by Al Maxey

Issue #307 ------- July 16, 2007
You can fool all the people some
of the time and some of the people
all of the time, but you cannot
fool all the people all of the time.

Abraham Lincoln {1809-1865}

Editor Buster Busted
Dobbs' Deception Exposed

Elbert Hubbard [1856-1915] defined an editor as "a person whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed." Though "so mean a class of tyrants" (as Henry David Thoreau [1817-1862] once characterized editors) do indeed exist in our fallen world, one would expect such heinous, unscrupulous persons to be noticeably absent from the helm of those periodicals published within the Body of Christ Jesus. Sadly, these scoundrels are to be found within the Lord's church as well. Walter Isaacson, in his classic work "Kissinger: A Biography," has quite rightly observed, "To withhold information, and even to allow a listener to be misled, comes very close to the definition of deceit." This is exactly what some brotherhood editors have done, and, tragically, they often get away with it because nobody dares to challenge them. Thus, they continue to deceive the people of God, spreading their lies and slander without restraint. The apostle Paul said, "There are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers ... who must be silenced" [Titus 1:10-11]. I personally believe we need to take such matters far more seriously than we typically do. We must obey the admonition of Paul, who commanded, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" [Eph. 5:11]. A shameless servant who would dare to seduce the sheep of the Great Shepherd must be exposed and opposed. To remain silent in the face of blatant deception of one's fellow disciples makes the one reluctant to speak co-conspirator with the deceiver. We must speak out. God demands it; let no man remand it.

An intentional effort to mislead those over whom one has influence has always been considered, even by non-Christians, a most heinous moral deficiency. Indeed, in our own secular government it is regarded as impeachable conduct. By way of a singular example, in the first article of impeachment that was adopted by the Rodino Committee against President Richard Nixon, this former president was charged with, among various other things, "making or causing to be made false or misleading statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States" [Ann Coulter, High Crimes and Misdemeanors, pp. 16, 306]. And Nixon's failings in this regard don't even begin to compare with those of President Bill Clinton, who also faced impeachment for "high crimes and misdemeanors" under the provision of our Constitution. Our founding fathers, particularly those who served as the framers of our Constitution, believed that the leaders of this great nation should be persons of impeccable character and virtue, therefore they stipulated within the Constitution that should such persons demonstrate a visible, verifiable lack of such character and virtue then they were subject to impeachment and removal from their various positions of trust. Impeachment doesn't even require that the rule of law has been broken, but merely that the individual in question has clearly demonstrated himself or herself to be a rogue and scoundrel. "Lying to the American people may not be a criminal offense, but it is a breach of trust by the president. It is a 'high crime or misdemeanor.' It is unquestionably an impeachable offense. As Hamilton suggested, the president could be impeached for acts that make him 'unworthy of being any longer trusted,' even if immune from 'legal punishment'" [ibid, p. 305]. Deception of the people, quite frankly, is a significant breach of trust; it is, as the phrase was intended within the Constitution, a "high crime or misdemeanor." Those who have been entrusted with positions of authority, and who then abuse this sacred trust (and, yes, I firmly believe this applies within the Lord's blood-bought church as well), thereby forfeit their right to leadership, unless they are willing to repent of their misdeeds. Those scoundrels and rogues who refuse to abandon their iniquity, however, and who willfully persist in it, need to be exposed before they further mislead the people who look to them for sound guidance, wise counsel and spiritual direction.

Does this mean that such persons are beyond redemption? Absolutely not. Our heavenly Father is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" [2 Peter 3:9]. If we love the Lord, and if we truly love one another, we will seek to restore those who have fallen prey to the wiles of the Serpent, that pernicious Deceiver of old. We may need to be bold in calling another to repentance, as the prophet Nathan was with King David, but the end result, for all those willing to repent, is the snatching from the flames of one ready to perish. Let me hasten to say that I have absolutely no personal hatred, or even dislike, for Buster Dobbs, the editor of Firm Foundation. I am, however, extremely appalled by his recent actions and attitudes, as I believe them to be godless. I will not cease to pray for him, though, and can only hope that this present exposé will serve as a call to this man to repent. I wish for him what I wish for all -- that he might walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which he has been called [Eph. 4:1]. When one detours from that highway of holiness, however, the loving thing to do is to call them back. I sought to do that one-on-one with this brother, but failed in that attempt. I now ask that you join your prayers with mine in a concerted attempt to call this brother to a more responsible course. Why bother, you ask? Why not just ignore this and "let it be"? Because even one soul is much too precious to abandon along the wayside. As the brother of our Lord said, "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" [James 5:19-20]. Buster Dobbs is a precious soul. I care about this man enough to confront him, and pray that I may do so in love, yet with a boldness befitting the gravity of the situation at hand.

The Background

H. A. "Buster" Dobbs is the current editor of a Church of Christ publication known as Firm Foundation, which issued its first edition in the year 1884. It has been around for many generations, with a host of well-known and well-respected men serving at the helm of this highly regarded magazine. Most everyone within Churches of Christ, especially those of a more conservative nature, are familiar with Firm Foundation. It has been a standard in countless households for as long as many of us can remember. Like many periodicals, it has had its good leaders and bad, and has fluctuated in quality and theology accordingly. Buster Dobbs, in addition to his editorial duties, is also the preacher for the Klein Area Church of Christ in Tomball, Texas, a little congregation of around 50 people. There are two other Church of Christ congregations in the town of Tomball, Texas, with a membership of about 500 souls between them, according to the 2006 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States [p. 623]. Buster Dobbs' email address (for those who may wish to contact him), which is placed prominently within each issue of his publication (thus, it is in the public domain), is:

In the February, 2007 issue of Firm Foundation (which didn't actually get sent out until April, 2007 ... the publisher seems to be consistently running two months behind), the Editorial by Buster Dobbs dealt with the matter of biblical silence and the establishment of authority [vol. 122, no. 2, p. 2-5]. Needless to say, Dobbs and I differ rather significantly on this hermeneutical matter. Several readers had pointed this piece by Dobbs out to me and had asked me what I thought of it. In light of some of the errors and inconsistencies I felt the article to contain, I decided to devote one of my Reflections to a review of his editorial. I informed Buster Dobbs of my intent, and even sent him a copy of my review prior to its release to my subscribers. I typically do this as a courtesy to the authors of articles that I have chosen to review. I also welcome their responses. Further, I always let my readers know who authored the piece I'm reviewing, where that piece may be found, and encourage them to please read the piece first before reading my review, as that is only fair to the author being critiqued. I want my readers to consider what I say only in light of their own consideration of the article in question. I have even offered to send my readers copies of articles I review (at my own expense) so that they may compare my comments to the original piece. I believe this is responsible journalism, and is only fair to the author being reviewed. I never want my readers to simply take my word for something, but rather to check it out for themselves "to see if these things be true" [Acts 17:11].

My review of Dobbs' editorial appeared in Reflections #298 -- Brother Buster Breaks Silence -- dated April 23, 2007. In my review, I took each of Buster's points in his editorial and confronted them with logic and Scripture. I also posed several questions to Dobbs, questions to which I genuinely hoped he would provide a response. Indeed, I invited him to do so, and was willing to make that response available to my readers. On the afternoon of May 6, 2007, about two weeks after my review was mailed out, Buster emailed me this brief note: "Hello Bro. Maxey, Watch for my response in the Firm Foundation. I will try to be as kind and considerate as you are. I do not regard you as an enemy. Regards, H. A. 'Buster' Dobbs." I shared this email with each of you, my weekly readers, in a "Special Update" at the end of the readers' remarks in Reflections #300, which was dated May 7. I wrote to my readers, "Be watching for that upcoming issue." I then provided a link where readers could go and subscribe to Firm Foundation. Again, I want my readers to actually read what others say. I don't want my own thoughts and reflections to be sent forth in a total vacuum. That is irresponsible. I wrote Buster Dobbs and told him I would be eagerly awaiting his response to my review and to the questions I had posed to him. I also asked if he would show me the same courtesy that I had extended to him, and inform his readers where they could read my review. This way they could compare his remarks with mine and make their own determination as to which of us best presented our case. I received no such commitment from him, but remained optimistic that he would behave responsibly. After all, he had stated he would seek to be as "kind and considerate" as I had been to him.

Time passed. Then, early on the morning of Thursday, May 31, 2007, Buster emailed me the following brief note: "Dear Brother Maxey, As I remember, you sent me a copy of your review of my editorial on whether the silence of the Bible is permissive or prohibitive about 3 days before it was distributed to your Reflections mailing list. Attached is my promised rejoinder to your review, which is to be published in the May edition of Firm Foundation. Signed: H. A. 'Buster' Dobbs, Editor." I quickly opened the attached Word document to read his response, and was somewhat surprised to find it was only a two page document. Then, when I read it, I was even more surprised ... and also disturbed. Buster Dobbs really didn't address any of my questions or challenges. Indeed, he completely misrepresented my teaching in his brief "rejoinder." I honestly wondered if he had even bothered to read my review. How could someone have missed my point that badly?! I was also disappointed to note that he never identified who had written the review of his editorial, nor did he inform his readers where they could go to actually examine that review for themselves. The next morning, Friday, June 1, 2007, I wrote Buster and expressed my disappointment. He had informed his readers in this brief "rejoinder" that I held positions that I do NOT hold. Indeed, in my review of his editorial I had expressed the exact opposite positions. I wrote him in part, "Even though you don't identify me, you nevertheless have misrepresented me completely in your rejoinder. You have asserted three times that 'the wayward brother agreed' with statements that I don't even come close to accepting. If your readers had my review at their disposal they would be able to clearly see this for themselves by examining and comparing your rejoinder with my original review. You have done me a disservice, brother."

Two hours later he wrote back and said he had neither time nor disposition to get into a lengthy exchange with me over this matter, and simply suggested I go back and read my own review again, in which "you do say several times that you agree with my reasoning." I then wrote him a lengthy email in which I took each of his assertions as to my "agreement" with his reasoning and showed him from direct quotes from my review where I took the exact opposite position. I sent this to him on Saturday, June 2, 2007. Just minutes later he wrote back, "I have not misrepresented you, but accurately reported what you wrote." Obviously, he was not going to be deterred from misrepresenting my teaching, even though I had shown his statements about my teaching to be false. He intended to print these misrepresentations regardless. I then asked him one final question (which I also sent on Saturday, June 2) -- "Buster, will you inform your readers of the location of my review of your editorial so that they may determine for themselves if you did or didn't misrepresent me? Yes or no?" He refused. And that's where it stands. His article came out in the May, 2007 edition of Firm Foundation, and is titled "Chickens and Such" [vol. 122, no. 5, p. 20], which was sent out to his readers the first week of July, 2007.

Reflecting on Dobbs' Rejoinder

First, I would like to once again extend to editor Buster Dobbs a courtesy that he blatantly refuses to extend to me -- I would like to ask each of you, the readers, to please get a copy of Buster's rejoinder ("Chickens and Such") and read it carefully. Do not just take my word alone for what I will be stating below. Compare his article with my response, and then make your own determination as to which of us willfully misrepresented the other and deceived our respective readers. If you are unable to get a copy of the May issue of Firm Foundation, or if Dobbs will not send you a copy of that article, please let me know and I will personally send you a photocopy of the actual article from Firm Foundation at my own expense, or I will email you a copy of the Word document that Dobbs sent me prior to the article's release (both are identical, word for word, just different formats). Unlike Dobbs, I have no fear of my readers analyzing my remarks in light of the original work being reviewed. I have nothing to hide.

Buster Dobbs begins his abbreviated "response" to my in-depth evaluation of his recent editorial with this statement: "A wayward brother presumes to give a rejoinder to my article on 'Silence' (Firm Foundation, February 2007, Editorial). His response is ... well ... amusing." Then, just over halfway into his article, Dobbs was able to collect the totality of his response to my many challenges, questions and arguments from logic and Scripture and consolidate them thusly: "My answer to this wayward brother is, 'Tut.'" I suppose in the eyes of some factionists who are supportive of Dobbs' legalistic, patternistic theology, "Tut" would constitute a sufficient response to one who was publicly declared by their editor-leader to be a "wayward brother." Most rational people, however, would undoubtedly conclude that such a monosyllabic retort was, at best, an indication of immaturity, and most certainly indicative of theological shallowness. Not a few would be greatly amazed to learn that such came from the pen of the editor of a respected publication founded 123 years ago! Most would expect more from such a man, just as the framers of the Constitution expected higher virtue from one who would rise to lead this great nation. Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more" [Luke 12:48]. The apostle Peter commands us that we are to "always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account" for our convictions and hopes [1 Peter 3:15]. Somehow I doubt Peter would have considered "Tut" to be sufficient fulfillment of this command.

Ten times in this little piece Dobbs characterized me as a "wayward brother." His readers are left to wonder who this wayward one is and why he is so depicted. My evaluation of his editorial was declared "amusing." Indeed, when speaking of my logic, Buster said it "made me laugh." He further noted, " would do little good to have a discussion with such people." Yet, his many readers are not given the location of this evaluation so that they too may be "amused" by the flawed logic of this "wayward brother." They are not even told who the straying sheep is so they may track down the article for themselves. One would think that if such an evaluation was indeed so pathetically inept and inaccurate, so illogical that it actually made him laugh, then Buster Dobbs' best refutation of it would be to simply share the piece with his readers so that they might be as appalled, and even amused, by it as he was! Quite mysteriously, however, this editor refuses to share this information. Dobbs very clearly doesn't want his readers to see it. Hmmm. One has to wonder WHY?!

In his article titled "Chickens and Such," Buster Dobbs makes three rather bold statements. After each of these statements he declares: "The wayward brother agreed." In other words, Dobbs is declaring that Al Maxey, in his evaluation of the February editorial, has clearly expressed his agreement with the three premises. Indeed, as previously noted, Dobbs, in two emails from June 1 and June 2, stated, "you do say several times that you agree with my reasoning" and "I have not misrepresented you, but accurately reported what you wrote." IS Dobbs stating the truth here, or is he seeking to deceive his readers? IF what he says is true, then there should be evidence in my evaluation of his editorial of agreement with his three premises, rather than evidence of disagreement. Right?! One would think that the strongest argument for his case would simply have been to advise his readers to go examine Al Maxey's evaluation and "see for yourselves that what I have said is true!" This he does NOT do, however. Why?! Because Buster knows only too well that any person who reads his three premises in light of my own previously written evaluation would discover very quickly that what Dobbs declares is false. The "wayward brother" does NOT agree with the three premises, and the evidence for such is overwhelming. THAT is why Buster does not dare inform his readers as to the identity of the "wayward brother," nor where to go to find the evaluation in question. To do so would expose his own deceit. What is even more incriminating for Dobbs is that I provided him with the specific quotes in my evaluation that showed conclusively that I did NOT agree with his three premises, and that my stated position in that evaluation was the exact opposite of what he declared it to be, yet he published the article anyway. Brethren, note his three premises, and then note the information that I sent to Buster Dobbs in refutation of his assertions.

No, the "wayward brother" does NOT agree. Not even remotely. The whole purpose of my evaluation of his editorial was to disagree with this very point. Dobbs declares, "The FORCE OF SILENCE forbade all other animals" ... "any animal other than a lamb was forbidden BY THE SILENCE of the Law." I understand that this is Buster's belief. It is also one of the foundational tenets of legalistic patternism. I disagree with this teaching 100%, and have opposed it for many, many years. That which prohibited the use of a dog or hog was NOT the force of silence, but rather the force of specificity. In point of fact, God was not silent about this matter. He had spoken. In the presence of specific command there is no true silence. Again, this is the very argument I sought to present within my published evaluation of Dobbs' editorial. He missed that point then, and he missed it again in his recently published rejoinder.

In Buster Dobbs' editorial he had made some accurate comments about specificity, and I did indeed applaud those comments in my evaluation. However, he then quickly reverted to the old "silence prohibits" fallacy ... just as he has done in the above premise. Notice the following quote from my review of his editorial: "This is not true. It is not the silence following a specific, explicit command that prohibits, it is the specific, explicit command itself that prohibits. Silence has nothing to do with it; indeed, there is no silence when God has specifically, explicitly commanded." I shared this quote with Buster, showing him that within my article I did NOT agree with his premise. Yet he consciously chose to inform his readers that "the wayward brother agreed." This is nothing less than willful deception of his readers and willful misrepresentation of my position. I informed Buster of this fact. I emailed him the proof. He printed the chaff anyway. Such behavior, in my estimation, does not speak well of this editor.

No, the "wayward brother" does NOT agree. Far from it. It is not the "silence of the Bible" with respect to sprinkling that prohibits sprinkling. It is rather the clear specificity of the Bible with respect to immersion that excludes. Silence has absolutely nothing to do with it. Notice the following quote from my review of Buster's editorial: "Dobbs suggests it is the silence as to alternate methodologies (such as sprinkling) that is really the basis of their prohibition. That is just plain false! It is the specificity of the command to immerse/submerge that excludes or prohibits some other methodology like sprinkling, NOT the fact that these other methodologies are not mentioned or commanded." Does the "wayward brother" agree with Dobbs' second premise? Not on your life! How could anyone with even a smidgen of cognitive ability read what I wrote above in my review and come away thinking that Al Maxey agrees with Buster's second premise?! I take the exact opposite position. Again, I informed Buster Dobbs of this fact and provided him with this quote. He printed the chaff anyway! Willful deception?! You be the judge! In my appeal to this aged editor in an email dated June 1, 2007, I wrote, "Again, Buster, you have misrepresented me to your readers. Had you bothered to give them the location of my review, they ALL would be able to see for themselves that you have misrepresented me." Frankly, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that this is indeed the reason he chose not to identify the "wayward brother" and the location of the article in question. To reveal either would be to reveal his deception.

Once again, the "wayward brother" most certainly does NOT agree with this premise. Dobbs' premise is that "The silence of sacred scriptures made fire from any other source sinful." False!! It was God's specificity as to the only source He would accept that made the taking of coals from any other source sinful. Silence had nothing to do with it. In fact, God was NOT silent. He had SPOKEN. Notice what I declared in my review of Buster's editorial: "Bro. Dobbs then moves on to the 'crown jewel' of all legalistic patternistic arguments -- the case of Nadab and Abihu. Time and time again this very well-known story has been dragged out as 'proof positive' that silence prohibits. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth." Does this sound even remotely like agreement with Buster's third premise? Not to any rational person! In my review of his editorial I even referred the reader to my in-depth analysis of the account of Nadab and Abihu -- Reflections #63 -- which Buster apparently also failed to comprehend, for I made the same objections to his theology in that article as I did in my review. Apparently he grasped none of it, for he informed his readers that I agreed with his view; doing so even after I had supplied him with the direct quotes from my review proving that I clearly was not in agreement with his position. What does this reveal about the nature of this editor, brethren?!

Buster Dobbs then presents a fourth premise, at the end of which he declares: "The wayward brother disagreed." Here is that Fourth Premise --- "The new covenant commands, in the worship of God, a specific kind of music (singing). The Bible is silent with reference to all other music (instruments). This permits singing and prohibits all other music." As Dobbs' correctly notes, I do indeed disagree with this premise ... every part of it. Buster then sarcastically states, "Consistency is a rare jewel." In point of fact, I am consistent ... I have disagreed with all four of his premises!! Buster then writes, "The only question between us is whether 'singing' is a specific kind of music. We agree that the New Covenant is silent as to mechanical instruments of music used in worship of the Creator." Actually, both of these statements are false as well. This question about "singing," and whether or not it is a "specific kind of music," is not the only question between us relating to the passages to which Buster alludes, and I most certainly do not agree that the NT writings are "silent" with regard to mechanical instruments of music used in worship of the Creator. Thus, Dobbs has twice more misrepresented my position.

When Buster claims that the NT writings command singing "in the worship of God," he is alluding to Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16. I would simply challenge Buster to show us from these two verses a single command to sing. If one examines the verb forms employed, one will discover that the imperative mood is not used; these are all present participles. The imperative mood (the mood of command) IS used in Eph. 5:18 ("do not get drunk with wine" and "be filled with the Spirit") and Col. 3:16 ("Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you"). These are commands. Some declare that the singing, making melody, speaking, teaching, admonishing and giving thanks are all "implied imperatives by association." Certainly, if you and I are each filled with the Spirit and the word of Christ, there will be many visible evidences of such an indwelling and empowering. It is not the evidences that are specifically commanded, however, but the willingness to be filled with the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we obey Him in this, the evidences will follow naturally. Yes, those filled with the Spirit and the word of Jesus will be vessels overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness ... and, without doubt, singing, teaching, admonishing and giving thanks. It is the filling that is specifically commanded, not the overflow. The latter is simply the spiritual by-product of submission to the former.

Further, I would challenge Buster to demonstrate to us where these two passages make any reference to that which transpires "in the worship of God." When the legalistic patternists say this, what they generally mean is: "the worship service." In other words: that which transpires during a time when the body of believers is assembled to engage in the "five acts of worship." Very, very few biblical scholars adhere to the view that these two passages describe a "worship service." Rather, they depict the daily overflow of Spirit-filled hearts and lives as we relate to and interact with both God and our fellow man. These passages have absolutely nothing to do with the debate between a cappella and instrumental worship styles, although they have long been impressed by some sectarians into use as "proof-texts" in such ridiculous debates. Those who do so, however, only succeed in displaying their ignorance, not their insight.

Let's just assume, however, simply for the sake of argument, that Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are speaking of the legal requirements of one of the "five acts of worship," and that Paul has a Sunday morning "worship service" in a Church of Christ church building in mind when he wrote what he wrote. I personally don't accept any of this, but since Buster does, let's just assume he is correct. Even if we grant this assumption, the passage still has absolutely nothing to say, either pro or con, about instruments of music either aiding or accompanying one's singing. It also says nothing about song leaders, pitch pipes or tuning forks, song books, four part harmony, projected lyrics upon a screen, praise teams, toe tapping, or any of a host of other peripherals that we have fussed, feuded and fragmented over for generations. Dobbs poses the question: Is singing a specific kind of music? Well, yes and no. In some ways it clearly is specific. If I ask you to sing me a song, I do not have in mind a guitar solo. However, if I ask you to sing me a song, and you accompany the singing of that song with chords strummed on your guitar, you would still have complied fully with my request. If your spouse sang along with you, harmonizing his/her voice with yours, you would still have complied fully with my request. If you tapped your feet or clapped your hands in rhythm to the lyrics, you would still have complied fully with my request. If you ran a PowerPoint presentation on a screen behind you, depicting beautiful scenes from nature to enhance the meaning of the words you were singing, you would still have complied fully with my request. I had asked you to sing, and so you sang. The request was not negated simply because of a peripheral. Now, if the peripheral replaced the requested action, being substituted for it, then one may correctly assert that the request was indeed negated. Such is not the case, however, when said requested action is merely aided or accompanied by the peripheral. This is such elementary logic that it never ceases to amaze me that the legalistic patternists are so utterly incapable of grasping it. Perhaps such a puzzling cognitive disconnect may only truly be understood in light of that "deluding influence" of which the apostle Paul speaks in 2 Thess. 2:11 ... a delusion so strong that otherwise intelligent men and women come to "believe what is false."

Is there evidence in Scripture (both OT and NT) of worshipful singing being accompanied by instruments? Yes, there is. Were such actions approved by God? Yes, they were. Is there any passage anywhere in Scripture that ever even hints that God disapproves of such? No, there is not. Thus, what may we logically infer in the face of silence with regard to such peripherals? Well, we may at the very least infer that should such peripherals be employed in a given setting they would not be regarded as an abomination by our God. That does not necessarily suggest that they would always be appropriate in every setting, but there would at least be no biblical basis for showing God hated their employment and therefore condemned their use. Indeed, just the opposite. Frankly, in the above two passages from the writings of Paul, instruments are not even a consideration of the text. The legalistic patternists, therefore, hasten to declare that such "silence" of the text serves to prohibit their use. In reality, such silence neither prescribes nor proscribes. Whether such is employed is left to personal judgment, a judgment that must be based upon consideration of the overall principles and precepts of Scripture, the impact of such a choice upon others, and whether said chosen action brings glory and honor to God. I have previously discussed this same hermeneutical process in quite some depth (using instrumental accompaniment to singing as the test case) in my article: Suggesting Another Hermeneutic: Inquiry into an Interpretive Methodology [Reflections #126]. I would strongly suggest that Buster Dobbs take the time to carefully and prayerfully consider the information contained therein, and then present a reasoned refutation if he can. Dobbs additionally declares, "We agree that the New Covenant is silent as to mechanical instruments of music used in worship of the Creator." Well, no, we don't agree. In point of fact, the New Covenant documents are not silent with respect to the use of instruments by the redeemed as they approach their Creator in worshipful expression. I have dealt with this fact in Reflections #297 -- Holding Harps of God.

I have been asking the legalistic patternists for a good many years now to simply provide me with even one passage anywhere in the Bible that even hints at divine disapproval of instrumental accompaniment to singing. You may remember that several on the infamous MarsList made a rather pathetic attempt at providing me with just such a passage [Reflections #304 -- Musings from Martians]. Absolutely none of the verses they suggested even remotely dealt with the issue at hand, however. This fact was so blatantly obvious that even some of their own fellow partyists rebuked their failed effort. One person wrote to the members of MarsList, "It is amazing just how dumb we can be when we try to defend our beliefs but forget to turn on a brain cell. If we cannot do better than what we did, then we need to do nothing at all. This list needs better leadership! Leadership that will empower us to openly discuss truth and enable us to intelligently defend it. Right now, we just look like idiots." Following in the faltering footsteps of these Martians, Buster Dobbs boldly suggested the following in his recently published rejoinder: "Our wayward brother wants to know where is the passage that forbids using machinery in making music in praise of God. The answer is: 2 John 9."

Okay, let's take a look at this passage. The apostle John wrote, "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son." Hmmmm. I'm having trouble seeing where this verse declares God's disapproval of instrumental accompaniment to singing. Not only are instruments not mentioned here, neither is singing. In fact, it is not even talking about a Sunday morning "worship service" replete with its "five acts." The legalistic patternists, of course, insist that "the doctrine of Christ" has reference to every aspect of their "pattern." I say "their" pattern because every group of patternists differs as to exactly what that pattern IS. Thus, each of these groups will accuse the others of not abiding in "the doctrine of Christ." Do you use multiple cups in the Lord's Supper instead of one cup? You are not abiding in "the doctrine of Christ." Do you eat in the church building? Do you have a fellowship hall? Do you have a Sunday school? Do your women cut or trim their hair? Do you take money from "the treasury" to support a home for orphans or the aged? Then you are not abiding in "the doctrine of Christ." This passage is a handy "one size fits all" proof-text for the legalists. They have used it to condemn just about anything and anyone at one time or another. I would urge Buster Dobbs to seriously consider my analysis of this particular text in my in-depth study: The Doctrine of Christ -- Reflections #84 -- in which I examine in quite some depth each of the major theories associated with the interpretation of this passage, including an analysis of the subjective genitive, objective genitive and plenary genitive theories.

Dobbs continued, "Also, I suggest this wayward brother reconsider Hebrews 7:14. God commanded a special priesthood from a specific tribe -- Levi. God spoke nothing (was silent) with reference to all other tribes. Therefore a man from the tribe of Judah, under the Law of Moses, could not be a Levitical priest." Okay. Exactly what was it that limited the priesthood to the tribe of Levi? Was it the silence of God about all other tribes, or the specificity of God with respect to the tribe of Levi?! Again, this is a case where there is no silence on the matter. Why? Because God spoke!! When God speaks, silence is no more! Dobbs even states in his above comment: "God commanded a special priesthood from a specific tribe." Exactly. Spoken Specificity. This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with silence. By his own statement he defeats his own premise. And yes, I have "considered" Hebrews 7:14 many times in my writings. Perhaps Buster Dobbs would consider examining Reflections #16, a study in which I carefully examine several of the proof-texts frequently employed by these "silence prohibits" proponents, the first of which is Hebrews 7:14.

Buster Dobbs closed his "rejoinder" with a brief section to which he affixed the caption: The Table Turned. He wrote, "Here is a question for the wayward brother: The Bible is silent about Christians offering chickens in sacrifice to God. Is it biblically acceptable, in worship of God, for us to crucify, each first day of the week, a white rooster as a part of the Lord's Supper? If not, why not? Remember the Bible is silent about crucifying chickens!" One of the primary flaws of those who employ CENI (the hermeneutic of legalistic patternists) is that they assume everything must be reduced to a matter of LAW. This includes biblical silence. If something is never mentioned in the Bible, then it must be either proscribed or prescribed. In other words, if silence doesn't prohibit and exclude, then that which Scripture is silent about must be commended. The reality is: silence does neither. Silence is not a mandate one way or the other. Genuine biblical silence simply means nothing is said about it. Yes, the Bible is silent about crucifying a white chicken as part of the Lord's Supper. Which proves what?! The legalists are convinced that if the hated "liberals" are right about biblical silence not prohibiting or excluding, then "anything goes!" This is an absurd charge, but they make it repeatedly nonetheless, and will use some of the most absurd examples imaginable. For instance, in Reflections #304 [Musings from Martians], a member of that group from Buster's home state of Texas pulled the very same ploy as editor Dobbs. My response to him is the same, in principle, as it would be to Buster. Thus, I would simply refer both Buster Dobbs and any interested reader to the above mentioned issue of my Reflections. Skip down to the section with the heading: The Pedophilia Challenge.

Essentially, the principle explained in that article is this: In the absence of a specific statement from God on some matter (whether it be molesting children, hanging white roosters on a cross at the Lord's Table, or even, horror of horrors, Bertha tinkling the ivories in a church building on Sunday morning), responsible disciples of Christ must, with the Scriptures open before them and a Berean spirit within them [Acts 17:11], ask a series of questions to determine their course of action. Is said action or practice consistent with those precepts and principles that are specified within God's inspired Word? Would said action or practice be contrary to what God has stated He approves or disapproves? Would it be an affront to His holiness? Would it undermine in any way the sacrifice of our Lord, or negate its effect? (I would think this question alone would sufficiently address the chicken on a cross "dilemma.") Would it in any way undermine our efforts to lead lives of holiness before our God? Would said action or practice be edifying to the blood-bought Bride of Christ? Would it contribute to building up the Body of Christ, or would it hinder that growth? Would it help promote the proclamation of the gospel throughout the earth, or stymie it? Would it prove to be a stumbling block in the path of those who are seeking to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? How we answer these types of pivotal questions will ultimately determine the suitability of said action or practice in any given place or time. Frankly, these questions, when answered by honest, sincere hearts, will invariably lead to the exclusion of such things as pedophilia, strippers leading singing, crucifying white chickens at the Lord's Table, and countless other absurdities. On the other hand, I fail to see how musical accompaniment to worshipful singing would ever be condemned by such a responsible, rational, reflective process of evaluation in light of godly principles.

Final Thought

When I was preaching in Hawaii for the Honolulu Church of Christ (1992 - 1998), one of the elders there told me he had a personal policy that he used in all his relationships. He would always give someone the benefit of the doubt, and always think only the best of them, until they proved by their actions otherwise. He used to say, "I will trust you ... until you prove me wrong!" In my previous dealings with H. A. "Buster" Dobbs I have sought to think only the very best of this brother in Christ Jesus. I have given him the benefit of the doubt, even when he was being attacked by his fellow factionists. Even in my review of his editorial, I attacked the message, not the man. As a result of the situation that has just transpired, though, one in which I provided him direct quotes from my review to show conclusively that his statements as to my convictions were absolutely false, in response to which he then willfully published those false assertions and conclusions anyway, I am left with no alternative but to sadly acknowledge the obvious: that my positive assessment of this man has been shown to be wrong. He has violated a sacred trust.

Therefore, to this man I would simply say the following: "Buster, I love you, brother, but your actions and attitudes are, in my estimation, not compatible with one who professes to be a Christian leader. My prayer is for your repentance. I have no ill-will toward you, and wish only the best for you personally. I can only hope that you will seriously consider the impact of your behavior upon the many people who look to you for spiritual leadership. Are you evidencing the spirit of Christ Jesus our Lord? Are you working toward the unity of all believers, for which our Lord fervently prayed in John 17? If not, then may our God help you to make a change." To my Reflections readers, I only ask that you keep this man in your prayers, and, if you choose to write him, do so with love. He too is precious in the sight of our Father! We all stumble at times in our journey home. Thank God He has given us loving brothers and sisters to reach out to us when we are down. I pray Buster will regard this appeal as just such a helping hand ... just as Nathan's bold rebuke was for David. All of us, myself included, at times need to hear the chilling words, "Thou art the man!" [2 Sam. 12:7].

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Kansas:

Brother Al, I would like to receive an autographed copy of your book Down, But Not Out. Enclosed is my check. Thank you for making these signed copies available, and thank you for all of the intellectually honest work that you do for the Kingdom!

From an Author in Arizona:

Bro. Al, "Dear Heretic ... Help!" is one of your best, particularly the quote about "the whisperings of the voice of the herd." Oh, how I well-remember those days when I was enslaved to the "voice of the herd." But no longer! Jesus has rescued me from those whisperings and from those voices. Praise His Holy Name!! Carry on your good work, dear brother!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, Most of us have probably gone through what this young man is going through. In my case it took about five years late in life, but even in my youth I was shocked by the "we're the only ones going to heaven" doctrine. It did not become clear to me until late in life that this and many other things being taught as "gospel" was nothing but legalism. When it finally became clear to me that there was a better way, I accepted it. It was like the shackles had been removed, and I definitely felt free ... and also closer to God than ever before. There are three main areas in Legalism that concern me: (1) They make the atmosphere in their congregations so harsh and unappealing that they actually drive people away, (2) their legalistic view of things promotes a lot of division, hindering true fellowship and the work of the church, and (3) in their effort to "keep the flock pure" they sometimes engage in slander, telling stories on brethren that are not true. Having said that, I still love them, and just hope and pray we can influence them to think.

From a Reader in California:

OUTSTANDING, Bro. Al. Thank you! I simply must try to get this article ["Dear Heretic"] into the hands of my brothers and sisters. I have certainly felt every one of the emotions that this young college student is now going through. Also, your previous article, in which you responded to the brother struggling with homosexual tendencies, was similarly outstanding.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Maxey, I believe there are many books which might be of assistance to this young man. You are probably familiar with Cecil Hook's book "Free in Christ." Cecil Hook (who is recently deceased) also wrote several other helpful books, but I believe this one could possibly be the most beneficial for someone in this young Christian's situation. Buff Scott's email ministry -- Reformation Rumblings -- has also helped many, just as your Reflections ministry has. When this young man can take his focus off of "church," and put his focus on his Lord and Savior, Jesus, he will then, and only then, begin to understand true freedom in Christ. You're doing a good work, Bro. Maxey. Keep it up!

From a Reader in Ohio:

Father God, we humbly approach Your throne of grace with prayers for the young man who wrote the email to Al Maxey (the young man whom Al addressed within his last issue of Reflections). We ask You to set him free of legalism and the legalists, if that is truly his desire. Send him teachers, like Al Maxey, who will encourage him to open his eyes to the Truth. Father, let him experience Your unconditional love as he travels his pathway to freedom. Let him hear You speaking clearly above the voices who only profess to speak for You, and remove any and all doubts that he might have that would keep him from the relationship that he desires to have with You. Lord, we want to thank You for Al's ministry, which shines a light into the lives of the many who are still living in bondage to legalism and the legalists. Lord, we come before Your throne as followers of the teachings of the Christ, Jesus, and we ask these things in His name. Amen!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, Your last Reflections was great. I pray for that young man as he struggles. I think many of us can identify with him; we see the freedom, yet we sometimes fear to leave what is comfortable and what we grew up being taught. I thank God for people like you who are continually helping us to see the light. Thank you so much!!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I just read your latest Reflections -- "Dear Heretic ... Help!" Bro. Maxey, I have been there where this young man is. I know the road he is traveling. And, I might add, it is such a sad and lonely road, this road of legalism and traditionalism. My eyes finally began to be opened a few years ago, and I will admit that the Internet provided the exit off that sad and lonely road, because I had access to writings that I would not otherwise have been able (allowed) to read. That information led me to a better understanding of what Christ wants of us, and, Bro. Maxey, GRACE is such a BIG part of it. "Grace" ... what a precious word. And yet to some in the church it does not seem to exist. I do not ever want to travel that sad and lonely road again. I am more free now, in Him, than I have ever been in all my life. Every chance I get I tell the legalists and traditionalists, in as loving a way as I can, about His Grace. I would encourage this young man to keep searching and praying. He will find the freedom he is so desperately seeking. Thank you, Bro. Maxey, for all that you do in helping others abandon legalism and find freedom in Christ.

From a Minister/Author in California:

Dear Brother Maxey, After reading and re-reading your last Reflections on the twenty year old brother who is having such a difficult time becoming a free man in Christ, thoughts of my own struggle during over three years of study and prayer flooded over me -- a struggle that finally led to the decision to divorce myself from the One Cup group that I had been in fellowship with for over 37 years!! My own mother broke my heart when she said, "Son, I am afraid that this change could be the means of you losing your soul and hearing in judgment, 'Depart from Me, ye worker of iniquity.'" Within hours of my decision, the news "hit the airwaves" that I was no longer a "faithful brother in Christ" because of my departure from the Lord's "faithful church." I knew when I made this decision that my losses would be great, but if I was ever to be a free man in Christ, and have any degree of inner peace, then it would be necessary to make the break. I now no longer fear being hand-cuffed to the voice of that opinionated, self-willed herd that came so very close to destroying my spiritual work and life. The sad part of all this, however, is encountering some of our former One Cup brethren in the "market place" and having them literally turn their backs to us and walk away as though we are unworthy and no longer their brethren. This young man will have to make the same decision I did, knowing that many, many will turn against him ... even his own family and friends! But remember: he that loveth mother, brother, sister, etc. more than Me is not worthy of Me, says the Lord. Bro. Al, your Reflections this week was well-spoken, and it should be an inspiration to this troubled young man. I love you for your spiritual life, and for the work you continue to do!

From an Elder in Texas:

Brother Al, As I read your last Reflections about the young college student in northern Texas, I immediately thought: That was me some 33 years ago as I sat in a class on Romans in Lubbock, TX taught by K. C. Moser. I remember thinking during his exposition on law and grace: "This old man doesn't believe in works, and grace is what those 'others' teach; he should know better!" I took it upon myself to try and correct him in the class, pointing to all the appropriate Scriptures I had been taught (often quoted out of context) to prove him wrong. I wondered what kind of elders "ran" that church! How could they allow him to teach a class in that church?! K. C. Moser gently and politely answered each question I asked, never showing any impatience or unkindness. After several weeks of this, one of the deacons put his arm around me as we left class and said, "You're really having difficulty with this class, aren't you?!" I responded that Moser should be down the road teaching at one of the Baptist churches! My deacon friend, with a big smile on his face, said, "Would you do the class a favor?" I said, Yes. He then said with a smile, "Will you be quiet and just listen to the man, and then go home and read very carefully what he is teaching right from the Scriptures ... and then think about it?" I soon began to feel very foolish. And, Wow!! My life hasn't been the same since. All thanks to K. C. Moser. He and I became good friends, and some of my fondest memories are of time spent with him in his home and evenings out at a friend's farm listening to him share his life with us. I know where this young man is coming from. I was there. I now serve as a shepherd at our congregation. I don't "run" anything. Over the years I have taught a good many classes on Romans and Galatians, praying that I might in some small way, like K. C. Moser did for me, help others among my legalistic brethren find the loving, compassionate, forgiving Father that awaits each of us.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Brother Al, My sympathy goes out to the young brother who wrote you about his conflicts over his desire for freedom vs. his "conservative" upbringing. Although I am now an old man, I still struggle with the same demons. I went into the "conservative," Non-Institutional camp about 50 years ago because it seemed to me at the time to be the "safe" side of the "issues" then plaguing the church. For 30 years I preached that conviction, persuaded it was the truth. I lambasted the "liberals," sealing the alienation and division that then seemed to me to be the will of God. About 20 years ago I began to realize that this whole system of argumentation was a human fabrication, having little to do with what the Lord really wanted of His people. I have come to realize that to be truly free of the dogmatic, sectarian prison of humanly devised and deduced doctrines does not necessarily lead one onto a "slippery slope of liberalism," but is just a simplification and purification of faith. It allows me to live my life in dependency upon my Savior rather than upon the necessity of being "correct" in all my conclusions. It also allows me to be free to love all my brothers and sisters who are in the Lord by faith in Him. Since I have been an inmate in the same prison in which many of them are still held, I can sympathize with them, and, as I have opportunity, I can be of help in leading them into the glorious freedom of the children of a loving, merciful and gracious heavenly Father. If that be "liberalism," then so be it! Thus, I would say to this young man: keep thinking and keep questioning the "status quo." THINKING is the first step toward freedom, and it is what the keepers of the doctrinal prisons in which disciples are held fear and dread the most.

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, I have been thinking about the letter from the troubled young man that you recently discussed. I am confident that a number of readers, myself included, are very familiar with the travails he has been experiencing. I am equally sure that many have been helped to get through these troubled times by the sage wisdom which you have provided. I am guessing that many have also faced the problem that I faced -- what now?! Once I was able to allow sound thinking to guide me out of the strait-jacket of "Church of Christ thinking" and lead me to assess what Truth really was, there was then the question of where, if anywhere, I should go. Should I look for a new religious group which embraced the Truth I had now come to accept? Should I try to start a new group? Should I stay where I was and simply try to convince other members to change their thinking? These were difficult questions! Part of my liberation came through a recognition of some basic principles. One is that the Lord does not require us to be locked into any particular religious group's set of teachings ... and that includes the Church of Christ. Another is that one's relationship to God is first and foremost personal ... and only secondarily is it corporate. To me the key concept here is freedom. I am free to decide where and how I can best serve the Lord. I am free to stay within the fellowship of the Churches of Christ without bowing to what others tell me I must believe. I have also found that I am free to share with others what I have learned, and I am free from guilt if and when some Church of Christ partisan verbally assails me for what I believe. I am free to pity him, rather than be angered by him. It has become abundantly obvious to me that no religious group, not even the Church of Christ, has a monopoly on Truth. All of them have certain teachings and practices that are a source of trouble for those who are careful students of the Scriptures. But when one comes to realize that the Lord's one universal church includes all Christians, and that an individual disciple can be pleasing to God without having to embrace the false premises of any particular group, then one can restore the joy of a walk with the Lord, free to continue his search for, and acceptance of, ultimate Truth; applying it to his life daily as the Lord leads him without fear. This is freedom.

From a Minister in Missouri:

Brother Al, Over the last few years I have been changing my attitude toward homosexuals. For some reason, I had always had much more disdain for homosexuals than for other habitual sinners. I now realize that I also am just as much an habitual sinner as anyone else. I have come to realize that for me to come down harder on homosexuals than other sinners was not Christ-like. By the grace of God, my attitude has changed. Your Reflections article -- The Nature/Nurture Dilemma [Issue #305] -- has helped me change my view toward homosexuals even more. Thank you! As for the young man who wrote the letter that you featured in Dear Heretic ... HELP! [Issue #306], if I can be of any assistance to him, or if he would just like to talk, please let him know that I am available. I know exactly where he is coming from!! Five years ago I could have written that same letter -- virtually verbatim!

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