Letters to the Editor #23 (Arminianism, Public Schools, Ebooks)

I received quite a lot of interesting letters to the editor this week and their topics ranged from Arminianism to ebooks and just about everywhere in between. I have captured a few of the most noteworthy and hope you enjoy reading them.

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Comments on Why I Am Not Arminian

First off, I love this series you are doing “why I am not…” It has been extremely edifying to me personally and has helped answer a lot of questions, especially regarding Roman Catholicism. I really appreciate your willingness to share your experiences with these differing view points.

I was wondering if you had thought about putting in more scripture references throughout the next steps in your series? From this post forward (based upon your schedule of this series), we’re dealing with differences between brothers and sisters in Christ (as you stated in this article about Arminianism). I know that you said in your introductory post to this series, you’re not writing this to persuade us to believe what you believe, however, I think that Scripture references, even if they are not exposited, would be extremely beneficial.

Again, I really appreciate all of the work and thought you put into these articles, and you certainly are in a better position to know what would be beneficial to include in your posts. I guess I just wanted to hear your thoughts on including more scripture references in these future posts. Thanks so much for having this feature on your site, I appreciate having the opportunity to communicate with you easily.
—Charlie L, Marietta, GA

Tim: I appreciate the suggestion. I feel a bit “caught” between keeping the series descriptive and prescriptive, especially as we move into these finer points of theology. A defense of adult baptism, for example, is different from my story of coming to embrace it. But I will definitely keep your suggestion in mind as I go forward.

Comments on 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Public Schooling

Tim: I am not in the habit of posting letters to the editor based on “Flashback” articles, but did want to make an exception since I appreciated this young lady getting in touch. Then it only seemed fair to share the second letter on the topic as well.

I am a 16 year old public school student. If you would like a bit of background of who I am: I take a mix of AP and IB classes; I run my own blog, and I am looking into a future in missionary aviation. In 2 weeks I will be at a Christian aviation camp, and I am terribly excited.

I do not think that public school has ruined me. That said, my public school has about 2000 kids. We have 2 different Bible Clubs (Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Bible Club) and also sing a 20 minute long “Song of Christmas” in our winter concert- complete with a cast of student actors who carefully complete the nativity scene as we hum, recite, and herald the Christmas message.

Still, I have had teachers that hate religion, the sort that parents choose to either homeschool or private school because of. And there are plenty of students who listen to their memos. But I agree with Tim’s statement that those who have good, faithful parents and an active tie to the church will make it out (spiritually) alive and well.

At the same time, I don’t deny that schools are definitely changing. I remember days when we used projectors and wet erase markers and today, we sit in a world a million times more wired. In light of the different changes happening, I have noticed when adults look at high schools, there is a lot of fear about what the future will look like. Or maybe not so much the schools, but what America will look like in ten or twenty years. I write this letter because there is one thing I would like us to remember: It can never be “us” and “them.” We are all in this together.

I have had teachers who have voiced being hurt by Christians and friends who have only had bad church experiences. I have watched friend and after friend struggle with identity and mental illness. It’s not just in schools: If you look around, there are so many people who feel shattered, youth who are lonely and no one gives them a hug. Soon, “maybe a little depressed” turns into a life certain that there is no hope and no one would understand.

It’s so easy to think we are better than the “them.” It’s so easy to point fingers at the trans kids or to look at someone who denies the existence of God and raise our voice a little. But we must consider that the gospel requires all of us to go through some pretty critical “heart surgery” and we must create communities that will help us share the hope of the gospel with all people.

I am going to propose something fairly radical, but hear me out: In a few months when school starts up, it likely wouldn’t be too difficult for you to take a day off from work and visit the local public high school. We are probably never going to have prayer in schools again, but I think if we want schools to be places where God is welcome we must listen to the young generation, learn what the struggles feel like through a student’s eyes. Instead of looking at the differences, it’s time to focus on our own hearts and how we can demonstrate the love of God; kids’ll notice, I promise. After all, we are all in this together.
—Kate G, Chambersburg, PA

Your work has been a blessing for me in my life, especially your work with modern struggles, such as technology. Recently, we used The Next Story in my adult Sunday school class at our church. But I wanted to write a quick note concerning this article in defense of public schooling. I think you should remember the influence you have over many believers right now and know this post will be used by parents who should not have their kids in the local public school, to continue in that stead, even though you say it’s not meant to defend that choice in every place and every time. What I have noticed is that those sending their children to public school see that choice through very rose tinted glasses, I would challenge you and your wife to do this as well. Make a list of scripture verses that cover how we should be educating our children, what they should be taught, when they should be taught (how often) etc. Then make your choice off what you think is the most biblically accurate path. Often time it’s easy for us Christians to become post modern in our thinking on certain issues, in other words, we think we can make our own choices in areas where I believe scripture is actually very clear. I will continue to follow you, read your books, etc, and am very thankful for the work you are doing here, but since I am hoping a very direct email will be easiest here, I want to say, that I think you are wrong here. The article is not wrong, but it doesn’t really have any argument as to why you think public school is more scriptural than homeschool or Christian school. I truly believe that if you are 100% honest with yourself here, meditate on the Lord’s revealed will through scripture and pray on this, you would change your position. I would suggest listening to Voddie or Sproul Jr’s arguments, and consider very closely what Dueteronomy 6 is requiring that we provide as Christian parents to our children. Thanks again for all you do.
—Anthony S, Kansas City, MO

Tim: Aileen and I have done those very things. We have considered what the Bible demands of us as parents as well as what it does not demand of us, and we are comfortable with our choice. We consider this the kind of conscience matter Paul addresses in Romans 14 where you and I may come to different conclusions each while affirming the other’s right to come to such a decision.

Comments on Imagine If eBooks Came First

Your article posed some major advantages of electronic books over paper books. However, I wondered if you had considered some of the advantages of paper books that are not typically offered. For example, those without access to electricity for charging a device cannot access electronic books (we cannot assume that electricity will continue to be widely available in decades to come as our country is in a state of decline). Daylight should continue to be available until the end of the world, however! Also … our living room is filled with bookshelves and when I sit there, alone, and look at the rows of books, I feel as if I were surrounded by friends. Iain Murray and the Puritans, biographies of John Newton, Mary Winslow and Elizabeth Prentiss, favorite children’s books and novels gather around me. It is perfectly delightful. I am sure that even in the triumph of ebooks, paper books will continue to be used as decorations in many homes, because as your article’s featured image shows, a Kindle just can’t compete for sense of presence.
—Alyssa B, Ridgeway, WV

Tim: So much comes down to what we are accustomed to and to matters of personal preference. I do not disagree with anything you say here, but we could also flip many of them. Consider, for example, the pastor in the developing world who can be given a device containing thousands of books that take up no space and can easily recharge using solar power. We can give him an entire library in one simple device. Since migrating to ebooks I do miss being surrounded by books at times, but not nearly as much as I would have imagined.

***

From the tone of this article, I am assuming your “year of the eBook” challenge is going quite well! I have considered transitioning my book purchasing to all-digital, but I am concerned by the near-monopoly that Amazon has on the market. I know there are other ways to buy eBooks, but as far as eReaders, the Kindle is king and has little serious competition. I worry, as Amazon corners the market, that the proprietary nature of kindle could lead to an unsafe pricing or even censorship of content. Maybe you could speak to this at some point, but it has always been a concern of mine when going “all-in” on a particular content platform
—Colin S, Dayton, OH

Tim: I quite agree and share your concerns. It is not enough to keep from going all-in, but it is enough to cause me some concern and to hope that proprietary formats will eventually be relaxed.

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In your article, you refer to the challenge of “proprietary or defunct formats in ebooks.” Speaking as an IT guy with nearly 30 years of experience, I can confirm that one of the biggest challenges with digital information is the migration of that information from a dead or dying format to a newer format. I understand that there is much digital information that’s only accessible if you load a floppy disk, hoping that the magnetic information is still readable, and fire up an ancient program that understands its format.
—Dave U, Belvidere, IL

Tim: Quite right and, again, that is one of my concerns. I would like to think that as our digital technologies mature and become less dependent upon a particular medium (such as a floppy disk) we will see less of those situations where our files become unusable.

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The part I found most interesting in this was the “security” section. Interestingly enough, I don’t see eBooks as having more security than physical copy, only having a “different” kind of security. Take for instance the ironic Kindle snafu with George Orwell’s 1984. Amazon pulled the book remotely from people’s Kindles without any kind of confirmation. They just woke up one day and the book was gone.

Now, consider this with the Bible. If we are trusting an organization to supply us with an un-edited version of the Bible, how do we verify that? The excellent thing about paper manuscripts and physical books is that if you read a book a year ago, returning to it guarantees the same content. Even if someone were to sneak into your home and replace it with a changed copy, there are other existing copies to which it can be compared for accuracy. Contrast that with a company that routinely issues “updates” to books, some of which have been the Bible! Who ultimately controls the content in the book? This underpins the importance of a “purchase-to-own” rather than a “license-to-read” model of eBook commerce as well as DRM-free alternatives to Amazon’s (as well as others) model of “ownership” (i.e. you don’t own it, you have a license to read it).

We should take what happened with the Qur’an and Uthman, when the disagreeing Qur’an were burned, as a warning. Text can be validated against human altering by widespread dissemination so that human-introduced changes can be detected, not by consolidating responsibility with a single person or company.
—Matthew H, Denver, CO