Back Issues

Volume 8, Issue 2: Sharpening Iron

From Us:

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.


From You:

Dear Editors,
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
Edgefield, SC

Dear Editors,
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!

Dan Graeber
San Marcos, TX

Dear Editors,
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 frizbees.

Keith Heck

Dear Editors,
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 proportionately diminished.

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. . . .

Clyde Barer
Some Mailman

Dear Editors,
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?

Carol Cornish
Collegeville, PA

Dear Editors,
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.

Hugh McCann
Santa Rosa, CA

Editors' Response: "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.

Dear Editors,
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 next issue.

John Gronewold
Portland, OR

Dear Editors,
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 latter.

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 true churches. 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.

Kevin Reed
Dallas, TX

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. 251-2).
When modern evangelicalism holds her Trent, then we will separate. Until then, we will fight these corruptions from within. We are Reformed evangelicals.

Dear Editors,
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.

Randy George
Maybe the U.S.?

Dear Editors,
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 of angels.

Lex Thompson
Sarasota, FL

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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