Western Christians' greatest challenge
* At last someone is taking note of the recent exploding growth of the Christian faith in the non-Western world—the greatest number of new believers in all of history, by far ["Faith Without Borders," May 19]. At last someone is pointing out the amazing Third World mission movement, already equal in numbers to all missionaries from the West. I congratulate you for this well-researched article. I totally agree that the greatest challenge for Western Christians today is "learning how to enter creatively into truly equal partnerships with the Third World." That's what we have been trying to do for over fifty years. We have often felt like a voice crying in the wilderness; it's great to see our values and vision expressed on the pages of Christianity Today.
Chuck Bennett, President
San Jose, California
* The photograph of the bowing heads and the outstretched hands in prayer on your May 19 cover is a beautiful expression of the universal message of the gospel, howbeit in cultural terms that many Christians may find uncomfortable. To be a follower of Jesus does not come easy for those who come from Muslim backgrounds, but it is gratifying to see that you recognize the possibilities that our Christian faith will be transforming, and be transformed by, non-Westerners in the days ahead.
To help your readers understand some of the complexities of the name of Jesus—Christian Arabs and their biblical literature and liturgy use the name "yasu'a," which is closer to the Yashua of the Bible than the Qur'anic name "'Isa." The message of Jesus in any language is one of salvation, and to world Muslims there is a denial that God in Jesus Christ is a Redeemer.
I want to commend you for the excellent work done on the May 19, 1997, cover story on the changing face of Christianity. The topics covered, the cover, the statistics and photographs used throughout the article were superb.
As you did last year on the issue of persecution, you again brought to the attention of North American Christians the reality that Christianity and, specifically, the evangelical movement, is truly a global movement that includes peers, great ideas, and effective strategies which are home grown and are springing up worldwide.
Dwight L. Gibson
North American Director
World Evangelical Fellowship
Perhaps Richard Nyberg truly believes that Mozambique's trouble actually stems from too many firearms in the countryside. Or perhaps he just felt reluctant to criticize Mozambique's Christian Council in his article "Swapping Guns for Sewing Machines" [May 19], because commenting on the obvious naivete of the participants could have landed the piece in the editorial section.
As an editorialist, Nyberg could have pointed out that in a postwar climate with no established peacekeeping force, well-armed villagers could prove a deterrent to further aggression from bandits, whereas further disarmament would leave their communities vulnerable. He might have quoted the wry nineteenth-century observation that "God created men, but Col. Colt made them equal!"
The article gave more disheartening evidence that another germ of Western, liberal nonsense has infected Christians in a distant culture: If only we could get "those who have been using guns for robbing and killing … to exchange their guns … for plowshares," then the kingdom would be upon us. Miraculously, they would be forced to cease robbing and killing once those evil guns are removed from their hands. Such transparently misguided efforts to blame conflict on "an overabundance of guns and ammunition" make no more sense than saying that department stores cause shoplifting.
Heaven's Gate: Three more points
* In the wake of the Heaven's Gate mass suicides, Dean Nelson reflected personally on his own beliefs, as no doubt much of the nation did as well ["To Heaven on a ufo?," May 19]. Despite his four conclusions on the differences between Christianity and Heaven's Gate, Nelson missed three crucial elements: (1) despite the use of Christian terminology, the differences between this neo-gnostic sect and Christianity vastly outweigh any similarities, (2) Christians can know their faith is true by the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, and (3) Christians can show it is true by an appeal to objective evidences in the formation of a cogent and persuasive apologetic.
I hope CT is planning further coverage and analysis of this event. In an age when something can be subjectively "true" for me but not objectively "true" for everyone, the Christian church must apply anew the command to give to everyone an answer with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15).
John W. Morehead
Truth Quest Institute
Food for the starving
* In "North Korea's Hidden Famine" [May 19], Richard Kauffman conveys his compassion for the helpless hungry and urges Christians to contribute to the organizations involved in relief efforts. However, he provides no assurance that, once inside the Communist North Korean borders, the relief supplies will ever reach their intended destination. Will the ruling aristocracy and their huge standing army allow themselves to suffer short rations while millions of tons of food are being sent to the poor starving working people?
Walter R. Peterson
Kauffman mentions various relief organizations that are providing food, and so forth. That is good news if it is true; I have not seen such statistics from any of these relief groups.
On May 3, Red Cross officials from North and South Korea held their first meeting in five years in an effort to resolve disputes blocking the delivery of emergency food aid from the South. Is the Red Cross in this part of the world slow to learn the methods of other relief groups in this crucial situation?
Edwin Heyne, Visitation Pastor
Abiding Savior Lutheran Church
The North Korean government has allowed the World Food Program to bring in 12 experienced food monitors, an unprecedented move that shows how desperately it needs food. World Vision and other relief organizations have urged that increasing the number of food monitors be a condition of further food assistance. To date, there have been no reports of diversion of relief aid to the military. Relations between the Red Cross Societies of North and South Korea have been complicated by the political gulf between their two governments. Nevertheless, the South Korean Red Cross reached agreement with its northern counterparts at the end of May to send 50,000 tons of food to the north by July. Additional information on the efforts by U.S. aid organizations to send food to North Korea is available at http://www.InterAction.org.
* Thank you for your excellent editorial on the famine in North Korea, in which Richard Kauffman emphasized that the poor and weak should not have to starve due to the policies of their government. Unfortunately, this is just what is happening now in Iraq, which is under international sanctions. UNICEF estimates that over half a million Iraqi children have died as a result of them. Why aren't more Christian leaders speaking out on this issue? This man-made famine is wiping out a whole generation.
Christ has set the model
* Thanks for the excellent article "Do They Know Us by Our Love?" [May 19]. I believe John Ortberg hit the nail on the head when he points out that it is not the primary duty of the church to make a "powerful apologetic for Christian values in society," but instead it must be wholly committed to "participate in, and witness to, the gospel." I appreciate this article for the strong reminder that it served me by pointing out that Christ has set the model as to how I must live as an individual in society, and that in doing so, I will become more conformed to his image. I believe that doing as Christ did often transcends the act of following a strict set of traditional values in that, as a disciple, I will become more interested in acting out of love and less interested in making everyone else become the way I want them to be.
John D. Stoll
Ortberg speaks to an issue at the heart of why the church in America is pale. Another is that the church seems to have adopted a Pelagian view of sin. Pelagius felt a man could choose to be moral and choose to be righteous and therefore "right." Sin is a complex, not merely a series of choices of behaviors. Loving others is the main sign the "complex" is being addressed.
Gardens Counseling Associates
Palm Beach Gardens, Ill.
Learning from our children
It was with surprise and appreciation that I read the review of my book, A Little Child Shall Lead Them, entitled "Little Cherubs, Little Devils," by Gregory Mathewes-Green [Books, May 19]. I appreciated his criticism. The points he discusses are important ones. Yet, my book was written from the experience of raising our eight children in the fear of God, and now taking a great interest in the upbringing of sixteen grandchildren—and my wife and I still have to say that we have very, very much to learn. Children are full of surprises and teach us more every day.
Johann Christoph Arnold
The RCA's amendment defeat
A News Briefs item in your May 19 issue creates an erroneous impression. It suggests that half of the classes of the Reformed Church in America voted against a constitutional amendment requiring ministers to reaffirm annually that salvation is in Christ alone, but fails to give the reason.
What the classes voted against was a repetition of a vow every minister in the Reformed Church has already taken. All ministers publicly declare that they "believe the gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and as expressed in the Standards of the Reformed Church in America." Those Standards include the Heidelberg Catechism, wherein Question 29 asks and answers: "Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is, Saviour? Because he saves us from our sins; and no salvation is to be either sought or found in any other." Thus any minister who denies this tenet of faith is already liable to deposition from his office, and a second statement of that liability was deemed unnecessary.
Your item omits the crucial words through faith, which were included in the proposed amendment. Many voters, otherwise sympathetic to the intent of the proposal, may have tilted against it because it seemed to exclude the possibility of salvation for infants who could not yet exercise faith in Christ. It was not because they doubted that salvation is through Christ alone, but rather because they would grant that God may, on the basis of Christ's atoning death on Calvary, regenerate unto eternal life many such infants (or fetuses) who die before they are able to exercise a conscious and intelligent faith in Jesus Christ.
Rev. Dr. Burrell Pennings
Recognition for Michael Behe
* Bravo to CT for selecting Darwin's Black Box as "Book of the Year" [Apr. 28] and congratulations to Michael Behe for this important recognition. Just as the purview of life's activity at the molecular level far exceeds the walls and the function of the individual cell, so too has the important discussion of this biochemical challenge to evolution reverberated beyond the institutional walls of science into the broader culture. In light of this significant and "irreducible" relationship between science and civilization, a research center based in Seattle, Washington, has been formed. Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture is proud to have Michael Behe as its Friedrich Wohler Fellow in Biochemical Studies. Dr. Behe is one of "an interdisciplinary team of scientific colleagues scattered in colleges and universities from Seattle to Princeton, New Jersey," whom the center has brought together to promote scientific research and confront the reigning philosophies of materialism. Darwin's Black Box is a powerful example of the original research and exceptional work being done by these people. Dr. Behe, the honor is much deserved.
Marshall J. Sana
Discovery Institute's Center for
the Renewal of Science & Culture
* I have enjoyed Behe's book immensely, but while I was enjoying the argument on irreducible complexity, I thought to myself that I had seen this argument before. Going to the bookshelf, I found The Fundamentals, with an essay written at the turn of the century by George Frederick Wright (1838-1921) of Oberlin College on "The Passing of Evolution." Behe explains it better and with more minute detail, but Professor Wright wrote it first!
John E. Cornell
* I found the article to be an encouraging chronicle of the "evolution" of Michael Behe's thought and the reception of his book by the scientific and religious community. Those of us who reject the fundamentalist dogma of young Earth creationism and the scientific dogma of atheistic evolution have been in desperate need of spokespersons who are scientifically credible yet not bound to the naturalistic philosophy of modern science. We are tired of being viewed with suspicion in the Sunday-school class and at the dinner party. Perhaps someday students with religious convictions will be able to study biology in the public school system without being drawn into a philosophical and religious battlefield.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The nearest bookstore being a secular one, I asked for Darwin's Black Box there. They found it on their computer, classified as science fiction!
Brief letters are welcome. They may be edited for space and clarity and must include the writer's name and address. Send to Eutychus, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188; fax: 630/260-0114. E-mail: email@example.com. Letters preceded by " * " were received online.
Copyright © 1997 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.