Dear Editor,

     As Christians, we realise that we know only in part until we see Christ face to face. This realisation ought not to deter us from practising another Scriptural truth which is to declare the whole counsel of God as it is revealed to us in Scripture. I fear that two articles in the October/November issue of New Focus tended to lean on the former state alone rather than towards the latter injunction. Both the very severe strictures of Don Fortner on the law and the equally severe legalism of Carl Haak on marriage are both partial applications of the truth which might put the reader under legal bondage rather than reveal to them what is the full grace of God as applied to sinners. May I suggest that both writers might be invited to complete their partial works with more emphasis on experimental faith and pastoral care?

     Don Fortner has left the impression that as the believer is not under the law, that same law cannot be a rule of life. Yet he tells us that, as believers, we are not free to break that same law. If the law is not a rule of life, why must we then keep it? Surely, according to Scripture, where there is no law, there is no breaking of it. Yet the Bible speaks of the rule of law, the rule of faith and the rule of Christ as applying to the Christian who finds the fulfilment of all the laws in the righteousness which Christ has imputed to him and which justifies him before God. Do not Scriptures teach that we can live in Christ in keeping with the standards of the law without being under their condemning and cursing power? Is Brother Fortner telling us that we are to do nothing by constraint of the law but also nothing in joyful commitment to the law’s standards as being the eternal manifestation of Christ’s character?

     Furthermore, Brother Fortner tells us that we have no covenant with the law and his understanding of the law seems to take in the entire Old Testament dispensation. Yet though parts of the law are old covenant shadows of things to come yet other parts are essential features of God’s eternal covenant with His Son and those in union with Him. I only need to mention Sabbath observance here which was proscribed before Sinai and has eternal implications as part of the eternal covenant. What about the doctrine of justification through faith which is so much underscored in the Old Testament? These things must be explained, otherwise readers will believe that their obligations to Christ are merely theoretical ‘as if’ ones with no practical implications in moral living. Brother Fortner has only told us that those who agree with his most restricted picture will be called Antinomians but he does not show us how to live a life which is morally above criticism and thus does not deserve that epithet.

     Carl Haak’s article on marriage presents us with God’s ideal but nicely avoids the very many passages in Scripture showing God’s gracious, forgiving attitude to sin and adultery which ought to have softened his heart. Primarily here, he overlooked three most important aspects. The first is that Jesus is very clear in showing that marriage for life was a pre-fall ideal given to Adam and that those who have difficulty in keeping to such ideals – as all who are in Adam –may yet find forgiveness in Christ. The second is that Haak bases his arguments on Luke 16:18 alone which clearly refers to the law that condemns us, yet he does not apply the grace that saves us to it. Thirdly, Christ refers to the Mosaic regulations on marriage being applied because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matt. 19:4-12.). In other words, sins of adultery are to be treated as all sins against the law and cannot be made regressive. Once committed, they are committed and damn us. This is where grace comes in but where was the teaching of grace in Brother Haak’s article? I trust he has already planned to write a sequel to his first article, counselling all those thousands of Christians who have been divorced and remarried. Or does Brother Haak believe that all sins are forgivable except the sins of divorce and remarriage?

Yours sincerely in Christ

George M. Ella