Volume 10, Issue 2: Sharpening Iron
Astute readers may realize that this little "From Us" thingy keeps getting smaller, as we pad the masthead. Soon we'll only have space for "From." The shift is due to global warming.
We are very pleased to announce that thanks to Aaron Booth's heroic perseverance through unbelievable tedium (better him than us), all the back issues of Credenda have been uploaded to our web page. We're also grateful to announce that Mr. Booth recently helped decapitate a deer in his sleep. He's quite talented.
For those who think that this issue's theme marks a tragic departure for us, we assure you that we remain as steadfast as ever in our defense of Calvinistic theology and Italian wines.
LETTER OF THE MONTH
I encountered your latest issue and found it not only damn Medieval, but also positively moving. It was handed to me during a choir rehearsal just before we sang a series of Medieval chants . . . I found myself a wee bit too tickled to sing them with the requisite decorum . . . thanks for gaining me a grimace from my exceedingly patient choir director. I would further elaborate on why I would like to be added to your distribution list if I thought it would do any good. . . .
Douglas Wilson replies:
. . . except for the field goal kicker who just shanked one.
BEST ISSUE YET
Your issue on Medieval Protestantism was the best issue I've read yet (C/A 9:5). It helped me define in part something I've experienced when reading the Institutes (for example): The literature is real, not separating theology from living. In this way, it is neither "modern Reformed techno-geek" nor superficially therapeutic. Thanks for a great issue. Lord willing, I'd like the Lord to train me to be like your vision from the past. For that reason I'm pursuing historical theology with a passion. All Christ's teachers are important for edification (Eph. 4:7_13). . . .
By the way, as with many other readers (as seen by the Letters section), I also have trouble with your occasional triumphalistic tone. However, being a child of modernity and evangelical Christianity, I must confess that it gets my attention quickly and makes me think. So, keep up your self-evaluation on this issue before God; I will do so as well. . . .
NO MORE CRYPTO-PAPISTRY
After years of having to defend myself from charges of crypto-Papistry (or would it be neo-Romism) because of my affection for Augustine, Anselm, Bonaventure, et. al., finally there comes to my defense your "Positively Medieval" issue. Many, many thanks! I can now begin my PhD program in Medieval Church History without worrying about what apology I will offer for my major—I'll just send my would-be accusers a copy of that issue of Credenda.
T.E. Mark A. Quay
St. Louis, MO
Douglas Jones' otherwise excellent piece, "The Hope of Medieval Protestantism," is marred by an example of the very thing against which he protests. In the second paragraph he quotes approvingly those ubiquitous icons of modernity—The Wallflowers. This is unforgivable in an issue dedicated to the wisdom of the fathers. How much more contextually pleasing would the words of the senior Mr. Dylan have been: "God is in His Heaven / And we all want what's His / But Power and Greed and Corruptible Seed / Seem to be all that there is ." The only popular musician who is unabashedly pre-modern is overlooked in favor of his MTV offspring! I suggest Mr. Jones stop playing with his daughter's CD collection and (preferably with a glass of red wine and a good cigar) listen to Mr. Dylan's sober, haunting and melancholy new work, medievally titled "Time Out of Mind."
As I read the article "The Hope of Medieval Protestantism," I was surprised to find that modern theoretical physics is a medieval discipline, in that it judges truth in part by beauty. This procedure is encapsulated in the "beauty principle," which says (roughly) that beautiful physical theories are more likely to be true than ugly ones. One can find anti-theists talking about this principle, by the way.
J. Brian Pitts, graduate student in physics
TELL ME YOU'RE JOKING
Positively Medieval? You have got to be kidding! What Golden Age are you referring to? The Middle Ages of serfdom, tyranny, and rampant bloodshed? The age of adulterous chivalry?Or the Crusades? It was an age where mere survival was the name of the game, not Christendom, for the majority of the people, and Christianity was largely confined by Islam to Northern and Central Europe. When the Church's purity and apostolic nature were deeply tainted by the popping up of a prelatic papacy in her polity, (say that fast) the invasion of pagan practices into her worship, and the influence of Neoplatonic speculation in her theology. Biblical literacy was at an all-time low among the priests and people. There were pockets of light, and periods of flowering, but it was, by and large, the dark night of Western civilization's soul and of the Church's in reality. If you want to seek Christian cultures of the past, seek out Byzantium or perhaps Celtic Ireland, who saved civilization as one recent author would assert, and at the least gave birth to the Scottish Kirk, who brought forth Presbyterianism. The puritan ideals form a sounder ground to build on as they kept the best ideas of the past—Classical and Medieval—and built on them biblically. . . . All ages have warts, but some were cancerous and more deadly than others. Continue your brave ministry of being a voice in the wilderness, or perhaps in the potato fields, as providence would have it. You definitely inspire conversation and thought with each issue.
Gasping for more,
No time to answer. Too busy preparing more defenses of other indefensibles, like cancer, tick fever, and nuclear war.
IN DEFENSE OF BOB JONES
First of all, I was terribly disappointed to find simultaneously printed in your last magazine a notice that you accepted no unsolicited manuscripts, and yet the Cave of Adullam was edited by some Rocky Raccoon fellow that has never before appeared in your masthead. I did some research and found that he has some limited experience with the Gideon's Bible people but other than that, he has no theological qualifications.
What a sad disdain for scholarship you hold . . . wait that's the arminians. Nonetheless, it is apparent that you are selling out your doctrinal commitments . . . wait, that could be my own PCA general assembly. I digress and, without proper transition, move to the real point of my letter.
I protest the publishing of a derogatory comment about Bob Jones in a letter to the editor in the last issue ("Far Too Much Caffeine," Positively Medieval). I found negative comments in particularly poor taste with the recent death of Dr. Jones, Jr. It is my tenth year at the school, having attended junior high through college here, and although I have sometimes disagreed with the doctrine preached from the school's pulpit, I found it difficult to laugh at a "Bob Jones joke" at the time of his home going. I believe his taste in poetry, literature, fine art and theater might have met with at least occasional approval in the eyes of the Credenda editorial staff. He was, at the very least, an aged man of the Faith. Although the letter may have been published prior to Dr. Jones' death, allowing print in your magazine to name men rather than name beliefs seems a rather dangerous precedent. . . .
Gasping for more,
John Calvin Blessing
Have been enjoying your publication for some time but only in the recent issue have I been moved to supporting your work. On the jacket you made mention of those who might have been placed on the mailing list as an act of hostility by some Reformation conspiracy thing, or something like that—whata great idea. I never thought of sending in names of people as a means of punishing them...you have earned my financial support.
Love your Work
WATCH FOR FINGER BURNS
Your magazine is truly a blessing. The articles and essays are insightful, provocative and magisterially Reformed. The words fairly crackle off the page and offer a perspective which is sorely needed in these times, one which honors Our Savior and also satisfies intellectually and emotionally. My donation is enroute via snail mail. Keep up the good work - and may God bless you!
NANCY IS INSULTING
I was recently reading your C/A 9:5 issue and I was very disturbed with the article called "Discreet Women." I am a young woman myself and I found it very insulting. I think that the author took the passage entirely out of context and changed it to conform to the idea that all women exist in order to serve their husbands and should not disturb their day with their feminine emotional problems. I do agree that when you are married, you are to serve each other, but when the author is describing a good wife and says, "If her husband gives her a task, he does not have to worry about whether it will get done. He doesn't have to come home from work wondering if she is collapsed on the couch in tears, or if dinner will be ready"—I think she is wrong.
So a wife is to keep her emotions in control and make sure that they don't interfere with dinner preparation? Come on, I should hope that when I get married I will be able to go to my husband and explain what is troubling me even if it's very emotional and happens to be during the time we should be getting dinner ready. Women and men are both emotional creatures and I just felt that this article was very insulting to the female sex. We are intelligent human beings who should not have articles written to us to explain how and when we should act emotionally. A strong and sober-minded woman is a woman who knows what is appropriate and yes, is trustworthy. But collapsing on the couch because of a crisis is not a sign of a weak woman. Nor is not having dinner on the table. I think the author is entitled to her opinion as am I, but I just don't like to see people translating passages and telling women how they should act. I especially think it is dangerous in this magazine where so many of the women who read it are vulnerable to these directions.
MONUMENTS TO IGNORANCE
Patch Blakey's description of government schools as "monuments to man's ignorance" is dead on target. I used to think the government schools were simply failing in their duty to educate children and could be reformed. I was wrong. I now know that the duty of government schools, at which they've been wildly successful, is to create a society of self-satisfied ignoramuses who will be compliant workers. The central govern-ment's publication "Adult Literacy in America" is a report and analysis of the 1992 adult literacy survey, the largest such literacy survey ever undertaken in America. The results show that half of all American adults and eighty percent of black adults are functionally illiterate. In the Executive Summary to the report is this illuminating statement, "Americans today are better educated and more literate than at any time in our history." To understand this statement, which seems false to you and me, one has to know that "better educated," as used by educrats, means people stay in government schools for more years than they ever have and "more literate" means the government has fooled them into believing they can read, write and calculate when they really can't. Instead of faulting government schools and trying to reform them, we should applaud their success and do everything we can to keep children away from them.
J. Michael Brown
Your essay "C. S. Lewis, Dude" in Anvil in Credenda/Agenda vol. 9, no. 5, brings out a point on inspiration of the Scriptures which is overlooked in most discussion. Inspiration would be meaningless if it were limited to the original manuscripts only. While there are errors which have developed over the years in manuscripts of the original or in translation, the Lord did not leave His Word to the devices of men as the "Watchmaker" is alleged to have done with the world in the deist idea. The Lord must have maintained some sort of Shepherding of His word or it would be meaningless for us today.
The Lord, recognizing the fallibility of men, has not held totally tight rein on scribes and/or translators, but He does keep His word sufficiently correct to have it used as the man to bring men to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
JACK DRIVES 'EM NUTS
. . . Brother Jack Van D's eschatology makes me claw at the wallpaper in my study (the bathroom). But he does provoke me to study. Who knows—I might see things more his way in time.
But for now, let me encourage you with this: I find Credenda exciting to read—at least the few copies I've been able to get my hands on. Caustic? At times . . . so is the soap we clean ourselves with. Sharp? Some . . . but so is my chainsaw (a dull one will get you hurt). Painful? Mmm . . . yes, but so is the chastening of the Lord, which we're told not to despise. Shall I instead just despise His "belt" or His "Rod of Correction"? Naahh. . . .
DROP THE THEOLOGY
Please put me on your list for future issues of Credenda/Agenda of which I have read with interest issues Volume 9, Number 4 and Number 5.
These were found by me with a bundle of magazines set out for recycling in a neighboring community. You may be pleased to learn of the catholicity of the other publications among which your magazine was found: Rolling Stone . . . GQ . . . New Criterion . . . Discovery and Smithsonian Magazine.
Some author whose name I cannot cite (it might have been H. L. Mencken) answered fan letters with a rubber stamp saying "some of your points were well taken," which saved time for the rubber-stamper, gave a reassuring message to those who saw fit to find reassurance therefrom, and preserved at least the appearance of a civilized interchange.
If the theology would be eliminated from the publication, it would sit better with me. I am a godless Jew and believe that all religions are a conspiracy against the undevout. And it would be presumptuous of me to even dare to suggest that the baby be thrown out with the bathwater.
Berkeley Heights, NJ
Thank you for your excellent publication. The day that the Credenda/Agenda is delivered is invariably good. I think it is the only thing I read that causes me to laugh aloud in agreement—that thank-God-there-are-others-that-think-like-this type of laughter. . . .
Please know that your tasteful sarcasm and right-on commentary are a cool drink of water in this barren wasteland of late 20th century Christianity. Keep it up.
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER
Your place at the top of Christian Leadership is assured, although I should point out that those who follow you do so out of a sense of sheer curiosity.
One of the Curious