By Mike Willis
In recent years, a good number of conservative brethren have departed from the faith in pursuing the unity-in-diversity apostasy which is presently raging. A list of those men who have departed from the faith would include each of the following: Edward Fudge, Jerry Phillips, Ronnie Compton, Bill Holcomb, Gordon Wilson, etc. One brother recently said that he had counted about twenty conservative preachers’ who had left our ranks in pursuit of this new apostasy in the past two or three years. It is past time that some of us woke up to what is going on around us. Enough damage has already been done to warrant every gospel preacher taking the time to preach on these issues in the congregation with which he labors. I am not calling on brethren to echo the shouts of Truth Magazine to the effect that there are wolves among us; I am calling on faithful Christians to drive the wolves out from us, if they cannot be restored to the fold.
In recent months, many have been fighting some kind of phantom which they think might possibly exist known as “political brethren trying to control the Churches of Christ.” They are taking swings to the right and to the left at these men who are supposed to be trying to take over the church. They are afraid to name the men and to specify their charges. Rather, they are making unsupported assertions against unnamed men. And, while these men are fighting these figments of their imagination, real live wolves are making havoc of the church. They are ravaging the flock while gospel preachers who should be defending the flock are out killing an enemy which does not exist. Frankly, some of us who are involved in trying to expose those infected with the unity-in-diversity apostasy could use some help from our good brethren who are writing in some of the other papers. It is because I want to lend support to my brethren who are exposing the forces of evil in every high place that I want to consider the place in which Arnold Harin stands.
In September, 1976, J. T. Smith wrote an article in Searching the Scriptures entitled “Arnold Hardin, The Baptists, and Legalism.” In that article, Brother Smith charged that Brother Hardin was teaching the typical Baptist doctrine on works. In the December, 1976 issue of Searching the Scriptures, Arnold Hardin responded to J. T. Smith’s charges by denying that they were so; J. T. presented more evidence to substantiate his charge.
In that same issue, Editor Connie Adams wrote,
“For sometime now we have been reading the writings of brother Hardin in his bulletin with an increasing sense of concern. The contents thereof have given out an uncertain sound and his personal reactions to writings In this paper and others against the false views advocated by some on grace, faith, works and fellowship, plus imputed righteousness and what some are calling ‘perfectionism’, do not ring true. It was our request that J. T. Smith review brother Hardin’s bulletin article on ‘What Is Legalism?'”
The March, 1977 issue of Searching the Scriptures contained another article pertaining to Arnold Hardin in which Brother Adams asked him to respond to a series of eleven questions. Since that issue, I have not seen anything in Searching the Scriptures regarding the apostasy of Arnold Hardin.
However, the pen of Arnold Hardin was not silenced by the work of the good staff of writers putting out Searching the Scriptures. In February, 1977, a letter written by Arnold Hardin to the Editor of Ensign Fair was published in that journal in which Arnold said, “Continue the good work you are doing . . . .” (Twill comment later regarding the nature of paper which Arnold called a good work). Then, in the July and August, 1977 issues of the same paper, Arnold published two articles on “Imputed Righteousness.” It was then that I decided that I needed to become more familiar with what Arnold Hardin was teaching and make some comments regarding him to the readers of Truth Magazine. I know how much it means to have another brother “amen” what one has said; the absence of “amens” certainly hurt Truth Magazine several years ago when we were having to expose Edward Fudge, Jerry Phillips, Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside. Consequently, I want to rather thoroughly examine some of the work which Brother Arnold Hardin has written in the past few years that our brethren might see where he stands.
Let me lay aside the charges by Brother J.T. Smith without considering them. Brother Smith’s exchange with Arnold Hardin can stand on its own merit without me needing to present any comments about it. Instead, I want to document that Arnold Hardin has left us by quoting at length from his writings to show our readers some of the doctrines he has espoused. Here are my evidences:
1. Arnold Hardin has accepted the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the sinner’s account. Here are the evidences that he accepts that position:
“Something stands as the basis or grounds of that justification. It is either (1) the faithful life of the sinner, or (2) the imputation-putting to their account-of the perfect life of Christ (satisfaction of the demands of law) and his death (penalty demanded by broken law)” (“Imputation of Righteousness,” Ensign Fair, Vol. V, No. 3, July, 1977, p. 5).
“How do sinners honor God’s law? It is possible only on the basis of what faith does-that is, bringing to God the perfect obedience of Christ (Rom. 5:19; Phil. 2; Heb. 10:5). No sinner is going to be justified other than on the basis and merits of that perfect life and death! Therefore, imputation of righteousness is not to transfer the holy and moral life of Christ (infused into sinners) but faith in Him brings to the sinner’s account the merits of His perfect obedience (satisfaction of law) and death (satisfaction of the penalty of broken law)” (“Imputation of Righteousness,” Ensign Fair, Vol. V, No. 4, August, 1977, p. 9)
“The law of God must be honored and since no man does honor It perfectly some one had to come and In man’s place and on his behalf keep law perfectly. It has been correctly said that ‘only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God’. How is such possible? Through obedience as is taught? The Bible teaches that h is possible only on the basis of what faith does-that Is-bringing to God the perfect obedience of Christ …. And no sinner is going to be justified other than on the basis and merits of that perfect life and death. Therefore imputation of righteousness Is not to transfer the holy and moral life of Christ (infused Into sinners) but faith in Him brings to the sinner’s account the merits of his perfect obedience (satisfaction of law) and death (satisfaction of penalty for the broken law)” (“Imputation of Righteousness # 4;’ The Persuader, Vol. XI, No. 11, April 3, 1977).
These quotations are more than sufficient to demonstrate that Arnold Hardin has accepted the Calvinistic doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the sinner’s account.
2. Arnold Hardin has accepted the same distinction between gospel and doctrine which Carl Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett, Edward Fudge and others have been teaching for years. In proof of this, I offer the following evidences:
“Those who are acquainted with affairs within God’s family well know of the divisions and heartaches brought about by these multiplied divisions. They don’t go away by closing our eyes-they only get worse. I in no way claim to be an authority on the ultimate cure, but, I do believe, with ail my heart, that I recognize one of the most prolific reasons for this division — and that is — an almost universal failure to distinguish between the gospel and doctrinal Instructions of the Bible . . . . We have stretched the gospel as a blanket to cover every bit of instruction given in the New Testament. Therefore when disagreements arise as to points of that instruction someone Is accused of perverting the gospel. And when brethren cannot reconcile the difference, due to differing understandings, they part company each claiming that the other is perverting the gospel. My brethren — in searching for the cause and cure of such divisions why have we not started with the root cause our misunderstandings of the meaning and scope of gospel in contrast with doctrinal instructions?
Disagreements, therefore over truth, may or may not be the result of some one having perverted the gospel. Having said that something else cries out to be clothed with words; and that is, we are not divided from one another over perversions of the gospel” (“What Is The Gospel?”, The Persuader, Vol. XH, No. 4, September 25, 1977).
“What is the gospel? It is the New Testament — God’s word to us! Here is our basic trouble! The gospel is the Christ event. Christ crucified for sinners. He is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). Repentance, confession and baptism ore but responses to the gospel as they embody a sinner’s trust in and reliance upon Christ as Savior. The ‘spiritual seed or sperm’ that produces children Is the gospel (1 Cor. 4:1415). Children then must be nourished with heaven’s instructions-but these instructions or directives are not ‘the gospel’. But when we turn them into ‘gospel’ and gospel into law (commandment keeping) then we are indeed encamped with the Jews. Listen to brethren teach that if you believe something not ordinarily accepted then you have perverted the gospel (Gal. 1). If only we would atop and think” (“The Righteousness of God,” The Persuader, Vol. XII, No. 1, August 14, 1977).
Anyone who has read enough of the literature being circulated by Leroy Garrett, Carl Ketcherside, and Edward Fudge — the vanguard of the unity-in-diversity apostasy — to know what is going on will recognize that Arnold Hardin has accepted the same gospel-doctrine distinction as thise men preach. These brethren teach that we must understand the gospel alike but that we can have diversity in our understanding of the doctrine. Inasmuch as they classify such. things as division over church support of human institutions, church involvement in recreation, premillennialism, usage of the piano and organ in worship, etc. as doctrine, they see no reason for the church to be divided over these things. Arnold Hardin has accepted this position as well.
Let me give you a sample of some of his comments about some of the problems with which we have been confronted in the last few decades.
“The Galatians were failing from grace In that they were allowing themselves to be carried away from the sacrifice of Christ to that of bondage under the law. Following such a course they would be accursed of God Now it is said that such brethren as those Ant do not believe In but ‘one cup’ are in the same accursed condition as the Galatians, in that, these brethren do not believe they can worship with those of us who believe that many- ,cups may be used in the Supper. Do you feel you can make such a judgment upon such people? I believe such brethren are wrong in understanding but to make the judgment that they are accursed of God is a little much for me to swallow. I do not find they have rejected Christ as the Galatians were fn,Ahe process of doing. Many among ‘us’ do not believe that it Is a sin to use the ‘Lord’s money’ in assisting nonsaints. What if those believing such is true are really In fact the unenlightened ones? Does such constitute being ‘accursed of God’? It would seem that surely our Lord died for higher concepts than such as these that plague so manyl The world is lost in sin and few show any concern over these while fighting over such matters-that will never be settled and yet should not keep us from our ‘assigned rounds”‘ (“Accursed of God;’ The Persuader, Vol. XI, No. 5, November, 1976).
“The world is steeped in sin and ignorance. There are four billion inhabitants of this earth and two billion (we are told) have never once even heard the name of Christ — while we fuss about cups and any number of ‘sacred issues’ that have fragmented the Lord’s church. You lust name it and we will fuss about it!” (“A Sectarian Image Couched In A Nonsectarian Plea,” The Persuader, Vol. XI, No. 16, July 10, 1977).
“I am personally persuaded that much of the talk about ‘the social gospel’ is extremely silly. Our Lord says we are to be the salt of the earth, and yet, how on earth is that putrefying mass to be purified while we ‘put it into a theological salt shaker on an ecclesiastical shelf’. Is it not a sin to put the light under a bushel? Do we not compound the sin when the bushel is the church?” Hardin’s comments following Robert Turner’s article “Quit Doing Nothing” which Brother Hardin published in his bulletin on July 31, 1977).
If Brother Hardin is not criticizing us for dividing over such things as church support of human institutions, church sponsored recreation, premillennialism, the sponsoring church arrangement, etc., I have altogether misunderstood him. What were we to have done, Brother Hardin? Were we to have sat with closed mouths while the liberals led the church into denominationalism?
3. Brother Arnold Hardin is aiding and abetting known false teachers. Perhaps the most explicit evidence of this which I can give to you is his association with the periodical Ensign Fair. In the February, 1977 issue of this paper, the following letter to the Editor was published:
“Dear Bro. Kilpatrick,
“. . . I have certainly found in the last few years that the church is filled with brethren that in no scriptural way understand the issue of Law and Grace. For one to discuss these matters is to invite certain damnation; but it must be done or else brethren will never know the truth . . . Continue the good work you are doing and I will look forward to receiving your paper in the future . . . If you have issues for ’76 I’d like them — bill me along with subscription. Just before mailing this I talked with another preacher and he wishes to subscribe. -Arnold Hardin, Editor “The Persuader”‘ (Ensign Fair, Vol. IV, No. 10, p. 17).
I suppose that to most of our reading audience are not acquainted with the periodical Ensign Fair. I think that Arnold Hardin’s letter of commendation will become somewhat more significant after acquainting our readers with this periodical. Hence, I want to take a few moments to acquaint you with the periodical which Brother Hardin is recommending and commending.
The masthead of Ensign Fair states that this paper is published monthly and “supported by’ Churches of Christ and individuals throughout the U.S.A.” Yet, this subscription journal is the one to which our brother writes “continue the good work.” I can only conclude from this that our brother sees nothing wrong with this arrangement. I have always been taught that the church was not to send contributions to human institutions to propagate the word of God. If everything which the periodical taught were true, I would be opposed to it on the basis of how it is supported. Frankly, I can see no difference in sending money to a church supported missionary society than in sending it to Ensign Fair.
Furthermore, the contents of this journal indicate its stance and Arnold Hardin’s commendation of it indicates where he stands. Here are some typical articles written by R. L. Kilpatrick, Editor of Ensign Fair:
“Bro. Nichols is correct in saying that a denomination is larger than a local congregation but smaller than the church universal. But right about here is where his thinking takes the wrong turn. His thinking is that we who designate ourselves as ‘Church of Christ’ are the fulness of that church universal, to the exclusion of all others who claim to belong to it. Bro. Nichols fails to see that we occupy the same position in the Christian society as do all other denominations around us, and that it takes more to ‘being’ the true church than merely making the ‘claim’ for such. Others have the same understanding as we do about the true church, Le., that ft was established In A. D. 33, that Jesus is its head, etc., but the difference between us and them is that they claim only to be a ‘part’ of that great society whereas -we claim to be all of it!” (Ensign Fair, Vol. V, No. 2, June, 1977, p. 10).
“Lack of respect for Bible authority is not the cause of division within the Church of Christ, but lack of understanding of what constitutes Bible authority! In truth, brethren who legislate where God has not legislated are the real culprits who cause division within the church; and in so doing, it is they who show disrespect for Bible authority) They are not satisfied with God’s way so they must enact laws from examples, inferences, and patterns, thus usurping God’s authority. They are legalists and then there are legalists. Those who make laws for God are legalists in purest form. They not only would have us live under law; but they would add a few of their own. And herein lies the cause of the great 20th century Church of Christ apostasy” (The Ensign Fair, Vol. V, No. 4, August, 1977, p. 18).
“Unlike some of my ‘straight-shoot’n’ brethren with the ‘white hats’, I can’t get all steamed up over the fact that some of our ‘other’ brethren believe in the 1000-year reign . . . . Is a premillennialist less dedicated to the cause of our Lord because he believes in premillenniallsm?” (The Ensign Fair, Vol. V, No. 1, May, 1977, p. 2).
“During May it was our privilege and pleasure to hear Leroy Garrett in a meeting at the Cahaba Valley Church of Christ in Birmingham and to meet the fine brethren of this congregation. They too have thrown off the shackles of sectarianism and man-made traditions In order to serve the Lord In a spirit of freedom and love. May their kind increase, and if I be any kind of judge of brotherhood trends, they will surely increase” (The Ensign Fair, Vol. V, No. 3, July, 1977, p. 17).
As if these comments were not enough to convince you that the paper known as The Ensign Fair was propagating the same doctrines as Carl Ketcherside’s Mission Messenger, Leroy Garrett’s Restoration Review, and FIoy Ledbetter’s Integrity are propagating, I would like to mention some of the writers who contribute material for publication in The Ensign Fair. Read this list of writers: Michael Hall, W. Carl Ketcherside, F. L. Lemley, Craig M. Watts, Leroy Garrett, Robert D. Brinsmead (Editor of Present Truth), Jimmie Lovell, and Arnold Hardin! I charge that this association with known false teachers is exactly of the same nature as the proverb that says, “Birds of a feather flock together.”
As further confirmation of the nature of paper which Arnold Hardin commends and recommends, I want to notice some of the other letters to the Editor Leroy Garrett wrote, “It seems that all signs are go for EF. It is another instance of the surprises that the Lord pulls for us. Whoever would have guessed that something like this would have happened in Alabama. Greater things are in store, including your future as an editor and publisher.” W. Carl Ketcherside wrote, “. . . I am of the opinion that God will use you to penetrate a section that others will be unable to affect and I eagerly pray that he will bless you mightily and give wings to your words. You are saying things which are so relevant for this generation and saying them better than most of us could.” And, Arnold Hardin writes, “Continue the good work you are doing.” I flatly charge that Arnold Hardin is standing in the same position as these men are standing and is, therefore, as guilty of teaching heretical doctrines as they are.
4. Arnold Hardin denies the binding force of examples and necessary inferences. As evidence of this, I cite the following quotation from Arnold’s review of Foy Vinson:
“He then remarked, ‘These passages will not carry conviction to those who reject implication and approved examples as having binding force or as ways by which the scriptures teach the will of God. But for those who are willing to accept necessary inference and approved apostolic examples as having binding force, the first day of the week collection for paying preachers, and certain elders and caring for needy saints it a matter of faith and is in no way a mere opinion.’ There it is! Necessary inferences and approved examples express the authority of Christ. The rest of the article is a prime example as to why some of us are unwilling to risk our eternal destiny upon some brother inferring that certain things are binding while others are not. Such brethren will not accept all approved apostolic examples as binding! They pick and choose. Thomas Campbell wen said, ‘That although inferences and deductions from Scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word, yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of Christians further than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so, for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power and veracity of God.’ That is why such inferences as these we examine are so dangerous when such is declared without equivocation to be the authority of Christ” (“Faith and Opinion,” The Persuader, Vol. XII, No. 3, September 11, 1977).
There can be no doubt that Arnold Hardin has rejected apostolic examples and necessary inferences as a method used by God to give binding revelation to men. Anything that is given biblical authority on the basis of approved example or necessary inference cannot be a matter of faith, according to this brother.
I think that I have given enough objective evidence to prove to any rational person that Arnold Hardin has departed from the faith. What J. T. Smith and Connie Adams wrote over a year ago is true. Arnold Hardin has departed from the faith; he is teaching false doctrine; he is aiding and abetting false teachers. As a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Arnold Hardin needs to be exposed.
Truth Magazine XXI: 47, pp. 739-743
December 1, 1977