The Treasurer’S Tribulations

Why are church treasurers almost always pessimists? It seems that a prerequisite for the job is to be able to find something ominous in any set of numbers.

Our church has been in the black for the past five years. Each year’s giving was an all-time high. But look at what the treasurer reported:

1980 ($80,000 income): “The church’s income barely kept pace with its expenses during the past year.”

1981 ($90,000 income): “Our rate of increase in giving remains well behind the rate of inflation.”

1982 ($100,000 income): “The number of ‘giving units’ in the church failed to increase for the second time in four years.”

1983 ($150,000 income): Our treasurer was “stretched” a bit by a 50 percent increase, and he went for broke: “In the next few years, we will be facing some major expense items, including complete renovation of the stained glass windows, replacement of the slate roof, remodeling of the Fellowship Hall, and a new furnace.”

1984 ($200,000 income, twice the giving of only two years ago): “The rate of increase in giving has fallen from 50 percent last year to 33 percent this year, a drop of one-third. If the rate continues to drop in this way …”

One wonders what would happen if a starry-eyed optimist were borrowed from the Sunday school board, or the foreign missions committee, and made church treasurer. Without the continual warnings that church finances were about to collapse, church committees would expand their projects rapidly. There would be some glorious, golden days of ministry, wonderful to look back on in future years. Best of all, until it actually happened, the ultimate bankruptcy of the church would not cause anyone to lose any sleep.

Except the ex-treasurer.


Will “Good Pagans” Perish?

In “ ‘Good Pagans’ and God’s Kingdom” [J. I. Packer, Jan. 17], may we not have an example of the infallibility of God’s Word versus the fallibility of man’s interpretation of that Word? God made man in His image and likeness, and “nothing can be put to [His creation], nor anything taken from it.” How, then, can a God who is love itself consign 99 percent of a creation that was pronounced by his wisdom “very good” to a purposeless punishment?

I am inclined to accept on faith Saint Peter’s assurance that God “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”; and that the punishment and suffering of the Adam-man of dust will surely continue until the Son of God appears.


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Worchester, Mass.

Packer’s response to the tenets of universalism was basically the same timeworn response that elitists of fundamentalism have been handing down to their followers for centuries.

Concerning the eternal nature of hell, the word used in Matthew 25:41 and 46 promotes the concept of endlessness in “everlasting.” All words used to promote the concept of “eternal” come from a single Greek word, aion. Few people realize that not only does eternal mean time without end but also time without beginning. How can God claim to be All and in All if the best he can do is save only the tiny fraction of mankind Packer has limited him to?


Olean, N.Y.

I applaud Dr. Packer for his article on universalism and its weaknesses, effects, and dangers. One important point must be made: Universalists have, to a man, rejected the infallible nature of Scripture. This becomes significant when one considers the large and ever-growing number of religious-teaching professionals who have done likewise.


Corinth Baptist Church

Monroe, N.C.

Packer does not mention the crucial difference between Christian universalism and Unitarian universalism. As a Christian universalist, I believe that the reason all humanity will be “saved” is because all are included in Christ’s redemption. 1 John 2:2 says Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. The big difference then for a Christian or an unbeliever is that in this life an unbeliever never realizes that he has been redeemed. So he is denied the reality here of that salvation and all its enablements—including, and especially, sweet fellowship with the Lord.


Kalamazoo, Mich.

There is a serious non sequitur in Packer’s conclusion: “This life’s decisions must be deemed to be in every case decisive.” Does that truly answer the dilemma posed earlier: “But what of those … who through no fault of their own never heard the Christian message …?” I am aware of Paul’s statement concerning general revelation in Romans 1:20, but is that “hearing the Christian message”? I am still left in a quandary.


West Emory Presbyterian Church

Knoxville, Tenn.

The article brought to mind an experience I had while serving the Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society in Africa. After an elderly lady accepted Christ as her Savior, she told me, in her native language, “I always believed there had to be a God like that!”


Lakewood, Colo.

The Ct Institute On Trends

Thank you for the special CT Institute section, “Into the Next Century: Trends Facing the Church” [Jan. 17]. If Mary Stewart VanLeeuwen’s suggested new patterns are on target [“The End of Female Passivity”], I expect to see more female by-lines in your excellent publication—not simply because you need “women’s perspectives” on issues, but because they have something to say.

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Stone Mountain, Ga.

I cannot agree with Van Leeuwen—not because her clear implications are that women may now also serve as office bearers in the church, but I never found the Bible quoted even once.

Nor can it be denied that things have not worked out as expected in all the churches where this has been tried. Male members, with few exceptions, no longer attend. Is that the price you ladies are willing to pay for occupying positions of authority? No doubt the reason is that men just are not made to sit at the feet of a woman. The matter of qualifications do not even enter the picture. The question is, “What saith the Lord?”


The Gospel Trumpet

Portage, Mich.

Most of Myron S. Augsburger’s “Pluralism Gone to Seed” is on target. My biggest problem is the way fundamentalism “is a spirit of the world, whether Islamic, Jewish, secular, or Christian.” That’s not quite what I have in mind when I call myself a fundamentalist. Using the term this way without qualification could further polarize attitudes, raise a question of fairness, and hinder real communication.


Shawnee Mission, Kan.

Afraid To Be “Flaky”?

I applaud C. Stephen Evans’s “The Blessings of Mental Anguish” [Jan. 17]. I have observed for years that there are far too many “normal” and “well-adjusted” people who function well in society yet are far from the kingdom. In a society that values sexual prowess, acquisition of money and possessions, and self-gratification in general, adjustment can be a terrible thing for a Christian. Small wonder that the history of God’s people includes not only Spurgeon and Kierkegaard, but thousands of others who have found that adjusting to the demands of God’s kingdom may conflict with the demands of living in the sin-ridden world. Do we value our squeaky clean, all-American image so much that we are afraid to be a little off-beat or “flaky”?


Wheaton, Ill.

Evans raises a voice that has been silent too long. I doubt that there are many Christians in the field of human service (including pastors) who have not struggled with this issue. While we desire to assist in the development of individual faith that fosters an attitude of expectancy, we also hesitate to produce unrealistic expectations of miraculous wholeness. If we are to be honest and not dismiss “failure” as a lack of faith on the part of the individual, we walk a thin line between the power of God to do the miraculous and the sovereignty of God that often chooses to deny our requests.

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The Princeton Wesleyan Church

Princeton, Ill.

CT’s position that man is called to be a saint, not merely to exist as a well-adjusted sinner, is a biblical truism that needs to be put to believers and unbelievers alike.

Vernon Grounds [sidebar] needs to clarify what he means by “mental illness.” His fifth statement on Christianity’s perspective on mental health confuses “emotional illnesses” and “neuroses” with “mental illnesses” and “psychoses.” The former can separate reality from fantasy, but the latter can’t.


Long Island, N.Y.

World Evangelism, Not A Commercial Enterprise

Replying to Wayne Detzler’s “What Has Happened to Our Global Vision?” [Jan. 17], I would answer there is much to be optimistic about. In spite of the world population explosion, the missionary effort has done remarkably well. Also, it is unfair to compare the one-shot effort of pop stars to help the starving and ignore the decades of missionary effort to give money, food, medical supplies, time, and skills. Most important, Detzler has offered no scriptural basis for his charges. Christ stated that the church should preach the gospel to all the world, without any implication of comparisons to foreign religions or commercial enterprises.


Hudson, Fla.

It seems to me that things are not as bleak everywhere in world missions as Detzler suggests. In the Assemblies of God, world missions is not only a priority, but is growing every year.


First Assembly of God

Hagerman, N.M.

Reducing Terrorism

Charles Colson’s article on terrorism [Jan. 17] had many helpful insights. There really is no remedy, but there can be a great reduction in the number of terrorist attacks and their influence. First, our government should continue the policy of no negotiation with terrorists, including no indirect negotiation. Second, if the news media can be persuaded to cover terrorist incidents with the utmost restraint, such incidents would drop by a large percentage. Last, we must resist the temptation to become what we most detest. If we use terror tactics, we are terrorists. Even worse, we produce a new crop of fanatics set to avenge the deaths of their heroes.

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First Baptist Church

Titusville, Fla.

As a nonviolent Christian, I found Colson’s article most disturbing. His virtual call to arms under the false notion of a divine mandate echoes of the holy war, and as such would lower our actions to the level of the terrorist. Further, the inevitable militarization of society resulting from violent “solutions” could only serve to achieve the “terrorists’ aim” of destroying Western civilization and values. What we need to do is courageously forge a new path that seeks justice for all yet reaches out in transforming love, that condemns evil but not the evildoer.


Laramie, WY

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