July 22, 2018

Edward Fudge: “Free to Be One”

By Ron Halbrook

In a previous article, we pointed out that Ed Fudge participated in the 9th Annual Unity Forum, held July, 1974, in Nashville, Tennessee. He appeared on a panel with F. L. Lemley, protege of Carl Ketcherside, and Thomas Langford, of no-class background and new-unity persuasion. Their topic was on faith and opinion in relation to unity and fellowship.

"Now 1 Am One"

Edward Fudge's appearance on the program is (almost) amusing in the light of recent events. A sign which used to hang in our hardware store read, `Last Week I Couldn't Even Spell Salesman, And Now I are One" (with "S" in salesman written backwards). Brother Fudge said on Oct. 7, 1973, "As far as this unity movement, so-called, and I say so-called because I don't think there really is any such thing in the way they're talking about it . . . ." (Cf. July 19, 1973 Gospel Guardian, "As to the so-called new unity movement, or the so-called new Ketcherside theories or movement . . . ."). So in spite of the fact that Garrett and Ketcherside have promoted their theories well over a decade, in spite of the fact that Fudge has held some of their key views and avidly distributed their literature at least since his early college years, and in spite of the recent upsurge of such views in popularity, Ed has been claiming total ignorance regarding "the so-called new unity movement." To hear him tell it, "Last Week I Couldn't Even Spell New Unity Movement." After his Nashville appearance, he just as well 'fess up, "Now I Are One!" The truth is, he has been one of their effective "Salesmen" for a long time.

All One Ball Game

It is probably true that Fudge's speech is not quite in the same ball park with Pat Boone's and David Bobo's, in regard to their ultra-liberalism on propositions of fundamental faith. But it is certainly true that Ed is playing in the same ball park with Thomas Langford, F. L. Lemley, Robert O. Fife and others on the program. Though they may be playing various positions on the diamond, in that ball park players claim we all share oneness, life, or unity in Christ in spite of our differences over issues like instrumental music. Ed and his friends are just playing in the minor league; the Boones and Bobos have made it to the majors. Liberalism is progressive. It is all one ball game-whether the immediate manifestation be in regard to organization, worship, fellowship, or fundamentals of faith.

Batting With Romans 14

Liberals on unity and fellowship always grab Romans 14 with both hands when they step up to bat. The Mission magazine crowd (cf. June, 1974, Mission, p. 10), the C. C. Morrisons (cf. his The Unfinished Reformation), and others like them invariably depend on Romans 14, and now Ed joins them. The application of that chapter to questions like instrumental music shows the importance Ed attaches to such issues. As Ed made plain in his speech and in his book on Romans, that chapter does not deal with issues which involve a violation of "the faith" (Jude 3), but only with "conscientious persuasion," "binding on self and not others," "personal conviction." He explains in his book that 'faith " in this chapter is "a conviction."

The following comments on Romans 14 are valid, but it is improper to place issues like instrumental music in the realm of this chapter.

"Convictions are to be observed with diligence if they stem from a desire to please God. They are not, however, to be bound on all other believers as part of the gospel."

" 'Faith' in these verses is not the same as the 'faith' of the gospel mentioned in Romans 10:17. The 'faith' of chapter fourteen is to be kept to oneself before God (v. 22). The 'faith' of the gospel is to be preached to all nations (1:5; 16:26)" (Romans, pp. 68-69).

This means instruments can be used "with diligence if they stem from a desire to please God" and yet should not be forced on the objector. But neither the user nor objector has any right to bind his convictions about use or non-use "on all other believers as part of the gospel." This places the issue squarely in the realm of liberty! When Ed uses Romans 14 to discuss such issues as instrumental music and institutionalism, he automatically makes such innovations matters of liberty. He may retain "a conviction" against them, but does not consider them violations of God's covenant or the faith. In other words, they are not really sinful within themselves.

If Ed cannot see this, he is blind in one eye and cannot see out of the other. But he is too smart to be so blind. Which means he deceived the audience at Jackson Drive in Athens, Alabama, on October 7, 1973, when he claimed to reverse his long-standing conviction that instruments in worship are not sinful. We said that day when he announced his "reversal," ". . . Ed knows, and Ron Halbrook knows, that either Ed has changed in the last two months on the issue of instrumental music or else he equivocated-that is, he used some special definition of the word 'sin' . . . . And I prefer to believe he's changed." What we wanted to believe was wrong. As Cecil Willis points out in "Theological Gobbledygook" (Truth Magazine, Sept. 5, 12), Ed is playing word games and deceiving a lot of honest people. His approach to unity and fellowship at the July, 1974, unity forum is proof positive. And he is probably deceiving himself into believing such deception is not deception at all! As one fellow said, "If he can believe that, I want to sell him some land in Nevada".-or in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, for that matter.

How Is Unity Attained?

"3 Church 'Splinters' Trying for Unity" read the headline in The Tennessean (June 12, 1974), the splinters being the Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches, and Churches of Christ. Garrett told reporters that disputes existed "because of . legalism, literalistic interpretations of the Scriptures and anti-isms." "We have passed the stage of debate and have now reached the level of dialogue." Edward Fudge made it clear he did not think he was helping unite three splinters because "Christian unity cannot be attained by forums or debates . . . it is God's creation in Christ" and the "gift of the Holy Spirit." It sounds good to hear Fudge's disavowal of the putting-Humpty-back-together-again idea, but his underlying concept is denominational (as James W. Adams points out, comparing Ed's Abilene Christian College Master's Degree thesis to John R. W. Stott's Basic Christianity statement: "Even the outward, organizational divisions of the Church do not destroy its inward and spiritual unity which is indissoluble. This is 'the unity of the Spirit' . . .") In other words, Ed does not believe our outward separations disturb our inward, essential unity in Christ. This is "the unity of the Spirit." In other words, there is nothing to put back together! All are together already.

Actually Garrett has the same concept-which makes his newspaper comments a little hard to understand unless he is just accomodating his language. He frequently says things like, ". . . there are disciples in all the sects . . . and I suppose they should remain where they are and work for reform in their own context" (Restoration Review, May, 1974, p. 291). Whenever we cross the lines, pray together, discuss our differences, and learn from each other, we are simply manifesting the unity already given by the Spirit transcending our separations. ". . . this is the unity of the Spirit and . . . our task is to restore such mutuality throughout our ranks" (Ibid., Sept., 1973, p. 138). Since we are already given a "unity" by the Spirit, our dialogues, discussions, or debates can only be efforts at "mutuality" and "fellowship" in certain activities.

As to Fudge's oft repeated idea that we cannot attain unity by forums or debates (since it is something given by the Spirit in spite of our differences), we just as well say we cannot attain unity by gospel preaching. In Acts 2, teaching of the truth was necessary to bring men to obey the Lord. This included debating some points. Then more teaching was required so that men would continue obeying the Lord (v. 42). Yes, we can attain unity by preaching, teaching, dialogue, debate, and discussion. Statements to the contrary by Garrett, Fudge, Ketcherside, and Company only reflect their thoroughly denominational concept of a (inward) unity given by the Spirit transcending our (outward) separation or disfellowship.

Garrett Caught Nodding

When Garrett evaluated the Nashville forum, he found the Lemley-Fudge-Langford panel on faith and opinion "especially impressive . . . . The three men represented very diverse backgrounds and yet they handled the topic in a most helpful manner, and they came near agreeing" (Restoration Review, Sept., 1974, p. 337). Yes, so near that we chose earlier the analogy of them all playing in the same ball park, just different positions on the field. Garrett commends Ed's "irenic spirit and sincerity," but wishes he had stated more clearly whether "his 'non-cooperation' background" or position was "in the area of opinion." Langford more explicitly stated "his `non-class' position (was) in the area of opinion, leaving matters of faith to be those things that are clearly and distinctly set forth in scripture" (Ibid.).

But Garrett is caught nodding here, if he is not sure whether Ed identified "non-cooperation" as a matter of "the faith" (Jude 3). (1) Ed began his speech by saying he was not going to use the classification called "opinion" because it is define differently; therefore he did not tag his "non-cooperation" position nor any other position as opinion. (2) He did say, in regard to "nonCooperation," instrumental music, etc., God's revelation is not so clear, distinct, or express (as on matters of the faith). ". . . in these areas, I must have a conviction," live by it, share it, but not "judge" differing brethren-i.e., not treat such issues as matters of (the) faith. (3) Ed was clear that Romans 14 deals, not with matters of "the faith," but matters of "faith" as regards conscientious persuasion . . . binding on self and not on others . . . personal conviction. Ed then spent, most of his time attempting to show how Romans 14 can apply "specifically to honest scrupples over such issues as instrumental music in the assembly, congregational support of various institutions and societies, methods of cooperation, use of Bible classes, the number of containers used in the Lord's Supper."

Since Garrett missed it on the first go-round, maybe he will get it this time . . . or we can loan him our tape, if he wishes, or maybe even get the manuscript published in Restoration Review. (Ed does have a manuscript because he said he was reading from one.) According to Ed's address, Romans 14 does not apply to matters of "the faith," as used in Jude 3. The chapter does apply only to matters of "faith" in the sense of personal conviction. Secondly, the chapter does apply to "non-cooperation." Come now, Prof. Garrett, even a freshman student in philosophy and logic can tell what therefore follows. . . unless he is nodding in class. Ed places the issue of "non-cooperation" squarely in the realm of liberty, subject only to the limitations of any other liberty. The only line he draws over the issue is in appealing to those who exercise the liberty, to treat him as a weaker brother . . . until he can get edified, I suppose!

So there is no sin in centralized "cooperation" until brethren in a specific church force it upon one who has "honest scrupples" or personal conviction in opposition to such practice. Still wondering, Professor? One last time: centralized cooperation is not a sin within itself, is not a violation of the faith. Neither is instrumental music, or social gospel practices, or a host of other innovations. Langford may have been more direct and traditional in his terms, but Ed stands four-square with him-and with you, Professor-on this premise.

A Premise; A Choice

And, that premise, brethren, is a key premise shared by all those who are "Free to Be One," Nashville-UnityForum style. That premise is shared by Barton, Berry, both Boones, Cullum, Hall, Huff, Neil, Bobo, Crowder, Dennis, Fife, Foster, Garrett, Gresham, Langford, Lemley . . . Ketcherside . . . EDWARD FUDGE . . . and a host of young men, who might have made strong, sound gospel preachers, but who have fallen from their own stedfastness because of the new-unity movement's glittering generalities, theological gobbledygook, equivocation, and Aesopian doubletalk. The latter group is hard to think or write about without shedding tears, literally.

And, that premise, brethren, has been an occasion of battle for 25 years. In the context of the new-unity movement and the controversy it has generated, that premise is still a bone of contention. Let those who are weary of the battle desert and be done with it, if they must. Let those who are still willing, fight still.

Brethren must choose. No one is trying to force, coerce, or power-politic anyone. We are all free. The choices are plain We are: (1) "Free to Be One," GarrettKetcherside-Fudge style; (2) free to desert the fray; (3) free to fight. "As for me and my house . . ." our course is chosen. What about you and yours?

Truth Magazine XIX: 20, pp. 313-315
March 27, 1975