From the Mailbag
FROM THE MAILBAG
A lifelong friend of the editor wrote to complain that our standing
offer of space for rebuttals is hypocritical, because he has written
letters that haven't been published. The following excerpt from
his latest letter (three pages), which attempted to answer every
article in the spring issue of TSR, illustrates what he considers
Your article about the flood was stupid! What do you or anyone
know about the "fountains of the deep"? Do you find
it strange that the "great deluge" is mentioned by so
many writers of God's word? Genesis, Joshua, Psalms, Matthew,
Luke, 2 Peter, etc. The "Reader Reaction" page was one-sided!
Why not publish some of the negative letters you receive?
The "Virgin Birth Prophecy" was a farce! [ref001]Matthew 1:16
: "And _Jacob_ begat _Joseph_,
the husband of Mary, of whom was born _Jesus_, who
is called Christ." "To a VIRGIN espoused to a man whose
name was JOSEPH, of the house of DAVID; and the virgin's name
was Mary" ([ref002]Lk. 1:27
). _Where_ is the problem! In the complete genealogy
as given ([ref003]Lk. 3:23-28
), there is just a more detailed list, but no contradiction!
I wonder why our scribe did not expound [ref004]Isaiah 53
, also [ref005]Acts 8:32-33
EDITOR'S NOTE: I was born and grew up in Wardell, Missouri. My
parents' farm and the Owens farm were adjoining properties, so
I have known Mr. Owens all my life. He once served as my moderator
when I debated as a Bible-believing preacher. I regret that TSR
has so obviously upset him, but as rational readers can easily
see, he offers no response to the materials we publish. Like most
fundamentalists, he believes that a scripture quotation should
be sufficient to settle any issue in dispute. We will gladly publish
any article he submits that takes a logical rather than the-Bible-says
approach to rebutting our arguments against the inerrancy doctrine.
I pray you shall come to your senses before it is too late. "The
fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" ([ref006]Psalm 14:1
(This is a complete letter from Bobby Liddell, 4850 Saufley Road,
Pensacola, FL 32526 written in "response" to our rebuttal
of his article on prophecy fulfillment reprinted in the summer
issue from his paper _Defender_.)
Thanks for publishing Gleason L. Archer's wonderful letter declining
to debate you on the grounds that you are not a "seeker after
truth" and "not really open to reason." Are these
not remarkable statements from a man notorious for inventing (or
at least promoting) falsehoods and fallacies with which to defend
the Bible? In addition to Archer's insufferable arrogance, note
the characteristic "thinking in tongues." He asserts
that "you have nothing to offer your public but disillusionment
and despair...." That is nonsense, but suppose it were not?
Would that constitute a refutation? Is a message that is genuinely
disillusioning and depressing necessarily false? Think about that,
for it is the key. Secretly, the Archers of the world believe
they control reality, that what they want to believe is necessarily
true. They rarely say it in so many words, but they continually
betray themselves to the careful listener or reader. ("Well,
if you really want to believe we came from apes.... I'd rather
believe....") They equate their hopes, fears, and prejudices
with absolute truth and blindly attack objective reality when
it rears its (to them) ugly head.
Please consider the preceding paragraph for publication. More
and more, I've come to believe that my point therein about controlling
reality is the key to understanding the fundamentalist mind.
It was a pleasure to meet in Portland, where I was able to attend
the last sessions of your debate with Mr. Dobbs. Of the debate
itself, I can't say it was much of a pleasure; it was about what
I expected. Your opponent used just about every dodge in the book,
and the audience was preconditioned to preaching and could not
distinguish such from a formal debate, as evidenced by the outbursts
of "amens." Well, I guess my purpose in going was to
see if there was any difference from the perspective of being
there as opposed to reading a transcript of such a debate later.
It came off just about the same to me.
It was the first exposure for this recovered Baptist to your old
denomination the "Church of Christ," and it had a few
surprises. In particular, a book in their bookstore was subtitled
a "Debate between a Christian and a Lutheran." And here
I'd thought Lutherans counted as Christians too. Your debate opponent
must have thought so when he quoted the World Almanac's figures
on total Christian population.
This led me to research the denomination a bit. My biggest encyclopedia
was not much help. It told of Campbell's Presbyterian and Baptist
background and of his and his father's efforts to unite Christians.
This hardly seems consistent with the "we're the only true
Christians" attitude I experienced there.
A better resource turned out to be one that your opponent used,
the World Almanac. However, its entries in the categories of Doctrine
and Authority were rather surprising in light of the experience
in Portland. These are respectively stated: "Simple New Testament
faith; avoids any elaboration not firmly based on scripture"
and "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures
are silent, we are silent."
Perhaps they are talking about another "Church of Christ"?
It seems to me that the whole four-day seminar was nothing more
than a series of such elaborations on remarkably unfirm passages.
Seeing Rome in [ref007]Daniel 2
is extremely far-fetched; equating Nazarene with the insults
to the "suffering servant" of Second Isaiah is simply
astounding. From what little I saw of the other lectures and of
the preprinted book, this appears to be the modus operandi for
the entire event.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Although Mr. Beach seemed unable to believe what
he discovered from browsing through the books on display at the
debate site, members of the Church of Christ do believe that they
are the only true Christians. Perhaps Mr. Beach noticed a popular
book by Thomas B. Warren on display: _The_Bible_Only_Makes
Christians_Only_and_the_Only_Christians_. Those "only"
Christians, of course, are in the Church of Christ.
"We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the
Bible is silent" is indeed the rallying cry of the Church
of Christ, but Mr. Beach heard me chiding my opponent several
times on this point for his resort to speaking just about anything
that would provide him with a semblance of a response to nonexistent,
fabricated prophecies that I challenged him to give the book,
chapter, and verse for in the Old Testament. Of course, he never
did, because they simply do not exist.
I agree that [ref008]Romans 3:5-6
begs the question, but Paul makes _three_ assumptions
unsupported by evidence, not just one: (1) the world will be judged;
(2) the world will be judged justly; and (3) God, and no one else,
will do the judging. When people beg a question with a package,
I like to look at the pieces.
Your analysis of [ref009]Romans 7:1-6
, based on Hyam Maccoby, is beautiful! No wonder Christians'
brains get scrambled if they study the Bible too much!
I was particularly impressed with your article "There's a
Living in It" (Spring 1992), which identifies the economic
motive for keeping the Bible and the local church together. Another
motive is what I call "credibility." It is difficult
to have to retract some of the things adhered to in the beginning
of a ministerial career and say, "I was wrong." It reminds
me of the story of the preacher who had in his sermon margin "weak
point here--yell like hell." Look at the cost involved--loss
of face with the congregation who pays the salary, loss of face
with parents who are proud of their preacher son and are now ashamed
of his rebellion, loss of face with professors who taught him,
and loss of face with his peers in surrounding churches. It is
a heavy cost, and I am sure that you have experienced some or
all of it.
But my real motivation with this letter is to offer you some words
of encouragement. We both know that even though there is an outward,
negative reaction to your newsletter from the inerrantists, much
of what you say will be retained in the archives of their minds
for some later reflection. I can still remember some of the doubts
express by my laymen some 25 years ago that caused me later to
say, "Right on!" So it may take some time on the part
of some inerrantists, but the seed is planted for future harvesting.
I know that sometimes you must feel as if you are beating your
head against a wall. Your weapon of logic is frowned upon by inerrantists.
God's reasoning and faith are above logic, they say. So it is
difficult to communicate with them on common ground. Somehow,
they feel, this is superior to logic. So you have a tough battle
to fight. But sooner or later, they will tire of what I call "do-si-do-ing"
with words. I can still hear the pastor of my youth encouraging
me not to think so deeply about the text of the Bible; rather
I should have the faith of a little child.
I have personally concluded that most of the clergy I know are
either dishonest or dumb. During my ministerial career, I was
"dumb." And for a while, I was dishonest--until I was
able to resolve the economic problem and get on with an honest