By Ron Halbrook
The Examiner attracts men and women as writers who are becoming looser and looser in their thinking and who are embracing a wider and wider variety of errors and false doctrines. People who follow “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” follow “the doctrine which is according to godliness.” That is, the true teaching of Christ produces a growing reverence for God’s Word. This results in deeper convictions, greater stability, and greater courage in standing for the truth in opposition to sin and error of every kind. But those who “teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words,” become fascinated with “questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth” (1 Tim. 6:2-5).
Human theories and speculations are built with “words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.” That is why it is imperative that we be fully committed to learning and “rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker” (2 Tim. 2:14-17). Error is degenerative and debilitating. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13-14).
When a man or a movement attracts doubters, cynics, and malcontents of every description, godly people are forewarned even when they do not fully understand the nature of the particular error which is being propagated. When false teachers of every variety find aid and comfort in the teaching of some leader or spokesman, it should be evident that something is badly wrong. People who are departing from the truth and pronouncing anathemas upon faithful brethren have a way of finding each other and compromising with each other in their newfound sense of unity.
The Ancient Adversary and Accuser
Let us turn the pages of the calendar back several thousands of years and picture Cain organizing the Angel of Light and Freedom Ministry, Inc. in order to publish a religious journal called The Adversary and Accuser. The paper first warns about abuses in worship such as following the right form without the worshiper living for the Lord day by day. Who can deny that such an accusation is sometimes valid, and who would fail to be the adversary of such an abuse? Next come articles defining worship as a good feeling about God and not a set of forms and patterns which must be “slavishly” followed (i.e., followed to the letter). When Cain proposes offering “the fruit of the ground” in place of a blood sacrifice, he lashes out at those who adhere to the blood sacrifice as traditionalists and legalists (Gen. 4:3-8). As time goes on, this paper publishes articles by Jannes and Jambres bitterly denouncing the faithful word delivered by Moses and affirming that every man has the right to discover and to interpret his own faithful word in his own way (2 Tim. 3:8).
An extended series was jointly authored by Nadab and A bihu in an attempt to prove that fire can be produced from any and every source for the burning of incense since there is no direct prohibition against it. After writing a strong article entitled “The So-Called Law of Exclusion,” they decided to experiment with their teaching. The series abruptly ended at that point, but The Adversary and Accuser invited other writers to take up the torch (Lev. 10:1-3). A man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath day published a warm endorsement of The Adversary and Accuser along with a hot protest against having been put “in ward” by those who thought religion required dotting every i and crossing every t. Next, a report was published from Korah, Dathan, and Abiram explaining that they wanted to be the voice of the average Jew in his tent who was tired of Moses and Aaron acting like “little tin gods.” This movement gained a popularity until the time of the great earthquake and storm which destroyed hundreds of people (Num. 16).
“Love, Peace, and Unity”
A powerful article by King Ahab on “Love, Peace, and Unity” bitterly accused Elijah of causing trouble by preaching that there is only one right way in religion. Ahab scorched the narrowminded and the little-minded, and spoke in glowing terms of a new day of freedom, tolerance, and unity-in-diversity with the prophets of Baal. Naturally Elijah demanded a debate but afterward King Ahab said that he had outgrown debates and could not see where they did any good. His wife wrote a probing column as well (1 Kgs. 18-19).
When the Angel of Light and Freedom Ministry, Inc. held its annual forum near the temple in Jerusalem, outstanding speakers from among the Pharisees and Sadducees were included on the program. Their articles began appearing in The Adversary and Accuser, explaining that we all believe in the same God and the same Bible even if we do interpret it differently. An editorial said that no one can understand everything in the Bible perfectly anyway, and furthermore, the Pharisees and Sadducees were very zealous and we all have much truth to learn from them. A strong article advised discontinuing the constant rounds of debates with these fine groups and expressed regret that they had been much maligned by such expressions as “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).
A letter from Hymenaeus and Alexander appeared saying that in spite of a certain preacher who tried to put them out of the brotherhood, they are continuing to be diligent and active in their own way. The editor bemoaned that their names had often been repeated in a bad light by some of the preaching brethren, and that these good men are actually the victims of spiritual cannibalism (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17; 4:14). The editor also explained that some of the preaching brethren had reported that Phygellus and Hermogenes had turned from the truth, but in reality they had found new freedom from traditional doctrines (2 Tim. 1:15). The editor further explained that he did not fully agree with the way Hymenaeus and Philetus interpreted the resurrection, but he was glad to say they are very pious men and brilliant scholars who have broken free from the shackles of patternism and biblicism (2:17-18).
Demas had about given up on religion because he was tired of the petty bickering over the use of intoxicants and the making of laws over matters of opinion like immodesty, gambling, and dancing. When he discovered that The Adversary and Accuser was opposed by the same preacher who exposed his conduct, his interest in religion was renewed and he began to write regular articles (2 Tim. 4:10). Diotrephes reported in his column that he had been misunderstood and mistreated by John but that he had no intention of submitting to every doctrine and demand written by John (3 Jn. 9). Jezebel’s regular column fought an uphill battle for women’s rights in church and for views on moral issues which were more in keeping with the times rather than with the written codes of a past generation.
The Modern Examiner
Such a conglomeration of writers and views would suggest to people trained in the Scriptures that something indeed was wrong. In a similar way, The Examiner continues to attract men who have departed from the truth and who are wandering in many different directions. Extreme radicals like Olan Hicks and various Christian Church writers are now involved. What is there about the teaching of The Examiner which draws men who hold so many conflicting and apostate doctrines? A brief survey of The Examiner’s writers will help to show the very real danger that, when we begin to tolerate one kind of error, we open the floodgates to all kinds of false doctrines.
For twenty years Charles Holt has made a speciality of opposing New Testament teaching on the nature of the local church with an appointed eldership and a regular treasury. He recommends the World Bible School and Action as “one of the greatest efforts I have every known in preaching the gospel” without any exposure or warning of the features of a missionary society involved in this organization (Examiner, January 1986, p. 10). Image magazine is also recommended in spite of its extreme liberalism which includes the so-called new hermeneutics, which is a denial that we must follow the Bible pattern in all things (May 1986, p. 17). Fred O. Blakely (Highland, IN) is a Christian Church preacher who edits The Banner of Truth. He commends Holt and vice versa (Sept. 1987, p. 28).
Holt recommends Olan Hicks (Searcy, AR) as a faithful Christian whose writings on divorce and remarriage are a blessing (Mar. 1986, p. 28). Hick’s article in the same issue rejects “the traditional theory . . . that either death or fornication on the part of the mate is absolutely required or the next marriage is a practice of adultery” (p. 8). Hicks is a long time institutional liberal who now advocates fellowship with the Christian Churches. His “special ministry” is going all around the country teaching error on divorce and remarriage. In a written discussion with Tom O’Neal many years ago, Hicks claimed the church can sponsor recreation as a method of evangelism. Another radical writer in The Examiner is Norman Parks (Murfreesboro, TN), who believes a woman can assume any and all positions of public work and leadership in the church. He has always been associated with the leading edge of liberalism represented by Integrity and Mission magazines.
Fudge, Ketcherside, and Hook
Edward Fudge (Houston, TX) is a writer who worships with the Bering Drive church which embraces every denominational holiday, women leading in public services, and instrumental music on special occasions. Ed departed from apostolic teaching twenty years ago and led many young men into the wastelands of liberalism and interdenominational unity movements (ecumenicism). Another writer, Stanley Paher (Reno, NV), has gone so far as to claim that “honest, sincere pagans” can be “saved, heaven-bound” by an instinctive moral law without the gospel of Christ (Ensign, Nov. 1987-Jan. 1988; Jan.-Feb. 1989).
The Examiner was repeatedly praised by W. Carl Ketcherside (Nov. 1987, p. 25; May 1989, p. 31). He pioneered the unity-in-diversity doctrine among churches of Christ from the mid-1950s so as to embrace all so-called branches of the restoration movement, Protestant denominations, and even Roman Catholicism. Holt commends and publishes the writings of Cecil Hook (New Braunfels, TX), who rejects “patternism” and “restorationism” in favor of unity-in-diversity on a wide range of subjects, including premillennialism, institutionalism, instrumental music, drinking, mixed swimming, gambling, abortion and many other matters (July 1989, p. 12; Holt on Hook’s book Free in Christ, Jan. 1988, p. 21). Buff Scott, Jr. (Cherokee, IA) is a fellow traveler of Ketcherside and a maverick with an agenda much like Holt’s. Scott had a debate many years ago affirming the ignorant heathen are saved without the gospel (Truth Magazine, Jan.-Mar., 1959). His articles appeared in The Examiner and he recommends it in his own paper (May/June. 1986, p. 7).
Many of the men who write in The Examiner have been in flux or transition toward looser and more liberal views. For instance, Steven Clark Goad (Mesa, AZ) wrote in the Gospel Guardian in the early 1970s, but he went with liberalism and says in The Examiner that we ought not to argue over church support of human institutions and social activities, nor does he care what day we take the Lord’s Supper or whether we have a choir (Mar. 1988, p. 1; Jan. 1989, p. 14). During 1978-82 Dan Rogers (Lake Village, AR) repudiated liberalism but in recent years has become a flaming liberal who asserts that there is no sin in a man’s looking “upon the beauty of” women in “miniskirts, shorts, halters, tubes, swimsuits,” or even in “absolute nudity” (his response to Halbrook, “The Swimsuit Question,” Truth Magazine, 7 June 1979). Rogers charges that the church of Christ is a denomination, Christ’s law on marriage and divorce does not apply to alien sinners, an “opposition to the use of instrumental music in worship is wrong” (Ensign, May 1989). Finding common cause with Holt, Rogers writers in The Examiner.
During the 1985 Holt-J.T. Smith debate at Lake Jackson, Texas, Dusty Owens (Temple Terrace, FL) was defensive of Holt’s views on the eldership but said he was still studying the matter. How far has he come in his study? He repudiates as “human wisdom” establishing Bible authority by direct command, apostolic example, and necessary implication. He sees no sin in mixed swimming, shorts, dancing, drinking, gambling, or the church’s taking up a collection on any day of the week (Sept. 1987, p. 12). Where will he stop?
Terry Gardner (Indianapolis, IN) moderated for Holt in the debate with Smith and has written several articles upholding Holt’s views in The Examiner. Terry says that those who insist on following the Bible pattetn for the church’s helping saints only in benevolence are guilty of putting ritualism over love (Mar. 1986, p. 3). Those who oppose the false teaching of Homer Hailey on divorce and remarriage commit “spiritual cannibalism.” When Terry opposes those who oppose Hailey’s doctrine, is he eating cannibals? Terry summarizes,
According to brother Hailey, his view is that “God’s attitude toward individuals who seek salvation in Christ, though they have been married, divorced and remarried previously … (that God accepts them) in that condition, having been baptized after their marriage.”
If Homer is absolutely wrong on this issue, does it really make any practical difference?
Yes, it matters whether we follow the Bible pattern for morality, for the home, and for the church. Anyone who has been out teaching people knows that this issue of divorce and remarriage must be faced if a sin-cursed world is to be brought to repentance.
The Circle Gets Larger, and Larger, and . . .
Holt may say that he does not endorse all of the error that is appearing in his paper, but plenty of it is appearing without any answer, response, or exposure. Lee Harrow (Wills Point, TX) openly defends instrumental music in worship (May 1990) and Calvin Warpula (Stillwater, OK) makes a detailed defense of institutional liberalism (July 1989). The sad truth is that The Examiner has succumbed to the error of unity-in -diversity, and the result is that the circle of unity is getting larger and the diversities of error are multiplying. Doctrinal looseness is becoming outright liberalism, and this liberalism is proceeding toward license, licentiousness, and libertinism. People who have a tender conscience, a deep reverence for God’s Word, and a genuine desire to walk in the straight and narrow way of Christ must before warned never to start down the pathway where “evil men and seducers . . . wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 19, pp. 602-604
October 4, 1990