Steven Deaton


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Voices from the Past

Students and Today's Issues
C.G. "Colly" Caldwell, III
Gospel Guardian — June 1, 1975


I suppose students have always had a bit of what our Tennessee grannies used to call "devilment" in them. During the last twenty-five years of his teaching life at the College of the Bible in Lexington, Kentucky, J.W. McGarvey became increasingly deaf and therefore was compelled to use a rather awkward ear-trumpet to hear his students. The ear-trumpet was a kind of goosenecked horn approximately the size of a small teacup attached to a rubber tube about three feet long. Brother McGarvey put the tube into his ear and the students recited their memory work for the day into the ear-trumpet at the teacher's desk. That, of course, suggests all kinds of possibilities for fun-making and nearly all of them were apparently tried by brother McGarvey's students who nonetheless loved him dearly.

One day McGarvey asked Hiram Brown to recite. Brown was in the back of the room and noticing that McGarvey did not have his ear-piece in place stood up and said, "Good morning, John." All laughed loudly but were quickly quieted when John McGarvey said in return, "Good morning, Hiram." The students were amazed to realize that their wise old professor had somewhere along the way become quite adept at reading lips. Thereafter they were more careful to cover up their pranks.

Students have so many good qualities which we all admire that as we become just a little older than they, we catch ourselves almost becoming envious. Young people are zealous and unafraid. (We all admit that sometimes they can become impertinent and that is not good.) They are, on the whole, ambitious and want to do something good with their lives. Their minds are alert and their bodies are active. They engage in so many things and with so much enthusiasm that we are sometimes overwhelmed by their energy. I love to work with them. Oh, some are not as I have described, but most have a way of sharing their youthful ardor with those who really want to be with them and who really want to challenge and excite them with some new knowledge they have not discovered.

Today's young people are anxious to think about "truth." Most of them are idealistic. I wish some older people could recapture the idealism of youth. Idealism, however, must be channeled and I am afraid that the thinking of many of our young people is being directed into the wrong paths. Part of the cause is our failure to realistically reach out to them. We have defaulted. If we are going to win the battle with a liberal, Biblically illiterate, promiscuous society we are going to have to put up a fight.

The influence of the "peace" and "unity" movements in and out of the religious arena is having a telling effect upon many young minds. When a young man goes away to college soaked down with the liberal thinking that no issue is really important enough to fight for, that we should agree to disagree, that we should extend ourselves to share in religious practice with all who believe in Jesus or who have been baptized regardless of their religious activities, it is next to impossible to impress him with the Truth!

Recently, after teaching at length that the Holy Spirit operates upon the human heart today through the medium of the written revealed message of Christ (the New Testament), a student asked, "Do you really think that is important? Do you think that that could make a difference to anyone's salvation?" We might have challenged our teacher's viewpoint on Bible subjects; but we would never have even thought of asking a Bible instructor if what he was saying on great Bible themes was important.

It is a matter of tremendous concern to those of us who teach Bible at Florida College that such an attitude is so deeply engrained within the thinking of students when they come, or is so easily accepted by them when another hands them their first issue of a liberal magazine. We realize we come under considerable fire because some leave our campus without proper convictions, a few of them being very vocal in their false views. Such has always been the case and is true of churches as well as schools. We will have some students who deny the faith and you will see not a few with the same attitudes, but who have no connections with any school, in the "conservative" congregations.

The thinking of those advocating open fellowship of all baptized believers regardless of doctrinal differences and religious practice is something like a story I read the other day about a groups of little boys playing football without any rules. Of course, they could not play the game because they could not agree as to the size or shape of the ball to be used, the number of boys on each team, or the size of the field. But the most interesting boy in the group was a truly ecumenical spirit who butted in and said that to discuss these matters was unimportant and unsportsmanlike and that the only necessary things was that they should all play the game together. Now that sounds nice, but he still did not settle the problems. The boys wound up in a fight rather than in a ballgame and our ecumenical spirit threw the blow that bloodied the first nose.

It is sometimes almost hilarious (it would be if it were not so serious) to see the "union" people step up as if they had all the answers. Do they imagine that extending fellowship to everyone is going to solve the problems? Those little boys will never be able to play ball without rules. And the Christian can never go to God without following the guide which is "a lamp unto his feet and a light to his pathway." Throw out the word of God and you'll walk in darkness. You can talk all day about the common belief in Christ, but without believing and practicing what he teaches, you are as lost as if you had never heard of Jesus.

We do not argue in favor of having many different religious groups. We are as much for unity as Carl Ketcherside or Leroy Garrett. We are, I believe, extremely patient in the practice of marking brethren and withdrawing ourselves. But we will not (because we cannot) accept union with denominationalism (in or out of the Restoration movement) on any other basis than a mutual acceptance of Truth! I am not going to admit that those using instrumental music, taking the Lord's Supper on Thursday night, or practicing institutionalism, are in good standing with the Lord while violating his patterns or presuming to add to his revealed will. To admit that would be to throw over all the principles of Truth on which we stand. And while on that point let me add that neither I nor any of you is at liberty to presume that God will void his patterns and extend his grace beyond what he has revealed in the Word that he will.

You will be hearing a lot of old questions raised again in the next few years if you have not heard them already. This time around the motive will be a bit different. The questions will not be asked in order to try to defend a single innovation, like instrumental music or institutional orphanages. This time they will be asked in an attempt to change your thinking toward concepts of authority as revealed in the New Testament and to cause you to accept people in many different facets of error. There is a lot more to the issues of our day than kindness and superficial "love." Our attitude toward God"s word is at stake. It is the whole package this time!

We are not playing a academic game with these young people who come saturated with these views. I understand their questions and appreciate their deliberations. I could not even begin to fill the role of teacher (in the church or College or in any other place) if I did not. But let me offer a warning. When young men, or women, set their attitude in the way of disrespect for the authority of the word of God and so commit themselves through the writing and dissemination of literature and through their verbal influence, they cease to be just students and take on characteristics of full-grown false teachers! Pranks are one thing. I'll join in the fun. But students too must realize the importance of truth and the seriousness of refusing to hear it.

Gospel Guardian — Volume 27, Number 11 — June 1, 1975


Feature Editor's Comments

The above article was published after troubles at Florida College over the "new-unity movement" arose among the students. Brother Caldwell took a firm stand against such error, and is to be commended for such. (It is sad that some of those who took such a stand would now reject an article like the above on "today's issues.") He expressed some important principles and gave us much to think about. Let us apply them to "today's issues."

First, we have a "non-judgmental" movement in and out of religious circles today. We are called upon to refrain from judging others, and are judged to be mean-spirited and unloving if we do judge others. Young men go off to college having been taught this from kindergarten on up. To use brother Caldwell's words, "a young man goes away to college soaked down with [this] liberal thinking that no issue is really important enough to fight for, that we should agree to disagree." This stands in sharp contrast to the Bible doctrine of judging or discernment. Jesus said, "Judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). He judged some to be false prophets and warned us to look out for them (Matthew 7:15-20). The only way to look out for this person is to test his teaching with the word of God (1 John 4:1,6). Likewise, we are commanded to discern whether or not a person is living according to God's will (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14). Again, the only way to do this is to use God's word. Hence, our judging is not based upon subjective personal opinions, but upon an unchanging standard of divine truth--and it must be done.

Second, brother Caldwell mentioned his teaching on the Holy Spirit's operation and the student who asked if it was really important or had a bearing upon one's salvation is strikingly similar to statements made regarding one of "today's issues". There are those who have advocated an erroneous doctrine about Genesis 1, including a former Bible teacher at Florida College, which says that the days of Genesis 1 are not literal. Rather, some say, the days are either long periods of time (millions of years) or there are large gaps (millions of years) between the days. When brethren raise an objection to such, pointing out that Moses believed the days to be literal, 24 hour days (Exodus 20:11), and that men teaching to the contrary are promoting dangerous error, they are ridiculed. There have been many voices to say our beliefs about Genesis 1 are not important, it is not essential to salvation. Well, if our beliefs about that chapter do not have a bearing on our salvation, then what other chapters are irrelevant? Too, what about the Lord's statement that Adam and Eve were created at the "beginning of the creation" (Mark 10:6)? May we believe the Lord was wrong about that and still be saved? Were Adam and Eve actually created millions of years after the beginning of creation and Jesus just didn't know that or He misled us? You see, if we reject a straightforward, literal interpretation of Genesis 1, we must reject the Lord's statement about the time of man's creation. Thus, we are forced to conclude Jesus was not the Son of God. Friend, "Do you really think that is important? Do you think that that could make a difference to anyone's salvation?"

Third, brother Caldwell pointed out the fallacy of unity for the sake of unity, illustrating it with the boys ballgame. Today we have brethren who want us to ignore differences in doctrinal and moral matters for the sake of unity. It has always been true that those who are loose on truth want those who stand for truth to extend fellowship to them. What this means is, those who have a conviction are to give it up and just ignore the error. True Bible unity is never accomplished in this manner. As the author went on to point out, unity can only be found by "a mutual acceptance of Truth!" (Philippians 1:27). Yet, we are called upon to overlook a man's error on divorce and remarriage or the issue of fellowship. (The "unity" movement is back, in a different form, but back nonetheless). Also, isn't it interesting that the "ecumenical spirit" is the one who threw the first punch? Often, those who clamor most for unity, love, patience, understanding, and fellowship are the most vicious, spiteful, and malicious ones around (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Fourth, brother Caldwell refused to admit that those using instruments, observing the Lord's supper on Thursday, and practicing institutionalism were "in good standing with the Lord." Too, he said no one has the right to presume "God will void his patterns and extend grace beyond what he has revealed in the Word." This remains true with regard to "today's issues." Will we admit that those accepting promoters of error are in "good standing with the Lord"? No! We cannot (2 John 9-11). Still, we are called upon to do such.

Fifth, brother Caldwell wrote of questions that would be asked, "This time they will be asked in an attempt to change your thinking toward concepts of authority as revealed in the New Testament and to cause you to accept people in many different facets of error." With reference to "today's issues", we see men asking questions which favor the acceptance of error. For instance, we were present at a discussion about fellowship and the divorce-remarriage issue. One "mature" preacher strove to make a parallel between a man who advocates error on divorce and remarriage and a person who is converted out of denominationalism who still has some hang-ups about instrumental music. The question was designed to obscure truth and excuse the fellowship of one teaching error.

Sixth, it was mentioned that Florida College was not "playing an academic game" with the young people. Let us all understand that the battle between truth and error is not an academic game — it is a matter of eternal salvation versus eternal damnation (Romans 6:23). No one should take a passive attitude toward "today's issues". Yet, many do. This goes back to the let's "agree-to-disagree" attitude. Men and women will lose their souls when they accept and follow false doctrine. Therefore, we must take these matters seriously and press the battle.

Seventh, brother Caldwell wrote, "When young men, or women, set their attitude in the way of disrespect for the authority of the word of God and so commit themselves through the writing and dissemination of literature and through their verbal influence, they cease to be just students and take on characteristics of full-grown false teachers!" The subject of false teachers has been hot over the past several years. "What is a false teacher?" has been asked time and again. Some believe a false teacher is one who is morally corrupt or insincere and teaches error on some point. They say if a man is morally upright and sincere, but teaches error, it is unscriptural to designate him as a false teacher. However, we agree with brother Caldwell that those who hold an unscriptural position and "commit themselves through the writing and dissemination of literature and through their verbal influence, ...take on characteristics of full-grown false teachers!"

Finally, it is our hope that men will judge between right and wrong doctrines and practices, in "today's issues" and all others. Likewise, we wish for all to believe truth matters. It is not simply "important" to salvation, but absolutely essential, and those who oppose it are enemies of the cross of Christ (John 8:32; Philippians 3:18).