Pastor Fred Coulter of the Christian Biblical Church of God recently attacked Dixon Cartwright's The Journal: News of the Churches of God for the editor's willingness to publish a wide variety of perspectives/opinions in his newspaper. In fact, he suggested that Mr. Cartwright should rename the paper "Heresies to Deceive Those Who Are Trying to Be Faithful." (The Journal, Issue No. 162) When asked to respond to Pastor Coulter's comments, Mr. Cartwright said: "The Journal is a forum that was originally meant for Church of God Christians to be able to air their opinions, including opinions about doctrine, and also communicate with each other across Church of God boundaries." (same paper and issue)
How do these claims stack up against each other? More importantly, does God care about this kind of stuff?
In defense of Mr. Coulter's statements, David Froloff wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the most recent number of The Journal. (No. 163) In it, he accused Mr. Cartwright of not believing in the authority or inspiration of Scripture. He then went on to affirm that God had indeed commanded that entire nations be exterminated, and that God had also rejoiced at the prospect of splattering the brains of Babylon's children against a stone wall. He continued by contrasting Mr. Cartwright's "disagreement with God" with Mr. Coulter's complete devotion to "the infallible words of God." Mr. Froloff concluded his defense of Pastor Coulter by suggesting that his assertion that nothing positive can be derived from "this advancement of heresy" by Mr. Cartwright is probably correct.
If we appeal to the very scriptures that Mr. Coulter and Mr. Froloff claim to be defending, we would have to conclude that their position contradicts a theme that runs throughout the entirety of those writings: Making information about God and His covenants available to the average man (see my post on the democratization of knowledge). If Mr. Coulter and Mr. Froloff have a lock on the truth, then they certainly don't need a publication like The Journal. If they have all of the truth, there is nothing left to discuss - no need to grow in grace and knowledge. It's a closed system - nothing enters or leaves. Once you've discovered "the truth," the only thing left to do is internalize it - any other information is completely unnecessary and superfluous. For me, the only self-evident thing about this kind of reasoning is how self-reinforcing it is.
Anyone who has been exposed to the Worldwide Church of God culture for any length of time knows that there have always been people within that culture who have attempted to discourage or forbid their "brethren" from reading or listening to information that in anyway contradicted the party line. I know what you're thinking - that sounds more like Hitler's Germany or the Soviet Union; but this attitude is still alive and well in much of this culture.
Moreover, in the wake of the disintegration of the Worldwide Church of God, most of the different organizations that have arisen to take its place have a vested interest in keeping their members corralled - don't want to risk losing them to the competition. Nevertheless, we should all remember what THE CHURCH really is (see my post on the church). THE CHURCH is made up of everyone who has God's Holy Spirit - it does not exist within any single man-made organization! Within that group of people, each individual person has the responsibility to test the spirits and to make sure that what people write and say makes sense and agrees with the totality of the scriptural evidence.
As someone who is arrogant enough to believe that I don't have a lock on the truth, I'm glad there is a publication like The Journal to read. I enjoy reading different perspectives and opinions on the issues that I care about. Those perspectives/opinions don't always change my mind, but I always learn something - sometimes my own beliefs are even reinforced by what I read there. THE TRUTH is not a fragile thing. If I could prove that something was true thirty years ago, I should still be able to demonstrate that truth today. If I can't, it must not have been "true" to begin with - right?
It's interesting to me that two men whose opinions/perspectives have been represented in The Journal in times past would be so opposed to the publication of the opinions/perspectives of others. Isn't that just a little hypocritical? Oops, almost forgot, any opinions that differ from theirs are heretical!
A few final questions for my readers: Do you honestly believe that God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide (remember what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust?)? Do you honestly believe that God could take pleasure in a baby's brains being dashed against a stone wall? (something about that picture appears out of sync with the image of a sparrow falling to the ground) I believe that the Bible is inspired, but I don't believe that either one of those things originated in the mind of God. You might want to rethink those points Mr. Froloff.
Does God care about this kind of stuff? What do you think?