[UPDATE! (11-11) Al has continued to depart from the truth on other more important issues. He is now openly teaching that salvation comes at the point of faith, yet he ignores my challenge for public written discussion on this and other issues.]
General Comments about Al Maxey and His Teachings
What is a Legalist?
What is a Patternist?
Review of Al’s Article: “The Bondage of Silence”
Al Maxey published an article called “The Bondage of Silence” (Reflections Issue # 361). His inconsistent teachings and irresponsible actions, including harsh, unfair, and unjust criticisms of others, provoked me to endeavor to expose his efforts to the extent of my ability.
In this review of Al’s article, I will be refuting some of his false and dangerous teachings. Before doing so, I want to make some general comments about Al and some of his writings and discuss the terms “legalist” and “patternist” in order to understand his position (as opposed to the truth) and expose his errors and inconsistencies.
My purpose is to clearly outline Al’s objections regarding silence and to show that he is simply playing word games. We will also see that he does not even understand the concept of authority and continues to blame those who do for the divisions and strife within the church. The truth is, Al Maxey abhors authority and those who insist on it for all that they do (Colossians 3:17). Christians need to realize the harm he is doing to the Lord’s church with his divisive spirit (heretical) as he continues to divide the brotherhood by promoting denominational doctrines and with his disgorge of malicious and odious language. He preaches tolerance but does not practice it himself. In fact, Al is the epitome of intolerance and has become obsessed with changing the Lord’s church and is prepared to seek its ruin if people will not change. This will be documented in the course of this writing.
Admittedly, Al has written some very good articles and sermons that are useful to sound gospel preachers, which he freely shares. Unfortunately, in his zeal to change things in the church that need changing (and I do see some of the same problems he sees) he has gone too far—so far in fact, that he rightly deserves the label “change agent.”
Al is highly critical of brethren who differ with him on the “Silence of God” and other authority related issues. He often refers to opponents as legalistic, patternistic partyists. Considering his pleas for patternists to come out of bondage into the freedom he enjoys through grace, Al’s message comes across as hypocritical, judgmental, disparaging and pompous. Al is overconfident in his campaign against those who hinder him in his efforts to change things by their insistence on authority for what is done in religion. Al’s attitude seems to be: “How dare anyone demand authority for everything a church does! How foolish and legalistic can you get? Those who would do so are equivalent to the first century Pharisees and should be treated as such.”
Al continually uses the phrase “legalistic patternists,” but even though he says he believes in biblical patterns, such as the pattern for what to do to be saved, he detests: 1) the belief that God’s word is a pattern for our life; and 2) the belief that everything God says on a subject is God’s pattern on that issue. Thus, it is apparent that Al is inconsistent and vacillates.
Below are some comments from Al that I copied from a recent debate:
“OUR challenge within the Family of God is to learn to accept one another, just as our Father has accepted each of us (even with our various perceptional differences).”
Yes, some need to be more tolerant of the views of others, but when you read Al’s statements you get the impression that he has no tolerance at all of those who do not agree with his hermeneutics or share in his level of intelligence.
“The alternative, of course, and we see this every day, is that with each perceptional difference a new sect or faction arises. Frankly, I am sick of seeing the Body of Christ being dismembered by these legalistic, patternistic partyists. Thus, I pray that my brethren throughout the world will rise up as one and demand a halt to this sectarian squabbling and separating among siblings. Enough is enough!!”
It is apparent that Al would have his readers believe that all the divisions in the church are caused by the “legalistic, patternistic partyists.” But those whom Al denigrates are the very ones who object to innovations in the church—things for which there is no Bible authority. (Admittedly, many divisions are due to misinterpretation of scripture, but we must not throw out the baby with the bath water in our disgust of such ignorance). Paul appealed to the Corinthians to be united and that “there be no divisions among you….” (1 Corinthians 1:10). The church in Corinth was divided into various parties but some said, “We are of Christ.” No doubt they objected to the divisions and party names; and whether you call them legalists or patternists, they were right and those who acted without authority were wrong. Acting without authority by taking on human names and adding to commands is always wrong. Change agents have existed throughout the history of the church but faithful Christians are not responsible to conform to their teachings simply to gain their approval. God has provided a pattern of worship for the churches in His word—the sum of what the New Testament teaches is the pattern. Our responsibility is to make sure we follow the pattern.
“I myself am a patternist in that I believe there is a pattern contained within the Scriptures pertaining to both fellowship and salvation. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with following GOD'S pattern.”
Al speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He admits he is a patternist but then denigrates and maligns brethren who insist on the need to follow Biblical patterns! He says, “There is nothing wrong whatsoever with following God’s pattern,” but then opposes those who do so in debates and articles; not only does he contest it, he considers it a source of evil. While Al is a very competent and tireless writer on many subjects, he is confused and misguided on the subject of Bible authority; if he is not confused then he is seeking to bemuse others.
“Those whom I characterize as ‘modern day Pharisees’ are those who tend to set aside God's expectations so as to promote their own. Thus, I'm referring to those whom I term legalistic patternists.”
One can be a legalist and a patternist without taking on the characteristics of the Pharisees who did indeed look to their own teachings rather than God’s. Jesus said about these men: “For in vain do they worship me teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” Al has admitted that he is a patternist. No doubt he looks to the law of God on many things for direction and insists on following exactly what God has said—thus he is a legalistic patternist himself. It is just in certain areas that he departs from what God said in His word (primarily practices of the church) and he tries to justify innovations with his word games (We shall discuss the meaning of legalist and patternist shortly.)
I think it is very likely that Al relates legalistic patternists with perfectionists (who do not believe in continual cleansing for those who “walk in the light”) who do indeed fail to understand the true nature of grace and that our salvation is not contingent upon our living above sin. He needs to realize that not all patternists are perfectionists. I’m certainly not one. The following is a link to a page on my web site where you can download my tract, Continual Cleansing Verses Perfectionism www.totalhealth.bz/publications.htm
In his article, The Silence Syndrome, Issue # 228, Al referred to the thing that he so diligently opposes as being “sectarian patternism.” I was unaware that the sectarians cared enough about what God’s word says that they would look upon it as a pattern and seek to follow it. In January 2006, Al looked upon the silence issue as an “aspect of their CENI hermeneutic.” For many years brethren general agreed that authority is established in three ways: by a direct command, an approved apostolic example, and a necessary inference (CENI). But Al is among the change agents who insist that CENI is a faulty hermeneutic. The problem these brethren face is that they do not have a viable alternative.
“The problem is when ‘fallible men’ seek to bind as additions to HIS pattern their OWN assumptions. At this point they do indeed begin to resemble the Pharisees of old. Jesus rebuked them, saying, ‘Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’ (Matt. 15:3).”
What Al says is true but he is guilty of what he purports to oppose because he promotes doctrines of men that are based upon assumptions—practices that are condemned by the “law of specificity,” which he recognizes as a valid hermeneutic. Yet he castigates, maligns and condemns those who insist on book, chapter and verse for all that they do in word and deed (Colossians 3:17). Note below how Al not only compares the “legalistic patternist” to the Pharisees, but actually calls them Pharisees (see highlighted text below).
“And brethren, that is exactly what the legalistic patternists are doing today!! Where God is silent ... they speak. Indeed, they are so bold as to call something SIN that not even God Himself characterized as such. They are masters at adding to the Word of God and making up laws to bind upon the church. Jesus spoke mockingly of these Pharisees in Matt. 23:2, a statement that is captured well in The Living Bible – ‘You would think these Jewish leaders and these Pharisees were Moses, the way they keep making up so many laws!’ Yes, their kind still exist in the church today.”
Yes, “their kind” still exists, but those guilty of actually adding such things as instrumental music to the word of God (because man likes it) on the grounds that “God does not say not to,” while criticizing, maligning and blaming those who object and call for authority, are the real Pharisees.
Legalist: A philosophy of focusing on the text of written law to the exclusion of the intent of law, elevating strict adherence to law over justice, mercy and common sense.
A legalist is anyone who behaves as if he or she can earn God's approval and forgiveness through performance. At its heart legalism is self-atonement for the purpose of self-glorification and ultimately self-worship.
The above are negative definitions or applications of the word legalism. If this is what we mean by legalism then it is a bad thing that should be avoided. But there are definitions of legalism that do not have the negative connotation of “works only” to save. Note the definitions below:
Legalism: Strict, literal adherence to the law or to a particular code, as of religion or morality.
Comment: Would Al Maxey object to the above?
Legalism: Adherence to letter of law-strict adherence to a literal interpretation of a law, rule, or religious or moral code.
Comment: Would Al Maxey object to the above?
Legalism (theology), a sometimes pejorative term relating to a number of concepts in the Christian theological tradition.
Comment: Would Al Maxey object to the above?
Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God, justification before God, and acceptance by God, through our obedience to God but not necessarily without acknowledgement that such justification is not possible without the blood of Christ.
Comment: Would Al Maxey object to the above?
Al Maxey may well have been the first to use the term patternists. If there was anyone before him that derided brethren who insist on following God’s pattern(s) I’m unaware of it.
In my view, a patternist, as Al uses the term, is one who looks upon the sum of what God says on any subject as the pattern on that matter, as opposed to recognizing that there is only one pattern: Jesus or the Bible. Since the word “pattern” is found throughout the Bible, and in some instances it is clear that God intends on the pattern being followed “legalistically,” Al realizes that he can’t completely reject the pattern concept and retain any credibility. He even admits that he is a patternist. It seems that the real problem that Al has is with brethren emphasizing the importance of following what God says on these smaller patterns. Evidently, in his effort to broaden the borders of fellowship and make us more palatable, he has convinced himself that these smaller patterns do not exist and that those who reject the new hermeneutic he promotes (discussed and refuted later) are behaving like the Pharisees.
It is interesting that Al started out his Reflections issue #361 (The Bondage of Silence, Human Hermeneutic Gone Astray) with the following quote: "The stupidity of a theory has never impeded its influence." The quote, as he used it, was apparently directed toward those who respect God’s silence. At any rate, he replied: “Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. Too often it appears that the more ridiculous and ludicrous the theory, the more likely it is to spread at almost lightning speed among the gullible masses.” Thus, he thinks of the “law of silence” as stupid, ridiculous, ludicrous, a “preposterous theology” (later in his article) and nothing but a theory and that those who espouse the “theory” are gullible. Additional words in his next sentence that speak of Al’s attitude toward those with whom he differs include: tyrannical, blind, muddled, enslavement, misguided, tyrant lords and godless. It is interesting and ironic that Al would say these things about a doctrine that brilliant men like Alexandra Campbell, and many others of the restoration movement believed, when it actually better applies to what he continually preaches in his effort to justify denominational practices, like, the unauthorized practice of instrumental music played in the assemblies of the church.
Al observed that, “the more ludicrous the theory, the more likely it is to spread at almost lightning speed among the gullible masses.” This is true of his own ludicrous opposition to established and sound hermeneutics. The idea that “we can’t act on silence” and “we must have a thus sayeth the Lord” is an established and generally accepted rule of hermeneutics.
“They are literally terrified of the message of grace and freedom reaching their people, for they know only too well that it will create a growing hunger, a hunger that they themselves, with their paltry fare of sectarian pabulum, cannot even begin to satisfy.”
While it is true that some, who Al calls patternists, seem not to understand the concept of grace and what it means to “walk in the light” to be continually cleansed (1 John 1:7), he lumps us all together; as I will show later from his own comments. Therefore, if you are a patternist and preach the gospel of grace, you are, according to Al, unable to satisfy the hunger people have for salvation and freedom. Al has all but plainly stated that patternists are lost as well as the converts they make. Even though a patternist preaches grace and faith, it is not enough, according to Al. Does this sound like a man that looks upon God as loving and gracious and who loves his brethren?
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1 John 3:14; 4:20)
Al evidently needs to contemplate the idea of practicing what he preaches.
“Paltry fare of sectarian pabulum”
Al refers to the teaching of those who respect God when He is silent as a “Paltry fare of sectarian pabulum.” Paltry means “worthless.” Pabulum means: “Unsatisfying intellectual material; material whose intellectual content is thin, trite, bland, or generally unsatisfying.” I wonder why conservatives over the years did not think to use such terms in fighting the “God did not say not to” argument (Perhaps the once dead issues that Al Maxey seeks to resurrect could have been nipped in the bud). Such rhetoric seems to be working for Al, so surely it would have worked for conservatives. Also, Al asserts that patternist’s teachings are “sectarian.” Thus, he insists that the fundamental teachings of members of the church since the beginning of the reformation movement (and before) are sectarian, but his deviation from it in defending denominational doctrines and practices is not sectarian.
“There are many ‘tools’ (dare I say ‘weapons’) employed in the promotion of legalistic patternism, but one of the favorites is a humanly devised, and inconsistently applied, precept known to most as The Law of Silence. In essence it declares that biblical silence should always be interpreted as prohibitive in nature, rather than permissive. In other words, if the Bible says nothing about something, then that which is never mentioned is ipso facto proscribed. ‘Do it and DIE!’ is their motto.”
No doubt “The Law of Silence” is inconsistently applied, as is the case with virtually every other biblical concept. But this does not mean it should be considered evil. It has always been used in religious and civil writings and practices. On the other hand, the idea that a church can practice anything regarding which God has been silent, i.e., things He has not specifically condemned, IS without question “humanly devised” and has been the justification for various innovations in the church that has resulted in strife, contention and division. Yet Al blames all such evil on the “patternistic legalists” who seek to “do all in the name of the Lord” (Colossians 3:17).
Al said, “Do it and DIE! is their motto.” That is strange because I have been around for well over half a century and have never heard it before. At any rate, I don’t happen to share the idea that any sin or any biblical error or church practice will instantly result in spiritual death. God is a God of love. He offers grace and hope for those who seek to follow Him. He is Judge over his people and He shows mercy, as He chooses, on the overly liberal and the overly conservative.
“For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15).
It seems that Al Maxey, in pronouncing judgment on his more conservative brethren, has been “whittling on God’s end of the stick.”
“Of course, even the most hardened legalistic patternist is wise enough to realize that there are many things they practice about which the Scriptures are silent.”
In the above statement, Al demonstrates that he does not understand the concept of authority as taught by those who he calls patternists. No well-informed conservative “patternist” has said or believes that there are many things they practice without authority or that they practice things about which the Scriptures are silent. Although certain things are not mentioned in the Bible, they may be authorized as expedients in carrying out a command. Fore example, one might argue that hymn books are not mentioned in the New Testament but because they help us to carry out the command to sing, the use of a hymn book falls into the category of an expedient. Thus, it cannot be said that God is silent (and thus not authorized) concerning the use of hymn books and other expedients.
“Thus, in an effort to get around this obvious inconsistency, they had to devise yet another precept -- The Law of Expediency.”
Al ignorantly refers to expediency as being a “precept” or command. He is actually attacking the very doctrine that he offers in place of “The Law of Silence” which I will demonstrate later.
“Through some creative manipulation of texts and logic, they have managed to placate themselves. ‘The Bible is silent about what WE do, but that is okay. What WE do is expedient. However, because the Bible is silent about what YOU do, you are an apostate bound straight for hell.’ Well, as you might imagine, each party of patternists ‘reasons’ exactly the same. Thus, using the same ‘laws,’ they justify themselves and condemn all others. It is such an absurd display of illogic, that the worldly (and even other Christians) shake their heads in wonder that such people actually exist. And yet, they do... and they are bringing death in the wake of their preposterous theology. As Jesus told the Pharisees (the legalistic patternists of His day), ‘You travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves’ (Matt. 23:15). Jesus didn't mince words with these people... neither should we!”
There are several things in the above paragraph to which I wish to reply.
First, I don’t believe Al understands what is meant by the word expedient. as is evident from the fact that he referred to it as a precept. Usually, the difficulty people have with the word expedient is distinguishing it from an “aid.” There is a difference in an “aid” and something that is expedient. An “aid” is something that assists in a practice but does not become a part of the practice itself. A song book aids singing but does not become a part of the singing. An aid does not constitute something that is parallel to the practice like a piano would. Books, lights, song leader, etc do not become part of the singing. (The unauthorized synagogue that Jesus taught in was not part of the teaching.) An expedient expresses a judgment that a practice would be advisable or inadvisable under the existing conditions. An “aid” might not be expedient under certain circumstances.
Second, Al’s effort to make patternists appear to be knowingly and boastfully inconsistent is inexcusable.
Third, Al said, “…Each party of patternists ‘reasons’ exactly the same.” Thus, he affirms, what I asserted previously, that “he lumps us all together.” Thus, regardless of whether we preach Jesus, grace and love, according to Al the patternists (all of them) “justify themselves and condemn all others” and those we convert to Christ (“proselyte”) are made “twice as much as one of hell” as ourselves.
Al concluded his paragraph with the following: “Jesus didn't mince words with these people...neither should we!” Thus, Al compares those he calls patternists, which include this writer, to the Pharisees and he says he should not mince words with us. Well, I’m certainly not among the “worst” of the patternists (which Al knows) yet he refused to debate me when I challenged him. But just a few weeks later he accepted a debate challenge with one related to the “Contending for the Faith” list that booted me and two others, of like mind on an issue, without warning or reason. We were there to discuss the Bible. So it seems that Al Maxey has more determination to destroy patternist, by bringing to light the worst traits among us, than he does to find and teach the truth.
Brethren, the type of language from Al Maxey, noted above and continually spewing forth from his “Reflections,” is not what we would expect to come from the pen of one who truly believes God is a God of love and grace.
“Brethren, I'll make a confession -- nothing gets my blood pressure up any quicker than seeing these ‘voices of legalistic patternism’ drag out the old ‘law of silence,’ dust it off, and seek to pawn it off once again upon an unsuspecting public.”
The “law of silence” is indeed old—it goes at least as far back as Cain and Able, but sound preachers of the gospel, as far back as I can remember, have never let it “collect dust.”
“I will boldly challenge such persons every time I encounter their attempts to beguile my fellow disciples. I can not, and I will not, remain silent in the face of such attempts to shackle my spiritual siblings.”
I have not attempted to beguile anyone, but evidently, being a “patternists,” Al has judged us all and determined that we are trying to “shackle” his “spiritual siblings.”
“Freedom in Christ is literally at stake, and for us to remain silent as lamb after precious lamb is dragged off by the wolves is unconscionable. Those who do not speak out will one day have to give an answer to the Great Shepherd for their cowardice in the face of the enemy.”
According to Al, if one does not accept his “no-pattern” theory and go along with his “silence is freedom” philosophy, they have no freedom in Christ and they are wolves and cowards if they do not join him in the fight against the enemy. My thinking is that the “enemy” is Satan as well as those who serve him by teaching for doctrines the commands of men. Preachers of the gospel who insist that to follow Jesus means we must use the New Testament as our authority, and not exercise the “law of silence” to do as we please, are demonized by a man who seeks to reform the church, or more accurately, change the church. I agree with Al that there needs to be some reforming, but methodically polluting the minds of brethren regarding the need for authority for our practices and giving general approval of denominational doctrine is not the reformation or change that we need.
Al says he wants “…Those behind the walls of these various sects, factions and parties…to begin thinking about what our Father truly expects of His beloved children.” He asks, “Is He a God of LAW, or a God of LOVE?! Is our salvation grace/faith-based, or works-based?” Thus, we are charged with not even thinking about what God expects. Well, this “patternist” knows that God is a God of love, but that in his Love God has set forth laws that are for our benefit. (Regarding God’s commandments see: John 14:21; 15:10; 1 Corinthians 7:19; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 John 2:3-4; 1 John 3:22-24.)
Here is a link to clear comments from Al where he insists his legalistic patternist brethren are lost, and more.
A father who loves his immature son does not allow him to do as he pleases. He lays down rules (laws or commandments) and proves his love by directing him in the ways of righteousness. The passages below support the point I’m making:
“He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray” (Proverbs 5:23)
“O Lord [Jehovah], I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23)
The son who loves his father will keep his commands (John 14:15). Below are several passages that very clearly indicate that God has laws i.e., commands that MUST be followed, yet Al seeks to deemphasize this fact and only emphasize love. But love without obedience is equivalent to “faith without works” (James 1:18).
The following are some passages that speak of the importance of keeping God’s commandments:
(Ex 16:28) “And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?”
(Ex 20:6) “And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
(Le 22:31) “Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the LORD.”
(Le 26:3) “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them”
(De 5:10) “And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”
(1Ki 9:6) “But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them:”
(2Ki 17:13) “Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”
(Ne 1:9) “But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.”
(Pr 3:1) “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:”
(Pr 4:4) “He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.”
(Joh 14:15) “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
(Joh 15:10) “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.”
(1Jo 2:4) “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
(1Jo 3:22) “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”
(1Jo 3:24) “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”
(1Jo 5:2) “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.”
(1Jo 5:3) “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
(2Jo 1:6) “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.”
Many seem to be confused as to what is a commandment. Paul answered that when he wrote:
“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37).
Al Blows Smoke but His Argument Backfires
“Hebrews 7:14. ‘For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.’ Well, there you have it, folks. Moses ‘spoke nothing’ -- the ‘law of silence.’ Since Moses said nothing about priests coming from Judah, therefore and thereby any person from Judah was excluded from being a priest. Silence prohibits. It's as clear as day!! What these people can't seem to grasp is that it is not silence that prohibits, but rather specificity. Men from Judah weren't prohibited from serving as priests simply because Moses said nothing about it, they were prohibited because GOD SAID that only those from the tribe of Levi would be chosen to serve as priests. Thus, it is the specificity of God that is prohibitive here, NOT the silence of Moses. Why these people can't comprehend this simple principle of logic is puzzling.”
In the above paragraph, Al belittles those who make the valid point that God was silent about people of tribes other than Levi being priests, and that it would therefore be wrong for anyone of any other tribe to serve as a priest. I comprehend what Al is saying. He is saying that “patternists” are wrong to apply this passage as an example of where God was “silent” because God has not really been silent—He spoke on the matter when He said Levites would be the priests, and having so “specified” it becomes apparent that He meant to EXCLUDE men from other tribes. Al is playing with semantics here (blowing smoke), but any way you slice it he condemns his favorite divisive hobby--instrumental music, because God specified singing as the kind of music He wants, which excludes instrumental music. If one can see that when God specified Levites to be priests it excluded anyone from any of the other tribes, then he ought to be able to see that when God specified singing it excluded instruments. And then it becomes glaringly apparent, to those who have eyes that see, that after all of Al’s verbal gymnastics he has failed in his effort to justify instrumental music and has failed to defeat the “silence” argument. Whether you call it “law of silence” or “law of specificity” Al has failed and has demonstrated that he is overconfident, reckless and irresponsible in his teachings.
A case where the “law of silence,” according to Al’s definition, is found is in Acts 15:1, 24. The Pharisees were teaching that circumcision was necessary to be saved. Paul condemned them saying “we gave no such commandment.” Al might argue that this is not a case of silence but specificity because God specified what to do to be saved. I wrote him privately to get his reply to the use of this text but he would not give me anything except ridicule. He did say he would do a special issue on the matter (which he has done) and that I would not like it. At any rate, those false teachers were adding things to the word of God that had not been taught by the apostles. God had been silent (in the technical sense) about circumcision, but these were men who did not respect God’s silence and they brought it upon themselves to speak as an oracle of someone else (whether Moses, Satan, or themselves I cannot say) as opposed to speaking as “the oracles of God” (1 Peter. 4:11). In his effort to malign those who demand authority for all religious actions and justify and promote denominational doctrines that separate Christ’s true church from plants he has not planted (Matthew. 5:13), Al might argue that the teaching of circumcision to be saved was not a “law of silence” example because Paul condemned it. But that dog will not hunt because at the time they began teaching their false doctrine it was wrong for one reason only: it was not from God—He was silent. It was not what God wanted to be included in the plan of salvation and so He “spake nothing” (Heb. 7:14). If He had wanted it He would have stated His demands. He would not have been silent. And the instrumental music issue is a perfect parallel.
Al quotes a man who said, "The Jews clearly understood that the silence regarding Judah and all the other tribes was prohibitive." He then replies, “No, brother, that is NOT what they understood. They understood that God had specified that those from Levi only would serve. ‘Silence’ has nothing to do with it.”
Brethren, I do not find where God said “only” in specifying Levites to serve. He just named what tribe would be responsible, which automatically excluded the other tribes—tribes about which He “spake nothing” i.e., was silent in the sense that He did not specifically say they could or could not participate in the practices the Levites were authorized to do. Al calls this reasoning a misuse of the “law of silence.” He says it is not a matter where God did not speak because He specified Levites, which excluded the other tribes. The kicker here is that Al’s argument does not help him at all because on the instrumental music issue God did specify the type of music, and Al admits it. He knows it is true! Yet, he employs the “law of silence” in a different way to justify instrumental music and he ridicules others for using said law in the proper way. Al tries to be seen as being very confident in his teaching, but in his inconsistency and fallacious and deceptive reasoning and teaching he has lost much credibility.
In one sense, we could say that God was not silent because he had specified an act in that category. And this means something to those who understand, respect and intend on following the authority of God. But in another sense we could say He was silent regarding other tribes being priests because He “spake nothing” about them (Heb. 7:14). This phrase was evidently designed to indicate that God was silent regarding people of other tribes serving as a priest. Thus, there is justification for the idea of a “law of silence.” But while condemning others for using it, in the proper way, Al uses it himself in an improper way. He uses it to justify any and every thing a church might decide to do so long as God has been silent. But according to Al's own reasoning God has not really been silent some of these things for which he contends is not sinful to practice. Yet he continues to try to defend things about which God was not only not silent but actually condemned by the “law of specificity”.
The “law of silence” concept was given a different twist by a number of brethren near the end of the eighteenth century. These brethren sought to justify the introduction of instrumental music by saying, “God did not say not to, therefore we can do it.” And, as has happened in some churches recently, they forced it upon others, which would have caused them to go against their conscience, thus they drove a wedge that divided churches. Al Maxey says it may not be expedient to use the instrument, but he is paving the way for more division by his teaching, and by his castigation and ostracism of those who oppose instrumental music in worship. I know of know one that opposes instrumental music who would not be classified by Al Maxey as a legalistic patternist.
It cannot be denied that the “law of silence” was enjoined by these brethren to justify instrumental music. Thus, the law is used in an attempt to justify a human innovation into the church. Al Maxey and others are doing exactly the same thing—they are making the same exact argument as they inconsistently present their peculiar twist of the “law of silence.” It is almost unbelievable that Al Maxey ridicules (in very derogatory terms) those of us who use the “law of silence” —as we see it set forth in the scriptures (although he calls it “the law of exclusion” ) while employing the same law in his vain attempt to justify the divisive practice of instrumental music that God has not authorized in New Testament worship. And in so doing he is going against the “law of exclusion” that he readily admits is a good and important hermeneutic.
In his article, Al ridiculed a brother who used Heb. 7:14 to teach the need for authority. The brother said, God “was not silent.” In one sense he was, but not in another—at least to people who understand authority. But hear Al Maxey:
“Thus, God had spoken; God had specified. So what is the perceived basis of authority here? Yup!! You guessed it. What God didn't say, NOT what He did declare. Completely logical, right?! Frankly, this is one of the most ridiculous, ludicrous hermeneutical tools ever cooked up by mortal man, and people ought to be utterly embarrassed to even admit they embrace it. A mere child can grasp the illogic of it, and yet these patternists apparently can not. Again, it's puzzling.”
Brethren across the world should continually remind Al Maxey that the restoration movement’s motto was for brethren to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent.” Therefore, it is he and those who follow his teachings that have departed from the “old paths” rather than as he has falsely charged.
“Why is it so critical that the prohibitive nature of this ‘law of silence’ be established in the minds of men? Because it is THE argument employed by the traditionalists to ‘prove’ that God disapproves of instrumental accompaniment to singing in a corporate worship setting. Take away this argument, and these people have nothing by which to declare their personal preference to be the ‘will of God.’”
If God were totally silent about instrumental music in New Testament worship and if Al’s criticism of the “law of silence” is valid, then there might be reason to back away from opposition to instrumental music, but since He specified singing God was not really silent according to Al himself. God spoke regarding the use of the instrument when He said sing. Thus, Al does not respect God when He is silent nor does he respect Him when He speaks. Furthermore, he scoffs at those who do respect God and seek to do only what He authorizes.
In view of the fact that Al Maxey recognizes “specificity” as a binding principle in authority and that God has indeed specified the kind of music He wants, is it not strange that he would say, of those who teach against instrumental music, that it is just their “personal preference” —that they are making opinion to be the will of God? Since the days of Adam and Eve men have sought to avoid the consequences of their own sin by denying it and charging that another is responsible.
“Almost every time you see a patternist drag out this law of silence you will soon discover that the sole purpose is to condemn instruments. It's all they have!”
First, it is the “law of silence” that instrumental music proponents have always used to justify their practice. Opponents have used the “law of silence” too (though Al says it is improper) but if it doesn't exist, we don’t need it—we have the “law of specificity!” We have the same law that kept Noah from using other kinds of wood than the one God specified in building the ark. Thus, according to Al, Noah was a legalistic patternist.
“It is an act of desperation. They can't relinquish this ‘law,’ for to do so would leave them powerless to condemn all the ‘denominations’ for their ‘innovations.’ They would be forced to admit that the preferences and perceptions of others were just as legitimate as their own, and that would spell ‘defeat’ in their minds, rather than the opening of doors to greater fellowship with God's other children.”
Since Al repudiates the “law of silence,” when used by those who teach that instrumental music in worship is wrong, his comments above are a tacit admission that he thinks we are powerless to teach against the innovations of denominationalism. In so many words, Al asserts that because of the “law of silence” (that he thinks he has proven to be an invalid factor in establishing authority and must be rejected) we must open doors to greater fellowship with God’s “other” children.
What “other” children could Al be talking about? The church of which I am a member is not a human denomination—the “Church of Christ church.” It is the body of Christ that is composed of those who have obeyed the gospel, are in that body and therefore are not some “other” group of God’s children. Those who have not “believed” are the ones who have not obeyed the gospel.
(Romans 10:16) “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” See also Romans 6:4, 17-18.
“Guy wrote, ‘We continue to hear the old argument from some who want to use instruments of music in our worship assemblies that 'The Bible does not specifically forbid our using instruments, so we have the right to use them.' It is true that the Bible does not specifically forbid our using instruments. Yet, the use of instruments falls within that category about which God has said nothing.’ Hmmm. Well, so do church buildings, multiple single-sip serving ‘cups’ of Welch's unfermented grape juice in a tray, Sunday School, VBS, four part harmony, song books... shall I go on?! If, in fact, silence is prohibitive, as these people claim, then they are certainly not consistent in the application of this principle.”
By his comments above, Al demonstrates that he either does not understand authority or is dishonest in making the argument. We have shown that Al does not believe God said nothing about music—he specified singing; and for that reason Al says the “law of silence” does not apply. At any rate, Al gives a list of things about which God is supposed to have said nothing. But according to Al’s own reasoning the “law of silence” is not applicable because God did speak. God spoke when He gave the commands to assemble, to take the fruit of the vine, and to teach the Bible. These were generic commands. Since He did not specify how to do these things we must conclude that He intended for us to have a choice. To say God was silent regarding the things noted, and that they are therefore not authorized, is absurd.
Since Al was a Navy Seal he has to know better than to make such a declaration. If the commander had told Al to go check out some reported activity he would know that the general command allowed him to choose the mode of transportation, whether to take subordinate personnel, how much firepower to include etc. But he would know for sure he didn’t have the approval or authority to add another mission—that privilege belonged to someone else.
"‘Well, that only applies to certain things about which the Bible is silent.’ Oh, really? Which ones? ‘Well, uhhhhh, the ones WE say it applies to.’ In other words, if they do something about which the Bible is silent, that's okay. But if someone else does something about which the Bible is silent, and this happens to be something they don't do, THEN it is SIN.”
There really is no argument made above. I just included this from Al’s article to show how low Al will stoop in his efforts to promote denominational doctrine. He knows we have a better answer than what he presented.
After suggesting that brethren are committing sin by opposing instrumental music Al wrote:
“…We know for a fact that God has demonstrated approval for the use of instruments with singing in the Scriptures. We see ample evidence of this positive perception in both the OT and NT documents. WHERE, in all of these writings, is there even a HINT that He has changed His mind on this? WHERE is there even a HINT of divine disapproval for instrumental accompaniment to singing? I would challenge this brother to provide even one single solitary verse that even remotely hints at such. Well, we all know that he can't. He's already admitted that it is not there. The only thing to which he can appeal in defense of his theology is the fact that God DIDN'T say anything. A rather flimsy basis, it seems to me, for developing dogma that has separated spiritual siblings for centuries and led to factional feuding within the precious, blood-bought Family of God.”
First, Al ignores the fact that the Old Covenant or Law was for Jews only (Deut. 29:13-15) and the New Covenant or Testament (also a law; Gal. 6:2; Jer. 31:31-32; Heb. 8:7-13) replaced the Old. Imagine a man being tried for a crime against the U.S. Constitution trying to justify his actions by arguing that what he did was allowed under some previous law. You can’t have two contradicting laws in effect at the same time, and certainly you cannot justify your actions by some inactive law (2 Cor. 3:13; Eph. 2:15). Yet Al seeks to justify a religious practice by appealing to the Old Testament—a law that was abolished at the cross (Heb. 9; 17). Paul teaches that if we seek to be justified by the Law we are fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). One who appeals to the Law of Moses for justification of religious acts is certainly on dangerous ground. Why, by Al’s reasoning, we could justify the burning of incense, counting beads, and any number of things that are not authorized of God that man might want to add to what God tells us He wants. With this concept there can never be unity. There can only be unity if we agree to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent. Thus, Al Maxey, and those of like mind, are on the wrong track—the track to division and strife rather than unity and peace.
Second, Al asked: “WHERE is there even a HINT of divine disapproval for instrumental accompaniment to singing?” I can think of two things:
1) Hear Jesus rather than Moses. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5b). “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1). This is much more than a “hint.”
2) Also, in Amos 6:5 we find what at least one highly respected unbiased commentator saw as more than a “hint.” Clark’s comments on this text are clear and powerful:
“And invent to themselves instruments of music, like David - See the note on 1Ch_23:5; and see especially the note on 2Ch_29:25 (note). I believe that David was not authorized by the Lord to introduce that multitude of musical instruments into the Divine worship of which we read, and I am satisfied that his conduct in this respect is most solemnly reprehended by this prophet; and I farther believe that the use of such instruments of music, in the Christian Church, is without the sanction and against the will of God; that they are subversive of the spirit of true devotion, and that they are sinful. If there was a wo to them who invented instruments of music, as did David under the law, is there no wo, no curse to them who invent them, and introduce them into the worship of God in the Christian Church? I am an old man, and an old minister; and I here declare that I never knew them productive of any good in the worship of God; and have had reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity. The late venerable and most eminent divine, the Reverend John Wesley, who was a lover of music, and an elegant poet, when asked his opinion of instruments of music being introduced into the chapels of the Methodists said, in his terse and powerful manner, ‘I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither Heard nor Seen.’ I say the same, though I think the expense of purchase had better be spared.”
3) There are many things that were practiced by God’s people under the Old Testament that would have to be allowed if Al’s argument is valid.
“We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for fussing, fighting and fragmenting over assumptions of fallible men drawn solely from what God never said.”
When a liberal like Al refers to opposition he says the conservatives are “fussing,” but when he refers to what he does in opposing those left of him (and there still are some at this point in Al’s life) he is standing firm for the truth.
“Silence is purely incidental at best; it is certainly not regulatory in any way.”
Even if Al were to prove that silence is not regulatory it would not prove that we do not need to have authority for what we do in religion (Col. 3:17). Al suggests that silence is purely incidental--God just happen to be silent about certain things and since He was silent we can practice it. But what is inexplicable is that the main practice he seeks to justify (instruments of music) is not, according to him, a silence issue because God specified singing.
“Silence neither prescribes nor proscribes some action. It is neither pro nor con. Silence renders no judgment either way; it is not regulatory in nature. Second, where genuine silence exists there necessitates a sense of trust on one side and responsible, enlightened judgment on the other.”
We presented a scenario earlier where Al was directed by his commander to go check out some reported activity. Suppose Al proposed to his comrades that they drop by some recreational institutions along the way? They would argue that they were not authorized to so do and insist that the commander would be angry if they did it. How would Al reply? Would he tell them they ought to be ashamed because of their assumptions drawn solely from what the commander did not say? I expect that Al was a good soldier and would have done only what was authorized. But I’m puzzled as to why He thinks the Supreme Commander does not mind if His soldiers add to the mission, or create a new mission, in some area where they conclude that He had been silent.
But in the above noted scenario Al might argue that this was not a case of where the commander was silent. Ok then, let us change the scenario a bit. The commander hears some commotion some distance away but he knows what it is, that it is no threat and he has plans for Al to lead his party in another direction on an important mission in the next few minutes. But Al is not privy to the commander’s knowledge, because he was silent, and he takes the men and goes to check out the commotion. The commander looks for Al but he is not to be found. All the while, the likelihood of being successful in the mission he had planned becomes less likely by the second. He waits for Al and his men to return. When Al returns he explains to an irate commander, “I was perfectly justified in taking the action I did because you did not say not to—you were silent.” In the military, only certain men are authorized to develop a mission and to give out orders. Those who carry out the mission wait for the orders. They certainly are not allowed to dream up their own mission and carry it out just because the commander was silent. His silence is regulatory—it says loud and clear: DO WHAT I TELL YOU. Al knows his silence law doesn’t work in the military, so why does he not see that it does not work in religion?
Al Seeks to Deal with the Problem His Doctrine Poses
The following was directed to Al and his reply follows: "You seem to adopt the thinking that as long as the Bible is silent on a matter then we have liberty to do what we want in that area."
“No, brother, that is not what I believe, not even close, and I have so stated time and again in my ‘illogical’ arguments pertaining to biblical silence.”
Al ridicules those who are against doing things the Bible does not authorize and who insist that applying the “law of silence” to justify things (as Al does to justify instrumental music) opens the doors to innovations. Over the decades, Churches of Christ have generally accepted that authority is established by a direct command, an approved apostolic example or necessary inference (CENI). Al rejects CENI and evidently hates it with a passion. But look below to see what he offers with which to replace it:
“In those areas where there is genuine biblical silence from our heavenly Father, we must each exercise some degree of common sense and wise discernment in our determination as to whether a particular action or practice would be acceptable to our God.”
First, according to Al, there is no “law of silence” —he rejects every example that has been given as an example of said law. Yet he proceeds to explain that we must use common sense and wise discernment when faced with “genuine biblical silence” issues.
“Is that which we are considering, and about which God said nothing, something that would bring glory and honor to Him? Would it cause people to praise His name and be drawn to Him? Would it be beneficial to His cause here on earth? Would it uplift the fallen, encourage the faint of heart, and embolden those weak in faith? Would it stimulate the saints to greater service to God and man? Is it consistent with known precepts and principles clearly conveyed by God in Scripture?”
Surely Al is not talking about instrumental music because, according to him, it is not an area where God has said nothing. God specified the kind of music He wanted and it is in the same category (a specificity issue) as the priests discussed earlier. Thus, Al’s “law of specificity” (which I have no problem with) must be applied—and it applies to virtually everything that patternists insist is a silence issue. The suggestions that Al offers for making determinations are helpful on issues that are purely matters of opinion and we all follow them. But when it comes to the “law of specificity” Al’s suggestions must not be applied lest we be found guilty of failing to listen to God.
Al seeks to defend the right of churches of Christ to use instrumental music. He uses the same argument that was used in the late 17th century that resulted in much division: “God did not say not to,” but he also says we must apply what he said above. Thus, he replaces CENI with human wisdom that we use to determine what to do in matters of opinion—things where God has not specified or spoken and where He gives us the right to choose.
But does Al practice what he preaches? Not long ago, a large church in Oklahoma announced that they were going to begin using instrumental music. Immediately, they lost 300 members. Did Al Maxey rebuke those brethren for “unwise” actions? No, but he had plenty to say (ridicule and condemnation) about the brethren who opposed their change. I suppose it would be unnatural for a “change agent” to speak against any type of change.
“‘Anything and everything is permissible?’ Hardly, brother. Long before we ever choose to act within a particular area where our God has not spoken or specified, we must carefully and prayerfully consider said action in light of the above representative questions, each of which reflects a desire to employ sound judgment so that our God is glorified, our brethren edified, and the lost evangelized.”
What Al says above opens up a different can of worms than what he has been arguing against. He is not dealing with “a particular area where our God has not spoken or specified.…” What Al is now addressing is the carrying out of general commands, which leave man the right of choice. To carry out a general command we exercise our opinion or judgment, and these are not areas where we are divided, although there sometimes are problems among brethren in a local church because of unwillingness to compromise. For example, someone might propose to build three new class rooms but others are content with the facilities available, while others might think the congregation only needs one new class room. God gave the general command to elders to edify the congregation. Thus classrooms (and other similar examples) are authorized, but the members apply what Al noted above in working out their differences. On the other hand, in the area where God has spoken by “specificity” man does not have a choice. We must do what He commanded and not act in that same class or category, which in the past has often been spoken of as where God is silent.
“God didn't create us to be robots, preprogrammed to mindlessly goosestep to endless tomes of law; rather, He created us with a brain, and urged us to use it, with love for Him and others being our guiding principle and motivating force.”
The above is true, but we are faced with the same temptations and responsibilities that King Saul faced (1 Samuel 15:3-24). When he did what seemed right (Proverbs 14:12) he opposed God—he went against what God had said. Indeed, “to obey is better than sacrifice.” You know the story. Saul was supposed to destroy Amalek and all their livestock. Saul destroyed the people but kept some of the livestock. When confronted, he said he had obeyed. At first he thought he had done a great work, but Samuel said to him: “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Only then was he convinced that he had transgressed God’s command.
Let us apply the lesson Saul learned.
God commands that we sing in our worship of him. The “law of specificity” rules out the “law of silence,” according to Al, but the “law of specificity” still applies to the instrument issue. Thus, if we add to the command by playing instruments we disobey the command. If a prophet were to visit a congregation while they were playing instruments in addition to singing, and if questioned, they would say, “We are obeying the command to sing—we are singing.” But the prophet would say, “What meaneth then the sound of these instruments?”
“The above reader continued, ‘The 'silence' we are dealing with is in those areas where God has specified certain things, thus excluding those not mentioned.’ In that case, brother, we are not talking about biblical ‘silence,’ but rather biblical ‘specificity.’ Once again, we see clear evidence of the fact that these legalistic patternists seem utterly incapable of grasping this distinction.”
Al underestimates his brethren who he haughtily puts down. If there are any patternists who are not “grasping this distinction” that Al has made, it is not nearly as bad as what Al has done. He condemns brethren’s misuse of silence (according to his definition) while he uses silence to justify instrumental music and other such practices when they clearly go against the “law of specificity” that he talks about. “The Bible does not say not to.” Oh yes, He did. He gave a specific command to sing and by so doing clearly said DON’T PLAY INSTRUMENTS, and those who understand authority hear it, understand and obey. The authority gleaned here is no more complicated than what Noah was faced with in building the ark. God said to use gopher wood. This excluded any other kind of wood. This tells “patternists” that Noah would have displeased God if he had used some other kind of wood—wood that God was, in one sense, silent about. But to liberal change agents, and those they are able to deceive, it means nothing: Noah could have used other kinds of wood in addition to gopher and we can use other kinds of music in addition to singing.
“If God has spoken specifically about some particular action or circumstance, then this cannot truly be described as a ‘silence’ issue, but is rather a ‘specificity’ issue. Nevertheless, this reader still believes that even in areas where God specifies some action, it is the silence with regard to all other non-specified actions that prohibits these other actions, and not the specificity itself. For example, if the Lord commanded, ‘Thou shalt ONLY eat chicken all the days of thy earthly life,’ then are we to thereby logically infer that pork and beef and fish are excluded because God said nothing about them? Of course not! Those blessed with logical, rational thought know that beef and fish and pork are excluded because God specified chicken only. It is not silence that is prohibitive in such a circumstance; it is, rather, the specificity of God's command. Silence is purely incidental at best; it is certainly not regulatory in any way.”
Al plays with semantics in his efforts to broaden fellowship and defeat those who would stand in the way. But he really accomplishes nothing except to make himself look very foolish. Even if we were to accept that “silence is not regulatory,” most of the denominational doctrines that Al seeks to promote are condemned by what he calls “the law of specificity” and it is evident from his comments above that he understands the “law of specificity.” Thus, there is no excuse for his continued efforts to defend denominational doctrine where the issue, according to his own arguments, is something God was not silent about because He specified in that class or category.
This reader continues: “Bro. Maxey, let me give you a simple example of this principle (that silence prohibits). You send your son to the grocery store, telling him to buy a loaf of bread. You hand him a fifty dollar bill. He obeys your command and returns with the bread. In addition, however, he has also purchased all kinds of candy with the remainder of your fifty dollars. Would your son be justified in doing this? After all, you were silent about the candy."
“There are several flaws in this person's ‘logic.’ First, he has assumed that if one rejects the notion that silence is prohibitive, that one thereby embraces the notion that silence is permissive. In point of fact, silence is neither. Silence neither prescribes nor proscribes some action. It is neither pro nor con. Silence renders no judgment either way; it is not regulatory in nature.”
The problem Maxey has with the above is that those who practice instrumental music in worship have always appealed to the “law of silence” to justify it. Al says where something is forbidden because of “the law of specificity” it is not a “silence” issue. Thus, since singing (a kind of music) is specified, instrumental music has no grounds for applying either of the two laws (granted, for arguments sake, that they are different) to justify its use. In fact, the “specificity” law condemns it.
“Second, where genuine silence exists there necessitates a sense of trust on one side and responsible, enlightened judgment on the other. For example, I would not give my son fifty dollars and send him off to the store if I had no trust in his character or judgment. If my son is worthy of such trust, however, then he has demonstrated a character that is concerned for the feelings and wishes of his father. He is thus a son who will act responsibly and with common sense and good judgment based on his best understanding of my previously expressed wishes and expectations. Thus, I give my son fifty dollars with the full assurance that he will carry out my wishes to the best of his ability and with the exercise of good judgment according to his understanding of who I am and what I expect of him.”
Al expounds on an example that is supposed to be representative of “the law of silence,” but according to his definition it is not because it was specified what was to be done with the money—buy a loaf of bread. And so Al is arguing against himself.
Let’s talk about what Al’s son is authorized to do in using the “good judgment” that Al talks about. First, Al said to get a loaf of bread. That means he has a choice of the kind of bread to get. Second, it was not specified how he would go. Thus, he would need to use his judgment as to the means of transportation. He could walk, ride his bicycle, etc. Al was silent about the kind of bread and about the mode of transportation. But these are comparable to issues in the church that are matters of opinion rather than doctrinal issues.
“Now, let me show how this works in ‘real life.’ If my son comes back with two shopping bags filled with candy, having spent the remainder of the money I gave him on himself in this extravagant way, then, yes, I will be disappointed in the judgment (or lack thereof) he demonstrated. No, I did not tell him he couldn't buy candy, but had he exercised good judgment, he clearly would not have.”
Had he respected the “law of silence” (in the matter where his father specified) as it has been taught since the days of Campbell, he would not have acted without authority. He would not have acted foolishly, nor would he have disappointed his father.
“By his actions he has displayed that he still lacks that level of maturity and insight that I had hoped he would have achieved by this time in his development.”
By adding instrumental music to the singing that God specifies, disciples display a lack of wisdom, maturity and insight.
“However, if I already knew that he lacked this insight, and I gave him the money anyway, with no qualifying instructions, then, frankly, the fault lies more with me than with him. I too showed lack of judgment.”
It appears that Al would have us to understand that God is at fault because so many in the world use instrumental music in worship, and it is all due to the fact that God did not make Himself clear as to His feelings about it. Thus, Al insists there is a law of silence, but it is not applicable to such issues as instrumental music. Instrumental music, according to Al, is a “law of specificity” issue. With the above observation before us, it is clear that Al has two big problems: 1) He suggests that even where God has specified, but did not clearly say it is wrong to add to his word, it is not necessarily wrong to so do because God was unclear or ambiguous; 2) In his effort to discredit the “silence” law (that brethren has been using long before Al’s parents were born) Al explains that the “law of specificity” is applicable, and it is in most cases. Thus, he condemns the very practices that he has been trying to defend.
“Now, let's present another scenario.”
In presenting this scenario (continued below), Al has done a “bait and switch.” He switched to the issue of whether the father will punish the son. That is another question, i.e., what must be done to get forgiveness? We are only addressing what is or isn't a violation of the father's will. Not whether the father will forgive if the son meets the terms of the father's forgiveness.
“Suppose I give my son fifty dollars and tell him to go buy a loaf of bread. He comes back with the bread, but with no extra money. I ask him what happened to the remainder of the money that I gave him, and he says, ‘Dad, you have always taught me to be loving and generous. You've taught me to help those in distress. I have learned these qualities from you by watching you. Dad, in the aisle next to me a woman was crying. She had a little baby with her. She did not have the money to pay for the milk and food she was buying for her baby. She was really poor, Dad, and I felt so sorry for her, and for her baby. I told the clerk I'd pay for it. She really thanked me, Dad, and said that she knew I must be a Christian. I told her I was, and I invited her to come to worship with us on Sunday. She said she'd be there. Did I do right, Dad? You're not mad at me, are you?!’ Okay, brother, what would you say the reaction of the Dad should be here? Should he punish his son for breaking the ‘law of silence’? Or, should he commend his son for showing responsible judgment that was in keeping with the known character of the father? The legalistic patternists, if they're consistent in their ‘rules is rules’ theology, must pick the former option. Those of us who perceive grace, and who know the Father, will clearly choose the latter.”
Al has developed an emotional argument that falls into the realm of situation ethics. But it does nothing to help him justify the use of instrumental music in worship, nor does it do damage to the doctrine of silence that Al calls the “doctrine of specificity.” People, especially young children, make mistakes even when they think they are doing the right thing. And this is where God does what he does—He judges. He bestows His grace on those He chooses (Ex 33:16), such as in cases of ignorance (Numbers 15:25-30). But He rejects and condemns those who act presumptuously (Numbers 15:30) and whose heart is not inclined to endeavour to do what He says. An example would be where people seek to justify human religions and man made doctrines by making obvious unsound arguments and acting grossly inconsistently, hypocritically and arrogantly with an air of self-importance.
Let us now get back to the scenario. Suppose the woman was a drug addict and the baby was just being used to deceive the unsuspecting so she could get a dose of cocaine. Also, it could have been that the change from the fifty dollar bill was needed to pay the mortgage and without it the family home would be lost. Although his intentions were good, the boy was young and unwise and did not obey his father. If he had been wise he would have contacted his dad, or he would have gotten the woman’s phone number or address and let him deal with it. The money did not belong to the boy and therefore he was not responsible to use it for helping others. Now, there might be some “legalistic patternists” (of the perfectionist camp) who would say such foolish and sinful actions always results in immediate condemnation. I do not, and there are many others who share my beliefs who also are not of the perfectionist camp but whom Al would call legalistic patternists. God is the Judge and He shows mercy and extends grace on whom He will.
Ex 33:16 – “…And will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”
“Silence, however (and this is what the legalists utterly fail to perceive), by its very nature, is neither permissive nor prohibitive. It is neutral. Therefore, in the case of disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, what determines whether some action performed in the face of genuine biblical silence is either divinely approved or disapproved is whether or not these disciples acted responsibly in keeping with their best understanding of the revealed character of their Father.”
The above reasoning is based upon faulty logic. God never approves of disobedience. If one commits some sinful act ignorantly then God is at liberty to “shew mercy” and may well do so. But ignorance does not change transgression into obedience. Whole groups of people do commit sins of ignorance, as we see in Lev. 4:14-21. In the Old Testament God made it clear that He would forgive, but it was not like Al portrayed above. The action was not approved, but something could be done to get forgiveness, and it was not a simple thing—God did not look upon it as a small thing.
“Am I suggesting by this strong conviction that I believe in the ‘liberal’ theology of ‘anything and everything goes’? Not even remotely. Far from it, in fact. The appropriateness of our actions will be determined by how well they reflect the nature of our Father, and whether they bring honor and glory to Him, and evidence His love unto others. >
We reflect the nature of our Father by obeying Him. In religion, this means that we must be silent where He is silent, i.e., we must look to Him (what He has written for us) to direct our steps; except in areas of general authority where He lets us use our judgment.
Jer 10:23 “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”
“Had my young son NOT helped that poor woman and her baby, I would have been greatly disappointed in him. ‘But, Dad, you were silent about using that money to help anyone. Therefore, I was just being a good son.’ No, son, you were just being a legalist.”
Al Maxey is not God.
(Isa 55:8-9) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Al’s scenario might work for him or it might not, and he might or might not be pleased with his son, depending on the circumstances. But whether the term “legalist” is something to avoid or something one should seek to be, depends on how you define the term.
Men who are successful in their effort to destroy something or somebody are calculated—they plan every move and they look for weak spots and vital organs to target. Of course, the heart is the vital organ of a human being, but it is also a term that is defined as the seat of the emotions, which include the intellect that is a part of the mind. There is a continual battle for the minds of the people, thus the heart of man is the target of attack (2 Cor. 10:5). I do not wish to destroy Al, but I could not continue to set back and do nothing while Al continues to turn people away from the truth. My efforts are intended as constructive criticism for Al and a warning for others. I pray he will repent and cease from his attacks against the Lord's Church and those who are ministers in it, and just preach the gospel.
Authority is the foundation of a country, home and a religion. Once an enemy destroys our concept of authority (our understanding of it, respect and need for it) he will have defeated us because we will soon crumble from within. Christians look to God for guidance—particularly what He has written. This principle cannot easily be removed and the enemies of God know it. So they chip away at the foundation (authority) in strategic places in their effort to do as much damage as they can. The motto of the restoration movement: “Let us speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where it is silent” is considered by some of the most influential enemies of Christ to be important and vulnerable. Therefore, the silence issue is a source of continual attack.
The argument: “God did not say not to” is much older than Al Maxey. It has been defeated time and again because it is a foolish an imprudent argument. Yet it is exactly what Al uses in his effort to change the Lord’s church. It is an absurd argument because it opens the doors for virtually anything and it destroys the very basis for unity, i.e., that we “Speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where it is silent.” Al wrote: “Too often it appears that the more ridiculous and ludicrous the theory, the more likely it is to spread at almost lightning speed among the gullible masses.” What has spread faster in our decade, among churches of Christ, than the idea that instrumental music is acceptable to God because He is silent about it? But why can’t Al, and those who read his “Reflections,” see that instrumental music (and other such innovations) is unacceptable to God, not just because He was silent, but because He specified the kind of music that He wanted, which according to Al’s own admission indicates that God was not silent. The most absurd part of it all is that Al has been making this very argument in his effort to make it appear that the brethren who use “silence” to exclude acts are the enemies of the church of the Lord. But each time you hear Al complain about and ridicule a patternist for speaking of a "law of silence" realize that the patternist could just switch his wording a bit and substitute "law of specificity" every time, because that is exactly how patternists mean it.
Al Maxey does not really object to patternism, he just objects to things in a particular pattern (what God has said) and strives diligently to come up with something that will help him steal the hearts of the masses.
If any think that Al Maxey has not left the church and is not willing to misrepresent her teachers, consider what he published in a recent article:
“It is so sad and unbelievable that some people in the church today really DO believe that it is the ‘going under the water and coming up’ that saves you, and that one's penitent heart and obedient faith have nothing to do with it.”
I challenge Al to come up with one single quote from a gospel preacher who believes that “…One's penitent heart and obedient faith have nothing to do with…” salvation and that it is the water that actually saves. Only a heretic would publish such a lie without comment.
You might think it unbelievable that Al would publish such nonsense as noted above. But he did it and lately such comments are regularly found in his publication. Does he not realize that when he publishes comments from others, without his own comments, that he is endorsing what they say and is therefore responsible? Note the quote below (same writer as quote immediately above) that was published in a recent “Reflections” article:
“Bro. Al, If Jesus Christ was right when He described the greatest commandment of all in Matt. 22:27, how would a legalist go about obeying the part that says to love the Lord God with all one's mind, especially relating to one's musical and artistic gifts from God? Doesn't the mind include imagination and creativity? But CENI kills these qualities. CENI says, ‘Forget being imaginative; forget being creative! Play it safe! Just do as you're told!’”
And then this writer uses the parable of the talents to try to back up what he wrote above. Unbelievable!
I close this writing with observations regarding comments made by Al Maxey in the latest issue of “Reflections” (#364):
“We are free in Christ, and if a religious group seeks to limit that freedom...then flee it, is my advice.”
If a religious group (Church of Christ is under consideration) seeks to limit freedom by opposing the "God did not say not to" heresy, then flee from it. Leave the Church of Christ for a denomination that will allow freedom to practice any and everything you desire. This is the clear message from Al Maxey.
“The only exception to this is if you feel you are in a position to perhaps challenge that legalistic mindset from within and bring about some degree of change that may yet transform a few within this faith-heritage into what the Lord intended them to be.”
As is evident from his own comments, Al is not one of us. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The only reason he has not left us completely is so he can change the church from what it is supposed to be to what he wants it to be, i.e., a denomination that is accepted by the world.
“Such is my own personal determination. My weapon? The ‘box-cutter (sword) of the Spirit,’ with which one may do battle with those walls that box us in and keep us from fulfilling our mission.”
One of the weapons of the terrorists of 911 was the “box-cutter.” The sneaky “box-cutter” attack worked once for our enemies. If we forget that disastrous attack and fail to remain vigilant the same tactic will be successfully used against us again. Spiritual terrorists, posing as preachers of the gospel in the church of the Lord, are using the same old tricks that have worked in the past and far too many precious souls are being taken in.
In view of the facts that have been presented, many of which are supported by clear statements from Al, it has become apparent that he is an enemy of Jesus. Al has demonstrated this by his teaching, deceptions, and attitude and by stubbornly refusing to change his course, which is to change the church of Christ from what the Bible teaches it should be to what men would like for it to be.
See also: http://www.totalhealth.bz/maxey-waters-baptism-challenge.htm