Another Cuban Revolution
Many thanks to Christianity Today for its July cover story, "Cuba for Christ—Ahora!" Churches in the U.S. and around the world need to pray for and support the vibrant church that has developed in this oppressed country, and CT is the perfect magazine to share this story.
At the heart of Cuba's spiritual revival is the house church movement. Before restrictions were placed on Americans visiting house churches, staff from Global Connection International visited a few of them—they were exciting places of worship, to say the least. On one occasion, we attended a Methodist church in downtown Havana. Nearly 500 worshipers filled the church, while others stood outside, listening. One hour was devoted to singing. One hour to preaching. One hour to the invitation. Twenty minutes to announcements. And no one left early. The Cuban church, while restricted in many ways, is not underground; it is open and obvious to everyone.
Executive Director, Global Literature Connection
Sun Lakes, Arizona
I was glad to see a major evangelical publication take a balanced, biblical view on animal compassion ["Not One Sparrow," July]. I recently preached a sermon about compassion toward animals as being not a mere sentimental choice but a biblical obligation. Many parishioners said they had never heard a sermon about animals. Even though animals came before us at creation and were included on Noah's ark and in God's covenant, the church seems to mention them only when planning fellowship dinners. And the animals on the menu come from factory farms where existence is hellish.
How often I hear people say that caring about animal suffering means one must not care about people. But people like William Wilberforce prove the opposite—that, as Psalm 36:6 declares, "O Lord, you preserve both man and beast."
Allenwood, New Jersey
I don't know any Christ-followers who advocate for the mistreatment of animals; in fact, most have an understanding from Scripture that humans must protect vulnerable creatures. But it appears to me that the church's stewardship of animals is becoming confused with a worldview that sees no difference between humans and animals. Both are creations of God and fulfill his purposes by being what they were created to be. What they were created to do and be, however, are not the same.
It is not necessary to diminish animals in order to recognize the high value God places on the crown of his creation, humans. Care for, enjoy, and love the awe-inspiring array of creatures God has made—and care for, enjoy, and love the most vulnerable of God's creation: orphaned boys and girls.
Director, HIV/AIDS Initiative,
Lake Forest, California
Gay Marriage and Me
I received the complimentary first copy of CT as a Fuller Seminary student 50 years ago, and have probably read every issue since. As I read "Is The Gay Marriage Debate Over?" [July], I had the strange feeling that, as Mordecai said to Esther, "Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
Mark Galli goes far beyond gay marriage itself, opening up why the church today seems to be leading the charge into a post-Christian America. He exposes the unchecked individualism that permeates the evangelical church and too often diminishes our witness to a whimper. If his message dies with this issue of CT, the church will be losing a call to rebirth. I pray that it will, somehow, be sung from the rooftops.
Mark Galli shows too much deference to the alleged conservative argument for gay marriage. Andrew Sullivan, blogger for The Atlantic, is known for arguing that same-sex marriage should be allowed because it will change gay behavior in "profoundly conservative ways." But there is no evidence for that, and instead much evidence to the contrary.
Galli's too-easy respect for the power of Sullivan's argument is also outdated: In his book Love Undetectable, Sullivan defended "the beauty and mystery and spirituality of sex, including anonymous sex," adding, "On a personal level, I have never been in a long-term romantic relationship, and am perfectly happy without one."
Of course evangelicals should be humble, self-critical, and insistent on keeping righteousness connected to love. But there is no reason they should be deferential toward hollow arguments like Sullivan's.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
Galli's article was an insightful challenge to consider how our individualistic assumptions have influenced a larger culture that welcomes same-sex marriage. But it illustrates a reaction that I fear is common among evangelicals: child-centeredness rather than a holistic view of the family unit.
Calling a couple's desire to "enjoy themselves" for a few years before having children a sign of radical individualism shocked me. My husband and I waited two years before having children, and we hope that enjoying ourselves established a relationship that will make us good parents, ones who continue to meet each other's emotional needs. Couldn't we also see a radical individualism at work in the wife who finds her heart primarily satisfied by the care of her children, thus neglecting emotional availability to her husband?
Heather Walker Peterson
St. Paul, Minnesota
The Tarnished Imago Dei
In his well-written article "To Kill or to Love—That Was the Question" [July], Brandon O'Brien stumbled upon a classical Christian understanding of our need to grow into the fullness of the image and likeness of God, a concept that reaches far back beyond the Protestant Reformation.
The church fathers of the patristic era were less drastic than Luther and Calvin in their pessimism about human nature. They taught that at the Fall, humans lost their likeness to God but retained the imago Dei, however tarnished. Thus, the goal of Christian discipleship was to grow up, through sanctification by God's grace, into the full likeness of God, which consists of various divine attributes like will and reason but also moral virtues like love and justice. O'Brien's emphasis on our bearing that image is of great value.
A Hajj to Houston
As a recent Houston Baptist University (HBU) graduate, I much appreciated Gregg Chenoweth and Caleb Benoit's "Where Jerusalem and Mecca Meet" [July], and can attest to the benefits of a Christian education among a religiously diverse student body.
I had the chance to develop friendships with students of various backgrounds, which expanded my understanding of how to effectively deliver the gospel to people different from me. This helped me solidify my own beliefs, as I had to distinguish between merely traditionalist elements of my faith and universal biblical truths.
I believe that as America becomes more diverse, HBU's educational model is absolutely crucial for Christian students. Experiences like mine will help Christians keep the proper balance between doctrinal integrity and cultural relevance.
I appreciated HBU President Robert Sloan's comment, "Interfaith dialogue is [part of] what the Calvinists would call a prevenient grace." Near as we are to the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth, I would add that Calvin had a unique ability to see pre-Christian classical literature pointing in some ways to Christ. In the same way, we cannot agree with much of the Qur'an's Christology, including its assertion that Christ is only a prophet. But its affirmation that Jesus was born of a virgin, performed miracles, and is the "Word of God" may be signs of a prevenient grace that creates an intense hunger among Muslims for the One who is the Bread of Life and Light of the World.
At the same time, we must be clear that the proclamation of another Jesus done "in house" must be declared to fall far short of the true gospel.
Winfield Casey Jones
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