Why Did I Sign the "Open Letter?"
July 07, 2000
Elsewhere on this site is a letter entitled, "An Open Letter: The Creation Account & Florida College." The letter was sent to Hill Roberts, Shane Scott, the Bible faculty and administration of Florida College. It expresses genuine concern about the school's involvement with Hill Roberts and Shane Scott. These men deny that the earth was miraculously created in six, consecutive, 24 hour solar days, and they have openly taught these unscriptural views in various places.
Several months before seeing the open letter, I had already read much of Hill Robert's and Shane Scott's material, and had warned against their views in public forums. I had spoken publicly against Florida College's use of these men in any capacity. My convictions regarding the days of creation were settled long before I read that letter, thus my reason for cosigning the letter was quite simple - I agreed with it! I agreed with the letter in both substance and style. Before putting my name to it, or publishing it on the Gospel Anchor website, I read the letter carefully, several times. I examined both the arguments and the evidence, and I found both to be sound. I signed this letter because it well expressed my views of the creation and my concern about FC's ties with those with whom I strongly differ. It was that simple! No arms were twisted or guilt trips attempted. In fact, the cover letter that accompanied the open letter stated very clearly that no one would be thought less of for refusing to sign. Those who signed, signed quite voluntarily. They had absolutely no thought that they would be viewed as unsound, or be looked down upon in any way, had they decided not to sign.
The Open Letter: A "Letter" or a "Creed?"
Since the publishing of the open letter by the Gospel Anchor, Watchman Magazine, and others, some have made the charge that the letter constituted a "creed." Though it is entirely baseless, I suspected that the charge might be made based upon the mere presence of multiple signatures affixed to the end of the open letter. I signed the letter anyway, for as I said, the charge is baseless. By very definition, the open letter in no way constitutes a "creed." A creed is a formulated summary of principles and opinions that men profess. It is a system of principles or beliefs that men adhere to. It is a body of teachings of a religious group that are generally accepted by that group. It is not creedal for one to teach the truth on some Bible subject and for others to agree with that teaching! If so, then approval of any Bible teaching constitutes a creed. By this reasoning, every gospel paper and every church bulletin constitutes a creed! After all, such publications only exist because groups of people agree with, and support those teaching efforts.
I find it especially interesting that some of those who are making this charge are coeditors of gospel papers. As such, their names are attached as cosigners of each issue they send out. The presence of their name indicates their approval of the materials published in their paper, unless otherwise stated. These editors sign in agreement with each other. Do multiple signatures attached to published articles make that gospel paper a "creed?" This is all that was done with the open letter. Let's be consistent, brethren. It is "inexcusable" to practice the very thing that you condemn in others (Rom. 2:1).
Have you ever said "amen" in support of a statement made in a gospel sermon? By saying "amen," one merely states his public endorsement of, and agreement with, the truth that was proclaimed. Does such a practice constitute the formation of a "creed?" Would this practice also turn prayers into "creeds?" After all, we do often say "amen" at the close of a brother's prayer (1 Cor. 14:16). By "amening" another person's prayer, one merely gives his endorsement of that prayer, he does not establish it as a creed. By cosigning an open letter, men merely state their approval of the purpose and content of that letter. Such action is not creedal.
Some May Have Let the Cat Out of the Bag!
Some of those making the "creed" charge may have revealed more than they intended. The open letter was critical of two human institutions: Florida College and the "Lord I Believe" seminars. How can written objections to human institutions be classified as "creed writing?" You see dear reader; the objector's true motives and misconceptions are laid bare. He is not really concerned about creedalism, his real concern is that some have publicly spoken out against these institutions. Most of the objections that I have seen are defenses of Florida College. Those who defend the college against the warnings of the open letter by calling it a "creed," inadvertantly classify the college as a spiritual institution! How can it be "creedal" to speak out against the actions of a mere human institution?
The Real Problem: Doctrinal Apathy
The real problem, and the reason for some making the "creed" charge, is that they want to avoid taking sides on the issue. These people may not actually embrace the error, yet they refuse to join us in condemning it. They are standing in the middle of the road. They don't want to burn any bridges or hurt any feelings. They want to remain friends with everyone on both sides of the question. My advice to them is simple - "strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees" (Heb. 12:12). Pick up a sword and fight! It does matter whether or not we believe what God has told us about creation.
The word of God is the Spirit's "sword" (Eph. 6:17). Any time courageous saints grasp that sword, handle it correctly (2 Tim. 2:15), and raise it in opposition to sin and error, there will be consequences. What frequently happens is not what we prefer. We prefer that errorists, both the deceivers and the deceived, simply repent of their false ways and are released from the devil's snare (2 Tim. 2:25-26). As for the "unruly" and impenitent ones, we hope to effectively "stop their mouths" (Tit. 1:10-11), thus eliminating the possibility of them inflicting further spiritual damage.
We also prefer that fellow truth lovers and soul savers will join us in fighting "the good fight of faith" (1 Tim. 6:12). We may then "strive together for the faith of the gospel" and "speak the same thing" as a result of all of us "speaking as the oracles of God" (Phil. 1:27; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4:11). It is indeed a time for "rejoicing" when we know that our brothers and sisters are "walking in truth" (3 Jn. 4). And we are comforted by the mutual faith that we share with them (2 Cor. 7:6-7; Rom. 1:12).
In order to obtain the above results, hearts must be honest (Lk. 8:15). Residing within such hearts must be a genuine love for the truth and a desire to do God's will (2 Thess. 2:10-12; Jn. 7:17). Such individuals love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:37). And with equal enthusiasm and intensity, these individuals will literally "hate every false way" (Ps. 119:104,128; 97:10; Amos 5:15; Rom. 12:9). These passages tell us that true Christians hate evil as much as they love good! Those who fail or refuse to cultivate this attitude are doomed to a station of lukewarmness (Rev. 3:16). Apathy leads to complacency and complacency to apostasy. Thus, another category exists in addition to those already discussed. It is composed of people who do not fully espouse error, yet they refuse to expose it. They come down squarely on neither side of every question. They tend to view most issues as non-issues. The only "issue" that really concerns them is the issue of other people debating the issues! These people are more of a detriment to truth than to error, thus as I said earlier, things do not always go as we prefer.
A Strange Twist
I realize that these folks don't usually plan it this way, but regardless of their motives, their non-position always leads them to a position. Their refusal to "get involved in the issues" always forces them into the issues. They may go there reluctantly, yet that is where they eventually wind up. Jesus told us why it is this way. He said, "He that is not with me is against me..." (Matt. 12:30). That covers it. Those who refuse to defend the truth, contend for the faith, and reprove the unfruitful works of darkness, will find themselves in fellowship with that darkness (Phil. 1:17; Jud. 3; Eph. 5:11). That is just the way it is.
Truth lovers do not shy away from open discussion. We are disturbed by the fact that not all men stand for the truth. However, because of our confidence in the gospel's power to instruct and convict (Heb. 4:12), we are pleased when our opponents come out into the open battle fields and meet us on the plains of honorable discussion. Good results are always produced. We are very hopeful that this will happen with the "Day Age" issue. We have every confidence that truth will prevail.
The "Open Letter" to Florida College does not constitute a creed. Neither did the letter become a creed as a result of signatures being added to those of the authors. The open letter merely expresses our concerns over Florida College's use and acceptance of those who deny plain Bible teaching regarding the days of creation. Our desire is that all Christians reject the modernistic and unscriptural views that are being promoted on this subject. This desire includes those Christians who are affiliated with Florida College. Anytime and anywhere men teach the Bible, whether on the Florida College campus or elsewhere, they are bound and obligated to "speak as the oracles of God." (1 Pet. 4:11). This obligation is not confined by church building walls. The same is true of the Christian's duty towards brethren who "bring not the doctrine of Christ." Not only are we prohibited from receiving them, we are even obligated to "reprove them" (2 Jn. 9-11; Eph. 5:11). We urge those connected with Florida College to do only as these passages teach: Reject the error and reprove the errorists! This was why the letter was written, and it is also why I signed it.
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