By James W. Adams
“How fast would a man have to run around the block to see himself leave?” In the halcyon days of youth, before the complexities of life which are inherent in maturity set in, the quotation above was a sort of standing joke among a group of us budding intellectuals (?) who were just being introduced to higher mathematics and the physical sciences. Needless to say, we never solved the problem. What a surprise it is, therefore, after all these years, to find its answer all but practically demonstrated in the argumentation of W. Carl Ketcherside. While our brother does not actually see himself leave, he does make his trip fast enough to meet himself coming back. In my last article, I promised to deal with Brother Ketcherside’s self-contradictory sophistry contained in his explanation of the three ways in which he says fellowship between baptized believers may be terminated.
The Three Conditions
In my article just previous to this one, a lengthy quotation was given from an article written by Ketcherside and published in the Restoration Review, February 1973, tinder the title, “Fellowship.” Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article from Ketcherside will be from this source. Readers will please refer to my previous article. In the quotation in question, the following fellowship-terminating conditions are listed: (1) Moral turpitude; (2) the advocacy of doctrines which separate from God; (3) the factional spirit.
In keeping with the Ketchersidean modus operandi, all of these conditions are buried in a landslide of qualifying rhetoric, but I shall dig them out and we shall have a good, long look at them. Richard Whately in his Elements of Logic makes some observations, which may be applied most appropriately to the Ketchersidean method. He says: “It should be remembered, that a very long discussion is one of the most effective veils of Fallacy. Sophistry, like poison, is at once detected, and nauseated, when presented to us in concentrated form; but a Fallacy which when stated barely, in a few sentences, would not deceive a child, may deceive half the world, if diluted in a quarto volume” (P. 141).
(1) A Preliminary Consideration. Ketcherside says that if a baptized believer “adopts a life-style or engages in a course of conduct in defiance of the moral and ethical values associated with Jesus, he ruthlessly violates the covenantal relationship,” hence that “his behavior constitutes a public and blatant declaration that he will not allow Christ to reign over him.” This is interesting, indeed. Let us test and see if our brother really means what he says. Suppose a man divorces his innocent wife because he has without any sort of justification fallen in love with another woman and subsequently marries his inamorata. Jesus says, “whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery” (Mt. 19:9). But this man says, as do some of the brethren, “Fornication dissolves the marriage relationship. I freely admit that I sinned in divorcing my first wife without scriptural cause and committed adultery in my first sexual union with my second wife, and for these sins, I and she repent and ask for God’s forgiveness, for my first wife’s forgiveness, and for the brethren’s forgiveness. However, since my first marriage was dissolved by my act of fornication, I may now continue, without sin to live as husband and wife with my second companion, as I am the husband of only one wife.”
Assuming this man to be perfectly sincere in his convictions and assuming that Brother Ketcherside believes (which he may not for all I know what the majority of the brethren believe Jesus to teach concerning this matter (that the man and his wife are living in an adulterous condition or state), what would Ketcherside do relative to maintaining fellowship with this couple? They have “adopted a life-style” which is adulterous, hence are guilty of “moral turpitude.” Yet, the allegedly guilty parties say: “We believe devoutly in the Lordship of Jesus and in all things we desire to be submissive to His will, but we do not believe we are now living at variance with His will.” This hypothetical but entirely possible case is posed to highlight the fact, which Ketcherside seems to have overlooked that, in the realm of ethics or morals, the problem of interpreting the will of Christ is quite as vexing as in the realm of so-called doctrinal matters. Relative to so-called “doctrinal” matters, our brother likes to say, “Of course, I fellowship erring brethren, for the only kind of children God has are erring children.” Therefore, why does he not say relative to moral matters, “Of course I fellowship immoral brethren, the only kind of children God has are immoral children. Since these children of God are honestly mistaken concerning the teaching of Christ relative to marriage and divorce and sincerely desire to’ be submissive to the Lordship of Jesus, they are my brother and my sister and I love them? I don’t disown my brother in the flesh because we disagree about the weather, so why should I put my brother and sister in Christ out of the family of God because they commit adultery?” This would be harmonious with his logic, so if he does not fellowship such people, why does he not do so? If a person’s being mistaken honestly about the will of Christ relative to worshipping God by playing upon mechanical instruments of music is no bar to fellowship, why should his being honestly mistaken about the will of Christ relative to marriage and divorce resulting in an adulterous union be a bar to fellowship? This could be logically expanded to include every moral commandment in the will of Christ. The proponent of “Situation Ethics” does so expand the matter. Incidentally, I hear via a report from the recently conducted “Tulsa Forum” that Ketcherside promises to prove in the September issue of Mission Messenger that God and Christ are “Situationists.” I can hardly wait!
(2) The Advocacy of Doctrines which Separate from God. Ketcherside says’ “One may be mistaken about many things, but erroneous opinions will not necessarily sever him from God.” By the use of the term, necessarily,” I judge our brother to be saying that some erroneous opinions in religion will separate men from God and some will not. He explains by saying, “The body of truth is like the human body, in that it has many members. Not all of these are essential to being, some are essential only to well-being.” This implies that Ketcherside has a list of those things “essential to being- and a second list of those things -essential only to well being.” It would be fascinating to know just how he arrived at this determination. Like the Roman Catholics, he unquestionably divides sins into mortal and venial sins. I should like much to see these lists and to have the opportunity to examine the rules of interpretation which he employed in reaching his determination.
An interesting fact Ketcherside needs to consider is that the Holy Spirit made “working not at all” a condition of the termination of fellowship (2 Thess. 3:11-14). Is laziness a greater sin than corrupting the worship? Ketcherside’s teaching and practice declare that it is. The obligations of an unequivocal command would demand he not fellowship such persons as those described in 2 Thess. 3, yet he avers (and practices accordingly) that a corruption of the worship through the use of mechanical instruments of worship is not a condition justifying the termination of fellowship. It would appear that laziness with Ketcherside is a mortal sin while a corruption of the worship is only a venial sin.
The Holy Spirit also recognizes a failure to provide for the physical necessities of one’s relatives as grounds for terminating fellowship by saying, “If a man provide not for his own … he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1Tim. 5:8). Ketcherside agrees that one who “denies the faith, and is worse than an infidel” is not in the fellowship. Question, dear brother: Is the simple failure to provide for the physical necessities of needy relatives worse than denying members of God’s family of which I am a part proper spiritual nourishment through a corruption of Divine worship’! Ketcherside’s theory and practice declare such to be true. Such a concept makes the physical transcend the spiritual and the “outward man” more important than the “inward man.” Paul should have had Ketcherside to advise him when, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned 2 Cor. 4:16-18, for it would have kept him from exposing himself to the embarrassment of having written such nonsense (?) as these verses contain.
Thus far, we have noted that Ketcherside’s list of things “essential to being” includes (1) the belief of seven facts concerning Divine acts wrought in Jesus. (2) submission to immersion in water as an act of obedience to God without regard to any design other than this, and (3) the moral requirements taught and exemplified by Jesus. I take it that all “opinions” relating to these matters are “essential to being.” You will be impressed, if you will read after Ketcherside, by the fact that he omits all reference whatsoever to matters having to do with the Christian’s worship of and service to God in purely religious acts and relationships when discussing matters “essential to being.” The church, its organization, its worship, and its work quite evidently, in his mind, relate only to well-being.” He unquestionably excludes them from such matters as have vital bearing upon life in the Son or the life of the Spirit. With him, they would contribute to the enjoyment of spiritual life but make no contribution whatsoever to its maintenance. In my judgment, for what it may be worth, this is blasphemy! Ketcherside is more than a benign, misguided zealot. He is a malignant false teacher.
(3) The Factional Spirit. Ketcherside believes that the party spirit is a condition justifying the termination of fellowship. Incidentally, sooner or later, almost anyone who dares to oppose his fellowship-unity crusade will be stigmatized by him as a defender of party interests and a propagandizer of the party line. He literally breathes fire and brimstone and prophesies hell fire and damnation with reference to all involved in what he calls “segments of the Restoration Movement” with the exception of certain members of the rank and file who are fed up with “Church of Christ exclusiveness and partisan bigotry.” He stigmatizes the leadership in these segments as schismatics and heretics, yet, all the while, seeks to impress them with the quality and degree of his love for them as brethren and with the fact that he can and does recognize a state of fellowship as existing between himself and them.
If all of these divisions of the so-called “Restoration Movement” are indeed factions, and if factionalism terminates fellowship between men and God and the factionist and the faithful, any person who maintains vital connection with such groups over a period extending beyond recognition of their character as such becomes a party to their factionalism. Yet, Ketcherside advises young people who are caught tip in his views not to leave, but to remain in these groups. He says there is no value in exchanging one party for another. This would suggest that Ketcherside believes there is no religious body of people on this earth, which is not a “party” in the objectionable and unscriptural sense of that expression. Christ approved churches of the apostolic period were not “factions.” Yes, some of them had factious people in their constituency (Corinth, for instance), but the mere fact of their presence did not make the group as a group a “faction.” This would mean that Ketcherside’s attitude suggests there are no true, New Testament churches extant in our world today. If this be true, why does he not use some of his zeal to “restore” at least one to the world where he might himself worship to say nothing of the rest of us” If factionalism breaks or is a condition of the termination of fellowship, how can Ketcherside be right and continue to fellowship factionists? Can he correctly be in fellowship in religion with those who are out of fellowship with Christ’!
In the paragraphs just preceding this one, I have mentioned Ketcherside’s advice to young people not to leave their respective religious connections since nothing would be gained by exchanging one party for another. It is my desire to pursue this matter further in my next article, which I shall call: Subversion in Five Easy Lessons.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 41, pp. 4-7
August 23, 1973