by Al Maxey

Issue #381 ------- January 12, 2009
Blind and naked ignorance delivers brawling
judgments, unashamed, on all things all day long.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson {1809-1892}

Self-Inflicted Blindness
Our Lord Reflects upon Those
Who Refuse to See and Hear

Titus Lucretius Carus (99-55 B.C.), the noted Roman poet and philosopher, who experienced an untimely death while still relatively young (he was only 44), wrote an epic philosophical poem on Epicureanism that is titled De Rerum Natura ("On the Nature of Things"). This was very widely praised in the ancient world (as well as today) as a masterpiece. Cicero wrote that it "exhibited many flashes of genius." Ovid declared, "The verses of the sublime Lucretius will perish only when a day will bring the end of the world." Lucretius has also had a tremendous influence upon modern philosophy, one of my favorite subjects during my years at the university, and he was arguably the most thorough expositor of Epicurean thought during his day. In his above mentioned work, Lucretius made the following observation, which I believe to be quite insightful: "O miserable minds of men! O blind hearts! In what darkness of life, in what great dangers, you spend this little span of years!"

A truth rarely perceived by the young, but painfully apparent to the aged, is the brevity of life in this physical realm. All too quickly we've come to the terminus of our journey, and are left wondering -- "Where did the years go?" David wrote, "Behold, Thou hast made my days as handbreadths ... surely every man at his best is a mere breath" [Psalm 39:5]. James, the brother of our Lord, stated it this way, "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" [James 4:14]. Therefore, how we "spend this little span of years" is of vital concern to us, having great bearing on our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, both here and hereafter. Thus, we're all urged, in the words of the inspired apostle Paul, to "be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time" [Eph. 5:15-16]. Since we have so little of it, relatively speaking, we should use it wisely!

How sad, then, to witness so many precious souls stumbling blindly through life (spiritually speaking) on the very edge of a precipice, their plunge to perdition almost assured by their blindness to the imminent dangers all about them. In spite of repeated warnings and pleas from those all around them who have been gifted with far greater spiritual sight, they stumble onward toward a certain destruction. Indeed, many almost seem annoyed, and a few even enraged, that one would suggest they are devoid of spiritual sight. As they draw nearer to the brink of disaster, they boast of their "vision," and even cast aspersions upon those who seek only to redirect their steps toward paths of safety and life. Yes, a few will have their eyes opened to their plight before toppling to their deaths, but, sadly, the majority willfully press forward to their eternal fates, to the distress of those who sought to awaken them to their perilous condition. Rightly did Lucretius write, "O miserable minds of men! O blind hearts! In what darkness of life, in what great dangers, you spend this little span of years!"

Also astounding, and equally tragic, are the vicious assaults of the spiritually blind upon those with sight who simply seek to redirect the course of their steps away from the precipice of the pit. It almost seems that the more devoid of sight one is, the more savage and ferocious are the assaults against all those who simply seek to aid them. Such behavior is truly pathological and, sadly, all too common. Yes, there is danger involved in reaching out to those engulfed in spiritual darkness, and yet how can one not seek to rescue the perishing? Is that not our mission from the Lord? Thus, we seek to take the light to those in darkness, and we very often do so at great personal risk. As anyone who has ever taken a bold, public stand against spiritual darkness, and those who promote it, knows -- there's a personal price to be paid. Attempts will be made to destroy such a person's ministry, reputation and teaching. If one is not prepared to endure such affliction and persecution, one should never dare to confront the darkness. Whenever one seeks to bring light to those in darkness, the darkness will seek to extinguish both the light and the one bearing it. It is not a fight for the faint of heart.

Our Lord Jesus Christ knows only too well, from personal experience during the days of His earthly ministry, the inherent dangers of seeking to bring light to those in darkness, and spiritual sight to those blind to the realities of God's marvelous grace. Of all those who dwelt in darkness, and who were blind to their condition (many willfully), the ones who lashed out at their Rescuer most viciously were the Pharisees and their minions -- the legalists and patternists of His day. Time and again Jesus confronted these men in an effort to help them perceive their blindness, and time and again they sought to destroy Him for His concern. In Matthew 23 Jesus was very blunt with them: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, blind guides [vs. 16] ... fools and blind men [vs. 17] ... You blind men [vs. 19] ... You blind guides [vs. 24] ... You blind Pharisee" [vs. 26]. And these were some of the kinder, gentler characterizations of our Lord in this chapter.

The Pharisees were utterly blinded to Truth by their allegiance to Tradition, a tragic condition evident even to this day among certain ultra-conservative, legalistic, patternistic factions within Christendom. Jesus told them very bluntly: you have "invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition" [Matt. 15:6]. Thus, "in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" [vs. 9]. The question that must be asked, then, is: "Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" [vs. 3]. Clearly, these people were in very grave danger spiritually. They were rendering God's Word invalid by their blind allegiance to their own humanly devised traditions and precepts. In short, they were forbidding where God had not forbidden; they were binding where God had not bound. Sound familiar? Legalism doesn't change much, regardless of time, place or culture ... and neither do the legalists themselves. They have always been a blind, brutish bunch, and the Lord's harshest words of condemnation in Scripture are reserved for them. Indeed, He declared tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the kingdom before they would [Matt. 21:31].

The Pharisees were noted for fiercely attacking anyone and anything that was outside the confines of their limited vision of what they themselves had determined to be "Truth." To dare to differ with a legalist, in their view, was to dare to differ with the Lord God Himself. They, and they alone, had perfect spiritual sight, and an abundance of knowledge, and yet the tragic reality was, in the words of Jesus: "You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked" [Rev. 3:17]. They were spiritually destitute, yet too blind to perceive the fact. Therefore, in their own minds, they felt empowered by God to attack all His "enemies" -- i.e., those who would not bow to their own personal perceptions, preferences and practices. And attack they did ... with great frequency and ferocity. And they passed this trait on to their converts, thus making such men "twice as much a son of hell" as they were themselves [Matt. 23:15]. "They are blind guides of the blind, and if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit" [Matt. 15:14]. These were (and still are) dangerous men (and women), for not only had their blindness led them to the edge of the precipice, but they were influencing a host of unlearned lemmings to blindly follow them over the edge of that cliff and into the pit of destruction. No wonder that Jesus had so little use for these legalists, and boldly confronted them at every opportunity.

The apostle Paul described such persons as holding to "form" rather than substance [2 Tim. 3:5] in their religion, and thus they "were always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth" [vs. 7]. Indeed, such men as these "oppose the Truth," and they are "men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith," whose "folly will be obvious to all" [vs. 8-9]. In other words, they consider themselves to be biblical scholars, knowledgeable of God's will, yet they are ignorant of even the basics ... a fact which is clearly evident to those with eyes to see (and yet a fact to which they themselves are blindly oblivious). Thus, they proudly parade themselves through the city streets naked, assuming that the gasps from the onlookers are expressions of approval for their rich theological "garb." Like the emperor in the fable, they are utterly clueless, being self-deceived and -deluded. Such individuals "did not receive the love of the Truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God sends upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false" [2 Thess. 2:10-11]. This is frightening, and yet it's the reality of far too many who profess to be leaders within the church of our Lord Jesus. What a sad day it will be when these individuals, who believed they had been good and faithful servants, hear the horrific words from Jesus, "I never knew you; depart from Me!" [Matt. 7:23], at which time the voice of an angel in heaven will declare, "They poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it" [Rev. 16:6].

A rather significant part of the problem with most all of those rigid religionists who possess the above calcified legalistic mindset is that along with their dogmatism comes a perception of absolute certainty that they are right and all others are wrong. They are the only ones in all of Christendom blessed with infallible insight into all Truth, and all other men are pathetic creatures destined to "fry in the fire." They, and they alone, practice their faith perfectly, with no deviation whatsoever from the New Testament "pattern" (although these patternists cannot even agree among themselves what the specifics of this elusive pattern actually are, which results in countless divisions even among themselves). Some psychologists and psychiatrists have actually done studies into what motivates such "thinking" (since it truly is an abnormal, pathological condition). A good example of such a study is: Certainty and Dogmatism: The Feeling of Knowing, which is the work of Dr. Richard Beck, a university professor, author and experimental psychologist. Let me share just a few quotes from the article:

Not only have I encountered people like this, as many of you well know, but our Lord Jesus did as well. And yes, in many cases, it is like trying to converse with a rock. There are some religionists who possess such a high degree of "dogmatic certainty" that their minds are forever closed to any further input. They have arrived at perfect insight into all Truth (or so they believe), therefore all "gates to their city" have been shut and sealed, and their walls have been raised and fortified. One might as well seek to reason with a large chunk of granite as to attempt rational dialogue with such persons. Jesus informs His disciples that the problem with these legalists is that they have willfully chosen to shut out anything and everything that does not agree with their own perception of Truth. This would cost them dearly, just as it does those of that same mindset today. In Matthew 13, Jesus made the following observation about these people: "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that declares: 'You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them'" [vs. 14-15]. This was a willful shutting off of information, just as those who opposed Stephen "covered their ears" and rushed upon him [Acts 7:57]. These men also had no desire whatsoever to hear words of Truth; indeed, such efforts to reach them with Truth only served to motivate them to acts of malicious maligning, mayhem and murder.

Brethren, such blindness and deafness is self-inflicted. These men and women have made a personal choice, one for which they are willing to live and die. Sadly, unless they turn and embrace Jesus, rather than clinging for dear life to their traditional dogma, they will perish! What is even sadder is that they will take a good many others with them. Jesus stood up to these hardened religionists, and they killed Him for it. You and I must stand up to them as well, even though we too will likely "pay the price" for the courage of our convictions and the desire to rescue the perishing. We will have our names dragged through the mud, we will have our reputations smeared, our ministries and families will be attacked without mercy, and our credibility before our friends and loved ones will be brought into question. Fighting the good fight has never been for the cowardly, nor for those with timid spirits. You will receive "battle scars," but the end result (the rescuing of precious souls) is worth the struggle. May God give us the courage of Christ and the perseverance of Paul as we face the forces of darkness with the Light of God's grace.

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

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
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Readers' Reflections

From the Editor of View:

Brother Al, After a quick read of your article "Expressing Emotion in Worship," I feel you did an excellent job of reviewing William Stewart's article. I rarely agree with everything that we publish in View or Focus magazines, but I feel that Stewart did a fine and balanced job in dealing with the subject.

From a Minister in Colorado:

Dear Bro. Al, Thank you for a good job on "Expressing Emotion in Worship." I often disagree with you, but this particular article is well done and balanced. One problem I have seen in a 30 year preaching career (29 of them with the same congregation) is that of using emotions to make doctrinal decisions. My Pentecostal friends, for example, believe a doctrine because they "feel" it is correct. This is dangerous. On the flip side, when emotions are not involved, Truth is often not lived out, even when one believes it. So, as I see it, and as your article has elucidated so well, we must understand with the mind and be dedicated from the heart. Our commitment comes from a logical decision about Truth, but the living out of Truth must come from the heart. Thanks again, brother, for all your thoughts in this very timely article.

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Maxey, Thank you for your very interesting study on "The Comma Johanneum." I can't tell you how much I enjoy learning new things about the Bible. Even after 20+ years as a Christian, I never knew such an issue existed over that passage within the KJV, a version which so many of my friends hold in such high regard. Thank you for teaching me something new!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, Amen, Amen to your last article regarding emotions in worship. It brought back memories of something you no longer hear in services today -- an "Amen" in the middle of the lesson from someone in attendance. In years gone by it was not at all uncommon to hear such expressions. What happened? We no longer hear that. Are the lessons now simply not worthy of an "Amen" now and then, or are we being "put down" for showing emotion? Well, I'm in agreement with you on this subject. I hope that you are having a good start to the new year, and that you have planned many more good topics to pass along to us in your coming Reflections. I presently have all of your work on a flash drive, and I hope to record far more of your writings on there as you produce them in the future. Also, keep hammering away at the Denham crowd. Maybe at some point way down the road they will finally get the message that the attitudes and actions they exhibit are doing them far more harm than good (in fact, they're doing them no good at all). Soldier On, Al.

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Bro. Al, God bless you for all that you do! And may God doubly bless you for having to endure all the abuse that is heaped upon you by some very mean-spirited people! I have been astounded at the messages to you by Darrell Broking, Daniel Denham, Daniel Coe and others. Each one seems to be filled with even more venom than the last. The visceral loathing that is evident within their respective communications to you have literally made my blood run cold! How can these vicious men possibly consider themselves to be Christ-like?! I sincerely pity all the poor misguided souls who have these terrible men as their spiritual leaders. May God help them all. Al, along with countless others, I love you dearly, and I thank you for your ongoing patience in sharing yourself and your knowledge with us. Best wishes to you and your family for a beautiful and blessed 2009.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I did not realize what an evil, corrupting, conniving, devilish person you are until I read Broking's, Denham's and Coe's letters to/about you!! These guys remind me of what I used to be 30 years ago. I will be praying for all three of them, as well as so many others who are just like them. They are all the kind of individuals of my past, but, thankfully, not of my future. The Jesus Christ that they teach is a fierce, hateful, lawyer-type individual who knows that you will never get anything right, and so is ready to gleefully kick you into the depths of hell. Woefully, their "gospel" lacks the sweet sounds of GRACE.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, My name is ------, and I wanted to ask you a question. I've been in the church for about a year now, and some things have been brought up about you that I wanted to ask you about. There are people in the local congregation where I have been attending who say that you are a "false teacher" and that some of your views on the Bible are wrong. They've even been having studies about you at this church, and they sometimes say very hateful things about you. This really bothers me. I've been to Baptist churches and Pentecostal churches that have more love toward others!! This is not something I would expect from a church that makes the claim that it IS Christ's true church. So sorry to ramble, Al, but this is all just so upsetting to me. Why do these people say these harsh things about you?!

From an Elder in Kentucky:

Dear Brother Maxey, Over the years I have never written to you (except when I wrote and requested to be added to your mailing list), but I felt the need to write and tell you just how much your web site means to me! There is simply nothing else like it out there!! I am always impressed with your knowledge and insights into the Scriptural message. Thank you so much for sharing your research and logic via your weekly Reflections.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Great article on emotions in worship! It is wonderful to see such writings that talk about showing emotion and warning of the dangers of emotionalism at the same time. And yet, I could never understand why some thought it was okay to show more emotion at a football game than at a gathering of those celebrating what God has done for them! Al, keep the faith against those who resort to personal attacks against you! I am personally glad (and blessed) to be a reader of your Reflections articles. I am all the better for it. Perhaps a few Tylenol should be sent to those attackers -- their backs must be extremely sore from all the effort they put into twisting your teachings (as well as those of the Bible). I will honor your request to pray for them!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Happy New Year, Bro. Al, and thank you for your timely article on emotions. Long have Christians sat stoic and bored in worship, with not so much as a smile on their faces. How can one not smile when they hear of the grace of God bestowed upon them? How can we not weep when we study about the love of God in the sacrifice of His Son? How can we not say "Praise God! Hallelujah!" when we behold lost souls give their lives to God? Have we really buried the Spirit of God and hardened our hearts that much? Brother, I cannot close without briefly mentioning the childish antics of Broking, Denham, Coe, et al. I, for one, will NOT pray for them! Nor will I attempt to engage them in any type of religious conversation! And I will tell you why. Jesus said, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces" [Matthew 7:6]. Pigs do not eat pearls, and modern-day Pharisees, like these men who have attacked you, do NOT want to hear Truth. It makes them furious like an animal, and they will turn on you and gnash at you with their teeth. They are false teachers who do not wish for their works/words of darkness to be exposed to the cleansing light of the Scriptures. That being said, may I wish God's peace and blessings upon you, my good brother!! Keep the faith!

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, Nice piece on emotion in worship. Once again, we are on the same page. I was reared in a pretty staid environment where nothing like emotion or feeling was part of corporate worship, except for an occasional "heartfelt" AMEN. No clapping, no hands raised, no body movement -- no feeling. Everyone just doing the same thing in lockstep. I have come to learn that emotion or feeling is not something you either add or subtract from worship. The emotion of worship springs from within. It cannot be turned on or off as dictated by someone or some thing. I have learned that involving the whole body as part of expressive worship is as natural as breathing, and energizing our emotions in worship is, I believe, one of the roles of the Holy Spirit. But, we in the Stone-Campbell Movement have spent a century telling the Holy Spirit what He can and cannot do. We have tried to limit His ministry among us to the pages of the NT writings. Never again do I want to be guilty of telling the Holy Spirit what He can and cannot do. Today, worship for me involves all of me, including my emotions and my body, and I think that's the way God wants it. Al, you really touched one of my hot buttons and stirred my emotions with this article!! Best wishes to you and Shelly for a wonderful 2009.

From an Elder in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, The brothers who are afraid of emotion in worship really need to reexamine the very foundation of their faith and life in the Lord. The foremost of the two greatest commandments is -- "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, body and strength." In the church of Jesus Christ most of us do not need more information for our heads; we need a total heart transplant through a transforming operation of the Holy Spirit. Legalistic prohibitions against anything other than one kind of worship music and praise is built upon an insane hermeneutic (CENI) that is pure garbage in light of the whole tenor of God's Word on worship from the heart. Jesus really threw a curve ball to all those who want to shut down emotion in worship. He insisted, "We had to celebrate, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" -- a celebration that involved "music (the Greek word sumphonia: the sounds of many instruments), dancing and feasting" [Luke 15:23-32]. The "father" in Jesus' parable is our Heavenly Father. The "prodigal" is each and every one of us before we came back home to the Father's house. The "father's house" is the church of Jesus Christ. There was "celebration" in the church: emotion, music, instruments, dancing, feasting! This whole notion of viewing "worship" as unique "rituals" performed in the quiet solemnity of a chapel or cathedral is NOT the New Covenant view of worship. I write this as one who (for more than half a century) has served in the roles of teacher, evangelist, missionary and elder in three congregations within the Body of Christ. Brother Al, keep fighting for freedom from legalism for the sons of God, because that freedom, purchased at the cross, is our birthright [Gal. 2:4].

From a Minister in Kansas:

Bro. Al, One Cup man here. Thank you for all that you do in service to King Jesus. I know it isn't easy to continue on when you are constantly under attack. There is nothing wrong with healthy discussion of biblical subjects among those who differ. I can remember when preachers would say, "If I don't have the Truth, I want it." Now, too many say, "I already have all Truth, so there's no need to study it any further with you. Just do as I tell you!" Instead of showing respect for a fellow Christian, even though they may not agree with their views, they use language against them that is more in line with the world than the kingdom of Christ. Yes, Al, I will pray for Darrell Broking, David Brown, Daniel Denham and Daniel Coe. May God help all of us to realize that this world will never be "won" for Christ until we are truly "one" in Christ. God bless you in 2009.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, Enclosed please find a check for your 2008 Reflections CD. You and the late Cecil Hook have done more to open my eyes to GRACE in the last several years than all my previous 60 years put together!! I have all of your Reflections on CD, and they continue to be a blessing to me! May God continue to bless you so that you may continue your work.

Special Offer --- Most of you are aware of the recent Maxey-Broking Debate on the topic of Patternism. Needless to say, this generated considerable interest throughout the world. I have compiled over 70 pages, single-spaced of Letters from Readers (close to 300 responses) from 12 different countries and 28 of the 50 states (and these are only the responses I saved; there were many others). A very dear friend of mine, and a devoted brother in Christ (some of his wife's family worships where I serve as the minister and one of the elders), has written a very scholarly paper (over 20 pages long) on some of the dynamics perceived in these readers' responses to the above mentioned debate. This brother is working on an advanced degree through one of the major universities here in New Mexico, and this paper was submitted in one of his upper graduate level classes (he received an "A" on it, by the way). I was so impressed with it that I asked his permission to share it with you. He agreed that I could, and only redacted Appendix B from the paper as it dealt with some theories and models with which he is currently still working, testing and evaluating. This paper is in .pdf format (Adobe), 85.4 KB, and is titled Debate and Discourse: Literacy in the Key of Gee ("Gee" being a reference to James Paul Gee, who has done some significant work in the field of literacy theory). I will email this document to anyone who requests it, and sincerely thank my friend and brother, Aaron Goodman, for his work on this project. It was extremely well-done and enlightening!

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