Theological Goobledygook (II)

By Cecil Willis

Last week we devoted some time to a discussion of some writers’ and preachers’ disposition to make a show of the wisdom, of this world in their preaching and writing. The illustration that was used regarding the study done by two “scholars” of the usage of participles in Paul’s epistles well demonstrates the trend in modern education, and especially in graduate and post-graduate work done in the field of religion. This trend is to one of ever greater emphasis upon specialization. Someone has said, “We are learning more and more, about less and less, until if we are not careful, before long we are going to know everything about nothing. “I read once of where supposedly one aged Greek linguist was asked what changes would he make in his life, if he were permitted to live it over again. He was not only a specialist in Greek; his special specialty was the Greek noun. This aged Greek noun specialist is reported to have said: “If I could live my life over again, I think I would confine my study to the dative case of the Greek noun.” Wasn’t it Solomon who said, “much learning is a weariness of the flesh,” and “in much wisdom there is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow”?

Several years ago, Guy N. Woods reviewed some articles written by G. C. Brewer in which Brewer was advocating and defending the church support of Bible colleges. Woods said of Brewer’s argumentation that it was “as clear as a sea of mud.” This is exactly the reaction that I feel after some of our growing-softer brethren get done explaining what they meant when they said something that brethren allegedly misunderstood.

Weasel Words

Some brethren become adroit at using weasel words. They use words that get them out of a tight spot, but they reserve for those words some special, private definition. In so doing, they think they maintain their own integrity, while they placate their inquiring brethren. When a brother uses this reprehensible duplicity, there is about as much integrity in him as there is in the little boy who thinks it is all right to lie, if behind his back, he has his fingers crossed.

In a recent issue of the Gospel Guardian, Brother Edward Fudge purported to answer some questions that have been asked of him regarding his position on the subject of fellowship. This long article was reproduced in tract form, a copy of which I have before me. If ever I saw an instance of a brother equivocating, I would have to say, “Brother Fudge, thou art the man!” I am not going to attempt a review of the entire article. I want us merely to notice what he said about whether he believed the usage of mechanical instrumental music in worship to be sinful or not.

“Where do you stand on instrumental music? I believe that instrumental music is wrong in the corporate assembly of Christians, that it is without scriptural authority, that it is not the Lord’s will for His children today. Therefore I do not use it, I preach against it, and I would encourage anyone who does use it to leave it off, for the reasons I have given above.” And then he adds his customary little commercial about his tract, in this instance on instrumental music.

On the surface, the answer given by Brother Fudge appears to be clear-cut, and as strong a statement as anyone would be expected to make. But the fact of the matter is, Edward Fudge believes today about instrumental music the same thing he has believed for about ten years. Though he says mechanical instrumental music “is wrong,” is without scriptural authority,” and “is not the Lord’s will for His children today,” Brother Fudge still does not believe anyone will be lost for using it, unless that person knows instrumental music to be sinful, and then deliberately and high-handedly continues to use it. This is where he has always stood on the matter, at least so long as I have known him.

Last fall things got a little warm on Brother Fudge around his hometown, Athens, Alabama. Finally, enough pressure was built up among brethren that Brother Fudge was forced to state publicly that which he had never before said, and until that day had refused to say, namely, that instrumental music in worship is SINFUL. But when Brother Fudge was pressed before his hometown brethren, he knew he must not refuse to state that instrumental music was sinful, or he was going to be in bad trouble with his hometown brethren.

Brother Fudge has a Master’s Degree in Greek. But would you believe that it was only within the week before his public confrontation is Athens that he learned the definition of the Greek word harmartia? Until that very day, Brother Fudge repeatedly had refused to label instrumental music as sinful. Brother Bill Wallace prodded Brother Fudge, and tried to show him that saying instrumental music was sinful, was not to put instrumental music in the same category as fornication, theft, etc. So on that fateful Sunday afternoon last Fall in Athens, Brother Fudge finally did say that he believed instrumental music was sinful. . .to the infinite surprise of those who had talked frequently and at great length with him on the matter, and yet evidently to the complete satisfaction of those brethren who were sympathetic with him. Brother Fudge said he had learned just that past week that sin meant “to miss the mark.” Is that really the first time you ever knew that, Brother Fudge? I knew that by the time I was in eighth grade, and I barely got through one course in Greek in college. The country preachers at whose feet I sat as a little boy taught us very early in life that to sin meant “to miss the mark.” Do you suppose my attainment of such a profound understanding of the Greek word harmartia may qualify me to receive a Master’s Degree in Greek? If the Abilene Christian College administrators really believed that you got a Master’s Degree in Greek without learning the definition of sin, would their faces ever be red! If they had the power to do so, I suspect that they would like to rescind the granting of your degree.

But let us note another question Brother Fudge poses to himself, and then note his answer. “But Is it a sin?” “I believe that it is, in the accepted definition of ‘sin’ as ‘missing the mark.’ My previous answer clearly shows that. Some, however, have apparently wanted to play judge and jury and assign to hell without further ado all who use instrumental worship. This I have refused to do, and, when it has been clear that this was the meaning being given to ‘sin’ I have refused to use that word. I have always believed, however, that instrumental music’ misses the mark’ of God’s will, and that in that biblical meaning of the term, it is sinful.”

Now if that bunch of theological double-talk satisfies the brethren who have had doubts about Brother Fudge’s soundness, we are in worse trouble than we thought. The word “sin” is his weasel word, in this instance. He makes his play to the audience by stating that he does not intend to play God, and decide the destiny of those who use instrumental music in worship. Brother Fudge, do you play “judge and jury, and assign to hell without further ado” all those who have not been immersed for the remission of sins? Nobody has ever asked’ Brother Fudge to “play judge and jury.” The Lord Jesus Christ shall judge us all, according to His word, and according to our works.

What Brother Fudge really has said is that he thinks that instrumental music is sinful, but he refuses to say that he believes that persons who commit that sin will be lost. One sly little differentiation which Brother Fudge injects is that of saying a thing is “wrong,” but then refusing to say that it is “sinful,” if one means by sinful an act that will cause one to be lost. It would be very helpful to us all, Brother Fudge, if you would prepare for us a list of those things which are “sinful,” but which will not cause one to be lost, and another list consisting of those things which are “sinful,” but which will cause one to be lost. Or, do you refuse “to play judge and jury” to the extent that you will not state that any specific sin will cause one to be lost?

Also, Brother Fudge, would you please tell us what other acts are “wrong,” “without scriptural authority,” and are no part of “the Lord’s will for His children today” which you put in the same category as mechanical instrumental music? Is the act of sprinkling such a “sin”? Do you “play judge and jury” on those who do not immerse? It is my understanding that you merely go one step further than Brother Carl Ketcherside and Brother Leroy Garrett. They; do not hesitate to “play judge and jury” upon those who have not been immersed, but step down from their judgment throne from that point onward. Brother Fudge does not hesitate to “play judge and jury” on persons until they have been immersed ‘for the remission of sins, ” and then he descends from his judgment throne. Is this a correct representation of your position, Brother Fudge? If not, then “explain and clarify” your position for us further.

What is so bad about “sin,” if it will not cause one to be lost? The Catholics have their catalog of “venial” and “mortal” sins. There is not a hair’s difference between their position on two categories of sin, and that of Brother Fudge. Brother Fudge also has his list of sins that will cause one to be lost, and another list of sins that will not cause one to be lost, if we just could get him to publish his list. A few weeks ago, Brother William Wallace, Gospel Guardian Editor, published a list of 84 things upon which brethren are said to differ. Now would you please help us all and tell us which of these will cause one to be lost, and which will not cause one to be lost? Now do not give us any more of this “refuse to play judge and jury” bit. You already have played “judge and jury,” when you state that one can do something in worship that is “wrong,” without scriptural authority,” “is not the Lord’s will,” and “sinful,” yet not be lost eternally for doing such a thing. Did God somewhere state that one could commit an act which fits the descriptive terms just quoted from you, and still be saved, though he neither repents, confesses, nor prays for forgiveness? If God stated that somewhere, please cite the reference. I have no knowledge of such a statement by God. If God did not make such a statement, who empowered you to make this libertarian declaration? It can only be by your own “judge and jury” decree.

Here We Are Again

Several years ago, Brother James W. Adams wrote an extensive review of the Roy Deaver-Tom Warren “Constituent Element-Component Part” argument, as they sought o justify their defection from the truth into institutionalism. Brother Adams used a not-so-popular, but very appropriate, title for his series, “Round and Round the Mulberry Bush.” Such a title would be very appropriate also for the antics and announcements of Brother Edward Fudge. Regardless of what he says, and how he amplifies it or explains it, he always come out at the same place. In every effort he has made so far, he has concluded that “sins” such as instrumental music and institutionalism will not cause one to be lost, unless knowingly and high-handedly done. Now it as logically follows, as that night follows day, that if God is going to receive these “sinners” into His eternal fellowship, we certainly should not exclude them from our fellowship here. This is where Brother Fudge began, and now after nearly years of theological gyrations, we are now back again just where we started. He still believes that we should receive into our fellowship those who practice the usage of instrumental music in worship, and those who use the congregation’s funds to support human institutions. He maintains that we should receive into our fellowship those who would corrupt the worship, and pervert the organization of the church. Brother Fudge has tried the “silent treatment” act, and now the “explanation route” has been followed. But we are still right where we were two years ago. This, our brother who is an Associate Editor of the Gospel Guardian, and whose family owns that influential journal, is contending that we should receive into our fellowship the “instrumentalists, ” and the “institutionalisms,

“because the “sins” which they commit will not cause one to be lost.

Like the liberals of a quarter a century ago, it appears that Brother Fudge will soon learn that the “dignified silence treatment” is much the better course to follow for his cause, than the open forum discussion, and I predict he will now go back into theological hibernation, hoping that when he awakes next Spring, the warm Spring weather will make brethren more receptive to his loose views on fellowship.

Meanwhile, Brother Fudge, please do not insult our intelligence by anymore of this weasel-word theological gobbledygook. Most of the brethren can see right through it anyway, and you only reflect upon your own integrity and upon our intelligence when you give explanations that do not explain, or when you make differentiations without a difference, or when you tell us that “sin” (for the remission of which Christ died) will not cause anyone to be lost in Hell. I prefer silence to insult, and your latest effort to exonerate yourself is a mere insult to the intelligence of brethren.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:44, p. 2-5
September 12, 1974