Your Letters (May-Jun 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

We need to repent of arrogance

Dear editor,

Thank you for printing the excerpt from Dr. Noll’s contribution to Evangelicalism and the Stone-Campbell Movement. I am always interested in learning how to more accurately place our tradition within the larger mural of Christian history. Dr. Noll observed “many Christian movements … have also acted upon [their particular] beliefs in a primal innocence, as if they were able to escape the influence of the past by assuming that cherished Christian truths came directly from the skies with no intervening terrestrial history.” Such an assumption is the past, present and future folly of any who cling to the myth of Restoration.

There was a Reformation. There is always the hope of Renewal. There will never be a Restoration. There wasn’t one a hundred and fifty years ago. A new denomination arose on the scattered glowing coals of the Revolutionary War. This new denomination evolved and hardened on the ashes of the Civil War. The identity of this denomination owes more to Reconstruction and Rebuilding Southern Pride and than to the noble tales of Restoration.

Let us not repeat the folly of assuming we can once again sever our connection to the past, especially our past. We have a past that needs to be both cherished and repented. We need to cherish our historic high view of scripture and our historic missionary zeal. Praise God! We need to repent of our historic exclusive arrogance and our historic capitulation of the gospel to the norms of white southern pride. God help us!

Yes, Jesus is our benchmark. Is this up for debate? Until “our” educational institutions begin to actively recognize, recruit and employ scholars from Christian traditions beyond “our” own; until “our” autonomous local churches no longer live in fear of being slandered by their own “sister” churches; until we are willing to grant our own children freedom by telling them their relationship to God through Christ is infinitely more important to us that their loyalty to our denomination’s particular brand of Christianity: until these (and similar) behaviors are regular and frequent among us can we claim Jesus as “our” benchmark?

Oh sure, we can make the claim. But who will believe us?

Tim Alexander
Antioch, Tennessee

 

 


New Wineskins missed a chance to lift up a woman to status usually reserved for men

Dear editor,

Mike Cope refers to Barbara Brown Taylor as an “author” in “The Centrifugal Mission.” However, after studying her sermons, hearing her preach and reading her books on the subject of preaching, I’m convinced she is first and foremost a master homiletician, a passionate preacher and secondarily she is an author.

I completely understand that Mike Cope read the story he referred to in a book so to refer to Barbara Brown Taylor as an author is quite appropriate but as one who is an advocate for gender justice in the churches of Christ, it disappoints me to see that once again, we have missed an opportunity to lift a woman up to the status that is usually reserved for men.

On another note, I appreciate Mike’s overall message in the article “The Centrifugal Mission.” I am a minister in an urban setting. I’ve only been at it for several months. I stare the poor, the oppressed and the prisoners in the face every day. I still find myself trying to make sense of Jesus’ call according to Luke and my call to reach out to those who are disenfranchised. May we all join in the “Spirit-anointed mission of God to which we are called.”

Joe Hays
Ft. Worth, Texas

Editor’s Note: Our intention was to point out that Barbara Brown Taylor is, in fact, one whose work is out in books and can be accessed by our readers in bookstores or libraries. It was not our intention to hide the fact that she is also a preacher.

 


Harry Potter debate continues

Dear editors,

I have thoroughly enjoyed the New Wineskins format. It is well produced and attractive. I am especially enjoying the March/April issue.

The Harry Potter phenomenon has demonstrated the power of the written word in a rather humorous way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much effort to demonize or defend a piece of children’s literature in my life! (Unfortunately, we are caught up with Harry while a truly subversive children’s novel HIS DARK MATERIALS receives little or no attention. Christianity is demonized and dishonesty is applauded. To be honest, this comes from a couple of reviews by Mars Hill Audio–I have not yet read the books. But the author is atheist and makes no bones about it.)

The attention Harry is receiving indicates that J. K. Rowling is a much better author than some of her critics are willing to admit. While I agree with Ken Shackelford’s observation that Rowling is no Tolkein or Lewis (I think of her as “The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Merlin”), I certainly disagree with his judgment that her writing is “junk-food literature at best.” She is a children’s author whose primary audience are pre- and young adolescents. One cannot compare Tolkein’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy with Harry Potter. They are apples and oranges in target audience and style. And moan all you wish about today’s literary standards. The better part of humility is to recognize that such standards are generally subject to the market place. Today’s mediocrity may be next century’s classics. Remember that writers like Mark Twain and Victor Hugo enjoyed quite a few bad reviews in their life times!

Like Shackelford, I too have read all the Potter books–to my children. And as a former youth minister (for nearly 20 years), I couldn’t disagree with his judgment more. To suggest that Rowling has “nothing godly to offer” and that her books display a “complete lack of any moral high ground” indicates one of three things: initial prejudice, superficial reading or a lack of familiarity with the books at all. The premise of the first book is that self-sacrificial love overcomes the power of evil. Such is the essence of the gospel! Harry does not overcome through the use of magic. He overcomes real, objective evil (Lord Voldemort) through loyalty, courage, trust and love. Those sound like some pretty lofty moral virtues to me!

Keep up the good work! God bless!

Darryl Willis,
Ennis, Texas

 


A message from the editor of Integrity Journal:

Having been editor of Integrity Journal for the past four years, it is with a measure of sadness and loss that I bid it farewell. Saturday the board, with majority vote, felt it was in God’s timing for us to end our ministry with this journal. Several signs kept pointing to now being the appropriate time for this to take place. We are now trying to experience a sense of healing during this time of closure. For thirty-three years Integrity has paved the way for serious theological reflection, opportunities for intellectual honesty to raise pertinent questions, and foster an irenic spirit of inquiry. It is this heritage that we pass on to you, New Wineskins, 2,250 of our readership mailing list. It is my sincere prayer that all of them will eventually subscribe to New Wineskins. We are promoting it in our congregation and will spread the word every where we have opportunity. It almost seems to me like I am giving up a baby for adoption! Being editor put me in touch with many wonderful people across the spectrum of our Restoration heritage. And what a rich one it is!

It was the board’s impression that the New Wineskins is taking up where Integrity has left off, and will pursue that same ministry with a greater sense of calling and professionalism than we were unable to give it. As you know, the journal existed for thirty-three years purely on donations. It is now time for us to say goodbye and turn the “Elijah mantle” over to you. In my quiet interior time with God, I am asking that your capable and spiritual leadership be felt through this new magazine all across our Restoration heritage.

I want to encourage you to incorporate writers from the Christian Church, the Disciples and others who desire to further the mission of “providing a voice of responsible Christ-centered change in our lives and in our churches.”

Charis & Shalom in Jesus.

Your brother because of Him,
Curtis D. McClane
editor of IntegrityNew Wineskins

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This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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