by Al Maxey

Issue #387 ------- February 23, 2009
Forcing of conscience is soul-rape.
Roger Williams {1603-1683}

Prancing Patternists
Prideful Partyism on Parade

Samuel Butler (1612-1680), the noted British poet and satirist, primarily known for his work Hudibras, which was directed against the Puritans and portrays in a mocking manner the many extravagancies into which far too many of that religious party had immersed themselves, once observed: "There is no man so unsafe as he that is too proud to be told truth, or have his errors taken notice of." Butler was all too familiar with the petty, prideful religionists of his day: those who perceived themselves as being holier than others. The Lord and His disciples have always had to face the small-mindedness of such preening partyists. Indeed, several of the most scathing rebukes ever uttered by Jesus were directed against such rigid religionists and their antics. While they paraded themselves before men, the Lord turned His face from them in disgust. They were already in possession of the entirety of Truth, thus had no need of any additional insights from anyone on anything! How dare some person presume to inform them that they might perhaps be misguided?! They would stop up their ears and rush upon such a one with a furious display of deadly force. In short, one takes one's life in one's hands when dealing with legalists. Just ask Stephen. Just ask Jesus.

Today the disciples of Christ are still witnessing, sad to say, the antagonistic antics of the legalistic patternists. When not parading themselves before others as the select few who have achieved perfection in all aspects of God's will, they are viciously attacking all others who dare to differ with them on a thousand and one points of personal and party perception, preference and practice (none of which are eternally vital enough for our God to have uttered even a single syllable about). In their view, in order to be in favor with God, a person must be in total agreement with them. It is Copycat Christianity (Reflections #130), nothing more! In their own minds they, and they alone, have been ordained by God as the ultimate standard and measure of all men. And they will police their own fellow partyists like the Gestapo of Nazi Germany!! The gallows await all who will not goose-step along with them on every issue.

Just by way of a singular example, the "powers that be" in the Contending for the Faith bunch have come to the conclusion that Al Maxey is a horrendous false teacher who in time will be "hopping from brick to brick" in the fires of hell. Some of them have even established web pages devoted entirely to informing the world of the Satanic evils of my teaching. Why is this being done?! For no other reason than I refuse to bow in submission to their every theological whim! In their infinite wisdom they have also determined that anyone who dares to associate with me, no matter how remotely, is equally "in error." It's called "guilt by association." On Monday, February 9, 2009, on the Contending for the Faith Internet discussion group, which is owned and operated by the editor and publisher of the periodical by the same name (David Brown), Darrell Broking posted a message to the group (#11,947) in which he made a number of True/False statements for people to ponder (statements which reflect the above noted mindset of these patternistic partyists). Notice several of these statements, which are designed to determine one's "faithfulness":

  1. It is sinful to work with and/or speak on the same program as Don Preston. True or False?

  2. It is sinful to work with and/or speak on the same program as Rick Atchley. True or False?

  3. It is sinful to work with and/or speak on the same program as Mac Deaver. True or False?

  4. It is sinful to work with and/or speak on the same program as Al Maxey. True or False?

  5. It is sinful to work with and/or speak on the same program as Dave Miller. True or False?

The "right answer," of course, is True. One does not even necessarily have to know these "heretics," or even agree with their teaching. It is simply deemed sinful to even be on the same program with them, even though your own speech, or your work behind the scenes for the program itself, may have absolutely nothing to do with them or their teaching. Apparently just breathing the same air on the same platform as such men is reason to call one's faithfulness into question. Brethren, this is the exact same evil spirit that our Lord Jesus had to face some 2000 years ago, and it is the same evil spirit that His beloved brethren have had to deal with in the centuries since. That spirit is still alive and well today. May God help us to endure in the face of such militant ignorance and vicious sectarianism!!

A reader in Kentucky wrote me the following letter this last week: "Dear Brother Al, I was hoping that you could answer a question for me when you have some spare time. My question is: How do you deal with those who insist on making you try to feel that your soul is going to be forever lost if you do not attend their particular brand of the Church of Christ?! There are those who say that they want to study with me, but only to show me why I am 'in error.' In order to be 'right with God' one must be precisely right on these people's list of 'issues.' I began feeling something was not right when I kept hearing from the pulpit how even other Churches of Christ were not 'sound' or 'faithful,' and how some preachers were just 'spreading poison.' NOT because these preachers or congregations did not believe the gospel, but because they had deviated from the so-called 'pattern.' Brother Al, I believe that 'unity' through a 'forced conformity' is not unity at all. Thanks for listening. I would appreciate any advice."

Tragically, in the view of these legalists, one simply can't be a part of our Lord's One Body unless "the pattern" is precisely followed in its every particular. Walter Swain (who lives just a couple of miles from me, and who used to attend the congregation where I currently serve as one of the ministers/elders), in an article titled "Pattern Authority" [Firm Foundation, September, 2008, p. 10], expressed the "formula" this way: "When we follow the pattern in all of its aspects, we will be the one true church of the Lord Jesus Christ." Of course, I have yet to witness one of these patternists provide the particulars of this elusive pattern in all of its aspects. I have been asking for over 30 years, and I'm still waiting for an answer. Indeed, the patternists themselves can't even agree on what constitutes the pattern. All they can agree on is that it must be followed precisely "in all of its aspects" before one can "be the one true church." The result of such thinking can be seen all around us --- division, schism, factions, sectarianism and a party spirit. Just the Churches of Christ alone (we won't even go into the other denominations, in which one finds the same) are divided into countless feuding camps over every little perceived deviation in this so-called "pattern." Since we can't even agree on the specifics of this "pattern," what makes one think fellowship can ever be attained, since said fellowship is declared to be based upon nothing less than perfect agreement with all the specifics (whatever they are) of this "pattern"? It is an endless spiral into the depths of irrelevancy and oblivion. How our Lord must grieve over us!!

How does one deal with those who are intent upon condemning to the fires of hell anyone and everyone who dares to differ with their personal or party perception of the "pattern"? Very simple --- shake the dust from your feet and walk away from them!! They are a rabid pack of wolves, and they will gladly devour you, if you give them half a chance. It takes a very special person to face down such theological terrorists, and even these people have very, very little success in bringing about any true spiritual transformation in their hearts and lives. Few of them can ever truly be reasoned with; rational discourse is not their strong suit. The more one seeks to reach out to them, the more they revile you. In the end, we must admit that 99% of the time we are left with no recourse other than to follow the charge of Jesus: "Don't give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces" [Matt. 7:6]. It seems like our Lord Jesus knew these people only too well. By His own assessment, and in His own words, they are: hypocrites, blind guides, fools, whitewashed tombs, lawless, serpents, a brood of vipers, sons of hell, gnat strainers and camel swallowers [Matt. 23]. Nope, the Son of God was not impressed with these sons of the devil [John 8:44]. Neither am I. In fact, I've been exposing and refuting their evil for decades, and they have in turn sought repeatedly to defame and destroy me, my ministry, and my family by employing every underhanded tactic of which they can conceive. Dear brother, my best advice to you is simply this -- stay clear of them. Associate yourself with the Savior's people, not Satan's.

Having stated the above in rather strong terms (and I do so without apology, as did our Lord Jesus), let me make the following quite clear -- there is a tremendous distinction between the hardened party powers and legalistic little lords of these various factions and the many good men and women who have been duped by their duplicity. The former are the dogs and swine of which our Lord Jesus warned, the latter, however, are the very people Jesus Christ came to rescue. Therefore, we should seek to deliver them from the bondage of legalism just as He did. This is done, in part, by exposing those who have led them astray, and doing so before the very eyes of the ones they have deceived, and by embracing the "enlightened enslaved" as they slowly but surely come out of their bondage and into the freedom of God's grace. I dealt with this from a practical point of view in Reflections #162 -- Evangelizing the Enslaved: Breaking the Bonds of Sectarian Slavery. I would strongly urge the readers to spend some time carefully and prayerfully examining my practical points contained in that article. And I would especially urge the brother from Kentucky to reflect upon those points, as they address his question quite well.

Brethren, all around us souls are enslaved to the tyranny of sectarian tyrants. The spirit of Diotrephes (3 John 9-11) is alive and well in the many factional leaders of Christendom. These power-crazed partyists and fratricidal factionists have labored to amass a faithful following of mindless, militant minions who are only too willing to encircle their flock of followers like vicious watchdogs to keep them penned up within the parameters of their party. What is truly tragic is that many of the flock have so utterly surrendered their right to reason to these malicious masters that they are blinded to their bondage. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), in an entry to his Journal dated December 4, 1860, rather astutely observed, "Slavery exists wherever a man surrenders his inalienable rights of reason and conscience. Indeed, this slavery is more complete than that which enslaves the body alone."

The termination of tyranny, the abolition of slavery, the pathway out of bondage and into freedom begins when men dare to THINK. Therefore, rational thought is the greatest fear of the oppressor, as well as being the greatest need of the oppressed. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) wrote, "Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth" [Principles of Social Reconstruction]. Russell went on to point out that those who dared to actually think were the "subversives and revolutionaries" who posed a merciless threat to those who would enslave the masses. One will never be free until one shakes off the shackles of the Party Police. In totalitarianism, which, frankly, is what one finds in sectarianism, genuine freedom of thought is forbidden. "In a Party member, not even the smallest deviation of opinion on the most unimportant subject can be tolerated" [George Orwell (1903-1950), Nineteen Eighty-Four]. Truth will never reign supreme within the lives of men until thought is unchained. Thomas Paine (1737-1809), one of America's truly great thinkers, penned the following words in 1796 --- "When opinions are free, either in matters of government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail" [The Age of Reason: An Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology].

Dear brethren, it is time, indeed it is high time, to be painfully blunt and brutally honest in our self-evaluation. Too many suffer under the heavy burden of sectarian slavery. We have brethren in bondage, and that should trouble us far more than it typically does! For many years I have been burdened by their bondage. I am free in Christ ... but I am not fully at peace, for I know that countless precious souls are enslaved. I vowed early on in my ministry: if God would give me the ability and opportunity, then I would devote a portion of my time and energy to exposing the sectarian death camps and proclaiming freedom unto their captives. It has proven to be a personally perilous resolve. I've been attacked, slandered, "written up," harassed and hounded, as have others who've dared to enter the territory of these tyrants. Yet, souls have found freedom ... they have fled the factions, parted with the partyists, severed themselves from the sectarians ... and witnessing their joy in discovering Truth, and watching them take those first tentative steps into the light of a newfound freedom, has made this difficult journey all worthwhile. If we aren't willing to risk our own personal safety in order to rescue those suffering under tyranny, then, in my opinion, we are not worthy of our own freedom!! With freedom comes responsibility --- not just to preserve and to protect it, but also to promote it. Dear Father, give us the strength of resolve to persevere in the face of these prancing patternists and prideful partyists. Help us to expose their devices and rescue their disciples!

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Readers' Reflections

From a Missionary in Bulgaria:

Dear Bro. Al, Your recent article "These Brothers of Mine" was right on. "Who is my brother?" is an eternal question that needs to be asked in every generation. I believe God gives us things in this physical realm to help us understand things in the spiritual realm. For example: my father had three children (my older sister, my younger sister, and me). He gave life to them as well as to me. He added all three of us to his family, and he called all three of us his children. He wrote all three of us into his will, and when he died we all three got a share of the inheritance. Fortunately, I get along well with my sisters, however even if I didn't, it wouldn't matter as far as my father's inheritance to them was concerned. My sisters are my father's children, and if HE chose to give them an inheritance, then I do not get a vote in the matter. The same is true of God and His children. Who's my brother? It is very simple -- ANYONE is my brother (or sister) if God takes away that person's sin, puts His Spirit in him or her, and considers him/her His child. PERIOD. End of discussion. I do NOT get a vote! If God accepts someone -- ANYONE -- as His child, who am I to say that person isn't?!!

From an Elder in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, Your study on this subject was very thought-provoking indeed! Determining who is (or is not) our brother is about as difficult as determining some "pattern." I have one sister in the flesh, and I was never consulted on the matter, nor did I give my parents my permission to give me a sister. Why would God need me, or anyone else, to tell Him who His children are?!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Maxey, Your article "These Brothers of Mine" was absolutely the best ever! I want to always remember the following statement which you wrote in that article -- "Men are simply too intent upon magnifying their differences, instead of celebrating together the One who unites them!" It says everything! It is so sad that many within the Churches of Christ cannot read this statement and say, "Amen!" You are loved here in Tennessee!! Keep putting it out there, brother.

From a PhD/Author in Canada:

Brother Al, I'm studying the book of Joel in preparation for a sermon I will preach soon (I still occasionally preach, even though I'm now retired: I'm Past President of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada). I came across your notes on the prophets during an Internet search and just wanted to let you know that your work was very helpful to me. More than that, I then followed the links to your web site and read about the church for which you preach and serve as a shepherd, and of God's calling on your life. I am very grateful for people like you, and know the challenges of your work (having served as a pastor myself for 40 years). Stay close to the Lord, brother, and may God use you mightily.

From a Brother in Virginia:

Brother Maxey, I came to know of you through a periodical called Defender. In particular, I first learned about you through an article in the November, 2008 issue (page 4) by Darrell Broking titled "Looking Into The Liar's Lair: Why Won't Al Maxey Tell The Truth?" Mention was made about a debate held between you and this man. I don't get the Internet, so do not have ready access to that debate. I have written two letters to Darrell Broking requesting a copy of this debate, but he never bothered to respond to either of my letters. An older brother in Christ, who is on the Internet, provided me with your postal mailing address, and so I am now appealing to you for a copy of this debate on CD. I will gladly pay any expenses for this CD. I was raised in the Non-Institutional Churches of Christ and have a degree from Florida College, so I am very interested in reading this debate on Patternism in the Church. I have written a book on the inconsistencies of patternism as taught in our churches (you may have seen it advertised in The Christian Chronicle). I sent Darrell Broking a copy and challenged him to respond to it -- he never did. I will send you a free copy of that book also, if you would like to have it.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, Your latest comments regarding who the brothers of our Lord are were excellent. While I am no great scholar of the Scriptures, it seems to me that when Jesus was asked a doctrine question, He usually came back with a relationship answer. This leads me to believe that He may have a different set of priorities than many of us.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Fantastic article, Bro. Al. I especially enjoyed reading about those who were blessed with "available light" and turned to God as a result. And I'm equally amazed at those of us today who have so much "available light," and yet squabble and divide over little to nothing. I'm sending your latest Reflections article to my Sunday School class and to all my friends back home! May God continue to keep you in His grace!

From an Elder in Florida:

Dear Bro. Al, Your Reflections article "Her Husband With Her" reminded me of the second book of Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis. In the first book of that series, Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis posited an old world that had never fallen. The second book, Perilandra, is set in a new world that had not yet been tempted. The hero is sent there by the "deity" to help the First Woman resist the Temptor. Your article reminded me of this book because the First Man was absent from the First Woman when the Temptor came. Speaking of C. S. Lewis, another of your recent articles, "Self-Inflicted Blindness," bears some similarity to another of his fantasy books, the final volume of his Chronicles of Narnia series. There the dwarfs refuse to be "duped" into believing in the great lion Aslan (who represents Jesus in the series) by willfully closing their eyes and refusing to even consider that there just might really be a lion after all. I find such stories from the pen of C. S. Lewis very enlightening!

From an Elder in Wyoming:

Dear Bro. Al, Keep up the good work!! I am truly blessed by your writings beyond what you can imagine!! I am so glad there is someone who is working to rid the Lord's Body of the blight that is destroying it. I believe that until we get out of the business of condemning and trying to conquer others, and get into the business of promoting, understanding and being like Jesus Christ, the church will continue to decline. Your last article reminds me of something I have often thought of before -- I would rather stand before God on the Day of Judgment having accepted someone God has rejected, than to stand before Him having rejected someone God has accepted. Keep up the good work, brother. Many of us really appreciate it.

From a Minister in Missouri:

Dear Bro. Al, I just read your article "Checklist Churchianity" (#384). What a pitiful truth you have revealed. As a member of the One Cup brotherhood, I am very familiar with men who have authorized themselves to remove whole congregations from the "Lamb's Book of Life." It is not enough to eliminate congregations with multiple cups or Bible classes -- these men are now aggressively eliminating congregations within their own One Cup brotherhood. Let it be known, my fellow One Cuppers, that if you add a kitchen to your church building, show any indication that you are led by the Holy Spirit, or, Heaven forbid, you hold a Bible study within the four walls of your church building, you will soon find your congregation "barred from entering the gates of Heaven" (at least as far as the editors of our directory "Where the Saints Assemble" are concerned).

From a Minister in Illinois:

Dear Bro. Maxey, Please send me all six of your Reflections volumes on CD. Also please send the bonus material (the Debates CD and the PowerPoint Sermons CD). I am enclosing a check for $60 to cover the cost, and am really looking forward to receiving them, and am sure that I will be able to use them for God's glory. I enjoy reading every one of your Reflections, and I know that through your efforts, and others like you, we will one day have a brotherhood that is truly united and on its way to victory. God bless you in all your work for the Lord.

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