By James W. Adams
Briefly stated in Ketcherside’s own words, his theory of New Testament fellowship can be summed up in the alliterative slogan, “One fact James W. Adams and one act.” Note a recently published P.O. Drawer “H” statement from our brother concerning his views:
“We are called into this fellowship of the Son, by God, who is faithful (1 Corinthians 1: 9). The call is issued in the Good News, the factual message concerning the Son, which makes it possible for us to share in his life of suffering here and in the glory of his life over there (2 Thess. 2:14). The proper response to the Good News introduces us to the fellowship of the Father and Son by the power of the indwelling Spirit. And that response is made by the belief of one fact and the obedience of one act. That fact is the noblest proposition ever affirmed in a universe defiled by sin, that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God. The act, validating his lordship over the whole scope of surrendered existence is immersion in water. No other creed except Christ must be confessed, no other act than baptism must be performed, in order to be translated into the fellowship of the redeemed of all ages. ” W. Carl Ketcherside, article on “Fellowship” in the Restoration Review, February 1973, p. 23.)
In this article, I should like to divest these statements of their rhetoric and take a careful look at what they actually say.
The Saved Relationship
Brother Ketcherside is obviously an avid reader and has a wide acquaintance with the works of many distinguished scholars of the past and present. Though affecting great humility and self -deprecation and exhibiting a folksy approach with backwoodsy familiarity, he hesitates not to delve into the most technical linguistic distinctions and to commit himself in the most positive fashion to interpretations of passages of Scripture, which rest squarely on the validity of those distinctions. Yet, he does not deal candidly either with Scripture or his scholarly witnesses. He demonstrates the spirit of a partisan seeking to prove a theory rather than a devout student seeking for truth.
In a previous article, it has been noted that Ketcherside selects one use of the term “fellowship” (Gk. hoinonia) in the New Testament and ignores numerous other usages.
On this basis, he determines that “fellowship is a relationship.” I know of no one who denies that fellowship involves relationship. It is not denied that all those who accept Jesus the Christ as Lord and Savior in obedience to the gospel (faith, repentance, confession, and baptism (Mk. 16:15, 16; Lk. 24:46, 47; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 10: 9, 10) thereby become mutual participants in the benefits of the fleshly manifestation, sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection, glorious ascension, and consequent coronation of Jesus, hence at that moment, and in that sense, are in fellowship with God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and with all persons who are in a saved condition before God. I do most fervently deny, however, that the saved relationship exhausts the meaning and usage of the term “fellowship” in the New Testament Scriptures. In the previous article to which we allude, numerous other usages were suggested.
The “Good News”
Ketcherside says, “We are called into the fellowship of the Son … The call is issued in the Good News…” By “Good News,” he means what is called in most standard translations of the New Testament, “The Gospel.” Brother Ketcherside for many years has made an absolute distinction between: gospel and doctrine, gospel and law, and Gk. kerygma (the preached message of the apostles and the apostolic church and Gk. didache (ethical instructions directed to believers relative to worship, work, and life). When he used to be a bitter foe, of the located preacher system and was aggressively making this a test of fellowship among the brethren in the promotion of division, this concept was the basis of his contention that an evangelist could not “preach to the church.” To him preaching was the announcement of the redemptive acts of God in Christ-it was good news to the lost sinner. The church was to be taught (didasko) the didache. Sinners were to have the kerygma announced to them; i.e. preached to them.
Our brother leans heavily, in the development of this concept, upon Alexander Campbell, George Campbell and C. H. Dodd. I have for years been familiar with Alexander Campbell’s views on the distinction between preaching and teaching. I believe I have in my library all lie wrote concerning this matter. I also have George Campbell’s Gospels in four volumes and have carefully read many times his views on the distinction to be made between preaching and teaching. In recent weeks, I have read C. H. Dodd’s “Gospel and Law” and “Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments ” in which he develops his thesis on the distinction between kerygma and didache. I have also read F. F. Bruce’s treatise on C. H. Dodd in “Creative Minds in Contemporary Theology” and John R. W. Stott’s observations on Dodd’s theory in his “The Preacher’s Portrait.”
C. H. Dodd is a distinguished, liberal, English theologian and scholar, a preacher in the Congregational Church. After reading his books previously mentioned and noting his liberal views of inspiration, his exaggerative emphasis of what he calls “realized eschatology, his attributing to Paul a distinctly “dualistic” teaching concerning the second advent of the Lord, and his unwarranted insistence upon an inflexible distinction between kerygma and didache, and knowing Ketcberside’s fascination with Dodd’s work, “Gospel and Law,” I no longer wonder at our brother’s broad, permissive views on fellowship.
I plan to write an entire article on this matter of kerygma and didache, hence it will suffice for the present to say that neither Alexander Campbell, George Campbell, nor C. H. Dodd would draw the conclusions relative to fellowship that Ketcherside draws from their expressions concerning the distinction to be made, from their point of view, between herygma and didache. In my candid judgment, however, Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett, and our “precocious neophytes” previously mentioned have an inordinate reverence for the liberal scholarship of denominational theologians, particularly neo-evangelical Calvinists. The road to apostasy and ruin among the brethren has ever been paved by evolving intellectuals who have taken their theological nourishment from the fermenting “fleshpots” of denominational scholarship. With reference to our “Precocious neophytes,” could it be that we are teaching our young men who plan to preach too much theology and not enough Scripture? Can we expect anything less than denominationally-tinted writing and preaching from men who have been spoon-fed on Hendriksen, Lenski, Tenney, Schaeffer, C. S. Lewis and the like?
Ketcherside says that the call to fellowship with Christ “is issued in the Good News.” This is contradictory of his statement that the Good News is “the factual message concerning the Son.” In all of this man’s writing, he equates the gospel, “Good News,” with the naked facts of the redemptive process from the Divine point of view; i.e. “acts of God” or “facts concerning acts.” A call is an invitation or exhortation to an “ethical response” or as Ketcherside says, “proper response,” on the part of man, hence is not the announcement of the fact of a Divine act.
He says the “proper response is made by the belief of one fact and the obedience of one act.” Yet, when he lists his acts of God in redemption he mentions not one fact but many; the fleshly manifestation of Jesus (“That Jesus Christ is come in the flesh”- 1 John 4:3.); the death on the cross, the resurrection from the tomb, the ascension, and the glorification plus his coming again to judge the world. I am aware that he tries to tie all of these facts into one; namely, the fact that “Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God,” but this is a fallacy. The fact that Jesus was the Son of God does not of necessity, upon the mere acceptance of that fact, carry with it the conviction that he “died for our sins.” In the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, Peter confessed to his faith in the fact that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:18), yet, subsequently, repudiated the idea that he would be “killed and raised again the third day” (vs. 23). Besides, even the statement, “Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God,” contains two facts. The Messiahship of Jesus and His Deity (Sonship) involve two different concepts. Does Brother Ketcherside teach that the Jewish concept of the Messiah included faith in his essential Deity? Surely not! Therefore, his “one fact” statement is rhetorical rather than factual.
In his “one fact and one act” formula, our brother leaves apostolically enjoined repentance out of the picture altogether, or does he like Baptist debaters try to include repentance as “the turning from unbelief to belief,” hence equate it with faith? Peter told believers of the facts of redemption to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38) – two things, not one.
In my next article, there will be a continuation of this analysis and appraisal of Ketcherside’s “one fact and one act” formula for fellowship. The two previous articles have been slightly longer than I think best, so I shall close at this point, and continue under the title, “One Fact and One Act (II)” in the next article. In the meantime, if you regularly read after Ketcherside, by all means look beyond his rhetoric!
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 31, pp.3-6
June 7, 1973