by Al Maxey

Issue #376 ------- December 1, 2008
Of all the tyrannies on humankind, the
worst is that which persecutes the mind.

John Dryden {1631-1700}

Heretic Hounding 101
Pondering Partyism's Pattern and
Philosophy of Personal Persecution

William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), a noted academic and reportedly one of the most influential professors at Yale, also known as a Social Darwinist, once noted, "The thirteenth century bred in every heart such a sentiment in regard to heretics that inquisitors had no more misgivings in their proceedings than men would have now if they should attempt to exterminate rattlesnakes." Professor Sumner also very astutely observed that the Inquisition "destroyed honest thinkers and sincere churchmen," and instead "cultivated a class of smooth hypocrites and submissive cowards." This cowardly class of subversive sectarians perceived their ultimate calling in life to be the infliction of the utmost misery and suffering upon any and all who dared to differ with the accepted orthodoxy of the time. Sir Antony Jay (b. 1930) showed great insight into the thinking of these infernal inquisitors when he observed, "The heretic must be cast out not because of the probability that he is wrong, but because of the possibility that he is right." There is no more troubling thought to the sectarian than the possibility that they, and they alone, might not have the fullness of revealed, objective Truth and the perfect perception and application thereof. To even hint at the possibility that others may be correct in their practices and perceptions, or that they themselves may be incorrect, is sufficient to send them into a murderous rage. Only they are saved; all others are godless apostates bound straight for the lake of fire. And these "holy ones" do not mind in the least helping along these "heretics" to their final fiery fate. Indeed, some almost seem gleeful at the prospect.

This malicious mindset, as most of us are rather painfully aware, is nothing new; it has been around since the early days of man's existence upon planet Earth. It was evidenced in part, for example, in the vicious, hateful attitudes and actions of Cain against his brother Abel (which I examine in some depth in Reflections #275). Although it would be a stretch for me, or anyone else, to suggest Cain regarded Abel as a "heretic," nevertheless the extreme hatred exhibited by one brother for another over how God perceived the worshipful expressions of each bears a striking resemblance to the spirit that has motivated the heresy hunters and heretic hounders throughout history. Those who follow "the way of Cain" [Jude 11] are those who profess to be IN the family, but they are most definitely not OF the Father. The serpent of old, crouching at the doorway of their hearts, has mastered them. Therefore, they display the characteristics of their true father -- Satan. They are filled with an intense hatred for their brethren, and thus will do everything in their power to destroy those about them with whom they are enraged. Those who go about the brotherhood seeking to defame and destroy all those with whom they differ, only succeed in visibly displaying the fact that they follow "the way of Cain." Those who love righteousness, and who simply seek a loving relationship with their God and fellow brethren (even when they differ), are those following the way of Abel, who "through faith, though he is dead, still speaks" [Heb. 11:4]. "For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother" [1 John 3:11-12]. "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" [vs. 15]. Thus, "heretic hounding" can prove quite deadly ... not just for the "heretic," but also for the "hounder." The death of the former may only be temporal, however, whereas the death of the latter is eternal. Huge difference!!

Although there are clearly examples of this mindset within the Old Covenant writings, let's turn our attention to the time of the New Covenant, when, in my view, the practice of pursuing and persecuting those with whom one differs truly becomes prominent among those more devoted to factions than Family. The many shameful assaults upon our Lord Jesus Christ come immediately to one's mind. Almost from the beginning of Christ's public ministry, the vicious leaders of the various sects of the Jews (especially the Pharisees) went after Him without mercy. They argued with Him, they tried to trick Him into making some statement they could use against Him, they sought to discredit Him among the people, they hounded Him from place to place, and eventually plotted to kill Him. Jesus was perceived as the ultimate heretic and change agent. His teachings made sense to the people; He attracted huge followings; the Jewish leaders could not refute His wisdom, and looked foolish when they tried. Clearly, Jesus had to go ... and the sooner the better. Therefore, they literally hounded Him to the grave!

Poor, pitiful Stephen! Someone should have warned this guy!! Why?! Because he was obviously a heretic. Bound straight for Hell. Well, that was what those who couldn't refute his teaching thought ... so, it must be true, right?! If the prevailing party declares you apostate, then you are (or, so they would have people believe). Stephen was "full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" [Acts 6:5]. He was "full of grace and power, and was performing great wonders and signs among the people" [vs. 9]. In short, he was having an impact on the people for good; he was showing them the power of grace over law, and the legalistic sectarians "had a cow." They got a group together and "rose up and argued with Stephen, and yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking" [vs. 9-10]. Needless to say, this irritated them even more. Then they "secretly induced men" to make up lies about him [vs. 11], and "stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes" [vs. 12] against him. Their hounding of this heretic proved successful, as Stephen was dragged away and presented before the Council to answer to their baseless charges. The Council didn't care for his answers -- it didn't matter that what he said was true; they didn't like it -- and the end result was they ground their teeth, covered their ears (today they just block your email address and eject you from their Internet discussion lists), rushed upon him, and murdered him (in today's world they just create web sites to assassinate your character). Mission accomplished. Another heretic down, another notch on the gun! And all to the glory of God. For an in-depth examination of the martyrdom of this great man of faith, I would refer you to Reflections #61 -- Why Was Stephen Stoned? A Study of Seven Factors Leading to a Good Man's Death.

"And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death" [Acts 8:1]. Some time later, Paul commented upon this: "When the blood of Thy witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the cloaks of those who were slaying him" [Acts 22:20]. Yes, Saul of Tarsus would become one of the great heretic hunters and hounders of the first century. "In one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in" the Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 8:19]. "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons" [vs. 4]. In what many scholars believe to be his very first epistle, the apostle Paul said: "I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it ... being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions" [Gal. 1:13-14]. And therein was a significant part of the problem. He had confused tradition with Truth. When this happens, persecution of those with differing traditions follows quickly. "I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor" [1 Tim. 1:13]. Paul clearly believed he was doing God's will by hounding those with whom he personally differed. He genuinely believed that if one differed with him, one differed with God. He was wrong! Just as wrong as the violent aggressors today who will hound those with whom they differ to the ends of the earth. Oh, that they would wake up as Saul of Tarsus did!! Perhaps we would have a few less Sauls today, and a lot more Pauls.

Saul of Tarsus awoke from his slumber in the spiritual fog of factional fanaticism. The result was an apostle devoted to fighting the good fight against legalism and promoting salvation by grace through faith. The result additionally was an apostle of Christ Jesus who became a target for the very persecution he himself had left behind. Paul was now perceived to be an "apostate." The former hounder had now become the hounded. Throughout his several decades of faithful service to the cause of our Lord, from beginning to end, he was the focus of the hatred of those who could not tolerate the presence on the planet of any who dared to differ with them. In Damascus, shortly after his conversion, and as he was "confounding the Jews" [Acts 9:22] there with his teaching that Jesus was the Messiah, they "plotted together to do away with him ... watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death" [vs. 23-24]. So, Paul heads for the city of Jerusalem where he began "speaking out boldly ... and talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death" [vs. 28-29]. Paul had been given an eye-opening revelation by the Lord Jesus Christ -- he had been shown firsthand the type of man he himself had been just weeks and months before! Oh, that some today would have that same revelation!! Again, we might have far more Pauls, and far fewer Sauls.

On the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas these two enjoyed great success in converting people to Jesus. "But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were reviling" [Acts 13:45, NASB]. The NIV reads, "they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying." Jumping down a few verses we read that "the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district" [vs. 50]. Readers, are you beginning to detect a noticeable pattern here?! These people were entirely incapable of refuting the Truths proclaimed by Paul and Barnabas, and the crowds were not blind to this fact. So, what was the solution of these radical legalists?! That's right -- Destroy them!! So, Paul and Barnabas determine to move on to the next city, "shaking the dust from their feet" [vs. 51]. In Iconium, as a result of their instruction, "a great multitude believed, both of Jews and of Greeks" [Acts 14:1]. "But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles, and embittered them against the brethren" [vs. 2]. As a result of these lies and distortions about their teaching, "an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers to mistreat and to stone them" [vs. 5]. So, again, Paul and his companions are forced to move along.

"But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead" [Acts 14:19]. Can you believe the extent of this hounding? These legalists were literally following Paul from city to city for no other purpose than to discredit, defame and destroy him. And if you think some so-called "Christians" aren't doing the exact same thing today ... think again. The hounding today, however, is far more "hi-tech," but the affliction is no less "low-down," and no less painful to those who are simply seeking to serve their Lord by proclaiming His grace and mercy and freedom. Almost everywhere Paul went, the pattern remained the same. He preached Truth, the people responded favorably, the leaders became jealous, they were unable to refute Paul, and so they used every dirty trick in the book to diminish his influence and effectiveness. And all of this, and more, was just from the first missionary journey. Things hadn't even gotten bad yet!! This would continue, and would intensify. During the second journey, for example, the Jews in Thessalonica "stirred up the crowd" against Paul (how surprising), so he was forced to leave. "But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds" [Acts 17:13]. Again, no refutation of doctrine, just persecution of disciples!

Well, let's jump forward a number of years. The missionary journeys are over. Paul is in Jerusalem and, once again, the Jews are seeking to hound him into an early grave. More than 40 people "formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul" [Acts 23:12]. I often wonder how long it took those fanatics to finally give in and go get a burger and coke?!! Obviously these men didn't die of starvation. Why? Because such fanatics talk a good talk, but they rarely have the fortitude to carry through. As the old Indian chief might state it: "Heap big thunder; no rain!" Such persons are cowards. They hunt in packs like wolves, but when alone they will turn tail and flee to their cave at the very first sign of confrontation. Go through the book of Acts and see if Paul ever encountered a lone wolf tracking him. What you will always find is a wolf pack at his back. This tells you something about these hounders, and it isn't flattering!

Brethren, a good many centuries have passed by since the days of Paul the apostle, but very little has significantly changed during that interim. True, technology has advanced greatly, but this just means that now these fanatical factionists and sadistic sectarians can hound their victims globally and instantly as the "pack" patrols cyberspace. Yet, the bottom line is very much the same as it was in the days of Paul -- real people are hounding real people, and real lives and ministries are being destroyed. Without doubt there are going to be a great many people who are going to have a great deal of explaining to do on that great Day of Judgment before the Throne of God. Although I do realize this is not what is meant by the statement in Rev. 22:15, nevertheless perhaps we can find some parallel significance in the thought that while the saints of all time will be dwelling in the New Jerusalem, "outside are the dogs." Are we really that far off from Truth to suggest that those who have hounded the faithful will not make it into the City?! I think not. "The hounds who hound unto hell are bound!!" And in the words of the angel, as these "party packs" are exterminated, "They deserve it!" [Rev. 16:6].

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 Minister in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, I have a dear brother in our congregation who is a pharmacist and owns a pharmacy here in town. He wants to go on a medical missions trip this coming summer, if possible, and has asked me to help him find one. I was on a trip with Partners in Progress a few years ago, and I had a very good experience. I'm wondering if there are other medical missions trips out there. I suspect he could be a tremendous asset to a medical team. Any suggestions?

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, Mine has been a journey of truth finding, and your Internet site and one other were instrumental in getting me to study the very Greek words in question. I am Berean through and through, and I always check everything out, because I just cannot wholeheartedly endorse a teaching unless it is true to the Word. I want to encourage you, because there will be many who will rise up and accuse you of "heresy." Such is the day we live in. However, the Truth is still the Truth no matter how many detractors. When they prove themselves intellectually dishonest and obtuse, and attack you as they are doing, move on. Otherwise they will keep you on this never ending roller coaster ride with their cock-eyed arguments and nonsense that forces you to explain every little thing, over and over again. But I want you to know that you have done me a good service in your articles and debate. Thank you.

From a Reader in Canada:

Dear Brother Al, God has truly blessed you with a measure of forgiveness and patience that I myself will never know!! I read the trash that people like Denham, Broking, Brown and Hatcher (the whole Contending for the Faith bunch) write about you and others and it makes me so mad that I literally start to shake. Al, you have blessed my life in more ways than you will ever know on this side of Heaven. Even if you were teaching false doctrine (and I know that you are NOT), it would still be more godly than what they are teaching, and your attitude is certainly far more godly than theirs! I would take great pleasure in standing by your side and defending you, and the gospel you teach, any day (but you might need to gag me and cuff my hands because of what I would be tempted to do to these people who are so vicious in their attacks against you). I love you, brother! Keep up the great work, and keep it out there where we all can continue to examine and grow from what you teach. God bless you and your family!

From a Minister/Author in California:

Dearest "Lower than a Snake's Belly in a Wagon Rut!!" Wow!! What vicious UN-Christ-like attacks these people have leveled against you! Actually, these slimy devilish attacks upon you would be downright hilarious if they weren't so damning to the souls of these guys who have written them!! Please don't lose any sleep at night over these vicious, ungodly attacks. It just shows how powerful and truthful your writings are!! On another topic -- Al, Thank You Very Much for mailing me your 2007 PowerPoint Sermons CD. I have looked at them and, I must say, they are terrific. They are so biblical and edifying. I can't wait to put them to use. They are beautifully done. Again, Thank You, my brother! Give our love to Shelly. One of these days my wife and I plan to come to visit you there in Alamogordo!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, I really admire your strong stand in the face of the abusive and stupid remarks thrown at you. It is going to be interesting to see how people are going to answer when God asks them what they have contributed to His cause!! Please keep up the good work!

From a Minister in New York:

Dear Brother Al, I was really enjoying reading, and was saying "Amen" to your thoughts in, your article "When Disciples Doubt." And then ... I scrolled down to the readers' comments. Talk about lower than a snake's belly!! I felt like I had been bit by the Serpent and invaded by his poison as I read the comments from Daniel Denham. Unbelievable! I truly can't believe the HATE that arose like smoke from these comments. How sad that the words "Grace" and "Love" and the message of the Cross are used as the vehicle for this expression of hatred toward you. I can only feel pity and compassion for this kind of blindness. Oh, if only God would speak with a thunderbolt and wake them up before it is too late!! Brother Al, continue to arm yourself with the full armor of God as you continue your ministry. You know that you have the prayers of God's people!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, After reading this Daniel Denham fellow's puerile name-calling and childish insults, I decided to find out just who he is. Imagine my astonishment when I discovered what he does for a living -- working as a pulpit minister in Virginia for a church that purports to have "edification" as one of its three pillars of its mission to "seek and save the lost." I am nearly speechless!! To each of my fellow readers I would simply say -- if any of you is involved in the Newport News Church of Christ, then I would strongly urge you to examine what your pulpit minister has been writing about Bro. Al Maxey, and then honestly evaluate whether or not Mr. Denham is modeling the character of Jesus. If you conclude that he is not -- and how could anyone honestly conclude otherwise? -- it would be the better part of wisdom for you to reevaluate your affiliation with him, and also with the elders who apparently sanction what he says and does. What a terrible blight his behavior is on the Stone-Campbell Movement, and on the community of Christian disciples in general.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, After I read Daniel Denham's email to you, which you included in your last Reflections, my first thought was, "Is this guy eight years old?!" Mr. Denham appears to be lacking an adult portion of maturity. Furthermore, I think we could call into question his level of intelligence, considering he obviously does not realize how bad he makes himself look when he writes these nasty emails to you. Try not to let their harsh words bother you, Al. The evil in the hearts of these men is clearly evident in their words and deeds. The Lord will deal with them in time. You have more important things to do. So keep spreading the Truth, and may God bless you!

From a Reader in Arizona:

Brother Al, From one soldier unto another, Thank You for your service to our country in difficult times. I am a retired US Army Colonel (retired March, 2004). I had three friends with whom I grew up and with whom I played Little League baseball (on the same team) who were all killed in action in Vietnam (1967, 1968 and 1969 -- all three US Marines). There isn't a Memorial Day or Veteran's Day or the burial of a young soldier from today's conflicts that I don't think of Don, Jim and Michael and of their ultimate sacrifice in the war in which you yourself fought. Thank you for all you've done for this nation, and also thanks for your writings and your work in God's Kingdom.

From a Reader in Colorado:

Brother Al, The phrase we often use - "Freedom isn't free" - recently came very clearly into focus for me. My wife and I recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime vacation traveling to Italy, France and England. The highlight of the trip for me was a full day tour of the American landing beaches at Normandy. I have never been more proud to be an American. I have never been so humbled regarding the sacrifice of our military. Not just on the landing beaches at Normandy, or in the Pacific in WWII, but also in Korea, Vietnam and now in the Persian Gulf region. Therefore, I was saddened to hear of your heroic service to our beloved country mocked and maligned by certain people who simply disagree with you on points of biblical interpretation. Brother Al, Thank You for your military service; for answering the call to defend freedom. Thanks also to all of your readers who have served. I proudly salute you and thank you!!

From an Elder in Florida:

Brother Al, Maybe I am naive, but I really would have expected even the most rigid within the Churches of Christ to have grown and matured beyond that "brood of vipers" type of judgmental bigotry that was displayed by Morris Bowers and Daniel Denham in their remarks to you. While I really do not know you, I am still very deeply pained for you over such abuse from these people. Satan must be overjoyed at such hypocrisy on their part. Just now I have been on my knees praying for your comfort and strength, and I have also prayed that these two men might be touched by the Lord's hand of discipline, along with His hand of grace and mercy and forgiveness, because truly they do not know what they are doing.

From a Reader in Maine:

Bro. Al, Thank you for your example of patience with those persons who have not yet found their way out of extreme literalism and legalism. Keep on keeping on!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Al, Let me express my distress upon reading the vitriol spread in the two replies by Bowers and Denham. I'm so sorry for this behavior against you. God bless you and your family as you continue your gracious work in Reflections.

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, Excellent article ... again!! "When Disciples Doubt" was true, practical and transparent. Concerning the astounding venom spewed at you by Denham and Bowers -- in elections, I often look closely at who's opposed to some proposal or candidate, and then vote for it or him. I look at these guys who are throwing such tantrums in their opposition to you, and immediately decide that I'm voting for YOU. If such people as that liked you, then I'd vote against you. Al, I honestly do not know how you can take all of those hateful broadsides from Satan's guys and not suffer some kind of emotional trauma. Please, just consider the source of their statements, and then be grateful that you are not one of them!! Al, you are a hero to a whole lot of folks who have been disenfranchised by these guys who are so full of themselves! Carry on, brother ... I'm still voting for YOU.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I am proud of you for printing statements like the one from Daniel Denham in your Reflections. We need to see the true nature of these people. And yet, I am very deeply saddened that men who call themselves "Christians" would actually write something like this! He not only calls you names, but he accuses you of having destructive motives in your ministry. You are accused of attempting to "fool" us into following you as a leader instead of Christ. I can see you only pointing others to Jesus Christ, and attempting to help those like myself develop a much closer relationship with Him. I believe the man who wrote this is doing great harm to the message of God. Al, you continue to be a tremendous source of encouragement to me and others! I hear your name mentioned often by those who are looking to Christ Jesus in their personal study time, and I also continue to pass along your great work to others. I hope soon to begin a study of your work, and also that of Edward Fudge, on the nature of man and the final punishment of the wicked at Judgment, because you two are very open to understanding the difference between what we have always been taught in our tradition and what is actually being said in the Bible. Al, may you continue to find strength for your work, and please know that you are making a tremendous difference in the lives of others for the good of our Lord. It can be depressing to be condemned by your fellow man on a regular basis, but I believe you're experiencing this for being a good advocate of Christ. You are suffering for a great cause, and there is much value in the suffering you face because of Christ Jesus. Our Lord told Peter that he would face similar persecution. Bro. Al, your persecution from those who should be lifting you up, is not going unnoticed by Christ! You are awesome, and I appreciate the gift God has given you in being so courageous for Him in the face of such fierce opposition!

From David Brown in Texas:
Editor/Publisher of Contending for the Faith

Al, Can't you see under your own sheep skin to the real animal hiding underneath there? I can only hope that time continues for you so that you will be given even more opportunity to repent. The Lord is being very good to you in giving you as much time as He has to repent. Obviously, you despise those of us who scripturally and logically hold your feet to the fire, but this we would not be forced to do if you did not teach doctrines that are so foreign to the teaching of the New Testament. Until you decide to repent, we will take advantage of every opportunity to use you exactly like God did Pharaoh -- showing people what error does to people and how Truth always wins over error. I'm really sorry that you can't see that, but I really would not expect you to until you decide to pursue Truth rather than deceiving yourself all the time. But, when you spend all of your time giving heed to doctrines of demons, that is what happens. And look at all the people who support you and encourage you to continue down that broad way unto destruction. Why, none of them know enough about rightly dividing the Bible to fill a gnat's thimble. It is a sad fact that in your teaching you are always telling people how to disobey God and feel good about it. I continue to wish that you would change. But, of course, if you have a seared conscience, then there is nothing anyone can do. Loving Your Soul More Than You Do, David Brown

From a Minister in Mississippi:

Brother Al, Your Reflections articles on "The Widow's Two Mites" and "When Disciples Doubt" were wonderful, and I am certain they have been a great help to those with heavy hearts toward God.

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Dear Brother Al, From one who truly needed your message today ("When Disciples Doubt") -- Thank You! I think one of the biggest tools of the enemy is attack and discouragement when one is weary.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, You are certainly an expert at bringing a more complete understanding to God's Word. The Reflections article on Doubt has brought tremendous comfort and encouragement to those of us who sometimes have doubts. You have shown us how to endure doubt, and even how to turn it to our profit. Excellent. You most certainly demonstrate a person with great abilities, and we are blest to have the benefit of your counsel. Thank you, and please keep up the good work.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, I think your study "When Disciples Doubt" is one of your best ever!! The truths you state are at the core of every spiritual issue we could ever face, and they are also the key to knowing God. Your article came at a time for me personally that has been very trying, and it has been an excellent encouragement. Thank You So Much, brother.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Brother Al, Thank you for the article on Doubt. It certainly is comforting to know that some of the greatest saints throughout time have had their moments of doubt. Those of us who have struggled with questions and perplexing problems need to know that we are not alone. Most of all, we need to know that our Lord will never abandon us, no matter what the cause of our doubt.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Mr. Maxey, There's little doubt that you really do believe what you teach, and I believe your sincerity. However, your proficient tendencies to mix truth with error is remarkable, to say the least, and it's apparently quite enticing to your following. In my study of God's Word (of almost half a century now), it is readily recognizable that a pattern exists for the church which Christ built. You have repeatedly argued otherwise, and your prolific rhetoric has seemingly beguiled several who want to deviate, wrestle and pollute the Holy Scriptures. You've joined the ranks of those (past and present) who have fallen into this error. You are misguiding others from the expressed Truth and doctrine of the New Testament pattern. How sad.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, When I think of the many struggles I have faced over the course of my own Christian adventure, I come to the conclusion that doubt is a necessary part of the human condition. My own doubts prove to me that I am human, and not perfect. It's nice to know I'm in good company! Without any measure of doubt there would be no search for an answer to remove that doubt. Those times of doubt have actually made my faith even stronger, and made my dedication to the pursuit of the Truth far more diligent. This can only happen with an open mind and one that is ready to question everything in search of the Truth. The result of this is continual growth. It also results in my being called names by some (such as "false teacher," "anti-," "liberal," or ... you fill in the blank). I think you've heard the same. I simply tell people that I am a student of Truth, and I will go wherever that search takes me. It is my sincere desire for you that you continue to have the strength to do your work. I continue to enjoy your Reflections, especially those times when I do not agree with all of your conclusions, for this makes me think and dig and study, and that is very good for me. Thank you!

From a Minister in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, I know that you must get plenty of mail from frustrated preachers and church leaders as they attempt to escape the gravitational pull of legalism. I just wanted to share a success story with you. Some time back we began a renovation project on our auditorium, which made it necessary to have two services on Sunday mornings in our fellowship room. We decided to allow one of those to be an instrumental service, thus allowing the members of the congregation to choose the worship format they preferred. The choice was about 50/50, with most families making their choice based on the time of the service, NOT the type of music. We added four new families during the summertime, and all of them came to us through the instrumental service. In the fall, when it was time to move into the new auditorium, we had a decision to make. Should we continue with two services in the new auditorium, or go back to the all a cappella format, or go to one service with some combination of the music styles? We are a rather small to medium congregation, that back in June averaged about 200 members. By the end of summer we were up to 225, and there was a very interesting dynamic developing among us. While the congregation was okay with two services during the summer (during the auditorium renovation project), neither group wanted to be separated from the other any longer. The overwhelming message to the elders was, "We want to be back together." They resolved not to let preferences for music style keep them apart.

Therefore, we developed and proposed a worship schedule that goes something like this -- our children begin our worship time up front singing two or three songs (a cappella). Then the praise team takes over and leads four or five songs (with instruments). As we go into Communion, we rather seamlessly shift to a cappella again and continue on. It is working out wonderfully. We have added several new families and are now at about 250 and growing!! I've been the minister here for 15 years and we have never experienced such unity and beauty in our worship together. There is no tension, no uneasiness, no fear. Some clap, some don't. Some raise their hands, some don't. Some say, "Amen," "Preach it, brother," and "Praise the Lord," and some don't. Our congregation would simply rather love one another than fight over some worship preference. I love where God has led us, and I appreciate so very much your inspirational insight and instruction during this whole process through your weekly Reflections articles. I simply wanted to let your readers who are struggling with legalism know that such change can and is happening everywhere ... even in a growing number of legalistic congregations. There is a revolution in motion. Preachers are tired of being hushed; elders are tired of allowing the weakest among us to dictate what everyone else should believe and practice; members are tired of being spoon-fed the same tired doctrinal points each week. In short, disciples of Christ are just plain sick and tired of the legalism, judgmentalism and sectarianism that permeates far too many congregations of the Churches of Christ. Remember, brethren, although one must travel through the tunnel, there IS a glorious light at the end.

From a Reader in Georgia:
[The following is a copy of an email that was
sent by a beloved brother-in-Christ to Daniel
Denham in Newport News, VA on Nov. 26]

Dear Daniel Denham,

I would like to comment on your recent remarks to Al Maxey (which appeared in the readers' section of Reflections #375). It is not unusual for some people who are clearly unable to defend a position to which they have so zealously dedicated their lives promoting, to become angry, fearful, frustrated, belligerent, sarcastic and hostile. This type of behavior is more readily seen in children since they lack the maturity to properly evaluate and check their emotions and thought processes. We expect a child to behave immaturely, so we therefore correct and teach him until such time as he learns the greater values and thoughtfully processes information that leads to a mature, proper and loving response. At most, your remarks, as an adult, characterize your behavior as self-absorbed, arrogant, mean-spirited, hateful and judgmental, behavior that could be prone to violent episodes. It is clear from your despicable diatribe that you have some serious personal issues. However, I'm not that concerned about your childish name-calling. This just tells me that you have not yet achieved psychological manhood. I want to think your vile rhetoric is not a condition of the heart, but rather a temporary lapse into immorality. My primary concern is your unbridled hatred and irrational remarks. I hope you will soon get the help and counseling you need. You must indeed be an unhappy, tormented person.

Who am I, you ask? I am just a Spirit-led child of the living God, and a disciple of our Lord Jesus. Like so many others, I have been prayerfully reflecting upon my relationship with the Lord so that I might come to a far better understanding of what His will is for me, and for all for whom He died. I am still learning and desire to continue learning until I pass from this life. I will not presume that I can say anything in this email regarding the Faith that will change your mind, so I will refrain from a Bible lesson. Permit me to say, however, that I am certain we both read from the very same Bible, yet your behavior reflects a lack of understanding, acceptance and application of that divine authority. Please know that I am completely familiar with your views. There was a time when I also was very legalistic, dogmatic and divisively sectarian, just like too many within the ultra-conservative factions of the Churches of Christ.

Approximately three years ago, I was introduced by a Christian friend to Al Maxey through his publication Reflections. I was surprised to read so much that I had also independently concluded for myself after carefully studying and examining the Scriptures. Because it was so important to me to learn the Truth, and to know if I was truly moving in the right direction, I made a point to contact brother Al Maxey via email as part of my journey to learn more, since his writings reflected some of the very same conclusions that I myself had reached. He was responsive and kind. I asked if I could meet him to ask more questions and to help myself validate that I was truly moving in the right direction. I wanted to know if he was genuine. After all, we learn so much more about a person when we have dialogue face-to-face and truly get to know them. Though he and I did not even know each other, he immediately let me know that my wife and I were welcome to come to Alamogordo, New Mexico to meet with him. We spent a great weekend in Alamogordo; we broke bread in his home, met his wonderful wife Shelly, attended a prayer service, a Sunday morning Bible study, worshipped with the congregation where he is the preacher, as well as one of the elders, met and spent time with the other elders, and were greeted by a sweet congregation of fine Christians!! The hospitality shown to us was open, warm and loving.

No, Mr. Denham, Al Maxey is not at all the man you described in your hateful, nasty email. He is a humble, caring, loving, courageous man of God who is deeply concerned for the cause of Christ Jesus and for all the precious lives around him. Knowing Al as I do through my visit, and through much correspondence over the past few years, I know that he loves even you, although you have shown nothing but bitter, misguided and malevolent wrath toward him.

Let me close this by saying that Al Maxey is a true patriot of our beloved country and served honorably in combat during the Vietnam War. I lost family and friends during that time, and I am genuinely indebted to Al Maxey, and to all who have served and are serving in our armed forces. You should be ashamed of yourself for your vile "ragging" (your own words) about his unselfish service to our country. Of course, such self-sacrifice as that made by Al, as well as by all of our honorable, brave military men and women then and now in defense of our freedoms, have made it possible for you to have the freedom to speak out, no matter how disgusting your comments. You should at least retract in writing your unconscionable, unappreciative remarks about Al's military service. It is an ungrateful, disrespectful slap in the face not just to him, but also to all of our military men and women who have defended our freedoms. I for one am grateful for his service, and I honor him for his willingness to lay down his life on the line for the country he cherishes. And imagine just how much more he loves God and all whom God loves!!

Al Maxey more than capably speaks for himself, but he is my good brother, so I have spoken up to defend him. As for you -- I pray inheritance in the Kingdom for you, and not a consignment to hell (to which you, in your ranting and raving, consign Al Maxey, as well as each of us who earnestly seek to serve the Lord). By His mercy He forgives us, and by His grace we are saved. By the way, based on your comparison of Al's beliefs (which you have inaccurately stated) to postmodern philosophy, it is clear that you do not understand postmodernism. In fact, I would be curious to know your definition. Pseudo-intellectualism is unbecoming, and it is always apparent.

From a Reader in Nevada:

Bro. Al, Regarding Daniel Denham's remarks to you -- what kind of adult makes points in this manner? That has to be the most ridiculous juvenile display I have ever read. What's next?! How does Daniel top this?! Maybe he'll leave a burning bag of dog poop on your doorstep, ring the bell, and run away! Will he come up behind you and give you a "wedgie"? Every time he writes you, this man just reveals even more of his imbalance. He will be reined in soon. Those in his group with cooler heads will insist that he stop communicating with you. They will make it sound to Daniel like this decision is because he is not making any headway with you, but in truth they will rein him in out of embarrassment. Keep an eye on the ContendingFTF Internet discussion list and just watch this man being reined in. Keep up the good work, Al. We love you, brother!

If you would like to be removed from or added to this
mailing list, contact me and I will immediately comply.
If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel
free to send them on to others and encourage them
to write for a free subscription. These articles may all
be purchased on CD. Check the ARCHIVES for
details and past issues of these weekly Reflections: