Issue #230 -------
January 13, 2006
Men are never so likely
to settle a question rightly
as when they discuss it freely.
Thomas Babington (1800-1859)
I have always found it more than a little interesting, as well as deeply troubling, that those who are the strongest proponents of this so-called "law of silence" are also the ones who definitely appear to be the most vocal in seeking to forever silence all dissent, and who are invariably among the first to flee from any responsible, respectful dialogue with those who differ with the tenets of their restrictive hermeneutic. Perhaps this, in point of fact, is the true nature of this "law of silence" -- it is a party precept that demands the silencing of all those who stand in opposition to it. The great questions troubling our own faith-heritage, not to mention the whole of Christendom, will never be resolved rightly if they are never allowed to be addressed, and they will never, ever be addressed if differing disciples, and especially their leaders, continue to cower behind their sectarian walls of exclusion, refusing to engage in open, free, responsible dialogue. Herbert Agar (1897-1980), in his work "A Time For Greatness," wrote, "The truth which makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear."
With that said, there is a glimmer of hope -- some advocates of this humanly devised "law" are willing to come forth and engage those with whom they differ in a responsible manner. This is a first, and extremely vital, step toward bringing down the barriers that have divided brethren for far too long. I applaud those few men and women who are willing to risk the censure of their fellows by daring to dialogue with the dreaded "digressives." Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) correctly observed, "Truth fears no Trial." Truth, if it be Truth, has nothing to fear from open, honest, intensive investigation. Thus, I have great reservations about the soundness of those who make bold declarations, but flee like the wind from those who challenge them to engage in dialogue with respect to those declarations. One of the greatest refutations of a dogma is the cowardice of its proponents! Early Christians were willing to declare their faith boldly, and even to be martyred for it, and Truth triumphed. Truth will never triumph over falsehood today if disciples cower in their caves rather than facing those who challenge their convictions.
T. Pierce Brown and Hugh Fulford are disciples of Jesus Christ with whom I have several significant theological differences with respect to what I would characterize as the peripherals of our faith and practice. With respect to the essential truths of His gospel, I would imagine we are in agreement. Very few schisms and factions develop within the One Body over the major tenets of our faith. Most arise from the personal perceptions and preferences of mere men with respect to matters about which Scripture is largely silent. In the presence of that silence men speak, and too many dare to do so as though in possession of divine authority, and the result, sadly, is feuding factions formed around their deductions and inferences elevated to LAW. It is in this particular area that brothers Brown and Fulford differ substantially with me. I do not believe authority for the church is established by fallible disciples drawing deductions from biblical silence. That is too subjective, and will only lead to the very crisis of community that we face in the church. These brothers, on the other hand, do regard such deductions, assumptions and inferences to be the basis of establishing authority. From this basic philosophical, theological, and hermeneutical difference evolves a host of disagreements over doctrine and practice.
Bro. T. Pierce Brown, to whom the readers of these weekly Reflections were introduced in Issue #227 (Discipleship and Discipling), wrote me again and desired my response to several additional questions, most all of which deal either directly or indirectly with how one establishes authority for what we do in our service and worship to the Lord. Needless to say, silence is a major factor for Bro. Brown in this establishment and recognition of genuine biblical authority, and several of his questions reflect this perspective. Bro. Hugh Fulford, who has been a gospel preacher for over 50 years, and who was a staff writer for Gospel Advocate under the editorship of Bro. B. C. Goodpasture, and who continues to write for that publication and others, including The Spiritual Sword, also sent me some questions and asked that I respond. In this current issue of Reflections I'll attempt to address their concerns as best I can.
Bro. Brown begins by referring me to Paul's statement in Col. 3:17 -- "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." He then asks, "Do you understand that to mean that all we do in religious matters is to be done by the authority of (in the name of) Christ?" I firmly believe what Jesus Himself stated: "ALL authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18). So, yes, Bro. Brown, I do indeed recognize the authority of Christ in all matters, both spiritual and otherwise. Our Lord Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church" (Eph. 1:21-22). "Christ is the head of the church" (Eph. 5:23). Bro. Brown and I are in total agreement that our Lord has fullness of authority, and that we are to order our lives within the parameters of that all-inclusive authority. Where we disagree is in just to what extent Jesus seeks to micro-manage our every action in our service and worship to deity. Must every single detail be pre-approved by an appeal to "book, chapter and verse," or does our Lord, without in any way diminishing His own authority in all things, permit His people some degree of liberty and latitude to use good judgment in various areas of their service and worship? If the latter, this would clearly dictate the acceptance of some degree of diversity in understanding and practice among disciples. I believe this to be the case. Some of my more legalistic, patternistic brethren do not.
With regard to authority, Bro. Brown writes, "I understand there is 'specific authority' and 'generic authority.' Do you agree?" I would agree that there are indeed such categories in use among my brethren today. I would also think Bro. Brown will agree with my observation that neither of these terms are ever found within the pages of God's Word. God's Word is silent with regard to these phrases, thus, if the "law of silence" is valid, I suppose one could say they are thereby prohibited from use by His people. Of course, I am being facetious here, but nevertheless there is an element of truth to my observation, if we are to accept the reasoning of those who embrace the "law of silence" as a valid interpretive tool. But, I digress! Yes, Bro. Brown, I do indeed agree that there is both specific and generic (or general) authority, although I will assert that the latter is extremely subjective in nature; far more so than the former.
Bro. David Pharr, in an article titled "Generic and Specific Authority" (The Spiritual Sword, April, 1990), made an effort to define and distinguish these two terms this way -- "Specific Instructions allow only that which is specified. Generic instructions allow choices within the general area indicated." I believe this is an excellent encapsulation of the principle. Specific authority applies when the Lord has specified what He expects of us. This is especially evident in commands. I find it most interesting (especially in light of the whole debate about "silence" and "authority") that Bro. Pharr also appealed to Heb. 7:14 in his article, but did so NOT as validation of some "law of silence," but rather in support of specificity (the very point I made in my article The Silence Syndrome -- Reflections #228). He wrote, "The writer of Hebrews makes a forceful use of the principle of specific authority. He shows that under the law of Moses there was specific instruction that priests were to be of the tribe of Levi. But regarding any other tribe, 'Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood.' The writer concluded, therefore, that for Christ (who was of the tribe of Judah) to be a priest, the law had to be changed, because as long as the law specified the tribe of Levi, no priest could come from another tribe (Hebrews 7:11-14). Thus the validity of the principle of specific authority is clearly demonstrated." That's right, Bro. Pharr -- the "principle of specificity," NOT the "law of silence." When God speaks, there is no silence.
Most problems among disciples of Christ arise not from the area of "specific authority," but rather from the area of "generic authority." Why? Because, as previously mentioned, it is so subjective in nature. As Bro. Pharr stated, "Generic instructions allow choices within the general area indicated." The problems arise when we seek to bind our individual or group choices (preferences) as LAW, and when we withhold fellowship, and even the hope of eternal salvation, from those who have differing "choices." Bro. Pharr writes, "Generic authority allows choices within the general area indicated. A simple illustration of this is in the command to 'go' (Mark 16:15). 'Go' is generic as regards various modes of travel -- walking, riding, flying, etc. Any of these would be acceptable. Also acceptable would be any incidentals or expedients which would be used in obeying the command -- shoes, horse, car, etc. Generic authority allows anything within the genus, and all otherwise lawful expedients pertaining to it." The problem, of course, is in what constitutes an "expedient" or "incidental." Hardly any two people will agree over the broad spectrum of things that fall under generic authority. And just exactly WHO gets to make the final determination as to what is or is not "expedient" or "incidental"?! After all, one man's incidental is another man's innovation. And when each person or group regards their choice(s) as being in some way "authoritative" for the One Body, dismemberment of that One Body is inevitable!
Bro. T. Pierce Brown writes, "When God authorized us in Colossians 3:16 to 'teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs,' I consider that specific authority, for it specifies a specific kind of music. Do you agree?" Not entirely, Bro. Brown! I believe God's specificity in this passage (and also in Eph. 5:19) was with respect to His intent for His people to "teach and admonish" one another with all wisdom. Obviously, this can be done in a host of ways, with music being one of the chief, and most effective, ways to touch another's heart with a message of truth. Music -- all kinds of music -- has been an effective tool for communication almost from the beginning of time. Certainly, however, Truth is best conveyed in words, which would necessitate some form of "speaking" (Eph. 5:19) to one another in a musical context. Thus, Paul mentions several: "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." I hardly regard this list as exhaustive, or as being exclusive.
Yes, Paul mentions "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs," but to pick each of these terms apart so as to formulate some binding LAW as to what is and is not allowed in our "worship service" on Sunday morning, as too many of my legalistic brethren have done, is folly, and it misses completely the authorial intent of the passage. We have become so obsessed with using Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 as proof texts for our condemnation of instrumental music in worship that we have failed to perceive what Paul is really seeking to convey to us. This passage really isn't about music per se, and is certainly not about the imposition of some restrictive LAW regulating a "worship service." It is about using the most effective means at our disposal, singing being a good example, to instruct and admonish one another. The specific here is the speaking, teaching and admonishing of one another; one of many generics suitable to accomplishing that purpose would be singing of various types of songs and hymns.
Does God want His people to sing? I believe He does. We see this fact in both OT and NT writings. I would agree with Bro. Brown that the instruction to sing could very well be considered to be specific in nature. Our God "authorizes" us to SING. I don't know of anyone who would argue with that. Bro. Brown believes, and I think rightly so, that with such specific authority comes a more general authority which authorizes "...some sort of material to sing, whether written on a scrap of paper, on a blackboard, in a songbook, or in some other form. Is that stupid, illogical, unreasonable, or am I correct?" You are absolutely correct, Bro. Brown. You get no argument from me. Bro. David Pharr, in the above mentioned article, wrote, "Quibbles are sometimes raised regarding the authority for such things as songbooks, but the principle is that things which are subordinate to, or expedients related to, the thing specified are authorized. Songbooks are not another kind of music. They are expedient for performing the thing specified." In other words, they are aids to singing. They are tools that we acceptably use to AID us in the enhancement of our singing, thus making it more effective to its ultimate specified purpose: the teaching and the admonishing of one another.
Generic authority "allows choices." Thus, anything (as long as it isn't something God has specifically condemned) that assists God's people in the carrying out of a command or directive of our God, and which does so to the edification of His people and the glorification of the Father, is authorized. The problem, once again, lies in determining just what is or isn't expedient to the carrying out of such directives. Songbooks are considered to be "expedients." This was not always so, however. In years past there was great conflict over their use. And when shaped notes were introduced, the battle was waged even more fiercely by some. Four part harmony was considered by some an "innovation of the devil." Tuning forks and pitch pipes have long been debated. Praise teams, projection of the words and music onto a screen, contemporary or camp songs, clapping during songs, toe-tapping, movement of one's body in rhythm to the song, women singing one part of a hymn, with the men joining in at the chorus, raising hands, etc., ad infinitum. Ohhhh, the blood spilled on the battlefield of Generic Authority. Choice is fine, as long as we respect another's choice; it is when we seek to bind OUR choice as the ONLY one acceptable to God that we overstep the intent and purpose of such general authority.
I would place instrumental accompaniment to singing in this category. Bro. David Pharr wrote, "Singing is not generic, however, as regards instrumental music. One might as easily swim by flying, walk by riding, or immerse by sprinkling as he could sing by playing an instrument!" Here is where these people tend to throw reason and logic out the window. Using instruments to aid or accompany singing in no way whatsoever either REPLACES or NEGATES singing!! Look at the examples Bro. Pharr gave. "Swim by flying." True, if one is flying above the surface of the water, he obviously can't be swimming. "Walk by riding." If one is riding a horse, one is obviously not walking. "Immerse by sprinkling." If one is sprinkled, one is obviously not immersed. In each of these illustrations given by David, one item REPLACES the other, and in so doing NEGATES the other. That is not what happens when one uses instruments as an aid or accompaniment, however, and it is irresponsible, not to mention just plain ignorant, to present such an argument. It is "apples and oranges." Now, if we threw out singing altogether, and replaced singing with an instrumental performance, THEN Bro. Pharr would have a legitimate point.
Bro. T. Pierce Brown writes, "I do not know of any place in the New Testament where I find information that leads me to conclude that God would be pleased with a different KIND of music than singing. Can you point out any?" In Revelation 5:8-9 we find 24 elders falling down before the Lamb, singing a new song -- "each one having a harp." What do you suppose they were doing with those harps, Bro. Brown?! Do you think God would cast them headlong into hell if they dared to actually pluck it?! And why would He give them harps anyway, considering just how much He abhors all instrumental music?! Bro. Brown, this whole theology of prohibition of instrumental accompaniment to singing is based on one thing, and one thing only: SILENCE. We have turned dead silence into a law heard round the world! God neither condoned nor condemned the use of instrumental accompaniment in the NT Scriptures (although He commanded their use in the OT Scriptures). By what authority, then, do we dare to declare His disapproval? Bro. Brown says he knows of no place in the NT where God might be pleased with their use. Bro. Brown, show me one place in the NT writings where He specifies His displeasure. We know He approved of them previously. The OT writings declare such. We also see them in heaven (at least in symbolism). Therefore, Bro. Brown, please show me where our Lord, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), has changed His mind on this issue. Show me even ONE passage anywhere in the entire Bible that even remotely HINTS at the fact that deity has had a change of heart on this matter. I have been asking for that passage for almost 30 years. I stopped holding my breath quite some time back!
Frankly, there are many disciples of Christ who need to return to a rational, reasoned approach to the interpretation of biblical silence. When absolutely nothing whatsoever is specified in the Bible about a matter one way or the other, it is just as wrong to interpret that genuine silence as prohibitive as it is to interpret it as prescriptive. In reality, it is neither. In the NT writings God specified NOTHING with regard to the place of musical instruments in worship unto Him. Thus, it is just as wrong for one to declare they must be used, as it is to declare they must not. The fact is, God declared neither. Thus, we must use our best judgment to determine if such a practice ultimately glorifies Him and edifies His people. I discuss this interpretive principle in more detail in Reflections #126 -- Suggesting Another Hermeneutic: Inquiry into an Interpretive Methodology.
Bro. H. Leo Boles (1874-1946), in an article titled "The Silence of the Bible," which has been rather recently reprinted in the December, 2003 issue of The Gospel Preceptor, touched upon this aspect of silence, and the tendency of men to meddle in areas where they have no authority to declare the preference of deity. He began the article by pointing out that some men "have taught that where the Bible is silent, we have a right to speak." Bro. Boles correctly discerns that if men are given the right to fill in those areas of God's genuine silence, then chaos will reign supreme, for the simple reason that no two men will ever agree on what ought to be placed into those areas of biblical silence. He wrote, "Man cannot agree with his fellows as to what must be brought in, and no greater source of division can be found than the different standards of men." Bro. Boles continues: "There is not a single sentence in all the New Testament that warrants man to speak, where the New Testament is silent, in the name of Christ; there is no Scripture that grants man such authority. No individual has any right to interpose authority where the New Testament neither enjoins nor forbids. To interpose and draft regulations where the New Testament is silent is to legislate for God's people where God has not legislated." Although Bro. Boles' article is primarily directed against those persons who seek to "introduce innovations" into the work and worship of the church, the principle applies equally to those who would seek to impose laws and regulations that are prohibitive or proscriptive in nature. Both are attempts to speak with authority where God has not!
Bro. Hugh Fulford wrote, "Brother Al, In response to your essay on 'The Silence Syndrome,' I submit the following observation: In Hebrews 1:5 (ASV), the writer rhetorically asks: 'For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee? and again, I will be to him a Father, And he shall be to me a Son?' Then in vs. 13 he asks: 'But of which of the angels hath he said at any time, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet?' It appears to me that the inspired writer is arguing the superiority of Christ over angels by what God did NOT say -- His SILENCE -- regarding angels. Please correct me if I am wrong in this exegesis."
Like the Heb. 7:14 passage, I believe this is yet another good example of the fallacy of seeking to establish some truth by an appeal to something God didn't say, instead of realizing the truth is established already by that which God did say. In other words, this passage is not about silence, but about specificity. One of the chief purposes of the book of Hebrews, obviously, is to firmly and forever establish the superiority of Jesus Christ, His blood sacrifice, and the new covenant. Priesthoods are compared and contrasted; sacrifices are compared and contrasted; covenants are compared and contrasted. In every case, the new is declared superior to the old. Jesus is superior to Moses (chp. 3) ... Jesus is superior to Melchizedek (chp. 5) ... Etc. He is also superior to the angels, a fact brought out early on in the book -- "having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they" (Heb. 1:4).
God Himself had spoken and declared Jesus His beloved Son! "And behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased'" (Matt. 3:17). At the transfiguration, "a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!'" (Matt. 17:5). Has the voice of God the Father ever declared such about any other person? Has God declared this about an angel? About an animal? God was very specific! He declared this about JESUS. Thus, the Hebrew writer points out the obvious to his readers, which, sadly, because some were considering turning away from Jesus and the new covenant, may not have been so obvious to them. He says, "For to which of the angels did He ever say, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee'?" (Heb. 1:5). No angel ever heard such a declaration, ONLY Jesus. No mere human ever heard this, ONLY Jesus. No animal ever heard this, ONLY Jesus. GOD SPOKE, and He specified JESUS as His one and only, unique Son. Simply by pointing to those not specified, the writer merely emphasizes the One who was specified. Thus, Bro. Fulford, this is not a case of some truth established by silence, but a case of a truth established by specificity, and then merely emphasized by a comparison of those who were NOT specified with the One who WAS. The point was to emphasize the superiority of the latter.
In Heb. 1:13, which is a quote of Psalm 110:1, we have the same situation -- "But to which of the angels has He ever said, 'Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet'?" Just exactly WHO sits at the right hand of God? Do angels sit there? Do men? Do animals? Although spiritually (in Christ), and symbolically, we may be said to "sit with Him in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2:6), the fact is there is only ONE who sits at the right hand of the Father -- It is JESUS. Paul also says that God has "put all things in subjection under His feet" (Eph. 1:22). He further writes, "He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come" (Eph. 1:20-21). This is pretty specific, isn't it?! WHO was it God specified should sit at His right hand, and WHO was it God specified would have all things in subjection under His feet? Yes, that's right: JESUS. Did God ever specify such a thing with respect to angels? Men? Animals? The superiority of Jesus Christ is made evident by specificity, not by silence. God SPOKE these things, and in so doing the superiority of His Son is established --- NOT by what He didn't say, but by what He did.
Brother Hugh Fulford also addressed the following question to me: "I distinctly recall that when you first responded to 'A Christian Affirmation' (which appeared in the May 2005 issue of the Christian Chronicle), you made a big 'to-do' over what it did not say. I corresponded with you at that time and asked how could you see so much in the silence of the 'Christian Affirmation' and yet so little in the silence of the Scriptures. I still ask that question of you. Also, be assured that my observations and questions are presented with the purest feelings toward you. I hope your new year is off to a wonderful start." I remember Bro. Fulford asking this of me, and recall that I responded to him (although I don't remember specifically what I said). However, I shall respond once again. Also, I appreciate this good brother's attitude and spirit, as I do that of Bro. T. Pierce Brown. I pray that more and more brethren will seek respectful, responsible dialogue with those disciples with whom they may differ. I pray God's blessing on both of these brethren!
As for Bro. Fulford's claim that I made a big "to-do" over what the "Christian Affirmation" did not say, that is simply not the case. I wrote only one article on the "Christian Affirmation," and the readers are invited to review it: Reflections #190. This article is 5480 words long, and after a careful reading of this article I was only able to find one paragraph where I spoke of something not mentioned in the "Christian Affirmation" (and this paragraph totaled only 165 words -- only 3% of the whole; hardly a big "to-do"). That paragraph follows:
Well, there you have it. That is the totality of my big "to-do." I was not trying to formulate any law or decree based on some "law of silence," I was merely attempting to point out that in a document purporting to be an affirmation of the faith we hold dear, that I found it somewhat troubling that the concept of "grace" never once appeared, but the various traditional "practices" of our faith-heritage were mentioned over a dozen times. I found that disturbing enough to note, in passing, in my evaluation of this affirmation. I would have been equally disturbed if I had read a 300 page book on Christian beginnings, and the name of Jesus was never once mentioned. That would be a glaring omission, in my view. I was certainly open to an explanation from the framers and signers of this document as to the reason for this oversight ... an explanation, by the way, that never came! Making note of an omission of what most would agree is a major doctrine of the Christian faith, and simply asking "Why?" that glaring omission exists, is not even remotely the same as someone forming assumptions from those areas where God has said nothing and then elevating those assumptions to universal LAW.
I shall conclude this current issue of Reflections simply with a word of thanks to my brothers-in-Christ, Hugh Fulford and T. Pierce Brown. They are good, honorable men, and have served their Lord with all their being for decades ... many more years than I have. I respect them deeply for their devotion. I also applaud their willingness to consider my weekly ramblings, and to respectfully enter into dialogue with me regarding those areas of my teaching with which they differ. In so doing, they stand head and shoulders above many who will do neither. May God richly bless them both this coming year!
From a Reader in Oregon:
Dear Al, Happy 2006! Just a word of thanks to you again for all your hard work. As do many others, we benefit greatly from your sharing your study of God's Word with us in a manner that is enlightening, encouraging, and sometimes challenging. Our hope is that God will allow your service to Him, and to us, to continue for many years (decades) to come. Please send a signed copy of Down, But Not Out and two copies of the 2005 Reflections CD. I intend to purchase more copies of Down, But Not Out for friends, but would like to have a signed copy for our own library. We wish you and Shelly the very best for the New Year. Hopefully, we will see you again next fall when we come through there.
From a Reader in Florida:
Brother Maxey, This is the first time that I have written to you, but I have read many of your articles over the past couple of years and have enjoyed them very much. I just finished reading your recent article "The Silence Syndrome," and I totally agree with your position that silence is neutral. I also found your position on the "law of specificity" to be equally on point. That brings me to the question that I have for you. If you read Ephesians 5:19 ("speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord") as being specific on how melody is to be made to the Lord ("in your heart"), then would you not agree that this would exclude other forms of melody? Would not making melody on a musical instrument to the Lord be a violation of the "law of specificity"? My heart leads me to this conclusion, but I do not judge others who use musical instruments as being sinful because there is no Scriptural prohibition against it, unless you apply your "law of specificity" as discussed above. I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks, and God bless you!
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Thank the Lord, many of us have now become "Maxey-mized." Please know that I am being blessed by getting to reflect upon your Reflections. I have often taught, and even lamented, that CENI is a club that some use to bruise and abuse those whom they should be loving gently, as did the Corinthian couple who blessed Apollos. I also see the so-called "law of silence" as a similar blunt instrument used in much the same way. How can one correctly argue that NT things have been restored when the things of the heart are ignored, as evidenced when one seems to continually look for ways to despise others, rather than to love them? Should you ever find yourself in or near our area of Tennessee, please bless us by allowing us to show hospitality to you and yours.
From a Minister in Texas:
Al, What a joy to see the response from the minister who had worked at the Sunset School of Preaching! His was a "great awakening" indeed!
From a Reader in England:
Hello Bro. Al, Referencing the response from the reader who spoke of placing one's fingers on the keys of the piano and then reading all the NT passages about singing, I'd like to make a point in his own vernacular. If God asks us to sing, and we read the words and the notes in the hymn book as we sing, are we doing as He asked? No, we are NOT. We are READING and singing. If we stand, are we doing as He asked? No, we are STANDING and singing. Or, SITTING and singing. What about learning a new song? Now we are LEARNING and singing! What about someone interpreting the song with sign language for the deaf? Now we are INTERPRETING and singing. Nowhere do we read that a song leader is specified either. Therefore, we are "adding" to His command. Well, this is all a bit tongue-in-cheek, I will admit. However, I still think it should apply, if this brother's argument is taken seriously.
From a Minister in India:
Dear Brother, That was a wonderful dissertation on the desertion of Demas. We use that passage as a direct example that "Once Saved is NOT Always Saved."
From a PhD in Toronto, Ontario, Canada:
Al, I just read your article on the Sunday School movement (Issue #184) which correctly caught the tie to poverty. I am the President and CEO of a Christian (evangelical) agency that works with the poor in Toronto, Canada, and we happen to do computer literacy with inner city children. We also have our city's largest scholarship program for inner city youth. So you can see why your article would be meaningful to me. I just wanted to say thanks.
From an Elder in New Mexico:
Al, I thoroughly enjoyed the article on Demas, which covered one of my favorite passages. Thinking about all the emotions in Paul's heart as he penned these words, and reflecting on the lives that he touched through his work, is humbling to all of us. His request for his coat, the books he left, and the short notes about so many of the people Paul had known, adds such a personal note to this letter. I receive each of your Reflections with a mixture of dread and joy. Dread because I know that I will need to set apart a good period of time to properly read and study on your chosen topic for the week, and joy because of the insight and understanding that you bring to so many topics. Several of us here enjoy debating and discussing your weekly articles. We don't always agree with you, or with each other, but we all appreciate your attention to scholarly study. It forces us to examine our understanding and our beliefs, and to sometimes change our point of view. Your article on Jephthah (Issue #224) is still causing some spirited discussions here. Thank you for your work. Each week brings delight and understanding.
From a Reader in Mississippi:
The Director of One Body Ministries
Brother Al, I very much liked your illustration/example of Randy Travis singing a song with his guitar ... it is excellent, in my humble opinion. I'm sure it will not surprise you to hear that someone actually told me that I am sinning if I play my guitar and sing a praise or worship song ... even if it is in the privacy of my own home! I hope and pray these people will have their eyes opened, but I know from experience that many of them have chosen to keep their eyes shut, looking only to their own doctrine for their salvation. Keep up the good work, brother!!
From a One-Cup Minister in Missouri:
Al, My wife is indeed growing in grace and an understanding of the divine will, and she can quickly spot a legalist! Here is what she wrote: "I have read the readers' section of Al Maxey's article on Demas. A couple of the writers are legalists. They failed to listen to reason. Al is really sharp and to the point in dealing with them. Frankly, I detect a bit of jealousy on their part. How Sad!"
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Al, This is just a quick note to let you know that you are indeed appreciated, and that we look forward to your Reflections! We will be by your office soon to pick up your 2005 CD. We used to worship at a congregation in Virginia where Garland Elkins was the preacher. What a struggle that was! It was so embarrassing when we took guests. Invariably he would criticize "the denominations" or other evangelists from the pulpit. He was sincere, I'm sure, and had a lovely wife and family. We have come a long way from that, however, and we thank you for making a difference! You and Shelly have a blessed 2006!
From a Doctor in Kentucky:
Bro. Al, I grew up hearing the "silence argument," but it was only when I moved off on my own for a while (during a stint with a Non-Institutional Church of Christ), and then only after lengthy study and a fortuitous stumbling upon the works by one Carl Ketcherside, that my eyes were opened to the flawed nature of some of our positions. In sermons I had quite often heard an argument like this: "If a boy's mother gave him $5 and sent him to the grocery store with the instructions: Go pick me up a gallon of whole milk; and the little boy came home with the milk, no change, and $2.50 worth of bubble gum, what would his mom say???" The point, of course, was obvious: Mom would be upset, and justifiably so. It would do no good for the child to argue, "But, MOOOOMMMM, you didn't say NOT to get the gum!" But, I began to wonder if this wasn't just a case of a specially crafted illustration being used to prove a forced biblical interpretation. What if the illustration were slightly different? What if, instead of bubble gum, the boy came back home with just the milk and no change, and when his mom asked for the change, he said, "Well, mother, I had $2.50, but on the way home, I saw a little girl fall off the curb and skin up her knees. She was all by herself, and, seeing a pharmacy nearby, I used the change to buy a couple of bandages and some soothing antiseptic gel. I'm sorry it took me longer to get home, mother, but she was little and needed some help getting home. Her mother was very thankful, and wanted to pay me back, but said they were on pretty hard times right now and she couldn't find the $2.50 to pay me back. I told her I didn't think you would mind." Would the "silence proponents" stand up and declare this boy to be an unruly, disobedient, conniving wretch? What disturbs me is that I imagine one could actually find people in my background who would still find a way to say that, legally, he was deserving of punishment. My reply is a resounding NO! This boy is not liable for punishment! In fact, he would be more liable for punishment, or at least for "a good talking to," had he REFUSED to come to the little girl's aid on the grounds of some bizarre "silence" argument.
From a Reader in Georgia:
Al, I found this and thought of you (**Below is a picture I took of the special gift they sent me. I've finally earned my wings!! My thanks to this couple for thinking of me!** --- Al Maxey). Thank you for all that you do to further the cause of our Lord. You inspire many to become more than what they are!! Please accept this with our Love Always!!
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