Volume 13, Issue 1: Sharpening Iron
Hello. Here we are. Our little electronic voices crying out against tyrrany and all other things unappealing. This time around we are taking on sex. We were hoping to up circulation and reach out to any seekers out there who might need something attractive to sucker them into the fold. SEX. Caught your eye didn't we? Please come forward and one of the assistant pastors will pray with you.
This is our first electronic issue in our new system of waiting for money before we publish. There will be no hard copy of this issue until the end of the year. Yes... tragedy.
I appreciated Mr. Hagen's exposure of a very popular, but false, gospel. I also agree that we need to be like Paul, who was conversant in the philosophy of his age. However, there was some confusion in the article, probably because Zen is a confusing topic. First, the Dalai Lama is not a Zen Buddhist. There are many strains of Buddhism, as with most viruses. Zen is a peculiar, Japanese version of Buddhism. The DL is the head of the Tibetan strain. He may say Zenish things, but that's because he's more like the Robert Schuller of the Buddhist world. Schuller says nice things which are inconsistent with Christian theology.
In the same way, the DL is popularizing some nice Buddhist concepts. He may say, in Mr. Hagen's words, that it's all about positive states of mind, but this is not the traditional Buddhist doctrine. Schuller may define sin as a lack of self-esteem, and the DL may define salvation as being up-beat. Both are out to lunch. Any real Buddhist will tell you that salvation comes through realizing that suffering is an illusion. The Zen Buddhists try to realize this through meditation and pondering the sound of one hand clapping, not through a positive state of mind. They don't need "happiness" because they are trying to get beyond it. They don't need salvation because the problem (sin) is an illusion. If we're going to refute Schuller, we need a little theological sophistication. And, if we're going to refute a sophisticated Buddhist, we need to be prepared to go beyond the silliness of the Dalai Lama.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
I am writing to ask that you please take me off your mailing list for your newsletter Credenda. When I first came to know of it, I was a thoroughly Reformed Protestant, but mostly by default as I didn't know any better at the time, and that is the only theology that I was exposed too. My searches for the Truth have lead me to Anglicanism, and I am seriously exploring Eastern Orthodoxy (my husband has already converted), and so your publication no longer interests me so much as it aggravates me.
S. Hamilton, MA
TYPOS? OH WELL
Your magazine is the most hilarious I've ever read - I must confess I don't always read everything in Credenda/Agenda but when I do, I am enriched by the wisdom and humor you guys put into every page. I laughed the hardest just reading the footnotes!
And, I'll be your friend - even though I'll have to overlook all the offensive things you've said, and typographical errors you've made, in the last issue. (You left out the 'baby' that came before 'Buttercup' in Verbatim.) May God bless your ministries...
MANNERS FOR PHARISEES
I am writing to respond to Douglas Wilson's article "Manners for Boys" (vol. 12/no. 3). As a pastor, school teacher, husband, and father of three, I believe in "manners for boys." But I must take issue with the foundation of your article-there isn't one. It lacks a biblical foundation. It's all some man's opinion. It does not include one Bible verse.
The three categories of manners you enumerate as a prority can be mastered by a conscientious Mormon or a resolute, moralistic Pagan. You don't address the issue of the heart. "Honor" is key, but your presuppositional scaffolding seems to be missing. Your article is a perfect example of "moralistic" parenting that can tend toward legalism and Pharisaism. This exasperates young boys and turns them away from the faith; or worse still, it can produce even worse legalists than their mentors (Matt. 23:15).
Does God really care if a boy wears a baseball cap indoors? That's not God's pet-peeve; it's yours (1 Sam 15:22). Where's the Word of God in all this? Unfortunately you have smothered it out with your petty personal preferences and opinions. When reading your article, all I could think of were the "persishing ... commandments and teachings of men" in Colossians 2:20-21, which cry out, demanding, "Do not...do not...do not...." Every one of your binding commands has to do with the externals. True biblical parenting first attends to the heart, mind, attitude, and soul (Prov 2:1-12).... Thanks for your publication that I read faithfully and always stimulates my thinking and sharpens my iron. This response of mine is simply an attempt to sharpen yours.
San Antonio, TX
We are currently in the start-up phase of a new church and we are in the process of writing the church constitution. We are planning to require all deacons and elders to read every edition of C/A from cover to cover and be able to understand Nate Wilson's short stories. Can you please send us an answer key?
Pastor Joe Miranda
HIP, HIP FOR DUCK
Being a professional singer, you can only imagine how pleased-as-pasta I was when I read Duck Schuler's "Effortless Singing?" in C/A Vol.12/3 - pleased that one more soul had discovered the sublime beauty of Fischer-Dieskau. His recording of all 600 Schubert lieder is a feat that probably will never again be matched. Of equal merit is the fact that he did the entire project with one accompanist, the incomparable Englishman Gerald Moore, quite possibly the greatest accompanist of all time (check out his delightful memoir, "Am I Too Loud?").
As a longtime teacher of singing, I also enjoyed the comments on the pursuit of singing as "the result of long, painstaking work," and the importance of thought and effort in the musician's learning process. I'm always skeptical of those who supposedly have "great natural voices." Even though music history abounds with stories of this or that great singer who "never had a lesson." For every wunderkind who never saw the inside of a voice studio there are thousands who have had long, fruitful and even famous careers only as a result of decades of careful and continued study.
The magnitude and sheer longevity of Fischer-Dieskau's career is a testament to his careful and thoughtful approach to singing. How else could a singer excel not only in the subtly florid world of the art song, as well as the stark terror of the 20th-century atonal opera (as F-D did in one of his most famous roles, Alban Berg's Wozzeck)?
The most important part of a singer's instrument is not the lungs, or the larnyx, or the mouth. It's the brain. The Italian tenor sensation of the 1960s, Franco Corelli, put it best: "When the voice is placed right, singing is like walking. You don't usually think when you walk, but if you are climbing the stairs, you'd better pay attention to the steps, or you'll fall."
I just found your magazine last night, and I have to tell you that I am delighted! The articles are well-written, the target audience mine, and the language used intelligent without pretentiousness. It's nice to read something that talks to my mind instead of my heart alone.
Well done, and I must applaud Nate Wilson for his article regarding "Our Baptist Betters." Well-stated. Please keep it coming.
Over the Christmas holiday, I found a copy of your publication lying around my mother's living room. As I have many times before, I picked up the copy to amuse myself with the brazen pomposity and sheer stupidity of it. After reading several of the articles, I had finally had enough. Vol. 12, No. 3 had driven me over the edge. The issue was an embarrassment to myself, as a Bible believing Christian. I hope no small children ever get their impressionable young hands on a copy. Hopefully I can convince my poor mother to cancel her subscription. I will give you credit for one thing...you've inspired me to dye my hair purple and listen to Beatles records.
Spring Hill, TN
OUT WITH IT
I've spent nearly two weeks ruminating on Peter Leithart's "Worship for Whom?" Boy, did he ring a bell! Contemporary worship isn't convinced that God is acting in a worship service; they think they have to do it.
I will out with it: I am one of those ignorant Ariminians. Not withstanding, I think blaming the contemporary worship airheads on the Arminians is a cheap shot. (We Arminians could just as easily blame you Calvinists for the once saved always saved cheap grace.) I must say it never crossed my Arminian mind that I could even want to worship without God's gracious help, let alone participate in real worship without Him. Gee guys, you just critiqued yourselves for theological reactionaryism in that very essay.
Contemporary shallowness is a modern plague. Maybe we ought to join forces to try to minister to the lightweights out there whose hearts are in the right place, but need a little meat on their bones.
Here is a simple answer to Doug Wilson: Though Samuel was born a Levite, Eli adopted him into the high priestly family. When God rejected the natural sons of Eli, Samuel was the next priest, because he was Eli's legal son. That's why Samuel sacrificed and was not put to death, either really or covenantally.
Unlike Saul, he was a priest.
David J. Merkel
Ellicott City, MD
Jack Van Deventer's "Preparing for the Academic Transition" was a great article until he manifested his true cranial corpulence in the form of his sweeping generalization of premillennialists throwing their children into the cesspool of govt. schools in order to be "salt and light." As a premillennialist who reads the Word of God, the reason I am not sending my children to co-habitate with the "pagan nations" of public education is because there is no biblical model of child evangelists, presumably because they are not approved workmen rightly dividing the Word. As a Bible-reading-and-believing Christian who is trying to redeem the time while waiting for the pre-tribulational rapture, I take God's Word concerning my parenting seriously and that's why I have decided to teach them diligently. Tetelestai!
LETTER OF THE MONTH
Something odd happened tonight in our home; I thought it might interest you. We are a missionary family of eleven children (nine still in the nest here) living in the Sub-Sahara bush of Chad. Our retired predecessor's wife left several books on our dusty shelves, some of which the authors were strangers to me. Among them: a certain P.G. Wodehouse.
That is, stranger until I got your issue introducing me to the man and his writing... So, I began a slight and subtle campaign to attract my growing dad-hopes-them-to-be-literates to these works of "goof."
The result: my oldest surrendered his love affair with Louis L'Amour to embrace P.G.; and now my ten-year-old left his previous beloved (Jack London and Walt Wangerin) in the dust to declare today, "Dad, you haven't lived until you've read Wodehouse." Then at the dinner table he voted vociferously for an oral reading of a chapter from Mulliner Nights (you know, stories recounted after a little "scotch and lemon") over Tolstoy's short stories. After dinner he confessed like a pathetic addict: "I can't live without Wodehouse." To top it all off, he then feigned pastoral concern for his mother, advising, "Mom, the best counsel I've ever given anybody in my life is for you to abandon Shakespeare (she'd been reading King Lear, among others) and to read Wodehouse." Seriously; that is the truth. C'est bizarre!
Secluded as we are, your literary ministry is a glass of cold water here in this intellectual and spiritual wasteland. One of my sons, now in the States, used to grab Credenda and run with it to his room for a secret session of devouring delight. Then for the next thirty minutes or so, one could hear the giggles and snorts emanating from his bedroom. We love you guys-in spite of the fact that we theologically prefer confessional amillenial Lutherans! (But what can we expect, we were graciously-and thankfully-introduced to you guys in France by Baptist-turning-Presbyterian missionaries.)
If anybody is interested in supporting missions by helping secure and ship Wodehouse books that this missionary family lacks, let us know. For the kingdom's sake, of course.
Paul and Teresa Szobody
Gounou Gaya, Chad
Please note that Credenda/Agenda is now included in the "links" page of Mississippi's Finest Goat Cheese... drum roll here... www.DrCheese.net at: http://drcheese.net/favorite.htm. Please be prepared for the massive hits this will now generate for your online version.
Somewhere in cyberspace