by Al Maxey

Issue #373 ------- November 8, 2008
I have sought Thy nearness; with all my heart
have I called Thee, and going out to meet
Thee I found Thee coming toward me.

Judah Halevi {1085-1140}

The Sinner's Prayer
A Reflective Examination

I received an email a couple of weeks back from a minister of the gospel in the state of Kentucky, who wrote in part: "Bro. Al, I am writing with a question and a deep personal concern. My wife and I took the youth from our church to the First Baptist Church for a drama they call 'Judgment House.' The drama moved in stages -- covering the lives of 4 people (2 who accepted Christ; 2 who rejected Him). For the most part, the experience was positive, powerful and very provocative. However, at the end, there was a great appeal made to our group for them to 'receive Jesus as their personal Savior, to ask Him into their hearts, and to pray the sinner's prayer.' On the one hand, I believe many of my 'denominational' friends are very earnest and genuine in their pursuit of God. On the other hand, I'm concerned about their 'plan of salvation.' At the end of the night, the group leader asked us all to bow our heads, to close our eyes, and then he asked for any present who wanted to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior to pray the sinner's prayer with him. They then proceeded to inform those who had done so that what they needed to do next was to go and get baptized and join a church. My question: How do you handle a situation like this? Should I have spoken up right there and shared my thoughts about baptism? Should I write to that church? Furthermore, how do I view these folks at this church? Are they lost or saved? Is it enough that they teach one 'ought to be baptized'? Our youth group has a lot of interaction with their many 'denominational' friends, and for the most part they think of their friends as Christians who are saved. So, how do we balance the desire to have more open fellowship and not be judgmental, and yet still hold strongly to what we believe the Bible teaches about something (specifically: baptism)? I greatly respect your thoughts and views, and I really look forward to hearing your thoughts on these questions. Thank you so much, Al."

Whenever we start to interact with those about us who differ with us on matters of the interpretation of the Scriptures and the evidencing of our faith in daily living and worshipful expression (and I believe such interaction among differing disciples to be essential to genuine unity within the One Body), there will most assuredly be some degree of theological tension. One bit of advice I would offer to this reader, although it is clearly after the fact at this point, is that it would have been highly advisable to have prepared his youth group prior to this event for just such an eventuality. Most ministers have at least a basic perception of some of the basic differences in teaching and practice between the various faith-heritages within Christendom. Thus, when taking a group of young people to an event sponsored by another faith-heritage, it is wise to discuss with them ahead of time some of the differing, distinctive doctrines and practices to which they might be exposed at said event. This would better equip them to process that theological, experiential, and even motivational input. I believe that it is a huge mistake to try and shelter our youth from differing religious perspectives. No group has a monopoly on Truth (although some seem to think so), thus there's something to be learned and gained from every branch of the universal One Family of God. Yes, every group has doctrines and practices that are suspect in light of God's revelation (and that includes our own faith-heritage as well). That is not to suggest, however, that every person not of our own theological persuasion is a godless apostate bound straight for hell. Many of the differences between us are little more than traditional distinctions, and should never rise to the level of terms of fellowship and conditions of salvation (although too frequently we elevate them to such status). The reality, whether people are willing to admit it or not, is that the universal One Body of Jesus Christ encompasses far more believers than the adherents of a single faith-heritage, or any particular faction or party therein. This is a truth too many have failed to grasp, and the continual fragmenting of the Body over personal or party preferences, perceptions and practices is shameful evidence of such.

Although, in my view, as indicated above, the vast majority of "denominational distinctives" with regard to doctrine and practice are little more than varying traditions of men and movements within Christendom, there are nevertheless several distinctives that fall within the realm of legitimate biblical concern. I would personally tend to place the so-called "Sinner's Prayer" (at least some of the more noteworthy misunderstandings and misapplications of it) within that category. We should note, at the very outset of this journey of investigation, that the stark reality is -- any prayer that you and I pray is, in point of fact, a sinner's prayer, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" [Rom. 3:23]. "If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us" [1 John 1:8]. Do you pray? Then your prayer is a sinner's prayer. So, we need to make this reality clear at the beginning of this study in order to make a distinction between the daily prayers of men who daily struggle with sin and what is known in certain religious circles as the "Sinner's Prayer."

The "Sinner's Prayer," as generally perceived by most disciples, is a specific, though rather simple, prayer of one who has come to realize their sin and their need for a personal Savior. It is a sincere appeal of a penitent heart to a gracious God in which request is made for salvation through faith and trust in the atoning work of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, offers this definition -- "A 'Sinner's Prayer' is a Christian term referring to any prayer of repentance, spoken or read by individuals who recognize the presence of sin within their life and desire to form or strengthen their relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. It's designed to make it simple for one wanting to become a Christian to confess sin, acknowledge the need for salvation or redemption through Jesus Christ, and make a commitment to 'receive Christ as Savior.' The prayer is typically very basic, short, simple and straight to the point." There is no standard wording of this prayer, but it is expected to include each of three parts: a confession that one is a sinner, an acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and an appeal for Him to enter one's life and bring with Him the gift of spiritual transformation and eternal salvation.

Brethren, I must admit that I have no theological problem whatsoever with the concept of the above petition. I do have a problem with what some have done with this concept, however, and the theological extremes to which they have taken it. But more about that in a moment. The three aspects of this prayer which have been enumerated, however, are entirely consistent with biblical teaching, and, indeed, they are quite necessary unto one's eternal salvation. Acknowledging our sinfulness and acknowledging Jesus as our divine remedy are both essential. Further, appealing unto Christ to extend unto us His blessing of grace is imperative [I would refer the reader to my study: Calling Upon The Lord -- Reflections #246]. There are examples of such prayerful appeals throughout Scripture, but one of the most compelling, without doubt, is found in Luke 18 -- "The tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was unwilling even to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'" [vs. 13]. The result of this sinner's prayer, according to Jesus, was that "this man went down to his house justified ... for he who humbles himself shall be exalted" [vs. 14].

The great danger, of course, with such appeals is that they may, over the course of time, become formulaic ... even taking on the nature, in their extreme forms, of some magical, mystical, salvific incantation. "Repeat after me these words ... (insert Sinner's Prayer) ... and now you are SAVED." Such mantra-like recitations can quickly become little more than religious amulets to effortlessly assure one's escape from divine retribution and secure the divine favor. One Internet site, for example, has a "Sinner's Prayer" on their main page, and they ask the visitor to the site to read the prayer out loud. Below the prayer are these words: "If you read the Sinner's Prayer, and truly believe the words you just read, then Praise the Lord as you have just been saved and your name now appears in the Lamb's Book of Life!" Right below this statement is the following: "Your 1st step is to purchase a Bible, so that you can start your relationship with God." So, in other words, now that you are saved, go get a Bible and read it and figure out what just happened. Such an abuse of the concept of this prayer is rather common in the religious world today, and it is both dangerous and deadly. This is what some have characterized "cheap grace," since the acquiring of eternal salvation is reduced to nothing more than the recitation of a prayer not even formed from the depths of one's own heart, but rather composed by another.

Although examples of radical religious extremism can be cited for virtually any doctrine or practice (there are some, for example, who do not believe one is truly saved until the split-second the nose of a penitent believer breaks the surface of the waters of the baptistery), it should be noted that not everybody who embraces and employs the concept of the "Sinner's Prayer" does so with the outrageous notion that such a recitation constitutes the fullness and/or epitome of one's salvation experience. Many see it more rationally as one of several essential parts of a salvation process, all of which are encompassed by and embodied in one's FAITH in response to God's GRACE. A marvelous example of this more responsible approach to the employment of the "Sinner's Prayer" can be seen in a marvelous article by David P. Gushee titled "Jesus and the Sinner's Prayer" that appeared in the March, 2007 issue of Christianity Today. I would urge everyone to seriously consider the following thoughts from that article:

What this brother in Christ is essentially saying, and I concur completely, is that any initial profession of faith and appeal for salvation must be followed through with ACTION generated by one's FAITH. Faith ALONE will not save you. Saying a "Sinner's Prayer" ALONE will not save you. Both, however, certainly have their legitimate place within the whole process of one's Faith Response to God's freely offered gift of salvation (just as repentance, confession and immersion all have their place as individual "faith responses" within this process). No part, within itself, constitutes the whole with respect to one's salvation. Together, however, they embody our faith response which results in our eternal salvation. Declaring the "Sinner's Prayer" the precise point of salvation is just as wrong as declaring baptism the precise point of salvation. Tragically, both of these extremist positions usually spend far more time condemning the other camp's view than examining the biblical validity of their own. In so doing, they both fail to perceive the fullness of the Lord's true "plan of salvation."

Another web site I came across during my research (and this was a site that advocated the "Sinner's Prayer" concept) clearly said, "Saying a sinner's prayer will not accomplish anything on its own." It continued -- "There are no 'magical' words that result in salvation." This prayer is simply a confession, an acknowledgement, and an appeal ... all of which we are told in Scripture to do as vital aspects of our faith. Yet another web site, also strongly advocating the "Sinner's Prayer," declared to all of its readers: "The Bible tells us to follow up on our commitment to Him. Get baptized as commanded by Christ." This sounds very much like what happened at the recent event hosted by the Baptist Church which was attended by the minister and his youth group in Kentucky. Following the reciting by some of the "Sinner's Prayer," the event leader "then proceeded to inform those who had done so that what they needed to do next was to go and get baptized and join a church."

One of the concerns of some within my own faith-heritage (the Churches of Christ) is that when the above disciples urge those they have taught to "get baptized," these may not be following through with "a proper understanding of the purpose of immersion." I've heard some actually say that unless one knows precisely WHY they are being baptized, then that baptism "doesn't count." This is one reason, by the way, you see so many within Churches of Christ getting rebaptized time and again. As their understanding grows, so does their sense of guilt over "insufficient knowledge" at the time of their previous baptism. Thus, they are baptized again. Then, as they grow in knowledge ... well, you get the point. There is only one passage of Scripture that I have been able to find that actually speaks to the depth of knowledge one must possess to be immersed -- Acts 8:37. The eunuch from Ethiopia asked Philip, "What prevents me from being baptized?" Philip answered, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." To which the eunuch responded, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." I dare say most people, even pre-teens who are often immersed, clearly perceive this Truth. Philip did not tell the eunuch that he must write a 20 page dissertation on the spiritual significance of immersion. Instead, he merely wanted to know if he had FAITH. The eunuch said he DID. That was all it took.

"But, Al, unless one knows that baptism is for 'the remission of sins,' then can that baptism really remit one's sins?" Some of my brethren would say that unless one specifically understands this teaching, and understands it perfectly, their baptism is invalid. I wonder how many people also understand that it is symbolic of a death, a burial, and a resurrection, and what each of these aspects of their immersion actually signify spiritually? How many understand it's "an appeal unto God for a good conscience" [1 Pet. 3:21]? Do you know what that means? If not, do you need to get rebaptized? How many fully, perfectly understand the reality that those who repent and are baptized "shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" [Acts 2:38]? The same verse that says we receive forgiveness of sins also says we receive the Holy Spirit. How many can explain the latter to the satisfaction of all their brethren? If a lack of perfect perception regarding the former invalidates baptism, does similar lack of perfect perception regarding the latter do the same? If not, then why not? If you don't fully understand every aspect of the indwelling and empowering of the Spirit, does that mean you don't receive Him? If you don't fully understand every spiritual blessing associated with your immersion, does that mean those blessings are withheld from you? Some would answer in the affirmative. I personally believe they are wrong. Salvation is not knowledge-based. It is not works-based. It is not personal goodness-based. It is FAITH-based. If you BELIEVE, and if you're willing to demonstrate that faith (rather than hide it), you are saved. Wrapped around by Jesus one then begins to grow and mature in that grace and knowledge, and that does not mean you have to go back to step one with each new spiritual discernment during your faith journey. "Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And if God allows, this we will do" [Heb. 6:1-3].

The minister in Kentucky asked, "Should I have spoken up right there and shared my thoughts about baptism?" No ... and I'm glad you didn't, brother. Frankly, that is precisely what too many of us have gained a negative reputation for doing. Whenever we encounter some teaching or practice with which we differ, what do we do? ... we attack it. After all, since we're the only ones who are right, the only ones going to heaven, isn't it our obligation to confront these hell-bound apostates so as to save their wretched souls from the everlasting fire? Brethren, we've got to get over ourselves. WE are not on the throne, GOD is. God has not commissioned us to compile His official list of the damned. Nor has He called us to "set right" every brother or sister in the Family who might dare to differ with us. Yes, dialogue with others on those matters wherein you differ with them, if you truly consider these to be matters of faith and not just opinion, but make very certain that you do so lovingly and respectfully (leaving off the diatribe). Always remember -- it just may be you who are wrong in your perceptions and practices!! If you are not willing to allow for this possibility, then you are probably not the best person to be confronting them!

The minister in Kentucky continued: "How do I view these folks at this church? Are they lost or saved? Is it enough that they teach one 'ought to be baptized'? Our youth group has a lot of interaction with their many 'denominational' friends, and for the most part they think of their friends as Christians who are saved." And, all of their "denominational" friends most likely think the same of their friends in your youth group. My advice? Listen to your young people. I'm finding more and more that they tend to have a clearer vision of who truly constitutes the Father's Family than many of us with decades of partisan feuding and fussing under our belts! "So, how do we balance the desire to have more open fellowship and not be judgmental, and yet still hold strongly to what we believe the Bible teaches about something (specifically: baptism)?" I would simply say -- prayerfully and carefully study Romans 14, and then go and do what it says!! Almost everything we "hold to strongly" is far more in the realm of our cherished perception of Truth than objective Truth itself. Thus, there is plenty of room for acceptance and unity and fellowship in the face of significant diversity of understanding and practice. In those few areas (and they will be few) where some group is genuinely teaching egregious error of such a magnitude that it may cost one their salvation, and you are unable to engage them in loving dialogue about the matter, then simply do not take your youth to such events, and teach them from the Word why you are convicted these particular perceptions and practices are in direct violation of God's Word. If you follow these basic guidelines, I believe you can't go wrong ... and it will open doors to greater interaction with the expanded Family of our heavenly Father. May God guide and bless you, brother ... and may He do the same for each of us!

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707
Readers' Reflections

From a New Reader in Zambia, Africa:

Bro. Al, I was doing research on why Stephen was stoned to death and came across your Reflections study of this event -- Reflections #61. Nice work! Keep it up! Would you please include me on your mailing list?

From a Reader in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

Dear Brother Al, Of course Darrell Broking could not possibly provide you with a comprehensive list of the "pattern," because if he did he would be cutting down the branch he is sitting on. Not only that, but he would also immediately offend all other patternists who would never agree with all of his list. In other words, the NT contains (as you stated) a pattern, as opposed to declaring the NT writings ARE the pattern.

From an Attorney in Arkansas:

Brother Al, Would you please add me to your mailing list for your Reflections. I live in a rural area of Arkansas that is a bastion of legalistic patternism. I am very encouraged by your writings and, while not having read them all yet, echo many of your sentiments and expressed beliefs. Your writings stimulate my thinking and views, making me want to study God's Word more. Thank you, and may God richly bless and keep you and give you peace.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, You clearly have the patience of a saint! There is no way that I could have tolerated the despicable actions of Darrell Broking and Daniel Denham, men who claim to be "Christians." Even though they might disagree with those of us who have left bondage, the manner in which they have set about to destroy you (which will never happen, by the way!!) is so shameful that I fail to see how they can even look themselves in the mirror, let alone actually profess to be "elders" in the Lord's church!! While I have never been a proponent of debates, in this case the evidence submitted by you demonstrating just how far off base these legalistic patternists are has been so overwhelming that anyone reading your posts with even half an open mind could not help but be made to think. Brother Al, your love for the Lord and His Truth will win out! Keep up the good work and rest assured that absolutely nothing said by these clowns has changed anybody's mind about you. Their words have merely exposed their own ignorance!

From a Reader in Washington:

Brother Al, I have read and reread the quotes from Broking, Denham and Hatcher mocking your service in Vietnam, and it infuriates me more each time. These vermin have stepped in it this time. To disagree and debate with you is one thing, but to try and drag your military service through their muck, of which they haven't a clue, is totally unacceptable. You and I have never met, but I happen to KNOW what you went through as a door gunner on a UH-1B helicopter gunship. I was a commissioned officer and FLEW them over there, not to mention I commanded a gunship platoon. We once had a young man, who had been a "point man" for the 101st Airborne Div., extend and volunteer as a door gunner because it was too dangerous to be a "point man." He lasted about a month and quit, saying, "I'm going back to being a 'point man.' There ain't no place to hide in a helicopter!" Needless to say, I've seen a lot of young men doing their jobs in harm's way. These maggots you've been dealing with wouldn't make a good pimple on one of their butts!! Sorry, Al, but I just don't have a real warm place in my heart for this slime. I know there are other vets who feel the same way that I do about this and would like to slap their faces ... or worse!!! You must have pretty thick skin, Al (thank goodness), and thank God for Shelly for helping you in that regard. Just to let you know, you two are not alone. Besides GOD being on your side, there's the US military as well. God bless you brother!! I think you had better pray for me ... I have really bad feelings toward these animals!!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, I really enjoy your Reflections and appreciate your points of view, even though I do not always agree with you. I'm sure you don't mind that, as long as you can cause a person to think for themselves and to seek the Truth. As for the comments about you by Broking, Denham and Hatcher, they hit me in the pit of my stomach ... literally. I felt as if I wanted to throw up. "Egregious" (your word for them) is not a strong enough word, nor are there any others that I could find in the dictionary to express the negative impact of their words in their emails to you. The contemptuous tone of their comments are diametrically opposed to what the Lord expects of His followers. I wonder how many people have been turned off to Christianity because of their kind of behavior?! As for the sarcasm in Darrell's closing remark about you ("You are such an example of love") -- what he actually did, without meaning to, was to actually point out the truth!! In this debate you exemplified the qualities of love listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. You took the high road, and in so doing exposed the kind of people these others are. Shame on Darrell Broking, and shame on his associates who are in cahoots with him. May God bless you and yours, Al.

From an Elder in Arizona:

Bro. Al, The last time I sent you an email, I had stated that I was pessimistic about your upcoming debate with Darrell Broking. Now that it is over, however, I'm happy to hear about the responses from all the people who are saying that they are leaving legalistic churches and moving to where there is freedom in Christ Jesus! Years ago, when I was preaching, I also made that transition, and I was attacked (although in a much, much smaller way than you have been). One member, much older than I was, moved away. A good while later he showed up at my front door. I welcomed him in and asked what he was doing back in town. He said, "I have come to save your soul." The discussion ended when I told him that Jesus was my judge, not him. He abruptly got up and left!! Keep preaching the Word, brother!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, Great article last week on Sister Silena Moore Holman, and your debate summation was fantastic in this week's issue of Reflections. I'm not surprised at all at the tactics Darrell Broking and the other patternists (I refuse to call them "brothers in Christ") employed in their vain attempt to hide their inability to admit that they are wrong. What scoundrels!! The blind stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me. Why anyone would give Broking, or any of these other modern-day Pharisees, the time of day is beyond me! Preach the Word and be of good courage, my brother!

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Brother Al, Thank you for NOT lowering yourself to the level of Darrell Broking, Daniel Denhem, Daniel Coe and all the others like them. They will truly be known by their fruit. I read to my wife this evening some of what you had written, and she became irate at the nerve of those in the other camp. Don't give up, my brother!!

From a Reader in Alaska:

Dear Brother Al, I was delighted to see your post-debate comments addressing the breach of basic debate decorum that was committed by Darrell Broking. I really appreciate your discipline to adhere to specific topics and use your talents to present logical, reasoned thoughts in a succinct manner. I also like that you post comments from your Reflections readers, as indirect blessings occur to other readers through these. For example, the comments by the elder/preacher from North Wales, Great Britain motivated me to actually click on your Maxey-Thrasher Debate, instead of continuing to bypass it (as I have done for months). Also, after reading the comment from the brother in Texas in which he introduced his articles on Gender Equality in the Churches of Christ, I found and read a very well-written article, which I may never have found without that link in your Reflections. Something in that article spurred me to have a deep, lengthy discussion with my husband as to God's purpose for me/us as we seek His plan for us in our current location and circumstances. Thank you!!

From a Reader in Massachusetts:

Brother Al, Thank you for your Reflections article on Silena Moore Holman. I had never heard her name before, and am so glad that you shared her life with your readers. What a bold, godly, beautiful woman! WOW!! I'm saving your article about her life, and also the links to her writings. I can't wait to read them.

From an Elder in Florida:

Bro. Al, I really want to thank you for the excellent job you have been doing in your Reflections and in your debate with Broking. I thank God often for people like you who help give us hope and encouragement about the grace and love of God, and about His concern for His people. Thank You!!

From a Minister in Florida:

Brother Al, I am so sorry that the mud-slingers are doing everything they can to hurt you in some way. Don't let them get to you, brother! Over the last few months of reading your material I have come to know something about you. You are genuine! You are the real deal! It is easy to spot those who are fakes in Christianity, and, brother, you are not a fake! I know that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is leading you; it is clear by the writings you send out. The Holy Spirit is inspiring you to write what you do. Brother Al, I am not personally impressed by celebrities, like movie stars and rock stars. They do not give me goose bumps when I see one, nor do I get all goofy. But when I receive an email from you, or when I get to write to you, I honestly feel as though I am communicating with God's precious Spirit on the other end of the line!! Keep your head held high, Al ... you are reaching many people. You are not, most likely, going to win Darrell Broking or his brain-dead friends to your way of thinking, because they're not interested in Truth. Their pride will never let them agree with you. And yet, you have done a magnificent job in the debate, and in my opinion have won hands down. Let me say again how much I appreciate you. I was raised in the legalistic mindset from an infant, and am so thankful that God put you, and others like you, into my life. Without men like you this world would truly be a dreary place. God's light is shining through you, brother, to brighten up this old world. Hang in there!! God will reward you!!

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, I am excited that you are hearing from readers of the debate who are now leaving legalistic patternism for the joys of a grace-based church family! This is the fruit that makes your participation in this debate such a success. I admire your commitment to your life's mission of exposing the deeds of darkness, and also your willingness to pay the price for such commitment. You truly inspire me to live the grace I believe and preach. Thanks for your dedication to the glorious grace of God.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, Many years ago Bro. Marvin Phillips told me, "Never wrestle with a pig. You will both get dirty, but the pig enjoys it." I had just about accepted that as good advice for interacting with the likes of Broking, Denham, et al., until you pointed out to us the absolute necessity of identifying and exposing these evil false teachers. It is shocking to find so-called "Christians" acting in this fashion!! I know that it must hurt to be called names by these people, even though you know what they say is not true (your readers also know these things are not true). Brother, thank you for sharing with us, and also for fighting our battles.

From a Reader in Missouri:

Bro. Al, I am thankful that Shelly was able to be a support to you, as well as being able to encourage you to hold fast to a higher ground than Darrell Broking. I want to thank you for this debate. I know it was hard, and must have felt like a losing battle, but I pray that many who followed along have learned much and have been made to reconsider some previous stances. I also think you showed great restraint when the other side made it personal instead of remaining on track with the Scriptures. We love ya!!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Maxey, I do so appreciate your good spirit, and the helpmeet of your sweet wife, Shelly, in helping you to avoid the pitfalls with which we all struggle. Thanks for being who you are: a student of the Word, and devoted to serving our Father. It is so sad that some people, who profess to be "brethren," seem to find a perverse delight in fighting and being ugly. Please know that I love you and will keep praying for you and your family and your work to glorify God. As for me, all of these vicious attacks upon you by people like Broking and Denham simply demonstrate their lack of love and respect, and show me they have no evidence to prove you wrong. Name-calling and taunting only shows their own immaturity and boldness to do evil. They should know better. I feel sorry for them! God bless your efforts; keep it up. I really enjoy reading what you write; it has helped me a great deal.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, Thanks for your part in the debate on legalistic patternism. The language used by Denham, Broking, and others, is nothing new. I have seen it for the past 40+ years, and even, to my shame, was part of it for a time. Such behavior was one of the factors that led to the opening of my eyes!!

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Maxey, Thank you for addressing my question about the Pledge of Allegiance -- Reflections #370. I think you did so in a thorough and balanced way. I loved the spiritual pledge you included at the end. I can't say that all of my concerns with regard to my daughter reciting the pledge at school have been put to rest, but I do appreciate your help as I continue to consider the issue.

From a Minister in Kansas:

Brother Al, One Cup man here. Thank you so much for the information you provided during your debate with Darrell Broking. Legalistic Patternism is falling by the wayside as more and more disciples allow the LORD to direct their lives rather than LAW. The brethren who hold to this suffocating view of the NT are pulling together in their attempt to destroy all who oppose them. Any tactic (and character assassination is the weapon of choice) will be employed to silence brethren who do not subscribe to their own plan for the church. I have been a member of the Body for 30 years, and I've seen the damage done by the legalistic patternists. They have driven good people from the church and ruined the good names of others who, thank God, chose to stay rather than hand the church over to them. Brother, I think you did a great job in addressing the errors of Legalistic Patternism in your debate. I'm thankful for your service to the King and His kingdom. May the Lord continue to bless you in His service, and may God bless all who seek unity.

From a Reader in Texas:

Good Morning Brother Maxey, I just had to make a few comments on your latest Reflections. I must say that after reading some of the behind the scenes activities of Darrell Broking and his buddies, it is scary! I just cannot believe that these so-called "Christians" feel that they need to conduct themselves in this manner. I do not believe their attitudes or actions display the HEART of a true Christian at all. I understand that disciples are going to have disagreements and differing opinions, but I do not believe God would approve of the type of attitude, or of the hatred, that these people display against other people who do not agree with their views. Since I have been trying to live as a Christian should (starting about 2 years ago), one thing that I have learned is that some of the people within the religious world can be some of the most hateful and ruthless people I have ever come across. Such are the people you have been dealing with in this debate! I just wanted to say Thank You for participating in this debate, and especially for maintaining the level of professionalism which you maintained throughout the debate. You kept a much cooler head than I would've been capable of, and I know that Shelly must have been a great voice of support for you during this. Please thank her for me. Just one more note -- I guess that these guys just cannot stand that you have already proved them wrong twice in their accusations against your book Down, But Not Out. I don't blame you one bit for not debating with these people on any further topics. Frankly, you have endured much more of their hateful verbal abuse than I could have. Hang in there, brother. There are many true Christians out there who greatly appreciate what you and Shelly are doing!! May God bless you and Shelly.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Thank you so much for all the hard work and the excellent posts during the debate, as well as for your excellent evaluation of the whole thing in your last issue of Reflections. It must have been really hard typing your evaluation with just one hand, while using your other one to hold your nose against the stench coming from Broking's foul camp. Doubtless you were also wearing hip boots!! Keep up the good work of seeking to clearly present the saving Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

From a Minister in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, I have followed the debate between you and Darrell Broking because I had a need to be reminded anew of just what my faith-walk has allowed me to leave behind (i.e., legalism). Never have I appreciated my freedom in Christ more as I witnessed all the tired old defenses of patternism taken out of the "fear file" of the legalists and flung in the face of those believers who now subscribe joyfully to salvation by grace through faith. I have two children who suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), which has its roots in the unrealistic fear and dread that bad things will happen to them if they don't ward them off by repeating certain patterns of ridiculous behavior. That is exactly what the legalistic patternists seem to be suffering from -- an OCD theology!! It's unhealthy, and it can't be reasoned with. Believe me, I know.

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, Thank you for your update -- "A Post-Debate Evaluation" -- and for exposing therein the ridiculous and childish exploit of Darrell Broking. Most of all, thank you for upholding the banner of Truth; not just in this debate, but for years in your writings and teachings. And by the way, thank Shelly for keeping it on track. I'm with you ... I'm not sure I could have contained myself. All in all, I found the debate helpful, instructive and interesting ... and even entertaining at times! God bless your work.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Brother Al, You have shown a great deal of patience toward Darrell Broking and Daniel Denham. Their diatribe against you is ungodly. How can they even call themselves "Christians"?! Their remarks make me sick to my stomach. I am truly frightened of the impact that these men are having upon God's people. I have been praying for them, however, even though I fear they are so hardened by their hatred that there may be no hope left for them. But, I will pray anyway that their hearts will be changed. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they would spend their time bringing souls to Christ instead of using all their energy trying to destroy you?!! They won't be successful in that endeavor, though, because you have God on your side, and there are many, many prayers being lifted up on your behalf.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I think you did the right thing by not including the two appendices with Darrell's final rebuttal in the debate. As you indicated, the information contained in those two documents had nothing to do with the subject matter of your debate on patternism. It seems to me that the conspiracy hatched by the "Contending for the Faith" bunch is very much in keeping with the questionable character of these men. Having grown up in the Church of Christ, I've known for a long time that there is a good amount of arrogance and stubbornness among the more hardened of this "brand of believers." And yet, I was somewhat naive about just what they are capable of. After reading some of Darrell's vicious attacks on you during this debate, however, as well as the unseemly emails from Denham and Brown and Hatcher and the rest of the crew, I was shocked that men in leadership positions could be so mean and hateful to another human being!! And these are the people who are supposedly letting their light shine before men??!! This is just SAD. Brother Al, I must say that you did an excellent job in the debate with Darrell. I truly believe the words that you wrote will help a lot of Christians discover the Truth, and will bring the disciples of Jesus closer to Unity. May God bless you, Al. Keep up the good work.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, There is no way to outdo an ultra-conservative, patternistic brother ... especially those of the "CFTF Forum" variety. I found that out the hard way. I wanted to try and help a few of them ten, fifteen and twenty years ago, but they considered my help as an attack on God Almighty. You simply can't help someone who doesn't want your help, who can't appreciate what you are attempting to do, and/or who feels that if they ever actually listened to you they would be captured by the devil himself and be hell-bound with absolutely no opportunity of salvation!! Somehow, I cannot help but wonder if that attitude isn't getting very close to the unpardonable sin!! I admire your defense of the Truth in spite of the arrogance of these legalists. What their arrogance shows me is that you did such an outstanding job in your debate with Darrell Broking that they now have to put up a smoke screen to cover that fact.

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