Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 21, 1960
NUMBER 36, PAGE 1,8-14

"Certain Expressions And The Fruits Of Liberalism" -- (Continued)

Roy E. Cogdill, Nacogdoches, Texas

(This is article No. 13 in review of "We Be Brethren", a book by J. D. Thomas, Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Texas)

In the former article on this subject — last week in the Gospel Guardian — we pointed out that our brother's "Liberalism" is evidenced in his book by 1) His misconceptions and misapplications of scripture concerning the local church and its organization and the resulting failure to properly respect this divine organization; (2) the fact that he arbitrarily rejects the force of plain examples of church action in the New Testament day and his projection of action for the churches for which there is neither precept nor example, thus exercising liberty that he has no right to exercise; and 3) His paying lip-service to New Testament authority while he discounts the necessity of teaching and practicing only things which are taught in the New Testament.

We continue our review by noticing some further indications (certain expressions) of "Liberalism" in this book, "We Be Brethren".

4. The "Liberalism" in our brother's book is seen again in the affirmation that it was more necessary to keep God's commandments under the Old Covenant than to do the will of Christ under the New Covenant. We quote:

"(2) Also, in the Bible sense, a Legalist is one who thinks that the Christian system is merely a "new law" or a mere legal code (in the same sense) that the law of Moses was a mere legal code, so that he trusts in Christian "rule-keeping" rather than in the blood of Christ as his sin-offering, which is freely available to us by God's grace and on the condition of our faith. The book of James does speak of the "perfect law of liberty, and the entire New Testament abounds in "commandments" which must be kept; but the Christian system is not a "mere legal code" as was the law of Moses — rather it has a saviour, and it is his merit and not our own achievement that saves. Certainly we must obey, but this obedience serves merely to "meet the conditions" of receiving the gift of salvation, which is grounded upon the principle of faith. (See also on this point Romans 1:7, 3:20, 25, 26; 4:1-5; Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:21, 25.)

"The Christian religion is a "faith" system as opposed to a legal religion, and its rules or commands should be recognized as being valuable because of their relation to the 'crucified Christ' and not because they are simply a group of unrelated-laws, listed as a legal code or as a mere set of rules." (Page 111)

"True religion deals with attitudes; and faith in the broad sense is required. Christianity is concerned with "mercy and justice" and the "weightier matters." Woe be to that man who tries to make it into a bundle of little detailed rules, mere technicalities! The law of Moses was done away because law-keeping cannot save! "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" — Romans 3:20. "We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law" — Romans 3:28" (Page 117-118)

This sounds like pure sectarianism. It is the same attitude toward the word of God and the necessity of obedience to what Christ commands that we have had to meet from denominationalists all through the years. It sounds strange coming from one who professes to be a single Christian.

(1) In the first place, it is an imagined problem. Who does our brother think is guilty of regarding the "New Covenant" as a "bundle of little detailed rules, mere technicalities"? Is any man willing to pay it any heed unless he believes is to be the will of Christ? How can a man believe in his word who does not believe in Christ? How can any man believe in the importance of obeying the word of Christ, who does not believe in Christ? How can any man put any confidence in the saving power of the Gospel except as he believes in the atoning power of the blood of Christ? These are imaginary problems for there is not the slightest possibility of believing in the Gospel, obeying the Gospel, or realizing the necessity of teaching others to do so except as one believes in Christ. The whole thing is relationship with Christ made possible by faith in him that impels respect for and obedience to his word. Surely no one who claims to be a Christian would contend for anything else.

Regard for any law rests upon the respect that one has for the authority that establishes that law and enforces it. The only basis for regard for the law of Christ, the Gospel, is that degree of faith in Christ that respects the fact that he has "all authority both in heaven and on earth". He has therefore the right to command and to demand obedience. He is not only our redeemer but our Lord! We must respect every syllable of his divine law for the reason that we believe in him with all of our hearts as both ruler and redeemer! In order to respect his word, we must respect his authority and in order to respect his authority, we must believe in his present position at the Father's right hand as both Lord and Christ!

As an instance of the liberty our learned professor thinks he can take with the law of God we quote:

"c) The extreme Legalist recognizes that the scriptures authorizes church enrollment and support of certain sixty-year-old widows (I Tim. 6:9,10), but he would be willing to let a fifty nine-year-old widow starve! being "scriptural" to him means no more than meeting a technical demand. There is no "spirituality" involved — no concern with right "attitudes." (Page 115)

Here is another supposed case that is plain misrepresentation with evident purpose of arousing prejudice. These men who think God doesn't mean exactly what he says, if it doesn't suit them, like to represent their opposition as being so "legalistic" or "hard-hearted" that they would let a little child starve, or a "fifty-nine-year-old widow" starve to death, or a man hit by a car and lying bleeding out in the street die because he was not a saint or because they were not to be provided for out of the church treasury. Their notion of "spirituality" is thus to misrepresent those who disagree with them. We have another name for such a disposition! Does brother Thomas think he knows any brethren who would do what he describes? What evidence has he seen of such an attitude upon the part of any of his brethren? We dare say that evidence of such an attitude exists only in his own imagination and uncharitable disposition toward those with whom he differs and nowhere else.

But how old must a widow be before the church "enrolls" her to be "relieved"? Our brother thinks that if you insist on her being sixty years of age you are a "legalist"! How much short of sixty does he think she can be and yet be subject to the "enrollment for relief" of which Paul writes to Timothy? He feels that sixty in this passage should be allowed to mean "fifty-nine" at least. Well would he stand by and let a fifty-eight-year-old widow starve to death? If he did would he not be a legalist? Why would allowing a fifty-nine-year-old to starve make one a legalist if allowing a fifty-eight-year-old widow to starve would not make one a legalist? And if sixty years old includes fifty nine, then why would it not include fifty-eight? And if it includes fifty-eight why would it not include fifty-seven, and if fifty-seven, then why not fifty-six, and if you reasoned your liberty to allow you to get this far away from sixty, then why set any age limit at all? Brother Thomas does not like "nice little cut-and-dried laws" and he thinks when Paul said, "Let not a widow be taken into the number under three-score years old", that means take one of any age that seems right to you. If that is so, then "having been the wife of one man," means she could have had at least two or maybe more, because we don't want to be "legalists" by insisting on taking the "letter" of the law and not being "spiritual". Moreover, if "sixty-years" means younger than that, then the "younger widows" of verse 11 would mean that some of the "older" widows could be refused also; and "let not the church be charged" in verse 16 would mean that the church could be charged! Now you couldn't call that a shade of "gray", could you? That is our professor's "method of interpreting" the word of God! That is the kind of teaching in Bible that our young people are getting at Abilene College!

Our brother reasons in a very careless manner when he concludes that because a "widow" cannot be enrolled by the church that she could not be helped by Christians. This is the ridiculous conclusion that must be reached, we suppose, when one does not know the difference between the church and the Christian individual and this is one of our brother's basic troubles. He thinks such a difference is a "mere technical difficulty" and that it is "legalistic" to try to make a difference between the "Lord's money" and one's own money. We knew an elder once who was treasurer of the congregation who didn't know the difference until some of the brethren caught him dipping into the contribution on Lord's Day to put some of the Lord's money into his own pocket and they taught him that there is quite a bit of difference between the church and the Christian individual.

If there is a "widow" who is destitute that cannot "be relieved" out of the church treasury for the reason that there is no authority for doing so, let us not allow her to starve to death, brother Thomas, but let us help her out of the money still in our possession — out of our own resources — and leave the Lord's money to be used according to his will. That is exactly what Paul taught in I Tim. 5:16, "If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed". Keep the church free from obligations that God did not put upon it so that it may do what the Lord intended for it to do. This is our obligation.

Our brother would delete every passage that teaches that it is even more necessary today to respect the law of Christ than it was ever necessary to respect and obey the law of Moses. Let us listen to New Testament teaching and see what impression we get:

"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him". Heb. 2:1-3.

Here Paul reasons that it is more important to hear and obey the gospel (not neglect it) than it ever was to hear and obey the law of Moses. It has been delivered by heaven's most important messenger! Indeed! God is speaking to us today through his son! We are under greater obligation to hear the word and carry it out in every respect because of the faith we have in and the love and respect we have in our hearts for that Son of God.

But listen to Paul again:

"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the Manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Heb. 10 :25-29

The Holy Spirit in this passage emphasizes the greater punishment that will be meted out to those who do not obey the law of Christ than was ever possible under the Law of Moses. Brother Thomas would reverse the order! The New Testament abounds with warnings like these that emphasize the necessity of complying with the terms and conditions of the New Covenant. It is a covenant exactly as the Old Testament was a covenant except that this covenant has been sealed with the blood of Christ. The man would be silly indeed who would adopt the terms and conditions of the New Covenant and worship them enough to be willing to obey them and put his trust in them without believing in the Lord and the saving power of his shed blood. The New Covenant without his death is not even in effect. Any adoption of it without its relation to the Lord would be upon the basis of what human wisdom saw in it and that is contrary to what the word of God says about it. Its terms and conditions rest upon only one ground and that is not the wisdom that men see in it but their willingness to become the "fool of God" in order that they might be made wise with the wisdom of God and because of their faith in it.

I Cor. 1.

Brother Thomas' charge in his book then that some are legalistic in that they trust in the "mere technicalities" of the New Testament as a "bundle of little detailed rules" is not only false and deceitful but too silly and ridiculous to have come from him. He should get off of the old sour sectarian note that would discount reverence for the will of Christ and obedience to his commandments. There is no conflict between the doctrine of justification by faith and the necessity of complying with the law of Christ!

5. But our brother's "Liberalism" is again evident in the fact that he infers many times, in his attempt to saddle what he calls "Legalism" off on those who differ with him on these issues of cooperation, that we are not under a "legal system" or a "law" at all today but under a system of grace only.

This again is the old sour note of sectarianism that has been sounded all through the ages by those who want their own way and will not respect the way of the Lord. Our brother has evidently fallen for it. Hear him:

"Thus the Bible condemns our trusting in our obedience to a mere legal code or a plan and in our own human "achieved" righteousness rather than in the blood of the cross which is provided by God's grace.

(2) Also in the Bible sense, a Legalist is one who thinks that the Christian system is merely a "new law" or a mere legal code (in the same sense) that the law of Moses was a mere legal code, so that he trusts in Christian "rule-keeping" rather than in the blood of Christ as his sin-offering, which is freely available to us by God's grace and on the condition of our faith". (Page 10-111).

"Reverence for the bare externals of law-keeping predominates; there is no appreciation of the true inner spirit of Christianity or for God's grace. Obedience is motivated only by fear or self interest". (Page 112)

"In summary, a short definition of "Legalism" is that it is an over-concern for mere law, as such. Ways in which such over-concern is often expressed are:

(1) Considering Christianity as a mere legal system rather than a grace-faith system.

(2) Dependence upon "law-keeping" for salvation rather than upon Christ." (Page 113)

"Many have emphasized baptism, and the "steps" of the plan of salvation, to the neglect of "Christ crucified." In opposing the denominations, which has of course been necessary, we have emphasized our differences with them so long and so much that we have actually taken for granted the preaching of Christ and God's grace — so that these really central doctrines have been shunted to one side. We fear that even today this wrong emphasis is still with us in some quarters, to the extent that some of us do not know what is being discussed when we hear someone speak of being saved by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8); and there is the feeling that the really central thing about the gospel is not Christ crucified, but rather faith, repentance, confession, and baptism!" (Page 116-117)

In the midst of all these uncharitable inferences toward someone, our brother stops to say, "We would not attempt to assess motives for the attitudes and actions of any of our BRETHREN." (Page 119) About whom is he talking then when he charges that some obey because of their reverence for the law and not because of their trust in the blood of Christ and the grace of God? How could he know this? Again, of whom does he speak when he charges that some have "no appreciation of the true spirit of Christianity or for God's grace. Obedience is motivated only by fear or self interest"? If he isn't talking about the BRETHREN, he should tell us of whom he is talking. We can't believe him in these disavowals when he hits one of his pious streaks and denies that he has those who oppose him in mind! He is talking about the BRETHREN all right but he isn't telling the truth about his brethren. Again we say that such an attitude as he builds up in his straw man is too absurd for any man with enough intelligence to go home by himself to have. If there is anything that men cannot do, it is to accept and follow the requirements of the Gospel in their entirety for self interest or because of the reverence they have for the bare externals of law-keeping. The Gospel is too contrary to human wisdom and philosophy for that. It demands too many sacrifices and runs counter to everything in the world too much for that. A man who would keep the law of Christ for these reasons should be excused. God will take care of him. As a good brother in Louisiana said one time, "He will get in at the fool-hole".

The greatest sin our brother has committed in such handling of the word of God and such an effort to deprecate the conditions and requirements of the will of Christ and the importance of complying with them is the inference that constantly recurs in his book when he is discussing these attitudes that there is some conflict between law and grace — faith and obedience — the blood of Christ and the waters of baptism — the spirit of Christianity and its expression in obedience to the will of Christ. This is the same old sectarian, denominational misrepresentation of truth that we have had to meet all of our lives. It is not so! Such error will confront our brother in the judgment. It is an evidence of his liberalistic, sectarian lack of conviction as well as his uncharitable, self-righteous, pharisaic attitude.

What does the New Testament scriptures say about our being under law today? Look at the passages which say that we are and the very description of the law which governs us and demands obedience to the will of Christ.

(1.) God said the New Covenant would be new in the sense that "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts". Jer. 31. Heb. 8:10. Brother Thomas thinks the difference is between having a law and not having one.

(2.) Paul declares that the Gospel is the "law of faith" and that it precludes the reliance of the Jew upon works done under the law of Moses. Rom. 3:27. Our brother Thomas thinks there is a difference in law and faith. He does not recognize the "law of faith" that impels obedience as an expression of our trust in him rather than in either the works of the law of Moses or the works of man's righteousness.

(3.) Paul said again, "Yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. . . . To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law". I Cor. 9:19-21. Maybe our brother misunderstands this passage and thinks that Paul meant that we should talk and make out like we are not under law to fool those who are not willing to accept the law of Christ while at the same time we are actually under the law of Christ. But that is not the meaning of the verse. When Paul was among the Jews he went as far as truth and conscience would let him go in accommodating himself to their customs and ways in order to win them. He did exactly the same thing when among the Gentiles in order that he might win them. He was and we are under law to Christ.

(4) In Romans 8:1-4 Paul discusses the transition of God's people from the rule of a system of carnal commandments to a "law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus". Our brother thinks there is a conflict between spirit and law keeping evidently. He contrasts Christ and the law! The Spirit and the law! Faith and the law! Grace and law! But there is no contrast between them.

(5) The grace of God has appeared "teaching us". Titus 2:11-12. When the gospel was preached in the New Testament days and men were taught to believe in Christ as the Son of God and obey him in confession, repentance, and baptism, and they did so, it was a manifestation of the grace of God. Acts 11:20-23. There is no conflict between grace and divine law. Such is only fictitious and imaginary and on a parallel with the old sectarian charge all through the years that man cannot be saved by grace and salvation be conditioned upon certain terms and requirements at the same time. The very Gospel whose terms and conditions they would discount on the ground of exalting grace is itself the "gospel of the grace of God", (Acts 20:24). "The word of his grace", (Acts 20:32, 14:3.)

The grace of God has made three provisions for man's salvation: 1) Christ as a savior, 2) The Gospel as a message of life and salvation, and 3) the church as a saved relationship. They are all provisions of divine grace and the grace of God can be disregarded and nullified at either point. There are many of us who preach "salvation by grace" as fully and earnestly as brother Thomas or any sectarian in the country but we pay it more than lip service for we preach the "gospel of the grace of God" in its fullness also, without any "softening or watering down". We also preach the church as the perfect and sufficient provision of God's grace, both organically and otherwise, through which to accomplish God's purposes. Eph. 1:23. It is the fullness of God's grace as well as the manifestation of his wisdom. Eph. 3:10-20. We not only believe God's grace provided it and can therefore be recognized and honored in it but we believe also that God can be glorified through it and in it through Jesus Christ. We resent to the fullness of our being any professed Bible teacher or preacher who would infer that to be satisfied to serve God and his purposes in and through that organization which he has given in divine wisdom for the accomplishment of his purposes on earth is in any way in conflict with God's grace. It is not so! It is "Liberalism" to think so.

(6.) Another demonstration of the "Liberalism" of our brother's book is seen in his effort to separate the "doctrine" of Christ from "Faith in Christ". We see this in the following quotations:

"3. The Legalist is disposed to try to convert a man to a creedal point only (i.e., to win an argument) — such as, to the view that the 'Church of Christ is the right church'; or 'baptism is necessary to salvation;' but he is not interested in converting the man to Christ himself! These doctrinal points are of course true, but they have meaning in Christianity only because of their relation to the crucified Saviour'. Paul preached 'Christ and Him crucified!' and so must we. We must forget any centrality of creedal statements as such, and must let Christ be central in our preaching." (Page 115-116)

"Another way in which we have had Legalistic tendencies in the past is that of emphasis' Many have emphasized baptism, and the 'steps' of the plan of salvation, to the neglect of 'Christ crucified.' (Page 116)

"True religion deals with attitudes; and faith in the broad sense is required." (Page 117-118)

We have had this idea to combat all through the years we have been preaching the Gospel of Christ. Baptists preachers and debaters have always insisted that the "faith that saves" is not "faith in the doctrines Christ taught" but "faith in Christ as a personal saviour". We have had men like. D. N. Jackson insist in public debate that if a man apostatized and backslid to the point of denying what Christ teaches in the New Testament yet believed in his heart in Jesus Christ as a saviour, he would still have faith enough to save him. This is what they mean by the "security of the believer". They argue that all such warnings as "erring concerning the faith", "falling away from the faith", "denying the faith", "casting off their first faith", "making shipwreck of the faith", and many more like them in the New Testament only concerned a man's reverence and respect for what Christ taught and that it is impossible for a man to lose his personal faith in Christ as saviour when he once really believed. We wonder what kind of an answer our brother Thomas would make to them. He couldn't make any for evidently he thinks there is such a thing as "faith in the broad sense" or faith in Christ without reverence for what Christ teaches. If he doesn't, then his statements quoted above do not make good nonsense and much less do they make sense!

A few years ago some of our "liberals" in certain "high places" contended that the statement in II John, verse 9, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." had been misused all through the years by our brethren; that this passage does not prohibit going beyond the "teaching" of Christ but it means only departing from the doctrine that "Jesus is the Christ". Brother Thomas sounds like he might belong to this same class.

But genuine faith in Christ, as contrasted with feigned faith in the Lord, cannot be separated from his "teaching". We must believe in his "teaching" because we believe in Him! No man can believe in Christ as the Son of God, actually, who does not gladly accept and reverence everything Christ taught. Neither can any man truly believe in Christ as the Son of God and the New Testament as His word who is willing to go beyond and exalt human philosophy, wisdom and authority to a level of the will, word, and authority of the Lord. Christ is our creed! To be sure! But how can a man believe in Christ with all of his heart and not believe that Baptism is for the remission of his sins? Then, how can a man really believe in "baptism for the remission of sins" or that "the church of Christ is the right church" without believing it because the Lord taught it? The two cannot be separated! The challenge of Christ to the Jew was "If you believe in me, why do ye not believe in my words?"

When they preached "Christ and him crucified" in the New Testament day they preached "baptism for the remission of sins", the "plan of salvation" and whatever "steps" were required in it, and that the "church of Christ" — the one Jesus built — is the only saved relationship. One cannot preach Christ crucified without preaching these fundamental doctrines of Christ! Peter and Phillip could not and J. D. Thomas can not. Paul, in his recorded writings, would be a "legalist" because of the emphasis he placed on such teaching of Christ, according to our brother. We think rather, that in his attempt to de-emphasize such Bible doctrines our brother demonstrates his "liberalism" and lack of faith.

(7.) Again we point out our brother's "Liberalism" in his book by the misuse he makes of the expressions "spirit and letter" and by his effort to discount the "letter" (specific requirements) of the law of the Lord.

"2. The normal Legalist is a man who loves the letter, but ignores the spirit of God's will. He does not want to be bothered with 'meditating on God's will day and night!' He wants to know the exact minimum legal requirement and to obey it (only because of his self-interest), and then he wants to relax and spend the rest of his time, his money, and his interest in lavish selfishness." (Page 115)

This is a pretty bad picture of anybody. Of course, since our brother wrote his book in an effort to reply to some things some of the rest of us have said, his inference is that we are guilty of such hard-hearted, uncharitable, hypocrisy as he describes above. We deny the charge, as far as we are concerned, and brand such a hypercritical and censorious judgment as unchristian in the extreme. It makes rank and pure hypocrisy a statement later on in the chapter, "We would not attempt to assess motives for the attitudes and activities of any of our BRETHREN. That is between them and God. We could not judge if we wanted to." (page 119) Then why did you do it, brother Thomas? Such severe and uncharitable statements as this, in which your book abounds, cannot allow to be credited with any degree of sincerity the pretended piety, love for brethren, prayerful concern over disunity, and many other professed and expressed sentiments found upon the pages of your book. The same heart and mouth cannot breathe both blessings and cursings with sincerity.

In the same way that our brother reverses himself and talks out of both sides of his mouth about so many other things, he also reverses himself in the use of the expressions of "letter and spirit" as he applies them to the law of Christ. In one breath he exalts the "spirit" of Christianity and belittles the "letter" and in the next points out that such a distinction is impossible. Let us see!

"1. The general attitude that Christianity is simply a plan or set of laws without any special inward coherence, the strict keeping of which earns or achieves salvation. 'Good works' are 'exchanged' for salvation on a commercial basis. Reverence for the bare externals of law-keeping predominates; there is no appreciation of the true inner spirit of Christianity or for God's grace. Obedience is motivated only by fear or self interest". (Page 112)

"The points (a) and (b) noted under definition No. 2 are truly legalism, because they indicate the attitude of definition No. 1 — an over concern for strictness — a desire to have a stated law for every minor detail of action. Jesus spoke of 'justice and mercy" as being 'weightier matters', — as basic principles — which the Pharisees had overlooked in their meticulous concern for having strict, detailed laws for every little minor matter". (Page 113)

Such efforts to deprecate reverence for the requirements of the law of Christ and the obedience thereto demanded by the authority of heaven are numerous in the book, "We Be Brethren". Much of the book would make one think that all there is to the religion of Christ is "spirit", "liberty", "faith in the broad sense" "principle guidance", "weightier matters", without any specific requirements of any kind that demand positive definite obedience.

This inference is left throughout the book and the old sectarian, denominational approach to "grace and conditional salvation", "Faith and works", "obedience and the blood of Christ", "Christ as a saviour contrasted with the church as a saved relationship", and other like efforts are made repeatedly to belittle and minimize the necessity of doing exactly what the Bible does require as the Bible requires it to be done. If Brother Thomas was aiming all of his censorious and uncharitable insinuations concerning "legalism" at "making laws where God has not made them", then he missed the mark so far as present issues on congregational cooperation is concerned for that is not involved and if he thinks it is and continues to so charge he needs to study some of his own words such as these:

"In the spirit, then of brotherly love we should never use a term in misapplication derogatorily. If we do we will only betray the fact that we do not personally love the BROTHER whom we criticize, and we might incidentally betray our ignorance or even hatred if we call some BROTHER a Modernist (or a Legalist — R. E. C.) when our readers know better". (page 216)

He indicts himself as either willfully "ignorant" or having "hatred" in his heart toward those of us whom he charges with "Legalism" and he makes that charge over and over in his book.

We would want no better way to answer our brother's use of "spirit and letter" and the "weightier matters of the law" than his own comments "out of the other side of his mouth" in his own book later on:

"Our 'liberally-minded' BRETHREN (if this be a fair way to distinguish them) accept the Bible as authority, but they want the 'spirit' and not the `letter'! This really means that they are dangerously close to rejecting the Bible outright, since their 'spirit' of the Bible is just about as subjective as the full-Modernist's own mind — his final authority. After all, God's revelation must be communicated in a pattern of some sort, either 'spirit' or 'letter,' otherwise you do not have revelation. It must be definite and certain — a thus saith the Lord'. But how can you communicate or reveal a pattern by just 'spirit' without the 'letter' or words? It cannot be done! Spirit could never be communicated without words, and accuracy in obtaining God's exact will is dependent upon the right use of words, and correct linguistic procedures. It just will not do to treat God's words lightly. (Page 218)

Thus our brother tries to keep a foot on each side of the fence when it comes to liberalism and legalism. He abundantly answers in the last paragraph quoted all of the loose, uncertain, attitudes of "liberalism" expressed by him so often in other pages of his book. We simply say in response to the paragraph given next above "Thou art the man!"

There is not one syllable that ever fell from the lips of Jesus Christ or the apostles of Christ that in any sense deprecated or minimized the necessity of obedience to anything that God ever spoke. There is exactly the opposite attitude. Jesus did not condemn the tithing of mint, anise, and cumin in his reprimand of the Pharisees. Rather he said, "There ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." Matt. 23:23. Brother Thomas misrepresents the teaching of Christ in this passage.

To the multitude and his disciples he said "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." Not a breath from the Lord ever belittled the will of the Father as "mere rules" or "external law keeping" or in other such language as you find abounding in the book under review.

The expressions "spirit and letter" are used in the New Testament scriptures but they are not used in the sense that brother Thomas uses them in his book. In the New Testament they refer to the old and the new covenant — the "letter" as the old and the "spirit" as the "new." II Cor. 3:6. Romans 2:28-29. Our brother uses them in an unscriptural sense altogether. Maybe he thinks that is another one of his "liberties". If so, we deny it! He knows better than to use it for prejudicial purposes as he did throughout his book for seemingly as an after-thought he makes this statement:

"The terms 'spirit' and 'letter' are generally used together in the New Testament to distinguish the Old Covenant and the New — not to set the new covenant against itself". (Page 228)

Why then, brother Thomas, do you repeatedly use these words to set the "letter" of the new covenant against the "spirit" of the New Covenant all the way through your book? In the last statement our brother pleads guilty to willfully using these Bible expressions in an unscriptural fashion for he knew better all the time. The fact is that the Bible does not "generally" use these two expressions together to distinguish the Old Covenant from the New Covenant but they are always used that way when they are used together. Let our brother show us an exception! This is but another example from his book of the carelessness and even deceitfulness with which he handles the scriptures. If he does so in his book, then he does in his preaching and in teaching his classes evidently. Is this the kind of Bible teaching that the school administration of Abilene College endorses? From what we can hear and from this sample we are forced to conclude that the whole school is shot through with "liberalism" if not with "full-fledged Modernism". Give it a little time and under the influence of Ph. D. teachers from Columbia, Chicago University, and elsewhere, it will run George Pepperdine and its Modernism and even Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University a mighty close second.

(8.) Our brother's liberalism is again evident from the misconception and misuse that he makes of the "Liberty" that is in Christ. As in other matters he tries to leave the impression that there is a conflict between the "law of Christ" and the "liberty that is in Christ".

"The book of James does speak of the 'perfect law of liberty,' and the entire New Testament abounds in 'commandments' which must be kept; but the Christian system is not a 'mere legal code' as was the law of Moses — rather it has a Saviour, and it is his merit and not our own achievement that saves". (Page 111)

It seems difficult for our brother to recognize and admit that obedience to the requirements of the gospel of Christ is necessary without at the same time taking a "back-handed lick" at the idea of doing so. He admits that the "New Testament abounds in 'commandments' which must be kept: BUT ... " There is no "but ..." to the matter and it cannot be qualified. While men cannot perfectly obey the commandments of the gospel of Christ and must trust in the grace and mercy of God to save them, yet unless we have complete reverence for all that God has said and to the best of our ability try to live by it, we will not be entitled to his mercy and grace. There are no qualifications and limitations to the "obedience" we must try to render to the gospel of Christ. There is no system of classifying the commandments of the gospel and graduating them as to importance. The same Lord gave them all and demands that we respect them all alike. When a man sets aside one thing the Bible teaches, he would set aside, and as far as his salvation is concerned he had just as well, set aside any other and all other things taught in the will of God. It is just as serious to disrespect divine authority at one point as at another. "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law". James 2:10-11. We wonder if our brother thinks this applied only to the Jews and their keeping the law of Moses. This is what those religious leaders do to the epistle of James who want to cling to "justification by faith only" and deny the necessity of faith expressing itself in complete surrender and obedience to the will of Christ. Our brother's book could have been written in its greater part from this same point of view and gives those who hold to the idea that the gospel is a "grace only — faith only" system a great deal of comfort. There has not been as much concession along that line by a gospel preacher since K. C. Moser surrendered the truth of the gospel to this sectarian doctrine a good many years ago.

"The sharp jurisdictional lines that BRETHREN have been drawing to give elders all control within a congregation and no responsibility outside it, are not nearly as sharp as some may think. Paul has much to say about liberty in Christ, and we might do well to consider how much freedom the individual Christian has from any man-made legalistic restraint". (Page 164)

Since our brother here is talking about the jurisdictional oversight of elders and arguing that they are not limited by the congregational relationship, he evidently means to infer that such oversight being restrained to the congregation where they are elders is "man made legalistic restraint". He very definitely takes the position in his book that the elders have the right to do a great many things in connection with another congregation's work and even argues that one eldership can delegate its "responsibility and authority to an eldership of another church or to the governing organization of an orphan home". (Page 146) But this is what these human benevolent societies are denying at the present time. It is also denied by the elders of the Highland Church in Abilene in their operation as "brotherhood elders" of the Herald of Truth. Brother Thomas is only a little farther advanced than these brethren are willing to admit they are as yet. They really believe just as he does but are not ready to admit it for fear that the brethren are not prepared for it. Give them a little time. It is de facto now if not claimed by them as de jure! They will come to the latter.

But let us get our brother's viewpoint on this matter of liberty and law. Concerning this writer in particular our brother has this to say:

"It is argued that Christians can do things that the church cannot. We must not 'make laws' here! One author has prepared a circular chart cut in sections like a pie with these divisions: the church; the community; the government; business enterprises; and the home. Then he has `Christianity' written in circular fashion and included in each of these segments of the whole. This means that to this person Christianity and the church are different things, and I fear that he allows 'Christianity' to have the freedom that Paul described as liberty (from legal codes) — while he circumscribes the church with a full list of legalistic rules. Actually, no part of Christianity is legalistic — the 'church' is purely functional in its organization and is no more of a legalistic entity than is Christianity itself. It appears that some may love laws so well that they insist that the Christian system be a legalism in some respect or other". (Page 165)

Now if you were puzzled about whom our brother was leveling most of his charges of "Legalism" against, you now know. This chart referred to, originated with us and occurs in "Walking By Faith". But this "moves us not" for we have been called everything these brethren can think of that it is not both illegal and unchristian and they have not paid too much attention and been restrained too much by the Christian part of it. We were taught when a child by a saintly mother that we do not have to be what people who are angry at us call us and have always been grateful for it.

But look for a moment at the implication of the above paragraph from the viewpoint of truth! Jesus Christ is no more the head of the church and exercises no more authority over it than he does every other relationship in the Christian life! I guess according to our brother's reasoning on that matter Jesus Christ has the same absolute authority over Abilene College and its activity that he has over the church of the Lord. No wonder he gets the school mixed up with the church in his thinking and can't tell the difference. He thinks that the Gospel of Christ is as much of a textbook on running the J. D. Thomas family affairs, and the administration of Abilene College as it is for the church of our Lord. What a conglomerated, mixed up conception of Christianity does this man have? We have said that one of his basic errors is his complete failure to understand the difference between individual Christianity and church activity. We will abundantly show this in the article to follow.

But back to Christian liberty and divine law! Hear our brother again:

"Christianity is a religion of 'liberty,' as Paul points out in the Galatian letter. It has great freedom, in comparison to any Legalistic system. It is not cramped and limited by a lot of little detailed minutiae. It is a religion of principles, of fundamental truths, of primary and basic teachings. Matters such as 'Love the Lord with all your heart', and `Do unto others as you would have them do unto you', and 'Christ liveth in me', cannot be reduced to little precise legal obligations. Too many of us have thought of Christianity in too small terms and we have therefore failed to see its majesty and immensity and transcendent grandeur. We need to have such a glimpse, yea, even to enjoy the view, and to contemplate the fact that truly WE BE BRETHREN, in God's wondrous family! Perhaps if we can see this view, we ourselves will grow in stature and need no longer be little". (Page 239)

Our brother can get really eloquent when he gets to looking at things in a big, broad way. But he is looking in the wrong direction! Jesus said, "Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life'. Our brother is looking toward destruction, we fear, and needs to remember that such broad general principles as those he has mentioned were narrowed considerably by the Lord in his teaching. The trouble with our brother is that he can see quite a bit out of the corner of his eyes (spiritually) and is as "nearsighted" as almost anyone we have read after. On this matter of "love the Lord with all of your heart" he needs to see a little further and remember that Jesus said, "If you love me ye will keep my commandments". One cannot love the Lord with all of his heart and talk about the commandments of the Lord that require specific obedience as some people do.

Then on the matter of "Christ liveth in me" he needs to stretch his eyes a little further than he seems to be able to see and learn that Christ said, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." John 15:4. In verse 7, Jesus said, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." And in verse 10, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love". Then read verse 14, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you". The Lord does not live within or count any man as his friend who does not have complete respect for the authority of his word.

The "Magna Carta" of Christian Liberty is the Galatian letter. Paul did not contrast liberty with all law in it or elsewhere in the New Testament. He did point out that Christians have been made free from 1) the law of Moses and the curse or condemnation pronounced by it; 2) the rudiments of the world or human authority and wisdom; 2) the love, dominion, and guilt of sin and therefore from condemnation. But he never encouraged anyone to think that in Christ liberty is license, or freedom from restraint, or absence of law. Without law liberty is impossible and it does not matter whether it is political, moral, or spiritual, it is still true. The trouble with our brother's book is that he leaves the impression that "rule-keeping" is non-essential and unimportant even if Christ did make the rule. Paul taught exactly the opposite. He taught that the Christian is the "bond-servant" of the Lord and obligated to do the Lord's will in all things.

When men decry "negativism" and want everything to be "positive"; when they rely upon human sophistry rather than the all-sufficiency of the Word of God; when problems of both moral living, and church action are resolved on the basis of "casuistry" rather than by the revelation of God's will as the only standard; when Christianity becomes such a system of "liberty" as will permit "loosing where God has bound", rank modernism and still more explicitly — outright infidelity is not far away. The outright infidel or even the atheist who denies the Bible account of creation is not to be feared as much as the man who under the cloak of piety, faith, and religion, will discount the necessity and importance of "Walking by Faith" in all matters divinely revealed. Teaching by an outright atheist, when expected and prepared for, is not as dangerous as teaching from a professed Christian that discounts and discredits the necessity of complete reverence for the divine will and claims the liberty to respect and obey only what part of the Lord's will and word their wisdom approves. This is the door through which the church of the Lord is being flooded with "Liberalism" and "Modernism" today.