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Brother Banowsky's Question:
Who are these other sheep?

By Wayne Jackson

religion, articles, christianity

William Banowsky is no stranger to the Lord's people. For years he was prominently associated with the Broadway congregation in Lubbock, Texas. He is not educationally­handicapped. He holds a Ph.D. degree, and he has served as the president of two major universities, Pepperdine and the University of Oklahoma. He has been a successful business man. When, therefore, he speaks and/or writes, one may assume that he does not do so flippantly; rather, he is capable of intellectual deliberation and precise communication.

On February 21, 1996, brother Banowsky delivered a speech at the Abilene Christian University lectureship. It was designated: "The Christ­Centered Church." When I heard it (via tape), and then read an adapted version, which subsequently appeared in the journal, Image (March/April 1996), I was reminded of an illustration in the book of Jeremiah. Our brother's presentation was like a basket of very bad figs that could not be eaten (Jer. 24:2-3). To borrow the prophet's descriptive: It was "so bad."

The major thrust of the speech was to vilify traditional congregations of the Lord's people for their contention that there is but one spiritual body of Christ (the church), which consists world­wide of all believers who have genuinely obeyed the gospel of the Son of God; but that this body is not to be confused with modern denominationalism. Contrariwise, our brother encouraged his enthusiastic ACU audience to fling the mantle of brotherhood over the sectarians, and to acknowledge them as allies in the Lord. Brother Banowsky averred that he would argue his case based upon references from the Bible; further, he would cite former Abilene lectureship speakers, to demonstrate that his concept of interdenominational fellowship was not unique to him, or to this period of our history.

In an article titled, "The Banowsky Speech at ACU," Alan E. Highers, having researched the lectureship "quotations" cited by Banowsky, has dramatically demonstrated that our brother manipulated and distorted the statements of several of those pioneers, making them appear to say things that were wholly alien to their original purpose (see elsewhere in this issue).

The intention of this discussion is to show that our Texas brother has also egregiously perverted the teaching of the New Testament in an effort to accommodate an ecumenical agenda. A single example will suffice to make the point. In attempting to support his case from the Scriptures, brother Banowsky combines several statements from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John with his personal comments.

We fear opening the door even a crack lest we have no place to stop. Let us start and stop with Christ! While we defend our door, he said:

I am the door. If any man enter in by me he shall be saved. I am the good shepherd. I know mine own and mine own know me. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold. Them also must I bring.

Who are these other sheep? Where is this other fold? In our finitude, we must leave enough room for the magnitude and mystery of Christ.

First we must note that brother Banowsky, with a subtle technique that has become almost a trademark with change­agents in the church, merely raises the question: "Who are these other sheep?" However, a consideration of the preceding context leaves no doubt at all that he was alluding to denominationalists. He had just misappropriated a quotation from Earnest Beam (see Highers), who said in 1935: "Whether we like it or not, whoever accepts Christ as Lord and gives evidence he is anxious to obey him is your brother in Christ."

Banowsky chastised preachers who use the sermon material of "hundreds of evangelicals" on the Lord's day, but then will not "embrace them" on Monday. He specifically cited Dr. James Dobson, a Nazarene family counselor, as one who has done so much to save our families, and yet we are "So diffident to embrace him as brother." While brother Banowsky attempted to moderate his comments just a bit, perhaps so as not to generate an outright uprising among conservatives who might have been in the lectureship audience, his design was perfectly transparent.

An incredible thing about the matter is this: Why would the brother ask: "Who are these other sheep?" Is he so obtuse as to think that the Lord was prophetically speaking of modern sectarians? The truth is, Christ, in anticipation of the establishment of his kingdom, alluded to the fact that the "fold" (to use a cultural metaphor) would initially consist of Jews, since they would be offered the gospel first (cf. Rom. 1:16). Subsequently, however, "other sheep," i.e., Gentiles, would be invited in as well. Is there anyone in the entire world of respectable New Testament scholarship who does not understand this? I have personally examined more than twenty commentaries on the Gospel of John, deliberately avoiding any written by our brethren. I failed to find a solitary volume that did not recognize that the "other sheep" allusion is a reference to the conversion of the Gentiles.

Now here is the distressing thing. Brother Banowsky simply could not have been unaware of the meaning of John 10:16. He is not that uninformed. He is literate, and he knows how to do research. His approach to this passage therefore had to be deliberate. He made a calculated decision to wrest the text from its historical setting, and give to it a twist that is foreign to anything remotely related to the original context.

It is this sort of methodology, perhaps more than anything else, that reveals the utter unscrupulous desperation of some of our wayward brothers. They are not only adrift doctrinally, they are surrendering every ounce of personal credibility they ever possessed. It is tragedy of indescribable magnitude!

(Brother Wayne Jackson is a well known and highly respected preacher of the gospel. He publishes a fine monthly paper called, Christian Courier, which periodical the Firm Foundation is happy to recommend. It can be ordered from the above address at a cost of $5.00 per year. It is a four page paper that is well worth the reading ­ Dobbs.)

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Published November 1996