HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS
"Can Christians celebrate a
pagan Christmas? What about
'you shall not bear false
witness'? Isn't telling kids
that Santa is coming a lie?"
What Is Life?
I COMMEND YOU for your excellent report on the selective reduction of fetuses ["No Room in the Womb?" Dec. 6] now recommended by many doctors. Denyse O'Leary has taken a complicated subject and made it simple and readable without losing its moral impact. Nicole and Robert Klan, who chose to bring to birth a baby with spina bifida (Jordan, now two years old), are to be commended. At one point my wife and I waited for 24 hours, for a possible diagnosis of spina bifida on our first-born. We would never have thought of eliminating a newborn child and, mercifully, she was healthy. Reading O'Leary makes me wonder: Is a newborn all that different from an unborn child just a few months from delivery? Chillingly, noted ethicists like Princeton's Peter Singer are now giving a resounding "no."
PETER C. MOORE, Dean and President
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
Bonnke's Distinct Ministry
AS A PERSONAL FRIEND and colleague of Reinhard Bonnke, I can assure you there were inaccuracies in the recent report about his evangelistic campaigns in Nigeria ["Violence Mars Bonnke's Revival," Dec. 6]. Nowhere does Bonnke hold to a "list" of spiritual gifts including "being slain in the Spirit, laughing uncontrollably, and dancing in the Spirit."
Rather, he looks for genuine signs of conversion, evidenced by deep repentance, definite faith in Jesus Christ, and subsequent moral transformation. He preaches emphatically that Jesus still heals the sick and sets the captives free, filling believers with His Spirit.
However, Bonnke's goal is not to see people slain in the Spirit or dancing, and I am not aware of any meeting of his that has been characterized by uncontrollable laughter. God is doing wonderful things throughout the continent of Africa and it is Bonnke's distinct privilege to be one of Africa's more effective and devoted evangelists.
MICHAEL L. BROWN, President Brownsville Revival School of Ministry
Gigi Tchividjian is not a paid staff member of East Gates Ministries (CT, Dec. 6, 1999, p. 26). CT regrets the error.
Whose Birthday Is It?
BRUCE SHELLEY'S ARTICLE ["Is Christmas Pagan?" Dec. 6] reminded me of the old saying, "Things said to be ever done will prove to be never done unless sometimes solemnly done." We need to celebrate the great event of Christ's birth. Not having a definite date, any time picked will be arbitrary. To relate it to the winter solstice and direct people's attention away from the worship of the sun to the worship of the Son who came as the Light of the world is to be commended.
However, I believe he was in error to suggest that the worship of Sunday is similar and does an injustice to the biblical command to "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Six days thou shalt labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath to the Lord your God" (Exodus 20:8-11). To substitute the decree of God with a decree or tradition of the church, no matter how well-intentioned, is a substitution which neither Christ nor the first-century Christians were willing to make. Should we do less?
THE REV. DON A. SANFORD
AS I READ THE ARTICLE "Is Christmas Pagan?" I could not help being reminded of numerous Scriptures throughout 1 and 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles where the Israelites worshiped both the God of Abraham and other gods. This, of course, led to their eventual destruction and captivity.
Perhaps Christmas began by placing a Jesus mask on a pagan holiday originally meant to worship the sun, which is bad enough. But it has become nothing more than Baal worship. Baal was worshiped in an attempt to ensure fertility in an agricultural society. In modern terms, he is the god of prosperity and increase—;in other words, materialism.
Perhaps it's time to pray along with Habakkuk, "In wrath remember mercy" (Habakkuk 3:2b).
TERRELL D. LEWIS
Loves Park, Illinois
The Church Triumphant?
while I APPLAUD THE EDITORIAL ["CT Predicts: More of the Same," Dec. 6] for putting its finger on the need for self-definition among evangelicals, I despaired at the weakness of the answers Timothy George suggests: "The answer is to see evangelicalism as a 'renewal movement.' … We need to keep asking the questions and not rest on our laurels."
The "laurels" of a late twentieth- century evangelicalism are as lifeless as the plastic leaves adorning flowers on restaurant tables. "Triumphalism" is mere illusion for a "numerically successful church" that can't even define itself. The gospel the apostle Paul proclaims in Ephesians 2 discusses the Cross in terms of its role in tearing down hostile walls between ethnicities, races, and cultures. Until the dominant Euro-American evangelicalism deals with its denied racist base, no definition of its "gospel" will adequately define its message.
PAUL O. BISCHOFF
The "Business" of the Church
NO DOUBT DRUCKER'S management principles ["The Business of the Kingdom," Nov. 15] have struck a chord in the business world. But how well his tune resonates in church may be yet unknown. Christ, a pastor's role model, certainly met felt needs like sickness, demon possession, hunger, and death.
But he expanded his message, which Christians call the Good News, to address more important needs, like human sinfulness and mortality. These kinds of needs no human strength, no matter how well-managed, can overcome.
When pastoral churches find no guidance from church tradition and doctrine, they compromise the blessings that God has bestowed upon those who have gone before them to their own detriment.
The choice available to churchgoers today, which Drucker claims is strengthening the church, was not available to the faithful of ages past. If pastors took more time to consult these other authorities, they might discover that church is not a product for today's target audiences to consume.
San Diego, California
LET'S HOPE MOST CHRISTIAN pastors drop to their knees at references, spoken in the post office or written in a national magazine, like "Bill Hybels's Willow Creek" or "Rick Warren's Saddleback Community" when referring to a local church. At the risk of giving offense, it's Jesus' church.
Perhaps the perspective on the megachurch gets skewed by the heavy influence in management and governance by hired ministers and professionals. Here's an argument for megachurch pastors to rotate, lest the world forget who's in charge.
A Robust Creation
I WAS PLEASED TO SEE that you ran an article on neopaganism [Nov. 15], one of the fastest-growing trends in modern spirituality. Christians must be aware of its existence and how to respond in Christ's love. To have Wicca listed in the same area as Churches in the phone book is hard to imagine. However, people today are after a real "spiritual experience" and will turn to anything to have that experience. They no longer want a distant God, but something near; they long for the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Although I was enlightened by Wilkinson's article, it didn't give the readers a complete response to a neopaganist: prayer. Their neopaganism is not just a mindset but a spirit. Prayer not only changes their hearts but changes their spirits. As the neopaganist trend continues, Christians must recognize it as a false religion and pray that they might respond to the Holy Spirit and the Creator of the earth.
Wyckoff, New Jersey
THE ESSAY "The Bewitching Charms of Neopaganism" said many things the evangelical community needs to hear. As a professor of English at an evangelical school who does much work with Dante and C.S. Lewis, I'd like to add a few thoughts that are relevant to the resurgence of paganism.
In his Space Trilogy, Lewis offers an older, more medieval, more Dantean view of the cosmos that is radically different from our modern one. Space is not cold, dead, and meaningless; it is rich, vital, and filled with meaning and purpose. We live in what Dante would call a sympathetic universe: a universe in which the stars do have something to do with us, for both they and we were created by the same God, who is a God of harmony, order, and beauty. The stars do not control our destiny (as astrology presumes), but they are related to us and possess a reality that has bearing on our own.
Lewis was influenced by Dante (whose Divine Comedy presents a universe that shimmers with love, meaning, and vitality) and the writings of Owen Barfield (a fellow Inkling). Barfield argues in Saving the Appearances (and elsewhere) that in the past men did not perceive the natural world as a thing apart from themselves, to be studied and dissected coldly and rationally, but as a kindred spirit whose existence is interdependent on our own. Barfield calls this lost sympathy with nature "original participation" and calls for a return, albeit on a higher level, to a more human view of the cosmos that would grant the universe an eschatological purpose related to our own.
I truly feel that much of the reason that young people are abandoning the church for "New Age" is that they need to feel that they are a part of a living universe that is not just our house, but our home. To end with a paraphrase from Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader, though a star may be made of burning gas, that is not what it is. Likewise I am made of flesh, blood, and sinew, but that is not who I am. I (and the star) am something more.
Houston (Texas) Baptist University
Those Generous Macedonians
IN REFERENCE to Directions ["Are Christians Required to Tithe?" Nov. 15], for D. A. Carson to make an exegetical mistake is almost beyond my comprehension—;but he did. He stated that "the Corinthians' 'overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity' (8:2)." Actually, it was the Macedonians that Paul was referring to (see 2 Cor. 8:1). Just wanted to give credit where credit is due.
CHRISTOPHER R. LITTLE
La Crescenta, California
The World Is Much With Us
YOUR EDITORIAL "The Wall's Long Shadow" [Nov. 15] was overlaid with unintended irony. It quotes Romanian Baptist theologian Danut Manastireanu as saying, "In my country evangelical Christians are not very distinguishable from the rest of the population in promoting high ethical values." So what's new? Neither are American evangelicals.
Numerous surveys have shown little difference between the lives of America's professed believers and its unbelievers.
If evangelicals would stop watching the pornographic, violent sleaze that passes for entertainment, Hollywood would have to change its offerings or go bankrupt. If all the born-again Christians would stop divorcing their spouses, the divorce rate in America would drop precipitously. Church discipline (discipleship) is almost unknown in many churches.
One local congregation wouldn't discipline a member who walked out of church on Easter, Bible under his arm, and then proceeded to the Oval Office to engage in illicit sex.
Mr. Manastireanu speaks equally well for America when he says, "It is not only [our] culture that needs ethical transformation. It is the church and its membership."
FORREST H. SCOTT SR.
In Search of Beginnings
YOUR RECENT ARTICLE on intelligent design in the debate on origins underlines the depressing lack of understanding about the nature of science in the general population.
For example, you state that Phillip Johnson reasons that "evolution cannot be fully proven from science itself." I would be interested to know if Mr. Johnson knows of any scientific theory that can be proven.
Since the statements of science are inductive, they are in principle incapable of proof, though under certain circumstances they may be disproved. In fact, no theory of natural science has ever been proved or will ever be proved.
Also, you quote a high-school student who complains that evolution is taught as a "fact" even though he does not believe that it is "true."
Well, evolution is certainly not true in the sense that the Bible is true, but again that is asking too much, not only of the theory of evolution but of any scientific theory.
It is not at all clear what it even means to apply the category of "truth" to any theory of natural science. In fact, whether any scientific construct is factual is entirely theory-dependent.
Is gravity a "fact"? Are electrons "facts"? Yes, because they are consistent with the currently accepted theories of gravity and electromagnetism. It is entirely conceivable that the current theories will be superseded by some new theory as we acquire new "facts."
The decision of the Kansas Board of Education to remove evolution from state tests makes its well-meaning but misguided decision all the more regrettable.
What we need is more, not less, teaching of science.
CHARLES T GRANT, M.D., PH.D.
IN THE NEWS ARTICLE "Searching for a Blueprint" [Nov. 15] you praise the Discovery Institute for initiating a new drive for considering the "intelligent design" argument to overthrow the principles of Darwinian evolution. Christian scientists are almost always Christians before they are scientists. Indeed, some of the more prolific contributors to the "intelligent design" arguments are not scientists at all, but theologians, mathematicians, lawyers, and philosophers.
Most of the criticisms of science from these and like sources belabor the point that "evolution is only a theory." Granted. But like most conclusions of science, the classification of an idea as "theory" identifies projections of the thought, followed by attempts to prove the view as true or false.
Science continues to attempt to fine-tune the theory; the accumulation of research adds to or subtracts from the original postulate. Scientists are not unilaterally anti-God. Many simply accept on faith that God created. They then seek to learn the methodology of that creation by studying the world as it is, and as it was.
Bible believers should not fear the search for truth.
HAL H. EATON
Mouth of Wilson, Virginia
REGARDING THE RECOMMENDATION that Gary Bauer "could enhance his image by pledging to no longer meet alone with a woman" ["Conservatives Voice Support for Bauer," Nov. 15], how much missionary work would never have been done if our foremothers and fathers had said, "Sorry—;I can't take on that outpost. It might mean meeting and planning with a woman (or man)"?
Can't a man safely ride in a car with Mother Teresa? Catherine Booth? Phoebe Palmer? Helen Roseveare? Elizabeth Dole? Or must we build structures, like Saudi Arabia's, with separate worlds for men and women?
This evokes shades of Tertullian: that woman are dangerous. In the same issue of CT, however, we read that a key evangelical leader has left his wife for a man (p.29). I propose a new rule: No men meeting or traveling in pairs.
Lighten up, guys.
MIRIAM ADENEY, PH.D.
Regent College & Seattle Pacific University
A Double-Edged Sword
TDue to an editorial oversight, "Just Saying 'No' Is Not Enough" [Oct. 4, 1999, p. 50] contained private and partly inaccurate information about Lee Bryant and Betty Gardner. When she examined a transcript of that discussion, forum participant Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen asked CT to delete their names from her comments. CHRISTIANITY TODAY apologizes to all concerned for these errors. —;Eds.
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