By Larry Ray Hafley
(Introductory Note: As you will see, Margaret was not pleased with our rebuke of Rubel Shelly for his participation and fellowship with Billy Graham who, as we noted, even some conservative Baptists have refused to accept [Truth Magazine, 2/17/00]. Our response, in italics, is given following each of her paragraphs.)
As a lifelong Christian raised in the church, I am growing so very weary of the diatribes by your ilk, whose sole purpose is to demonize those who do not toe the line as you and your cronies have set forth. How very Pharisaic!
(Thank you for writing. It is always good to hear from those who are concerned for truth and who are willing to contend for the faith [Jude 3]. Now, to a reply of your letter.
You state that it is the “sole purpose” of folks like me “to demonize” others. How did you learn this? At the conclusion of the article to which you have taken exception, I described the attitude that we should have toward such events, “let them serve as a spur to renewed diligence and devotion.” Does that sound like the words of one whose “sole purpose is to demonize” others?
Were you trying to “demonize” me because I did not “toe the line . . . you . . . set forth”? If so, were you not also being “very Pharisaic”? If not, how is it that you may write critically of me without doing those things, but when I write critically, I am guilty of demonizing others and of being “very Pharisaic.” Please explain. It is a poor rule that will not work both ways!)
My first question to you is this: whatever happened to the doctrine of autonomy? It seems the church today has a real problem with being busybodies when it comes to commenting on what other churches and elderships decide to do in their ministries. If I remember correctly, that is a sin (and I believe to God a sin is a sin is a sin).
(Margaret, since you protest my right to write and criticize brother Shelly, as I did, let me ask you, “whatever happened to the doctrine of autonomy?” The article I wrote first appeared in our local church bulletin, in Baytown, TX. What happened to our autonomy, Margaret? Please tell me. What gives you the power to limit our autonomy? Or, is this another of your rules that only works one way?
Were the Lord and the apostles “being busybodies when it comes to commenting on what OTHER churches . . . decide to do in their ministries”? Both commented at length on the deeds and doctrines of numerous churches (1 Corinthians; Galatians; Revelation 1-3). The Spirit says we should speak as they spoke (1 Pet. 4:11). Would you deny us this right and again seek to curtail our autonomy?
Know this, too. Churches are self governing, autonomous, bodies (Acts 14:23; 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2). However, no man, nor church, has the right to act or teach contrary to the word of God. “The word of God is not bound” (2 Tim. 2:9). It must have free reign, free course (2 Thess. 3:1) . Ananias and Sapphira could do with their money as they pleased, but they could not use it to lie (Acts 5:4). Churches are free to conduct their work independent of outside authority, but they are not free to author, harbor, or sanction false teachers or false doctrines (Acts 15:24; Rev. 2:2, 6, 15, 20). The man who so teaches, under the guise and subterfuge of a self-devised concept of autonomy, does so to his own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16).
Did the church where Diotrephes paraded his preeminence have the right, by reason of their “local church autonomy,” to reject John (3 John 9)? No, they did not, for when they refused John, they demonstrated that they were “not of God” (1 John 4:6; cf. 1 Cor. 14:37 — one who is “spiritual” will receive the apostles). Likewise, neither Rubel Shelly nor Margaret shall be allowed to hide under their imaginary form of a false and fraudulent “church autonomy.”
In Acts 15:28, certain “necessary things” had to be kept. No “church autonomy” allowed those things to be spurned with impunity. Today, in accordance with “the apostles’ doctrine” and “the form of sound words,” certain ideals must be maintained which no alleged autonomy can prevent or circumvent (1 Cor. 4:17; 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15).
How arrogant for you to proclaim that Woodmont’s plan of operation does not meet with God’s approval! I can read in the Scriptures that David’s plan definitely did not meet with God’s approval, but it is pure speculation and opinion on your part that Woodmont’s does not.
(I note with interest that you did not present Scriptures which show that the Woodmont church’s “plan of operation” with respect to Billy Graham meets “with God’s approval.” Why did you not cite the authority for it? Brother Shelly and Woodmont are condemned on the same basis as David. All acted without scriptural authority. They have done that which is contrary to the will of God.
If I am “arrogant” simply because I say that Woodmont is acting contrary to Scripture, are you likewise “arrogant” for saying that I have acted contrary to Scripture in criticizing their actions? Or, does the rule for arrogance only work against me, but not you? If so, that is arrogance puffed up and gone to seed !
Next, you lamely try to draw Dr. Shelly into a defense of his actions. I believe he has said on numerous occasions that he is too busy being about God’s work to acknowledge these childish attempts at self-justification.
(What brother Shelly has not proved is that he is “busy [doing] God’s work.” He assumes the very point he must prove. Let him prove that his actions are indeed “God’s work.”
Margaret, if brother Shelly is “too busy being about God’s work” to respond, does that mean you are not “busy being about God’s work,” since you had time to reply?
When I review and rebuke brother Shelly, you judge that I am guilty of “childish attempts at self justification.” Margaret, since you defended your beliefs, condemned me, and rebuked my efforts, were you “engaging in childish attempts at self justification?” If not, is this not another case of your making a rule which applies to everyone but you?
Yes, we know what Rubel has said in a lame and vain attempt to avoid the searchlight of Scripture. Here, though, is what the Lord has said of men like him, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” [John 3:20, 21]. Margaret, Proverbs 28:4 speaks concerning you and me and Rubel Shelly,“They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.”
No, brother Shelly will not defend himself. Why should he, since women like you will do it for him? Can anyone imagine Paul saying he was “too busy being about God’s work” to defend his actions (Acts 22:1; 26:2, 3)? No, you cannot imagine such a thing, for Paul, unlike Rubel, was “set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17).
The thing I believe I am most fed up with, however, is the false application of 2 John 9-11 to justify condemnation of anyone who disagrees with you. Read the context, brother. John was referring to the very great problem in that day of Gnosticism . . . false teachers are those who teach that Jesus Christ is not God, did not raise from the dead. God is not pleased with the way you twist his words to invent your truth.
(Why are you so “fed up,” sister Margaret? According to you, so long as I believe in the Deity and humanity of Christ, I have “both the Father and the Son.” I can continue to make a “false application of 2 John 9-11” and, according to you, be accepted of God because I teach that Jesus is Divine and was raised from the dead. Your interpretation and application of 2 John 9 forbids you to condemn me, since I believe the truth concerning the nature of Christ. Ironic, is it not, that your rule forbids you to condemn me!
“Read the context, brother.” Alright, sister, let us read the context of 2 John 9. “Walking in truth,” and “that we walk after his commandments” are in the context [vv. 4, 6]. Yes, a specific doctrine is mentioned in verse 7. It is that of those “who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” However, that is not all that is contemplated in 2 John 9.
Consider this parallel. In 1 Timothy 4:1-3, Paul said some would “depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” How they would do so was illustrated by two points of doctrine, “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.” But is that all that is involved in departing from the faith? No, there are other items, too (1 Tim. 1:3, 8-11; 4:16; 6:1-5). Likewise, in 2 John 9, one who does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, which certainly includes the doctrine or teaching of his humanity and Deity, is not of God. However, the issue of his humanity is not the only gauge or standard, no more than the two items of 1 Timothy 4, forbidding to marry and command ing to abstain from meats, are the only signs of departure from the faith.
Further, John shows that “the doctrine of Christ” is more than confessing that Christ has come in the flesh. “If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John 2:3-5). “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him” (1 John 3:24). “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us: he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6). “For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3). “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments” (2 John 6). “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (2 John 9). Yes, Margaret, I am happy to reside in the “context” of John’s interpretation of what it means to abide in the light, commandments, and doctrine of Christ. Are you?
Finally, with respect to “the doctrine of Christ” being a reference to the teaching about Christ, rather than the whole body of doctrine he taught, let me ask the following questions.
The disciples continued steadfastly “in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Was this the doctrine about the apostles themselves or was it the doctrine they taught? When Jesus warned his disciples of “the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees,” was he concerned with teaching regarding the nature of those sects, or was he warning them about the teachings of those groups (Matt. 16:12)? When Paul spoke of “doctrines of devils,” was he speaking of doctrines about devils, or the doctrines they taught, such as, “forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats” (1 Tim. 4:2, 3)? Was “the doctrine of Balaam” the doctrine about Balaam himself, or was it what he “taught” (Rev. 2:14)? Some in Pergamos held “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans” (Rev. 2:15). Was this the doctrine about the Nicolaitans, or was it the doctrine they taught?
See the point, sister Margaret? Thus, “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9; cf. 1 John 2:3-5; 4:6; 2 John 4, 6; 3 John 4).
As for Billy Graham, I am no great fan of his. But for you to falsely accuse him of “damning the souls of millions to Hell” (based, once again, on the mis-interpretation of John 2) is appalling to me — much more so than what he is allegedly doing wrong. Wrong is wrong, Mr. Hafley. Your wrong is just as damning. Let me clarify one point . . . if Mr. Graham preaches that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He was crucified and was raised from the dead, he IS preaching Christ and Him crucified. There is no way around that. You are wrong there. I agree with you that he does not complete the thought. Perhaps that is where the Lord would like for Dr. Shelly to step in (although I understand, in your mind, Rubel being the anti-Christ, is incapable of doing anything good).
(Again, sister Margaret, given your view of 2 John 9, how can my alleged “wrong” be “damning”? Please explain.
In what sense does Billy Graham “not complete the thought”? What “thought”? If he preaches “Christ and him crucified,” as you say “he IS” doing, and that there is “no way around that,” in what sense is his work incomplete? I challenge you to explain. With your view of 2 John 9, you dare not attempt to clarify the matter. If you do, we shall be pleasantly surprised and promise to examine your remarks with all candor.
Why are you “no great fan of” Billy Graham? According to you, he “preaches Christ” and has not been guilty of damning millions of souls to hell. Plus, he has the sanction of brother Shelly and the Woodmont church in an effort to win souls for Christ. So, why are you “no great fan of” his? Please explain.
When Philip and Paul preached Christ, people “believed and were baptized” (Acts 8:5, 12, 35-39; cf. 1 Cor. 2:2; Acts 18:8). Is this what happens when Mr. Graham preaches? No, thus, he does not “preach Christ” as they did. I suspect this is the incomplete “thought” to which you referred. Margaret, when I defend the truth, I am “doing wrong.” When brother Shelly endorses and supports Mr. Graham who does “not complete the thought,” he is defended. Surely, such inconsistency must cause you at least a little conscientious discomfort.)
Normally I take articles such as yours and file them under “consider the source” however, I believe you truly think you are “standing for the truth” — wrong. Jesus told his disciples himself not to hinder anyone doing good works in his name, just because they were not of their group.
According to you, I am not “‘standing for the truth,’” but Billy Graham is. Margaret, Billy Graham not only denies that baptism is “for the remission of sins,” he also believes and teaches the Calvinistic doctrines of “original, Adamic sin,” the miraculous, direct work of the Spirit in the conviction and conversion of the sinner, and he teaches that once one is saved, he is forever saved, and cannot fall from grace. He does not believe that Jesus now reigns as King over his kingdom. He teaches that Jesus must yet return to this earth and reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years.
Mr. Graham denounces the church of the New Testament and is a member of a church unknown to the word of God. He worships in a human denomination which uses mechanical instruments of music in its worship, and does not partake of the Lord’s supper “upon the first day of the week” as the early disciples did (Acts 20;7; Eph. 5:19). The church of which he is a member uses “the Pastor system” as an integral part of its organizational structure and uses means other than first day of the week contributions to raise money (Acts 14:23; 1 Cor. 16:2). Yet, you say he has not had a part in leading anyone astray, while folks like myself are not “‘standing for the truth,’” and should be “afraid . . . very afraid” in the day of Judgment.
You have misunderstood and misapplied Mark 9:38-41. (Since you made no specific argument on the passage, I shall not do so, either.) However, if you are correct and we should not “hinder anyone doing good works in His name, just because they were not of their group,” why do you condemn our efforts? We are not of your group and are doing good work in the name of Jesus. Why, then, given your view, do you say we are “wrong”?
If Billy Graham can be “wrong” on so many points of doctrine, as cited above, and be received into your fellowship, why can we not also be be “wrong,” as you say we are, and be accepted? Why apologize for Billy but demonize me?
Too, how far do you apply this view? Obviously, it allows you to approve Graham and reprove Hafley. How about the “good works” of the Pope and of the late “Mother Theresa”? Should Rubel and Woodmont accept them as they receive Mr. Graham? Since you say Jesus taught us not to “hinder anyone doing good works in His name, just because they were not of their group,” why not receive Oral Roberts, Mother Theresa, me, and the Pope?
When you answer that question, you might consider this from Jesus: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:21-23). Please reconcile your view of Mark 9:38-41 with the words of Jesus.
My prayer is that you will humble yourself before God and realize that Jesus meant it when he told the Pharisees that He preferred those who were wrong in certain points of doctrine but had a heart for Him over those who thought everything they believed was right, exclusively, and held it over peoples’ heads. With that kind of thinking, I have only one thought for you . . . be afraid; be very afraid. For there is NO way we can get everything just right . . . why do you think God brought us grace? Margaret
(Margaret, thank you for your concern for my soul. Will you please find the passage which says that Jesus “told the Pharisees that He preferred those who were wrong in certain points of doctrine but had a heart for Him over those who thought everything they believed was right, exclusively, and held it over peoples’ heads.” I do not believe such a passage exists. If it does, it contradicts Jesus when he said, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of the least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19; cf. 15:8, 9; 23:23).
Yes, “all have sinned,” and “God brought us grace.” Is that grace appropriated and applied conditionally or unconditionally — which?
Take your last paragraph and explain James 5:19, 20 to me, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Did James not know what you say Jesus told the Pharisees? Should we tell James that he should “be afraid . . . very afraid”? Should the Spirit have reminded James that “there is NO way we can get everything just right”? Would you ask James why he thinks “God brought us grace”? [But, even if the brother does “err from the truth,” and even though James says his soul is in “death,” Margaret says he is saved as long as he believes Jesus was raised from the dead — see her comments on 2 John 9 above.]
Again, though, Margaret, do you not see the boomerang you have thrown yourself? Suppose I am as wrong and misguided as you believe me to be. Why should I “be afraid . . . very afraid,” since “there is NO way we can get everything just right . . . why do you think God brought us grace?” Why does this principle not apply to me, Margaret? If I am wrong, well, there “is NO way” I can get everything just right, and why do you think God brought us grace? Since you believe that philosophy of grace justifies brother Shelly and your brother Billy, why does it not also acquit me? Or, is this another one of your convenient rules which condones you but condemns me?
Brethren, I fear that Margaret speaks for many among us. There is a growing trend of apology for error and its proponents which is matched by bristling disdain for those who teach the truth and expose the error. The irony is that the apologists say they “agree with” us, while they endorse and support the men who advocate error. They tell us they share our “personal convictions.” Then, they proceed to undermine our efforts to contend for the faith.
Margaret has the more appealing approach. No one knows all the truth. No one can get it all just right. God’s grace will cover it. Those who teach the truth are hateful, unworthy men. Those who teach error are “good” men doing “good works.” Only jealous partisans oppose them. It goes like this: (1) We must receive some contradictory teachings on such topics as marriage and divorce, but certainly no others. (2) Well, maybe there are a few other things, such as the “day–age” theory in Genesis 1. (Sincere, devout, intellectual, Bible believing men have always differed on “hard” questions, so, there is room for both views.) (3) More liberal leanings are soon detected — “we cannot understand the Bible alike; sincere souls who are deceived by the instrument in worship may be saved; only hard-hearted, unloving men would condemn them.” (4) Finally, “let’s receive Billy Graham — only Pharisaic brethren will object.”
There may be a few variations in the evolutionary scenario outlined above, but, as Rubel’s route to religious rubble reveals, well meaning souls like Margaret will evolve. They will see us as angry, misguided men. They will torture Scripture and develop mutant fancies of their own mind. At the last they will do this without the apologies that accompanied their beginning, and the apostasy will be complete.
626 Osage, Baytown, Texas 77521 LarryHafley@compuserve.com