By Steve Wallace
In the spring of 1996 Dennis Scroggins and this writer worked together in spreading the gospel in Kaunas, Lithuania. The theme we chose for the lectures one Sun-day dealt with matters related to the Holy Spirit. When that Sunday came, a small group of Pentecostals were in attendance to hear our words. They had some questions after Dennis’ lecture and then I started my lecture. Be-fore I had gone very far they suddenly stood up, one of them began speaking loudly, and then they all left the hall, the last one shaking the dust off of his feet as he went. We could not use our interpreter in such a situation and the only thing that I could come up with in Lithuanian was to ask them over and over, “Is discussion not possible?” It was not. They left.
Our experience there was similar to the experiences many brethren go through when seeking to discuss the Bible with their friends in other religions. Discussion is often not an option many wish to consider. Very obvious differences might exist, but the willingness to investigate them does not. This phenomena is also found among brethren.
The Liberals Among our
Many of us are aware of the problems our institutional brethren are having with men from among them teaching common denominational doctrines and practicing open fellowship with human denominations. The conservatives among these brethren (those who want such unscriptural practices as those found in the sponsoring church arrangement and support of human institutions from the church treasury, but nothing more) are involved in the fight of their lives. One of them, Paul Sabi, has put out a paper entitled, Set for the Defense of the Gospel. In the July 1, 1997 issue he shucks down the corn, exposing those who have come to be known as “change agents” among these brethren. He mentions such men as Max Lucado, Rubel Shelley, and others like them. In closing, he asks, “Can we discuss these matters?” In answer to his own question he writes:
We would like nothing better than to openly discuss these matters. Formal discussions have been requested of key individual change agents, but they have refused to date to engage in such discussions. Please know the intent of our heart is for good to be accomplished, for the faith once delivered (Jude 3) to be lovingly, faithfully boldly defended (23).
Discussion has not been possible! Two groups are clearly emerging among our institutional brethren, but one is not willing to discuss with the other. Are there any parallels among us?
Those Calling for Unity-in-Doctrinal-Diversity Among Us
There is a similar problem among conservative brethren. Some have said that we can fellowship those who teach error on marriage, divorce and remarriage on the basis of Romans 14. They have also sought to justify such a practice by appealing to what the church has practiced with regards to the question of a Christian killing for his government. They say that if the conscientious objector can fellowship one whom he believes is a murderer (the one who kills as an agent for the government), then we can fellowship those in error on divorce and remarriage. Further, it is being argued that church autonomy somehow gives a church the right to practice that for which there is no authority. This allows brethren to say they do not agree with what is being taught or fellowshipped at a given church but then stop short of condemning sinful practices. Meanwhile, other brethren (of whom I confess to be one) teach that there is only one scriptural reason for a divorced person with a living mate to remarry (Matt. 19:9). In contrast to brethren advocating unity-in-diversity on this matter, these brethren condemn all departures from Matthew 19:9 as error. Two groups are clearly emerging among us.
Is discussion not possible? Can we not sit down as brethren and talk about our differences (Acts 15)? Will God forgive us if we stop our ears and close our hearts to our brethren and let things go as they are (2 Cor. 6:11-13)? If any of us are wrong either in our teaching or in our actions towards our brethren, will we not repent of it for the sake of unity and our own salvation (2 John 9; Man. 18:15-17)?
We have too long asked for audience with our institutional brethren and those in human denominations to deny such audience to conservative brethren. What is currently happening among our institutional brethren shows too clearly what the passing of time can bring in circumstances such as exist among us. Let us reach out to one another while there is yet time and opportunity to do so.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 24 p. 14-15
December 18, 1997