Posted: January 10, 2000

Faith has a way of resolving theological dilemmas Robert B. Mellert points out an apparent "core difficulty" with the monotheistic view. It is, namely, that one cannot hold to all three of the following: (1) God is omnipotent, (2) God loves us and (3) Evil exists (Commentary, Jan. 2). He suggests that "if such evils do exist and God is truly caring . . . He cannot control the events in the universe." This "trilemma," as Mellert calls it, has been convincingly refuted by countless Christian theologians through the centuries.

The Christian holds that evil entered the world as a result of man's misuse of God's gift of free will and that an all-powerful, loving God will one day put an end to evil and bring divine justice to the universe. There is nothing contradictory, therefore, in believing that (1) God is omnipotent, (2) God is loving, and (3) God will, on His timetable, deal perfectly with the present evil, which undeniably exists. Christian writers who have dealt both thoroughly and sensitively with this issue include Ravi Zacharias, Norman Geisler and C.S. Lewis.

Mellert also discusses "reconceptualizing God" as a changing, evolutionary deity and states that all cultures could perhaps some day agree on a common idea of God, thereby unifying worldwide god belief. His comment that what he has suggested "contains enormous philosophical and theological problems" is a wild understatement. For Jews and Christians, the idea of "reconceptualizing God" is meaningless. God is God. His perfect, unchanging nature has once and for all been revealed in both creation and Scripture.

James Hutzel



Robert B. Mellert's three-pronged dilemma (Commentary, Jan. 2) would satisfy Dostoevski but hardly belongs in serious philosophical discussion.

Our cosmos is incomprehensibly enormous, incomprehensibly ancient. If we believe the cosmos was created by God (as I do), we immediately grant that such a creation is totally incomprehensible. What can we mean when we say God created the cosmos from nothing? Absurd!

If our faith instead is materialistic, among the choices are that the cosmos evolves but always existed or came to exist in a Big Bang. Darwin had a superb insight, and Mendel taught us part of how Darwin's "survival of the fittest" might work. Four or five billion years is a long time. But that, too, is just as incomprehensible if we think seriously about it. Scientists forget to acknowledge how much of their confidence is faith, which Paul defined as "confident assurance about things hoped for and conviction about things not seen."

Who says there is evil? What Mellert is proposing (unwittingly?) is that we can recognize our inability to comprehend how God created the world, but insist that we should be able to comprehend how God is running it. My own view is that the creating of the cosmos is a mystery, as is the way it is run. Since religion is willing to be a mystery but science claims to be an explanation, I opt for the religious position. If there is ever a scientific explanation, I will reconsider my Christian faith.

If the human soul is destined to live for eternity, that is easily long enough so that nothing that happens to us during our lifetime will matter in the long run. There is no evil then. I do not propose that is the case; I simply state what the Christian position is. (It is my faith.)

If, as Emily Dickinson proposed, "the brain is wider than the sky" (my view also), the creation of man is another mystery as large or larger than the mystery of the cosmos. That is more than can be addressed here.

John E. Connor



Beautiful love story What a beautiful story by Dianna Marder on the romance of Ann Marie Conte and Martin Cocci (Inquirer, Dec. 26). That story should have appeared on the front page to show young people what real love is all about: self-respect, respect for each other and self control!

Catherine Webb


Enriched family life Most Friday nights, my husband, sons and I join his sister and her family at my in-laws for Sabbath dinner. This tradition was passed down from my husband's grandparents. I grew up three hours away from one set of grandparents and with a mother who was orphaned by World War II. It is from this perspective that I read Mike Vitez's series about children moving far away from the nest (Inquirer, Dec. 26-29).

My husband and I are a pretty typical suburban family - two kids, two cars, two professional careers and 11 years of college and graduate school between us. We have consciously chosen to create a life for our family in our parents' backyard. Seldom a week passes that my mother doesn't save me by watching my children when a baby-sitter cancels or one of the kids is too ill to attend school. If she is unavailable, I can always try my sister four blocks away or one of her teenage sons.

Having grown up hours away from my extended family, I can fully appreciate the gift I give my children by choosing to raise them where time spent with a grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin is the norm. These people are part of my sons' daily lives, not just a holiday treat. I am rewarded by watching as their relationships with these important people in their lives develop.

I understand the need to teach my children independence and appreciation for adventure. But I will also teach them that choosing to live close to family can enrich their lives and that of their families in unparalleled ways.

Rachel Ezekiel-Fishbein

Elkins Park

Stop the telemarketers Because of the relentless onslaught of telemarketers, I have not answered my own phone for more than two years. I let the answering machine pick it up. Because a certain thoughtless and predatory industry has chosen to grossly abuse the telephone and annoy everyone in the known universe with its behavior, the telephone has ceased to be the useful method of communications that it once was. Despite putting my name on all known "do not call" lists, I still get call after call - also despite the fact that I have never nor will I ever buy anything over the phone.

I appeal for some legislation or phone company initiative that would enable the average consumer to permanently block such calls on home phones. It would be such a pleasure to be able again to pick up my phone when it rings, without fear of having a telemarketer on the other end.

And the telemarketers aren't the only ones who abuse the phone system. Lately, calls from university alumni associations are getting almost as bad. I'm not Bill Gates; I'm not going to endow a building at your school, and I'm not going to buy some stupid book with all the alumni names in it for a ridiculously exorbitant price. So leave me alone.

This is all very tiresome and does nobody's case any good to persistently annoy people day after day. It's time for it to stop.

Kathleen A. Smiley


Emphasize preventive health care I recently attended the American Heart Association meeting in Atlanta. This annual meeting assembles the world's foremost authorities on cardiovascular diseases, including physicians, scientists, nurses, technologists and other health-care professionals.

The sessions are dominated by presentations covering recent clinical and basic science findings, providing a wealth of information that physicians can use in their practice.

I attended one session that to me personifies one of the primary problems with medicine today. It was titled "Beyond Secondary Prevention: Identifying High-Risk Patients for Aggressive Primary Prevention Strategies." This was a 75-minute program on risk profiling, novel risk factors, measuring atherosclerotic burden and global treatment perspectives.

The final 15 minutes was titled "How to Make Prevention Work." This was the primary presentation I was interested in. But as it started, there was a tremendous exodus. About 20 percent of the individuals left. Considering the room may have held 5,000 individuals, this represents a tremendous number of people.

The evolution of medicine has made tremendous advances in the treatment of many diseases, and specifically cardiovascular disease. We can artificially open coronary arteries, graft new passages around blocked arteries, put in new valves, or replace the heart completely if necessary, but we fail to take an interest in the most important part of medicine - the prevention of disease.

There are many reasons for the lack of interest in prevention, with economics taking precedence. In today's medical model, there are no financial incentives for physicians to practice prevention. In fact, the technology is simple. Physical activity and prudent eating habits, when combined, are the most powerful forms of medicine available to man today - bar none. Arguments will continue to surface about which medication is better or what the most effective intervention is, but there are no plausible arguments for why every individual should not be more active and eat a balanced diet.

Aside from the financial arguments, some might suggest that we can't get people to become active or change their eating habits. Yet studies continue to show that a physician prescription or recommendation is the most important motivator to create change in people. If physicians don't know the basis for making these recommendations, don't do it themselves, and don't know "How To Make Prevention Work," it's not likely that change will occur.

I guess it should have come as no surprise to me that, upon leaving the exhibit hall to return to the meeting rooms, I would find a long line of people waiting to get on the escalator, while the steps to get up the necessary two or three levels were virtually empty.

James Walter


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