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But Is He a Christian?

Sam Alvord's article "But Is He a Christian?" [September/October] caught my attention from at least three directions: one, its provocative title; two, from my interest in novelists who are attempting to write, at least, "Christianly"; and, finally, the fact that I have a daughter studying humanities at Houghton College.

My question, as I read the article, was similar to that of Alvord's students. Not, however, having read any of David James Duncan's novels or short stories, I found that my argument rests, at least for the moment, not with Duncan but with several statements or assumptions made in the article.

One paragraph, in particular, arrested me:

Still, I honor the question, because my students come from homes or churches or colleges where the evangelistic imperative has lofty status. I demean them and their history insofar as I scorn it. Where else for them to start to gain their bearings as independent seekers? For most of them, I realize, an answer to this question is tantamount to establishing true north as they strike out as adults into a culture that offers passage to many diverse spiritual and philosophical compass points. I must not confuse my personal resistance with their essential right to begin their journey from their home.

Of course, these students, my daughter included, must become "independent seekers." But Alvord seems to call into question whether there is, indeed, a "true north." Since Houghton College, in its doctrinal statement, affirms the Scriptures as "fully inspired of God and inerrant," as well as "of supreme and final authority for faith and practice," I have felt it safe to assume that there is a true north to be sought—and found. Are there really "many diverse spiritual and philosophical compass points"? Are we free to choose from any of them? How will an "independent seeker" know when he or she has found the right one?

I seem to recall that Jesus made the statement, "By their fruits you shall know them" (Matt. ...

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