As an evangelical Anglican, I was so encouraged to encounter in the Sept/Oct 1990 issue [Reflections on Roman Catholicism]such a fine defense of the Reformed doctrines of justification, the sacraments, and Holy Scripture. (Might I note here that these doctrines are enshrined in the 39 Articles as well as the Westminster Confession.) I was also encouraged by the presentation of these crucial issues in the context of irenic and intelligent dialogue with Roman Catholics. Keep up the good work.
Rev. C. Craig Schilling
Assistant to Bishop Knight
United Episcopal Church of North America
I was shocked and dismayed to read of Mr. Packer's opinion that the regulative principle of worship was a departure from Calvin's teaching and classified as an innovation of the Puritans (Vol. II, No. 1, "The Puritan Approach to Worship"). While I will readily admit that the Puritans may have added to the clarity of this doctrine, I find that it is an exercise in poor scholarship to assert that Calvin himself did not teach the very same doctrine. In his commentary on Leviticus 10:1, Calvin clearly lays out the regulative principle of worship in discussing the fearful judgment of God upon Nadab and Abihu:
A memorable circumstance is here recorded, from whence it appears how greatly God abominates all the sins whereby the purity of religion is corrupted. Apparently, it was a light transgression to use strange fire for burning incense; and again their thoughtlessness would seem excusable, for certainly Nadab and Abihu did not wantonly or intentionally desire to pollute the sacred things, but, as is often the case in matters of novelty, when they were setting about them too eagerly, their precipitancy led them into error...This, therefore was the reason of such great severity, that the priests should anxiously watch against all profanation. Their crime is specified, viz., that they offered incense in a different way from that which God had prescribed, and consequently, although they may have erred from ignorance, still they were convicted by God's commandment of having negligently set about that which was worthy of greater attention. The "strange fire" is distinguished from the sacred fire which was always burning upon the altar....Now God had forbidden any other fire to be used in the ordinances, in order to exclude all extraneous rites, and to show his detestation of whatever might be derived from elsewhere. Let us learn, therefore, so to attend to God's command as not to corrupt His worship by any strange inventions.
This teaching is identical in spirit to that later refinement which we find in such Puritan classics as Jeremiah Burroughs' Gospel Worship recently republished by Soli Deo Gloria. Mr. Packer cannot escape from the fact that the regulative principle is rooted in and flows out of the very teachings of Calvin.
Further evidence is found in the teachings of Knox who wrote in True and False Worship:
All worshipping, honoring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without His own express commandment, is idolatry. The Mass is invented by the brain of men, without any commandment of God; therefore, it is idolatry.Certainly, Knox is here advocating the exact principle which Mr. Packer would have us believe was the later innovation of the Puritans.
I have benefitted much from the teaching of Mr. Packer and in fact can trace my first enlightenment in gospel truths to his book Knowing God. However, in this matter he is not correct either factually or doctrinally.
Thank you for your magazine. It has many stimulating articles and much food for thought. It seems likely to me that you will live up to your name, and present a true antithesis to much of the thinking of the world system. Even when I disagree with you, I enjoy reading your articles because they are fresh and honest in the desire to present the truth.
I offer my thanks to both Doug Wilson and Robert Simonds for the tone of their debate on the moral permissibility of placing Christian children in public schools. Their gentlemanly demeanor is refreshing.
I can't go so far as Mr. Wilson to say that sending a Christian child to a public school is sin (because I haven't examined the point, not because I believe he's wrong). But I do agree with his assessment of the difference between what the Bible requires in an education and what the public schools provide. Not even Dr. Simonds believes that public education is a Biblical education. That is why I am puzzled by Dr. Simonds' tacit belief that the public education system is even worthwhile. He acknowledges its corrupt state, yet continues to espouse its validity, all the while failing to see that the corruption is the nature of the beast.
The public schools are in their current state of immorality because the providers and patrons of public education are in rebellion against God. Since they are in rebellion, any system or philosophy of education based on God's revealed Word will be rejected, even if it works (and especially if it works). Dr. Simonds responds to the corruption by encouraging Christians to get involved to reform the public schools ("it takes only three out of five school board members to control an entire local system"). Question: if Christians are running for the school board and being honest about their agenda, will they be elected? If Christians are elected and begin to implement a Biblical agenda, will they be re-elected? Public schools will never be truly reformed until the heart of man is reformed. That requires preaching the gospel, not obtaining a seat on the board of Baal High.
Dr. Simonds relates that he and his wife kept very careful track of what their children were taught at public school and then worked with them at home to ground them in the Word of truth. He counsels other parents to do the same. But even if parents are able to use the home hours to correct the false information their children are required to learn during the day, why subject them to the false teaching in the first place? That's like asking your children to digest garbage all day, and then excusing it by saying they get a nutritious meal at dinner. Why not give them real food and real drink all day long?
The public schools are more than a corrupt educational system in need of reform. They are a tax-supported, coerced usurpation of parental responsibility. Heeding Dr. Simonds' call for reform will only turn the public schools into tax-supported, coerced usurpations of parental responsibility run by Christians. Dr. Simonds is a man of obvious energy and talent. If he would apply those gifts to the establishment of private schools founded on the gospel, then real educational reform would be accomplished.
Your periodical is challenging and well written. I pray that you may continue your endeavor with integrity and humility.