Volume 8, Issue 2: Sharpening Iron
So, we went a little overboard on this issue's cover. Impale us. Don't expect it
every time, since it's expensive, and it costs a lot of money. But we just had
to try something special for this aesthetics issue. Next time, you should expect
us to return to the regular two-color, leather covers you like so much. Maybe.
By the way, you might be interested to know that the glorious window and hallway
on the cover are just part of the new CEF/Credenda/Canon office building we've
moved into of late. Many thanks to Jerrar's Stained Glass Works, Seattle, Washington
for their fine craftsmanship.
We know some of you have been fretting day and night over your time constraints
for reading all the new columnists we've been adding to each issue. Relax then,
since we've finally put a stop to it. Just kidding. We want to offer a very special
welcome to a new columnist we've added to this issue -- Patch Blakey. Mr. Blakey is
the former Chief Engineer on the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Enterprise, but
since we're tolerant, we don't hold that against him. He'll be writing about Christian
aircraft maintenance . . . no, he has an uncanny ability to explain things very
simply, and so he'll put his efforts into the Doctrine 101 column. Though he wouldn't
let us say this if he knew, he has an amazing servant's heart and is a person from whom we hope
to learn much. It's a privilege to work with him.
Okay, okay, we were just kidding about the stained glass thing. Our office doesn't
even have lights.
Thank you so much for the issue on "Eastern Orthodoxy" published last year. I downloaded
it from your home page on the Internet. Intellectuals in
Reformed circles will continue to feel the pull toward Constantinople/Alexandria/Antioch/Jerusalem,
and even toward Rome, and you have given us some very effective ammunition to
use as we attempt to warn the drifters toward such dangers.
I was also somewhat taken back by the letter to you requesting to be removed
from the list of subscribers because of "something in the tone [that] is wrong." I
think that the formerly enthusiastic reader has trouble with sarcasm as a literary
device of showing the absurdity of an argument. In any case, I appreciate your
content. The "tone" is a matter of taste and does not interfere with my enjoyment
of your publication . . . .
The review of Franky Schaeffer's book, Dancing Alone: Becoming Orthodox , by
Douglas Wilson is to the point, and yet, charitable in that it tells the truth.
I had just read the letters to the Editors in the current issue when I turned
to the review referred to above, and read, "Upon reflection, I have decided to
handle the book, and its author, less tenderly." I expected an
all-out, vicious attack (since I have not been a reader of Credenda Agenda
for very long and only had the comments of the "unsubscriber" by which to judge
the publication). I was very pleased with the review, however. I find that
elenctic writing often appears unloving at first to the uninitiated to
the warfare in which we are engaged at present. We must tell the truth
even if accused of being uncharitable in tone.
Therefore, be encouraged, and do not give into to the undiscerning,
emotionally-oriented fringe. You are doing a great job. Keep it up.
Rev. C. Richard Barbare
WHERE'S THE BABY?
You need to realize that what you sincerely write is not true, only true in parts.
I don't ever enter into theological debates and my purpose here is to stir up
in you a doubt about your own belief system that denies the true power of God.
You have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and didn't know the baby was
there. You think you have only thrown out dirty bathwater. You are gravely mistaken.
The Lord is indeed real and His arm is not shortened. . . .
You can tell me of the woes of the charismatic movement and I certainly
would agree. Tell me that manifestations of the Holy Spirit have ceased and I
will tell you that you are gravely mistaken. Oh, they are rare in the United
States but still, God's finger still moves in the affairs of man. I assure you.
The Jesus I believe in is not some theologically correct, dry as dust definition,
that I have placed correctly in my mind. He is a real person who has forgiven
me when I couldn't have even hoped for such forgiveness. He ever lives so that
I can face the future . . . It is high time we all repent and admit we are blind,
naked, and lukewarm. . . . The pharisaical types are smug in their "superior" knowledge
of the Scriptures and their denial of God's power. They're following faulty manifestations
and believe all kinds of heretical teachers.
We all need to repent. You pharisees and we charismatics. There is sin in the
camp, terrible sin. We lack the devotion to Jesus. Think on that!
San Marcos, TX
I've just gotten around to reading my Vol. 7, No. 6 of Credenda/Agenda . I want
to thank you for such an excellent article as "Recovering Cultural Soul." How true.
How convicting. How humbling to realize the great kindness of the Lord to allow
one to even see their colossal shortcomings. May the Lord continue to give you
the humility to prophetically write in such a way as to bring His Church to
true repentance which will usher in a great expectation of revival. Thanks, and
I trust that I have long ago foregone the so-called pleasure of throwing gospel
Thank you for your publication. I look forward to each issue, as your articles
and topics always provide food for thought. . . . I believe that the "Reformed" theological
tradition and the Confession more closely embody the system of biblical truth
than any other.
However, as I reflect upon the writings of Calvin, Owen and other Puritans and
other "Reformed" or Calvinist authors and preachers, I find that their designations
were simply "biblical" or "orthodox." And when we in this tradition have added more
restrictive labels, our influence in the church and the world for the truth has
I have puzzled over this for a number of years, and believe that at the root
of this situation is a subtle, yet real intellectual pride, which, interestingly,
did not exist in the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, and
other greats in our tradition.
Instead, I am awed and amazed, as were they. . . that when all is said and done,
it will not matter to Him if my theology and understanding of biblical truth
is full as in the "ReformedCalvinistWestminster" tradition. . . or if I am an
illiterate third-world Pentecostal Christian.
In short, I think the Lord doesn't give a hoot what our doctrinal purity isas
much as what we do with it. . . .
I read with interest Nancy Wilson's "Women in Ministry." While I agree with many
things she wrote, I believe that she is wrong when she says, "Is her identity
as a Christian woman centered around her relationship to her husband?" She then
says that if the answer is no, the woman is ministering independently of her
husband. First, the Scriptures teach that a woman's identity, just as a man's,
should be centered around the person of Christ. Therefore, women who center their
identities around their husbands are idolaters. Idolatry of a husband usually
causes the woman to vacillate between two extremesidolizing her husband or despising
him (when he does not live up to her expectations ). . . . [ This ] leaves
many wives of unbelievers in a somewhat hopeless state. Does she mean that a
woman married to an unbeliever has as her only ministry to serve her husband?
That would be a doubtful conclusion. Where does all this leave single women?
LESS GOOFINESS PLEASE
Jim Nance's column was a great blessing in Vol. 7, #6. . . . I wish all pieces
in C/A were as godly.
Please do not write silly things. It discredits you ( cf. Ecc. 10:1). Nothing
undermines points you try to make more than levity. Ephesians 5:4 is apt.
Please write to edify and bless; not to tease, belittle, or entertain. Such
is only for and from the flesh. And if Mr. Slonim's letter is a "real" letter to
the editor, then how do we discern what is true? Or when anyone is being serious?
Also, your contradiction on page seven is tragic. Or is this more of your silliness?
You claim that you do not agree whether breaking the third commandment is "lawful" or
"wise." But, you say, you are convicted "that the Lord's name should always and in
every way be hallowed and reverenced." Except when publishing fiction, apparently.
Such double-mindedness is pathetic. I pray that you will put away childish and
crude Monty Python-esque humor and profanity. Grow up, gentlemen. Ephesians 5:4
specifically condemns "filthiness, foolish talking and coarse jesting" (joking).
It is not good to mock God's enemies, much less His called out ones. The Cave
of Adullam column entertains the flesh, but it makes light of others. Is this
love of neighbor?
And I suppose Braveheart agrees with Psalm 101:3-7? Such things ought not
to be, brethren.
Continue studying your beloved Puritans. Edwards' "Resolutions" are most convicting.
Remember whom it is you are living for and before. Amen.
Santa Rosa, CA
"Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself?" (Ecc.
7:16). Solomon addresses a very pervasive problem among serious Christians which
we call the "tight shoes" syndrome. The church has been stifled for the last two-hundred
years because of its departure from biblical authoritypietistic tradition has
no authority in determining anything, including what is silly or crude. The Bible
determines this, and not a Bible edited with a schoolmarm's scissors and library
paste. Humor is one of the most important weapons in any biblical arsenal. While
there are those who think we ought to get our theological skivvies in a knot
so that observers could interpret the look on our face as one of learned sanctity,
we don't see it. We do remember who we are "living for and before," and we are enjoying
it immensely. The kind of writing you desire can be found in various publications
throughout the Christian world, and we refer you to them. But we do find it odd
you could be edified by the Obituaries.
I just received my last issue of Credenda back from my neighborwho of course,
is a Pentacostal brother. Although he did not agree in whole with all of the
points made, he was impressed with the effectiveness of the arguments.
Most notably, he hasfinally!admitted the trouble with the charismatic view of
eternal security. This point is easily and clearly made in John 4. Christ tells
the Samaritan woman that when she drinks from the living water, she will never
thirst. How do our charismatic brothers reconcile that? Christ does not tell
her to go to the well again and again each time she feels
thirsty. Thank you again for your good work. I anxiously look forward to your
KEVIN REED RESPONDS
I was astounded by the comments of your book reviewer, in response to my book
Making Shipwreck of the Faith: Evangelicals and Roman Catholics Together (8:1,
p. 31). The reviewer refers to a footnote in which I wrote, "if both Rome and
evangelicals have corrupted the gospel, why should either group be regarded as
a true Christian church?" Your reviewer then asserts that I failed to grasp "the
classic Protestant distinction between a corrupt church and an apostate church," along
with the duty to reform within the former, while separating from the
Perhaps your reviewer should reread chapter 2 of the book. In that chapter,
among other things, I have shown that "evangelicals" are proclaiming a doctrine
of free-will through the "gospel" of decisionalism. Their message is a false gospel .
Indeed, the doctrine of free will was condemned by the church at the time of
Augustine; and the synod of Dordt echoed that conclusion when it condemned the
Arminians for bringing "again out of hell the Pelagian error" of free will.
Regarding "classic Protestant" distinctions, I would direct you to the following
creeds: The Confession of the English Congregation at Geneva (1556); the French
Confession of Faith (1559), articles 26-28; the Scottish Confession of Faith (1560),
chapters 16 and 18; the Belgic Confession of Faith (1561), articles 27-29; the
Second Helvetic Confession (1566), chapter 17. These Protestant confessions
uniformly regard the marks of the church to be the true preaching of the gospel,
the right administration of the sacraments, and the practice of church discipline.
In delineating these marks, the creeds often speak pastorally; they provide guidance
for Christians who are confused by the rival assertions of aberrant religious
assemblies which claim to be churches of Christ.
Now the logic of the case is quite simple: preaching the true gospel is a mark
of the true church; many modern evangelical churches are not
preaching the true gospel, but have
instead embraced a false gospel; therefore, these evangelical churches are not
There is also another aspect of this discussion which your reviewer
misses. If we characterize a group as apostate , we infer that they have fallen
from a previous position of truth to a
subsequent position of error. For some "evangelical" churches this may be true.
Yet, in the current ecclesiastical landscape, there are many "evangelical" churches
which were founded on a commitment to free-will, decisionalism, charismatic errors,
etc. They never possessed the truth; they are simply heretics , not apostates.
Historically considered, such churches bear a close resemblance to the Anabaptists,
whose assemblies the reformers uniformly regarded as false churches.
The Protestant reformers called upon all men to flee from hotbeds of heresyto
separate from both Rome and the Anabaptist assembliesand to join only those
churches which bear the marks of the true church. This fact seems to have completely
escaped your reviewer.
Thus, I conclude that it is your reviewer who fails to grasp important "classical
Protestant distinctions"such as the distinction between the true gospel and a
false gospel, and the distinction between a true church and a false church.
Douglas Wilson responds:
Let me say again how much I enjoyed the book, and assure any readers just joining
us that they should be sure to read it.
That said, we simply have to disagree about this point. The Church was corrupt
from at least the Second Nicean Council on, and in a way that certainly exceeds
the corruptions of modern evangelicalism. In a similar way, we are convinced
that modern evangelicalism as a whole is corrupt, but not yet apostate.
In making this distinction we concur with the ministers of Sion College in London
who wrote in Jus Divinum , "The Church of Rome (setting aside those particular
persons among them that maintained damnable errors, which were not the Church ,
but only a predominant faction in the Church, as were they that denied the
Resurrection, urged Circumcision as necessary to Salvation, and opposed the Apostles
of Christ themselves in the Churches of Corinth and Galatia), continued to be
a true Church of Christ until Luther's time . . . as the unanimous current of
our Orthodox Divines confess. Yea, as some think, till the cursed Council of
Trent, which began to sit in the days of Henry VIII, Anno Dom. 1545, till when
the errors among them were not the errors of the Church, but of particular men.
And for this they give many cogent reasons, at present too long to recite" (pp.
When modern evangelicalism holds her Trent, then we will separate. Until then,
we will fight these corruptions from within. We are Reformed evangelicals.
We applaud your efforts in reformed classicism, though I'm not sure why. Perhaps
it's the entertaining critique of evangelical syncretism with modern culture,
but I must admit confusion as to why Homer or Virgil's brand of paganism is to
be preferred to modern paganism. There is some beauty in both but hell to pay
in either direction.
Maybe the U.S.?
TONGUES OF ANGELS
Let me begin by saying, I eagerly await every issue of your magazine. I may not
always agree with everything, but you usually do an excellent (not to mention,
refreshingly intelligent) job. . . . In regards to your issue Charismatic
cul de sac , I felt this is probably the weakest issue of your magazine I have
seen. While I do agree with much of what you said ( i.e ., the improperness of
the commanding prayers for healing and the unbiblical condition of fallible prophecy),
and commend you for pointing out errors in conduct, I also felt that the issue
lacked a considerable amount of your usual objectivity within the light of Scripture.
. . . Douglas Jones writes "If genuine tongue speaking were existent today, it
would be supernatural manifestations of French, Swahili, Portugese, and other
known languages." I would like to point out that 1 Cor 13:1 says, "If I speak
in the tongues of men and angels." It seems a bit presumptuous of Mr. Jones to
say that the "charismatic mixture of odd sounds" could not possibly be the tongues
Douglas Jones replies: Thanks for your note. But if we use Scripture to try to fill out the content
of "tongues of angels," it always shows us angels speaking in known languages.
To get the charismatic conclusion, we have to import something from outside of
Scripture. But even if we force angels to speak in ways they never speak in Scripture,
isn't it odd that today's "tongues" would then resemble not the predominate known-language
model of Scripture but the hidden, obscure model? Why has "tongues" changed so
drastically since New Testament times?
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