By Bill H. Reeves
The warfare between truth and error is between Christ and Satan (Rev. 17:14). Involved is the “wisdom that is from above” and the wisdom that “is earthly, sensual, devilish” (Jas. 3:15). False teachers and false brethren (2 Pet. 2:1; 2 Cor. 11:26) employ the carnal tactics of human wisdom in their opposition to those who insist upon submission to Divine wisdom. Paul says (2 Cor. 2:11) that Satan seeks to gain advantage over us; to this end he uses “devices.” We should not be ignorant of these devices, or schemes. Human wisdom has just so much capacity; so, when we learn its principal devices, there are no more new ones to surprise us! The details may change a little, but that is all. In this article I want to list some major tactics employed by human wisdom, so that the reader can be well informed concerning them and able to readily recognize them in his battle for Truth.
First, let’s look at 2 Corinthians 2:11, “devices.” The Greek word, noema, means mental perception, thoughts and purposes. The “devices” or “schemes” are the forms which the thoughts take. When I preach in Spanish, coming to 2 Corinthians 2:1-11 read the word maquinaciones (machinations = a scheming or crafty action or artful design intended to accomplish some usually evil end). In our everyday English, “device” and “machinery” are well-known ideas. Satan has his machinery at work; we are not to be ignorant of these devices!
Experience In Living
Long life on earth allows one to accumulate a lot of experience about the way humans act. One becomes almost a prophet as he predicts what turn events will take, because he has seen for many years human wisdom at work. Carnal tactics are employed by those who refuse to submit to Divine wisdom, and human wisdom has only so many (principal) devices, or tactics. I was baptized fifty-two years ago; I have seen a lot of changes in the brethren throughout the years. Having lived through the “issues” of the ’50’s, concerning centralization (sponsoring-church-concept) and institutionalism (churches donating to human institutions for the accomplishment of church-work), now that I am again directly involved in this same battle in the Spanish-speaking field, I can readily recognize the age-old, carnal tactics, being used by liberal brethren among the Hispanics. Recently I completed a 48-page work in Spanish entitled, Tactics and Methods of Liberalism. I not only listed the principal carnal tactics being employed by liberal brethren today, but documented, such from personal letters, bulletins and other articles published by them, and from personal encounters with my erring brethren. In this English article, I will list the tactics and give some sample cases, but will not tire the reader with the many proofs that are at hand in the Spanish-speaking brotherhood.
I. Ignorance and Prejudice. Liberal brethren (both Anglo-American and Hispanic), who have not informed their converts of the division which took place in the ’50’s and ’60’s, are now telling them about the “antis,” because in the Providence of God the truth on these issues is reaching a great many brethren throughout the Spanish-speaking world. But these “leaders” are not explaining the issues to the brethren, but rather using prejudicial terms to hopefully to prejudice their minds against us. The Hispanic brethren at large do not know what “anti” means, as it is being hurled about. The context in which they hear it implies that the “anti” is something bad! The term is being used simply to stigmatize brethren.
Sample: Brother Enrique Martorell, of Toledo, Spain, when he heard that brother Wayne Partain and I planned a preaching trip to Spain in December, 1984, sent a circular letter to the churches of that country, saying that we are “anti everything and more.” This had the desired effect; the churches were frightened and prejudiced against us, but had no earthly idea as to what the issue is that divides us.
Sample: A few years ago, brother Otto Alvarez, of Merida, Yucatan, Mexico was called an “anti” because he opposed a certain practice locally. Not knowing what was meant by that (since the term was simply used derogatorily), and having heard of some brethren 900 miles away who also had been called that, he traveled the distance to consult with them. And thus he learned why he had been called an “anti.”
Sample: In March, 1985, brother Alfonso Castillo of Guatemala wrote a brother in New York City and said that brother Partain and I had been in El Salvador and in Guatemala, teaching a different doctrine and causing uproars. He wrote: “I do not know if these men belong to the church of Christ . . . I am writing you for information.” The brother condemns us, states that he doesn’t know if we are even in the church of Christ, or not, and then solicits information! A fine judge he is – acting on ignorance!
II. False Representation. Before preceding, I call to the reader’s attention something that he will see over and over in his lifetime; that is, the false teacher is always guilty of that of which he accuses his opponent!
Sample: The day before brother Partain and I were to arrive in that city, the large, 300-member, liberal church in San Jose, Costa Rica circulated a special sheet to the church. It referred to us only as “men,” not brethren. It quoted a certain brother in New York City as saying that brother Partain had passed through that city like a hurricane, destroying the work of the Lord, leaving churches of some 110 members with barely 40. “This is the result of the terrible division that the anti’s came to do,” he wrote. The circular said: “These men will be trying to knock on your doors to deceive you. They will come to you with the appearance of piety and with smooth words . . . but their goal is destruction . . . . .. In March, 1984, we were in Costa Rica to hold a gospel meeting with a particular congregation that had formally invited us. That we did, and returned home. But the leaders of the liberal church did their best to misrepresent us. I wrote the four churches in New York City, purportedly decimated by brother Partain, and each one replied, flatly denying the ridiculous charges and stating that we are welcome there any time we can visit them. (I was with them during May of this year.) The congregations are from 20 to 60, at the most, in membership. Brethren from the one church in NYC, where the informant was a member, sent a letter to the liberal church in Costa Rica. This letter denied that said member had written any such thing about brother Partain. The Costa Rica church made no correction of the matter. Its leaders simply wanted to misrepresent us in order to control the minds of those who follow them.
In every controversy of any kind, one should always ask himself: What is the issue? and correctly define it in his own mind. Then, he should be sure that the opponent is dealing with the real issue, because if the opponent is not honest, he will either evade the issue, or misrepresent it! Don’t allow yourself to be caught up in a discussion without a proposition! Don’t allow yourself to be drawn away from the real issue, or off onto a false issue.
Note some false issues in the centralization and institutional controversy: “It’s a matter of methods,” “legalism,” “divisionists,” “destroying the peace,” “binding opinions,” etc.
Churches would do well to have classes on defining the issues, first of New Testament days (Judaism, Gnosticism) and then in history since then (Romanism, Protestantism, Modernism, the Missionary Society and instrumental music issues of the last century, Premillennialism, Centralization and Institutionalism). Many brethren are incapable of correctly defining these issues; no wonder the enemy of truth has it so easy in misrepresenting them!
III. Hatred. The very ones who so loudly accuse us of not “loving the church,” or “loving your brethren,” are so filled with hatred. The false teacher doesn’t like anyone to stand in his way. The Gnostics of New Testament days, egotistical, arrogant and conceited as the worldly-wise always are, hated the brethren who insisted upon apostolic doctrine (see passages in 1 John 2,3,4). With educated language the false teacher often pours out his contempt on those who stand in his way.
In the Spanish work on Tactics I quoted from letters from a number of “leaders” among my liberal brethren who, in writing to others about us said such things as: “They are dangerous Pharisees, introducing themselves subtly and with apparent humility,” “they are ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing,” “Flee from them, flee from the Antis … . what they teach are pure lies,” “due to the hypocritical entrance of the antis . . . who sow the well known seed of hate and distrust,” “men whose god is pride, contention, and deceit,” “sacks of pus.”
The very ones who shout so loudly that we aren’t showing proper “love” have been so loveless themselves. It is always that way: they are guilty of the very kind of thing of which they accuse their opponents! It reminds me of a bulletin article (of a conservative church) I read recently, in which the preacher-editor raked over the hot coals some other preachers who allegedly had “raked over the hot coals Bro. _________ for positive preaching.” They’ll do it every time!
IV. Appeal to Numbers. “We must be right; look how many of us there are!” Such is the appeal of the false teacher. Contrast that with John 6:66,67. Jesus, who is truth, did not need followers to prove that he was truth. Truth stands alone, if no one wants to stand with it! Truth is not determined by numbers. But numbers is a favorite tactic of the carnal mind.
Brother Guy N. Woods used to say of the “antis,” “They are dying on the vine” (that is, not many left; not going anywhere). In September 1984, brother L. Haven Miller wrote to brethren in Spain, concerning brother Wayne Partain and me, and our going to Spain to preach, “I have known these two men for forty years . . some years after they graduated and were working in the Cause of Christ, they fell in with a group, a small minority, among churches of Christ in the U.S. which insists that certain types of cooperation among churches is very bad and is prohibited.”
The (carnal) purpose of stating “a small minority” is to frighten the reader and prejudice his mind. Being a carnal tactic, of course it is not concerned with consistency and truth. True disciples of Christ have never been a majority in this world. The New Testament church suffered an apostasy, and the majority became the Roman Church. Is the Roman Catholic Church therefore the true church?
Brother Jose Cuellar, in a publication in Puerto Rico several years ago, in an article entitled, “What Makes The Church Grow?” at the close mentioned without comment that the Madison, Tennessee church has 7,000 in Sunday Bible School, has 350 teachers, and that on a certain Sunday was going to try to reach 8,000. The obvious effect of such a statement is that of glorying in numbers.
The devil uses “numbers” to his advantage. Let us not be ignorant of his devices!
V. Lies. What is gained by lying? Well, human wisdom says that it can be very profitable at times. It succeeds in closing the minds of those who refuse to inform themselves. It prejudices their minds against those considered enemies of the promotion at hand. Of course, in time the lie is exposed and the liar suffers.
In Latin-America a number of different “leaders” in several different countries were circulating these lies against us “antis” who are preaching in Spanish and going into Central and South America: We don’t believe in sending money to preachers in Latin-America, we are “one cuppers,” we don’t believe in Bible classes, we don’t believe in having church buildings, we don’t have any place to preach in the U.S., so we are going to Latin-America, we are not even members of the church of Christ, etc. There are many liberal brethren who know that these are lies, but have not stopped their circulation.
VI. Cowardice. Many of the very ones circulating lies about us in Latin-America have absolutely refused to speak to us (they really love us, right?) even when we have gone to them in person. In one case pictures of several of us “anti” preachers, or a list of our names, have been posted on bulletin boards, warning the brethren to avoid us, and one of the preachers who did that refused to speak to brother Partain and to me, even though the three of us were invited by a congregation to preach on the same occasion (and we preached!)! When he finished his sermon, he walked out. But later, after we had left the country, he returned, and rebuked the church for inviting us. That church told him not to come back!
A preacher in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico went to an “anti” church and told the brethren he would debate “10 Bill Reeveses at once.” The church informed me, and I sent formal propositions for debate to him and to the church. More than a year later I sill haven’t heard from him. Brother Larry White, of Louisiana, who has preached much in Central America, misrepresented me to brethren in El Salvador. I proposed that he and I debate our differences there, sent him a copy of the letter with the proposition, and never heard from him. Brethren in Nicaragua circulated that brother Wayne Partain “refused to dialogue” with them, so Wayne sent propositions for a public debate there, and made a trip there to fulfill his part, but the liberal brethren went silent.
I will say that brother DeWayne Shappley hasn’t refused to debate. He and I had a debate in Puerto Rico, but only one brother showed up with him, and he is more liberal than DeWayne, because he advocates “fellowship halls,” with food and fun paid for by the local church.
VII. Neutrality. A few outstanding “leaders” in the Spanish liberal brotherhood have opted to be “neutral” in the controversy. Among them is the well-known Juan Monroy, of Madrid, Spain. He is very influential, being a very educated journalist. He is used by the liberal brethren throughout Latin-America, specially in big “campaigns” and for graduating ceremonies of brotherhood PreacherTraining Schools. Take a look in the book What Lack We Yet? (p. 259) Brother Monroy was picked up by liberal brethren at the “Church of Christ booth” of the World’s Fair in New York City, and put to work in Spain. He is sectarian to the core: believes in Original Sin, fellowships Protestants, speaks of “absurd discussions between conservatives and liberals,” etc.
One of the stock-in-trade arguments used by many liberal brethren in Latin-America, not to involve themselves in the present-day controversy, is to reply: “This problem is in the United States; it’s not here. You brethren there solve your own problem.” This effort to try to remain “neutral” is what they have been taught. They say this, because this is what they have heard!
We have shown them that the problem is everywhere that the teachers of unauthorized practices have gone, and that they are fellowshipping error. The main reason such practices as church-supported institutions and centralized projects are not common in Latin-America is because of the lack of money there to invest in such. It is like a church which doesn’t have a piano because it lacks the money to buy one!
VIII. Intimidation. This is a popular tactic with those who want to control the minds of followers. Their threats don’t have to be necessarily direct in order to be effective.
Sample: The men of a church in San Jose, Costa Rica, invited me for a study of the issues. After two or three hours of study, we were all of one accord in the basic teachings considered. After I was gone, brother Juan Garcia, the selfstyled leader of the large, liberal congregation in town, went to that church and told the brethren that if they continued to allow Bill Reeves to visit them and teach, that he would no longer consider them a church of Christ! And it worked! They were intimidated. (For Christians in the U.S. to appreciate the power of such a threat, they have to know just how much control the big, downtown, central, “mother” church in the capital city has over the other churches in the country, controlling U.S. money for church buildings, preachers’ salaries, songbooks and literature, etc. The head “missionary” in the country wields tremendous control.)
This is not an exhaustive list of carnal tactics, but I believe that these are principal ones, and need to be recognized for what they really are! If one doesn’t have the truth, what does he have? What is left for him to use? Our Latin brethren, being of a more temperamental nature than Anglo brethren, usually don’t try to mask their feelings. When they use carnal tactics, it is more glaring and evident. However carnal tactics are not the private property of any particular culture. We must recognize them and expose them. We must be careful lest Satan, using them, gain advantage over us.
Brethren, have studies on rightly defining “issues” (questions, matters, Acts 15:2,6). I find, as I go about among the churches, two great lacks in this respect: older brethren are not able to accurately state in simple language what the “Institutional Issue” is, and younger brethren are not informed on it by preaching and teaching, so they have little or no interest in it. Let us also have more studies designed to help all of us to recognize Satan’s devices!
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 3, pp. 80-82, 87
February 2, 1989