Wanted: Moral Law Preacher

By Harry R. Osborne

If the above title causes some confusion to you, do not feel alone. My understanding about the need for this type of preacher came only during a conversation with several brethren during the 1991 Florida College lectures. The need for this new kind of preacher may be a little difficult to explain, so please bear with me as we discuss the matter as briefly as possible.

Several brethren are now contending that alien sinners are not amenable to the law of Christ as declared in the gospel. They say that alien sinners cannot be convicted of sin because of violating the law of Christ found in the gospel. Instead, they tell us that alien sinners are properly convicted of sin only as they are shown to be in violation of God’s Ctuniversal moral law.”

Of course, this doctrine is relatively new. It has arisen at this time in an attempt to justify some unlawful divorces and remarriages. Those espousing this doctrine would have us believe that an alien sinner who is baptized may continue in a marriage which originated in violation of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19:9 and related passages. They argue that the alien sinner is not obligated to keep that law of Christ since it was given only for those in the kingdom, Christians. Therefore, they are forced to affirm that an alien sinner is free to divorce and remarry as many times as he chooses for any cause or without a cause, but only becomes obligated to live by Matthew 19:9 at his baptism.

Various writers, including this one, have written in some detail ref ting this theory with the clear teaching of the Bible. In this article, however, we simply want to look at a need which will arise if brethren teaching this error do not abandon it for the truth.

The Need For “Moral Law Preachers”

If these brethren are right in their teaching, the need for a change in their practice of preaching should be obvious.

They are forcing the audience to determine which part of the preacher’s message is for Christians and which part is for alien sinners without clear guidelines. For instance, when the preacher sees an alien sinner in the audience and tries to say something to convict that alien of sin, how are the Christians supposed to know that the message does not apply to them? On the other hand, when the preacher is bearing down on the worldliness of the brethren using passages from the epistles (written to Christians and supposedly binding only upon Christians), how is an alien sinner to understand he should not be convicted of such sins even though he might be doing the very things as an alien that the preacher is condemning for Christians? You see, the whole thing could get very confusing. I suggest that these brethren hire a second preacher, a “moral law preacher,” who could preach to the aliens while their “gospel preacher” limits himself to preaching for Christians only. This division of labor would help the audience immensely.

This arrangement would also help the “gospel preacher” to get out of some difficult situations. For example, suppose the “gospel preacher” had a class with an alien sinner to convict him of his sins. The alien sinner might ask, “Are you a gospel preacher?” What is the preacher supposed to say? He could say, “Yes I am, but I am not right now.” He could answer more fully saying, “Yes, I usually preach the gospel, but today I am preaching God’s universal moral law to convict you of sin. After you are convicted of sin, I will become a gospel preacher again to show you the remedy for your sin problem established when I was not a gospel preacher.” You see the Problem don’t you? The alien sinner may decide he is dealing with a certifiable schizophrenic and end the study. If these brethren are not going to leave their error and accept the truth, a two preacher arrangement with one “gospel preacher” and one “moral law preacher” would at least minimize the confusion.

Qualifications For A “Moral Law Preacher”

In establishing any new position, it is essential that clear qualifications and guidelines be laid down to delineate the obligations. I have been giving this matter a great deal of thought over the past few days and hope the following suggestions will be considered by our brethren teaching their “two law theory” as they seek one to fill the needed position of “moral law preacher.” They are as follows:

(1) A “moral law preacher” must never mention Matthew 19:9 or related passages. This point should be obvious since avoiding the consequences of such verses is the very goal of the “two law theory.” It might be good to look for a man who has never memorized these verses. Hypnotic suggestions to completely forget every part of the verses might also prove helpful in ridding any vestigial thought of the passages from his memory.

(2) A “moral law preacher” cannot condemn polygamy or concubinage for the alien sinner. This point became obvious to me with the release of a new book advocating the “two law theory” and its application to the divorce and remarriage issue. Notice the writer’s statement:

In Abraham’s case, God said, “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen. 26:5). Sarai gave her handmaid to Abraham “to be his wife,” and he went in unto Hagar and she conceived (Gen. 16:3,4). He also had concubines to whose sons he gave gifts (Gen. 25:6). There was nothing in God’s universal moral law violated by Abraham’s having a plurality of wives and concubines (Homer Hailey, The Divorced and Remarried Who Would Come to God, p. 15).

Since this writer claims the alien sinner today is regulated by the same “universal moral law” as Abraham, the conclusion is unmistakable. Of course, a slight problem may take place in some church in Utah when the new brother Smith with his seven wives and twenty-five children walk into the first service following their baptism. However, my suggested solution will take care of the whole thing, as I see it. When a well-studied brother asks them, “Don’t you folks ‘Know what the gospel says about this?” the Smiths can reply, “Yes, but we weren’t under the gospel when we started in polygamy, so the moral law preacher told us to ‘abide in the calling wherein we were called.”‘ Surely that explanation will suffice.

(3) A “moral law preacher” may never use any part of the old law or the New Testament to show an alien sinner’s guilt in sin. of course, that eliminates virtually all of the Scripture. Since I have never tried to convict an alien sinner of sin apart from the Scripture, I am afraid I cannot help a “moral law preacher” with much advice. Perhaps transcendental meditation to find that “universal moral law” within one’s self might prove helpful. Now, those of you who are tempted to condemn this as a violation of the gospel, remember that the alien sinner is not regulated by that law yet, according to our “two law theory” advocates.

(4) A “moral law preacher” must never use the old law or the New Testament to teach an alien sinner about the nature of God. Since the alien is not amenable to either law, why should he have to know anything about that which is in them? This will create a difficult task for the “moral law preacher.” He will have to find some way to explain the nature of God from this unwritten “universal moral law.” It would probably be helpful for the “moral law preacher” to have a philosophy degree to jumble his mind to meet this confusing task.

(5) A “moral law preacher” cannot use the New Testament to condemn any denominational practice. This conclusion is necessitated due to the insistence of the “two law theory” advocates that the alien is not regulated by “kingdom law” found in the gospel. This will demand that “gospel preachers” stop debating sectarian preachers on instrumental music in worship, denominational government, the clergy system, the frequency of the Lord’s Supper, and a host of denominational doctrines. Since the denominationalist is not regulated by the law of the gospel, he can do as he wishes in these areas without sin. The “gospel preacher” will have to learn his place and stop convicting the world of sin and stick to preaching directed at Christians only. These brethren will also need to censure Alexander Campbell, N.B. Hardeman, J.D. Tant, W. Curtis Porter and a host of other “gospel preachers” who stepped out of their place to debate denominationalists in the past. Much to the delight of those wanting an exclusively “positive” message with no condemnation of error, any debates or classes designed to expose denominational error will have to be canceled. The countless numbers reached by these means in previous years will be a relic of the past.


Leaving the satirical theater of the absurd, please allow me a few closing comments. In an effort to justify the acceptance of those in unlawful marriages, some brethren have embraced a doctrine which is ridiculous when carried to its end. If it were not so serious in its consequences, we might be able to just laugh about this error and go on. The tragedy is, however, that countless souls may be lost eternally if we fail to oppose it. People all over this country are being urged to remain in their adulterous marriages by the “two law theory” advocates among us. Churches are being divided as a result of this error. As this happens, some of our brethren are urging us to compromise by accepting those teaching and practicing this error. Those opposing the error are even being labeled as “young trouble-makers” by some brethren. The time has come for those who love the Lord and the souls of men to stand boldly for the truth regardless of the cost! If we do not, the cries of lost souls in an eternal hell will forever testify of our careless disregard for the horrible effects of sin and error.

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 23, pp. 712-713
December 5, 1991