Voices from the Past
Truth Magazine and Controversy
Some have complained that the "tone" of Truth Magazine is too militant and that some of the articles are too blunt for their taste. A few younger men have told me they thought some of the reviews were too "personal." Some comments are in order.
(1) I am sure every person connected with the paper agrees that there are times when all of us could better say what we write than we do. The same is true of sermons. After I have already preached, I can think of several ways I could have improved what was said and how long it took to say it. I do not always agree with how some writers express themselves though I might agree with the point being made. I am sure Brother Willis feels the same.
(2) There is always a question of judgment as to how far one is to go in reviewing a book, article or speech of someone who has taught what you sincerely believe to be error. Some are of the opinion that when you review a man's position and point out his inconsistency, or expose his error and attitude, that you are personally embittered toward the man and trying to destroy him rather than his error. Frankness and plainness of speech are often mistaken for anger. This writer has been about as frank as anyone in dealing with controversial issues the past twenty years, but I can honestly say that I entertain no personal animosity toward a single brother regardless of how reprehensible I felt his teaching was or with what vigor I sought to attack it. I would personally be glad to see anyone of them, would welcome them to discuss any point of study on the word of God and grant to any of them the same right to review what I have written or publicly preached which I claim and have exercised.
Years ago, many of the brethren complained that the Gospel Advocate was "too controversial" when some of the brethren would undertake to review each other. It did get heated at times. Issues of great concern to many brethren were openly and frankly discussed. David Lipscomb said that if the time ever came when the Advocate would not print both sides of an issue, he would cease to read it. Would you think me "too personal" if I suggested that Lipscomb, according to his own statement would not read the Advocate today? That journal carried many controversial articles back in those days on instrumental music, missionary societies, unity movements, the college in the budget, premillennialism, the war question" and a long list of other subjects. Someone made the complaint to Brother Srygley that they ought to just deal in issues and say nothing about personalities. His reply was to the effect that as soon as he met up with an issue which was not associated with some personality which presented and pressed it, he would jump right on it!
Paul did not think it out of place to identify the name of Brother Peter with hypocrisy in treatment of Gentile brethren at Antioch. He got "personal" enough that he called it "dissimulation" (hypocrisy), said it constituted a walk which was not upright nor according to the truth of the gospel, and that he rebuked Peter to the face before them all (read Gal. 2:11-14). He did not consider it unbrotherly or unwise to specify that Hymenaeus and Alexander bad made "shipwreck of the faith" and had overthrown the faith of some (I Tim. 1:19-20). Paul reported that Demas had forsaken him "having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4: 1 0). Was that "too personal"? Why not just deal with the "issue" of worldliness and leave the name of poor Brother Demas out of it? If it is wrong to answer errors which have been publicly expounded to the danger and possible defection of souls, even to identifying the names of those who advocate them and charging them with their actual sin, then we had better get us another book to guide us besides the New Testament.
(3) It has been my observation that those who have complained the loudest about the way they think some of us are attacking what we believe to be erroneous and detrimental to the faith of God's people, have done precious little to stop the advance of the Devil in our ranks. Their major contribution has been to sit on the sidelines and snipe at those who are engaged in the battle while their own sword grows rusty from lack of use. In the 1950's and early 60's when writers in the Gospel Guardian were pounding away at institutionalism, centralized control and oversight and attendant errors, there were a number of pacifists who perched themselves on the sidelines. It depended on who they were with as to what they were strong on, but their severest criticisms were reserved for those men who had risked influence and lifelong friendships to lead the fight against the rising wave of denominationalism which has now all but engulfed the churches which swallowed the line of the Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation. They said they agreed with what was being said but not how it was being said. The truth was that some wanted to "go in and out" among liberals and find "pasture" and were afraid they might have to declare themselves and that might cost some meetings and a few invitations to address large numbers at college lectures.
Today there are some young men preaching in congregations which were salvaged by some of these very preachers which they thought were "too rough" in the fight. A few of them are even trying to pervert those congregations and lead them back in the direction from which they fled twenty years ago. There are even some who think the taste of Truth Magazine and like papers too strong for them who are nourishing their souls on the "sweetness" of Mission Messenger and Mission which are not only corrupting their faith and making trouble makers out of them where they preach, but which, ironically, are about as uncharitable and bitter in their attacks on those whom they regard as the "establishment" as it is possible to be. They prefer slick, sophisticated error which denounces and belittles their opposers in big words, rather than the forthright, plain, everyday language of men who have been through the fire and want to see the church for which our Lord died remain true to the doctrine of Christ and practices which are scriptural.
Yes, this is a militant paper. We mean to keep it so. The Devil has not called off the battle yet. There are still surging issues which need to be discussed. Brotherly reserve and restraint ought to be employed, but no quarter should be asked or given in the conflict between truth and error. If we are found in error, then let brethren get out their typewriters and point it out. We can take it. All along some brethren have argued that papers dealing in controversial matters between brethren cannot be handed to denominational friends. In the first place, such a paper is not primarily designed for them, but is mainly intended as a forum in which brethren can openly discuss living issues. Are denominational people the only ones who ever need to read find study? Some of the brethren seem to think so. Such a view presupposes that the only matters on which we may write are those dealing with "first principles." There are papers published for that purpose. This paper carries many articles at various times of such a nature which would be good for anyone to read. Some say that we ought not to put into print evidence of our differences. Well then, on that basis we ought not to hand anyone a New Testament, for it contains many evidences of controversies among brethren and warnings against apostasy. It gets pretty strong about it sometimes. Frankly, I am skeptical of any brother who thinks he has better manners than the Lord or the apostles. Surely, we should use the "sword of the Spirit" with as much finesse as possible, but we must use it.
Like Truth Magazine, there are those who have expressed that they do not like the "tone" of Watchman Magazine. They dislike the militance of the magazine, its editors, and writers. We believe brother Adams' article addresses this matter well. We only add the following comments.
Yes, a Christian, including a "preaching" one, should at all times be on guard to maintain the proper attitude (Eph. 4:15). No one excuses the hatefulness seen in some. However, too many people have confused plain speech with hate speech. The Lord and his apostles were VERY plain in their teaching (Jn. 8:24, 44; Acts 2:23; Gal. 5:12). Likewise, some are confused about zeal for the Lord and his truth with angry vendettas. Jesus was full of zeal (Jn. 2:17). Perhaps if some of our detractors would step up and take a stand, we would not stick out so bad. If everyone was aggressively opposing error, we would not be in the spotlight (so to speak).
Further, we need to remember that the Bible commands a militant stand for truth and the destruction of error. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4-5). For too long some have neglected this command and now all of us are paying the price.
Error demeans, destroys, and damns the souls of men. Why would anyone want to toy around with it? Why try to be tolerant of it? Why cater to it and seek to win its confidence and hope to change it? Paul said to those at Galatia, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8-9). To ignore error, to coddle it, or to get in bed with it, is the highest form of hatred toward your fellow-man, because love demands that we do what is right ourselves, and help others to do right (cf. 1 Jn. 5:2; Jas. 5:19-20).
Steven F. Deaton
e-mail this feature editor at SFDeaton@compuserve.com
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