Thanks for Ed Stetzer's thoughtful cover story dealing with a pressing theme ["Proselytizing in a Multi-Faith World," April]. We need more of this kind of discussion. In my own multi-faith encounters and dialogue, I have discovered that both my respect for others and my relationship with Christ deepen. Imagine that.
Ed Stetzer wisely admonishes readers to let every religion speak for itself. But he proceeds to speak on behalf of Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. This irony reaches a crescendo when he states, "Al Qaeda does not represent mainstream Islam any more than one Qur'an-burning pastor or the Ku Klux Klan represents Jesus' followers." This is a common sentiment among Christians trying to make sense of Islamic violence, but one I rarely hear from Muslims.
I continue to wait for mainstream Islamic leaders to unite in passionately and forcefully condemning Muslims' acts of terrorism.
To see why we should talk about individuals' beliefs rather than entire religions, we need look no farther than our own churches. How frequently in talking with members of the same church or denomination does it become clear they don't really understand the doctrinal views of their own tradition? I've had Catholics tell me that the Catholic Church does not teach transubstantiation. Meanwhile, how many Baptists, Methodists, and Lutherans believe that they are going to heaven because they've tried to be good people and do the right thing?
Who is Islam's God?
Theologian Miroslav Volf's argument ["Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?," April] is this, in a nutshell: Yes, there are differences between the Islamic and Christian understandings of God, but there are also similarities. Are we therefore to see these differences as a glass half-empty or half-full? Volf says half-full.
I disagree. All we have to do is look at the Qur'an, which repeatedly insists that the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) have corrupted their sacred literature (the Bible). What about the Qur'an's insistence that Jesus is not divine and did not die on the cross? What about Muhammad's claim that since the religious practice of the Jews is false, some of them have been transformed into apes and swine?
Effective dialogue between Christians and Muslims must start with frankly acknowledging the vast differences that divide us. The glass is actually almost empty. Anything less than such an admission will confuse the process.
Robert C. Greer
The essential question is whether there is any other God besides Yahweh. Of course people worship many things: money, fame, power, sex, thereby making for themselves little gods. But there is only one God, and to the degree that a Jew, Muslim, Christian, or anyone else seeks to worship in sincerity and truth the One from whom all things come, they worship the only God there is. Jesus said as much to the Samaritan woman at the well: "You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know …" (John 4:22).
Most writers featured in Christianity Today seem to be thinking about God instead of with him. But this month, I went immediately to David Weiss's "God of the Schizophrenic" [April] and sat crying at the depth and authenticity of it. He beats out all the New Testament professors this month for relevance and powerful message.
David, keep writing. You are stupendous!
San Rafael, California
CT Unpacks Hell, Bell
I appreciate how CT's review of Love Wins noted the strengths of both evangelical and liberal theological traditions ["What's Up with Hell?," April]. Mark Galli spoke to actual points rather than a trumped-up caricature of the author. Thanks for that. Maybe one day Christians will act like family instead of opposing sides of a bloody war. If so, reviews like this one will have done their job.
Allyn Harris Dault
St. Louis, Missouri
I haven't read Love Wins yet, but would be surprised if Bell credits his theology to Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albrecht Ritschl, Rudolf Bultmann, or Paul Tillich, as CT suggests. In fact, affirming the divinity of Jesus and the historical truth of the Resurrection places Bell squarely in the evangelical fold. I find it odd that the reviewer would insist on painting Bell with the Schleiermacher brush, as it comes off as an undeserved slur, a guilt by association.
Great article, CT. As a pastor for 13 years in a liberal church tradition, I'm perplexed by Bell's infatuation with elements of old-school liberalism. He's certainly not saying anything new or shocking. I think you have identified the root issue: ultimately Rob Bell is accountable to Rob Bell—not to a hierarchy, denomination, or the larger stream of Christian thought (expressed via the church fathers, for instance).
Unfortunately, Bell isn't the only evangelical who works within an independent church system. For all of our criticisms of Roman Catholicism, at least that tradition has a spiritual leader who can stand up and say, "Sorry, but that's out of bounds."
What got the most comments in April's CT
37% Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? interview with Miroslav Volf
18% Proselytizing in a Multi-Faith World by Ed Stetzer
17% What's Up with Hell? by Mark Galli
The most praised piece in April's CT
God of the Schizophrenic
"I have to daily guard my heart against cynicism toward Christians who value politics more than discipleship."
Brother Stephen, on the intentions of the President and his guests at the Easter prayer breakfast.
CT Politics Blog: "Keller, Jakes Among Obama's Prayer Breakfast Guests," by Alicia Cohn
"The most vocal Christians tend to believe there is something wrong with painting a little boy's toenails. Your post was a nice reminder that there are good, reasonable, intelligent believers."
Amanda, thanking the author (despite religious differences) for her response to a J. Crew ad depicting a boy with pink toenails.
Her.meneutics: "Why I Let My Son Wear Pink," by Ellen Painter Dollar
"A reviewer wondered where the sex and swearing was. Those are components of the lives of many Christian kids, but it's sad he can't imagine that a chaste teen could be a real character in a compelling story"
Joey, on the media's reaction to the movie Soul Surfer and its depiction of Christian teen Bethany Hamilton and her family.
CT Entertainment Blog: "Why Are Christian Movies So Awful?," by Mark Moring
"I pray for the day evangelicalism is defined more by the gospel and less by politics"
John, discussing the results of a recent Pew Research Center poll.
CT Politics Blog: "Majority of Evangelicals Prefer Government Shutdown to Budget Compromise," by Tobin Grant
Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
The April 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.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.