by Al Maxey

Issue #459 ------- October 7, 2010
We swim, day by day, on a river of delusions. In
lucid intervals we say, "Let there be an entrance for
me into realities; I have worn the fool's cap too long."

Ralph Waldo Emerson {1803-1882}

You Can't Be Serious!
Just When You Think You've
Heard It All ... It Gets Nuttier

In the November 13, 1988 issue of The New York Times, Oleg P. Shchepin, who was serving at that time as the Soviet Union's Deputy Minister of Health, made this very insightful observation, "The main symptom of a psychiatric case is that the person is perfectly unaware that he is a psychiatric case!" Irrational behavior seems quite rational to many of those afflicted with mental illness!! Their perception of reality is skewed, and the altered state in which they perceive themselves to dwell becomes for them the norm. Many such persons have actually come to regard themselves as the only ones who are perfectly sane, so they have tremendous difficulty understanding why others don't see the world as they do. It is a very troubled state of being, and, at times, a very deadly one.

In many ways, this describes quite well the pitiful state of those who have embraced the "powerful delusion" spoken of by the apostle Paul in 2 Thess. 2:11, a condition of theological confusion so strong that otherwise intelligent men and women have come "to believe what is false." It is a delusion so deeply implanted that they are almost literally incapable of ever grasping the absurdity of their own position. It is truly frustrating trying to reason with such individuals, for they, as a direct result of this powerful delusion that has come upon them, are dwelling outside the parameters of rational thought. Such is the "reality" of those who dwell within the realm of legalism. They're prisoners of a sorry philosophical approach to biblical understanding that's not only woefully inconsistent in its application, but fundamentally flawed as an interpretive approach. The regulative principle underlying the whole CENI hermeneutic (with its twin tenets of silence and expediency) has led to a state of spiritual delusion resulting in rigid religiosity and sectarian isolationism. Perhaps the most obvious evidence of this "powerful delusion" is the pitiful attempt to argue the validity of the view that biblical "silence" is the authoritative basis for a "law of exclusion" and eternal "prohibition." Although this is absolute nonsense, and can be easily refuted, these deluded disciples will nevertheless defend their "reality" to the death, utterly oblivious to just how pathetic and pitiful a picture they present to the rest of Christendom who have not fallen prey to the "powerful delusion" of which Paul spoke.

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), 28th President of the United States, declared, "Nothing chills nonsense like exposure to the air." Although exposing the absurdities of the arguments for the so-called "law of silence" may not convince the hardcore advocates of this fallacious theory, it does serve to alert those perceptive disciples who are observing such exposure to the very real dangers of this devilish delusion. Therefore, by exposing this nonsense "to the air," many precious souls are being rescued daily from the clutches of this "state of confusion." Let me continue that "chilling" of theological nonsense by "exposing to the air" an email I received from an individual who decided to challenge my teaching on specificity versus silence. Needless to say, this brother is from the "law of silence" camp, and thus is thoroughly convinced that the church's authority for the prohibition of some practice is based upon what God never said about it, rather than upon what God has clearly and unequivocally specified through His inspired revelation to mankind. Several of the statements made by this brother, as well as the "reasoning" he employed, illustrate perfectly the power of the delusion that has overwhelmed far too many within the Body of Christ. What he presents, though, is "classic thinking" among the legalistic patternists who have embraced the foolish regulative principle. I can only hope and pray this "exposure to the air" of this nonsense will indeed bring a "chill" upon it that will slow its spread among my beloved brethren.

"I tell my child to go to the store and pick up some milk
and bread and cereal. I give him a list with those things
named and send him on his way. That verbal and written
list excludes everything else by its silence. But, if my child
'presumptuously' uses the extra money to pick up other
things, like nuts to go in the cereal, as a loving parent I
might not see that as so terrible and let it slide, but I would
instruct the child that he was not to buy what I have not put
on the list in the future, and if he does, after being told not
to, I would beat his little butt, because buying what is not
on the list shows willful disregard for my parental authority.
Once he hears me say not to go beyond what is written on
the list, the 'law of silence' is in effect."

Behold, the "logic" of the legalist. How many of you have already grasped the flaw in his "reasoning"?! It is so obvious that even a child could discern it. Yet, sadly, this brother is completely oblivious to it!! What was it that prohibited the son in this illustration from buying nuts? Was it the fact that the father said nothing about nuts? Was it the fact that nuts did not appear on his list of items to buy? Or, was it the fact that the father commanded the son to buy only what was on the list, and if he bought anything other than what had been specified, he would "beat his little butt"? Was it the father's silence that prohibited the buying of nuts? Or, was it the father's specificity in the matter? Clearly, it is the latter. The young lad's father had clearly spelled out precisely what he wanted, and even specified the penalties of buying anything else. This is not a matter of "silence;" this is a matter of precise "specificity." An officer tells his soldier, "Take this message to Sgt. Brad Taylor over in B Company. Do not give it to anyone else. If you do, I'll throw you in the brig." The soldier comes back and informs his commanding officer that he delivered the message to Lt. Ike Andrews in C Company. Upon what basis would this soldier be thrown into the brig? Was it because he violated "the law of silence"? Or, was it because he violated a specific command? For some bizarre reason, the legalists simply cannot grasp this simple distinction! They will argue until they are blue in the face that it was what the officer DIDN'T say to the soldier that counts, not what he DID say. Authority is found in the former, not the latter, they will declare. It is a perception of reality that is horribly skewed, yet for them it constitutes the theological norm. This is the realm in which they dwell. Is it any wonder their theological conclusions are equally skewed.

The reader stated, "Jesus made it clear that He did only what the Father said to do, which excluded doing anything the Father was silent about." Thus, if God said to do something, then Jesus did it. I don't think any of us have any argument with that part of this man's statement. If God commands, then we comply. If the Lord specifies, then we submit. The problem arises when we seek to bestow "prohibitive authority" upon what He didn't say! The so-called "law of silence" (or "law of exclusion") maintains that everything God said nothing about is thereby forever forbidden! It is for this reason that this brother wrote that Jesus was excluded from doing "anything the Father was silent about." IF this brother is right, and if silence does indeed prohibit, then for Jesus (or anyone else) to do what God was silent about would constitute sin. Right?! Thus, by this logic, we are forced to declare that Jesus sinned. Why? Because He drank from cups of wine during the Passover meal --- an addition of the rabbis about which God in the OT Scriptures was completely silent (Reflections #14). He also attended regularly at the synagogue, an institution established by men, and about which God was completely silent in the OT writings (Reflections #13 & #124). He also reclined during the observance of the Passover --- this also was a tradition of the later Jews, not anything mentioned by God. Shall we go on?! IF biblical silence prohibits, then Jesus violated this law, thus becoming a transgressor of law.

The brother who wrote to me also stated, "The 'law of silence' means God did not authorize what He did not speak of. The 'law of silence' is the only reason Noah used gopher wood instead of other wood." Really?! The ONLY reason Noah used gopher wood (whatever that was) instead of some other wood was because of the "law of silence"?! So, the ONLY reason Noah didn't use mahogany, for example, was because the Lord didn't mention mahogany?! Seriously?!! The "logic" of this thinking is mind-boggling!! As even a young child will tell you, the reason Noah used gopher wood is because God SPECIFIED gopher wood. The force of exclusion is tied to specificity, not silence. In the absence of any specificity, genuine silence neither prescribes nor proscribes. In other words, if God had told Noah to go build an ark, but had been totally silent about what material to use, then Noah was free to use whatever he wanted (although he would be well-advised to use common sense in the materials he selected; some materials, for example, probably wouldn't weather the water well). If silence always prohibits, however, then NO material would have been authorized, for ALL materials were left unmentioned by God. Again, this view that prohibition is tied to silence, rather than specificity, is utterly illogical. Yet, the legalists simply cannot grasp this fact.

The reader also wrote, "The 'law of silence' is the only reason men could not steady the ark of the covenant." He is referring to the death of Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:6-7). However, just as with Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10), there were a number of clear transgressions of very specific commands from the Lord that were being violated here, and for which the striking of Uzzah served as a divine warning to David and all his men (see my in-depth study of this event in Reflections #23). Once again, silence had nothing to do with it. What God had specified was being disregarded. Ironically, the reader then immediately turned around and wrote, "When it comes to 'religious matters' God has always required men to do what He said to do in the way He said to do it." Hmmmm. Sounds kinda like specificity, now doesn't it?! We are bound by what God SAID. So, by what logic is this twisted to mean we are bound by what God DIDN'T SAY?! And why is that everlasting binding only prohibitive in nature? Where did that come from? The brother further declared, "God telling us not to go beyond what is written is the 'law of silence.'" If God has revealed something to us in writing, then He wasn't silent about it, was He? Furthermore, I would love to know how many "religious" things this brother practices that are never mentioned in Scripture! Would he consider such practices "going beyond what is written"? If not, why not?! Consistency is certainly not a strong suit among the legalists. Thank God for their other humanly devised law: expediency (Reflections #261 -- The Law of Expediency: A Reflective Examination of Legalistic Patternism's Loophole).

Some of you may well be wondering, and legitimately so, why the legalists go to such lengths to try and validate such a ridiculous "law." What would motivate them to attempt such a thing? The answer is actually quite simple. It is the only device they have at their disposal that enables them to exclude all those practices that are outside the parameters of their own tradition. Those in the one cup fellowship use the "law of silence" to condemn as "unauthorized" (i.e., sinful) the use of multiple cups in the observance of the Lord's Supper. It's used to condemn fellowship halls and eating inside the church building. It is used to condemn church buildings. It is used to condemn Sunday Schools. It is used to condemn supporting orphans and widows out of the "church treasury." It is used to condemn church treasuries. It is used to condemn choirs, and also instrumental aids or accompaniment to singing in a "worship assembly." Yet in each of these cases, those groups condemned will declare their practice "expedient" ... and then turn around and condemn another group for violating God's "silence." It is lunacy!! One man's innovation is another man's expedient. Both are following an approach to Scripture devised by man and not by God. The result is sectarian squabbling and schism over matters about which God Himself never uttered a word. Wake up, brethren!! We're swatting flies on our own noses with hammers!! No wonder the world looks at us like we're village idiots!!

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

A 193 page book by Al Maxey

One Bread, One Body
An Examination of Eucharistic
Expectation, Evolution and Extremism

A 230 page book by Al Maxey

Order both books from Publish America at: or (301) 695-1707

SIGNED COPIES may be ordered directly
from the author at a reduced price. Click on
the two book titles for details on how to order.

Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Maxey, Thanks so much for the autographed copy of your book One Bread, One Body. I am still reading it. I agree with you on this subject, just as I agree with you on all subjects I've seen you write about. My heart goes out to you as you try to be a missionary to those members of the Churches of Christ who still do not understand the beautiful promises of His Grace! How sad that some people's pride will not let them submit themselves to a God who wants to save them by His work and not theirs. I hope that your health will continue to be good, and that you will have the strength to keep on keeping on!

From a Leader with New Wineskins Magazine:

Brother Al, So this gentleman of whom you spoke in your latest Reflections reviled you, persecuted you, said all manner of evil things against you falsely -- for His sake -- yet you still regard him as your brother and still love him?! You still insist on speaking the Truth in love to him?! You are still willing to show him where he is wrong, and take one or two others of us along when he refuses to listen? You are willing to do this, rather than naming him and calling him out and marking him and taking pot shots at him from a distance? I don't know how to respond to someone like you! But, I'm glad Jesus does -- "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

From a Deacon in Virginia:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I must be a strange person. I understood what you really meant in each of the seven statements for which you were accused, even though your critic did take them out of context. I think that anyone who has ever read any number of your Reflections, which I am quite sure are reflective of the many sermons and speeches that you give, would KNOW what you REALLY meant by these statements. I did. Thus, I can only encourage you with Jesus Christ's own words in Matthew 5:11-12 -- "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." God bless you for your work!!

From a Missionary in Peru:

Brother Al, I feel for you when you have to spend time responding to those who have such perfect perception of the Word of God, and who also are blessed with the ability to read another's heart so perfectly!!! Their arrogance reaches the depth of their spiritual blindness. I do commend you, however, on your graciousness toward your accusers --- but with friends like that, who needs enemies! Al, your detractors will not stop, as they will never be able to grasp your teaching until the Lord opens their eyes. On the other hand, the many messages you receive from those who have had the scales taken away from their eyes must bring great joy to your heart. The Lord says that enmity from others should be a cause for rejoicing, for so they persecuted the prophets. Your reward from the Lord will be great on the day of His appearing.

From a Professor at Lubbock Christian University:

Dear Brother Al, I want to thank you for "thinking outside the box," and for all the research you do and for your documentation, which is such an important thing (and also related to character in so many ways). It has pained me that instead of having a desire that "all men be saved," I have seen at times a primary attitude of, "Who can we cut out of our fellowship?" "Who doesn't see things our way?" I think perhaps we have turned inward in our thinking. I have looked for some time in the Scriptures for where the early Christians went out with the specific plan to "preach the church." What I find instead is that they went out preaching "Christ and Him crucified," maturing people into a fellowship that was a new society. Their emphasis seemed to be an ethical life filled with ethical choices which in turn created a lifestyle patterned after their Master's. And THIS is what made their existence significant! They were living the life of God. It has truly pained me that I have heard many a sermon that was nothing other than a one-sided debate, where the opponent didn't show up, after which the congregation departed thinking they had just heard "the gospel." God save us!! Well, I've rambled long enough. This was originally meant to be nothing more than an "I love you" note!!

From a Reader in Vermont:

Brother Al, It is always a pleasure to read your column and to know that there are godly men out there who are trying to break down these walls of separation! I'm amazed at this "ole stinkin' thinkin'" that says us Church of Christ folk are the ONLY way. Al, thanks again for your wonderful approach to LOVE itself.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, "Is This What You Believe?" was a great article that pretty much puts it all in black-and-white! I am really blessed to hear Rick Atchley preach in person every week, and also to read your articles every week!! I appreciate both of you for being men of conviction, and for standing firm in the public spotlight. Perhaps your detractors need to spend their time and energy reaching out to those who don't know Christ, instead of picking apart you and Rick!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, Another great article! I loved your reply to your accuser. Thanks!! It is interesting that the same charges leveled against you were also made against me by some who were very close friends of mine. I remember being informed by someone that one of these friends had told him what I believed on something. When he told this friend that he really didn't think I actually believed that, the other said, "I know what ----- ------ believes better than he does!!" How can you argue with someone like that?! As another great preacher has said, so say I to you -- "Soldier on!"

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, I just now finished your latest Reflections. Your thoughts have touched my heart and soul. How I wish I could put into words these Truths in the same way that you have so eloquently stated them!! May God continue to bless you in your efforts.

From a Ph.D. in Mississippi:

Dear Brother Al, After I read your article "Is This What You Believe?" there was the distinct "crack" of a bat knocking the ball out of the park!! I happen to know the good brother you've addressed in this issue of your Reflections, and I believe him to be honestly motivated ... and honestly wrong. Thanks for providing these clarifications. I can only say that I relate to every one of them, and have made the exact same arguments you have made regarding every one of them! Keep up the good work, Al. You constantly encourage, force people to think, challenge long-held ideas, and require us all to deal honestly with the text of Scripture. I can't see anything bad in that!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Dear Bro. Al, Honestly, I just don't see where anyone could criticize you for what you just articulated in your last Reflections. If they do, then it is merely a covert attempt to elevate themselves and their opinions. If there were a more affirming word than "Amen," I would use it of your last article!! Blessings, my brother.

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, Thanks for sharing your clarifications with us. I hope that the "awesome warrior" for the Lord Jesus who has made these false accusations against you will take the time to read your latest Reflections. Many of us will doubtlessly feel even closer to you after reading it. We love you, brother, and we pray for God's continued blessings on your ministry.

From a Minister in Florida:

Bro. Al, I am currently teaching the book of Revelation on Wednesday nights in the adult Bible class. I fell in love with the book while taking a course by Ian Fair back in the late 70's at Abilene Christian University. I think you had mentioned some time back that you had a PowerPoint presentation or study on Revelation that you were making available to your readers. Are you still offering this? If so, please send me ordering instructions. Also, would I be able to share these studies and PowerPoint presentations with the class if I gave you full credit?

From a Minister/Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, Thank you for your service to our country in Vietnam! Thanks as well for your service to the kingdom of God! May God richly bless you for both, as you have championed the cause of freedom for many through your efforts!!

From a Missionary in Belgium:

Brother Al, We here in Belgium (I am in Antwerp, working with Dutch-language churches in Flanders/Netherlands) are warming up in a dialogue regarding the use of musical instruments, with some exposure to guitars and Caedmon's Call type songs during our family camp in August (Ardennen Bijbelkamp). I am now trying to assemble my contributions to the discussion. I just wanted to say that each of your articles on this topic have been of great value to me, but especially the recent two or three on the "Law of Silence." I felt that your last Reflections article was especially well laid out and clear. I plan to refer people to these studies of yours at the right moment in our dialogue. We are praying here for open hearts to the light that exposes legalism in all its forms!

From an Elder in Wyoming:

Brother Al, Thank you again for your Reflections! I'm not really surprised at all that some take things you say out of context and twist them to make them say what they want them to say. That way they can claim that Al Maxey teaches things that are wrong! Keep up the good work, brother! My wife and I are thinking seriously about going to The Tulsa Workshop this coming year. If so, we'll have to make sure that we meet you face-to-face!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, THANK YOU for sharing this difficult experience with your accuser through your article "Is This What You Believe?" I was raised in the Church of Christ fellowship and was baptized at the age of nine. Though I now live in Tennessee, my upbringing was in the Gateway Church of Christ in Ruidoso, New Mexico. My great-grandfather, Tice Elkins, was one of the early preachers there in Alamogordo, NM. Thus, our family heritage and tradition has been steeped in the "non-denominational" teaching of this fellowship. It was at a very young age that I began to doubt and question the "one true church" doctrine, and for the very reasons you have explained in your recent Reflections. The "rules of law" choked the life from the living Word and the freedom in Christ that I knew were intended for me as a believer. I admire your desire to resolve the misrepresentation and judgment of this brother, and also your ability to address the accusations with specific explanations. There are many of us who have experienced this same type of attack, and you have been an example of how to strive for peace! By the way, I know Terry Rush and Rick Atchley, as well as many others who have experienced such harsh judgments. They too, like you, strive for peace, and yet, like you, do not compromise Truth! Again, thank you for sharing!

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Bro. Al, Matthew 7:16 tells us, "By their fruit you will recognize them." You have born fruit that has truly nourished many a soul throughout your ministry. Compared to the hatred and divisiveness of the legalists and partisans within our faith-heritage group, your actions speak louder than their words with respect to just who has a Christian spirit and who doesn't. Anyone who genuinely knows you, Al, and who has met you and dined with you (as I have), and who has seriously examined your writings, teachings and beliefs, can attest to the fact that you and Shelly are bearing the "Fruit of the Spirit." Also, by your fruit I know you are a patriot, because you have risked your life in Vietnam in service to your country (you and I share that bond). I also know you are dedicated to a higher cause, because no one will readily suffer ridicule and personal attacks like you have simply for the sake of vanity. You have an educated mind, which tells me you are not one content to merely accept as truth what someone else says. You are a critical thinker, not just a surface thinker. You have a loving spirit, and your conduct toward your enemies is one that I envy, for you've developed a self-discipline and a control of your temper in the face of their taunting that still eludes me from time to time. Are you perfect? I doubt it. I'm sure all we need to do is ask Shelly!! However, I can say with complete confidence that your fruit bears witness to a strong and sturdy tree in which your true friends can find shelter, safety and strength. Keep right on blossoming, brother. And remember: there are only three kinds of men in this world -- wolves, sheep and sheepdogs. You, my brother, are a sheepdog!!

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, I find it really sad that you had to "spell out" what you believe because some are so eager to accuse you of "false doctrine." I praise God that you are in the preaching business and not in the judging business. We have far too many harsh, critical judges and not enough men who study the Word for ITS truths, rather than to back up THEIR beliefs. Keep up the great work that you are doing. We thank you for the example you have been to so many in your writings and in your life.

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, Please add me to your mailing list for Reflections. I, too, am interested in studying and understanding better what is expected of me as a Christian. I live in an area that has been dominated by conservative congregations for many years. This is now changing here, and I am part of the change, but I would like to better have an answer to those who question me. Thank you very much!

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Dear Brother Al, I really appreciated your Reflections titled "Is This What You Believe?" I am sure that we disagree on some issues, but on the ones you discussed within your article I couldn't have expressed my position any better than you did. My fellow elders and I were the target of a similar attack by a couple of legalists in our congregation as they were (gratefully) on their way out. They totally exaggerated and mischaracterized our position, and then they wouldn't listen when we tried to correct their misperceptions. I guess the real problem with many legalists is a judgmental, self-righteous spirit, which is sad indeed.

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