Articles Archive -- Topical Index -- Textual Index

by Al Maxey

Issue #804 -- August 15, 2020
Surely human affairs would be far happier if the power
within men to be silent were the same as that to speak. But
experience more than sufficiently teaches that men govern
nothing with more difficulty than their own tongues.

Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza {1632-1677}

Contentiously Contending for Silence
Hermeneutical Muddling by the CFTF Faction

The Irish novelist, playwright and poet Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), in his play "The Good-Natur'd Man," penned a phrase that has been, in principle, often used and abused by those seeking to validate some personal or party preference or practice. He wrote, "Silence gives consent." A familiar example of this is when those in attendance at a wedding are asked by the pastor or priest, "Are there any present who have any objection to this man and this woman being joined in holy matrimony?" The wording may vary during such ceremonies, but the intent is the same: if nobody speaks up in response to this question, then by that silence they give consent to the union of this man and woman. In such cases, therefore, silence is perceived as permissive, even if those who held their tongues were nevertheless in their hearts very much opposed to the union. Some might also suggest, as John Dryden (1631-1700), England's first Poet Laureate, did, that "secret guilt by silence is betrayed." In such instances, such as in the case of a charge or accusation leveled against someone, silence from the accused is perceived by some as an expression or confession of guilt, even though nothing was actually said and even though the accused may in fact be entirely innocent of the charge. To further "muddy the waters," one might advise, as the Irish-American author and activist John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-1890) did: "Be silent and safe, for silence never betrays you." Are we guarded or betrayed by silence? Does silence give consent (even "tacit consent," according John Locke's Second Treatise on Law and Government)? Or, does silence always forbid? There are a good many sound and well-reasoned arguments to be made both for as well as against each of these positions. As in most such quests for greater understanding, it is probably wise to consult the context in which one encounters silence, for silence itself is neither permissive nor prohibitive. Perhaps this is, at least in part, what Solomon perceived when he wrote, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: ... a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b, ESV).

The epistle to the Hebrews, found in our NT canon, begins with this declaration: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2a). Throughout human history, and in a variety of ways, our Creator has "spoken" to mankind. He has thereby specified those aspects of His will that He desires for us to know and to which He expects an appropriate response. Within the inspired writings (some penned during the time of the old covenant, some penned during the time of the new) our God has sought to communicate with His people, revealing to us His divine nature. There is much He specified, and at times in great detail; there are also many things about which He revealed absolutely nothing (which some refer to as God's "silence," or as "the silence of the Scriptures"). Some of what God specifies in His communication with His creation is expressed in the form of command. Other specific revelations may be more informational, designed to help us better understand who He is and how He has chosen to relate to and interact with mankind (both the saved and the lost). Where God has not spoken about something, and there is much about which He is truly silent, we must use our best judgment, tempered with what we do know about His nature and will, to determine whether or not a proposed act or action, about which He has said nothing, would bring Him glory and uplift others around us if we were to engage in it. In such situations, which we all face continually, His silence is neither prohibitive nor permissive. His silence is simply a golden opportunity for His people to exercise sound judgment in what we approve or disapprove: judgments based upon, and tempered contextually by, the precepts and guiding principles He has revealed with regard to His eternal purposes and nature.

In light of this interpretive freedom, it is rather obvious that not all genuine believers will come to the same conclusions with regard to those attitudes and actions most consistent with His divine desires for us. It is here that we each face a great challenge: accepting and loving and extending the hand of fellowship to fellow believers who may have honestly come to different conclusions than we have on such matters, resulting in differing, but no less reverent and respectful, ways of expressing worship of Him and manifestations of loving service to one another. Sadly, we humans have always had a tendency to elevate our own understandings and applications of ultimate Truth to a level with that ultimate Truth, and we have therefore sought to impose our own interpretations and methods upon others as though they constituted divine law. In other words, our own personal or party perceptions, preferences and practices become Truth (at least in our minds), and any deviation from our own chosen path is nothing other than a devilish detour leading straight to the fiery pit of destruction. Such religious, sectarian arrogance has led to fussing and feuding factions within the Family of the Father: a shameful, abominable dismembering of the One Body of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let's get personally honest with ourselves for a moment! If we're sincere and objective in our evaluation, we must admit that the vast majority of our squabbles with our spiritual siblings are not over matters about which our Lord has spoken or specified anything at all, but over matters about which God and the Scriptures are utterly silent. When encountering this vast void, what many have then sought to do is devise and develop hermeneutical precepts and principles that would allow them to interpret biblical silence as either prohibitive or permissive depending on their personal or party theology, when, in fact, true biblical silence is neither. True and absolute silence simply signifies that neither God nor the inspired writings have said anything one way or the other about the matter. We've all heard this maxim: "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." Well, not really! In reality, in actual practice, it is this: "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; but where the Scriptures are silent, we have a whole lot more to say." Where God has neither spoken nor specified, you and I too often presume to do so for Him! This never ends well, to which we can all testify from personal, painful experience.

We have probably all heard of "The Law of Silence." I truly believe this is a misnomer, for no eternal LAW impacting our salvation or our fellowship either with Him or our fellow believers is ever established on what God didn't say, but rather on what God actually and clearly spoke/specified in no uncertain terms. Salvific direction is never discerned by "reading between the lines" of the inspired writings, or by human inferences and assumptions drawn from what God never, ever said. This so-called "law of silence" is one of the key elements of the fatally flawed, humanly devised CENI hermeneutic, about which I have written extensively over the years in an effort to expose its deadly failings and inconsistencies. On my Topical Index page for my Reflections, I have 29 in-depth articles listed under the heading "Law of Silence," and I would encourage the reader to spend some time examining those studies. They are eye-opening for those who have been misled by legalistic patternists and hardened sectarians into believing that biblical silence can be used to establish divine LAW. Nothing could be farther from the truth! And yet, these modern-day Pharisees persist in their promotion of this pernicious falsehood.

For example, in the July 2020 edition of the ultra-conservative publication "Contending for the Faith" [Volume 51, Number 7, Pages 5-6], an article appears by the late Winfred Clark titled "Does Silence Give Sanction?" (which one may read in its entirety by Clicking Here). As is almost always the case when this fabricated "law of silence" is once again dragged out: the issue placed before the reader for condemnation is the use of instruments of music as either an accompaniment or aid to singing in a "worship service" (a phrase, by the way, never found in the Scriptures). On the above referenced Topical Index page for my Reflections, under the heading "Musical Instruments," I have dealt with their objections in 18 in-depth articles, in which I show the inadequacy, inconsistency and fallacy of their arguments. If the reader desires to know my view of this issue, I would advise a careful and prayerful reading of these biblical studies that I have published over the years. We won't be dealing with that topic here, as I have more than adequately dealt with it in those 18 studies.

The above-mentioned article by Winfred Clark begins with this statement: "It is a matter of verbal conjecture on the part of many that God's silence on a subject of human preference makes such allowable." One could add that it is also a matter of verbal conjecture on the part of many that God's silence on a subject of human preference makes such forever forbidden. The reality is that genuine biblical silence does neither. Silence itself neither permits nor prohibits. In an effort to prove the latter (silence forbids), those who promote the "law of silence" tend to rely on several examples from the Scriptures, insisting that in each of these examples "silence prohibits." I believe they are absolutely wrong in their effort to make biblical silence into a regulative principle or precept. This is just as unfounded, however, as the view that true biblical silence is permissive. Again, silence itself does neither, which is a fact the legalistic patternists, who have embraced CENI as their hermeneutic of choice, refuse to acknowledge, for to do so would undermine their theology (especially with respect to their opposition to instruments of music employed as an aid to worship).

WINFRED'S FIRST "PROOF-TEXT" is the example of Noah and the wood he used to build the ark. In Genesis 6:14 God spoke, telling Noah, "Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood" (New American Standard Bible). Winfred Clark, the author of the above piece that appeared in CFTF, wrote, "As you read this verse ... you would affirm the silence of God on all other kinds of wood to be used." Clark's conclusion is: because God did not mention any other kind of wood, then by virtue of that "silence" about any other kind of wood, all other wood is forbidden. What Clark misses here in this text is that God was not silent. God spoke; God specified. He specified "gopher wood," and thus it is specificity, not silence, that is regulatory in this biblical narrative. When God speaks and specifies, there is no silence! All other types of wood are forbidden: NOT because God was silent about every other type of wood on the planet, but because He SPOKE and He SPECIFIED one particular wood. By failing to perceive this fact, many have come to some false conclusions and convictions with respect to Divine desire and expectation. Had God NOT spoken and specified one particular wood, and had instead told Noah, "Go build an ark," then Noah would be left to use his best judgement as to what materials to employ in carrying out God's directive, and which ones would be best suited for the task at hand. In other words, God's "silence" with respect to building materials would have been neither permissive nor prohibitive. In that scenario it would have been entirely up to Noah.

Winfred Clark concludes his first argument (using Noah as his example) thusly: "Shouldn't it follow then that the silence of the New Testament does not authorize the use of mechanical instruments in New Testament worship?" First, he is making an assumption that the NT writings are absolutely SILENT with respect to this matter. Are they? I have demonstrated rather convincingly, I believe, that this is not true (see the above 18 articles under the heading "Musical Instruments" on my Topical Index page). But, let's assume for just a moment that the NT writings are totally and completely silent about using instruments of music in worship. Does such silence permit or forbid? Well, the truth of the matter is: it does NEITHER. "But, God said SING," these patternists will insist. Yes, the Lord specified singing, so we sing (please consider my exegesis of the two texts in Ephesians and Colossians that the legalistic patternists use to try and validate the regulative power of silence: "Legalism's Twin Proof-Texts: Allowing Tradition to Trump Truth" - Reflections #454). Yes, we sing, but we also employ quite a few AIDS as a part of our compliance with that directive. Song books, pitch pipes, sound systems, projecting the words and music up on a screen, a song leader waving his hand in the air, four-part harmony, etc. The NT writings are silent about ALL of these "innovations." Does "silence" forbid them? Here is where a new twist to the CENI-silence hermeneutic is formulated: expediency (see my study titled "The Law of Expediency: A Reflective Examination of Legalistic Patternism's Loophole" - Reflections #261). Oh, the games we play when we seek to formulate LAW from SILENCE. To further illustrate the inadequacy of using Noah and the ark of gopher wood as being in any way "authoritative" with respect to NT worship practices, let me encourage the reader to consider my following studies: "Law of Silence Proof-Texts" (Reflections #16) ... "An Ark of Gopher Wood: Reflecting on an Ancient Mystery" (Reflections #457) ... "Silence Before the Bench: The Failure of Legalists to Discern the Significance of Specificity vs. Silence" (Reflections #456).

WINFRED'S SECOND "PROOF-TEXT" is a classic one with this bunch: the deadly "sin against silence" of Nadab and Abihu. After all, they "offered strange fire before the Lord which He had not commanded them" (Leviticus 10:1, NASB). The working assumption of the legalistic patternists here is that this is a case of God's silence. Winfred Clark wrote in his article, "They used a kind of fire about which God was silent." Well, not really. In point of fact, God had clearly specified the source of the fire that was to be used. He was not silent at all. He had spoken! Nadab and Abihu made an offering unto the Lord God which He had not commanded them. Well, there you have it. Proof positive that silence prohibits, right?! The Lord God had not commanded this particular offering .... He was silent about it .... thus, when they transgressed this "law of silence," God zapped them with a cosmic Zippo. So, all of you who choose to sing with instrumental accompaniment had better beware, 'cause "You're next!" Are such people correct? Was the transgression of Nadab and Abihu that they broke this rigid "law of silence," and that they paid for that violation with their lives? Of course not. Once again, "silence" has nothing to do with this narrative. In reality, their sin was multi-faceted. Through careful exegesis of the biblical text one can determine several fatal errors they committed before their God (each of which is discussed fully in Reflections #63 - "Nadab and Abihu: The Nature of their Fatal Error" - an in-depth study I would urge you to read). These fatal errors were:

  1. Unauthorized entry into the Holy of Holies to offer incense.
  2. Failure to show proper reverence for the Lord God.
  3. Intoxication.
  4. Offering "strange fire."

With regard to the issue of divine "silence," however, we need to notice the last of the four above listed transgressions. What exactly was this "strange fire" of which the text speaks? The answer is, it was fire (or, more correctly: burning coals) which was not taken from the brazen altar, but rather from some other source. In other words, it was burning coals taken from a source other than the one SPECIFIED by God. When ceremonial worship was first instituted among the people of Israel, victims on the brazen altar were consumed by fire sent directly from heaven. This was considered "holy fire;" fire which came from the very presence of God Almighty. The people were commanded to keep this fire burning at all times. The offering of daily incense was to be burned in censers using ONLY the coals taken from this particular fire, and no other. Leviticus 16:12-13 commands that Aaron (the High Priest) "shall take a firepan full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony."

Thus, Nadab and Abihu presented an offering before the Lord that only the High Priest was commanded and authorized to make, and they presented this offering in a location (the Holy of Holies) where only the High Priest was authorized to enter!! They used coals taken from a source other than the one specified by direct command from the Lord, and they did so because they were drunk! Saxe and Jensen cite this as "no light offense," but rather as an action that constituted "flagrant disobedience and presumption" [Studies in Leviticus]. These two sons of Aaron were in direct violation of several specific commands of the Lord God Himself. This was not a case of transgressing "silence." This was a case of doing the exact opposite of what God had commanded them to do. It was not silence that was violated, it was specificity. They replaced, negated and invalidated what God had specified. This was not a case of using something as an aid or accompaniment in their obedience to what was specified. This was a case of voiding what was specified by substituting something else in its place. This is a vital distinction that the proponents of the so-called "law of silence" seem incapable of comprehending. The sin of Nadab and Abihu was a willful, malicious, irreverent replacement of what God specified with something they themselves chose instead. They violated direct commands of Deity, rather than violating His silence. For even more discussion of this misused and abused text, I would suggest a reading of Reflections #228 ("The Silence Syndrome: Arguing for Exclusion ... Again") in which I deal with a gross mishandling of the Nadab and Abihu narrative by Garland Elkins in the November 2005 issue of "Yokefellow" [vol. 32, no. 1], which is the monthly publication of the Memphis School of Preaching.

WINFRED'S THIRD "PROOF-TEXT" is found in a statement that came out of the Jerusalem Conference (or Council) held in 50 A.D., and about which one may read in Acts 15. The destructive teaching that ultimately led to this gathering in Jerusalem is revealed in Acts 15:1 where we find a group of men coming to Antioch from Judea. When they arrived "they began teaching the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved'." Circumcision was one of the defining fleshly marks that characterized compliance with the Old Covenant. That had all changed with the coming of the New Covenant, however; a covenant that had come into being almost two decades prior to the events of Acts 15. Fleshly circumcision was no longer commanded; nor was it forbidden necessarily. Paul, for example, circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3), but did not circumcise Titus (Galatians 2:3). However, there were some within the early church who could not sever themselves from the customs and traditions of the past, and they sought to impose them as LAW during the current era of GRACE. Such teaching and practice, when forced upon others as a condition of salvation and fellowship, was in every way contrary to the specific teachings of the Good News. Paul would attack physical circumcision, when employed and imposed for these reasons, time and again, even suggesting that when one sought this act for these reasons one was fallen from grace and actually severed from Christ. This wasn't something about which the early church or its leaders were silent. Just the opposite. They spoke out about it in very specific terms. For those who may not know about this struggle within the first century church, I would suggest a study of my article: "The Circumcision Party: Legalistic Partisanship within the Early Ekklesia of God in Christ" (Reflections #308).

When these men from Judea reached Antioch with their teaching contrary to Truth, "Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them" (Acts 15:2). It got so heated that a delegation was sent to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders of the church so this issue could be sorted out. When they got there and gathered with the brethren, "certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, 'It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses'" (vs. 5). As this was discussed, there was once again "much debate" among those present (vs. 7). There was certainly at this point a total absence of "silence" ... indeed, a great deal was being spoken, and with loud voices and animated gesturing. In the end, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit who was present (vs. 28), it was determined that the Gospel was to remain unchanged ... even for the Gentiles. No burdens imposed under the Law of Moses would be imposed as part of the New Covenant, a truth that had been preached year after year since the time of Pentecost (to the dissatisfaction of those who desired to live under a form of law). Acts 15:24, however, has caught the eye of those who still seek to impose regulations and restrictions upon the saints, and who seek to do so by using what they characterize as "the law of silence." That passage says that "certain ones which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment" (King James Version). That last phrase has been lifted from the text and used as "proof positive" that "silence prohibits." This is quite easily shown to be an absolute perversion of this passage, however, and I have done so in my article titled "We Gave No Such Commandment: Reflective Analysis of Acts 15:24 in the KJV and Legalistic Patternism's Law of Silence" (Reflections #363).

WINFRED'S FOURTH "PROOF-TEXT" seems almost pointless, for he offered it in passing and didn't even regard it as overly significant. All he wrote was this: "Wasn't God silent about washing hands before eating? Some would add such and seek to have the Lord endorse it, but to no avail (Matthew 15:1-9). Jesus showed such to be nothing more than a human tradition. It has its origin with men and not with God. God was silent concerning such and Jesus did not accept that as authorization to bind such on His disciples." In other words, the Lord Jesus did not accept "silence" as having the authority to bind something on others as law. Which is true. What Winfred Clark failed to add is that Jesus also did not accept "silence" as having the authority to forbid such a practice for whoever might choose to engage in it. In reality, as already noted, genuine biblical silence neither permits nor prohibits. Clark emphasized the one, but he failed to mention the other.

WINFRED'S FIFTH & FINAL "PROOF-TEXT" is yet another example of those who can't seem to grasp the distinction between "silence" and "specificity" when it comes to authoritatively determining Divine expectation. The passage that is dragged out most frequently by the "Law of Silence" proof-texters, and which Winfred Clark uses as his final example, is found in the epistle to the Hebrews. It is a verse pertaining to something Moses didn't say, and from which an unwarranted conclusion is drawn.

Hebrews 7:14
For it is evident that our Lord was descended
from Judah, a tribe with reference to which
Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.

The proponents of the so-called "Law of Silence" declare this is "proof positive" that "silence excludes and prohibits." Moses was silent about priests coming from any other tribe than Levi, therefore all other tribes are excluded by silence. Is this a logical, rational, reasonable conclusion to draw from this passage? Let's use the brains God gave us and think this through. Was God silent with respect to which of the tribes would be the "priestly tribe"? No. God SPOKE. God SPECIFIED. The tribe was to be Levi .... and only Levi. "The Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day. Therefore, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance" (Deuteronomy 10:8-9). See also: Numbers 3:5-10; 8:5-26; 18:1-7. "Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine" (Numbers 8:14). "They are wholly given to Me from among the sons of Israel" (Numbers 8:16). "I am giving you the priesthood as a bestowed service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death" (Numbers 18:7).

God had made it very, very clear that no one from any tribe other than Levi would be allowed to serve in the priesthood. God had SPOKEN. God had SPECIFIED. He was NOT silent. Thus, men from the tribe of Judah were excluded from serving in the priesthood NOT because God was silent about men from Judah serving as priests, but because He had specified that only those from Levi could serve as priests. This brings us to the Hebrews 7:14 passage. Judah was a tribe "with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests." Why was Moses "silent" about Judah with reference to priests? Because God had SPECIFIED the tribe of Levi with reference to priests. There was no need for Moses to say anything about Judah (or any other tribe) for the simple reason GOD HAD SPOKEN. God had specified. Judah is excluded from the priesthood NOT because Moses was "silent" about them serving in that capacity, but because God had specified that priests would come solely from Levi. Thus, it is NOT silence that excludes or prohibits, it is specificity. This passage has nothing whatsoever to do with "silence," much less any so-called "Law of silence." When God has SPOKEN, there is no silence.

And yet, Winfred writes that to make Jesus, who was from the tribe of Judah, a priest would be "invading God's silence." Wrong! It would be "invading God's specificity." He continues, "The unanswerable argument is that since nothing was said concerning one from the tribe of Judah serving as priest, then one from Judah was not authorized to serve as a priest." Again, wrong! A person from Judah was not allowed to serve as a priest because God had specified that priests were to come from Levi. Authority wasn't derived from what wasn't said, but rather from what was. Even the late Dr. Stafford North fell victim to this thinking, yet when I pointed it out to him he was gracious enough to acknowledge that fact (Click Here to read my exchange with him). It is my hope and prayer that those who likewise have been misled in their theology by this so-called "law of silence" will have their eyes opened so as to see the folly of such an approach to biblical interpretation.


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Readers' Reflections

From an Elder in Arkansas:

Al, thanks for your recent article on "Sharing Satan's Sectarian Silliness: A Deadly Delusion of Non-Denominationalism" (Reflections #803). About eight years ago I became bold enough to share these same thoughts in an elders' meeting (there were about 7 or 8 of us). Thank you, Al, for your writings and for your service to our country.

From a Minister in Florida:

Al, I just read "Sharing Satan's Sectarian Silliness." OUTSTANDING ARTICLE!! This unfortunate mindset that you exposed in your article is so ironically sad on so many critical levels. Tragically, it reveals how far-reaching a faulty attitude can be. Fifteen years ago I taught in a K-12 Christian school that was owned and operated by the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Within that setting there were Christian faculty and staff from numerous religious/faith backgrounds who worked tirelessly together for a greater spiritual good. Never before or since have I felt more spiritually accepted than I did in that circle of believers. Our particular heritage (Church of Christ) has much to learn and miles to travel before we fully embrace and practice the kind of acceptance that Jesus displayed in Romans 15:7 - "Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God."

From an Elder in South Carolina:

In your article on sectarian silliness you mentioned Hugh Fulford. I have had contact with this man on Facebook several times, and he consigns you and me to no good place! I explained to him, and to others like him, that as far as being a Christian is concerned our response is belief, repentance and baptism. But, as far as being added to the church is concerned, this is God's choice and doing, and thus it is out of our control. God adds us to the church by adding us together with all those who are being saved. My question to Hugh is (since he equates the One Body with the "Church of Christ" group), "Which one of the 39 Church of Christ splits does God add the saved to?!" Is it the Christian Church, the Disciples of Christ, the International Church of Christ, the Non-Institutional Church of Christ, the Instrumental Music Church of Christ, ad infinitum?! To date, no one has been able to answer that question! I would encourage your readers to ask people they know who are like Hugh Fulford, "Which one of the many splits of the Church of Christ group does God add the saved to?" I truly don't think they know how to answer that!

From an Elder in Oklahoma:

Al, I gained a great deal of respect for Dr. Stafford North a few years ago. I was attempting to teach Revelation, and so I read several books that tried to explain the meaning of Revelation. Some were by Church of Christ authors, but most were not. I thought some were pretty good and some did a really poor job. Someone mentioned to me that Dr. North had written a book on Revelation. To be honest, I expected it to be a defense of traditional Church of Christ teachings. Well, was I ever surprised. It is a well-thought-out and well-reasoned examination of Revelation. Of all the books I've read on Revelation, I believe Stafford's book is the best one to help us understand what the Holy Spirit through John meant. The book is titled "Unlocking Revelation" [21st Century Christian, 2003]. I was not able to find it in any of the bookstores at that time. However, as I live near Oklahoma Christian University, I called him and he graciously met me and signed a copy for me. I found it to be straightforward, easy to understand, and without a lot of his own ideas inserted. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in understanding Revelation. Al, I really appreciate you and your written ministry. May God bless us by blessing you with many more years of service to Him.

From an Author in Arizona:

Al, I am in agreement with a whole bushel of your article "Sharing Satan's Sectarian Silliness," and, as you probably recall, I have often addressed this subject in my own writings (and I continue to do so). I dislike partisanism among and within the redeemed community, yet God does have children in all of the various parties and sects among us, just as He had children in the sect of the Pharisees, and the sect of the Sadducees, and in the other sects of His day. Jesus denounced the sectarian leaders among His people, but He never denounced those who were within these sects who possessed receptive hearts.

From an Author in Nevada:

Yes, "sectarian silliness" is all too prevalent in the declining membership of Churches of Christ (or should that be a small "c" in the word "church," which is a shibboleth among some of those within this denomination?). Are we a "denomination"? Most certainly. Further, Scripture nowhere instructs Christians to adhere to an interpretive system of command, example and inference, together with a law of silence. Such is anachronistic when applied to the first century church. Rather, this methodology has its genesis in the writings of early Restoration Movement pioneers and a few Catholic scholars. Other than the Christian Church and a few other associated believers, this CENI hermeneutic is unknown among scores of denominations. If such notions were valid and useful, then surely other scholars would have discovered this inference-silence hermeneutic.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

I am an old preacher (85 years old). After reading your recent Reflections on "sectarian silliness" I have to wonder if you draw the lines of fellowship anywhere. Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe Jesus is the Son of God, but rather Michael the archangel. Mormons believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Christian Scientists do not practice baptism or observe the Lord's Supper, and neither does the Salvation Army. I could go on, but you get the idea. Just wondering: where do you draw the line?

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, Greetings from Texas. I love and appreciate your labor of love: trying for these many years to enlighten those who are blinded by Satan from the Truth. I wonder what you would get if you asked Hugh Fulford, "What is the Gospel?" Would it be much like the Galatian heresy that Paul warned about?! Any people who add to the finished work of Christ their own effort, or precision worship, or correct membership, or who lean heavily upon what they do and don't do to be saved, are teaching "another gospel," which is an affront to Christ and His sacrificial work for sinners. I once posed this question to several preachers, elders and members of the Church of Christ: "Is the person and work of Jesus enough to save sinners?" I was absolutely shocked to find that several quickly, and even with emphasis, declared, "NO, His work for sinners is NOT enough!" Instead, they said, one must add to His work: doing this and this, and not doing that and that, etc. Why should we believe such people are saved?! They believe and practice and preach "another gospel," NOT the Gospel that Paul and the other apostles preached. All across this nation there is a famine of Gospel preaching. So, I want to thank you for your years of genuine Gospel preaching! Blessings to you and your lovely wife!

From a Minister in Texas:

Al, I just wanted to touch base and let you know we appreciate you and your work so much! Count me with all the other readers who value your research and well-reasoned analysis of Scripture. I am having some difficulty here with someone who has moved into the area and who is the very definition of "sectarian thought" (i.e., "We are right and everyone else is wrong"; "We are the one true church and all others are failed denominations"). I believe this person is an honest seeker of Truth, but he has been indoctrinated with so many layers of false dogma that I'm having no success in breaking through that shell. I need ideas. I do not think he would consider reading anything other than the writings of those who understand the Scriptures his way. I've talked to him about opinions and humility and unity, but all this just falls on ears unwilling to hear. This is causing stress in our group as he refuses to worship with us because we do not agree with him. Your latest article on "Satan's Sectarian Silliness: A Deadly Delusion of Non-Denominationalism" describes well what I believe is occurring here, but my prayer continues to be that we can find a way to work together, even though we have different opinions. How are you working this out in your life and ministry? Will Hugh Fulford work with you? Like you, I really see my ministry as a calling to help those taught this sectarian dogma to find another way to think about their faith. Thanks for listening, and also for any ideas you may have on this matter.

From a Reader in Panama:

Brother Maxey, thank you for your Reflections on "Sharing Satan's Sectarian Silliness: A Deadly Delusion of Non-Denominationalism." We are connected by the same thought. For so long I struggled with that idea that we were the only ones in the world who were really the one true church. I found it sickening, and it was causing me a lot of emotional pain. With study, it has now become just nonsense to me.

From a Minister in Nicaragua:

Many here in my country have a big problem with that idea. They have been taught that they alone are God's church, and no one else. I hope that you can and I can help other people out from this Satanic idea. Thank you for your work!

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Al, I am so thankful that you are taking on the traditions of our movement. I am saddened, so saddened, over what Jesus must think of the hardliners in our movement who have sought to make us into a legalistic cult. How He must grieve as some in our movement read about the Pharisees in the Bible and just gloss over the teaching about them as if there is nothing to be learned and applied from those warnings and teachings. How many souls have turned their backs on the Gospel message because of these legalists today who preach harsh criticisms of others over interpretations different from their own?!

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