Is It Ever Justifiable?
Wherever one goes to declare the unsearchable riches of our Lord, he finds some in the body of Christ who feel that one is never justified in "calling names" in the pulpit. And, should he ever take the liberty to do so, to them, he is almost guilty of committing the unpardonable sin.
Lest some may misunderstand, perhaps it would be in order to state that it has never been my contention nor practice to call names every time a sermon is preached; however, if the occasion demanded it, we have never had any compunction of conscience whatsoever against calling the names of individuals (false teachers) or unscriptural bodies. That there are numbers of examples in the New Testament where such was done by Christ and the apostles, all informed Bible students must admit. In Matthew 16:6-12, the Lord was exhorting the disciples to exercise care regarding false teaching. He could have used the "positive approach," we hear so much about, and have said, "Exercise caution concerning the teaching of some false bodies among us," instead, he declared, "Take heed and beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Yes, the blessed Son of God actually called the names of religious bodies and we may rest assured that he did so in the "spirit of Christ"!
Time and time again (as the following 'scriptures abundantly prove-2 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17; 2Tim. 4:14; Rev. 2:6) Paul and others "called names." But, after such arguments are offered, invariably someone says, "You are not Christ or one of the apostles." To this, we readily agree; however, the Saviour, in speaking of false teachers declared, "Ye shall know them by their fruits." (Matt. 7:16.) Based upon these facts and examples, it is our firm conviction that so long as one's attitude and motive are right ("speaking the truth in love," to protect the children of God from erroneous doctrines) he is wholly justified when the need arises in calling names.
At this point, however, we wish to state that there is at least one exception to this rule, namely — one is never, regardless of attitude or motive, justified in calling his brethren (or anyone else) "ugly" names of which they are not guilty. Several generations ago, when those dedicated to the "old paths," would not go along with their new unscriptural arrangements to spread the gospel, the missionary society element called our faithful brethren "old-fogies,". "moss-backs" and "non-progressives." Today, because some brethren will not endorse certain (so-called) methods of cooperation, they are branded as "anti-cooperation brethren," "church-busters," "hair-splitters" and "trouble-makers."
Almost two thousand years ago, there were those who called Paul, the grand old apostle to the Gentiles, a "heretic, "a mover of sedition" and "ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." Did calling Paul these names make him guilty ? We think no one would answer in the affirmative, but by the same token, just because some brother calls another member of the Lord's body a "trouble-maker" doesn't necessarily make it so.
It is interesting to notice that the practice of calling someone a trouble-maker is by no means a new one. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah and Ahab had a rather heated discussion on that very point. In verse 17, Ahab asked, "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" Elijah immediately answered, "I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house . . . ." Upon what basis did Elijah make this counter charge? In the latter part of verse 18, he states, ". . . . in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord . . . ." Who troubled Israel then, and who troubles spiritual Israel today? Is it the one who clings tenaciously to, and stands "four-square" for the will of God, or those who forsake the Lord's commandments? We truly believe to ask the question is to answer it!
Since leaving "digression" twelve years ago, this writer has, on numbers of occasions, used this line of reasoning to answer the false accusations of, the Christian Church, but it is with deep regret that such now has to be done regarding the charges of some in the body of Christ.
Brethren, in the language of the weeping prophet, "Ask for the old paths, where in is the good way, and walk therein . . . ." Too, may we remember that while the practice of "calling names" to protect God's children is scriptural, false accusations and "ugly" name calling are never justifiable.