(Editor's note: This is the first installment
of a debate between Rubel Shelly, minister of the Woodmont Hills
Church of Christ in Nashville and the noted bull fighter, L. Toreador.
Shelly's portion in the debate is taken from a transcript of his
speech at a "spiritual renewal conference," Florence,
Ala., April 19, 1996. The speech was titled, "God Calls for
the Unity His Body. Toreador's rebuttal was recently prepared.)
First Affirmative by Rubel Shelly
Some people are very sensitive to antihistamines.
If you are, don't let me breathe on you. I have enough in me to
put a horse down. I've taken three antihistamines that are supposed
to be taken one in any given 12hour period. I've taken 3
in the last 12 hours and 4 benadryl capsules on top of that. Just
trying to get enough into me to let me function. So, if you're
very sensitive, don't let me breathe on you. I might "Slay
you in the Spirit" or whatever, whatever else that could
be attributed to.
I thank you for your affirmation of the lesson
that I presented to you this morning. It is a lesson that I preached
to a church that I love and have been part of now for almost 18
years. It is a lesson that we attempt to practice. It is the great
opportunity, I think, of any of us living in this generation not
only to be witnesses to, but to be participants in, what, with
all my heart, I believe God is attempting to do in the larger
body of Christ. I believe he is trying to get us past the trivia
and the technicalities that we have majored in, that we have fought
one another about, that he is trying to draw us together in a
very powerful way by a very simple means that I'll talk about
There is a monastery in Badenhausen, Germany,
and there one may see two racks of deer antlers permanently interlocked.
They've been there for years and years and years. No one knows
who found them or exactly where, but they stand in that monastery
as they bear their silent witness, mounted on the wall for all
to see, as a witness to the sort of thing that I believe has the
body of Christ immobilized and has caused many believers to die.
Apparently the two animals had been fighting fiercely and their
horns became so interlocked with each other that they could not
disentangle and then, because they could not eat and they could
not drink they joined each other in death
One man has written of these antlers: "I
would like to carry those horns into every home and school as
a warning against fighting to the last ditch to have your own
way." I would also bring them into every church, so that
their silent message might sink deep into the hearts of those
who seem to delight in locking horns with other Christians at
the least provocation.
Pray with me and we're going to look at the
word: Holy Father, we would join to echo the prayer of our Savior.
Part of his great high priestly prayer that was background to
his sacrificial offering up of himself as the lamb of God that
takes away the sin of the world. We pray, as he did, for all those
who believe on his name to be one. We pray that you get us past
the desire to lock horns at the drop of a doctrine. And that you
instead teach us to link our hearts and to nurture each other's
faith and to abandon criticism for affirmation. To abandon our
diatribes in favor of dialogue. And to turn our energies away
from fighting each other so that we may win the great war that
is being waged against the souls in our generation - us and our
children and our grandchildren and that we may be faithful witnesses
that in the oneness of the body of Christ the world may believe.
That you teach us to love one another as you have loved us, so
that the world may see in that unique love an invitation to the
healing that it so desperately needs for all of its division.
In the name of Jesus our Lord we ask it, Amen.
One of the things that I think is so wonderful
and precious and dear to the heart of God about a conference like
this is that it is a conference that cuts across the lines that
we have erected to keep us separate. Probably most of those lines
of demarcation, most of the walls that have built along those
lines, were born in the context of hostility and anger. I want
to believe that at least in subsequent generations a lot of them
have, simply been left in place through benign neglect. We've
forgotten what previous generations of our forebearers fought
over. We are not particularly interested in extending the battle,
but the lines and the wall are still in place. And simply because
we were born to this place and time, and because the sight of
them is not only customary but now comfortable, we have not taken
much initiative to cross any of those lines, nor have we been
very bold in trying to tear down the walls. I think we can no
longer afford that luxury of living in our separate ghettos, sheltered
from one another, because the situation now is that if we ever
had the luxury of division, if there ever was in the culture enough
of the presence and influence of faith to preserve it as salt
preserves that on which it is laid, that day is past.
Toreador's First Response
It should be understood that the conference
of which Rubel Shelly was so proud was a gathering of charismatic
preachers. Most of them were from the Assemblies of God. These
are the people who spawned the Vineyard movement. They sometime
speak an unintelligible tongue and claim it is the language of
the angels, or a prayer language. Among this folk are people like
John Arnott, John Wimber, Benny Hinn, C. Peter Wagner, Randy Clark,
Rodney Howard-Browne, and Rick Joyner. They profess to be wonder-workers,
possessing the ability to cure all manner of I disease.
In an article titled, "'Holy Water' Triggers
Healing Revival," Charisma magazine, June 1996, 2123
it was said that water blessed by a charismatic bishop was transformed
into miracle water. Those who drank this water were mightily touched
and "fell down under the power of God," and were healed
of such ailments as "cancer, tumors, and heart disease."
One of their number, Randy Clark, said, "People
are being raised from the dead and temples are being hit by lightning
or fireballs and knocked off their things. It's all over Germany
and Africa. It's everywhere. God's doing it."
Rodney Howard-Browne said, "Creative miracles
will happen; eyeballs will form, legs and arms will grow out,
people will leap out of wheelchairs" (Coming Revival,
Rick Joyner declared, "There will be no
plague, disease, or physical condition, including lost limbs,
AIDS, poison gas, or radiation, which will resist healing and
miracle gifts working in the saints" ("The Harvest";
Pineville, NC: Morning Star, 1990, 121819).
Rubel was among such people at the conference.
Now, what I want to know is why these "spirit-filled"
dynamos allowed Rubel to overdose on antihistamine. Why did they
not give him some "miracle water," or lay hands on him,
bang him around, and make him well? Is it because they can cure
only psychosomatic ills and have no power over the kind of misery
that held poor Rubel in its grip?
The locked antler horns make a good illustration,
but that all it is - an illustration. It proves nothing. An illustration
is meant to make a point clear, but is not proof of anything.
Rubel, who is a master of logic, knows this to be true, yet he
uses the illustration as if it proved something.
Shelly should tell us if there is anything
- anything - over which he would lock horns, even if it killed
him? Would it be a reason to take issue if someone claimed that
the mother of Jesus was a "sexually questionable woman"?
Rubel, would you oppose someone who denied the resurrection of
Jesus, or his second coming, or the final judgment, or eternal
punishment, or heaven, or the new birth? If someone should claim
that it is not necessary to be born of the water and the spirit
to enter the kingdom, would you lift your voice in protest?
Here's a good one - suppose, Rubel, a person
began to say that one must be circumcised after the custom of
Moses to be saved, would you engage him in "no small disputation"?
Or would you say, if we lock horns we won't be able to eat? At
what point, Doctor Shelly, would you engage the gainsayer? (And,
by the way, did you learn all of this at Vanderbilt?)
Well, let's see, what else? Oh yes, when Jesus
prayed that all that believe on him through the word of the apostles
should be united, does he place emphasis on the revealed Word?
I will try to make this as simple as possible. Is unity to be
based on scripture? If someone rejects scripture, how does that
affect unity? Is unity that is not based on the revealed Word,
the thing for which Jesus prayed? If a person does not faithfully
follow the God-breathed scripture, can the child of God be united
Finally, Doctor Shelly, is it necessary to
be born again to be in the family of God? Are the children of
God to have unity with those who are children of the devil? Are
you, Sir, united with children of the devil? What is the new birth?
How does one become a child of God? Is the new birth a part of
the "trivia" we (Christians) have majored in?
Please know I have every confidence you will
not answer - anyhow, the bull is dead.
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