Recently, I have been soundly scolded in a lengthy article on Peter Ditzel’s website both for my beliefs and for allegedly misrepresenting those of the web-master with ‘sarcasm’ and ‘verbal violence’. This article was chiefly, it appears, a reaction to my refutation of Ditzel’s criticism of my doctrine of justification. Several years after writing this rebuttal, Ditzel sent me two personal letters demanding an apology from my refusing to accept his version of what I believe on the grounds that he held his severe criticisms to be just. Indeed, he described my defense of my views in the most depreciating language. Now brother Ditzel has published, without prior notification, some of our correspondence, including a letter I said he may publish and several which were responses to his further accusations which were of a private nature between Ditzel and myself before God. Their publication was a breach of trust, especially as the text was not given as received but interspersed with huge notes telling the reader how he should interpret my very private letters. Furthermore, Ditzel had published private living-room talks of mine to intimate friends without my permission and knowledge which were not meant for the general public. Again, this was a great breach of Christian decorum. These, recordings, he tells his readers, he will now drop from his site but retain my private correspondence and his essays on my doctrine of justification. As Ditzel has now refused repeatedly to accept any further attempts on my side to heal the breach with him and his site which has occurred through these misunderstandings, I am turning to my Bibliographia Evangelica readers to inform them of this predicament as they have, with myself, awaited a more positive reaction from Brother Ditzel. I cannot take up all his accusations as they are immense but I shall deal with those which show misrepresentations rather than differences in theology. Actually, I thought such a method superfluous between two brethren but every time I announce my wish that Ditzel should peacefully explain himself and allow me to explain myself in a joint-undertaking, he says he does not want to debate nor hear my explanations. He insists, however, on  repeating his own points, though he objects to my taking the same freedom.

Brother Peter claims:

‘New Focus seems to be geared to a Baptist readership.’

‘Dr. Ella often attributed to all New Covenant Theologians minor teachings that are held by only individuals among them; Dr. Ella was approaching the subject, not from the viewpoint of another Baptist, but from a Reformed/Covenant Theology perspective, something I found disturbing for a magazine that otherwise seemed to be catering to Baptists.’

‘Dr. Ella seemed to be unaware that New Covenant Theology has its roots in historic Particular Baptist theology and is thus closer to the teachings of New Focus‘s other writers than it is to the Reformed Theology Dr. Ella was espousing.’

     Here, Ditzel’s defence, as he has also argued elsewhere, is that his brand of Covenant Theology is the true Baptist faith and those who do not agree with him are ipso facto non-Baptists and have no business debating with Baptists. He also claims that a major Baptist writer disagrees strongly with the aims and intentions of the NF, contradicting these flat out. Needless to say, he has misunderstood and misrepresented this Baptist writer as much as he has misunderstood and misrepresented me.

     I have been with New Focus from the start and was a writer for Focus which gave rise to it. Not a single issue has gone out without carrying one to three articles from my pen. Thus Ditzel’s idea that the bulk of NF writings are geared towards Baptists only and not for all Christians falls to the ground and contradicts the aims of the magazine written on the inside cover of each issue. So, too, though Brother Ditzel has mentioned several NF writers who happen to be Baptists, some only writing occasionally, their articles were accepted for their quality not their denominational preferences. They have never attempted to use NF as a ‘Baptist Platform’. Indeed, the number of articles coming from non-Baptist men and women are very numerous. What one can say is that the magazine represents the very Protestant Reformed position which Ditzel says he rejects, though he misapplies the nomenclature as will be illustrated below. Both Don Fortner, the brother to whom Ditzel bears false witness, and I, reject the so-called Protestant Reformed Theology as described by Ditzel but not the true Protestant Reformed Theology to which Peter Meney, Don Fortner and I adhere. We renounce Rome and believe, not just the Five Points, but all the Biblical doctrines of grace. However, contrary to this idea that NF is a chiefly Baptist magazine, Ditzel also complains that New Focus is split down the middle. He thus wishes somehow to keep his cake and eat it. I suggest the split-thinking is Ditzel’s who wishes only to cause disunity amongst the brethren for reasons obviously not declared on his website.

     For instance, Ditzel insists that Don Fortner does not believe what the NF says of its commitments on its inside cover. As Don Fortner is NF’s most prolific and long time-serving writer next to myself, what is Ditzel trying to do but to set brother against brother?  If Don and I get on well with each other why should that ‘disturb’ Ditzel? I object to third parties who strive to break up friendships. Furthermore, other NF writers have criticised Don’s views such as his Gap Theory and I have been taken to task for my views on evangelism and my lenience concerning Archbishop Laud where I pointed out that he stood on friendly terms with many Puritans and, like Charles I, chose Puritans as his chaplains. So, what? We are a Christian newspaper with appropriate give and take, not a party-political propaganda organ for muzzled writers which describes Ditzel’s attempts to gain influence in the churches via his web-site. So, too, the readership of a magazine fluctuates and so do the writers. Some of us are now aging and will soon be called to higher quarters. Ditzel says he reserves the right to alter his views so why deny it of his brethren? As far as I know Ditzel has not offered NF an article for publication, though he sent a letter of complaint concerning me to the editor which he now discloses on his site.

     Furthermore, the founder of Focus was not a Baptist but it was my personal suggestion to him as one who loves Peter Meney as my closest friend and brother, that he who was then the Editor of the Evangelical Times should take on the editorship of New Focus. There was nobody, and still is nobody who could perform the work better. Not having the alarming denominational narrowness, intolerance, prejudice and bigotry of Peter Ditzel, I was happy to recommend my dear friend Peter Meney for the task. Happily, not sharing Peter Ditzel’s corseted path, Peter Meney took on the task. Thereafter, he has always been happy to print my works, never ever rejecting one. Peter eventually became the pastor of a fine little church at Egglesburn which had formerly had Methodist leanings but the members lovingly placed themselves under Peter’s ministry. The church is now officially ‘Baptist’ but has a clause in the deeds saying it is open to Christians in general. I have been most happy to worship there on many occasions. As hinted above, the inner cover leaf of the magazine reveals what the paper stands for and which all contributors accept. Obviously Denominationalism is not one of the points recommended. It is an expression of the Protestant Reformed Faith which Ditzel constantly criticises rightly as being mine but which Ditzel, equally repeatedly defines falsely, mistaking it for the so-called ‘Covenant Theology’ of the brief Presbyterian period of political power between 1643-48. The editor of the NF, as I myself, has repeatedly condemned the narrow Denominationalism which has sadly fettered Ditzel who has changed his theology radically over the years and appears to be changing it still. For instance, Ditzel now speaks of the Covenant of Grace, a term denied until recently by all NCT adherents. So Ditzel, because the Christian world does not follow him, finds the tolerant and brotherly attitude displayed in the NF, ‘disturbing’. Perhaps he really needs to be ‘disturbed’ here, indeed awakened with a bang!

     Peter (Ditzel) takes me to task for dealing with NCT followers as if they all believed the same things. This is false. I have repeatedly pointed out that what goes under the title ‘New Covenant Theology is a very motley crew indeed. Indeed, I am a New Covenant Theologian myself, though Peter will have nothing to do with me as I do not carry his colours. Nor does he give me any support when I review NCT practices with which he disagrees as much as I do. The trouble is that when I try to separate the NCT men into various groups, though they criticise one another when together, I am immediately told that I have nothing to do with the matter and have no business disagreeing with them as I am not of their brotherhood.

     Furthermore, Peter continually charges me with being a Covenant Theologian as per the Presbyterians of the Usurpation. I have constantly denied this fiction and pointed out that the Two Separate Covenant teaching of the Presbyterians is a break with the faith of the Scriptures and with our Reformers. The two covenant teaching of the NCT is merely a development of Presbyterian thinking. The Presbyterians at the WA were influenced mostly by Rutherford who based his revolutionary Enlightenment views on the analytical logic of Aristotle and the Philosophy of Plato (See Rutherford’s Lex Rex). However, though I have given Peter the reasons for the faith that is within me a number of times, he merely denies that it is there and strangely calls my defence ‘sarcasm and ‘verbal violence’. He now even accuses me of ‘fratricide’. Indeed, whenever Peter goes over the top with his wild accusations, he gives me the blame for it! When I say I am Reformed, I thus mean I believe in the historical Reformation and not in the Counter Reformation of the Presbyterians and their military slaughter. Remember that the term ‘Protestant’ was given by the Presbyterians not to those who condemned Rome but to all Non-Presbyterians in general. Here Ditzel might care to study the ‘Puritan-Protestant’ controversy of the Commonwealth period. He might also read how the Usurpers pleaded with the Scots to send their mighty army into England to enforce the Word of God and the disastrous shackles of the Solemn League and Covenant onto the freedom-loving English people and set up their case-law (Sharia) system. Well did our Reformers, both British and Continental, protest that Cartwright and Travers, influenced by the Hyper-Lutheran and Hyper-Calvinist Legalists at Heidelberg, represented ‘Rome masquerading under a new name’. I see Ditzel’s inability to take criticism and his bitter intolerance as a downgrading of even this downgrade.

     Concerning Peter’s re-writing of history associating the Particular Baptists with his own individual brand of NCT mysteries; it is so trite, it is not worth commenting on. If one wishes to know what the British Particular Baptists believed, please read my well documented works rather than Ditzel’s empty bluff. I have defended the British Particular Baptists, especially against the Fullerites, in my writings perhaps more than any living author. What has Ditzel produced but misrepresentations? Anyway, many of the NCT people I know follow the Fullerites in their law and duty-faith teaching which the PBs rejected, so how come Ditzel breaks a lance for the PBs? Is it to try and keep himself in favour with fine Christians whom he seeks to win over?

Brother Peter says:

‘I am also serving notice that, following his absurd accusations that I am a Marcionite heretic and that I attempted (purposely tried) to distort his doctrine of justification (both accusations are in this article), I am finished having any contact with Dr. Ella.’

     Ditzel complains that I have likened some of his views to those of Marcion, adding the word ‘heretic’ himself. He finds this absurd. This is a matter I have asked Ditzel to clarify but as long as he looks to the Old Testament as being abolished, the OT Covenant rescinded and God’s holy Law a matter of history, it would seem that here, at least, the cap fits. As long as he looks to the Sermon on the Mount as his New Sinai and degrades Christ as a mere New Lawgiver and believes progressive revelation works only backwards and only accepts OT revelation if it is anchored in the New, I think he must wear the cap. So, too, if he denies the Old Testament doctrine of the New Covenant, and that it was initiated and took effect there and then and that Old Testament saints were born again and belonged to the Bride of Christ and were redeemed, then, if he is not a Marcionite, he is their companion at arms. As long as Ditzel removes the doctrines of grace, the offices of Christ and God’s ever-new Covenant from the Old Testament, he is criticising the Bible with a pen-knife which was the complaint made against Marcion and one which I make against the NCT.

     So, too, unless Ditzel takes up my challenge and tells me which Law condemns sinners today seeing, according to Ditzel, that the OT Law has no more condemning effect, I will continue to see Ditzel standing in Marcion’s shadow.

     Concerning Ditzel’s lengthy commentaries on my doctrine of Justification which he repeatedly uses as the centre of his criticism of me on the grounds that I reject his portrayal as false, anyone can check what I said and how Ditzel distorts it by consulting both our websites.

Furthermore:

Brother Peter says: ‘Dr. Ella called New Covenant Theology a heresy and a false religion’

     Concerning Ditzel’s peculiar view of the New Covenant which he admits is not shared thoroughly by others that go under the title, though I reject his version, I maintain I am also a New Covenant Theology man and Ditzel must learn to live with the differences between me and him under the same title. I believe I am a member of the New Covenant which was revealed and ratified to the Old Testament saints and by God’s Grace continued into the New Testament so that believing New Testament saints could join their fathers in the faith in the Old.

Brother Peter says:

‘Dr. Ella gives me permission to publish this correspondence on the web (albeit using sarcasm)’.

     I did not give Peter permission to publish the April letters published but did give him permission to print works he refrained from publishing. Concerning Ditzel’s first letter, it was not sent to me at all but to the editor of NF so I received the letter only after it had been read by others. This shows that Ditzel was not interested in corresponding with me personally and directly but more interested in denigrating me before my closest friends. English words fail me here so I can only say, ‘Abscheulich’! This goes for Ditzel’s present April letters which he claimed were private to me but which he intended for publication to broadcast his own principles as he has done without due consultation with me. So, too, Ditzel says he has now thrown out the private home recordings of mine from his site. These had to business in Ditzel’s hand in the first place and his misuse was quite illegal. He never asked for permission to use the private recordings which were not made for distribution and he would not have received my permission. Also, Ditzel never asked permission from those whose voices and comments are also on the tapes. Do they know of this misuse?

Brother Ditzel also says:

     “When I speak of Reformed Doctrine, the Reformed Faith, or Reformed Theology, I am basically talking about Presbyterianism as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith. In recent years a denomination has arisen called Reformed Baptists. In reality, for the most part, they are not Baptists at all, but just ducking Presbyterians. They hold to reformed theology in all areas except baptism…. So for the past several weeks I have been carefully studying those confessions of faith most commonly accepted as the doctrinal standards of both Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists: The Westminster Confession and The 1689 Baptist Confession. You will be shocked to discover the heresies cleverly packaged in them. I am bringing this message to you because these things are not matters of indifference. They are matters vital to the gospel.” The full text of this message can be found on this webpage: http://grace-for-today.com/858.htm [Note: That link no longer works, but the message can now be found here].

     I appreciate what Ditzel says here of the Presbyterian waterbacks and the heretical 1689 Confession and the Westminster Confessions with which he continually associates me but again, he is wrong in applying this to me as I am neither a Presbyterian nor a Baptist though I have great friends in both camps. As he professes to be familiar with my work, he must have read my numerous criticisms of both of these documents which I made with strong Baptist backing. Indeed, I have often introduced the First London Confession to Baptist friends pointing out that it is sounder on the Covenant and takes a more Biblical and less rationalistic position on preaching the gospel. However, I accept Featley’s criticisms of the authors and their doctrines as just and these authors wisely altered the final draft to make it more acceptable. I would also accept the Orthodox Creed of the Baptists before the Westminster Confession. Fancy the WA giving the Light of Reason as their basis for wording, say, the doctrine of the Sabbath!

Brother Ditzel complains continually that I am not familiar with NCT doctrines as he does in his latest article. Nevertheless, he writes in the same account:

‘I did not make an accusation against you of not reading the books or not contacting the NCT writers. I said I wondered because your evaluation of them and mine are at times very much at odds.’

     I understood Ditzel’s taunts quite differently but he must make up his mind which position he holds. From his quotes, I tend towards the opinion that I have read NCT tenets on a wider and deeper basis than he, and scrutinised their Hebrew and Greek exegesis, though I am constantly coming across new authors who profess to be NCT men and whom I have yet to tackle. I understand thus that when Ditzel tells me that he came to his views with the help of no NCT author, he is telling the truth.

Ditzel says:

‘I (Ditzel) do not believe in the necessity of a physical fulfillment of God’s OT promises to Israel.’

     Nor do I. Israel as a nation after the flesh did not fulfil the Covenant conditions but were condemned justly as covenant-breakers. This did not prevent, however, believing Israel from receiving their inheritance as they, like the Patriarchs before the establishment of Israel, believed in a heavenly Kingdom which shows that the New Covenant was at work in the Old Testament. The New Covenant teaches that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life. Even Job, close to the dawn of the Old Testament believed this and so did Abraham and David.

     Ditzel says that he is an Amillennialist which I cannot coordinate with the eschatological statements which he is now making as a different eschatology plays an important part in recent NCT development. Indeed, the emphasis seems to be on the idea that the NCT is a stricktly eschatological movement (see also Seiver), some being Preterites and others being Post-Millennial. Ditzel, as an Amillennialist will have a difficult time in his brotherhood soon. However, Ditzel must be familiar with Ames’ writings which I heartily recommend. Ames, in spite of his Amillennialism, looked forward to the veil being taken off the Jews’ eyes. As every Christian is a missionary, I take it that this is your prayer, too. Again, however, you have misjudged and misrepresented me. I look forward to experiencing not only the Jews seeing the light but the NCT too.

     In spite of all Ditzel’s misrepresentations of my doctrines, he has now come up with his detailed and lengthy definition of the Covenant as he sees it. I am most grateful for this, late as it is as he has declared that he will not hear me out. Sadly, this is typical of Ditzel, he pontifically declares the truth as he sees it but will not debate the matter with his brethren. What is he scared of? One must agree with him hook, line and sinker and keep one’s mouth shut. As this declaration of Ditzel’s has much with which I would agree and much that I believe is bad exegesis, I must leave this for a special evaluation. I shall examine it by looking at what is Biblical first, then seeing what relationship it has to Commonwealth Covenant Theology of which I find it at present a continuation and therefore based on a false bottom, then I shall proceed to compare it with Marcionism and then what is ‘original NCT’. I shall send this first to Ditzel, asking for his comments and publish any he gives with mine and try to sum up our stance.

     I must also look deeper into the reasons why Ditzel accuses me constantly of ‘sprinkling infants’ and what was the point of his strange words about my book on baptism in relation to the Covenant of Grace. Does he see none? I have only practised infant sprinkling when my two baby children were in the bath tub forty years ago, which is to me as dubious a definition of baptism as is the term ‘ducking adults’. I reject any definition of baptism which uses such loose terms of automation whether from Baptists or anyone else, but I assure Ditzel that his view of Baptism is too sacramental, too mechanical, for my taste and too man-honouring and I find that Baptists tend to view baptism as a work of supererogation as they claim they must take an extra step in obedience in Baptism to prove themselves worthy to be taken up into the Bride of Christ. By faith, we are saved, not by works. No one is saved by law obedience or by good works. Making baptism a ‘good work’ is casting pearls before swine. I know that very many Baptists agree with me, because I have ministered to them and shared the sweetest fellowship with them, but Ditzel, as he clearly states in the articles under discussion, would not accept them as Baptists. Ditzel takes an extreme and uncompromising sacramental stand, though he is so slack on doctrine. This again, reminds me of the Fullerites whom Ditzel so imitates who practice strict communion and so-called believers’ baptism for sacramental, sacerdotal and supererogational reasons but they reject doctrine for ‘the natural law’ and ‘the fitness of things’. When peace reigns, I shall explain to Peter what I mean by ‘closed baptism’ and ‘closed communion’, both of which I reject.

     Throughout the pages of Ditzel’s latest web-site commentary, he complains that I say he has knowingly distorted my teaching and that of others, calling this slander. This is not so, though whenever I disagree with Ditzel, he tells me I am calling him a liar or slandering him whereas his severe condemnations of myself in the most wild language, he claims are gentleman-like and just. So cock-sure is he of his never-to-be-contested statements. The fact is, however, that when I tell Brother Peter what I believe, he immediately says I believe something quite different as this essay demonstrates. However; I have repeatedly told Ditzel that what he says concerning me is wrong and that his misrepresentations are obviously due to his misunderstanding my doctrines. I therefore repeatedly suggested that we go back to any initial accusation from either side and evaluate it together so that there would be no more misrepresentations. Now Ditzel has at least come up with a definition of the Covenant which would be a sound basis for mutual evaluate but he tells me he is putting the thoughts up as a statement and not as a basis for mutual study. Thus, I am forced to do a solo on this and just hope I am understanding Ditzel correctly. What I would hate is that Ditzel lets me expound my views on my web-site and then uses his to complain that I practice ‘fratricide’, ‘slander’, and ‘verbal violence’ as if he were himself a loving-tongued angel of peace from Heaven. We should discuss this matter together and then published a ‘Where we agree and where we disagree’ statement in mutual understanding of the other’s position. When the early Puritans were compelled by force to sign that notoriously wicked Solemn League and Covenant, they entered their reservations in the margin. Thus the dissidents survived. Ditzel and I are in no danger of losing our heads, at least physically, but if in Commonwealth times, the members of the Westminster Assembly who were of very many varied theological backgrounds, could pull together with the hope of a spiritual break-through in England, could not we two in these less turbulent times of no risks strive to do likewise? The best Christians are always friendly diplomats. Let us both give each other a chance.