by Peter Ditzel
I answered on 4/6/2012 with the following:
On April 4, I sent you an email that needed your response on two points. In the two emails you have sent me since, you did not respond to these points. I will try to make them clearer by putting them into question form:
1. Will you take up my offer of removing all references to me on your website and not mentioning me again if I remove all references to you on my website and not mention you there again?
2. If not the above, will you at least remove the defamatory statements you made about me on your website?
In one of your emails, you say you want to work on “irenic grounds” and suggest “we drop the polemics, rhetoric and hot air” and “take one step at a time in brotherly cooperation.” This makes you out to be the innocent victim wanting only to peacefully discuss theology whom I have attacked. But the record of our correspondence and the tone of your articles bears witness that the facts are the other way around.
Then, in another email sent only hours later, you sent me another of your articles, “Christ’s work as Saviour within the Covenant of Grace,” in which you mention me three times, and misrepresent me, and in which, again, you link New Covenant Theologians to Marcion, call Marcion their founder, and label New Covenant Theology Neonomian, Antinomian, and new Judaism all at the same time! This does not sound like you are trying to be irenic, Dr. Ella.
And then, toward the end of the article, you again portray yourself as the saintly victim: “I would very gladly enter into dialogue with them but my many overtures up to now have been rejected with arrogant and sneering ridicule and hate. Perhaps I am now too old and frail for the job. I can only love them and pray for them…. I would not ban a single NCT follower from my table or prayer chamber, nor refuse to commune with him at the Lord’s Table. I trust I am also prepared to learn from them as no professing Christian is without something of the Lord which he can impart to others. I extend to them the right hand of fellowship and wish to enter into dialogue with them so that we can grow in grace and a knowledge of Jesus Christ together.” Why do I hear Seth Pecksniff when I read those words? No, Dr. Ella, you will not draw me back to debate only to again avoid the issues and personally abuse me.
Just answer my two questions.
On 4/7/2012, Dr. Ella sent the following email:
Dear Brother Peter,
I did not expect this kind of letter from you, a brother in Christ. I wrote in an irenic spirit and pointed out that we must begin at the beginning and work forwards and not begin with your impolite, immodest, prejudiced language and work backwards as your accusations were based, as I see things, on faulty misapprehensions, misunderstandings and misrepresentations which can be easily dispensed with. Why will you not take the right hand of fellowship I offer you?
There were far more than two points in your last letter which I found so confused as to be unintelligible and I gave my reasons for answering as I did, overlooking your most impolite innuendoes and bullying manner. Especially your revolver-to-the-head demand for a reply before April 12, though you had taken years to react yourself, is quite unacceptable and un-called for. Nevertheless, I gave you a reply the very next day. I read no ‘thank you’ for this irenic gesture of mine in your present letter. I also miss a brotherly ‘Dear George’, or even ‘Dear Dr. Ella’ in your salutations.
Now to your ‘points’
The six essays [Dr. Ella refers to “A Rebuttal to George M. Ella’s ‘John Gill and Justification from Eternity” which is one essay in six parts] you wrote denouncing and denigrating imagined views which you faultily attributed to me were written, of course, before my defence which you failed to meet objectively, giving reasons for your behavior. If apologies are needed, which I did not demand, surely we must start here. I was willing to leave the matter as it was but you insist on clarity. Then please provide the clarity you demand. The onus is on you as you first started this ball of misrepresentations rolling. Furthermore, you badly need instruction as to what I really believe. This would change your tone totally and provide a platform for further debate. However, you say you will not have debate from me but debate on yourself, nevertheless. A one-sided debate merely from you is not my idea of fellowship.
Your six articles on the web cannot be removed. The damage is done publicly for all time and, though I understand you have second thoughts on the subject and thus would like to see what you have said unsaid, it cannot be done. You must carry the responsibility of your action. I offered you a peaceful way out of your dilemma but you bluff your way out of your Christian responsibilities by insisting that I apologise for my defence against your misrepresentations. If you feel I have misrepresented you, I am truly sorry, but I acted on the basis of what you said of me which was a misrepresentation. The fact that you stubbornly will not admit your faults makes you judge every criticism of your mistakes as a misrepresentation for which you demand satisfaction. This is sheer vanity. Only by going back to the roots of the matter will you understand what you have done wrong. You cannot accuse me of misrepresenting your misrepresentation. What would be the point?
One day, an angry lady knocked on our house door demanding entry. She had brought her son who complained that my son had struck hers. After soothing the savage spirit in the woman, we asked for the boy’s opinion. He said ‘I struck your son first’. We then asked the mother what all the fuss was about. Our son had already informed us of the escapade and that he had struck back once and the matter ended there. We did not go and knock on the lady’s door to demand satisfaction. However, to our surprise, the mother said that her boy had not hurt my son (how could she tell?) as much as my son had hurt her boy (how could she tell) and therefore my son was the guilty partner. This is exactly how you are reasoning. However, we soon patched up the matter with both mother and son and we have been good friends ever since that event happened thirty years ago. I am sure we can patch up things too. Why not give us a chance? If this wild lady turned mild, a brother like you will find it easy.
To come back to the matter of your erasing your blog and forgetting the matter. Your blog has been copied and re-copied and made its rounds world-wide amongst both friends and critics and I am continually been called names by your friends for the silliness of my doctrines as described by you. Forgetting things cannot repair the damage as people do not forget. When they read how I define justification and how you say I define it, they draw conclusions unflattering to you. The only way to escape from your dilemma is to put your right hand into mine and we shall both analyse the matter from the beginning and both apologise where we truly have misrepresented each other. If we could both speak in words of mutual peace and honest agreement, or explained disagreement, but show we are brethren in Christ, we will help build the House of God together. We cannot do this by massive denunciations and the throwing in of irrelevant matter which shows a total lack of understanding of what is at stake. Let us therefore, in brother love and respect, take it one step at a time. You started things off by misrepresenting my doctrine of justification and inventing reasons why you thought I held to it. Let us clear that up first and go on to other points peacefully after that.
You complain that I think myself an innocent victim. I do not use such pathetic words as that but you did start the polemics, did you not?
You find I do not sound irenic. I am truly sorry though you take my unwillingness to be bullied by you as aggressive. I presume it is difficult for one who wants a fight rather than fellowship to call, using your word, his victim ‘irenic’. That would be to admit that one is in the wrong. However, I urge you to try and approach the matter ironically [sic] yourself as I have striven to the best of my ability. Judging by what you teach, and the aggressive way you go about your ministry, I do not believe that criticism of it displays like aggression. My honest opinion is that one who treats the Bible of the Christians as you do is a Marcionite. So, too, your legalism is obviously Neonomian and Antinomian as you reject the law in its covenant setting and preach a new law. Of course, you see yourself in a different light but unless you are prepared to explain yourself, your light is dim indeed to me. You find your broadside in your last letter is light enough but it comes over as a splitter-bomb that shatters all chances of a mutual understanding and is partly confused, partly irrelevant, partly mere hot air and partly acute hypocritical arrogance. This is not the way of peace.
What I quoted from me in your last paragraph, I believe honestly from my heart. Are you not prepared to say ‘amen’ to this ? Have you no desire for peace? If you feel incapable of explaining yourself, I am very patient as I have a pastoral duty to you as you have to me and I trust we both wish to live in peace with all men. I know this demands a lot from me but without mutual efforts from both sides, we both stand in need of reconciliation.
I realize that you will not easily accept my response to your many questions on the grounds that we take one at a time. I see no other way out. I certainly do not wish for more impolite wrangling and harangues from you if you have no desire for peace, mutual understanding and clarity. If you are not interested in what your opponents say, why oppose them? I am very interested in what NCT and its split-offs say and believe their main difficulty is that they do not understand true Biblical covenant teaching. They start on the wrong footing by striving to repair the quite faulty bi-covenant, enlightenment teaching of such as Prynne and Rutherford who were motivated by politics, Platonism and Aristotelianism rather than the Bible as we read in Rex Lex. By developing Rutherford and Co. further, the NCT-ites feel that they are nearer the Scriptures, whereas they have gone even further away. This view has been rightly called the first stage in the Enlightenment and the way to mere human Rationalism. The Covenant teaching of our Reformers and most of the non-Presbyterian Puritans of the 17th century had quite a different view of God’s Covenant with His Son than that of the Presbyterians and present day NCT movements.
I could not, therefore, leave out, let alone erase your writings from my studies as they help to chronicle and explain the dumbing-down of doctrine in the movement and the drift from true Covenant teaching. I understand from your writings that you have not the foggiest idea of what the covenant is all about as, like Marcion, you separate not only the Old Testament teaching from the New but also divide both your parts into separate law and grace, thus postulating four covenants. Until you accept that what you call New Testament teaching is a misunderstanding and misuse of the Old Testament and that New Covenant teaching is part and parcel of Old Testament teaching continued in the New Testament, you will continue to split up into sect after sect. Where truth does not reign, chaos ensues.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
I did not respond to this email because Dr. Ella did not really respond to me. In fact, if you will notice going over all of our correspondence, Dr. Ella never responded to the questions I raised or directly addressed the issues. But I will now take this opportunity to address the points Dr. Ella raises in his last two emails.
1. I did not break off correspondence with him in 2008. He broke it off with me because he was ill. I then only recently found out that he had made defamatory remarks about me on his website, and, naturally, set a time limit for his response because I wanted these remarks removed as soon as possible. “Is this fair?” Was it fair for him to slander me? Of course it was fair of me to set a time limit. He should not have published the remarks in the first place. But I did say that if he did not have the time, he could give me an alternative date. Yes, I was fair and, perhaps, too lenient.
2. Dr. Ella has confused the order of events and continually accuses me of starting the accusations. It was he who first attacked New Covenant Theology publicly. I responded to these attacks with an email to New Focus magazine. Dr. Ella responded to that with an email to me of pure invective, and, thus, began our correspondence. It was only after he ended this correspondence that I published my rebuttal to his doctrine of justification from eternity. How he sums this up by saying that I owe him a response, I do not know.
3. I did not rely on hearsay. Someone told me that Dr. Ella had published articles about me on his website, which turned out to be true. I read the articles and found them to be diatribe containing the defamatory statements I have mentioned. I have never denounced Abraham. The accusation is laughable. To denounce someone is to pronounce them blameworthy of evil. What Dr. Ella apparently has reference to is my article, “Were the Old Testament Saints Born Again? The Least in the Kingdom is Greater Than John the Baptist.” This is not the place to rehash that article, but in that article, I clearly state that the Old Testament saints, including Abraham, “lived under the Old Covenant, they had the Holy Spirit, and they were saved by faith—looking forward in faith to the promise of the Messiah. But they were not born again or born from above into the kingdom of God that we born again Christians under the New Covenant now live in.” Nothing in the article even remotely suggests that I have rejected Abraham as the father of the faithful. The Bible clearly states that he is, and I believe it.
4. I do not know what Dr. Ella means by saying I have given him a program for further debate. I told him I wanted his defamatory statements removed, stated what they were, and said that I did not want further debate. Why is this unclear?
5. Dr. Ella suggests that we “debate on irenic grounds,” “drop all polemics, rhetoric and hot air in future, which will be difficult.” I agree that this would apparently be difficult for Dr. Ella, as he certainly did not achieve it in his email correspondence to me or in his articles about me. On the other hand, what I have written does not fit that description. I tried to keep the debate on topic by sticking to Scripture, doctrine, and church history, and asking Dr. Ella questions directly related to the topic of New Covenant Theology (questions that he did not answer). It was Dr. Ella who continually abused and insulted me in his emails, and it was I who called on him to stop his “false accusations, character assassinations, empty rhetoric, and acerbic words.” Yet, it was after this that he published defamatory statements about me. I cannot take his suggestion that we debate on irenic grounds seriously.
6. Again, the original topic was New Covenant Theology, not justification from eternity.
In my latest emails to Dr. Ella, I requested that he remove defamatory statements he made about me on his website. I quoted the statements so there could be no doubt what they were. I also offered to remove all references to him on my website and never refer to him there again if he would remove all references to me on his website and not mention me there again. Since Dr. Ella seemed unable to peacefully discuss theology, I saw my proposal as a peace offering: in other words, let’s just erase everything and forget the whole thing. Instead, he refused my offer and turned it around to make it sound as though I was trying to back out of what I said because I was having second thoughts. This is not at all the case. Therefore, I have removed all of Dr. Ella’s talks from my website (so that no one would mistakenly assume that I agree with Dr. Ella and his website) except the one on justification from eternity, and I have kept my rebuttal to that talk on the site.
In one of my emails, I proved from the beliefs of Marcion that anyone can verify and my own beliefs of record that I am not a Marcionite. Yet Dr. Ella refuses to retract or even remove his accusations that I am a Marcionite, as well as his other absurd accusations that I am both a Neonomian and an Antinomian, and that I attempted to distort Peter Meney’s and his doctrine of justification. This he does while at the same time calling for peace. Dr. Ella has used his emails to make it sound to the undiscerning that I am picking on him, being unfair, and that we should now have brotherly cooperation. I am sorry, but trying to have a brotherly relationship with Dr. Ella has left me feeling like the victim of attempted fratricide. Rather than discussing the Bible as a brother in Christ, Dr. Ella seems to be following the advice of Arthur Schopenhauer:
A last trick is to become personal, insulting, rude, as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand, and that you are going to come off worst. It consists in passing from the subject of dispute, as from a lost game, to the disputant himself, and in some way attacking his person. It may be called the argumentum ad personam, to distinguish it from the argumentum ad hominem, which passes from the objective discussion of the subject pure and simple to the statements or admissions which your opponent has made in regard to it. But in becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack to his person, by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. It is an appeal from the virtues of the intellect to the virtues of the body, or to mere animalism. This is a very popular trick….
Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art Of Controversy
Therefore, repeating what I said at the beginning, based upon biblical instruction, I now refuse to contact, correspond with, debate, or in any way have discourse with Dr. Ella unless he convinces me of sincere and heartfelt repentance.
Copyright © 2012 Peter Ditzel