CT December 4, 2000

CT December 4, 2000

In "Anonymous Are the Peacemakers" [Dec. 4], Gerald Shenk rightly calls attention not only to the benefits of reconciliation, but recognizes the dangers and behind-the-scenes nature of the work as well. I was reminded of the article in Leadership Journal almost 20 years ago entitled "Why Peacemakers Aren't Popular."

Conflicted people have a vested interest in the conflict and are usually much more interested in "winning" than in finding common ground or sharing mutual responsibility. The mediator sometimes gets caught in the line of fire.

When Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers … " he does promise joy and fulfillment in the process but also recognizes inherent difficulties, as peacemaking goes against the philosophy of society in general. We're humbled and blessed to be part of this process for dozens of clients in our little corner of the country.
Executive Director Conciliation Ministries of Colorado
Aurora, Colorado

Crusading Critics

I read with interest Randall Balmer's article on Thomas Kinkade ["The Kinkade Crusade," Dec. 4] and CT's related editorial, but not because I'm a Kinkade fan. While I will admit to being mildly fascinated by the lighting effects on my visit to a Kinkade mall gallery (yes, I too have played with the lighting dial), I cannot share Kinkade's artistic/moral crusade.

My own experience at a gallery, coupled with Balmer's description of Kinkade's "art factory," left me thinking of Kinkade as an evangelical Mr. Joyboy, Evelyn Waugh's memorable mortician from The Loved One. Both paint a pretty face but an unreal one.

In "portray[ing] a world without the Fall," Kinkade strips away the power of Christ's redemptive death and resurrection. A world without the Fall would have no need for the Cross, making his "Sunrise" and Christ's sacrifice a trifle at best.

We live in a decidedly fallen world. I was so glad this was stressed in both Balmer's article and in "The Artist as Prophet" editorial. The Christian artist must embrace the reality of a fallen world and love her fallen characters, just as Flannery O'Connor loves the Misfit and Katherine Paterson loves Gilly Hopkins. Perhaps it's easier not to give the characters faces or not include them at all.
East Lansing, Michigan

Randall Balmer's article tells us the artist Thomas Kinkade thinks of himself as a "painter of light." Kinkade apparently hasn't learned much from Claude Monet, the master of changing sunlight on objects he painted in nature. Kinkade has made no attempt to do this but paints from "memory and a daydream." He uses a rheostat and track lighting to do what Monet did by actually painting under different natural light conditions.

Article continues below
The comparison of Kinkade with Norman Rockwell is certainly a very long reach. While Rockwell painted a pre-McDonald's America, his stress was on humor, ordinary folk, and a patriotism best illustrated in the faces in Four Freedoms. In stark contrast, Kinkade's people are blank and lifeless creatures. One can only wonder why he feels the need to dehumanize people, who are made in God's image, in favor of a romantic, vacuous sentimentalism.
Brookfield, Wisconsin

Iam appalled at the attention given in the recent issue of CT to the "Christian" kitsch of Thomas Kinkade. His targeting of Christian evangelicals in the name of art is deserving of contempt. The entire procedure of tricking out prints (by whatever means) to suggest that they are authentic oil paintings is deceptive and false at its heart. If that weren't enough, the subject matter and style of the paintings themselves are surely matters for ridicule.

Further, the extreme sentimentality of color and subject attempts to play on the heart-strings, but leaves the weightier matters of significance, balance, restraint, perspective and style out of the picture.

The writer seems to have been taken in by the references to Scripture and the stated purpose of evangelism attendant upon this material. This article does a real disservice to serious art and the role of museums in this country by comparing the lunatic fringe exhibitions at the Whitney with Kinkade. To make such a comparison is akin to juxtaposing Turkish delight with boiled rutabaga.

Article continues below
And it is very unfortunate that Kinkade attempts to wrap himself in the mantle of Norman Rockwell, a fine artist and illustrator who depicted his own day with a wonderful attention to design, balance, and story. Kinkade, on the other hand, tries to project an imagined past of America—where sentimentality reigns, the confectionary colors predominate. Somehow the public is supposed to be uplifted by this false sense of time and place.
Houghton, New York

Ol' St. Nick

I read with interest your sidebar on St. Nicholas ["The Evolution of St. Nick," Dec. 4]. While it is commendable to look back at the man himself, unfortunately we know very little historical fact but have many legends—and each legend has differing details depending upon culture and age of the tradition (i.e., the three virgins over time become three girls).

Also, the Nick of legend is very legalistic and rarely is heard to proclaim the gospel. He has been used as a tool to frighten children into good behavior throughout the ages.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The article on Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus was very well done, and I enjoyed learning more about him. There is one error in "The Evolution of St. Nick." Clement Clark Moore was not a professor at Union Seminary but at The General Theological Seminary.

Union is an interdenominational seminary, while General is an Episcopal seminary, also located in Manhattan. Moore gave part of his estate for this seminary, which was established in 1817.
Rector, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
Buffalo, New York

In His 12 Steps

Referring to Alcoholics Anonymous as a "secular program" is a misnomer ["More than 12 Steps," Dec. 4]. AA divorced itself from the Christian Oxford groups, but spirituality and one's own concept of a higher power are central to its teachings.

The quote from the New Freedom Fellowship member, "God brought me to AA, and AA brought me back to God," implies AA is a bridge to Christ. AA teaches belief in a generic god while prohibiting discussion of Jesus Christ. This is not a bridge to Christ but a bridge to Babylon.

After 10 years in AA, I became a gay activist, believing homosexuality to be God's will. AA affirmed that for me through its many gay special interest group meetings. Bitter and humiliating political defeat, coupled with the realization of my living a sinful life in "sobriety," helped bring me to Christ.

Article continues below
I've been homeless for several years now as a Christian, due to political retribution for my previous actions, and from those persecuting me for my change in beliefs (I wear a target on front and back). Apparently these are the consequences of sin I must learn to live with, meanwhile counting my blessings that they're not far worse. But I would say AA holds at least a small degree of responsibility for my slide into heresy. Thank God I was shown a way out from AA's teachings. Many remain lost.
Asheville, North Carolina

CTI Masthead: Someone Missing?

One can imagine a sign over the door of the Senior Editors of CT: "No Girls Allowed." The seven chief editorial folks presented by Harold Myra ["Who's Who on the CTI Masthead," Dec. 4] are all male. Of the 114 editors listed below, the chiefs, 99 are men and 15 are women (I'm not sure about Tokunboh Adeyemo).

At times CT has editorialized that the church needs to recognize the gifts and rights of women. If CT wants to speak to and for the evangelical world, it ought to remember that at least 50 percent of that world is female.
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Tokunboh Adeyemo, general secretary of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, is a man. —Eds.

Dembski vs. Baylor

In regard to the firing of William Dembski from Baylor University's Intelligent Design Center ["Design Interference," Dec. 4], let me see if I understand the situation correctly.

Do critics of Dembski really question whether intelligent design is a legitimate area of inquiry? Are these people really so very concerned about Baylor's reputation in the secular, scientific world? Is creationist now a dirty word with them?

It is shocking to think these people are denying a hearing for the intelligent design movement. Isn't design in nature one of the most obvious deductions from nature about who God is—so obvious that Romans 1:20 says people will be without excuse?

It makes me wonder whose principles are held in highest regard by the university—the world's or Jesus'.
Great Falls, Montana

CT November 13, 2000

CT November 13, 2000

Acts 2, Take 2

In the various articles about Willow Creek ["Small is Beautiful," Nov. 13], there are several references to the church as "an Acts 2, biblically functioning community." When I read about the church in Acts 2, I'm struck by three things: the diversity of members from different language groups, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds, the fact that they shared all their goods, and the fact that there were no poor among them because they sold all they had and gave to the poor.

In the pictures illustrating these articles, there are no people of color. One of the articles describes the small groups as sharing "age, gender, marital status, profession, spiritual gifts, hobbies, life situation, and talents." Although there are references to some ministries to the poor (a food pantry and hairdressing for homeless people), there are no indications of sharing goods in common, or of selling everything so that there might be no poor among them.

The church in Acts 2 was in the city of Jerusalem. Willow Creek is not in Chicago. While I am confident that the Spirit is at work in Willow Creek, please don't claim to be what you're not.

Article continues below
To explore a contemporary "Acts 2 biblically functioning community," check out The Simple Way in North Philadelphia. They live in the city of Philadelphia; they include a diversity of people; they share all their goods in common and give freely to the poor.
Princeton, New Jersey

Your article states that Willow Creek Community Church was created to be "a different kind of church where seekers could come with their messy lives and not feel judged while God cleaned them up." As such, Willow Creek was honoring its mission by extending an invitation to President Clinton to speak to the congregation.

It's a shame that some Christians can't get past their political agendas to accept Mr. Clinton's testimony as worthy of their forgiveness.

Luckily, Jesus is significantly more forgiving.
Bethel, Connecticut

In "The Man Behind the Megachurch" [Nov. 13], I would agree with Dr. Wayne Grudem's caution to Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian about his need to use a social or cultural hermeneutic to interpret the way God intends harmony to work between men and women in the church. We are no more obliged to accept and teach egalitarianism of function between the sexes within the local church than we are to teach that God the Father or God the Holy Spirit died on the cross. The Son is no less God because he humbled himself to the obedience of death.

The equality of the value and worth of each member of the Godhead is not threatened because they function differently. Their roles are not interchangeable.

My great dismay is that Dr. Bilezikian feels obliged to explain this mystery of function that is both awesome and holy, but this mystery is not a problem for God and should not be for us.

The equality men and women celebrate is that "together we share the gift of life" (1 Pet. 3:11), the full benefits of salvation, and the gifts of the Spirit. But, as Romans 12:3-8 clearly reminds us, "All members do not have the same function." There is nothing interchangeable about men and women.

In Titus 2:1-5, Titus is commanded to teach sound doctrine so the godly older women will teach the next generation of women with an astounding reason: "So the Word of God will not be maligned." Women committed to becoming fully developed Christ followers in the spirit of Titus 2:3-5 hold in their hand and hearts an enormous amount of spiritual power.

Article continues below
It is the power to convince a watching world that God's purposes for men and women to function together in the church reflect the glorious interdependency of the Holy Trinity.
Director, Women's Ministries, Trinity Church
Redlands, California

The Heart of Postmodernism

In "The Antimoderns" [Nov. 13], I was reminded that it is the heart of man that is desperately sick. The quest for power is no more noble for the marginalized or disenfranchised than for the "enfranchised."

Hypocrisy (the inability to totally incorporate one's beliefs into one's everyday life) is no less revolting in the antimodern than it is in the modern.

As the worldview changes, the answer to the root problem does not; we need a new heart, not merely a new paradigm.

We need a redeemer to change us from the inside out, not social reconstruction.

We need to believe in the power of the Cross, not merely rethink a man-centered form of godliness (or ungodliness) that denies the real power of grace to remove sin from the world.

We need a better understanding of the narrative that is the Bible, not a new narrative.

Every generation thinks it has the better philosophy until the next generation comes along and shows the sickness at the heart of it. Man cannot get it right without a new heart and a reborn mind. Even then it is hard work, as 2,000 years of Christianity have shown.
Ontario, Wisconsin

Fundamentalist Abhorrence

"The New Scarlet Letter" [Nov. 13] was a balanced perspective on the nuances of the term Fundamentalist. The moral failing of fundamentalism is the triumphalism many exhibit toward fellow Christians. The abhorrence of fundamentalists exhibited by many evangelicals, however, is equally a moral failing.

The key problem in the use of fundamentalistto describe conservative Christians is the criteria for applying it. Evangelicals are fundamentalists in terms of upholding the "fundamentals" of the faith that define a Christian church from a pseudo-Christian cult. Fundamentalism, however, is a term whose definition and orthodoxy are in themselves broad and deep.

Particular brands of fundamentalism believe in "biblical separation." While separationism is biblically mandated in certain instances (Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:6-9), it has been misused as grounds to separate over music and worship styles.

Dispensationalists or Pentecostals are labeled as falling away from true biblical teaching.

The criterion for determining whether one is a true fundamentalist ends up becoming so restrictive that ultimately the only true fundamentalist is the one who has eliminated everyone but himself as a true fundamentalist.

The great sin of fundamentalism is exclusivity born of a particular axe to grind theologically.

The answer is recognition of essentials and nonessentials in Christian doctrine. All Christians practice separation to some degree, using myriad standards for it. Christians have the biblical responsibility to practice their faith earnestly, seeking God's truth with a humble, contrite, and teachable spirit.

Article continues below
We are all to strive to be biblical fundamentalists of this type.
Richland, Washington

Brief letters are welcome. They may be edited for space and clarity and must include the writer's name and address if intended for publication. Due to the volume of mail, we cannot respond personally to each letter. Write to Letters, Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188; fax: 630.260.8428; e-mail: cteditor@christianitytoday.com.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.