Issue #209 -------
September 13, 2005
A clash of doctrines is not
a disaster -- it is an opportunity.
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
Recently I received the following rather forceful challenge from a new reader of these Reflections from the great state of California: "Brother Maxey, If I may quote one line from you in Issue #206 -- 'For 30 years I have been pleading with such patternists the world over, asking of them only one thing -- simply provide the pattern.' Brother Maxey, your world must be pretty small or you have had your head in the sand, because evidently neither you nor the readers to whom you refer are aware of the 660 page book published in 1991 by Goebel Music titled Behold the Pattern. The very first sentence of the preface to the book says, and I quote, 'Behold the Pattern is a book that stresses the Bible pattern for the New Testament Church.' Brother Maxey, I would think that in this book your quest and desire has been answered, and that neither you nor your correspondents will have to wait for another 30 years, much less 300 years!! So, quit whining that no one will provide a list of pattern things. Be the Christian you claim to be and admit to your readers that you have been mistaken about no one providing you with the pattern." This reader indicated in his email to me (of which the above is only a brief excerpt) that he had "stumbled onto" my web site the end of June, and that he has only read a few of my articles. He also graciously stated to me in this email, "Generally I have enjoyed your articles. You are an articulate writer and very knowledgeable." However, he clearly has a problem with my assertion that in over 30 years of asking for the particulars and parameters of this elusive pattern we hear so much about, I have never yet actually had anyone provide it.
It is obviously the firm conviction of the above reader that my challenge has been fully and abundantly met by Bro. Goebel Music, who is still living, although, as I understand, rather aged and infirm; residing in Colleyville, Texas. I tried several times to contact Bro. Music by phone, but he would never answer. I was later informed by people at the local congregation that he is very difficult to reach, as he rarely will answer the phone or door. My hope was to visit with him in person so as to ascertain his views, however I shall respect his desire for privacy. I also sought to acquire a copy of his book. Yes, I was well aware of it, and had even owned a well-marked copy during the time I preached in Honolulu, Hawaii (1992-1998). When I moved back to New Mexico in June, 1998, however, I left my copy in the church library in Honolulu. Thus, as I promised the reader from California, I would locate another copy, read the book once again, and do a review of Bro. Music's work. If indeed he had provided the pattern I have been requesting, I would acknowledge this fact to the readers of these Reflections.
Through a series of phone calls I managed to determine that Goebel's book was being currently distributed by the brethren at Brown Trail Church of Christ in Hurst, Texas. I called and spoke with the church secretary and informed her of my desire to acquire the book in question. She said she would mail it right out to me. Less than a week later I received a brand new copy of the 12th printing of Bro. Music's book (the most recent edition), and with the book was this note from the church secretary: "Eddy Parker, one of our elders, said to mail one to you at no charge!" I was very touched by this act of kindness, and immediately wrote Eddy a letter of thanks, and sent him, also at no cost, a copy of my book Down, But Not Out as a token of my appreciation.
Let me begin by saying just a few words about the production of this book. Behold the Pattern was published in December, 1991. It had enjoyed a tremendous amount of pre-publication publicity and heavy campaigning from conservative brethren in Churches of Christ, and their efforts really paid off. In the first three and a half days it sold over 2000 copies. It averaged about a thousand copies a week for the next couple of years. It then went out of print for about eight years, but a 12th printing was done in July, 2002. It was put out by Gospel Light Publishing Company in Delight, Arkansas, but the copyright is held by Goebel Music Publications. It is a hardback book of 660 pages, and the price on the cover is $21.95 (it was, and still is, able to sell so inexpensively -- originally selling for only $5.00, or was given away free if one couldn't afford the price -- due to the large number of people who contributed financially in an effort to try and get this book into the hands of literally everyone in the Churches of Christ). The success of this book may also be attributed, at least in part, to public testimonies by some of the "big names" in the conservative wing of the Church of Christ. Notice just a few:
A gospel minister in the great southern state of Mississippi, who was editor of the publication POWER (produced monthly by the Southaven Church of Christ, in Southaven, MS), wrote, "This book has the distinctive ring of the Old Jerusalem gospel threaded throughout its pages. It demolishes the 'no pattern' idea being espoused today. Brother Music demonstrates that God has always had a pattern for his people to follow. If you need documentation of the errors being promoted by our so-called 'scholarly' brethren today, then this is a must for your library" (January, 1992). As one can quickly perceive, this was "a book that was being much hyped at the time" (Daniel E. Shumaker, The Examiner, vol. 8, no. 2, March, 1993).
Hype is good, especially if one is trying to sell books, but it can only carry a work so far. Once the hype dies down, one is then left wondering, in the words of the tenacious granny in the burger commercial, "Where's the beef?!" I have personally searched through this book (Behold the Pattern) time and again, and, frankly, am still left wondering: Where is the pattern?! Bro. Daniel Shumaker, in his in-depth review of Goebel Music's book (referenced above), concluded with this thought: "The appropriate question for Mr. Music, when he asks us to 'Behold the Pattern,' is: What Pattern?!!" (ibid). I have read countless reviews of this book over the years, and the reviewers all invariably come back to that same question. After 660 pages of declaring there IS such a pattern for the church today, and tearing apart by name those who dare to differ with this view, one is still left, at the end of those 660 pages, wondering what that pattern IS. We simply are never told!! Bro. Music goes to elaborate lengths to try and prove that such a pattern exists, but doesn't inform us as to the specifics of it. Yes, he alludes to a few of what he perceives the particulars to be (like singing without instruments, Sunday only observance of the Lord's Supper, and the like), but as for providing THE PATTERN, which he invites us to BEHOLD, we only get a quick glimpse.
According to the legalistic patternists, God has specified in the Scriptures this pattern we are to follow. Curtis Cates says that Goebel's book is "a clarion call back to Christ's infallible, inspired pattern for the church and for its organization, unity, worship, mission, et al." Well, it may indeed be a "clarion call" to embrace such a pattern, but sadly it falls woefully short of actually telling us what it IS. Part of the problem is in the focus of the book itself. As Roy Deaver correctly observes, "Approximately the first one half of the book is devoted to a thorough and devastating exposure of the false teachers among us -- some of the leading men involved in current liberalism -- and their false doctrines." In many ways, Behold the Pattern is little more than the ghastly periodical Contending for the Faith in book form (and is largely supported by the same crowd). It is filled with name-calling, personal attacks, and condemnation of anyone and everyone who dares to differ with the tenets of legalistic patternism. As Deaver notes, half the book is filled with this nonsense!!
Although the vast majority of the book consists of such unsubstantiated bashing, nevertheless, in fairness to Goebel Music, he has presented some excellent biblical material based on extensive word studies. Chapter 12, for example, is an excellent essay on "Preaching that Pleases God." Every preacher ought to read this chapter! Chapter 13 is a marvelous exegesis of the concept of repentance. Chapter 14 is an in-depth examination of the account of the baptism of Jesus. Chapter 16 examines the feminist movement. These are all wonderful studies, and I suspect may at one time have been separate essays, sermons or lectures he had presented in some other setting, however they really have little if anything to do with the topic at hand. They in no way specify the particulars or the parameters of the pattern.
Those who embrace the concept of patternism will repeatedly represent this "pattern" as being clearly specified by God in Scripture. Goebel does the same in his book. At the very beginning of his work he says "we clearly come to grips in seeing that there is a 'model,' 'rule,' 'canon,' and a 'type' to be followed" (p. 2). "God has a pattern in the New Testament" (p. 61). "In fact, man is under a divine obligation to 'build according to the' pattern, as that is the only way he can be acceptable, that is, pleasing unto God" (p. 71). "Therefore, let us heed and hold to the pattern" (p. 86). "When God gives the pattern, the model, no man has a motive, the ground to move, that is, to change it in any shape or fashion" (p. 93). "If we learn anything from the New Testament, it is the fact that God does not allow the pattern to be changed" (p. 95). "If a person will only 'look carefully' into God's word, then that person can see, grasp and appreciate the very distinctive fact of the exclusiveness of the pattern of God" (p. 96). "We are not dealing with God's suggestions, we are dealing with God's pattern, and conformity to it must be made" (p. 369).
Bro. Music concludes his book with this statement, "Yes, it is clearly and unmistakably, undisputable and undoubtable, the fact that God has a PATTERN, therefore, may we always, in all things, BEHOLD THE PATTERN" (p. 594). However, after reading those words, and closing his book, I am still left with the question, "I wonder what Bro. Music believes the specifics of that pattern to be?" The fact is, he never tells us. And yet, in his book he states that specifying the pattern is essential. "If I am to speak 'as the oracles of God' (1 Pet. 4:11), realizing how our God authorizes and that He does not accept what is not authorized, then I believe we need to emphasize that which is 'included' -- the stated, the written, the voiced, the word, the commandments, the statutes, etc." (p. 372). So, why didn't he?!
The problem with this view is that these patternists, and Bro. Goebel is no different, also state that the "pattern" is to be found within the pages of the New Testament writings, and that the specifics of this pattern are very well spelled out, and that one must comply with each and every one of them in order to experience unity, fellowship, and even salvation. They declare there is a list of specifics, but they refuse to declare what it is. Yet, by failing to adhere to ALL parts of the pattern, one places oneself in eternal jeopardy. Bro. Music states that our unity with God, and also with one another, is "based upon following His every dictate and decree" (p. 2). "The New Testament pattern is not to be a 'hit' and 'miss' type of guideline, that is, I cannot just pick and choose 'this' item and then 'omit' that item. We do not have the prerogative to be selective and just obey one or two pieces of the pattern" (p. 398). This pattern is to be found "written on the pages of the New Testament" (p. 113). On page 393 he again states that certain parts of the pattern may be found "within the pages of the New Testament."
Bro. Goebel Music declares, in his book, that he has not fully provided the specifics of this elusive pattern, but has only dealt with a few particulars. "There are other items, of course, that need to be studied, and with diligence, but perhaps enough has been covered to handle some of the 'oft-asked' and 'misunderstood' pieces of the pattern in the New Testament Church" (p. 401-402). By his own admission, he has provided only pieces of the pattern, but urges that the rest of the pieces "need to be studied, and with diligence." Well, what are they?! Although he never tells us, Bro. Music does tell us where the fullness of the pattern in practice may be found -- in the Churches of Christ. In referring to a sermon he had once preached, he said, "It speaks about various religious groups (I did not say 'churches' as there is but 'one' and it is the only one that is 'the called out'), and the fact that most of them have at least one or more 'bits and pieces' of the truth of God's pattern. But I often have made this challenge, it is only in the New Testament Church, the Church of Christ, that a person can believe and practice all of these things at the same time" (p. 425). "As I said before, some may practice one, two or more, but only in The Church of the New Testament, the Church of Christ, can you believe and practice all of the pattern at the same time!" (p. 426).
About the closest Bro. Music ever came in his book to compiling a list of the particulars of this pattern is found on page 386-387 where he gives the "five finger" plan of salvation. "We list those things which culminated in people being added to the body of believers." I have no problem with any of these five, nor, would I imagine, do any of the ten people he spent half his book condemning. I'm rather sure that Goebel would agree with me fully in my own "List of Essentials" (Issue #200a). No one is suggesting God does not have expectations of His people. He has issued commands and He expects them to be obeyed. There are things we must do, and there are things we must not do. These can be easily provided to anyone who asks for them, as I have attempted to do in the above article, and also in several previous articles, for example in Reflections #130 -- "Pondering Patternism" -- where I acknowledge the fact of a "pattern" (if one feels compelled to use that term). My conviction, however, is that this "pattern" consists of far fewer "essentials" than I suspect appear on the lists of those who tend to be very legalistic in their approach to Scripture. It is for this reason I believe they are reluctant to actually provide the particulars of their pattern, because they know that they would immediately be exposed as largely subjective and sectarian in nature, consisting more of tradition than Truth. Goebel asks, "How can a man hold to a pattern that is constantly changing?" (p. 86). And yet, that is exactly what one finds among those who embrace patternism; they can't even agree among themselves what the "pattern" is, as it changes from one group, and even one person, to another.
"Patternism is nothing more than legalism under a different name. It is the 'other gospel' warned of in the Galatian letter. It places our salvation as dependent upon our being shrewd lawyers and clever detectives, picking and choosing from the faint scriptural clues, with the blanks filled in with our own logic. We must fulfill this law to precision or face the fires of hell. This takes the focus off of Christ, His Grace, and our personal relationship with Him" (Daniel E. Shumaker, The Examiner, vol. 8, no. 2, March, 1993). On page 176, Goebel quotes from Bro. Randy Fenter's lecture at Oklahoma Christian College (Jan. 23, 1989). In part, Bro. Randy said, "I know of no doctrine, in my judgment, in any fellowship, any fellowship, that is more dangerous than the doctrine of necessary inference. Because it fills in the silences of God with its own voice. It presumes to speak for God. It gives license to people to construct their very own theological temples and the arrogance to claim that these temples belong to God. And I call upon our brotherhood to stop going beyond what is written. To stop legislating where God has not." Well, needless to say, Bro. Goebel Music didn't care for this assault upon one of the tenets of the CENI hermeneutic (the defense of which he devotes a large portion of chapter 9 in his book), and no wonder, for such a policy of responsible interpretive practice would prevent people from elevating personal assumptions to the level of LAW. And, frankly, that is what the vast majority of their "pattern" truly is --- which is exactly why you will never get them to provide it. They know it largely consists of personal preferences, perceptions and assumptions, and that such are not exegetically defensible.
Did Goebel Music, in his book Behold the Pattern, meet my challenge to provide the specifics of this pattern? No, he did not! Quite the contrary. He talked all around it, he dangled a few pieces before us, but in the end we are still left wondering what exactly Goebel believes the pattern to be! "And so, the appropriate question for Mr. Music, when he asks us to 'Behold the Pattern,' is: What Pattern? In a well-known children's story, an emperor was swindled into buying non-existent clothing. Told that only those who were worthy could actually see them, everyone pretended to see magnificent robes that were actually not there. When an innocent child observed the obvious, that the emperor was naked, the ruler was exposed as the truly vain and foolish man that he was. I am afraid that many in the religious world are like the emperor in the story, and have fallen prey to a vicious con job. We are not saved by some 'pattern' we read into the Scriptures. Trying to behold an imaginary pattern is like looking at the emperor's new clothes. Let us behold instead our Pattern -- Jesus Christ -- that on judgment day we will truly be clothed in His righteousness, and let us hope that the patternists will come to their senses and not be found foolish and naked, or standing in the filthy rags of their own self-righteousness" (Daniel E. Shumaker, The Examiner, vol. 8, no. 2, March, 1993).
From a New Reader in Alabama:
I was forwarded a couple of your Reflections articles and enjoyed them very much. I would like to be added to your list.
From a Reader in (Unknown):
Bro. Maxey, I enjoy your writings. You challenge my thinking and my views. I appreciate the time and effort you expend to do effective and profitable Bible teaching. I do not always agree with you, but I do like to have to think again, and to review my own understandings and convictions. Thanks for your work. May God bless your efforts for truth and righteousness.
From a Reader in Alaska:
Al, I would like to post your article "The Elder Brother Syndrome" (Reflections #110) to our church's blog site --- Beyond Ourselves (First Assembly of God, Fairbanks, Alaska). We would include links to your web site. Thanks for consideration of this request.
From a Reader in Barbados:
Al, Thank you for a very well-researched article on Matthew 5:27-28. The truth of the matter is that I had never really viewed it in a non-sexual way. It always struck me as referring to sexual misbehavior. This is why it is so important to go beyond one's understanding of a matter and be willing to engage the ideas of others. You are providing a tremendous ministry, and I have no doubt that many are deriving great spiritual insights as you share your reflections on these matters of biblical importance. I am particularly impressed with the depth of your research. You are certainly not superficial in this regard. You cause me to think a little deeper, and I believe, as a scholar of the Word, that is necessary for me. I have had to adjust quite a few of my dogmatic positions from my earlier Christian days after digging a little deeper. I believe the time comes, invariably, when we have to step out on our own and go beyond what our teachers have taught us. That is: research the Word for ourselves through diligent study and waiting before the Lord who has promised to guide us in the Truth. I give thanks for people like you! Keep striving for God's best, and may God bless you and your family.
From a Minister in Texas:
Bro. Al, That was a wonderful job! I have never seen so many uses applied to the word "adultery." When arguing against the traditional stance on marriage, divorce and remarriage, I have relied mainly on the "breaking of covenant" use of this Greek term. Thanks for your thought and your study!
From a Minister in California:
Brother Al, I truly appreciate your perspective on this subject. I think you clearly pointed out that what makes adultery so vile is that it is a sin of the heart even more than a sin of the body. While God can and does forgive people of this sin, the damage that it does is extreme. I know that I can always expect a lesson from the heart from you.
From a Reader in Texas:
Dear Al, I greatly enjoy all of your Reflections. Thank you very much for this ministry. It has enlightened me in many ways. I grew up in the Church of Christ. However, most of them were fairly "middle of the road." So, I have never been a hardcore patternist, although I have many friends and family members who are. I was always somewhat caught in the middle. Even though patternism was sometimes pushed on me, it never really felt right. I have always been pretty much an independent thinker and not one to "go along with the crowd" if I felt they were wrong. Your writings have helped me solidify many of the beliefs I already had but was not able to put into clear and concise arguments. I will always be grateful to you for that.
I am an avid reader, and one who loves to cut through all the bull and search for the truth. The greatest find in this regard from you, at least for me, was the whole idea of "Conditional Immortality." I had never heard of it before. The traditional idea of hell and eternal torture never fit in with the concept of God that I had gleaned from the Bible. When I read your writings on this topic it opened my eyes to some very new concepts. I then read Edward Fudge's book: "The Fire That Consumes." By then I was completely convinced that the whole idea was true. It makes one notice things that he had never noticed before when he reads the Scriptures after changing his view on hell.
I wanted to share a couple of scriptures with you that I recently ran across while reading the Psalms. I did not remember Fudge using them in his book. The first one is: Psalm 115:17 (NKJV) -- "The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence." To me, this seems to be a strong argument. The traditional view is that once we die we go to be with God and spend all our time praising Him. However, this verse seems to debunk that view. It is amazing to me how many times the Bible refers to those who will be lost as being "destroyed." I have read these verses all of my life, yet it never occurred to me that I was not interpreting them literally. I was reading "destroyed" and thinking "tortured eternally." The other verse I read is one of these many verses. What I found most interesting about it was not so much the scripture as the accompanying study note that went with it in my Bible. The verse is: Psalm 145:20 (NKJV) -- "The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy." The study note in my MacArthur Study Bible says, "The wicked await an eternity of living forever, away from the presence of God in the lake of fire." When I read that it blew me away! I burst out laughing! Good grief, King David had just written that the wicked would be destroyed. The very learned and scholarly expert who was writing the study Bible read that verse and then explained it to us "lay people" as meaning that they would LIVE FOREVER! I just wanted to share those with you and to thank you again for your enormous contribution to my Christian education. God bless you and your wife.
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