The Vagueness of Generalities

J. F Dancer, Jr.
Memphis, Tennessee

One of the problems of communication is to speak (or write) so you will be easily understood. In recent years those of us who oppose churches contributing to benevolent and educational organizations have been generally classified as "anti." This is a general term and by itself, with no explanation, really tells the person nothing. It is simply a way of making an accusation without having to spell out that of which one is accused. I once heard a preacher on the radio in Tennessee berate the "liberals" and the "antis." I wrote him and asked for an explanation of each term. Instead of explaining, he challenged me for a debate! I accepted but he never explained either term. We have been justly critical of those who would thus characterize us. However, I fear we are also somewhat guilty.

We are quick to classify a congregation (or an individual) as "liberal" or "digressive" without taking the time to explain what we mean. I realize there are times when the conversation will explain the term but many times it is used much like the term "anti" - as a smoke screen to save the time of explaining what the church or person really believes and practices. Let us be specific (when time allows) and tell just what is involved rather than being vague with a general term.

In trying to correct sins in the lives of brethren and especially when the time comes to withdraw ourselves from them we are prone to say they are guilty of "walking disorderly" and let it go at that. I recognize Paul used this term in 2 Thess. 3:6, but in the immediate context he explained his meaning. We use it to mean anything, and I fear, many times to cover up making a specific accusation. Let us learn to be specific. If one is guilty of adultery, say so! If he is a drunkard, point it out! Someone may object that this will leave us open to a charge of slander or libel, but it won't if we can prove the charge. And we shouldn't withdraw ourselves from a brother unless we can prove the charge against him!

Most preachers preach against "worldliness" but when many of them finish you still don't know what they exactly oppose. Love of the world is sinful (1 Jno. 2:15-17) and it needs to be spelled out in terms of immodesty, dancing, social drinking, materialism, etc. This way all will know what it is that saints are to omit from their lives. Specific sins avoided and condemned rather than a vague general term used over and over.

Then there is the term "false teacher" and truly there are such! But at times the term is used as a means of casting a reflection against another. When we put this "name" on a person we should be ready to point out his false doctrines.

Just because a person disagrees with me does not necessarily mean what he teaches is not true. We need courage to identify these "wolves" (Matt. 7:15-20) but we need plainness of speech to point out what he teaches that is not in accord with truth, and we must keep in mind what truth is (Jno. 17:17)!

Yes, there is a vagueness in generalities! There is a need to be forthright in our speech. We must be sure of any charge we make against another and not just."beat around the bushes" for fear we will have to prove whereof we speak. Let us oppose all error-let us mark every one who "causes divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine" (Rom. 16:17), but let us do it in a way so we can be understood! In this way error will stand revealed and those who try to uphold it will have no recourse in that they are plainly described.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:12, p. 5
January 24, 1974