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Volume 14, Issue 5: Sharpening Iron

From Us:

We are out of order. Christmas was supposed to come sixth. Here it is, fifth. What madness is this?

Nobility will come sixth. It was supposed to be fifth.
This is Christmas. It is here before Christmas. We sent it early because we wanted to. We sent it early because we love you. You are our goal. We want you to celebrate. We want you to cut down a tree and bring it inside. We want you to wrap things up in paper. We want your year to have rhythm. Not the rhythm of a metronome or a heartbeat, but the rhythm of a wave that rises from the sea, towers, cannot stand, and topples. A rhythm of crashing, of tension and explosion. The rhythm of Christmas. The anticipation, the foam, the noise. The day the whole year hits the beach, and the next swell begins.
Please. We love you. Eat more fudge.


From You:

Dear Editor,
In the company's computer room one night, I surfed over to C/A to read the latest. I assumed, without really thinking about it, that I was the lone sentient being in that room. But as I began reading one of the articles, I couldn't help but notice that a computer across the room came on and on its screen was a large tawny owl fluttering in circles around an old man with a staff as he, the old man, strutted across the screen from right to left and then from left to right, and so on.

Arioch Alexander
Boise, ID

Editor's reply: We've been looking for him. If you see him again, would you mind telling him to phone?

Dear Editor,
I want to thank you for your desire to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. Yours is a difficult task: to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), without compromising the truth of the Gospel, keeping "hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience" (1Tim. 3:9), seeking to cause no sin (Lk. 17:1-ff), confronting other's sin (17:3b), and forgiving all sin (17:3c-4). My prayer for you has been a faithful presentation of the Gospel, unfolding the implications for a life lived by Grace. . . before our Lord and Savior. Thank you for endeavoring to do this.

I am concerned in one regard. It seems, as I have read your publication these last few years, that the issues are becoming more and more sarcastic in their tone. When studying literature, I learned that using expletives in a written medium—when used too frequently—simply distracted from the message of the text. Likewise, I feel that much of the truth of your writings, along with your heartfelt intentions, are shrouded by the (sometimes) biting tone of your articles and responses to letters. Instead of winning a listening ear through establishing respect, this seems more to offend. No, it is not the message that offends, so much as the tonality of it. The calling of Christians is to be different from the world, and yet the sarcastic tones of your writing seems more in line with the world than the Word. Simply put—and humbly I hope—instead of edifying those who read, it often engrains a cynical response to the lost and dying people of the world. For, as Paul wrote, we must "make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Rom. 14:19).
I would also ask you to consider this: that while you intend to write to believers, unbelievers may be among those who read your articles. Instead of being drawn with the sweet honey of the Gospel, such unbelievers may be further hardened in their resistance to the Gospel. It is possible to direct your articles, comments and encouragements towards those who already believe while simultaneously ministering to those who do not believe, without compromising the truth. Even Jesus did this in the Sermon on the Mount, which was initially directed at His disciples (Mt. 5:1), but was finally an invitation to all who would hear and obey (Mt. 7:24-25).
My prayer for you is that you would encourage, build up, and motivate obedience through the knowledge of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . I welcome any response, particularly if I have been unfair in my assessment.

Joel Hathaway
Saint Louis, MO

Douglas Wilson replies: Thanks for the inquiry and admonition. I appreciate the tone and attitude exhibited throughout your letter, as well as your obvious concern for the health of our ministry.

I think it would be safe to say that your concern has been voiced in many ways by many others—it has to rank as our runaway best-seller FAQ. While many who raise the question don't want an answer, still less a scriptural one, it is clear that your letter is not in that category. I'll try to answer in two ways.
The first is that this is such a common question that I have written a short book on it that is due out early next year. It is called The Serrated Edge and is a defense of biblical satire. It is clear from your letter that you rejoice in biblical authority, and this book seeks to defend a godly use of satire through a text-by-text appeal to that same authority.
Secondly since the book is not out yet, and your question is out, here is a short preview of the kind of argumentation the book contains. In Galatians, Paul vehemently wishes that his Judaizing opponents who insisted on circumcision would somehow overachieve, cutting the whole thing off (Gal. 5:12). This is difficult enough for modern Christians to handle, given the texts you rightly cited in your letter. But it is more complicated than this. In that same passage, in the next breath, Paul says that the Galatians should serve one another in love (v. 13). In the next verse after that, he says to love your neighbor as yourself (v. 14). In the next verse, he warns them not to bite and devour one another (v. 15). I can only conclude, since there is no hypocritical contradiction between v. 12 and v. 15, that we have some Bible study to do.
Having one's speech gracious, seasoned with salt, is not what many modern Christians have assumed it to be.
What is it like then? The answer, of course, is found in the same source where we find the answers to all our questions—the Bible.

Dear Editor,
Regarding C/A, 14.3 [Husbandry, Poetics]. And whose partner shall she be since she lawfully did the happy dance with all seven? And what of heavenly procreation? A young enough infertile married couple is dealing with a curse in at least some sense, true? Is there a blessed meta-barrenness to heavenly sex? Or maybe the offspring will populate New Edens on various planets. No, I'm not building a bridge to Mormonism. No polytheist or polygamist here.

Does the idea of male and female resurrection bodies necessitate heavenly sex? As sex points to the union of Christ and the Church, maybe union unhindered by sin fulfills sex somehow. And maybe in the awesome light of the resurrected Bridegroom a meta-hug between even any two newly met resurrected saints will bespeak a joyful communion beyond anything any two believers ever experienced on earth. . . .
I always thought "do not marry" referred to future marriage and "nor are given in marriage" meant at least some kind of discontinuity between earthly and heavenly marriage. Perhaps Christ was answering the question fairly directly!
Some thought for your consideration, you trippy-but-useful loons (he said with sincere affection).

Dennis "the Poet" Cochran
Bristol, VA (Java J's coffeeplace)

Dear Editor,
Please cancel my subscription. I myself am reformed in my theology and agree with you on many issues, but I do find your sarcasm rather offensive. In other words, I don't disagree with you so much in what you say, but rather in how you say it. II Timothy 2:25 says, "Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth." II Timothy 4:2 says that we should preach the word and correct and teach "with great patience and careful instruction." I don't believe that much of the cutting sarcasm that you employ in your writings qualifies as what those verses are commanding. One can correct false teaching and exhort others without using condescending sarcasm.

May the Lord give you wisdom in all you do.

Ruth Burge
Crownsville, MD

Dear Editor,
We have concluded that C/A isn't for us, so feel free to remove us from your current mailing list. Anything we
might say as to our reasons for not wanting to receive your magazine will undoubtedly be twisted to your own means. Suffice it to say, we do not find it at all edifying as Christians.

Cass Cole
Chattanooga, TN

Dear Editor,
Please discontinue your magazine, or at least the sending of it to me. You are no longer drifting from the reformed truth, you are in tidal wave mode.

K. Dale Collison
Central Lake, MI

Dear Editor,
I do miss the older format and pictures, and shiny pages "glare" and are "cold." Sigh. . .

I am so grateful for this magazine and for godly Christians who know how to think and laugh, and challenge me to do the same. God bless you all.

Kathy Heemstra
Lowell, MI

C/A Recipe of the Season:
Tom and Jerry Mix

Bring dozen eggs to room temp.
Beat whites until stiff. Add 2 c. sugar and one box powdered sugar to whites.
Beat yolks: Add one can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk. 1 T. brandy flavoring. 1 T. rum flavoring. 2 t. vanilla.
Fold yolks into whites.
Keep in freezer.

To Serve: Put one spoonful of mix into mug. Add boiling water and a shot of Seagrams 7. Stir and sprinkle with nutmeg.
Wrestle with the reality of the Incarnation.

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