by Al Maxey

Issue #342 ------- March 25, 2008
The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of
evil that Dickens loved to paint ... but is conceived and
ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clear,
carpeted, warmed, well-lighted offices, by quiet men with
white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven
cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.

C. S. Lewis {1898-1963}
"The Screwtape Letters" {Introduction}

The Evil That Waits Within
Reasoned Response to a Rabid Retort

"He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper." So wrote Edmund Burke (1729-1797) in his work "Reflections on the Revolution in France." This is a very wise insight, and is somewhat echoed in Proverbs 27:17 -- "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." I'm not sure this proverb had an antagonist in mind, but the principle applies nonetheless. We are bettered when our cherished convictions are challenged, however unpleasant that experience may prove to be. And when we are personally slandered and vilified, greater resolve to stand for Truth is the by-product when we face such defamation with the attitude of Christ Jesus and a clear conscience. "Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord within your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet do so with gentleness and respect; and keep a clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander" [1 Peter 3:14-16].

When a disciple of Jesus Christ chooses to boldly take a stand for Truth, and dares to suggest that our various traditions (though many may indeed be beneficial to some degree in and of themselves) do not rise to the same level of authority and obligation as God's revealed Truth, that daring disciple will rather quickly find him/herself the focus of an ever increasing volley of vicious attacks from the legalistic patternists within the Body of Christ (and especially from those within our own faith-heritage) who simply do not appreciate, nor will they tolerate, any challenge, no matter how well-intended, of their party preferences, perceptions, precepts and practices. For example (and this is merely one of many that could be provided), John Waddey, the minister of a very small Church of Christ group that assembles in a room above a store in Surprise, Arizona (according to a reader nearby who knows of him), sends out via snail-mail a monthly newsletter known as Christianity: Then & Now in which he regularly seeks to warn the church of all who dare to promote any kind of change from the "old paths" of his brand of rigid religiosity. I brought Waddey's most recent lead article (Message to Churches of Christ Scattered Abroad) to the attention of my readers in Reflections #340, where I reviewed each of his nine "exhortations" to the church, as well as his six "egregious errors" allegedly promoted by the dreaded "change agents." I sent John a copy of my review and invited him to respond. A few days later he wrote back: "I have read your review of my article. It is what I would expect of you. Below is my response. It is true that you have taken your life in your own hands, but it's not your brethren of whom you should be fearful, it's rather the God of heaven whose people, whose church, upon whom you continually rain your blows. I pray that you will find a better way to serve Him. John Waddey."

John had attached to his email a four page written "response" to my review of his article. I placed the word "response" in quotation marks because Waddey did not mention, nor did he respond, to a single thing I had written in my review. Instead, his four page "response" was simply a four page rant, in which he accused me of virtually everything short of shooting JFK. I wrote and pointed this out to him, and ... you guessed it ... he never wrote back. I informed him that I would respond to these ridiculous allegations, and again ... silence. So, this present Reflections is a reflective analysis of the article which he said he may well publish in his periodical. If he does, then there is this prior rebuttal in the public domain showing the inaccuracies of these ridiculous assertions. Much of what John wrote will be quoted here, but for those readers who would like to see the entire retort by John Waddey, I will be glad to send it to you [I have saved it as a 32 kb MS Word file]. Just write and request it, and I will get it sent to you immediately. Or, you can write John Waddey directly; I am sure he would be more than happy to send it to you as well. Unlike John Waddey, Buster Dobbs, and countless others, I have absolutely no fear at all of my readers seeing what others have written. Indeed, I encourage it. I can absolutely assure you, however, that they will never, ever return the favor, as they are literally terrified that their readers will see what Al Maxey has written. Makes you wonder what they're afraid of, doesn't it?!! ... although I think we all know the answer!

John Waddey's article is titled -- The Man Behind The Mask. The obvious implication is that the Al Maxey that everyone has seen and heard, and who has been in full-time ministry for 32 years, is NOT the real Al Maxey, but merely a disguise. The REAL me is hidden away behind some mask, thus enabling me to sneak in among the sheep of God's flock and begin my work of murder and mayhem. John begins his article with this statement -- "The Japanese have an opera troop that consists of men dressed and made up as women. They sing in falsetto voices. The uninformed person looking and listening to them would swear that they are lovely females. But when the disguise is removed, the truth is revealed. There are preachers and religious teachers who operate similarly in their professions. They present themselves as lovers of Truth and friends of Christ's Church, but when the mask is removed we see a very different reality. They love truth only if it complies with their standards, and they love only such churches as share their point of view."

With regard to my review of his previous article, John wrote, "Glancing over the text of his paper, I note that he calls those who do not share his liberal view 'ultra-conservative, legalistic, patternistic, factionists; enforcers of party policies.' This is how the apostle of love and kindness views his brethren." No, John, this is how I view the "ultra-conservative, legalistic, patternistic, factionists" and the "enforcers of party policies." As for my many dear brethren, many of whom are the victims of these tyrants, I have nothing but love, compassion and concern. Again, it is not that disciples differ with my views that motivates me to take a stand; they are just as free as I to study the Word and come to their own conclusions. What compels me to speak out is when certain ones among those who differ with me (or even who agree with me) seek to bind and enforce their views on the rest of the Body, and when they are willing to destroy the fellowship of the church if these others will not prostrate themselves before their positions and practices. Our Lord's harshest statements during His earthly ministry were directed at just such hardened religionists. Read Matthew 23 sometime!! Meek, kind, loving, gentle Jesus called them sons of hell and a brood of vipers. That loving apostle Paul even wished such persons would castrate themselves. Was this their view of those who had been victimized, or was it their view of those who were victimizing them? When you answer this question you will be in a better position to appreciate where Al Maxey is coming from in his above statements!

The bulk of John Waddey's article involves a very lengthy list of short statements in which this man declares to the world just exactly who Al Maxey is and what he believes. Or, I should say, he declares his own perception of who I am and what I believe. The reality is, of course, he doesn't even come close. For example, he declared to his readers: "The major thrust of his Reflections is against the Church of Christ of which he was one time a member and in which he served in the early days of his ministry." Huh?!! I am still associated with the Churches of Christ, and I still serve within this faith-heritage as a minister and an elder. There are some who would love to see me leave, but I have never done so, and don't plan to. My goal is to seek responsible reform of my brethren, and I seek to accomplish this by remaining within this movement. As for the major thrust of my Reflections, it is not against this group, but rather all about helping my fellow disciples perceive what I believe our true focus should be, instead of becoming increasingly weighed down with human traditions elevated to law. I attack the cancer within the Body, not the Body itself. Big difference.

Waddey declares, "He is against the idea that we should 'hold fast the pattern of sound words' delivered to us by the Apostles (2 Tim. 1:13)." Again, this is not true. I have absolutely no problem at all with the "standard of sound words" proclaimed by Paul. I do have a problem with the legalistic patterns fabricated by mere men from what Paul didn't say in his writings! If the Lord decreed it in His Word, I will comply. If mere men decree it, based upon their assumptions, don't expect me to blindly submit. Waddey wrote, "He is against the teaching that we must not go beyond the teachings of Christ (2 John 9)." On the contrary. I'm more than willing to obey the teachings of Christ. It is the teaching of men with which I have a problem. John Waddey also wrote, "He is against his brethren who worship as he did in days past." Actually, I still worship as I did in days past. Further, I am not against any of my brethren based on how they worship. What I am against is brethren demanding that the rest of the world must submit to their preferences in worship. Indeed, Al Maxey is all for acceptance of diversity in worshipful expression. I'm only against those who seek to curtail my freedom in Christ and bind their views as LAW. Waddey wrote, "He is against evangelists, soul-winners and missionaries who teach the lost the truths about salvation and worship that they have learned from God's Word." Not in the least!! I am all for teaching others the truths learned from God's Word. I am NOT for these people teaching AS the truths of God's Word their own party preferences and traditions that have evolved over time from the assumptions of men.

John wrote, "He is against expressing the truth that 'baptism doth also now save us' (1 Pet. 3:21)." Actually, I wrote a rather in-depth study of that very passage in Reflections #217. I would suggest he might gain a better insight into my belief regarding this passage if he goes and studies again what I actually wrote, rather than throwing out some wild speculation. Waddey further declared, "He is against the idea that Christ has only one church in which He expects us to worship and serve Him." Seems to me that the apostle Paul wrote, "There is one body" [Eph. 4:4]. I believe there is only One Body of Christ. ALL who are in Christ Jesus are in that One Body. Yes, there are many folds, but there is only One Flock -- the Lord Himself declares this (see: Reflections #57). Waddey wrote, "He is against the idea that the Church of Christ is Christ's church." If by "Church of Christ" he means the group so denominated in the Yellow Pages, which is a product of a rather recent religious movement in history, then he is right -- I do NOT equate this group, or any other group, or any faction or fragment thereof, with the universal One Body of Christ (see: Reflections #19). The fact that Waddey apparently does, merely demonstrates a sectarian spirit. He writes, "When factious men draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:29-30), he blames the church for the resulting division." No, John, I blame the factious men! "He assumes that the brother who chooses to walk the straitened and narrow way of truth (Matt. 7:14) is a 'sectarian.'" No, John, such disciples are NOT sectarians. The sectarians are those who choose rather to place emphasis upon the various party precepts as though they were truth, and who separate from all who will not embrace their perception of the "pattern."

"Like liberals in general, Brother Maxey operates on huge assumptions. He assumes that those members of Churches of Christ whom he calls 'traditionalists' do not love and appreciate Truth." I know of many brethren who are quite fond of the many traditions associated with our own faith-heritage, and they do indeed love and appreciate Truth. I myself am fond of some of our traditions, and plan to keep them. There is nothing wrong with embracing tradition. What I try to get my brethren to appreciate, however, is the distinction between human traditions and divine Truth. There are too many in our brotherhood who seemingly have lost sight of the distinction, and have thus elevated the former to the status of the latter. By doing this we have promoted factions within the One Body. This is wrong, and, yes, I do speak out against it. Jesus prayed that we might all be ONE. When I see attitudes and actions working contrary to that prayer, I speak out. Dare I do anything less? "He assumes that he can inflict these grievous wounds on the church and enjoy God's blessings for so doing." If I am inflicting "grievous wounds" upon the precious Body of Christ, then I clearly do not enjoy God's favor for so doing!! Far from it, in fact. I'm not aware of doing such a thing, however. Yes, I will admit that I seek to inflict "grievous wounds" upon those who would dismember the Body of Christ Jesus through the factionalism that arises from promoting and seeking to impose legalistic patternism. I not only hope to wound, but to utterly destroy, such satanic attacks and attackers. But clubbing a wolf is not inflicting grievous wounds upon the flock.

John Waddey writes a host of other equally ludicrous and ridiculous statements which he believes characterize me perfectly. For those of you with the stomach to read them, I will be happy to send a copy of his article. But, let me close this present review by sharing the statement with which he brings his tirade against me to a close. Waddey writes, "I find it strange that this man draws his income from and identifies himself with a body of people in whom he sees little or nothing good and in whom he has no confidence." Wow!! Nothing could be farther from the truth! I have nothing but the greatest of love for my brothers and sisters within my own faith-heritage. Why else would I stay and seek responsible reform?! If I truly saw nothing good in this movement, and if I had absolutely no confidence in it, I would have departed long ago. The reality is: I believe the universal One Body of Jesus Christ is much vaster than any one particular group or movement, or of any faction thereof. There are wonderful people in all such parts of the whole. My goal is to try and bring the Family of God back together again, rather than divide it further. No one part constitutes the whole, and yet the various folds within the One Flock each are made up of some who are truly His children, of some who are seeking, of some who are confused, and of some who probably don't have a clue why they're there. Rather than promote the party particulars of any one part, I seek merely to promote the Person who can make us whole once more.

Yes, there is much about my own faith-heritage in the Stone-Campbell Movement that is very positive. There are traditions that I appreciate (and there are some I don't). But, the men, women and young people in this group are precious souls, just as there are equally precious souls in other groups and movements as well. My personal loyalty is not to a party or faction, it is, rather, to the Lord and His people ... wherever they may be found. I believe I have been called and equipped to be a "voice in the wilderness" calling God's children, and those within my own faith-heritage especially, to responsible reform. As Mark Twain once said, "Reflection is the beginning of reform." Therefore, I seek simply to motivate my brethren to THINK, in the hope that in time such reflective thought will lead to greater perception of Truth and greater acceptance of one another. If John Waddey would be willing to join me in that quest, rather than in promoting factionalism and sectarianism, I would welcome him with open arms, as I would anyone who is willing to devote themselves to helping fulfill the prayer of our Lord -- "May they be ONE!!"

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Readers' Reflections

From a Missionary in the Fiji Islands:

Dear Bro. Al, Bula Vinaka from Fiji. A great brother in the states sends me your Reflections from time to time, and I have always enjoyed them. I have fought against the legalists since 1970. My wife and I have served as missionaries in Oceania (Papua, New Guinea, New Zealand, Vanuatu, and now Fiji) since 1975. Please put me on your subscription list for your weekly Reflections.

From an Elder in California:

Dear Brother in Christ, Recently I purchased several copies of your book Down, But Not Out, ordering them all directly from the publisher. Bless you, Bro. Al, for your wonderful work. It has ministered to my family and me greatly.

From an Elder in Texas:

Brother Maxey, First, I would like to be added to your mailing list for Reflections. I look forward to receiving them, and perhaps we can correspond, if you have the time. Second, I want to compliment you on your book Down, But Not Out. I have been reading it of late, and consider it to be one of the most thorough and objective studies of divorce and remarriage that I have ever seen! My own personal odyssey of restudying this subject (or perhaps I should say: honestly studying the Scriptures, rather than just studying a position) began over ten years ago as a result of several trips to study in Israel. The real depth of scripture context was impressed upon me, and I began to see just how important it was to understand scripture first in its original setting, so that we might hear Jesus as He spoke it, and understand how the people of His day would have received it. To fail to do so, putting our own 21st century definitions, western culture and traditions first, is to do a great injustice to the text. We must allow scripture to determine our theology, not allow our theology to determine how we view scripture.

From a Reader in Indiana:

Brother Al, Thank you for writing this issue of your Reflections. I found it very helpful. I had forgotten that I had been in a women's small group that had studied "Becoming A Contagious Christian." I know I am partially the Intellectual Style and partially the Interpersonal Style. It is your intellectual abilities, however, that matter so much to those of us who read your Reflections. Your research and skill in writing and communicating is no small thing! It matters greatly to the church, and to each of us personally. Again, thank you for using your gift in this way!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Bro. Al, This second ad in the Oklahoma City newspaper just makes me ill. Tens of thousands of dollars have now been spent in this vendetta against the Quail Springs congregation. I say "vendetta" because they certainly are NOT preaching Jesus. There is nothing in either ad to draw people to Jesus. Nothing. If these "faithful gospel preachers," as they call themselves, were even remotely honest, they would have to admit that not one Non-Church of Christ visitor darkened their doors because of these ads -- but I would bet money that several visitors have gone to Quail Springs because of their ads. Thank you for this update, Al. May God continually bless you, brother.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, The church has become a laughing stock here in Oklahoma. How can any evangelistic work be done with this type of nonsense going on?! Just which of these many legalistic groups is "THE Church"? The one cup group? The no class, no kitchen, no this-or-that group? The no instruments group? Or any other "anti-" group? ALL claim to be "THE Church," and ALL claim that anyone who disagrees with them is bound for hell. Any person with even an ounce of brain matter can see through this garbage, and they are turning away from it in disgust!! May God help us in Oklahoma!!

From a Reader in Arizona:

Brother Al, The leadership within those congregations in Oklahoma have gone off the deep end. I think a psychological evaluation might be in order for them. And I wonder -- where is their "biblical authority" for using paid advertisements in the secular media as an outlet for rebuke? The condemnation of them is just.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, Your article "Six Effective Evangelistic Styles" is one of your better ones. In reading the six styles, I seem to be a mixture of them. Regarding the Oklahoma ad -- what a shame that people try to interfere with another congregation's decisions. Does Jesus weep over such? I think so. This is all so painful, to say the least.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I enjoyed your article about the DVD series "Becoming a Contagious Christian," and I agree that it is an excellent way to get our congregations involved in evangelism. Certainly, Jesus told all Christians to "Go..." in the Great Commission, but each of us should use our individual God-given talents in the manner that we go. Our elders have asked me to lead an evangelism class beginning in September, and I can see no better way than using this approach. God bless you, Al, as you continue to teach the Truth. It appears that many congregations of the Church of Christ are evolving (correctly) into what Jesus really intended. I pray that we can get out of the "Dark Ages" and into the "Enlightenment" that we need.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I suppose until Christ comes again there will always be those who choose to destroy and tear down, rather than create the harmony and unity that Christ Jesus prayed for. I understand that The Oklahoman is in business to make a profit, and it is therefore in the market to take anyone's money who wants to spend it. However, this second ad has again exposed the Body of Christ to the light of ridicule, destroying the very unity Christ prayed for. Why should anyone in the world have any desire to turn to a group which has the apparent policy of "shooting its own"?! Bro. Al, I'm so appreciative of the efforts of gentlemen like you, as well as Edward Fudge and the late Cecil Hook, in striving to open the doors of freedom in Christ. Please keep on keeping on!!

From a Reader in Ohio:

Bro. Al, As I read the advertisement in The Oklahoman I was shocked and dismayed to notice that they did not use shaped notes in decorating and embellishing their advertisement!! Seriously, I have to confess that I read only a smidgen of the actual content. I cannot imagine how anyone who reads the newspaper would actually wade through all that. Thanks for keeping us informed, Al. May God bless you and your ministry.

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, Thank you for keeping us informed. I can't believe these people continue to spend money on these ridiculous ads. I sent them an email with my feelings about it the last time, but I noticed that on this second ad they did not include an email address. These men are doing great harm to the cause of Christ. Why are they so blind?! I have dealt with this mindset my entire life, and I refuse to be in a state of bondage ever again!! I could write volumes about my feelings, but just wanted you to know how much you are needed to keep the voice of freedom alive.

From an Elder in Pennsylvania:

Brother Al, Where do these people get off haranguing their brothers before the eyes of unbelievers?!! We may have to start using some other scriptural name before the public so that we are not connected to these folks when trying to win the lost to Jesus!!! By the way, I really did enjoy your last Reflections on the "Six Effective Evangelistic Styles." I really do enjoy just about anything from Lee Strobel. I'd love to sit down with him, however, and do a study on baptism. I think he would get it; he seems to be a very thinking, careful person!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, I agree that this ad has set back the evangelistic work in Oklahoma City and the surrounding area (and the state as whole, to a certain extent). Bearing in mind Matt. 5:24, the matter should have been taken up with the Quail Springs leadership, but in no way, shape or form should the Quail Springs congregation have been singled out in this manner. The whole affair deeply saddens me. My questions to the people responsible for placing this ad are: How have you helped the cause of Christ? Are not all congregations of the Lord's church autonomous, and isn't this the form of church government set forth in Scripture? Wouldn't the cost of this advertisement alone (and the previous one) have been better spent helping the poor or spreading the gospel to the lost? Why do these men seek to bring shame to the name of Jesus Christ?!

From a Minister in Florida:

Brother Al, Your work inspires me, and I just wanted to encourage you. Though I have never met you personally, I feel like I know you! You really ought to plan a nice Caribbean cruise out of Miami for your bride (for some special occasion) and plan to spend several days in our home. We love and respect you, brother!

From a Reader in Michigan:

Bro. Al, I am so sorry for our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma who are being publicly persecuted by agents of Satan parading as self-appointed enforcers of what they mistakenly perceive to be God's laws. Shame on these few pompous, legalistic, self-righteous Pharisees in Oklahoma! How dare they feel so self-important as to claim authority to lord it over others who are accomplishing great things, while these pitiful wannabe law-makers go about spreading their bitterness and misery, trying to bind their ignorance on everybody else!!

From a Reader in South Dakota:

Bro. Al, You could never know just how much we appreciate your thoughts in response to the article placed in the newspaper regarding instrumental music in one of the services at Quail Springs. As lifelong members of the Church of Christ, we are grateful that you are willing to use your influence in Oklahoma to affirm that the legalists don't speak for us all. Thank You!!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I have to wonder how long Quail Springs will remain silent while these self-appointed apologists for the Churches of Christ seek to divide the Body of Christ and speak for those who have no part or parcel of this doctrine they proclaim. Enough is enough!! I think it is time for the matter to be set straight -- if not for Quail Springs, then at least for the many Christians who are known to the world as the "Churches of Christ." We are NOT like these rogue factionists, and it is high time the people of Oklahoma were told this fact!!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, My wife, while reading the book "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks, found this quote by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856): "We do not have ideas. The idea has us, and it drives us into the arena to fight for it like gladiators, who combat whether they will or not." She saw this quote as quite profound and thought of you with regard to your Reflections ministry. You are making a difference, not just by your clarity of understanding and well-thought-out arguments, and not just because your communication skills are so well-honed, although all these things are undeniably true. Rather, it is your courage and willingness to engage the foe, when you find that you must fight for His cause, that inspires us. You embody the very hope we have in Christ against the brute tyranny of those who boldly, and in defiance of the Spirit-inspired message, chain and hold captive all who would serve Him "in spirit and in truth." Our love to you and Shelly.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, Wow! Satan must really be dancing with glee. I also got a link to this most recent ad in The Oklahoman from a friend who sent it to me supporting and agreeing with the sentiment and content of the ad. His email even said to pass this link to this ad on because it is really important. I just don't understand why they cannot see the damage they are doing to the cause of Christ. I guess they're just blinded by their delusions and misunderstandings of the Gospel. At least this time the perpetrators of the ad had the courage of their convictions to actually sign the statements and notate who is paying for it.

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