Letters to the Young

March 2011


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Comment Magazine - Letters to the Young

01

Poem: Go to the Limits of Your Longing

By Rainer Maria Rilke

02

Editorial: Apprenticeship by Correspondence

By James K.A. Smith

Those of us a little further down the road know that we could do nothing better than pour ourselves into this task, for the young come to the world with wonder, feel intensely the heartbreak of its brokenness, and still manage to muster kingdom-sized hope. We need that gift from you and are grateful for your inspiration. So we hope a younger generation will also receive these as love letters of a sort, our little way of inviting you to love God's world.

06

Letter to a Young Philosopher

By Alvin Plantinga

The New Atheists are just the tip of the iceberg: much of academia, the world of learning, and the cultural elite are hostile to Christian belief. The Christian community needs Christian philosophers to point this out, and to point out further that the alleged reasons underlying this hostility are not at all impressive—they are wholly underwhelming.

08

Letter to a Young Doctor

By Brian Volck

Patients suffer and seek out healers for relief—for mind at least as much as for pain. What could be more Christ-like than to show someone the way out of suffering?

10

Letter to a Young High School Teacher

By Diane Stronks

Students need you to care. First and foremost, they need hospitable teachers who love their students, love learning, and love sharing their knowledge.

12

Letter to a Young Musician

By Charlie Peacock

Your songs and performances will tell stories, as will your life. Make sure both of them are true and winsome.

14

Letter to a Young Political Staffer

By Darrel Reid

It is essential that you actually believe something. I have been surprised to discover how many people getting into politics arrive there because of circumstance and adopt the views of others uncritically.

16

Letter to a Young Architect

By David Greusel

Architects are about imagining the future and helping to bring it into existence. What could be a more optimistic, engaging, and thrilling kind of work?

18

Letter to a Young Law Student

By Faye Sonier

Writing law school exams for the first time can be intimidating. People will become a little secretive and competitive. Rest assured, most of this will pass and you'll come back from Christmas break to a group of civil individuals.

20

Letter to a Young Parent

By James K.A. Smith

Liam might break your heart. Actually, Liam is going to break your heart. Somehow. Somewhere. Maybe more than once. To become a parent is to promise you'll love prodigals.

22

Letter to a Young Film Critic

By Jeffrey Overstreet

We don't need another plot summary. We need moviegoing dieticians to teach us discernment without spoiling enjoyment. Prove to us that absurdist comedies, historical epics, and cheesy romances can be relevant to our lives.

26

Letter to a Young Scientist

By Thomas Ackerman

You need to feel a deep, undeniable persuasion if you want to pursue science as vocation. Science is intellectually demanding and requires intense commitment. It is not for the faint of heart.

30

Letter to a Young Farmer

By Norman Wirzba

The world is slowly dying because we abuse it. We are killing each other with poison-laced foods we know to be unhealthy. You represent the kind of skill and affection we all need.

32

Letter to a Young Curmudgeon

By Peter Stockland

As a species, we are Homo Hearing Disabled. We are the eternal kid at the back of the classroom staring out the window while God himself is telling us what we need to know for the exam.

35

…because, of course, you weren't listening the first time.

By Peter Menzies

You—you're not ready yet. There are no free passes from adolescent to neo-curmudgeon. You'll do this the old-fashioned way, by earning it, or you won't get here at all. You can only be one of us after you've tried to change the world.

38

Letter to a Young Writer

By Sam Martin

If the salt loses its saltiness, if you as a writer only scratch the surface of the world instead of digging deeply into life on this earth, your stories won't stay on the table but be thrown out into used book bins.

40

Letter to a Young Black Scholar

By Vincent Bacote

The scholarly life is not contrary to faithful discipleship. Indeed, in your case, it may be one of the most significant elements of a fully-devoted life as you steward the tremendous intellectual gifts God has given you.

42

Letter to a Young Christian En Route to College

By Stanley Hauerwas

You cannot go to college just to get a better job. Christ's call on you as a student is a calling to meet the needs of the Church, both for its own life and the life of the world.

46

Letter to a Young Pastor

By Jim Belcher

As I recall Eugene Peterson writing once, teaching and preaching is the kind of talk that produces new people.

49

WikiLeaks, WikiLeakers, and WikiEthics

By Margaret Somerville

WikiLeaks is neither laudatory nor brave. On balance, it is a force for serious harm even allowing that it could entail some good.

56

What's the Use of Stories That Aren't Even True?

By Deborah Bowen

Christians are not called primarily to rules or beliefs, but to a community of faith within a great narrative.

This Issue

This Comment crystallizes a sensibility that might seem countercultural: that the young—hungry for guidance, advice, expertise, and criticism—have something to learn, and that their elders are a source of wisdom.

Central to Comment's vision is an appreciation that God calls us to a range of vocations and cultural tasks, all of which can be ways for us to cultivate different corners of God's good creation. So here you will find letters not just to a young pastor and parents, but also letters to a young farmer, architect, and philosopher, and many more. Each letter is penned with the conviction that the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the wisdom of the Word have something to say about how we'll pursue those vocations well, for the glory of God and the flourishing of creation.

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