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We Challenge You to Read It!

This issue of Present Truth Magazine carries on from the last one, which introduced the discussion on the spirit of antichrist. We follow G.C. Berkouwer's line of reasoning1 — that the church should always take the Biblical warnings of the presence of antichrist with radical, heart-searching seriousness. Instead of merely gaping off to the future in a lot of futuristic speculation, we should watch and pray so that we may detect the enemy's present activity.

It is therefore our contention that the spirit of antichrist has always been present in the church to pervert the truth and substitute a clever counterfeit gospel. We do not deny that antichrist was especially manifested in the past apostasy of the church (the view of the Reformers) or that he may give a supreme manifestation of his work in the future. What we contend for is the need to see how the enemy is working to pervert the gospel now. This is not a matter of pointing the incriminating finger at others, but a matter of each of us inquiring, "Lord, is it I?"

Professor Geoffrey Paxton's article, "The Evangelical's Substitute," is the feature article of this issue. It is a very disturbing article to the evangelical conscience. It is not an easy reading devotional to put you to sleep with the feeling that all is well. It is a bold appeal to turn most of our evangelical preaching upside down. We challenge you to read it!

The editor has included a paper on the ordo salutis (the order of salvation) which is another appeal to turn much of our preaching upside down. In the middle of this article the editor took "a pleasure stroll" (Luther) into the area of election — but I hope not to the displeasure of my Reformed friends (one of whom is Paxton himself). Yet I took courage when another Reformed friend, who is one of my reading counselors, said, "It's different from the way I have viewed the subject, but go ahead. I think you ought to publish it."

One of the reasons why I included a brief discussion on election and the extent of the atonement is because some of our appreciative Reformed readers have expressed surprise (perhaps regret) that a magazine with such a strong objective stance has expressed views contrary to the Augustinian position on a restricted atonement. I think I owe an explanation of my own views on this subject. Obviously it won't satisfy everybody. Only the grace of God has kept some of the best saints from coming to blows over this subject. So we will all have to be patient and tolerant, or perhaps say philosophically, "If two minds think alike on everything, one is redundant."

The type of reader who will throw our magazine down the moment he runs into anything that will challenge a single point of his sacred traditions is not the sort of reader that we are trying to reach. Some write to us saying that they would really appreciate the magazine if only we did not on occasion quote Karl Barth, George Ladd, Carl Henry or even the R.S.V.!

Does faithfulness to the truth of the gospel demand that we be as narrow as that? Shouldn't we judge truth on its own merits irrespective of who said it? It seems that some have the idea that they must first examine a man's "evangelical pedigree." If they are satisfied he obtained his degree at the right place and never has been known to eat with publicans and sinners (liberals and sectarians), then they can safely swallow what he says — hook, line and sinker.

Our modus operandi is this: The great New Testament teaching of the righteousness which is of faith is a mighty, revolutionary religious principle. Many may shout it as a slogan, but few will allow this New Testament principle to call all that they teach and all that they do and all their traditions into question. It is good to go back and see how the Reformers rediscovered this principle and turned the religious world upside down in their day. We too must be courageous and honest enough to rethink the great doctrines of the Bible.

We can't even accept the idea that the Reformers said the last word either. We may have to plow some new ground. Truth has nothing to fear from candid investigation. Loyalty to truth does not demand that we react to every new thought like old ladies to a fresh breeze. Prejudice, guilt by association, and flattery are not the plummet, rule and square by which we can gauge truth's sacred edifice.

" . . . Come . . . let us reason together . . . "

1 G.C. Berkouwer, The Return of Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pp.260-290.