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Volume 12, Issue 2: Sharpening Iron

From Us:

It looked like it was going to be an ugly editors' meeting. The trouble started, the way it always does, with Jim Nance holding his breath until we let him get his own way. But after we let him have the jelly doughnut, things started to click. And what do you know? We finished another issue.

So here is our Sabbath issue. As you read this, please realize that this isn't so much an argument for the continuance of the Sabbath, or a case for the transfer to the first day. That's really another discussion altogether. This issue is more of a glimpse at what the Lord's Day can look like. How it's possible for the Lord's Day to be a beautiful thing. So if you are not a sabbatarian, we don't have any new argument to convince you to become one. We just want to make you wish that you were convinced.


From You:

Dear Editors,
Regarding "Taking Down That Flag," all we can figure is that either y'all haven't gotten any mail in a while or that Doug Jones is really seeking iron to sharpen. We predict there will be no shortage of blades presented.

We agree that not all defenders of the Confederate flag are worthy of its symbolism. Blind or misguided allegiance to any symbol is much worse than informed, but half-hearted allegiance. But those who recognize that what is honorable in the flag is the cross of Christ and the sovereignty that belongs only to Him, will not concede that the outcome of the war was a judgment on the South. To proclaim such is, at best, highly presumptuous, as we cannot see the end from the beginning. The thousand years that to the Almighty are as a day may not be past. Granted, Christian Confederates should not boast of their proud legacy, but recognize it as the gracious gift of God, like their faith and corollary to it, worth faithfully preserving and defending, especially in the furnace of affliction: the national climate of the past 135 years.
We believe Mr. Jones is attacking the wrong flag and the wrong people. Christians who support the national banner should be the ones having to defend themselves. Even with the racist elements that unofficially have perverted the symbolism of the Confederate flag, by contrast, the Stars and Stripes official position is as self-imposed savior (of the Union first, and now of the world) and murder of the unborn. Certainly, more Christians have a blind allegiance to this bronze serpent, trusting it as their heritage.
Having just returned from the Southern Bronze Serpent Heritage Society's annual conference, we must tell you that the works of repentance are precisely the agenda: relieving the oppressed, judging the fatherless, pleading for the widow white and black, North and South. We begin, of course, by repenting of our own sins (how do we repent of anyone else's) and by insisting on the honor due our Southern, Christian forebears by virtue of the Fifth Commandment.

Michael & Sara Hill

Dear Editors,
It is of course true that the Confederacy was not a sinless nation, and that General Lee was not in error in calling for repentance. However, just as Job's counselors assumed his troubles were the result of his sin, Mr. Jones has assumed that the South's military loss was God's judgment. Perhaps the flag should have come down from the State House dome. Certainly Southerners need to repent of sin. Yet for many of us in the South, the Confederate flag represents resistance to the oppression of a centralized power. For that resistance I do not repent.

Dr. Timothy Terrell
Native Sandlapper in Virginia

Dear Editors,
Everything [Mr. Jones] says in this latter part of his article hangs or falls upon the validity of his opinion regarding the divine motivation for the defeat, rape and pillage of the South. He says it was the judgment of God. He does not express the reason for it, but merely the fact. He is saying, "they must have done something wrong," and, unless he thinks it is because of Southern slavery, he probably considers the list of sins in his Gen. Lee quote as sufficient for this punishment. He apparently thinks there was something especially bad about the South to warrant a judgment that the North did not deserve. This is ridiculous from a biblical and historical perspective. But I do not laugh. He has fundamentally taken the same logical and theological position of Job's friends. He is guilty of the suppressed evidence fallacy and the same presumption of Job's friends regarding the interpretation of divine providence. I think Douglas "Eliphaz" Jones would do well to remember Job 42:7, and that if we are to speak of divine wrath, we need to recognize that it dwells upon such guilty fallacy and presumption. Douglas "Eliphaz" Jones would have done better to have burned his article instead of publishing it and have worn the ashes for despising an imperfect but worthy cause.

Rev. David N.Beckmann
Rome, Occupied Georgia

Dear Editors,
If one is to condemn the Confederate flag as a flag of shame, as you propose, then doesn't that line of thinking lead to the condemnation of the U.S. flag on the same basis? Wasn't the Union as savage toward the blacks as the South, maybe more so? Wasn't invasion of the South by Lincoln and his Radical Republicans merely a "fiscal quarrel" (as Dickens termed it) gone terrible wrong? In the end how far do we go with this position? We could condemn Scotland's flag (which is essentially the basis of the Confederate flag) for various crimes such as the Jacobite Rebellions or the Highland Clearances, the shame carries on back in time and to an increasing scope of nations. Therefore, couldn't you just condemn every flag as a flag of shame?

Victoria, B.C., Canada

Dear Editors,
. . . [W]hy would the defeat of the South necessarily lead to any particular conclusions about the spiritual state of the Southern people? Suppose Mr. Jones is assaulted on the street by a bully and thrashed within an inch of his life. Looking down upon his broken body, should we conclude that he is under God's judgment and the assailant is an instrument of God's wrath? Should we assume that Mr. Jones got what he deserved? Perhaps it would be more prudent to merely conclude that he was the weaker of the two and not particularly good at street fighting. . . . The Confederate battle flag is not a symbol of divine wrath. It is a symbol of a good and just cause fought for by imperfect men. It remains so today.

Rev. Dick Jones (PCA)
New Braunfels, Texas

Douglas Jones replies:
I sincerely admire many of the noble senctiments expressed in the letters above (especially Michael and Sara Hill's), and I'm in robust agreement on the perniciousness of northern statism. I had no need to attack the North in my editorial, since I had written it off long ago as an Assyrian grandchild.

But judgment begins with the house of God (I Pet. 4:17). So I was surprised to see the recurring theme in the many letters we received which simply denied that God's anger came against the South in that war. I took my lead from R. L. Dabney. If discerning God's judgment in that war makes one a presumptuous friend of Job, then Dabney is the chief offender. In his classic defense, he wrote: "A righteous God, for our sins towards Him, has permitted us to be overthrown by our enemies and His." Dabney didn't have to wait a thousand years to make that call, and he wasn't presumptuous.
Like Lee, Dabney saw that his people failed in deep matters, not the pretences of egalitarianism. Lee said it was a habit of pride and thanklessness. If the South ignores this connection and just focuses on the sins of her Assyria, she will never get back on the path. And the confederate flag will remain a symbol of a failure in the "weightier matters of the law" (Matt. 23:23). Yes, other parts of the nation were and are worse. But raising their sins only proves my point.

Dear Editors,
After I read the latest issue of Credenda/Agenda (vol 12., no. 1) I decided enough is too much. Please end my subscription immediately. The only reason I subscribed in the first place was to impoverish your organization, but the burden of reading halting poetry, clunky prose, smarmy cultural commentary, and incredulous exegesis has proven too heavy, and I can no longer afford the strain. Please do not think you are provocative of an equally strong positive or negative reaction from your readers. Your own prejudices marginalize your verity; and any intelligent response to your obnoxious antics is more than they deserve. I believe your publication is an embarrassment to the Reformed community.

Rachel Caulk
Spring Hill, TN

Editor's Reply:
Wow . . . we're "marginalizing our verities"? Is that something like sequestering our probities? Either way, it sounds painful.

Dear Editors,
I usually read the offering of fiction which closes out each issue of Credenda/Agenda. I have noted these works are often, shall we say, a bit on the strange side thematically. But "Shovels" was the strangest of the strange. Please enlighten this dull mind. Were we merely to be plunged into wonder at the exercise in verbal dexterity the author seems to attempt? Or is there the true possibility we may be helped to understand what content he would convey?

Cordially baffled,
Jim Fletcher

Editors' Reply:
Dear Jim Fletcher and countless others: They all should have dug. Only the last one was clever enough to see that.

Dear Editors,
I thoroughly enjoyed the theme of your last issue (vol. 11, #5). Music is certainly an important part of worship, and most of all, a meaningful part of our spirit. It was more and more convicting as I read through Mr. Jones' opening article how what we hear affects our spirit. It reminded me, once again, of how important it is to listen to the right song lyrics. As a song is being played on any given secular radio station, I find myself asking "Do I really want these words and ideas pouring into my soul?" I hold Christian artists from both the Christian and secular markets with much regard, now more than ever.

Kiersten Nelson

Editors' Reply:
Uh Oh

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