Volume 13, Issue 3: Sharpening Iron
Why hello everyone, and welcome to our third issue of the year. In this issue we will vent thoroughly and express complete
disregard for all things Cartesian, and we will do so without slipping into the hollow metaphor of the postmodern. Just to make
sure that you can do the same, it is best if you read this issue while doing something earthy and well, earthy. Eat an apple off the
tree. Dig a hole and smell the dirt. Play with the worms. Whistle "Stairway to Heaven" a little off key. Hop on one foot. Or best
of all, skip reading this entirely and go take a nap under a sunlit tree.
I can't say anything that hasn't already been said. However, I do truly appreciate the humor with caring, critical thought.
Thanks so much for the sharpening of my iron.
Beth T. Whitney
Ft. Gibson, MS
I have always found your magazine to be entertaining, thought-provoking, and full of practical outworkings of Reformed
theology. Though I do not always agree with the viewpoints expressed by your writers, I have never been so moved to write a
letter of rebuttal as I am now. Roy Atwood, brace yourself.
As a genteel and gracious Southern woman with impeccable taste, a love for perfectly arranged furniture and trendy
accoutrements, and aspiring wifely/domestic hopes, I was thoroughly offended by your article entitled "Living Beyond Martha."
As I understand it, your objections are that Martha is an empire, not a person, and that her lack of familial responsibility makes
her a bad role model.
No one who appreciates the publications or programs of Martha is under the delusion that this woman does everything herself.
We are all aware of the "little people" running around behind the scenes polishing the furniture, pruning the pansies, and broiling
the creme brule. That is not the point. The sheer fact that Martha's domestic empire has as much influence in a culture that
despises homemaking and motherhood shows that she must be doing something right. Martha Stewart has made the art of
homemaking attractive and attainable for women who grew up eating Hamburger Helper off of TV trays every night and don't
have a clue where to start.
The lack of children inside Martha's perfect homes is a legitimate concern, and needs to be addressed. Obviously, when one is
engaged in the high calling of motherhood and has been blessed with many young olive plants, spills, stains, and the occasional
household disaster occur on a regular basis. . . .
Though a home with children will not be as "pretty as a picture" 24/7, there is certainly nothing wrong with having that goal.
In short, in the wide world of people awaiting criticism, it seems that there are many folks more deserving of your disapproval
and ridicule than Martha. Though she is not the standard for beauty or loveliness within the home, she is a good exampe. I
maintain that the accursed "empire" is instead a good thing.
TRY AGAIN JONES
I am sympathetic with the general nature of Doug Jones's concerns as expressed in "Knowing is Doing" (the sexy issue). I have
never been content with the Reformed tradition's emphasis on the intellect, nor have I found appealing the rationalism present in
many Reformed systematics. I'm not sure if Plato and Locke were given the fairest shake in Jones's article, but my criticism is
meant to be directed to what I believe to be a much more fundamental flaw. To assume that the question of the nature of knowledge is simply the question of
what we take knowledge to be in general is to assume that the word "knowledge" must refer to one unified and privileged
reality. But this is most definitely a false assumption. We use such a word to refer to various and quite distinct realities in the
world. We know that pigs can't jump fences. I know my best friend fairly well. I do not know what it is like to be a bat. And,
perhaps, I know how to refute Doug Jones. All these different kinds of knowing are very unique and easily distinguished from
one another. For example, can you think of one instance of knowing which can be referred to in both the knowing that, and
knowing how manner? Our minds cannot put words together even creatively or poetically to blend the two realities (I dare
you). One refers to a belief, and the other refers to the ability to physically do something in the world. If Doug Jones's concern
is legitmate, at least generally, it must be stated in a different way. Those guilty of diminishing body, matter, and imagination, are
not guilty of defining "knowledge" wrongly, but are guilty of demeaning many different kinds of knowledge. If Locke wishes to
talk about knowing that, then let him. As for wise Christians, we know that (!) there are many more important kinds of
knowledge that demand our scholarly attention.
Douglas Jones replies: Well, dares are always fun. Michael Metzler assures us that all these knowledges are "unique and very
easily distinguished," but he doesn't actually distinguish any for us. We do get a "dare argument," though, to provide just one
instance of knowing that is both"that" and "how." But his dare can be answered by any of the examples he himself gives, since
even thin "knowing thats" are bodily events. Notice that the very sort of dichotomy he claims to join me in opposing sneaks out
in his sharp dualism between the mind and body: `knowing that' "refers to a belief and the other refers to the ability to physically
do something in the world." This assumes that holding a belief doesn't involve anything physical in the world. Where, then, are
these other-wordly beliefs taking place? Mine happen in my body. They don't occur in some vacuum-sealed mental realm
untouched by body. Mind and body intertwine. Beliefs occur in our bodies, and we learn how to "grasp" and "hold" and
"support" beliefs having learned to live these metaphors through bodily interaction. Even figuring out what warrants are good or
bad requires habits tested through doing. "Knowing that" takes practice; it's an acquired habit, though much thinner, easier, and
less important than other knowledge habits.
In Vol 13.2, "Judas was a Bishop," your covenantal paradigm of accepting "these liberal gentlemen as fellow Christians, and
then fight them to the death" is not an adequate biblical model. Surely, does not our Bible in Romans 16:17, 18 tell us to
separate from false teachers? If a believer is in an assembly where teaching is going on against apostolic doctrine, do we not
have biblical warrant to separate from these people?
Jonathan S. Sceggel
Editor's Reply: We should separate ourselves from false teachers through fighting and booting them, not through taking our ball
and running home to our mothers.
I'M A BABDIST
Thank you for your excellent magazine. Although I do not always agree, I find I almost always agree.
So here is a gift from a Reformed Baptist, in spite of the recent edition on "covenant children." I figure, since you got that out of
your system, you can go back to cracking on the Arminians, Socianians, and FreeWillians. . . . May God bless and prosper
your ministry to His glory.
Pastor Steve Marquedant
YOU WEREN'T LOOKING
I confess I'm still not compelled to become a paedobaptist, but I at least have more respect for what half my reconstructionist
allies think is essential to the covenantal paradigm. Thanks.
Water aside, Ben Merkle's article "Holy Cool" was one of the most fantastic applications of Titus 2:10b and Isaiah 42:21 that
I've ever heard or imagined. I'm itching to see what the Merkle children turn out like. I don't know why people are constantly
accusing you all of sarcasm. One good friend has said that he doesn't read anything from Canon/Credenda because other
people are saying the same thing without all that sarcasm. But I read through this whole issue word for word, out loud, and only
found sarcasm on page 8. . .
Thank you for sending me the latest issue of Credenda/Agenda enclosed in a large envelope, it made for a convenient barf
bag, which I needed after reading your views concerning "Covenant Succession". . .
Toronto Baptist Seminary
SONG OF DEBORAH?
Peter Leithart concludes his "Worship is Warfare" column with the picturesque scene of the corpses of his enemies strewn on
the battlefield. I wonder who Mr. Leithart views as his enemies, whether he loves them, and how much of his worship is
devoted to praying for them.
Sugar Grove, NC
WOES OF JABEZ
Please help me respond to the pop theology that is circulating through The Prayer of Jabez. I want to respond the proper way
to this movement. I am concerned that this is a new "name it and claim it" theology that ignores the whole counsel of God. Our
generation is interested in instant gratification as opposed to a lasting relationship with Christ. Was not Christ asked how we
should pray? He did not refer them to the prayer of Jabez. The response seems to be that we have received a new revelation.
This seems to be a button-pushing, order-taking formula. We have the opportunity to have a relationship with the living Word.
To be blessed does not always look the way we think it should. I would like to have the proper response to this movement. . .
Editor's reply: Actually, Canon Press has just published a book by our own loving Douglas Jones. The book is called The
Mantra of Jabez and is available through Canon as well as Amazon. It is a nearly to-scale parody of the original and is full of
the sort of thing that softies dislike in these pages. Cher called it a "sweet salve for the soul."
SIERRA SAN PEDRESE
. . . I do have a question while I have your attention. I couldn't help but notice that a statistically uncanny number of your
"Letters to the Editor" in Issue 13.2 came from Sierra San Pedro. Is that the new location of the home office or do you just
have a higher-than-normal rate of readers in the Sierra San Pedro area? . . .
Editors reply: Both.
CAN I CHEAT ON MY TAXES?
Hi folks. I love P.G. Wodehouse, an occasional cigar, and don't always wear a tie to worship services, but believe with all my
heart that the only thing I bring to the table (redemptively speaking) is my sin—along with the belief that Jesus' righteous life and
substitutionary death for me makes me welcome at His table. That being said, I confess a theological struggle with our
government's current confiscatory tax system. Would someone please advise? Didn't our nation come to be in part due to a tax
revolt against the crown? I ask because if this was sin then perhaps God does not view the U.S. as legitimate. (Is any nation
legitimate in His eyes?) My honest question is: Is it always a sin for a believer not to pay all taxes? Thanks for taking my
question seriously (at least I hope you take my question seriously).
Editor's reply: No, it is not always a sin to refuse to pay taxes. It is always a sin to be foolish, especially when picking battles to
fight or hills to die on. As for the question of our government's legitimacy, would you rather send your checks to England? We
have an upcoming issue on revolution which will deal with these issues more thoroughly.
Greetings from the land of legal assisted suicide. After an unusually long delay I finally received Credenda/Agenda, only to
notice that it was Number 2 of Volume 13. Had my postal service misserved me and lost Number 1? I went online to review
the listing of back issues to find that Number 1 had only been made available online. How rude of you not to have let me know!
But Nathan Wilson's "The Pitcher" (`Pictura') made it all worthwhile.
. . . Sharpening Iron:
Credenda "Things to be Believed" Volume 13 / Number 3
Editor's reply: Oh but we did. Regardless, that system is behind us now. For those others of you who are also behind,
hardcopies go out to those who have donated mammon. As for the rest, let them eat brownies.
Gasp, cough, pant, wheeze. . . Life without a hard copy of Credenda/Agenda is not to be borne. Have we really neglected
you with pecuniary assistance for so long? Forgive us. . .
In the meantime, we will continue to strive against covetousness as we gaze longingly at our neighbor's copy of Volume 13,
Issue 2 and reread the much-thumbed printout of Issue 1. . .
Mrs. Matthew Chancey
REPLY TO LEITHART
I appreciate the opportunity to respond to Peter Leithart's interaction with my views on worship (C/A 13:1). As I read him it
seems that we are, for the most part, peas in a pod. Yet there are differences.
For example, near his conclusion Dr. Leithart states, "Worst of all, if we take the synagogue as our model of worship, we are
almost completely dependent upon Jewish tradition for our liturgical theology and practice." There are several difficulties with
this objection (beside the "So what?"), one of which is this: the argument employed by Dr. Leithart to get at this conclusion was
"almost completely dependent upon Jewish tradition." To quote Dr. Leithart's mid-summary of his article: "The evidence for the
Jewish understanding of synagogue worship comes from extrabiblical sources, including the Apocrypha, Philo, Josephus, and
the Dead Sea Scrolls. Since these are not Scripture, we can derive no authoritative teaching from them. But they are historically
Exactly! Why don't we all just admit that we all rely, to some extent, upon tradition, and that even the denial of such reliance is
itself a tradition?
Another instance of us getting close, without getting the cigar, is in our respective views concerning the temple as a liturgical
resource/model for the church. Contrary to the impression conveyed by Peter's article, I do not deny that the temple has/should
influence Christian liturgy. Rather—and this is an important distinction—I have insisted that no element of temple worship was
delivered to the early church as normative apart from prior mediation through the synagogue. To wit: "Whatever the relation
between Temple and synagogue—and we certainly recognize a relationship—they remained quite distinct institutions. And it
was the synagogue which became the model for New Order worship."
Some seek to argue against the normativity of the synagogue model for the Church by asserting that "the temple rather than the
synagogue is the ultimate source of a number of the most important aspects of Christian worship." I'm from Missouri. Show me
any element of early biblical Christian (or current Reformed!) worship which can ultimately be traced to the Temple alone—or
which came to the Church in any way other than via the synagogue. Sermons? Nope. Benedictions? They predate the Temple
by at least half a millennium (Gen. 14). Corporate prayer? Uh-uh (Gen. 4). Singing? Don't be silly (Exodus 15). Circumcision
was not Temple-dependent. Nor could baptism, as practiced by the Jews, by John or by Jesus, be ultimately traced to the
Again, my brother Peter says that "far from being a step toward Romanism, taking the temple as our model for worship is the
only possible way to arrive at a biblical view of worship." But this is an impossible statement when we remember what churches
do, and what they don't do. Of the elements we do employ, consider that the primary and seminal element in the synagogue
was Scripture reading "with no trace of any sacrificial rite" (Safrai). The synagogue's main function was as a center of Bible
reading and instruction. On the other hand—and this must be emphasized—"Scripture reading was not part of the services in
the Temple before the Babylonian exile." If the Temple is the model, whence the centrality of Scripture in our worship?
Moreover, Safrai (in The Jewish People in the First Century, Vol. Two, pp. 915-916) suggests that the synagogue may
have influenced the temple liturgy! "The chanting of psalms as an accompaniment of the sacrificial rites probably only became a
standard element in the Temple worship during the period when the synagogue came into existence, and may be regarded as
inspired by the idea of divine service as it took shape above all in the synagogue."
The complexity of these issues is great. For the fact is that neither the New Testament churches "nor the precursors of talmudic
tradition had a definitive theory or practice with regard to worship outside the Jerusalem Temple" (Stefan C. Reif).
Further, the synagogue itself, even after AD 70, was only gradually transformed to be a central but not the central focus of
Jewish liturgical activity. Competing liturgical centers were the home and the
That the temple is certainly not the model for Christian liturgy is made evident by what we do and, as we have said, by what we
do not, do. Dr. Leithart recognizes this when he admits that "In an obvious sense, Christian worship is closer to the synagogue
than to the temple." Precisely. We do not regard any earthly location as more sacred than another. We do not have a
priesthood—at least we say we don't! In any case, we don't have a dynastic one running in the Aaronic (or any other blood)
Speaking of blood, we proclaim "the blood," but we don't employ any. We do not require that the furnishings of the Temple
find places in our Reformed liturgies: menorah, laver, incense, altars, tables, etc. We do not examine lepers in our churches, nor
the mildewed homes of congregants, for that matter. We practice greater latitude than God allowed in the temple service in
regard to the garments of officiants, not to mention ecclesiastical architecture. This list could be greatly extended but I trust the
point has been made. When it is said that "taking the Temple as our model for worship is the only possible way to arrive at a
biblical view of worship," one is beginning with a statement which will assuredly die the death of a thousand qualifications. In
fact, I consider it DOA.
Perhaps our real difficulty lies in the presupposition that there ought to be, or that there is prescribed for the churches in
Scripture, just one liturgy. Dr. Leithart says that "if we take the synagogue as our model of Christian worship, then we have
virtually no biblical resources for formulating the theology and practice of worship." While this, too, is a statement which must
be severely modified, I wonder if there isn't, at the core of it, the solution we all seek. Perhaps the absence of specificity is a
clue that God wills (or at least benignly permits) there to be a multiformity of liturgies—not just one uniform liturgy—always
centered on Christ, always organized within principled walls garnered from the Scriptures. Our worship need not always be the
same in order for it to be biblical. If this is recognized, we then can discuss which liturgy might be more faithful, which might be
more edifying, which might be more illuminating, which might be more portable or sustainable, without pretending that one
liturgy (usually "mine") is the only one approved by Jehovah.
Even peas within a pod have differences.
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