Volume 8, Issue 4: Sharpening Iron
Well we're back. As the insert explains, many of you didn't receive the last issue due to a mailing software glitch. Boy, was it a doozy. It contained free money and coupons. Sorry you missed out. Many others of you received two and three copies of the same issue. We were just wondering if those of you who received multiple issues wouldn't mind phoning the others and reading to them from one of those extra issues. We recommend you phone them late at night. It's cheaper. Thanks so much.
Many readers have inquired about the workings of our "Disputatio" feature. When we invite someone to take part in it, we give them a long list of ground rules, such as a 115 word limit and various tyrannical deadlines. We get to open and close the debates, since we carry the burden of proof and because it's our magazine. We then trade paragraphs via fax or email. Usually the process takes about three weeks to a month. Many folks decline our invitations. We too are embarrassed to be seen with each other on occasion, so we are always grateful when our interlocutors join the fray and risk their reputations.
My wife and I enjoy Credenda immensely. It is both entertaining and (more importantly) challenging. True, you sometimes go a bit overboard with regard to your critical attitude. An otherwise good meal which is too heavily "salted" can be worse than one which lacks seasoning.
But a more pressing question is this: how do you manage to make all your articles fill exactly one or two (or sometimes three) pages, with no overflow? They all start in the top left corner of the page and end neatly in the bottom right corner. It's as if all your thoughts were the same size and shape. How do you do that?
Robert and Nancy Guenther
That's a really good question. We can give away this much. The rather ugly process for squeezing within Credenda margins involves pliers and narrow minds.
Thank you for sending your magazine. There is much in it that stimulates and provokes.
I believe your readers might like to know how your preterism deals with the book of Revelation which obviously contains matter parallel to Matthew 24. If AD 70 is the terminus of Jesus' Olivet prophecy, what is the explanation of "distress amongst nations" (plural) in Luke 21:25? Again if the destruction of Jerusalem is the Day of the Lord, what do we make of the fall of "the cities of the nations" in Rev. 16:19? What fulfillment do preterists offer for the 100-pound hailstones of Rev. 16:21? And who was the Beast destroyed by the Messiah's arrival in 2 Thess. 2? ...
Jack Van Deventer replies:
The focus of the judgments in the Olivet discourse and Revelation are against Israel. Whereas Luke 21:25 indicates "distress amongst nations" the context indicates "great distress" upon the nation and people of Israel (Luke 21:23). Clearly God's judgment upon Israel in A.D. 70 spilled over to other nations for Christ prophesied that Israel would "fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations," being "trampled by Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). The same point is made of Rev. 16. A possible interpretation of the 100-pound (a "talent" in the NKJV) hailstones of Rev. 16:21 were the huge stones rained upon the city of Jerusalem by Roman catapults. Josephus indicated that these "stone missiles weighed a talent and traveled two furlongs [a fourth of a mile] or more" (The Jewish War, v.vi.3), causing great damage to Jerusalem. Preterist literature provides a strong case for Nero as the man of lawlessness and for the coming referenced in 2 Thess. 2 as a "judgment coming" (e.g., Ps. 18:7-15; Joel 2:1; Zeph. 1:15), with the brightness referring to Christ's representing the Father's glory (cf. Heb. 1:3).
NO LOCO PARENTS
First I'd like to say a big thank you for an excellent magazine. The content is stimulating and challenging for both my intellect and spirit. In fact, that is why I am writing now because I am puzzled by a recent article by Douglas Wilson entitled "In Loco Parentis." In it, Mr. Wilson appropriately states, "Parents are responsible before God for how their children are trained and educated, and this responsibility cannot be remove through any arrangement that they may make or invent." I would like to further clarify that we are not only responsible for how they are trained, but to train the covenant children that God has entrusted to us.
Mr. Wilson further writes, "We are told that we have special covenantal responsibilities to the members of our households." So I fail to see where the precedent for "in loco parentis" is found in Scripture. In fact, after reading the article several times, I failed to see any Scripture to support this idea of "in loco parentis." The Scriptures would in fact seem to suggest the contrary. For where in Scripture do we find the precedent that when God commands us to do something we then delegate the task to someone else?
I am not saying that everyone must homeschool and those who don't are sinning, rather, that homeschooling should be the norm and not the exception in covenant households. What better way to train and educate our children than under the careful instruction of those who know them best? Why must we seek to legitimize even a Christianized worldly method of education that removes the child out from under the authority of the parents? ...
Douglas Wilson replies:
No method of schooling can be used as a justification to set aside that which the Bible does insist upon—the foundational responsibility of parents. Christian parents cannot escape responsibility by hiring some Christian school, and Christian fathers cannot escape responsibility by letting mom do all the homeschooling. But godly delegation is a constant necessity for all Christian parents.
Regarding, "Dissent on Literacy," by Doug Jones, however much I hate to agree with something that the NEA says, computer skills are a necessity for university level work. Professors today require that essays be written on computer. Some professors require audiovisual reports. I know a French professor who requires her students to turn in homework via email. The computer skills necessary for succeeding at a university cannot be obtained in "a day or two tops" as Mr. Jones asserts. It has taken me three university classes, two seminars, and over a hundred hours of practical experience to obtain my computer literacy, and I'm not a Computer Science Major.
In the brief essay on computer literacy Douglas Jones makes the claim that there is little difference between the computer and the telephone. He grasps a concept that is often lost. The computer is nothing more than a tool, and tools should not be the basis of a curriculum. While the study of techniques is common throughout education, those studies typically occur within a context. The sad state of education is that we have forgotten the context for the study of those techniques.
Nonetheless, computers are wonderful devices. They have enabled mankind to perform marvelous feats and have transformed the way we think about the labor of our hands. There truly is a new discipline (I would assert an art) that the computer revolution has made essential for us to study. At the Boeing Company only 8% of the employees are involved in the actual assembly or manufacture of airplane components. That leaves 92% of the employees whose only possible contribution to the value of an airplane is a knowledge product (information). Computers allow us to digitize those products and fundamentally alter our representations of them. While it is only a tool, it is a tool that has changed the way we view the labor of our hands. Computers have forced us to view information as a resource and made it entirely appropriate to explore information as a discipline....
Your response to Gary Flye's letter regarding elders having believing children betrays a grievous error in your thinking regarding the nature of the concept of the covenants, as well as the doctrine of election. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. On the one hand, you seem to say that God has a covenantal commitment to elect and therefore save the natural born children of believers, and on the other hand you say that if the parents are not faithful in rearing their children properly that their children will not be saved and will go to hell. I certainly agree that God uses means to save his elect and that very often God is pleased to save the children of believers. But what you wind up with in your position is telling parents that God has a covenant promise to save their children on the one hand, but if on the other hand they don't do a good job, that God will not save them. This is nothing more than a conditional election that is contingent upon parental faithfulness. This, as Flye pointed out, is Arminianism. It is the classic contradiction that most paedobaptists fall into because of a faulty view of the covenants. By the way, at what age do the children of elders need to become saved before the elder needs to step down for not having believing children?
Douglas Wilson replies:
If the doctrine of covenantal succession requires conditional election for no other reason than it hinges on the job the parents do, then why does not the practice of evangelism require the same conclusion? "How shall they hear without a preacher?" If we depend upon the preaching of the gospel, does that not result in conditional election for those who respond? Not at all, because the sovereign God uses the means appointed in His Word. We are required to use such means as the Bible appoints—faithful preachers and parents both. With regard to your second question, an elder should step down when it becomes evident that his child is unsaved (asotias in Titus 1:7), and that child rebelliously refuses to submit to Christ. Apart from such evidence, the child must be received as one of the saints (1 Cor. 7:14) It is our conviction that, with regard to pastoral qualifications, far too many Reformed elders and pastors hide behind the "secret things" of God, and do not obey the "things revealed to us and to our children" (Deut. 29:29).
As usual, we received the latest issue of Credenda (Volume 8, Number 3) with great joy. Unfortunately, it arrived just as my pregnant (#8 is due in February, and we just found the greatest midwife!) homeschooling wife and I were on our way to our Ezzo workshop (sponsored by our home church), so we had to read it in the car. At first we thought that all that small-minded name calling was the result of visual problems caused by the home-installed shocks on our home-maintained `81 VW Jetta, but, no! The words were the same when the car stopped! My wife was so disturbed that she tripped on her long blue dress and choked on her homemade valerian root and white willow bark herb capsules.
Having suffered through so much criticism for being family centered family, Credenda has, for the past several months, been a sort of refuge for us. At last, we thought we'd found folks who cherished families and still had brains....
We thought that Nancy's article was great. Except that it forgot to mention those women who think they are earning recognition from God for what they do, but happen to place their children in public or Christian schools, or have careers outside of their homes and manage to blend in with the world around them. Sure, we weirdos make great targets, but simply because we're the easiest to spot doesn't mean we're the only ones here. It's not nice to be the elder McFly with a "Kick Me" sign on your back. Only a moron would think that once we've been justified, there won't be a difference in the way we act. All of us need to concentrate on being what God has called us to be, even those who aren't as weird. Pee Wee Herman said it best: I know you are, but what am I? ...
Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? We love the magazine. Keep up the good work!
We don't object to weirdness (or we would lose too many editors). But we do object to that increasingly common, self-righteous, Prairie-traditionalism which snoots at those outside the clan. God has blessed us with wonderfully diverse spheres of life (state, church, family), each excelling in different functions. Non-Christians often try to force everything into the state mold, and many Christian Prairie-traditionalists try something similar with the family. The recovery of churches which honor Christ, true masculinity in the home, biblical families, etc. is so important that we want to help keep this budding reformation (which we welcome) from doing what commonly happens when the idiocy of the age tempts good-hearted people to overreact.
Thank you to Nancy Wilson for her articles each month. I especially enjoyed her latest entitled "Home Run." Finally, a Christian woman with sense!
While my husband was in Seminary (won't say which one), I attended the womens' ministries on occasion. I found the teaching shallow and often completely unbiblical. I also found that women are often led like sheep to the slaughter.
We need to be sharp and ready to stand against the world order. Also, gullible women as described in "Home Run" need their covenantal coverings (husbands and fathers) to protect them from such garbage.
Mrs. Marcus Wrench
IGNORANT IN BOXER SHORTS
Douglas Jones, you have strutted to the podium in your boxer shorts, sir.
As radical, home-churching nutburgers, we have no quarrel with your concerns about emotionalism, individualism, worship, authority, and boredom. Nothing personal, but we feel that agreement makes for a dull dispute.
We would welcome a manly, iron-sharpening-iron style debate on the merits of home church ecclesiology. This would call for adequate preparation and emotional restraint on your part. (We think you're up to it.)
When you've done your homework and have figured out who we home church weirdos really are and what we believe the Lord requires of His body, we'd appreciate your input. Until then, nice legs.
And another thing that folks in the home church movement should do is get outside more. Maybe the home church newsletters, conferences, books, and web pages are really wiley disinformation put out by the Jesuits, but we don't think so. Hmmm, come to think of it, Jesuits also spend a lot of time commenting on men in boxer shorts. Good try. We're not fooled though.
Douglas Wilson's "Thema" on secession put me in an ironic predicament: having myself predicted a breakup of the nation, I was persuaded otherwise by your article. Don't get me wrong; you present the argument as well as it can be, but it is inadequate. In order for secession to occur, regional ties must be greater than national loyalty. However, with each passing American generation, such links are rapidly disappearing. My parents were unusual for their generation in that they both lived far from their original homes. I am typical of mine in that I have lived on either side of the continent and smack-dab in its middle over the past four years. Duluth or Dallas, a region is a place to work at a job, not to take up arms to defend against the federal government. This phenomenon goes hand in hand with the homogenization of culture. How many of your local restaurants are part of a national chain? No matter where I may be, I know I'll always find a T.J. Chili's. I believe we have reached the stage of a truly national culture and identity. Granted, it's a massively shallow one, but most of us are Americans before we are Californians or Iowans or whatever.
Matthew W. Kingsbury
My husband is a faithful reader of your magazine, but I have never seen much use in wasting my time with it until today. We were having our morning devotional together, and my husband used your poetry issue not once, not twice, but three times thus opening my eyes to the usefulness of your material! Within ten minutes he used it to swat two mosquitoes and one cricket. After pointing out to him my "revelation" he at least agreed that it was the best use for poetry he had ever witnessed.
Please take me off your mailing list. Your article entitled "Similitudes" broke the straw. It was very offensive to me, and I believe tells a lot of where you're coming from. I don't take my religion as something to be joked about. May God open your eyes to the reality of what you are putting in print. We are all held accountable for what we do and say.
I loved the latest issue. Cogent, wonderful, witty, and relevant as always. Thank you so much.
I especially enjoyed Douglas Wilson's "Modern Evangelical Shorter Catechism." I would have laughed harder if it hadn't been so right on the money. After all, everyone knows the chief end of man (or men) is to try to keep all of the seven promises while laughing forever.
Thanks again. Keep up the great work. You have encouraged my day and increased my love for the Savior.