Rock as Ministry

I read with some fascination “Has Christian Rock Lost Its Soul?” by Tim Stafford [Nov. 22]. He asks, is Christian rock a ministry? Since rock and roll came out of the American gospel music experience, should we ask, has it returned to its roots?

The answer is no. “Christian rock” imitates the development of rock and roll in the world. Its ministry is to scoop up the kids into a parody of what their non-Christian friends are listening to. There is a great deal of talent in the U.S. “Christian rock” world, but because they see conversion of the audience an overriding principle of their art, their genius, if any, remains secondary.

Michelle Cormier

Ottawa, Ont., Canada

Without condemning contemporary Christian music outright, we can note that we are impoverished because of it. When I enter our local Christian bookstore, I see a music department the size of half my house: rows of recordings that ape the secular popular music scene. To find the great [sacred] choral works of Bach, or Mozart, or even a contemporary composer like John Rutter, I must venture onto pagan ground.

If young people seem to appreciate nothing but popular music, it is because we have withheld their birthright from them. I have seen seminary students bom and bred on rock singing Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” with awe. Children like what they know. If all they know is popular music, that is all they will like. If a Christianized mimicry of popular culture is all we can offer the next generation, we should weep with shame.

Linda Wightman

Altamonte Springs, Fla.

It’s apparent that Stafford judged the “soul” of contemporary Christian music (CCM) more from personal taste than objectivity. He needs to know there are perhaps millions who have been positively affected for Christ by the ministry of CCM.

Stafford’s palate may not agree with rock, but the lyrical integrity of most CCM is intact. Why do the members of Whiteheart have to be first-class theologians to write music and display their artistic gifts? Whiteheart, among others, ministers in music with lyrics that present clear biblical truth.

The “industry” is regrettable, but it is more the result of the church’s connection with Western materialism than the men and women called to minister to God and his people through their music gifts. The music has a place in the body of Christ.

Bob Tullberg

Dayton, Tenn.

Stafford concluded from his interview with us that our answers were “canned, correct” and “genuine but superficial.” He draws a rather chafing analogy to a Saturday night dance and ends with the rhetorical question, “How deep can you go?”

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We were willing to go deeper, but, unfortunately, Stafford was virtually unacquainted with our lyrics and music. That was a disappointment, because the interview was immediately consigned to dredging up the familiar. When doing a piece on Picasso, one should probably take a stroll through a museum, stare at some blue guitars, and have a few odd-shaped faces stare back at you. We may all dream for Cliffs Notes to Summa Theologica, but to be fair to Aquinas, we should read what the man had to say. It is understandable that Stafford may not personally care for music geared for younger people. What saddens me is how easily disposed he is to bashing the intents and purposes of our ministry with such a limited understanding of our work.

Mark S. Gersmehl and Whiteheart

Nashville, Tenn.

I deeply appreciate Stafford’s honest approach to this phenomenon. As a youth worker, I am convinced of the absolute necessity of reaching out to lost teenagers through music, especially through music that is relevant to their culture. If “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” then music in any form can be a valid ministry in communicating faith in Christ to anyone. The Christian music scene is not devoid of problems, but it is a tool through which God works his will to bring the lost to him.

Richard A. Mittwede

Geneva, III.

While William Booth adapted secular band music, it was moral. Not so with rock music. It comes to us tainted with sex, drugs, and violence. What a fatal mistake to suppose that dubbing the sacred name of Jesus into it makes it holy! A few weeping angels would have been appropriate in your cover painting.

Norman L. Meager

Sonora, Calif.

Tackling a tough issue

Thanks for tackling a tough issue in “Homosexuality Debate Strains Campus Harmony” [News, Nov. 22], Your coverage was balanced and fair, and your research of the issues thorough.

While many of us are uneasy about the issue of homosexuality coming out of the closet in our churches and schools, we recognize we are not immune from the influences of the larger society.

What better place than a Christian college campus to look carefully and compassionately at the issue of the homosexual lifestyle? The difficulty should not deter us from doing what is right, however. And to those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ, that means holding fast to the truth while promoting God’s love, justice, and mercy.

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R. Jndson Carlberg, President

Gordon College Wenham, Mass.

I am grateful for the overview of homosexuality on Christian campuses. I wish there had been similar serious debate and search for Christian policy when heterosexual behavior was changing drastically. Had heads been out of the sand then, it might be easier to deal compassionately with all people in this debate.

One principle that seems to be neglected by both sides is the acceptance of persecution for standing firm in one’s Christian conviction. The overwhelming barbarian invasion has persuaded Christians they should be protected, by institutions and laws, from any unpleasant results of their stands for their Christian convictions. It is impossible to imagine either Jesus or Paul demanding protection from, and acceptance by, either Jews or Romans who were offended by their forthright preaching and practice of their faith.

D. T. Samuel

St. Cloud, Minn.

Student handbooks at Christian colleges should read: “Sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage is prohibited for students, faculty, and administrative staff. A pattern of gross violation of this precept will be grounds for expulsion of a student and termination of employment of a faculty or staff member.” The adoption of such a policy would avoid allegations of homophobia, save the expense of court battles, and proclaim the basic truth of human sexuality once given by God.

Richard Hines

Fairfax, Va.

For the record, I never told the Calvin College students it “was the duty of Christians to ‘fight’ against homosexuals.” I said it was our Christian duty to fight the homosexual agenda. I might also add that while the college feels I lacked “a measure of grace” (after two hours of listening to the homosexuals in the audience yelling, screaming and hollering, taunting and groaning, one could say I showed some disgust), no one at the college is admitting that the college newspaper and faculty lacked a measure of civility, honesty, and grace.

At Calvin, the noncivil, orchestrated behavior of the homosexuals was condoned; my style was condemned.

David A. Noebel

Summit Ministries Manitou Springs, Colo.

Your article may have been misleading in its characterization of the “Wheaton College Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association.” This organization was not formed “at Wheaton College.” The group is neither affiliated with nor sanctioned by Wheaton College or its alumni association. Wheaton College trustees, faculty, staff, and students continue to affirm explicitly that homosexual behavior is contrary to biblical teaching, and that they will abstain from homosexual behavior.

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Marilee A. Melvin

Wheaton College Wheaton, Ill.

CT regrets the confusion.


Embracing hedonism

If we agree with J. I. Packer’s interesting article “Pleasure Principles” [Nov. 22], we agree that Christianity is partially/frequently/infrequently (take your pick) relieved heroic misery; we agree that God looks down approvingly on our heroism. But this contradicts Jesus’ argument with Peter after his encounter with the rich young ruler in Mark 9 because it suffers from two fatal flaws. The first is his failure to distinguish between pleasure as sensation and pleasure as source; the second is his failure to link motivation with goals.

Packer doesn’t like the term Christian hedonist. Yet when he identifies a hedonist as one who seeks pleasure as “the height of wisdom and virtue” and the maximizing of others pleasure as “the highest service we can render them,” he identifies one who follows the Golden Rule perfectly. Christian hedonism, as defined in John Piper’s book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, is the only term that makes clear the connection between our pursuit of God and the motivation for that pursuit. As Piper argues, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him.” What passes for hedonism in our day (and at its philosophical origin) is merely the attempt to enjoy the pleasure sources of life apart from God and with as little pain as possible. Real hedonism is Christian hedonism, and it must be embraced, not avoided.

Douglas W. Knighton

Christian Medical & Dental Society Woodridge, Ill.

Christian scholarship

While I concur with Nathan Hatch’s concern that Christian higher education continue to confront the fundamental intellectual issues of the day, I take strong exception to his conclusion that evangelical colleges are inhibiting Christian scholarship and retreating from serious academic engagement [“Our Shackled Scholars,” Editorial, Nov. 22]. Based on more than two decades of service in Christian higher education, [I can report that] there is more scholarship and more engagement at Christian institutions at this time than at any moment in the postwar era. The great obstacle to Christian higher education is not fear or withdrawal but the difficulty of developing and sustaining scholars who are competent in both faith and discipline and whose teaching and scholarship effectively integrates the two.

Prof. Mark R. Amstutz

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Wheaton, Ill

On the principle that all truth is God’s truth, we should accept the point made by both Luther and Calvin that non-Christians are capable of having some knowledge of truth, even if it is not saving knowledge. Christians must not abandon academia—both for the sake of Christian witness, and because God may choose to use non-Christians to teach us. Yes, there are risks, but the risks are necessary. Hatch’s message could not be more timely.

Rev. Chris Barrigar

McGill University Montreal, Que., Canada

Methodists and spirituality

I am an avid reader of CT with a love-hurt relationship. It seems you never miss an opportunity to report anything relative to United Methodism that borders on anathema to your stance. Yet here comes an article by Timothy Jones in which, if I read the context correctly, you cite without prejudice two United Methodist movements in spirituality [“Great Awakenings,” Nov. 8]. To cap it, you quote the dean of Beeson Seminary in a sentence that is almost a verbatim rendering of the Wesleyan quadrilateral—Scripture, Experience, Tradition, Reason!

Gracious, I feel good!

Charles R. Britt

Auburn, Ala.

Episcopalians and sex

Clarification is needed on the report entitled, “Episcopalians Air Sex Views” [News, Nov. 8]. The article reported the survey results from 18,000 Episcopal participants in the recent Dialogues on Sexuality.

These “Dialogues” were not mandated by the church. Dioceses, groups, and parishes that wished to participate did. Unfortunately, many individuals who hold the scriptural and traditional teachings on sexuality did not participate. As a result, the survey results were skewed in the direction of a much more progressive stance than most Episcopalians will tolerate.

A more accurate reading of the Episcopal Church’s stance on sexuality was completed by George Gallup in 1991. At that time, over 85 percent of Episcopalians said they supported the scriptural/traditional view that sex was created by God to be expressed within the bonds of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. That survey also showed that the same percentage would not support the ordination of practicing homosexuals or the marriage of homosexuals.

As the Episcopal Church nears its convention this summer, its ordained and lay leaders, who have typically been far more liberal than the vast majority of its parishes, should take another look at Gallup’s poll.

The Rev. Russell Levenson, Jr.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Birmingham, Ala.

Uncommon ministry

While the November 8, 1993, issue discussed Christian economic development at length in the article “Good Debt,” I believe a brief news item published on October 25, 1993, makes an even more concise and persuasive case for our uncommon ministry:

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“Palestinian Christians have a message for Western Christians: Help the Palestinian economy and revitalize the Middle Eastern church, or else face the twin possibilities of strengthened Islamic fundamentalism and the eclipse of the Christian presence in Israel.”

We hear similar messages from all over the world. Growth of the church overseas is often directly tied to economic development. We hope Western Christians will quickly heed this message just as you said in your report. Economic ministry is one of the most needed forms of missions in the world today.

Eric Thurman, President

OPPORTUNITY International

Oak Brook, Ill.

Your article neglected to mention that there are similar ministries in the U.S. Here in Boston, for instance, inner-city pastors of a broad racial and ethnic diversity also have banded together to empower our people.

Like your examples in the developing world, we have a revolving loan fund to finance small-business formation. But the larger problem is small-business failure. So we have begun a training institute to teach business planning and Christian distinctives, a central office to analyze financial records and provide early warning of difficulties, a consultant division so professionals throughout the body of Christ can help prevent business failures, and a venture-capital fund to drive our growth.

For four years this has been almost entirely inner-city driven, self-funded, and volunteer. We are encouraged to have just become the first U.S. partner of ENTERPRISE Development International.

Roger L. Dewey, Project Manager

Christian Economic Coalition

Dorchester, Mass.

Right on the mark

I congratulate Alister E. McGrath for his editorial “Borrowed Spiritualities” [Nov. 8]. His analysis of the lack of a distinctive evangelical spirituality is right on the mark. As a former evangelical, I can remember feelings of helplessness when I kept asking, “Is there more after being born again?” The replies of my congregation’s leaders were usually the same: “Pray every day and study the Scriptures”—which can be summed up by the term quiet time.

Then I stumbled on the writings of Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers who built the foundations of today’s evangelicalism. I kept going back into history—the Middle Ages, the Byzantine era, the age of the apostolic fathers—then it hit me: this is the Catholic church!

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McGrath is right, there is no distinctive evangelical spirituality, only borrowed ones, and he’s done the borrowing, especially of catholic categories of spirituality. Every distinctive he has listed has a much longer and fuller history in some “form of catholicism,” and perhaps that is why so many Christians adopt and adapt to this reality.

Chaplain Miguel Grave De Peralta

Christ School

Arden, N.C.

Preaching and politics

As the man with the bullhorn in the picture accompanying the article “Baptist Church Becomes Target in the Culture Wars” [News, Nov. 8], I would like to say that evangelical Christians are free to preach whatever they please from their pulpits. However, they cannot advance their religious beliefs, particularly those concerning homosexuality, into the secular political arena, and then, when those beliefs are examined and criticized in the secular political arena, run away crying their religion has been attacked.

The meeting at Hamilton Square Baptist Church may have been billed as an evening worship service. But it was a political rally that featured Louis Sheldon, a registered lobbyist in the state of California, who heads Traditional Values, a corporation and nonprofit organization that can engage in nonpartisan political activity. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about how to deny civil rights to gay men and lesbians.

While some of my brothers and sisters were quite rowdy and even rude to those who made their way to the political rally held inside the church behind locked doors, the attendees were never in danger.

Rev. Jerry Sloan

Project Tocsin

Sacramento, Calif.

Washington is not Oregon

In the North American Scene section of the November 8 issue there was a story about Megan Lucas, who was denied her attempt at re-adopting the son she gave up a year ago. Your article states that it was an Oregon judge [who ruled; actually, it was] a Whatcom County District judge in Bellingham, Washington.

Karl B. Erickson

Ferndale, Wash.

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