Intellectual HonestyBy H. A. (Buster) Dobbs
Honesty is basic to Christian faith. Religious phraseology used
hypocritically insults God and man. Jesus demands that all who
would follow him tell the truth, even when it is not convenient.
Guile is wicked. Paul and his fellow missionaries were shamefully treated at Philippi because their exhortation was "not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile" (I Thess. 2:2-3). Peter mentions the guileless speech of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:22). The imitators of Jesus are to "speak no guile" (I Pet. 3:10).
Paul says he caught the Corinthians with guile (2 Cor. 12:16), but he is obviously quoting a charge made against him by his enemies. His speech was spotless even when truth-telling exposed him to danger and possible death.
We are outraged when people professing the highest scholarship use crooked words to disarm the innocent and take advantage of the naive. Simple honesty is a precondition of all scholarly work.
It is shocking and discouraging to have people who occupy positions of trust engage in deceptive strategies in the name of "saving an institution." I stand amazed in the presence of godless tricks ventilated in the cause of Christian education.
In recent letters addressed to Royce Money, president of Abilene Christian University; Jack Reese, chairman of the department of graduate Bible and ministry at ACU; and Ian Fair, dean of the College of Biblical Studies at ACU, fawn before the president, diminish themselves, deceive the board, and insult a trusting brotherhood as they undertake the defense of the indefensible.
The matter at issue, again, is the infamous Resner article denying the virgin birth of the Son of God. In the November 1992 issue of Wineskins magazine Andre Resner calls Matthew "sneaky" and says Mary was "another sexually questionable woman." Resner, an ACU professor, compares the virgin mother of the Lord to two adulteresses and a prostitute. he asks, "Why should not Messiah be born of similar circumstances?"
Mary, knowing she was sexually pure and realizing that the fruit of her womb was the Immanuel spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, said, "From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." There are exceptions, of course. Atheists, skeptics, and scorners call her a liar and her son illegitimate. Resner calls her "another sexually questionable woman."
When Resner is asked what he meant, he makes no reply. When he is asked why he said Matthew is "sneaky," he refuses to answer. He simply says he believes in the virgin birth. He balks at explaining how Mary was "another sexually questionable woman."
Who questioned her sexual purity?
Andre is silent. He pouts. His feelings are hurt. How dare anyone question him and ask for an explanation?
A statement from Resner, over the signature of Ian A. Fair, says his article "was interpreted by some in ways which depart far beyond my own intentions." Andre, we have asked you several times to tell us how the blessed mother of Jesus was "another sexually questionable woman." We cannot read your intentions. We can read your words.
Resner explains, according to the Fair statement, he was writing to those born after 1945. He did not realize that some of us born before 1945 would read the article. He claims that he wrote in a style and manner baby boomers would understand but that would offend older brothers and sisters.
Several baby boomers have told me they understand "sexually questionable" to mean "sexually questionable." How odd! Another said that "sexually questionable" meant "sensually doubtful." His driver's license proved his post-1945 birth. Strange! He understands words mean what the dictionary says they mean. How dumb! Has he never heard of deconstructionism?
After a diligent search, I could not find one baby boomer who thinks that "sexually questionable" means "virgin." Not one! Perhaps Andre Resner will give us the name and address of a baby boomer who thinks differently. I would like to meet one.
Resner also blames his "style of writing" for the misunderstanding. He says, "Some are even of the opinion that it is an inappropriate medium for the subject matter of the Bible."
Yes, I think so, too. The subject matter of the Bible is not adapted to the free-wheeling style of Picasso art. It ought to be considered soberly and seriously. After all, it has to do with eternity, which is no joking matter.
Jack R. Reese, chairman of graduate Bible and ministry at ACU, wrote:
I think I know something of his [Andre Resner's] heart. Andre sees the mistake he has made and is grieved over it. He freely admits to error in judgment. ... Andre was naive. ... He has considerable gifts and is loved and appreciated within the College of Biblical Studies even as we recognize the serious mistakes he made in the publication of the article.
Ian A. Fair, dean of the College of Biblical Studies at ACU, wrote to President Money as follows:
Churches of Christ are nowhere near the New Testament church of the first century. ... Churches of Christ need to be called back to our historical roots in the Restoration Movement of the 18th century in America. ... When we in the College of Biblical Studies do this, some of our traditional brethren are very uncomfortable. ... We challenge our movement to return to its biblical foundations. ... I am presently working with the faculty to approach their activities with a greater degree of discretion. ... I must add a comment regarding Andre Resner. ... His views on the integrity of the Scriptures are impressive. In spite of his recent article in Wineskins, Andre has a depth about him rarely found in one so young. ... He is the kind of young professor around which I am pleased to build our faculty in the future. ... Once again my apologies for the difficult situations that have surrounded the College of Biblical Studies in recent months. We are aware of this and are working to improve the university's political arena.
Brother Fair obviously thinks the Resner article in Wineskins was shallow. He wants to call the church (our movement) back to its biblical foundations. Tell us, Professor Fair, what, precisely, do you have in mind? In what way are "Churches of Christ nowhere near the New Testament church of the first century"? Please be specific.
Ian Fair thinks churches of Christ are "nowhere near the church of the first century." Tell us, Dean, the exact difference between churches of Christ and the church of the first century. You specify love and missionary zeal. Churches of the first century were told to abound yet more and more in these areas. What doctrinal difference is there between churches of Christ and the church of the first century? Just name one difference in teaching! Just one!
Remember, this was written to enable the president of the university to have something to send to people who wrote to the school complaining about Resner's denying the virgin birth of Jesus. Fair did the best he could under the circumstances.
Ian tells Royce that Andre's views on the integrity of the Scriptures are impressive. Does this include his nutty notion that Mary was another sexually objectionable woman?
Honesty should have compelled Fair and Reese to say flatly that Resner is wrong in saying the mother of Jesus was "another sexually questionable woman."
Instead they try to put a spin on the Resner statement that will draw attention away from his blasphemous assertion. Fair admits that he is attempting to "improve the university's political arena." He thinks the whole question is political. We think it is a matter of integrity.
Royce Money has written the following in various letters sent to several different people:
I cannot tell you how distrustful and disgusted I am about the whole situation that Buster Dobbs has concocted. ... Andre Resner did not deny the miraculous nature of the virgin birth of Christ. ... Granted, the article was not well written and so I make no defense of the article because I did not like it myself. However, Andre was trying to present the view of people around Mary and Joseph regarding the birth of Jesus. ... Thank you for your letter expressing concern over Andre Resner's recent article in Wineskins. You are correct. This was not in the total picture a wise or well-written article. ... Contrary to what you may believe, Brother Andre Resner did not deny the virgin birth in the recent Wineskins article. While I admit the article was poorly written and did not communicate well, ... he was trying to convey the common impression around Joseph and Mary. ... As I mentioned above, he apparently did this poorly. ... I hasten to add that I hope you are not getting your information from the Firm Foundation. .., I will tell you with all the force I can muster that what Buster Dobbs said about Professor Andre Resner is a lie. ...You will have to make up your mind whether to believe Buster Dobbs or me; you cannot do both. ... I plead with you to quit believing what you read in the Firm Foundation and start believing what I am telling you. ...
Cant is at work when a person tells you out of one side of his mouth that the Resner article was poorly written and out of the other side of his mouth that Resner is a brilliant scholar. When confusion reigns, honesty is sacrificed.
Jack Reese, Ian Fair, Royce Money, and Bill Young, public relations man at ACU, all say that the Resner article is bumbling and fumbling ... poorly written ... and embarrassing ... and disgraceful. Still, they want you to send your kids to him to be instructed because he is bright!
Resner's final pitiful plea is that he was trying to present Mary's "predicament" as the perception of the people of Nazareth at the time of the "virgin" birth. We have the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and not one of them says the people of Nazareth thought Jesus was the illegitimate son of Mary. No, not one! Luke says Jesus was commonly supposed to be the son of Joseph (Luke 3:23). When Jesus taught in Nazareth, the people were astonished and said, "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas?" (Matt. 13:55).
The Law of Moses required that an illegitimate son be banned from the temple; yet not one single Jewish authority ever denied Jesus access to the temple on the grounds that his mother was "another sexually questionable woman."
Resner displays his biblical illiteracy, if he claims the perception of the people of the first century was that Jesus was born of fornication. It simply isn't so!
Whatever happened to intellectual honesty? Resner, like Woody Allen, has a difficult time understanding that he is wrong! He may even have a problem understanding that anything is wrong.
One nationally-known educator wrote:
It is important to have self esteem - but for the right reasons. The concept of it that is currently fashionable in education circles, however, is extraordinarily naive. When combined with equally simplistic notions about choices, it can easily lead a youngster to the conclusion that his choices can never be wrong. In Coulson's words, 'If I'm really quite wonderful, ... then whatever I decide must be wonderful, too.' Within the limited framework of affected education, it would be a reasonable conclusion to make. In the end everything is subjective. There are no standards outside the self to which to repair -- no 'right or wrong answers.' One's feelings must be one's guide (Why Johnny Can't Tell Right front Wrong, by William Kilpatrick, page 42).
Here is another quotation worth repeating:
There is a rising tide of liberalism in the church today. Some liberals are very open about their modernistic beliefs and practices and are avowedly intent on 'restructuring' the church. Others are modernistic in their tendencies and sympathies simply because they have let themselves be ruled by subjectivism (which is the spent of our time) without having thought critically about the issues involved. ...
One of the great dangers of liberalism is its inherent dishonesty! False teachers in generations past would exclude themselves from the fellowship of the faithful people of God and seek to destroy the truth by a frontal assault. But not so with the liberals. They go about their insidious work of destruction from within. ...
It is time that Christians generally know what is going on in the church. It is time for the marks of apostasy to be pointed out so that false brethren can be recognized and dealt with according to Scripture (Rubel Shelly, Gospel Advocate, July 13, 1972).
"Buy the truth and sell it not!"