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Reply to Anonymous “Young Christian”

Editor’s Note: The following article has been featured at the Truth Magazine website for a while now.  It has engendered much discussion, and brother Hafley sent it for inclusion in Watchman as well.  Though we are a bit “behind the times” reprinting it, for those Watchman readers who may not have read it on the Truth Magazine site, here it is.  We appreciate brother Hafley’s kindness and candor in dealing with this young person. Continue reading » Reply to Anonymous “Young Christian”

Contending for the Faith: Should We Criticize Error?

(Correspondence on the Question)

(Editor’s Note: The following correspondence between Larry and a teenage girl’s grandmother may be helpful to other parents and grandparents as they try to teach their children.)

    Larry,

    We had a discussion with our 16 year old granddaughter yesterday, and she is very upset with us and wants an answer to the discussion other than what we gave her.

    The discussion was over the news report about 2 gay men who had adopted a little boy, and they forced his school to do away with making anything for Mother’s Day because it made him feel uncomfortable. (My husband) said it was wrong to force their ideal on everyone since they were living in sin. (Our granddaughter) said she thought we were gossiping and that we should not judge them and just pray for them and everything would be OK. (My husband) tried to tell her we were not judging them that God’s word was judging them.

    She left us this note. Can you help us give the very best answer possible. She is a prime example of the thinking of our "church kids" today. Her Question:

    "Could you show me the verse where it says we are supposed to point out the wrong? I am just wanting to read it."

Larry, we would really appreciate your help. We feel our answer can not be too lengthy or it will turn her off. She is 1st in her class in high school so she should be able to reason. It is very disturbing that our young people think, "Your OK I’m OK."

We will be waiting for your answer.

Response To This Request

Here are some passages which deal with her request:

Continue reading » Contending for the Faith: Should We Criticize Error?

In the Steps of the Savior: That Preacher Offended Me!

What would you think of a preacher whose sermons offended people and were taken as insulting by the hearers? What if a preacher caused the audience to be filled with anger because of the hard things that he said? What if he went so far as to mock false beliefs? Regardless of his intent, many would denounce such preaching as wrong. Even if he did not intend to insult people, but merely sought to preach the truth boldly, many would condemn him for offending others.

However, the Bible is filled with cases of those who preached the truth boldly in an effort to bring sinners to repentance, only to see those addressed react with anger because of taking offense at the message. Preachers of the truth in Bible times were not men of timidity and a totally “positive” message which was pleasing to the hearers. Their message had elements which were not always appreciated by all who heard it. Notice the reactions to Jesus’ preaching.

In Matthew 15, Jesus reproved the Pharisees for their replacing of the law of God with their human commands and traditions. This reproof was in forceful terms as He said, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men'” (Matthew 15:7-9). Continue reading » In the Steps of the Savior: That Preacher Offended Me!

Some Old Saws — Same Old Saws

A saw is not always a tool with which to cut something. Webster says it is a proverb, or a trite saying. We are being treated to several old saws today. Lets have a look at some of them.

These are perilous times for conservative brethren. Unless some changes in attitude occur, division is inevitable among the conservative churches. It will likely take a while for it to occur, but all the elements of division are now present: misrepresentation, accusation, polarization and separation. This all started with the publication of erroneous views on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. It has moved from that to widespread discussion of what is generally called “fellowship.” Romans 14 is being misused in an effort to foist upon the brethren generally an attitude of tolerance known as “unity in diversity,” You believe it your way and I’ll believe it mine, and we’ll get along just fine. A brother recently described the situation in the congregation where he worships. He said, “We have people here who are institutional, some who are anti-institutional, and some who are liberal on the marriage issue. We have agreed not to do anything that violates anyone’s conscience, and we will not preach on these things or try to convert each other.” I will guarantee you that we could get along with the devil with that philosophy! What ever happened to “earnestly contending for the faith”(Jude 3), and preaching the whole counsel of God? (Acts 20:27). Continue reading » Some Old Saws — Same Old Saws

Editorial: Targeting Our Youth

“Brethren, We Are Drifting”
Many of our readers are familiar with the sentiment that J.D. Tant made famous years ago as he ended many articles of warning with the phrase, “Brethren, we are drifting.” No doubt his pronouncement was a source of irritation to many who considered him a rather cantankerous sort.History has born out the relevant nature of his warnings. Indeed Christians were drifting from the straight and narrow paths of truth. Seeds of digression were being sown, which have since led to a full blown apostasy. The fact that many could not see the beginning of the drift does not change the fact that the warnings were needed. Those who heeded the words of brother Tant and his ilk were able to avoid the error that led to the digression of many congregations of the Lord’s people.In this article we will discuss the “social gospel”, a philosophy which sound congregations have always rejected. The specific application we will address is that aspect of the “social gospel” which is seen in the targeting of young people for special emphasis and focus. We shall begin in this article by looking at certain examples of institutional churches which have long embraced the concept of utilizing the “social gospel” to appeal to the young. We shall also see that some churches which once stood against such a philosophy seem now to want to embrace it. This constitutes a “drifting”, and we, as those of Tant’s time, are in dire need of warning. We fully recognize that many will be unable or unwilling to see the dangers. This in no way invalidates the need for sounding the trumpets of alarm in the face of another trend toward digression. Continue reading » Editorial: Targeting Our Youth

Voices from the Past: Trouble Makers or Truth Tellers (Larry Ray Hafley)

[The Gospel Guardian, Vol. 19, No. 38, February 1, 1968]

“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord…” (I Kings 18:17, 18) Ahab was infamously wicked, (I Kings 16:30) and Elijah refused to let him forget it. Thus, when Ahab saw Elijah he condemned him as a troublemaker, though the genuine cause of strife and confusion then, as now, was a forsaking of God’s commands. Christ rebuked the hypocritical traditions of the Jews and urged a return to his Father’s will. Those undeniably shown to be of their father, the devil, accused the harmless Lamb of God of offending them. (Matt. 15:12) Their rejection of God’s law for the teaching of men left them void of acceptance by the Spirit of God, and when this was manifest they labeled the world’s Truth-teller a troublemaker. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: Trouble Makers or Truth Tellers (Larry Ray Hafley)

Editorial: Is Something “Happening” in the Church?

The problems facing institutional churches are well chronicled. Some in the institutional churches have awakened to the need for strong and distinctive preaching in the face of “change agents” who have sought to destroy the divine hermeneutic, and replace it with a new “non-patternistic” one. Recently, while reading the April 1998 issue of The Spiritual Sword, I ran across a quote from Alan E. Highers in his editorial “What Is Happening in the Church?” It admits to what non-institutional preachers and writers have claimed for many years about our more liberal brethren. The quote came in the context of previous polemic struggles with the denominations.

    “Unfortunately, just as the opposition had strengthened churches of Christ and had caused members to know what they believed and why, so the lack of opposition caused some to grow soft and indifferent. Without the opposition and frontal attacks, their interest in doctrinal preaching waned and so did their knowledge and understanding of the truth. As a result, doctrinal resolve weakened and many were left vulnerable to the influence of false teaching and error. We sowed the wind and today are reaping the whirlwind of thirty-five years of indistinct teaching among churches of Christ” (pg. 2, The Spiritual Sword, April 1998).

Of course, our viewpoint is somewhat different. In the 1940’s and 1950’s institutional issues threatened, and ultimately succeeded in dividing the people of God. The polemic struggle often was not with the denominations, but rather between brethren. As with the struggles with the denominations, truth had the upper hand. So, those who wished to retain their precious human institutions ceased debating (with few exceptions), and instead shifted their tactics to a more subtle attack upon non-institutional brethren. Instead of direct debate there were whispers shared about those “anti’s” and “orphan haters”; churches which were “dying on the vine.” The resultant inability and unwillingness to defend from the pattern of God’s word their man-made inventions led to the indistinct preaching mentioned above. The analogy of sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind is apropos. It is precisely because of such indistinct preaching that liberal churches are having to deal with the “change agents” and the so-called “new hermeneutic.” Continue reading » Editorial: Is Something “Happening” in the Church?

Associate Editorial: Why Is Preaching Ineffective?

“These things He said in the synagogue in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured about this, He said to them, ‘Does this offend you…’ …From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:61-66).

Jesus has been rightly said to be the “Master Teacher.” Not only was Jesus’ personal character in harmony with the teaching that he did, he always said the right thing at the right time, in the right place, and in the right attitude. No other person can claim such perfection in his preaching.

Yet, Jesus did not convert all that heard him. In the text above, “many of his disciples” turned away from Jesus. Why is that? Did he preach too long? Did he have a poor attitude? Did he preach too caustically? Was Jesus out of touch with the “needs” of his audience, irrelevant to their value systems? Did he not “feel their pain?” Of course, none of this is true. Yet Jesus received severe criticism and the truth he taught was rejected. He was accused of representing Beelzebub!

The fact of the matter is that some people will reject truth when it is presented perfectly. Continue reading » Associate Editorial: Why Is Preaching Ineffective?

Apostasy

For the first time since the fifties and sixties, an effort is being made to destroy the Church of Christ. The “liberals” have referred to a movement among them, and those who are directing the movement, as “Change Artists.” In a very real sense, we have many among the conservative cause who are also “Change Artists.”

“Institutionalism” moved many of our brethren out. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). This caused a split in the Lord’s church.

Following that conflict, it has been advocated: (1) “Accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative,” (2) “Preach the man and not the plan,” (3) “Preach Christ, and not the church.” All of these efforts were for the purpose of erecting a “straw man,” so they would not have to deal with the arguments against the issue. Continue reading » Apostasy

Voices from the Past: A Letter from a Sponsoring Congregation

(The Gospel Guardian, Vol. 7 No. 3, May 19, 1955, adapted from “The Evangelist”)

Saul Paul, Evangelist
Corinth, Greece

Dear Brother Paul,

The “Blazon of Gospel,” our nationwide program of work made possible by the cooperation of many congregations has suffered as the result of your outspoken opposition. Many congregations have ceased supporting this work–they seem to be so shallow in their thinking as to believe it is wrong for churches to cooperate. Who are you to set the pattern of congregational cooperation for all time?

It shall be our policy to be as frank and open minded as possible with you in this matter. We have made an exhaustive survey of your history and we feel it necessary for the good of the “Blazon of Gospel” to expose you. We are surprised that you have been able to hoodwink so many congregations.

At Antioch for example, we learn you opposed Brother Simon Peter, an esteemed preacher of the gospel, and actually rebuked him publicly. You stirred up so much trouble at Antioch that a special meeting of apostles and elders had to be convened in Jerusalem. Who can condone such conduct?

Do you think it seemly for a missionary to do part-time secular work? We hear that you are making tents on the side. In a letter to the church at Philippi you admitted that they were the only church supporting you. We wonder why? We also wonder if the church contributes to your tent-making enterprise. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: A Letter from a Sponsoring Congregation

Queries and Explications: How Do We “Fight the Fight”?

As you may know, last month we reviewed an article by an attorney, H. John Rogers, a New Martinsville, WV Methodist. (If you are a new reader, please click here for the article.) We received two critical responses to our review of Mr. Rogers. Incorporated and included below are the replies made to those who were displeased of our handling of Mr. Rogers and his material. Our critics have done us a favor by expressing themselves. Since they may speak for many today who do not believe it appropriate to”argue the Bible,” especially when sarcasm and sharp rebuke are employed, we thought it good, not to defend intemperate words, but to provide material for consideration.

Frankly, the non-controversial, non-combative, non-confrontational approach to preaching is cause for alarm. Often, though certainly not always, such a spirit resides within those who are liberal minded and who have no respect for “the good fight of faith” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; 1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 3). Not being sure that error condemns, and not being convinced that denominationalism is not of God, some have begun to sympathize with false teachers and apologize for those who oppose and expose them. Continue reading » Queries and Explications: How Do We “Fight the Fight”?

Voices from the Past: Preach, But Leave Others Alone (Hoyt Houchen)

Gospel Guardian, July 17, 1954

Preach, But Leave Others Alone

The above caption not only represents the thinking great majority of people in the denominations, but unfortunately it reflects the attitude of some of our own brethren. It involves the idea that we should preach only what is agreeable to everyone, avoiding anything of a controversial nature.

First of all, it is impossible to preach the truth and leave other people alone. It does not matter what subject a gospel preacher may select, it will contradict the belief of somebody. For instance, suppose that I should decide to preach on the subject of God. In that sermon I point out that there is but one God and no other. I point out the attributes of God, showing the characteristics of God as taught in the Bible. That sermon would meet the approval of many people who are not even members of the church of Christ. But are we so naive as to believe that it would meet the approval of everyone? It certainly would not leave the atheist alone and it would not be agreeable to the Chinaman whose ancestors have worshiped idols for hundreds of years. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: Preach, But Leave Others Alone (Hoyt Houchen)

Voices from the Past: The Spirit of Christ (N.B. Hardeman)

Tabernacle Sermons, Volume 3, ca. 1928

In looking over this great audience assembled, I am reminded of days gone by. There is genuine appreciation in the heart of every one who loves the truth, because of the wonderful opportunities that are to us granted. I want to join Bro. Cullom in expressing appreciation of the presence of so many delegations from the various parts of our land. I want to thank, especially, our colored brethren for coming in a body this afternoon. To all of these services, you are most cordially invited. Unto God be all the praise and to us the encouragement. I think you ought to know that any man, appearing before an audience of this kind, is deeply impressed with the great responsibility resting upon him. I know that impressions are going to be made. God forbid that anything shall be said or done other than that which is in harmony with His will. I beg of you to study carefully and to consider thoughtfully all that may be said at this service. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: The Spirit of Christ (N.B. Hardeman)

We Need Watchmen Because of the PMA Approach to Preaching

The Negative Side of All Positive Preaching

The PreliminariesIn recent years, I have attended many gospel meetings in which a verse was read at the beginning of the lesson … followed by 20 minutes of after dinner stories, and one final verse at the invitation. Now, they may not have preached any error,… but brethren is it enough to just not preach error? Sometimes my children are disappointed when they are told they cannot watch a TV show. They ask “what’s wrong with it?” We tell them that is not the question. Iinstead we should ask, what is right about it? Is it wholesome enough to watch? John said “If anyone comes to you and does NOT BRING this doctrine…” (1 John 10). John did not say if they don’t preach error … but rather if they fail to preach the truth! There can be a difference in preaching truth, and preaching THE truth. So many sermons offered today contain truth … but they also contain nothing that a good denominational fellow would disagree with. Some churches have asked preachers to work with them who held unscriptural positions, after being assured, “But I won’t preach it!” First of all, no preacher has the right to refuse to teach any Bible subject. Second, no church has the right to tell a preacher he cannot preach what he believes. He should be allowed to preach it, and if it is error, then it must be exposed and dealt with. Third, and this is where so many seem to misunderstand, it is not enough that he does not preach error, he must preach truth … all of it. Certainly no one can preach all the truth in a meeting, but over a course of time one must. Paul said he did not fail to teach all that was needed to the Ephesian church, Acts 20:20, nor did he fail to declare the whole counsel of God, vs 27. Continue reading » We Need Watchmen Because of the PMA Approach to Preaching