by no means a generally held position among all dispensationalists. Although God may use the present state of Israel in fulfillment of biblical prophecy, it would violate no text of Scripture (interpreted with a dispensational hermeneutic) if a foreign power were to utterly devastate and annihilate the present Zionist entity. To assert otherwise, one would have to prove that God has established the present state in fulfillment of prophecy, and that its contemporary existence must necessarily be viewed as preparatory to the setting up of the kingdom.
REV. RODNEY J. DECKER
Calvary Baptist Church
In a recent news article [Dec. 11], you cited a Houston newspaper story that suggested I have “more or less quit crusades.” The suggestion as it stands is misleading.
Last year I did cut back on the number of crusades in order to devote extra time to missions and evangelism conferences. This year I have resumed a full schedule of crusades.
A second priority is cooperative efforts and strategic planning in world evangelization; a third is encouraging younger people toward ministries in missions and evangelism. But evangelistic preaching is still my number one ministry.
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