Maxey - Martin Dialogue

An Email Exchange Between

Al Maxey, Minister/Elder
Cuba Avenue Church of Christ
Alamogordo, New Mexico


David Martin, Pastor
Solid Rock Baptist Church
Bartlett, Tennessee

Comments by Al Maxey

Wednesday, August 7, 2002

I must state at the outset that I am greatly disappointed in David Martin's return to the spirit he had evidenced in his original article attacking the character and motives of the group he frequently characterized as "Campbellites." I'm not sure what it is in this man's past that has led him to such feelings of anger and hatred, but I had genuinely hoped he and I could have a calm exchange of ideas with an appeal NOT to negative emotions, but rather to the standard of God's holy Word. However, it now appears that is not to be. This spiteful spirit, though suppressed temporarily, seems to have asserted itself once again over the heart and mind of this man, and it appears a reasoned, rational, respectful dialogue with David over the substantive differences between us is not to be. That is truly a tragedy. I had hoped and prayed for better.

David observed, "I really don't think that we are going to get anywhere with our discussion, Al." I'm not sure what specifically led David to this conclusion, but I felt we were making progress in placing the issues "on the table" for examination and investigation from the Scriptures. So did many of our readers (based on personal comments I have received via email). Yes, David and I differ with one another on several doctrines and practices. That was the purpose of this dialogue. We need to present our various views to one another and our reading public, and we then need to subject them to the scrutiny of the Word. I am willing to do this with any doctrine and practice I embrace. It appears David is NOT. I am willing to have David challenge ANYTHING I teach, and to then seek to refute it from sound exegesis of Scripture. It seems David is reluctant to have anyone do the same with his own teaching. I had challenged a number of David's previous conclusions about biblical doctrine, and also about his views of the churches of Christ, and he had thus far in this dialogue failed to address those issues with any specificity. Thus, I simply expressed the hope in my last post that perhaps he could begin doing so in a future post. This apparently triggered the return of his previous hostile attitude (a defense mechanism??), and he is now attempting to flee from any accountability for his public, published pronouncements pertaining to the churches of Christ and his own perceptions of the nature of ultimate Truth.

David concluded his most recent post with this challenge: "Let's obey the Bible, Al." To this I give hearty agreement. The Bible urges us to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). The Bible also commands the disciples of Jesus Christ to "always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:15). David has asked some pointed questions of the churches of Christ, and made some bold assertions about this group. I "obeyed the Bible" and made a biblical defense for the hope within me. I then challenged David to do the same, and he is now threatening to flee. Which of us is "obeying the Bible," David, and which of us is not?!

David Martin declared, "Larry Ray holds the positions that I have stated in my article, and doesn't deny that he does." On the contrary, David. He most certainly DOES deny that he holds the positions you accuse us in the churches of Christ of embracing. Indeed, he wrote a lengthy article seeking to REFUTE your assertions as to our beliefs. Why would he write such a long refutation if he agreed with your analysis? Brother Larry Ray Hafley wrote that his intention was to provide a "Scriptural review and refutation of his (David Martin's) views." That hardly sounds like someone who "doesn't deny" that he "holds the positions that I have stated in my article." On the contrary, David. Larry declared his purpose was to REFUTE the positions you attributed to us in your article.

I have talked to several people who have responded to your original scathing denunciation of the "Campbellites," and each of them have stated to me that they could not motivate you to engage in a rational, reasoned, respectful dialogue with them based on God's Word. They said they would be praying I might be the exception here, but that I should not expect too much. I had prayed fervently that I might be able to simply "talk Bible" with you and come to a better appreciation of why you believe as you do. However, it appears that is not going to happen (just as predicted by others who have tried). Again, that reveals much about your heart, my friend .... and that is a genuine tragedy.

David wrote, "The bottom line is that if you and I continue to discuss and 'debate' (Rom.1:29), that we are giving credence to the other's perceived false doctrines and heresies." First of all, David, when disciples discuss the differences that have arisen between them, and which separate them, that does NOT "give credence" to the other's perceptions and practices. Rather, this is a godly attempt to bridge the gap between brethren. When Paul saw that Peter was "not being straightforward about the truth of the gospel," he "opposed him to his face .... in the presence of all" (Galatians 2:11f). Paul didn't run away from Peter because he thought a discussion with him would "give credence" to Peter's error! David, you are grasping at straws in a futile attempt to flee accountability for your harsh judgments against others. It won't work, and it is ungodly.

You spoke of not wanting to engage in "debate," and referred to Romans 1:29 where the word "debate" appears in the KJV in that listing of negative traits. Actually, the Greek word employed there is "eris" which signifies "a contentious disposition; to use the harsh tone of a wrangler, brawler" (The Analytical Greek Lexicon). W.E. Vine defines it as "the expression of enmity" (Expository Dictionary of NT Words). David Lipscomb defined it as an attitude of heart which "seeks to irritate others." Moses Lard characterized it as "a morbid feeling which seeks to irritate everybody and thereby disquiet them." In point of fact, David, it is not our respectful discussion of our differences that constitutes an embodiment of this Greek term, but rather your own "contentious disposition and harsh tone" in condemning those with whom you differ and seeking to disquiet them. You are guilty of the very word you now seek to use to escape accountability. How ironic!! By the way, I hope the use of a little Greek on you didn't cause you to "blow a gasket," as Pastor Meier believed might happen to me if you employed that same tactic!! There is nothing worse than a pastor whose "cover is blown!"

This same word is used in Philp. 1:15 where Paul pointed out that "some, to be sure, are preaching Christ from envy and STRIFE ("eris"), but some from good will." There have always been those who seek to "proclaim Christ" with an agenda, and too frequently they do so contentiously. This is forbidden!! We are to CONTEND for the faith, not be CONTENTIOUS about it.

There is nothing wrong with honorable discussion and debate over differences among disciples. Indeed, Paul and Barnabas had "great debate" with the Judaizers in Antioch (Acts 15:2) which led to the famous Jerusalem Conference, at which there was "much debate" among the apostles and elders of the church (Acts 15:7). This is the Greek word "zetesis" which signifies a discussion or debate (an inquiry; questionings) involving matters of controversy. This is exactly what I sought to accomplish with you, David .... and it is a very Scriptural procedure. If you knew your Bible better you would be aware of this. Let me challenge you with your own words, David: "Let's obey the Bible." AMEN?!

David wrote, "Since we are both heretics in each other's eyes, we need to REJECT one another per Titus 3:10,11. .... As I believe you are a heretic and a false teacher, I must, to obey scripture, reject you as such (Titus 3:10,11)." Whether you or I are "false teachers" or "heretics" is a matter that neither of us can truly and fairly judge at this point. We simply are not qualified to make that determination. This requires the ability to look into one's heart and judge one's very character and motives. We don't know that much about each other (although we may both have our suspicions .... suspicions, however, require further investigation to validate). All we can do at present is examine various teachings and practices that the other may embrace. Thus, it is teachings we must examine here, not the very nature of another person himself (although there may well be indicators of the latter in the way one reacts to challenges to one's positions and how one chooses to engage one with whom he/she differs).

We, as disciples of Jesus, are commanded to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1). When someone presents a teaching we may feel is questionable, we are to be noble-minded enough to "examine the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things are so" (Acts 17:11), as the Bereans did with the teachings of Paul. It was the Thessalonicans who, because of godless motives, went into attack mode against Paul and sought to stir up the people against him (Acts 17:1-9, 13). David, in all honesty, which of these two mindsets seems to best depict you at this present time? I shall let the readers make that determination.

A pastor in the church of our Lord must "be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to REFUTE those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). Paul tells Titus that there were some men who "must be silenced" because of the effect of their teaching (Titus 1:11). You don't silence someone you perceive to be false by running away, David. Nor do you "refute those who contradict" Truth by fleeing either them or their teaching. A genuine pastor of the Lord will oppose falsehood, not turn a blind eye to it. A genuine pastor will also be willing to engage any person who is truly willing to respectfully open God's Word and examine the contents for greater understanding. I am willing to do this, David. Are you? If not, can you truly characterize yourself as being in compliance with the teaching of God's Word?

I do NOT regard you as a heretic or false teacher, David. I have never called you by either of those terms. It is YOU who freely employs a host of pejoratives in your assaults upon the character of those with whom you differ (people you likely have never met and don't even know). It is YOU who employ the "harsh tone" so typical of a "contentious disposition" .... the very meaning of the Greek term ("eris") which you declared in your post you wanted to avoid at all cost. Well, dear friend, now would be a good time to begin. You can do so by leaving the caustic characterizations behind and moving forward into a respectful, rational dialogue with one whose soul you perceive to be in jeopardy. If you think I'm lost, David, and if you believe yourself to be in possession of saving Truth, then share it with me rather than running away and hiding. The latter serves no constructive purpose, the former, however, will rescue the perishing and glorify the Father who desires none to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Consider me your "Macedonian call," David (Acts 16:9-10).

David wrote, "If you choose to continue our dialogue, I must assume that you do not consider me a heretic or false teacher who needs to be rejected, or 'accursed,' for that matter." My friend, I do not regard you as either a heretic or a false teacher who needs to be rejected or accursed. I regard you as a precious misguided, misinformed soul in need of some loving instruction and enlightenment from God's holy Word. The fact that I want to continue our dialogue is simply because I care about you and do NOT want to see you continue your present course (which I perceive to be in opposition to Truth), and also because I care about the many precious souls over whom you may have some influence.

If I hated you, or was simply indifferent toward you, I would just walk away and not give you a second thought. I don't want to see anyone lost, however, and in my humble opinion your present course is not leading you toward a pronouncement of "Well done, good and faithful servant" on that final day. I care enough about you as a person to try and do something about that. Do YOU care enough about ME to do the same? Or, is your profession of evangelical concern simply a hollow Pharisaical street-corner performance for the benefit of the crowd? Only you and God can answer that question, David. However, if you genuinely care about lost souls, and if you genuinely seek to promote Truth over falsehood, and if you genuinely seek to refute the "error" you perceive in the churches of Christ, or in me personally, then you will not flee from such an encounter as is now being provided via this dialogue. Your actions will display your heart, David. What we will all behold in that respect remains to be seen.

You have boldly made many assertions about the churches of Christ, and about what you perceive to be the Truth of God's Word, and about what you perceive to be our failings. I am now left wondering if you are man-of-God enough to be equally bold in the defense of these assertions. We shall see! Again, my questions and challenges to you over the past few posts remain on the table for you and all others to read. I would appreciate a response to each of them.

With Christian Concern,

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