By William V Beasley
“You are being influenced by the writings (books) of men!” is an accusation made by unthinking Christians against their preaching brethren. This is said as if to be guilty of such was equal to complete unfaithfulness, or, at least, the first step in complete apostasy. None of us, myself included, should want to become unfaithful or to take even the first step in apostasy-but, we hasten to ask, is the possession of, study of, learning from, reading of and/or use of books written by men a sign of unfaithfulness or apostasy?
To being “influenced by the writings (books) of men” I must plead guilty. Many such have influenced me and this many times. That was the purpose, in fact, that I purchased such-to be influenced by what the books contained. I would hate to think I had wasted the hundreds of dollars so spent. Pleading guilty to being influenced by the books of men is not to say that I have gullibly accepted everything therein presented. Such is not the case and I trust never will be. Sometimes the influence has been to see how far afield man can go and thus to strengthen our determination to “let God be found true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).
In much the same manner I (along with countless others) have been influenced by speaking person-to-person with other people, but, once again, it was not a hook, line and sinker acceptance of everything presented. Some of my brethren have a phobia of written commentaries and will, while making oral comments on the meaning of a passage of scripture digress enough to tell you how terrible it is to use (mention) commentaries. The primary meaning of “commentary” is “a comment.” When we explain what a passage means we have thereby authored (or plagiarized) a commentary on that passage. The type of communication (oral vs. written) used is the only difference in principle between the two types of commentaries.
Granted people, even our brethren, have misused the writings of men. When asked what a passage of scripture meant, one brother said something like ‘ “I’m not sure what that means. I don’t remember what Brother McGarvey had to say about it.” In listening to preaching, private instruction, personal conversations, reading books (commentaries, etc.) we need to receive such with all readiness of mind, and search the scriptures daily, whether these things be so (see Acts 17:11).
Truth Magazine XX: 42, p. 658
October 21, 1976