Sometimes I wish I could print a sampling of the letters I get in the mail. I have been called everything from a courageous Christian to a compromising cultist. I have been accused of neo-Evangelicalism, Liberalism, Humanism, and even Socialism. I have had curses placed upon me, my home, and family – to the third and fourth generation. One person even questioned whether or not I had been saved. B.R. Lakin often said that there is a way to avoid such attacks. Believe nothing, say nothing, do nothing. Since I have not chosen this cowardly course of action, criticism is part of my lot.
God often uses the valid criticism of others to correct our thinking and course of action. While accepting such criticism is difficult for us as human beings, it is necessary for our spiritual benefit. In our sincere attempts to relate our Christianity to the complex problems of contemporary society, we often make mistakes. We may say the wrong thing, or the right thing at the wrong time, or the wrong thing at the right time. May God help us never to be too proud to apologize.
I am afraid that as Fundamentalists we find that saying we made a mistake is most difficult. We find justifying and rationalizing our failures much easier – it reinforces our image (or self-image) of infallibility. B.R. Lakin had a profound influence upon my thinking. He often told me that we Fundamentalists build our fences too high. As a result we isolate ourselves from others, and because we cannot admit our mistakes, we eventually build ourselves into self-imposed isolation.
We can expect unfair and invalid criticism from those who oppose us. A New York newspaper stated that Jerry Falwell is an outspoken supporter of racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. Such erroneous reporting is despicable and disgusting. While we expect groups that are bent on destroying Fundamentalism to care little about a balanced presentation of the facts, we hope for better treatment from the “unbiased” media.
Most difficult to understand is invalid criticism from within the Fundamentalist movement. Recently, we were accused of joining the National Council of Churches. Now, any rational human being who knows us would laugh at such an accusation. Jerry Falwell would no more join the National Council of Churches than he would join the Communist party. Yet this erroneous statement was made by a fellow Fundamentalist, an editor of a nationally distributed newspaper. How did he arrive at such a ludicrous conclusion? The NCC publishes a yearbook of all churches and religious organizations. Liberty Baptist Fellowship appears in that book, as do other Fundamentalist groups such as the General Association of Regular Baptists, the Grace Brethren, the Freewill Baptists, and the Associated Gospel Churches, which is related to Bob Jones University. The book also includes a listing of all accredited Bible colleges and theological seminaries. Of course, the editor made no mention of these groups or of the fact that the yearbook includes all religious denominations and has nothing to do with being associated with the National Council of Churches.
Why was the accusation made? Perhaps because of a lack of journalistic background the editor did not know any better. Perhaps he failed to check his sources. Perhaps he thought this information could be used somehow to his advantage. Whatever the case, he lacked journalistic integrity by not reporting the facts or checking with Jerry Falwell to see if this were true. On both accounts he violated biblical directives and the standards of honesty and fairness. But then, this is not the first time he has done this. He, like other self-proclaimed keepers of the faith, seems to delight in manipulating information toward some hidden agenda.
Invalid attacks from other Fundamentalists are unnecessary and unfair. I have not mentioned the name of the editor or his publication because some are unaware of the situation and I would not want them to prejudge this man’s character. I believe he loves God, and I hope that in the future he will refrain from the same tactics that we endure from the Left. I think he made a mistake, and if he is a sincere Christian I have every confidence that he will print a front-page retraction and apology in his periodical.
No End in Sight
Criticism. We will live with it until the Coming of Christ. However, we must be careful that the criticisms we make are indeed the truth spoken in love. In this editorial I have been critical of other Fundamentalists, but I hope I have spoken the truth in love and that I have not impugned the character of others or misrepresented the truth. We must maintain integrity, honesty, and fairness. To do less is to be less than Christian and reduces the Fundamentalist movement to petty infighting and unnecessary wars. We must never forget that the real battle is against Satan and his world system.
Edward Dobson, Fundamentalist Journal