Better Manners Than the New Testament

By Dick Blackford

Several years ago, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. wrote an article by this title in which he pointed out that it was not undignified or discourteous to call names. After all, Christ and the apostles called names of those with whom they disagreed and yet the Bible remained a dignified book. He concluded, his article by saying, “When a paper develops better manners than the New Testament and a preacher becomes more dignified than the apostles, neither is worth anything to the defense of the truth.”

Sometimes preachers and papers are criticized for being too negative. We grant that such is possible and perhaps many of us have done that. But how does one make a positive response to statements toward which he holds a negative position? Where is the philosophy of “always take the positive approach” advocated in the Bible? Paul told Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (2 Tim. 4:2). That is two-thirds negative. Neither Jesus nor Paul felt that it was wrong to take a negative approach when they sustained a negative relationship to an idea or practice. Nor did they think it was wrong to make a direct response to that with which they disagreed. There was no “beating around the bush” (Matt. 15:1-20; 1 Cor. 11:17-34; Gal. 2:11-14). Since then, many great men have signed to take the negative regarding a particular proposition because they believed the affirmative to be in error.

We used to hear brethren say, “We practice an open pulpit. If you disagree with what we teach and practice, we invite you to come and point out wherein we err.” Similar offers were made regarding the pages of bulletins and papers. The Holy Spirit endorsed this open policy by recording both sides of an issue and by recording direct negative responses  by those who were right and by those who were wrong.

When we maintain that no direct response is to be permitted to anything we say and that only the positive approach will be allowed, we are trying to have better manners than the New Testament and are occupying a non-biblical policy. It is a dangerous trend when we seek to squelch open and direct discussion.

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 4, p. 4
February 17, 1994