Issue #620 -------
June 6, 2014
So long as I am acting from duty and con-
viction, I am indifferent to taunts and jeers.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
There is an old Arab saying: "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on." When I think of this proverbial saying, I'm reminded of David, who had to endure the caustic criticisms and condemnations of Shimei, who "pelted David with stones" and "was cursing and showering him with dirt," yet David chose to simply ignore him, even though his men wanted to slay Shimei, saying instead, "It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today" (2 Sam. 16:5-14). David and his men kept on moving with purpose down the road, while the critic cast his curses (and stones and dirt) their way. Yes, when a caravan passes by, the dogs often bark; but the caravan keeps moving forward. So too must the servants of the Savior when they suffer the "slings and arrows" of Satanic resistance.
During much of the early part of my public ministry I must admit that I did not hesitate to "go after" and "mix it up" with those who felt "called of God" to oppose and oppress me. In fact, to my shame, I must admit that I enjoyed the skirmish and took some delight in defeating them in debate. I guess I have mellowed somewhat with age, for I no longer find any satisfaction in such "biblical brawling" with these "rowdy religionists." I find it far more productive to simply proclaim Truth, and confront falsehood, than to go after those hurling stones and dirt from the sidelines. Nehemiah came to the same conclusion while being hounded by those who opposed his rebuilding of the walls around the city of Jerusalem. They sought to bait him into debate, thus effectively hindering his work, but he replied to them, "Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" (Neh. 6:3). "Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer" (vs. 4). Yes, the caravan moves on; no barking hounds will deter it. That being said, there are nevertheless times when an occasional comment about these detractors is in order. Paul called attention to his critics a number of times, pointing out the flaws in their thinking, as well as defending his teaching and ministry. Sadly, as Paul told Titus, there are times when the disturbers of the disciples "must be silenced" (Titus 1:11) for the good of the Family of God.
Unfortunately, I have a number of Shimei-like critics who rarely miss a chance to cast some caustic criticism my way (although they are far more prone to talk about me than to me). Some of these are even people I dearly love, which makes this all the more tragic. I know well how David felt when he wrote, "If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God" (Psalm 55:12-14). My spiritual journey over the past four decades of public ministry has been one of great discovery and personal growth. Many of my understandings have changed dramatically, and, as a result, so has the emphasis in my ministry. Although this has been well-received by many within my faith-heritage (which is also experiencing positive change), it has NOT been well-received by some who are less than pleased with "where my caravan is headed." One of those who are running alongside the pathway, hands filled with rocks and dirt, is Olan Hicks. I have known Olan and his family for many, many years, and he even visited here a number of years ago and played his guitar for me, and he and Barbara (his wife) sang country songs for me. It was just the three of us in his RV. He wrote the Foreword for my first book (Down, But Not Out), and I have enjoyed visiting with him in person during the last several Tulsa Workshops (at this most recent workshop in Tulsa, in late March, I spent a considerable amount of time discussing with him his concerns, but was not able to dissuade him from his course of public condemnation, even though his own daughter came up to me afterward and thanked me for trying). Thus, I left it in the hands of God, and my caravan moved on down the road, traveling the path the Spirit of the Lord has laid out before me.
Last week, Olan mailed out another of his many "newsletters" to his readers (almost all of which, in recent months, have been devoted to exposing the "heresies" of Al Maxey). In this latest mailout, which was titled "The Rescuers" (if you would like to have a copy, I'm sure Olan would send you one; contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org), he targeted four people for rebuke: an atheist by the name of Adrian Swindler, and then Edward Fudge, Al Maxey and Buff Scott, Jr. I don't know Mr. Swindler, but I happen to be good friends with both Edward and Buff. Olan is concerned that each of us, in our own unique way, is "trying to destroy faith" and "trying to destroy the church." He stated that each of us saw ourselves as "rescuers" of misguided souls, but in fact we were nothing more than "robbers" who were stealing their very salvation. In this article he wrote, "I met Al Maxey about 25 years ago, and I thought we had similar views. Back then he wrote a book on MDR. I wrote the Foreword for it because it is a good book. But it turns out that Al is obsessed with a mission of 'rescuing' Christians from the doctrine of Christ as written in the Bible. He says God's covenant is not a covenant of laws but of grace, opposite to what God said in Heb. 8:10. So he presumes to 'veto' virtually every doctrinal statement in Scripture, especially those about obedience. To this I say, 'You are not rescuing Christians, you are robbing them of what 2 John 9 says is essential to salvation." A preacher from California, whom I also know, responded to Olan's article, and on Tuesday, June 3, Olan wrote him back (sending me a copy), and in the course of that response Olan stated that Edward, Buff and I "are enemies of everything about the way of God." He also wrote that "he (Al Maxey) says over and over that his goal is to rescue people from the concept of keeping commandments. He (Al Maxey) said openly, 'I no longer consider myself church of Christ.' ... So each of them opposes God in a different way." Through our collective work, Olan insists, "every phase of the way of God is under attack."
Buff Scott, Jr., in his periodical "Reformation Rumblings" (mailed out to subscribers on June 1st), had a brief response titled "Olan Hicks Is At It Again." He addressed Olan's criticism of him, and then observed, "The problem with Olan's diagnosis of me is that, as usual, he distorts and twists my position -- a behavioral pattern that has been following him for decades. ... My brother has had a double burr under his saddle since he and I authored a book on The Authentic Church vs. The Apostate Church in 2007. ... I wish brother Hicks no harm, and I do not question his sincerity, but I must say that in all of my life I have never been so misrepresented and my philosophies so distorted." Buff has expressed my own sentiments quite well. I most certainly have no ill will toward Olan; quite the contrary: I dearly love this brother and am very appreciative of the fabulous work he has done in sharing a grace-centered view of the whole divorce/remarriage issue. At the same time, it is imperative that one occasionally "set the record straight" when one's teaching is being publicly misrepresented.
Olan wrote to the preacher in California that I have stated over and over my "goal is to rescue people from the concept of keeping commandments." Actually, I have never said this. What I have said, and what I have been teaching for many years, is that our salvation is not based on law-keeping or command-keeping. In other words, salvation is not works-based, but faith-based. We are saved by grace through faith, not of anything we ourselves have done (or ever could do). That is not to say our God does not have expectations of His people. He clearly does. We are commanded to love one another, for example. That is a command I believe we are to keep. We are to be merciful; we are to be forgiving; we are to be benevolent; we are to share our faith. My point, however, is that these are not things we must do in order to BE saved; these are things we do because we ARE saved. They are faith reflectors, not salvation receptors. Paul tells us, "If a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law" (Gal. 3:21). Keeping law, or keeping commands, is not the means whereby one acquires life. Life is a gift of grace to those who have faith! As His redeemed people, though, we certainly seek daily, with the aid of the indwelling Spirit, to live according to His will to His glory! My goal, therefore, is to rescue people from the false concept that salvation is to be found in our efforts to keep law and obey commands, rather than embracing our Savior in simple, trusting faith! By all means: keep His commands (which, by the way, are few, and which are not burdensome), but also be aware of what this does, and does not, accomplish. We do not love Him so that He will love us; rather, we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:10, 19). We do not engage in good works so that we might be saved; we are saved so that we might engage in good works (Eph. 2:8-10).
Olan further stated that I have said openly, "I no longer consider myself church of Christ." That is a true statement; I have indeed stated this openly. But, what is the context of this statement? What is meant by this statement? Does it suggest I have abandoned the Lord's universal One Body? Does it mean I have no use for His Church? Far from it. What it means is: I have abandoned religious partisanship and sectarianism. I will no longer seek to bring people into the ranks of any one particular religious institution or denomination, but rather into fellowship with the Lord Himself. Thus, I preach the Christ of the Church, rather than the "Church of Christ" (I proclaim a Person, not a Party). The universal One Body of Christ is much vaster than any one particular movement, or any faction thereof. I was raised up within that splinter group of the Stone-Campbell Movement known today as "Churches of Christ" (which name may be found in the Yellow Pages of the phone book). That denomination is still the group with which I am affiliated. However, I am a member of the vast, universal ONE BODY of Jesus Christ, which is most certainly NOT restricted to any one little named sect. It is in THIS sense that I declare I will no longer limit myself by so narrow a self-characterization as that of any named group. Rather, I wear HIS name, and I am in fellowship with ALL who do the same, regardless of their affiliations or associations within Christendom.
Olan wrote, "Al is obsessed with a mission of 'rescuing' Christians from the doctrine of Christ as written in the Bible." He seems to comment on this further when he states, 'You are not rescuing Christians, you are robbing them of what 2 John 9 says is essential to salvation." This passage speaks of those who "abideth not in the doctrine of Christ" (KJV). The question that must be answered, of course, is: what specifically IS this "doctrine of Christ" from which I am supposedly obsessed with "rescuing" Christians?! I have dealt with this in quite some depth in one of my early articles (Reflections #84), which I would urge the reader to review. I believe one will discover very quickly that I have NOT, in any way, discounted the doctrine of Christ. What I have taken exception to over the years are the many dogmatic addendums to this doctrine of Christ, as should all genuine disciples of Christ. There are many who are woefully confused about the concepts of doctrine and gospel, and this also has led to unnecessary condemnation of their brethren. For example, in his article Olan states that Maxey, Fudge and Scott are "trying to delete doctrine from the Gospel." Indeed, Al Maxey, according to Olan, "presumes to 'veto' virtually every doctrinal statement in Scripture, especially those about obedience." This is a ridiculous assertion, yet some will undoubtedly accept it as fact simply because Olan said it. For those still able to think and reason, I would recommend a reading of my study: "The Gospel-Doctrine Debate" (Reflections #117). I think you will find it enlightening.
Let me notice one final statement made by Olan Hicks in his above mentioned article: "He (Al Maxey) says God's covenant is not a covenant of laws but of grace, opposite to what God said in Heb. 8:10." I do indeed believe that the new covenant is not one which consists of and is characterized by LAW, but is a covenant of GRACE! In fact, I find it almost incredible that anyone would suggest that we today, who live within the new covenant (testament), are UNDER LAW. Good grief!! -- go read the writings of the apostle Paul. And then to suggest that such a view is "opposite to" what is found in Hebrews 8:10?!! Wow! This reveals a level of ignorance that is enormous! Therefore, it behooves us to take time, in the remainder of this current Reflections, to examine this passage a bit more closely. The writer of this epistle (who most likely was not Paul, but may well have been Apollos -- Reflections #128) is seeking to help his readers realize how vastly superior the new covenant is to the old. In the 8th chapter, the writer gives a lengthy quote from the prophet Jeremiah: Heb. 8:8-12 is taken from Jer. 31:31-34. A key to the interpretation of this passage is provided at the very beginning: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers" (Jer. 31:31-32a; Heb. 8:8b-9a). In what ways will it be different? Several are mentioned in the text, but the first of them (and the one to which Olan specifically referred) is: "I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts" (Jer. 31:33b; Heb. 8:10b).
What got Olan's attention here is the term "laws." That settles it -- the new covenant is a covenant of LAW. Right?! Of course, this then begs the question: how is this different from the old covenant? Part of the solution to this apparent dilemma is in understanding the term "law," and what it conveys in its various covenantal contexts. I spent quite a bit of time doing just that in my Sunday morning adult Bible class (April 7 to May 5, 2013) titled From Law To Liberty, which was recorded and is available on CD for any who would like a copy (just click on the link for ordering information). This is very biblically based, and it will greatly challenge your thinking with regard to the concept of LAW as it applies to our covenantal relationship with God. The old covenant was characterized by a great many regulatory precepts governing various ceremonial activities, as well as food and dress laws, and legislation on virtually every other aspect of daily living (including worship). Indeed, the very first verse of the very next chapter in Hebrews says: "Now the first covenant had regulations for worship..." (Heb. 9:1). The writer hastens to state, however, that these were "external regulations" that were only applicable "until the time of the new order" (vs. 10, NIV). In other words, the rules and regulations of ceremonial law would cease; they were only temporary; they would no longer apply under the new covenant! God was moving His people from religion to relationship. Under the old covenant the people were governed by religious precepts carved in tablets of stone; under the new covenant this would change: they would be guided by spiritual principles implanted within their hearts and minds. They would thus be Spirit-led, not Law-bound. "But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit" (Rom. 7:6, ESV).
Just as we are now in a new covenant, so we are now under new "law" (if I may use that term). This, however, is NOT a system of rules and regulations strictly governing every aspect of our religious ritualism "according to the pattern," but a Royal Law (a Holy Spirit guidance from within) that imparts the principles of LOVE into our hearts and minds, transforming us into the very image of Jesus, who is the personification of divine love. Yes, we are under "law" in the new covenant, but "it will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers," says the Lord God. It will be vastly different. Indeed, when we are led by the Spirit to evidence the fruit of the Spirit in our daily lives, "against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:23b -- see Reflections #36 for an explanation of this statement). Yes, in this new covenant we are under "law" -- The Royal Law = LOVE (James 2:8)! This is the "law" that is now written on our hearts and which is in our minds. ALL "law" is now, in this new covenant, summed up in and reduced to a simple principle: we are to love as He loves (Rom. 13:8-10)! Please carefully and prayerfully consider my study titled: "Pondering The Royal Law" (Reflections #579).
No, Olan, Hebrews 8:10 is NOT a refutation of my teaching that "God's covenant is not a covenant of laws but of grace." Indeed, this passage confirms my teaching! The new covenant is not about rules and regulations and restrictions; it is about showing LOVE in our attitudes and actions, all of which is aided by the powerful leading of the indwelling Spirit of God. Jeremiah and the Hebrew writer are telling us that "it will be a covenant without ceremonial, ritual, civil and formal laws. All outward regulations will be discarded" [R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 266]. "The people's life would be reconstituted on a new basis, and a new relationship between them and their God would be brought into being" [Dr. F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 172]. Dr. Albert Barnes, in his classic work "Notes on the Bible," declares, "The laws of the Hebrews pertained mainly to external rites and ceremonies; the laws of the new dispensation would relate particularly to the inner man, and be designed to control the heart. The grand uniqueness of the Christian system is that it regulates the conscience and the principles of the soul rather than external matters. It prescribes few external rites, and those are exceedingly simple, and are merely the proper expressions of the pious feelings supposed to be in the heart." Let me conclude with this powerful thought: "The child is controlled by positive external precept; the man by moral and spiritual principle. During the pupilage of the Church, the divine laws were written 'in tables of stone;' but now that the Church has come to manhood, they are inscribed 'in tables that are hearts of flesh' (2 Cor. 3:3). The ascendancy of ritualism in any Christian Church means, therefore, a return to the 'childish things' of the old covenant: a going back to the swaddling clothes of religious babyhood. What, then, is modern ritualism but a return to the dim vision of the old economy? It is the use of candles -- sometimes literally -- in broad daylight" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 21: Hebrews, p. 214].
From a Reader in Georgia:
Thanks for your article "From Darkness To Sunshine." The songs that Eliza Edmunds Hewitt wrote are now stuck in my head! What upbeat and positive praise! I will be eulogizing my father-in-law today and may borrow some of the words from those songs. I also really liked the person's heart who wrote to you about attending the gay event. Grace does indeed pull us out of our comfort zones. Love ya, brother!
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
The story of Eliza Hewitt (Reflections #619) has much meaning for my wife and me. About a year ago my darling wife was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and a little over 80% of her stomach was removed. They got all the cancer, and it has not returned! However, we struggle constantly with trying to get the kind of food best for her. I have watched with tears and a sad heart as she struggles to get enough food to sustain her. We are both in our 80's, but I am still able to do everything for her that needs to be done. I tell you all this to let you know that, as was the case with Eliza Hewitt, the devil is doing all in his power to destroy our faith. It ain't gonna happen!! No matter what happens, our faith and trust in our Father and His Son will sustain us! God is still on His throne, and He always answers our prayers! Not always with what we want, but many times with something far greater!
From the Critic in Virginia:
You put a typo in your last article, Maxey. Eliza Hewitt was a Presbyterian, NOT a Christian! Big difference! Presbyterians have NOT called on the Lord by the conditions He has laid out.
From a Reader in Scotland:
I just read the comment in your last Reflections by the person in Virginia ("Frankly, Mr. Maxey, you are one of the sickest and most hurtful people to the cause of Christ on the planet. I pray that God will have His revenge on you!!"). What a godly man! NOT!!
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
Your latest "Readers' Reflections" were very interesting. From attending a gay event to the proper work of a pastor. I learned much. Also, I have often thought it would be good if you included more of your critics' views, but the one today from the guy in Virginia convinced me otherwise! Such hateful comments don't offer anything helpful.
I get such rants from people almost daily, and I rarely bother to even respond to them. Now and then, however, I pass on a few to the readers as a reminder that there is still a spiritual war being waged for the hearts and minds of those around us, and that the devil is still very much active in his efforts to hinder the cause of Christ, and prowls around daily seeking those whom he may devour. Thus, we must stay alert and continue the "good fight." If we let down our guard, even for a moment, the result could prove deadly. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Michigan:
Hey, brother. I just purchased your book on baptism (Immersed By One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice). I have read your book on divorce and remarriage (Down, But Not Out: A Study of Divorce and Remarriage in Light of God's Healing Grace) and really liked it. God bless you, Al. Don't let the legalists discourage you!!
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Thank you so much for your refreshing writings! Here in Tennessee, as you know, we are so steeped in tradition that we're literally fighting over some miniscule matter of traditional insignificance virtually every week. I have a favor to ask: our daughter was married last night. My wife and I worked diligently, while she lived at home, to help her understand the expansive nature of God's grace. My fear, though, is that as she and her husband start their lives together they may find themselves one day worshipping with some ultra-conservative congregation where their understandings would come under attack. You and I know very well the pain such brethren can inflict on others with their vitriolic attacks. I ask that you please pray that they, and all newly married believers, be held in special care until they become established within their new walk as a family, so that they may not become discouraged by such ill-learned brethren. These attacks by the legalists were much more easily thwarted while living at home, but now, as their new life together and careers begin to gain momentum, and as they move on to new environs, I hate to think of the devastation that could be wrought upon them by some brethren more zealous for Church of Christism than Truth. So, brother, I request your prayers for them, as I sense that you, like me, carry upon you the marks and scars of our Lord Jesus, as all warriors do. Thank you, and may God bless you, brother!
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Al, we love so much what you labor each week to write for us. Please, don't ever stop! Your teachings are far too important, and we can't wait from week to week for your great teachings from God's Word. You make it so easy to understand. We love you!
From a New Reader in [Unknown]:
I discovered a recent article by you on symbolism versus substance regarding baptism (Reflections #617: "Reenacting Our Redemptive Reality"). I found it most eloquent, and I would like to subscribe to future articles by you. Thanks.
From a Noted Leader/Author in our Movement:
Al, thanks for your remarks (in the readers' section of your last Reflections) about the latest craze: "Muscle and a Shovel." How ironic that people who claim "the Bible is all we need" have fallen for a document by a mere man! This book is just another attempt to "save poor sinners" by the wresting of contexts and illogical tactics by men, rather than by the redemptive work of Christ, who alone is the Savior. How disgraceful to place man's "muscle and shovel" above the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." As with other gimmicks tried through the years to "save the lost," this too shall pass. And in the end, Christ alone will stand as the only Savior. How sad to think that man can produce a document that prods people to do what the amazing grace of God, apparently (according to their practice), cannot do alone: save the lost! I have to wonder: how much more room is there on "Moses' seat" for these legalists to sit?!
From a Minister in Indiana:
I have been on your mailing list for a few years, and have written you before, and I know of nobody in our brotherhood I would trust more to provide the answers I am seeking. Our culture has changed so much in my lifetime that I must say I have become confused. God is being removed from our society, and much of this is being done through our court system. It is becoming a very different country from the one I served in the 1940s era. Our courts and government leaders seem to be telling us that homosexuals and transsexuals are as normal as you and I, and they must be treated as such. They are even being given the right to marry one another, and this will eventually become law in all 50 states. In time, it will become a crime to teach that the homosexual lifestyle is wrong, and preaching about this from the pulpit may be forbidden by the government. Al, I am an old man, and this is hard for me to digest. I have been a preacher in the Churches of Christ (both a cappella and, now, instrumental), and I really seek some direction on how to deal with this! Thank you, and God bless.
As Christians, and also, for some, as pastors, we are truly entering into difficult times in our nation. It is becoming increasingly clear, at least to me, that Satan is gaining the upper hand in our society, and a time of severe affliction for Christians is not all that far off. Godless values and behaviors are on the rise, and efforts to address them from God's Word are being increasingly suppressed. It breaks my heart to see what is becoming of this nation, and I fervently pray that God will have mercy on this land. Unfortunately, I fear we have gone too far down the wrong road, and I firmly believe our nation will soon face a divine judgment against it. This makes it so important that we stand together as God's Family, and cease the senseless sectarian squabbling over inconsequentials. As for how we should approach the "gay" issue (I hate that term), I suggested to this dear fellow minister that he read and reflect upon my thoughts on this matter in my Special Request sent out to my readers on May 24, 2007 and the in-depth study which resulted a month later from their responses: Reflections #305 -- "The Nature/Nurture Dilemma: A Reflective, Respectful Response to Saints Struggling with Homosexuality." -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in [Unknown]:
I was raised in a very legalistic, exclusivist wing of the Churches of Christ (the "Anti" group = Non-Institutional). Over the past few years I've been rethinking and restudying some of their positions, and I have made a few major shifts in my thinking. Recently, I set out to write a short book detailing some of my journey. In order to keep the identity of certain individuals concealed, I ended up tweaking the details to the point of it being a fictional story, but one that still very much addresses the core issues. The book is called "Beyond the Church of Christ: Kingdom Life Outside the Walls" (a copy is included for you to have). You (your real name) and your works are featured in this story when the main character comes across your Reflections (of which I myself am a big fan) which change his life. I have decided to take all this a step further, and I have created a web site with helpful resources to aid others who are struggling with these same issues. I have all of your books (along with some by Max Lucado, Edward Fudge, Rubel Shelly, Rick Atchley and Todd Deaver) featured on the web site. This web site is: Beyond the Church of Christ, and is still very much a work in progress.
From a Reader in [Unknown]:
I just read another one of your excellent articles: Reflections #420 -- "A Rose By Any Other Name: Is the Scent of a Disciple Determined by Denominational Distinction?" This article touches on what my friend brings up to me over and over: that her church has the "right name" and that the faith-heritage I was brought up in (Baptist) is seriously deficient, and probably a "false church," because it doesn't "wear the name." I get so tired of hearing "WE wear the name" jabs being used to put down and disparage other Christians. It's like the illustration in your article where the red rose bushes attack the other rose bushes because they're not identical in color to them. Such intolerance and divisiveness surely is not pleasing to our Savior. You write so many outstanding articles, Al, and you are very much appreciated! Thank you!
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