By Larry Ray Hafley
The chart on the next page illustrates a complaint that frequently is heard.
Who is guilty of calling names? “Well, old brother So & So calls names.” You have just named someone who calls names. Does this make you a “name caller”?
What is meant by the charge that “preachers call names”? (1) Do preachers call people ugly, dirty names? Do they refer to other folks as “dirty, rotten blankety blanks”? If so, they should be opposed. There is no place for childish name calling “Johnny is a big, fat slob!” “Catholics are a bunch of mealy-mouthed minnow munchers.” That sort of thing does not belong in the life of a Christian, let alone in preaching! Who does such a thing? If you find someone, we will join you in reprimanding him.
Suppose an example of such improper name calling is found. Is it typical? Does it occur during most sermons? No, it is an isolated event. It rarely occurs, and when it does, it is not condoned. So, why the charge? Why bring it up as a general criticism if it is not generally practiced?
(2) When it is said that “preachers call names,” do you mean by this that they name and identify the what and the who about which they are speaking? Define the complaint. When you say that someone is a “name caller,” you have called him a name, i.e., “name caller.” “Thou that sayest a man should not call names, dost thou call men `name callers’?”
Notorious New Testament Name Callers
Jesus was perhaps the “worst” name caller who ever lived! “Woe unto you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites!” “Ye make him twofold more the child of hell than your-selves.” “Ye blind guides.” “Ye fools and blind.” “Ye blind guides which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” “Thou blind Pharisee.” “Woe unto you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers.”
If a preacher today referred to religious people as “blind guides,” “hypocrites,” “children of hell,” and as “snakes” and a “generation of vipers,” he would be told that he lacks “the spirit of Christ.” Would Jesus be allowed to preach where you worship if he called names as he did in Matthew 23? When Jesus referred to “Gentiles,” he was identifying his subject in order to emphasize his point (Matt. 6:32). Ifone speaks of the second coming of Christ, he might say, “For after all these things do the premillenialists seek.” Or he might say that, “like the Methodists, Baptists seek for salvation by faith only.” Does the preacher sin by labeling and identifying the group he is talking about? If so, did Jesus (Matt. 6:32; 21:31)?
In Mark 7:6-13, Jesus (1) called his audience “hypocrites,” (2) said their worship was “in vain,” (3) charged them with rejecting “the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Then, (4) he specifically described and defined their particular doctrine and (5) rebuked it. Is this an example of good, sound gospel preaching? May a preacher today refer to (1) “Baptists” and (2) say their worship of God is in vain because (3) they reject the commandments of God that they may keep their own traditions? Then, would it be proper to take a (4) specific doctrine, such as, “faith only” and show how it contradicts Mark 16:16, and (5) rebuke it as a human tradition that makes void the word of God? Would such a sermon lack love? Would it be “filled with hateful `name calling’?” May we do what Jesus did in the way that he did it (1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Pet. 2:21; 4:11; 1 Jn. 2:6)? Please tell us!
If we may do what the Lord did in the way he did it, why the charge that the Church of Christ is wrong because it calls names? Either withdraw the charge, or else tell us that we may not follow the Lord’s example in preaching. Which shall it be?
Paul was another first rate “name caller.” He named “Hymanaeus and Alexander” as being examples of those who had “made shipwreck” of their faith (1 Tim. 1:19,20). Would it be proper today to say that Darwin Chandler “made shipwreck” of his faith when he joined the Pentecostals? (In the 1980s, Darwin Chandler, who was then preaching for the House St. church in Alvin, Texas, departed the faith and started preaching for the Pentecostals.) Assuming it to be true, would it be sinful to say it? Paul said, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). “Alexander the coppersmith (not the blacksmith, the tinsmith, the silversmith or the goldsmith, but the coppersmith LRH) did me much evil” (2 Tim. 4:14). “Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.” Would it be scriptural to tell someone today that there is a certain ironworker in a certain church that will oppose you when you teach the truth about the church and recreation? May we do as Paul did (Phil. 4:9)? May we speak as he spoke (1 Pet. 4:11)?
Note the case, the example, of 2 Timothy 2:16-18. “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as cloth a canker: of whom is Hymanaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”
First, Paul characterized the doctrine in very harsh terms, comparing it to “profane and vain babblings.” Second, he noted its threefold effects: (A) “increase unto more ungodliness,” (B) “eat as doth a canker (gangrene),” (C) “overthrow the faith of some.” Third, he identified the proponents of the doctrine; he called their names,”Hymanaeus and Philetus.” Fourth, he defined the doctrine, “saying that the resurrection is past already.” Did Paul sin? Should he be ridiculed and reviled as a “name caller”?
May a preacher today do as Paul did? Can we obey 1 Timothy 5:20, “Them that sin rebuke before all that others also may fear”? May one say that brother Guy N. Woods’ views on benevolent societies and the sponsoring church, as exemplified by the “Herald Of Truth,” are “profane and vain babblings” that have led to “more ungodliness” (church gyms, camps, etc.). May I say that his teaching has eaten as a cancerous gangrene in the body of Christ and has overthrown the faith of some? Should one refrain from such characterizations in order to avoid being called “a name caller,” or should he do as Paul did?
May a preacher say that brother Charles Holt’s views on the church and elders in the local church are “profane and vain babblings” that will “increase unto more ungodliness,” “eat as doth a canker” and “overthrow the faith of some”? If one does so, is he guilty of sin, assuming that he correctly represents brother Holt’s false doctrines? Strangely, those who refer to gospel preachers as “name callers” never seem to apply the same criticism to brother Holt when he calls gospel preachers “hirelings” and charges them with preaching for money! Critics jump on men who properly identify and rebuke brother Holt’s doctrine, but they never reprove brother Holt when he says that women may be “elders” and that “elders” are power hungry autocrats. Now, we are getting to the heart of our critics’ goals. They love the darkness of error more than the light of truth. That is the basis of their complaints On. 3:19-21).
May a preacher do as Paul did regarding brother Homer Hailey’s views on divorce and remarriage? May we say, with all kindness and respect, that brother Hailey’s views, if followed, will lead to “more ungodliness,” leaving some in an adulterous marriage? May one say that the toleration of adulterous marriage will “eat as doth a canker” and “overthrow the faith of some”? If we may not speak in such a manner regarding brother Hailey’s doctrine, why is it right to do so concerning Guy N. Woods, Charles Holt, Hymanaeus and Philetus? Brethren, these questions can-not be answered with your best grin. They demand an answer. (Or will you simply call me a name for having raised the questions?)
“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:9-13).
Paul cited a religious party, “the circumcision.” May we cite a religious party, “the premillennialists”? Observe the “name calling” that Paul engaged in! He accepted the verdict of uninspired men regarding the character of “the Cretans”; hence, an uninspired man may make such judgments. I believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are “unruly and vain talkers and deceivers.” May I cite their doctrines and “rebuke them sharply”? May I say that Mormons “subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not”? May I say that the convicted and imprisoned preacher, Jim Bakker, preached “for filthy lucre’s sake,” for money, and that he “with feigned words (made) merchandise” of millions of people? If I do so, am I a sinful “name caller”? May elders in the church today do as Paul instructed the elders to do in Titus 1:9-13?
If “name calling” is one of the things that “is wrong with the Church of Christ,” then the “wrong” has been around for a long time. “0 full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10). Do such folks exist today. Ben M. Bogard, a Missionary Baptist preacher, was such a man. Marvin Hicks of the United Pentecostal Church is such a man. Oral Roberts is such a man. But our critics will not challenge the evil and wickedness of those men. No, they would rather criticize those who expose the deceit of such men.
The apostle John named and identified Diotrephes (3 Jn. 9,10). “Yes, Larry, but John was an inspired man. He knew Diotrephes’ character (“loveth to have the preeminence”), but you don’t possess John’s insight.” Where is the proof that John revealed Diotrephes’ character by divine insight? If so, the error is not in the “name calling,” but in the fact that one is not inspired when he does so. (Remember, though, Paul’s acceptance of the “names” that uninspired men “called”Titus 1:12, 13).
John said, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar” (1 Jn. 2:4). Imagine that! John used the word “liar.” Did he sin? “No, Larry, John did not sin; he wrote as the Spirit directed, but you cannot do that.” (1) Is it possible for an uninspired man to know if a man claims that he knows God? Yes, I can know when one claims that he knows God. (2) Is it possible for an uninspired man to know whether or not one keeps God’s commandments? Yes, I can know whether or not one keeps “his commandments.” Since I, an uninspired man, can know that one claims to know God, and since I can know whether or not he is keeping God’s commandments, I can know whether or not one is a “liar.”
In debate with Pentecostal preachers, I have had three of them claim that they were apostles. Raymond Cochran claimed that he was an apostle as Paul and Peter were. He said he did not know who the other eleven were. I told Mr. Cochran that I believed he was indeed an apostle, and that he was mentioned in the Bible “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Did I do wrong? Am I sinning by naming the man and his claim in this article? If not, then why charge that “the Church of Christ is wrong because they call names”? The church at Ephesus was commended thusly, “Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev. 2:2).
The Pope of Rome claims to be an apostle. Mormons say they have twelve apostles. Mr. Cochran said he was an apostle. May we try or test such men and their claims? If they fail the test of Scripture, is it proper to say that we have “found them liars”? I asked Mr. Cochran if he could do “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12). He could not! The Pope, the Mormon apostles and Mr. Cochran are “liars.” If that is “name calling,” then I plead guilty.
Here is what puzzles me. Gospel preachers are attacked and condemned “for calling names.” What do our critics say about Mr. Cochran or the Pope? Do they protest against their claims? Do they teach against the Pope’s usurpation of the apostleship? Why is it that gospel preachers are the “bad guys” when they teach and tell the truth, but the Pope and Mr. Cochran are to receive our sympathy and love? “What is wrong with this picture?” The truth is that there are those who love darkness rather than light. That is why they criticize gospel preachers for doing their duty and apologize to false teachers who are doing the devil’s work. While none of us desires to be unnecessarily abusive and offensive, there are others who are unwittingly deluded by these false teachers who have adopted their maxims.
Elijah’s Sarcastic Mocking
The prophets of Baal were to have their god answer them. They “called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, 0 Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened” (1 Kgs. 18:26, 27).
Did Elijah sin? We know that the wicked king Ahab said that Elijah was the one “that troubleth Israel” (1 Kgs. 18:17). In our day, those who challenge the modern prophets of Baal are regarded as those “that troubleth Israel.” It was not so then, and it is not so today! The Ahabs of our day want to throw up a smokescreen to hide their altars that burn with the fires of error and iniquity. They will seek to intimidate by saying that we are hateful, mean spirited “name callers.” Listen, and you will hear the “names” that they call all of us who “call names.” Those who are opposed to “name calling” do it with a vengeance against those they judge to be guilty of it. They call our names, and the call us names for calling the names of false teachers and false doctrines. That is more than a bit ironic!
Whats Wrong with the Church of Christ?
“Preachers Calling Names”
- Name One! (When you do, are you a “Name-Caller”??
- Notorious N. T. Name Callers
- Jesus: Mt. 23; 21:31; 6:32 (Gentiles = Baptists) Mk. 7:6-13, Lk. 13:32 (“Fox”) Rev 2:6, 15, 20
- Paul: 1 Tim. 1:19, 20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; 2 Tim. 4:10, 14; Titus 1:9-13; Acts 19:24; 17:23
- John: 1 Jn. 2:4; 3 Jn. 9
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 6, p. 10-13
March 17, 1994