Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 7, 1970
NUMBER 1, PAGE 5a-7a

Rearranging The Fences

Brent Lewis

A recent front-page article in the Gospel Guardian (Vol. 21, No. 44) was entitled "Truth, Error and the Grace of God." I have never written an article since I began preaching in "answer" to another brother's article but I feel that I must speak. I sincerely believe that the article set forth a dangerous philosophy.

Much of it was good; I could agree with a great deal of it. However, there was much in it that is unfounded in the scriptures. Now, I know that if I am saved, it will be by the grace of God. I know that I do not infallibly have the truth on every Bible subject. But, I am not ready to conclude that some Bible truth no longer matters. Truth is not opinion — it is truth. (It would be helpful if you would go back and read this article again.)

Some Things I Don't Understand

There are some statements that our brother makes that I just do not understand:

1. He says that the early church had "a calm and clear view of truth and error."

Now, I suspect we were in trouble right there. The idea seems to be that we today should have this "calm and clear view about truth and error" so that there would be no "quibbles" among brethren. In other words, if we (the church today) were like they were then (the early church) — we would not have disagreements over doctrinal matters. Is this true? Did the early church really have a "calm and clear view of truth and error?" Did the:

1. Corinthians — when they called themselves after men? (I Cor. 1)

2. Corinthians — when they went to law against a brother before unbelievers? (I Cor. 6)

3. Corinthians — when they corrupted the worship in desecrating the Lord's Supper? (I Cor. 11)

4. Corinthians — when they caused a "schism" by being puffed up over spiritual gifts? (I Cor. 12, 14)

5. Galatians — when they succumbed to false teachers regarding circumcision? (Gal. 5:2-9)

6. Thessalonians — when they sat down, quite working, and waited for Christ to come back? (2 Thess. 3)

Were these just matters of opinion? Were they only tiny, insignificant matters, not worth quibbling about? Was Paul ready "to shoot at anything that moves in the bushes" when he wrote to correct these errors? But, even with all of that aside, I ask you — where, oh where, is the "clear view of truth and error" in the early church??? Personally, I do not find it.

2. He says that there is saving truth and damning error. The implication is that there is some divine truth, which does not contribute to our salvation, and some human error (as opposed to divine truth) which will not damn. I am not willing to grant such a conclusion; and I cannot see how a brother who has the proper appreciation and respect for God's truth can.

The author of the article under consideration, if I understand him, says that the only truth that saves is truth about Jesus as the Son of God, including all that He does to redeem man. This, he calls the "gospel," the "good news" about Jesus. The implication is that no other Bible truth contributes to one's salvation.

The author then visualizes only two kinds of error — (1) that which denies Jesus' divinity, saving work, present Lordship, or judgmental coming; (2) an immoral life. In his article, he says that these are the only two kinds of error that damn.

The only thing wrong with such a conclusion is that it is not so! We could break his damning error into these categories: False living and false teaching.

False living — here, according to our author, there is only one kind of false living, i. e., immorality.

1. What about hypocrisy? (Matt. 23) Jesus called hypocrites "sons of hell." Will "sons of hell" be saved? Yet, here is a form of error which is neither immorality nor a denial of the facts about Jesus!

2. What about failure to do good? (Jas. 4:17). James says it is sin. We ask our brother — does sin damn? (Isa. 59:1-2). Yet, this sin does not involve immorality nor denial of the facts about Jesus.

3. What about lukewarmness? (Rev. 3:16ff) Will a man be saved if he is "spewed out of the Lord's mouth?" Is this error serious enough that it will damn? Yet, again, it is neither immorality nor a denial of the facts about Jesus.

I believe it is obvious that our brother has made too narrow a category in false living. But he has done the same thing in false teaching! To him, the only false teaching that will damn is false teaching about the person and work of Christ.

1. What about false teaching about the body of Christ, the church? Now, this gets to the heart of the matter. Is it only a matter of opinion as to who is to perform the work of the church — the church itself, or a human institution? We ask the author, is this what he is talking about when he says, "My opinions are not gospel. My conclusions are not gospel?"

2. Is it not damning error when men pervert the body of Christ into a social institution, and spend the Lord's money for purely social activities? Should we just ignore this, or let it go as a "matter of opinion?" Can we walk in harmony with these brethren who make the church more like a denomination than the church of the New Testament — because they still believe in the deity of Christ and preach against immorality? I refuse to believe that error about Christ is the only kind of false teaching that will damn. A person may sincerely believe the facts about the person of Christ and still proceed to mutilate the body of Christ — and I say that that is false teaching or error that will damn! If not, why not?

3. He says that "the early church did not seem to have this general fear of general error."

I have only two observations to make about that.

1. If they didn't, they should have. They received enough warnings from the apostles. (2 Cor. 11:3; Acts 20:28-30; Col. 2:8; I John 4:1; 2 Tim. 1:13; I Tim. 4:1-4, 6).

2. If they did not have a general fear of error, what was the result of their lack of this fear? I would say that the next few hundred years of Church History ought to answer that! The church went deep into apostasy! Where, then, is the virtue in a failure to have a "general fear of general error"? I must confess that I fail to detect such virtue.

4. He says, "If we are 'Gospel preachers' let's give people the good news."

The implication is that we should only preach the facts about Jesus' deity, and leave everything else alone. But I must confess to my brother that it's rather difficult for me to keep preaching that Jesus is the Christ to people who already believe it, but don't believe that the church is a spiritual body! Somehow the "good news" about Christ just does not impress the man who wants the church to fork over the funds to send cows to Korea. The "good news" about Christ is still TRUTH, and I verily believe it, but it is not applicable in such a situation!

The obvious attempt is to make some kind of distinction between "gospel" and "doctrine," and there just is no such clear-cut distinction in the scriptures. Even if there were, we could not conclude that "gospel" matters and "doctrine" does not. If I understand him, this is what our brother concludes — at least, that only "doctrine" about the person of Christ matters. This I deny. Doctrine about the body of Christ also matters.

But, he wants us just to preach the "good news." My brother, where was the "good news" when Paul condemned false brethren who sought to impose circumcision upon Gentile brethren? (Gal. 2:5, 14). And Paul said that he did it so that "the truth of the gospel" might continue with the Galatians.

These Galatians did not deny the facts about Christ. Oh, I realize that for them to be circumcised was to deny the saving work of Christ. But they did not realize that. They were victims of false teachers. If you were to ask them, Do you believe Jesus is divine?, they would have answered, Yes. Do you believe His saving work? Surely they would have said, Yes. Do you believe His present Lordship and His judgmental coming? Yes.

The point is that none of these brethren had now become modernists in that they no longer believed the facts about Christ, nor were they being immoral. These, though, are the only two kinds of error that our brother wants to make any fuss about.

Yet, Paul said, those who were involved in it "walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel." The "truth of the gospel" then involves more than that which our brother wishes to intimate. To teach or practice doctrinal error in any matter of divine truth (I am not talking about opinion) is to deny the "truth of the gospel."

Brethren, if I understand anything at all about this proposition, there is not half a cat's hair difference between what our brother has set forth and what Carl Ketcherside, Robert Meyers, Leroy Garrett and Co. have been saying for years. I am disturbed about it.

A Warning

The brethren still tell me that I am a young preacher. I suppose I'll have to take their word for it. (Maybe in a few years, I'll wish they were still saying it!) The brother who authored this article is probably about my same age.

I believe there is a developing tendency among some of our younger preachers to make it their task to rearrange the fences that have separated brethren. To me, the very contemplation of such a feat suggests that those who have fought the issues for the last twenty years were a bunch of dumbbells. They just split the church over their "opinions" and they should not have done so. If they'd just preached the "good news" everything would have worked out fine. Brethren, and I say it as a "young preacher," — I do not believe it!!!

I have never been one to accept what has always been taught just because it has been taught for years. It's right because it's in the Book, or it's not right at all. But when I get to where I'm so smart that I've found the neat little "formula" that will make reparations for the breach of "fellowship" among brethren that has developed over the years, I'm in pretty serious trouble.

The hippies are trying to change society. All of those who have gone before have made a "mess" out of things. The hippies want to straighten it out.

Some preachers have decided that we've made a "mess" out of the church (at least our older preachers have) by the way these "issues" were handled, and it is the task of the new generation of preachers to straighten the whole thing out in "THE AGE OF AQUARIUS." Let's rearrange the fences and adopt the new formula.

Well, brethren, I can't swallow the formula. I intend to still stand upon the truth which I can read in God's word. If it alienates me from some, it will just have to. I don't care about the Restoration Movement, I just care about the New Testament church. If we begin in the direction our brother suggests, I say, in his closing words, "May God help us all."