False Accusation or False Teaching?
By Don Martin
All who publicly teach shall be misrepresented from time to time, it simply comes with the territory. Even Jesus, the Master Teacher, was misunderstood and misrepresented (John 2: 18-21; Matt. 26: 61). I know that I have been misunderstood and on occasion the problem was my own fault, this was not the case with Jesus. I am also aware that it matters not how free of ambiguity we might be as public teachers, there will be those who will take what we clearly say and twist it for their own reasons. Having acknowledged these just mentioned perceived situations, eventualities, and too common occurrences allow me to now address another matter. It is common for a man to deliberately teach that which is error in reality and when his name is called or he is exposed, resort to the old, “He is falsely accusing me” ploy. The, “He is falsely accusing me” routine is often used as a diversionary tactic, it takes the spot light off his teaching and need to address it and places it on the one exposing his teaching and makes him the villain and focus.
I recall some of my first major experiences in the church in such matters. It was back in the late sixties when there was a group of preachers advocating things that concerned a number of us. Some of these men had good reputations and I really thought that they were having a bad word day; albeit I did not understand how they were all having a bad word day that involved the same words at the same time. These men were asked to explain their words that had all the appearance of the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, etc. and they retorted by saying, “We are being falsely accused and this must stop!” Their bad words (false teaching) continued and others began to apply more pressure. Again, the cry came, “These are mean men that are attempting to personally slander us!” Still, they would not directly address the involved issues but continued the promulgation of their doctrines. Most of these men (a total of about fourteen) ended up in obviously apostate Churches of Christ, Baptists, and Pentecostal Churches. To this very day, some of these men still claim that they were lied on and slandered, notwithstanding the proof to the contrary.
I personally have only seen a few false teachers who did not resort to the, “You are maligning me” charge. During the past eight years, I have had over one hundred written debates and most of the disputants, when analyzed, have put up a subterfuge of diversion consisting of, “I am misunderstood.” When provided ample opportunity to correct what they have taught, they refuse, often even denying that they taught it.
We are experiencing a major digression today in non-institutionalism churches of Christ involving divorce and marriage to another. Numerous positions are now being taught and defended and, yet, when these proponents of error are challenged, they vociferously exclaim, “You are guilty of slander and false accusation.” A number who are currently part of the Guardian of Truth Foundation Movement are refusing to honorably and responsibly address doctrinal differences relative to divorce and marriage to another, simply claiming that they are misunderstood, misquoted, and not appreciated. They do this notwithstanding a mountain of evidence proving what they have taught. One of my latest experiences of this sort involved Joe Price and Keith Greer. Attendant to the, “You have misapprehended my words” is also the, “We can believe the same main truth and differ in the application of that truth” and still all be correct in our teaching and deserving of mutual fellowship. Joe Price recently published material on Romans 14 and in this material he attempted to obviate the fellowship problem relative to some of the divorce and marriage to another doctrinal aberrations. Hear Joe (I do not want to misquote Joe; therefore, I shall insert his own words):
“...Brother Keith Greer recently reminded us of some applications of the Bible’s teaching on MDR over which brethren disagree even while they maintain agreement on the divine pattern of one man and one woman for life, with one exception (Matt. 19:4-6, 9). The differences in application he noted were:
1. Does the cause (adultery) have to be written on the papers?
2. Can an adulterous mate execute a civil divorce against a faithful mate, and the faithful mate be prohibited from remarrying because he/she is the “put-away” mate?
3. What if both parties commit adultery?
4. Can the first mate (the faithful one) take back and remarry the ‘guilty party’ after the divorce?
5. Does death sever the put-away fornicator’s marriage bond?
6. Can a Christian put away his mate for the ‘kingdom’s sake’ and remain unmarried or be reconciled? (‘Are We Doomed to Divide?’, Keith Greer, Knollwood Messenger, July 2004.)
When conscience compels a brother or sister to hold fast to one application over another, and truth is not violated by doing so, we are to respect their conscience and not press our different (though equally sound) application to the point of division. That is the ‘side’ of Romans 14 we must not forget. We must remember to receive one another when there is dispute over ‘doubtful things’ instead of pressing personal scruples to the point of forcing the violation of conscience and rupturing unity in the body of Christ.....”
Joe perceives “doubtful things” being matters that a number of us consider to be rank false teaching and adultery. Most of these fellows are skilled at confusing the issue. In reading Mike Willis’ writings in which he along with Joe calls for compromise on MDR matters, not once have I seen Mike mention his own teaching of multiple causes for divorce. Keith and Joe (Joe by way of endorsement) list matters concerning which I have not encountered serious problems (items 1, 3, 4, and 5) and along side of these, they insert two major issues of a very practical and wide-spread nature, items 2 and 6. A number of the preachers identified with the Guardian of Truth Foundation and Truth Magazine are promoting the “second putting away” position performed by an already put away person and also defending Mike Willis’ teaching regarding multiple causes for divorce.
As many of you who are considering this material know, the scriptures use “put away” applied to both the guilty put away and also the innocent put away (Matt. 5: 32; 19: 9). Regarding both circumstances, the put away is decidedly living in sin if they marry another while their first mate lives. The scriptures also offer one cause for biblical putting away and that is when the innocent mate puts away the mate guilty of adultery; only they have the right to marry another (Matt. 19: 9).
It is amazing that men can even put in writing the above listed items for which they call for compromise and tolerance and then when it is said that they call for tolerance and compromise regarding the innocent put away being later allowed to put away and marry another and multiple causes for divorce, they shout: “We are being slandered and falsely accused!”
Allow me to say with the greatest clarity that I can, Joe Price and Keith Greer are teaching error in calling for tolerance (Keith Greer’s case) and the activation of Romans 14 (Joe’s case) regarding the innocent put away and Mike Willis is teaching damnable error in his multiple cause for divorce teaching. Am I the bad guy? Have I misrepresented any of these fellows? I think not!
How can such fellows continue to claim misrepresentation (most of these fellows have personally said to me that they are being slandered) and maintain honesty? Let me show you what I mean. One says, “Don Martin believes that if the innocent mate elects to put away the fornicating mate, they must exercise the right and actively pursue the matter and not passively wait until after they have been put away and then say, ‘I am now putting you away.’” Here is another, “Don Martin believes in one cause for biblical divorce and that is fornication.” I have had some to say this about me and I have always thanked them for being accurate. I have taught this for many, many years and written volumes on it. Yes, I teach such and I responsibly stand behind what I have taught! I am not going to whine and say, “I am being misrepresented, slandered, and falsely accused.” My teaching is documented just as the teaching of these fellows whom I have mentioned.
Instead of whining about being slandered and lied on, we need to courageously face the issues and forthrightly address them. I do not have to divert, try to shift the spot light, or take the heat off myself by falsely accusing any who would challenge me. I teach what I teach, I believe it to be the truth, and I stand behind it. It is just that simple!
How much better off the Lord’s church today would be if all would be forthright about their beliefs, teaching, and alignments. I am not a part of a group of men teaching error on such important subjects as MDR because I do not agree with them and view their teaching as damnable error, unlike Joe Price and Keith Greer. Unlike Joe and Keith and others, I am not about to defend errorists and call for compromise or the activation of Romans 14.
In closing, I concur that slander and false accusation even of a deliberate nature takes place. However, I also suggest that some hide behind the slander charge and deny their beliefs and documented teaching, all the time slandering those whom they claim slandered them! (Joe Price recently published two parts of what I understand to be a three part series pertaining to slander and has made some good points. At the time of this writing, Joe has not supplied my name. However, Joe has accused me of slandering him as above mentioned. This article is not a direct rebuttal or is not to be understood as saying that Joe supplied my name in his material, at least, in the first two installments. This article is designed to fill in an area that Joe has not mentioned and that I am convinced he will not mention. Both Joe and Keith are capable men and thus able to come to the plate and responsibly deal with what they have taught instead of playing games.) Again, is the matter simply false accusation or false teaching? (If you desire to read the original exchange between Joe Price and me, go to www.bibletruths.net and click on the door. When on the Site Map page, click on “Polemic Exchanges.” The exchange is among the first few listed.)