By James W. Adams
Schopenhauer, famous German philosopher, was so right when he made the observation which is our title. Our law enforcement agencies constantly remind us that “con-artists” never look like crooks. This is as true of purveyors of pernicious error in the religious realm as it is of crooked monetary entrepreneurs in contemporary society, and as foolish as many are in being duped by “get rich quick” schemes, they are even more susceptible in the religious realm.
This reminds me of what occurred at a Florida College Lectureship several years ago. In an audience of several hundred brethren, a preacher stood and asked to speak. His request was granted, so he asked the man seated next to him to stand. The man, obviously embarrassed, stood. The man, though unknown by face to most of the audience, was known by reputation to all as a teacher-practitioner of pernicious religious error. The first brother then said, “Many of you do not know this man; he is Brother ___________. Look at him! Do you see any horns?”
Many in the audience laughed. I did not. It was not amusing. The flamboyant introduction was obviously done to lay at rest any suspicions that faithful brethren might have concerning the man. Obviously, the flamboyant demonstration was to palliate the errors of the man being introduced, and to recommend him to the acceptance of the audience which was a cross section of conservatives throughout the nation. Whether done for this purpose or not, it had the effect of exonerating the man from the onus that rested upon him by reason of his unscriptural and divisive doctrine and practice.
I probably erred on that occasion by not arising to say: “No, we see no horns, but it was Paul, the apostle, who said concerning teachers of error in his day, ‘Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, and no marvel,- for even Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”‘
My reason for not doing so: I did not wish to be publicly unkind to the man thus introduced, for I was certain that he was not privy to what occurred. I mention the incident in this article only to address a matter that stems from the attitude demonstrated by it.
We live in a time when a “good personality” is idealized. Too many churches, when selecting preachers for meetings and local work, are more concerned about their being “personable” than they are about their knowledge of the Bible, ability to preach the Word and character to sustain it, their faith or their convictions. We do not minimize the importance of preachers developing personalities that help rather than hinder the acceptance of the truth which they preach. However, when a “good mixer” is given precedence over a “good preacher,” something is fundamentally wrong with our sense of values.
We often hear brethren bewail the lack of depth in members of the church today. The “pew” will never rise above the “pulpit” is almost without exception true. People who are brought into the church (?) by the impact of human personality rather than the influence of truth and are nurtured by the same means cannot be expected to have spiritual depth or be safe from error.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 4, pp. 101, 118
February 20, 1992