For the first time since the fifties and sixties, an effort is being made to destroy the Church of Christ. The "liberals" have referred to a movement among them, and those who are directing the movement, as "Change Artists." In a very real sense, we have many among the conservative cause who are also "Change Artists."
"Institutionalism" moved many of our brethren out. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). This caused a split in the Lord's church.
Following that conflict, it has been advocated: (1) "Accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative," (2) "Preach the man and not the plan," (3) "Preach Christ, and not the church." All of these efforts were for the purpose of erecting a "straw man," so they would not have to deal with the arguments against the issue.
Also, during this period, we have had to deal with the problem of "Preaching the Gospel and not Doctrine," and "Unity in Diversity." The end result was, "You do your thing and we will do our thing: even though we do not agree, we can unify upon the fact of Jesus being the Son of God." Needless to say, this makes most of the New Testament non-essential!
Faithful brethren have been called "Legalists," "Pharisees, ""Keepers of Orthodoxy," and "anti's." Such names are used for the purpose of making the men occupying the conservative position look bad. According to those terms, conservative people are bad people! It is interesting that calling people bad names makes it unnecessary to answer valid arguments. Now we have the motive for such actions. Through calling names, the person is attacked and there is no need to answer Biblical arguments or Biblical charges.
The reason for such manifestation of conduct is: they are advocating and practicing something different! Always, when divisive actions are used, one should ask himself, "What do they believe that they do not want to discuss?"
The years past have revealed such evasion as we have fought (1) the Social Gospel, (2) Humanism, (3) Perverted Organization in Evangelism, (4) and Perverted Organization in Benevolence. But this, my brethren, has been only the beginning.
Today, we look at a movement which has produced gyms, fellowship halls, hospitals, pre-school and other secular education levels, Boy Scout troops, special programs for entertainment, women preachers, women elders, women deacons, instruments of music, taking the Lord's supper on any day of the week, acceptance of denominational baptism, and yes, even acceptance of denominationalism itself. Many other things could be named, but you get the point. When one departs from Bible truth, one loses his identity and becomes like the world. When God's people of old requested, "Give us a king," (1 Samuel 8:5, 19), it was because they wanted to be like the nations about them. This is what they became. It you want to be like the world, you will become worldly.
A few years ago, we became involved in a discussion on the subject of Calvinism. There were preachers among us who were not accepting all of the five points of Calvinism, yet they believed and taught certain points associated with classic Calvinism. Thus evolved the name: "Neo-Calvinism." "Neo" (new) was given to the movement because it was a form of Calvinism peculiar to our brethren. The battle flag was raised and swords were crossed, opposing the introduction of "Neo-Calvinism:" imputed righteousness, election, inherited sin, law keeping, grace, legalism, Pharisaism, etc.
Ed Fudge, Darwin Chandler, Arnold Hardin, George Jones, Bruce Edwards, Lanier Stevens, Rick Ross, Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside (among others), advocated many of these principles. It is interesting to observe that the arguments were never on those subjects; rather, a focus was directed toward mud-slinging toward those who opposed the errors. At that time, accusations were made that faithful men (1) did not believe in God's grace, (2) were "law keepers," (3) legalists, (4) Pharisees and (5) button counters.
Again, all of these charges were to erect a "straw man" so they could dodge the real issue or arguments. It is easier to discredit the man than to deal with the argument. This approach is unethical, base, and contrary to every known form of logic. If one can destroy a reputation by calling him names, one will build a wall and none will listen to that man. These are the tactics of the world, and the Bible says, "The whole world lieth in the evil one" (1 John 5:19). The honest, honorable and Christian attitude will declare: "Let's discuss this and learn what the truth is."
The conclusion of such a belief is the acceptance of denominationalism! Darwin Chandler became a Pentecostal preacher. Leroy Garret will not only worship with the denominations but has stated his ability to worship with the homosexuals. Ed Fudge left the conservatives, wrote a book on Hell and taught that there is no punishment for the wicked. Carl Ketcherside advocated that a distinction must be made between the person of Christ and the doctrine of Christ. According to him, we need to leave doctrine alone: we can never agree on these things (including baptism), so just preach the person of Christ. (It is interesting that the world cannot agree on that either!) George Jones, along with others, has become involved by publishing a paper in which he has a steady diet of Neo-Calvinism.
Brethren, when one accepts the Neo-Calvinist theory, his days among faithful brethren are numbered and he is headed for destruction. Those who, in the past, have been involved in such things are living testimonies! There is a reason for this. We have had a lot of preaching brethren sitting at the feet of sectarian scholars. They have read and studied Charles Swindoll, Max Lucado, David W. Chadwell, Charles Spurgeon, and many others of like faith. The truth of the matter is, they have spent more time with these fellows than they have spent with the inspired writers of the Bible! If one reads such material, one's mind will be influenced and one's preaching will reflect what is accepted. As Paul said, "I believe, therefore shall I speak" (2 Corinthians 4:13).
In the middle 80's, a group of brethren started a publication named "Christianity Magazine" in which has been advocated "Positive Christianity." This sounds good, but it does have its ultimate end. When one "eliminates the negative," any doctrine can be taught and no one will oppose them. Herein, we have the "Change Artist." This is an effort to change the Church of Christ without opposition!
Ed Harrell has written extensively encouraging fellowship with those in marriage and divorce error. Dee Bowman is on record as advocating the same thing. In this movement, Bob Owen has come to the front championing the cause of fellowship with marriage and divorce through his use of Romans 14. But if one can put marriage and divorce in Romans 14, what will keep someone else from putting other ungodly things in the same chapter? Should we accept the marriage and divorce problem? Then what about the sponsoring church type of arrangement? What about Neo-Calvinism? What about denominationalism? In the city where I live, Rick Ross (a liberal preacher) has accepted the doctrine of Neo-Calvinism and has accepted anyone on their what-ever baptism. There has been an acceptance of people with their Baptist baptism, Methodist baptism, etc. Lanier Stevens (a liberal preacher in Madisonville, TX) has accepted Neo-Calvinism and has joined the denominations in Easter services, change of pulpits with denominational preachers, and has accepted denominationalism, the people, as his brothers. Brethren, wake up to what is happening among us!
Consider what some of the signs are that manifest this movement.
Now, it does not take long for one to see the "Change Artist" at work. There is an effort being made to change the Church of Christ, and make it what the Lord did not intend it to be. Once these fellows have their hold, the end is in sight: apostasy!
Unity in diversity has to be considered in the midst of all this. Has the idea crossed one's mind as to why these brethren can be so loving and kind, yet, when it comes to the "Guardian crowd," they can be so hateful and spiteful? The reason is, we do not believe in "Unity in Diversity" and will not accept them. It is like the denominational world. They will accept anything and anybody, but let a member of the Church of Christ oppose them and they become wild with spite. They just cannot stand someone opposing them and telling them they are wrong. This is the reason for the words "Pharisee," "legalist," "keepers of orthodoxy," and many other offensive terms. They just cannot stand someone telling them they are wrong!
These brethren have found a refuge in Romans 14. One wants to put "Marriage and Divorce" in Romans 14. Another want to put "Neo-Calvinism" in Romans 14. Another wants to put "Institutionalism, Sponsoring Church type of arrangement" in Romans 14. Another wants to put all kinds of "Worldliness" in Romans 14. And still another wants to put "Denominationalism" in Romans 14. Now, brethren, tell me where the stopping place will be. Anything and everything will be put in Romans 14. A refuge has been found for those who are in error, and, according to them, we should fellowship them and not opposed to those who practice such things that are known to be unscriptural.
When one opens the door to the doctrine of "Unity in Diversity," there is no stopping place. If we can do this in "Marriage and Divorce," why not in the "Sponsoring Church" type of arrangement? This is the reason for many of the liberals accepting denominational people on their denominational baptism. When you accept Neo-Calvinism, the next step is Unity in Diversity. It is only time that will keep one from accepting what he wants because, once the principle is laid, the conclusion is inevitable.
This, my friends, is why there are so many of us who are preachers of the Gospel of Christ who are alarmed about what is happening today in the Church of Christ. We are being destroyed from within!
We have had some of our brethren accept the idea of "Subjective Truth," a term that has been assigned to truth coming from within a person, i.e., men's wisdom and men's knowledge. This is the type of knowledge that the denominational world has by which anything they want to do, if they think it is alright, then it is alright. It is a knowledge and a wisdom, not from God but from men.
"Objective Truth" is that body of truth that is from without. This is the truth that is from God and accepts the fact of the Bible as being a revelation from God (1 Timothy 3:16-17). We still have some who do not believe in the inspiration of the Bible, and that it is the final word from God to man. This objective truth, however, is the knowledge that will guide us home (Acts 20:32).
We have too many preachers and brethren who think there is nothing that can be established as truth! So, according to them, everything is in a "gray area." They do not want you to teach anything to be concrete. Whether it is social drinking, dancing, marriage and divorce, or any other moral principle, one should recognize that these things are in the "gray area" and the Christian should not be "judgmental." According to this, Jesus and a belief in Him would be in the gray area! The same way one would establish Jesus to be the Son of God, one also has the same information to determine what is (and is not) to be done in the realm of morals. But, you see, this is just a ploy to get folks not to believe in the all sufficiency of the Bible!
May I suggest to you that this is nothing new? Consider what brother Connie W. Adams wrote in Truth Magazine, Feb. 1, 1973 (Vol. XVII, No. 13, pp. 10-11). The title of the article is: "Old Song, New Singers!"
In Louisville, Ky, over twenty years ago, James Arthur Warren headed off in the direction of modernism. He finally ended up in the Disciples. He became exceptionally intellectual. He was critical of gospel preachers who emphasized the plan of salvation and stressed the importance of obedience to the terms of the gospel. They were preaching "salvation by works," he said, and "obscuring the grace of God." When James R. Cope and Rufus Clifford were called upon by the brethren to help them in this struggle, they were disdainfully referred to as "cornfield preachers" by this intellectual giant. The song he sang was "legalism" and he sang it all the way into the Disciples.
Along about that time, Ralph Wilburn was a teacher at Pepperdine College. He influenced a number of bright young men to go and set at the feet of infidels to get their degrees. He decided to try and save the church from - you guess it - "legalism." Critics just were not really smart enough to understand what he meant. A man making shipwreck of the faith on the shores of modernism is eternally misunderstood. You would think that all that advanced wisdom would enable such a one to speak clearly so all could know what he believed and where he stood. While singing "legalism," he too left the church and affiliated with the Disciples. They were not so legalistic as to think that the authority of the New Testament had to be respected.
Then, in the early 50's, there were Roy Key and Ernest Beam in the Chicago area. These men went to the University of Chicago to quip themselves to fight infidelity. But they had so much dialogue with the infidels that they forgot about fighting them. Then they made a grand discovery - their brethren were too hidebound, they were "legalists." The old hit tune had become public domain and they sang it loud and long. They persuaded a few other young preachers to join in the chorus and they sang it all the way into total digression. They wound up in the Christian Church. J. P. Sanders, the blind preacher of Rockford, Illinois, got weary of "legalism" and he too learned to sing the marching song of digression and ended up with the Disciples.
Mission magazine is being published by men who are tired of "legalism." One writer sent them an article entitled "The 301 Cubit Ark" in which he lamented that we have become so strict in trying to keep from making the ark one cubit longer than God ordained that we have obscured grace, made law our standard and become spiritual isolationists. Thus depriving ourselves of many rich things we could have learned from closer association with the denominations. This was named the "Article of the Year" by Mission.
Now there are some young men who want to continue their fellowship with conservative minded brethren who believe we must respect Bible authority. Some of these have already decided that apostolic examples are not binding and are willing to acknowledge, at least privately, that we are not bound to eat the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week. These gentlemen are enlightened ones. I know they are because they say so! They have made an umbrella of the grace of God and wish to broaden it sufficiently to cover ever deviation from the truth which Carl Ketcherside wants to embrace under his mistaken idea of fellowship. According to them, this is far better than "legalism." There it is again. Same old song - just new singers, apparently unaware that their new song is not new at all. It is the marching turn for those who are on their way to apostasy.
I have some advice for these young men. First of all, we would like to see you settle down to the business of believing and preaching what the bible says and opposing what it does not authorize. But the time is at hand for name calling. Let other churches be victimized by these unsound young men who want to stay in faithful churches and undermine them like termites in the basement. I, for one, intend to alert brethren everywhere I go to what you are up to. If you intend to try and remain among brethren committed to New Testament authority while secretly working to subvert whole houses, then you had better arm yourselves for you are going to have a fight on your hands such as you never imagined! The time for the clashing of swords may be much nearer than some suppose. There are a few preachers who are a little older who are entirely sympathetic with some of this foolishness and who have aided and abetted, instead of helping to combat it.
Certainly, none could be saved without the grace of God. The whole divine plan of redemption was envisioned by God, not in consequence of anything man earned or deserved, but as a matter of grace and mercy. But the truth remains that the benefits of that grace are received conditionally. We are saved by grace "through faith" (Eph. 2:8-10). "Grace" includes all that God planned and did, while "faith" includes all that man must do in reaching out to lay hold on offered mercy. There is "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2). Paul taught that men are "under law to Christ" (1 Cor. 9:21). We are not under the law of Moses, nor any of human origin, nor are we to suppose that even compliance with divine law is sufficient to save us apart from its connection with the grace of God which provided it.
The New Testament teaches that the grace of God saves those who respond in obedience to the will of God. Jesus said the difference between the wise and foolish builders was that the wise one heard and did his word, while the foolish heard and did not his word. The Pentecostians anxiously inquired as to what they must do, and were told (Acts 2:37-38). It is the doer and not the hearer that shall be blessed (Jas. 1:22-25). There was no freedom from sin without obedience from the heart, nor could one become the servant of God without such (Rom. 6:16-18). Paul said those who "obey not the gospel" will be lost (II Thess. 1:6-9).
Paul taught that binding some other law than that of Christ was, in effect, frustrating the grace of God (Gal. 2:21). Righteousness did not come by law keeping. Specifically here, Paul dealt with the effort of some to bind circumcision and other practices of the Mosaic law. That law had ended. To return to any part of it when God's grace had provided Christ was to frustrate God's grace and make the advent of Christ useless. The gospel is called "the gospel of the grace of God," but the gospel contains some things to be obeyed. "They have not all obeyed the gospel" (Rom. 10:16). The grace which brought the gospel that men might be reconciled ,requires a continuance in the faith and calls for one's not being moved away from the hope of the gospel so that he might be presented before God holy, unblameable and unreprovable (Col. 1:22-23).
To confess great admiration for the grace of God while despising his authority over the church and excusing doctrinal and practical departures from what he authorized is hypocritical. While we should not come to look upon the gospel as the Jew did upon the law of Moses, let us be careful lest in our fear of "legalism" we dismiss the need for Bible authority altogether. If believing that we ought to speak as God's oracles and have a "thus saith the Lord" for what we teach and practice is legalism, then count me guilty. But may I urge the young men who are singing this tune not to be overly proud in thinking they have made up a new song. Both the melody and lyrics have been around a long time."
Please consider the fact that in every apostasy of God's people we have had the innovators of error manifesting similar characteristics. Ask yourself the question, "Do the preachers I know manifest the characteristics outlined in this material?"
We have the "Change Artists" among us who are making every effort possible to destroy the truth of God's word. Some of these are Neo-Calvinists, some of them are wrong on the Marriage and Divorce question, some of them are wrong on the Fellowship question. But they all have some things in common. They do not want you to oppose them, they do not want their names called, they do not want you to deal with their arguments, and they will do everything possible to discredit the person standing for the truth.
When one accepts error, there is a laxity on morals; they just do not preach on them as they should. Since they want others to fellowship them, then they have to fellowship others. Now comes the great pitch: "Let's be more tolerant!" "Let's not be so judgmental!" "We are all sinners and thus are in the same boat; so, let's manifest love, mercy, and kindness to others and try to save their soul!" Of course, while all of this is going on they are tolerating and fellowshipping error - manifesting "Unity in Diversity."
The places where I am conducting meetings, I am continually being told, "That is the kind of preaching I used to hear!" My friend, do you not know where there are a lot of brethren who will say, "This is the kind of preaching I used to hear?" The reason is that many of the preachers among us are not preaching the "Old Time Gospel." They have removed the "Ancient Land Marks" and are not preaching "according to the pattern."
These are the "Change Artists" among us, and whether we like it or not, they will have to be dealt with. So, my judgment is: we need to take out our Bibles, roll up our sleeves, and get to work answering the arguments presented by the "Change Artists." We do not have to be unkind; but we do need to be bold and straight forward. We need to stand for truth, and let the world, and the Lord, know the position we occupy. Here, my friends, is the truth. Give my scriptural authority for what you believe and we will reason together. May the Lord richly bless us in our efforts to STAND FOR TRUTH.
"So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth" (Galatians 4:16)?
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