Letters to the Editor #4

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. 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—letters that are representative of the ones I received this week. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.

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Comments on A Quiz on the Doctrine of Scripture

I got 32 out of 33, and the one I got wrong was about the overarching message of the Bible [“The overarching goal of the Bible is to bring readers into a saving relationship with God through faith in Christ Jesus.”]. The Shorter Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, so I would contend that that is the message, and that it includes our salvation via the Cross, and that Christ is the central Character but that the goal and message is that God would be glorified; it is our preparation for Eternity where we will live constantly glorifying Him, for Who He is and for what He has done.
—Michael M, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Really liked the quiz. It was a good mix of true and false, had some good depth, and the Scripture and WCF support passages were helpful. The only question that I think is wrong is #32. The answer in the quiz made it man-centered rather than Christ-centered. While the Scripture passages given state the purposes of those particular books as convincing the reader to believe, I don’t think that is the overarching purpose of the Bible. You could look to some of the OT prophets, Isaiah in particular, where God said He was giving His word to harden hearts and most would not hear and believe. Jesus said that He spoke in parables to keep some (Pharisees) from hearing and seeing. Ultimately, the Gospel has a dual purpose – to bring salvation and to harden. If you had to go with an overarching purpose, it may be better to say something like it is about revealing God’s covenant faithfulness to His people, whom He created and who fell into sin, fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. (I’m sure there is a better worded way of saying this, but I’m doing this off the top of my head.)
—Tom C, Acworth, GA

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I wonder about question 32, I think it was, concerning the main purpose of scripture. I don’t think scripture’s main purpose concerns the salvation of people although it is undoubtably important. My take is that the entire biblical story, from beginning to end it about God, and how he will ultimately accomplish his purposes, for his glory, regardless of the sin and failure of people. The scriptures center on God who created the heavens and the earth.
—Loren B, Temple, TX

Tim: Of all the questions I asked in the quiz on the doctrine of Scripture, #32 was the one that generated the most questions and confusion. And, in retrospect, I see why. I will rewrite it to maintain the intent of the question, but to add clarity.

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I really appreciate the quizzes that you have been running lately, especially how you give the rationale/doctrinal basis for each as each question is answered. It is encouraging to me both to see what I have learned in my years of study and to get further motivation to dig even deeper. Thank you so much for all that you do.
—Andrea N, Canton, NY

Tim: I’m glad they have proven helpful. I have thoroughly enjoyed putting them together and have more in the works!

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First, let me say that you have had a profound impact on my Spiritual life over the past few years that I have been following you. Your insights are simple but deep, well stated and I have found them to be Biblically sound. When you challenge my point of view, I study and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and usually find a new insight that I have not considered. I enjoyed the quiz on the Doctrine of Scripture and would like a printable copy of the quiz and the answers/Scripture references to use as a reference for a ladies Bible study class that I am in at my church. Thank you for all you do! God Bless!
—Kellye B, Crystal Springs, MS

Tim: Thanks so much, Kellye. That is very encouraging. And I plan to have downloadable, printable copies available very soon. There is a surprising amount of copying, pasting, and formatting involved.

Comments on Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie?

Hi Mr. Challies, I’m writing you to say thank you for a really wonderful website that is thought provoking, educational, and adheres to the gospel.This morning, as I was reading through the different articles delivered to my inbox, I happened across the Joel Osteen quiz, and instantly got convicted of something that I harbor within myself, and am seeing on your website. The lampooning of another person as a form of entertainment for a group of people. The issue that convicts me is that does this edify the listener, or reader? Is it an act of love, or will this turn people against another in hate or ridicule? Now, I am well aware of Mr. Osteen’s lack of theology and doctrine, but maybe the times spent discussing him can be in prayer for him? Describing bullet-points of his wrong theology, and the the hopes for the eventual turn of his heart to that of Christ’s?This is just food-for-thought on how we may want to act around others with ideas that are off, and not necessarily in line with that of Christ. We have churches full of them, do we ridicule these people, or do we help teach them? Would it benefit Joel Osteen to come across your website and see ridicule, or a systematic breakdown of where he is wrong, how it can be righted, and knowing that people are praying for him and encouraging him to be doctrinally sound.
—Matthew D, Canyon Country, CA

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Where in the bible are we called to mock another’s ministry for furtherance of our own kingdom?
—Brad D, Spokane, WA

Tim: I received a few comments about mocking Joel Osteen through the Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie quiz. I rarely mock other people, but in this case I consider it well-founded and would compare it to Elijah mocking the priests of Baal: “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). This mockery is not done out of spite for Osteen, but out of hatred for the feel-good, unbiblical, soul-destroying false gospel he advocates. The very fact that most people got only 6 or 7 out of 12 on the quiz just proves the feebleness of his message. I hope that the mockery is effective in helping people see this.

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I have a bone to pick with you. I woke up the kids by my laughing hysterically while taking your quiz. Please keep up the good work!
—Christopher V, Ypsilanti, MI

Comments on Weekend A La Carte (November 7)

Was it intentional or coincidental that you linked an article about Perry Noble being in favor of women preachers, right about a link to an article about the dangers of celebrity pastors?
—Joel E, Greenville, SC

Tim: Well, I had planned to link to them both and it seemed serendipitous to put them one after the other.

General Comments

Like the majority of the civilized world, I was extremely blessed by the comments at the end of articles. Would you be able to solicit a pool of dudes you trust to be guest moderators of comments? Then just put the statements “views of the the guest moderators may or may not reflect whatever. I may not agree with them, but I really like them as people.” THEN, someone else could moderate the comments of gold then you could be off the hook and could write us more books.
—Michael F, East Peoria, IL

Tim: Thanks, Michael. I continue to debate bringing back the comments section.

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As an author and reviewer, would you want to be informed by someone who noticed your work being plagiarized? I’ve seen that done blatantly, and was unable to point it out to the one who used your work (no way to reach the individual that I could find.) It was a source I thought you’d probably see and perhaps address yourself, so I decided to leave it alone. Would you want to be informed?
—Chip G, Plano, TX

Tim: There is a surprising amount of “Christian plagiarism,” whether that is people posting whole books online or people copying blog articles to their own site. In general I do not respond to it except in the case of books. But if you see it consistently, I would be glad to know about it.

Comments on The Most Terrifying Thing God Can Do

Your article has “fleshed” out a thought I’ve been pondering from Rom. 1 for a while. This thought of God giving over, letting go… The analogy that works for me is that He takes the brakes off. The car (my life) then goes unimpeded down the hill, picking up speed, careening off of other lives, & causing greater & greater damage. You hit the nail on the head. Thanks a bunch.
—Jeff J, Columbus, IN

At the age of 13 I was molested in Scouts by a trusted scout dad. That night changed me forever. I immediately started using drugs and alcohol. By the time I’m 15/16, I’m using all drugs. I’m a full-blown alcoholic and drug addict. My soul was ripped from my chest by that attack at scout camp. I took a hostage as we say in A.A. We got married and started a family. In a short period of time, I ripped my wife’s soul from her chest. She was depressed and suicidal. I was a lunatic. In January of 2010, with the aid of a believer I met in an A.A. meeting, I walked into Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, Ohio. I had been sober for 14 years but I was still empty inside. In a short period of time Christ entered my life. That empty cavern inside was now filled. Within a year, my Lord saw fit to reveal many suppressed memories of my attack 3 decades earlier. For the next two years, I relived the horrors of that night. With the aid of my community group, we walked through the healing process. I was told I must forgive my molester, even if he new nothing about it. I learned of my Lord’s tremendous grace and love freely given me, now I must do the same. I found out my attacker had done prison time for similar crimes against kids. I found his address. With the help of my friend, we wrote Mr Smith a letter. I told him what he did to me was forgiven. The actions he did to me ultimately brought me to Christ. I told him if he wanted to accept Christ as I did, that I would help walk with him through it. Mr Smith would be a very old man now and I didn’t know if he would respond or whatever. But, I sent him the letter. I did not hear back from him but I learned so much about the power of the cross and its healing powers. What one man meant for evil, God meant for good.
—Tom S, Sagamore Hills, OH

Tim: Thanks for sharing your story, Tom. It is encouraging to hear such a powerful testimony to God’s grace.