By Bill Cavender
Some time ago an advertisement was received from “Edward Fudge Publishing,” Athens, Ala., telling of a booklet of sixteen letters exchanged between Bruce Edwards, Jr., and Edward Fudge. The booklet is entitled A Journey Toward Jesus. I later received a copy of the booklet and have read it through a number of times.
The Student and His Teacher
The advertisement says that in these letters “two gospel preachers struggle to understand God’s Word on topics such as salvation by grace through faith, the relationship between truth and fellowship, the idea of a `restoration movement,’ denominations and people caught in them.”
Brother Fudge was the teacher in this correspondence. (Rom. 2:19-20). Young Brother Edwards at the beginning was a halfway-hesitant, rather reluctantly resisting student, seemingly holding convictions of truth taught him from childhood by godly teachers and preachers. Yet he obviously had already been influenced by Brother Fudge’s errors (and others of the Ketcherside-Garrett-Fudge persuasion) prior to the initiation of this correspondence. Else why would he appeal to Fudge, of all brethren, to seek truth on the topics of this correspondence? Why not appeal to the elders of the church where he grew up? Why not appeal to the preacher there? Or to his former Bible instructors at Florida College? Or to older preachers among us who have for years fought the good fight of faith? To appeal to Brother Fudge for the truth on the above mentioned topics is about like going to a Methodist preacher to learn the truth on baptism, or to a Pentecostal preacher to learn the truth on the Holy Spirit, or about like a rooster going to a fox to find out what is wrong in the henhouse, or a lamb going to a wolf to find out about the true nature of a sheepfold.
Brother Edwards comes across to me in this correspondence as one who was, at the beginning of this correspondence, questioning his own convictions and, deep-down, hopefully longing to be shown that his convictions were wrong. And Brother Fudge showed him! Little strong resistance was offered in this correspondence to Fudge’s reasonings and conclusions. After some mild questioning of Fudge, the booklet ends by Edwards accepting Fudge’s concepts of things, error being wrapped up, signed, sealed and delivered in a mantle of sweet “love” on the part of “the man of faith” that would do any Baptist or Methodist preacher in the country proud. Another convert was gained to religious error. A young brother of evident ability and above average intelligence is probably lost to the cause of Truth and the church of our Lord Jesus.
I had read Brother Edward’s bulletin from the church in St. James, Missouri, during his time with that church. His metamorphosis from certainty and conviction in truth to doubt and departure became evident during that time, part of that time being co-extensive with the period of his correspondence with Brother Fudge. This was apparent to discerning readers and to brethren who knew him well. Some of his material written in his bulletin was reviewed by others and questioned by many. (I only knew of him indirectly, through his writings and through my oldest son who was at Florida College during the time Brother Edwards was also a student there. This was at the time when W. Carl Ketcherside visited Tampa and turned the minds of a number of students away from the truth. My son would tell me of the events happening there and of those who seemed to be influenced by this long-time, well-known false teacher.) I had hoped that faithful brethren in the St. James, Rollo, Missouri, areas might be able to help Brother Edwards. Perhaps someone tried, maybe no one did. Surely they recognized what was happening to him.
Sixteen Letters: The Journey Into Error
In the advertisement it is said that these sixteen letters “flowed from bared souls and open hearts over a period of 17 months. When they began, neither man knew how they would end. Both now see the study as an .important part of a continuing `journey toward Jesus.”‘ I find these statements ~ interesting. I cannot imagine anyone not being able to predict or even to know how this correspondence would end. Brother Fudge has for years been involved in the Ketcherside-Garret heresies. He has been exposed over and over again. Churches have been affected, divided and lost over his and their false teachings on grace, faith, imputed righteousness, instrumental music, institutionalism, denominationalism, unity-in-diversity, sins of ignorance, etc. Many preachers, especially young preachers, have been lost to the cause of truth by the errors of these men. When a young, uncertain person as Brother Edwards submits himself to continual instruction by an older and more experienced teacher of error as Brother Fudge, you can almost always predict the outcome.
These sixteen letters are equally divided in number as they appear in the booklet, eight letters by each man. However the pages of printed material are approximately twelve and three-fourths pages by Brother Edwards, and approximately twenty-six pages by Brother Fudge-twice as much writing being done by Fudge. These letters are “edited for publication.” It is not indicated just what that means, whether there were other letters not printed, or whether these in the booklet were merely corrected for grammar, punctuation, etc., or whether there are deletions from the printed letters.
The letters began on November 9, 1973. Twelve letters were exchanged within three and one-half months, through February 22, 1974. The twelfth letter, Edwards to Fudge, is a last gasp by Brother Edwards to try to maintain some conviction in harmony with his previous teaching from childhood. This may have discouraged Fudge, might have made him think that his pupil was not learning, so the correspondence which had been so steady and uninterrupted now ceased for almost a year, until January 6, 1975. A short letter, the thirteenth, again from Edwards to Fudge, renewed the correspondence but now Edwards is converted. Fudge answered immediately, January 12, 1975, in substance commending his student on his apparent conversion, expressing appreciation for the “tone and content of recent articles” in Edwards’ bulletin, warning him to expect “flak,” telling him how to interpret the scriptures since Edwards is now a “man of faith,” assuring him that there must be room for sins of ignorance and error which God will surely overlook, and pointing him to what books will be good for him to study now that he is a “man of faith” (books such as The God Who Is There; Francis Schaeffer’s, He Is There And He Is Not Silent and Genesis In Space and Time; along with Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, Syrgley’s New Testament Church, and Questions and Answers by Lipscomb and Shepherd).
Three months later Bruce writes Edward, mentioning the breakfast they had together, and expressing his fear and misgivings about “my commitment to Jesus and Him alone,” and how he will face the “trying situations” he would be encountering, hoping he would not back down “in the face of partisan pressure.” He wants Fudge to encourage him if the teacher should see the pupil “slipping back into a sectarian mold or frame of reference.” He worries, “I seem to always have this fear in the back of my mind-‘But what if I’m wrong? What if I go all the way with this new direction, what then, if I find out I was wrong?”‘ Less than a week later the teacher gave the student final instructions about the course he should follow, how he should go about concealing and gradually revealing and teaching the new-found “truth” he has learned from Fudge, and Fudge will ever be ready to “give you a word of admonition if I ever see you slipping into sectarianism.” After other words of instruction and exhortation, particularly on how to partially conceal these vital (?) new truths Fudge has taught him, not to say everything at once, and how to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” and especially warning Edwards to “be cautious about revealing your thoughts to other preachers,” the correspondence closes, the booklet ends, and another young preacher is ruined by error.
The Unity-In-Diversity “Man of Faith”
Brother Edwards says, “I would appreciate your help in encouraging me, whenever you see me ‘slipping’ back into a `sectarian’ mold or frame of reference.” His problem is not really slipping back into anything, but what he is slipping into-sectarianism and denominationalism of the rankest sort. Years ago Ketcherside, then with Leroy Garrett, championed a sect opposed to the existence of a school where the Bible is taught, opposed the ‘located preacher,’ advocated `mutual ministry,’ etc. Churches and brethren, especially in the north, are not yet over the effect of their hobbies and divisiveness. Then, they did an about face and became extremists the other way, advocating “unity in diversity,” all immersed people being Christians, the unimmersed being “brethren in prospect,” etc. Edward Fudge has become a convert to these false theories and would not dare oppose Ketcherside and Garrett on any of them. In the formation of a new sect, centered around these men and these theories, there are many brethren and a number of young preachers who have fallen for their “good words and fair speeches.” Many liberal-institutional churches have readily received these men and doctrines, and throughout the country a number of new churches or “groups” have been formed, following these men and advocating their doctrines.
This new sect disowns the identifying “church of Christ” or “churches of Christ” as a scriptural designation for God’s people. They want the name “Church of Christ” stripped off meetinghouses, stationery, bank accounts and advertisements. In Arlington, Texas, a group of this new party calls themselves “the church.” The sect is a conglomeration of institutional liberals, charismatics, modernists, and discontented brethren who are trying to find “fellowship” with one another in error.
Running through this booklet by Edwards and Fudge is no real condemnation of church support of institutions, instrumental music in worship to God, premillennialism, denominationalism, etc. “The man of faith,” according to Fudge, is going to be studying these and other matters, trying to learn truth. But if this “man of faith” is honest and sincere, even if he does not learn the truth on the above subjects and other Bible teachings and religious errors, God will overlook his ignorance and error. None of us, it is argued, can for certain say that he is wrong! I submit that the ideas of Fudge, taught to Edwards in their correspondence, is the very essence of denominationalism, unity in ignorance and diversity.
In considering the ideas and principles advocated by Fudge in these letters and accepted by Edwards, several implications shine through: (1) Thinking as they do, you reach a point where you cannot condemn anything or really say that anything taught or practiced by sincere religious people of any religious persuasion is wrong and .sinful. It is only one step from the unimmersed “brethren in prospect” idea to the full fellowship of the unimmersed. (2) God will overlook and forgive any failure, sin of ignorance, or error believed and practiced if an individual convinces himself that he is trying to learn God’s wall and is “a man of faith. ” And no one has a right to “judge” this “man of faith” and say he is wrong. (3) There is a secretness advocated, a deviousness, a covering-up of true sentiments attaching to this movement. The clear-cut, concise, above-board, plain preaching of God’s truth and condemnation of religious error always characterizing gospel preachers and teachers of God’s truth is lacking. Arnold Hardin, Fudge, and others have trouble expressing themselves and being understood. They write and write, yet in correspondence and conversation they plead they are misunderstood and did not really say what so many thought they were saying. In fact, about all that is condemned by this new sect is their erstwhile brethren whom they are referring to as “legalists” and “perfectionists.” They can write clearly and plainly to be well understood when they try to justify their departures from truth by condemning faithful, conservative brethren and papers.
Journey Into Sectarianism
It is interesting that adherents of this new sect are openly withdrawing themselves from us, beginning new “groups,” meeting in homes and/or affiliating with liberal churches. In one month, here at Imhoff Avenue in Port Arthur, we received cancellation notices for our bulletin from Johnny R. Trotter, Bruce Edwards, Jr., and Hubert Moss. None bothered to tell us what was wrong with the paper. They just did not want it. Arnold Hardin refuses to send his bulletin to many faithful men. Hardin and others glory in their associations with the liberal, institutional brethren, and in their attendance at lectureships of colleges operated by the liberals, and are lavish in their praise of liberals as Reuel Lemmons, Burton Coffman, K.C. Moses and others. Edward Fudge can write in papers published by Christian Church people and institutional brethren in churches of Christ and never write in condemnation of their errors (claiming all the while that he is “a man of faith,” but not telling them they are wrong). Would the apostle Paul have done it that way?
It grieves me to the very depths of my soul to see the body of Christ further torn asunder and the development of a new sect-a conglomeration of ex-conservatives, institutional liberals, charismatics, denominationalists and modernists-4ed by two well-known former ultra-conservative, now ultra-liberal hobbyists, Ketcherside and Garrett, who, all their public lives, have advocated errors and hobbies to the hurt and destruction of churches and souls. How and why people who know even a smattering of their history and works would believe and follow them is beyond me. It grieves me when I think of Edward Fudge, whose father, Bennie Lee Fudge, fought such a good fight and endured hardships for truth. What would he think if he could see and hear his son now, and know of his departures from truth? I think of many men whom I have known through the years, some going back to thirty-two years ago, men like James Arthur Warren, Charles Warren, Will Ed Warren, Roy Key, Ferrell Walters, J.P. Sanders, Harold Hazelip, Raymond Muncy, R.V. Scott, Foy E. Wallace, Jr., John Banister, Melvin Wise, Morton Utley, Roy Deaver, Tom Warren, Charles Holt, Harold Spurlock, Arnold Hardin, etc., who either went into denominationalism, or quit the Lard and the church of Christ for the world of sin, or who are liberal, institutional preachers, or who became unhappy, opinionated, hobbyistic to the point of extreme fault finding and then going out from us (1 John 2:19). Through the years I have watched men who once knew and preached the truth go out from us just as many have done and are doing in this new “unity in diversity” movement.
There is no real unity among these people but only a loose union in error and human opinion. There is no “journey toward Jesus” but a headlong plunge toward denominationalism. There is no “restoration movement” of the truth of God and establishment of true New Testament churches of Christ but the founding only of another sect among sects. The fundamental difference between the “restoration movement” of the pioneer preachers and brethren in our country and this “unity in diversity” movement is that those old brethren of one to two centuries ago were reading, studying, preaching and debating themselves out of error, denominationalism and sectarianism, while these “unity in diversity” brethren are deceiving themselves and others right into denominationalism and sectarianism. They are neither reformers nor restorers, but are rather preachers of error and originators of a loose amalgamation of diverse religionists who have no clear-cut, definitive doctrines or objectives (at least to this point in time) to which all can subscribe, to the building of a homogeneous, functioning body with substance and organization.
It is good that faithful brethren and churches and papers are now opposing and exposing the theories of this sect in which brethren Fudge and Edwards are participants. Many more preachers need to be speaking out on these matters. Brethren in Truth Magazine, Searching The Scriptures and The Gospel Guardian who have written on these matters are to be commended. We have a number of faithful (?) preachers and brethren telling us now how not to fight the battle. We had the same kind during the institutional centralization fight of the forties through the sixties and most of them went with the liberals. Let us all do what we can to teach God’s truth and to oppose this new heresy and movement. Many others like Brother Edwards will fall victim to error if they are not taught and forewarned.
Truth Magazine XXII: 37, pp. 600-603
September 21, 1978