By Wayne Partain
Division, not unity, Right up front I feel that the point needs to be made that writers for The Examiner openly advocate division. They teach “Unity in Diversity” (for example, 9/89, Dusty Owens; also Cecil Hook, 7/89, p. 12, “All true unity is in Christ where we accept each other in spite of diversity”). But if some brother is considering their kind of “unity,” he better be wide awake because their results will not be unity, but division and starting another false religion. Owens (9/88, pp. 6, 7) commends those who “are no longer affiliated with one of those man-made inventions called a ‘local church’ . . . They have severed their relationship with those who insist on calling themselves exclusively by a group name, such as ‘Church of Christ,’ ‘Christian Church,’ ‘Baptist Church,’ etc. . . . What a beautiful thought that is: all Christians coming out from among those who are wed to their idol, the ‘local church’ denominated, and presenting themselves a united front against the evil one who would love to enslave the whole world.” My friend, that is not unity. That’s division!
Charles Holt, the editor, says (7/88, p. 31), “It is my opinion that ‘the remnant’ will have to start over for the most part and try to avoid following the ways of men and denominationalism.” To him, “the church institution stands between the individual and the Lord,” the “Church institution” being the local congregation. The word “remnant” refers to those who will leave local churches. Again (11/88) writing about “The Ultimate Division That Is Needed,” says that those who want to be Christians only “must leave their slave-membership in the local corporate church! You can’t remain in Egypt and ever reach Canaan!” This is the “Unity in Diversity” promoted by The Examiner. They very plainly, openly, and shamelessly beg members of the church to leave the congregations of which they are members. This is unity? If that isn’t promoting division, what would it take to do so?
However, before some brother decides to take Charles’ advice and leave the local church of which he is a member, he would do well to ask Charles if he himself is not currently attending a “corporate local church” in Chattanooga on Sunday morning and partaking of the Lord’s Supper there. Maybe he plans to make a clean break and come out of Egypt – later on!
Also it comes with very poor grace for Cecil Hook (7/89) to so disparage the local church after admittedly hanging on to and enduring membership in one in New Braunfels, Texas, until he and his wife could draw Social Security and even let their church janitor job go, after which they “felt a freedom which we had never experienced before.” Then he was really “Free to Change” and “Free to Speak” his “convictions” and lambast local churches. In advertising his book “Free to Speak,” Hook says, “Since I am now free from the restrictions of the pulpit, I am free to speak.” I’ve never read a more self-condemning statement than that. He doesn’t wait for others to call him a hypocrite; he goes ahead and blows the whistle on himself! And, of course, Charles features Hook’s writings in The Examiner and advertises his book. How in the world can sincere brethren have any confidence in such men?
Not A Fellowship
Charles protests stoutly (9/89, pp. 2,3) that “The people directly involved with The Examiner, the writers, those who financially support the paper, the readers, nor all of those considered together do not in anyway constitute a movement, an organization, a fellowship” (his emphasis). But he repeatedly says “we,” “The Truth and Freedom Forum,” “The Truth and Freedom Ministry,” and the “Examiner Meeting in Memphis” (11/88). In the 11/88 issue he says the purpose of The Examiner is “to spearhead a movement of freedom from all human voices of authority” (my emphasis). I thought it wasn’t a movement. It isn’t, but it is!
What do they think “a fellowship” is? They are a group, a collective, to carry on a very destructive and divisive work. Owens speaks of their “united front.” They are organized. Let no one be deceived: this is a cooperative movement! Birds of a feather flock together. Their readers are urged to support this movement every way possible. All who can (especially contributors?) are urged to come to their meetings (Truth and Freedom Forums) in Chattanooga, Memphis, Dallas, etc. Charles says they have fellowship but are not a fellowship. What kind of nonsense is that?
The reason I mention this point is to illustrate the kind of “Unity in Diversity” they are promoting: it’s a unity of those who have made shipwreck of their faith (some of them were never in the faith in the first place, but are coming out of denominations) and who have a very definitely stated creed. Even though they have given up Bible authority and Bible convictions, they have strong convictions for which they are contending. They are definitely a religious movement or fellowship (church?), and chey want this fellowship to grow: they advertise for “Contact Persons” (3/89, p. 32) to work to pull away members from the established churches and into this new fellowship.
What are their beliefs? As best I can gather, they still believe in the deity of Christ; Charles has a tract on baptism and still contends that it is immersion and for the remission of sins. However, Hook accepts the baptism of sectarians, saying they are like Granny who can take a prescription without understanding what it’s for (Free in Christ, chap. 13); they uphold Bible morality, but this is “doctrine” (which they say shouldn’t cause division among God’s people – so how important is it? More on this later); and factionalism, which is exactly what they are practicing, is strongly denounced.
But does The Examiner exist for the defense of the deity of Christ, the plan of salvation, morality and unity? Is that the purpose of its writers and supporters? Hardly. What are their real “beliefs”?
(1) The local church must be destroyed. First and foremost, the greatest sin of all, the one which is attacked repeatedly and most ferociously, is the sin of being a member of a local church (especially a “Church of Christ Church” or C of CC”). To The Examiner writers this is anathema, because a local church is a “Church Institution,” “A Functional Organization,” “an Organized Power Structure,” “a denomination,” “the corporate institution,” an “official worship station,” a “man-made invention called a ‘local church,”‘ etc. The poor members are “slaves of the institutional church.” Brother, you want unity with The Examiner? Let them know you are as disgusted with all local churches of Christ as they are and you’ll be a prime candidate for fellowship with them!
(2) Local church elders must he de-eldered! They are anathema no. 2. I wonder if Charles has had problems with elders somewhere? He certainly writes as if he doesn’t care for them. This paper just can’t say enough to denounce and villify these “authoritarian ‘elders,”‘ whose only desire is that the members “obey” and “pay” without “voice or vote.” Dusty Owens says (9/88, p. 5,6), “One characteristic they all have in common is that they have an organized power structure designed to control the behavior of its people. The ‘local church’ has its authoritarian ‘elders,’ who function as that ‘power structure.’ Sometimes it includes the professional preacher, hired to fill their job description and to do their binding. They lay down rules, even the command to be silent, and exercise complete control. Diotrephes of 3 John did not behave any differently!” Yes, preachers get clobbered right along with elders. Bob West devotes many of his cartoons to holding brother “Fairasee” up to scorn.
(3) Send $$ to the Examiner. This is the third cardinal tenet of their creed. They insist that their followers must come out of local churches and quit contributing there. One couple was convinced by the The Examiner to stop contributing to a local church and they used their contribution money to adopt a second child (5/88, p. 25). Over and over readers are urged to quit contributing to local churches. And at the same time they are urged to send money to The Examiner (I 1/88,,p. 6; 3/89, p. 29). In the July, ’89 issue (p. 4), Charles writes that “The role of the members can be summed up in three terms: (1) Be Taught . . . (2) Obey! . . . (3) Pay! . . . Money is what makes the local church institutional wheels turn. It takes money, sometimes lots of money, to operate the local C of C church . . . some of these preachers pound away at the members for more and more money. Yet some of these preachers have the monumental gall, audacity and nerve to scathe me for asking saints to help financially underwrite the cost of The Examiner. It does not go for my salary!” Did someone say it did? That’s not the point. Members of the church are urged to quit contributing where they are members and are urged to send to The Examiner, which is in serious competition with local churches, is a mortal enemy of local churches – and “it takes money, lots of money” for this movement!
These beliefs are indispensible to becoming full-fledged members of the new religous fellowship (church?) called “The Truth and Freedom Ministry.”
Just about anything you please. It’s all right to worship with the instrument (they make a big pitch to the Independent Christian Churches); Olan Hick’s teaching (not NT teaching) is featured on divorce and remarriage; women can preach (9/89, p. 3); Ed Fudge’s writings on Calvinism (imputed righteousness) fit well in this fellowship (3/87, p. 15); the Lord’s Supper can be eaten any day of the week (and, of course, it is taken out of the local church); worldliness is no problem at all; and there is just no telling what all a person could believe or not believe and still remain in the good graces of this group. This is just a sampling of the “diversity” they offer!
How to Determine Belief?
How do they determine what all they can believe or disbelieve and still be one? First of all, they reject Bible authority. Dusty Owens (9/87) says, “Human wisdom invented these so-called ‘laws of interpretation'” (referring to express statements, commands, examples, inferences). He denies that in Acts 15 the law of God is so revealed. In other words the arguments made by Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James had no impact in revealing God’s will. I never cease to be amazed at the ceaseless inferences of those who ridicule inferences.
When they reject Bible authority what is left? The answer is subjective religion. Everyone believes or disbelieves as he pleases. It’s all up to the individual, just whatever he thinks, feels or wishes. Whatever the Bible says is just a matter of each person’s subjective interpretation. The Examiner is deathly opposed to legalism, and their brand of grace covers just about everything.
In order to have a semblance of Scripture for their position they use (abuse) Romans 14 (9/89, pp. 7,8) which deals with the eating of certain foods and the observing of certain days, matters of individual liberty and indifference (things that neither save nor condemn). Like Ketcherside and Garrett these writers stretch this chapter to cover all the tenets of their creed. And, of course, they pay no attention to Romans 16:17,18.
Other denominational people extend the list to teach their errors regarding baptism (sprinkling, baptizing infants), the inspiration of the Scriptures, the virgin birth (William Barclay says his church lets its members believe or disbelieve it), etc. And what can The Examiner writers say to their denominational brethren who offer so much more “diversity” than they do?
Another means of having “Unity in Diversity” is the Ketcherside gospel/doctrine distinction (Hook, 7/89, p. 12). “The entire New Testament writings are not gospel. They contain both gospel and doctrine teaching. There is a difference between gospel and doctrine.” He has taken it upon himself to decide that the “doctrines” that are so important to us “do not affect the essential nature of the church.” The “gospel” includes the deity of Christ, the plan of salvation, morality and unity (their brand), and everything else is “doctrine.” But by what strange reasoning is the Bible “teaching” on morality not “doctrine”?
Hook really crosses himself up on this in his book (Free in Christ, chap. 8) when he says, “Fellowship is established when that element of the word called ‘the gospel’ is,believed and obeyed. Fellowship is sustained with God and man by following the other “‘teachings’ of the word.” There you have it. He throws his whole case out the window! He should have gone ahead and quoted 2 John 9-11.
Do not be deceived: Bible unity is based on Bible teaching (Jn. 6:44,45; 17:8,14; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Jn. 4:6; 2 Jn. 9-11, etc.). These and many other texts clearly teach that there is a body of doctrine that must be believed and practiced. The Examiner teaches that there is no such body of doctrine.
There should be unity inspite of diversity in matters of liberty, but this liberty is clearly explained and limited in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. Remember that the “Unity in Diversity” of The Examiner is less than meaningless. This paper is not in the business of promoting unity but only causing more division. It represents a fellowship of the disgruntled who have made shipwreck of the faith and are determined to take as many with them as possible.
Which is why this special issue is being prepared: if it prevents one person from being deceived and led off, it will be well worth all the effort.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 19, pp. 591-593
October 4, 1990