Appeal to Edward Fudge(III): Inferences

By Ron Halbrook

(Editor’s Note: An introductory article to this series in which Brother Ron Halbrook is reviewing the position of his dear friend, Brother Edward Fudge, appeared in the Sept. 20th issue. If you have access to that introductory article, but have not yet read it, I suggest you do so before reading this article.)

POINT 2: Our brother shows a fundamental split in outlook by his concept of how the Bible teaches or authorizes. We’ve already seen how he apparently discusses violations of divine silence and additions to God’s Word as though they were lawful opinions and part of our. liberty in Christ. He discusses these same practice’s (instruments, socializing, centralizing), not only as opinions within the realm of liberty in Christ, but also under the expression “matters of human inference.” In this context, he explains we must be careful not to exclude anyone from fellowship because of their weakness of intellect-i.e. they might infer the above practices to be scriptural, we might infer them to be unscriptural, and neither position affects fellowship; see his article on faith and opinion referred to above (in Christian Standard, etc.)

Our brother says that the following statement should be read and “reread,” that it embodies “the entire teaching and work” of the Campbells on “unity,” and that it “is suitable for all times”:

“Although inferences and deductions from Scripture premises, when fairly inferred, maybe truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word, yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther than they perceive the connection … no such deductions can be made terms of communion (or fellowship).”

Our brother approvingly quotes, “We dare not, therefore, patronize the rejection of God’s dear children, because they may not be able to see alike in matters of human inference;” then he quotes, “It is cruel to excommunicate a man became of the imbecility of his intellect.” “All things not expressly revealed and enjoined in the word of God” are “matters of human inference” (emphasis original). Thus, the instrument, centralizing, and socializing mentioned are “matters of human inference.” So, we should not be separated in fellowship just because we “may not be able to see alike” regarding instruments, etc. The user of such inventions should not require the non-user “to see alike nor should the non-user forbid the user. Note the reference to weakness of intellect as the cause of not being able to see alike. (* Along this line, we discussed what he called our “human system of interpretation,” especially as he sees it evidenced in our debates with those embracing institutionalism. I told him it is his duty as a gospel preacher to expose and refute this “human system of interpretation” which he says is so much like that of “the scribes and Pharisees.” Once he exposed the false, he could teach us how to handle aright the Word. “No,” he said he could not do that. For one thing, he can only offer his own human system of interpretation, he explained. “Mine is only a more scriptural human system of interpretation,” he said. I pointed out that Christ showed us the Bible teaches by necessary implication when he presented such arguments as Matt. 22:31-32; he responded that perhaps Christ knew how to do this, but we don’t. I pointed out that Ed has no trouble seeing one can take all the Bible says on primary obedience to the gospel, and thus understand the subject; any change is a sin and forbidden, though the particular change not be specified in the Bible. I asked why the same is not true about understanding worship or organization, with changes being sinful; he said, “It’s just not the same!”)

REVIEW: Again, we point out that our brother is using a word, which has two meanings without distinguishing between those meanings. The word is “inference.” He is confusing “necessary implication” (sometimes called necessary inference) with “differences of opinion on matters of speculation” (or, purely human inferences).

The Bible teaches by direct command (Mk. 16:16), divinely approved example (Acts 20: 7), and necessary implication (Matt. 22:23-33). Whatever God says by necessary implication, we must hear by necessary inference. When God prohibits violating His silence or adding to His Word, we must recognize (or infer) that adding instruments, etc., is just as wrong as adding hamburger trimmings to the Supper-though neither is specifically named as sin. These are inferences we must make if we are to recognize the terms of our Lord’s covenant with us! Failing to do so would bury us, in a few years, in an avalanche of human additions, 4 inventions, and traditions; the pure and simple Word of God would be lost in the landslide of human vanities, as the history of the Disciples of Christ denomination demonstrates!

Men sometimes infer when God has not implied. These are the human inferences and speculations, often found in creeds, which the pioneers were fighting (as in the quotes our brother sometimes uses); see Apr. 12, 1973, Gospel Guardian article “God’s Revelation Designed to be Understood-Ill.” God says (1) “Go,” and men infer a complex system of church centralization; (2) “Preach,” and they infer an exclusive hierarchal system; (3) “sing,” and they infer everything from tin buckets to philharmonic orchestras; (4) “fellowship,” and they infer everything from the smell of coffee to the smell of hot tar going on the roof of a new gym. Creeds are largely formalized inferences on predestination, centralization, etc., which are inventions of human inference in matters where God has not implied. God forbids such opinionating, speculating, violating his covenant, and adding to His Word. Such is not necessarily implied, not within our liberty, not within expediency because not within the law of Christ. Such is the sinful invention of men drifting from Christ as the only Head and from the Bible as the only authority (Jn. 10; Eph. 1:22-23; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Our brother’s argument hinges in part on his suggesting God wouldn’t cause one to be lost whose intellect was too weak to infer what God implied. True, but the danger is extreme in saying this means necessary implication isn’t binding. The next step, on the same premise, is to see that one might be too weak to recognize a divinely approved example, and to set that aside as not binding. Then, one might be too weak to recognize a direct command, so it can be set aside. Thus, the Bible is overturned completely. Our brother won’t travel this road to its end in this writer’s judgment, but such teaching will surely start others down a path from which there is often no return.

Dear brother, we do not desire to hurt you, but we long for some appropriate explanation or clarification.

Underpinnings Cut

POINT3: The scriptures urge us not to add to, substitute for, or take from the Lord’s will, truth, gospel, covenant, and doctrine. We are not to violate divine silence. Some pertinent passages are 1 Cor. 1:10, Gal. 1: 8-9, 2 Jn. 9, Jude 3. Others include Acts 15-24; 1 Cor. 4:6,17; 1 Tim. 3:14-15; 2 Thess. 2:1-2; Heb. 1:13; 7:14; and Rev. 22:18-19. Our brother has been cutting some of these underpinnings which have kept us close to the New Testament pattern and which show it is imperative to continue in that pattern.

He has commented on all the passages in the first list, which is why they are given separately. He thinks none of these passages apply to “doctrinal” issues-like instruments, etc. Numerous times he has written that 1 Cor. 1:10 does not require us to teach the same “doctrine,” but only to have “unity of sentiment, of aim, of spirit, of love” (as June 20, 1968 Guardian). 2 Jn. 9 doesn’t require us to continue in the teaching Christ gave through his apostles as per Acts 2:42, but only to certain specific teaching about Christ (Vol. 24, No. 37, G.G.). Gal. 1 and Jude 3 apply only to the “gospel” in the limited sense of first principles relative to primary obedience (as in Vol. 21, No. 44, G.G).

REVIEW: 1 Cor. 1:10. Paul did not write to tell Corinth that (1) it would be “nice” if they could grow into better faith and practice on the name, morals, worship, organization’ and doctrine of the church, but (2) until they got around to it, or even if they finally couldn’t “see eye to eye” with Paul, they would be “the church of God” anyway. All their goodness or rightness on these or any other matters could not make them merit salvation. Yet the security of the believer and identity of the church is plainly conditioned on faithfulness in such matters. The fact is Paul did not merely appeal for good attitudes in aim, spirit, and love for 16 chapters, though that is certainly interwoven in his appeal. Paul appealed in the name, person, and authority of Christ for the brethren to “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; ” then he required unity in faith and practice on such matters as the name, morals, worship, and doctrine. When he concluded with the appeal to “stand fast in the faith,” he certainly meant to include all that was presented by divine authority in this very epistle (16:13); along with this, he showed the importance of attitude, aim, spirit, and love (vs. 14).

2 Jn. 9. “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.” Certainly John was dealing with a particular error, but it is unfounded assumption to claim he meant no other error violates the doctrine of Christ. Does “the doctrine of Christ” mean only “the doctrine Of Jesus living in the flesh”? An atheist could affirm this and thus have “both the Father and the Son.” One objects that the context says “Jesus Christ,” meaning the Lord of glory, came and that an atheist wouldn’t accept that, then we observe that the Lord of glory holds all authority in his own hands (Eph. 1; Matt. 28). Thus any practice promoted without authority is in violation of the doctrine that Jesus Christ came in the flesh to live, die, raise, and reign. The reigning Christ declared his will to inspired men on the subject of worship, and any who persist in changing, adding to, or taking from that will do not recognize Jesus Christ as the Lord of all glory; men must repent of such sin or perish (1 Cor. 11:23, 30; 2 Jn. 9).

“The doctrine of Christ” or “the doctrine of the Lord” is the same as “the right ways of the Lord,” “the faith,” and “the word of God” (Acts 13:5-12). Such doctrine, word, ways, or faith includes all the revelation of God to men, all that distinctly originated in heaven and not of men (1Cor. 11:23; 16:13; Gal. 1: 11-12; 2:11-14). In the very same way, “the doctrine of Balaam” was not simply one particular doctrine about Balaam, but all that he stood for in faith or practice that originated of men and not from heaven;” the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes,” was not one particular doctrine about the Nicolaitans, but was all that certain ones stood for that originated of men (Rev. 2:13-14). “The doctrine of Christ” is “all the counsel of God,” “the gospel of the grace of God,” the message of “the kingdom of God,” the faith and word and ways and will and covenant and truth of God, i.e. all the revelation of God to men (Acts 20:24-27; 13:5-12; 1 Cor. 16:13). The point of 2 Jn. 9 is that all men who are not content to dwell therein sever themselves from God. The point of vs. 10 is that as they persist in their progression beyond divine revelation, they are to be recognized, marked, and severed from the fellowship of faithful brethren.

Gal. 1:8-9. All that Paul taught originated in the Lord; this included both matters of primary obedience and matters of worship and organization. He did not receive his teaching “of man … but by the revelation of Jesus Christ … For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you.” To neglect or reject any such divine revelation is to leave the gospel, fall from grace, come under condemnation, and die spiritually (Gal.: 6-12; 2:11-14; 5:4; 1 Cor. 11:23-34). Thus, Paul forbids hearing any other messenger or message in Gal. 1:8-9; that prohibition protects all the counsel or revelation of God, not just some particular. segment of it.

Jude 3. Jude likewise points to the necessity of holding inviolate the entire revelation of God. “Ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” If no particular item of “the faith” was dealt with in Jude, “the faith” still would not mean anything less than the total revelation of God. If we identify one or two particular items, we must certainly understand that those few items are a part of “the faith;” but it would be folly to say those few items constitute “the faith” in toto. Jude mentions “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness,” a challenge to the faith.

He also specifies the danger of despising authority-which is challenging divine authority through failing to submit to those who represent that authority. “To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever” (vs. 25). Civil powers, parents, and the inspired men all represent divine authority (Rom. 13; 1:30; Eph. 6:1; 1 Cor. 2:13; 11:23). “The faith” isn’t limited to faith, repentance, and baptism. When men do not recognize the authority of the inspired men in matters pertaining to the work, worship, and organization of the church, they are undermining “the faith.” We must respond to the trumpet call of Jude 3 as we face innovations in the church! Anything for which there is not a thus-saith-the-Lord is not of the faith nor in the faith.

(*Ed says my review on these passages does not answer the careful exposition of them that he has previously written. In that case, it shouldn’t be too difficult for him to show in writing how I have erred. Will he do it? )

The more of these underpinnings our brother cuts, the more it appears that he doesn’t believe any scripture forbids us to add, to, substitute for, or take from the Lord’s Word concerning his church and related doctrinal matters. If the appearance is correct, the necessary conclusion is: those who centralize, use instruments, etc., are in unity with Christ and should be accepted without question by faithful brethren. If he believes such practices are positively wrong and sinful, let him please clarify and specify exactly what scriptures teach it.

October 4, 1973