Reply to Anonymous "Young Christian"
Editor's Note: The following article has been featured at the Truth Magazine website for a while now. It has engendered much discussion, and brother Hafley sent it for inclusion in Watchman as well. Though we are a bit "behind the times" reprinting it, for those Watchman readers who may not have read it on the Truth Magazine site, here it is. We appreciate brother Hafley's kindness and candor in dealing with this young person.
Dear Young Christian,
Thank you for writing and for expressing your concerns, judgments, and opinions. While I would advise you to turn away from "vain jangling" and from carnal disputes of men, as Scripture says we must, I encourage you to discern between good and evil, to see if you might be rejecting the very things that will strengthen and fortify your faith in our loving Lord and his selfless sacrifice. It might be that the overthrowing of error and the clear establishment of truth is the very thing you need to encourage your heart and edify your soul (Col. 2:4-8; 2 Pet. 1:12-15). You have an advantage over me. This response "proves" your point. In other words, if I answer your assertions, I am, in your mind, doing the very thing which you condemn, replying and arguing. If I do not, I am perhaps seen as unable to answer your views. However, despite that, I shall endeavor to respond to you with all candor. "Wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently" (Acts 26:3).
First, how did you find the time to write your letter to me? I "wonder if the space (you used would have been better) used to tell (me) about Jesus and his love and sacrifice for us and the great love of God and his grace, rather than 'debating' with (me)" about the need for controversy. Should you not be too busy telling about the love and sacrifice of Jesus, and should you not be too busy praising our Lord and encouraging our brethren to write to me? How could you take such valuable time away from praising our Lord to launch your arguments, and your "attack" against me? Like you, I, too, "say these things in love for all brethren and most of all in love for the Lord."
Second, while I appreciate the apparent humble tone of your remarks, I cannot be certain of you. You proclaim your love for the Lord, and I am happy if it is so, but I cannot be sure, for you have taken the path of anonymity to launch your argument and appeal. At least those of us who have written controversial articles, thus exposing ourselves to cowardly, hidden criticism and rebuke, have signed our names before all. You knew where to find me. However, you hide behind the cowering, quivering brush of anonymity and shoot from ambush. When they came under cover of darkness to take the Lord, he said, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled" (Mk. 14:48, 49).
Anonymity often is a liar. It says, "I didn't do it; I didn't say it." May I remind you that neither the Lord nor his holy apostles and prophets ever hid themselves and shot from the bushes. No, they were bold, courageous, and forthright (Acts 4:20, 31). They were men of honor and integrity. "Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:1, 2).
Third, could it be that a particular web site is especially designed to answer and review false doctrine? I have been asked to concentrate on such matters in Truth Magazine and in Watchman Magazine. That is, in part, why I do so. That you find such discussions and studies discouraging does not negate the fact that we hear from a great many who find the very same articles helpful and informative. We often receive praise for such work. (Those folks sign their names.) I say this, neither to boast nor to justify, but to show that not all agree with your assessment.
You speak of the "feature" article at the Truth Magazine web site ("Fire In My Heart: Saga Of A Spirit Stirred," TruthMagazine.com) which I have written that you found somewhat "compelling." That is fine, but that also means that you noted that error had been posed by others. Why did you not register your protest against those who have argued the error and who attacked the truth? Strange it is that you have the time to take away from your teaching of the love and sacrifice of Jesus to anonymously rebuke me, a man whom you seem to agree has taught the truth, but you have not the time to reprove those who taught the error and who attacked the truth of God. You can find the time to take away from a discussion of the love and sacrifice of Jesus to accuse me, but you have not the time to condemn those who taught error and made arguments and attacks against the truth. Why is that?
You speak of the need for encouragement. It is much needed (1 Thess. 5:11). Was your anonymous letter designed to encourage me? Did you think writing anonymously and criticizing me would bring greater love, unity and encouragement? Paul wrote a letter which brought grief and sorrow to his readers. Later, however, the effect was spiritually beneficial (2 Cor. 7:8-13). Likewise, though you fail to see the joy and usefulness of such material, that does not mean that others are not helped by it. "I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children" (1 Cor. 4:14).
Fourth, in a way, at times, there is no "bright side" to such work. No sincere Christian enjoys constant warfare. That is why Paul exhorted Timothy that such work had to be done, "in season, out of season;" that is, when it was palatable and when it was not, the work still had to be done! Frequently, our stand for truth and stance against error results in grievous and painful divisions--father from son, daughter from mother (Matt. 10:34-37; 1 Cor. 11:19; Cf. 2 Cor. 2:15-17).
Let the Holy Spirit assure you that such work must be done:
Young Christian, note that last verse. Jude wanted to write about "our common salvation," however, due to the circumstances, he had to change his approach and appeal to them to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." Since you grant that such work may be necessary, please consider that an older Christian may see situations, (parallel, perhaps, to those Jude saw) and that, therefore, he might spend time contending for the faith rather than speaking of the common salvation.
You assert, but do not prove, that, "when the majority of our time and writing is spent in debate, there is little room for praise of our Lord and encouragment of our brethren." Knowing the defensive, controversial, argumentative nature of 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Hebrews, would you say to Paul that, "when the majority of our time and writing is spent in debate, there is little room for praise of our Lord and encouragment of our brethren"? While reviewing the many debates and arguments of the Lord in the first four books of the New Testament, would you say to the Spirit regarding the selection of what is contained therein, "when the majority of our time and writing is spent in debate, there is little room for praise of our Lord and encouragment of our brethren"?
"I Will Look No Longer"
Concerning the TruthMagazine.com web site, you state, "I will look no longer. It is too discouraging for me to see such division among the Lords people and a "he said" and then "i said" and then "he said" and the reply to the reply." (a) Young Christian, are you discouraged when you read 2 Peter, chapters two and three? Are you discouraged when you read Jude? When you see the arguments, and the, "they said," "Paul said," controversies, such as appear in Acts 15, Romans, chapters 9-11, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, and 2 Timothy 2:15-18, is it "too discouraging (for) you"? Do you say, "I will look no longer" at those passages? (b) When you read Matthew, especially Matthew 15:1-14, and chapters 12, and 21 through 23, along with John, chapters 5 though 8, do you say of them, "I will look no longer. It is too discouraging for me to see such division among the Lords people and a "he said" and then "i said" and then "he said" and the reply to the reply"? (c) When you read of the "division among the Lords people" in Corinth, do you say, "I will look no longer. It is too discouraging for me to see such division among the Lords people" (1 Cor. 1:10-15; 3:1-3--"For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you"--11:19)? (d) Finally, when you read that the Lord said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household," do you say, "I will look no longer. It is too discouraging for me to see such division among the Lords people" (Matt. 10:34-36)? No, Young Christian, I do not think that is what you say. Therefore, do you not see that the same is true with respect to some of the work that both younger and older Christians do?
Yes, my dear young friend, divisions are "discouraging." They are discouraging to all who love truth, peace, unity, and harmony. However, did it ever occur to you that you should rejoice that there are those who, despite the distastefulness of the work, are striving to stop the mouths of those who promote the division which we all disdain (Titus 1:9-13)? Did it ever occur to you that whether or not you ever read another line on the web site which so discourages you that the errors that are being opposed will not go away just because you refuse to read about their refutation?
Is it "discouraging" to you to know that some men teach that the days of Genesis one are not literal days such as the Bible describes them to be (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:14-17)? Is it "discouraging" to you to know that some brethren have taught that hell is annihilation and not a place of eternal punishment for the wicked? Is it "discouraging" to you to know that some have taught that alien sinners may be divorced and remarried several times prior to their obedience to the gospel, but that, after they are baptized, they may maintain their adulterous marriage? Is it "discouraging" to you that some believe the flood of Genesis 6-8 was not a world-wide event, but only a local one? Surely, these things are as "discouraging" to you as they are to us.
However, it should encourage you that men are standing against these "discouraging" and divisive doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1, 2). You should be rejoicing that others are fighting hard to maintain the truth and to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. If you turn your back on such efforts, those errors will not dissipate and disappear. No, rather, they will increase unto more ungodliness; they will eat and erode the faith of some like a hidden lump of cancer cells (2 Tim. 2:17; 3:13). Without opposition, things will only get worse. If you truly love truth, peace, and unity, and if evil and error discourage your young and tender heart, you should uphold the hands of those who are striving to stop those things that bring you such spiritual misery and unhappiness. If you do not do so, and if you fulfill your threat to withdraw, in essence, your right hand of fellowship from the fight, remember that your ignoring the work will not make false doctrine vanish away. It will not terminate the divisions which you so despise.
Since you will not hear those who oppose the error and teach the truth, what will you do when the men who teach that the days of Genesis one are not literal days and who believe in the "big bang" theory come to your door (and, make no mistake about it, they will come to your door!)? What will you do when they come for meetings where you worship? When they come and teach that hell is not a real place but an annihilation of the wicked, when they come telling you that the flood of Noah was a local event, what will you do? What will you say? You cannot come to folks like me. No, for you will "look no longer" at material which opposes such errors. When you tell others of the love and sacrifice of Jesus and exhort them to obey the gospel, what do you say when one tells you that he has been saved by grace through faith, but that he has never been baptized? When one whom you are attempting to lead to Christ says he has been baptized in the name of Jesus and has received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire, along with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues, what do you tell him? When a Muslim, a Methodist, or a Mormon tells you he believes in God and the Bible, but not in the same way you do, what do you do?
Young Christian, do you reason and reply to these folks? Do you attempt to answer their arguments? When you do, do you ever remind them that what "they said," contradicts what "Jesus said," and that "Paul said," thus and so? If so, do you often find that you are doing the very same thing you are now criticizing me for doing? Further, when you have such exchanges with those whom you are seeking to convert, should we turn away from you and refuse to look because your attempts to persuade such people are too discouraging for us to consider? Too, should the Methodists reject you when you try to help them see that we are not saved by faith only? Should they say that you need "to tell us about Jesus and his love and sacrifice for us and the great love of God and his grace," and not so much about their error that salvation is "by faith only" (Article IX, Methodist Discipline)?
Yes, my young Christian friend, I will, with love and kindness, overlook your earnest and perhaps honest "youthful ramblings." I, too, was once young. I, too, have made foolish judgments and impetuous statements. Not knowing the Scriptures, and not having the experience of seasoned and mature, battle scarred veterans of the faith, when I said things that were "off base," I was taught and led back to the way of truth. Thank God, I listened to those who withstood me to my face, and who did not hide themselves and seek to tear me down from behind. Great men and women of God were patient with me. They helped and encouraged me all along the way. I thank God for them and will treasure their friendship and memory forever. It is my fond hope and fervent prayer that you may be able to do the same someday.
With sincere brotherly love,