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by Al Maxey

Issue #777 ------- July 1, 2019
We swim, day by day, on a river of delusions...
But life is a sincerity. In lucid intervals we say,
"Let there be an entrance for me into realities;
I have worn the fool's cap far too long."

Ralph Waldo Emerson [1803-1882]

A Cog-Slipping Leftist Preacher
Destructive Power of a Deluding Influence

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), an American essayist, poet and philosopher, best known for his book "Walden," stated within that book, "Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths. ... By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations." Brethren, let me be painfully and brutally blunt: there are a significant number of otherwise good-hearted and intelligent men and women within the universal Body of Christ Jesus who, perhaps through little fault of their own, have been indoctrinated with shams and delusions which they now esteem for soundest truths. This has resulted in their attempt to build a spiritual edifice to the glory of God on purely illusory foundations, rather than on the firm foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the most frightening passages from the writings of the apostle Paul is found in his second epistle to the believers in the city of Thessalonica. In speaking of those who were visibly resistant to his presentation of divine truths, he wrote, "for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false" (2 Thessalonians 2:11). Many are content to simply lean back and float down that "river of delusions," of which Emerson speaks, rather than cast off the "fool's cap," step boldly out of the river, and stand firmly on the solid rock of divine truths to which they were previously oblivious or, in some cases, opposed. The great tragedy of which Paul spoke in the above mentioned letter to the Thessalonians is that this aversion to anything that requires rethinking their dogma and/or changing their perceptions and practices can only result in varying degrees of spiritual diminishing. I really appreciate the way The Message has rendered the above passage: "Since they refuse to trust truth, they're banished to their chosen world of lies and illusions." It truly breaks my heart to watch people being swept away in that "river of delusions" to what may well prove to be their doom, unless someone, in some way, is able to awaken them to their peril and help them exit that seductive sectarian stream of lies and illusions.

Although there are some who are more than content to drift along in their delusions (indeed, they seem to prefer it), there are nevertheless, I truly believe, far more who, as Emerson suggests above, long for "an entrance" into the "realities" that have for so long eluded them. Many years ago I vowed to help point the way to that entrance; to be that determined disciple on the bank of the "river of delusions" calling out to those being swept away by it to let me help them reach the safety of the riverbank. Over the decades many have welcomed that assistance, and they have rejoiced in the deliverance from their prior deadly delusion. Others, sadly, chose to float on down that river ... and, ultimately, over the falls. A good many have welcomed my determination (for I can be irritatingly persistent in my plea); others have been irritated and even infuriated by it. Some have even cursed and condemned me, as they floated past, for daring to suggest they were in peril. The Lord Jesus is our example of one who made such calls to those who had been deluded by religious indoctrination, and His boldness often infuriated them. His disciples, on several occasions, pointed out how upset the Pharisees were at His teachings. His response? "Jesus shrugged it off. ... 'Forget them!'" He said (Matthew 15:14, The Message). Yes, there are some we should probably just ignore as they float past cursing us for throwing a lifeline to them. Yet, I have to admit that I find this hard to do. I keep trying. I keep hoping that maybe ... just maybe ... this time they will reach for it; that this time something I say or do may awaken them to their delusion and the almost certain destruction that awaits them as they draw ever nearer to those falls which will send them hurtling to the ragged rocks below.

Hugh Fulford is one of those people. For some reason that I can't even articulate, I can't bring myself to give up on him. Yes, I know what Jesus said, and with some I have most definitely followed His advice, but ... there is something about this individual that keeps me running along that riverbank calling out to him. And he isn't alone. There are others for whom I have this same concern. I remember many, many conversations over the telephone (sometimes hours long conversations) with Dr. Bill Van Dyke, a beloved (and now deceased) friend and brother-in-Christ, who was a professional psychologist (although retired from that profession during the time I knew him). He and I would discuss at great length HOW we could possibly get through to Hugh, with whom Bill had long had a good relationship. No matter what strategies or tactics we tried, nothing was successful, but Bill, like me, was simply not willing to give up. Even to the time of his death, he kept hoping something, or someone, would succeed in drawing Hugh to the riverbank. People ask me time and again WHY I keep trying. To be honest, I'm not sure. I just can't help but think that this good man could do so much good if we could just find a way to remove the sectarian blinders. So, I persist. Will I fail? Probably. But, it won't be for lack of trying.

One of the topical areas where Hugh and I almost seem to be at an impasse, and I'm sure this must frustrate him as much as it does me, is the identity and nature of the church. What contributes to my own angst here is that with respect to the theology, he and I agree 100%. In his every description of the Lord's church, and its non-denominational and universal nature, what he writes is exactly what I have been writing for years. Our problem is not centered around theology, but practice, and this is seen most dramatically in the fact that Hugh equates that one universal church of Jesus Christ with the historical group denominated in the Yellow Pages as "Churches of Christ," and I most emphatically DO NOT. I have tried everything in my power to get Hugh to perceive the distinction between the two, and I have failed every time. For whatever reason, he simply can't grasp it. And it's not just Hugh. Many of those raised in very fundamentalist religious groups have been indoctrinated to believe (and thus to proclaim) that their group IS ... in its entirety ... "the one true church," and all other groups are eternally damned denominations filled with eternally damned denominationalists who, if they were honest, would read the Bible the way WE do and thus come out of their apostate groups and enter "the one true church" (which is OUR group). As noted, this is not a problematic perspective unique to the "Church of Christ" denomination. I have heard Catholics make this same claim, and Baptists, and many others as well. Most Christian groups are taught to believe (some more militantly than others) that they are understanding and applying the Scriptures correctly, while just about everybody else needs "to get their act together" if they want to be saved. Hugh is not alone in this conviction, and neither is the "Church of Christ" denomination. On the other hand, the church our Lord Jesus declared that He would establish, and which has existed on planet Earth from that day forward, is most definitely NOT denominational in the sense that any one religious group can claim TO BE that "one true church" to the exclusion of all other groups of disciples on planet Earth.

I love my religious heritage. My parents and my wife's parents were all part of that wing of the Stone-Campbell Movement that came to be known by the descriptive phrase "Church of Christ." The two other major splits of that movement are the "Disciples of Christ" and the "Independent Christian Church." Each of these three groups has also split dozens of times into scores of factions, most of whom won't even talk to one another. And that is just OUR group. Other denominations have done the same. And EACH of these, to some degree, think that THEY, and they alone, have discovered what God wants and are "doing it right." I have heard sermon after sermon after sermon, as I was growing up, on why we should be evangelizing the Baptists, and the Methodists, and the Lutherans, and the Catholics, etc. -- working tirelessly to get them to come out of their "denomination" and come into the ONE TRUE CHURCH (which, of course, was US). Yes, all these different groups, including the "Church of Christ" congregations, have cherished perspectives and practices to which they hold, and they have traditions that may be somewhat unique to their assemblies. That's fine. The Lord's church on planet Earth is not confined to any building (regardless of what name may appear on the sign above the door), not is it identified by the traditions practiced within those buildings on a Sunday morning. The Lord's universal One Body is made up of PEOPLE. They are all God's beloved children, and they may differ from one another in convictions and practices on a good many things. BUT, they are begotten of the Father; they are His; and thus they are One Family. Some of His children may assemble in buildings that have Baptist over the door; some may assemble in a building that has Methodist over the door; some may assemble in a building that has Church of Christ over the door; some may assemble where instruments are used; some may assemble where they have fellowship halls and kitchens, and where they eat in the building; some may assemble where no Sunday School system is utilized; etc. ALL of these dear men and women are part of the ONE CHURCH, because they are IN HIM. One's affiliation with one or more of the hundreds and hundreds of groups within Christendom is NOT what determines whether one is IN HIM and thus a member of His ONE BODY. That determination is made by the content of one's HEART. Thus, our Father has children all over this planet, and in all manner of historical, traditional gatherings of disciples; and thus I don't hesitate to say confidently: WHEREVER our Father has a child, I have a brother or sister. And TOGETHER, this vast number of believers who are IN HIM by grace through faith constitute the ONE TRUE CHURCH. And, Hugh is right: it is NOT a denomination; it is a Family!! This, however, does not in any way, shape or form prevent these believers from association and affiliation with a group of other believers who may share various preferences and perceptions with which they concur (based upon their own study of Scripture). If this is where they can best serve the Lord and one another, then more power to them. They are still my spiritual siblings, and they are still a vital part of the ONE CHURCH.

Hugh has tried over and over to convince me that what I just wrote is "heresy" and "apostasy." On June 11, 2019, Hugh mailed out an issue of "Hugh's News & Views." The title of his article in that issue was "Progressivism in the Church of Christ: Insights and Observations." I would urge you (as I do every time I review the writings of another disciple) to write Hugh and request a copy of that article. He will be happy to send it to you. If he won't (which I can't imagine), then write me. I'll send you one. I want you to read what he has written; every single word; thus, I will always inform you how to get a copy so you can compare my words with his. YOU, then, will be the judge of whether I have fairly treated his treatise, and fairly represented his teaching. Hugh, by the way, as well as others like him, has never extended this same courtesy to me. Indeed, Hugh won't even reveal my name. At the end of the above mentioned article, Hugh pens four paragraphs devoted to me (though not by name). All four of those paragraphs may be seen by Clicking Here. I will also reproduce them one-by-one below (though not necessarily in order) as I comment on each. I do this, as stated above, simply for the purpose of calling out a warning to those drifting in the river toward the falls, for they are precious souls on a deadly course. I can only hope and pray that some will hear and heed this call, and that they will head for the riverbank. If even one of them perceives his/her peril and reaches for the lifeline, then my efforts (and the efforts of others who are doing the same) will have been worth it.

Paragraph #4

My critic will likely respond to this edition of "Hugh's News
& Views
," and he is welcome to do so. I have made my views
concerning the undenominational nature of the church exceedingly
clear, and I will not get into an endless exchange with him. First,
I do not have the time; second, it will do no good.

Hugh, it appears, is less optimistic about me than I am about him. I love and respect this elderly servant of the Lord, and have always wished him the best. I read every word of every article he sends. I even agree with many of his points (and have told him so on a number of occasions). I have always enjoyed hearing all sides of various perspectives of the Scriptures, and love to dialogue with fellow disciples on why they believe as they do. On the other hand, I am not reluctant to question and challenge perspectives and practices that I, and others, feel may be promoting a false, unbiblical narrative contrary to the intended message of our Lord. Yes, such calls for responsible, respectful dialogue on such matters between persons presuming to speak for Him may not always be well-received, but if we are serious about trying to understand His will for His children, then we should never be reluctant to at least try. Peter rightly wrote, "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame" (1 Peter 3:15-16). I have never desired to have "an endless exchange" with anyone; such too often only ends in partisan bickering, in which the only winner is Satan. I sincerely believe, however, that many of our squabbles within the Family of God could perhaps be prevented, or at least minimized, if we would simply show a willingness to sit down with one another and truly seek to communicate and understand. I have always been willing to do this, as those who know me can attest.

Paragraph #3

More than once, my critic has said that I could be "of sooo much
benefit to the cause of Christ if I could just see what others see,"
i.e., that the church of Christ is a denomination. Sorry, but I will
never "see" that, for that is not what the New Testament reveals
about the church. I will be of the greatest benefit to the cause of
Christ by continuing to advance and plead for the biblical view
of the church and its undenominational nature.

Okay, here is where someone has "slipped a cog." If Hugh is talking about the universal One Body of our Lord Jesus, i.e., the church that He Himself established, which consists of ALL who are saved, and ALL who have been saved, and ALL who ever will be saved, then I agree 100% with Hugh. This vast universal, timeless gathering of the redeemed never has been, never will be, and is most certainly not at the present time "denominational" in nature (according to the common understanding and usage of that term). Nor is it sectarian in nature. Nor is it factional in nature. I hope and pray Hugh NEVER sees the One Family of our Father this way. I most certainly don't, and, like Hugh, never will. Thus, I would be proud to stand side-by-side with Hugh as we proclaim together this great truth. What "others see" is that there are those within these many "named groups" with their own traditions and histories who firmly believe and boldly proclaim that the particular group of which they are a part IS EXCLUSIVELY that "one true church," and that all other groups are apostate in every aspect of their being, including their members. Even a casual look by people, no matter how skilled or unskilled in theology, reveals the truth that too many religionists "see" their group as being THE church of Jesus Christ. They EQUATE the two. What I, and others, pray for is the day to come when those doing this EQUATING of their named group with THE ONE BODY UNIVERSAL will see their error. This is Hugh's error, and people all around are seeing it, but to date Hugh, and those like him, can't see that this is what they are doing. It is like the crowd watching the emperor parade naked down the street in his "new clothes." They look aghast at one another: "Can't he SEE that he is naked?" Or, even worse, "Does he actually see it, but his pride refuses to allow him to admit it?!" This, Hugh, is our concern and our prayer.

Paragraph #1

From time to time, a leftist preacher in Alamogordo, NM will review
one of my "News & Views" essays. Most recently he reviewed my
April 30, 2019 issue on "Preaching The Church." While he said he
agreed with much of what I wrote, what really galls him is that I do
not view the church as a denomination as does he. In an email to me
he quoted a person who is a relative of an elder of a congregation I
once served. The person (who he described as having "a big name"
in "our tribe") was quoted as saying of me, "I always loved and
respected him and his lovely wife and still do, but I, too, have
been greatly disappointed and upset at his (and many others')
inability to see their denominational mindset."

For decades I have sought to familiarize my readers with some of the thinking and teaching they may encounter during the course of their journey through life. Thus, I have indeed reviewed and critiqued a great many articles, sermons, books, etc., by a great many different individuals from varying religious perspectives and traditions. The review to which Hugh refers in his above statement is my article titled "The Sin of Sectarian Salesmanship: Preaching the Church or Promoting a Sect?" (Reflections #773). Hugh characterizes me as "a leftist preacher in Alamogordo, NM." Over the years I have been called a number of different things, some of which were complimentary, some of which were not. "Leftist preacher" is a new one. I'm not entirely sure what this means, but I feel rather certain it was not intended to be an endorsement of my ministry or of my character. The "big name" within "our tribe" to whom I referred was indeed troubled that Hugh, whom he stated he loved and respected, could not seem to grasp that his teachings clearly (to a great many disciples) reflect a very partisan mindset: the very thing Hugh repeatedly condemns in those not in his religious group named in the Yellow Pages "Church of Christ." Hugh is also correct when he states in paragraph #1 that I agree with much of what he has taught concerning the nature of the church universal. Hugh and I are in complete agreement on this, as I have stated a number of times. Hugh then "slips a cog" by writing, "...what really galls him is that I do not view the church as a denomination as he does."

If Hugh is talking about the universal One Body, the timeless One Family of the Father, then let me hasten to assure the reader that I DO NOT view that One True Church as being a religious institution, with a set of bylaws and traditions, that has been given a name easily recognized in any city's Yellow Pages. The Lord's church can never be reduced to any particular named group within Christendom. Hugh has for years told his followers that Al Maxey "views the church as a denomination." This is absolutely false, and I have told Hugh this repeatedly. On the other hand, I most certainly DO view that wing of the Stone-Campbell Movement denominated (named) "Church of Christ" as just one of many religious, historical institutions with its own cherished traditions (often elevated to LAW). Again, Hugh has conflated the two. They are not the same. When I hear the phrase "The Lord's Church," I think of a particular people (those saved by grace through faith); I do NOT think of the group known as "Church of Christ." Nor do I think of the Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Christian, Presbyterian churches. All of these are religious institutions. Christ's church is simply saved men and women, and these people may be found in any number of locations and cultures, and affiliated with any number of named religious institutions with their varying traditions. His church can never be diminished by being equated with any of these lesser entities. His church transcends them all. Yet, those who make up His church can be found within most of these distinctly named organizations. There is nothing wrong with one's association with the latter, as long as one understands the primacy of the former.

Paragraph #2

I find this both amazing and amusing. It is not I who has a "denomina-
tional mindset." Both the leftist preacher who reviewed my article and
the person whom he quotes "slip a cog" and want to impose on me their
denominational mindset of the church. They're the ones who are fond of
speaking of "our tribe," "our tradition," "the Church of Christ Church,"
and other such denominational terms. My "mindset" is that the church
(body) of Christ is the aggregate of all who have been redeemed by the
blood of Christ, though some of those redeemed souls have gotten
themselves into religious associations and organizations of which
they should not be a part. The church of Christ was not a denomi-
nation in the 1st century, and by adherence to the New Testament
we can be today what they were then. That is what "disappoints"
my critic and his devotees about my writings.

What I can't seem to get Hugh to realize is that terms like "our tribe" and "our faith-heritage," just to cite a couple, do NOT ... I repeat: DO NOT ... have reference to the Lord's universal One Body/Church/Family. I agree fully with Hugh on this. The Lord's church is not, and never will be, one tribe among many, or any other such narrow, limiting descriptive. The Lord's "church" is simply the totality of His people; the totality of God's children; past, present, future. Without equal. To use Hugh's own words: it is "the aggregate of all who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ." AMEN, Hugh. This is what I preach and teach. And this, Hugh, is precisely why it troubles me so much when somebody EQUATES their little faction of a wing of a movement with that unique, one-of-a-kind Church of our Lord God. For ANY group, no matter how "right on every issue" they regard themselves to be, to declare implicitly or explicitly that they, and they alone, ARE, in its entirety on planet Earth, to the exclusion of all others, THE "one true church," is the epitome of arrogance and ignorance. And this, brethren, is exactly why Hugh is so troubled when I speak of the group denominated in the Yellow Pages "Church of Christ" as my "tribe" or "faith-heritage," for Hugh has EQUATED THE TWO. In his mind, they are one and the same. Thus, if I make some criticism of one, then in his mind I have made that criticism of the other, for they are the same entity (or so he believes). It is THIS mindset that I have tried and tried and tried to point out to Hugh, as have others who have seen clearly that Hugh is doing this, yet he simply cannot (or will not) see it.

Hugh bemoans and laments that some of "those redeemed souls have gotten themselves into religious associations and organizations." Thank God NOBODY within the group denominated "Church of Christ" has done that!! Whew! Not US, right?! WE have it all figured out. WE are "the one true church," but all those poor, pitiful partisans in all those godless denominations are going straight to hell, unless they wake up and get into the ONE CHURCH -- which, of course, is US. Again, we see that he has EQUATED the two. Hugh, my beloved brother, they are NOT THE SAME. To reduce that universal One Body to ANY particular group (including our own) is to "denominationalize" the Lord's Church, and THAT is something I WILL NOT DO. And I plead with Hugh to CEASE doing it. It is evidence of a spiritual blindness that is dangerous, and, frankly, embarrassing. It reflects a process of indoctrination that borders on brain-washing, and a number of fundamentalist groups were notoriously guilty of doing this, especially in the era prior to the 1950s: the era from which Hugh emerged. Hugh, I love you, brother, and respect your many years of loving service to the Lord. In many ways, you are an inspiration, and I have no ill will toward you. But I believe ... and I don't stand alone in that belief ... that you are dead wrong on this matter, and for the reasons I have enumerated. You are in my prayers, my friend, and I ask God's children worldwide who may be reading this to stop right now and say a prayer for the enlightenment of those blinded by years of sectarian indoctrination (regardless of the denomination within which that brain-washing occurred). May they see the Light; may they be Liberated!!


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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, Enclosed is my check to cover the cost of signed copies of two of your books: "One Bread, One Body" and "Immersed By One Spirit." I have subscribed to your Reflections for several years, and I have profited immensely from your studies and wisdom. I am a lifelong member of the Churches of Christ, and thus I was thoroughly indoctrinated into legalism at an early age. I attended a Church of Christ college and never questioned their teaching, as I just assumed that they had all the answers since they were an institution of "higher learning." Sadly, I embraced false doctrine for all too many years of my life until I began to question some issues. After careful and prayerful study, I concluded that I was in bondage and could never enjoy the freedom that God wanted me to have until I found a church that taught salvation was a gift, and that it could never be earned. I am happy to say that I found a Church of Christ congregation that is almost free of legalism. They still struggle with some issues, but do not condemn those who don't fully agree with their positions. Our minister constantly warns us of the dangers of legalism. What a difference this has made in my spiritual life. Al, your Reflections have caused me to think through many of my beliefs in order to reach Truth. I have decided that it is much harder to unlearn than it is to learn. Thank you, brother, for your good work, and be assured that you will most likely never know the full extent of the good fruit it is producing.

From Dr. Wayne Newland in Maine:

Al, thank you for reading and recommending my recent publications in the Readers' Reflections section of your last issue (Reflections #776: "Hog and Dog Theology: A Reflective Study of Matthew 7:6"). Within an hour of your posting of Issue #776, an obviously avid reader of your writings living in Florida had written me to request all of these booklets I had authored. Again, Thank You, and blessings, brother!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Maxey, I have not written you in quite some time, but please know that I always follow you on Facebook, and I read all of your Reflections. Thank you for your continued ministry. I have had your book "Down, But Not Out" for about 10 years now. I cannot even count the number of times I have looked back at the information in it. Even to this day, I sometimes struggle with guilt from my failed marriage 21 years ago, but I believe that is the great accuser trying to make me feel guilty for past sins. I just have to say that I am so thankful for your study on this subject. I don't know why you decided to write that book, but I'm thankful that you did!! I do have a quick question: I was wondering if you've ever written a Reflections article on cremation, and what the Bible says on this subject. Both of my parents are growing older (as we all are), and my father has some pretty serious health issues. They have both decided on cremation once they pass, and so I would like to study a little more on this subject. Your input would be appreciated. Thank you again, Al, and God bless!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

I just finished listening to all your adult Bible class lessons, as well as your sermons, that were on the CD I recently ordered from you titled "From Law to Liberty: Reflecting on our Journey away from Legalism and into Freedom in Christ," and I wish to say: I agree fully! I'm just not brave enough to preach it from the pulpit over here in the Bible Belt. Who knows, maybe the tide will turn someday so that we, as a body, will realize that it never was about doing a church service correctly, but was always a call to be transformed into the image of Him who is supposed to be our Lord and Master, as well as our Savior. I was studying on my own for a long while before I ever knew you were out there preaching what I had already come to believe. I had come across the writings of Carl Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett, and Edward Fudge, to name a few, which encouraged me that I wasn't alone in thinking as I do. Thank you, Bro. Maxey, and blessings to you for your work.

From a Reader in Kansas:

Al, If I have asked this before, please excuse me and disregard this request. Could you explain John 17:3 to me? Why does Jesus refer to the Father as the only "True" God? Why is "True" capitalized in most translations? Why even use the word "true"? That passage of Scripture, in sum, bothers me a lot with regards to the doctrine of the Trinity.

From a Lead Pastor in California:

Hey Al, I just read "Hog and Dog Theology: A Reflective Study of Matthew 7:6" (Reflections #776). Great stuff, as usual. I must say, however, that my favorite "hog and dog" is the ice cream!! (LOL) Blessings to you in the name of Jesus.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I was thinking back on some of the things I have read over the years in your Reflections, and a big truth came to me via something said by one of your readers. I have often told you how much I appreciate you and all the "pain" you must be enduring at the hands of those who can't accept you speaking out and sharing the fruit of your studies. This reader mentioned your wife, and I immediately thought of how much of a blessing she has been to you, and I just have to love all the support she has most definitely given to you all of those years you were being attacked. I am sure that she too has felt pain from seeing her husband attacked for the audacity to study and present Truth from God's Word. If she is anything like my wife, it hurts as much or more than the pain we feel ourselves.

I really enjoy seeing the history of the Maxey family that you share often on Facebook, and I know that you value her so much because we can see that you are always mentioning her. Out of all the things that you have found in life, congratulations on having found the greatest blessing of all. Nothing in life compares with having a godly woman by your side. From everything I've seen (including the two times we have traveled to where you live to meet and worship with you), you probably feel about Shelly as I do about my wife. When I look at my wife it inspires me to seek to be as godly as she is! Al, give Shelly a big hug, because she is the biggest blessing you will ever have this side of eternity!

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