By Larry Ray Hafley
“Send all questions to the writers of this column.”
About two years ago, Brother Willis requested that I center my work on these pages with articles that answer the false dogmas, decrees and doctrines of the denominations. That chore was accepted and will be continued, the Lord willing. Now, editor Willis requests that I also undertake a question and answer column. “I will turn the defunct Question and Answer column over to you…. How about writing an introductory article stating that I have assigned that department to you, and commenting on anything you think pertinent to such a column. Also ask for questions …. I would like you to try to provide me about two articles a month for this department…. Are you >game’ to take the assignment?” (Letter from Cecil Willis, March 30, 1974.)
I accept this request. However, I have done so with “fear and trembling.” Nothing I have ever attempted to do in the work of the Lord has been undertaken with greater hesitance and reluctance. A question and answer column is difficult for the very ablest of brethren. How much the more so for such a worm as I? I have not the faith of Abraham, the heart of David, or the wisdom of Solomon. I do not possess the integrity of Job, the fearless knowledge of Paul, or the unwavering obedience of Christ. I feel like Jonah; I desire to hop a ship to Tarshish when contemplating this query column. But does it not necessitate a great degree of the above qualities just to be a Christian? So, in my weaknesses and wantings, in my faintings and failings, but also in prayer with much entreaty, I initiate this effort.
Other Question Columns
James P. Needham in Torch Magazine and Marshall Patton in Searching The Scriptures have question columns like unto the one we suggest. These men do work that is peer in my judgment. This column will not, indeed, cannot be a rival to these two fine sections in the afore-mentioned papers. I shall simply accept questions related to religious and spiritual matters and give answers to the best of my limited and imperfect ability. Surely, none can neither ask nor expect more than this. I sincerely wish that I could promise all wisdom and all knowledge in all cases. I can only promise to do my best. My best will be short of the mark to many who are deeper in faith and in the faith, but it will be the best of which I am capable. Your prayers, patience, longsuffering, and mercy are requested.
Dangers and Pitfalls
A column of this kind has many dangers. Some are known. Some are unknown.
1. There is the danger of pride. One may attempt to answer when he does not know the solution. His pride may cause him to be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Or one may be self deceived and puffed up to the extent that he thinks he knows when he truly does not. It is pitiful to see one stammer and stumble about trying to blindly bluff his way through a question when he does not know what he is talking about. It is pride that so debases a man.
Further, pride can lead one to egotistical announcements and pompous pronouncements. In other words, “my answer is always the only answer.” In setting forth a matter of personal preference, one must take heed lest he become so inflated with pride that he thinks his way is the only way. Not .all issues or questions will be as plain, clear and unequivocal as one might desire, thus, it is imperative that one refrain from the arrogance of issuing papal edicts. I shall speak for myself. In areas of judgment, I may set forth my opinion in a straight-forward manner, but I sha11 seek to avoid making my conscience your guide.
2. There is the pitfall of quarrels and strife. An endless war of words can easily be stirred by a question and answer column. I do not intend to conduct a running gun battle with every fast draw artist who seeks to see if he can beat me to the draw. First, time will not permit me to do so. Second, my own desire will not allow me to do so. Third, and most importantly, Scripture will not tolerate my doing so (2 Tim. 2:23). This does not say that I refuse to be questioned and examined (1 Thess. 5:21). But this column is not designed for lengthy written debates “whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, (slander) evil surmisings” (I Tim. 6:4). My judgment may not always be the best, but as long as I direct this column, I shall determine the amount of attention any question shall receive. Some may require more than I shall give. Others may run longer than they should. I accept the blame and pray for wisdom and discretion to do better.
3. There is the danger of insincerity. “Then ‘went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk” (Matt. 22:15). Such ploys did not die with the Pharisees. Jesus could not be encircled with His words. I can be and likely will be. So, if that is the game of the hypocrite, have at it. I may not see you for what you are. I may play your little game and lose. It will not bother me so badly to get burned. I have been stung before, but what good is to be done for the cause of truth if I am gouged and goaded into verbal traps? If I become ensnared, that is regrettable, but if the truth be entangled, that is damnable. Ruin me, if you will, but do not do it at the expense of the word of God.
4. There is the danger of error. Of course, anytime anyone begins to teach, there is the danger of error, but it seems that such a possibility is magnified in a question and answer forum. What if my answer is the cause of some soul being led into error and condemnation (Jas. 5:19, 20)? What if my words cause a brother to stumble or to draw back into perdition? It is possible that my weakness and ineptness may lead some soul down the wrong path-oh, what a fearful thought! So, I urge every reader to take what is said in the light of what the Bible teaches. Lay aside your feelings and weigh what is herein written on the balance of the scales of the word of God. Reject me and my word and rather receive Him and His word.
Potential Good Of A Question And Answer Column
1. It may answer questions. It is just that simple. A question regarding the Bible may be rightly answered. Souls may grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. To God be the glory.
2. It may stimulate Bible study. If this column simply stirs someone to further Bible study, it will be worth the time and effort. Occasionally an answer may be given that you wish to check further, so you get your Bible and research the matter. If our words merely cause you to reflect more often and meditate more deeply in the word of God, then our labors will not have been in vain.
3. It may turn one from error. I have been helped to see the truth on a number of questions and issues by the response of a brother to a Bible question. Perhaps this can be achieved in this particular series. “Let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:20),
“The End Of The Beginning”
So, we solicit your Bible questions. Questions cannot all be answered privately, and we shall take them as they arrive. My address is at the head of this column. Send questions for this column to me, not to brother Willis or to Truth Magazine. If you cannot type your question, please write it so it can be read. It would be appreciated if you would sign your name to the question and enclose your address. Anonymous questions shall be regarded as suspect and may be disregarded. Names of questioners will not be used or revealed in the column.
Now, look for “That’s A Good Question” on a regular basis in Truth Magazine.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:44, p. 12-13
September 12, 1974