Fellowship and the New Mathematics
James W. Adams
San Augustine, Texas
In the past fifteen years, parents all over the nation have been introduced to and confounded by the "new mathematics" via their schoolage children, and the controversy yet rage concerning its advisability and viability in the educational process on the elementary and secondary levels in our public schools. As strange as it may seem, during the same period of time, there has been introduced and propagandized among professed churches of Christ a spiritual form of "new mathematics" relating to the question of fellowship between dissident groups in said churches. The leading agitator for the "new M spiritual math" is none other than W. Carl Ketcherside whose teaching I review in this series of articles.
It is believed and certainly hoped that the new math" in our secular schools is possessed of more validity and consistency than Ketcherside's spiritual variety. One of the many fetishes of our crusading brother is his professed hatred for a bugbear, which he styles "legalism." Yet, I have never read after any religious writer who tries harder to reduce man's relationship to God to a series of mathematical propositions than does he. Such is cultic in tendency and legalistic in spirit. Added to this is the fact that his spiritual math is grotesque and unbelievable. It is like something out of a Martian nightmare. It proposes that seven equal one, one equals two, one equals a multitude, and such like.
"Seven Equal One"
Ketcherside constantly affirms the mathematically phrased proposition that one fact believed and one act obeyed equal salvation, that mutual enjoyment of salvation equals fellowship, hence that all "immersed believers" are essentially one in Christ in spite of a multitude of divergent beliefs and practices. Having set forth this basic proposition, he then proceeds to enlarge his "one fact" to be believed to "seven facts related to Jesus of Nazareth," hence makes one equal seven. His one fact to be believed concerns the Deity of Jesus that Jesus is in fact the Son of God. Immediately, however, he expands this to two facts in recognition of the New Testament statement that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 20:30, 31; Acts 8:37; Mt. 16:16 KJV) by adding belief in the Messiahship of Jesus - that he is the Christ, the Anointed One. So, one equals two, and two equals seven, but seven also equal one. This is the "new" Ketcbersidian "math" by which the problem of divided Christendom is to be solved.
To what real purpose is all this mathematical jargon? None that I can see! I know of no fact concerning Jesus, which does not in some sense relate to his Deity and Lordship, and there are considerably more than seven of these facts revealed in the word of God. Some of these facts are evidence of the Deity of Jesus, but others are established as facts and their validity vindicated only on the basis of the fact of the Deity of Jesus. It is an exercise in futility to seek to divorce any Divinely revealed fact concerning Jesus from his essential nature and mission in the world. Most of them both confirm and are confirmed by His Deity, and all of them are basic to His Lordship - His universal sovereignty over "angels, principalities, and powers, might, dominion, every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and all things to the church" (1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 1:20-23).
The facts to be believed contained in the "good news (gospel)" of eternal salvation consist of all the facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth. I freely acknowledge that the alien sinner does not have to know every fact concerning Jesus in order to embrace Him as Savior. He must know enough facts to produce absolute conviction as to His Deity and unreserved trust in Him as Savior which lead to his acknowledgement of the sovereignty of Jesus over his life by repenting (Lk. 24:46,47) and upon a confession with the mouth of Christ as Lord (Rom. 10: 9, 10) being immersed in water in order to the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38). However, it should be noted that such faith produced by New Testament revelation obligates the believer to accept unreservedly all other revealed facts concerning Jesus and that the repudiation of any such revealed fact is tantamount to a denial of them all since they all rest squarely upon the same body of evidence. This is to say that faith must be a continuing faith. The believer must keep on believing. Peter said, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1: 3-5). These things being true, I cannot fellowship as a Christian any person who denies any revealed fact concerning Jesus Christ regardless of his honesty or the sincerity of his primary obedience in the act of immersion in water. I am constrained to regard him as an infidel.
One Equals a Multitude
Not only does Ketcherside make one equal two, then seven, in reference to his "belief of one fact" theory, but also relative to his "obedience of one act" theory, he makes one equal a multitude of commandments. He begins by making his one act of obedience, which he says is "immersion in water," two acts of obedience. Ketcherside teaches that repentance is a prerequisite of scriptural immersion. Repentance is not faith, nor is it immersion. It is a distinct command addressed to the human will (Acts 17:30; 2:38), hence can and must be obeyed. It is not a physical act as is immersion, but it is an act of the mind and will of man involving purpose of life. The Holy Spirit predicates remission of sins upon it as an appropriating condition as did our blessed Lord in the "Great Commission" (Lk. 24:46, 47; Acts 2:38). Brother Ketcherside, our evolving genius in "the new spiritual math," must expand his obedience of one act to an obedience of two acts, hence make one equal two. There is one alternative for him. He could assume the position taken by Baptist debaters to the effect that "repentance and faith are inseparable graces" and insist that repentance inheres in his "belief of one fact." This would in all probability not bother him since he already makes one equal seven. To make it one more (eight) should be an easy matter for one of his spiritual mathematical acumen.
As previously stated, Ketcherside makes one equal a multitude. He spends much time in his writings arguing that those things essential to bringing one into the fellowship are the significant matters while divergent beliefs and practices within the fellowship, though important, do not alter the fact of fellowship or the "condition" of fellowship. As previously pointed out he brutalizes the "birth" figure (John 3:5) to sustain his contention. He argues that the conditions essential to birth are the things indispensable to fellowship. They put the child in the family - the fellowship. He then argues that disagreements in the family, while important, do not affect the family relationship, since it is a state or condition. This means that Ketcherside's essentials are two: (1) belief of one fact and (2) obedience of one act-belief that Jesus is the Son of God and immersion in water.
But, does he accept the logical consequence of this concept? No, indeed! If he did, he would have to accept the validity of the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy. So, he does some more of his mathematical gymnastics and comes up with three ways that fellowship may be broken, hence he makes two equal three. This is not all, for his three ways turn out to be generic categories which may legitimately be regarded as containing a multiplicity of Divine requirements as I shall show, hence he makes one equal a multitude. Let us allow our brother to speak for himself:
The common life is entered by an acceptance of the Lordship of Jesus over our earthly existence, and it can only be disrupted by a renunciation of our pledge of allegiance to km as our sovereign.
One may deny the Lordship of Jesus in two ways - by what he does, or by what he says. If he adopts a life-style or engages in a course of conduct in defiance of the moral and ethical values associated with Jesus, he ruthlessly violates the convenantal relationship. HLIS behavior constitutes a public and blatant declaration that he will not allow Christ to reign over him. . . .
Another basis for congregational action is advocacy of doctrines, which separate from God. One may be mistaken about many things, but erroneous opinions will not necessarily sever him from God else God would have no children left . . . The body of truth Li like the human body, in that it has many, members. Not all of these are essential to being; some are essential only to well-being. All truths are equally true, but not all truths are equally important.
What one must believe in order to enter into the fellowship of life is more important than what one may believe while in that life. Thus, a denial of the facts related to Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God will destroy the relationship created by acceptance of those facts. Such a denial separates from God exactly as such acceptance unites with God ...
The third basis for such actions as I am discussing is the factional spirit . . . ("Restoration Review, " February 1973, p. 25).
In the matter of fellowship, I have charged that Ketcherside makes one equal a multitude in reference to his "obedience of one act" theory. He says that fellowship is entered by obedience of one act, immersion in water. He says that one accepts the Lordship of Jesus over his life in this way and that his fellowship with Jesus "can only be disrupted by a renunciation of our pledge of allegiance to him as sovereign." Observe also, he admits that this can be done "by what one does, or by what one says."
Following this, Ketcherside list three ways in which he believes the immersed believer may terminate his fellowship with Christ and consequently with all faithful believers. I propose to show that these three fellowship - terminating conditions involve a multiplicity of the Lord's requirements which must be obeyed by his followers. In fact, they logically and scripturally involve practically everything that any of us would regard as having a bearing upon Christian fellowship. Ketcherside's three ways are generic categories involving many distinct requirements. They are neither specific facts nor commandments. Ketcherside's generalities obscure the issue. It is my firm conviction that such is intentional on his part. This is his modus operandi.
Space forbids a continuation of the examination of Ketcherside's three ways of terminating fellowship. His statements are rich in sophistry, so it is my intention to give them thorough consideration under the Title "Ketcherside Meets Himself Coming Back."
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 40, pp. 8-10