By Cecil Willis
In two previous articles, I have been discussing the statement of Brother William Wallace that some of us older preachers are “turning off” some of the “second generation” preachers. In previous articles, I have freely conceded that Truth Magazine is “turning off” some of these “second generation” preachers, but I have pointed out which ones of these “second generation” preachers we are “turning off.
At the close of the article last week, we were discussing the position advocated by Ronnie Compton and Phillip Kight that apostolic examples are not binding. We quoted from an article mimeographed and circulated by them. The article was entitled “Establishing Bible Authority.” In this article these two young preachers stated, “We are firmly convinced that God requires only that His children believe and obey His commandments, not the hay and stubble of human opinion about unexplained New Testament examples . . . We may only demand compliance with principles which are presented as imperatives and declarations in Holy Writ. This is our conviction.” I might add that another “second generation” preacher, Keith Ward, already has replied to this error being promulgated by our misinformed young brethren. (See Searching the Scriptures, April 1973).
In private discussion with these young brethren (Compton and Kight), they stated that they thought we were reacting too strongly to their teaching, in view of their youth. I told them that I had difficulty ascertaining their age merely by the shape of their typewriter keys. Furthermore, I have never felt that a false teacher who is doing widespread harm by his teaching ought to be spared, whether he is young or old. Actually, I wish these young brethren would consider their youth, and hold their “fire” for a few years. They might spare themselves some grief, and eliminate the harm, which they now are doing. If they were wrestling with these problems privately and were not disseminating their error among other young preachers, I would be disposed to leave them to their musing. But when a young man steps out into the man’s world as a public teacher of religious doctrine, he must be prepared to defend what he teaches. This is true whether this brother be twenty or seventy. I believe it was former President Harry Truman who suggested that if one cannot stand the heat, he had better stay out of the kitchen. Such is my sentiment toward these young brethren.
Certainly I get no pleasure out of reviewing, and publicly marking, young preacher boys. But when considerable harm is being done by their false teaching, I see no alternative but to respond to their error. Unless these two young men make radical changes in the direction they are going, it is my considered opinion that they will never preach a day for a sound church. I certainly could not recommend either of them now, and the error they have taught must be retracted and corrected before I could recommend that any faithful church use them.
A photocopy of a letter from Brother Ronnie Compton is in my hand. In this letter he further explicates the precise application he makes of his newly discovered hermeneutical rule that apostolic examples are not binding. This letter is eight pages long, single-spaced, and legal size pages. In this letter, Ronnie raises a number of questions. He asks: “Is it possible that N. T. examples (which are unexplained in context) could have been recorded for another reason than to serve as a binding pattern for Christians today?” “If such is possible, should we reject as brethren (to be associated with in all areas which do not involve a sacrifice of conviction) those who do not regard (because of lack of authority, they say) controversial N. T. examples as a binding pattern for Christians today?”
Which New Testament examples does Brother Compton have in mind? He cites repeatedly Acts 20:7 and Acts 11:27-30 as instances of apostolic examples that he is not sure are binding. Perhaps before we go further, we should read these two passages. One pertains to taking the Lord’s Supper on the first day, and the other pertains to sending benevolence funds to the elders of destitute churches. Acts 20:7 reads: “And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight.” Acts 11:27-30 reads: “Now in these days there came down prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be a great famine over all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius. And the disciple s, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea: which also they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.”
Now these are the specific passages that Brother Compton has in mind as he asks his questions regarding the binding nature of apostolic examples. So let us read further from his rhetorical questions. “What does Luke himself have to say about the debated examples he recorded, for example, in Acts 20:7 and 11:27-30?” “Does Luke explain anything in the immediate context of Acts 20: 7, which is thought by some to limit our observance of the Lord’s Supper to the 1st day of the week, and which is not viewed by others as binding but merely as an inspired, informative, historical record?” “Does Luke explain anything in the immediate context of Acts 11: 27-30, which is thought by some to limit our monetary giving to another church to the realm of emergency benevolence, and which is not understood by others as binding but only as an inspired, informative, record?” “Is it possible for a person to still hold to his view that 20:7 and 11:27-30 are binding, while at the same time realizing his belief is at the best a probability and not absolutely proved, due to the fact that the examples are unexplained by any inspired man, and to the fact that there are no commandments in the N. T. which require 1st day observance of the Lord’s Supper or limit monetary giving to another church to the realm of benevolence?” “Is it possible for us to scripturally receive a brother (as God received us by grace – Rom. 14: 1; 15:7) who through no fault of his own (or the N. T.) does not understand that Acts 20:7 and 11:27-30 are binding? (since we ‘are not under law, but under grace,’Rom. 6:14) (and since we have no authority to put him away)?” Further our young brother asks his fellow-young preachers, “Is it possible that Acts 11:27-30 is an example authorizing churches to send money to another church for benevolence or evangelism as some brethren conclude?” “Is it possible that Luke 22:7, 14-20 is an example authorizing us to observe the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, or another day besides the 1st day of the week? (let us remember that Luke wrote both Luke and Acts, and Luke did not explain either example)?”
Is it not clear what this young brother is going to do with his newly discovered hermeneutical principle? He is going to make eating the Lord’s Supper on the first day or on Thursday an “optional expedient,” as his Abilene Christian College Professor, J. D. Thomas, would express it. These young men have even indicated in private discussions that they do not think the usage of mechanical instruments of music in our worship should be a barrier to fellowship. As another “second generation” preacher expressed it to me, “They have bought the whole Ketchersidian ball of wax.”
These, brethren, are the “second generation” preachers whom Truth Magazine has “turned off”, and whom some of the Gospel Guardian writers think we can bring back to the truth “if intellectual honesty and good-will are manifested.” Well, I have witnessed the efforts of the likes of James W. Adams, Melvin Curry, Harry Pickup, Jr., Lindy McDaniel, and others to whom I would attribute both “intellectual honesty and good-will,” and our young neophytes merely progress further in their error and in their propagation of it. My observation of the discussions indicated that a little “intellectual honesty and good will” might be in order from our young neophytes. I witnessed one of them as he heatedly asked James Adams, “Brother Adams, have you ever considered the meaning of ekklesia???” And I might add that the “bombastic pomposity” of this twenty-year-old brother made it a little bit difficult for an otherwise “cool” James Adams to contain himself!
These young brethren tell us that its the writings of Brother Edward Fudge that have been such a help to them. Even if that be not the case, it would appear that we could enlist the “intellectual honesty and good-will” of Edward and Bill to try to reclaim these young men, rather than to give them a sympathetic pat on the back and to tell them how badly they think they have been treated by us older fellows. Whether these false teachers are twenty or twice twenty, I believe it is criminal negligence for us to sit by idly and let them affect scores of other young Christians, including not a few young preachers. If opposing error taught by these whom Brother Adams has correctly labeled “young neophytes” “turns them off” to Truth Magazine, then “turned off” they must be. But it should be made very clear which second generation of preachers is being turned off by Truth Magazine.
I might add that I have some personal ties to one of these young men whom I have named in these articles that make it very difficult for me to say what has been said. But my concern for truth and the purity of the Lord’s church far exceeds any personal ties that I have with any person on earth. Rather than merely to “turn off” some’ of these “second generation” preachers, we would much prefer to see them again “turn to” the truth as it is in Jesus.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 34, pp. 3-6
June 28, 1973