Volume 9, Issue 4: Sharpening Iron
Now you can relax. Your Beowulf issue is finally here. Sit back, drink a big beer, and stab a dragon.
We owe a special thanks to those of you who answered the recent four-page survey we mailed to many of you under the direction of the Societas Resource Group. We recently received the fascinating results about you, and, boy, are you weird. We knew we were weird, but you? Some of you used very harsh language to tell us to be gentle. And those of you who dislike our tone are the ones who refer the most new subscribers. 72% of you are male, and most of you are between 35 and 44 years old. Most of you homeschool, and 72% of you have graduated from college. Hardly any of you are postmillennial, but the few postmillennialists give higher amounts of financial support than others. We asked you, among other things, to compare Credenda to an animal. Most of you said we were like a lion, but we were more interested in those who compared us to platypuses, lambs, jackalopes, pigs, turkeys, praying mantises, the whole zoo, and plants.
LETTER OF THE MONTH
After turning the house upside down this morning looking for the yellow funny Credenda with the star-studded Letters-to-the-Editor section, I realized my husband had taken it to work. I had only read half of it! I believe that according to Calvin, depriving a mental-stimulation-starved housewife with four small children of her Credenda prematurely is grounds for Biblical divorce with rights to remarry (for the innocent party only, of course). If anyone needs a good laugh around here, I do.
Please tell Sugartoes that he should always include either "sexual" or "sex" in the title of the "Husbandry" column to ensure that it is read by its target audience. The next one should be entitled, "If You Ever Want Any More Sex, Make Sure Your Wife Reads This Whole Magazine Before Taking it To The Office" or something along those lines.
SECRET GRAIL FAN
I just wanted to write you to encourage you to continue your good work in publishing Credenda/Agenda. I have always found it to be thought-provoking . . . and incredibly funny. I always turn to the Cave of Adullam first (once I actually manage to wrest the magazine from my father). And yes, I have to confess to watching Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail. But if you tell anyone, I will have to say "Ni" to you.
First, I must say that I always find Credenda to be an enjoyable and challenging read. I thank you for your efforts to continue providing this forum for truly free thought.
It might be unusual to write the editors in response to another letter written to editors, but I felt the need to say, in response to Dan Fisher's letter (under the title "Not So Fast." vol.9, no.2):
While I thoroughly enjoyed the "True Defiance" issue, Mr. Fisher has succinctly articulated my concerns as I was reading the issue. I am a Southerner, and greatly appreciate your approach to the subject as being interested in facts over "political correctness." But it has been my concern for some time that many of my brothers (and sisters) of Southern heritage too quickly excuse their and their fathers' sins on a repressive conquering Union, or reinterpret them in light of cultural uniqueness, or whatever reason helps them stop short of tough cultural and self-criticism.
There is a need to discuss the past openly, honestly, without fear of pseudo-intellectually correct agendas. After that there is a need to repent and to begin to right the wrongs done and being done.
[In reference to your humor issue,] here is the riddle for all time:
"A man is in a forest. He speaks but there is no woman to hear him. Is he still wrong?"
[In response to Jones's "Lawn Leeches"] I have long held forth the beauty of the dandelion plant. Not only does it show forth some of the most beautiful bright greens and yellows of spring, but it delights the eye in its cottony puffball stage.
More than that though, I have delighted in the dandelion as an allegorical representation of the Christian in today's culture. As is the beauty of the dandelion plant, the beauty of the Christian life is often scorned.
Every part of the plant servesor can servea useful purpose:
1) The root is highly nutritious and can be blanched, roasted and eaten in various ways
2) The leaves and flower of the plant (before the puffball stage) are highly nutritious and can be eaten raw (in salads - though the greens are a little bitter) etc. or cooked - and even used to make a wine of sorts.
The dandelion, like the Christian, is not easily destroyed - it is too well rooted. Miss but a tiny part of the root, and it will regrow.
When mature, the dandelion "brings forth much fruit" - and incidentally (?) propagates itself - as does the mature Christian.
Finally, as a "species," dandelions - like Christians - are virtually ineradicable. Kill all those whom you know exist and . . . more will grow.
All-in-all, for these reasons among others, I really like dandelions.
Thanks for a different slant on the relation between the world and "dandelions."
David W. Needham
Douglas Jones replies:
Mr. Needham, you are evidently a very cruel and sick man.
Nice article on the ethics of practical joking. Thanks for the ideas, . . . er . . . "teaching."
You are completely off your rocker! You are bent, warped and demented! Are you all the ghost writers that Gary Larson has denied for so long? I get the feeling that Moscow, Idaho, has a perpetual full moon hanging over it. You guys are definitely swimming in a water hole that ain't fed by a normal creek! Just one question, can I come and play too?! A mutual friend, John Armstrong, once told me, "Two things are essential to anyone in ministry, especially for missionaries: proper theology and a healthy sense of humor. If you lack either one you will not succeed." Obviously you will thrive! If laughter is the best medicine, your last issue was an overdose, one long overdue. Thank you for your efforts to bring balance to life and enjoyment to our faith that we hold so dear. By the way, as I reflected on some footprints I found in my carpet, I felt moved and mystically compelled to Vacuum again, this time using my TR-143! (Does wonders for the fluff in my shag.)
I remain faithfully yours, a fan of an American Band!
Thanks friend. Your check is in the mail.
I would like to respond to the article, "Love, Joy, and Spit Milk". Mr. Jones, how dare you be vulnerable and pen an article that I could finally enjoy with a chuckle and a tear. Usually, I'm enraged by your ideas and the coldness of your stance on many complicated and divisive issues. No offense, but when you're not writing to provoke, you guys generally are so intellectual, so arrogant, so theologically prim and proper, and quite frankly . . . so boring. But this time I saw a side of you that I really started to like. You actually mentioned the laughter of heaven and the joy of being in Jesus. You opened up and spoke of the comic one-liners of your own little boy. And then you ended your article by honoring your wife's courage in the thrill and miracle of child birth. Beware Mr. Jones, your slip is definitely showing. Hidden beneath all that usual ridicule and sarcasm, this last article finally revealed to me . . . a tender child of God.
Shocked by your mockery of the Footprints parable, I sought a Bible to meditate on those pedestrian passages. (. . . now where is that Bible anyway? It's supposed to be on the top shelf between the Precious Moments bookends. If only I'd bought the plaque or coffee mug, then I wouldn't even need to find it. And I wonder which book Footprints is in, must be New Testament. Hmmm, where is that thing? I hope it wasn't with those paperbacks in the garage sale. Wait! Don't I have a Footprints T-shirt? No, what am I thinking, that's Hang Ten. Oh well, maybe I should just call the Pastorshe probably knows the reference by heart . . .) My faith shaken, my patience failing, my Bible unaccounted for . . . I would have despaired had I not caught sight of the Serenity Prayer on the refrigerator magnet.
OLD JAKE'S DEAN OF STUDENTS
As dean of students at Old Jake's Bible College, I was intrigued by the recent "Disputatio" between Sugar-toes Wilson and Bubba Jones (Credenda/Agenda, Vol. 9, Num. 2). Upon checking past enrollment at our University, however, I discovered that Sugartoes Wilson was never a graduate of our university. According to our records, Mr. Wilson's grade point average was far below Old Jake's minimum required standards and he was dismissed from our University after being placed on academic probation for a period of six (6) months. In short, Mr. Wilson never received an M.B.S. degree from Old Jake's Bible College!
While I am legally prohibited from disclosing Mr. Wilson's grade point average, suffice it to say it was low. Mr. Wilson failed to post passing grades in several classes, including "Survey of uses of the word 'propitiation' in John 11:35," "The Concordance: A Counselor's Guide," and "Pop Music of the Inter-Testamental Period." In addition, Mr. Wilson's master's thesis "Theonomy vs. Promise Keepers: Who really Publishes More Books?" was rejected by the faculty advisory committee in a strongly-worded memo that actually used the word "deplore" several times.
It should also be noted that the eschatological position espoused by Mr. Wilson is not the position held by either Old Jake's Bible College or our faculty. Currently, the eschatological position of Old Jake's is undecided. We are postponing judgment in this area until Hal Lindsey's forthcoming commentary on the Book of Revelation, "Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Helicopters, Lions, Tigers and Bears. . .Oh My!" is published. Until then, if you wish to know anything further about Old Jake's and our view of the end times, I would refer you to the "Thief in the Night" video series.
B.A.D. Herman U. Ticks
Old Jake's Bible College
[alias Derek Hale]
Mr. Hale has far too much free time.
DELIRIOUS NEW READER
Your article in Vol.9/No.2, "Equations in Norwegian Eschatology," was quite entertaining. I laughed heartily and deeply. My favorite line was, "If we're not supposed to eat animals, then why were they made out of meat?"
Of course, it was late at night when I read your articles and I was near delirium from sleep deprivation, which could have been the reason I was laughing so hard.
This is the first time I have read your periodical and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for sending it and the practical joke ideas, too.
I always read with delight the Eschaton section of Credenda/Agenda when it arrives. It is amusing to see what kind of new stabs Van Deventer will take at premillennialists. I enjoy reading it because, as a premil-lennialist, it's always good to know what those in the other camp think of me.
In the High Center of Gravity issue, Van Deventer concludes that premillennialism is built upon the foundation of pessimism and fatalism. I'm sorry to pop his bubble and point out that I (along with many other premillennialists I know) are indeed optimistic pre-mils. While modern man continues to degenerate at unprecedented proportions (read the newspaper, Jack), we can remain optimistic because we know that God is working in the midst of the perversion to work out His plan to bring to a culmination this present age. True, there may be some pre-mils who hold to the inevitability of irreversible decline, but that is to deny the call to be salt and light in our world. I've met many post-mils who could be described in the same vein. . . .
GENEVA BIBLE HYMNS
Regarding your barb against Still Waters Revival Books in the "Cave of Adullam" (Vol. 9, No. 2), I request some clarification. Perhaps you can explain to me how the printer's inclusion (and this edition was printed in London, not Geneva) of some non-psalms in the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible suggests that Calvin (who died in 1564), Knox (who died in 1572), or other reformers sanctioned their use in public worship?
The original, complete Geneva Bible (1560, and this would be my "source document," not the later English edition) contained no songs of any kind (to the best of my knowledge), though the Genevans used the Genevan Psalter in their public worship (not the Sternhold/Hopkins Psalter found in the 1599 Geneva Bible).
Further, the 1599 Geneva Bible says that "The Booke of Psalmes" was "Set forth and allowed to be sung in all Churches." It does not mention anything about the public use of the other songs added to this Psalterwhich were likely added (without positive ecclesiastical sanction) by the printers. This was a common problem with printers during the Reformation. This is illustrated in David Hay Fleming's, masterful work, The Hymnology of the Scottish Reformation . . . which openly deals with the problem of unapproved additions of non-psalms by printers (as it manifested itself in Scotland). Hay Fleming also provides a detailed historical survey concerning exclusive Psalmody and the Scottish Reformation. For the best modern treatment of Calvin's position (and his practice of exclusive Psalmody) see Michael Bushell's Songs of Zion (2nd edition, pp. 167-184).
Larry Birger, Jr.
Douglas Wilson replies:
Some readers may wonder why we are taking up so much space with this topic. Though it may seem trivial, we believe that a great deal is at stake, and so we want to answer in more detail than usual.
First, we expected Bushell was going to be cited against us, and so we consulted his work beforehand. He does point out the problem with printer's additions. He cites the instance where a bawdy song was added, causing the authorities to recall that edition of the Bible. Even granting that the non-psalms were "added," they did not provoke such a recall. The reasons why will become evident below.
Second, the point of our jab was that Still Water Revival Books, a contemporary bastion of exclusive psalmody, was not willing to recall the 1599 Geneva either. They were selling a Bible with uninspired hymns in it. Will an apology be forthcoming?
Third, we believe such issues should be settled at the bar of Scripture. Our reason for appealing to the Reformers is not because they are the final authority, but rather because Still Waters is seeking to foist something on the Reformers which they did not teach or practice. For example, Calvin's liturgy (1542, 1545, before he died) included the singing of the Ten Commandments. Calvin approved, along with other continental Reformers, the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, which form of worship contained non-psalms. Although Calvin complained that it still contained "many bearable pieces of foolishness," he did approve it and was willing to bear with its frailties. We wish most heartily that Still Waters would abandon their schismatic approach to differences such as these.
We love to sing the psalms, and we love our brothers who believe that they should sing the psalms only. But we reject the perfectionism which breaks fellowship over issues like this.
LAST AND LEAST
Dear Pseudo-intellectual snotty Editors,
I intended to write a note in jest, but I feel compelled to offer a serious comment on "Does Eschatology Matter?". . .
Mr. Van Deventer is quite correct when he says that 38% of the Bible and God's plan for the human race should be seen as having a significant effect in a Christian's life.
The eschatological passages in the Bible are there to give comfort and hope to God's people. The problem is that ministers have opted to use these passages for other purposes. No wonder, then, that the person in the pew has come to the conclusion that eschat-ology is irrelevant.
P.S. The Church needs more inbred, snotty, condescending rags like yours. Keep it up!