“Afraid of A Good Man?”

By James W Adams

The human brain is a marvelous and curious instrument. Why is it that some things, apparently long forgotten, suddenly pop up from memory’s storehouse? Almost twenty-five years ago, when our now deceased brother, Cled E. Wallace, was being subjected to some particularly virulent personal attacks by brethren whose “idols” Brother Cled had challenged, he said to me with reference to some of those attacks from men highly self-advertised as eminently pious, “Jim, I’ve always been afraid of a good man.” Of course, Brother Cled did not mean a good man in the true sense of that expression, but he meant a man who made a point of exposing his humility, piety, and goodness (?) like the gaudy, neon-lighted facade of a cheap ill-kept motel to the weary traveler in the camouflaging shadows of the dead of night. I too have learned from sad experience that such “goodness” (?) is only skin deep. Scratch the surface and the pent-up poison will come gushing out.

A Re-appraisal

More than a year ago, I began a series of articles in Truth Magazine reviewing W. Carl Ketcherside and his “unity” movement. In August, while in a meeting in San Antonio, Texas, I developed a hernia requiring surgery at the earliest possible time. I underwent surgery in October. The surgery was completely successful but it brought a halt in my review. As soon as I was well enough to travel, I fulfilled commitments in Florida and Kentucky. Returning from them, I was plunged into a building project in which my study was enlarged. This took about four weeks during which time my study was in complete chaos. Two rather lengthy manuscripts (actually three) were prepared next, the Florida College Lectures attended, and then more meetings (four of them). So, I am only just now getting back to my series. I am sorry, but I do not know how I could have done otherwise.

During this time, I have been reading, listening, and thinking. The interim has given me the opportunity to read again all that I have previously written in this series, study carefully the responses and reactions of those whom we have criticized, hear William Wallace on two occasions in what amounted to a defense of Edward Fudge, listen to the advice and comments of numerous brethren (some friendly; some not so friendly), read a number of volumes relating to material to be dealt with in future articles, and re-think and re-evaluate the entire situation which obtains. Last, but by no means least, I have spent much time in meditation and prayer as well as Bible study seeking diligently the wisdom and knowledge which is from above, and without which all is vain.

When I began this review a year ago, it was not because I entertained in my mind the idea that I could help or in any way change Brother W. Carl Ketcherside. In fact, I am reasonably certain it amuses him immensely that I should suppose he needs to change. My purpose was to rescue, if possible, a considerable number of gospel preachers (particularly young men just beginning) from active acceptance of and involvement in Brother Carl’s concepts and activities. From the beginning, I was not even very optimistic about accomplishing this with reference to some of these young men who were and are deeply steeped in Ketchersidean propaganda. My principal hope was to save young men and other Christians (not preachers) who were not yet involved in this error but who were or might be attracted by the artful deception of such men as W. Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett.

Looking at the matter a year and some twenty articles later, I find myself not unduly discouraged with the results. Allowing for a reasonable degree of human prejudice on my part. I yet feel that what I set out to do has already, in a great measure, been accomplished. Conservative brethren have been shocked out of a state of naive complacency relative to Brother Ketcherside’s ability to affect conservatives adversely. Considerable light has been cast upon and heat applied to issues, men, and influences which have been nurturing Ketchersidean concepts among conservative brethren. Many young men preparing to preach who had been partially committed to Ketcherside’s views have seen their errors and have backed away from them. Others not yet involved are now acutely aware of the gravity of the situation and are studying the issues involved and exercising proper discretion about vocalizing prematurely concerning them.

It was never my intention, the intention of Brother Willis, nor the aim of Truth Magazine to apply any sort of “political pressure” to any person, congregation, paper, or college with the aim of “lining them up” relative to anything which did not constitute a sincere conviction of truth, attained by personal study and embraced as a sincere act of personal commitment. Any charge to this effect is, therefore, a blatant, wilful, and malicious falsehood. It is without evidence to sustain it, hence can originate only in a distorted imagination and a malignant disposition, regardless of declarations of dedication to being “loving and loveable.” Only one of Brother Cled’s “good men” could possibly be guilty of such an accusation. It was and is our aim to state clearly and unequivocally our convictions concerning Ketchersideism among conservatives and to oppose without personal malice, yet with all the ability of which we are capable, every vestige of Ketchersidean influence and teaching which we discover. We stand unalterably opposed to every man who fosters or abets such, and we seek to awaken all in positions of influence and power to the responsibility of active, effective opposition there unto whether they be elders, Bible class teachers, deacons, preachers, editors, writers, or college administrators and teachers. For this stand, we make no apologies.

When we began this effort to root out Ketchersidean subversion, we fully expected to be castigated, our motives to be falsely judged, and our persons and characters vilified and maligned. The “good men” with whom we deal have lived up to our expectations in this regard. Our only surprise has been in the individuals who have identified themselves with this class. In making these statements, I do not complain nor do I seek sympathy by maudlin appeals to emotionalism. If I do not have the faith and fortitude to meet both issues and men involved in these matters (whatever their tactics), I should abdicate the field of controversy. I have never asked any quarter from teachers of error or their sympathizers, nor do I propose to offer any. However, I stand ready to offer the “right hand of fellowship” to any person, young or old, who desires to take a firm stand for truth regardless of past mistakes. I will do this without prejudice regardless of anything he may have thought, said, or done against me personally, and I will use whatever influence I may possess to undo any damage which may have been done to his usefulness among brethren by reason of his previous commitment to error. I do not consider myself an enemy of these brethren, as Paul would say, “because I tell them the truth.” I believe that for which I am contending is right. I believe the situation with which we deal is real, not contrived by us to satisfy either ambitious (lust for power) or mercenary (lust for business) motives. I believe that which we oppose to be destructive of the best interests of the cause of truth. Until I am convinced otherwise, I shall continue to press the battle, and you will not find me “taking the pulse of the brethren” to determine my course, nor will you find me deterred by the unfavorable reaction of some of them.

A Look at Some Reactions to Our Efforts

Deal with principles, not men. I doubt not that some of the super-charged reactions could have been avoided had we dealt only with principles. Such an approach to the eradication of error, however, is neither practical nor effective. No battle for truth in the face of impending or developing apostasy can be won by an objective study of principles alone. He who thinks it can is either naive, ignorant, inexperienced in controversy, afraid, or all four. It is the age-old problem of winning the argument and losing the people. Our battle is not an academic dialogue but a struggle for the hearts and the lives of men-living, immortal souls. Christ and His apostles hesitated not to identify men with issues, hence to do so is neither unloving, carnal, un-Christlike, unspiritual, nor unnecessarily divisive. To register anger and disgust with and militant opposition to pernicious error, its devotees, and its sympathizers have justifying precedents in the conduct of Old Testament prophets, Christ, and His apostles. No informed Bible student should think of denying this, but if there is some respectable man among our conservative critics who has the ambition to try it, I shall be more than glad to oblige him with a head-on confrontation on this point either on the polemic platform or in the religious press.

Polysyllabic adjectives and undignified terminology. My adjectives seem to trouble some of our neophyte scholars. This seems strange considering the fact that they are at least in English whether they be polysyllabic or otherwise, which is more than can be said for their learned Greek criticisms and Latin solecisms. It seems proper to observe that what I write seems to be pretty universally read and understood, otherwise our precocious neophytes would not be so disturbed about what I have had to say.

Relative to my “dignity,” I find it hard to please the good brethren. For years I have been hearing, via the good old brotherhood grapevine, from my detractors (some professing to by my friends) how “cold, unapproachable, and unfriendly” I am. Now, they are greatly concerned about my “dignity,” or loss of it. One never quite makes it, does he?

The above is not intended for friends, tried and true, who have chided me about the questionable dignity of my remark that some of our neophyte scholars “give me a pain which I cannot locate, and which might be too embarrassing to identify if I could.” For the genuine interest of friends, I am grateful, and by the criticisms of my detractors, I am amused. Relative to the question of whether such a remark falls beneath the level of acceptable dignity in religious journalism, I beg to dissent both from friend and foe. Perhaps it is so, but on the other hand, perhaps it is not!

If such a statement is beneath the level of proper dignity in the religious arena, my Lord and His inspired apostles were guilty of the same sort of undignified (?) allusions. Jesus spoke of a “generation of vipers, ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing, whited sepulchers full of corruption and dead men’s bones, hypocrites, children of the devil, salt having lost its savor, hence unfit for the dunghill.” Incidentally, the King James Version does not err in translating the Greek, koprian, by “dunghill.” Check your lexicon. Jesus also remarked that the church at Laodicea made him want to vomit, “spue them out of his mouth” (Rev. 3:16). Having had considerable experience with nausea, I would say that the Laodiceans Agave Christ a pain which he did locate.”

Writing to the churches of Galatia, Paul (erudite and cultured) expressed the wish that the Judaizers which troubled them might “emasculate” themselves, “I would they were even cut off which trouble you” (Gal. 5:12). Note the following comment on this statement by H.A.W. Meyer, often referred to by scholars as “the prince of New Testament exegetes.” Meyer says, “The vivid realization of the doings of his opponents . . . now wrings from his soul a strong and bitterly sarcastic wish of holy indignation: Would that they, who set you in commotion, might mutilate themselves! that they who attach so much importance to circumcision, and thereby create commotion among you, might not content themselves with being circumcised, but might even have themselves emasculated!” (The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, Critical Commentary, pp. 300, 301).

Then, of course, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews said. “Then are ye bastards and not sons” (Heb. 12:8). Need I say more. I can, of course, as this is but a sample. Just as super-refinement becomes coarse vulgarity, so squeamish effeminacy in the use of terminology, under the guise of refinement and spirituality, can so take the edge off the “sword of the Spirit” as to blunt its effectiveness in combat with error. Such reminds me of a blushing Simon Milquetoast who considers it coarse to discuss a woman’s legs in public, hence excites prurient interest by vulgarly referring to her “limbs.” He who becomes more dignified than the Lord is just too dignified!

(To he continued.)

Truth Magazine, XVIII:30, p. 6B7
May 30, 1974