by Al Maxey

Issue #313 ------- August 23, 2007
The opium of custom, whereof
all drink and many go mad.

Ralph Waldo Emerson {1803-1880}

Odd Paths Advocate
The Refilled Cup Heresy and
Maxey's Liberal Lunacy

With regard to a particular unpopular ambassador, Heinrich Heine [1797-1856] once observed, "Ordinarily he is insane, but he has lucid moments when he is only stupid." Someone once quite astutely observed that the worst thing about stupidity is its insistency. It never ceases to amaze me, especially in religious matters, how otherwise seemingly intelligent individuals can so utterly disengage their brains and behave so irrationally. It boggles the mind and, frankly, borders on the unforgivable. The brilliant Will Rogers [1879-1935] noted, "The American people are a very generous people and will forgive almost any weakness, with the possible exception of stupidity." Sadly, as Henry David Thoreau [1817-1862] wrote in his journal, "The stupid you have always with you." How very, very true! About the time I think I have heard just about every ludicrous legalistic pontification imaginable to man, along comes one that surpasses them all. Such happened in spades when I received the August, 2007 issue of Old Paths Advocate this past week, which is a publication of the One Cup Churches of Christ that has been around for generations. I have been a subscriber to this monthly ration of propaganda for some time now, primarily to keep my finger on the pulse of this movement and the doings of its leaders so that I might better minister to the rank and file of this wing of our faith-heritage.

I have shared some of the outrageous teachings of the Old Paths Advocate leaders and writers in the past, and many of you were absolutely horrified that such thinking even exists among people who profess to be "spiritually enlightened." For example, in Reflections #276 I critiqued the editorial of the November, 2006 issue of this publication; an editorial written by Don L. King, who serves as the publisher of this radically legalistic journal. His editorial was titled "Can A Woman Trim Her Hair?" King's title, to be grammatically correct, should have been phrased: "MAY A Woman Trim Her Hair?" -- obviously, she can, but should she? His conclusion was that she may not. Indeed, he made it rather clear that if a woman so much as trimmed the split ends from her hair, she was in jeopardy of going to hell. Thus, a woman trimming her tresses is a salvation issue to these folk. Needless to say, such lunacy was appalling to the vast majority of you who read this exposé from last year.

One would think that no editorial of the Old Paths Advocate could possibly be farther out in "left field" than the above proclamation of the hairesy of women cutting their hair. However, as we shall soon see, they have topped this doctrine in the current editorial. First, though, let me say just a word or two about another article that appears in the current issue of this publication. On page 5 of the August, 2007 issue (continued on page 8) is an article by Billy D. Dickinson, a One Cup preacher from Springfield, Missouri. It is titled "Maxey's Liberal Reflections." Frankly, I was not in the least surprised to find this article, and had, indeed, been expecting it for quite some time. I'm somewhat surprised it took them this long. My weekly Reflections, as many of you are aware, have been having quite an impact upon those who are within the ultra-conservative, legalistic, patternistic wings of our movement. Many of these people are seriously rethinking the tenets and traditions of their particular factions, and not a few are rejecting them outright and turning away from them in disgust ... and some of them are doing so very vocally. I can name seven ministers of the One Cup group, for example, who have personally informed me that my writings have motivated them to either leave that faction completely, or to remain within it and begin preaching God's grace to their fellow disciples. This has come to the attention of the "powers that be" in the One Cup Churches of Christ, and I knew it was just a matter of time before they felt threatened enough to formulate an attack in their "official publication." That attack has now come, which merely demonstrates that my effort to preach freedom in Christ is bearing fruit.

Dickinson's purpose in his article was not to attempt a refutation of my teaching -- I have repeatedly invited them to do so, but they absolutely refuse -- rather, it was simply an attempt to convince the membership of the One Cup movement that Al Maxey is a dangerous, deadly, demented lunatic who should not be taken seriously in anything he has to say. This, of course, is a common strategy when seeking to undermine the influence of an opponent. If you can't refute the message, then you must discredit the messenger. It is, sadly, an act of desperation by those who find themselves in a theological corner, unable, or unwilling, to defend their teachings. Cornered animals are at their most dangerous, for they feel they have nothing to lose. Thus, they attack without mercy, claws and fangs bared. Stephen became the victim of just such an attack, as described in Acts 6-7. This courageous disciple declared with great boldness the matchless grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and those opposed to his teaching "were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking" [Acts 6:10]. Therefore, they began a smear campaign against him, and stirred up the people against this good man, even putting forth false witnesses to lie about him [vs. 11-14]. When even this failed to silence this Spirit-filled man, they "cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse" [Acts 7:57]. They could not bear to hear Truth, and so they slaughtered the one proclaiming it. Brethren, little has changed in 2000 years!

Dickinson begins his article by stating, "Al Maxey is a militant 'unity in diversity' man who sends out his Reflections -- a weekly email 'letter' that contains some of the most hurtful discourses that you will find anywhere. He has made it his personal mission to strike out against those who believe it is necessary to abide in the doctrine of Christ." He goes on to write, "It is easy to establish from his own writings that Al has little respect for the authority of the Scriptures, all of his claims to the contrary notwithstanding." "Al Maxey is a classic example of what 'unity in diversity' is and of the extreme errors into which it leads. In that sense he should be the 'poster child' for this movement!" "I get the feeling that Al just makes it up as he goes along, without regard for consistency of thought or practice." He further states, "Al wants you to believe that we are the extremists, but we can't hold a candle to some of his radical positions!" He ends his piece by pronouncing: "If you want to know what is wrong with 'unity in diversity,' you need to look no further than Al Maxey." Unto Dickinson I once again extend an offer to engage him in a written dialogue with respect to any of his concerns with my teaching. With God's holy, inspired Word open before us, I am more than willing to examine in-depth any teaching or practice of mine that he might perceive to be "in error." Do you think he might be willing to print such an exchange within the pages of Old Paths Advocate?! Hmmm. For those of you who might want to receive the article he wrote titled "Maxey's Liberal Reflections," I will be more than happy to send you a photocopy via "snail mail" (I do not possess a copy in digital form) -- just email me your "snail mail" address and I will get it out to you (the stamp's on me). Or, you may email Billy Dickinson directly and request a copy of that article (perhaps he has it in a form that can be sent by email).

The Refilled Cup Heresy

Sometimes a publication, along with its guiding editors and writing staff, takes on such a distinguishing personality of its own that a modification of its name seems almost appropriate. For example, the Non-Institutional Church of Christ periodical previously known as Guardian of Truth would so frequently misrepresent the facts that it came to be known by many as Garbling of Truth magazine. The periodical Contending for the Faith came to be known, for rather apparent reasons, as Contentious for the Faith. The One Cup publication under review in this current issue of Reflections could, I believe, far more accurately be named ODD Paths Advocate, rather than OLD Paths Advocate. Frankly, the prophet Jeremiah is probably tossing in his grave over the nonsense being advocated by these legalistic factionists. Jeremiah advised, "Stand by the roadways and look. Ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls" [Jer. 6:16]. The pathway taken by these legalists today is a far cry from the pathway the prophet had in view. The trail taken by these advocates is far more odd than old.

Abundant evidence of this fact is perceived in the Editorial of the August, 2007 issue of Old Paths Advocate. This article is by Alan Bonifay of Lodi, California, and is titled Uncertain Sounds. In my opinion, this title could quite easily serve as a critical commentary on the editorial itself. It is, as was previously noted, one of the most bizarre doctrinal positions I have ever encountered in my entire life. Billy Dickinson stated that the old path advocates "can't hold a candle" to the extreme, radical positions of Al Maxey. Hmmm. He apparently had not yet read the editorial in that particular issue. Alan Bonifay began by saying, "We are hearing 'uncertain sounds' about the pattern for observing the Lord's Supper" [p. 2]. My very first thought was that this was simply going to be yet another denunciation of the liberal congregations who have all "shown disrespect for God's Word" by using "multiple cups" rather than following the "true biblical pattern" of employing just "one cup." Imagine my surprise, as I read further, to discover that this editorial was a condemnation of a fellow One Cupper. They are now turning on their own! And I was even more surprised when I discovered the reason for this attack on one of their own leaders!! Again, just when you think you've heard everything ... something like this comes along.

Allow me to quote verbatim the second paragraph of this editorial by Alan Bonifay, in which the godless error of this errant elder is explained to the readership: "Not too long ago an elder in one of our congregations was ruminating as he preached: What should be done in the unhappy event that the cup was spilled during the observance of the Lord's Supper? Or what should be done if the assembly proved too large to be able to commune together from the cup normally used by the congregation? This leader concluded that if the cup were spilled it could be refilled, the distribution of the fruit of the vine would begin with the first communicant who had not yet partaken, and continue through the rest of the assembly. He then went on to advance his argument by saying that in such a manner a congregation would be able to accommodate any crowd, however large. He said the cup could simply be refilled as often as was necessary in order to reach everyone" [p. 2].

I've never participated in an assembly where the Lord's Supper was observed with just one cup, but I can imagine any number of scenarios where the contents might need to be replaced, refreshed or refilled. What if, as was suggested, the cup is spilled? Accidents do happen ... even in One Cup assemblies. What if the crowd that day is larger than the leadership expected, and the amount within the cup is insufficient for the number present? What if a person or two takes a bigger drink than "authorized" (by the way, how large or small a swallow is prescribed by God?), and the last few worshippers are faced with an empty cup? What if a person sneezes in the cup midway through the Lord's Supper? I actually heard of this happening. Well, we could go on and on with the "what if" scenarios. This elder was simply doing a bit of responsible pre-planning, and then sharing it with the congregation. Should certain circumstances arise on any given Sunday, then they had in place what would seem to be a well-reasoned, rational solution to the problem. If the cup is spilled, or if the contents run out before all have been served, refill it. Where's the harm in that?!

Well, apparently there is tremendous harm in such a solution ... at least according to Alan Bonifay in the August, 2007 Editorial of the One Cup periodical Old Paths Advocate. He wrote, "Of course, when this elder preached these things there came an immediate outcry from the faithful" [p. 2]. In other words, the vocal ritualists within that congregation, as such individuals are typically prone to do, "threw a fit." Apparently, however, they were not successful in imposing their ultra-legalism upon the congregation, for Bonifay observes, "To this day the elders, the evangelist, and the teachers in his congregation subscribe wholeheartedly to the idea that whatever the Bible does not explicitly condemn may be put into practice. They have since applied this principle so assiduously that they have drifted into digression" [p. 2]. He doesn't specify the nature of this "digression," but if that group has become so godless as to refill a communion cup, one can only imagine the depths of depravity into which they must have sunk. One has to wonder why God has not yet incinerated the place. Remember Nadab and Abihu!!

What would possess this elder to propose such a satanic solution? Bonifay wondered the same thing. He wrote, "You may be forgiven for wondering where this elder obtained the authority for such a notion" [p. 2]. The author apparently believes all his readers are just as shocked as he is over this "digression" from Truth. They, like he, surely must wonder what demonic influence came over this man to influence him to suggest this refilled cup heresy. Thankfully, Alan Bonifay has the explanation -- "He claimed his authority lay in the fact that the Bible does not say a congregation cannot do this" [p. 2]. In other words, he perceived the silence of the Scriptures to perhaps be somewhat permissive in nature. Bonifay, on the other hand, in keeping with the doctrine of the ultra-legalistic patternists, perceives the silence of the Scriptures as being only and always prohibitive. He then wrote, "The silence of the Bible cannot authorize anything -- let alone the refilling of the cup to accommodate a large crowd" [p. 2]. He further declared, "The silence of scripture cannot logically authorize anything" [p. 8]. "Bible silence never permits. It is always prohibitive" [p. 9]. Bonifay asks, "So where is the Bible passage that either explicitly or implicitly authorizes a congregation to refill the cup and continue with the distribution of the fruit of the vine at the place in the assembly where the first cup was exhausted? There is no such scripture" [p. 9].

May I ask Alan Bonifay to please consider the following question and provide a reasoned, rational response: Since silence always prohibits, and never permits, why was Jesus using a cup of wine in the observance of the Passover meal?! I would ask this preacher from California to provide me with even one single passage from the OT writings where a CUP is ever "authorized" in the observance of the Passover. Dear brother, it seems your contention regarding whether this cup may be refilled is rather moot. The real question, if your theory about biblical silence is correct, is: By what biblical authority is the cup itself even authorized?! As any serious student of the Scriptures knows, the four cups of wine employed by the Jews in the celebration of the Passover (one of which was used by Jesus in His institution of the Lord's Supper) were the innovation of the Jewish rabbis. It was a doctrine of men, rather than of God [see: Reflections #14 -- The "Law of Silence" and the Four Cups of Wine]. Thus, it would seem our Lord was just as much in violation of this so-called "law of silence" as the elder discussed in the editorial. One drank from an "unauthorized" cup, the other refilled it. Both of them had absolutely no basis in the Scriptures for their action, so why is one sinless and the other an apostate? Please remember your words, Alan -- "Bible silence never permits. It is always prohibitive" [p. 9]. If what you assert is true, then the cup itself is just as prohibited as the refilling of it. If not, why not? I shall await your explanation!

The biblical reality, of course, as I have shown conclusively time and time again in previous studies [I would refer the reader to the 16 articles that appear under the heading "Law of Silence" on my Topical Index web site], is that genuine biblical silence is neither prohibitive nor permissive in nature; it is neither proscriptive nor prescriptive. Genuine silence simply means God has chosen to say nothing whatsoever about a matter one way or the other. For men to formulate a command, either for or against, where He has not, is the epitome of presumption. We don't have that right. Rather, in the face of genuine biblical silence we must use our best judgment to determine a course of action that is most consistent with what is revealed in Scripture regarding the will of our God. Will this action bring glory to God? Will it edify or encourage the saved? Will it help or hinder our outreach to those who are lost? We must ask these and other questions in our quest to determine if an action is truly in keeping with what we do know about the revealed will of our Father. Does refilling a cup so as to allow others to continue in the observance of the Lord's Supper dishonor our God? If so, how? Does it prove to be a stumbling block to the redeemed and a hindrance to the evangelization of the lost? If so, how? Again, Alan, I shall await your reasoned response.

So, what exactly would Alan Bonifay do if the cup was spilled accidentally some Sunday morning? What would he do if there was a miscalculation, and the cup contents proved to be insufficient for the number of people present? What would he do if the cup was emptied before all were served? Here is his response: "So what should be done if the cup is spilled or some other emergency arises? The entire process of participation in the communion of the blood (that is, the partaking of the cup) must be started over -- including the prayer for God's blessing" [p. 9]. Really?! Perhaps you could provide us all with the passage that says the Lord's Supper must be "started over," including the prayer. I would like to see that "authorization." Also, would this not mean that some of the congregation would have "supped from the cup" twice?! Or, would the first sip be somehow rendered void, and only the second sip truly count? And, again, would/could you provide a passage that suggests such a solution? And please remember, Alan -- "Bible silence never permits. It is always prohibitive" [p. 9]. If this applies to refilling the cup, would it not also apply to starting over? There is just as deafening a silence for one as the other. By the way, Alan, when you "start over," don't you have to refill the cup before doing so?! Whew!! I think I need an aspirin! My head is spinning!

Alan Bonifay concludes his exercise in religious rigidity with this comment: "No! We do not intend to consider even for a moment the idea of 'refilling the cup in an emergency' as described in this article. Such would entail sin and digression. We will not, must not, countenance such a corruption of the Lord's Supper. Uncertain sounds concerning the doctrine of Christ cannot be tolerated" [p. 9]. Brethren, the only "uncertain sound" in all of this is that which emanates from the keyboard of Alan Bonifay. In the August, 2007 issue of Old Paths Advocate, Billy Dickinson boldly asserted that the old path advocates "can't hold a candle" to the extreme, radical positions of Al Maxey. Thank you, Alan Bonifay, for demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt the fallacy and absurdity of that statement!!

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Readers' Reflections

From an Author in California:

Bro. Maxey, I just read Billy Dickinson's attack on you in the new issue of Old Paths Advocate. It is a classic example of an "ad hominem" argument.

From a Minister in Texas:

Bro. Al, I know we do not always agree, but your study of Satan was put together very well. I even copied it and put it on my web site! Truly (and I preach this), we have the power to tell Satan and his servants "No!" We are to blame for our own sins, no doubt about that.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Bro. Al, With regard to question #4 in Reflections #311, in which one of your readers was troubled by the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 22:30, I've looked at that passage in the past and, seeking to interpret it within its context, have come to the conclusion it isn't saying what most think (to wit: there will be no marriage or sexual relations "in heaven"). Instead, I firmly believe it means there will be no forced marriage arrangements. Women especially will be freed from the forced marriages they were often made to endure throughout history; they will not be treated as chattel. Women will not be "given in marriage" there, and men will not be "marrying" them in such arrangements, since it would be against the free will of the women. Jesus is saying each person will be free as the angels to make their own choice in the matter and not have any marriage situation held subject to someone else's power to decide. Jesus was not saying marriage and sex would end, but any forced marriage situation upon women would end. The question put to Jesus was, "Whose wife will she be" since she had had seven husbands. Jesus answered that she would be free of that system, therefore their question would be irrelevant "in heaven."

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Al, I rejoiced as I read your recent articles, inspired by the faithful brother from England, concerning the new heavens and new earth (as well as your studies on the true nature of man). I firmly believe the redeemed will live upon a renewed earth! I also believe, as do you, that man is presently mortal, and that we seek for immortality [Rom. 2:7], the pathway to which is revealed in the gospel of Christ Jesus [1 Tim. 6:16; 2 Tim. 1:10]. Keep standing for the Truth, Al. You will be greatly rewarded. It is my daily prayer that God will bless you and Shelly.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Do you think the devil has spies in all the congregations of the Lord's people? It is a scary thought that one must "check the fruits" of those about us. It would make it difficult to be trusting, wouldn't it? Just asking. As you can see, you have once again stirred my 86-year-old mental processes, for which I thank you. May God continually bless your faithful work for Him.

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, Thank you so much for honoring my request to do a Reflections article on Satan. I believe the lesson that I heard loud and clear is that, while we can certainly overcome Satan through the power of Christ, we should never underestimate his power. He is to be resisted, never ignored.

From a New Reader in Oregon:

Thanks, Bro. Al, for adding me to your mailing list. I've read some of your Reflections and appreciate your approach to understanding the Scriptures. I appreciate challenging and being challenged in the reading of God's Word. Sometimes I think we find it much more comfortable to stay in the comfort zone of what we have heard all of our lives. I look forward to your weekly offerings.

From a Reader in Virginia:

Brother Al, I've just read your Reflections titled "Paradise Regained." Thanks for this article. It has prompted me to study this topic, something I had not done before. One of the first questions that has come to my mind is: What will happen to the unsaved? In the renewed world, where is the lake of fire (hell), the place reserved for Satan and his angels? Thanks again for your research, Al, and for your courage in sharing your beliefs.

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Maxey, I have always appreciated your Reflections articles as they have made me do some searching in the Bible for things I was not sure about and some "soul searching" on things I have always believed and never bothered to question before. I appreciate your good works.

From a Minister in Texas:

Bro. Al, I received my four volume set of your Reflections on CD recently and find myself consistently going to them during study to see if you have done anything on the subject at hand. I am enriched and enlightened every time I find one of your Reflections on the topic area I am studying at the time. But alas, I have a bone to pick with you about a matter in your most recent article titled "A Study of Satan." Actually, it is a teeny, tiny bone, hardly worth picking, except for two reasons: (1) it's a pet peeve of mine, and (2) I know how much you value being precise. So here comes my bone picking. Are you ready?! It's not a concern about theology, but about word choice. In the second paragraph, you used the phrase, "He could care less." If he could care less, then he must care to some degree, inferring there are lesser levels of caring that he could descend to, which means the issue at hand is at least somewhat important to him. Shouldn't the correct terminology be: "he couldn't care less"? If he couldn't care less, then he doesn't care at all. His level of concern is zero. Okay, there you have my monumental critique! Hopefully, you will get a giggle out of it. I admire and appreciate your work. As soon as I hit the send button I'm going to stop and pray for God's continued blessing on you and through you!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Bro. Maxey, Have you considered hosting an Internet discussion forum? Why not provide us with an alternative to Mars-List?

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