by Al Maxey

Issue #576 ------- June 6, 2013
A mugwump is a person
educated beyond his intellect

Horace Porter (1837-1921)
slogan from the Cleveland-Blaine
presidential campaign of 1884

Mutton-Munching Mugwumps
The "Apostasy" of "Educated Intellectuals"

Okay, I know what you're thinking: What on earth is a mugwump?! It sounds like some kind of creature from a J. R. R. Tolkien novel, but in fact it is a political term that has been around for many generations, and is derived from the Algonquin Indian word "mugquomp," which meant a person of great importance; a "great chief." It appeared in John Eliot's Massachusetts Bible (a Bible for American Indians) as early as 1663. The spelling was changed to its present form around 1830, however, and it was used as a powerful pejorative in the presidential election of 1884. By this time it had lost its significance as "great leader," and had come to refer to those who criticized and/or bolted from a particular political party and its platform. Specifically, it was used against those Republican political activists who rejected their party's candidate for President (James G. Blaine), as they were offended by his corrupt financial dealings, and supported instead the Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland (who ultimately won the election, many feel as a result of this defection of key Republicans). These "mugwumps" were largely white Protestant males from the Northeast, college educated, and members of the professional class. Thus, their defection from their party was significant. Philosophically, they were men who valued principles over politics; idealistic reformers who despised political patronage [Encyclopedia of American Political Parties and Elections, p. 233].

The term "mugwump" suggested to many the idea of a person trying to present two faces to the public: his "mug" (face) was pointed in one direction, but his "wump" (rump, rear) was pointed the other direction. Thus, such persons were thought to be somewhat "two-faced" in their politics: they remained within the Republican party, but they supported the Democratic candidate. They neither fully left the former party nor fully supported the latter party; they were men facing both ways at the same time -- mugwumps. Thus, one never really knew which "face" truly represented their thinking, as both "mugs" and "wumps" were being presented for public view simultaneously. The result was, at least in the minds of the Republicans during the 1884 election, that this "apostasy" of these "educated intellectuals" did great damage to their cause and ultimately led to the defeat of their candidate. The so-called "mugwumps," however, saw it much differently. Although they were willing to remain within the Republican party (as they embraced the ideals of this party more than those of the Democrats), nevertheless they refused to mindlessly parrot the party line or overlook abuses within the party. Their loyalty was to the American people and the common good, rather than to any one party, although they remained within one particular party as a base of operations, and with the goal of reforming that party to bring it in line with what they perceived to be nobler ideals. Needless to say, they were rarely viewed favorably by those whose loyalties were more to their own political party than to the people of the nation.

Over the years, this term has found its way into religious circles as well. In a published sermon titled "Don't Be A Mugwump Christian," delivered in June, 2011 by David Rigg, an evangelical pastor with the group Gospel Chapel, he stated, "Unfortunately, there are many 'Mug Wumps' in the churches these days. They sit with their 'wumps' in a church pew, but their 'mugs' are in the world." However, the term is primarily used, in a religious context, by those who are party loyalists to condemn those who remain within their particular religious group, yet who seek to reform that group and who also support association with and acceptance of disciples of Christ outside their own denomination, sect, faction or party. Some, therefore, regard them as deserters, while others might see them as reformers; as idealists whose loyalty is to Truth rather than tradition, to a Person rather than a party. A hardened partyist absolutely cannot abide any individual who refuses to parrot the party particulars. Daring to think for oneself -- to think independently of the party -- is anathema! And to remain within the party, seeking to reform it, while embracing persons and positions and practices outside the party, is guaranteed to bring down the full wrath of the party powers upon such "mugwumps," who these partyists see only remaining within the party fold for the sole purpose of "feeding upon the flock."

There are a number of us within the group denominated Churches of Christ who have chosen to remain within this fellowship, and to work within the parameters of its religious tradition, but who have come to realize that the borders of the universal One Body of Christ extend far beyond the walls of our own buildings and beliefs. Thus, we embrace as beloved brethren many outside our faith-heritage, yet love those within our faith-heritage enough to remain among them and work for reform. The party loyalists, most of whom are also rather hardened legalistic patternists, regard this as little more than "mugwumpery," and they are quick to express their condemnation of any such "apostate" among them. They become especially vocal when any of their pet perceptions are challenged (with patternism being one of the primary ones). I have long maintained that there IS a "pattern" revealed to us by our God, but that it is a Person (Jesus) rather than a long list of particulars pertaining to our practice (most of which deal with the so-called "worship service," and what may or may not happened therein). As the words of the old hymn by William Ogden suggest so beautifully, "HE the great example is, and pattern for me" [Where He Leads I'll Follow, written in 1885]. Unfortunately, the legalists have set Christ aside as the Pattern, and instead search the Scriptures to try and determine the particulars of some elusive "pattern" pertaining to the practice of the early disciples. Does the pattern allow for Bible classes for different age groups? Does it allow for multiple cups in the observance of the Lord's Supper? Does it allow for instruments accompanying singing? Is the "pattern" violated if we show a video during Communion? May we eat in the church building? May we even have a church building? And on and on and on! The sad truth is: not even the patternists can agree among themselves as to what constitutes this "pattern." Indeed, there is no more divided group of religionists than the legalistic patternists, all of whom have their own version of "the pattern," and each of whom denounce the others for not having the same list of specifics. For those who want to read more about this whole blight upon the Body, I have scores of in-depth articles on this on my Topical Index page under the headings "Patternism," "Law of Silence," and "Requesting Legalism's List." Also, I would refer you to my published debate on this topic: The Maxey-Broking Debate on Patternism. I would also urge you to read the many good articles in the March, 2010 issue of New Wineskins dealing with Patternism (in addition to my article "Pondering Patternism," there are also articles by Edward Fudge, Jay Guin, Tim Woodruff, Royce Ogle, Charme Robarts and others). I believe you will find all of these studies very eye-opening.

One of those who is particularly peeved by my teaching against legalistic patternism is Carrol Ray Sutton, who is the preacher for the East Albertville Church of Christ in Albertville, Alabama, which is a small Non-Institutional ("anti") congregation. Sutton has been the preacher there for 50 years (arriving in August of 1963). In the February, 2013 issue of his publication "The Instructor" [volume 50, number 2], in an article titled "Is There A Pattern?," Sutton condemns several of us by name as "false teachers" and "former Christians" [p. 2]. He also quotes from some of my writings, but doesn't tell his readers how to find those writings so they might read them for themselves and determine if his assertions are correct (which is a typical tactic of such critics). In the April, 2013 issue [volume 50, number 4] of this same publication (in an article titled "If There Is No Pattern"), Sutton continues his attack, saying, "When apostates (and other false teachers) like Edward Fudge, Al Maxey, Max Lucado, Leroy Garrett, Rubel Shelly, Randy Harris, Royce Ogle, Jay Guin, Lynn Anderson, etc. contend that there is no pattern in the New Testament for us to follow in order to please God and thus be saved eternally, I am made to wonder how any honest, truth-seeking person would pay any attention to what they have to say" [p. 2]. Mr. Sutton then boldly affirms: "Every sincere, honest-hearted, God-fearing, truth-seeker should be able to understand that the New Testament IS indeed and without question the inspired pattern for men who desire to please God!" [p. 2, emphasis his].

The legalistic patternists will invariably insist that "the NT" is our "pattern," but when pressed to provide the specific particulars of this soul-saving pattern, they will almost to a man refuse to provide that list. "Read it for yourself and figure it out," will be their advice. This is a dishonest dodge, for they know only too well that if they provide their list of salvific specifics, some other legalistic patternist, whose list differs with theirs, will rise to confront them. Thus, in close to 40 years of ministry, dealing with this mindset repeatedly, I have NEVER been able to get a single legalistic patternist to provide the definitive list of the particulars of "The Pattern." Yet, they will insist that unless this list is followed precisely one cannot be saved. Sutton implies that we are "mugwumps," however. Notice what he writes: "Some people who claim 'there is no pattern' will then say that 'Jesus is our pattern.' It can't be both ways. Either there is a pattern or there is not a pattern! If there is not a pattern, then Jesus is not our pattern! Which is it? If Jesus is our pattern, then without question, there is a pattern!" [p. 2]. None of us are denying that there is a "pattern" (if one wants to use that term). What we deny is that it consists of legalistic particulars pertaining to one's religious practice (particulars derived from human deductions as to what early disciples may or may not have done in a different culture and a different time). Yes, we are to imitate HIM, but to seek salvation by imitating THEM is where we (the "mugwumps") must part company with our misguided brethren. Sutton writes, "These 'educated intellectuals' insist that it is both ways! They then wonder why we do not take them seriously when they claim they believe the Scriptures! Who can? Either there is a pattern or there is not a pattern! Which is it according to these apostates and other false teachers? If there is a pattern (and they say 'Jesus is our Pattern') then why do they speak and write of 'the plague of patternism'?" [p. 2]. Again, the "plague" is in elevating human practices to the level of divine precepts, and suggesting the former (drawn from the deductions of mere men) constitute a pattern upon which rests our very salvation. Our salvation is in HIM -- HE the great example is, and pattern for me. No, Mr. Sutton, there is no "mugwumpery" here, a fact which even those who are not "educated intellectuals" should be able to easily discern.

Sutton closes his article with these thoughts: "Without question there is an inspired pattern we must follow in order to have true faith to be saved by, to walk by, to live by and to be able to please God! Are you following the inspired pattern? If you are not, you should be! ... In order for us to know that we have eternal life and that we may continue to believe on the name of the Son of God, it is absolutely essential that we have and continue to follow an inspired pattern. ... Are you willing to accept the logical consequences of the position of apostates and others who contend that 'there is no pattern in the New Testament' for us to follow? I am not! They are blind! False Teachers! It would indeed be a sad day for all of us if there is no pattern! But there is an inspired pattern in the New Testament! Follow it!" [p. 4]. Of course, he never once tells you what this pattern is (no list of specific particulars are ever provided). But, hey ... it's in the NT, so go find it for yourself. Just make sure you "get it right," for your very salvation depends on it. Weird! If salvation is in following some elusive pattern that we must each somehow deduce perfectly from the writings of the NT canon, then I fear few will find it (either the pattern or salvation). However, if we are "saved by grace, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works" (Eph. 2:8-9), this is a reality upon which we can find genuine hope. This is Good News. May God open our eyes to His matchless grace, and preserve us from those who would lead us away from Christ Jesus to "a different gospel -- which is really no gospel at all" (Gal. 1:6-7).

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Alabama:

Enclosed is my check for a signed copy of your book Immersed By One Spirit. Thank you, Al, for your Reflections and books, but most of all for your love for the Lord and for the Truth. While I don't always agree with everything you say, I always find your words thought-provoking and challenging, and I know that your beliefs come from personal study and prayer, with an honest desire to seek and teach only the Truth. I treasure your other two books (I have purchased both in the past) and look forward to this new one.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Thank you so much for your Reflections ministry. It has truly helped me in my freeing faith. Honestly, I'm not even sure how I got turned on to you and your work; I think it was just a Google search about women's roles, so it must have been the Holy Spirit leading me to your web site. But, WOW, has it ever helped me!! Thank you! I hope you never get tired of helping others. Also, thank you for responding to my private emails, especially since you haven't ever met me (and probably never will this side of heaven). Enclosed is my check for your audio CD of your class Law to Liberty (I'm really looking forward to listening to this!) and your special CD offer The First Decade Collection. Thank you again, brother.

From a Reader in South Africa:

How can I get a copy of your audio CD Law to Liberty here in South Africa? The price of the CD is really affordable, and I appreciate you sharing this study with the public, but I know that mailing it out of the US to here (plus customs issues) is prohibitively expensive! Can you suggest something for us who live abroad and who want to have this CD?

From a Reader in Arizona:

I am really excited about the lessons you taught in your Sunday morning class -- Law to Liberty. Enclosed is my check for this CD. I have had many people ask questions on this subject, and I know some things have changed under grace, so I look forward to your lessons. I really enjoy your weekly Reflections and I use some of them in our small group studies here. May God continue to bless you and your family in the work you are doing so that many more Christians may find freedom in Christ.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Please send us the Law to Liberty CD, for which our check is enclosed. Also, thank you very much for your Reflections. We enjoy them and refer to them often. I hope you have a great vacation this month!

From a Reader in California:

I would like to order your audio Sermons CDs for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, as well as the corresponding PowerPoint CDs. Please find my check enclosed to cover the cost of the CDs and shipping. Thank you!

From a Minister in Tanzania, East Africa:

I just listened to your wonderful sermon "Reflecting on the Golden Rule" which is on your church's Sermons Page. It was so uplifting. If you are ever able, we would love to have you come to our congregation and conduct trainings and seminars for us. We need these precious teachings here, too! May God bless your efforts for Him.

From a Minister/Author in Nebraska:

I just read your article "Quoting Non-Canonical Texts: Is it a Sin to use Extra-Biblical Texts in our Preaching & Teaching?" (Reflections #575) and had to grin at your critic's comments about where some of your quotes come from. The vast majority of the quotes I post in my writings have a biblical lesson behind them. Yet, every week I'll have some individual (mostly preachers) who will send me some insane note chastising me for not just quoting Scripture in my posts and writings. I am afraid there are some among us who would not be able to recognize a good lesson if it had teeth and reached up and bit them!!

From a Minister in Texas:

I have had many discussions with Mr. John Waddey (exposed in Reflections #574 -- Sectarians in Blinders: Ridiculous Religious Ranting) over the years, and I believe that he actually does damage to the kingdom of God. I do believe that such militants need to be faced from time to time. I have often struggled, however, with how to do this in a manner in accordance with the spirit of Jesus, but even the Lord Himself was quite direct with His religious opposers at times (not to mention with His disciples on occasion). I have always believed that there is a time and place to "stand up to the bully" in order to promote the common good and be a blessing to those who might otherwise be persuaded by such a one. I appreciate your efforts in all areas of life and ministry, brother. You are a great encouragement to those genuinely seeking the Lord's will and an understanding of His Word.

From a Minister in Washington:

I have recently read a couple of your Reflections articles and have found them delightfully authentic, especially your article regarding Christians serving in the military (Reflections #232 -- Christians Bearing Arms). Like you, I hate war, but it is a sad reality that we must face, as evil must be confronted. It must be met head-on, spiritually first and foremost, and then physically when necessary. Your biblical examples were clear and concise, and I very much share your convictions on this topic. Thank you also for serving our country in time of war! The fact that you and others had to come home from Vietnam under the cover of darkness is an outrage!! I appreciate you, sir, and all others who, like you, have given so much for the people of this land. May your/their sacrifice never be forgotten or overlooked.

From a Minister in Illinois:

I don't always find the time to read your lengthy articles, but I'm glad I read this one: Reflections #574 -- Sectarians in Blinders: Ridiculous Religious Ranting. As a minister of the Gospel for 60+ years, I can say a hearty AMEN to what you wrote! Sectarianism is alive and well in our churches.

From a Program Director at Abilene Christian University:

I just discovered your Reflections while reading the most recent issue of New Wineskins magazine (which I have been reading only occasionally). I appreciate your thoughtful discussion of issues that have disturbed our fellowship for many years. I want to continue the journey of understanding Truth that I have been on for my entire life. So, please add me to your mailing list for your weekly Reflections articles. Thanks for your contributions.

From a Leader with Eastern European Missions:

Dear brother, again let me express my deep appreciation for your mighty ministry. Your library of Reflections articles dating from Dec. 1, 2002 to the present contains an amazing encyclopedia of knowledge! I give thanks to our Father for blessing you with "the gift of the pen." I keep going back to your writings for refreshing! They rekindle this 83-year-old heart. God has indeed charged you with a wonderful ministry. Thank you for your surrender to that calling.

From a Reader in Louisiana:

I'm glad to see that you took a break for the month of May and went on vacation! I know you can't do that in every area of your ministry, but at least you can realize some rest. Isn't it interesting that those fellows who condemn you most always speak in generalities?! They don't bother to say what the "hellish things you teach" are, but just condemn you wholesale. I wonder: could it be that if they did point out one thing they differ with you on, they know they could not defend their own point of view? I find that to be true of my own critics as well, most of whom just damn me to hell ... period! Keith Brenton even sent me an email several weeks ago and said that I now have the distinction of having received the most rude comment any New Wineskins writer has ever received! Oh well. Brother, I also want to say that I very much appreciate your non-conformist (though completely biblical) teaching on baptism (Immersed By One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice). I know of brothers whom I have concluded agree with your position, but they just can't bring themselves to actually say it outloud!! (LOL)

From an Elder in Washington:

Regarding your critics' concern over your quotes from extra-biblical sources -- if this bothers them so much, then how can they sing from our hymnals?! Many of the lyrics in the hymnals we use are actually poems written by men and women outside of, and even years prior to, our "Restoration Movement." Some are written by Methodists, Presbyterians and Anglicans. Oh, if only these legalists could/would remove their blinders!

From a Reader in Georgia:

"Quoting Non-Canonical Texts" was another informative and enlightening issue of Reflections. I couldn't help but think that some object to the use of secular quotes in preaching and teaching, but they don't hold that same objection when it comes to singing hymns. One can't teach with extra-biblical texts, but it's okay to worship God with them?! I'm not sure people think things through much anymore!! Blessings, my friend. Enjoy your well-earned vacation time.

From a Reader in Texas:

I hope you have a wonderful vacation, and I look forward to the work you will do in the future when you return to your Reflections. They have continued to be a blessing to me. I appreciate your quotes regardless of where they come from, because you are using them to make a point. I fully believe that divine inspiration of writings has never stopped, and firmly believe that what you write is inspired by our Lord. When I read your words, I am hearing the words of Christ. Yet, you are not trying to bring another gospel, but simply focus our minds back on the true gospel message of Jesus. May God richly bless your work against "the other gospel" (Gal. 1:6f) that too many of us grew up with!

From a Minister in Texas:

Your latest Reflections (Reflections #575 -- Quoting Non-Canonical Texts: Is it a Sin to use Extra-Biblical Texts in our Preaching & Teaching?) is once again right on target. We use all of God's inspiration to inspire others to find Him in their lives. A question I have been pondering lately is: why do we think God would only inspire first century (and OT) writers, but not writers today? The idea that our God is limited by time or place or persons seems to be a very limiting perspective of our eternal Creator. I prefer to see God's inspirational hand in a variety of works, while retaining our base document as the foundation of our faith. Why deny Him the ability to inspire people today through modern writings and other media sources? We can always "test the spirits," just as we do with many of the first century writings that are "no longer relevant to us." Thanks for your continued musings, and I pray you have a great vacation.

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