by Al Maxey

Issue #428 ------- January 22, 2010
Only the fairy tale equates changelessness with
happiness. Permanence means paralysis and death.
Only in movement, with all its pain, is there life.

Jacob Burckhardt {1818-1897}
Force and Freedom: An Interpretation of History

Malicious Menace Unmasked
Mr. Waddey's Wacky Revelation of the
Devilish Desires of "Change Agents"

James Baldwin (1924-1987), in one of his many insightful essays, made the following observation, which certainly is relevant to an understanding of the fears experienced by some within our religious movements at present, "Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety." Baldwin, a New York born and raised African-American novelist, poet, essayist and civil rights activist, who quite boldly confronted some of the more complex social and psychological issues facing our great nation in the mid-20th century (primarily racial and sexual in nature), correctly identified one of the primary fears of those strongly opposed to any significant change in their personal environment -- it would challenge their cherished perceptions of the world as they knew it, as well as their identity and place within it. Their safe and comfortable "ruts" were at risk; the "way things had always been" was in jeopardy. Change was on the horizon -- a looming prospect that made their blood run cold. This severe prospect of progress, which would certainly entail an embracing of some degree of responsible change within their daily lives, was practically paralyzing them with fear. The inevitable response of these fearful fellows, who were destined for inevitable fossilization, therefore, was an all out assault against anything that even faintly resembled a departure from their beloved philosophical, sociological and theological dogmas.

Change was anathema. Agents of change were apostates. The disciples of Christ must flee to the safety of the past in order to escape the effects of an evolving future. What they have failed to realize, however, is that when living things fail to adapt and evolve ... they become fossils. Sadly, some of our brethren have become so calcified in their opposition to change that they are currently little more than oddities on display in some great religious museum. They have become irrelevant to the changing world around them; merely perpetuating their own party preferences in tiny pockets of petty patternists which are doomed to ultimate extinction!! Their legacy will be reduced to little more than a footnote in a religious history book that some graduate student might one day mention in passing in a thesis on religious extremism. Norman Mailer (1923-2007) stated, "There was that law of life, so cruel and so just, which demanded that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same." Some have never grasped this truth!

In his novel The Lost World, which was a sequel to the acclaimed Jurassic Park, Dr. Michael Crichton discusses the fate of the dinosaurs, and he explores how their extinction may well convey a warning to mankind today. This Extinction Theory is a fascinating one, providing some rich reflective material for the people of God. We would each do well to consider this theory seriously, at least to the degree it applies to our spiritual condition within the One Body. The question posed in the book is this -- Was the extinction of the dinosaurs caused by a sudden cosmic catastrophe which befell the planet, or was their extinction due to their behavior? The theory proposed in the book suggests that when a complex organism ceases to be responsive to its environment ... when it fails to adapt ... it will decline to the point of extinction. It is further suggested that only those complex organisms which change will ultimately survive. This does not mean the organism changes its true identity -- dinosaurs would remain dinosaurs -- rather, it suggests that ultimate survival depends upon elasticity. Simply stated: those complex organisms remaining rigid, unresponsive, and frozen in time and place become fossils -- lifeless monuments to the folly of inflexibility.

In Dr. Crichton's novel one of the characters suggested this could never actually happen to the human race; we are simply too intelligent. Dr. Malcolm, the theorist, responds, "What makes you think human beings are sentient and aware? There's no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told -- and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare." Dr. Michael Crichton has shown remarkable insight into the human condition. He's also touched a nerve religiously! Too many people professing the Christian faith are frozen religiously in the past. They have become fossilized in their practices and perceptions, repeating by rote the conclusions of their forefathers rather than delving deeply into the Word to ascertain Truth for themselves!! Religious rigidity and contempt for change will tend to result in fossilization, both for individuals as well as movements and congregations. Fossils are a source of interest for those walking through a museum, but they have little relevance for those seeking meaning in their journey through life. Unless we, as disciples of Christ, are relevant to our times, our decline toward extinction is assured.

One of the journals devoted to the promotion of future fossilization within our own historical movement is Christianity: Then & Now. It is a writing ministry of John Waddey, a preacher who lives in Surprise, Arizona and who works with the West Bell Church of Christ. Waddey's monthly periodical is devoted almost exclusively to proclaiming the evils of the "change movement" and its godless "change agents," of whom I am considered by this man to be one of the worst. Hardly a month goes by where he doesn't allude to or quote outright something that I have taught or written (although he will rarely identify me by name), all in an effort by this man to expose the hellish horrors of change. On his Web Page Waddey declares Al Maxey to be a "liberal change agent," as well as "a vocal spokesman for the change movement ... who wishes to reform the church." He continued, "I have recently read eleven books written by the most vocal change agents and frankly it seems to me that you are in perfect concert with them on all issues." In other words, if one wishes to perceive all the many ills of this "philosophy of change," all one needs to do is examine the teaching of Al Maxey.

There is a purpose in pointing out the above perception of me by John Waddey, as in his most recent issue of CTN he seeks to expose "the man behind the mask." Just as some actors on a stage pretend to be someone other than who they actually are in "real life," so there are those who hide behind a mask religiously. Such is the case with "change agents," asserts Mr. Waddey. "They present themselves as lovers of Truth and friends of Christ's Church, but when the mask is removed, we see a very different reality" ["Behind the Mask," Christianity: Then & Now, vol. 9, no. 5, January, 2010, page 2]. Change agents, of whom I am declared to be a prime example, if not their primary spokesman, are "pretenders and deceivers." Under the guise of reforming the church, we are intent upon reducing it to rubble. Or, so it is believed by men like Waddey. In the above mentioned article he lists 26 characteristics of change agents, after which he then declares boldly: "These are the men behind the mask. I find it very strange that they will draw their income from and identify themselves with a body of people in whom they see little or nothing good, and in whom they have no confidence" [ibid, page 3]. If you do not subscribe to this monthly publication and would like a copy of this article, just email John at -- I'm sure he would be happy to send you one (and even subscribe you to his periodical).

Therefore, if, in fact, I am representative of, and indeed the "spokesman" for, these agents of godless change, then the 26 items on John's list should be an accurate reflection of my desires, goals and character. Right?! After all, has Waddey not "unmasked" us for who and what we are? This is his claim. The reality, however, is that these 26 items are not even remotely accurate. Indeed, they're so far removed from any of my convictions that anyone who actually knows me would find them laughable! I'm not sure where John Waddey came up with his "understanding" of "the man behind the mask," but if he thinks his list genuinely characterizes those of his brethren who hold differing views than his own, then he is terribly deluded. Let me share some examples from his article.

"They oppose the idea that we should 'hold fast the pattern of sound words' delivered by the Apostles (II Tim. 1:13)." I am more than happy to "retain the standard of sound words" that have been delivered by inspired men within the inspired writings. I do not, however, consider the assumptions, inferences and deductions of uninspired and fallible men to be in any way a "standard" by which I must order my life!! I will certainly respect the right of others to order their own lives by such personal understandings derived from their personal study of Scripture, but I have NO respect for those who seek to impose those views upon ME. If the inspired writers decree some action or attitude, I will gladly comply; if some brother or group of brethren issue such a decree, one for which they can provide no supporting Scripture, then they will find me very non-compliant. It is this that Waddey actually means in his above statement. The godless "liberals" simply refuse to bow to the theological whims of their more conservative brethren; they refuse to allow themselves to be "lorded over." Indeed, we oppose this idea. The fallacy of people like Mr. John Waddey is that they have come to equate their own deductions from Scripture with the divine decrees of Scripture. "Change Agents" will readily submit to the latter, but they will never submit to the former -- something these men simply cannot abide. In their view, to differ with them is to differ with God. Therefore, in effect, they become the "standard" by which all others are judged either fit or unfit for the kingdom.

Waddey opined, "They are against the teaching that we must not go beyond the teachings of Christ (II John 9)." Actually, we teach just the opposite. We are more than willing to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. What we are NOT willing to do is submit to the demand to follow the teaching of His uninspired, fallible disciples. Waddey also wrote, "They are against their brethren who worship as they did in days past." Again, not true. We are more than willing to allow our more conservative brethren to worship according to their own convictions. If you have determined from your own study that employing one cup within the Lord's Supper is spiritually significant, then I would never, ever attempt to stand in the way of this conviction. Indeed, if I ever assembled with you, I would participate according to your practice without raising any question or objection. All I would ask is that I be shown the same courtesy. I have no desire to bind/impose my convictions upon my one cup brethren, NOR will I allow them to bind or impose theirs upon me. I am not "against" them worshipping as they always have; quite the contrary! What I AM against, however, is them demanding that I must worship as they always have. Waddey writes, "They are against evangelists, soul-winners, and missionaries who teach the lost the truths about salvation and worship that they have learned from God's Word." Wrong!! We are not against anyone declaring any divine Truth revealed in God's Word. We are against men teaching AS divine Truth their own assumptions and inferences drawn from their own personal study of and reflection upon God's Word.

John Waddey declared, "They assume that the brother who chooses to walk the straitened and narrow way of truth (Matt. 7:14) is a 'sectarian.'" Once again, this is a complete misrepresentation. Those who abide in Truth are not "sectarians." Those who abide in tradition, however, and who equate it with Truth, are another matter altogether. I have no argument with disciples who refuse to detour from God's revealed Truth. God bless them; we need more like them. The stubborn, hard-headed traditionalist, on the other hand, I have very little respect for. This latter group assumes their way is His way. I fear they have a rude awakening coming one day! Waddey continued by asserting, "They assume (better, they hope) that those traditionalists whom they despise will soon be virtually nonexistent." I certainly do not despise my brethren who are steeped in tradition. I pity them; my heart breaks for them; I abhor the attitudes of some of their leaders ... but, I love them enough to try and bring them out of their bondage and into the joys of freedom in Christ. If they refuse to leave law and embrace grace, they will indeed dwindle in time into irrelevancy and extinction. That is not my hope, it is simply a fact ... and we already see it happening. My only hope is to sound the alarm so that they might awaken to their condition before it is too late.

"They are against the idea that Christ has only one church in which He expects all to worship and serve Him." Really?! The apostle Paul adamantly states, "There is one body" [Eph. 4:4a]. I know of NO so-called "change agent" who proclaims a multitude of bodies, but only one Head. Paul declares that Christ "is the head of the church" [Eph. 5:23] ... he didn't say "churches." I have always taught, and always will, that there is only ONE BODY. It is made up of ALL who are in Him. It is in this relationship that we exist and have our being, it is in this relationship that we serve and worship Him, and it is in this relationship that we have our unity with one another in this one body ... one family ... one church. Where do you suppose John Waddey came up with the absurd notion that we do not accept this truth? I can answer that -- it comes from his mistaken view that the group denominated "Church of Christ" IS the "one, true church." There is only ONE church -- the group John Waddey is in!! Thus, to their way of thinking, if we acknowledge as brethren those who may not worship in one of our buildings, then we thereby (they assert) endorse a "one Head/many bodies" concept of the church. This, of course, is ridiculous, and is based entirely upon a fallacious premise: that the One Body universal is ONLY to be identified with the group in the Yellow Pages denominated "Church of Christ." Waddey states, "They are against the idea that the Church of Christ is Christ's church." Yes, I will readily admit to this one! The One Body of our Lord Jesus Christ is not limited to any one group or movement, or any faction thereof. It is made up of individual disciples who are in relationship with Him. The sheep of the Good Shepherd may be found in any number of "folds" (associations), but these in no way negate the fact that they are ALL part of just One Flock! To declare any one fold to be, in its entirety and exclusively, the One Flock is nothing but sectarianism. It is equating some small part with the whole, and therein lies the root of much of our division in the Family of God. When each sibling regards himself or herself as an only child, you have a family in disarray!!

"They can tolerate most any departure from New Testament teaching regarding the church, her faith, and worship." I would challenge Mr. Waddey to provide a list of these departures. Seriously!! We will be awaiting those particulars, and as soon as he provides them, I will share them with my readers. I would genuinely like to see listed those departures from NT teaching that I tolerate. Now, let me tell you why John Waddey will never in a thousand years provide that list -- because it will consist entirely of departures from tradition rather than Truth. John knows this as well as I do, which is why I would advise you NOT to hold your breath waiting for this list. It won't be forthcoming. To dare to provide such a list would simply expose the falseness of his assertion. What truly saddens me is that if John Waddey is smart enough to know this, then why does he persist in this deception?! Again, I fear such men will have much to answer for one day.

"They are against the belief that God has told us what He wants in His worship and expects us to abide by that instruction." Again, this is false. God has indeed told us what He wants in our worship of Him -- "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" [John 4:23-24, NASB]. I would strongly urge you to carefully read Reflections #112 -- The Nature of True Worship: An Examination of John 4:19-24. What our Father has NOT done, however, is regulate every little aspect of some Sunday "worship service" (an expression never appearing in the Bible), dictating the exact parameters of the "five acts of worship." Such rigid regulation of our worshipful expression has no place in the New Covenant age (Reflections #33 & #33a -- Worship Reformation, an article of mine which first appeared in IMAGE Magazine a good many years ago while I was preaching in Honolulu, Hawaii).

Well, I'll leave the reader to acquire John's article and examine the other traits he perceives in those of us he believes are hiding behind some mask. They are equally ridiculous and misinformed. However, let me close by quoting again his final statement: "These are the men behind the mask. I find it very strange that they will draw their income from and identify themselves with a body of people in whom they see little or nothing good, and in whom they have no confidence." John Waddey has assumed that all "change agents" loathe the congregations of the Churches of Christ with whom they work and worship, while not being above "drawing a salary" from these same people. He declares we have no confidence in our fellow disciples within our faith-heritage, and that we perceive "nothing good" in these wayward descendants of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Again, I can only wonder (with no little amazement, not to mention amusement) where Mr. John Waddey gets his information!! Let me state for the record -- I absolutely love my association with my faith-heritage. I truly cherish many of our traditions, and have no desire to "cast them to the curb" (as some are convinced I am determined to do at the earliest opportunity).

I personally perceive much good within the Churches of Christ, and am excited to be a part of their evolution within the 21st century. There are going to be some very positive changes experienced by my brethren within this movement in the decades to come, and if I can contribute in some small way to that spiritual progress, then I shall feel my life's work was well-spent and very much worthwhile. More and more my brethren are emerging from their bondage to legalistic patternism and embracing the freedom they were called in Christ to enjoy. They are placing their traditions in perspective, learning that these practices are NOT to be equated with eternal Truth. There is nothing wrong with tradition; by all means, enjoy them and embrace them. However, do not elevate them to a status they were never divinely given. They are not terms of fellowship, nor are they conditions of salvation!! They are personal preferences ... nothing more! It thrills me to see my fellow disciples within this movement finally realizing this truth, for it opens the door to a greater fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ (from whom we have been far too long estranged). John, I truly harbor no ill will toward you whatsoever, and would love to have sweet fellowship with you. So, let's open a door of dialogue whereby we might discuss our differing perspectives in a rational manner, thus coming to a better appreciation of our oneness in Him. It is time for the walls to come crashing down, for the feuding among factionists to end, and for the children of God to come together once more at the table of the Father for a celebration of our unity. May we both join hands in an effort to achieve this glorious goal.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Indiana:

Brother Al, We are continually blessed, entertained and challenged by your articles. As a "child" of the Sommerite/Anti faction (I am a member of Daniel Sommer's home congregation here in Indianapolis), I can certainly appreciate from whence we've come! I have particularly enjoyed your biographies (including the one about Daniel Sommer -- Reflections #213). I wonder if perhaps you would be willing to do one soon on Homer Hailey. I am reading David Harrell's book Churches of Christ in the 20th Century, and I have really appreciated Bro. Hailey's contributions, as well as his attitude.

From a Reader in Canada:

Dear Brother Al, I was reading a comment from one of your readers in which he stated that there were some members of the Church of Christ that he just did not like. Perhaps I can offer some insight through a personal experience. I did not like a particular minister in the congregation I used to attend, and every time he would present a sermon my negative feelings for him would completely cloud my judgment regarding that sermon. Finally, one Sunday morning after he had delivered his sermon, I confronted him, beginning my conversation by saying, "I really do not like you, and I can't explain why." He then kindly gave me some background history about himself and why he was in the ministry, and as I was listening to him I realized that I had misjudged him; that he was really a warm, dedicated believer ... and when he had finished talking, I told him so. In that short period of time that I had let him open up to me about himself, all my misgivings and negative feelings about him vanished. Who knows why we sometimes instantly don't like some people. Maybe they remind us of someone who treated us badly when we were very young. Who knows what makes us tick -- obviously not ourselves! However, God does and Jesus does, and through the power of the Holy Spirit we can change.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, Your answer to the reader from Missouri, in your most recent issue of Reflections, regarding Revelation 15:2-3 ("they held harps given to them by God"), is absolutely priceless!! Thank you for your integrity with the Scriptures, and for your sound reasoning. God bless you.

From a Minister in Missouri:

Brother Al, While visiting in Oregon last year, I heard a preacher give a message on the "holy kiss." I was intrigued, and decided to do some further research. What I found on the Internet was rather confusing and contradictory. However, this preacher told me about a book by Michael Philip Penn titled "Kissing Christians," and I found it to contain a wealth of good information. If you have not yet read it, I think you might enjoy it. Keep on keeping on, brother!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, I can personally testify to the correctness of your last article. My sister-in-law was a rough person who many times insulted and offended me. We spent most of our time being mad at each other. Finally, after many years, she ended up being my wife's last living relative, and I realized that I would have to start getting along with her. So, I decided never again to get mad at her, never again to respond in kind, but rather to respond with a smile, being kind to her. The transformation in her (and in me) was remarkable!! Before she died, she stated that I was the greatest person she knew! Since experiencing this growth in maturity, I have used this approach on another estranged relative with similar results. I guess we are never too old to learn (and I'm 76).

From an Elder in Missouri:

Dear Brother Al, Very well done on your article "The Love/Like Conundrum." I have had many discussions in Bible classes about this very topic, and many more in personal conversations with folks. I agree that the ideal is for us all to grow closer to (to like) those around us, and that our love acts can accomplish that if we are sincere. Quite often just spending time with and listening to another will bring us closer, but our actions are the true power of love! I have defined love as: the willful, purposeful desire for and action toward the welfare and benefit of another without any expectation of return or reward. It is my understanding that it is this that God commands, NOT an emotion. We have incorrectly identified love as an emotion! In the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-17, I think the contrast between love and affection (at least in the original Greek of the text) is quite clear. We don't necessarily have to LIKE one another (a feeling of affection), but God does require us to LOVE one another (even our enemies). In this context, I think about God's love for us. John 3:16 says He loved the world in such a way that He sacrificed His only Son. I have a hard time thinking God truly LIKED any of us!! Even the book of Romans tells us we were "enemies" of His. No liking there. But, isn't this the very point of reconciliation?! We, who were enemies of God, are brought into friendship with Him by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus (an act of love). Again, Bro. Al, thank you for your continued efforts to proclaim the message of God's Truth. May He continue to bless you and yours.

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