Informing the Reforming

Letters to the Editor (Parents, Protection, Aging, and More)

It has been too long since I’ve shared a selection of letters to the editor. Here, then, are a few that have come my way in recent weeks.

Letters on Do Children Have a Financial Obligation Toward Their Parents?

I appreciated your article and feel convicted, as I have in-laws that were frugal, and had the foresight to prepare for their retirement, while my parents were not. I have had conversations with them to consider their future more seriously, only to face argument and hurt feelings. I would always be willing to help them out financially, but I want to avoid resentment when I don’t feel they’re “pulling their weight” in the problem. The problem is more in depth, but it comes down to a “lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed,” when their children live more frugally. They also belong to a church that doesn’t practice discipline in any way, so I don’t see them being a support in this process. The problem is more complicated than this letter describes, but I do think there are cases, much like a parent, where if I’m supporting my parents financially, I should have a say in how they live. Sort of like Helping without Hurting. But thank you again for addressing this issue that will be more prevalent as baby-boomers move into retirement.
—Mark, Philadelphia, PA

Tim: I received a lot of letters along these lines: What do I do if my parents have squandered their money or if I fear they will squander mine? That is something I may address in the future.

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While I read with attention this article of yours, I found that somehow I disagree with your take of this matter. I found that you are lacking a key Bible verse on the said matter from your examination of this matter. The said Bible verse is taken from 2 Corinthians 12:14 and it goes like this: “Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.”

It is true that this verse is found in a context related to the relationship between the apostles and the churches he had planted, nevertheless it contains a regulative principle in the relations between parents and children in the Judaism of the day. That principle is clear: first, we as parents (I am the father of a 6-year-old boy) save for our own children, and that is our first and foremost obligation; second, what our parents did for us also in financial terms we do not pay it back to them but to our own children by raising them in the fear of the Lord and by taking care of all their needs.

It is true that we have to help out and take care of our parents as well but we can do this only after duly and fully ministering to the needs of the family we establish. My parents are over 70 now, and I am aware that in the next decade I will have to take care daily of them but I nevertheless believe that my first and foremost responsibility as a father belongs to the family I have established with my wife.
—Elton T, Tirana, Albania

Tim: It probably won’t surprise you to know I had considered that verse when I wrote the article. In one draft I engaged with it, but decided in the end to remove it. I wasn’t convinced it was as relevant to the topic as it may seem on the surface and thought it might be a distraction. But I would challenge you on the idea that your wife and children are your first responsibility, as if you can desert one in order to accept the other. That may introduce an unfair tension or competition between them. If both are your responsibility, you are challenged to take on both responsibilities and to do so with joy.

Letters on Aging Gracefully

This series came at just the right time. Recently our family experienced a great loss. A daughter, a grand-daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, a friend was lost during a late night of joy riding. My 18 year old niece, Angela, was killed. Just like that, it seemed as if all our lives came crashing down. When we’re passing through time, it seems like this can’t happen, but then it does over and over and over. . . I’ve faced many dark valleys as I process grief tempered with hope. Your series has reminded my heart and soul what God says. It has been a reminder right when my mind was pulling me into despair and threatening to flee. Thank the Lord, He pursues me to the end.
—Jacqi R, Temple, TX

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Hi Tim, I am really connecting with your aging gracefully theme and also some blog posts from last year. I am a new subscriber, turning 50 this year, with 4 kids in their 20s. I am feeling the burden of letting kids go, testing their faith, and then carrying their burdens along with them in prayer as I see them extend their reach into the world. I have seen them struggle with faith, illness (physical, mental, spiritual), persecution, loneliness, and circumstances beyond their control. I thought this would be an easier ride by now, but far from it. The prayer burden only grows as they age, have kids, and as I question what is God’s plan for the rest of my life.

I look for comfort in the Psalms, books like Trusting God (by Jerry Bridges), people at church, and other places. The challenges are real: recognizing the real spiritual challenge, bearing through it with God’s help, being steady and strong for those around me, and maximizing my usefulness for the kingdom in the time I have left. And yet I don’t expect this to change. Rather I need to continue to adapt and rely on God in the process of being a leader for people who need me. I think you are hitting on these themes and there are probably a lot of people who could benefit on a wider scale from what you are writing about right now.
—Brad, California

Letters on What God Hates

I found this blog through one of your ‘What God Hates’ pieces, I was interested to see a Christian openly encouraging people to hate. Since the articles are reasonably well written I assumed the words were coming from an intelligent mind and I wanted to know how such a mind justified a belief so strong that you righteously tell people what to hate.

This brought me to ‘Why I Am Not Atheist’ and boy was I disappointed. You start the article by admitting that the main reason you believe is that you were trained from a young age to be a christian and you’ve never for a moment considered the possibility you might be wrong. Being raised to believe something doesn’t make it true, after all Muslim children are raised to praise Allah but you don’t believe in that. Saying you’ve never doubted your beliefs just proves you’ve never really challenged them. Try doubting for a moment, after all if your beliefs really are true they should stand up to scrutiny right?

You then list a few fallacious reasons for believing in god which I will summarize here:

I see evidence of God in existence. Existence does not indicate a divine being, we do not know why the universe exists so any hypothesis about creator gods is pure speculation as well as inconsistent with the facts we do know. I see evidence of God in design. There is zero evidence that the universe has been designed. Even the diversity of life is understood to have developed naturally, although I expect you neither understand nor accept that. Nothing in astronomy, geology or biology indicates design when objectively studied. I see evidence of God in humanity. If you broadly attribute anything good that happens to or by humans to god then of course you’re going to see God in humanity, that doesn’t mean humanity proves God exists, there’s no evidence. Confirmation bias. Also humans are not the only creatures to have done these things, other intelligent ape species existed but they’ve died out. I see evidence of God in the Bible. No kidding? ‘I see evidence in a book that tells me to believe in the thing I’m looking for evidence for’. I’m curious to know what you think of the bits where God explains how you can keep slaves or randomly murders a bunch of people.

Since you can’t provide a reasonable justification for your own beliefs maybe you shouldn’t be telling people what to think (what to hate!) based on those beliefs. I really am disappointed that someone to whom religion is so important has such an asinine and willfully ignorant basis for their beliefs.
—Craig E, United Kingdom

Tim: I share this one mostly because it encourages me when I find that atheists and other non-Christians are reading the site. Even if they don’t agree with what I say, at least they are be exposed to a Christian worldview.

General Letters

Please note that I come at this question as one who appreciates you and your blog greatly. Simply put, I want to know if you censor us (i.e. your readers)? I read your A La Carte daily and often find myself surprised by the scope of the voices to which you direct our attention. Generally speaking (and I acknowledge I haven’t followed everything you’ve ever put here, so I’m sure of exceptions), it seems to me that you give almost exclusive voice to your tribe (i.e. loosely, the “young, restless, Reformed” crew; young Calvinists, MacArthur, Piper, etc).

I want to know if you do this in order to ‘protect’ us from the world of other evangelical persuasions? Let me try to illustrate with examples: one of the other major blog sites I follow is Jesus Creed (a voice of the evangelical egalitarian community). Much on there is excellent and, I would say, highly beneficial to all Christians; why do you (almost?) never link us there? Do you think we should stay away from Arminians and Egalitarians? Another example: I’ve noted that you’ve posted two reviews of N.T. Wright’s new book (Horton’s and Ortlund’s) – both helpful – but have you considered posting a positive review (there are some out there)? A last example, when you alert us to Kindle deals you often skip books that don’t fit, let’s call it the TGC (Gospel Coalition) paradigm (e.g. Surprised by Hope, Blue Parakeet, Evolution of Adam, etc); do you think it is ‘dangerous’ for us to read such books?

So I would like to know your thoughts on how you approach the tricky subject of what to promote. Surely you agree there is much we can learn from other persuasions? Have you taken a conscious decision to use your blog only for propagating a certain kind of Christianity? If so, would the charge of tribalism be justified?

These are honest questions, not intended as an attack. I close by reiterating my appreciation for your work. I have benefited greatly from it.
—Brad T, Cape Town, South Africa

Tim: This was sent as a letter to the editor (which I typically don’t reply to) instead of an Ask Me Anything (which I do), so I’ll reply only very briefly. I read widely and share what is of interest to me. I purposely don’t attempt to figure out what would be interesting to others and share that. I think that would inevitably come across as artificial. So what you read and read on Challies.com is what I’ve read and what has jumped out to me. Sometimes that’s wide and sometimes that’s narrow. But it’s either never or always “censored,” depending on how you understand it. As for whether or not it’s dangerous to read such books, I can’t answer that as I haven’t read any of those titles. That may be an unsatisfying reply, but it’s the simple truth. I read widely, but still can’t read it all.

Letters on Boys Need Their Moms

Thank you for this insight. I have long suspected this—that sons and moms have a very special relationship. I have four sons (and five daughters!) and it has been so with them all—something so tender. I mourned as if my arm had been cut off when my sons moved away. The thing is though, as you brought out, when they meet their wife-to-be the relationship begins to diminish as it must and this is right biblically. I just wanted to add as a momma that this is so hard for her. It requires a great deal of faith and is so much easier when one loves and respects the lady who is replacing her. Thank you for helping me to see that I’m not just a softy. I honestly tell my sons and my daughters that I love them more than life itself. I would gladly give my life for theirs.
—Nancy, Laramie, WY

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Thanks so much for writing this article and sharing your story. I have a close relationship with my son and through high school especially kept hearing those messages about moms and sons. Half way through his college years I was convicted by God to thoroughly enjoy the relationship he gave us and not fear man’s predicted outcomes. What a joy it has been. It was so fun to read your story about you and your mom. I shed a tear as I don’t hear the healthy mom/son stories told very often. Thank you for sharing about the positives of this often neglected mom/son relationship.
—Carol O, Minneapolis, MN

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