“New Unity” Beat Goes On, and On and On and On . . .

By Ron Halbrook

It is a sad time in Zion. Those claiming to be soldiers of the cross go down to “the plain of Ono” to confer with compromisers. They have no qualms about yoking and plowing with false teachers. When talking to one group or when “called on the carpet” by others, they can preach it “round” or preach it “flat.” They are experts at “playing up to” some who do not want to believe such is gong on, and will even “throw a sop” to faithful brethren occasionally to quiet their fears. Not militant in spirit, not challenging error in its strongholds, they move to the sound of a beat they is mellow, soft, and soothing. As God said through Jeremiah, “they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (6:14).

Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside have been notorious for heralding the Good News of Compromise. These men started out several years ago saying we should state our convictions about instrumental music in worship, centralizing the church’s work, institutionalism, social-gospel practices, and premillennialism, but should not divide over such matters. “Since we are not under law but under grace I shall allow the grace of God to take care of the situation,” says Ketcherside. “It isn’t necessary for you to share my concerns for me to reverence and respect you as my brother or sister,” he says again. Practicing what he preaches, he now writes regularly in the Christian Standard (weekly publication of Christian Church people), a paper which approves the use of instrumental music in worship though he himself claims to disapprove it. Though he quit publishing his Mission Messenger in December of 1975, he plans to continue pressing vigorously his views on grace and unity. He will reprint key volumes of Mission Messenger (such as the one on “The Twisted Scriptures,” devoted to re-interpretation of 2 Jn. 9, 1 Cor. 1:10, Gal. 1:8-9, Jude 3); also he will do some autobiographical writing in Garrett’s Restoration Review. “The beat goes on” in several ways for Ketcherside. He now even recognizes “Christians in other bodies” and so believes we should team up with rather than debate Baptists, Methodists, and Mennonites (for quotes, see Mission Messenger for May, 1974, pp. 70, 74; April, 1975, pp. 54-55, 61-62).

Almost any issue of Garrett’s Restoration Review reflects the same views. It is sad to watch “their word … eat as doth a cancer;” to see them thrash about “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth;” and to observe them “wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 2:17; 3:7, 13). Garrett now defends cocktail parties by saying “drunkenness is a sin, but not drinking;” lasciviousness by saying “revelling is a sin, but not dancing;” and immodesty by saying “indecency is a sin, but not short dresses.” Not wanting to appear partial, he throws a sop to the gambler as well: “profligacy is a sin, but not necessarily gambling” (Restoration Review, Dec., 1974, pp. 394-395). On goes the beat, and on and on! Like Tetzel in Germany with his flowing banners, jangling bells, and smooth promises of cheap grace, these men have attracted quite a crowd who move to this new unity beat. That makes the tragedy all the greater.

In 1974 Ed Fudge marked a decade of service to the Christian Standard. For those who think Brother Fudge may have been shaken to review his position in recent months, we must point out that “the beat goes on” with another article in the June 1 issue (“Our Down-to-Earth Religion,” which follows on the heels of his last article for Nov. 17 1974, “Hallmarks of True Evangelism”). If recent events have not awakened Ed to review his convictions, they have led him to restate them. Like Ketcherside, he is willing to occasionally express his personal conscience against instrumental music, centralization, institutionalism, social-gospel-ism, and premillennialism. But, to use Ketcherside’s words, he accepts and works with one who is guilty of such things “as my brother or sister” -“since we are not under law but under grace I shall allow the grace of God to take care of the situation.”

For instance, in the July 27, 1975, Christian Standard (“Hallmarks of Scriptural Assemblies”), he says, “As an `inorganic’ brother I may observe that … instrumental accompaniment to the singing” cannot express “the true content of human minds and hearts.” Next appears (Aug. 17 and 24) a two-part discussion of “Fellowship and the Instrument,” which follows the approach he used in his Firm Foundation article “Four Kinds of Unity” (Feb. 19, 1972). Oneness or unity may relate to four areas: (1) Relationship-“an organic oneness. . . . They are each `in Christ,’ and Christ is ‘in’ each of them. . . . It is a gift of God, a natural by-product of union with Jesus Christ and participation in the blessings He has brought.” “Where does the issue of instrumental music fit?” Does its use destroy proper relationship with God and the relationship of oneness with other saints in Christ? When one uses instrumental music in worship, does he lose the “gift of God,” “union with Jesus Christ,” and “the blessings” of grace? “The issue simply does not fit in this category” is Ed Fudge’s answer (emph. added RH). Though he says, “I personally regard instrumental music in the worship to miss the mark of God’s perfect will,” still it does not interfere with our “being `one in Christ’ as fellow members of His body.” (2) Allegiance-“Men may hold Jesus as Lord in their hearts” and worship with instruments on account of misunderstanding. If they “knowingly and willfully go against what (they) understand,” of course that would be wrong. But if the baptized believer worships with the instrument through ignorance, “he and I are ‘one’ in the allegiance and loyalty, although we differ on the piano in church.” We should not allow “an instrumental cause” nor “a non-instrument flag” to interfere with this oneness of loyalty and allegiance. (3) Sentiment-brotherly love, affection, “climate of unselfishness and concern.” In other words, those who are in fellowship with the Father should exhibit family-type attitudes toward one another. Since the instrument does not disturb proper relationship to God the Father, it should not interfere with brotherly relations between brethren. “The issue of the instrument ought not to affect our oneness of sentiment and affection.” In view of this, he commends those “organic” brethren who occasionally leave off the instrument on behalf of “inorganic”brethren. By the same token, he has recommended (though not in this article) that “inorganic” brethren feel free to call on “organic” brethren to lead prayer, preach, or otherwise lead in public worship. (4) Understanding-“Oneness of common understanding is not commanded, but provided for.” This is where the instrument falls. The use or non-use of instruments does NOT affect our sharing in God’s grace, but only affects our sharing in one specific action: “singing with the instrument.” This “practically eliminates” the non-user from a church which uses instruments. But those “who differ on this issue may still have opportunities to be together, and they may then enjoy their onenesses of relationship, of allegiance, and of sentiment and affection.”

Summing up, Fudge has told us what we do and do not share with those who use instrumental music. We do not share with them in the one activity of singing with instruments in worship. We do share proper relationship to Jesus Christ, allegiance and loyalty to Christ and his words, the sentiments and affections of a family all in fellowship with God. But, “what saith the Scripture?” The truth is that those who worship with instruments have already interfered with brotherly relations between brethren. That is because their allegiance and loyalty is not to Christ and his word alone, but to doctrines and commandments of men. Ed says of using instruments in worship, “The practice within itself does not determine this business of loyalty and allegiance.” Pray tell, how can one be loyal to what Christ has commanded while doing something he has forbidden?!? The use of instruments does destroy “oneness of relationship” to God because it violates His holy covenant which was sealed with the blood of His only begotten Son (Matt. 28:18; Heb. 9:15-22; 1 Cor. 1:10; 4:17; 14:37; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Jn. 9; Jude 3; Rev. 22:18-19; Matt. 15:7ff; Mark 7:lff). Fudge’s doctrine weakens “this business of loyalty and allegiance” to Christ and his word, whether he realizes it or not. How appropriate that part of his “Fellowship and the Instrument” appears in Christian Standard right along side Carl Ketcherside’s column “The Tool Chest.” Though Fudge attempts to drape his theories in Scripture, they actually came from Ketcherside’s tool chest.

Meanwhile, back at the Firm Foundation, Fudge keeps beating the same old beat. “The dispute of the past quarter-century regarding congregational support of benevolent and educational enterprises and certain inter-congregational arrangements” has paid too little attention to “the church’s nature in Scripture, or what may be termed a biblical ecclesiology . . . .” Thus begins “Church Action: A Study in the Original Greek” (Feb. 18, 1975). Special attention is given to whether a church can do everything an individual can do (provide recreation, social meals, entertainment; support human institutions, etc.). He quotes J. D. Thomas and Batsell Barrett Baxter as among those “who dogmatically affirm(ed)” the church can so act. Roy E. Cogdill and James R. Cope are quoted as among those who “responded, equally dogmatically” that such is wrong. Ed bemoans that “lines of argument, and . . . of fellowship” were drawn, mainly because “those who think of ekklesia-action primarily as corporate action overstate their case, as do those who limit ekklesia action to individual action.” We assume the truth is somewhere in the middle, but Ed assures us his article does not “propose to solve the specific problem.” Again, in the April 22, 1975, issue, Ed discusses the related issue, “Are examples binding?” He faults “almost all those who answer `nay’ ” as well as “almost all who answer `yea,’ ” His answer to the “furor” is to warn against “legalism” or traditional interpretations, and to suggest that each man “use every means at his disposal to understand God’s will revealed in Scripture-for there alone is it revealed.” We are never told if apostolic examples are a proper “means,” and if so, how and when. It is the same old pattern: some brethren just cannot afford to declare the truth of God clearly, uncompromisingly.

The Gordon Wilson who previously lived at 6939 Weber Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63123, but presently preaches at El Toro, California, and who has edited Facts for Faith, moves to the same beat. December 2931, 1972, the Dunn Road Chapel of Hazelwood, Missouri, presented their “Winter Youth Study.” Dunn Road has long followed the error of Carl Ketcherside, and is mentioned from time to time in his Mission Messenger (see Dec., 1973 and June, 1975). The Dunn Road “Housing Committee” made arrangements for young people to come as visitors, to hear featured speakers “Carl Ketcherside” and “Gordon Wilson” along with “Rod Langston and Bernie Crum” and “Albert McGee.” Jerry Phillips highly recommended this program (Dec. 6, 1972 St. Charles, Missouri Bulletin), which centered on Evidences. Dunn Road’s advertisements include repeated mention of Carl Ketcherside and Gordon Wilson. The schedule lists Gordon as the kickoff speaker, with one time slot for “Special Youth Meeting” and another which says “Choice of forum or bowling.” “The New Year’s evening will feature the Melody Boys Quartet” and “some congregational singing.”

Let no one suppose Gordon went to Dunn Road in earnestness to grapple with the Ketchersidian error into which they have long ago fallen, nor to challenge Ketcherside in any way. As the flier, reproduced here, and the tapes show, only “Evidences of Christianity” were discussed and not the vital issues this church direly needed to hear. Furthermore, in his opening remarks, Gordon commended the “Winter Youth Study” as being entirely proper, well-planned activities, good for all involved. Specifically, he commended the presence of Carl Ketcherside and the others on the program as being of benefit to all concerned. Recently, we had opportunity to see the compliment returned in a letter. Reflecting on his yokefellow at Dunn Road in 1972, Ketcherside praised Wilson: “one of the most qualified,” “thoroughly informed,” “Gordon has adequate ability.”

It is not enough that Brother Wilson failed to deal with the error of Dunn Road, or that he made a blanket commendation of the program and of Ketcherside’s part in it. He did not even manage to speak on Evidences without teaching denominational error! He solved the alleged discrepancy between Paul and James on “works” by saying the “works” in James 2 have no reference to “the alien sinner nor . . . what the alien sinner does.” The “works” in James refer only to “servants of the Lord responding to the salvation which is by faith.” “The word `works,’ Paul and James agree on. Neither man nor any other New Testament writer ever uses the word `works,’ with approval, of the obedience of an alien sinner. Never!” Compare that to Baptist Harold W. Tribble (Our Doctrines, pp. 80-81); he resolves the “difficulty in the relation of faith and works to salvation” by saying, “Our works exhibit our faith as the fruit exhibits the life of the tree . . . . The fruit testifies to the condition of the tree. So good works testify to the inner condition of the life.” So, after we are saved by faith, “works” are the proper response to salvation. Noted Baptist commentator B. H. Carroll says in his comments on James 2 that Paul and James “agree . . . that faith must evidence itself in good works . . . . Paul takes the case of a sinner and is trying to ascertain how that lost sinner can be declared just before God, and he says that it is through faith and apart from works. James takes a Christian, not a sinner, and shows how that Christian’s works justify the Christian’s profession.”

Adding insult to injury to the cause of Christ, Gordon Wilson has tried to deceive brethren about his loose conduct. He said, “Moreover, I recognize that there may be circumstances in which one’s own statements may be used in exposing a teacher of error, even though such statements may have been made in private.” So be it. When his loose conduct was called to his attention, he responded, “Third, you mention my appearing with Carl Ketcherside in youth rallies, lectureships, etc. without challenging his unscriptural teaching and activities. Where in the world did you ever hear such? I have never in my life appeared with him on any kind of program (the only time he has ever heard me speak was at the Hartford Forum, when I agreed to come and reply to the false teaching of one of his associates). I have never been on a youth rally anywhere with anybody. I have never been present at a lectureship where Carl Ketcherside was present. He and I have never been associated in any kind of program anywhere at any time. I would be interested in knowing what you are talking about.” When Gordon was provided documentation, he gird up the loins of his unmitigated gall and answered, “Thanks for sending the advertisement. I had never seen a copy of this before, was not in any way responsible for putting it out, and the appearance of my name in connection with that of Carl Ketcherside is a complete surprise to me. In any case, I did not appear on any youth rally, did not then or at any other time appear with Carl Ketcherside, and such a program would be and is totally disgusting to me. The advertisement is an absolute misrepresentation insofar as the occurrence of my name is concerned. This just makes me wonder what other phony documentation people might have in their files about me. It also makes me wonder why anyone who claims to be a Christian would reach a conclusion about a man’s soundness on the basis of such meaningless junk-before and without even asking an explanation from the man concerned.” (Letters from Gordon Wilson to James W. Adams, July 30 and Aug. 26, 19764, the latter entire.)

Gordon seems to be afflicted with the same memory malady as some of his cohorts. He has never in his life appeared on the same program with the man of whom he gave a blanket commendation and who returned the favor later, both men having reference to the other’s appearance on Dunn Road’s program in December of 1972! And Gordon could never forget it if it were to happen because the very thought “is totally disgusting” to him. Brethren Gene Boren, Frank Kuchar, Leonard Goatly, and Joseph W. Florea were eye-witnesses to this “totally disgusting” affair, but Gordon will not likely be impressed by that evidence or the tapes themselves any more than he was by the other “phony documentation”-“such meaningless junk.” He only wonders how “anyone who claims to be a Christian” could accept such a mountain of evidence in the face of his own pristine pronouncements. These fellows remind us of Hume’s claim that no amount of historical evidence could prove a miracle, and of new-orthodox claims that after sifting all possible evidence we must still be in doubt as to whether the resurrection of Jesus is historical fact. Truly, sadly, the beat goes on as such men go further into error and try harder to hide it, sanctify it, and cloak their doctrine in twisted Scripture.

And, “the beat goes on” with Gordon Wilson’s articles in the Christian Standard: January 6, 1974 (“Psalm of a Sin-Sick Soul”), March 24, 1974 (“Where Is Security?”), May 5, 1974 (“The Gospel Demands Change”), and again February 2, 1975 (“Keeping the Law of Christ”). There is nothing in these articles that would offend Christian Church people in their peculiar error-nor to save them, as a friend added! Apparently, the beat shall go on, too. On December 6, 1974, Gordon explained to Robert Jackson, Steve Wolfgang, and myself that he has no apologies for writing in the Standard; he said he does not expect to quit this or similar actions. Gordon’s Facts for Faith was being published by Lindy McDaniel’s “Pitching for the Master Foundation,” with the aid of brethren Hubert Moss and William Wallace. Edward Fudge was happily lending his support by writing a regular column. Others have provided aid and comfort to compromisers by providing articles and financial help. What about it, brethren? There are three possibilities: (1) You have been totally ignorant of Wilson’s activities, (2) approve them, or (3) do not have the courage of your convictions.

Truth Magazine, XX:15, pp. 5-8
April 8, 1976