Trouble and Strife

I do not doubt the devotion, intelligence, or capabilities of Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry ["Double Jeopardy," July 8]. As a pastor's son who has served much of 10 years as a missionary, though, I am astounded at the widely accepted practice of sending our devout Christian single women into male-dominated cultures—especially to Islamic cultures!

Who in their right minds (and hearts) would encourage, let alone aid and enable, these gals to go to such an area? Christians ought to be sensitive enough to such cultures that we would refrain from putting our daughters at risk. The practice of sending single women to such countries is far worse than U.S. cultural imperialism. It is more personal than anything Nestlé, Playboy, or Paramount Pictures has done.

My views are an unpopular and lone voice in the evangelical wilderness. While many in my own church would quickly retort that single missionary women have won multitudes to Christ, I do not find that post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this") is a sound application of Scripture. Nor should we ignore the dangers of the ends justifying the means.

Douglas Stewart
San Antonio, Texas

Gay Baby Bust

As a christian who values biblically based political discourse, I found John Kennedy's portrayal of homosexual parents in "Gay Parenting on Trial" [July 8] disquieting and blatantly biased. While the second half of the article adequately touched upon the research and opinions surrounding gay adoption, the first half painted a skewed picture of homosexuals' parenting abilities.

The story of Suzanne Cook's gay father and his partner, who molested her brother and flaunted their sexual escapades in front of both children, is horrifying and sad. But to claim that Cook's experience offers an "insider's perspective on homosexual parenting" is terribly biased. There are countless examples of children who are the victims of abuse and bad parenting at the hands of their heterosexual parents, but those cases appropriately are not used as representative examples.

We should debate the gay adoption issue on the merits of biblical principles, not on the basis of unusual examples. Citing these exceptional cases to typify an entire group's parenting abilities undermines the attempts of evangelicals to speak credibly on complex social issues.

Molly Doctor Henry
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Don't Mess with Theocracy

In Jeff M. sellers' article on Saudi Arabia, the account of Muslim law in terms of religious liberty would benefit from more nuance and clarity ["Confronting a Theocracy," July 8].

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Islamic law, or Shari'ah, has always stated that Muslims are not to persecute native Christian communities. Christians are placed under numerous restrictions, though: They are not permitted to build new churches or expand existing ones. They are obligated to pay a special tax. They are forbidden to evangelize anyone outside of their own religion or to defame Islam.

It is obtuse for Christians to quote passages from Islamic law that appear to protect Christian churches. Every Muslim knows that, in context, these texts apply to communities of native "cradle" Christians. They never applied to missionaries or converts.

Missionary work in the Islamic world must work slowly and patiently, around its fringes (such as among Muslim emigrants). It must work in windows of opportunity amid political changes. Such work must also take place with an awareness of the possibility of martyrdom.

Jonathan Couser
South Bend, Indiana

God and Baseball

Nowhere is the common-grace theology (and perhaps the infralapsarianism) of Richard Mouw more clearly explicated than in the scriptural account of Creation ["Why God Enjoys Baseball," July 8].

The record of God's Creation shows caring detail and expresses his delight in each step of the process. The sense in Hebrew of "And God saw that it was good" is that the Creator observes, even studies, what he has created and concludes it is perfect for his purposes. The statement indicates he is very pleased indeed.

Would you like some support for Mouw's belief that "God can take just as much delight in what he makes as in what he saves"? Consider how much was created—which God designed in detail and then took pleasure in—that no longer exists.

He created dinosaurs but did not preserve them. Many human beings since Adam have come, as have great nations and wonderful cultures that could not have flourished for centuries and millennia without his grace, and yet most have passed away.

Russell Husted
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sociological Stew

I appreciated John G. Stackhouse Jr.'s "Prophetic Habits of a Sociologist's Heart" [July 8], and his effort to evaluate the contributions of Robert Bellah. Stackhouse—an eminent church historian and historical theologian—nonetheless is better on today's Bellah than on sociology, past or present.

For example, Rousseau would be nonplussed to learn that Bellah had "coined that now-canonical term" of civil religion.

Likewise, Weber would be chagrined with Stackhouse's lumping him with Comte and Durkheim in allegedly seeing Christianity as a vestige of a "stage of human development."

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Alas, we Christians in sociology plod on, trying to get it right, despite our well-meaning critics.

James A. Mathisen
Professor of Sociology, Wheaton College
Wheaton, Illinois

History Lesson

Stephen l. carter is quite correct in asserting that the Puritan divines of Massachusetts understood that both church and state function in separate realms under a God-given mandate ["Remedial History," July 8]. But Carter's statement that "the Puritans believed in, and tried hard to practice, separation of church and state" is laughable at best and ill informed at worst.

A more careful reading of colonial history shows that the Puritan religious establishment did not hesitate to use the power of the state to coerce the consciences of fellow believers and to enforce its religious monopoly. An account from the period, Baptist pastor John Clark's Ill News From New England, chronicles the use of state power to enforce religious conformity. Early Massachusetts Baptist dissenters who experienced imprisonment, public whippings, seizure of their property, and banishment would have bitterly laughed at Carter's notion of separation of church and state in the Bay Colony.

The Rev. Mark S. Caruana
Tabernacle Baptist Church
Utica, New York

Built on Solid Ground

How to Build Homes Without Putting Up Walls" [June 10] addresses a vital question for Christian service organizations and their call to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It also points out the dangers of their potential drift towards secularization.

Tim Stafford's article is dominated by the thoughts, ideals, testimony,

and opinions of Habitat's founder and

president, Millard Fuller. The message is clear: Millard Fuller is Habitat for Humanity.

The fundamental question remains: What will happen without him? Subtract Fuller, and the continuance of Habitat for Humanity's spiritual vision comes into doubt.

Somehow imbuing the structures of the organization with the centrality of Christ is essential if it is to avoid drifting into secularization.

Don Strongman
San Anselmo, California

CCT responds to Oden

The steering committee of Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. (CCT-USA) is grateful to Tom Oden for addressing the issue of Christian unity in "Whither Christian Unity?" in the August 5 issue of Christianity Today, but we wish to correct several misunderstandings:

CCT-USA represents something fundamentally new, not an expanded National Council of Churches. From the beginning, the vision has been for an entirely new process that would bring together evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, historic ethnic, and mainline Protestant Christians. The proposed method of decision-making is by consensus, which means that it would be entirely impossible for cct to be "latitudinarian in doctrine," "soft on the sexual revolution," or biased toward a "heavily regulated economy."

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CCT's proposed theological basis is solidly orthodox, confessing "the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scripture … for the glory of the one God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

The CCT itself recognized that although a wide range of evangelicals had been invited to all meetings, evangelical participation in the first two meetings needed significant expansion. The Steering Committee has initiated a process to expand greatly the evangelical participants, and a much expanded group of heads of evangelical denominations and organizations plans to attend the next meeting at Fuller Theological Seminary in January. Nothing in the CCT is finalized. Everything will be up for full discussion and consensus decision at the January meeting.

As the statement from Chicago said, "We have only just begun to explore how to walk together.

The questions for conversation, the ways to talk together, and the paths to take all remain to be fleshed out by those whom, we trust, will join us on this difficult and essential journey of faith and obedience."

We want the widest possible participation of all Christians in the U.S.A.

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