By James W. Adams
Down Memory’s Lane
Memory is a fascinating quality of the human mind. Though often the subject of metaphysical and philosophical controversy, its indestructibility seems all but axiomatic. The August issue of Mission Messenger, W. Carl Ketcherside paper, came in yesterday’s mail. As I scanned its pages, memory suddenly and inexplicably produced from its storehouse a statement made to me, almost thirty years ago, by venerable C. R. Nichol. He had asked me if I was familiar with the manner in which “The House of David” cultists interpret (1Cor. 11:1-16). Because I was young and inordinately anxious to make a good impression, I manifested considerable embarrassment in acknowledging my ignorance. Noting this fact, Brother Nichol, with understanding and grace so characteristic of him, dismissed my embarrassment and ignorance with a smile saying, “Don’t let it bother you, for I have often wondered what good it has done me to know so many things that aren’t so.”
Often Wrong But Never Dull
The Mission Messenger is often wrong, but it is never dull. It is always full of interesting information. In the August issue, not the least in this respect is a short news item provoked by a statement from the pen of the able but self-confessed beleaguered (“We Are Under Attack”) editor of the Gospel Guardian-my friend and brother in the Lord, William E. Wallace. I regard the things said in it to be peculiarly pertinent to the answer to the question which is the subject of this article; hence I pass it on to our readers:
William Wallace, editor of “Gospel Guardian, ” writes in the June 28 issue, “But we, like most other Christians, are unappreciative of ungracious and unjust journalistic policies, and we think church folks are growing about as weary of hearing ‘Ketchersideism’as a label as most Americans are of ‘Watergate’ as a scandal. ” “Truth Magazine” which is also edited by brethren, who identify with Brother Wallace in his willingness to draw lines of fellowship over support of orphan homes and Herald of Truth, is carrying a weekly article by our brother, James W. Adams, attacking my views on fellowship. It would be tragic if these good brethren became tired of one another.
Ketcherside’s thinly-veiled, sarcastic, but clever take-off on Wallace’s comments in the last sentence of the preceding quotation is duly noted, and I regret to say that it may contain more truth than humor.
The Gospel Guardian and its besieged editor seem to “tire” easily these days of militant, specifically applied opposition to pernicious error and to react testily to any criticism of their stance in the matter of “fellowship.” However, it is only fair to say that the good editor is not at all timid about handing out his criticisms even in areas of purely human judgment. He has been doing this for quite some time with reference to a number of matters. From my point of view, I frankly and without apology confess to being “tired” of the “pussyfooting compromise inherent in the self-styled “soft approach to fellowship with teachers and practitioners of pernicious error. The cost has already been too high and too many of us have been too long silent with reference to it.
The Fellowship Problem is Intellectual, Not Emotional
Love among brethren in Christ is both beautiful and desirable. It is an indispensable grace, and no one needs to extol its virtues to me. However, love alone is not the cure for our divisions or the answer to broken fellowship. Love can provide proper motivation and create a climate free from bitterness, personal animosity, and selfish pride in which reasonable, objective, truth-seeking study and discussion can take place looking toward a meeting of minds relative to our diverse understandings of what the Scriptures do or do not allow in the realm of religious faith and practice. Love cannot resolve our differences. They emanate from points of view relative to the teaching of Scripture, which are intellectually conceived; hence they can only be resolved intellectually.
No person among so-called conservatives has been willing to do more than have I to demonstrate a proper attitude toward resolving current differences and divisions resulting there from relative to church support of human institutions, centralized control and oversight in a “sponsoring church,” and church sponsored recreation. Incidentally but quite apropos is the fact that I have done this with considerable criticism from the current editor of the Gospel Guardian. It is ironic, to say the least, that he should now have the unmitigated audacity to label as “hardnosed” or “ungracious and unjust” my present stance on “fellowship” when so short a time ago he was labeling my efforts in that direction as a “tactical mistake.”
I have participated in four meetings with outstanding and thoroughly representative brethren from whom I am alienated by the issues mentioned above. In these meetings in which I engaged as an active participant, our differences were discussed frankly and candidly from the standpoint of Bible teaching in a spirit of love, good will, and mutual respect. We met and discussed these matters as brethren, yet with the clear understanding that we regarded one another as brethren in error to whom we could not fully extend “the right hand of fellowship.” If I know my heart, and I believe I do, I have nothing but the kindest feelings toward and deepest respect for the ability and sincerity of such men as J. D. Thomas, Reuel Lemmons, Jimmy Allen, Roy Lanier, Alan Highers, Hulen Jackson, Hardeman Nichols, and others. It is my hope that they reciprocate, at least in a measure, these feelings.
The men just mentioned and many others like them are thoroughly convinced that I am wrong concerning the things, which divide us, and I am just as thoroughly convinced they are wrong. Nothing would make me happier than to be in complete accord with these brethren that we might work together in the Lord, but neither my conscience nor theirs will permit. The problem lies not in our love, nor lack of it, for one another, but in our faith. They believe one thing with reference to Bible teaching and I believe another. We cannot believe and teach that which we are convinced is the truth and, at the same time, maintain a state of fellowship in the full import of that term in New Testament usage.
Unless and until our minds undergo intellectual changes relative to the matters which divide us, we are doomed to remain separated, as much as we may dislike the thought or wish the opposite to be true. A pseudo fellowship based on accommodation insults truth, belittles faith, and mocks Divine authority. We have reached an impass which, barring unforeseen and very unlikely contingencies, will remain a permanent situation, and the gulf which now stands between us will grow ever wider as the years pass. God help us! but this seems to be our destiny, and Ketcherside to the contrary notwithstanding, this is not fatalistic, only realistic.
“Label” or Fact, Which?
Brother Wallace, in recent issues of the Gospel Guardian, assumes the role of injured innocency crying, “We are under attack.” The facts will not support his plea of non-aggression. He chooses to overlook the fact that he is the man who first stuck his journalistic nose, and a long one it is, into Truth Magazine policy in the recent controversy over the scriptural right of Florida College to exist and function. Long before this he was airing his judgments concerning The Arlington Meeting in his Belmont Bible Banner even to the point of pontificating relative to the loss of usefulness to the “conservative brotherhood” (sic) of one of the participants in that meeting. Relative to the college question, he conjured up in his mind some sort of unholy combine between Truth Magazine and Florida College dedicated to the destruction of a New Testament congregation. He went so far as to imagine official meetings between representatives of the two human organizations held for the purpose of formulating policy. He went still further and named those participating, including the name of James W. Adams who was not nearer than a thousand miles to the place where said meeting was alleged to have occurred at the time it was alleged to have taken place.
Now that Truth Magazine has occasion to find fault with the stance of Editor Wallace, the Gospel Guardian, and some of its staff relative to the question of Ketchersidean inroads among conservatives, Editor Wallace affects great resentment styling said criticisms an effort to tell him how to operate the Gospel Guardian. If our criticisms may legitimately be regarded as constituting such, we plead for clemency on the group of a clear-cut precedent established more than once by our accuser. Truly, we but follow in his steps. Since Editor Wallace first assumed the prerogative of telling Truth Magazine what her journalistic policy should be, we would be worse than ingrates if we did not do as much for the Gospel Guardian.
Brother Wallace says, “We think church folks (whoever they are JWA) are growing about as weary of hearing ‘Ketchersideism’ as a label as most Americans are of ‘Watergate’ as a scandal.” Does our brother mean to say that most Americans do not regard Watergate as a scandal, and is he among that number? Are theft, perjury, bribery and such like not scandalous in Brother Wallace’s judgment? If his perception is no better than this, it is no wonder that he “tires” of hearing about “Ketchersideism.” Americans may be tired of many aspects of the Watergate investigation, but God help this country if they are tired of the investigation, exposure, and prosecution of corruption and crime in the highest levels of American government whether it be among Republicans or Democrats. I have more faith in the fundamental good sense of Americans as well as in their integrity to believe such to be true. I also have too much confidence in the good sense and integrity of conservatives to believe that they are tired of the investigation, exposure, and refutation of Ketchersidean error. Methinks Brother Bill was caught nodding at this point.
By this kind of comparison, Brother Wallace implies that conservatives are unconcerned about Ketchersideism among them. Wallace characterizes it as a “label.” In so doing, he implies that there is in reality no threat from this source that the danger exists wholly in the minds of a “vocal minority,” meaning Truth Magazine scribes. Question: Is this a fact-IS Ketchersideism just a “label” and not a fact among conservatives? Brother Wallace is covering the truth in this matter. I do not profess to know why. Your guess is as good as mine. About fifty preachers by actual count among conservatives have been adversely affected by Ketcherside’s concepts in one degree or another. Churches in a number of places have experienced trouble: Dayton, Ohio; Tullahoma, Tennessee; Tampa, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to mention a few. Others have had rumblings and have escaped open trouble only because the agitators were not able to muster sufficient following. One third of the preacher students in one graduating class at Florida College were corrupted by Ketchersidean views. Efforts have been made by the college to correct this situation but even last school year, a large number of preachers and other student-, adopted. promoted, and defended Ketcherside’s views. Need I say more?
This is about all I shall say in this or my next article concerning Brother Wallace, unless something new arises. Since most of his statements have been directed to the editor of Truth Magazine, I shall turn him over to Brother Willis’s tender mercies. In my next article, which is a continuation of this one, I shall be noting statements that have been directed to my criticisms of Brother Edward Fudge by Wallace and Fudge and also to an article by Brother Randal Mark Trainer, which will appear in Truth Magazine. Let it be noted that both Brethren Fudge and Trainer have been invited to reply to criticisms of them (which have been made in Truth Magazine) in the columns of this paper. My next article will be entitled: How Successful Is Ketchersidean Subversion?-No. II.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 44, p. 4-7
September 13, 1973