By Cecil Willis
It would be interesting to have a complete list of all the papers published by members of the churches of Christ. Several years ago, I heard Dr. Claude Spencer, who was then Curator of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society in Nashville, say that he had counted more than 1300 papers published by men connected with the “Restoration Movement.” Recently Mission magazine published a report on 66 journals and magazines that currently are being published by members of the churches of Christ.
Would you be interested in what Mission (the most liberal journal among us) said about Truth Magazine? In a way, they complimented us; and in another way, they slurred us. Having surveyed the field of 66 religious journals now being published by the brethren, Mission then narrowed the field to seven which they called “Some Recommended Journals.” Of course, they featured the very liberal papers like Integrity, Mission, and Mission Messenger. But they suggested that if you wanted to read the other side (which some of our brethren will not do, as I propose to show in this article), then they said that Truth Magazine “is a well written and attractive weekly journal which presents rational writings by an ultra-conservative denomination of the brotherhood (it believes the Gospel Advocate to be liberal), and can be ordered from Box 403, Marion, Indiana 46952.” (Mission, January, 1974). Of course, we deny belonging to any “denomination,” either within or without “the brotherhood,” but we do admit that we are very (ultra) interested in “conserving” all the truth that God has revealed, and in following the pattern laid down in the New Testament for the kingdom of His dear Son. Let them call us what they may!
Each magazine has its own specific purpose. If a magazine does not have a stated purpose, it should have. Several of the papers listed in Mission are devoted entirely to teaching non-Christians. Some are prepared especially for Bible class teachers. Others are newspapers, others devotional in nature, and some are published to promote some special effort. Truth Magazine is published to provide a medium for Bible discussions of live issues. It is not designed with the non-Christian in mind. In fact, we actually would prefer not to sell a subscription either to or for a non-Christian. Truth Magazine is designed with mature Christians in mind. It is intended to spotlight, and then to root out incipient errors that might seek to destroy or to damage the Lord’s church. Simply stated, Truth Magazine deliberately intends to be a controversial paper. We intend to controvert every error, and to be in controversy with every purveyor of pernicious error.
Some may think we actually get some kind of sadistic pleasure out of this type of work. I wish that every brother was teaching the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and that such had always been the case and always would be the case. But to expect such an Utopian world would be a tacit affirmation that the Devil has broken off militant contact with the people of God. As long as the Devil exists and his servants are at work, there will be the need for preachers and papers that will “reprove, rebuke, and exhort.” When a preacher or a paper begins to criticize that which is done or taught by others, that preacher or paper had better be prepared for the counter-attack. It is inevitable. I think it was Harry Truman who said, AIf one cannot stand the heat, he had better stay out of the kitchen.” Those of us who write for Truth Magazine have received our share of the heat. I am not disposed to whine about it, or to beg for anyone’s sympathy. Instead, we knew it was coming and we are prepared to pay the price of teaching truth and controverting error.
But I must admit that some incidents have occurred in connection with the controversy in which we recently have been engaged with some of the Gospel Guardian writers over the grace-fellowship heresy which have appalled me. Certain men who now are on the staff of the Gospel Guardian have been either teachers of error or sympathizers of those who do teach error for about ten years now. That we were going to have a sharp conflict over this Ketcherside-instigated grace-fellowship error has been evident for at least five years. Historically, I suppose we would have to give Brother Carl Ketcherside the dubious credit for creating and popularizing today the error now being taught on fellowship. But to Brother Edward Fudge must go the unseemly accolade for initiating the particular brand of error on grace among us that now is associated with the grace-fellowship heresy.
Certainly not everyone who writes for the Gospel Guardian, or even everyone who is on the staff of the Gospel Guardian, believes Brother Fudge’s Calvinistic position on the imputation of the personal righteousness of Christ to the believer. Certainly there are men on the staff of the Gospel Guardian who would oppose the renewal of fellowship with those who use the instruments in worship, and with the institutionalists. But virtually nothing from these brethren on these subjects has been heard within the pages of the Gospel Guardian. Why not, brethren? Is the door shut, so that you cannot be heard? If it is, then I would sever my relationship with such a journal. But if the door is open to you to oppose this heresy within the pages of the Gospel Guardian, that would be the most effective place to expose this error.
Brother Bill Wallace and I have been very close friends for many years. He is a very likable man, and most congenial ordinarily. This past week I received a letter from a close friend of mine who said I had “a head of flint.” I take it that he thinks I am a little hard-headed. In my judgment, that is not too bad a trait, if a man is right. But if a man is wrong, that trait certainly can work against his own spiritual self-interest. Brother Bill Wallace also has a slightly hard head, and he has persistently set out to defend Brother Edward Fudge, and it appears that he is willing to sink with Brother Edward Fudge. He refuses. to see what serious error Brother Fudge is advocating, and refuses to cease to try to cover-up for a false teacher. Bill’s father, Brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr., made it very evident thirty or forty years ago that he had as little use for a sympathizer with a premillennialist as he had for the premillennialist himself. Brother William Wallace’s chief crime in this whole matter has been his continued determination either to cover-up for, or to exonerate by his ipse dixit, a false teacher. It grieves me to see a man who has enjoyed the respect of the brotherhood to permit his influence for good to be eroded and damaged so seriously by his effort to protect a false teacher, who in all probability will go further and further into the Calvinistic error to which he has committed himself. Calvinism is a system, and it is logically impossible to accept one part of it without accepting all parts of it, unless one is willing to stop in very evident inconsistency.
One of the little petty things that really disappoints me in my brother, Bill Wallace, is his complete refusal now even to receive Truth Magazine on a complimentary basis. From his Kentucky Bible Banner days down through the days of his association with Truth Magazine, Bill Wallace again and again chided prejudiced brethren who would not even read what those who disagree with them have to say. That precisely is the unenviable position in which Brother Wallace now finds himself. In a letter dated January 16, 1974, Brother Wallace wrote me:
“Dear Cecil: We are convinced that reviews we get in the pages of Truth Magazine will continue to be unfair, inaccurate, and misrepresenting. So we are cancelling our exchange arrangement with you and taking your name off our mailing list. We request that you delete our name from the mailing list of Truth Magazine and send us no more copies. If you want to continue receiving the Gospel Guardian we would honor your subscription at the regular rate of $6.00 per year. I do hope you will honor our request and not send your paper to us anymore. Yours fraternally, William E. Wallace.”
Now, doesn’t that take the cake? When I got the letter, I breathed a deep sigh of disgust, and dutifully sent in payment for the Gospel Guardian. I want to continue to read what those brethren have to say, whether their ears are open to what we have to say or not. About a century ago, a very disgusted Isaac Errett “wrote off” David Lipscomb, and said, “I’m done with David Lipscomb.” And then Errett proceeded even deeper into the digressive quagmire. It would be interesting to know what papers are still on the Gospel Guardian exchange list. If I were a betting man, I would stake a few dollars on the chance that Mission, Gospel Advocate, Firm Foundation, Mission Messenger, Restoration Review, Integrity, and perhaps even the Christian Standard are still on the Gospel Guardian exchange list. We have opposed the Calvinistic error taught by Brother Fudge, and so those who are at the helm of the Gospel Guardian do not want to read Truth Magazine any longer, even if it is sent to them free. I must confess that this disposition and this action on their part is a very “disappointing incident” tome. Quite frankly, I had thought all the men connected with the Gospel Guardian were bigger men than that.
The brethren who own and operate the Gospel Guardian told us some time ago that they intended to turn the Guardian into a “Twentieth Century Christian-type” family journal. I guess about the easiest way to bow out of a controversy is to cease to read what your opponents have to say. It seems that I remember that not too long ago, the Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation felt toward the Gospel Guardian as Editor Wallace now feels toward Truth Magazine.
Nothing Edward Fudge has taught recently, or will teach in the future, will surprise me much. For about ten years, I have known that he was a badly mixed up young man. On three different occasions, Brother Bennie Lee Fudge (Edward’s father) talked with me about his concern as to where Ed was headed. Brother “Bennie Lee” told me that he nearly knew Edward would end up in the “Ketcherside camp.” Clifton Inman told me that “Bennie Lee” expressed similar apprehensions concerning Edward’s soundness when they met at a Chicago Book-seller’s convention several years ago. Several other brethren have told me that “Bennie Lee” expressed the same apprehensions to them about Edward. So what he has taught, and will yet teach, has not surprised me much.
But his attitude and actions in this discussion have been another “disappointing incident” to me. Some months ago, Brother Fudge told us that he did not have to worry much about Paul’s injunction that the Lord’s servant should not strive, because God endowed him by nature with a peaceable spirit; with a meek and quiet spirit. His statement reminds me of a preacher I heard in Tampa while I was a student. Someone asked him, “To what do you attribute your great success as a preacher?” He replied, “I attribute my great success as a preacher to my great humility!” Digressionists, from Isaac Errett on to the present, always have tried to impress their hearers with their super spirituality. You can get a good dose of that out of nearly any issue of Mission Messenger.
Brother Fudge also has tried to leave the impression of some kind of super piety. Study a little history, brethren. Nearly every modernist begins by trying to destroy our “formality” and by trying to increase our “spirituality.” They usually end up substituting some kind of a subjective religious experience for the objective Word of God. Brother Wallace has said publicly that Brother Fudge could not endure what he (Wallace) took in Louisville in the open forum as he sought to defend Fudge, without “blowing. his cool.” And I will have to give Bill plenty of credit. There are very few who could take the severe grilling he took, in Ed’s behalf, in Louisville, without “blowing his cool.” I marveled at how well William handled himself when he was being grilled and pressured by nearly everybody in the audience. Bill went through every kind of contortion imaginable in his effort to exonerate Ed from the charge of false teaching. But he was attempting the impossible.
Cled Wallace was a favorite writer of mine. I have enjoyed reading after him, especially during the Bible Banner days (1938-1948). Brother Cled was often engaged in controversial writing. He said on one occasion that he always had to suppress a strong desire to stick a pin in G.C. Brewer (one of Wallace’s adversaries), and let a little of the air out. Brewer was one of the earliest defenders of the sponsoring church and of church support of colleges. I sometimes feel the same urge to stick a pin in some of these super pious brethren, and let a little of the air (piety?) out.
To show you that Edward Fudge is not the super-cool, super-scholar, super-pious fellow he would like everyone to think he is, let me relate to you the following incident. Ron Halbrook and some other brethren (including Steve Wolfgang) passed through Athens on Friday, February 22, 1974. They went by the CEI Store, and visited a while with Edward Fudge. As they started to leave, Edward told Ron he wanted to tell him something. Edward began by saying, AI just want you to know that your quoting those letters from our Florida College friends was the lowest, dirtiest thing I have ever seen.” This was a reference to eight brethren who wrote Ron verifying that Edward had been a Ketcherside sympathizer since his Florida College days. Edward then charged all eight of his former schoolmates with lying about him, and stated that he almost engaged him a lawyer about the matter.
Ron said that Edward then continued Ain the most abusive language (in the context of a religious discussion) I’ve ever heard or been subjected to.” Edward’s boisterousness had made a first-class “scene” of the encounter, since they were in a public place and customers were coming and going . . . and watching and listening. Edward charged that Ron had spread “damn lies” about him all over the country, and then took off “on another string of abusive adjectives . . . . ” Ron asked Edward, “Do you still believe we have fellowship in Christ with those who use instrumental music?” And Edward replied, “Don’t you believe you have fellowship with those who disagree with you on some things?” Edward’s answer constituted a “Yes” answer to Ron’s first question. Ron went on to explain the difference between matters of faith, and matters of opinion. Ron sought to show Edward that there is a difference between issues like going to movies and wearing slacks, and issues like instrumental music in the worship.
This encounter ended by Edward saying, “Well, you just go on teaching your legalistic way to heaven instead of turning to the grace of God.” Steve Wolfgang heard most of the conversation, including the “damn lies” statement, but Steve said “its still hard to believe.” Wolfgang also said that he wanted to say a couple of things himself, “but he was so taken aback at the tirade of abusive language that he couldn’t get his thoughts organized.”
Two months have passed since this encounter occurred. I had determined that if Edward apologized for his conduct and his language, I would say nothing about it. But he has let this matter stand as is for several weeks now. Some brethren have thought that Brother James Adams and I were too hard in our dealing with these matters, but we have not used such crude language as “damn lies” in dealing with it.
Brother Fudge may feel that he does not owe anyone an apology. After all, he holds very broad views about the grace of God. He thinks that the personal perfect righteousness of Christ will be unconditionally applied to the Christian at the judgment, and that this imputed righteousness will cover sins such as instrumental music and institutionalism. He, and his proteges, teach that “sins of ignorance” and “sins that result from the weakness of the flesh” will not damn the soul of the Christian, even though these sins are never repented of, or confessed, or prayer made for their forgiveness.
Brother Fudge may think that his explosion that brought out the “damn lies” statement was a sin that resulted from the weakness of the flesh, and therefore does not have to be corrected. Perhaps the imputed perfect personal righteousness of Christ will cover for his “damn lies” statement too. Or, perhaps Brother Fudge thinks that he was using the expression “damn lies” like the apostle Peter used “damnable heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). But that will not work either. Brother Fudge believes that “sins of ignorance” will not “damn” one. If we have misrepresented Brother Fudge in any way, it has been inadvertent, and at the worst ours could only be a “sin of ignorance,” and no one will be damned for those sins . . . as per Brother Fudge. So it will be very interesting to see what disposition Brother Fudge makes of this incident. It does not sound as though it was his God-given “meek and quiet” spirit that was showing through on February 22, 1974.
Such an incident as this just related disappoints me. We all would like to think that we can discuss doctrinal differences without the discussion reverting to an abusive tirade. Some of Brother Fudge’s most avid defenders believe that a Christian is “always in the grace of God.” In view of Brother Fudge’s recent action, indeed it would be “a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort” (in the words of the Methodist Discipline on “faith only”) if the Christian is “always in the grace of God.” This point we will have to explore later.
Brother Doyle Banta is a well-known preacher and was recently appointed Associate Editor of the Gospel Guardian. A gospel preacher reported recently that he heard Brother Banta say that he hoped an airplane would come crashing right through the roof of my house, and he hoped it was a big one too! My, my, Brother Banta! I certainly hope that does not happen. I might add, if Brother Banta should happen to be on-board that plane as it came crashing through the roof of my house, it would have to be a great big one! (Pardon the “pun,” but Brother Banta frequently refers to himself as the “biggest preacher in the brotherhood.” He refers to his physical size, and is not immodestly appraising himself as a preacher.) How childish can grown men get? So far as I can recollect, Brother Banta and I never have had a cross word about anything. Did he really mean that he would like for a big airplane to come crashing through the roof of my house? If he did not, he should not make remarks like that. Brother Banta sounds a little like the “Sons of Thunder” referred to in Mark 3:17 who wanted to call down from heaven fire upon the heads of the Samaritans (Lk. 9:54).
My wife and children said they certainly hoped that no big plane crashed through the roof of our house, for I would probably be off in a meeting somewhere, and they would be the ones that got “racked-up.” Brother Banta, do you remember who it is who has been writing in the Gospel Guardian on “Marks of Maturity” and the fine series on “Turning Stumbling Blocks Into Stepping Stones”?
No doubt there are some serious doctrinal disagreements among us. Do not ever lose sight of what this controversy is about: Some of our brethren, led by Brother Edward Fudge, desperately are trying to establish some ground upon which we can fellowship the institutional brethren and perhaps a few of those who use mechanical instruments in worship. When they start off with their, “Is there anything about the Bible you do not know?”, or “Is it possible that you may be wrong on a single point?”, or “What would happen to a fellow who was thinking about his sermon and his speedometer tipped over to 56 miles per hour, and one second later he dropped dead?”, just remember that they really are not concerned about the points raised in these questions. Their real concern is to establish some rationale that will permit them to fellowship brethren in churches which support human institutions or work through sponsoring churches, and to fellowship some in the more conservative Christian Churches. And don’t you ever forget it!!!
But while we discuss these issues brethren, can’t we do without prejudice that would prevent you from even reading Truth Magazine? Can’t we do without such vulgarism as saying someone is telling “damn lies” about you? And please, Brother Banta, quit hoping that a big airplane will come crashing through my roof. Reckon God might grant your wish? Reckon you should pray that God might grant your wish?
Such an outburst as this from Brother Banta reminds me of a letter Yater Tant, former Editor of the Gospel Guardian, received perhaps twenty years ago. Some “dear” brother wrote stating that he hoped Yater “had a rapid demise, so that I will get the privilege of spitting on your (Yater’s) grave.” Yater, in good hurrior, replied, “Now hold on, little buddy. A fellow does not get a rare privilege as that so easily. You will just have to wait your turn in line.” Then Yater commented that the more dealings he had with brethren like the one who had written him, the more possible it was for him to join in their prayer that he might have a “rapid demise.”
Incidents like these that I have called “disappointing” do not really upset me. They indicate to me that these brethren are frustrated in their effort to defend what they have espoused, and are lashing out in their frustration. It would be very interesting to read my mail from the “goody goodies” who think we are the “big bad wolf” if someone in Truth Magazine should react as some have reacted among the Gospel Guardian staff. It is not too difficult to make me angry, but flailing and thrashing incidents like these just mentioned do not make me angry. Actually, I guess I am more inclined to laugh, when I should be weeping over the deeds of these distraught brethren.
Brother Banta has made some good points in his articles on “Marks of Maturity” and “Turning Stumbling Blocks Into Stepping Stones.” It would behoove us all to quit our repeated stumbling, and to mature into the likeness of Christ. Even when evil was done to Him, instead of rendering evil for evil, He returned a blessing. As we have challenged the teaching of Brother Fudge, we have not done so with any evil intention. If we have to undergo ridicule (as in (Faith Magazine), or reviling as mentioned in this article, such shall not deter us from making a sincere effort to “continue in the grace of God” (Acts 13:43), and to “speak truth,” and to rebuke error and those who teach it . . . the Good Lord being our Helper.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:27, p. 3-7
May 9, 1974