By P.J. Casebolt
Webster defines name-calling as “the use of disparaging or abusive names in attacking another” (New 20th Century Dictionary). hen we d not know how to assail another’s position, we resort to name-calling.
As children, we have either been the giver or the recipient of such names as “fraidy-cat,” “sissy,” “tattletale,” or “teacher’s pet.” Some may use the terms “hill billy,” “Yankee,” or “Rebel” in a derogatory way. When certain philosophers could not account for the resurrection of the dead, they called Paul a “babbler” (Acts 17:18).
My earliest recollection of a disparaging religious name was the use of the term “Campbellite. ” Alexander Campbell left the Baptist church, was baptized for the remission of sins, and began to exhort others to do likewise. While the Baptists were instrumental in coining the phrase “Campbellite,” other sects followed suit when they could not answer the Bible doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
Even though Peter and other inspired men preached that baptism was essential to the remission of sins, and though other restoration pioneers in this country preached it before Campbell, the followers of Christ were still called Campbellites. It was ironic that people who wore and honored the names of such men as John the Baptist and Luther, would use other human names in an attempt to discredit someone’s religious position.
When I first began to preach, I was called a “Sommerite” because I held the position that colleges should not be supported from the church treasury, or by any other collective action on the part of the church. Some brethren didn’t even know what Daniel Sommer really taught on the matter, but that didn’t stop them from calling other brethren Sommerites.
Again, it was ironic that one preacher who took exception to an article I wrote along these lines in the old Apostolic Times, ended up being called an “Anti” within the same decade.
The term “Anti” was used (and is still used) in a disparaging way to make up for the failure of some brethren to answer another’s argument. It didn’t seem to matter that the ones who used this abusive term were against some things themselves, or that Jesus, God, Paul and Peter were against (anti) certain practices and doctrines. The purpose of those who use the term “anti” is not to tell what someone is against, whether it be instrumental music, missionary societies, or church support of human organizations and recreation. The motive behind the practice of calling someone an “anti” was to hinder the influence of a brother, not an exercise in fair representation of another’s position.
And the reason that some brethren are not using the term as much as they used to is simply because they are being called “antis” by someone else, and are getting a taste of their own medicine. But I still haven’t heard of anyone apologizing for the prejudicial use of the term “anti” in their own vocabulary.
I have been called a “legalist” because I insist on speaking as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11) and for insisting that others follow the principle of going “to the law and to the testimony” (Isa. 8:20), for religious authority.
But, I have the consolation of knowing that other good men would be called legalists also, simply because they give, and ask for, “book, chapter, and verse.” In the 119th Psalm, David made reference to the word of God 181 times in 176 verses (by my count). And though I could be off a verse or two, David would qualify as a “legalist” if anyone would.
I’ve been called some uncomplimentary names because I try to speak plainly enough so that folks can understand what I’m saying (2 Cor. 3:12). But I have never yet had an occasion to call anyone a “viper” (Matt. 23:33) or a “child of the devil” (Acts 13:10).
I’ve been called a perfectionist in a friendly way, and also in an unfriendly way. But when Solomon tells me to do a thing “with thy might” (Eccl. 9:10), and Paul says “do it heartily, as to the Lord,” I can’t help what motive people may have when they call me a perfectionist. Some people may be “slothful” (Rom. 12:11), and can’t stand to be around people who are “diligent” (2 Pet. 1;5,10).
We should be more concerned about what the Lord calls us, than we are about what men call us. There is a “worthy name by which ye are called” (Jas. 2:7). “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). While some may use the name Christian in derision and some wearing that name may bring reproach upon it, the name itself came from God (1 Pet. 4:16).
Jesus commended the church at Philadelphia because they had not denied his name (Rev. 3:8). And if we can just hear Jesus call us “blessed” when he comes to call us home, that name will be sweet to hear (Matt. 25:34).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 14, p. 428
July 20, 1989