An Appeal in Love to Edward Fudge:

Clarify Please (I)

Ron Halbrook
Nashville, Tennessee

Anyone who writes and teaches publicly expects, even invites, public examination. The Christian who teaches is "ready always to give an answer," defense, or apology for his teaching (1Pet. 3: 15). Sometimes a brother needs specific occasion to explain himself further (Acts 17:19-20, 32-34). He is glad to add clarification, response, and explanation. Such can dissolve unfounded fears, doubts, or reservations and thus contribute to a healthier relationship (2 Thess. 2:1-2). Such occasions can even result in a stronger presentation of needed truths. Truths which inquirers see but vaguely, standing aloof from them because poorly understood, can be reaffirmed so as to make them stand out in bold relief. "Truth has nothing to fear by investigation; in fact, it is like gold, the more you rub it, the brighter it shines."

This article is written to give a brother the needed occasion to clarify, to contribute to improved relations, to put to rest any unfounded fears brethren may have, or to reaffirm truths formerly stated which need to be more clearly perceived.

Concern and Fairness

Sometimes inquiries are stated with the wrong motives; response may still be imperative, but the occasion of teaching is thus a sad one (Matt. 19:3; Lk. 10:29). Even when inquirers do not benefit from occasions of clarification, others can benefit (Matt. 19:16-30). The motive behind this present occasion is the purest, if this writer knows his heart at all.

Some brethren are concerned that a brother is drifting from some basic principles of New Testament Christianity. He, in turn, is concerned because they are concerned. For reasons, which we hope to give him occasion to state, he feels the fears of loving brethren are unfounded and ought to be laid to rest. This writer isn't aware of any whispering campaign, desire to misrepresent, ugliness, or intent to hurt on the part of those who are concerned; none of those things characterize this article, nor are they expected in the response our brother may choose to make.

In the interest of fairness, the very first person who will read this article after its completion will be the brother in question; consideration will be given to any suggestion he may have as to the wording of this article. Also, by offering this article to the Gospel Guardian, this writer is assuring the brother's full, free, unfettered opportunity to respond. Our brother's relationship to the Guardian will mean he will have a free hand to say all he wishes on the matters at hand.

On Judging

Our brother will understand, and all others will need to understand, that nothing in this article makes this writer the final judge of any brother. No mortal can write for anyone the papers of final, eternal destiny. God Himself has appointed both the "day" of final judgment and the "man" through whom it will be meted out (Acts 17:31). Whereas we are not to look upon each other with the attitude of a final judge, we are to look upon each (1) "to stimulate to love and good deeds" (Heb. 10:24), (2) to detect truth and error (1 Jn. 4:6; Acts 20:29-32), (3) to inspect the fruits borne (Matt. 7:20), and (4) to "examine everything carefully," determined to "hold fast to that which is good" and "abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thess. 5:21-22). With these four points in mind, we extend this appeal in love to our brother for consideration, clarification, or whatever response he chooses.

Why Now, Why At All?

Why is this article offered now and not later? Thoughts lead to actions and concepts to practices. The concept of the immediate return of Christ in Paul's day could easily have led to cessation of working for temporal needs (2 Thess. 2:2; 3:10-11). Attitudes have consequences.

Brother J. D. Bales points out the danger of one gradually absorbing principles, thoughts, and concepts, which are not in harmony with New Testament Christianity. We all must constantly guard against that danger! But it is especially dangerous when one progresses to the point of "a fundamental split in his outlook. On the one hand he accepts the Bible, but on the other hand he takes positions which, when followed to their logical conclusion, undermine the Bible" (Modernism: Trojan Horse in the Church, pp. 55). Bales gives eight examples of such positions. Seven positions which a beloved brother has taken, or else need to be clarified if not taken, are presented and reviewed in this article. These seven positions, "when followed to their logical conclusion, undermine the Bible." Any brother who tenaciously holds and publicly teaches such positions has advanced beyond the private study stage; he suffers "a fundamental split in his outlook." He may maintain that ambivalence throughout his life and never follow the wrong road of that split to its sad end; but others will be seriously misled by his erroneous positions.

Brethren who see these very dangers in positions our brother has apparently taken have recently been writing warnings. This includes young and old from all sections of the country; doubtless, there is more to come unless our brother can throw additional, appropriate light on the matter. Where there is drifting and looseness in the realm of thought, concept, attitude, or fundamental principle, especially when reflected in public teaching, warnings are in order before the sad fruit is borne in its maturity.

Let us now notice positions apparently held by our brother, which undermine the Bible. We pray that this may present him occasion to clarify, retract, reaffirm, or contribute whatever thoughts he deems appropriate.

Faith and Opinion

POINT 1: Our brother apparently has been confused on the subject of faith and opinion for quite some time. He wrote on the subject in "Faith, or Merely Opinion?" It appeared in the Christian Standard on July 8, 1967, Sentinel of Truth in Sept., 1967, Gospel Guardian in modified form on Aug. 28, 1969, and it has been circulated since then.

He gives quotations from the Campbells, F. G. Allen, Isaac Errett, W. T. Moore, and J. S. Lamar, adding his own comments. He concludes by heartily recommending what he understands these men said on faith and opinion; "the principles stated by these men are ... plain . . . Now it is ours to refute them - or put them into practice," he says.

There is controversy as to whether "instrumental music . . . the number of receptacles used in the Lord's Supper, the support of human organizations, the use of social dinners and recreational activities as an aid to evangelism, centralized programs of interchurch activity," are departures "from the pattern" or are matters of "opinion." Our brother says the Campbells would say "matters of 'opinion.' " If a man desired such~ practices, "these worthy men" would have said, "Practice your freedom." The only limit is that the man "be careful that he not impose his opinions on others . . "

"These worthy men" further believed "this does not give the objector the right to forbid the other brother's doing" the things listed above because "opinion will not interfere with his salvation." We cannot label such "opinion or practice as sinful" nor preach "repentance and reformation" to the man who engages in such so long as he doesn't urge "it on others as an item of faith." Since such practices are not expressly forbidden nor commanded, we should "allow the largest liberty."

Is our brother's tract on "Instrumental Music" written within the boundary of these premises? As a short treatise on the instrument, the tract is good and cannot include all possible approaches. The conclusion summarizes the approach used; "I do not need to prove any of these things wrong. The man who want, to include them needs to demonstrate that they are right." True. The question is: could our brother in good conscience preach that the instrument is wrong" and sinful in the absence of authority (* Ed read this phrase in our July 18, 1973, discussion and said, "No, I could not."), show scripturally "the other brother's" use of it is forbidden (* He said, "No," to this phrase.), show it will "interfere with . . . salvation" (*"No," again he said.), and therefore preach " repentance and reformation" to those who use it (* Again, "No."M") ??? Certainly, such statements are not offered in the present tract. The same question arises concerning other unlawful opinions specified in the introduction to his faith-or-opinion article. If lie did a longer tract on the instrument (or the other practices), would he join "these worthy men" in saying, "Practice your freedom"???

REVIEW: We beg our brother to reconsider the realm of lawful expedience versus the realm of unlawful opinion. He confuses the two in his article. Concerning the use of instruments, etc., our brother says we shouldn't require "unity of opinion"-i.e. we must allow brethren to have whatever opinion they wish on such practices. We shouldn't "forbid the other brother's doing" these practices, asserts our brother. Sin and responsibility for division lie at the door of these who force such practices on the conservative or of those who forbid the liberty of such practices. He thinks these concepts will avoid contention and promote unity; "it is ours to refute them-or put them into practice," he says. He hasn't refuted them (though we shall in this article), so we assume be thinks they should be ''put into practice." The result (as we understand his article): we should treat brethren who enter into the realm of unlawful opinion exactly as we do those who enter the realm of lawful expediency.

"The faith" authorizes expedients, as in the Lord's Supper (Matt. 26; 1 Cor. 11). The command to break bread authorizes the use of opinion in deciding upon round or square, wooden or metal, large or small plates for the bread-since it won't float in air. Here is the realm of lawful opinion or expedience (1 Cor. 9:21; 6:12; 10:23). "The number of receptacles used" comes under this head.

There is a realm of unlawful opinion. Putting catsup, mustard, tomato, onion, and grilled hamburger on the bread at the Lord's Table falls in this realm. So do instrumental music, social and recreational activities or centralization in the affairs of the church. All of these practices violate the will and covenant of Christ, violate the silence of scripture, are forbidden additions to God's Word (Acts 15:24; Gal. 1:3; Jude 3).

The brother's position hinges on the fact that instruments, etc., aren't mentioned in the New Testament; not being mentioned, they are not in any sense a matter of faith, he seems to think. To practice what his article asserts is to undermine the Bible. While instruments, etc., are not matters of faith in the sense that the Bible affirms we should use them, they are matters of faith in that they violate Christ's covenant by disregarding its silence and adding to its teaching! This is the old issue of whether God must specifically forbid a thing by name before it is sinful (a matter of faith), or whether God's specific approbation of something (like singing) is also a prohibition of everything else like playing). See Heb. 7:14. Whatever isn't specifically forbidden our brother places in the realm of lawful opinion - seeing sin only when the not-specifically-forbidden thing is forced upon brethren.

Have we misunderstood? Is it time to practice the ideas apparently asserted, or time to refute them? Is it really factious sin to point out to brethren that instruments, recreation, and centralization are violations of the faith as unlawful opinions-that "repentance and reformation" are needed? In so doing, have conservative brethren abused the rightful liberty in Christ of other brethren-as some have protested all along? Have we been pharisees and legalists by so strongly opposing things not specifically-forbidden-by-name? If so, we have sinned and ought to be plainly rebuked; we must immediately push for rapprochment without requiring our brethren to give up their innovations. Dear brother, clarify please.

September 27, 1973