By Larry Ray Haffley
Levelling with Lovell
Larry Ray Haffley
“I have never bothered very much about these controversial, sensitive, extreme religious questions-it comes mighty hard for me to figure out what I believe on the simple things. However, let me provoke a bit of thinking on the subject of miracles.
“It seems to me that much of our trouble in the church is due to misunderstandings miracles is a good example. We do know that this is a Bible subject. Jesus and the apostles were not the only ones who performed miracles-those outside the church did so. The Bible does not define the word — great translators called it mighty works. In our age we depend pretty much upon what Webster says, and on this he wrote, An event or action that apparently contradicts scientific laws and is hence thought to be due to supernatural cause, especially an act of God.
“We hear so much today about some brother who is branded a heretic, false teacher, etc., since he believes in miracles, divine or faith .healing, working of the Holy Spirit. My question is, is there really one Christian on earth who doesnt? It would seem to me something sillier than a game of five-year old children for us to eat of the bread and drink of the cup without a miracle taking place. Is the forgiveness of sin through baptism some sort of a human or natural situation? And if we are dead-set against divine healing why on earth do we pray (you hear it in our pulpits every Sunday) for the sick? If we do not expect some kind of a supernatural or act of God to take place why bother doing it at all?
“Every question I have asked can be rightfully answered by every one of you — as can almost every other divisive and troublesome question — when asked soberly (sic) and soberly considered, but so often we speak against what we truly believe for fear of being identified with some who hold extreme positions. That is why I contend that most of the trouble in the church comes about due to misunderstanding or contention of opinion.
“I wish we were not thought of as a people who believe that all it takes to save is baptism; that Sunday attendance is the whole of our faithfulness; that miracles have ceased and that there is no such thing as divine healing.
“I am really happy that I am not involved in the area of theology. Much truth seems quite simple to me and when it is such I cannot understand it, I leave it alone-it is still truth. Thank God for the Bible and those eternal truths which come so clear and meaningful to most of us” (James L. Lovell, Action, Vol. 37, No. 5, May 1972).
“A Bit of Thinking”
Brother Lovell aspires to “provoke a bit of thinking on the subject of miracles.” It is a shame that he did not do a “bit” of the same before he tried to kindle others. It is glaringly apparent that be has “never bothered much” with his subject. His botched effort manifests a total lack of former bother.
“Know ye not,” Brother Lovell, that simple subjects are considered “controversial, sensitive, (and) extreme?” Has Brother Lovell ever been “bothered very much” about baptism for the remission of sins, the existence of God, the Sonship of Jesus, the veracity and authenticity of the Bible, or the work, worship, order and organization of the church? These are “controversial, sensitive, (and) extreme” to some. Let Lovell cite a Bible subject devoid of controversy, sensitivity, or extremity. By his standard, Lovell has “never bothered very much about” anything the Bible teaches, since he avoids these “religious questions.”
“Signs and lying Wonders” and “many mighty works,” such as those performed by “the magicians of Egypt,” were performed “outside the church.” But they were not done “by the power of the Spirit of God.” Yes, “much of our trouble in the church is due to misunderstandings,” misunderstandings of the will, way, and word of the Lord, such misunderstandings Lovell displays to a great degree. “Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5: 17).
All Christians believe in miracles, divine healing, and the work of the Holy Spirit. No one is “dead-set” against either. But the Bible does not teach that the work of the Holy Spirit enables men today to perform miracles or miraculous divine healing. Any one who teaches to the contrary teaches falsely, and a term or “brand” better than “false teacher” for one who teaches falsely has never been born or invented.
No, a miracle does not take place in eating the Lords Supper or in the forgiveness of sins in baptism. There are spiritual laws (Rom. 8:2), and there are physical laws. Anything that operates according to established law is not a miracle. The remission of sins by the blood of Christ in baptism would truly be a physical miracle, but it does not occur in that realm. In accordance with spiritual laws, spiritual purposes and relationships are achieved. Physical, natural laws produce a baby. The birth of a baby is not a miracle, even by Websters definition. Birth into the family of God in accordance with spiritual laws is not a miracle. It is a result of natural, spiritual law.
Will Brother Lovell take Webster and show what scientific law the Lords Supper “apparently contradicts?”
All healing is divine healing. God set it all in order and operation. Doctor healing is divine healing. It is not, however, miraculous divine healing. Yes, we pray “in our pulpits every Sunday” for the sick, but that no more conceives of a miracle than does praying for bread around the dinner table. God gives the bread, the food, and God heals, but neither is a miracle or an “apparent” contradiction of “scientific laws.” Likewise, we pray “in our pulpits every Sunday” for the lost, but we do not pray for a miracle, for an apparent contradiction of spiritual law. We pray that they be saved, “not in their lost condition, but that something may be said to turn them to the truth before it is everlastingly too late,” that is, in accordance with established spiritual law. There is a difference that Brother Lovell could see if he was ever bothered very much about such things.
So, Brother Lovell concludes, we could all answer his questions and be in agreement if we were sober and unafraid. Hypocrisy, and not misunderstanding, is the problem. Earlier, he said it was “misunderstandings,” but now it is sheer insincerity begotten by the fear of men (“so often we speak against what we truly believe for fear”). Brother Lovell, I resent the slur and slander. Do not so label and libel me.
All who love the truth wish Brother Lovells first two wishes could be granted, but such thoughts of others are the product of ignorant misunderstanding at best or prejudicial dishonesty at worst. Regardless, neither misconception nor misunderstanding shall prevent the truth from being taught. But Brother Lovell wishes “we were not thought of as a people who believe . . . that miracles have ceased and that there is no such thing as divine healing.”
Here it win be necessary to tread lightly on Brother Lovell, for his words are based on perverted definitions of miracles and divine healing. Besides, it is not good to kick a man when he is down. However, I am glad to be “thought of” as one that teaches miracles and miraculous divine healing have ceased. As such, I stand in the apostles doctrine and fellowship.
Brother Lovell concludes that he is “happy.” Well, it is said that “Ignorance is bliss.” Brother Lovell, therefore, is surely sublimely contented. He says what he “cannot understand . . , I leave it alone.” Concerning the cessation of miracles, he, like certain teachers of old, understands neither what he says nor whereof he affirms, thus we trust his word will be his bond and that he henceforth will “leave it alone.”
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 48, pp. 12-13
October 12, 1972