By Fred A. Shewmaker
Have you ever considered why certain religious publications are not appreciated? After a religious publication begins to arrive in my mail box and I have considered its content for a few issues, it may become plain to me that I lack an appreciation for that publication. Until recently I never gave any consideration to why I fail to appreciate those publications. The usual procedure was to glance through it and then pitch it in the nearest wastebasket. Some one may ask, “Why not send the editor a cancellation notice?” My answer is: I would not care to have it published, along with the editor’s abusive comments, for others to read in the next issue.
Recently I have given my reason for failing to appreciate certain publications some serious thought. My lack of appreciation does not arise out of my disagreement with the content. I read many things with which I do not agree, without losing appreciation for the publications in which they appear. What then is the reason for almost automatically discarding certain religious publications?
There may be various answers given to this question by others. My answer is that I am turned off by derogatory or inflammatory descriptives of persons the author of an article is attempting to chastise. The editors of the publications, which I almost automatically toss in the wastebasket, have a penchant for selecting such articles for their publication.
Examples of the type of descriptives that turn me off: (1) professional ministers; (2) elite servant; (3) pew warmers; (4) a congregation of onlookers; (5) the corporate assembly; (6) local pulpiteer; (7) professional priests; (8) visiting “evangelists”; (9) special minister; (10) party’s papers; (11) special clergyman; (12) professional go-betweens; (13) Church of Christ ministers; (14) “celestial aristocrats.”
These belittling descriptives were found in one article. Although the article is one that indicates the author might go farther than I am willing to go in opposition to public confessions of faults, I am very sympathetic to the basic point of it. I too believe that public confessions in some places are over emphasized and over done. It also may be true that some preachers, who emphasize the need for public confession, are motivated by a desire to make a good show.
The author of the article and editor of the publication may recognize the examples as being from his work. If so, please let him understand that I am not faulting his opposition to public rededication and confession of fault every time an improper thought enters one’s mind. Numerous articles, which I have written, express opposition to one thing or another. Every false doctrine, unscriptural practice and unauthorized organization should be opposed. No one ever should oppose another for opposing something. If what the other opposes is approved by the word of God, an effective way to show that it should not be opposed is to show how it is authorized by the Bible. Our effort should be expended attempting to persuade those who are wrong to repent, rather than trying to ignite their resentment.
Allow me also to state that false teachers should be charged with the crime which they are committing against the law of Christ. However, in most cases, articles refuting false teaching should not attack the person teaching error. I am not objecting to identifying a false teacher. I am saying, attacking his error does not necessitate belittling him.
In the early days of the twentieth century name calling both in political and religious debates was normal. Audiences not only expected it, they also accepted it as proper. In those days W. W. Otey participated in a debate at Portland, Indiana. My wife’s grandfather not only was present at that debate, he also was a close friend of Otey. He told me that in the debate Otey’s opponent called him many unflattering names, but brother Otey’s only response was, “I came loaded for bear, but have had to step aside for an animal of a lower order.” Such restraint by brother Otey at a time when a much stronger response was expected by an audience which would have accepted and approved it, might serve us well as an example for our day, when such is not usually approved by the general public.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 21, p. 658
November 3, 1988