Christianity Magazine, a Closer Look
(For an update on CM, please see addendum)
Religious magazines have played an influential role in the realm of religion, both good and bad. Every publication has begun with a special goal and objective in mind. I have often thought about religious journals as to their impact on various movements and beliefs.
When I was a young preacher, I preached a sermon titled "If I Were the Devil, What Would I Do?" If I were the devil I would see that a religious magazine was begun to surreptitiously promote my cause. I would insist it had all the cosmetic appeal and some of the biggest names as staff writers, those whom I could use to promote my agenda. I would encourage my staff writers to mention all the "combined meetings" they hold each year throughout the brotherhood. I would insist the paper be "positive" and eliminate the "negative." I would not allow any rebuttals, if I were the devil, because I would know my false doctrine only thrives in a climate of positivity and without review or challenge. I would find just the right man to promote the magazine. He would have to have great social charm and magnetism. He would be more of a showman than a preacher, but most people would not detect the difference. I would influence my staff writers to be subtle, at first, simply stressing the positive nature of the paper. To launch more aggressively my regime to weaken churches and introduce insidious error, I would have teaching introduced in the paper which would designedly promote doctrinal permissiveness. I would encourage teaching on Romans 14 (it has always worked for me before). I would twist and pervert what is said in Romans 14 just as I perverted God's words with Eve in the garden. I would have my writer to delicately contend that the chapter is teaching tolerance in doctrinal differences of material magnitude. It would have to be a series, about a year and one-half in duration. Over this period of time I could employ a lot of double talk (for which I am famous) and slowly make my progress. I would have as a visible image and personality for my plea for tolerance (doctrinal compromise) a popular, senior preacher, well known and loved among his brethren (the emotional appeal never fails).
Little by little, I would make my moves and establish my inroads. My goal would be to increase my subscriptions, silence any opposition by the few who would see my deceitful intents and speak out against me, and I would continue to promote the positive and eliminate the negative (you see, any opposition is "negative" so I will be unchallenged!). My staff writers would have to abide by my rules. Keep the articles positive and only have no more than three scriptures (even one will do) to an article (see "smooth things," Isa. 30: 10). This would be my subtle way of playing down authority and God's word, which I hate.
Finally, if I were the devil, I would have to have a positive name for my positive magazine, one which would mask my real intentions of destroying pristine Christianity. I would call it, "Christianity Magazine."
Christianity Magazine and Romans 14. In preaching for over three decades I have noticed one thing which appears to be static: For an apostasy to occur under the guise of Christianity, there must be a new understanding of Romans 14 offered. Christianity Magazine has offered the new (same one offered with just about every digression) understanding. Christianity Magazine ran a series of sixteen installments titled "The Bounds of Christian Unity" (from February of 1989 through May of 1990, authored by Ed Harrell) in which the "new" and "correct" meaning of Paul's teaching to the Romans was presented. The substance of the series was to gradually convince the reader that doctrinal differences can be tolerated. Not only are doctrinal differences allowed, but they must be tolerated (this was accomplished in the gradation seen in the series). To be clear Christianity Magazine specifies (see addendum) such differences as admitted false doctrines regarding divorce and remarriage, which involve the participants in adultery.
Some particulars of Christianity Magazine's perversions of Romans 14. Intelligent reader, consider just a brief review of Ed Harrell's teaching and remember that this is also the official teaching of Christianity Magazine (not just one of the staff editors).
Unity in diversity. "Reality compels us to acknowledge that, to some degree, restoration has always taken place within a framework of unity in diversity," wrote Harrell. Included in the unity in diversity is "the variety of views held on divorce" (Christianity Magazine, April, 1989). One main variety is "Homer Hailey believes that those who are baptized into Christ may remain in their present marital state" (Christianity Magazine, November, 1988). All of these urgings by Harrell for unity in diversity are made by an appeal to Romans 14.
Equivocation is rampant throughout the material on "The Bounds of Christian Unity." Just as so many who teach error, Ed Harrell is guilty of repeated equivocation. Regarding Homer Hailey's teaching on divorce, Harrell writes, "I do not believe that he is correct" (Christianity Magazine, November, 1988). Notwithstanding, Harrell continues, " I find particularly offensive the easy use of the label 'false teacher' with reference to Homer Hailey" (Ibid., more later).
In the context of a reference being made to Romans 14, Harrell writes, "In all honesty, I would be hard pressed to justify a standard of fellowship that allowed one to hold a view so long as he did not tell anyone what he believed" (Ibid.). Harrell continues to admit that Hailey has not only believed error, but he is teaching it (Ibid.). It is equivocation to say what Harrell correctly said but then not want to consider a man (the example used) a false teacher who not only believes error but teaches it.
Romans 14 encompasses more that just disagreements in matters of doctrinal indifference, according to Harrell. "Specifically, Paul teaches that those who retained conscientious scruples about various rituals of the law should understand that those issues were not matters bound by God. But the intent of the passage clearly encompasses more than that clarification. The subject of Romans 14 is the questions of brotherly disagreements. Neither can one argue that the passage simply proves that we can disagree about indifferent matters .the issue of Romans 14 is precisely the establishment of the right of brethren to differ in matters of "faith'" (Christianity Magazine, April, 1989). Into this perversely created climate of permissiveness and acceptance, Harrell places Homer Hailey's false doctrine and tells all they are in violation of Romans 14 if they too do not tolerant such false teaching!
The necessary forthcoming "new" definition of a false teacher. Harrell writes, "A false teacher is surely one whose dishonest motives and/or ignorance distinguish him from the sincere brother who has reached an erroneous conclusion" (Christianity Magazine, April, 1989). The position of Christianity Magazine of a false teacher, then, is a false teacher is: a man can believe and teach error on a subject such as divorce and remarriage which involves people in adultery, but just as long as the teacher is sincere and not divisive, he must not be labeled as a false teacher (Christianity Magazine, November, 1988, pgs. 6, 8). The interesting twist is that not only are such men as Hailey not false teachers, but those who thus expose such teachers are moved out of bad motivation and are divisive (Ibid.). (Compare with the practice in Isaiah's day of calling good evil and evil good, Isa. 5: 20 ff.)
A brief observation of Romans 14. In the first place, it would be difficult, if possible, to exactly duplicate today the situation of Romans 14, especially if the original problems emanated from a Jewish/Law of Moses background. Even if this problematic situation came about as a result of pagan influences, there would be certain particularities which would be hard to parallel today.
One primary truth which it is imperative that we understand is that the principles and truths resident in Romans 14 (such as vss. 1, 10, 13, 19) concern matters which are morally and doctrinally indifferent. Also the mentioned faith is subjective and not "the faith," the gospel system (vs. 23). The three specifics under consideration and to which all the principles are applied are, the eating of herbs, esteeming one day above another, and the drinking of "wine" (vss. 2, 3; 5, 6; 21). In regards to these specific morally and doctrinally indifferent matters and in the associated circumstances, Paul wrote: " there is nothing unclean of itself" and " the kingdom of God is not meat and drink" (vss. 14; 17).
Matters which are morally and doctrinally consequential, such as unscriptural divorce and adultery, are addressed in other passages and contexts (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9), etc.). Those who teach things contrary to the scriptures are to be exposed and not fellowshipped (Rom. 16: 17, 2 Jn. 9-11). Also, any and all who pervert God's teaching in this vein are themselves false teachers and must also be so considered (the staff of Christianity Magazine). We can not place matters such as social drinking, modern dancing, and adultery under the canopy of Romans 14. Besides, how can Christianity Magazine stop with just adultery? How can we, once we accept such error as advocated by Christianity Magazine, successfully oppose those who are now insisting that the mechanical instrument in worship must be placed in Romans 14 and that those who teach the instrument must be tolerated?
To view the mentioned faith of Romans 14 as primarily objective, the gospel, is to do violence to Paul's immediate teaching and force Paul to array himself with teaching he did to other churches. Those who were "weak" should respect their conscience in its infantile state, Paul teaches (vss. 1, 23; 15: 1-3). To contend that the "faith" under consideration in Romans 14 is doctrine or the gospel is to force Paul into teaching that the truth is relative, whatever you believe is truth to you (see vss. 14, 23).
Even in the unusual and perhaps indigenous circumstances of Romans 14, Paul not only calls for tolerance in the matters morally and doctrinally indifferent, but reprimands the weak ones and urges them to grow (vss. 1, 15, 20, 21; 5). Each was to be "fully persuaded in his own mind" (vs. 5). The strong were to be considerate of the weak, but the weak were not to condemn the strong (vss. 3, 10, 19). Paul is actually teaching these weak ones the truth about their particular "scruples" and "infirmities" (vss. 1, 15: 1, ASV, many loose sight of the original design of Romans 14).
Ed Harrell (Christianity Magazine) contends that the teaching of Homer Hailey comes under the guidelines of Romans 14. Harrell admits Hailey is wrong in his teaching about divorce. Hence, Harrell (Christianity Magazine, again see the addendum) has himself taught error regarding Romans 14. I am not addressing Harrell's motives, however, his teaching makes him a false teacher. None, regardless of how many meetings they hold each year, with whom they are associated, or for what magazine they write are allowed to teach such patently false doctrine, whether they be the esteemed Homer Hailey, Ed Harrell, or Don Martin, without serious consequence (Rom. 16: 17).
Alas, Christianity Magazine will go down in history as one of the primary instruments among none-institutional churches of Christ of our time period effectively used in the spread of unity in diversity, the promoter of doctrinal compromise, and the means of de-emphasizing Bible authority. I would urge Christianity Magazine (the staff writers) to repent of their error. I would also urge brethren to awake out of their long slumber and mark Christianity Magazine for what it is.
In conclusion, we must accentuate the truth and eliminate error, and not fool with Mr. In Between!
Addendum: While Ed Harrell claimed full responsibility for his teaching regarding Romans 14, please consider the following breakdown that indicates that more than just Ed Harrell, the co-editors, are to be held responsible (Be sure to read "Strange Worries" by Andy Alexander ,click on to visit. This material also addresses Christianity Magazine. Also read the exchange between Dudley Spears and David Edwin Harrell, click on Gospel Anchor to go there):In the first place, Ed Harrell is not just one of the writers, he is one of the editors.
In the second place, Ed's teaching filled a span of time of almost one and one-half years. (advocating that which is moral and doctrinal is included in Romans 14.)
In the third place, no official disclaimer (disagreement) was ever stated, of which I am aware, by the other editors of Christianity Magazine.
In the fourth place, the policy, set in place by the editors of Christianity Magazine was blatantly violated to allow Ed Harrell's longevous material (even Harrell himself admitted he was in violation with the rules of C.M.).
In the fifth place, it is my understanding that Christianity Magazine published Harrell's installments ("The Bounds of Christian Unity") in booklet form last year. Hence, obviously making the position and teachings of Harrell the position of Christianity Magazine.Update: The preceding material was published to Bible Truths during May of 1999. The author and others, separately, placed much focus on Christianity Magazine during the remainder of 1999. The December 1999 issue of Christianity Magazine was the last issue published. However, the magazine experienced a life span of sixteen years and effected much doctrinal compromise among non-institutional churches of Christ. There will be another magazine to take the place of Christianity Magazine, no doubt. The errors advanced by C.M. remain active and continue to adversely influence the minds of many, especially the younger. Be sure to read, "Romans 14, An Overview." Also related material to consider would be: "A Look at Religious Journals Among Brethren" and, "The Guardian of Truth Foundation and Florida College".