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Jews, Christians, and God

Thank you for publishing Lauren Winner's five-part series on "Jews, Christians, and God" [November/December 2000, January/February, May/June, July/August, September/October 2001]. This informed and thoughtful collection of essays has provided an excellent format for exposing the root and struggles of an oft neglected yet important historic relationship within our contemporary religious culture. Winner's work is insightfully written, sensitive in spirit, and tuned in to many of the critical current issues being faced in the Christian-Jewish encounter. Readers may glean much from her lucid and perceptive analysis. Congratulations to B&C for providing this relevant series. Winner's reflective articles demonstrate the vital niche in religious journalism B&C has continued to carve out for itself since its inception.

Marvin R. Wilson
Gordon College
Wenham, Mass.

I enjoy your newsletter and find a number of the articles challenging. I am a Catholic Christian married to a Protestant Christian (Church of Scotland). Together we have made tremendous steps to bridge the divide between our traditions—hence my interest in your Web site.

I read with interest your article on Edith Stein—a martyr whose anniversary we celebrated recently ["The Problem of Edith Stein," July/ August]. However, I found the author gave a fairly one-sided argument. There are a number of helpful articles relating to Edith Stein at the Web site, Catholic Exchange (www.moff.org).

I find it narrow-minded to see Edith's conversion to Catholicism as a rejection of Judaism. Would you lay that accusation at the feet of Jesus and the Apostles? At heart we are all semites—Christianity is the fulfilment of the Old Covenant. If you research Catholicism you will find that we hold true to many of the Jewish beliefs and traditions.

Ian Maxfield

Promise Keepers' theology of gender

A decade ago, when I still counted myself an evangelical, I remember having fierce debates about gender roles, especially about the Promise Keepers' theology of gender. For me, and for many of my peers, the single largest concern standing in the way of approval of the movement was its patronizing, borderline-misogynistic ideas and "macho" aesthetic about leadership and manhood.

That's why I was stunned not to see the Promise Keepers' theology of gender listed among the "Persisting theological concerns" church leaders and lay people have about the movement ["The Strange Decade of the Promise Keepers," September/October]. Even if Mr. Mathisen does not personally share those concerns, I'm surprised that in his careful treatment of the subject the issue completely escaped him.

I seem to remember gender roles as a serious issue in the evangelical circles I frequented. Is the battle already over, and are men once again sitting around making promises about sticking to a tougher spiritual workout while the women serve dinner?

Kristofer Widholm
Broken Hill Music

Unsacramental John?

In Robert Gundry's manifesto ["A Paleofundementalist Manifesto," September/ October] I find something to agree with (his critique of therapeutic evangelism in "seeker sensitive" churches); something to disagree with (his false dilemma between "vibrant sectarianism" and "torpid institutionalism"); and something to be absolutely incredulous of. The latter occurs when Gundry describes sacramentalism as "un- if not anti-Johannine" and then later speaks of "John's anti- or un-sacramentalism." His hermeneutic is interesting but essentially an argument from silence.

John, however, is not silent about the Body and Blood of our Lord. The most challenging passage in all of Holy Scripture for those who deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist comes from the sixth chapter of John's Gospel. Verses 53 through 55 read: "Jesus therefore said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.'"

To the extent that Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp were associated with the discipleship of John, the idea of his being anti- or even un-sacramental is historically myopic. This suggests what might be the proper etiology of Gundry's lack of vision (which seems to be as narrow as his sectarian interests). At the end of the essay, he ponders the question of the relation of biblical and systematic theology; it apparently does not occur to him to look to historical theology for help. Alister McGrath in his masterful Historical Theology (Blackwell, 1998) states, "Historical theology. … has both a pedagogic and critical role, aiming to inform systematic theology about what has been thought in the past." Gundry's use of history in his essay skips from before A.D. 100 to the 1920s (which I find to be the typical approach of fundamentalists). Mr. Gundry, a lot happened in between, and most of it was sacramental.

This brings me to my final point. It is the height of irony that Gundry identifies John, of all people, as anti- or un-sacramental. The root of sacramental thinking is in the Logos doctrine of John. When the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took on human nature, when "the Word became flesh" (to quote our alleged anti-sacramentalist), to a certain extent he exalted all flesh, even all matter, and made it capable of being an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual reality. This is what sharply divides mere Platonism, which is ultimately the source of most Gnostic heresy, from Christian philosophy.

It is worth mentioning that the fundamentalist mindset has proven quite susceptible to Gnostic thinking, from its overly dualistic interpretations of Paul to its degradation of the body and of the visual arts. Historical sacramentalism in general and the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II) in particular make explicit appeal to incarnational theology, to that amazing Logos doctrine found in John, that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

John unsacramental, forsooth!

Trent Dougherty
Columbia, Mo.

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