By Ron Halbrook
9-Year History of Unsoundness
To understand the background to “An Appeal In Love: Clarify Please,” our readers need to understand the unsound history of a brother. When brother Ed Fudge and I were in school together from 1964-66, he was not grounded in the faith. For instance, he not only introduced me to the writings of Carl Ketcherside, he was very impressed by the writings of this digressive. I realize that recently he has written that he passed out many religious papers while at Florida College and that this did not mean he endorsed all that was in those papers. But, it was a generally known fact among young men like myself that Ed was not only passing out Ketcherside literature, he was in fact very impressed with such material. In spite of Ed’s recent effort to play this down, I can get written statements from other young men who were there at school which would prove this. It was not only because of the literature Ed passed out that it was generally known that he was impressed with Ketcherside, it was also known because of discussions held with Ed by young men at that time. Ed and I were friends at that time and have continued to be since then; neither I nor the other young men referred to have the least motive to misrepresent Ed on this matter of his being very much impressed by and under the influence of digressive Ketcherside. I’m not saying Ed has followed Keteberside 1007o. I don’t know every origin of his false concepts, but I do know (1) what his concepts are and (2) that they are unscriptural.
At various times since school days, Ed and I have discussed such matters as unity and fellowship, instrumental music, institutionalism, denominationalism, etc. He has not shown himself to be sound and scriptural on these subjects. Of course, he will have some good things to say, but before it is over he always shows his unsound and unscriptural concepts. For instance, all through these years since school, Ed has believed that whereas it is better not to use the instrument in worship, it is not a sin to use it. He told me himself that all through the summer of 1965, brother Leonard Tyler tried to get him to say that the instrument was sinful, but Ed told me he never would say that. Ed feels, and has felt during this time period since school, the same way about institutionalism. He thinks we do not have the right to label institutionalism “sin,” and that if we do; we are guilty of creating our own little sect. Of course, at the same time, he says he will not contribute to the institutions and will not teach churches to do so; but he believes churches that practice such have not gone into sin and apostasy.
To bring this up to date, Ed and I have discussed these matters since he has moved to Athens, Ala. He is just as unsound on these matters as I have always known him to be in school and since school. He has not changed; he is, so far as I can tell, no closer to teaching sound doctrine on these matters than he ever was. You will read the positions he has held and still holds in the following series of articles.
If he has been unsound all this time, and it has been known to others and evidenced in public writing, you may wonder why he has not been publicly opposed sooner. There are two reasons why I have waited and why others have told me they have delayed. (1) The very name Fudge has been equated with soundness because of the good work brother Bennie Lee did through the years in saving Limestone County from institutionalism. It just does not seem possible that his oldest son would hold and teach unscriptural concepts. So, partly out of respect for the good name of Bennie Lee and out of trust that some way Ed would eventually show the faith of his father, we have delayed ‘ (2) Brethren, like myself, have loved Ed and not wanted to do anything to hurt him. We have wanted to be patient. Many who have been concerned for Ed have generally felt he would give up these ideas if given time.
Why have I decided to no longer delay publicly exposing and opposing Ed’s unsound ideas? (1) His unsoundness now has a history of at least nine years; I know from personal discussion with him as late as mid-July that he has not changed and is not changing. (2) The unsound writing he has done has definitely encouraged some young preachers to drift from the old paths; the longer we let it go, the more he will influence in this way. (3) The particular kind of teaching he has done is spreading, not only because of him, but also because of others who teach similar ideas. These errors need to be exposed and answered, or we will have another major apostasy. (4) The positions he holds definitely undermine Bible authority, as you will see when you read them. This is proven also by the fact that some of the young preachers who have admired him and circulated his writings have left the absolute authority of the Bible. (5) The history of digression teaches that many brethren are deceived and churches lost because those with the truth have often sat idle while error took the initiative. If Ed can’t be turned from error, others can be saved from ever falling into it if those who have the truth will take some public initiative in teaching on these matters. (6) Being quiet (as far as public discussion) has not helped Ed; maybe enough public exposure will bring him to see the seriousness of what he has been teaching. (7) Responsibilities accompany love for Ed, for God, for truth, and for other brethren. My love for and responsibility to Ed cannot become an excuse for failing in love and responsibility involving God, truth, and others. (8) My conscience won’t let me rest without doing what little I can to expose this error. I must answer to God (Tit. 1:13-14; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). A gospel preacher cannot be clear from the blood of all men unless he declares “all the counsel of God,” including God’s counsel on dangerous errors that arise (Acts 20:27).
A Meeting With Brother Fudge
The decision to deal with these matters publicly has not occurred behind Ed’s back. He was the very first to read the completed article. We sat together at a table to ourselves in the little restaurant across from the Athens Hospital; he read every single line and we discussed it page by page. I pled with him at that time (July 18, 1973), to realize that the article is constructed in such a way that he could clear up all question by showing in written articles that he never intended to say the things I quoted him as saying, or by saying he no longer held such views. He told me the article would not clear up his name because he could only write that he did indeed believe the things I quoted from him. He said that he hoped I would not publish the article i.e., though he is not willing to retract his unscriptural views, he does not want anyone to publicly oppose what he has publicly written. I told him I could not comply with his desire, but that I would change anything in the article that he thought was ugly. He told me there was nothing ugly in it. Next, I told him I would change anything in the article that misquoted or misrepresented him. He said there was no mis-quotation. Then, I also told him I would consider any other suggestion he wanted to make on the wording of the article; the few minor suggestions he made were incorporated, though it did not change the actual meaning of anything. The only other thing he said was that even though I quoted him correctly, he felt my article would leave the wrong impression about him; in my judgment, that just means he knows a lot of people aren’t going to like it when they see what he actually believes. It is time to expose, answer, and oppose his false teaching. He knows that is the decision I have made.
In the course of our discussion and in the article itself, I asked Ed if he believes the instrument is sinful. He answered plainly, “No. ” So, he believes what he always has on such matters, if you can ever nail him down. I wonder if he will put his answer in print, so all the brethren can see what he really meant by some of the things he has written.
Origin of Article
Next, a word of background is in order on how the following article (or series) came into existence. Let me make plain that Truth Magazine did not solicit the article from me; I submitted it to them. The article does not represent some sort of attempt to “get on the bandwagon” simply because Truth has been publishing similar material recently. My article is an independent study; the first manuscript draft, in typed form, was complete before Ed Fudge’s name was ever mentioned in Truth.
I have been noticing and laying aside unsound material written by Ed Fudge since about 1968. As it piled up, with no evidence of a change, I became convinced that the matter needed to be dealt with. In the summer of 1972, the idea of writing an appeal to Ed began to take shape in my mind. I began extensive research in the fall of 1972, reviewing my own position and Ed’s on some fundamental principles of New Testament Christianity. The first completed copy of the first draft was finished in the spring of 1973, and a second, more thoroughly documented form in mid-July.
While shaping the idea and doing the writing, I consulted with many brethren-on scriptures, proper attitude, the need of such an article, and other related matters where the need of mature advice was keenly felt. Some of these men knew when I consulted them that I was writing the article; from some, suggestions were sought on passages or concepts without my stopping to explain why I was asking. These men include Homer Hailey, William Wallace, Lynn Headrick, Paul Earnhart, Frank Puckett, Melvin Curry, Ed Harrell, Sewell Hall, Gene Frost, David Tant, Irvin Lee, Bob Crawley, Granville and Leonard Tyler, Frank Smith, and at least half a dozen more of the same caliber. They don’t assume responsibility for anything in the article, nor can they be relied on to prove the article is scriptural-only the Bible can do that! My point is this: the article was produced absolutely independent of the recent efforts of Truth Magazine.
Once finished in mid-July, the article went directly into Ed’s hands, for suggestions from and discussion with him. I apologized to him for not having the final product ready in time for print before his name was mentioned in Truth. He might have been able to clarify matters and clear his name, thus avoiding its mention, if the article had been printed in time. He said for me not to worry about that angle; any response he might make to the article would not do much to clear his name because he would not renounce the positions attributed to him by the article.
Why In Truth, Not Guardian?
Since the article contains a reference to being offered to the Gospel Guardian, we need to explain why it is appearing in Truth Magazine.
About May or June of 1972, I told brother William Wallace that I might want to write some material dealing with Ed directly at some point, but not yet. I did want to start writing for the Guardian some, dealing mostly with some of the issues involved in the type of teaching Ed and others had done. He agreed to consider whatever was submitted. All that was submitted was graciously printed, often in an amazingly short time, occasionally after advising a small change. He was concerned with helping Ed and others, but agreed it might not be time to mention his name. Brother Wallace never discouraged writing an article that named Ed, if handled in the proper spirit. After seeing the spring (1973) draft of the article, he thought something of the kind might help bring Ed out into the open, if there was more “sufficient documentation.” He felt, as I did, that such a public effort might “help him,” if conducted in a proper spirit.
His wise suggestion on more careful documentation was taken to heart. I spent till mid-July on this job. After reviewing the finished article with Ed, I gave it to Brother Wallace. On July 24th, he told me by phone that he had read the article, and found nothing amiss in spirit or otherwise; as to printing’ he said he would wait until the Guardian – Truth controversy was fully subsided; he felt this might be well up into the Fall, if then.
On Aug. 8, 1 wrote him that more news about young preachers drifting kept coming to me. “. . the urgency of exposing the weakness of these loose concepts is pressing on me more and more . . . I am just one preacher, and a young one at that, and further . . . not the ablest thinker or writer around. I cannot do everything to stop this increasing drift, but I can do something; before God, I am responsible to do that something to the best of my ability. I have a conscience to live with, a responsibility to discharge, and a judgment to face … time is of the essence and the time needs to be redeemed when a particular form of unsound teaching is spreading.” I told him to let me submit the material to someone else if he still did not see fit to print it by early September. He returned it on Aug. 16 because he still felt he should not print it until after the controversy “with Truth Magazine is over.” I wish the Guardian could print it without waiting on this open-ended contingency. On the other hand, I wish the article and issues involved were of a less urgent nature so that the contingency might be waited upon, no matter how long.
I don’t understand why the delay was so imperative, but I’m not editor of the Guardian. It should be pointed out in fairness to Brother Wallace that he does not share such views of Ed as that instruments are not sinful in worship. He still hopes Ed is coming around to more scriptural concepts; after reviewing the material with Ed, I can’t share that hope at all. If Ed ever states concisely and plainly what he really believes and tries to defend it as he did with me, many good brethren are going to see the hope we have embraced is a delusive phantom. (For instance, he attempted a defense by saying we have used a “human system of interpretation never given to us by the Lord,” but that he will not expose and refute it because all be has is “‘a more scriptural human system of interpretation.”)
The Same Article
The article is being printed in Truth just as it was when reviewed by Ed and submitted to the Guardian. Here are three exceptions: (1) a subtitle is added and (2) this introduction. (3) Some of Ed’s reactions are added in parenthesis, always set off by an astrisk (*). Here is why the last exception. The article was written in hopes of getting a response from Ed that might indicate a turn back toward Bible truth. When we reviewed the material together, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of turning from his unscriptural concepts; rather, be tried to defend them without exception. It is time, then, that they be fully exposed, analyzed, and refuted. In fact, “the day is far spent.”
Please notice the arrangement of the article. Each “POINT” presents Ed’s view, carefully documented. The quotes are from his own pen. Each “REVIEW” shows the fallacies, consequences, and dangers of his positions. The “REVIEW” may contain direct quotes, too. In fairness to Ed, discriminate between what he actually says (in quotation marks) and the consequences of his assertions which may be stated in my words, not his.
(More to follow)
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 45, pp. 9-12
September 20, 1973