Mind Matters

Darren Marks's cover essay ["The Mind Under Grace," March] deserves to be carefully read and absorbed. As doctrine forms us into fruitful disciples, we are better able to pass through stormy waters, even when God appears to have forsaken us. Those whose faith is propped up by feelings will likely lose that faith when life isn't so rosy.

Trevor Michael

After giving his essay some thought, I believe Marks has the correct treatment but ultimately the wrong diagnosis. The problem with postmoderns is not that we seek a personal, subjective experience over against a universal theology. Rather, we seek a corrupted universal theology to use to justify our subjective hopes and desires. This dynamic would explain why so many are drawn to the health and wealth gospel, even though its promises may be completely outside their personal experience.

In the end, though, the problem is still solved by a cross-centered theology that expounds the depravity of man and the necessity of grace in each believer's life. If this analysis is correct, perhaps the theologian of our age is not Schleiermacher but Pelagius.

Erik Tollefson
St. Paul, Minnesota

I'm deeply grateful for J. I. Packer and Gary Parrett's direction on teaching doctrine ["The Lost Art of Catechesis," March]. Many churches confuse disciple-making with service, and thus fail to see that true discipleship is founded on learning and results in application. The decline of Western evangelicalism speaks to a failure to ground congregants in the historic faith, seeking "deeds over creeds" and overbroad attempts at ecumenism. Packer and Parrett's work gives hope that some churches will return to making disciples as Jesus commanded.

Wes Wetherell
Glen Ellyn, Illinois

As a faithful Christianity Today reader for years, I have sometimes worried about the decision to feature articles on new spirituality and spiritual formation. But the March 2010 issue put everything in perspective. The cover package on doctrine, as well as the review of Brian McLaren's latest book, were cogent, convincing, and balanced the ship. Thanks for a magnificent issue, all 96 pages of it.

Herbert Douglass
Lincoln, California

How Jesus Viewed Sin

I was thrilled to see Gary Anderson's history of sin engaged and brought to the readers of CT ["The Evolution of Sin," March]. But Jesus' view of sin was not downloaded to him directly from the Old Testament or simply known by virtue of his divine nature. It was shaped for him in his Second Temple environment. What Jesus thought about the Old Testament, even something as important as the sin he came to deal with, was an expression of his cultural moment. This is certainly an implication of the Incarnation, but not one that normally sits well with evangelical Christology.

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Peter Enns
Senior Fellow, BioLogos Foundation
San Diego, California

What McLaren Wants

Scot McKnight's review of A New Kind of Christianity ["Rebuilding the Faith from Scratch," March] does a tremendous job of making Scot's views clear. Regarding my own views, I think Scot gets off on the wrong foot in the first sentence. He asserts that I've grown tired of evangelicalism. In fact, I am deeply grateful for my evangelical heritage, and I know God is doing wonderful things in evangelicalism. He's right—I'm not so thrilled about some facets of some sectors of it. But neither is Scot, and neither are the editors of CT, and neither are most evangelicals.

The term evangelicalism never appears in the book, and the term evangelical occurs about 20 times in the some 80,000 words of the book. Most of the references are positive or neutral. My hopes for the future certainly include evangelicals, but they also include Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Radical Reformation folk, and yes, even those liberal mainline Protestants.

There are substantial areas of disagreement (and agreement) that Scot fairly articulates; it's unfortunate that his misinterpretation of my attitude toward evangelicalism frames the whole review. I didn't invent the ten questions addressed in my book. These questions are being raised by thousands of people worldwide, including evangelicals, who can't in good faith be satisfied with the standard answers given to them. Whether I'm counted outside the evangelical fold or not, the questions are here to stay. I hope that we can face the questions without fearing them, and that we can do so in fellowship.

Brian McLaren
Laurel, Maryland

If McKnight describes McLaren's new book accurately, then McLaren has finally confirmed what many of us have suspected for some time. I'm on board with a "generous orthodoxy" that includes many conversation partners figuring out how to best express what's been said for 2,000 years. I cannot support an agenda that arrogantly presumes we can read Jesus and Paul better than those who knew them.

Respect the great men and women of the faith enough to not presume to fix them, Brian. We want your voice in the conversation, but as one voice in a long conversation.

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Jeremiah Gibbs
Bloomington, Indiana

Weighing Plastic Surgery

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway's ambivalence about cosmetic surgery ["Is Cosmetic Surgery Immoral?" March] is obvious; she "frown[s] on cosmetic surgery" yet sees "some cosmetic surgery as a beautiful gift from God." She correctly notes that the issue is morally complex. When our son was electrocuted and had his mouth surgically repaired, Christian friends saw this as restoration. When I lost 70 pounds and investigated a tummy tuck to restore a "normal" body, my motives were considered suspect.

Thousands of Christians seek cosmetic procedures for God-honoring reasons. The judgment they endure might also be symptomatic of our cultural rot.

Shelly Beach
Sparta, Michigan

Worth Repeating

"They want a Savior who forgives their sins, but they don't want a risen Lord who tells them how to live."
Ruth Gervat, on why some Christians ignore the Resurrection in their daily lives.
Theology in the News: "The Resurrection Changes Everything," by Collin Hansen

"John wasn't called a blastula or a zygote or a fetus or a blob of cells, but a baby."
John Hale, on Luke 1:41's statement that John the Baptist leapt in his mother's womb, and what the Annunciation means for pro-life Protestants.
"More Important Than Christmas?" by Ted Olsen

"What scares me is that many Christians spend more time listening to paid commentators than reading God's Word."
Adrianne Butler, on responses to Glenn Beck's call for his listeners to leave churches that promote social justice.
"Glenn Beck: 'Leave Your Church,'" by Tobin Grant

"'Why don't you just adopt?' ranks high, along with 'you just need to pray more' and 'you just need more faith,' on the list Things Christians Say That Just Don't Help."
Andrew, on how some Christians respond to infertile couples.
Women's Blog: "'Why Don't You Just Adopt?'" by Ellen Painter Dollar

"I hope they will present the story as it was written—no adding romance where there wasn't any, and letting Narnia be: mysterious, magical, and inviting."
Agatha Villa, on the film The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, set to debut December 2010.
News: "Will 'The Dawn Treader' Float?" by Mark Moring

What got the most comments in March's CT:

19%The Mind Under Grace Darren Marks

19% Box Office Pantheism CT Editors

15%The Village Green, Immigration Samuel Rodriguez, James K. Hoffmeier, and David Skeel

Related Elsewhere:

The March issue is available on our website.

Letters to the editor must include the writer's name and address if intended for publication. They may be edited for space or clarity.

E-mail: cteditor@christianitytoday.com

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