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Letters: Winter 2000

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Letters: Winter 2000

Send us your letters.

Remembering not to forget

The cover story in the Fall issue concerning the Holocaust (specifically the excerpt from Elie Wiesel’s book) brought back bitter memories to this TCU alumnus. It was only a few hours after the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp that I was privileged to visit that horror place. In the Army Signal Corps at the time, I had a camera and took pictures of the stacks of bodies outside the crematory — on the ground and on a truck.

Those pictures were enlarged many years ago and copies given to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., as well as the Dallas Memorial Center for Holocaust Studies.

My small group of soldiers was fortunate to have a guided tour of the “facility” by an inmate — one Mr. Bernstein who was an English-speaking German-Jew. Bernstein, who had been a chemist before the war, was assigned to work in the hospital laboratory where prisoners were used as human guinea pigs for various medical experiments.

Many inmates were infected with diseases like typhus and malaria and used to test experimental drugs. Bernstein said his knowledge of chemistry saved his life because he was able to detoxify some of the bodies and, he confided, he practiced cannibalism to keep from starving.

Not well known and seldom mentioned is the fact that many trainloads of prisoners in the concentration camps (according to Bernstein) were killed and sent to Nazi soap factories in Denmark where they were used to make this scarce item.

Also, I viewed the collection Ilse Koch, the wife of the commandant of Buchenwald. Her hobby was collecting tattoos. At intervals, the “witch” would wander through the camp searching for interesting tattoos on the chests and arms of the shirtless prisoners. If a tattoo appealed to her, she would order the prisoner shot and she then made book covers, lamp shades, pocketbooks and bags from this human tattooed skin.

Ilse Koch committed suicide in prison in September, 1967 after being institutionalized for 20 years. This is only a brief sketch of some of the horrors of Buchenwald viewed by this alumnus.

John Mitchell Williams ’49
Honolulu, Hawai’i 

Out on a ledge

The back cover photo in the Fall issue of Jim Peden and his 1-year-old daughter Rachael demonstrating a cliff evacuation exercise in the Fall issue brought back painful memories for my husband Fred ’87 and I.

Years ago, we lost a dear friend in a mountain climbing accident in Estes Park, Colorado. His wife and five-month-old son had to endure a three-day wait while a search and rescue team located and air-lifted his body from the rough terrain. Like Jim Peden, our friend was a “seasoned mountaineer.”

He chose a dangerous sport and paid for it with his life. As an adult, he had a right to pursue his passions no matter how sad the consequences.

Jim also has a right to pursue his interests, but he does not have the right to endanger the life of his daughter. In this photo, Rachael Peden is clearly in a dangerous predicament since she is hanging over a steep cliff. I have no doubt that if something were to have gone wrong in this maneuver, she would not be here with us today. I was also horrified at the thought of her “traversing across a waterfall” at only six weeks of age.

Jim Peden’s position with the volunteer mountain rescue team of Middlebury, Vermont, is surely one of great assistance. I applaud his efforts, but his daughter’s participation is unnecessary and certainly not voluntary.

For the purpose of demonstration, a life-like doll could be just as effective. To honor our friend and countless others who have lost their lives in climbing accidents, I hope the Pedens will consider this safer option.

Susan Leibrock ’86
Oklahoma City, Okla. 

The Cracknell Chronicles

Editor: We’re pleased that so many readers in this issue and the previous one felt strongly about Dr. Kenneth Cracknell’s Summer issue article, “Questioning Faith.” Unfortunately, this will be the last issue we will accept letters directly related to that article. You can be sure, however, we will examine the issue of faith in future issues. 

In the Summer issue article, “Questioning Faith,” Dr. Cracknell isn’t being honest with himself or others about what he teaches. It may be many things, but it isn’t remotely “Christian Theology.” Call it pluralism, pantheism, panentheism, polytheism or esoteric Gnosticism, none of which Christ taught, and all of which the apostles defended against. If he truly believes it to be Christian, he’s right to be “questioning faith.”

Dr. Cracknell displays alarming scriptural ignorance despite pastoral and academic background, and uses unprofessional, selective methodology. I’m relieved to read objections from other alumni and know I’m not alone in my concern. Much of his article has already been answered by them, but I can’t stay silent about his twisting and manipulation of scripture. “Missionary work and loving service is not the prerogative of the Christian Church alone,” he proclaims; who claimed it was?

Christianity declares that we attain heaven by faith in Christ, not good works, and that works are an outgrowth of our relationship with Christ. It doesn’t claim exclusive rights to good works, but a difference in their source. Christian theology doesn’t “condemn the vast majority of humankind to hell”; it offers the loving solution for a humanity that has already condemned itself. Dr. Cracknell quotes the covenant with Noah, but only as far as it supports his own ideas. God promised not to destroy humanity again with a flood.

He repeatedly confuses all of humanity with either Israel or gentiles, and past present times with end times, using extra-contextual, spiritualized redefinitions of convenience, as in Hosea 11, Malachi 1, Isaiah 54, and Genesis 12:3 and related scriptures — simply ignoring abundant Biblical distinctions. He’s not even creative in the ways he takes scripture out of context.

The New Testament does “unambiguously” declare that God wants all humans to be saved … and to know the truth. Not only did he conveniently leave out verses 5 & 6 of 1 Timothy 2, but he didn’t even finish quoting verse 4. Apparently it’s too dicey to tackle the whole issue of truth and nontruth. The “light that shines” among those of other faiths is the light of creation.

Unbelief doesn’t change having been created by God. Jesus was speaking to Jews and Pharisees when he spoke of “sheep who are not of this fold.” He was referring to gentile believers who would “listen to his voice” as the Jews were not doing. This passage in John 10 also asserts that there will be one flock and one shepherd, and Christ identifies himself as the shepherd. When contemporary thinkers talk about “the unknown Christ” of Hinduism, or the “latent Christ” of the world religions, they might also reread ancient Biblical warnings about false Christs, false prophets, and false teachings.

Dr. Cracknell basically side-steps John 14:6 with vague referrals to larger mystery concepts, so we can’t address his mockery of Christian acceptance of Jesus’ words. But his reading of Ephesians 4:10 is, in his words, “ripped from its context.” Paul has just emphasized the fact that Christ came down to earth, and is answering the rhetorical question of why: to fill everything with his presence.

By coming “down to earth” and becoming flesh, God through Jesus was able to make a human payment for a human debt. That he “filled everything with his presence,” refers to the becoming of God of the one thing he wasn’t. God and his creation are separate things — except in Christ, where they meet. If, breaking with his usual practice, Dr. Cracknell would read just a little further, he would find that Paul writes in Ephesians 4, “Then we will no longer be babies. We will not be tossed about like a ship that the waves carry one way and then another. We will not be influenced by every new teaching we hear from people who are trying to fool us. They make plans and try every kind of trick to fool people into following the wrong path. No! Speaking the truth in love, we will grow up in every way into Christ, who is the head.”

I hope someone at TCU will balance what’s taught to his students with an accurate Biblical perspective and some healthy critical thinking, and that Dr. Cracknell will one day stop trying to fool others and himself and grow up in Christ.

Laura Orth Boggs ’91
Atlanta, Texas

Ever since things first blew up in Iran in the early 1980s, we’ve learned more and more about the maniacal zealots in the Middle East who start (un) holy wars, commit murder, imprison, ostracize, persecute, and in more ways than I can count simply condemn every single person they encounter who doesn’t hold the same religious beliefs that they do.

How revolting to find that there are so many equally intolerant and unkind fanatics writing to the editor in the Fall issue concerning a subject about which no living person has true and verifiable first-hand knowledge.

Do you pompous and egotistical bigots actually believe that each of the billions of people who have died and are going to die in the world’s history that didn’t, don’t and won’t believe in the same religious doctrines as you have gone or are going to go to eternal fiery damnation? Your senseless pontifications astound me.

That you believe them saddens me. That you live in the same world as I frightens me.

Dr. Craig Merrell ’74
Dallas, Texas 

Dr. Cracknell sounds like he is true to his academic calling. Is there any entity that is omnipotent and omniscient that cannot stand up against questioning? When questioning is not permitted, then TCU would have to close the departments of biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics.

It was at TCU where I learned to question everything until it was proven. How many colleges at TCU use a text, or reference, that is nearly two thousand years old?

Ask yourself: “Could I use Scripture in a court of law?” Most of it is “hearsay” and usually inadmissible.

Robert Cunningham ’58
Angola, Ind

I would like to respond to the Summer 2000 article, “Questioning Faith,” by Dr. Kenneth Cracknell. As he said, we all know someone who appears moral and honorable; however, Scripture teaches that no one, except Jesus, is or was without sin (Romans 3:23).

Christians have always been a minority and always will be. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God promises to save a remnant of Jews and Gentiles. (Universal salvation is not taught in the Bible.)

The message of the Gospel is totally unique. Every religion, except Christianity, tries to “reach up to God” with good words, rituals, dietary laws, etc. Christianity represents God “reaching down to man.” (See Romans 3:21-26.) We are saved through God’s grace only as we accept Jesus as our savior by faith. (Salvation in some different way may be “inclusive” and “politically correct,” but it contradicts God’s Word.)

The Noahic covenant is hardly the greatest covenant in the Bible, but let’s see what it really says and not what Dr. Cracknell wants it to say. He picks part of verse 9 to show it’s everlasting and part of verse 10 to show that it applies to all mankind.

These are correct, but he says this means that God will never seek to destroy man. The actual covenant is in verse 11, but he leaves it out to try to prove his point that non-believers can be saved. The covenant declares that God would never send a worldwide flood to destroy the earth again. God does desire for all men to be saved, but he knows that not everyone will accept, by faith, that Jesus paid our penalty for sin at Calvary.

Jesus took God’s wrath upon himself that was intended for all mankind because all have sinned (Romans 3:23). The verse from Malachi (1:11) says that God will respond to believers of all nations who worship him. (See Isaiah 56:6-7.) Dr. Cracknell quotes Acts 10:35, but he does not say who is “acceptable to God.”

The next verse (10:36) identifies them as believers in Jesus Christ. If Dr. Cracknell holds a view of “high” Christology, as he states, why does he not accept Jesus as the “only way” to God?

Jesus was the “only one” who paid for our wickedness and depravity through his death, burial and resurrection. (Mohammed and Buddha are still in their graves!) The entire 14th chapter of John is teaching that Jesus is the only way to God. (See John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Hebrews 10:19-20, 1 John 5:11-12, etc.) Along with Psalm 23, John 14:6 is always quoted at a Christian’s funeral. John writes that we have access to God only through our acceptance of Jesus as savior.

There may be “contemporary thinkers” who talk about an “unknown or latent Christ” of world religions, but it is not taught in the Old or New Testament.

The apostle John sums it up: “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).

So, professor, how many non-Christians will be saved? Dr. Cracknells’s “Christian theology of religion” is not taught in the Old or New Testament. His liberal belief system that God says “boys will be boys” is not biblical.

Being a “good person,” as judged by worldly standards, cannot get anyone into heaven. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Harold C. DeHart ’60
Fort Worth