T. Pierce Brown
By nature, I am shy, retiring, non-controversial, and slow to see faults in brethren. Brother Ira Rice was almost right when he said something like, “If a man as non-controversial as T. Pierce Brown finds fault with something, it must really be bad!” Perhaps I began to get that way at Abilene, when, after I had made a particularly slashing and sarcastic speech in a debate, Brother Fred Barton said, in his slow Alabama drawl, “Pierce, a man does not have to cease to be a gentlemen to be a good debater.” That gentle rebuke so injured my sensitive feelings that I practically stopped debating. And since I am so slow to see a fault in anything, I am seldom on “the cutting edge” of anything.
When I was doing graduate work atNorthwesternUniversity, I had people like Robert Box, Roy Key and James Warren on a lecture program atEvanston. Though some of their language sounded strange–different than what I had heard from N. B. Hardeman & Gus Nichols, it took me almost two weeks after they had finished speaking to discover what was wrong. When I invited Foy Wallace up for a meeting, he evidently knew what was wrong before he ever got there. He said, “There was a time when you could not find a modernist in the church with a fine-toothed comb. Now you can rake them out with a hay-baler!”
When I was preaching inWinter Park, it took me at least six months to understand enough of what was wrong with some things there to write an article, “CULTISM IN THE CHURCH.” It was another month or so, with telephone calls and letters from all over the nation, before I realized that the root of it was at Crossroads, inGainesville.
So, perhaps because I am so slow to see things that might be wrong, it is easy for me to obey the injunction in James 1:19, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak; slow to wrath.” However, the point of all this is, just because one is not in the forefront of controversy, and known as a brilliant antagonist on “the cutting edge” of all issues, does not mean that he needs to be afraid to speak up, or be intimidated.
For example, when the “total commitment movement” got underway, many seemed to be intimidated by the phrase, “total commitment.” Although I was thought of as one of those who led in exposing the movement, I refuse to be so intimidated. I believe in total commitment. Paul did not say in Romans 6:7, “Knowing this, that our old man is stunned, that the body of sin might be temporarily incapacitated.” Jesus did not say in Matthew 16:24, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself some things, and drag along his cross and follow me.” Just because many have perverted “total commitment” to mean “total commitment” to a false system of evangelism rather than commitment to Christ does not mean we should cease to use the phrase.
Salvation is only by faith. Just because some have perverted it to mean “by faith alone”, and at the point of faith does not mean we need to be intimidated and not teach it. Salvation is by grace. We can only be saved by the grace of God, but because there are many who make it sound as if there are no rules by which one must accept that grace should not intimidate us so that we refuse to teach the glorious truth of salvation by grace.
Just because some have misused Matthew 18:15-17 to teach that false doctrine cannot be opposed until one has personally confronted the one who has taught it, does not mean that we should be intimidated by those who seem to think that every difference in viewpoint must be opposed by vitriolic personal condemnation.
Although the teaching of Matthew 8:15-17 has to do with a personal trespass against one by a brother, and not with a false doctrine he teaches, there is a principle suggested here which is specifically taught in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so unto them.”
For example, there are few men whose scholarship and Biblical insight I respect more highly than Guy Woods, Robert Taylor, Tom Warren and Roy Deaver. But whenRoyasked me to speak on a subject at a lecture program, knowing that my view of that subject probably differed from that of many respected brethren, I spoke. Many such were present, and I doubt that my presentation convinced all of them that I was right. But I did not expect them to leap to their feet and challenge me during my lecture.
There is a very important principle here of which I think we need to be more aware than many of us seem to be. In my giving an exegesis of a passage, I presented what I think the passage taught. If what I had said would have endangered someone’s soul, then I would have expected every sound gospel preacher there to have exposed my false teaching. But since the things I thought the passage taught were plainly taught many other places in the Bible, there was no damage done even if I were wrong in my exegesis of that particular passage.
Let me illustrate that. Most of my life I have heard preachers use Ephesians1:22and say, “The passage says that Christ is the head of the church.” That is NOT SO! But I would not leap to my feet and challenge that person with teaching false doctrine, although he has given a false exegesis of a passage, for Christ IS the head of the church. What the passage says is that (God) “put all things under his feet and gave him, (who is) head over all things, to the church.”
Again, most of my life my preaching brethren and I have taught that the Great Commission has four commands, “Go, teach, baptize and teach.” THAT IS NOT SO! It has ONE command, and four participle phrases relating to how that command is carried out. But because a person happens to be ignorant of that does not mean he should be berated and excoriated for teaching false doctrine.
But my point in this article is that we should refuse to be intimidated by any use of any passage by any person so that we fail to teach what we conceive to be the truth of God. My second point is: Even though you disagree with a brother about the exegesis of a particular passage, if what he thinks the passage teaches is plainly taught in other places in the Bible, you do not need to attack him for teaching false doctrine.
We have enough controversy that directly pertains to the salvation of souls and the purity of the church without personal attacks on brethren who merely make what we consider a mistake in the exegesis of a passage. We have the right and responsibility to strive to clarify that mistake, but have neither the right nor responsibility to strive to ruin his influence by harsh charges of false doctrine.