It’s No Longer A ‘Trend’
By Steven Harper
Just over 10 years ago, a well-known preacher and writer published a small booklet that warned of present dangers amongst brethren that he believed were pointing toward certain apostasy within the church. The five points he mentioned were not meant to be all-inclusive, but were merely examples that were indicative of the attitudes that were then present, and which the author believed would lead down a certain path of inevitable tolerance — and then practice of — error. I remember personally hearing the author deliver this lesson and congratulated him then on standing firm against such prevalent attitudes in the face of those who chastised him for chastising and warning us.
Part of the motivation for writing this small booklet, no doubt, was the attitudes of some men who ran to the defense of a long-time preacher of great notoriety who was preaching error on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. [I say this because this man is mentioned by name in the book, along with the error he espoused.] When his teaching was exposed publicly [the famous preacher said he had believed and taught it for more than 40 years], some other well-known brethren ran to his personal defense [not of his teaching] and condemned others who were condemning him. It seemed, at the time and even now, that some were more interested in upholding the good name of the man more than truth itself. Many brethren who condemned the teaching were taken aback by those who were intent on defending the one who preached the error while, at the same time, distancing themselves from what he taught [continued fellowship with the false teacher while saying little or nothing about the false teaching].
Back then, I was seriously disappointed that many well-respected men chose to defend “the man” rather than THE TRUTH. [I am still disappointed since they have continued down that path.] Others, at the time, rightly condemned such tolerant attitudes as dangerous and destructive, and pointed to the inevitable result of a future unwillingness to condemn other sins and continuing to have fellowship with some who preached error “as long as they do not preach it here” [wherever “here” might be].
Imagine my surprise when, not long after this booklet was published, the author began teaching a different error on marriage, divorce, and remarriage! When I was told of this a few years later, I was dumbstruck. Could the one who had preached so strongly against errors on this topic now be teaching error himself? The only way to know was to ask him myself. Since I got no response whatsoever from him when I attempted to ask, I resolved to read some of his published words, and hear some tapes that recorded his own words.
Let it be said now that the evidence is simply overwhelming and it is plain that the charge was true: the very one who vehemently defended truth on this matter was now guilty of the very thing he condemned. [Remember Romans 2:3?] And to make matters worse, we now have a cadre of men intent on defending the man to the death, and some who are now defending the error itself. We might imagine the reasons for this effort on the part of the defenders if the relationship of the defenders to the guilty was not so patently obvious. I was born in the morning, but not this morning.
Adding to the problem of this recent propagation of error is the seeming unwillingness of the author to publicly discuss the issue with those who oppose his false teaching. Oh, he is certainly willing to discuss it amongst those who welcome him and do not challenge his words, though. He does this even as he tells others he “does not have the time” to discuss it. And the problem is compounded by many who are unaware he is teaching error, or who think it is not important enough to discuss. Many of those who are now propagating or defending this most recent error are unwilling to have discussions with those who disagree [like the ‘defenders’ of institutionalism of times past] and try to paint themselves as someone ‘above’ such pettiness. Some are loudly proclaiming now [as a defense of the man and his error], “we don’t need to divide over every issue.” What they mean is: “Don’t cut me off because I preach error on this topic.”
What we have here is a full-fledged demonstration of hypocrisy in action! Listen to the words of the author himself:
“(T)here needs to be the earnest desire of our hearts to avoid the danger of apostasy. How do we avoid it? How can we avoid it? If we are going to be able to avoid it, we are going to have to be able to recognize it. And, we are going to have to have a willingness to oppose it, to expose it, and even to correct our course, to correct those trends that might be leading us in the wrong direction. When we speak of ‘a trend,’ we mean a new direction or tendency, that which is not fully developed yet, when we first begin to veer or drift from an established course. At an early stage such trends are easier to correct, but the irony of it is that they are harder to recognize.” [The italics are the author’s.]
Friends, it appears that this is no longer a ‘trend’ but a definite path — one the author and others have taken! Since the man’s teaching was exposed, I have witnessed through written and spoken word those who are intent on deflecting criticism of the false teaching and who have tried to side-track the discussion away from the real issue. It seems the boldness of the old preacher to preach false doctrine has emboldened others to give it a try and they have started preaching various errors on this and other topics. Other preachers, well-known among many brethren, have started preaching a man may get divorced for reasons other than adultery or fornication, and others now teach that God’s law on marriage “isn’t so clear” that we can make judgments of what is right or wrong!
Friends and brethren, this is indeed a dangerous path these brethren are headed down. When our aim becomes defending friends, family, and brethren before we stand for THE TRUTH, we have lost our way and have surrendered the fight altogether! When we are more interested in maintaining business, personal, brotherhood, institutional, or inter-church relationships more than our relationship to Jesus Christ Himself, we have gone the way of the world and we are no better than those of old who refused to confess Christ lest they be put out of the synagogue (John 12:42, 43)! Do we not trust in the power of TRUTH [God’s Word --- not the magazine of this name] anymore?
But, lest we get discouraged, there is a way back to the path of righteousness. The Lord Himself pleaded with His people, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.” (Jer. 6:16) Unfortunately, they refused to walk in the ways of the Lord, and for that they were taken away. We still have a choice, while the Lord has been gracious and merciful enough, to repent and turn back to THE TRUTH. What will we do?
We can choose to close our eyes to the error that is being preached; we can choose to keep our mouths shut and never expose the error being preached; we can deflect criticism of those who preach the error and never really get to the heart of the matter; we can join in with those who are preaching error and continue as if nothing has changed; or we can simply join in preaching the error with others.
Or, we could choose to take a stand against error — no matter who it is that is teaching it. We could choose to stand with Christ and not with men. We could choose to stand and defend THE TRUTH.
I don’t know about you, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15)