Journalistic Compromise Demonstrated

By Ron Halbrook

(Or, How To Write Thirty-eight Times In Digressive Papers Without Being Cut Off)

Doubtless it is one of the great philosophic challenges of this age to find out how a gospel preacher can write thirty-eight (yes, 38!) times for digressive papers without being cut off. Well, hold your breath, dear reader, because the deepest secrets of wisdom will be unveiled in this article. The answer will no longer have to wait on the assured (always-coming-but-never-quite-there) results of philosophic theorizers and theoretic philosophers. An axiom of teaching is that demonstrations are extremely effective. In answering the great question before us at this ecumenical hour, we shall present a demonstration case.

What a shame that the secrets of wisdom have eluded those brethren who have given their all to resist digression in the last twenty-five years. How often they found their efforts blocked by closed-door policies in so many pulpits and publications. Though deprived of the deep insights about to be revealed, these valiant souls persisted in a militant, aggressive, and plainspoken stand for truth and against error. They fought centralization in church organization and a host of social-gospel practices. They fought and they fought hard. They doubtless made errors in judgment along the way, but they also kept great principles of divine truth before them all the way through. But when all is said and done, this fact remains: there was something about the way they conducted the fight that caused the doors to be shut on every one of these soldiers without exception. A few kept a foot or a finger in the door a little longer than some others. But in the end, the doors were shut to them, one and all.

The case we are about to witness makes evident why the doors were shut, and reveals (are you still holding your breath?) how brethren could have written in digressive papers without being cut off. Fearing the reader cannot wait until the end of this article, we shall reveal the key at the beginning. The remainder of the article will then demonstrate an actual case of the use of that key.

The long lost key is: When writing in a paper which defends a particular innovation, do not apply the great principles of divine truth in direct opposition to that particular innovation. Watch closely and do not miss the point, brethren. It is permissible to attack other innovations not defended by the paper in which a writer desires to write. The key is do not deal specifically with the particular innovation defended by that particular paper. In the past, brethren who have resisted and tried to roll back the tide of digression, have consistently violated this rule. In other words, they have persisted in directly applying divine truth in opposition to the innovations accepted and defended by the listening audience. In fact, they generally called a failure to make such application “compromise.” But in this Aquarian (pronounced “Aesopian”) Age, we can be sure that what used to be compromise is no longer compromise. Like a lot of other things, compromise “just ain’t what it used to be” since the horse-and-buggy days turned into the jet age.

But enough said with tongue in cheek. Let’s turn to some cold, hard facts. What follows is a list of articles written by Brother Edward Fudge of Athens, Alabama. We shall not attempt to review these articles. The mere appearance of these articles in digressive papers over an extended period of time is shame enough in itself for those who believe today that compromise is exactly what it used to be just as truth is! Most of those reading this article have no access to back issues of Firm Foundation and Christian Standard. The Foundation defends centralized arrangements for the work of churches as well as social-gospel practices; the Standard defends all that and more, including instrumental music in worship. The Standard is published by members of the Christian Church denomination (as distinguished from the most radical group which tolerates Modernism and other forms of unbelief-the Disciples of Christ). Since most readers do not have access to these papers, the publication of this list of articles should serve several purposes: (1) show how compromise works, (2) help explain why a battle has raged over “new” concepts on grace, unity, and fellowship; (3) aid confused brethren in understanding that Fudge is not a poor, country bumkin unfairly pushed into the limelight for youthful mistakes, but is in fact an accomplished writer in major digressive journals. Fudge is a leading force, a significant symbol, a powerful influence in this battle,, especially to the young. This list of Ed’s writings should help some older men see how Fudge has come to be so prominently projected into modern problems over, grace, unity, fellowship, and alleged compromise.

More readers of this article are more familiar with Firm Foundation than with Christian Standard. First v16i will list issues of the Foundation in which Ed Fudge’s writings have appeared; some brief summaries of these articles and some comments thereon will be included.

Vol. 84, No. 20 (May 16, 1967), p. 322, “Lest We Forget.” Redeemed people should have a transforming influence in society, but the church should not be given over to social concerns. No application is made to, social-gospel practices defended by Firm Foundation. Any conservative, “evangelical” paper could comfortably print this piece.

Vol. 84, No. 36 (Sept. 5, 1967), p. 568, “Faith, or Merely Opinion.” “It is ours to refute” or put “into practice” the view that church centralization and social gospel practices are “matters of ‘opinion’ “-matters upon which we cannot expect nor require “unity of opinion.” Ed defends the view that such matters can be practiced as a “freedom” subject to the limitation that they not be. “impose(d) . . . on others.” This article had first appeared in Christian Standard (Sept. 5, 1967); editor Lemmons was so impressed that he reproduced it. Editor Charles Holt was also impressed, so reproduced it in Sentinel of Truth (Sept., 1967). Holt recommended this article as the final solution to problems of division, in a lengthy editorial entitled ” ‘Personal’ From The Editor: Faith, or Merely Opinion?” which lambasted “Anti or Conservative Churches of Christ.”

Vol. 84, No. 45 (Nov. 7, 1967), p. 716, “Emphasis: Christ.” Here we are told that we need more emphasis on “the timeless Christ” rather than on “a first-century church” or “a twentieth-century one . . . .”

Vol. 84, No. 50 (Dec. 12, 1967), p. 806, “Christian Unity-Second Thoughts.” True believers are already one in Christ, therefore neither doctrinal compromise nor “unity of understanding” are necessary for the “Christian unity” discussed in John 17, 1 Cor. 11:10, 2 John 9, and Eph. 4. The Bible has some role in unity, but actually we are united in Christ, not upon the Bible.

Vol. 85, No. 4 (Jan. 23, 1968), p. 53, “Christian Unity: Ephesians 4:1-6.” Here Ed presents the denominational view that the seven one’s of Eph. 4 are not a “platform for unity” but are “unities already possessed by the Ephesians . . . . On the basis of what they already share in the Spirit, he is now urging them to put aside grievances …. This passage then has no direct relation to doctrinal unity, but deals with a unity described in verse 2.” So we are united “in the Spirit” while disunited doctrinally!

Vol. 85, No. 5 (Jan. 30, 1968), p. 67, “Counterfeit Cross-Bearing. ” In the New Testament, “good works and the abstinence from bad ones are not in order to earn salvation and grace, but because of God’s gift in Christ . . . .” We all agree obedience cannot earn God’s grace (Lk. 17:10), but Ed says here what every Baptist book on my book shelf says about obedience: it is the fruit of grace rather than an indispensable condition of grace. We “work” because we are saved; not in order to be saved.

Vol. 85, No. 10 (Mar. 5, 1968), p. 151, 153, “Christian Unity: 1 Cor. 1:10ff.” This passage admonishes unity of purpose and aim, not “doctrinal unity.” Issues do not cause division, but only “a party spirit (factiousness),” because in Christ “Christians can differ” doctrinally “without tearing the body into shreds.”

Vol. 85, No. 20 (May 14, 1968), p. 311, “Christian Unity: 2 John 9.” The passage cannot be applied to “differences or arguments between saints on how best to please the Christ in whom they all believe.” Thus the passage has nothing to do with issues like centralization, social-gospel practices, or instrumental music. The Christian Standard was as glad to print this good bit of news in November as Firm Foundation was in May!

Vol. 85, No. 28 (July 9, 1968), p. 441, ” ‘Doctrine’ and ‘Morals.’ “

Vol. 86, No. 8 (Feb. 25, 1969), p. 120, “Government and God.”

Vol. 86, No. 14 (Apr. 8, 1969), p. 214, 218, “Truth, Error, and the Grace of God.”

Ed says brethren “sometimes lean” toward “the notion that one can be saved by his own accomplishments or learning . . . .” “We can love all brethren in Christ as beloved saints who also need God’s grace. We can leave off all name-calling (‘anti,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘digressive,’ etc.) and party spirit.” What interesting reading for Firm Foundation subscribers: in spite of their innovations, they stand. in God’s grace, are not to be described as “digressive,” and anyone who so identifies them manifests a “party spirit.”

Vol. 86, No. 29 (July 22, 1969), p. 454, “Spending the Day with Jesus.” This warns against “speaking of peacemakers as ‘soft.’ “

Vol. 86, No. 31 (Aug. 5, 1969), p. 485, “Under Divine Orders.” When Ed warned against “inventing schemes and pushing projects because we thought our job was to get results,” he had a perfect opportunity to make applications direly needed in the Foundation. As he leaves it, it can be “all things to all men.”

Vol. 86, No. 44 (Nov. 4, 1969), p. 697, “Undenominational Christianity.” “We often hear the question raised as to whether there are Christians in all the denominations . . . . As to whether there are Christians in this place, or that, it should be enough to cite these words of inspiration”: 2 Tim. 2:19 (i.e., the Lord knows). This is a nice middle-of-the-road position, but in this case the Lord not only knows but also has revealed that all the saved are in the body of Christ. If all the saved are in the church of Christ, then none are in human denominations. It should be enough to cite Eph. 1:3 and Gal. 5:20: all Christians are “in this place,” in Christ, in his body: none are in “that,” in sects, in man-made bodies teaching the doctrines of men.

Vol. 86, No. 50 (Dec. 16, 1969), p. 787, “The Church As the New Creation.” Ed says nothing about the absolute necessity of the church conforming to the New Testament standard, but says God’s people “are the New Testament church-not through their own attainment to God’s standard, but through Christ’s attainment, accompanied by the greatest Swap-Out in eternal history.” Ed constantly confuses man’s part in salvation with God’s, as though each excludes the other; he sounds like a .Baptist preacher half the time, talking about since God did His part in salvation’s story, therefore man does not have to do such-and-such a thing to be saved.

Vol. 87, No. 10 (Mar. 10, 1970), p. 149, “Is Moodley Better Than Naicker ” Denominational names, “and we might as well include progressive, anti, liberal, conservative, etc.,” are all “party labels” which should not be used. Some of these words correctly describe attitudes toward Bible authority, as Ed can find by consulting a dictionary; so used, they are proper, descriptive terms. One’s basic attitude toward Bible authority shapes his outlook toward a host of modern innovations and determines whether he will accept or reject them. Church historians will record this fact. We are not guilty of party-ism when we observe and describe this division in basic attitude.

Vol. 87, No. 27 July 7, 1970, p. 419, “Jesus and `Old Glory’. “

Vol. 87, No. 49 (Dec. 8, 1970), p. 776, “Don’t Be Embarrassed to Believe!”

Vol. 88, No. 14 (Apr. 6, 1971), p. 217, “People Are Listening But Who’s Talking?” “Modern religious thinkers, ” including some ecumenicists, are thinking and “we ought to be ready to move into the conversations at whatever level the Lord gives an opening, in the interest of New Testament truth. To speak is not to compromise nor is it endorsement to listen.” Yes, brethren will agree; but here is the question a lot of us are asking that Ed is not answering, “What is it to speak, and to fail to speak the very thing the audience needs most to hear???” Such “conversations” are both “compromise” and “endorsement,” even if unwitting.

Vol. 88, No. 24 (June 15, 1971), p. 374, 379, “A Case Against Instrumental Music in Christian Worship.” “Ed sent this article to editor E. V. Hayden of the Christian Standard,” but he “chose not to print it . . . .” Ed has always felt the instrument is better left off; this piece presents his reasons. So nothing Ed has written in “opposition” to instrumental music ever appears in the Standard, though it might in Firm Foundation or Gospel Guardian. And, nothing he has written in “opposition” to centralization, institutionalism, or social-gospel-ism appears in the Foundation, though it might in the Guardian. He has established this pattern over an entire decade. This is accomodation and compromise-chameleon-like, his writings blend in perfectly with the different-colored background of each paper he has written for!

Vol. 89, No. 9 (Feb. 29, 1972), p. 134, “Four Kinds of Unity.” There are: oneness of relationship (Jn. 17, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4); allegiance (1 Cor. 1:10, no application to “doctrinal differences”); attitude and ambition (Phil. 2:14, not unity of thought, only mutual concern); understanding (Eph. 4:13-16, unity of understanding not “commanded” because it is only the “ultimate goal” of “spiritual maturity”).

Vol. 89, No. 22 (May 30, 1972), p. 340, “God Will Be God. “

Vol. 89, No. 23 (June 6, 1972), p. 364-365, “God Will Be God” (concluded).

Vol. 89, No. 23 (June 6, 1972), p. 359, “God Will Be Judge. ” These three issues contain Ed’s reinterpretation of Lev. 10; like a lot of other passages that have come under Ed’s scrutiny, Lev. 10 does not mean what it used to mean. Here is the heart of the Fudge (Garrett-Ketcherside) position on the passage, “Nadab and Abihu sin in the course of their worship and are smitten dead by God on the spot. The younger two, Eleasar and Ithamar, sin in the course of their worship, and are forgiven and spared.” Why the difference? The latter “involved a false piety, not a flagrant pride.” When the “motives” are right in false worship, God forgives. Apparently, if Nadab and Abihu had acted with pure “motives” (and Fudge does not offer to prove they did not), they might have been spared in their sinful worship.

Vol. 90, No. 11 (Mar. 13, 1973), p. 166, “THEOS in John 1:1.”

Vol. 90, No. 39 ,(Sept. 25, 1973), p. 612, “Human Institutions: A Reminder.” Publishing houses, papers, etc. are not indispensible to the Lord’s cause, so should be used wisely. Surely (?) Fudge would agree that institutionalism through church support of “human institutions” is an abuse of such institutions (as well as of the church); if so, he never breaths a word of it to the Foundation audience.

Vol. 90,’ No. 51 (Dec. 10, 1973), p. 803, “Church Politics. “

Vol. 91, No. 4 (Jan. 22, 1974), p. 51, “Our Divine Representative.” Included is the doctrine of the perfect obedience or righteousness of Christ imputed to Christians.

Vol. 91, No. 26 (June 25, 1974), p. 408, “How To Be God’s Friend. “

One can get the tenor of Fudge’s journalistic compromise from the material above’ so we will list without summary or comment his writings in the Christian Standard.

Sept. 12, 1964, p. 8, “Conformed or Transformed?”

Oct. 23, 1965, p. 8, “The Enemy Demands Surrender.” Apr. 1, 1967, p. 3, “That They All May Be One.”

July 8, 1967, p. 5, “Faith, or Merely Opinion?”

May 18, 1968, p. 6, “Christian Unity-Second Thoughts.”

Oct. 5, 1968, p. 9, “The Lord’s Supper. “

Oct. 19, 1968, p. 9, “New Testament Doctrine and Morals. “

Nov. 30, 1968, p. 5, “Christian Unity: 2 John 9.”

July 7, 1974, p. 9, “Checkpoints of Our Religion. “

Since Brother Fudge offers so much prophetic insight for the re-interpretation of so many passages (Lev. 10, Gal. 1:8-9, Eph. 4:1-6; 1 Cor. 1:10, 2 Jn. 9, Jude 3, etc.), perhaps he should be compared to a Biblical prophet. How about a new version of Nathan? Suppose Nathan had told his parable in such a way as to avoid the very application his listener needed most to hear? Suppose David had used a court policy allowing the prophets to enter with him into “dialogpe” and “conversations,” but forbidding specific application of specific lessons that would convict David of guilt. Suppose Nathan had preached his prophetic parable for an entire decade in David’s court, in keeping with such a policy or had written in the Mosaic Standard or the Sinaitic Foundation or the Temple Guardian, in keeping with such accomodation. Perhaps the Herald of Truth could make a new film staring Edward Fudge entitled “Nathan Revisited” or “Nathan Without The Thou-Art-The-Man.” That is exactly the role Brother Fudge has filled for a decade: Nathan without the “thou-art-the-man!”

In all seriousness, the tragedy of such a Nathan would have been a David never convicted of his guilt. Such a Nathan would not have been faithful to God even if his every parable was true-and in Ed’s case, there has been plenty of false teaching in addition to journalistic compromise.

Brethren, let us “eschew evil,” including the evil of journalistic compromise. Let a picture of the tragedy of such compromise be burned into our hearts: the tragedy of lost souls!

Truth Magazine XIX: 14, pp. 219-222
February 13, 1975