By Ron Halbrook
Cecil Willis is inviting several younger men to do writing as part of the Staff of Truth Magazine. Our name turned up in the list somehow, he tells us. With his permission, we would like to say a few things about writing in general and Truth Magazine in particular.
Beginning with Acts 2, the early history of the church was characterized by teaching, teaching, and more teaching . . . and not only on a collective basis. The Apostles and other Christians told sinners daily about the Good News of Christ; as a result, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Also, saints were constantly edified as “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (vs. 42). Even when severely persecuted, “they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word . . . and the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord” (9:4; 11:21). In short, every Christian did all within his power to teach the Word of the Lord. Opportunities to teach “with ink and pen” should be used as readily as those which are “face to face” (3 John 13-14).
Edmund Burke is credited with saying that all that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. This applies nowhere so well as in our service to Christ. Alexander Solzbenitsyn, Noble Prize-winning author and one who professes Christianity, recently was permitted to leave Russia by its atheistic regime because he was a thorn in the side. Not only did he trouble the civil regime, he crossed swords with the Russian Orthodox Church’s hierarchy for their compromises. He wrote in the Eastern Churches Review,
“By what reasoning is it possible to convince oneself that the planned destruction of the spirit and body of the Church under the guidance of atheists is the best way of preserving it? Preserving it for whom? Certainly not for Christ.
Let us not deceive ourselves that external chains have power over our souls. Things were no easier at the birth of the Christian faith; nevertheless it held out and prospered. And it showed us the way: sacrifice.”
Solzhenitsyn was answered by “Father” Sergil Zheludkov in the same publication. After explaining that the “Patriarch” would jeopardize his position if he answered for himself, this lackey pled for “a healthy acknowledgment of reality.” “We are not permitted to work at the religious education of children or of adults,” and so we must see that under such “strictly determined conditions” there is nothing to do but “accept the system.” “And anyway, one man cannot change anything” (Italics added). Solzhenitsyn picked up his pen and called for an effort to teach even if it takes “personal sacrifice.” ” `One man can do nothing,’ you say. That’s not true. One man can do something. Anyone can.”
Some brethren advise against writing and do not write because they fear that one may write something wrong, learn better, and have to face what he wrote in the future. The solution of that problem is the same as for any other kind of teaching we do: admit the mistake and correct it, like Saul of Tarsus. It is no more necessary for every one to teach by writing than by speaking from a pulpit, but the above excuse would eliminate all kinds of teaching. While the Christian is doing all he can to teach, he should also be doing all he can to learn, improve his teaching, and correct mistakes.
We hear of preachers who discourage brethren from taking teaching magazines because the publication “might go wrong” and take several people with it. Such fearful men overlook the other side of the coin: teaching publications can increase one’s knowledge, stimulate his devotion to truth, and prepare him to meet error! Brethren some time fall into false teaching which they might have avoided had they been encouraged to do broader thinking about current problems. Are these souls any less important than the ones who might be misled by a publication which compromises its devotion to truth? The attitude of a preacher who reads these magazines for their actual good while discouraging brethren from reading them because of a potential danger is ridiculous. It manifests a high view of self and a low view of brethren. Such a brother ought not to send out a bulletin or give out a tract because the author (i.e., the preacher himself who is “guarding” everyone else) “might go wrong”! No one has to ever see a bulletin, tract, publication, or newspaper article to go to heaven. How we learn the truth is unimportant, but careful use should be made of every opportunity to teach and learn-including “ink and pen.”
Why Write for Truth Magazine?
An obvious reason for deciding to work with Truth Magazine as a staff writer is that we were invited; we could no more turn that opportunity down than we could turn down opportunities to write in a local newspaper or teach in other ways if invited. But going another step, we are glad to take advantage of this particular opportunity because we have considered the character of Truth Magazine. It has a character like every publication (Time, Newsweek, U.S. News, Ladies Home Journal, etc.). Truth Magazine’s character includes a deep devotion to the truth which is God’s Word; desire to teach the gospel in its fulness and to oppose error in its every manifestation; initiative, zeal, and militancy in teaching truth and fighting error (rather than a milk-toast posture); clearness in presenting convictions, even if a price must be paid (as opposed to ambiguity and double-talk so as to avoid being clearly understood with the result of a price being paid); open door policy, willingness to present both sides; desire to expand and improve in the amount of good done (not just financial, capitalistic goals); appealing format. This is the character we see and it ought to be the character of any effort.
Of necessity, the character of a paper is closely kin to the character of its editor. The characteristics stated above are reflected in Truth Magazine partly because they belong to Brother Willis. None will deny he is clear and to the point. None will deny he is energetic in presenting truth and militant in opposing error. These are characteristics we long for and admire in a world filled with compromise, platitudes, the indecisiveness and ambiguity of political utterance, double-talk, and general lack of conviction. So we like the way Brother Willis says what he says . . . though some will see his directness and depth of conviction as intolerant, bigoted, and egotistical. Furthermore, we like what he says-he is teaching the truth, dealing with the particulars, and presenting the truth in a straightforward manner. He is grappling with error, naming the particulars, and not shrinking from the responsibility to specify exactly who he believes to be perpetuating false doctrine. It is easier (more “in season”) to hide behind a rock and take “pot shots” or to set oneself above all the trying difficulties of hand-to-hand combat and simply cast vague aspersions everywhere in general but nowhere in particular. Paul dealt with truth and error; specified the particulars, named both the false teaching and false teachers without apology. Men of faith Will teach the truth in love in the same fashion today. We believe the editor of Truth Magazine is such a man doing such a work. He published the first article we ever wrote for a paper like Truth Magazine. (“Immorality Won’t Work,” Vol. IX, No. 6, Mar., 1965); he gave advice and encouragement at that time which has not been forgotten. We look forward to further inspiration and guidance from him in this new working relationship.
Attitude Toward The Work
A few words about our attitude about being on the Staff are appropriate. First, we look upon this new work as an opportunity, a responsibility, and above all a privilege. It is a privilege to be associated with good men, to have a hand in a good work. Secondly, we intend to teach the whole counsel of God and to oppose all kinds of unsound doctrine. The gospel only, the only gospel: that is all our desire. “For I am determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). But, thirdly, we believe it is imperative for all public teachers of God’s Word to be open to further study on any topic. Public teaching invites public examination; any teacher who whines when publicly challenged has no business teaching-and that rule starts on our own doorstep. We welcome criticism, challenge, suggestions for further study.
Fourthly, our identification with the work of Truth Magazine does not mean we believe it is the only good teaching magazine, the only one worth reading, writing for, or sending to others. But it is excellent, among the very best. The editor has invited us; therefore, we intend to give Truth Magazine our best effort and wholehearted support.
Fifth, brethren sometimes exp:ess fear of papers as “power structures” or a threat to churches’ autonomy and function. Papers can be abused, but that does not make papers per se wrong. What is said of papers on this matter can be said of all efforts of men, individual and cooperative, humanly-devised efforts and divinelyappointed efforts. Individuals have a right to pool their resources in a teaching effort like Truth Magazine even though no scripture tells us how to arrange or operate such an effort. Resources placed in the church treasury can be used only for church functions under the direct guidance of Christ. The line between the, church treasury and resources retained in one’s own possession is very distance-God having left the latter “in thine own power (exousia, authority)” (Acts 5:4). Thus God has left us free to arrange, re-arrange, collect, combine, and utilize resources within our “own authority” so long as we do not violate the principles of honesty, and propriety. We may use such funds for business purposes, family needs, benevolent works, or teaching efforts-individually or collectively, as we see fit-and that is the proper basis upon which Truth Magazine exists. Any such paper becomes abusive when it takes church donations to do the work of the church, speaks for the churches, or ties up with other human organizations to organize churches into a centralized structure. So the truth is: (1) papers have a right to exist, (2) Truth Magazine is aware of the abuses and has fought them, (3) Truth Magazine is not guilty of the abuses and continues to fight them.
Therefore, we say to those who are concerned about Truth Magazine and power over churches that we- are concerned about such abuse and so is , Truth Magazine-which is one more reason we recommend it to you. We are happy to support Truth Magazine as it supports truth, retaining to ourselves the right to object is so far as it deviates from truth. If and when Truth Magazine compromises its commitment to Bible truth, we shall withdraw our support and encourage all others to do the same.
To sum it all up, Truth Magazine is an excellent teaching medium; it is doing a good, sound work. It is a privilege to have a hand in this work. The paper can be a blessing to you over and over again . . . if you will subscribe and read it, searching the scriptures. Invite your friends to subscribe. Subscribe for someone who might not be motivated to do so themselves, .but who might be blessed and stimulated to a greater interest in spiritual things if such informative literature were introduced into their life. Subscribe for parents, children who are off at college, preachers, elders, deacons, Bible class teachers. For $10.00 per month, you can bless 20 homes 50 times a year with the pages of Truth Magazine; many of our readers waste that much money each month and others are able to invest more than $10.00 per month in the good of their fellow men.
Truth Magazine XVIII: 4, pp. 55-56
November 28, 1974