Volume 12, Issue 1: Sharpening Iron
If only someone had come and given the “all clear” ting-ting on the door of our Y2K compliant bunker a little bit earlier, we could have had this Credenda ready for you a long time ago. So you see how it is all your fault. But we don’t press that point. We look over it.
And just to prove our overflow of warmth and benevolence, we thought it only fitting to begin the year two-thousand with a hearty ecumenical raspberry. For those of you just joining the fracus, please note a couple of other issues where this raspberry has been blown before, namely—Vol. 8, #3, “No Condemnation” and Vol. 8, #5, “Mother Kirk”.
We’d also like to welcome to our pages Dr. Peter Leithart, who will be writing the Liturgia column. Dr. Leihart received his PhD at Cambridge and came to Moscow to teach at New Saint Andrews. He is also the only Contributing Editor capable of doing the Chinese splits.
After a few sips and a couple of excellent smoke rings, I finished reading Nathan Wilson’s “Our Baptist Betters” and replied, “Cromwell would have been proud!” However, rather than feeling guilty that the Reformed brethren are not doing more to take more ground in the menacing “culture wars,” I was grieved that I had to read another article where someone has yet again confused the two kingdoms, or as St. Augustine referred to them as the “City of God” and the “City of Man.” Since when has the surrounding culture of men and women become the enemy of the Church so that she must follow the example of Saving Private Ryan and storm into battle with the fleshly weapons of secular warfare such as boycotts and placards? The article lacked any sense of the true mission of the Church to go into the world with the Word and Sacraments to proclaim the Gospel of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). Where was St. Paul’s emphasis that our warfare is not with flesh and blood but against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places and that our weaponary is the Gospel of Christ (Eph. 6:10ff)? I’m not saying that individual Christians should not participate in the culture around them, hopefully working to make it a better place to live, but that is not the mission of the Church, as “the Church.” The mission of the Church is the Gospel of Christ, not the reformation of society. . . .
The Rev’d Robert A. Lotzer (PCA)
THE LEAVEN OF HOMEMADE BREAD
As per usual I am eating up the latest C/A. It is music to my ears. But I fear I hear a discordant note in young Master Wilson’s article “Our Baptist Betters.” While the substance of the article is his usual brilliant stuff, I’m concerned with his attack on what he seems to believe are retreatist Reformed folk. Surely there are such folk, but I don’t think the distinguishing characteristics are the sort of “homer” things that he mocks, and some of which my family practices.
I’m writing immediately after eating some of my dear wife’s homemade bread, made with the wheat she ground. Last night, after family worship, she (who is expecting our fifth blessing) and I spent half an hour out in the dark cold trying to round up fifteen of our chickens, to move them into the heated pen lest they freeze in the night. After I finish this I’m going out to split more wood for the stove that heats my house. All this, I would argue, is not retreat, but conquest. I would suggest that fresh eggs, fresh-killed chicken, heat born of blisters and sweat, and bread that is not the consistency of a styrofoam cup is rather more real than the gnostic varieties of these things available at the stuff-mart. I’m not retreating for goodness sake, I’m working to build the kingdom. I am sharpening my arrows for battle, and leading a hardy band of parishoners to do likewise. Carrying a placard at the door to the Mouse’s kingdom is better than this? The culture war is not a battle to create a G-rated pagan culture through whining. Rather it is waged by exercising dominion over our own garden first.
My children may never know that Tinkie-Winkie is a sodomite, or a witch. But they do know how to turn the earth God gave us into food. I’d say that’s better. And as for the broader war, my four year old son knows that Yankees (defined in our home as people who are rude, pushy, and like to live in the city, rather than the country) are for defeating, that government schools teach you to hate God, and that we fear no man but Jesus. I am raising soldiers who are better than me. But that we don’t live in New York, LA,
Moscow or Lynchburg does not make us retreatists. The culture war will not be won by shooting those of us who fight on the home front in the back, anymore than it will be won by the deal-making, coalition-building, pragmatic negotiators with Apollyon that make up the evangelical church, including the dominant Baptist wing.
R.C. Sproul Jr.
OUT OF WORK
Did I read you right? Saving Private Ryan’s gun-toting, ammo-clad do-nothing soldier cowering in the stairwell pertaineth to the Reformed folks, while the unarmed soldier doing battle and being stabbed to death by the enemy pertaineth to the Southern Baptists? That’s an awfully courageous and honest comparison: will your peers. . . let you get away with more of the same, or will you soon be out of a job (or hobby, or ministry, as the case may be)?
Nice try revising the name of your fellowship! Why not join Christ’s (Real One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic) Church like the growing number of your Reformed (and otherwise) brethren? You are inching that way ever so slowly, you might as well just go for it! The richness and fullness of faith you seek so earnestly is to be found in Rome and what joy we have found there. By the way, the debate with a Romanist you had several issues ago was one of the catalysts to our conversion to Catholicism, and we prayerfully hope your next issue will have the same effect on many others!
MONOPHYSITISM IN THE CAMP
My breath was taken away when I read the last paragraph of Gary Hagen’s “Nicea’s Homoousios.” With only a few words he relegates vast numbers of (heretofore) Reformed Christians (past and present) beyond the pale of orthodoxy, and assigns them a place among the heretics. May I suggest that Mr. Hagen reconsider his opinion that “God, the Son died for us on the cross” (emphasis his)? Reformed theologians, confessions and believers have never denied the hypostatic union and its mystery, nor that the Lord of glory was crucified, while at the same time maintaining very deliberately that God did not die on the cross; rather, that Christ suffered and bore in body and soul (i.e., in his humanity) the full wrath of God for our sins, being sustained in this by His divine nature (see, for example, Westminster Confession 8.4, Larger Catechism 38, Belgic Confession 21, Heidelberg Catechism 16, 17, 37). It’s an important distinction. The incarnation and the atonement hang on this: since man sinned, man had to pay. To say that God died for us does violence to the necessity of the incarnation, to the atonement, to the justice of God, to the doctrine of God who is without beginning and end of days, indeed to our very salvation. I suggest that Mr. Hagen demonstrates as true his own words when he says, “relatively few of us have a solid handle on our own orthodox doctrinal terms, much less a familiarity with the heretical defintions.”
Rev. H. Marvin Van Essen
We heartily concur that “Deity” did not die—Deity cannot die. But God the Son did die, just as God the Son was born—even though Deity cannot be born. The WCF says that “two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.” Neither Deity nor humanity in the abstract died on the cross; the person Jesus Christ died on the cross, our Mediator in whom we find these two natures inseparably joined. Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection (Rom. 1:4), which means that He who is the Son of God was delivered from death.
After thoroughly enjoying Jack Van Deventer’s Eschaton column (Issue 11/5) about the victorious eschatology within many of our favorite hymns, I decided to reexamine my own collection of hymnals. I was quite surprised to find that apparently the premillennial censors had gotten to my song books before I could because the verses from the Christmas Carols which Mr. Van Deventer so splendidly quoted had either been changed or removed outright! But, Bless God, even such meticulous moths as these completely missed the 3rd verse of “O Holy Night”: “Truly He taught us to love one another/ His law is love and His gospel is peace/ Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother/ And in His name all oppression shall cease...”, as well as the 4th verse of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”: “Yet pealed the bells more loud and deep/ God is not dead nor doth He sleep/ The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/ with peace on earth good will to men.”
Dr. Michael Kear
Ponca City, Oklahoma
LEARNING THE HEINRICH
I enjoyed your treatment of music in the last issue. Since you, too, can “hear the music,” I’ll share with you a favorite quote that I keep with my cd collection. Here you go: “Music is a strange thing. I would almost say it is a miracle. For it stands halfway between thought and phenomenon, between spirit and matter, a sort of nebulous mediator, like and unlike each of the things it mediates—spirit that requires manifestation in time, and matter that can do without space.”—Heinrich Heine. Ahhhh.