Brand Loyalties

While January's cover story on marketing Jesus ["Jesus Is Not a Brand"] conveys admirable passion, its negative critique of felt-needs evangelism could use some balance. I agree; felt-needs appeals can become misguided. I once appeared on a talk show with a "Christian stripper." In her nightclub act, she stripped, then preached. Clever marketing; inappropriate evangelistic method. But Jesus appealed to felt needs, such as in his encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4). His "product," living water, gained her attention and piqued her curiosity. Soon she and many others believed. Appropriately tapped felt needs — for personal peace, hope, forgiveness, and so on—can become legitimate entry points and conversation starters to help introduce nonbelievers to Christ.

Rusty Wright
Mount Hermon, California

I couldn't agree more with Tyler Wigg-Stevenson that our methods of communicating the gospel should fit the gospel. But there may be deeper connections than we'd like to admit between loyalty to a brand and to Jesus. Recent cognitive-science research indicates that the loyalty people feel to iPhones lights up the same part of the brain that devotion to Jesus does. That doesn't falsify our devotion to Jesus. It does suggest we might be a little too attached to our iPhones.

What if we accepted the validity of the brand metaphor? Jesus has a name, which gains a reputation by way of things we do in his name. He set it up that way, after all. This is what a brand is — the reputation of an entity in the public sphere. But he owns the brand, not us. We've allowed Jesus' name to be associated with things other than Jesus. Most recently, we pastors have allowed political operatives to guide how we exercise our civic duty. When we don't help people discern the difference, we are complicit in the trademark infringement. By accepting the brand metaphor, we might respect Jesus' rights to enforce the trademark on his brand when it's been hijacked by anyone — including us.

Ken Wilson
Pastor, Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Wigg-Stevenson writes, "the Four Spiritual Laws — a modern classic in evangelistic methods — says nothing about becoming a member of Christ's body when we 'accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior' " (page 22). That is simply not true. In a section boldly labeled "Fellowship in a Good Church," the booklet emphatically says, "God's Word instructs us not to forsake 'the assembling of ourselves together' (Hebrews 10:25). Several logs burn brightly together; but put one aside on the cold hearth and the fire goes out. So it is with your relationship with other Christians.

Article continues below

If you do not belong to a church, do not wait to be invited. Take the initiative; call the pastor of a nearby church where Christ is honored and His Word is preached. Start this week, and make plans to attend regularly."

Randy Newman
Annandale, Virginia

Due to an editing error, the article failed to clarify that it is the Four Laws themselves that do not mention the church. We apologize.
—The Editors

Rightful Death

As a veteran of the hospice-care movement, I was so pleased to see the editorial "Don't Let Them Die Alone" [January]. I have witnessed the growing need for spiritual care in hospice. But the view that Christian service belongs primarily to chaplains must be expanded. Certified hospice agencies rely not only on professionals but also on volunteers, who provide visits with isolated or lonely patients, much-needed respite for tired caretakers, and administrative support. They serve as part of a team that includes nurses, social workers, and chaplains. Hospice volunteering is open to anyone willing to walk with the dying and their families on what is an intensely spiritual journey.

Emily B. Gray
Director, Merit Hospice Services
Lombard, Illinois

An organization here in the U.K. has started an advertising campaign declaring, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." I am a 48-year-old, worldwise, slightly backslidden Christian, and I wanted to weep hearing about it. The humanist message completely disconnects those who would seek such comfort at the times when hospice chaplains are called upon. I cannot believe anyone would want to deny that hope to others. Keep up your work, chaplains, whether or not you feel called to verbally evangelize. You bring dignity to those most in need, and your example speaks volumes.

Fraser McDougall

A Rich Outer Life

I love Richard Foster ["Spiritual Formation Agenda," January]. He exemplifies a rich interior life. I read him with admiration and longing. I do not, however, think Scripture or human experience supports the universality of his fundamental premise, Actio sequitur esse, or "action follows essence." I agree that perhaps most often, outward actions are the product of our hearts' deep desires. But there are countless examples of how our hearts are influenced by outward actions, actions grounded in raw obedience.

Ironically, the article immediately following Foster's focuses on justice ["Pivoting Toward the Faraway Neighbor"]. When Jesus presented a picture of kingdom justice in Matthew 25, his tone seemed to be one of, "Just do it." He did not say, "Work on your essence and it will come naturally." Christians across the ages have discovered that when they feed the hungry and clothe the naked, for almost any reason, Christ's promised presence nourishes and invigorates their spiritual lives. Whether or not Foster is sympathetic to this idea, I am so thankful to God for his influence on me and others who are prone to a little too much "doing." May he write for another 30 years.

Article continues below

Bill Robinson
President, Whitworth University
Spokane, Washington

Richard Foster responds:

Bill Robinson is absolutely right to remind us of "the circular relationship between our inner and outer lives." Vigorous acts of social righteousness in the name of Jesus (even when they are done solely from "raw obedience") will surely impact the inner life for good. Doing the works of God will incline the heart toward the ways of God. Having said that, it is important to add that we will continue in such acts of social righteousness as a way of life only as the interior of the heart is formed and transformed by Jesus' royal law of love (James 2:8). Jesus is quite clear that it is the good tree that, by its very nature, will produce good fruit: "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart …" (Luke 6:45).

First-Mission Feats

I am a great admirer of Gary Haugen, and contribute to International Justice Mission ["Pivoting Toward the Faraway Neighbor," January]. However, he is misleading when he implies that the first era of Protestant missionaries were not concerned about social issues. Ziegenbalg, the first Protestant missionary to India, established schools for girls as well as boys, a radical step at the time. William Carey translated the Bible into several languages, fought to abolish suttee (the practice of burning widows with the bodies of their husbands), and established Serampore College. Mrs. W. B. Scranton, an early Methodist missionary to Korea, opened the first school for girls — now Ehwa University, the largest women's university in the world. And the Presbyterian Horace Underwood established Yonsei University, after which a hospital and medical school were soon established. Even more impressive is that these early missionaries did so alongside their focus on evangelism and church planting, despite the paucity of resources.

Article continues below

Paul Pierson
Dean Emeritus, Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission
Pasadena, California

The Evolution of D'Souza

I admire Dinesh D'Souza's passionate defense of theism ["The Evolution of Darwin," January], but I find some of his statements troubling. He writes, "… we can embrace Darwin's account of evolution without embracing his metaphysical naturalism and unbelief."

Scientific evidence aside, there is nothing about Darwinism that is compatible with Christianity. Darwinism strikes at the root of Christian faith — namely, the federal headship of the first man Adam and Christ. Romans 5:12 is clear that it is through one man (Adam) that sin entered the world, and he represents all men who are sinners, and that therefore, our only hope is through the one man Christ, who is our representative for righteousness. In order to embrace theistic evolution, one has to discard the idea of a first man whose sin corrupted all of humanity, and relatedly, that one man can be our representative for righteousness.

Dennis Hanabarger
Glen Carbon, Illinois

D'Souza is correct when he states, "Dawkins and others like him are … under the illusion that to be an evolutionist is essentially to be an atheist." Among the "others like him" are the Phillip Johnsons of the evangelical world, who promote exactly the same assumption that evolution must exclude God. Too many Christian college students have avoided science for fear that it will jeopardize their faith. Others, coming to accept common descent as they gain knowledge in the sciences, are left with no place to go but out the church door.

Stephen L. Ranney
Vancouver, Washington

From Twitter

SteveFouch@CTmagazine thank you for covering the Jos situation — so many news outlets outside Africa have ignored this story. It need[s] to be heard in reply to CTmagazine

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.