The Mail Room
Letters from Volume 30
Welcome to the Mail Room for Present Truth Magazine! This is where we post some of the interesting letters which we have received 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!
"Theology and Body"
I have lust finished reading your latest issue, "Theology and Body". I firmly believe that you have touched upon a very important issue in contemporary theology—that of the relation of the minister to his physical health.
Too many times in my young ministry I have seen ministers literally wear themselves down to a point of noneffectiveness with regard to their service to Christ. My most recent affiliation with this syndrome was in seminary, where students many times were deprived of physical and spiritual vitality because of mental stress.
One bright spot concerning this is soon to be happening at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where money has been set aside strictly for the purpose of building a gymnasium as a part of the seminary facilities.
I state my appreciation again for a very tine and relevant issue.
Terry Hall, Baptist Minister
I would like to recommend that you make reprints available of your excellent article by D. Weston Allen, the Christian physician, in Present Truth. I believe that people will listen to a Christian physician. And a reprint of this article, "How Spiritual Health Is Impaired by Neglect of Physical and Mental Health," would provide an effective tool for putting across the last paragraph on page 36 concerning the healthiness of the objective gospel and the unhealthiness of subjective religion.
Robert E. Baxter, Presbyterian Minister
Your magazine for February contained some articles which were of great interest to me, as I have studied some of these subjects for many years. However, the statements on pages 17 and 18 about the Hebrew view of man are not in accordance with the teachings of the Bible, even though George Eldon Ladd made these statements. The Bible is the final authority on this subject.
Delmar H. Bryant
I appreciate your magazine and particularly the article in the February issue on "Theology and Body." In this issue you have hit the nail on the head with effective blows to nail down the biblical truth about the whole man. I am very concerned about the ignorance of Christians in regard to the biblical view of man. We have opted for Platonism without considering the truth of Scripture.
Donald W. Spencer, Church Director of Christian Education
I am writing concerning the February issue, "Theology and Body." I hope that you continue with more articles on this subject. The church is corrupted by the Greek view of the body and the nature of man.
Keep up the good work. I wish that other Christian papers would follow your example and give readers something more permanent. I sense that some of your readers are a little afraid of your bold approach to difficult points of theology. However, I judge by what you say and not entirely by whom you quote.
Too many are afraid to speak out of their own convictions from the objective Word of God, for they are not dependent enough on the Holy Spirit to teach them. You are helping us to stand on our own two feet and speak out for the Lord of glory.
C. William Cole
Righteousness in Romans
Present Truth is doing a significant service in calling the attention of the church to that objective righteousness which is the meritorious ground of justification. This is the message of the apostle Paul, particularly in Romans. To the same end may I offer some suggestions for themes or seed thoughts for a series of sermons on justification:
1. The Righteousness of God (Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-22, 26). The meaning of Romans 1:16-17 as the Holy Spirit opened it to Luther was that while no righteousness of his own was acceptable to God, there was a righteousness of God Himself which Luther could receive by faith. Since it is God-righteousness, therefore it is better than either human unrighteousness or even human righteousness. Since it is a righteousness "stripped from the back of the omnipotent Jehovah (Yahweh), it is better than the righteousness of angels. They have only their own righteousness."
2. Christ Is Our Righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness" (Rom. 10:4). "May I be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God upon faith" (Phil. 3:9). "Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end" (Heb. 12:2, TEV). Luther's colleague, Johann Bugenhagen, declared, "We have only one doctrine, Christ is our righteousness." John Bunyan wrote, "My righteousness is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever." This means that we are saved by the righteousness of another: God, who became man for us men and for our salvation.
3. Imputed Righteousness (Rom. 4:6, 8, 11, 22-24; 2 Cor. 5:19). The word impute occurs half a dozen times in the King James Version of Romans 4. The Greek verb which it translates occurs eleven times in the same chapter. Luther and his followers took over the word from the Latin Vulgate. When "liberals" objected to the word, Alexander Whyte of Scotland replied, "The Holy Spirit gave the word, and the Holy Spirit uses the word." The believer is not justified by a righteousness infused into or imparted to him, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to him and received by faith alone—while in himself he is still a sinner and, on that account, constantly penitent: simul justus et peccator et penitens.
4. The Gift of Righteousness (Rom. 5:15-19). The righteousness by which we are justified is God's gracious gift to us undeserving sinners. He gave it to us by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin (Rom. 8:3). God revealed His loving heart and wrought out for us an acceptable righteousness by His incarnation as Jesus Christ, by His perfect obedience (Rom. 5:19), and by His being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). This abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness means that in Christ, God is for us.
5. The Righteousness of Faith. "Not through the law but through the righteousness of faith did the promise come to Abraham" (Rom. 4:13). The gospel reveals the righteousness of God from faith unto faith, or from a way that begins in faith to one that ends in faith, for the just shall live by faith (Rom. 1:16-17, NEB). "God shows Himself to be just when He justifies him who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20). "We have put our faith in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, not by the works of the law" (Gal. 2:16).
Faith involves knowledge. Faith comes by hearing the message, the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17), by which message we also receive the Spirit (Gal. 3:2), who shows the things of Christ to us.
Faith calls for our assent to the promises of the gospel, our Amen to God's way of saving us in Christ.
Faith is heart trust, our receiving and resting upon Christ and His righteousness for justification, sanctification and eternal life.
Faith issues in obedience (Rom. 1:5). "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10).
Our faith is necessary and essential, but it is not meritorious. Christ is our merit.
William C. Robinson
Dr Robinson is professor emeritus of church history at Columbia Theological Seminary —Ed.
"What Is the Gospel?"
Geoffrey Paxton's outline of "What Is the Gospel?" (The Australian Forum, Topic 9) is splendid. However, some of his comments under the main headings must either stem from personal bias or misunderstanding. I hope it is the latter.
Paxton's misconception of terms commonly used among many Fundamentalist Christians comes through when he comments about "how often the children of God are bidden to 'let go and let God.'" p. 9. He sets this into a context of the substitutionary work of Jesus in its relationship to the life lived out by the believer. It is apparent that he does not understand what Christians mean when they use this term.
Many Christians—and I am one of them—do not look to the substitutionary life of Christ for redemption. They look to His substitutionary death, when He died for their sins, in their stead. It is only as He took His perfect righteousness to the cross and there offered it in Himself that His righteousness becomes vicarious at all. He did not live a substitute life for believers. Every believer must live his own life of righteousness. But because Christ was perfect and righteous, He became the perfect Sacrifice for sin—not a Substitute for sin, but a Sacrifice. By placing Christ's perfect obedience to the law before God as a substitute for the sinful, imperfect life of a sinning believer, Christ becomes a minister of sin. If this is not antinomianism, it is perilously close to it.
Paxton presents a very limited view of God's work of grace. While seeking sincerely to exalt Christ in heaven, he succeeds in dishonoring God in His saints. A Christ in heaven is wonderful and precious. But Christ in me, the hope of glory, is where the action is and where the power is now needed. That is what Paul believed too.
Mel. E. DePeal, Pastor
I read Present Truth from time to time. I read it as an incentive to think through the truths you are trying to think through. Sometimes I agree with you, but most of the time I wonder at your conclusions.
Incidentally, how often do the writers of the articles in Present Truth go out in the highways and byways and preach the gospel eyeball to eyeball with lost men and women? Not often, I venture, with all the time they must spend in research for the material they present in written form. You ought to try this sometime. It is a wonderful, rewarding experience. And it results in souls saved who would have otherwise never heard the gospel.
Bruce L. Button, Pastor
I want you to know that I am extremely grateful for the ministry of Present Truth magazine. It is regularly used of God in my life to keep me balanced in my meditation and study of His Word. I have especially enjoyed the Australian Forum booklets by Geoffrey Paxton. His ministry will be in my thanksgivings to the Lord for a long time to come.
I can imagine how often you must receive letters like this one, but I wonder if you realize the effectiveness and range of your ministry through Present Truth. You see, I am an itinerant evangelist/Bible teacher, and I often minister in charismatic circles as well as evangelical.
Even though we may not agree on every doctrinal issue, the writers in Present Truth have been used of God to minister to me. Through your magazine I have been exhorted, encouraged, challenged, and sometimes reproved. I thank God for every bit of it, because I can see how the Lord has used Present Truth to develop me into a more balanced servant of the gospel. Thank you for being used of God in my life.
Nik Ratzlaft, Evangelist
As a minister of the gospel of Christ's vicarious righteousness who has recently been defrocked from the pastorate within a sect among the larger "holiness" denominations, I want to express my appreciation for the Australian Forum's ministry. My ordination credentials were taken from me for my insistence that the law of God requires perfect obedience in thought, word and deed from birth. This is, of course, the reason that the gospel is such good news, for by faith we lay claim to the vicarious merits of Jesus. However, within the "holiness" communities such a doctrinal stance is discounted as mere theological, if not theoretical, speculation and is forced to take a back seat to pious techniques for obtaining higher experiences and greater attainments of spirituality. Therefore the preaching of the gospel becomes a threat to the official "holiness" denominational doctrines in that it exposes the imperfect perfection of "holiness" as another religious attempt of man to stand before God through the possession of individual righteousness obtained by the merit of the indwelling of Christ's Spirit.
How different is the view of the "holiness" sects from the biblical perspective as revealed in the inspired question of the prophet, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" (Isa. 53:1).
Christianity becomes meaningful as the way of life only when we can honestly acknowledge our sinnerhood and see ourselves as we truly are. Only then can the gospel reach us. And it is only then that Christian faith is free to move out of the realm of doctrinal speculation and become a genuinely living experience.
Pontius Pilate asked, "What shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?" . . . Because of internal and external pressures he answered wrongly to his everlasting sorrow. May God keep you faithful in doing with Jesus as you have done thus far in your proclamation of Christ crucified, the power and wisdom of God. I am confident that God shall bless others, as He has me, through the furtherance and honoring of His Word by means of your ministry.
Kenneth W. Treuter, Minister
Your articles are greatly appreciated. For the first time I know why I have so much uneasiness about the charismatic movement. I was sympathetic toward it at first, but after witnessing four close friends blow their spiritual brains out, I needed to know what was really happening. Your material is a great help in supplementing and often times correcting my course of study.
Kathryn E. Beiton, Bible School Student
The doctrines you write about are very sound, but you go on to criticize Pentecostals, Catholics and charismatics. They, on the other hand, offer sound doctrines, with love for others—and love is the greatest.
The Lord has revealed to me that you read the Bible only to prove a point or win an argument. Your explanations are twisted to suit your limited vision of God. The Lord said to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Despite what you think this letter reveals of me, I will with truth and honesty love and pray for you.
Legalism and Insanity
I have recently experienced within my own ministry the legalism and insanity of a "gospel" which anchors itself in the experiences and emotions of the charismatic rather than in the incarnation, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. May the real Holy Spirit please stand up and renew His church in the present truth.
Howard Vrankin, Lutheran Pastor
Over the past year my brother has been disentangling himself from spiritual subjectivism and discovering the objective New Testament truths which raised up the Reformers. Your magazine played a significant role in his discoveries, which he also shared with me. In times past I have been troubled greatly by the charismatic, Roman and Arminian philosophies without having a firm grasp on the necessary truth to meet their challenge. Praise God for your publications, which are helping to uncover the vital facets of the Rock of Ages, which can never be shaken by Roman or Protestant subjectivism.
There are no visible churches in my community which are free from the strong tendency to preach a man-centered gospel (emphasizing grace in man rather than the work of grace outside of man, in Jesus), and I pray that God will use me to spread the knowledge of objective justification in Christ. I have lent my Present Truth special issues on "Sanctification" and "Justification by Faith" to two denominational ministers. So far this has resulted in some good dialogue. Nevertheless, it is such an uphill climb to struggle out of the established jargon and humanistic emphasis found in literature like Campus Crusade produces (and I say this without malice, since God chose me in the middle of a Campus-inspired movement).
Sir: I have found your magazine and special brochures a refreshing tonic in the midst of arid intellectual evangelical literature and the flood of delusive superficiality from the charismatic camp. May the Lord enable you to carry on in proclaiming, expounding and "rightly dividing" the Word of truth in love and clarity.
"Cover to Cover"
Sir: I usually read every issue of Present Truth cover to cover within a day or two after receiving it. Believe it or not, one of the more interesting features of your publication is the quantity and wide range of readers' letters that you print. It is obvious that a lot of research and painstaking care goes into the publication of your magazine; and after reading some of the issues, my only comment is, Bravo!
Although I am Pentecostal, I enjoy being stimulated and made to think. I agree wholeheartedly with you that we are to preach the objective, historic gospel and not our own experiences. But I hasten to add that the preaching of the gospel leads the believing hearers into a blessed and wonderful experience with the risen Christ. May God bless you always.
I first heard of your magazine through a friend who recommended you for good biblical teaching. Although he was right to a point (your "New Testament Eschatology" and "Covenant" issues were mostly excellent), I, after reading several issues, have concluded that you are more concerned with grinding your theological ax than with restoring New Testament Christianity in this generation. It is regrettable that you must sit in your ivory tower and take potshots at other Christians. You slander people who have experienced the grace of God, been taught by the Spirit, labored diligently for the gospel, and worked redemptively in the lives of thousands of people. (Incidentally, what, besides your magazine, have you done?) They harbored no ulterior motive but the love of Christ in their hearts, so that others could realize the full glory of knowing Christ. But you are causing division in the Body.
If you really had good biblical exposition, you would be concerned about the whole counsel of God, which can only be obtained by thorough, systematic exposition through the various books of the Bible. If you were to do this, you would find yourself addressing such issues as fellowship, ethics, the needs of the poor, racism, and other matters on which Jesus gave clear teaching. But you have fallen into the rut of quoting theologians and excerpting scriptures to buttress your positions. Personally, I find your incessant tirades on the cleavage between external and internal grace to be unedifying and contrary to the spirit of the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles were concerned with weightier things than the separation of sanctification from justification. Indeed, the doubt and uncertainty you created in my mind, the clever argument you have used to attack my freedom in Christ, were recently cleared up by a reading of the Gospel of John, which makes your protestations appear laughable.
I thank you for challenging me to rethink my Christian life in the light of a system of teaching to which I had not previously been exposed. I am not too concerned about theological arguments, but you came in on a level which called into question the premises on which I have built my life. While I have not adopted your viewpoint, I have had my theological basis for living subjected to a housecleaning. But now I consider you to have finished serving your purpose in that regard. Thank you for your concern.
My reading of Present Truth for about three years has brought into the sharpest focus ever the essential nature of justification by faith. This emphasis is fully verified by Paul's words, "For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11, RSV).
After reading without much discrimination any religious or devotional material that came my way, Present Truth articles and editorial comments have done wonders to clarify my spiritual outlook. I am deeply grateful for this help in sharpening my critical faculties. Truly Present Truth might well be every Christian's reference for sound theology. Only a few have the mental attributes, time and disposition to become scholars, to collect a library of theological books, or to study the Bible in the original languages. Everybody who can read, though, could profit by studying these carefully written and lucid expositions of basic Christian doctrine.
I experience a spiritual energizing just by turning to the Bible and reading the references so many of your articles supply. It may take longer this way to read an article, but the rewards are incalculable. The living truth that God wants to reveal to the seeker comes through with startling clarity, almost like a person long hospitalized coming out into the open out-of-doors and seeing everything at first with overwhelming sharpness. I hope that this analogy strikes home, for some of us have spent time in spiritual sick wards, and it is wonderful to be out in God's great open spaces again!
Donald E. Kohlstaedt
My wife and I have been drifting in and out of various neo-evangelical teachings for the past three years. We believe that your sound interpretation of the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith in light of all Scripture has greatly erased the dismay and confusion in our minds caused by lack of agreement and misinterpretation of this doctrine by many modern-liberal neo-evangelicals today.
Garrett P. Johnson