A Pastor in the Big City

I was so excited to see Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church on the cover of Christianity Today ["How Tim Keller Found Manhattan," June]. Having grown up in New York, walking away from faith in college, being singularly driven by my professional career in my 20s, then realizing its emptiness and reconnecting with God in my 30s, I am one of those perfect fits at Redeemer.

Keller is the quintessential pastor for creative, smart, diversified, strong-willed New Yorkers with lots of questions about faith. Undoubtedly he is brilliant, but for New Yorkers, who instinctively can smell a scam a mile away, his authenticity is what is most remarkable and most believable.

Lis Ippolito
River Edge, New Jersey

Bravo to tim stafford for his fine piece on Tim Keller. Back in the early '90s, I volunteered with Redeemer's college ministry, leading a cell group at the School of Visual Arts. While I was attending a meeting at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Keller was invited to speak alongside the campus's Muslim minister. After the question-and-answer session, having seen my hand raised earlier in the evening, Keller craned his neck toward me and said, "Did you have a question, Kevin?" As if that were not enough, his follow-up was, "So, what have you been reading lately?"

Keller has a pastor's heart first and foremost, and it's encouraging to know he's training the next generation of urban pastors to carry on his legacy.

Kevin Daniels
Lakewood, Ohio

What to Do with Strangers

CT's June issue provided an excellent and important editorial on immigration ["Soul of the Border Crisis"]. Our legislators need to be about the work of forming a just, compassionate, and sensible immigration system, which will take reform seriously, and those of us who follow Christ need to be nudging them toward action. But when it does happen, and even before, our churches also need to be places where, in keeping with the biblical command, immigrants are welcomed into our society.

Matthew Soerens
Immigration Counselor, World Relief
Wheaton, Illinois

CT's Editorial on solving the illegal immigration mess was long on compassion and short on wisdom. Should the church help lawbreakers profit from their crime? Won't that encourage more to come, the border fence notwithstanding? Also, the editorial's language left something to be desired. What's an "otherwise law-abiding illegal," and what are "market-sensitive guidelines" and "humane enforcement methods"? These terms will mean quite different things to different people.

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I suggest having churches raise the money to send immigrants home and send church members with them to teach them how to start businesses and enter politics to turn their countries into places where they want to stay. Mexico, for example, is one of the richest countries in the world; until its people turn it into an honest democracy, illegals will continue to flood our border. Your proposed solution will only kick the bucket down the road a bit and further align the church with law-breaking sanctuary churches.

L. James Harvey
Caledonia, Michigan

The Law, the Cross, the Covenant

Thank you for bringing to the fore the discussion on justification with your article on N. T. Wright and John Piper's differing views ["The Justification Debate: A Primer," June]. Of course, the debate and range of views are far wider, and I would say richer, than the alternatives presented in the primer, as can be seen from sources that run from Thomas C. Oden's Justification Reader to the 1999 Lutheran Roman Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and the many responses to the latter around the world.

Gabriel Fackre
Professor of Theology, Andover Newton Theological School
West Hyannisport, Massachusetts

As a Christian Reformed gal who now identifies as Anglican, I had difficulty parsing the differences between Piper's and Wright's positions; the arguments are obviously more nuanced than can be outlined on a chart.?hat's clear is that both theologians leave ample room for a deep understanding of God's justifying grace, whether "imputed" on an individual basis or "declared"?or a covenant family. As I see it, these views complement one another.

As I read the subsequent article, "Not an Academic Question," I was troubled by a lack of graciousness in the pastors' responses, some of which left the impression that no attempts had been made to understand Wright's position. Instead of "safety and security," this sheep would personally rather be entrusted with the whole teaching of Scripture.

Karen Glasser Scandrett
Downers Grove, Illinois

Strobel Talks Story

Maybe Reformed philosopher Cornelius Van Til was right when he said that purely presenting evidence for the Christian faith is not enough [The CT Review, "The Changing Face of Apologetics," June]. Maybe presuppositionalists are correct, that the effects of sin on the mind prevent fallen humanity from accepting even the most cogent arguments for the existence of God and the claims of Christ.Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel have put too much trust in pure evidence and in the open-mindedness of the unbeliever to truth.

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I believe that there is still a place for evidence, but we will continue to be disappointed until we realize that it is only by the Holy Spirit's work that a person accepts God's truth.

Roger Morris
Queensland, Australia

In my pre-Christian days, I was often wary of religious conversion stories because I realized that a really good story disconnected from reality could influence greatly by appealing to emotion instead of truth. I'm glad Strobel is connecting the objective reality of biblical truth to the personal story of his conversion. The result is that his isn't just another personal story disconnected from external reality. The external reality can be checked out.

I'm glad, too, for the superb philosophical-apologetic work of William Lane Craig, without which I couldn't have successfully completed my Ph.D. dissertation about miracle reports at a secular university.

Hendrik van der Breggen
Professor of Philosophy, Providence College
Manitoba, Canada

The Arts' Enduring value

I read with interest Carolyn Arends's June column, "Saying More Than We Can Say." As the choir director at a public high school, I have sometimes wondered during this economic recession if my job was still relevant, especially after having seen science, math, and English teachers laid off. After reading Arends's article, I'm renewed in the belief that what God has given me to do is extremely relevant in our world, no matter the economic situation.

Teresa Irwin
Tucson, Arizona

When Little Platoons Fail

I read charles colson's June Back Page column, "Protecting Our Little Platoons," with a bit of chagrin. I have no argument with services delivered by "little platoons" closest to their recipients, but Colson ends it there. If the family, church, or volunteer agencies cannot solve the problem, then that's it—you are on your own.

President Obama, citing Abraham Lincoln's sacrifice to keep our union intact, stated in February that there are services only a union can provide. I agree that the federal faith-based office would be wrong to force ministries to hold nondiscriminatory hiring policies, yet the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and other volunteer groups are not going to fix the health care system, provide military defense, or anything else that only a union can do.

For Colson to end his column intimating that the government's attempts to improve the lives and dignity of its citizens will likely lead to totalitarianism is silly.

Art DePalma
Mill Creek, Washington

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