Issue #206 -------
August 26, 2005
Nothing chills nonsense like
exposure to the air.
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)
I know, I know ... you're all wondering, "What in the world is a calcified callous recalcitrant?! And why should I care?" The first two terms are descriptive of that which has become hardened and unfeeling, usually over a period of time. The Bible speaks of hearts that are hardened and consciences that are seared over, which certainly lends itself well to a visual of that which is both calcified and callous. I can't help but think of the religious hypocrites against whom Jesus pronounced a series of woes in Matthew 23. Among them were those who "devour widows' houses, while for a pretense [they] offer long prayers" (vs. 14). These separatists had become so calcified in their legalistic thinking that they lost the ability to even feel for the plight of those about them. Their legal system had become their god, thus they were able to calmly offer up long prayers while casting widows into the streets to starve. That is a callousness created by years of religious calcification. It is the elevation of party patterns over people; law over love. As for the term "recalcitrant," it simply depicts one who is possessed of a godless spirit of "stubborn defiance." When asked to submit or comply to some requirement or request, they will resist doing so with every fiber of their being. Such people tend to be so self-absorbed, so callous and calcified in heart and mind, that any effort to move them from their religious rut will be met with fierce opposition.
Do you know any calcified callous recalcitrants? I suspect you do. I know several. They abound. If you have ever encountered a militant legalistic patternist in the church, one who refuses to respond to legitimate requests for responsible substantiation of his religious claims, you have encountered just such a person. If you have sought to dialogue with such people for the sake of greater understanding, and perhaps even with the goal of bringing about unity and harmony in the One Body, only to have these people flee from such dialogue, building the walls of exclusion around themselves even higher and thicker than before, you have come across just such a group. If you have ever asked a legalistic patternist to provide you with the pattern they proclaim to be essential to salvation and fellowship, only to have them refuse and retreat, you have been face to face with a heart-hardened recalcitrant.
For 30 years I have been pleading with such patternists the world over, asking of them only one thing -- simply provide the pattern. In those 30 years I have met with only one response: recalcitrance. When asking a patternist to provide the pattern you can be assured that their response will be "stubborn defiance" accompanied by fierce opposition. They will proclaim to their dying breath that both fellowship in the church and eternal salvation in heaven are denied to those who do not "follow the pattern," and yet when asked to simply share this pattern with us so we may know what to follow, they refuse. "Read your Bible; figure it out for yourself" is the typical heartless response of those who bother to respond at all. Being "always ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15) is seemingly absent from the Bibles carried by recalcitrants. This is one "NT law" to which they seem reluctant to be bound.
Many of the readers of that issue of Reflections were horrified, and rightly so, by this calcified callous recalcitrance! I had mentioned quite some time ago that these persons simply will not provide the specifics of their pattern, and one reader wrote and accused me of making this up! He simply couldn't believe such people existed. Sadly, they do, and they are far more common than one might imagine. For example, a couple of weeks ago one of the readers of these Reflections from my own state of New Mexico wrote me and asked if I had seen a recent article that had appeared in Forthright Magazine. I had indeed seen that article, and, frankly, was not surprised by the statements made. I have seen statements like these many times before from those who are law-bound.
The article in question was titled "Understanding the Church," and was the second article in a series of articles by this particular writer for Forthright Magazine. This article appeared in the August 9, 2005 issue and was written by Richard Mansel, who is the preacher for the Lone Star Church of Christ in Falls of Rough, Kentucky. It was the very last paragraph in that article that really grabbed my attention, as well as that of the reader from NM who forwarded that same paragraph on to me. Bro. Mansel wrote, "How do we identify the church of the Lord? The apostles built it according to God's careful specifications. Today we identify the Lord's church by the pattern of worship, salvation and service we find in the New Testament. The Church of our Lord exists today in the form He specified in Scripture." Such words as "pattern" and "form" are favorites of the ultra-legalistic factions of the church.
Needless to say, I hesitated to write this brother because I felt rather certain what his response would be; after all, I have been getting that same response for 30 years. Nevertheless, I decided to try again. Perhaps this brother would be more reasonable. I emailed him with this simple request -- "Brother, would you please provide me with the exact specifications of this 'form He specified in Scripture' for the church? Since the way to 'identify the Lord's church' is to know the form specified with respect to 'pattern of worship, salvation and service,' I would be interested in seeing the specifics of that form." I stressed the need for exactness and completeness here because if indeed the identity of the church is determined by its adherence to some "form specified in Scripture," then we must know precisely what that form is if we are to weed out the imposters and identify the "one true church." Generalities are insufficient when dealing with matters of eternal import; specifics are required. After all, as these patternists are quick to point out, if Noah had only followed "the pattern" in a general manner with respect to constructing the ark, it would not have floated!! Thus, if the claims of legalistic patternism are true, would not the same need for exactness apply to such matters as the identity of the church, the parameters of fellowship and worship, and the conditions of salvation? The patternists would clearly answer in the affirmative .... therefore, it is only rational to ask of them: "Please provide the specifics of that pattern or form!"
I received an email in which Bro. Mansel said, "I received your email and I will get to your answer when I can." Well, I must admit, I was hopeful that perhaps this brother might actually be the first in three decades to provide the specifics of this "form specified in Scripture." I wrote and thanked him and told him I was very much looking forward to receiving those specifics enumerated in Scripture. Later that evening I heard back from this brother again. His tone had changed dramatically. I was accused of challenging him "in an aggressive manner." He said, "Your persistence in the word 'exhaustive' makes me doubt seriously whether you will take my answer seriously. ... I do not have any hope of giving you an answer that will change your mind." My hope of ever getting the specifics of this elusive pattern was quickly fading.
I wrote and apologized if my questions had been phrased in such a way as to be perceived as "aggressive." I assured him: "I meant no disrespect." As for my stressing the need for this form or pattern to be complete, or "exhaustive," I wrote, "That is simply the logical conclusion of the premise you have proclaimed." If indeed our God has "specified" the exact "form" of the one, true church in the Scriptures, then for us to identify that one, true church we must know the specifics of that form. Right?! Generalities, or only a partial, incomplete list of those specifics, will not serve us well in narrowing the field of pretenders within Christendom. This is only logical IF the brother's assertion is to be regarded as true that the church can only be identified by "God's careful specifications ... in the form He specified in Scripture." His words, not mine! I merely asked him to furnish what he proclaimed existed: "the form He specified in Scripture." A simple, logical request, one would think.
It was almost a week before I heard from him again. Then I got this: "I have been thinking about your request. ... You say you have been waiting for 30 years for someone to provide you exact specifications for the pattern of the church. You will wait 300 more years because the list does not exist." Well, I would certainly have to agree with the latter. Also, his statement about the 300 years sounds very similar to the gentleman from Alabama who said, "To sit down and list all of the things we must agree on isn't going to happen. I don't think I would live long enough to do that." At least both of these men realize that producing this elusive "form" or "pattern" is NEVER going to happen. Even though they both declare that GOD HIMSELF has specified it in Scripture, THEY apparently are unable to do so. And yet, we are not "the church" unless we conform to it. We are not saved unless we abide by it. We are not in fellowship unless we comply with it. So, what is it?! You guessed it -- They won't tell us!
In this email, even though Richard stated, "the list does not exist" (or, if it does, it would be a good 300 years before it could be produced), he goes on to speak of the necessity to follow exactly this non-existent form or pattern. "God gave us a model of what He wanted in the church." "The Lord's church is 'distinctive' because it is from a model or pattern." I wrote him back and asked once again if he would simply provide me with the specifics of this "model or pattern." He wrote back the following day and said that he would NOT be providing that list of specifics because: "A list will just be picked apart ... I just don't want to endlessly argue about these things." Thus, he has seemingly reversed himself; now implying such a list does exist, but that it is a list he will not provide because he doesn't want it "picked apart." Is Richard's version of "Truth," which he claims is "specified in Scripture" by God Himself, incapable of withstanding intense scrutiny?! Brethren, genuine Truth has absolutely nothing to fear from examination, no matter how intense. It appears that this is not true of Richard's elusive list, however! It has to be protected; shielded from scrutiny; hidden from view. Which leaves one wondering ... Why?!
Richard Mansel then wrote, "I hope you understand." Oh yes, I understand only too well. And, sadly, so does this brother. That's what is so tragic in all of this. Brethren, I firmly believe there is an evil spirit of dishonesty at work here. When such men and women consistently REFUSE to provide the very "pattern" they proclaim to be absolutely essential to our identity, unity, fellowship and salvation, something is wrong! WHY this recalcitrance?! Just what is it they fear so greatly that would cause them to flee en masse to their secluded shelters every time the list of specifics of their pattern is requested?
The reason is this: legalistic patternism is subjective; the "pattern" is in the eye of the patternist! No two patternists can agree on the specifics of the "pattern" because it does not exist in Scripture, but in their own minds. If any individual, or group, dared to actually LIST these specifics of LAW, they would be immediately eviscerated by their fellow legalistic patternists because the list provided would be so dissimilar from their own! Thus, absolutely no such listing of specifics will ever be provided by these legalistic patternists, which the above two men have freely acknowledged, and the reason is that for them to do so would immediately expose such a list to the world for what it truly is: nothing more than a highly subjective proclamation of partisan biases, personal preferences, and sectarian shibboleths. These people know this, and thus you will never get them to provide this elusive "pattern" of theirs. I have been trying for thirty years now without any success whatsoever (as have others), and, by their own admission, even if I should try for an additional three hundred years I will get the very same result -- calcified callous recalcitrance.
Mansel closed by saying, "I hope you find what you are looking for." Yes, I found what I was looking for a good many years ago. It wasn't a legal list, it was a loving Lord; it wasn't a pattern, it was a Person. What I found ... Who I found ... I'm not ashamed to lift up for anyone to view, or to expose to any degree of scrutiny. He who is my Pattern I will gladly share with any man, and will never flee to some hole in the ground when someone asks me to give an account for the hope that is in me. When a person seeks to know the biblical specifics of salvation, unity, and fellowship, I will not make excuses for NOT telling them, nor will I declare I'll NEVER tell them even if I live for another 300 years. Those who flee from such accountability only prove to those around them that they are devoid of Truth. Anyone who actually possessed such saving knowledge of divine specifics would shout them from the roof top, not quake in some dark corner of the cellar!! Brethren, do not be fooled by the fallacies of the legalistic patternists. They profess much and produce little. They are the personification of the old Indian maxim: "Heap big thunder; no rain!" God deliver us from such perversion!!
From a Reader in (Unknown):
Mr. Maxey, I'm glad to see you got your book published. I emailed you way back in July of 2001. I had found your book online and read it word for word. I was single again at the time, and had been for 13 years. Your book helped me to forgive myself and to reach out again to someone. I am married now, and extremely happy, because I trusted in the Lord to help me find someone suitable for me. I just wanted to thank you for the knowledge you provided me in your book "Down, But Not Out." Congratulations on it being published, and much success to you always!
From a Reader in Kentucky:
Al, I just wanted to let you know my mom has ordered two of your books in North Carolina. We have several relatives that need it, so hopefully this will give some comfort, understanding and peace to those who are very confused and oppressed by the wrong kind of thinking when it comes to this subject. Thanks again!
From a Reader in Texas:
My dad (a gospel preacher all his life, now departed) used to say, "Never argue with a man who says he does not have the indwelling Spirit ... he probably knows!" My wife and I enjoy your articles very much and usually agree. When I have trouble agreeing it is usually on some subject I have not re-examined since high school. By the way, our class is having its 50th reunion this year! We 'preciate ya.
From a Minister in California:
Al, Those were two excellent articles (as always) on the indwelling Holy Spirit and litigation among believers. I was privileged to go through the "Conflict Resolution and Mediation Training" that is offered by Pepperdine Law School, and it has helped me tremendously in my pursuit as a peacemaker. I would recommend that type of training to all ministers and elders! Brother, you are loved and appreciated by all those to whom I've referred your articles! Thanks again for all your efforts to feed others the Truth.
From a Reader in California:
Al, One of your readers wrote, "Is that more difficult for God than healing someone's migraine headache?!" Well, God has not taken away my migraines, but He has worked through some mighty miraculous ways in my life. I would certainly take the relief from migraines if it were "handed" to me by an Almighty God, but in the meanwhile I thank Him for the chains of bondage that He has stripped from me!! Most of which were imposed upon me by a church background that did not believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, nor in His work in our lives and in churches today. Praise God for freedom!
From a Reader in Georgia:
Bro. Maxey, I would like to thank you for the work you do and for the wonderful encouragement you have been to me and to the brethren here in ------, Georgia. I have truly enjoyed reading your Reflections. I was raised in a denominational church by parents who dearly loved the Lord and who instilled in me the joy of such a wonderful love. As I matured, though, I began to see error in the teachings to which I was exposed. When I was in my late teens I asked God to guide me into a more perfect understanding of His Word. I was soon introduced to the Church of Christ; here I was taught things that finally made logical sense. I was surrounded by a group of young people who loved one another and who preferred the company of brothers and sisters in Christ. There was in that congregation a group of elders and deacons who I still look back on with love and respect for their example and humility.
As the years have passed, and I have moved to different areas of the country, I have been exposed to many different schools of thought with respect to doctrine. I have encountered the "Church of Christ is the only saved group" mentality, and I have been shackled to a group of "Word only" thinkers for several years now. I have watched young Christians excited about God become discouraged because of a lack of Spirit-filled leadership. Many are unhappy here in our congregation. When I began reading your Reflections my first response was -- finally, here is a writer who understands God's Word in the same logical manner that I do. Your love for Christ and your faith in His ability to work in our lives today is so refreshing in a time when I see far too many putting their faith in God aside. It is my prayer that your work will continue to touch lives and encourage the faithful. A new ember is glowing in our midst here because of your work. May Christ bless you and your family.
From a New Reader in (Unknown):
I would love to receive a subscription to your weekly Reflections. I had always struggled, wondering why my love for God and mankind wasn't where it needed to be. Then a friend in the church gave me your Reflections article on the conversation between Peter and Jesus on the beach (Issue #189). It allowed me to realize that it is alright to admit my insufficient love, and that it is something I need to teach and discipline myself in. Thanks so much and God bless!
From a New Reader in (Unknown):
Bro. Al, I am happy that Bro. -------- had you add me to your Reflections list. I look forward to reading more about things I have been thinking for quite a while. I realize that you are very busy, however I am not sure of the direction I need to move in, in terms of my corporate worship. I do know, like you, that I will stay in my heritage ("One Cup," with a family history in this church back to 1898) and try to make changes from within, because I'm a fairly well-known preacher in our fellowship, and with God's help I can help free some of my brethren. Lord willing, I would love to communicate with you from time to time via email to ask further questions, and Lord willing to come visit with you in New Mexico for a couple of days in order to get a little "face to face" time with you, and to study the Word and fellowship. Thanks for your writings; they have been a blessing for me, and are keeping all of us thinking about who we are in Christ and the freedom that truly is ours.
From a Minister/Author in Arizona:
Dear Bro. Al, Your piece on Christians going to law is well-done. Reasonable and biblical. Thanks!
From a Medical Director in Georgia:
Al, have you ever thought about writing an article about how you write an article? You write so well and your writing is always so well-researched. I am sure there are many Christians who are at a loss about how to even start researching something that they have questions about. Just an idea. I am sure you have a backlog of things you want to write about, and I know how busy you are. Keep up the good work. Your writing makes more sense to me than anyone else's I have read in a long time.
From a New Reader in New Mexico:
Hi there, Al Maxey! I am a teacher at Zia Therapy Center, and I see and work with your wife, Shelly, every day. She told me about your Reflections web page on the Internet, so I thought I would take a look. Your web site is set up quite nicely; easy to access, read and look around on, too. Good job and kudos to you on your new book. I am sure you and Shelly are more than pleased that the publishing of that book has finally come to pass. As we all know, by the hand of God all things are possible. I would like very much to be included in your Reflections address book as a new subscriber. All of us can certainly use positive reinforcement each day, and why not from the greatest source of all?! The best to you each day!
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