Dear Mr. Nicole:
I found your critique of The Openness of God to be just what I expected from a Reformed theologian (without warmth, a lack of gentleness, and oozing with arrogance). I will forgive you for that, because I have grown not to expect warmth, gentleness and humility out of a theologian, particularly a conservative reformed one (I was a seminary student for 10 years at two different seminaries).
What is unpardonable for someone allegedly seeking truth in a climate of intellectual honesty is your lack of willingness to admit Clark Pinnock has accurately identified many problems, spiritual and theological (at least deep mysteries), in puritanical and reformed theological formulations and confessions. You also betray a profound lack of understanding of the development of Platonic metaphysics in the mind and theology of Augustine which influenced subsequent generations' understanding of the nature of the being of God, up to and including the Reformation (complicated with Aristotelian logic and ontology). I humbly suggest you educate yourself with such books as The Spirit and the Forms of Love by a Process Theologian Daniel Day Williams (I myself do not agree with everything in Process Theology), if you wish to provide a retort that is sound and in accordance with truth.
Please tell Mr. Tom Nettles I said "hi." I used to be a student of his at T.E.D.S.
Peace of Christ,
M. F. via email
Response from the editor:
Mr. F :
I will pass along your letter to Dr. Nicole. He will receive it, I am sure, with the same grace and humility which have characterized his 50+ year teaching career during which he became recognized as one of the world's foremost evangelical theologians. Dr. Nicole does not need me to defend him. But your condescending admonition that he educate himself deserves at least a brief comment. Though I don't know your age, from what you have written I would guess that before you were born Dr. Nicole had already mastered Aristotelian, Platonic and neo-Platonic thought, to say nothing of the writings of Augustine and the leading sixteenth-century Reformers.
If you ever get the opportunity, I encourage you to visit his personal library in Orlando, Florida. If possible, try to arrange for him to give you a personal, guided tour. His comments about the contents, histories and authors of the books are in themselves an educational experience well worth a special trip. You will need to allow 45 minutes to an hour, provided you get the abbreviated tour.
Like any fallen creature, Dr. Nicole can be accused of many things. However, being uneducated in theology is not one of them.
Response from Dr. Roger Nicole
Dear M :
Dr. Ascol has forwarded to me your recent letter in which you criticize my review of The Openness of God.
You might be surprised to find that Dr. Pinnock and I entertain an amicable relationship in spite of the great difference in our convictions.
I am reasonably acquainted with Plato, Aristotle and Augustine, and I do not believe that Reformed theology has been led into deviations because of any of these men. Process thought does not attract me because you cannot do anything with "becoming" unless you start with being.
In closing let me point out to you that your letter does not appear free of the defects for which you castigate me: "without warmth, lacking in gentleness, and oozing with arrogance." May our Lord help both of us to overcome such tendencies.
M.A. Sorbonne, Paris
Th.D. Gordon Divinity School
Ph.D. Harvard University
Dear Dr. Ascol,
I feel compelled to write and thank you and your contributors for the wealth of spiritual knowledge and inspiration I receive from the Founders Journal. I have been receiving it now for seven years or so, and have not been disappointed with any issue.
I was introduced to the "Doctrines of Grace" in 1970, during my ministry at Toowoomba Central Baptist Church in Queensland, Australia. One of my deacons invited me out for supper one evening, and after the meal he produced a box with quite a few old musty books, which he was clearing out of his garage. He suggested that I might like to look at them to see if there was anything of interest among them before taking them to the local tip. I was not greatly excited about the prospect, but because of his kindness took the box home and pushed it into a corner of my study. I had immigrated to Australia from Northern Ireland, where I entered the Baptist ministry, so by this time I had been ministering for about 10 years. I would have called myself a conservative gospel preacher, and although I strongly believed in the sovereignty of God, the Arminian overtones in my ministry were very strong.
I was preparing for my Sunday ministry one day when my eye caught the box of old musty books. I felt a little guilty that I had forgotten all about them, so there and then I decided to look at them. I shook the dust off them, and began to read, it was not long before I realized that I had a treasury of biblical knowledge. In that box were eight volumes of Richard Sibbes, ten volumes of Thomas Goodwin, and other volumes by Thomas Brooks, John Flavel, Stephen Charnock etc.. As I began to read I realized how insipid and empty my ministry was and became committed to this new-found structure of truth, which I had so firmly resisted and rejected in the past. My preaching and ministry took on a new dimension altogether as I grew in my knowledge of the "Doctrines of Grace."
I was able to restore all of Richard Sibbes volumes, and many others, and they still hold a foremost place in my library. Although I am retired now, I still preach around the churches in an interim capacity, and have found there is a great hunger for the deeper things of God. People are sick of the humanistic and paganistic slop they are being fed. It is a great privilege to preach the "Doctrines of Grace" because they are so true, not only to biblical revelation, but to the very character and holiness of God. There is no other system of theology that rightly honors God.
Let me encourage you and those who assist you to stay strong in the proclamation of these great truths, for therein, as you know, will be enormous blessing. It is marvelous to hear what is happening in the Southern Baptist Convention! Praise God!! Would to God He might favour Australia in His will and purpose with a breath of revival. How we long for it.
I didn't mean this email to be an epistle, and I hope I have not bored you, but I was awake from 12.30am to 2.30am last night and sat in my study reading the Founders Journal and it thoroughly blessed my soul.
Thank you again for your continued ministry.
Love and grace in our Sovereign Lord.
B.S. via email
I thank God for the ministry of the Founders. God in his grace has removed the blinders from my eyes and has opened my heart to understanding the doctrines of grace. God used an old deacon in my church, the preaching and writing of John Piper, and your ministry to deliver me from man-centered ministry.
My heart aches because my theological education addressed Reformed Theology with contempt and, therefore, I did too. I almost feel as though my years of education were wasted. I am now seeking God as to what I should do. I long to know his plan and I know he will show me what to do.
I also have realized that not many people are open to the doctrines of grace. Except for my wife, the old deacon and his wife in my church, I would be alone. Thank you for your ministry, it encourages me.
M.F. via email