By James W. Adams
In previous articles, what I have chosen to designate as a “Neo-Calvinistic, Unity Cult” has been discussed from the standpoint of the sources from whence it springs. It has been noted that its prime movers are a number of well known extremists who have for the greater portion of their preaching lives been identified with comparatively small groups of equally extreme brethren holding scripturally untenable views relative to the limitations of Christian liberty in the realm of generic authority. I have specifically identified brethren W. Carl Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett, and Ervin Waters as belonging to this number. Of these men, Carl Ketcherside has been the most vocal, the most persistent, and the most successful in attracting followers. The major part of my attention will, therefore, be paid to him in this series.
In my last article, I began a discussion of some -secondary sources” from whence springs the baneful influence of the “unity cult” under consideration. Attention was called to a number of men who have had unhappy personal experiences with fellow preachers and elders, who have been involved in abortive undertakings, and whose ambitions have been thwarted. In this connection, I mentioned with sincere personal sorrow such men as Pat Hardeman, Charles A. Holt, and Harold Spurlock.
Brother Hardeman took his departure from among what I conceive to be faithful brethren sonic years ago. Brethren Holt and Spurlock have more recently done so. Hardeman’s departure was more drastic but less vocal. Holt and Spurlock, through the medium of a journal which they called Sentinel of Truth, through the pulpits of faithful churches, and through the public medium of radio, attempted to indict churches of Christ as constituting a human denomination, and to stigmatize gospel preachers as money-grubbing, time-serving slaves to popish elders, as devotees of idolatrous ecclesiolatry, and as non-thinking parrots of “traditional Church of Christ doctrine and practice.”
Today, neither Holt nor Spurlock has much influence either among so-called “conservative” or “liberal” churches. Yet, the influence of their teaching-which was done while they yet moved freely among conservative brethren-remains. Wherever there exists a vestige of this influence will be found active sympathy for and empathy with Ketcherside, Garrett, and their ilk. There will also be found an attachment to the points of view, which characterize them. Furthermore, wherever such persons are found, they will be operating subversively to create as much dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and obstructionism as they can. This alone constitutes sufficient reason for such a series of articles as I am now engaged in writing and which Truth Magazine is publishing.
Other “Secondary Sources”
The second source in this category is a considerable number of brethren who have become enamored of “the lust of other things” and “the pleasures of this life”-worldly allurements-and have compromised their principles. Their aberrations brought them to the brink of the abyss of complete loss of faith in God and the validity of things spiritual. Facing moral chaos and spiritual bankruptcy, and the word of God no longer constituting for them; in acceptable basis for a living faith (Rom. 10:17), they reached out emotionally and blindly for some concrete, sensual experience that would impress anew upon their consciousness the reality, of Deity and the validity of things spiritual. In subjective experience, they sought indisputable proof (?) of God’s active interest in, concern for, and acceptance of them personally.
The poignant desire of these people for self-assurance and the spiritual anguish which it occasioned (and I am not callous toward nor unsympathetic with them in their dilemma) became the parents, of their experiences in the realm of the supernatural. Hence it was that they (1) experimented with the occult, (2) experienced glossolalia (tongue speaking), (3) discovered “new truth” (?) through intuition or subjective revelation, and (4) found a common denominator in their extraordinary experiences for “unity” and “fellowship” with representatives of almost every species of error taught in so-called “Christendom” today. Brother Pat Boone among our more “liberal” brethren is a classic example of what I am talking about.
Until recently, conservatives have been able to say, “We have none of this among us!” This is no longer true. While I know of no overt “tongue-speakers” as yet among those professing to be conservative, I have heard of militantly conservative churches having to deal with some of their constituency who were experimenting with private “sensitivity” meetings. In these meetings, male and female Christians (married and single) sat together on the floor in a dark room, sometimes by candlelight, holding hands, and participating in spontaneous praying and singing. I judge they acted “as the Spirit moved them” as Quakers used to do in their public meetings. I do not regard this as an unwarranted judgment of motives by reason of the fact that these same people and others like them have expressed themselves as believing in an immediate indwelling and operation of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts and lives of Christians. It seems logical and eminently fair, therefore, to assume that these people in their “cell” worship of the spontaneous variety expect immediate, Divine guidance through the inner-working of the Holy Spirit with the view to enhancing their consecration and holiness as servants of Christ.
As further evidence of the correctness of this analysis, brethren have been experimenting in the public worship of the saints with “spontaneous singing.” An amazing thing about this is the fact that such has been done with little or no opposition. In some instances it has been incorporated with enthusiastic support by people who should know better. Spontaneous praying will follow, if it has not already occurred, then testimony. Several years ago in Lufkin, Texas, Charles A. Holt, for all practical purposes, advocated testimonial meetings as a part of the public worship. He did this by offering derogatory criticism concerning how shocked the brethren would be if such occurred.
Whether they know it or will admit it or not, brethren who practice such contemplate some immediate influence of the Holy Spirit, wholly unconnected with Divine truth, to preserve order or to give direction to that which they do. Otherwise, as they well know, that which they spontaneously do will not edify. An excellent young man, who has planned for a number of years to give his life to the proclamation of the gospel, personally known to and sincerely loved by me, has recently begun to insist that the Holy Spirit personally dwells in him and exercises all immediate influence upon him to keep him from sinning.
It is hard to describe how utterly nauseating it is to one who has spent so many years and so much of his strength opposing such phantasies among denominational lists now to witness, in his declining years, the birth and growth of such a preposterous delusion among professed New Testament Christians. In articles to come, I propose to establish a direct relationship between “cell worship” and “direct Holy Spirit guidance” and the Ketcherside unity cult by means of direct quotations from Ketchersides own writings.
A third group in the “secondary source” category is composed of a considerable number of young people, many of them preachers but veritable neophytes both by age and experience, who are caught up in the tolls of the neoCalvinistic unity cult. It is almost inconceivable but true that these people actually believe they have discovered “new truth” in their agitation for unity and fellowship on the basis of modified Calvinistic error and refined Pentecostal fanaticism.
The preachers of this group are young men of unusual ability and dedication, who otherwise could look forward to many years of useful service among conservative brethren, are beyond question militantly involved in Ketchersidism. A considerable number of them have spent from two to four years in Florida College, a school that, theoretically, provides a militantly conservative educational situation. They have been exposed to every teacher and all of the Bible courses which this school offers. Most of these men were outstanding students academically, morally, and spiritually. They are of high intellectual caliber; they are neither stupid nor lazy.
Despite all of this, they are now militant promulgators of a view concerning salvation by grace through faith which, by the most charitable application of sound interpretive principles, is nothing short of modified Calvinism. Some advocate openly their belief in an immediate operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of the Christian independent of divine truth. They advocate and practice a Ketchersidian type of “fellowship” with brethren involved in pernicious error and with denominationalists.
Incidentally, when questioned concerning their teaching and practice these young men are quick to cite the writings of Brother Edward Fudge, Associate editor of the Gospel Guardian, to their interrogators as containing an able expression of their views. Brother Fudge needs to take note of this fact. These are bright young men, and have little difficulty in understanding what they read. If Brother Fudge is not saying what they have concluded he is saying, he needs to recognize the fact that he is guilty of spiritually criminal ambiguity and is misleading eternity-bound souls made in the Divine image. He should set these young men straight and dispel the confusion and alarm of others whom he has disturbed by his pronouncements by a clear, unequivocal statement of his true attitude relative to the matters wherein they “misunderstood” him.
The views of our neophyte preachers are pressed with a great show of humility, piety, and love by constant affirmation-much as premillennialism was foisted upon gullible brethren in the not too distant past. In this regard, they bring to mind the often-quoted line of William Shakespeare, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” It is the old story, “If you don’t believe I’m humble, just ask me!” I am not impressed by this show of humility, piety, and love. These young men who are parroting the Ketcherside line are intellectually egotistical to the point of being nauseating. Their terminology, mannerisms, and constant references to the original languages in which the Scriptures were written constitute a type of intimidation through affectation of superiority. They are insufferable arrogant relative to & scope and depth of their understanding of Scripture. Nothing demonstrate, this better than there rushing into print with reams of material upon
subjects which have challenged the minds of the most pious, scholarly, mature students of the ages. Though often in error, they are never in doubt. Their protestations of piety are superficial Saccharine emotionalism is not piety. True piety is never permissive. It is loving, helpful, understanding, but never permissive in any realm governed by the will of God.
Is There A Cause?
What caused these young men to become involved in Ketcherside’s errors question which keeps pressing for an answer. Several considerations could have contributed: (1) The universal agitation in religious circles emanating from ecumenism in the denominational world; (2) the current “youth revolt” against “the establishment” and the “status quo” (3) disenchantment with hypocrisy and materialism in the church; and/or (4) it could be an “identity crisis-youth seeking to find itself and to establish its place under the sun. Perhaps any or all of these have had some influence, yet I am haunted by the conviction that there is a common denominator in this matter which has not yet been discovered-a fountain to which all of these young men had access and from which they have drunk other than and in addition to the writings of W. Carl Ketcherside. I think we do him entirely too much honor to attach such significance to his eternal mouthing. If there is such a common denominator, it needs to be identified, exposed, and eradicated. To the accomplishment of this objective, I am absolutely and unswervingly dedicated.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 23, pp. 7-9
April 12, 1973