The Mail Room
Letters from Volume 39
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!
Comments from Dr. Wm. C. Robinson
Thank you for your study of "Man" (Aug.), which is illuminating and helpful. The distinction of man as creature and as person is excellent.
May this writer be privileged to offer a further word on the thorny question of divine sovereignty and human sin? After noting that man is a person, you agree "that sin is included in God's permissive will."
In his volume on Calvin's religious thought, Dean Emile Doumergue describes God as the highest cause of everything that occurs, but not the sole efficient cause. He illustrates this by the stories of Joseph and of Job. Joseph tells his repentant brothers, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." In the case of Job, God had a righteous and gracious purpose in permitting the evils to befall his servant, Satan had an evil intention, and the Sabeans wanted the oxen and asses. Each was an efficient and a responsible cause and acted according to his (or their) own nature.
Yet the Bible uses a term which is more personal than the word cause—the word hand. When used for man, hand is figurative, the part for the whole; and as used for God, it is anthropomorphic. But this term has found its way into our devotional hymns and prayers:
"Thy hand in all things I behold,
And all things in Thy hand."
—The Methodist Hymnal
"His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me."
—The Presbyterian Hymnal
"By Thine own hand may we be fed;
Give us this day our daily bread."
—Part of a popular Grace
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter declared, "Him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay" (Acts 2:23). And again, "For of a truth against Thy holy Child Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel foreordained to come to pass" (Acts 4:27-28).
Thus at the very heart of our religion, over the wicked hands of Christ's murderers, the Bible portrays the hand of God. No deed of men was so wicked as the crucifying of Christ. And no divine act ever did as much to glorify God and to save sinners as God did in the cross of Christ.
No wonder Luther said that there is enough of the revelation of God in the cross of Christ to last a man all his life! And Calvin added that no man will ever find his way back to God as his Father except by the preaching of the cross. So the believer should start, as Paul does in 1 Corinthians, "with the gospel which sets Christ alone before us with His cross."
At this, the acropolis of our faith, the Word reveals God's hand over man's. And in so doing, it unveils the true mystery of Providence. The light which streams from Calvary arises to dispel the darkness which otherwise clusters over every area of Providence. "In His light we see light."
It is quite possible that many readers will not entirely agree with Geoffrey Paxton on a first reading of his article on "The False Gospel of the New Birth" (June). May I suggest that we begin by thanking him for placing Christ in the center of this, as of every step in God's saving program?
Our Lord Himself reveals the new birth in John 3 near the beginning of His ministry and immediately follows by relating it to the objective facts of the incarnation (John 3:13) and the necessity that the Son be lifted up (John 3:14), for He is God's love gift to the world, who saves every believer (John 3:16). John had already presented Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
In Hebrews the ascended Christ is seen ever making intercession for His people on the basis of the one sacrifice of Himself offered once for all (Heb. 7:25-27). Likewise, in Romans 8:34 and 1 John 2:1 He is seen interceding for us on the ground of the objective propitiation He has made for us and for the world. Thus does He sue out for us the gift of the Holy Spirit that He may persuade and enable us to accept Jesus Christ as He is freely offered to us in the gospel. And thus are we who were dead in trespasses and sins made alive and raised up with Christ (Eph. 2:1-6).
Paul prays that we may be strengthened with might in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:16-17). And speaking of himself, the apostle affirmed, "Christ lives in me . . . and I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20). Again he tells us that "of God are we in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom from God, both righteousness [justification] and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30).
In his commentary on Galatians (ed. Watson, p. 135) Luther concurs: "Wherefore Christ apprehended by faith and dwelling in the heart, is the true Christian righteousness for which God counts us righteous and gives us eternal life."
Wm. C. Robinson, Professor Emeritus
Columbia Theological Seminary
I have enjoyed reading your publication for some time. The articles are thought provoking, and your stand for the objective work of God in Christ is helpful.
I have a comment regarding Mr. Paxton's article, "The False Gospel of the New Birth," in your June issue. I cannot help but feel that Mr. Paxton went a bit too far in his enthusiasm for the objective point of view. Also, I believe he made a definite error on page 22, in the paragraph beginning: "Much evangelicalism stresses the new birth as an instantaneous activity." To quote the seventeenth-century theologian, John Owen: "Men may be more or less holy; more or less sanctified; but they cannot be more or less regenerate." A birth is a birth. When one comes forth from the womb, one is born. It is a once-for-all happening.
John E. Holmes, Baptist Pastor
I wholeheartedly agree with Geoffrey J. Paxton's article, "The False Gospel of the New Birth," in your June issue. However, I feel that this article omitted the biblical principle that the new birth is fundamentally accepting the outside-of-me death in the old Adam and the outside-of-me rebirth in the Second Adam. This acceptance of our "already acceptance" in the Last Adam (Rom. 4:25; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Eph. 1:6; 1 John 2:2) results in the inevitable subjective experience—namely, regeneration or the change to Godlikeness, the about-face from disobedience to obedience.
Therefore, "the greatest news in the universe" is that we have been born again legally into the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, who is our title to heaven (John 3:3; 1 Cor. 1:30). The "greatest news" is not regeneration, which is our fitness for heaven that comes through accepting the title by faith. If it were our fitness, as Roman Catholicism teaches, then, pray tell me, how much fitness must I have to merit entrance into God's kingdom?
I noted with interest the reactions to G. J. Paxton's article, "The False Gospel of the New Birth," in the letters' section of your lastletters issue. I find it most unfortunate that many "teachers" do not have the correct understanding of the doctrine of grace. Paxton did a good job of exposing just one of the many hundred popular gospels. I only wish that people could understand that there is only one gospel (Gal. 1:6-10), and it is the one God has clearly revealed and the one we will be judged by. If our faith is ever based upon a false gospel, it is a vain faith.
2 Peter 2:3 expresses it clearly: "In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up." Other versions say, "And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you."
When I ponder the many versions of the gospel today, I am reminded of a familiar bit of humor. We laugh about the country farmer being such an easy mark for a swindling salesman from the city. Unfortunately, we cannot laugh about the many trusting souls being robbed of their gift from God. We cannot laugh when we know that people are handing over their souls to religious merchandisers in exchange for counterfeit grace.
C. Kenneth Aspinwall, Evangelist
I have read your December issue on "Righteousness by Faith" (Part 3) carefully. As usual, you are trying to uphold Calvinism by the remark on page 18, where you say, "The fact of the matter is that even the believer is beset by many inner contradictions, as Romans 7:14-25 amply testifies." The fact that the apostle Paul definitely wrote that Romans 7:14-25 was his experience while he was sold under sin proves that it is not the experience of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, as your statement falsely claims. While Paul was sold under sin, yet he had at the same time a respect for the law of God, which proves that he was not "totally depraved." His experience as a Christian began when he was delivered from the bondage of sin by the Lord Jesus Christ, and his subsequent life is narrated in Romans 8, where he says that there was no condemnation after he became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, because he was no longer committing sin. He was no longer a slave to sin but was a free man in Christian liberty.
On page 21 you refer to Abraham's faith, mentioned in Romans 4:1-24, as an example of our faith in the atonement made by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham was justified because he believed God's promise of a multitude of descendants through Isaac, which promise was made before Isaac was born. He had faith that God would do what He said He would do, and this faith was imputed to him as righteousness, by which he was justified before God. Our faith in what was accomplished by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ is imputed to us as justification, for we accept the vicarious sacrifice of Christ as made for us even while we were still sold under sin, as Paul in Romans 7:14-25 said that he was sold as a slave to sin at one time in his life.
In James 2:20-24 we find that Abraham's faith in God, after Isaac was born, was again tested when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. He obeyed the command of God and by his works was justified before God, for his works were what proved his faith in God, just as the works of the believer are what prove his faith in God. In 1 Peter 1:3-9 we find that, as believers, we are kept by the power of God unto the salvation of our souls at the time of the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, like Abraham, we are saved by our faith and works.
Delmar H. Bryant
Not by faith and works, but by faith which works (Gal. 5:6). We are saved by faith alone, but the faith which saves is never alone.—Ed.
Kudos for the excellent article on "Ecumenical Developments between Roman Catholicism and Non-Christian Religions" in your December issue. As a Reformed missionary working in the Far East, I found it timely. Ancestor worship is an accepted practice among Romanists here. Unfortunately, some Protestants have practiced it as well.
Nothing more clearly demonstrates the bankruptcy of a liberalized and universalistic Christendom than its desire for "dialogue" with the East. Such "ecumaniacs" should witness the wasteful extravagances of Buddhist and Taoist festivals here. They should also see the superstitious necromancy and extortion practiced in the name of religion. And they should remember that Confucianism's naive faith in the "superior man" and education (see Meng-tzu) bear part of the blame for the graft-ridden bureaucracies which dominated Imperial China. The lack of a clear understanding of God's law made it easy for self-serving opportunists to rise to the top. If our corrupted Christendom of today is looking for salvation in the East, it had better reread the warnings issued by Hosea and Jeremiah to the syncretistic Israelites of their times.
Still, I don't understand why you should only pick on Romanists, since so many Protestants are also guilty of advocating mutual recognition with the Asian religions. Perhaps the universalism of large segments of modern Protestantism is far more responsible for opening the door to the East than is Rome's traditional doctrine, which, for all its faults, still recognized the exclusiveness of Christ's claim to Lordship (I am speaking of the older Romanism).
Perhaps it is high time that more preachers reemphasized the lostness of man. After all, can the free grace of God offered in Jesus Christ make any sense if it is not viewed against the backdrop of man's true guilt and resultant alienation? This is surely a part of our Reformation heritage which has fallen on perilously hard times. Perhaps you should consider an issue in the future on the lostness of man. Ever since this important scriptural doctrine was discarded by the major denominations, the church's missionary zeal has flagged and the preaching of redemption in Christ has lost its power and conviction.
I am a hard-core five-point Calvinist and naturally disagree with certain things I have read in your journal. Even so, I have still found it helpful. It should be more widely read on the various mission fields to prevent some of the West's theological foibles from becoming too strong.
P. J. Herz, Reformed Missionary