I hope this article dispels the
false notion Christians have
about the 'Jar boys' and that
they will embrace them as
fellow missionaries.

RACHEL HOWARD, Bristol, Tennessee

Shine, Praise Songs, Shine
RANDALL BALMER'S ARTICLE is a brilliant survey of the "Jars Boys" ["Hymns on MTV," Nov. 15]. However, when Balmer takes on the ever-popular choruses "Father, I Adore You" and "Shine, Jesus, Shine" for evoking reverential mood by carrying little theological freight, he forgets that worship leaders find great use for songs with themes of offering our lives and expressing our love to God the Father, Son, and Spirit.

There are times of commitment in a church service when we need short, memorable tunes, and where enriched Jars lyrics that probe and ask questions would be inappropriate. Balmer forgets to check the latest hymnals, which capture a new generation of North American and British writers who use lyrics to touch the human need and portray an awesome Christ and his finished work at the Cross.

Balmer is not the first to make improper comparisons. It comes from an ill-founded presumption that CCM groups like Jars should both address a non-Christian audience and a Christian audience alike. Instead, we need to celebrate groups like Jars who can powerfully speak to our generation of seekers and also celebrate a different generation of worship musicians and writers capturing powerful music for the church.
Atlanta, Georgia

BALMER SEEMS TO RELISH taking potshots at many traditional hymns and contemporary Christian songs primarily because of their lack of theological sophistication. While this may be a valid concern, his examples aren't compelling. Some songs make theological statements, some offer praise to God, some are prayers, and some bear witness of God's grace and blessing. This sounds a lot like the Book of Psalms to me!

Incidentally, Ralph Carmichael didn't compose "Pass It On." Kurt Kaiser wrote both the words and music.
Columbia, South Carolina

I WAS BOTH SURPRISED and delighted to see the article on Jars of Clay. It was during my tenure as president of Greenville College that the Contemporary Christian Music major was conceived and implemented.

CCM is not the kind of music that I grew up on in the church. But it is not proper for leadership to impose their own tastes on an institution of higher learning. As a result of CCM I have seen hundreds of people lifted in their faith and inspired to greater service to God.

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While I am not a music historian, I believe that CCM's future is not a passing fad. CCM has already left its mark on the music of the church, and I would not be surprised to see even more Christian colleges include it in their curriculum.
President Emeritus
Greenville, Illinois

I AM A 43-YEAR-OLD mother of three sons who listen primarily to Christian alternative rock, pop, and ska music. I've listened to many of the alternative groups my sons listen to. Some I like, some I tolerate, most I can't stand. My son was listening to Jars of Clay one day and I was riveted to it. The instrumentals and words lift me up to a level of worship that I rarely attain through other songs. This is a truly unique group whose following is cross-generational.
Salem, Oregon

THE FACT THAT one member of Jars of Clay came out of the General Association of Regular Baptists, cited by Balmer as a "denomination usually associated with a fairly starchy brand of fundamentalism," says a lot more about a youth pastor who did a great job ministering than it does about the "starchy fundamentalism" of our fellowship. I'm sure our history and current fellowship has some. However, I know many intelligent engaging ministers within our ranks, none of whom is a "starchy fundamentalist."
Westerville, Ohio

Beyond Cliches
YOUR ARTICLE on Peter Drucker ["The Business of the Kingdom," Nov. 15] is the best and deepest profile ever done on him. You got closer to understanding what drives him than anybody has ever done. His sense of spiritual depth has always driven him beyond the current cliches.
University of California, San Diego

The Real Vulnerable Me
LEE KNAPP'S HONESTY in expressing the pressures we all feel to one degree or another is a real inspiration ["Shopping for the Real Me," Nov. 15]. If in that same spirit of honesty, love, and vulnerability we could reach out to each other to fill that inner yearning and emptiness, we would be much less susceptible to the false promises of the eschatological utopia of consumerist advertising.
Normal, Illinois

To Include or Not To Include
BRAVO TO John Stackhouse for his brave and accurate comments ["The Battle for the Inclusive Bible," Nov. 15]. I trust his professorship in Vancouver is secure. I am saddened and angered that so many God-fearing men around the world are perpetuating the curse of Eden rather than following Christ's example in regarding women and men as equal before God. I be lieve Jesus would say to today's disciples pushing women down into their place, "Suffer the women to come to me, and forbid them not."
Chesterton, Indiana

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JOHN STACKHOUSE completely misses the point of our objection to gender-neutral Bible translations. We objected to a systematic, intentional, and unnecessary removal of components of meaning that exist in the original text of Scripture but are missing in thousands of verses in gender-neutral Bible translations. Does such a concern mean that we should be labeled "zealots" who hold an "extreme position"? Systematic removal of some currently objectionable types of meaning from God's Word is not a small matter.
Chairman, Department of Biblical and Systematic Theology Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Deerfield, Illinois

THANK YOU for your concise defense of "gender-neutral" versions. Will CT now print an article by one of the scholars who has a higher view of the significance of "gender-literal" translations? If not, we'll know your editorial bent is not clarifying issues but clouding them.
Pastor, Elgin Bible Church, Elgin, Illinois

CT devoted an entire issue to the complex discussion of the inclusive-language debate, which addressed all sides in depth. In our Bible issue, "The Translation Mandate" (Oct. 27, 1997), Wayne Grudem and Grant Osborne squared off from opposing viewpoints, answering the question "Do Inclusive-Language Bibles Distort Scripture?" —Eds.

Forgetting the Sabbath
REGARDING THE ARTICLE entitled "God on the Gridiron" [Nov. 15], does not the fourth commandment clearly say, "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy"? Real Christianity has lost ground terribly in the latter half of the twentieth century, and one of the chief reasons is the influence of professional sports. I have enjoyed sports all my life, but your rationalization for Sunday sports disappoints me deeply.
Memphis, Tennessee

WOULD WE NOT be better off spending less time being entertained and more time participating in sports, the arts, education, service— pursuits with more value, not only to ourselves, but also to our "neighbor"?
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

What Would Luther Say?
IN HER ARTICLE, "Vatican Amends Indulgences Doctrine" [Nov. 15], Jody Veenker states, "The [Roman Catholic] church no longer sells indulgences." Does this mean Rome no longer approves the use of Mass cards for the dead? As you may know, the practice of purchasing Mass cards is a way of securing prayers for souls thought to be in Purgatory. A Mass said for a deceased soul supposedly helps reduce the soul's burden and hastens its release from Purgatory. Is this not the very issue Luther objected to when he asked: If the Pope is able to reduce a soul's debt for a monetary price, why then can't he simply pardon every sin and release every soul with out payment? If Rome still sells Mass cards, it continues to offer indulgences for sale.
Gurnee, Illinois

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The Church's Witness
CONCERNING CHARLES COLSON and Nancy Pearcey's column "Scouts' Dishonor" [Nov. 15], I think the extent to which we will likely be limited as a church is tragic. However, I disagreed with the statement "the church can offer a genuine alternative only if it remains free." We can offer a genuine alternative no matter what limitations our government may put on us. If the church has to go underground, it will, and Jesus will still be the true alternative to this increasingly wicked world. We must not dilute our message or bend to the whims of government concerning the message. Even if it means our own loss of personal freedom, we must stand firm.
Indianapolis, Indiana

Carol's Ghost
I WAS AMUSED and proud when I read your kind tribute to my sister Carol Thiessen ["Inside CT," Nov. 15]. Would she, as copy editor, have allowed the grammatical slip in the editorial "Our Unoriginal Sin": "One reason Jars of Clay has been so successful … is because [in stead of that] the band pursued originality"?
Kissimmee, Florida

The Grahams Respond
MY WIFE RUTH AND I are disturbed by the news reports that have recently surfaced concerning our son Ned, and their implications ["Ned Graham's Woes Shake East Gates Ministries," Dec. 6]. As frequently happens, when the media report complex personal matters, confusion and misunderstandings follow.

Our family is in the best position to understand these issues, and Ned has our full and complete confidence and support. We are very proud of Ned and the honesty and integrity he has demonstrated in dealing with these difficult issues.

We respect Ned for continuing to be faithful to God's calling in his life to serve the growing church in China. We also continue to fully support the ministry of East Gates and its various projects in China.

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Our family thanks you for your continued prayers, understanding, and support.
Montreat, North Carolina

Prophecy Then and Now
I AM UNCOMFORTABLE with Nelson Kraybill's implication that those who interpret the Bible literally do not understand the concept and appropriate use of a metaphor ["Apocalypse Now," Oct. 25]. Acknowledging both a same-time and an end-time application is not necessarily congruent with being "trapped with wooden literalism." Although John's immediate understanding of what he saw and wrote is no doubt important, I would remind Kraybill that the "Revelation of Jesus Christ" was never John's to begin with. Why not agree at least that Jesus' Revelation is for the Church of the past, present, and future?
Church Hill, Tennessee

Making Disciples
AS A CHRISTIAN COUNSELOR, my job is often similar to that of a surgeon in the emergency/shock trauma unit ["Make Disciples, Not Just Converts," Oct. 25]. Although my calling entails dealing with more extreme problems, all Christians have issues they need to work through in order to develop the mind of Christ. Who is doing this? The church is becoming more irrelevant through lack of maturity.

Transforming the mind, upgrading relational styles, cleansing the soul ("inside of the cup") are all the meat of discipleship. Abandoning folks to their own resources, even with good preaching and teaching, Bible memory, and prayer, is contraindicated. Growth requires involvement, accountability, and interaction with another "present" Christian who understands the sanctification process. The neglect of discipleship has produced an atrophying body of Christ.
Gardens Counseling Associates
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Riveting Fiction
AS AN AVID READER I have made a point to avoid the "Left Behind" series like the plague ["Christian Film makers Jump on End-times Band - wagon," Oct. 25]. As a culture, we have exchanged classic literature for pulp fiction and sound biblical studies for pop theology. The "Left Behind" series is a perfect example.

Tim Webber points out, "They've [dispensational premillennialists] got the best books." Is it any wonder? Dispensationalism engenders rampant speculation and sensationalistic conclusions; two ingredients for riveting fiction, but not for good theology.
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

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Columbine's Lessons
I READ WITH MUCH INTEREST Wendy Murray Zoba's article "Do You Believe in God?" [Oct. 4] about the tragedy at Columbine High School. The author concludes by saying, "it has the marks of a perfect tragedy. It was the moment when everything went wrong, and the moment when everything was as it was meant to be." That is perilously close to saying that God intended this event to occur so that it could serve as a witness to others. Do we believe that God intends evil? There is no question that God can bring good out of evil events, but because sinful human beings in their terrible freedom choose evil over good does not mean that God made that situation come about.
Richland, Michigan

THANK YOU FOR DEALING with all respects of God's love and salvation as revealed through Columbine, including the witness of Greg Zanis, maker of the 15 memorial crosses, and the need for compassion for the Harrises and Klebolds, who are also victims of this tragedy. My prayer is that America will not exploit the brutal aspects of Columbine to make the latest Movie of the Week and instead will be compelled to look to the deeper message of life through Christ for which Cassie [Bernall], Rachel [Scott], and their friends paid the dearest price.
Tempe, Arizona

Reward Commitment
WHAT A PLEASURE to have a rational discussion on homosexuality and public policy, a topic that tends to bring out the worse biases ["Just Saying 'No' Is Not Enough," Oct. 4]. If only "spousal" benefits could be redefined to reward a commitment to support rather than reward a sexual relationship. Per haps our tax system and benefit plans should recognize any "emotional and economic commitment" that would be enforceable in court.
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

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