It was a busy week (two weeks, actually, since I didn’t share any last Sunday) for letters to the editor. As I read through this week’s letters, I attempted to draw some out that reflected diversity of topic. Here is a selection of my favorites.
Letters about Why I Am Not Egalitarian
Just a note of thanks for your post on egalitarianism. I’m frustrated with those who mask their patriarchy with complementarian language. I appreciated your honest, fair handling of egalitarianism. As a follow-up, I would appreciate hearing why you’re not a patriarch, as archaic as that sounds. In my reading, I notice that leaders are quick to condemn egalitarianism at length, but don’t give patriarchy the same attention. This is unfortunate for Christians and the church. Your “Why I’m Not…” series has been wonderful, and I’ve especially appreciate how you’ve gently handled controversial topics (i.e., padeobaptism) where there are thoughtful, Biblical believers who disagree with you.
—Abigail M, Cincinnati, OH
I want to thank you for your post today on complementarianism, and in particular a point that I have not considered much: the idea of passive leadership. The “tie breaker” approach is what I’ve been told many times, but your post today is so helpful. What would we think of a pastor who only gave direction when there was a tie in the church? The pastor is called to shepherd and lead, not just to break ties. In the same way, surely God calls husbands to similar leadership in the family. First to repent? First to forgive? Oh the conviction!
—Stephen T, Auburn, ME
Letters about The 2016 Reading Challenge
Thank you so much for this reading challenge! I have really enjoyed trying to fill my boxes and expanding my literary horizons this year, even as a hands-full mom of a toddler and infant. I am sure people give you recommendations by the dozens, but I would like to recommend Robinson Crusoe to you if you have not yet read this classic novel. My husband recommended it to me for that check box (“You can’t get more classic than that” said he), and I was so glad I read it – the unabridged version is full of sound theology and encouraged me spiritually more than I would have imagined.
—Alyssa B, Ridgeway, WV
Tim: Wonderful! Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve been reading Les Miserables and finding it both brilliant and a tough slog.
Letters about Mark Zuckerberg Covers His Webcam
Tim, the part of this article that hit me was the section on our own character as it relates to our online/technological activities. As a pastor I was amazed at how often the breakup of a marriage was about the man’s cell phone. More than one woman told me that the way he handled his phone changed. This change would correlate, as she would discover, with his getting a girlfriend. So, one test I have given is this: can you hand your phone to your spouse? Right now? Can you set it down and walk out of the room? If not, you have a problem.
—Darryl Y, Calgary, AB
Tim: Quite right! The cell phone, like all technology, can be a major blessing and a major curse. I have seen what you have seen—that it tends to accompany people in their sin.
Letters on Why I Am Not Dispensational
I have to say I am disappointed in your position regarding dispensationalism. Your argument is very weak when you say you adhere to amillennialism simply because that was how you were taught since youth. There is so much to be learned from a dispensational viewpoint and it would help you to discern much scripture that you may find puzzling. For example the many proclamations of the Old Testament prophets whose prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. Or John’s final letter to us, scribed from the Isle of Patmos , becomes a troubling book is avoided. The Church as being the bride of Christ and the time the Church began is so unclear in the eyes of most “Covenant theologians” that they stumble in their explanations. The book of Revelation is avoided by most and those that do attempt to “disclose” any truth simply spiritualize it into nonsense. Christ told us to be careful how we build our houses (1 Cor. 3:10) If your theology prevents you from understanding truth, perhaps the building process needs some tweaking. So, as a teacher I challenge you to do your due diligence and study the subject thoroughly.
—Ian C, Guelph, ON
Tim: One of the decisions I made when I began the series is that I would not pretend to have deeper convictions than I actually do, or that I would not take a strong stand where my convictions are not as developed as I wish they actually were. That is exactly the case when it comes to eschatology. So yes, a good, solid study of eschatology is on my list of things to do.
This was an affirming word to some changes I am currently undergoing theologically. I was raised on John MacArthur, my father is a minister and values MacArthur’s commentary over most, if not all, other preachers. So I was raised dispensational. But recently, at the encouragement of a friend, I began to study the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. The principle stated near the end of the first chapter said that Scripture is the only infallible interpreter of Scripture. So I began to let later biblical writing inform/expound on earlier revelation. This began to undermine my dispensational premillennialism. I am now an amillenialist. I also think a more reformed hermeneutic allows us to see Christ in all of Scripture more effectively. Thanks for this.
—Greg H, Tallahassee, FL
I want to get started by saying how much I’ve been enjoying this “Why I’m Not…” series. The personality of it, rather than an apologetical nature, is engaging and I’ve been looking forward to each new article.
I’m currently a seminary student at Shepherds Theological Seminary near Raleigh, NC. It’s a somewhat unique school in that it is adamantly dispensational. Admittedly I did not know what the word meant at the time I enrolled, but I’ve been growing in my understanding of it lately. Dispensationalism and the other theological frameworks (covenant, progressive dispensationalism, etc.) are one of the more common conversation pieces among students at this school.
There are essentially two points I wanted to make about your enjoyable article. The first is the “authoritative” (I use that term loosely) handbook on dispensationalism is Charles Ryrie’s “Dispensationalism.” He makes the point, in the book, that the 3 primary distinctions of dispensationalism are: 1) The separation of the plans for the church and for the nation of Israel. 2) An ultimately doxological purpose for history. 3) The employment of a consistent, literal/normal hermeneutic.
It is, of course, the last point that leads dispensationalism to the premill/pretrib position that you posted on. I only wanted to point that out because dispensationalism’s defining characteristics are really not eschatological at all. The other point I wanted to make is to remark on how interesting and different our journeys have been. I was saved in 2010 and was subjected to mostly amillennial teaching through preachers and books and podcasts. It’s only been since attending seminary that I’ve started to see my views shift. I wouldn’t call myself a dispensationalist (which makes for some interesting conversations with my profs!) but I do think the premill/pretrib position isn’t at lacking as it is sometimes made out to be. Again, the hermeneutical method is critical in getting there. So thank you again for this piece and Lord-willing you’ll have some opportunities to jump into some deeper study on the topic, I’d love to see what the Lord reveals to you!
—Eric S, Raleigh, NC
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying your recent “Why I am not…” series, but I must confess I felt you missed the boat on the Dispensationalist article. Dispensationalism is a comprehensive approach to how to understand salvation history and God’s relationship to humanity that directly competes with Convenental Theology. Your article treats a very narrow consequence of Dispensationalism that manifests in some flavors of it. In my opinion, the title of your article appears misleading as it implies that you will discuss Dispensationalism in its full context, but you never really explain it. Full disclosure: I’m with Covenental Theology in this debate. Thanks again for all your great work!
—Jesse C, Yokosuka, Japan
Letters on The Bestsellers: Every Man’s Battle
I really appreciated your article on the popular book “Every Man’s Battle”. I agreed with everything you said about it and would like to share my own personal experience with the book. It was one of the first Christian books I ever read as a teenager and it really motivated me. I fought lust and “bounced my eyes” diligently for several months with decent success. I felt as though I was doing what the book suggested well and I just had to keep fighting and it would get easier. Despite my valiant effort to follow the books recommendations, it did not get easier, and I did not succeed. I actually fell into worse guilt and sin when my efforts were failing. It wasn’t until several years later that I realized that my own efforts were never going to succeed and I needed the delivering, redeeming power of Jesus and His gospel to save me from my sin. This is what the book failed to teach me. I will go as far as to say the book actually hindered my pursuit of holiness and missed an opportunity to share what I really needed: the gospel.
—Adam H, Toronto, ON
Tim: Well said, Adam. You helpfully display the book’s strength and weakness.