Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 4, 1969

Love, Fellowship, And Ketcherside

Dale Smelser

To some it will seem an incongruity to be critical of the efforts of brethren bearing the noble pretensions of "free men in Christ" bringing together the sadly divided segments of the "Restoration Movement" and other immersed conservatives. For such would seem a worthy aim, and surely one would talk with anyone and speak anywhere, no matter how dim the prospect, in the interest of this occurring on a scriptural basis, even conceding the use of that obscurant pettish inanity, "dialogue."

However, before brethren are beguiled by optimism about that possibility, some hard facts are in need of close scrutiny; the chief one being that those of somewhat Ketchersidian philosophy, and some of those loosely gathered around the superficial and ephemeral Sentinel of Truth stance (ephemeral except in the radical brickbats it hurls at isolated abuses that do not greatly involve faithful Christians, but which the Sentinel makes appear general), have more in common with, and are more comfortable in the company of, members of Independent Christian Churches than me and others who in our freedom have found common ground. Then I find that "Independent Christians" get on better with Baptists, Methodists, and diverse Evangelicals than with me. This should tell me something.

To illustrate some other hard facts, let me tell you about Carl Ketcherside's visit to Chicago area in May as guest of the "Fox Valley Area Christian Churches." Responding to their invitation to preachers to come to a discussion led by brother Ketcherside on "current theological questions," Bob Bunting, Jim Smelser, Grant Caldwell, Gordon Pennock, and I attended. I had heard of Carl's smoothness and imperturbability, I knew of his effective speaking ability, and a preacher who had attended a similar session about three years ago had remarked about his wonderful attitude, and how well it would be if all of us had the same. Therefore, while realizing there were fundamental differences between us, I was prepared to be impressed.

As it turned out, there was not much in brother Ketcherside's attitude that I care to emulate. Also, though I had realized for some time that theology and the gospel of Christ are two different things, I had narrow-mindedly carried my New Testament along, confident that in such company it would be a focal point. I was wrong. When we finally got the scriptures introduced into the discussion, Carl, not even having his along, had to borrow mine.

From the beginning my disillusion mounted. I do not know if Carl simply had not given enough thought to what he was going to say and failed to anticipate what exceptions might be taken to it, or whether he was inhibited by the small gathering and sit down nature of the meeting, or whether he really would have felt more at ease had he been able better to size up those of us who flanked him on either side is the seating arrangement. Regarding the latter, we, without prior consultation, simply introduced ourselves in the best non-sectarian fashion by name and as being from a certain city, or as preaching for "the church" in a certain city. Though he purports to applaud such, it probably would have been to his advantage and delighted him for us to have said, "We are from the anti faction of the non-instrumental Church of Christ Church, Gospel Guardian type." But we feel we were more accurate in what we did say by way of introduction.

As the discussion got off "theology" (actually, Carl's personal testimony of triumphs in his concept of non-sectarianism) and onto practical problems of scriptural fellowship, Carl said that instrumental music did not divide us, that we divided when we stopped loving one another. And that seems to sum up the attitude of many today; that a humanistic altruistic feeling is the panacea for all that divides us. They fail to understand that AGAPE (love), and holding the truth in love, not only permits but requires reproof and rebuke (compare Eph. 4: I S & II Tim. 4:2). The contemporary concept unbalances the concept of love, supposing that love for man allows overlooking the requirements of God's righteousness, and consequently love for God.

Actually, if Ketcherside's statement about division as a consequence of not loving the brethren is properly understood, it is a good one. As Bob Bunting showed him, true love of God and love of the sons of God cannot be separated, but that the measure of loving God is obedience to his will. John said: "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (I Jr. 5:2-3). The way to know it is the children of God we love and have fellowship with is common obedience to God. As children of God love God, keeping his commandments, the fellowship that follows enhances love for one another. On the, other hand, one not keeping the commandments of God will resent those who do when they try to correct him. He will not love them because he does not love God, not keeping his will.

Just so, when brethren in the past century preferred new paths to the old, they stopped loving the brethren who insisted on walking therein, and division came. But disobedience preceded and prompted the loss of love, precluding fellowship.

Brother Ketcherside admitted that the use of instrumental music in assembly worship is not according to God's will. (At this point he was especially uncomfortable, and perhaps marred his image of imperturbability a bit). Yet there exists a great rapport and fellowship between him and the instrument using Independent Christian Churches. One who is so cozy with those he believes to disobey God would do well to take spiritual stock and see if the reason he is so comfortable with them is because he loves the will of God less.

Furthermore, this love bit they speak of is a bit of a sham, and not universal as they would like to believe. Carl defended his Christian Church friends who were present against us whom he described as "you boys," though Gordon Pennock is slightly his senior (very slightly, Gordon). Now being called "boy" is growing less offensive to me with each passing year, but it still did not sound very loving on Carl Ketcherside's lips. Neither did it when we were accused as would be "infallible interpreters" for the brotherhood, and called sectarians, or when another prayed about our "Pharisaism." In spite of the fact that I am not customarily given to fits of paranoia, I felt absolutely unloved. Let one first love God, and love of the brethren and scriptural fellowship will ensue. Beginning with love for man as a philosophy is to begin with the second great commandment, and may lead to tolerating that which God does not, and thereby negligence of the first commandment. This is humanism, not the gospel.

What is wrong with this idea of fellowship with everyone you can love? To begin with, there are those we love who are not in fellowship with Christ, consequently there is no basis for our fellowship in Christ with them. Next, it is a fellowship placing love for man above love for God. Finally, such "love" can become quite insular and something quite other than what it claims. Take for example the November 1968 issue of Sentinel of Truth. The lead article by Charles Holt is a dissertation on the need for more love, "in spite of . . . rebuff ... false accusations." His very next offering in the same issue is a rousing, ringing harangue directed against Cecil Willis who had wondered in print about some of Charles' concepts. The stridency of its vituperation belied possession of what he had earlier counseled. He may have comprehended some fine concepts, but he has yet personally to apprehend them. This may be the real cause of his frustration. Thus difficulty in getting along with Charles may not be all the fault of his brethren. Brother Ketcherside's "love" shows signs of being likewise inconsistent.

At any rate, though I found Carl Ketcherside more affable than not, our visit dispelled the myth of his imperturbability, especially as there was no rancor manifest in our questions to him. To his credit, however, he soon recovered. I believe he is quite vulnerable in his present positions, especially so when Christian Church preachers are present, and in a subsequent article I plan to deal with other of his fallacies. I cannot see a man of his intellect remaining in the anomaly of inconsistencies and shallow logic which characterize his present concepts. I would wish for him to back up a bit and respect the order of God more; respecting those who abide by it.

If we were too disappointed in his positions and performance, maybe we just misunderstood the occasion. Maybe it just was not Dialogue Day, and we had no business starting any.

— P. O. Box 95, Zion, Illinois 60099