Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 26, 1967
NUMBER 25, PAGE 3,6b-7a

Dallas Unity Forum

Arnold Hardin

A Unity Forum was conducted at the Wynnewood Christian Chapel, Dallas, Sept. 7-9. It was more appropriately a "love in". There was not unity and none proposed, but, an over dose of "love."

The principle speakers were Carl Ketcherside and Stephen D. Eckstein. A few Christian Church preachers participated. Attendance was surprisingly good for all of the services. Some from as far as Kentucky and Tennessee.

A few of the more liberal preachers of the church in Dallas were in attendance, though never speaking up in defense of truth that was being constantly mutilated. I had been asked to be one of the speakers but had declined. However, through out the periods for questions and discussions I participated, and, on Saturday after further requests to speak I did.

This was my first experience in attending Unity Forum meetings conducted by brethren. My nervous and emotional systems took a beating during the initial phase of it all. Every speaker was "loving me to death" while I was fighting back righteous indignation (at least I kept telling myself it was of the righteous variety.) One of the liberal preachers in Dallas, seated by me, kept whispering, "blasphemy." He pegged it right through not out loud.

This entire emotional binge that is rapidly engulfing so many brethren revolves upon one lofty theme that is misused - LOVE. I have heard about "blind love"; but this is ridiculous. They equate love with compromise and the condoning of error. Their spiritual "experiences" have all but paralyzed their intellects in relation to God's word. The gospel is shrouded in complete mysticism.

Truth, to such minds, is like a gaseous vapor. We are relegated to a state of utter futility, the ascertaining of truth being impossible. Wandering in such darkness they ascribe every sound and movement to the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. The basic philosophy of this movement is that error, as such, just does not exist. And, in fact, as I pointed out to them such cannot be found according to them. It is no wonder that they are embarrassed over the subject of baptism. Some trying to hold on to it while others have repudiated it completely. Any revealed truth is a thorn in their side. So they wander restlessly and aimlessly through waste lands of spiritual fantasy. Quickly one discerns the key to their thinking. That of Bishop James A. Pike: "The fewer beliefs the greater number of believers."

Ketcherside and Garrett fervently believe that this movement is predestined for great glory. Admittedly there is much on which to feed their ambitions. Leroy was interviewed and an article appeared the following Sunday in The Dallas Times Herald.

Headline: "Professor Scents Victory in Church Unity Struggle." Then it reads, "A curious sort of battle it was. It left him often distraught and exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. But it appears that Dr. Leroy Garrett is emerging the victor." It goes on to relate that "about a quarter of a century ago Dr. Garrett pledged to himself he would devote a lifetime if necessary to putting and end to the stupid, ugly contentions among groups and splinter groups of the denominations," in this context "denominations" having reference to Churches of Christ, the Christian Church and Disciples of Christ. Leroy characterized himself as "a maverick and something of a reformer." further stating "I admit it has become a devouring passion." It is said that Dr. Garrett's conviction is that the tide has turned toward unity. However, during the Forum unity was denounced as they are not one bit interested in it. They are "free spirits" disjointed, disunited, each feeding on his own ego and opinion.

"Renewal Through Recovery" was the theme for the lectures of Ketcherside and Eckstein. Ketcherside is being used widely by denominational ecumenical circles, for, in the absence of basic convictions relative to revealed truth, his polished oratory, wit and spirit, bordering on the blasphemous, project him into the thinking and emotional processes of spiritually neurotic audiences of today. So in oratorical flight he talks of "A relationship with God brought about by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit."

"Love" and "Holy Spirit illumination" comprise the foundation on which they attempt "Renewal Through Recovery." What crimes are committed on the basis of this thesis! Under this banner evil is called good and good evil. Ketcherside, in response to questions, says he does not believe that the Holy Spirit reveals anything in addition to the written word; but, that the Holy Spirit does (when one will open his heart to him) "illuminate" or reveal to one's heart the meaning of the scriptures. Many of those present deny that Christ is now King reigning over his kingdom. Ketcherside scorns the idea that such men are advocates of error and should therefore be deprived of the fellowship of faithful brethren. The reason being obvious. Did not the Holy Spirit illuminate their study? How could their conclusions be otherwise than valid? Little wonder they are perplexed about the issue of sprinkling. This explains the temerity of these men when fun is poked at singing only and having the Lord's Supper each first day of the week. In the words of James Greer, "Bible Chair of Churches of Christ, Commerce, Texas," "Ultimately each one is his own authority." Therefore, for one to contend for truth in all of these matters is, according to Ketcherside, just so much "clap-trap."

What is truth? it's nature, or what do we mean by "The Truth"? In discussing this theme, David Reagan remarked, "Truth equated with The Faith is wrong." He remarked, later, ''Mechanical plans of salvation is working our way to Heaven instead of preaching Christ." Truth, to all of these men, is summed up by Eckstein. "Truth, a person, God and Christ." But is not truth a matter of revelation even that concerning God and Christ? But in the words of Greer, "Attitude toward truth is more important than any given facts we may have." Fuzzy thinking indeed! So, according to Greer, when Jesus declared one must be the reason for Garrett believing that God will not condemn the unbeliever only the disbeliever. Those ignorant of God's will may be "really worshipping" while bowing down to idols so why should God not accept them?

Reagan stated that "Emphasis is to be put on the man. We may be wrong about many things and be saved if we believe in Christ." So the conclusion is reached that "One can be a child of God without any opinion on such as instrumental music or premillennialism, etc. What about baptism? Reagan in response to questions shrouded it in question marks, One speaker denied it entirely. No such thing as "water" baptism. I predict that soon immersion for the remission of sins will be denied openly by every one of them. Only half hearted lip service is given to it now. Dr. Alvin E. Houser "Director Evangelist of the National Association of Free Christians" was on the program. He is doing battle against the "Restructuring" going on in the Disciples of Christ. (Just why is difficult to discern for the moving of the Holy Spirit idea has him captured - but, only he has it not those whom he is fighting!) He predicts that within ten years the Disciples will have repudiated baptism and the Lord's Supper completely. In a Critique "Laymen Lose Their Freedom" Houser writes, "It is pointed out in the REPORTS that immersion has become an embarrassment to the churches and the ministers. We are told that immersion is done only in private with a few members of the family present, and that the church ordinance which was expected to unite Christians is unrealistic."

Ketcherside says he believes people must "obey in baptism, thus one act brings us into the fellowship." Another declared, "I accept Methodists as children of God." Now is Ketcherside going to be so "unloving" as to tell that brother he is wrong about sprinkling and Methodists? Not on your sweet life will he do it. Well how does he reconcile baptism and entering fellowship with that which is not baptism? He just gets on his magic carpet and soars off exclaiming, "A given unity of the Spirit (talking about even Methodists) is different to unity of the Faith." See how easy it is when you know how. This is "Spirit illumination"! What about the Unity of the Spirit, Eph. 4? Well yes - but, that would impose a 'legalistic system" upon us and according to a Deacon in one of the churches in Garland, Texas "We are not under a legal system, we can't work out our own salvation" and "I accept Methodists as children of God." There just isn't any problem that "Spirit illumination" will not solve.

Stephen D. Eckstein is the "Director of Church of Christ Bible Chair, Portales, N.M." He said, beginning one of his speeches, "I'm going to speak as the Spirit moves me and maybe that will be better than what I could prepare." When such statements are made heads wag affirmatively. Spiritual forgery is being committed by thousands. At least, by speaking, we got those heads shaking in another direction, which was at least, a change in physical exercise. The deacon from Garland remarked that we make too much of James 2:10. "If we hold to that you are always scared to death," he remarked. Their ideas of "Free Men" gives birth to strange sounds. He further remarked, "I'd rather follow my own mind and be wrong than to accept the word of a man and be right." Look at that again! Then anyone would be foolish seeking any help from anyone at any time. How about accepting the words of inspired men? No they prefer being wrong than doing that either.

During the lectures and in private conversation much was said about those that say they can speak in tongues. Leroy says he does not believe in it himself but that of course it is all right for others. I was told privately that the gift of healing is still to be exercised. So when speaking I told those men that I was then and there ready to speak in two languages to their one or to raise two dead people to their one. I still have not as yet had any takers.

Ketcherside says that the Missionary Society and instrumental music played no part in the division of days gone by. What did? "A lack of love that grew into hate." This sounds like a middle of the road brother that wrote to me saying that the error of another brother would not condemn him but that my attitude would condemn me. But what about such things? Well with proper illumination it is revealed that a timely distinction must be made between "the gospel to produce a child and the doctrine which is only food for the church." So anything taught within the church "is only a matter for discussion." And, as institutional brethren, Ketcherside perverts Rom. 14 in an effort to justify his position.

A voice of dissent had to be raised. I could not feel as they had related brother Charles Holt to have felt when he said, "I have waited to get hold of a Christian Church preacher and now that I have him I don't want him." We attempted (in love, as they do not have a monopoly on such a response) to cut through the nebulous character and utter foolishness of that which they advocate. I pointed out their futile attempts at making a "fool" but of the Holy Spirit with their "Spirit illumination" idea. I challenged them to prove me wrong if I should contend for buttermilk and corn bread on the Lord's table. As noted before Dr. Houser is fighting "open membership" in the Disciples' movement; but, I pointed out that such opposition to ANYTHING is born out of something other than conviction, but when boiled down the opposition stands on "tradition" and "personal opinion." "Then why not," I asked, "join up with such people and forget all about the matter of immersion or anything else?" I attempted to point out the need man have for the gospel instead of misdirected emotionalism.

Later this brought on a discussion between brother Garrett and myself. Demonstrating a total lack of an understanding of the purpose of the gospel he remarked, "No where does the Bible say that God condemns the "unbeliever" but only the "disbeliever." When challenged he asked me about babies and idiots, equating the circumstances of such with normal responsible beings. But inquiry was made as to the reason then that anyone should preach the gospel to those ignorant of it (unbelievers) if in truth they would be saved. Leroy says it is to bring them into greater blessings, a richer, fuller life. Not salvation mind you! So these "great lovers" do all "unbelievers" a grave injustice! They would instruct such men knowing that most would become "disbelievers" having therefore passed from a saved or "safe" state to one of condemnation. Ketcherside had listed a number of things that will cure divisions. One being: "Impose nothing on anyone beyond his knowledge or understanding." Working on this false thesis Leroy had misused Luke 12:47-48 and in our exchange I pointed this out to him but now lie felt I was stretching the figure too far. So the fires of digression sweep on leaving a blackened and scorched possession belonging to God. May they turn before His fierce anger is unleashed.