By Fred A. Shewmaker
A short time ago a quarterly publication called The Word of Truth arrived in my mail box. It was marked Volume 32, Number 3 and dated April, 1989. Also on the masthead there is the statement, “Set for the Defense of the Gospel.” The name caught my attention because for nearly nine years I conducted a radio program which was called “The Word of Truth” program. The statement of position also was of special interest because above the space reserved for addressing on the back page of every issue of the local bulletin, which I now edit, the words “For the Defense of the Gospel” appear. As to why the April, 1989 issue was just recently in the mail, your guess is as good as mine.
While scanning the articles, it was observed that all, except two very short ones on the back page, were uncredited. However, in the publisher’s statement Given O. Blakely is listed as the author and Editor. One of the articles is entitled “The Basis for Divine Authorization. ” The second sentence of that article is “The position which I have deliberately chosen to reject states, ‘Only what is authorized may be used in the worship of God. “‘ This is not a new attitude. It is an attitude as old as Cain (Gen. 4:3; Heb. 11:4; Rom. 10:17). Nadab and Abihu displayed the same attitude (Lev. 10:1-3). Cain, Nadab and Abihu are not the kind of people with whom one would expect to find a defender of the gospel.
The third sentence of the article also is revealing: “Even matters of opinion, I am apprized, ‘must be authorized by the Bible.”‘ The thing this reveals is that the author is capable of failing to deal fairly with an issue. He does not identify his appraiser and treats the matter as though the person is typical of all who hold the position the author is disavowing. Such is not the case and treating it as though it is, falls short of fairness. If a person holds an opinion, he believes something he has not been able to prove by a proper use of the Scriptures. However, his belief may be provable by the Scriptures and, if the person who holds it ever discovers the proof, it will at that point cease to be an opinion and become a part of his faith.
“Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). (This does not apply only to doubting, as many have contended. Doubt is specified, but the statement here quoted is a general principal/truth upon which the preceding specific argumentation is based and therefore is not limited to or by the immediate context.) This is not the only biblical example of an appeal to a general principle/truth being employed to support specific argumentation. The Bible does not authorize the use of anything in the worship of God that is only a matter of opinion. Our worship must not be based upon individual, majority or unanimous opinion, but rather must be based upon faith.
Another example of the author’s carelessness about fairly representing the position his disavows is the first sentence of paragraph three: “It became clear that this view proclaimed a perception of Godward activity that required specific Divine approval for every action directed toward him.” By this the author equates “only what is authorized” with “specific Divine approval,” but the two are not equal Holding the view that “only what is authorized may be used in the worship of God” leaves the door wide open for general authorization. To deal fairly with the matter of authorization, one must consider both its general and specific forms.
In paragraph 4 the author writes, “I suppose that what God has ‘sanctified’ is authorized – or what is declared to be ‘acceptable’ – or, what He is said to ‘receive’ – or, what is ‘approved’ by Him, or, what is ‘lawful.’ My analysis of the concept of Divine authorization shall be built around these revealed terms.” This is made very interesting when the author entitles the sixth division of his article, “Scriptures Portray Unauthorized Things Being Accepted by God.” Think about that! He supposes “what is declared to be ‘acceptable'” is authorized. Does not his supposition also demand that what is unauthorized be unacceptable? If not, why not? And does not that make the title of his sixth division mean Scriptures portray unacceptable things being accepted by God?
It does not get better. In his sixth division, regarding the woman who anointed Jesus (Matt. 26:6-13), the author asks, “Was her deed commanded by God? Was there any hint of it being commanded by Him?” Remember he supposes “what is lawful” is authorized, but now in division six he asks, regarding the woman anointing Jesus, “Is there anyone among us that would say that it was authorized?” Regarding the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears (Jn. 12:3ff), he also asks, “Was this a response to the command of God? to the command of Jesus? to a principle set forth in the law? Was it authorized?” Before we deal with these questions, let it be noted, they only underline the author’s mistaken idea that the view he is disavowing requires specific authorization. Gentle reader, what those women did was either authorized or unauthorized and therefore according to the author’s supposition either lawful or unlawful. Indeed, the author in effect has said what they did was unlawful. Then he writes, “And yet it was unquestionably accepted by Him.” The author has put himself in the position of affirming that Jesus accepted unlawful acts, in the face of the fact that Jesus said he would tell those who practice lawlessness to depart (Matt. 7:23).
It is claimed that Lot “asked something that was certainly unauthorized – that he might find refuge in a little city (Gen. 19:2 1). ” This claim is a full-blown flight into fantasy. It was commonly understood by the ancients that God would grant the request of the righteous when they prayed for their welfare. Bildad told Job, “If you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty, If you were pure and upright, Surely now He would awake for you and prosper your rightful habitation” (Job 8:5,6).
The article asks the reader to “Take something that was specifically commanded by God – that meat be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth (1 Tim. 4:3-4).” However, a brief reading of the passage makes it plain that it is not specifically commanded. The fact that God gave meats for food does not constitute a command to utilize them for food. The author pointed out that “Jesus ‘purged’ or cleansed all meats (Mk. 7:19). ” Are we to believe this constitutes a command to eat dogs, cats and rats? There is a difference between allowing and requiring. When one believes it is a sin to participate in a thing which God allows that makes it a sin for him to participate (Rom. 14:23), but it does not render his giving thanks to God unauthorized.
The article claims, “One of the classic examples of this principle (God receives one with a faulty and unauthorized attitude) is found in the book of Exodus.” The reference is to Exodus 32:7-14. It is assumed that when God said, “let me alone,” He commanded Moses and that Moses immediately violated God’s command. As assumptions go, this one may seem more plausible than many, but it is still an assumption. Keil and Delitzsch render God’s statement as a request: “now therefore suffer Me, that My wrath may burn against them . . .”
The author’s stated objective was “to show that the human law that states what is done must first be authorized by God, does not have its source in Scripture.” As the preceding considerations show the stated objective was riot attained. The source of the idea that “what is done must first be authorized by God” is such passages as Matthew 16:18; 18:18; Colossians 3:17, etc. Calling this idea a “human law” has as its source the author’s prejudice against it.
Another appeal was made to the incident of the “woman of Canaan” (Matt. 15:21-31). First, this is an appeal to a time when the Old Testament was still in force. Second, it is assumed that Gentiles were not authorized to make requests. However, Romans 2:12-16 along with 4:15 and 1 John 3:4 indicate that, although Gentiles were not under the Mosaic law, they were under law to God and had the privilege of doing that which is right in the sight of God.
Biblical proof is based upon Bible facts. The article was too long on personal assumptions and too short on Bible facts to be seriously considered a presentation of “The Basis for Divine Authorization. ” Our faith must come from the word of God (Rom. 10:17), not from what we might like, want, suppose or assume regarding selected passages while ignoring other possible explanations of those passages. Proof simply cannot be churned out of suppositions and assumptions.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 4, pp. 103-104
February 20, 1992