By Ron Halbrook
Yes, I. know many have not wanted to see any real problem on the grace-unity-fellowship error of recent times. Some no doubt thought it had been discussed enough, if not too much, after the first article was written on it. Others may feel the subject should have been brought out into the open, but that now we should turn our attention to other things. h myself have wished for signs of correction being made or of the problem abating; for, though it is necessary, it is never pleasant to deal with error and erring brethren.
While it is true many brethren are more informed and alert after this problem has received a good deal of exposure, it is not true that it is time to drop the subject. The main spokesmen and’ followers of the new unity movement are still very much alive `and active. Several events of recent months have forced some modification of their tactics, but their loose ideas and goals are still the same. One or two who have managed to get reports circulating that indicated they were reforming themselves have in fact kept right on sowing their lawless seed-as by recommending papers like Mission and Integrity to their friends as the finest available, along with Mission Messenger and Restoration Review.
But there is another angle to this lawless spirit which has still not received much, if any, attention. It is time to say something about it. Brethren have often pointed out that Israel’s moral drifting generally was accompanied by doctrinal drifting, and her doctrinal drifting generally was accompanied by moral loosening. Relativism in reference to the church contributes to the attitude of general looseness which leads to relativism in reference to moral and ethical principles of the Bible. You never saw a Modernist or Liberal who took a strong stand against worldliness. 2 Peter 2 and other passages show how easily doctrinal looseness and a worldly spirit go hand-in-hand.
Even so, brethren who have promoted change recently in faith or practice on grace-unity-fellowship are very loose in their attitude toward worldliness. In preaching, they have imbibed the spirit which loves ethereal generality and “evangelical” openness and denominational broadness and high-sounding “principles” without direct application to the sins of the day. This is their whole thrust in regard to preaching on institutionalism, centralization, social-gospel-ism, instrumental music, premillennialism, pentecostalism, and just about any other doctrinal subject. They consider plain preaching with direct application to the liberalism of the last 25 years as uncouth. In exactly the same way, they consider plain preaching with direct application to the worldly practices of the day as boorish, if not downright clownish! They like to caricature preachers who do such preaching as back-woodish, unsophisticated, slow students, uneducated, prudish, narrow-minded, bumpkins. Make no mistake about it, these “sophisticated” brethren long for the dawn of a “brighter day” all across the board. Their sugar-coated, sweet-spirited concepts of compromise will not stop with the organization, mission, worship, discipline, and doctrine of the church revealed in the New Testament. Their sweet syrup will also drown out plain, direct preaching on Worldliness.
I have been told to the face by one of the most outspoken of these compromisers that the “hard line” we have taken against social drinking represents “the Southern, rural temperance viewpoint” and not the application of New Testament principles. Another who has done some “missionary” work came back bragging about how he told brethren in foreign countries that they were perfectly at liberty to drink alcoholic beverages so long as they did not get outright drunk. A new convert in the Mid-West asked one of these bright young scholars whether he could continue drinking beer in his home now that he had become a Christian; said scholar boldly told the fellow that would be perfectly in order for a Christian! And he was not ashamed to tell me this personally. Not much of this shows in their public writing to this point-though there are occasional references-but they not only will discuss it, they are promoting this spirit through more “private” channels right now. That is how they started out in regard to the doctrinal problems they have imposed upon brethren.
It seems one of our young princes preached for a time where some of the families went in mixed swimming with one another-and, no, I .do not mean in their Sunday-go-to-meeting suits, either! He and his wife did not mind “taking a dip” with the brethren there on the ancient theory “while in Rome, do as the Romans do.” But now they live in an area where much plain preaching has been and is still being done on such worldliness. Do you think they go in mixed swimming now? Do you think they reveal their former practice to brethren? Ali! What a sweet spirit. They do not want to “offend” anyone or stir up controversy: So, they simply do not oppose the practice in their preaching, they are silent on it, nor do they mention their own escapades. Like sheep, the brethren are none-the-wiser. All is bliss, and the brethren would be quite upset if some “outsider” were to charge this “fine brother” with looseness and worldliness. “Why, we have never heard him advocate anything like that!” Exactly. And you have never heard him oppose it either! Mum is the word! In the meantime, the young people drift into these worldly practices through a lack of teaching. Before long, brethren will be wringing their hands in dismay, “I just do not see why our young people are compromising with the world . . . .” The danger is not so much that our new breed of broad-minded preachers will mislead brethren by advocating worldly ways publicly, but it is by failing to oppose such ways!
These young princes think we should read a verse or two about “modesty” and let applications take care of themselves. One of these outspoken princes recently tried to discourage a faithful brother from printing an article written in good taste but dealing specifically with the sin of immodesty. “Such articles just stir up trouble,” he said, which sounds like Billy Graham’s reason for not being specific and direct on baptism: “It’s too controversial.” Of course, this approach is old hat to our modern-minded sages; they have been advocating that we read a verse or two about elders overseeing the flock, and leave applications to take care of themselves when preaching before our institutional brethren. Once in a while, brethren who are centralizing the work of the church through the Herald of Truth will find a fanatic who thinks it is wrong to preach via TV; instead of meeting the real issue, they will then caricature “the anti’s” as a bunch of nuts opposed to TV preaching. In like manner, instead of meeting the issue that when a woman wears a skirt much above the knee she cannot bend or sit or even walk modestly, our young princes caricature preachers who do plain preaching on modesty as a bunch of nuts running around with tape measures trying to find someone with a skirt an eighth inch above the knee.
A thousand such her-haws and wise cracks will not deter faithful men from rebuking the worldly spirit in its many specific manifestations today. Tobiah guffawed at Judah’s effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, “Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall” (Neh. 4:3). The faithful kept right on building. That is exactly what faithful preachers will do in regard to the plague of worldliness which is decimating the church in our day just keep right on fighting it, exposing it, rebuking it, and building on the solid foundation of God’s word.
The young princes of the new unity movement may not be the only ones neglecting to cry out against such sins as social drinking, immodesty, and dancing. Let all of us examine ourselves. Remember, God said through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” It is “out of season” to preach on such sins; perhaps in some cases, other battles have turned the attention of brethren away from such matters. Let us not assume the new generation constantly coming up will automatically understand these things. Let us not be intimidated by frowns and hardness of hearts; we are not responsible to make people obey God, but we are responsible to teach them His will. But how long are we expected to teach on such things when “nearly every one is doing them today?” Isaiah asked a similar question. “Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate” (Isa. 6:11).
Until the Lord burns this old earth up, it will be the duty of faithful men to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” One thing is certain. The lawless, soft spirit of the new unity movement cannot and will not respond to such a call when it comes to popular sins of worldliness. It is time to say so. And, it is time, as always, for all of us to heed the words of Paul, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Cor. 13:5). “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16-17).
Truth Magazine XIX: 43, pp. 684-685
September 11, 1975