The Mail Room
Letters from Volume 38
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!
I have been a reader of your journal for many months and have enjoyed much of every issue. However, I am literally shocked that you would print such false doctrine as that which appears in Geoffrey J. Paxton's article, "The False Gospel of the New Birth " in your June issue. Please remind Mr. Paxton that the "leading world evangelist" is correct when he says that "The greatest news in the universe is that we can be born again." If you can show me greater news than the good news that Jesus saves, what is it?
My friends, I remind you that, without the new birth in the human heart/soul by trusting in Christ as Saviour, there is no life. And believe me, this is a change in the inside of an individual which he allows God to make through His power of and leadership of the Holy Spirit. The good news of Jesus and what He can and will do for all who repent and trust in Him is not Roman Catholicism but pure Christianity, pure truth and the only way to God.
If you are intending to continue to print such unscriptural material in your journal, please remove my name from your mailing list. I don't want to be caught with such in my home or church.
Syl Moore, Baptist Pastor
Sir: I have enjoyed immensely a number of your more recent articles.
Regarding Geoffrey Paxton's article, "The False Gospel of the New Birth" (June): Although I cannot accept his view of comprehensive regeneration as applicable during the age of grace, I do feel that he has developed a good polemic against the present born-again, experience-centered gospel. One further observation that he could have given on John 3—which gives added weight to the idea that the new birth centers on external realities rather than inward subjective experience—is that "born again" contextually would read better "born from above." This is not only a valid translation, but it fits better with what Jesus is telling Nicodemus.
Your journal is much needed in the evangelical vacuum of our day.
John P. Cwynar, Baptist Pastor
I just read your June issue and greatly appreciated all three clear articles, but especially Geoffrey Paxton's article on "The False Gospel of the New Birth." It is so easy to get caught up in the experience that we forget its foundation—Christ Himself.
I find it amusing to hear people talk of "born-again Christians" as if one could be a Christian without being born again, or be born again without being a Christian. Using the two words side by side is redundant as well as confusing.
Tim Vettrus, Lutheran Pastor
I found G. J. Paxton's article on "The False Gospel of the New Birth" quite stimulating, but I did not think point four was quite on target. Paxton mentioned the long-standing controversy over the relation of faith and regeneration. Yet he never really dealt with that issue, although his statement, "Faith is the chief work of the regenerating Spirit," would seem to imply that regeneration precedes faith—which I had not thought to be the position of the journal.
David R. Black, Presbyterian Pastor
Please cancel my subscription to your journal and don't send it to me any more. After the appearance of the article by Mr. Paxton on "The False Gospel of the New Birth," I do not want your journal to even cross my desk. Obviously, Mr. Paxton does not know what the "new birth" is all about. When Jesus told Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again," He explained the difference between the physical and the spiritual birth. Without the new birth one is not saved regardless of what the writer of your article may think.
I have enjoyed your journal for quite some time, but I cannot accept this kind of heresy, nor will I support any publication that spreads it. I am praying that Mr. Paxton will find Christ and experience the new birth..
Quinton Montgomery, Baptist Pastor
It is refreshing to read some meaty apologetics rather than the mushy diplomacy in which so many magazines seem to excel. I heartily agree with Geoffrey Paxton's article (June) stating that the "gospel" of the new birth is classical Roman Catholicism, and it is stimulating to find that your journal does not hold back from testing the "sacred cows" of the Christian scene.
A year ago I read Billy Graham's "How to Be Born Again" (as if man could be taught to cause his own birth!), and, on reading his prescribed steps (repentance, confession, etc.) which man must perform in order to be born again, I was greatly saddened to think that many people would probably think that this was the New Testament gospel. It struck me that it was indeed the Roman message of salvation by one's own efforts, making faith the cause of salvation rather than the result (gift) of God's saving grace.
Many will probably accuse Mr. Paxton of "splitting hairs" and being unnecessarily controversial. But false gospels can come within a hair's breadth of the truth (how else can the elect, if possible, be deceived?), and the splitting of hairs (as in the controversy of the Reformation) may bring light to millions.
I concur with the basic thrust of Geoffrey J. Paxton's article, "The False Gospel of the New Birth," in your June issue. The emphasis today is clearly too often on subjective trivia rather than objective realities. There is a serious flaw in the article, however. Paxton said:
"But although being born again is a definite experience with a real beginning, both the Scriptures and the Reformers emphasize the continuing nature of regeneration. Hence we may speak of 'continuing regeneration.' Calvin rightly taught that being born again is a lifelong process."
The only occurrences of "born again" In the New Testament are in John 3:3, 7 and 1 Peter 1:3,23. Without exception all four references view the new birth as an occurrence at a point In time—an aorist passive Indicative in John 3:3, aorist passive infinitive in John 3:7, aorist active participle in 1 Peter 1:3, and a perfect passive participle in 1 Peter 1:23. Clearly, the new birth has its source in God (1 Peter 1:3) acting by the Spirit (John 3) and the Word (1 Peter 1:23), occurs at a point In time (as seen by the aorists), and has abiding results (as seen by the perfect tense).
Your provocative journal is frequently seriously weakened by a lack of exegetical evidence to support your quotations from Reformers. In this case biblical data proves that your unsupported statement is dead wrong. Don't forget that Calvin was no more inspired or authoritative than is Billy Graham. The only authority to correct either one is Scripture.
Jim Harris, Pastor
1. Although the Bible nowhere states as such that the new birth is continuing, this is easy to deduce from Scripture when we understand the true nature of regeneration. The concept of regeneration is far more extensive in the New Testament than is the actual occurrence of the word. Re-creation, new man, new life, etc., all speak to the new birth. It is obvious from the usage of these and similar terms that regeneration, or the new birth, is continuing.
2. Salvation itself is very broad, including both justification and sanctification. The Bible speaks of believers as being saved (present continuous tense) (1 Cor. 1:18). If we are still being saved, we are still being regenerated. Also, 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we are being changed from one degree of glory to another.
3. Christ speaks of regeneration in a consummative and cosmic fashion in Matthew 19:28. This regeneration, which is still to come, obviously includes the believer. The apostle Paul speaks of salvation in the same way (Rom. 5:9— "we shall be saved from wrath through Him"), and thus I believe it is legitimate to speak of salvation and regeneration as being coterminous.
4. Note the emphasis given by John Calvin in his Institutes (Bk. 3, chap. 3, sec. 9): "In this way it pleases the Lord fully to restore whomsoever he adopts into the inheritance of light. And indeed this restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year, but through continual and sometimes even slow advances God wipes out in his elect the corruptions of the flesh, cleanses them of guilt, consecrates them to himself as temples, renewing all their minds to true purity, that they may practice repentance throughout their lives and know that this warfare will end only at death. "—G.J. Paxton
It amazed me to read the article by Professor George Eldon Ladd, "The Kingdom of God," in your June issue. It amazed me because for so many years I've read from your publication articles that stressed justification through Christ, sanctification through Christ, reconciliation through Christ, and the full and sufficient grace of God shown through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. And then along came the June issue stating that "The New Testament divides redemptive history into two ages: this age of mortality, death and sin, and the age to come, when God's rule will be perfectly realized in all the world. The two ages are divided by the coming of God in the person of the Son of Man."—p. 9. And, "Jesus had come as the suffering Son of Man to lay down His life to redeem men. In the future He would come as the glorious Son of Man to establish God's reign in the world."—p. 11
This was my reaction a week ago when I read Mr. Ladd's article, and is still my reaction: The first statement is without adequate evidence, being a mere assumption, and the second statement makes the redeeming work of our Lord Jesus Christ secondary! If not, why not? Let me add, the gospels are not kingdom-centered as much as they are cross-centered. Man was in need of salvation from sin—he was not in need of an earthly kingdom.
From the biblical evidence, one must conclude that the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven is the New Testament church, the church of Christ Jesus. There is no kingdom to come because it is already here in the form of "spiritual Israel," the church. I do wish to say that Mr. Ladd has done much good in apologetics so far as the resurrection and other things are concerned. And yet the premillennial doctrine is utterly unsound and false. I'm sorry to see you print this false doctrine in your journal because of its absurd implications and because it denies the sufficiency of the grace of God.
Travis D. Irwin, Church of Christ Evangelist
I have long been suspicious of your publication. Now in your June issue you carry an article by Dr. George Eldon Ladd. Dr. Ladd believes that the Bible asserts some falsehoods and is not inerrant. You have three sola's on the Present Truth cover, but not sola Scriptura.
Gordon H. Clark
Thank you for your March issue. It arrived at a most opportune time, as we are being subjected to one of Billy Graham's campaigns in our area. I have felt for some time that his decisional regenerational theology is far removed from the glorious gospel of salvation by grace through faith in the blood of the everlasting covenant shed on the cross for the election of grace.
I have found the articles in your journal a source of strength and comfort at a time when many of my evangelical friends feel that I am in opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit.
John A. Scott
Drift toward Rome
A letter in the "Editorial Introduction" of your March issue was signed by M. Dean Stephens, an "Episcopalian Bishop" from North Carolina. The "Episcopalian" church he is bishop of is different from the Protestant Episcopal Church U.S.A. I think the difference should be noted.
But the difference I noted most of all was how frankly theological and confessional the letter was—how unlike most bishops and clergy in my own Episcopal church. For us, theology is mostly avoided as potentially divisive. We would rather divide over prayer books and ordination of women and homosexuals. The Episcopal church and Protestantism as a whole have lost and sorely need to return to justification by God's grace alone in Christ alone. Our drift toward Rome is accelerating yearly.
Bill Howden, Episcopal Clergyman
The Shaking of Adventism
Sir: Your journal is by far the best and most instructive publication that comes to my desk. In the "Editorial Introduction" of your March issue, you recommended a book, The Shaking of Adventism, by Geoffrey J. Paxton (Baker Book House), and it was a real blessing. I wish you would have a book review section and recommend other books from time to time.
Miles Lee Vines, Baptist Pastor
Justification and Forgiveness
Geoffrey J. Paxton's article, "Justification in the Lutheran Confessions and John Calvin," in your March issue, makes much of the objectivity of the gospel, and rightly so. No matter how the Reformers compromised objective truth to express subjective positions, objective truth was not changed. Saying that justification equates with the forgiveness of sins does not make it so.
There is no salvation in a dead Jesus (1 Cor. 15:17), yet there could be no salvation without His death. Without the resurrection of Jesus, man would still be hopelessly lost. In the same sense, there is no justification in the forgiveness of sins, yet there could be no justification without the forgiveness of sins.
At the moment Jesus completed saying from the cross, "It is finished," forgiveness of the sins committed prior to the cross and cessation of imputing sins to man became an accomplished fact (Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:19). In the cross God arbitrarily adjusted (reconciled) all men to His standard of legally being without chargeable sin. However, the cross only removed the sins without removing the results of sin. All men remained spiritually dead in Adam (1 Cor. 15:22) and would so remain until born again (John 3:3, 6). The sin issue as it relates to salvation was resolved at the cross, a fact which left men in their lost state but saveable.
Now, thanks to the marvelous love and grace of God, His Son, not man's sins, is the only issue in salvation. That is the ministry of reconciliation that we are given to proclaim by 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.
Jack S. McMichael
Hoping against Hope
I continue to be blessed by much of the material in your journal. I will look forward with great interest to the upcoming issue on election mentioned in the letters section of your March issue—hoping against hope that you will correct the very faulty hypothesis (which shows a certain drift to a comfortable companionship with neo-orthodoxy, e.g., James Daane) which you postulated in your September issue on "Election."
Of late I have often wondered why you omitted the fifth "solely" from the four you included from the Reformation in the Present Truth masthead—that is, soli Deo gloria (solely to God's glory). I am sure this is the purpose for which you are working, and I believe it would strengthen the image of that purpose to see it stated.
Keep up the good work. Perhaps you will yet come to the whole revelation of Reformation truth which I believe is best expressed in the structure of Calvinistic doctrine. It was your ministry which brought me to my present persuasion. I shall always be grateful to you.
C. Robert Bateman, Reformed Minister
"The Rock of Offense"
Your December issue is at hand with its chapter 6 of your "Righteousness by Faith" series, "Imputed Righteousness: The Rock of Offense." Luther's words on page 15 are very revealing. It is evident that this great and holy man saw and believed all the promises of God relative to all that God had accomplished in Christ for his salvation. But he seemingly did not comprehend the promises which have to do with all that God would accomplish in him as a new man in Christ. He did not understand that Christ and His righteousness is an impartation and not an imputation. Luther's "as if" doctrine was the outcome of his own futile and Romish effort to be all that God requires through his monkish life pattern. He decided that all his efforts were futile, so Someone else had to keep the law in his stead by imputation.
Out of Luther's concept of what saving faith is has come a Pandora's box of half-truths, non-truths and a sinning Christianity, embraced by a multitudinous throng of sinning believers. The doctrine of imputed righteousness within the context of Luther's teaching has become a most powerful tool in the hands of the enemy of men's souls to keep believers still in the shackles of original sin. Substitutionary imputation is only a step above antinomianism—and a very short step at that. It denies the power of God to create a new man in Christ, "created in righteousness and true holiness." It is futile to say that a believer is a new man in Christ if Paul's "old man" of sin is still uncrucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6).
Luther should have taken a long look at God's new man instead of throwing in the sponge to the old man. He should have understood that nothing "in Christ" can be full of sin (2 Cor. 5:17). Has God ever created anything sinful? The new man in Christ is God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10).
Substitutionary imputation Implies that God's workmanship is faulty. Christ never came to be in union with sin. He came to create a new man and bring that new man into union with Him.
Mel E. DePeal, Minister
God's work in Christ is complete and is ours by faith. God's work in our hearts by the Holy Spirit is begun in conversion, carried forward in continual sanctification, and completed at glorification. Until that day our completeness is found only at God's right hand. Please don't confuse what we have in heaven with what we have on earth.—Ed.
Sir: I have been receiving your journal for the last four years, and I must tell you how helpful I find it both in my work as a minister of the United Church and also as a constant student of theology. The articles are well thought out and bring to light many interesting facts. I was most impressed with the articles on the development of interfaith dialogue. This is an area of deep concern for me.
Robert Kelly Johnson, Minister
I have read your December issue, especially the article, "Ecumenical Developments between Roman Catholicism and Non-Christian Religions." It was very well done and really gave valuable information about how Rome will go to any extent to promote Romanism. Luther and the other Reformers were right when they called Romanism "Satan's masterpiece."
I really appreciate your dogmatic stand against Rome, and my constant prayer is that more Christians will see the Church of Rome as she is and take a biblical stand against her.
I have indeed enjoyed receiving your journal. It has touched some very vital issues of which I have been grateful to see and read. I trust that you will keep up the good work.
Peter Hewitt, Baptist Pastor
I do not agree with everything in your publication but have been greatly blessed with the central purpose of your journal to clearly set forth justification, redemption and sanctification.
Austin Meekins, Minister