Always Becoming and Never Is
James W Adams
San Augustine, Texas
"What is that which always is and has no becoming; and what is that which is always becoming and never is? That which is apprehended by intelligence and reason is always in the same state; but that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in a process of becoming and never really is" (Dialogues of Plato, Timaeus).
The question raised in the preceding quotation and the answer given were in connection with speculative philosophizing concerning the origin of the world, but they so aptly describe conditions which now prevail among some "conservative" brethren that it seemed fitting to continue my article, "Afraid of a Good Man?" under this title. In some very prominent circles among "us," ambiguity and equivocation which require endless explanations which do not explain and defenses which do not defend seem to be so much the order of the day that the scriptural posture of those involved seems to be that of "always becoming and never really is."
The Bible Is Not a Theological Workbook
Someone has described theology as "the skimmed milk of the Word." Others have with more truth than poetry described "theological seminaries" as "truth cemeteries." God's truth is addressed to the generality of mankind as a standard of faith and a rule of duty, hence projects itself as the basis of responsibility to God in life and accountability to God at the judgement on the part of man-the determining factor in man's eternal destiny. It was not addressed to scholastics as a theological workbook to guide their learned minds in the erection of a speculative system of religious dogmatics, but to the average man as a bulwark of faith and a guide to conduct. Therefore, the Word of God, in its essential elements, cannot be ambiguous, equivocal, enigmatic, or variable. In a word, it cannot "be always becoming and never is." To affirm less than this would indict, hence insult, the omniscience and omnipotence of Deity. Hence, it must be true that matters which agitate and divide professed Christians originate in human opinion and sensation rather than in reason and knowledge firmly rooted in and emanating from Divine Revelation.
The foregoing being true, it would seem that professed "conservatives" who subscribe to the "verbal inspiration and infallible authority" of the Sacred Scriptures should have little trouble being of one mind and one practice in the Lord, particularly with reference to all matters that are essential to becoming true servants of God and so living in that service as to spend eternity with God in heaven. Yet, it is not so, otherwise, why should the current controversy between Truth Magazine and the Gospel Guardian be going on?
"Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged"
Let it be noted that I am attempting desperately to cling to my original, clearly expressed assumption that all parties involved in the exchanges between these two journals are fundamentally sincere and are actuated by pure motives. Yet, I must regretfully acknowledge that my credulity in this regard has been taxed at times to its limits. Still, I have not joined, nor do I propose to join, the Gospel Guardian's infallible interpreters of their brethren's motives. I shall leave this to the "good men" of that fraternity.
A Passing Look at the Gospel Guardian's Practical "Ethics"
As a preface to these remarks, I wish to state that, unless some unusual developments make it absolutely necessary to do otherwise, this will be my last reference to the Gospel Guardian and her editor. I wish to return to my review of W. Carl Ketcherside, his teaching, and his activities. In these final statements, I shall attempt to be as restrained as circumstances will permit. I shall do this for two reasons: (1) because I am yet somewhat confused as to what the stance of Brother William Wallace and the Gospel Guardian portends, hence must wait and see; and (2) because I have no desire to agitate unnecessarily a situation which could have inherent in it the potentiality of becoming a starting point for factious alignment on the part of conservative brethren generally, and this would be, not simply unfortunate, but sinful. In the last two articles which Brother Wallace wrote on these matters, he made it impossible for me to ignore what he had to say, even though my reply is tardy by reason of things over which I had no control.
It bothers me to have to observe that Brother Wallace has a bad habit of (wittingly or unwittingly) being careless with facts. He represents as fact that which is no more than his personal fancy. Also, he has a habit of insinuating without affirming. This is what is called "innuendo," and it certainly classifies in the category of things which Brother Wallace in a recent editorial in the Gospel Guardian called, in Paul's language, "carnal weapons" (2 Cor. 10:4).
Some weeks past, Brother Wallace and some of his colleagues formally bowed out of the controversy with. Truth Magazine and her scribes to devote themselves to their "family magazine." Yet, since that time, the paper has literally reeked with articles which are unquestionably directed toward the controversy and which insinuate unethical conduct and extreme positions on Scriptural matters on the part of parties whom they oppose. The authors of these articles insinuate what they would not dare identify with specific persons and openly affirm as facts.
Since last January and the appearance of a publication called "Faith Magazine, " numerous indignant brethren from all over the United States have approached me concerning it and its possible authors. I have told each inquirer the same thing; namely, that if its authors knew how little I cared about its scurrilous representations of me in satirical form, they would be greatly disappointed. They neither disturbed nor angered me. Many times, the greatest compliment to an individual and the position he occupies is the character of those who oppose them. One fault I did find with `Faith Magazine" was the spelling of its authors. Do they not know that filth is always spelled with an "i" and never with an "a"? Oh, yes, they also mailed everyone they could think of a free copy but did not send me one. How thoroughly inconsiderate of them this was!
I make these observations concerning "Faith Magazine@ to note that certain persons prominently associated with the Gospel Guardian seemed (during the Florida College Lectures) to be getting a great deal of enjoyment from its having been published. Those who derived pleasure from it and rejoiced in its having been published (even though their' reactions were "mixed") might as well have been its authors. The only reason such individuals were not would be either because they did not have brains enough (it was cleverly done), they were too penurious to spend the money which it obviously cost, or they did not possess the questionable courage that it took. It certainly was not because they had too much character to do it.
Furthermore, innuendo, which is the Gospel Guardian's forte these days, is at least a double-cousin to anonymous satire, particularly when both are false and slanderous. "Faith Magazine" editors and publishers, cowardly reprobates and arrant falsifiers that they unquestionably are, demonstrated, in their publication, dedication to ethical (?) standards worse only in degree, not in kind, to those evinced by the Gospel Guardian in its present course. I told Brother Wallace during the Florida College Lectures that I would be willing to publish a statement saying I did not believe Gospel Guardian writers had anything to do with the publication of Faith Magazine. I made this offer because all who asked me about the matter (more than a hundred persons) also asked, "Do you suppose writers for the Gospel Guardian are behind this publication?" However, subsequent developments have made me wonder if my offer was premature. The Gospel Guardian's writers were those with whom we were in direct controversy, hence naturally suspect, yet I have seen no public disavowal from a single one of them nor any criticism of Faith Magazine's ethical journalistic standards.
Brother William Wallace bowed out of the controversy with Truth Magazine with two of the most vicious articles which have thus far appeared. Hi; references to Brother Roy E. Cogdill (without calling his name) in connection with the transfer of Cogdill's books from the Gospel Guardian to Truth Magazine, his references to Brother Cecil Willis, and his references to me and my past relationship to the Gospel Guardian and its former editor and publisher were rooted in the grossest misrepresentation of facts, and this is not the first time I have caught Brother William in this type of thing. In his representation of these matters, Brother Wallace seems to be seeking to embroil the former editor and publisher of the Gospel Guardian in this controversy. Why? Does he do this with the consent of the brother in question, or does he do it without his consent? Is Wallace disappointed that no assistance has been forthcoming from this source, hence seeks by this means to obtain it? I make no such charge, but do ask.
The former owner and editor of the Gospel Guardian knows the truth about these matters. Brother Wallace knows only a very small part of it. If the brother in question feels justified in allowing Wallace's misrepresentations to go uncorrected, so be it; it is his decision and he must answer only to God and his own conscience. I categorically deny the fundamental truth of Wallace's allegations, and I regard his effort to use his misrepresentations as evidence of political maneuvering for some sort of brotherhood control and business monopoly to be beneath contempt. More than this I shall not say unless Wallace or some other undertakes to. establish the truth of Wallace's allegations. Should this occur, I shall have much to say, and I am prepared to deal at whatever length is necessary with all matters involved with complete documentation, and, very probably, with far reaching consequences.
Not since New Christian Leader days (page Foy E. Wallace Jr. - William's father - of thirty-five years ago) have I read in a journal published by the brethren as much about "love, being loveable, tolerance, journalistic ethics" and such like as I have in comparatively recent issues of the Gospel Guardian, with the possible exception of Mission Messenger (W. Carl Ketcherside, editor) or Restoration Review (Leroy Garrett, editor). One of Gospel Guardian's co-editors (Gordon Wilson) recently treated its readers to a dissertation on "Journalistic Ethics." While professing to know little or nothing about the subject, he proposed a code of journalistic ethics of his own contriving and shortly thereafter gave us the benefit of his exegetical genius by a miserable attempt to establish that Matthew 5:21-26 may be applied to doctrinal differences among brethren. He is not the first, nor will he likely be the last sympathizer with teachers of error, to make such an abortive effort. I trust Brother Wilson will not be unduly offended if I reject the ipse dixit on these matters and inform him that if I have any choice in the matter (and I think I do), he would not be the man I would choose to instruct me in ethics either in the field of journalism or in any other area of conduct.
One would think that the writers for the Gospel Guardian have just discovered "love, being loveable, practicing journalistic ethics, tolerance, respect, and desire for fellowship and unity." However, their practice belies the fact that they have, in reality, made the discovery. Humble men do not have to advertise their humility; it is a self-evident virtue. By the same token, journalists do not have to advertise their devotion to "ethical journalism", "the proof of the pudding will be in the eating." It is axiomatic that demonstrable propositions are not debatable; demonstration does not admit of argumentation. So much for Gospel Guardian journalistic ethics, let us address ourselves to other matters.
The Gospel Guardian and Churches
Brother William Wallace has in recent months been involved in a campaign to defend and drum up support for the Gospel Guardian. It has been one of those political "take it to the people out at the grass roots" sort of thing. His campaign has involved a series of personal appearances at Wallace's request in church buildings (wherever such was permitted). To further establish the "political" thrust of Wallace's effort, let it be noted that he requested the use of the Pruett and Lobit Street congregation's building (Baytown, Texas) for this purpose. This is quite significant since I was only recently the located evangelist of that church, Keith Sharp who has been engaged for some time it a controversy with Edward Fudge over his teaching, is it: present located evangelist, and Ron Halbrook's father-in-lave is one of the elders. One would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb, besides border on being moronic, not to see the political significance of Wallace's request of this church Did someone say something about a 'Political Mr. Willis?
In addition to the obviously political character of Wallace's campaign is the fact that he seeks church buildings in which to make his appearances. The proper forum for a vindication of the Gospel Guardian is the paper itself, and I do not mean by this sickly protestations of devotion to "ethical journalism" and being "loveable." I mean, rather, the scriptural and practical soundness of the positions it espouses and the persons whom it defends and promotes. Practically every young man who has been a leader in promoting Ketchersideism among conservatives has appeared as a writer in the Gospel Guardian since the beginning of this controversy with no word of explanation. It is extremely significant that, only a short time ago, Brother Wallace was having journalistic spasms, based on misinformation, about a supposed developing combine between Truth Magazine and Florida College and designed to destroy the Red Bluff congregation of Pasadena, Texas. Now Wallace unashamedly seeks to use churches as a forum for a defense of his human institution-the Gospel Guardian. Would he endorse Florida College sending representatives of that school to churches, not to defend the scriptural right of such a college to exist, but to defend and promote that particular college? Would such collaboration, in his mind, tie churches and the college together in a combine which is unscriptural in character? Tell us Brother!
In previous articles, I have had occasion to mention by name several young men whom I sincerely believe to be secondary sources of Ketchersidean error among conservatives. This was done, as has been repeatedly stated, out of no ill will toward these young men nor with any desire to hold them up to public ridicule or contempt, but for their good and in the interest of God's Truth. Barring unforeseen developments, this is my last reference to this aspect of the controversy, hence I feel constrained to review what has been done along this line.
I have mentioned by name only three young men, Edward Fudge, Jerry Phillips, and Randall Mark Trainer. Phillips was mentioned only casually in connection with the loss of a church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (of which he had been the preacher) to liberality relative to human institutions and the sponsoring church. Edward Fudge was criticized for his ambiguity, his liberal views on the question of fellowship, his adoption of Ketchersidean concepts regarding numerous passages of Scripture which faithful brethren have used for more than a hundred years to oppose innovations and pressing those concepts orally and in writing, and his acceptance of a quasi-Calvinistic concept of salvation by grace involving the imputation of the perfect, personal righteousness of Christ to the believer.
Fudge has said and written much in the intervening months, but I have neither heard nor read anything from him that would be calculated to inspire confidence on my part in his fundamental soundness. Until I do, I shall have to continue to regard him as being of questionable soundness in the areas mentioned. If other brethren and churches do not share this view, such is their prerogative. I have said what I have to say, and I believe I am right. Incidentally, I have heard two of Wallace's defenses of Edward Fudge (Louisville, Kentucky and Lufkin, Texas). They were, in my judgement, complete fiascoes. They were completely inadequate and were demeaning to Brother Fudge. I sincerely recommend to Brother Fudge, in his own best interest, that he defend himself. He would do a much better job, and he certainly would reflect more dignity on his own person than Wallace did in his inane presentations. Let me, say without equivocation: I do not believe I have misrepresented Fudge in any important consideration unless it was to give him more credit in some areas than he deserves.
Randall Mark Trainer was criticized for his views on salvation by grace as it relates to baptism for the remission of sins and for his practice of associating himself with liberal congregations in places where there were faithful churches with which he could have associated himself. In this connection, I quoted a statement from a former schoolmate and friend of Trainer, whom I did not identify, who said he heard Trainer say that "baptism gave him trouble." Brother Trainer denies having ever said this, and Truth Magazine gave him space on its pages to make his denial in as public a fashion as the charge. This was done with my complete approval. Yet, at the same time, having read a lengthy letter from Trainer to Lindy McDaniel on the subject of salvation by grace, it was apparent to me that baptism for the remission of sins did give him trouble, and I said so. This was a minor point. I did not, as Trainer and some of his friends and defenders assume, charge Trainer with not believing in baptism for the remission of sins. This was not the point. To the contrary, my statement was predicated on the fact that Trainer did so teach. My point was that his views on salvation by grace and baptism for the remission of sins were not consistent. His letter to McDaniel indicated his recognition of a possible inconsistency and confirmed in my mind the fact that baptism did. indeed, give him trouble.
Recently, I received a letter from Brother Charles Edmunson, one of Trainer's friends, in which was enclosed an article on baptism written by Trainer. It was written in response to some sort of assignment which was a part of Trainer's work at a denominational seminary in the Northeast that Trainer has been attending. I am glad to report that, apart from some objectional theological terminology, Trainer's article teaches the truth on the design of baptism. However, if Brother Trainer ever has to meet an experienced Calvinist in public debate,, his views on the design of. baptism and salvation by grace will have to be modified and harmonized or he will be in real trouble. I have not seen nor have I heard anything from Trainer to inspire a restoration of confidence on my part in his fundamental soundness relative to the relationship which should exist between those who oppose .and those who endorse and practice institutionalism, sponsoring church cooperation, and the like. In fact, all that I know would tend to inspire a lack of confidence.
Having mentioned Charles Edmunson, I think it only right that his name should be placed beside those already mentioned. He is full of Ketchersidean concepts and sympathies. It was he, who while attending Florida College (where he made a distinguished academic record), .duplicated W. Carl Ketcherside's articles from the Mission Messenger (after having removed Carl's name and after having substituted instead "A Christian Brother") and circulated them among the students in a covert manner. It has been he who has done much in the immediate past to agitate these concepts with considerable success among preacher students on the campus of Florida College. Some months ago, I received an impudent letter from Brother Edmunson concerning my statements involving Trainer and Fudge. Unless Brother Charles makes some significant changes, it would be impossible for me to recognize him as possessing an acceptable degree of soundness.
Barring unforeseen developments, this closes my discussion of these young men. If brethren wish to become involved with them, they do so in full knowledge of their background, hence will be responsible for whatever may develop. If these young men decide to change their concepts in harmony with truth, I shall be the first to offer them my hand. I stand ready at all times to be of any assistance which I am capable of giving to them to help them reach such a state of mind, and I pray that God may speed the day.
Brother William Wallace insists that Truth Magazine has blown-up Ketchersideism out of all proportion to the importance of its inroads among conservatives. He scoffs at the idea that the in part or in whole defection of some fifty preachers and numerous congregations should merit any great concern. Furthermore, he professes to know exactly how this problem should be handled. I asked him on the occasion of his Lufkin forum in the Union Road church building why, being so knowledgeable, he had done absolutely nothing about the situation. He excused himself on the ground of financial entanglements which requited him to do secular work. Now that he is no longer thus employed, shall we expect from him in the immediate future a thorough expose of Ketchersidean error that leaves nothing to be desired, and may we expect him through the exercise of his self-confessed winsome ways to reclaim all of the preachers and churches who are caught-up in the toils of Ketchersideism?
Surely, a man who knows so well how the job ought to be done will not withhold the fruits of his genius from us misguided zealots who have, in Wallace's estimation, so bungled the matter. Cherishing the hope that my misguided and inadequate efforts (as Wallace described them to me at Lufkin) to expose Ketchersidean error may soon be made unnecessary by Wallace's brilliant, thorough, Scriptural, and loving work of refutation and reclamation, I shall now return to the task of seeking in my own way to root out Ketchersideism, to which task I have set myself. By the way, I shall not be holding my breath until Wallace gets the job done, since I wish to be around awhile so he will have a classic example of unethical journalism to which he can point his ever-loving index finger.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:31, p. 6-9