Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 19, 1969

Replying To Others

Fred A. Shewmaker

We Recommend This Article To All Our Writing Brethren — Wew

It seems a good portion of my writing that has been considered worth publishing by the editors of various papers has been in reply to what some one else has written. This fact does not qualify me as an expert on the subject of replying to others. However, having had a little experience along that line I wish to submit for your consideration some thoughts based on my observations.

Writing A Reply

Replies should be motivated by love. We should be as kind as it is possible for us to be to the author of the error to which we reply. However, at the same time we should hit the false doctrine, he has set forth, with all force we can muster.

When I reply to something I like to identify the author of it. In fact, unless there is in my mind some very good reason for omitting the author's name I will use it. This has both advantages and disadvantages.

I feel that it is an advantage to have every reader know to whom I am replying. By making this known no one will have the right to think that I am hot on the trail of someone else. A disadvantage is that there are those who think that when we use a name we are bringing personalities into the discussion. Some writer may identify the author of that to which he is supposedly replying in order to introduce personalities. That this is true does not, however, prove that my use of an author's name is indulgence in personalities. The great majority of my brethren who identify authors by name do not do so in order to project personalities into the discussion.

When I reply to what someone has written, regardless of how much love I have in my heart for the one wrote, I must muster all the force of the word of God, that I can, and attack the erroneous position my brother has taken as hard as I can. By doing this I can know, in advance, that some poor, misguided soul, somewhere, will think I am attacking my brother. They will think that I am unkind and have a lack of love in my heart. Regardless of how well I may meet and show the error of my brother's position those people who have misjudged my motives will not consider the merit of my reply. But let not those who see the need to reply to some error be discouraged by this knowledge. Take courage in the knowledge that there will be many others who will see the truth and appreciate the fact that you brought it to their attention. Our Father in heaven will know our true motives and will be pleased that we have tried to prevent souls from following after error which would lead to destruction.

For the past several years the Lord's people have been engaged in a great struggle. Those who have survived have had to fight and, sometimes, fight hard for truth and right. In some places the church has been saved from digression. In other areas only a few have survived the terrible plague. And there are other places where the people of God are no more. Now this struggle is all but over and those who have fought so hard must make adjustments.

Those who have fought because they possessed a love for the souls of those in danger of being destroyed by error, will return to following the plow, planting the seed, cultivating and watering the increase that the Lord giveth.

There will, however, be weeds of error springing up, here and there, from time to time. Satan has not quit working. He is always busy planting the seeds of error. These errors will require that we make replies.

Obligations When Replying

Let us who write in reply to others be aware of the obligations that we have. We are obligated to avoid misrepresenting the other fellow's position. We must also be BIG enough to accept the consequence of our sharp pens and cutting words. If we cannot stand to have someone reply to what we write we ought to leave writing to others. Yes, that is plain, but true nevertheless. There will always be reaction to what we write. Someone might just sit down and write a reply to what we have written using a pen just as sharp and words which cut just as deep as our own.

When you feel that you must write a reply give diligence to avoid haste. By this I mean that we should not read someone's article, run for the typewriter, burn up the keys getting our reaction on paper, stuff our reply in an envelope, head for the post office and do all that in time to get back to the office and finish our coffee before it has become too cool to drink.

You are probably like me. I find that my first reactions are not always justifiable. Therefore, I suggest that we, first of all, take a little time before we decide that we will write a reply. When you have decided that you must reply; by all means do so. But here again go slow. I would suggest that you allow your reply to lay on your desk for a few days and then reread what you have written. By doing this you will be able to view the whole matter with less emotionalism. You may in the meantime think of something you wish to add to give your reply more force, decide to submit your reply without change or decide that a reply is not really necessary. You may be surprised how much postage you can save.

When error is advocated by all means reply. But when we reply we are obligated to treat the author as we would want to be treated. Do not question the honesty and sincerity of the author of error. Grant that the author has intelligence and reasoning ability and will be able to see the truth when it is presented to him. Do not call his moral character into question. Someone may say, "but I know the fellow and he is no good." But it matters very little that you know such things. What matters is that your readers will not all know the man as you do. If your reply shows clearly the contrast between truth and error your readers will be edified. But if the readers have to hunt for the contrast among your indulgences into personalities they may become weary with the hunting and discard your article in disgust.

Getting A Reply Published

Making a good reply is not the easiest and simplest task you could undertake. A reply must be good to get past the editor and into print. That is probably why some of my replies have not been published. You may have had similar experiences. Some of us have at times become overly disturbed because the editor did not publish the reply we submitted. If you are one who becomes disturbed when this happens to you try to imagine yourself in the editor's chair. Now for a moment consider the enormous task of making the final decision about what will be printed and what will be omitted.

Editors do not use certain articles for various reasons. To put it in plain English, some articles are just not well written. Oh, yes, I know, you feel that when you take a raw idea, process it in the grand refinery that your mind is, give it expression on paper in typewritten words and submit it to a discriminating editor he should be able to see that you have contributed a rare gem to the field of literary endeavor. Even so an editor may find some other reason to not use what we have written. We may have failed to deal adequately with the issue we are trying to meet. Our choice of words may leave the impression that we have an antagonistic attitude which would not help the situation and possibly would be harmful to ourselves if the article was published. Then it is also possible that your reply may have been like some of mine, just too long for the space the editor can give to the discussion.

I no longer become overly concerned when my articles and replies fail to make print. I have decided to let the editor do his job as he sees it. I have decided to content myself' in the knowledge that I have in my files a copy of an article, which has been submitted for publication, expressing my understanding of God's will regarding the matter under consideration.

If we were to end this article without giving a scripture reference someone might become upset and write a reply. I will, therefore, refer you to Galatians 6:1.

— 230 S. Wall St., Wilmington, Ohio