"Liberty" for Which Christ Died?
Daniel H. King
In answer to the strong criticism and generally heated controversy which has surrounded the writing of Pat Boone's book A New Song, Pat wrote an article in the August, 1971 issue of Christian Life Magazine which he titled "Let God Speak to You." In consideration of the fact that J. D. Bales has appropriately dealt with and shown the fallacy of the major thesis of A New Song and this latest article (before it was even conceived), it is not to the major thesis of this article that the writer would like to address himself. Rather, to a prevailing attitude which brings itself to the surface in the essay and has been echoed by many of the young, of late, in the churches of Christ. It appears to have issued from the spirit of ecumenism and existentialism of the religious parties of our own day. Let the following quotation from page 19 of Pat's article suffice to present the view:
"A man can't enjoy the 'liberty for which Christ died' if he's afraid to study the Bible for himself.
Yet some individuals have denounced my personal experience with the Holy Spirit. And more frightening, they declare me to be "deceived and deceiving," "false teacher," "unsound," "not led by God's Spirit" - based upon their own intellectual grasp of the scriptures."
The key word here, it seems to this writer, is the word "liberty." From Pat's usage of the word it would seem that his definition would run something like this: "Liberty" is the right of every man to read the Bible for himself, interpret it in whatever way he wants to, teach that interpretation as the Word of God, and continue in the full fellowship of the church. Such an insinuation must not go unchallenged. In examination of the statement it becomes necessary to ask the question, "Does the Bible really use the word 'liberty' in such a fashion, and if so, are we granted such privileges by the usage?" Examination of related passages (Rom. 8:21; 1 Cor. 7:39; 8:9; 10:29; II Cor. 2:17; Gal. 2:4; 5:1, 13; Js. 1:25; 2:12) will bear out only three types of liberty "for which Christ died"
1. Liberty from sin.
2. Liberty from Moses' law.
3. Liberty in matters of expediency.
This writer will certainly grant the high privilege and necessary duty of every Christian to read and interpret the scriptures for himself, but in so doing two Biblical principles must be taken into consideration:
Firstly, there is a possibility of apostasy in scriptural interpretation. Notice another statement which equally reveals his disposition in this regard:
"It's one thing to have strong, scholarly opinions, based on study and prayer, and to share them with others even to be concerned, vocally, when others seem to 'miss the obvious point.' But it's quite another thing to be so infallibly sure that those 'Obvious points' are the 'sound doctrine' that all who see it another way, or from different experience, can summarily be judged wrong, false, displeasing to God, led by false spirits, and fit to be disfellowshipped."
In order to make such a statement, Brother Boone must either be unaware of 2 Peter 3:16 or he is purposely ignoring it. Here Peter says that the "ignorant and unsteadfast" wrest the scriptures "unto their own destruction." Indeed, this must be viewed as the eternal wages of those who "see it another way, or from different experience" than what the Bible actually teaches (this is not to say who is right or wrong in any 'particular situation, but is merely a realistic acceptance of the Biblical teaching).
Furthermore, Pat's inference from this statement is that there is no way to be "infallibly sure" about "obvious points" and "sound doctrine." Can such really be the case? Have we actually been given a Bible that is so riddle-ridden, symbol-shrouded, and complex that we cannot understand it alike? Examine the following passages and see if that appears to be the first-century concept (I Tim. 1:10; 4:1, 6, 13, 16; 6:3-5;
II Tim. 3:16; 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1, 7; II Jno. 9; Jude 3). Such a close examination will yield the conclusion that there is a rule of faith, a "sound doctrine" that can be identified and taught, and yes, even made a test of fellowship.
All through the article one can easily detect that Pat is vexed at the reality of the second responsibility of those who study, teach and act upon the contents of Holy Writ, that is, brotherhood displeasure and even disfellowship because of departure from plain scripture teaching. It is a well known fact that the Boones, Pat and his wife, Shirley were disfellowshipped last April by the Inglewood, California, church of Christ. The reason: The Boone's teachings and practices regarding gifts of the Holy Spirit. Naturally Pat proclaims that he is right and has been "unjustly treated, but in meeting the issue squarely one should ask whether any false teacher or heretic when asked the 'question, "Are you a false teacher?" would answer positively.
In answering the inference of the article this writer must emphatically state that the Bible is the "rule of faith," that is, the measuring rod or canon of our faith and if one departs from its plain teachings, then it is not the privilege of, but the duty of the elders of that church to lead the church in the withdrawal of fellowship. On page 59 Pat misuses Matt. 7: 1 to say that the church has no right to judge him, but a clear look at the context there, and a study of I Cor. 5:12 where Paul asks, "Do not ye judge them that are within?", as well as Rom. 16:17-18; II Thess. 3:6-7, 14715; and 2 Jno. 9-11 yields not only the church's right to judge him and his teachings, but also its responsibility to withdraw from him.
In summary it should be recognized by all, Pat Boone included, that the privilege of Bible study carries with it not only the joy of the knowledge of God, but attendant dangers; possible apostasy and consequently, the church's disfavor and disfellowship in this life and final judgment in the hereafter. Such a recognition should cause us all to humble ourselves as we open out Bibles with the words "Thy will be done!"
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 8, pp. 12-13