by Al Maxey

Issue #639 ------- November 21, 2014
I should count myself the coward
if I left them, my Lord Howard, to these
Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
The Revenge

Toe-to-Toe with Torquemada
Facing Fanatical Fratricidal Inquisitors

Although many current disciples of Christ may not be familiar with the name Tomás de Torquemada, those who are students of the history of the church over the centuries will easily bring to mind who this person was and the misery he inflicted upon others. Although Torquemada was actually the village where this man named Tomás was from, he nevertheless came to be known by later generations simply as Torquemada, rather than his given name. He was born in Spain in the year 1420 to a family of Jews who had converted to the Christian faith (such people then were known as "conversos"). One biographer wrote, "His grandparents were of the lineage of the Jews converted to our Holy Catholic faith." At a very young age, Tomás joined a Dominican monastery, where he began his religious training. Over the years he grew into one of the most zealous and cold-hearted advocates and defenders of Catholic orthodoxy. Recognizing his fervor for defending the Church against all forms of heresy, young Tomás was promoted to the position of Prior of the Monastery of Santa Cruz at Segovia. Soon after this he met Princess Isabella (who would later marry King Ferdinand of Aragon), and the two became close personal friends. Indeed, he would serve as her regular confessor and personal advisor. It was even on his advice that she would marry Ferdinand, thus consolidating their kingdoms. After these two solidified their power base, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella petitioned the Pope to respond positively to their request to establish in Spain a "Holy Office for the Propagation of the Faith," which request the Pope granted in 1478. The work of this office was to pursue, by whatever means necessary, the preservation of the Catholic faith, even if it meant destroying all those who would not submit to their view of orthodoxy. In 1482, Tomás was appointed to this office, and a year later was named "Grand Inquisitor of Spain."

With this bestowal of power upon him, Tomás de Torquemada wasted no time expanding the efforts of this office throughout Spain. He was determined to rid the land of all heresy. His pursuit and persecution of all those who differed with him theologically became so severe that he came to be known as "The Hammer of Heretics." He came to be one of the most feared men in the land, for he tirelessly sought out and destroyed those he deemed guilty of heresy. It is estimated that thousands of people were burned at the stake during his tenure as Grand Inquisitor. Ironically, as he was of Jewish descent, his hatred was the greatest for those Jews who had converted to Christianity (the "conversos"), and he found special satisfaction in destroying these converts, most of whom he personally felt were not true converts, and perhaps still held, albeit privately, to their Jewish beliefs and traditions. Under the "Alhambra Decree" of March 31, 1492, some 200,000 Jews were forced out of Spain, with another 50,000 being allowed to remain since they agreed, under duress, to be baptized by a Catholic priest. It was these "conversos" that Tomás had the greatest hatred toward, and many died at his hands. He came to be so feared and hated by the common people of Spain that the King and Queen ordered 250 footmen and 50 men on horses to accompany him everywhere he went, lest the people murder him. After 15 years at this post, Tomás de Torquemada died in 1498 in the Monastery of St. Thomas Aquinas in Avila, and he was buried there. Many years later, in 1832, his bones were stolen and burned, reducing them to ash. He has been the subject of much discussion since, and a favorite villain in literature. In Dostoevsky's book "The Brothers Karamazov," for example, a parable is found in which Christ returns to Seville during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, only to be confronted by Tomás de Torquemada. Mel Brooks even played Torquemada in the movie "History of the World, Part 1."

Although Tomás de Torquemada has been dead and gone for centuries, the spirit of the Inquisition, and its Grand Inquisitor, lives on in the hearts and minds of those who, like him, hound and harass all those who dare to differ with them on any number of religious beliefs and practices. I have no doubt that a few of these modern day inquisitors, if they had the authority, would be more than happy to "burn the heretics" even today. The same darkness of soul that leads some within the Islamic faith to commit almost unbelievable acts of cruelty against those with whom they differ, also exists within many today who claim to follow the teachings of Christ Jesus. Although the latter may not be severing heads from bodies, they nevertheless don't hesitate to verbally eviscerate and castigate those they deem to be guilty of "heresy" (i.e., those who dare to disagree with them). Those of you who have taken a public stand for your faith and convictions, especially when these stand in opposition to an established "orthodoxy," know firsthand what I'm talking about, for you have experienced the outpouring of wrath from these people. It is not pleasant, but it is to be expected. That evil spirit has been at work in this world from the very beginning, and it has many helpers today.

After I finished writing the above paragraph, I took a break to check my email. One of the emails I received almost took my breath away -- talk about timely. A brother-in-Christ living in Texas wrote a lengthy message to me, one in which he poured out his heart. I won't share it all, but notice especially the following excerpt: "I attend an assembly in Texas, and I've been on the receiving end, just recently, of the retribution and condemnation of Mr. Brian Yeager. All of this was due to a personal discussion I had with him over the phone, after which I found myself dodging bullets over the internet for all to see. In his 'righteous' zeal, he proceeded to mischaracterize my intention in the discussion we had, and also to declare to the world that I, and the assembly here, are reprobate and departing from Truth. He appears to be making a mark for himself by marking others, seeking to affirm his own righteousness by declaring the unrighteousness of others. I didn't realize that you also had been the focus of his anger until I came across the first paragraph of Reflections #10, in which he publicly came after you. Mr. Yeager controls his little group like a cult, even formulating a list of beliefs which he then passed out and asked his members to sign. This man does have some good qualities, but his heart is raging, imposing law on others without compassion and love."

I have indeed been the focus of this man for many, many years. I even have audio recordings of sermons he has broadcast in which the lessons preached were about/against me. I decided a number of years ago to simply ignore him, and he finally went away and found someone else to torment. Unfortunately, as long as this dark spirit of the Inquisition exists (and it always has and always will), there will be endless attacks upon the good name and godly work of others, and all because these people are convinced that they, and they alone, possess Truth in its fullness. Convinced of that, they are equally convinced that all others are deceitful devils, and that God is calling on them to rid the earth of these heretics and their heresy. Not a week goes by that I don't hear from one or more of these people, and there is probably not a day that they aren't placing their condemnations of me (and of others as well) on the internet, or in their bulletins, or from radio and TV programs. Years ago this bothered me a great deal, and I spent a lot of time trying to reason with them (which usually just ended up in arguments, which only gave them more fodder for the fires they were lighting). In more recent years (I guess I'm mellowing with age) I largely ignore them. Occasionally I will comment on something outrageous they have said, and I do this primarily to let the readers know that there is a sectarian spirit at work in this world that is doing great damage, and they need to be aware of it, for if they are active in their faith and beliefs they will eventually find themselves standing face-to-face with these factionists ... toe-to-toe with a Torquemada. If one is not prepared to face such opposition, if one was not expecting it, it can be a frightful experience.

The strategies and tactics of these Torquemadans today is somewhat different than those of the Spanish Inquisition, as they don't have the power to actually burn us at the stake. But they pour out fiery tirades against those with whom they differ, and poison the minds of as many as they can with their false statements and misrepresentations about what we actually believe and teach. With global communication at the fingertips of almost everyone, and in an age of almost instant access to anyone anywhere, the possible damage that can be done to the lives and ministries of those one detests is almost incalculable! And I assure you, from personal experience, these people will not hesitate for even a millisecond to unleash their fiery fury upon those they perceive to be heretics. The spirit of inquisition is indefatigable. The apostle Peter declared, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you" (1 Peter 4:12). "If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (1 Peter 4:14).

Yes, standing up for Him will inevitably cause some to stand up against you. We certainly expect this from the world about us, however the pain inflicted seems more intense when such persecution comes at the hands of those we thought were our brothers and sisters in the Family of God. One can feel the pain in the words of David as he spoke of his enemies who spoke against him with malice and false statements. These friends gather up tidbits of slander, and then "go out and spread it abroad." "Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me" (Psalm 41:5-9). Similarly, David stated, "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). Many of us can relate to these sentiments, for we too have felt the painful lashes of those who once regarded us with favor, but who now regard us as an enemy to be destroyed. Yet, vengeance is not ours, but the Lord's; He will deal with them one day as they deserve. In the meantime, we are called to continue doing good and to endure faithfully, even in the face of such vicious assaults by those claiming to be servants of God.

I know firsthand how David felt, and I'm sure many of you do as well. People with whom we once had sweet fellowship now regard us as apostates and heretics. Those with whom we once walked in peace, are now warring against us. Sadly, such is inevitable when the liberated speak of their freedom in the hearing of those who are still enslaved, and of those who are doing the enslaving. There are quite a few dear souls, whom I still love dearly, who, because of my teaching, now regard me as the enemy. No amount of reasoning with them has done any good. They believe they know better than I what my convictions are, and thus they press on with their attacks. Although such is painful, it is not unexpected. Those who stand for Truth will always have those who stand against them. That is just a fact. What is even more painful is the fact that some of these who stand against you are also some who once stood with you. Now, however, they have assumed the role of Grand Inquisitor in the spirit of the Inquisition that literally led to the martyrdom of thousands. In that same spirit -- the spirit of Torquemada -- they seek to slaughter their siblings in Christ who will not bow to their own personal perceptions of what constitutes ultimate Truth.

Brethren, the insidious Inquisition of the past is still alive and well today. Let me give just a couple of personal examples (and I know many of you could provide similar examples). A dear friend of mine, whom I have known for many, many years, is Olan Hicks. He wrote the foreword for my first book (Down, But Not Out). In the last few years, however, he has been on a public crusade to expose and destroy the ministries of those with whom he differs on certain theological teachings and practices. In his most recent mailout to his readers ["An Open Letter To Christian Leaders," Nov. 13, 2014] he wrote, "I am thankful for the progress our brotherhood has made in discarding the extreme of legalism. But now we face a movement of extremism the other way, one that is determined to push us not just out of legalism, but out of the concept that the church consists of people whom God adds upon obedience. Their agenda is to dismantle the Restoration Movement in favor of human interpretive theories. That movement is being promoted by Rubel Shelly, Al Maxey, Edward Fudge, Max Lucado, and others." He concludes by saying, "I do not want to see folks I love being taught by men who do not believe that the Bible sets forth God's laws, and who do not believe that obedience is the way to be saved. ... Please do what you can to help defeat this demonic doctrine." Although I won't presume to speak for the others he named, I can affirm my own position on this: I do not believe the Bible is a LAW book, or that our salvation is based on obedience to LAW. My "agenda," therefore, is to move people away from a works-based, performance-based, obedience-based salvation, and to help them perceive that salvation is a gift of God by grace through faith. If such teaching is heresy, then I'm a heretic by decree of those who have assumed the mantle of Torquemada.

Another dear brother-in-Christ, who also shows evidence of the spirit of the Inquisition, is equally vocal in denouncing those who dare to differ with his own perceptions, convictions and interpretations. Ray Downen, who is a writer in the Christian Church (one of the groups which came from the Stone-Campbell Movement), and who lives in Joplin, Missouri, has become even more determined that Olan Hicks to expose and destroy my "heresy." For example, in his most recent mailout to his readers (an email dated November 10), he wrote the following: "Al Maxey is winning converts to Baptist baptism ... and he published his heresy for all to read in a book (Immersed By One Spirit). ... His position is that believers are saved the instant they really believe in Jesus as Lord, but there is no way they can be sure when that happened. He thinks that at that instant, known only to Jesus, Jesus baptizes (he calls it 'thrusts') the person into the church. The church doesn't know it. The seeker doesn't know it. But the seeker was saved and some day should be baptized. But the water baptism doesn't mean anything really. ... He makes no secret of this new heresy which afflicts the church of the Lord." Downen then concludes by stating that I, and those like me, "work within the movement to make more disciples to their heresy." The "solution" proffered by these people is: "get out of our church." "Go away!" Tomás de Torquemada expelled 200,000 people from Spain because they wouldn't bow to his convictions (i.e., those of the Catholic Church), and he watched the 50,000 Jews who accepted baptism, seeking some slight deviation from his concept of truth so that he might burn them at the stake (which he did to over 2000 precious souls). The spirit of the Inquisition seeks to do the same today: go away or we will destroy you!

It would be futile to try and reason with Ray about his statements (the same with Olan), although I have tried countless times to do so (in writing and also face-to-face). They are convinced they know better than I what my beliefs are. Thus, they continue to spread their falsehoods and misrepresentations. Let me just say (as I have often said before), I do not promote "Baptist baptism." Nor do I promote Church of Christ baptism, or Methodist baptism. I simply teach what I believe the Bible conveys on this topic. Thus, my teaching strives to be biblical, rather than denominational. Yes, we are saved by faith. Yes, the precise split-second when that conviction takes hold of our hearts and minds is known by the Lord (even before we realize it ourselves). One of the vital (because commanded) ways in which we demonstrate this faith is by submitting to baptism. Ray says I teach that "water baptism doesn't mean anything really." Really?! It is an extremely important act, which I have pointed out repeatedly (and even wrote a book about). No, the act of baptism in water, in and of itself, is not what saves us, but that fact in no way diminishes its importance as a commanded evidentiary act for those who have been saved by grace through faith. Further, I have never taught that "Jesus baptizes (he calls it 'thrusts') the person into the church." Nor, to my knowledge, have I ever said He "thrusts" someone "into the church." What I have said is that the Holy Spirit immerses us into Jesus Christ, and by this intimate union we are thereby united with all others who are likewise in union with Him. I develop this more fully in my analysis of 1 Cor. 12:13 -- "We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body" (Reflections #353), an analysis which, for some reason, Ray has been unable to grasp, for he continues to misrepresent what I have written there. Notice the following excerpt from that article:

As one can easily see, what Ray says I teach is far removed from what I have actually taught repeatedly in my writings, classes, sermons, and lectures. Sadly, no amount of pointing this out to him has worked. Thus, as a rule, I simply ignore his attacks, although on occasion I will simply reinforce my true teaching in the face of such false charges. My point in this article is simply to point out to you, the readers, the fact that the Inquisition, as a tool of Satan, has never died. There are those today who walk in the shoes of Torquemada. They denounce, drive off, and seek to destroy all who do not bow to their personal or party dogmas and traditions. We need to be aware that such people exist, and are actively and tirelessly working to rid the church of all those who dare to differ with them. Torquemada lives! May God give us the strength to stand courageously toe-to-toe with this spirit of inquisition, and may we never forget: "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Scotland:

Thank you, Al, for your study titled: "The Nature/Nurture Dilemma: A Reflective, Respectful Response to Saints Struggling with Homosexuality" (Reflections #305). The information you provided there has been such a blessing to me. Since I have family members and friends who are gay, I have for many years disliked the treatment the church gave them. However, in recent years in the UK, I have been quite shocked at the attitude of some Baptists, Brethren, and Church of Christ denominations. Many of them now campaign for gay marriage, which has greatly concerned me. I am now more settled in my mind on this issue, however, after reading your study. Thank you!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

I am a Christian, but outside the Church of Christ denomination. The "Church of Christ" is a denomination I haven't really understood until I read some of your Reflections on them. Things like "patternism" and "biblical silence = prohibition" are far removed from my own church experience. Thus, I couldn't understand why those in your group kept accusing me of being "wrong." Whenever I asked them to explain to me from the Bible why they thought I was so wrong about everything, they would just terminate the conversation! Thank you so much for the information you have provided in your Reflections. It has helped me to understand much better their legalistic mindset.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Every time I read one of your Reflections articles I feel my shackles being released more and more. I appreciate you so much!

From an Elder in Mississippi:

As I was preparing for my Bible class this week, I read Matthew 18:17 ("If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector"). I had always thought the "church" was not established until after Jesus ascended back into heaven. However, it appears that Jesus was referring to it as being in existence already when He made this statement recorded in Matthew. What am I missing? Thanks in advance for your help.

From a Reader in Hawaii:

Our minister here used to lecture at Lipscomb University, and he is a Hebrew and Greek scholar. Years ago he studied under Dr. Harvey Floyd, as well as working alongside of him at Lipscomb. They became close friends. I'm sending you a YouTube link of Dr. Floyd's lecture (53 minutes long) on the meaning of Eph. 2:8-10. I think it is something you would like, as it deals with the Greek of the text, philosophy, and God's grace and man's faith. It was a little "heavy" for me, yet I enjoyed it very much.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

I don't know where all you were recently, but I surely am glad you are back!! I missed your teaching very much. Nevertheless, you certainly deserved a long vacation! Also, the article that you mailed yesterday (Reflections #638 -- "Christ's Spirit-Saint Witnesses: Reflective Analysis of Acts 5:32 and its Misinterpretation and Misapplication by the Saved-by-Obedience Legalists") was excellent.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

I was getting ready to write you, since I had not received anything in the mail from you in quite a while. Now I see that you had been on vacation! It is so good to get your articles again!!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Al, you nailed it with your most recent article on the meaning of Acts 5:32. I cringe every Lord's Day when the "preacher" removes the life saving blood from the cross and tosses it into the baptistery. It seems that for such people Grace and Faith are just after-thoughts. No matter how great the sermon itself might have been, the constant misguided teaching on baptism during the "invitation" leaves me cold!

From a Reader in Georgia:

When your last article came in, I was ready for it with a whole pot of coffee, but you made it all so plain and simple that I barely got through with one cup! Thank you for expounding on this passage (Acts 5:32). I think too many folks get really confused and misled when (1) they read a verse and don't consider the whole context of the passage, and (2) when they tend to read a passage in modern English without bothering to try and understand or examine the grammar used in the passage. This then leads to all sorts of "ideas and beliefs" that get exalted to the same status as the words of God Himself. They then declare one to be in jeopardy of losing their salvation if they don't agree with their analysis. I know some of us aren't always sure of what to make of the context and grammar, which is why we appreciate so very much the careful and studious review of someone like yourself who is knowledgeable of these matters, and who is additionally fair and without agenda when dealing with the biblical text. Thank you, Al -- you're the best!! By the way, I'm finally recovered (LOL) from reading your new book (From Ruin To Resurrection) and would like to order your book on baptism (Immersed By One Spirit).

From a Reader in Ottawa, Canada:

I can't even tell you how much I appreciate your articles, Al. I continue to pray that God will provide His called out assembly more ministers who will have the courage and wisdom you do to speak forth His message in a way that people will be receptive to what He, through you, wants His people to understand. Continue to be strong and of good courage, brother, as you fight the battle against those who would present a false teaching of what it really means to be saved. One day I would like to meet with you in person. Lots of time, though -- I'm only 72.

From a Reader in Nova Scotia, Canada:

Thanks for this very well-written article on Acts 5:32. As I was reading it, I was wondering how these legalistic folks handle the account of Cornelius in Acts. While Peter was still presenting his message to this household, and all they were "doing" was just listening, the Holy Spirit came upon them. Pretty hard to find "saved by obedience" in this account!!

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