By Larry Ray Hafley
Under the title above, Bill Jackson recently wrote:
We had earlier written about a December 1988 “unity” meeting, wherein the rankest liberals were somehow selected to represent the rest of us, and did about as much damage as could be done over two days – with effects lasting perhaps for many, many years. A question or two has been asked about the fruitfulness of any such meetings. On that, let me state that prior to any more meetings there needs to be two questions asked of the “non-institutional” side: (1) “Is the church building/meeting house an expediency?” Surely they must say, “Yes.” Question (2): “Do you still make laws in the area of expediency, and bind them upon all brethren – laws, for example, having to do with forbidding eating of food/having a meal on church premises?” Surely they hold positions that would require a “Yes” answer.
Then, what would be the purpose of arranging meetings together, when it is clear that some are making laws for God, and binding them upon all brethren, and have continually done so to the damage of God’s kingdom worldwide? That really has been a barrier since this particular problem arose anew in the early 1950s – men not allowing liberties given by God, and men not allowing each congregation, under its elders, to handle its own affairs.
Bill Jackson is a preacher in Austin, Texas. He, as his first sentence indicates, is identified with the more conservative element of the churches that defend human societies and organizations to do the work God assigned to the churches. He accepts benevolent societies but rejects most missionary societies. He believes churches may build “fellowship halls” (dining rooms, cafeterias) but not “Family Life Centers” (gymnasiums, health clubs, spas).
His first sentence implies that Richard Rogers, Bill Swetmon, Calvin Warpula, the late Reuel Lemmons, Lewis G. Hale, Bill Long, Rubel Shelley, Jimmy Jividen, Mac Lynn and Randy Mayeux are “the rankest liberals,” which, I suppose, qualifies Bill as an unranked liberal. At any rate, I hope one of these “rankest liberals” will challenge brother Jackson for a debate or at least protest his appellation and characterization of them. Rank liberals are generally too nice to confront mainline, mainstream liberals, so Bill probably has nothing to worry about.
It would be interesting to hear Bill Jackson debate the gymnasium issue with either Calvin Warpula, F. Furman Kearley, or Lewis G. Hale (or all three). Reuel Lemmons is dead and cannot debate, and Guy N. Woods might as well be, for he will neither affirm nor deny the Family Life Center’s right to exist in a public debate. And Rubel Shelley would not be caught dead in such a debate. The reason such a debate would be interesting is because Bill espouses “fellowship halls” but divorces “gymnasiums.” I believe brethren Warpula and Hale, would make things a tad uncomfortable for Bill if he ever agreed to attack their gyms in debate.
The first two nights of a debate between Bill and one of “the rankest liberals” on the gym questions might be held in one of Bill’s fellowship halls while the last two nights could be set up in one of Nashville’s gymnasiums. This would certainly focus the issues between Bill and “the rankest liberals.” It would be like having a debate on church support of colleges on the campus of David Lipscomb College! Hey, now there is an idea whose time will never come!
Brother Jackson refers to the “December, 1988 ‘unity’ meeting.” Bill was not there, or he would not have called the Nashville meeting a ‘unity’ meeting.” Bill’s brethren (as has been documented in several reviews of the meeting which have appeared in this paper and in Searching the Scriptures) were hopelessly divided. See the reviews, or ask Roy Lanier, Jr., Stafford North or Johnny Ramsey. They will tell you.
Bill laments the idea that “the rankest liberals were somehow selected to represent the rest of us. ” Bill, “Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee?” (Jn. 18:34) Calvin Warpula, Richard Rogers, Lewis G. Hale, Bill Swetmon, Mac Lynn, Randy Mayeux, Stafford North, Johnny Ramsey and Roy Lanier, Jr. will resent such a charge. Ask those brethren if they were “selected to represent” you and your brethren. Bill, where did you obtain such an idea?
Before brother Jackson will give his blessing “to any more such meetings,” he says, “there needs to be two questions asked of the ‘non-institutional’ side: (1) ‘Is the church building/meeting house an expediency? (2) ‘Do you still make laws in the area of expediency, and bind them upon all brethren – laws, for example, having to do with forbidding eating of food/having a meal on church premises?
Let us answer Bill’s two questions with two questions (cf. Matt. 21:23f). (Remember, Bill Jackson believes “fellowship halls” are scriptural but gymnasiums are unscriptural.) Suppose, Bill, that you are to have a discussion with F. Furman Kearley, editor of the Gospel Advocate, one of “the rankest liberals,” on the gymnasium “craze,” as you have called it. Suppose brother Kearley, a defender of both “fellowship halls” and gymnasiums, says to you:
Prior to any more meetings with Bill Jackson, there needs to be two questions asked of the “non-gymnasium” side: (1) “Is the church building/meeting house an expediency?” Surely they must say, “Yes.” Question (2): “Do you still make laws in the area of expediency and bind them upon all brethren – laws, for example, having to do with forbidding playing of games/having fun on church premises?” Surely they hold positions that would require a “Yes” answer.
Then what would be the purpose of arranging a meeting together with Bill Jackson and his brethren, when it is clear that they are making laws for God, and binding them upon all brethren, and have continually done so to the damage of God’s kingdom worldwide? That really has been a barrier since this particular problem (opposition to gyms, Family Life Centers) arose anew in the early 1980s – men (like Bill Jackson) not allowing liberties given by God, and men not allowing liberties given by God, and men not allowing each congregation, under its elders, to handle its own affairs.
Brother Jackson, the material above is parallel to your article. How would you answer it? Would you believe that such a statement required an answer before “any more meetings” could be held? Should brother Kearley demand your reply before agreeing “to any more meetings” on the gymnasium question?
Bill, would you say that the authority for a church building is the authority for a gymnasium? Would you say that the authority for a church building is the authority for a “fellowship hall” (a.k.a. dining room, cafeteria)? Is the authority for a church building one thing, while authority for a gymnasium is another? Is the authority for a church building one thing, while authority for a “fellowship hall” is another? Or if the authority for the church building is the authority for the “fellowship hall,” how does authority for a church building justify a “fellowship hall” while denying a gymnasium? Somewhere along the line, there has to be a separation, a distinction made between a meeting house, an eating house and a play house.
As you stated, brother Bill, “damage” was done to your cause in Nashville, and I both rejoice and regret because of it. First, I rejoice because modernism, the fruit of liberalism and institutionalism, was exposed in all of its putridness. For the first time, many saw the results of the “we-do-many-things-for-which-there-is-no-authority” philosophy. The shame and nakedness of the “Where There Is No Pattern” doctrine was laid bare before all. Second, I regret because it existed, because it had to be done. There is no pleasure in refuting error. There is no joy in dealing with sin, apostasy and digression (Phil. 3:8; Psa. 119:53, 136, 158).
Surely, Bill, you can understand my regret. You get no joy in responding to the evolution in Abilene, the I denominational compromise of Herald of Truth, and the gyms in Nashville, do you?
Yes, your cause was damaged, but you and your brethren have sown the wind and you are reaping the whirlwind (Hos. 8:7). You have sown church sponsored recreation and you have reaped ball teams, ball fields and gymnasiums. You have sown “fellowship halls” and you have reaped the Madison church, where the late Ira North preached, near Nashville. You have sown Herald of Truth, wherein one church oversaw a portion of the funds and function of hundreds of churches, and you have reaped Crossroads and Boston. You have sown church sponsored skating parties and “retreats” (hauling the kids in “church vans and busses”) and you have reaped full fledged church camps, complete with cabins, fishing, horseback riding, archery, hiking trails, etc. You have sown church support of benevolent societies and you have reaped church support of colleges.
Now, Bill, I know you deny and decry your progeny, but the things above are not illegitimate (cf. Heb. 12:8) children. The family resemblance is too apparent for you to renounce parenthood. Perhaps you do not see the connection, the correlation that exists, but it is there whether you believe it or not.
The Jews of Jesus’ day built the tombs of the prophets, adorned the graves of the godly and said, “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” But Jesus said, “Ye are the children of them which killed the prophets” (Matt. 23:29-31). They did not, yea, would not see themselves as parallel to the earlier apostasies, but they were their offspring nonetheless (Acts 7:51,52).
Likewise, the liberals of the past century only wanted to sow their missionary society, but they reaped instrumental music, preachers called “Reverend,” acceptance (if , not outright observance) of Easter and Christmas, and, finally, the Christian Church denomination. Men like Moses Lard and J.W. McGarvey lived to see their descendants, and they did not like what they saw, but they were the fruits of their digression, of their acceptance of human societies to do the work God gave the churches to do. So, today.
Bill, of course, can do what he will concerning future meetings between brethren. That is his choice, his prerogative, as it is of everyone else. Frankly, I hope Bill and his brethren will study with us.
But, further, I propose that he take part in arranging meetings with “the rankest liberals.” Bill Jackson, Dub McClish, Garland Elkins, Tom Warren, Roy Deaver, Noel Meredith, Stafford North, Guy N. Woods, Alan Highers, Roy Lanier, Jr., Johnny Ramsey and others need to conduct (in my judgment) “Nashville type” meetings with Calvin Warpula, Lewis G. Hale, Bill Swetmon, Richard Rogers, Rubel Shelley, Randy Mayeux and others. They need to study the questions of Bible authority, how established, how applied, biblical hermeneutics, the work, worship and organization of the church, individual versus congregational action, church support of colleges and missionary societies, whether or not the New Testament is a pattern, church sponsored recreation and entertainment, the limits (if any) of sponsoring church oversight and control, and other relevant and related topics.
Bill and “the rankest liberals” are surely and sorely divided on these issues. Let them meet, study and reason together. What have they to lose? What have they to fear?
Meanwhile, we stand ready to study with both groups. Truth thrives with open minds and open Bibles. Error flinches and flees, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Jn. 3:20,21).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 11, pp. 336-338
June 1, 1989