religion, christianity, articles
Mark Henderson, Bill Banowsky, church of christ, liberals, denominations, Leroy Garrett,
Carl Ketcherside, abilene christian university, Charles Turner, rmbible, harold thomas, pepperdine university,
david lipscomb university, harding university

Fatal Error

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

religion, articles, christianity

The restored church of the New Testament faces deadly danger. Unless we give earnest heed to the things that were spoken by Christ and the apostles, we shall drift, and by neglect, lose the great salvation.

Mark Henderson of Boulder, Colo., and Bill Banowsky of Dallas, Texas, proposed agreement with human creeds at the February 1996 Abilene Christian University Lectureship. The concessions they offer make the church worse than useless.

The true church of the New Testament is the necessary result of planting the pure Word of God in the soil of good hearts. The parable of the sower clearly teaches that the seed of the church (kingdom) is the Word of God. When that seed is planted in honest minds it produces the kingdom of God on earth (Luke 8:5-15). That is the basic principle of restoration.

The plain lesson is that when the Word of God, and that only, is followed, the church of Christ, and that only, is the result. The church (kingdom of God on earth) comes from accepting, obeying, and following the pure Word of God. If revelation is intermixed with human teaching, denominationalism is the result.

Brethren Mark Henderson and Bill Banowsky think not. It is their judgment that salvation is as available in denominational bodies as in the church of Christ. There is the fatal error. If that is true, the churches of Christ have no reason to exist — and, in fact, should not exist. That type thinking will kill the church as surely as it killed the Disciples of Christ denomination.

Here is the proposition: If one can be saved in any denomination the same as in the church, then if follows that the church is not needed. That is elementary. Why should the churches of Christ exist and create confusion and division if salvation is available in sectarian bodies?

When the seed (God's Word) is adulterated by human opinion and philosophy, it produces a denomination, or sectarian body. It is just that easy and simple. Salvation comes from the incorruptible Word of God (1 Pet. 1:22-25). Living stones are built into a spiritual house offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1 Pet. 2:5). The church is the saved (Acts 2:47). It is all of the saved, and there are no saved outside of the church, seeing that God adds to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47). Those not added, clearly, are such as should not be saved. All of the saved are in the church. It follows that the church is the sum total of Christians only, and they (the church) are the only Christians. We speak, of course, of the church in its New Testament sense, which includes all of the saved of all ages.

Leroy Garrett has spoken out from his seat among the scornful. For a number of years this man has poured contempt and ridicule upon sincere souls who are seeking only to be governed in all things by the Bible, and who will not endorse going beyond or falling short of divine precepts. He speaks disparagingly of those honest souls who have bound themselves to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. Under a feigned cloak of charity, Leroy speaks of "Christians only" in a derisive, mocking, flippant manner. He never (and I realize that "never" is a long time) has a kind word to say about anyone who is "contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints." His mentor was Carl Ketcherside, who was tutored by Daniel Sommer. A stream of sarcasm and vituperation has come from the mouths and pens of Garrett and Ketcherside. Their language has long been harsh and abusive in dealing with the saints, but gentle and loving in addressing sectarians.

Garrett and Ketcherside show as much love and tolerance for denominational people as they do hatred and suspicion for those who live by book, chapter, and verse. They long since rejected the church and seek the comforting arms of those who refuse to follow plain Bible teaching, and who receive their counsel from human creeds.

In the April 1996 issue of Garrett's four-page bulletin he chortles over the Henderson and Banowsky speeches at the recent ACU annual lectureship. Garrett mentions that he attended the lectureship with Charles Turner, who was fired from the faculty of ACU for being too charismatic, but who thinks that wouldn't happen today, considering the change at the university.

Liberals all over the country rejoiced over the Henderson and Banowsky speeches. Here are a few examples drawn from ACU's RMBible server:

Much of the audience was on the same wavelength with Banowsky. There were lots of 'Amens and That's rights,' but I also know that one brother jumped up on the stage after the dismissal to take issue with the speech. He huddled with Banowsky, Royce Money, and Bill Young and said that he was disappointed because he never thought he would see denominationalism embraced from the podium at the ACU Lectures (L.S. Mullins, San Leandro, CA).

I heard that Banowsky lit a fire down there on the closing night....] don't know if he lit a fire or not, but the hissing sound you hear is the burning of fuses he lit! We may expect the bombs to go off any time now (Mark Henderson, Boulder, CO).

This is only my speculation and opinion, but I believe the folks at ACU gained some freedom when they recognized they couldn't make peace with people who love nothing better than a good fight. They don't go out of their way to irritate the journalistic watch-dogs, but they don't let them set the agenda, either. ... Most people east of the Mississippi already think ACU is apostate, so in my eye they're not losing much by going with their convictions (Mark Mullins, Abilene, TX).

I talked with Leroy Garrett and Harold Thomas afterwards (after the Henderson speech) and they were marvelling, not so much at the talk, but that it was given at ACU (Tom Langford, TTU, grad. dean).

Garrett, in his bulletin, mentions his 1960 visit to ACU in company with Carl Ketcherside. They went to the campus, according to Garrett's report, to hold underground meetings with the students and an occasional faculty member.

Things have changed at ACU, according to Garrett. He says the Mark Henderson speech on Monday night was a dramatic moment. Garrett wrote:

I was stunned, for I saw it as an excellent summary of what Carl Ketcherside and I have been saying all these years. That was confirmed when old friends said to me afterwards, 'Leroy, I didn't know you were here. I thought of you.'

One brother complained that "When they talk like that they ought to give you and Carl credit!"

Garrett said that Banowsky also condemned the church and applauded denominationalism. His speech called for a turning away from uncompromising commitment to the Bible as the sole standard for religious conduct in favor of emotionalism. Banowsky also disfavored rational thought and advocated a loosey-goosey theology of anything–goes — anything, that is, but strong Bible teaching and unwavering dedication to Bible rules.

Banowsky hailed what he sees as the dawning of a new day and strongly advocated change, but claimed that he was in league with valiant soldiers of the cross from the past. Men like Batsell Baxter, Hall Calhoun, and G.C. Brewer. This makes one wonder if Banowsky is really as brilliant as Garrett says he is. From one side of his mouth, he proclaims radical change from the teaching and attitude of the past; and from the other side of his mouth, he claims that speakers from lectureships past took his same position. Hmmmm.

ACU has changed — and not for the better. It is a change away from the Bible pattern, and to subjectivism. The words of Bill Banowsky in the closing speech of ACU's 1996 lectureship were a call for worship of self more than worship of God. Anyway, Garrett got it right when he claimed credit for what Henderson and Banowsky taught at the lectureship, and put a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.

G.C. Brewer wrote a booklet titled As Touching Those Who Were Once Enlightened. It was a rebuke and correction of two men named Reedy and Etter. These men turned away from the church and lambasted the brethren, in much the same way Henderson and Banowsky hammered and trashed the church (to the delight and applause of Leroy Garrett). Brother Brewer, who was a long shot away from where Banowsky and Henderson and ACU have now positioned themselves, had this to say about restoration:

Let me now sum up, in a few words, the aims of this movement. They were:
  1. To abolish every human creed for the Bible and the Bible alone.
  2. To abandon every party name for the name of Christ.
  3. To require of sinners the same acts of obedience as conditions of their salvation as were required by Jesus Christ and his apostles.
  4. To practice in the worship only those things for which we have scriptural precept, command, or approved example.
These aims were sought by the first leaders in the Restoration movement as the only sane, sound, logical and scriptural basis for Christian unity and the favor of God. They are being sought now by those who constitute the Church of Christ. There can be no higher, grander, or more glorious plea made by any people on earth. It is a plea that will carry us back to the original simplicity - of the Gospel and the Church of the New Testament. 'If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God' (1 Pet. 4:11) (Brewer, As Touching Those Who Were Once Enlightened, p. 44).

Concerning worship, Brewer wrote:

We should remember that if we would truly worship God we must worship the right object — God: it must be done in the right spirit, with the right motive; and it must be 'in truth' — according to God's Word. It is a dangerous thing for us to substitute in the place of what God has commanded, something we have devised out of our own heart. Cain did that when he offered the fruit of the soil instead of sacrificing an animal as the Lord commanded. He and his offering were rejected, but Abel and his offering were accepted.

This leads me, in the face of these plain statements of Holy Writ, to make this statement: No man on earth can use instruments of music in the worship of God as an act of faith. ... The things we do in our relations to God must be by faith (p. 52).

Banowsky's claim to be aligned with men like Brewer is disingenuous. Banowsky and Henderson are in company with Ketcherside and Garrett, with Reedy and Etter. They are men who have departed from the faith. Brewer stands in company with Baxter, Calhoun, Hardeman, Lipscomb, Wallace, and a long line of fine gospel preachers.

The crux of the matter is not who your human companions may be, but are you aligned with the Scriptures. That and that alone determines who is denominational who is undenominational.

Some one may ask, Why do you care? Why is it so important as to whether a person is doing the exact will of God? The motivation in raising such questions is not to prove that we are right and others are wrong; it is not a matter of winning an argument and carrying home the banner. The only victory of any real value is victory in Jesus.

We sincerely care about the souls of men. We love the lost and seek their salvation. If a person has not truly obeyed the gospel, that person faces eternal ruin. We care about that. We cannot get used to the sound of the thud of lost souls as they plunge into a Christ-less eternity.

If baptism is a burial in water and a resurrection to life for the purpose of receiving forgiveness of sins, as the Bible teaches, then those who have not obeyed this command are undone forever. We love them. If the unwashed are saved, we need to know about that. If they are lost, they need to know about it. That is our job ... our calling.

We contest those who have not been obedient to the faith because we desperately desire their redemption, and not out of ill-will or sectarian pride. When Garrett and his cohorts argue that we should overlook flawed faith, they are enemies of both those they seek to excuse and the cross of Christ. They trample the blood of the Lamb of God under foot in the name of love.

True love is tough love. It is bold to show the sinner his plight and to point to a crimson cross. It will not compromise the Scriptures. It will not bid Godspeed to a working of error, even on the pretext of knowing the difference between fish and fish-bones. It will not betray the sinless Son of God — even for 30 pieces of silver.

"Brethren, our hearts desire and prayer to God ... is that they might be saved." We have no other incentive.

Brewer closed his marvelous piece on Reedy and Etter by saying:

The preaching of the gospel is the one mission of the church and if we are not interested in that we would as well give up all pretense and line up with Modernists and Atheists and Communists and kill all the preachers and turn the church houses into clubs or cow barns, as they did in Russia. Where is your interest and what cause are you supporting and spreading, brother?

The fight is on, brethren, are you going to be good solders or are you going to be cowards and traitors?

The tragedy of all this is that schools for which good people have sacrificed are now turning against restoration principles — and against their founders and benefactors. Our schools — ACU, Pepperdine, Lipscomb, Harding, — are now going the way of Bethany, College of the Bible, and TCU. History repeats and repeats and repeats.

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that steepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

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Published July 1996