The following is my letter to the editor of the Standard Bearer regarding Kortering's article:
<<David J. Engelsma, editor
Grandville, MI 49418
October 6, 1999
Letter to the Editor
Jason Kortering, in his article "Missions and Polemics - the Language to Be Used" (SB, Vol. 76, No. 1) made some concluding statements that need clarification. In talking about the "inclination to err in connection with polemics" (p. 9), Kortering mentions what he calls "the first love radicalism." To illustrate his point, he said, "I have seen this in those who come to the Reformed faith from Arminianism. I have shuddered to see how they treated their home church in the process of leaving. No language was too strong, no judgment too severe."
These statements raise many questions. He talks of the "Reformed faith" in contrast with "Arminianism." Does he consider Arminianism to be just another version of the true faith? From what he said earlier in the article, it seems so: "It is exciting to come to the faith, especially for a person to come to the Reformed faith." What is the difference between "the faith" and "the Reformed faith"? Is Kortering saying that "the Reformed faith" is some kind of higher, more consistent faith than merely "the faith"? Does he think that those who believe in universal atonement - who believe that the difference between heaven and hell is not the work of Christ but is the work of the sinner - have the same kind of faith (but are just a little less consistent) as those in "the Reformed faith"? Does he think that the doctrine of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone - the very gospel of grace - is something that is only believed later in a Christian's life and that a Christian can believe one or more of the doctrines of Arminianism for a time after regeneration?
Kortering has "shuddered" at how the "first love radicals," with their strong language and severe judgment, treated their former Arminian "home church." Over what kind of language and judgment does Kortering shudder? Does he shudder to hear these people say that Arminianism is a damnable heresy? Does he shudder to hear them say that they were lost when they believed what their former church believed? Does he shudder to hear them say that all those who believe in salvation conditioned on the sinner - which includes all who believe even one of the doctrines of Arminianism - are lost and their deeds are evil? Does he shudder to hear them say that their former church is of Satan? Is this the strong language that Kortering abhors?
The Bible contains such strong language. In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:17). All who are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel are going about to establish their own righteousness and have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3). If anyone preaches another gospel, he is accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). If anyone does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, he does not have God (2 John 9). Those churches that deny the truth of the gospel are synagogues of Satan (Revelation 2:9). And Jesus used strong language against the self-righteous religionists of his day, saying that their father was the Devil (John 8:44).
Arminians and any who believe even one of the doctrines of Arminianism do not believe that Christ's work alone is the ground of salvation. They preach another gospel. They do not abide in the doctrine of Christ. Their churches are synagogues of Satan. Their father is the Devil. They are lost, and their deeds are evil. Do these Biblical truths make Kortering shudder? Does he think that those who believe in salvation conditioned on the sinner (which includes all who believe universal atonement) are in "the faith" but have just not yet arrived at the "Reformed faith"?
Does Kortering rejoice with these "first love radicals" that God has saved them out of false religion, or does he tell them that their enemies in their former church are actually their brothers in Christ?
Kortering twice quoted J. Gresham Machen favorably as an example of how Christians should approach polemics. Yet in the same book from which Kortering obtained one of the quotes, Machen said, "Another difference of opinion is that between the Calvinistic or Reformed Theology and the Arminianism which appears in the Methodist church. ... A Calvinist is constrained to regard the Arminian theology as a serious impoverishment of the Scripture doctrine of divine grace; and equally serious is the view which the Arminian must hold as to the doctrine of the Reformed Churches. Yet here again, true evangelical fellowship is possible between those who hold, with regard to some exceedingly important matters, sharply opposing views" (Christianity and Liberalism, pp. 51-52). Machen considered Arminianism to be serious error, but he did not consider Arminians to be lost. He believed that he and Arminians believed the same gospel. Is this what Kortering believes?
I would welcome a response from Mr. Kortering on this life-and-death issue. I am also very interested in where the Protestant Reformed Churches as a denomination stand on this.
Marc D. Carpenter
And just yesterday, I got a response from David Engelsma saying this:
<<October 19, 1999
Dear Mr. Carpenter:
Your letter of October 6 will not be published in the Standard Bearer.
I have forwarded it to the author of the article of which you are critical.
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