“Departing from Faith”

By Larry Hafley

Under the above caption, L.D. Perdue, a Baptist, wrote in the Northwest Baptist News as follows:

“One of the most distressing things that happens in one’s ministry is seeing churches that were once faithful to the cause depart the faith. This is usually because of the wolves in sheep’s clothing who take over the leadership of these churches. The First Missionary Baptist Church of Brentwood, California, under the leadership of Ron Cowger, is rapidly departing the faith. The church in Oakley and also the church in Antioch, California, will no longer grant or receive letters of fellowship from this church. Ron Cowger has led this church to receive alien immersion and practice pulpit affiliation, all in the name of progress. I say he is leading the church to commit spiritual adultery, which is even worse than physical adultery.

“Dewey Caves has led the Santa Cruz Church to do the same thing. As a result of this leadership, the Salinas Church and other churches have withdrawn fellowship from the Santa Cruz Church. I am told the pastor of the San Jose Church, if he had his way, would lead his church in the same paths.

“These moves are not something that have just happened overnight. They have been coming to a head for quite some time. What I can’t understand is why the Sentinel and the men in positions of leadership in California didn’t expose these situations quite some time back. Error ought to be exposed and those who are preaching error should likewise be exposed. It is high time we expose the hypercalvinists, the universalist, the New Lighters and anyone else that is going off into heresy. The Bible tells us to know them which labor among us.”

Reactions and Observations

We are not disposed to get into the midst of a Baptist fuss over Baptist faith. Frankly, it is good to hear that some are departing from the Baptist faith. The bad news is that they are not leaving in order to surrender to the New Testament system of faith. So, while we are not going to enter into the “pros and cons” of a Baptist battle, we propose to notice an item or two which the above article genders.

1) The Tone and Tenor of the Article: You will see that Mr. Perdue is not afraid to call the names of men. He is not squirmish or squeamish to identify both who and what he is talking about. Is that representative of good, Baptist manners! Horror of horrors, we have a name calling Baptist! Some of the sect of the “Campbellites” get upset when their brethren call names and label doctrines as erroneous. Now, we have the same from a Baptist. Perhaps Leroy Garrett or Carl Ketcherside will reprimand their Baptist brother for such “unloving” castigation. Maybe not, though; after all, it would not be very “loving” to condemn a man for condemning.

Another thing-even those who agree “in principle” with the fight Mr. Perdue is making, surely they cannot agree with his “censorious,” “pompous,” “dictatorial,” “highhanded” methods. Mr. Perdue may as well expect such criticism. His fellow Baptists will acknowledge their doctrinal stand with him. They will tell him they regret the “departure from faith” just as strongly as he does. “But,” they will whine, “Who is Ron Cowger? He is not influential. He is not going to lead very many astray. You are just publicizing him unduly.” Others will say they sympathize with the necessary “stand for the truth,” but they sob out their slobbers about how Perdue is out to “ruin” Cowger. “Oh, do not misunderstand,” they affirm, “We know Cowger is just as wrong as he can be, but Perdue is just out to `head up his own Missionary Baptist Church.'” Yes, brother Perdue, you are right in your fight, but cancel my subscription to the Northwest Baptist News.

2) A Case of Apostasy? Mr. Perdue has no love for Cowger’s contortions and distortions of Baptist faith. Again, the Baptist belief needs to be bent, but if it does not point back to the Bible, the bending is in vain. It does no good at all to bend a thing crooked; however, one wonders if Perdue has pondered his plight and position. Cowger and others are guilty of something “which is even worse than physical adultery,” and of “going off into heresy.” Yet, according to Baptist doctrine, they cannot be lost in hell. Even if they never repent, even if they “wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived,” they need not fear the judgment of God, for once one is saved, he is always saved; it is impossible for a child of God to fall from grace. That is Baptist doctrine. Will Perdue say that his brethren who “commit spiritual adultery” are going to be saved in heaven at last. He certainly will! It will not do to say they were never saved in the first place because Perdue begins his treatise with the lament that some who were “once faithful to the cause” have now commenced to “depart from faith.” Besides, they could not be “rapidly departing the faith” if they were not in it to start with.

3) It Did Not Happen “Overnight. ” Departure from the faith is a cumulative process. As Perdue notes, it does not occur “overnight.” This is a fact Christians and congregations would do well to know. Neither Rome nor roaming from the faith was built in a day. Hebrews 2:1 emphasizes this point. Catholicism had a gestation period of centuries. The Christian Church had a slow, evolutionary birth. Therefore, watch for subtle signs of slippage.

4) “All in the Name of Progress.” Perdue says these Baptist perversions were all done “in the name of progress.” It is far better to do all in the name of the Lord (Col. 3:17), which is the only genuine progress. Instrumental music and institutionalism have infested and infiltrated the church in the name of progress. Every error in every era appeals to the name of progress. Progress is its god; destruction is its end. Progress is not a vice, but toward what and for what is one progressing?

(Any reference in the above article to men and issues living or dead is purely and coincidentally on purpose.)

Truth Magazine XXI: 32, pp. 508-509
August 18, 1977