The Mail Room
Letters from Volume 8
Welcome to the Mail Room for Present Truth Magazine! This is where we post some of the interesting letters which we receive from our viewers. All of our viewers are invited to E-mail us your comments and views and we will post these views for all to consider!
Who Are You Guys?
Sir, I found the special issue, "Justification by Faith", most exciting. This was the first time I had seen the publication. I should like to be placed on the mailing list for future issues.
I should like to have more information about the editor—his educational background and personal data. Also, I should like to know more about the sponsors—the group of Christians— mentioned in the special issue, i.e., names, etc.
In Defense of Pentecostalism
Sir, the Pentecostal movement is vast and includes so many shades of thought that it is difficult to form a definition that is really accurate. However, I believe that you, like so many critics of the movement, aren't really hearing what the most responsible leaders of the movement are saying. When you evaluate the literature, you conclude that it is centered on the Holy Spirit's work in the heart rather than on God's work in Christ. When you study the literature on the work of the Holy Spirit, why should you be surprised that it is about the Holy Spirit? If I asked you to do a treatise on the work of the Holy Spirit, wouldn't it be about the Holy Spirit? The Pentecostal movement, in its most responsible leadership, also has a great volume of material centered on God's finished work in Christ.
I believe that God raised up the Reformers to bring back into focus the great truth of a Christ-centered gospel via the truth of justification by faith alone. But that does not mean I am a Lutheran. Further, I believe that God used the Wesleyan revival to return to the truth of the inner witness for salvation and the necessity of the sanctified life. And this does not make me a Methodist. Could it not be true that God has raised up the Pentecostal movement (with all its imperfections) to bring the church back to dependence upon the Holy Spirit, to restore the miraculous to the bride of Christ in preparation for the end time? This I believe, but it does not make me a part of the Pentecostal movement. I wish, rather, to incorporate into my life the central truth of the Reformation, the central truth of the Wesleyan revival and the central truth of the Holy Spirit's work as underlined by the Pentecostal movement.
Thank you for taking time to listen to my observations. I would be most happy to receive your further publications.
Holiness Theology and Catholic Answers
That I am a Christian is not a matter of doubt either in my mind or the minds of others. My experience of salvation was a colossal experience of the love of God. In a Wesleyan holiness service, I later totally dedicated myself to God to receive the Holy Spirit, and the love of God rolled over my spirit like a mighty stream.
I moved out of the 7th chapter of Romans, with its neurotic, sick darkness, into the glorious light of Romans 8 and, from that day to this, never believed that the experience of Romans 7 was the miserable lot of a Spirit-filled, sun-bathed, sanctified person. Through Jesus Christ, I have the victory over sin.
I recently took the test on your special issue with the questionnaire, 'Are You Catholic or Protestant?" Without suspecting what I was doing, I was astounded to grade myself, finding that on nine questions out of ten I had given the Catholic answer. I disagreed with your answers on all questions except number four. This makes me, a Spirit-filled Protestant, a total Catholic.
Yet I know I am right. I am a theologian, graduate of Garrett Theological Seminary, and have another graduate degree, and have been a pastor for thirty years.
I am conscious of having a greater victory over sin and of standing on a higher plane, ethically and spiritually, than that which you describe as the highest possible to man. Therefore I do protest the ground on which you stand.
I do not believe, as a Christian, that your work is a true work or that your publications are worth the effort. To me, your doctrine is of no use in the world. The world has had its fill of religion without holiness. I am sorry, but I have to reject Present Truth Magazine because of my loyalty to the God who sanctified my soul.
I am in general agreement with Mr. Robert Brinsmead. I believe he states the Scriptural doctrine of justification by faith with great clarity and power. However, I believe he not only departs from Luther and Calvin but also from Scripture when he sees Christ's atonement reaching to all men: " . . . in order that He might stand before justice and exhaust the penalty of a broken law for every sinner that ever lived." —The Australian Forum, topic 2, 'The Jesus Revolution," p. 3.
I believe he is guilty of allegorizing in his reference to Samson. If, as Mr. Brinsmead states, " . . . God forgave the sinful race at the cross" (Ibid., p.4), then autonomous man can resist the grace of God and reject faith in the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit may want to give the gift of faith, but He may be rebuffed by the one to whom He intended to give it. Grace is not irresistible. The will of man—sinful man—is as sovereign as the will of God! Will man, or will he not?
Please do not think that I am not in basic agreement with you—I am! You apparently are Arminian; I am Calvinistic. However, I believe that the great Reformer, Martin Luther, was much more of a Calvinist than your Mr. Robert Brinsmead gives him credit for being.
I respect your excellent work in Present Truth Magazine. I can only hope that you will give other Reformed Christians, such as Dr. Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Theological Seminary, a forum in your publication. Perhaps that is too much to ask. But I hope not.
I have just read a second volume of Present Truth Magazine. I was impressed with the first copy I received and rejoiced to see the zealousness with which you defend the great truths of the Reformation, which was simply a return to the Word of God. There are so few publications which seek to do this in this day and age.
Candidly, I must at the same time confess that I was suspicious as I am of all new publications which I receive. Eagerly I awaited the next issue. Again I find in this issue much that commends itself. Enclosed with this issue was a copy of The Australian Forum, topic 1, "An Appraisal of Pentecostalism." I must emphatically disagree with the view expressed on page 3, column 2. This is not the truth set forth by the Reformers Luther and Calvin but rather the rank heresy espoused by Jacobus Arminius. You seem to have completely ignored the great Reformation doctrines of predestination and election. By continuing in the direction of Arminianism, you will only end in the subjectivism and humanism which you so rightfully profess to abhor.
From the paragraphs in question, I get the distinct impression that you believe Christ died for all men and thereby only made salvation available for the "fallen race," or "humanity." The next step is up to man, who must, of his own ability, believe. And thus you also destroy the whole meaning of the substitutionary atonement and subject Christ to the position of a spectator on the sidelines, waiting and watching, not knowing why or for whom He died!
Historical and Futurist
I appreciate your magazine very much and the defense it makes for the doctrine of justification. It has helped me clarify my own understanding of theology.
I am surprised, however, at the view you take of prophecy, according to page 28 of the special issue on "Justification by Faith and the Charismatic Movement" in the article, "Protestant Revivalism, Pentecostalism and the Drift Back to Rome." The literal interpretation of Revelation 13 and 14 places those activities in the period of time called the Great Tribulation, when the true church of Jesus Christ is removed from the earth and is with the Lord (Rev. 3:10; 4-5; 2 Thess. 2, esp. vv. 6, 7). I see no reason to spiritualize these passages. When we do that, there is no end to the speculations that can occur. I am simply surprised that you, who interpret so very literally in the area of justification, are inconsistent when you approach prophecy.
A footnote on that same page of your special issue indicated that you will present a discussion of your view of prophetical interpretation in a future issue. Perhaps you will answer there why you take the historical view over the futurist. If you do not answer there, then I would appreciate an answer from you to that effect.
Nit-picking, Divisive, Heretical
After looking through your special issue of Present Truth Magazine, I have come to four conclusions:
1. The whole tenor of your magazine is one of "nit-picking."
I haven't the slightest idea how we ever received such an offensive publication as Present Truth Magazine. I don't know where you get your cockeyed notions, but they certainly are not based on the Scriptures that I am familiar with. In fact, I find them to be anti-Christ.
In a day when we should be emphasizing our oneness in Christ, you seem to have a particular knack of pointing out the "noble differences."
Rest assured that I will advise this congregation to listen to the true "trumpet sound of the gospel," which certainly would not be found in this magazine.
It might interest you to know that I was brought up as a Baptist. I rejected that teaching as heretical, erroneous and hazardous to my mental and spiritual, as well as emotional, health. My prayer for all such is that they might come at last, through Christ's mercy, into the Ark of Salvation, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, of which I have the honor to be a priest through the Orthodox and Apostolic Laying On of Hands of a bishop in the Historic Catholic Succession. As a result, I have the power to absolve sins, to consecrate bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and also to pronounce God's blessing upon man. How great a treasure! It is this that is the New Testament Church of which you speak but yet do not speak, for in its place you have seemingly built a man-made edifice which enshrines the Bible (which was written by the Church in the first place) and seemingly teach that the Catholic Church has no power, authority or mission.
I have sent for some of your other booklets on the grounds that I want you to have a fair hearing. But I fear that my suspicions are firmer than I thought-the booklets seemingly (if the magazine is any guide) are no more and no less than a clever front to attack the Bride of Christ, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, of which Rome (in spite of her medieval errors) is a part.
We live in an age when honesty and sober thinking are required. I should do that and have a good conscience rather than to say something else and tell a lie. May the Blessed Mother bring you to truth. God bless you all in your search.
Informative and Helpful
Thank you so much for Present Truth Magazine dealing with the Pentecostal issue ("Justification by Faith and the Charismatic Movement"). I found it most informative and most helpful. My experiences here at the University of Minnesota as campus pastor confirm the presence and power of the emotionalism, subjectivism and individualism so thoroughly critiqued in that number of your magazine.
The need for solidly Biblical teaching is a desperate one at present, both within the Christian community and without.
This is some of the best reading material that has come across my desk in some time. Thank God someone has decided to attempt "restoration of New Testament Christianity in this generation."
The day is far spent, and your literature and emphasis come as refreshing rain upon a dry and thirsty land.
In the past week I received your Present Truth Magazine and found it to be one of the most fascinating magazines I ever had read. It is pungent as salt and healthy as the ideal diet. I want more!
Present Truth Magazine has become for me an anchor in the present storm of confusion. My soul writes fervent "amens" upon every page. How I praise our Lord for bringing this witness to His remnant. Please send me several copies of the July-August issue for distribution to pastor friends who, I believe, will be most appreciative and will desire to subscribe.
The clarity with which your articles set forth Reformation teaching is exceptional and exciting. Especially helpful was your relating of Romanism to Pentecostalism. In my thinking about the Pentecostal revival (both Protestant and Catholic), I had concentrated on sorting out the Scripture and my own thoughts on the doctrine of the "gifts." Your articles have unearthed for me the even deeper problem and account for a cleavage I felt but was unable to put my finger on.
What you are doing in your marvelous magazine must surely be the most important event in this century! Religious journalism has surely sunk to a new low in our time, and any attempt to stay close to the objective facts and historic truth of Reformed Protestantism is bound to be rewarded and, in time, successful. The present wallowing in religious-mystical-subjective fantasy must surely be ill-fated and doomed to be short-lived.
This morning a fellow minister showed me a copy of Present Truth Magazine. While waiting for him, I had a chance to skim through it and am quite excited about what you are attempting to do. I sometimes feel quite alone in combating "subjectivity" and rejoice to know that there is an organized effort to enlighten church people about the objectivity of our salvation and about the Pauline and Reformation teachings."
Thank you so much for the sample copy of Present Truth Magazine. It was very clear, concise and to the point on a subject dear to my heart—justification by faith. I spent a whole Saturday morning absorbing the timely articles, which I thought were excellent in content. Some of the material I quoted in my last Sunday morning's message on "God's Marvelous Grace."
With the charismatic movement pressing in all around our area as well as across the nation, we pastors need to keep on well-defined Biblical grounds, at the same time stating our position in love.
The issue you sent included one of the finest statements on the doctrine of justification that I have ever read.
In a time when evangelical Christians are making the sign of the fish and the gospel is like a voice crying in a wilderness, I can't tell you what a breath of fresh air your publication is.
The sample copy of Present Truth Magazine came at the precise time I most needed it. There is no doubt about the need for such a periodical as this. I can hardly wait to receive succeeding issues.
I am deeply impressed! . . . I especially enjoyed reading the article, "Protestant Revivalism, Pentecostalism and the Drift Back to Rome." Quite an "eye-opener"!
I am most impressed by the objective presentations of all viewpoints concerning basic doctrinal issues. I am also impressed with your aims in promoting "a restoration of pure New Testament teaching," which is surely the greatest need of our time. Though the subscription offer is free, I should like to know if the publication is available to the general public and, if so, how much the subscription fee would be. I would be happy to promote a mailing list in my congregation in either case as I feel that such quality materials could be of great benefit in Bible study groups, etc.
We are drowning in a sea of pseudo-Christianity. May the Lord increase your kind.
At the G.L.A.S.S. convention last week, I was given a copy of your publication. I have at least tried virtually every religious magazine on the market—but I have never been so challenged, pleased or helped before. I cannot adequately thank you—perhaps the Lord will....
The issue I refer to is a special issue entitled "Justification by Faith." This material within that particular issue is fantastic and astounding! It is absolutely the best news I have heard of since I met the Lord Jesus Christ at the cross and knew He had died for me and relieved me from the guilt of sin. . .
Don't Stop with the Reformers
1. I have just returned from the fourth meeting of a conference of New Testament exegetical scholars in Rome, at which year after year, on the initiative of Roman Catholics and paid by the Benedictine Monastery S. Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome, nothing else but the epistle to the Romans is studied very, very carefully. The Orthodox, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Methodist, etc. professors who meet for that study see (in the Basilica of S. Paul and before it) always Paul at the right hand of Christ, Peter at His left—this in contradistinction from almost all Roman churches, which place Peter at Christ's right. Even more important is the fact that the crypyo- or semi-Pelagianism, which indeed left ample traces in justification decrees of the Trent and Vatican I councils, is shunned and condemned by the Catholic scholars present as much as by the Protestant. Sometimes it even seems, during our discussions, that the last have become the first and vice versa, as our Lord predicted. In the view of this fact and also of books like H. Kung's Justification, I wonder why your publication considers and describes "Roman" Catholic theology as a uniform massa perditionis. If they, "those Catholics," go in part through a late (delayed-fuse) Reformation only now, is it fair for us Protestants to act as though we did not need repentance and reformation and renewal too? Certainly, in the heavens there is more joy. . and, to be all too righteous may well prove as pernicious as to be all too wicked (EccI. 7:15-18).
2. As the Lutheran Helsinki Conference in about 1961 has shown, it will not do too much good, in our time, to operate only and exclusively with the terminology and the questions of the Reformation period. By God's grace enormous things were brought to light by the Reformer's exegesis, piety and courage. But lest we become people who adorn our prophets' tombs and yet become condemnable ourselves, it is necessary that we keep on working. Amazing new aspects have been brought to light among those that are serious exegetes; a very hard struggle for more light is also going on among dogmatic thinkers. Let me mention Kasemann and Jungel as exponents of the two groups I have in mind. Would it not be wise if, in your holy zeal for justification by Christ, grace and faith alone, you abstained a bit from too much reliance upon justification by the work of the Reformers alone, and if you joined in the quest for an even clearer and better expression and communication of what the Reformers taught us? Or else you might be in danger of joining those who say, Lord, Lord, and yet don't do the will of the same Lord.
The Order of Salvation
Among the magazine's excellent pages, however, there was one article—so it seems to me—that did not properly represent the historic Protestant view. On page 18, Rome is characterized by the phrase, "Regeneration—a necessary condition for justification," and the Reformation is characterized by the phrase, "Regeneration—the immediate consequence and fruit of justification." With respect to this latter phrase, there are two points to be considered: (1) the article's ar9ument from the Bible is incomplete and in places fallacious, and (2) the historical evidence necessary to conclude that the theology of the Reformation is in view, is missing.
On the first point I shall try to be brief. Page 18, column 2, after quoting Romans 4:5 that God justifies the ungodly, says, "This scripture certainly contradicts the notion that God justifies only regenerate saints." The paragraph fails to show any contradiction. The following paragraph correctly states that God justifies the uncircumcised; but Romans 4:9-11 (quoted) does not mention regeneration, as would be necessary for a conclusion about regeneration; and the appended explanation, which says that "the new life is the sign and witness of the blessing of justification," does not reproduce the thought of the passage from Romans, for the scripture says that circumcision (not the new life or regeneration) is the sign. Page 19, point 4, adds to Romans 5 something about a "new heart," which is not found in the text. Finally, so far as Scripture and argument go, page 19, column 2, says, "To those who respond to His drawing, the Spirit gives faith and repentance." Is this not Romanism? An unregenerate sinner, totally depraved, dead in sin, who does not seek God, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, who has no fear of God before his eyes, cannot respond. He will become able to respond only after the Spirit resurrects him to newness of life.
One of the best witnesses of what the Reformation taught is the Westminster Confession of 1645-49. Its reliability is such that thousands of ministers from that day to this have subscribed to it. The men who framed it were the most devoted ministers of their day, the most competent and the best informed on the theology of the previous century. The Westminster Confession X, 1, 2, states, "God . . . enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God . . . renewing their wills... effectually drawing them . . . they being made willing by his grace . . . [are] enabled to answer this call and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it."
Further evidence that this is the Reformation view and that the theologians who remained true to the Scripture so testify, will be found in W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, page 509: "A man is not regenerated because he first believes in Christ, but he believes in Christ because he has been regenerated." The whole chapter defends this position.
G. H. C.
*Thank you, Professor, for your stimulating comments. We are aware that some later Calvinists have tended to place regeneration before justification. As for Calvin, he declared, .... . justifying grace is not separate from regeneration although these are distinct things."—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Il/I, II, II. In fact, in a certain passage in the Consensus Tigurinus, Calvin very decisively places justification before regeneration, not in temporal, but in logical, sequence. He writes: "Dum fide inserti in Christi corpus, idque spiritus sancti virtute, primum iusti censemur gratuitae iustitiae imputatione, de inde regeneramur in no vam vitam."— Cited in Francois Wendel, Calvin: the Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, tr. Philip Mairet (New York: Harper& Row, 1963), p.256.
A further comment: Surely you are not unaware that the whole Lutheran stream of the Reformation very decidedly places justification before regeneration. The Formula of Concord distinctly says that "the renewal . . . follows justification" and "succeeds the righteousness of faith" (see Book of Concord, p.253). John Wesley did not follow Luther on everything, but he certainly followed Luther on the order of salvation. We would like some Lutheran scholars to comment on this letter.—Ed.