The Mail Room
Letters from Volume 9
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!
The Question of Authority
Your issue of Present Truth Magazine on "The Question of Authority" was a fine, most needed presentation. Every issue continues to hit today's theological sore spots.
It occurred to me that the real reason that many do not respect the law of God is because they do not accept the authority of Scripture. You rightly say on page 12, "The great issue today is authority—the authority of God's Word versus the authority of human experience." This holds true for the emotional, revivalistic people of whom there are many. But what about the vast numbers who are emotionally sane but who allow reason to dominate their "Christian" philosophy? I feel another great issue today is the authority of God's Word versus the authority of human reason (2 Cor. 10:5). Those who follow human experience and those who follow human reason for the most part follow a different brand of "Christianity." The first group generally pervert the Scriptures by their literalism. The more literally they take everything in the Bible, the prouder they are of their loyal stand. The second group mutilate the Word of God by making anything contrary to human reason figurative. This gives them room in their thinking for all kinds of permissiveness, situation ethics, etc., along with their isagogics (JEDP source theory, very late dating of the book of Daniel to eliminate prophecy, denial of many miracles, etc.). After all, justification by faith in the last analysis stands or falls depending on man's acceptance or rejection of the authority of God's Word versus the authority of human reason.
Words cannot express how much I appreciate the fine articles found within the pages of Present Truth Magazine. I was nurtured on dispensational teaching but had always harbored questions in my mind concerning such passages as Romans 7 and the relationship of law to grace. Your October, 1973 issue on "The Question of Authority" has done much to remove the scales from my eyes.
I believe you have missed the grace and law issue Romans 8:4 tells me that all of God's laws have been fulfilled in me, not by me. It appears that you are almost putting the Holy Spirit out of a job. Sanctification does not come through my efforts but by the work of the Spirit.
I believe that we need to preach the law as a tool in evangelism and emphasize the forgotten fundamental of repentance. It is very refreshing to read a publication that goes beyond a cheap grace and easy believism, and which clearly delineates the distinctions of doctrines of the historic Christian faith.
I appreciate your emphasis on justification by faith alone. Your recent "The Question of Authority" was challenging. More Baptists should read J.C. Ryle's illuminating article on "Scriptural Holiness."
There is a famine in our land of sound Biblical doctrine. Many preachers are giving their people peanut butter and jelly when they should be treating them to spiritual steak found in the doctrines of the Reformation. Pass us more meat and potatoes, please!
I share with you the belief that much attention must be given to the Pentecostal movement to understand and refute it where it has abandoned the Word of God. Sola Scriptura is the only foundation on which this can be done, not only for the charismatics but for any other error that has been taught in and by the visible church.
I find your magazine a tragic farce supposedly composed in the service of truth. In your foreword you suggest that sola gratia, solo Christo, sola fide and sola Scriptura are the basic norms of genuine truth, and the rest of your magazine then proceeds to censure or castigate those who expound ideas which do not jibe with your particular norms. But what says that your norms are the proper measure of truth other than select passages which you have isolated in your Scriptures? What would it be like if the people of other religions were to use the same principle to demonstrate the truth of their claims? Isn't that the same as saying that what we say is true because the books which our people have written suggest that it is true?
I would suggest that you re-examine the premises on which you have built your ministry. And unless you can find a more objective standard from which to elucidate the real nature of the human condition, don't go publishing it as "present truth."
Above Denominational Bias
I feel that Present Truth Magazine fills an evangelical need. Your publication is one which is above denominationalism.
Present Truth Magazine has been to me a great cause for encouragement and rejoicing. I appreciate especially your largeness of spirit and eclecticism in the best sense, evidenced in your utilization of writings, both historic and modern, from different positions in the Reformed spectrum. I pray that Present Truth Magazine may have the widest influence and circulation both in awakening slumbering Reformation churches and in vitalizing evangelical churches which are quite adrift from their entire Reformation inheritance.
I have received every issue of Present Truth Magazine and rejoice in this publication more than in any other periodical I have ever received. God bless your continued efforts to speak His truth in a clear and denominationally unbiased way.
The Charismatic Movement—Pro and Con
I received your special issue of Present Truth Magazine, "Justification by Faith and the Charismatic Movement." I have never obtained such a misquoting, misconstruing piece of material in my life.
The apostle Paul nowhere suggested that all believers receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit immediately upon receiving Christ. There are many references to the baptism of the Holy Spirit being a very definite and separate experience evidenced in such a way that in each instance all who were there knew that those who received the Spirit had been filled.
Your felonious accusation that we Pentecostals have placed experience above justification by faith is as ignorant and twisted an assumption as I've ever heard. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not above salvation, but it is a second step in which we are endued with that power to witness as spoken by our Lord.
Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that all believers were filled. It does say, however, that the gift of the Holy Spirit is for all believers.
I am interested in the way you clearly point out the difference between the objective and subjective gospel—something which I was never aware of.
We have seen many people who started out looking only to Christ but were then carried away in the charismatic movement by the promise of greater blessings in the "second blessing." From that time on they are more interested in the great experiences they are having, and their great desire is to lead others into this experience instead of leading others to Christ.
If you will take from me an honest word of testimony, it is this: Since coming into the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I believe that I have more love for God, my fellow Christians and non-Christians than I had before. I am a happier and a more stable Christian. In the last four years the Lord has used me to lead more souls to Christ than in all the previous 26 years of my Christian life before I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
So you then wonder that I am not interested in the stress of your magazine, which seems regrettably lacking in love?
I can find no pleasure or spiritual edification from reading a publication such as yours. While you claim to have a positive philosophy, "Dedicated to the restoration of New Testament Christianity," I do not find this to be true. I think a better representation of what I see would be, "Dedicated to the discrediting of the Pentecostal movement."
I see the following trends coming from the Pentecostal movement that thrill me and represent what I feel to be "New Testament Christianity":
1. A greater love for the Scriptures.
2. Greater honor given to Jesus Christ—the baptizer.
3. A renewed emphasis on personal holiness.
4. A greater love for the church.
5. Demonstration of the miracles Jesus performed and promised would follow.
I do not anymore belong to any denomination, but I do belong to the body of Christ. There are many levels of truth that the Holy Spirit is bringing the body through. One of these for me was the charismatic movement. Today the Spirit is showing deeper truths to many. However, if this charismatic movement is not of God, it will fail. If it is, you are fighting against the Holy Spirit. I believe you are on very dangerous ground. I will ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth.
I have tried to read your magazine with an open mind, and I find it hard to even address your magazine as Present Truth. A more appropriate title would be Present Error. You state your purpose to be that of bringing the churches back to the truth of justification by faith, and charge that the charismatic movement is tearing down the great doctrines of the Bible. This leads me to believe that you have never attended a Pentecostal church, for no one preaches justification by faith any more strongly than the Pentecostal movement. This is only one of a multitude of errors and half truths I find in your publication. It would be well if you would do your homework before you attempt to correct others.
I believe you have centered on the contemporary problem correctly, both Biblically and philosophically—and, I should add, historically. There is need of some clear statements on contemporary trends for pastors and laymen.
I was brought up in the Pentecostal movement. I have seen it firsthand as a child. Because of pressures to move me in the Pentecostal direction, I have studied it thoroughly in preparation for the ministry. The results of my study coincide closely with the position you have taken.
Reformation versus Holiness Theology
Although a member of the Church of the Nazarene since early youth, I am very "excited" about Reformation theology as presented by your magazine?
Several years ago I became disenchanted with holiness teaching concerning "backsliding" and "entire sanctification." It seems to me that holiness theology limits the power of the gospel. Now I am convinced that, of all the doctrines I have studied, Reformation theology is the most accurate and objective understanding of the gospel.
My personal religious experience and observation of Christians who profess(ed) "entire sanctification" are more compatible with Reformation theology than with holiness theology. I have sought the "crisis experience" of "entire sanctification" but never "felt" that I had received it. Reformation theology has strengthened my faith by exposing the subjective and introspective nature of holiness theology.
In Present Truth Magazine I find that which I have sorely needed and did not have.
Your expression of Biblical Christianity in all of its orthodoxy, without the anchor of the deadness of traditionalism, is vitally needed.
Fills a Need
Present Truth Magazine is filling a real need in this day of shallow theological thought and superficial Christianity. The bases of our Reformed faith are so clearly expounded that I wonder how any who seriously read can doubt.
Let me commend you for the effort you are making in alerting the church to the dangers of subjective religion in all of its expressions. While I haven't reconciled all of your historical analyses of Christian movements, nor does it appear to me that the form of holiness doctrine attacked resembles the teaching of most present day holiness churches, I enjoy the reading very much.
As I've observed the currents of theological trends obscuring authentic Christian faith, they appear threefold:
1. Dead humanitarian pseudo-Christianity devoid of the great supernatural objective affirmations of the faith.
2. Pentecostalism and its attendant "sea of subjectivism" and superspirituality.
3. Dispensationalism and the prophetic tangents of Hal Lindsey and others on the sensationalized eschatological kick.
The liberals have been pretty well silenced by the evangelical orthodox resurgence. You and others have done an admirable job of dealing with the charismatic plague. But I've seen little in the major journals dealing with the follies of Scofield and company. Such a large segment of evangelical Christianity has gotten swept into focusing on "Israel's prophetic time clock" that it has become quite diversionary and leads to quite heretical inferences. Some lucid tracing of this movement from the 1840's and its untenable hermeneutics would be a real service to your readers.
Sirs: it so happens that in my own religious association the issues you raise are of particular significance (and emotions at the moment. I am one of a number who are trying to recall some of our brothers to the glorious fact that salvation is based on the error-free and meritorious life of Jesus Christ, so that God indeed has before Him a perfect life of faultless obedience, rather than relying on our own obedience or the fact that we "do the best we can," etc. Your magazine is of help to me in that regard.
It is very refreshing to find a group of truly dedicated people working with a most vital subject. As we see more and more today the spiritual decadence in our "fundamentalist" churches, it is very heartening to know of people trying to return our generation to the New Testament form of true Christianity.
May I say without reserve that there are few magazines today which expound God's Word with such conviction as does Present Truth. The simple yet concise way in which the message of justification by faith and the Reformation teachings are presented is like a breath of pure oxygen amidst a polluted city—a city of error and lost souls.
In the Babel-like confusion of the modern religious world, it is indeed heartening to know there are others who desire to promulgate the truth that has stood the test of the ages.
I have been receiving your magazine for some time now and find that it has been very helpful to me as I try to combat the untruths about our Bible in this community. As a result of reading your material, I have found myself digging deeper into God's Word in order to discover the evidence that I need to present the truth in my sermons.
Allow me to express my appreciation for your perceptive treatment of various issues which are of current interest in the believing community which is Christ's church. Your adherence, with lucid explanation and fine documentation, to the Reformed tradition is greatly appreciated.
It is my prayer that the Lord may continue to use you not merely for the defense of the faith once given but for an affirmation of the faith in our critical days.
It is most refreshing to be showered with truth—a delightful cleansing from the dusting of the "experience" ambassadors.
A few days ago I received topic 6 of the Australian Forum, entitled "The Immoral Revolution." It is terrific! You are to be commended for your strong Biblical stand.
Here in the South a great deal of preaching and teaching is mere sentimentalism and emotionalism. I need all the help I can get to counter this wave of so-called "charisma."
A Wastebasket Demise—Almost!
Thank you for sending a copy of Present Truth Magazine. At first glance the magazine looked as if it were only a piece of anti-Roman polemic; it almost landed in the church wastebasket. But, having read your publication, let me thank you for providing some good, sound and perceptively corrective Reformed theology.
The clarity with which Present Truth Magazine articles are written, the simple yet profound insights set forth, and the relegation of the disease of religious subjectivity to its proper place, are combined to make yours a Christian periodical above and beyond all others. I have recommended Present Truth to both lay and clergy acquaintances and will continue to do so.
I have received the special issue of your magazine entitled, "Justification by Faith and the Charismatic Movement." From my limited experience with Pentecostals, I am not sure that what you describe them to be exactly coincides with my perception of them. But I must agree with the substance of what you have said and applaud you for articulating what has distressed me lately, viz., the rank subjectivism of present day Christians.
Some of your articles quite disturb me with their philosophical depth. Is this all necessary to make the Word of God understandable? Aren't we after all tinkering with the philosophies of men? It seems that the Reformationists and their treatises are quoted with equal authority to God and His Word in many of your articles.
If the ministry of Present Truth Magazine is all-important for our day, why do you not present it in a manner that will penetrate more deeply? If your magazine were not so systematically "heavy," it would be of far more general interest.
Thank you for your magazine. I find it most interesting and theologically accurate.
Present Truth Magazine is making a real hit with our Men's Society. You are putting Christianity again on solid ground.
Open to Heresy
I am glad to know that someone is calling us back to the objective "givens" of the faith. Subjectivism has left the church frothy and open to all kinds of heresy.
I must tell you that your magazine has been a tremendous boost for so many pastors in this area. We have formed a small study group, and your magazine, more than anything else, has helped to sort and clarify the issues for us.
New Reformation Aborning?
In the lead editorial, "New Reformation Aborning?" in the October 26 issue of Christianity Today, the statement is made that even though substantial numbers of people, young and old, in Europe as well as in North America, have been converted through evangelistic endeavors, it cannot be said that many of these converts understand or appreciate the church's Reformation heritage. The editorial concludes that there may be a new Reformation aborning somewhere, perhaps in some obscure place, that will erupt suddenly and dramatically. If there is time for such a new Reformation, I will be surprised if the work you are doing does not turn out to be in its vanguard.
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