By Thomas G. O’Neal
The old denominational idea of “unity in diversity” has put on a new dress and come to town. Some brethren are taking up with the idea, not recognizing it for what it is. Or, do they know?
Paul said, “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words; Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ [Eph. 3:3-4]). “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). From these verses one learns that by reading the writings of the apostles of Jesus Christ, the will of God can be understood. Paul and the other apostles wrote what was revealed to them (2 Pet. 1:16-21; 1 Cor. 15:3).
However, the denominational world has said we cannot understand the Bible alike. You see it one way, I see it another way, and still someone else sees it a different way to the two of us. While we all disagree about what the Bible says (divided) we are agreed (united) that we are all headed to the same place. There are just different roads to the same place, heaven.
If the denominational world should look into the Bible, they say the one God, Christ, Spirit and hope of Ephesians 4:46 we agree on, thus these are essential. However, the one body, baptism and faith of Ephesians 4:4-6 we do not agree on, thus these are not essential. Just who has set the standard of how to determine what God has said is essential and non-essential I have never known. Denominationalism says all churches are just branches of the one vine. All denominations make up the one true Church of Christ. Thus, denominationalism pictures for us organic division (different churches) yet spiritual union (all churches headed to the same place). All of this is the concept of “unity in diversity” or unity in division.
Such is a contradiction of terms. “Unity in diversity” makes as much sense as a square circle, a hot snow ball, liquid ice, or dry water. Any time people talk “unity in diversity” they are talking compromise of the truth.
When brethren departed from the faith and went out to form the Christian Church and introduced the missionary society in 1849 and the instrument of music in 1859, one of the things that followed was their wanting to be united while separated or divided from their brethren. The attitude was if you will not worship with us using the instrument, then worship elsewhere, but don’t condemn us for using the instrument. We can be divided, worship in different congregations, yet be united by your not condemning us for our innovations. Call it what you will, their concept was “unity in diversity.” The Christian Church people wanted to be united even with differences between us. Meetings were conducted to try and have unity with us. Have brethren forgotten the Murch-Witty meetings? All of the talk about unity was in reality talk about how they could be united with us through a compromise of the gospel. They wanted error to go unopposed. We can be united if you will not say anything about our innovations.
When brethren began the practice of the “sponsoring church” and church support of human benevolent and educational institutions, their plea was for a “unity in diversity” of a sorts. Their plea was you preach the gospel the way you see best. You care for orphans the way you see best. Let us do the same and we will all be one big happy, united family. Their plea was for a “unity in diversity” which amounted to a compromise of the gospel. There were those of us who would not agree to their compromise and preached, wrote and debated against their departures from the pattern set forth within the Scriptures. Just like those who introduced the instrument without scriptural authority were responsible for the division in the church, so those who introduced the “sponsoring churches” and church support of human benevolent and educational institutions are today responsible for the division that followed.
Following the teaching of Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside a few years ago, Ed Fudge began to follow them into digression and today has left the Lord’s church and is out there in the sea of denominationalism. When they started their journey the only thing that was important was gospel which they defined as believing Christ was born, lived, died, rose, was seen, ascended and was crowned. Anyone who believed this regardless of anything else, they perceived to be in fellowship or united with them. On doctrinal matters like the instrument, premillennialism, institutionalism, etc. these they said did not stand in the way of unity. So regardless of what you believed about these matters they would be united in diversity with you. They were bit with the “unity in diversity” bug and when that bug got through chewing on them, the virgin birth was no big deal to some of them, others were “witnessing for Christ” on the topless beaches of the world, and all at once there was no hell! They started out trying to justify their position by a misapplication of Romans 14. They finished up a long way from Romans 14 or any other Bible passage.
“Unity in Diversity’s” New Dress
With brethren being exposed to “unity in diversity” as advocated by the denominational world through the years, with essentially the same arguments being made by the Christian Church folk, then the institutional brethren singing the same tune, and seeing the havoc such brought to the church when promoted by Ed Fudge and company, one would think God’s people would be so well acquainted with this error that we would reject it as soon as it would raise its head again. No so!
This error has put on a new dress and come to town and a lot of brethren do not see it for what it really is. It is the same old denominational attitude of compromise. Denying it will not change the facts.
Within the last couple of years the beloved brother Homer Hailey brought out his most recent book, The Divorced and Remarried Who Would Come to God in which he advocated that the alien sinner was not under the law of Christ in regard to marriage, divorce and remarriage. Therefore, one who is not a Christian may marry, divorce and remarry as many times as he chooses. When he comes to Christ in gospel obedience, the one to whom he is then married is the one to whom he may stay married. We are told the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:1-9 does not apply to the alien sinner, just to the Christian. This is not a new doctrine among brethren. Essentially the same thing was taught 35 years ago by a man in the Fort Worth, Texas, area by the name of E.C. Fuqua. However, for the most part it was rejected by brethren back then.
Before brother Hailey’s book came out, he had publicly spoken his views and written them in some of the papers. Several brethren took the time to review what he had said and answered it.
The New Testament has somewhat to say about how to deal with those teaching contrary to the doctrine of Christ. Paul said, “These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another” (1 Cor. 4:6). “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 Jn. 9-11).
Yet, in view of this plain teaching, the biographer of brother Hailey, brother Ed Harrell wrote a long series of articles in his paper, Christianity Magazine, in which he says he does not agree with the teaching of brother Hailey. However, he is not willing to call him a false teacher and thinks brethren should continue to extend the right hand of fellowship to him and others who believe and teach the same thing. Thus, on the question of morals one brother can believe and/or preach one thing and another brother can believe and/or preach another and we are told both should be in fellowship with each other. Upon what basis is this defended? Upon the same basis all the other groups mentioned in this article defend their “unity in diversity” – Romans 14.
Jesus plainly said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9). Jesus said “whosoever, ” he did not say “a Christian.” Adultery does not fit the context of Romans 14 and cannot be defended by this chapter.
Romans 14 deals with matters that do not in and of themselves affect the salvation of the soul – eating meats or herbs (vv. 1-3) and how one regards a day (v. 5). God received both those who ate meats and those who did not, and those who regarded one day above another and those that did not (vv. 3, 15:7). Each man was to do what he was “fully persuaded in his own mind” (v. 5). If a man is “fully persuaded in his own mind” that adultery is fine, does that make it so? If a man regards adultery unto the Lord (v. 6) does that make it acceptable to the Lord? I am surprised that brother Harrell and some other able brethren are making this use of Romans 14.
Another defense that was made of brother Hailey’s position was that some of those objecting to it were young men. Does that mean if a young man quotes Mark 16:16 that it should be disregarded because of his age? How can a man whose hair Mother Nature has turned silver and whose grandchildren are nearly ready for high school be called a young man? One of the men calling someone a young man is only eight years older than one of the men he is calling young.
Modern Day Gospel Advocate
For the benefit of a host of my younger fellow gospel preachers, let me call something to their attention. Back during the institutional controversy the late brother B.C. Goodpasture was the editor of the Gospel Advocate. He had a one-sided paper – anybody or any article that disagreed with the Advocate, brother Goodpasture would not give them space in the Advocate. You either agreed with him or you could forget about getting anything published there.
Of brother Goodpasture’s refusing to print both sides of a question, brother Harrell once observed “Goodpasture refused to open the Advocate to opposing articles, judging, he said, that such would not be in the best interest of the church. . . . He defended his decision to close the Advocate to open discussion” (1981 Florida College Annual Lectures, p. 244).
Further, brother Harrell said, when discussing “the Emergence of Denominational Leadership,” “The method used to spread the message in a young religious movement, including the New Testament church, is open confrontation. Both in the first century and in more recent time the spread of the gospel has been marked by open discussion and debate. When one is truth-oriented, he has nothing to defend except his teachings and he has no tools for fighting except his ideas. When one’s religion becomes institutional other forces come into play. Open debate (even limited debate) may no longer seem wise if it disturbs the peace of the group and threatens the health of institutions” (Ibid., p. 250).
In refusing to print some excellent material on Romans 14 by brother Harry Osborne, material which differed with brother Harrell’s position, it appears he is setting Christianity Magazine in the same direction Goodpasture set the Gospel Advocate. I am sorry to see brother Harrell follow the path that Goodpasture did in refusing to print good material that differed with his views, for in time, it will work the same havoc within the church that Goodpasture caused. Any paper that does not permit an honorable, open investigation and discussion of the Word of God does not deserve the respect and confidence of brethren. No editor should print a fuss or a dog and cat fight. However, an honorable exchange of views on positions or various passages is how we learn. Ideas and views that are challenged and exchanged in discussion is how we learn. Learning is not re-reading what you already know and believe.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 19, pp. 586-588
October 1, 1992