Volume 9, Issue 3: Sharpening Iron
Hmmm. We wracked our brains trying to figure out what to put in this spot. Big boy magazines always have something slick to say about themselves. We simply have no news. All our friends and family are doing well; not that you may care. Bekah-the-cover-designer's wedding was beautiful. We couldn't make jokes about delays in the bridal issue, since, well, it's finally here. A vacuum is a terrible thing, so . . .
Chumps always make the best husbands. When you marry, Sally, grab a chump. Tap his forehead first, and if it rings solid, don't hesitate. All the unhappy marriages come from the husbands having brains.
-- P.G. Wodehouse, Jill the Reckless
Just cruising along the Antarctic Ocean and mapping out the location of the Ross Ice Shelf aboard the Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Sea. I've been picking through some back issues of Credenda/Agenda--craving the arrival of new reading material at every mail call, with no avail. Perhaps when our helicopters return this time.
Thanks for your thought provoking articles and handy format--each article is on one page; so simple --like Reformed theology. Wishing you the best in the work of our Lord.
Vincent J. Skwarch
COMPETITION VS. LOVE
After seven years of reading your literature, I have finally found an idea on which we genuinely disagree:
As Richard Hooker expounded, as C. S. Lewis maintained, and as you certainly believe, everything important is not in the Bible. At least, not in so many words. No truth will contradict the Bible, but many truths may not be explicitly contained. And we immediately recognize the justice of this: the Bible would be intolerably huge if it did. No, we both agree that we derive our Scriptural beliefs from Scriptural principles, not from some Gothard-ish eisegetical insistence that the Bible is the textbook on everything under the sun.
So why does `balls in motion' have to be directly mentioned in Scripture to prove that a competitive spirit is wrong? A competitive spirit (not to be confused with competition, per se) is a direct, straightforward violation of the law of love, which requires that we put others first. This principle has far-reaching applications, including many other things not mentioned in the Bible.
Yes, competition can occur without a competitive spirit, but only by accident. Intentional competition, whether athletic or not, is, by definition, putting myself first, and (pardon the pun) the ball is clearly in the court of those who say it is not unbiblical.
I am very, very curious to see an explanation which would make ordinary athletics (as well as most table, board, and card games) compatible with the law of love.
Michael E. Owens
Thank you for the recent issue--vol. 9, no. 1: "A Memorial for Black Confederates." It was good to see information on this often-ignored topic. I have known for years that thousands of blacks willingly served the Confederacy; however, the Kennedy brothers magnificent work, The South Was Right, opened my eyes to the great degree of the contributions made by Negro Confederates.
I just got my first issue of Credenda/Agenda. What a fabulous magazine--I could not put it down! All articles were first rate, but "True Defiance" was truly great! Concerning the War between the States, Wilson states, "Until we get that particular lesson straight, we will continue to get every other subsequent history lesson wrong. The battles we fight today are simply a later stage in the same war." Ah, but this is such a profound and far reaching statement - and so true! How sweet it is to know that this is finally beginning to be understood.
The issue on the Black Confederates was truly awesome! Most of my African-American friends would have made tremendous Confederates, but I`ve never had the nerve to tell them that. Keep up the good work!
This letter is written out of a deep sense of appreciation for the articles in the last issue of Credenda . . . .
There is little doubt that you will receive much mail and many comments upon this issue, for the truths about slavery in the South are so much an interest to the people. In my rounds of lectures on the Confederacy and the War Between the States, this is the subject that solicits the most response. Norm Bomer of God`s World Magazine was so interested in this subject, that he had me write an article for them on John Girardeau preacher to the slaves, which generated a great amount of mail from the children. What awed so many of them? The response of loyalty that the slaves had to the preacher, and the response of the Freedman`s Bureau who forced him to leave in their segregation acts. . . .
It is high time that the truth about the modern racial issue were heard; and heeded by all men. And may we learn that the chief end of those chosen by God from every tribe, race and nation is to glorify Him. I applaud your efforts to use the means given to you by Providence to proclaim this for His greater glory. Keep it up!
Pastor Gordon Crompton
A loyal southerner I am . . . but don`t you think the Gospel has enough offense by itself? Why wrap it in a Confederate flag? Yes, few are chosen but do we need to add extra requirements/offense? I love reading about Stonewall Jackson and other great Christian Civil War leaders but I`m not foolish enough to believe that this topic is a great way to "become all things to all people that I might win some."
I find your recent issue a triffle puzzling for a few of reasons.
1) Nowhere do I find mention in your issue of Ex. 21:16--"Whoever kidnaps a man either to keep him or sell him as a slave is to be put to death." Surely it is not too much of a stretch to believe that if God is so opposed to the process of kidnapping someone, He surely wouldn`t be overly pleased with the purchase of individuals so kidnapped. Since kidnapping was the source of the vast majority of slaves in the South, I find your defense of this system very puzzling. The system was built in direct defiance of God`s law.
2) The fact that some slaves were willing to fight to defend their homeland is no more a reason to endorse the Old South than the fact that many Russians were willing to fight to defend their homeland under the brutal Stalinist regime in WWII, or perhaps I am mistaken and your next issue can point out the better points of Stalinism.
3) After reading essentially the entire issue, I am still at a loss to know what your goal in publishing this issue was.
I have enjoyed your magazine in the past and hope to do so in the future but this issue was a great disappointment to me.
I`ve been having a dilemma for the last few months. On the one hand, I feel as though I should be contributing financially if I`m receiving a subscription to your magazine. On the other, I`ve not been sure if I can support all your editorial positions. Your last issue on the Civil War (or War of the Rebellion, if you prefer) made up my mind. I`ll be cancelling my subscription.
I`ve genuinely profited from much you have written. Douglas Wilson`s book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning helped me enormously as I was quitting my job in public education. However, I fear you`ve stepped over the edge where your contribution to the Church becomes more destructive than edifying. Leaving aside the sheer illogic of the unstated assumption behind this issue (Chattel slavery is bad only if it is a result of racism; some Confederates were not racists and some blacks supported slavery; therefore chattel slavery was not a bad thing and the Confederacy was justified in secession--a fallacious confusion of the argument against chattel slavery), your twisting of the historical record borders on falsehood. In Historia, Chris Schlect states that the Confederate constitution outlawed the slave trade. This is not the case; only the importation of slaves from abroad was outlawed. Perhaps he meant to say this, in which case we have an egregious error of fact in what is supposed to be reliable historical commentary. This twisting of history climaxes in Son of Historia in which S. Steven Thomas ascribes the Union policy towards Indian tribes entirely to the Northern states as though the Southern states had no voice in government before 1860 or after 1865. Blame-shifting is not that easily accomplished.
Chattel slavery was a great sin for which we, as an entire nation, were judged. To make its defenders out to be the last bastion of Christendom is to equate Christianity with the willful breaking of God`s law. I don`t believe justifying sin is consistent with the Reformation heritage of which you claim to be a part.
While I won`t be receiving your magazine in the mail any longer, I imagine I`ll pick up the occasional copy in the Westminster student lounge. I look forward to future issues paying tribute to Jews who collaborated with Nazis and to the Vichy government.
Matthew W. Kingsbury
Douglas Wilson replies:
We do think that the Southern War for Independence is an immense subject which requires careful analysis, discussion, and debate. And in the course of reasonable discussion, we are willing to stand corrected, just as we put forward our own corrections. Unfortunately, the propaganda machine established during Reconstruction has been so successful that merely to broach the subject is sufficient to get one lumped in with Stalinism or the Nazis. So with those for whom Lee and Jackson are thought to be fit companions for Hitler and Goebbels, we acknowledge the impossibility of discussion and argument.
. . . I do wonder about a statement made in ["A Jumbled Repentance," Vol. 9, No. 1] though. Mr. Wilson said, "If all believers removed their children, the government school system would no longer stand in need of reform--because it would no longer exist." This is an amazing statement that needs to have some backup. I can only think of two possible premises that you could have used to come to this conclusion: (1) that God is allowing the institution to survive only because there are believers involved in the system, or (2) that there are so many Christian children in government schools that, if they all left, there wouldn't be enough per-student funding to keep the bureaucracy going.
I'm sure it's not the first one, because its premise is that God will not allow an institution to survive that does not involve believers, and we know that isn't true. The second one also seems unlikely because of the inertia in the current system, and of the popularity of "the education issue" and the guarantee of our President that every child in America will be able to attend the government school of their choice.
I do think that the institutional government school system is caving in under its own weight and is on its way out. I also predict that it will be replaced by another government education system that will be just as sinister, if not more so. But like you, I am greatly encouraged that it seems that there is an ever-increasing number of believers that are "refusing to render their children to Caesar."
CHOOSING TO SAVE
I am saving Nancy Wilson`s "Choosing a Man" for my daughters, I have three ages 8, 5 and 9 weeks. I`ll have my son read it also. A lot of problems can be avoided if young men and women will adhere to sound advice before entering a relationship and remain chaste before marriage. God`s commands against fornication and adultery are not a list of don'ts, but a formula for a beautiful, fruitful marriage. My wife read Nancy`s article and said she would have married me anyway. Keep up the good work.
I just read your latest issue of Credenda/Agenda, and in your "Anvil" section, you had some remarks to say against Mike Huckabee, the governor of Arkansas, but I think you need to hear the whole story.
I have met the guy a couple of times, and listened to him preach at my home church in Arkansas, so the comments he made about the "acts of God" disturbed me as well. I e-mailed him with a reproof, and his response was nothing I had read or heard in the media. He told me that he understands God is sovereign in all things, including disaster. His reason for not signing the relief bill comes from a separation of church and state issue. He has been trying to pass legislation that supports biblical values, but the state representatives will not accept his proposals because it is worded too religiously, thus Huckabee has had to eliminate any mention of God from his proposed bills. However, in this particular instance, the state guys wanted to put in their proposal the phrase, "acts of God." The governor was not going to let them get away with that, especially when they were connecting God to the destruction caused by the tornados. Unfortunately, he did not anticipate this sort of confusion among the Christian community.
After reading the three pages of letters in this past issue I learned a few things. In order to be a Christian man these days one must not have a backbone, thick skin, definite gender or any solid foundation. Additionally, he needs to be able to conform to the waves. It occurred to me that the Sovereign Lord may have done better atoning for jellyfish. Do they bleed?
DARTS IN THE EYES?
I was pleased to see you aim your righteous darts at each other in the "Anvil" section of the "Humor" issue. Jones`s "Trashing the King?" was a rebuke of Wilson`s trashing the President ("The Tiny God of Arkansas") wasn`t it? Wilson commented that "what the Bible says when it comes to phrases like `fornicators and adulterers God will judge`" doesn`t square with the "deeply held feelings [Clinton] has toward alluring young twinkies." Our hypocritical President has openly flouted Biblical ethics in many areas but, for now, sexual yearning for "alluring young twinkies" hasn't been proven to be one of them. Until Paula Jones (or someone with a similar claim) has her day in court, Clinton`s peccadilloes--a favorite Limbaugh topic-- are simply rumors and allegations. Perhaps the Credenda/Agenda staff, ever-vigilant critics of other Christians` faults and failures, should leave the shoveling of "barbarian disrespect" to Rush.
INFURIATED AND OSTRACIZED
. . . I have to tell you that over the time period I have received your magazine, I have been infuriated, challenged, changed, and ostracized. And because mother taught me to share, I have included four names of friends so that you may work your similar magic on them. One of them is my pastor--a dyed in the wool hold them under the water until they scream for Jesus Southern Baptist. Try not to disappoint me.
Name withheld in the interests of public safety.
NO REPLY NECESSARY
Thanks for a great magazine. Is there a reason why you no longer put editors' comment on all the letters you receive? Your responses were so helpful.
David and Tamra Lee
Thank you so much for asking. Yes, there is a reason.