THE VALUE OF TRUTH AND FREEDOM

Olan Hicks

A ministry work, one part of -which was producing The Examiner paper for several years, wears the name Truth and Freedom Ministry. It is a name well taken. It represents a cause which is very basic and central to the Bible way and one which I hope will continue to be seen as important long after The Examiner ceases to be published.

Among the most valuable of all our possessions are these two, access to the truth and the freedom to pursue it. This is not merely the way I see it. It is the way the Bible presents it. In Galatians 5:1 the Greek text says literally, "It is for the freedom of us Christ made free;" and then adds, "Stand firm therefore and do not again be entangled with a yoke of slavery." One of the primary things Jesus provided, not for Himself but for His people, is freedom. Why did Paul urge that this be held on to among believers?

The same apostle warned the Colossians, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ." (2:8)

Yet when Christians do stand film in this freedom Jesus provided, the fiercest opposition they encounter often comes from the very men who say they are God's leaders. They condemn this freedom in the name of Jesus Christ, the author of freedom, and under the banner of "defending the truth." What a contradiction against reality!

But throughout history it has persistently been the religious leaders who have imposed bondage upon the people and held them captive to their viewpoints. The death of Jesus was brought about by the religious leaders of that time (Matthew 27:20) and in later centuries when martyrs died rather than give up freedom and truth it was religious leaders who took those lives. In more civilized times, such as now, the law does not allow such men to execute people they deem to be "heretics." It is nevertheless still possible to have the same spirit of antagonism against liberty and to apply it in other ways.

Looking back on the legalistic position I once held I realize it is possible to have that kind of attitude in good conscience, out of fear, because of the idea that such liberty makes a fertile seedbed for error. This is a bad mistake. It is very wrong to suppose that there is a conflict of purpose between freedom and truth. Jesus said it is the truth that makes us free. Truth and freedom are allies, not enemies. Both are of God and both are extremely important. But note this: There is a huge difference between liberty and liberalism. This is an important truth The Examiner has tried to maintain.

EXAMINER OF WHAT?

The Biblical mandate to the Christian is not to examine persons and pronounce a judgment in the sense of grading the papers of fellow students. The Bible knows no such things as a "clergy" system whereby some Christians answer to the judgment of other Christians. It is rather to "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5) and "Prove (test) all things and hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).

This means raising questions which again is sometimes offensive to some brethren. But it is a feature of this work that I especially hope will continue and even grow in acceptance with people. It is not wrong to question the teachings of our heritage. It is not wrong to question the pronouncements of the most highly regarded scholars we have or the most popular doctrines in the religious world. Any religious group is in bad spiritual health when the questions stop. The same is true of an individual Christian. The very purpose for which the scriptures have been given is stated this way: "All scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect (mature), thoroughly furnished unto every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16). If we reject the idea of "reproof" and of "correction" we are not seeking after "instruction in righteousness" and the Bible itself becomes useless to us. That is the ultimate disaster.

This is not to say that the Bible does not also provide such things as comfort, encouragement, and the uplifting of our spirits. But even these are directly linked to the accepting of scriptural truths which correct our misunderstandings about God and His way. God's way for man is not a way of total doctrinal correctness from day one. It is a way of growth, a lifelong way of continuing to grow ever more mature in the things of God. Peter contrasted this learning, growing pattern against falling into the error of the wicked. After warning them not to be led into that he then said, "But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).

Most of us in our present audience were taught that once we understood and obeyed "the five steps" we entered the one true church, having "arrived" at the doctrinal spot where God dwells, and any changing of viewpoints after that would be apostasy, a departure from the faith. Oh yes, we were taught to continue to "study," sure. But I think the word "study" often is applied to "indoctrination." We studied in a circle, proving over and over again the party position on each matter. Any really probing question was regarded with suspicion. The questioner was probably a heretic, not really one of us.

WHAT WILL REAL CHRISTIANS DO IN THIS MATTER?

In John 8 the Pharisees claimed that they were the real representatives of God and that Jesus represented only himself (vs. 13). As the argument about genuineness continued they also claimed to be the children of Abraham (vs. 40). To this Jesus replied, "If you were Abraham's children you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man that has told you the truth, which I have heard of God. This did not Abraham."

In other words, the features of our behavior tell more about who we are than the claims we make verbally. Many who claim to be the only real Christians might be shocked if they stopped and took an honest look at the question of whether their actions are those of real Christians.

At verse 41 the Pharisees argued that God was their Father. Again Jesus replied, "If God were your Father you would love me, for I proceeded forth and came from God."

If a creature has webbed feet, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and lays duck eggs, it is vain to claim that it is a polar bear. If a person rejects God's command to study and learn and to be corrected by the scriptures, it is vain to claim that he is a super Christian. People who deal in strife and discord, have huge egos, promote division among believers, and handle the word of God in deceitful ways, certainly are not proven by their behavior to be the one true people of God.

EASY TO BE ENTREATED

James distinguished clearly between the wisdom that is from above and that which is earthly, sensual, and devilish. The latter, he said, consists in bitter envying, lying against the truth, along with confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above he said "is first pure and then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (3:14-17). This is a graphic description of the attitude of the true man of God. He is humble, given to mercy, interested in good fruits, is fair and impartial, and is "easy to be entreated." What then of the people who are not humble at all, who draw lines of division over every disagreement, who are not impartial In treating Bible questions, and who cannot be "entreated" at all, let alone easily? From this perspective it seems that the legalistic, intolerant segments among us need to rethink their claim to being "the one true church." If you are a real Bible Christian, what will your behavior be in this regard?

LEGITIMATE QUESTIONS

This is not written to sit in judgment on anyone. Every one of us will answer to God for himself in the last day. But this is written to admonish us in the very important matter of attitude, toward the Bible, toward God, and toward each other. In the years of publication this paper has raised a lot of questions, presented many lines of thought, and has even set out differing views on some points. For many people it has opened the door to honest investigation of "orthodox teaching" for the first time. It is my personal hope that its influence will continue in that respect. This is not to say that everything said in The Examiner has always been absolutely accurate to the Bible text taken over all. It has done more question raising than question answering. This, I think, is its best contribution.

Some questions deserving of full study by all of us have been raised. I hope they will get that full study by people of honest and good hearts. Such a study can not do harm and most certainly will do good. Such questions as the use of the word "church" to translate the Bible term, "ekklesia." That is a legitimate question. The correct role of "elders" among God's people is another deserving question. The role of women in the family of God is another, as is the question of how to handle the problem of divorce and remarriage in God's way.

If nothing else has been accomplished, just getting these questions out into the open has been a tremendous service to the cause of Christ. May God help us to have the attitude He has instructed, which Jesus referred to as "the honest and good heart." The spiritual health of thousands of people depend on it.

Finally, my personal thanks and congratulations to Charles and Jewel Holt. They have labored incredibly long and hard and have made many personal sacrifices in order to get the convictions of their hearts before the people, because they believe it will help them. Whether you agree with all of their viewpoints or not, you need to appreciate their devotion to pleasing God and trying to promote His will in the lives of people. I believe the project known as The Examiner will eventually be the most fruitful of their career in the kingdom. If the concept of truth being available in God's word, and the freedom to pursue it being the right of every person, remains in the hearts of the thousands who have read this paper, the cause of Christ shall have been given a tremendous boost. May God bless them in their continuing service to Him and may He bless each one of us with the wisdom that comes from above, a gentle spirit and an honest, searching heart.