Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 12. 5 August 1970
Dear Miss Pinker
Dear Miss Pinker,
I have written a letter to the Editor of the Student Publication Salient regarding your article on the Exclusive Brethren. Now, in fairness to you, I am taking the liberty of writing to you personally in order to amplify my thoughts on your article and to state my reason for having written. To have written at length publicly would not have been to profit, as strictly speaking these are matters which do not concern the public, be it the student section or otherwise. But your having written at all concerns me personally as having withdrawn from Exclusive Brethren, and I felt that the matter should be met immediately. There are, I believe, one or two others with a like concern.
In dealing with your article, I should like to do so on two counts: first the factualness or otherwise of its contents, and second the nature of the article itself—its object, its effect, and its spirit.
"I would to God that there were more genuine Puritans in Christendom today, for in the past it was from them that every genuine blessing, resulting in blessing to thousands of souls, sprang."
You commence by labelling the Exclusive Brethren (henceforth called E/B) as one of the strangest sects of all time. This is surely a gross exaggeration if one takes into consideration all the religious movements that have ever been, and though I do not know a great deal about the many hundreds of religious extant, with all their various aberrations and deviations, I am positive that one does not have to look very far to find sects far stranger than the E/B. One has only to examine some of the pseudo-Christian sects of the U.S.A. to find many that would make Exclusivism appear as strict orthodoxy by comparison. After all, the meetings at least of E/B would be easily recognizable to the majority of Christians as being Christian in character and content even if somewhat unfamiliar. The "stark puritanism" claimed in the foreword to your article (and I deny that it is puritanism) is certainly nothing new in the annals of Christendom. Puritanism of a far starker and more genuine kind was to be found among the Baptists, Quakers, and Independents of the 17th century, and subsequently among the Methodists of the 18th. Such puritanism can still be found today among Mennonites and Old Believers (or River Brethren), but more especially in the Underground Church of Communist Lands where Christianity is a life or death matter. Both then and now, worldly pleasures were, and are, eschewed by those Christians in a manner that you ascribe to Exclusive Brethren alone. I would to God that there were more genuine Puritans in Christendom today, for in the past it was from them that every genuine revival, resulting in blessing to thousands of souls, sprang. There has never been a real spiritual revival from among the liberal, lukewarm factions of the church. One look at the E/B's homes, cars, businesses, meeting halls and respectable indulgences (including alcohol!) leaves no doubt in one's mind that they are a far cry from the puritans of yesteryear or Eastern Europe. I greatly fear that the sort of puritanism you speak of can more easily be traced to the 23rd of Matthew.
You go on to trace the E/B track to J.N. Darby, but I think you do less than justice to that honoured servant of the Lord. It appears that you lay the responsibility for the present state of one small section of "Brethren" fairly and squarely on the shoulders of Mr Darby and his translation of the Bible. You quite overlook the fact that since Mr Darby's death there have been at least four major cleavages among 'Brethren', and that the present E/B are but a small faction compared with other companies who would also claim to be 'Exclusive' in outlook, in contrast to 'Open'. I too have been brought up in the E/B and can understand your outlook, because we were always taught to believe without question that we were the 'Mainline' group. In N.Z. one finds this easy to believe, but it is not so. At the cleavage of 1890 the great majority remained with the Continental party (and one must remember that the work on the Continent was far more extensive than it was in England) and this is still the case today.
"Those men were reckless maniacs who gloried in the power they wielded, and things are not very different today."
|1.||That J.N.D. had no intention of making a version for public use but of giving "The student of Scripture, who cannot read the original, as close a translation as possible." Had he intended a version for public use he would have worked differently though not less accurately.|
|2.||William Kelly, G.V. Wigram and F.W. Grant all made their own translations for their own use. These translations agree substantially with Mr Darby's.|
|3.||Scholars at the British Museum (the home of World Authorities on biblical manuscripts) have pronounced J.N.D's translation as one of the most accurate ever produced.|
|4.||J.N.D's French translation is the official protestant translation in France.|
|5.||J.N.D. was asked to serve on the panel of Revisers for the English Revised Version of 1881. He declined on account of there being modernists on the panel.|
|6.||A brief scrutiny of the better modern translations, and the Interlinear Greek/English N.T. shows how rightly J.N.D. differed from the Authorized Version in many important passages.|
Therefore to base the perversions of modern E/B doctrine on J.N.D's translation is wholly mischievous and without warrant. It is a well known fact that recently the task of altering J.N.D's translation to bring it into line with current ministry was undertaken by the E/B and the 'revised' version is awaited.
You describe G.R. Cowell's reign as benign and lethargic. It is perfectly obvious that you never knew G.R. Cowell. I did personally. Mr Cowell was every bit as concerned as Jim Taylor (appeared to be) about the state that Brethren were getting into, only his way of tackling the problem was different. He believed in the power of the Holy Spirit working inwardly to drive out what was wrong, and above all he believed in displaying the spirit of his Master in the way he handled his brethren. Lethargic is the last word you could apply to him. If I thought you were interested I could give you some of his 1960-1963 ministry to read that would soon change your views.
Some of my objections are relatively minor ones, but I said I would take them in order. You speak of Hales and Gadsden setting Exclusive businesses on their feet. What utter Rat! I worked for one such business and I know that but for the collapse in 1965, that business and very many others would have gone into receivership before the year was out. Those men were reckless maniacs who gloried in the power they wielded, and things are not very different today. Jim Taylor's intervention, though clearly allowed by God, was nevertheless prompted by his realization of the threat to his own position. The things that had actually been going on did not concern him one bit, as witnessed by the fact that they are still going on today, and by the fact that Hales and Gadsden were reinstated though unrepentant. Believe me, the 'system' still exists today in an equally virulent, though a rather more subtle, form.
Among the prohibitions you mention is the non-partaking of alcohol. Can it possibly be that you have been in the E/B until 1969 and really believe this to be the case? When Jim Taylor repeatedly appears in public the worse for drink, and is known to be an alcoholic? When the partaking of strong drink is actually made a test of fellowship—many having been withdrawn from for refusing to take it? When prominent men in diverse localities have large and expensive cocktail cabinets? It is quite incredible to me that you should make the statement you do. As for the other prohibitions, there are many Christians in other denominations that do not smoke, dance, gamble, drink, dance, go to theatres, or use make-up.
The university: 'The appalling moral decline among young people in today's permissive society should be enough to cause any right-thinking Christian to shrink in horror from a place that is in the very forefront of such a decline."
Prayer and fasting are mentioned as having always been important rituals in the Exclusives' life. This is a most misleading statement, particularly as regards fasting. Prayer is the very life breath of all true Christians and weekly prayer meetings have been a feature of Christian life for centuries. Family prayer was certainly not the invention of E/B for references to it can be found in the literature of most Christian nations. Fasting, however, has certainly not always been an important ritual of Exclusivism. You yourself mention only two instances and you cannot remember one since 1964! But fasting, like prayer, has been a feature of positive Christianity for centuries, and indeed the precedent is found in Scripture. The Apostle Paul fasted often (2 Cor. 11:27) and the Lord Jesus fasted. On one occasion the Lord said, 'This kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting," so here we have divine authority for both. Doubtless, though, the Lord takes account of our motive in fasting and surely its efficacy is affected by this. In Acts 23 some Jews fasted and bound themselves by a curse not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul, But their plot was overthrown. Likewise the Pharisee in Luke 18:12 fasted to no avail, but in Acts 13:2 & 3 the fasting was to great profit.
"Immorality, drug taking, insubordination, free expression, atheism and other forms of wickedness are basic ingredients of student life."
As for women being in subjection, it is clearly the teaching of Scripture and whoever abrogates it, abrogates the Scriptures. Likewise in respect of filial respect and obedience to parents.
There are Christians in many denominations who are not enthusiastic about their children going to University, though they might not actually forbid it. The appalling moral decline among young people in today's permissive society should be enough to cause any right-thinking Christian to shrink in horror from a place that is in the very forefront of such a decline. Immorality, drug taking, insubordination, free expression, atheism and other forms of wickedness are basic ingredients of student life-acknowledged to be so even by non-Christians—and so only Christians who are well-grounded in the faith could possibly withstand the many temptations. Thank God, there are such people who seem to come through relatively unscratched particularly in their leisure time is spent in a Christian environment, but I believe that young Exclusives are so ill-established in the faith, and therefore so ill-equipped to face the world, that it is just as well that they do avoid university life.
I will pass over the account of your own case, not knowing the details of it, but I would like to say just this: that to my mind you are quite typical of many young E/B of today. While you were in the system you appeared outwardly correct, and I suppose no one would have doubted, or even questioned, your conversion. Indeed, at one time you and your sister used to be pointed out as models to other young sisters. I suppose you wore the right hairstyle and the right expression on your face, and said the right things; at any rate people used to go into raptures whenever you appeared at fellowship meetings, and fond fathers of daughters would express the pious hope that their offspring might grow up 'like the Pinker girls'. But alas! as in other instances, immediately you were out of the cage you showed how unreal it all was. At least one can be thankful that you have come to reality and are no longer deceiving either yourself or other people.
In speaking of wedding meetings you say that the virtues of chastity are enumerated and the code of conduct for a good life is set out. Now just what is objectionable to you in this? Do you expect the praises of unchastity to be sung, and the practices of vicious living eulogised? Even apart from Christianity, why should a bride not be a virgin, and why should a couple not endeavour to build a life partnership on decent principles? Why indeed do you wish to scorn such an ideal—is not the world full enough of infidelity, indulgence and insecurity? And married life is not 'a bed of roses' as all married couples know, though I suspect that the brother who said so (I was present) was merely seizing an opportunity to pronounce his own domestic 'malheur'.
Though not an important point, you make the most dumbfounding contradiction when speaking of Jim Taylor's ministry. On page eleven you state, "The most important recorded meetings are those of Jim Taylor, but these are censored by him before distribution so that radical ideas are carried by word of mouth rather than on paper to the rest of the world." Then a few lines further on, still speaking of Jim Taylor's ministry, you say, "As his works are no longer edited, but printed direct from tape etc." I think you might at least be consistent!
"To prepare himself for a day 'in the world' at work, an Exclusive reads a passage from the Bible as soon as he rises and prays for help." And so he should—and so should you if you still call yourself a Christian. But how little you know of other Christians besides Exclusives! My experience has been that Christians (real ones) outside the E/B are far more given to prayer and Bible reading than present day E/B. It is a pity that, before throwing everything overboard, you did not get acquainted with some of the saints of other persuasions. You will probably find there are some in your own faculty who display the very features that you effect to despise.
When you come to the subject of the E/B hymnbook you betray an alarming ignorance. To say that the hymns are carefully selected only from writings of Exclusives, past or present, is a downright lie; and William Cowper is certainly not the only exception. Perronet, Conder, Hart, Montgomery, Newton, Kent, Gerhardt, T. Kelly, Robinson, Hutton, Bonar, Watts, Wesley, Bernard of Clairvaux, Zinzendorf, Havergal, Bliss, Haweis, Toplady, Wreford, and Spafford are all names of those who have not even the remotest connection with Brethren of any sort.
"On the subject of The Rapture, and Christ's Second Coming, I can scarcely trust myself to answer your objections dispassionately . . ."
On the subject of The Rapture, and Christ's Second Coming, I can scarcely trust myself to answer your objections dispassionately—indeed it would be impossible to do so. The Second Coming of Christ is as accurately and definitely foretold in Scripture as was His First Coming. The Blessed Lord Himself spoke of it, and for the Apostles it was their one abiding theme throughout their epistles. It was the distinct hope of the early church, and it is the bright hope of many thousands of Christians outside of Exclusivism today. Indeed, if the E/B really cherished this hope there would be more evidence of it in their lives. Why do they build large and costly halls and luxurious homes? Why do they amass wealth and property? Why are they not rather like the primitive Christians who were outcasts in the earth, but to whom the Hope was very real?
The Apostle Paul said, "If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men the most miserable", and the Apostle John closes his last writing with the words: "He that testifies these things says, 'Yea, I come quickly.' Amen; Come, Lord Jesus."
And this final point leads me into the second part of my letter, and I intend to make it very brief. It is apparent to any reader who has any knowledge of Christian things that your article is not an attack on E/B but on Christianity itself. You are not ridiculing the writings of E/B, but the Holy Scriptures; you are not caricaturing Jim Taylor, but the Lord of Glory.
"As for your motive in writing, it is not my place to judge motives, but I will tell you how it appears. It looks like simple revenge and spite."
As for your motive in writing, it is not my place to judge motives, but I will tell you how it appears. It looks like simple revenge and spite. You have been sickened (and justifiably to a degree) by the aberrations of Exclusivism and you have been personally frustrated in your plans for leading your own life, but in the process you have confounded what is real with what is false and condemned it all out of hand. Like many others you have become disillusioned with Christianity instead of just with the system that is a deviation from it. In writing as you have done you will win the admiration of some and will acquire a sort of kudos or 'mana' with your fellows but what is this compared with what you may have acquired in God's estimation?
The article has been written, and nothing can unwrite it. You may, and I hope will, be led to renounce it sooner or later. Such an action would require courage, humility, and honesty of heart and purpose, but you would have God on your side. If you should wish to discuss what I have written either here, or to the Editor, I shall be only too happy to meet you.
Yours faithfully in the Lord,