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Letters to the Editor #1

A couple of months ago I made the decision to remove the comment section on my blog. I did so largely because comments can only succeed where there is good moderation, and I was increasingly unable to provide that. The fault, then, was not in the commenters, but in me. After I removed the comments I learned that many other blogs and sites spanning all subjects and genres have done the same, and took this as a kind of confirmation. In lieu of comments I have decided to accept (and encourage) letters to the editor. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week.

Comments on The Most Happily Multi-Ethnic Church I Know

Thank you for writing about your happily multi-ethnic church. It is an encouragement to know that the Gospel can bring diverse groups of people together. The diversity of the church I attend (Dartmouth Bible Church) is one of the things I love about it.
—John Z from New Bedford, MA

My family is in Toronto for a conference and we visited your church on Sunday. It was a blessing to us to worship with the nations at your church! My husband and I are church planters in Houston, TX. The vision the Lord has given us is to plant 50 multi ethnic churches over the next 20 years. We agree wholeheartedly that there is nothing so precious as when the church on earth reflects the glory of the nations worshipping in heaven. Thank you for being faithful to share with the nations in Toronto! May you continue to bear much fruit!
—Melanie B from Houston, TX

Tim, I am the vicar of an evangelical Anglican Church in a small rural town of 1800 people. Australia has a significant indigenous population which, due to a number of factors, is increasingly dysfunctional. It is a significant proportion of our town but absent in our two evangelical churches (the other is Presbyterian). My wife and I yearn for God to break down our church’s racism and for indigenous Australians to know Jesus. Your article struck a chord- we have no set policy except to proclaim the good news and to practice good news. God, in his goodness, has brought 7 indigenous Australians to church- up from 1 when we moved here 6 years ago. He is transforming people and we can see them coming to know him. It is slow but he is great and Jesus is wonderful in his saving lordship. Thank you for such a pertinent article and the great encouragement it was.

Bernard G from Wee Waa, NSW Australia

Comments on What Does It Mean that God Is Jealous?

I’m not part of the reading group but was just quickly reading the piece, as the subject in an interesting one. I wanted to write in response to the first paragraph, as I would suggest that it is historically off-base. When the imaginations of men constructed gods in the ancient world love, mercy, patience, etc. were not at all the main characteristics attributed to their gods – the main or most important one was probably power. The gods were seen as a reflection of their own experience, good and bad, and the said characteristics were not commonly experienced (or at least felt to be experienced). The gods were actually almost an exact copy of themselves writ large, thus they were certainly perceived as having bad characteristics (though they wouldn’t have thought of it in exactly those terms). Thus a jealous God would not have been difficult for people in antiquity to imagine. Jealousy of the gods would have esp. been seen in cases where men became too great and aspired to god-like status; the gods would be jealous of their glory and topple them. We see an analogy to this in the OT (God tearing down the proud) but from a different divine motive. So, if I had to guess off hand, I would say the theme of God’s jealousy in the OT seems more like a subversion of divine jealousy – i.e. toward marital jealousy – that would have easily been associated with the divine in other terms.
Justin R from Winter Park, FL

Tim: I cannot speak for J.I. Packer whose words I was quoting, but I took him to mean that even the pagans who create a jealous god do so because of what God has made known about himself through creation and conscience. Even the Greek and Roman gods, who were full of jealousy, were created by humans with some basic God-given knowledge of the God who is.

Comments on 7 Great Study Bibles

Thank you very much for producing that very helpful infographic on Study Bibles. One question I have though is this: what is the difference between “reformed” and “evangelical”? In particular, what is the difference between “reformed” and “conservative evangelical”, as I have always assumed those two descriptors were virtually synonymous. I appreciate different people may have different definitions for the two terms, but I’d appreciate hearing your own thoughts on the matter.
B.J. S from Hong Kong

Tim: I was trying to distinguish between a conservative Evangelicalism that does not necessarily hold to a Reformed understanding of salvation and a conservative Evangelicalism that does. In this way I use “Reformed” as a subset of the broader term “Evangelical.”

General Comments

I’m sure that I probably just missed it, but I very recently noticed that a number of articles were devoid of comments, and now noticed this explanation of how to write letters instead of commenting that seems to imply that the comments section is fully gone. All that said to ask: If the comments section is indeed gone, and this letter format is replacing it…why was this done? I for one enjoyed the comments section in that I was encouraged, challenged, entertained, and enlightened by it at various times, and would like to know what warranted its end.
L. Sanders from Republic, MO

Tim: Successful comment sections depend upon close moderation. As I considered all the ways I could spend my time, I determined that moderating comments would have to be low on the list. I see more and more sites following a similar course of action, especially as discussion migrates to Facebook and other social media channels.

Tim, like you I am a baseball fan. You have shared about both your love for your hometown Toronto Blue Jays and of your friendship with Royals star Ben Zobrist. I was just wondering, who will you be rooting for in the ALCS? Shouldn’t a Christian choose friendship over our loyalty to a non-personal franchise?
—Clinton H from Stanton, NE

Tim: I once had dinner with Ben right after he struck out to end a game which Toronto won. I thoroughly enjoyed that moment. But, to be fair, he has heard me preach a pretty bad sermon. So I think we’ve got enough water under the bridge that I can temporarily cheer against his team even while hoping the best for his personal life.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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