Friday, August 22, 2014

TRUTH or "FALTH" (Heresy in the Upper Rooms)

by Ed Cardwell

Unbelief in the pulpit is something few of us can understand or even imagine. Men (or women) in powerful and influential positions who pretend to hold forth the Word of God but secretly deny the fundamental and sacred doctrines of the faith, are a most serious threat to the entire community of believers. To illustrate one extraordinary example of such leadership I would like to share the actual transcript of a radio conversation I had some time ago with the leader of the then 2 million member organization called ‘the Baptist World Alliance’:

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The context of this broadcast is the following:  The Baptist World Alliance, headed by Dr. Robert Denny, was holding a world convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, for a few days in April 1979. The Bible radio station WBRI had a daily call-in program, often with a special guest, and this up-coming convention had been advertised for weeks. The station had heralded Dr. Denny’s personal appearance on the show as a leading headline for the week’s activities, both for the radio station and for the BWA.

A prominent local pastor of a large Baptist church in Indianapolis, Dr. Greg Dixon, who had at the time great political influence and had even been invited to speak at the Congressional Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., had called into the radio station several times during the previous Point Of View broadcasts to warn the Christian community about this Dr. Denny. Dr. Dixon alleged that Dr. Denny was nothing more than a Communist sympathizer, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who had managed to maneuver himself into a powerful religious position whereby he could influence world opinion that the Soviet brand of religious tolerance was genuine and that Soviet leadership was favorable to full religious expression. Dr. Dixon warned that it was all a lie, adding that Dr. Denny traveled around the world with 2 known Soviet KGB agents (Bichkof and Zitkof) posing as clerics who made sure that Dr. Denny proclaimed the ‘right’ message.

When Dr. Denny finally made his scheduled appearance on WBRI, Dr. Greg Dixon called into the ‘Point Of View’ program to challenge Dr. Denny as a fraud. I listened to the sparring confrontation while traveling and became exasperated because Dr. Dixon kept attacking in areas that were clearly secondary and Dr. Denny could easily elude discovery. When I finally arrived home I called WBRI and flipped on the station on my combination tape recorder/am-fm radio and waited my turn. The conversation begins where I turned on the radio and caught the two men in some rather heated discussion.

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DR DENNY:   …what is religious freedom is a relative term depending upon the way somebody defines it, so…

DR DIXON:  They say that in these articles that they know of no violation of human rights in Russia.

DR. DENNY:  Well, we discussed this just a moment ago with another caller. The definition of a violation of religious freedom by their terminology is a violation of a law pertaining to religion.

DR DIXON:  Do you believe these men when they come here to America and say that there is full religious freedom for Baptists in Russia – that there are no violations of human rights in Russia? Do you believe what these men are saying?

DR. DENNY:  I think that there are different standards for…

DR. DIXON:  Do you believe what these men are saying?

DR. DENNY:  Do you want me to answer the question?

DR. DIXON:  I don’t want you to give me the runaround. I’d like for you to answer my question.

DR. DENNY:  Well, I wish that life was just a simple black and white. But the definition of religious liberty is a matter of what you and I think by our terms. They do not have in the Soviet Union the amount of freedom that you and I have in the United States and many other parts. Liberty and freedom are defined by autonomous governments. I do not like and would not like to have to be restricted as much as people are in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, maybe Cuba, maybe Burma, and some other places. I like the freedom in the United States. These people have to operate within the confines of the law of their country. And then that way, you see, the definition of a violation of freedom is a violation of the law as it is on the books in that particular country. I don’t like some of those laws, no sir.

DR. DIXON:  Then what you’re saying is that Bichkof and Zitkof are not liars?

DR. DENNY:  I don’t think they’re liars, sir. I’ve known them a long time.

DR. DIXON:  Do you believe they’re liars when they say there’s full religious freedom for Baptists in Russia? Do you believe they’re telling the truth or telling a lie?

DR. DENNY:  I think they’re trying to tell the truth by the standards that I just tried to explain a few moments ago…

DR. DIXON:  In other words, by Communist propaganda standards?

DR. DENNY:  No, I’d like to say, I’d like to repeat, and I was trained in law, sir, a violation of law is a violation of the law in that particular place.

DR. DIXON:  They didn’t say anything in these articles about violation of law. They said there are no violations of human rights in Russia. That’s a flat statement. Do you believe they’re telling the truth?

DR. DENNY:  Well, uh, I don’t know, sir. Uh, it would be pretty hard to define that ‘full religious freedom’. I don’t know. I’d have to ask them particularly that. I have not heard them say that specifically, and I do not say they did not say it, sir. I just didn’t hear it.

ANNOUNCER:  And we have run past our time on that particular call. I am going to move to our next phone call. Line 2, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.

CARDWELL:  Well, I’ve listened to your guest, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone who calls himself a believer, or a Christian, so conveniently disarm himself in almost every argument for the faith. I believe the Lord wants us to contend for the faith, not to disarm ourselves, and it seems like he does this so conveniently in almost every area.

I would like to ask three questions of your guest – 3 questions and they’re all related:  First of all, does he believe in the total infallible inspiration of the Scriptures – that it was God-breathed and that it is the authoritative and final rule of faith? I’m not talking about interpretation. Does he believe that the Scriptures are inspired by God? Number two:  Does he believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ as described in the Scriptures?  And number three:  Has he personally received the Lord Jesus Christ, as defined in Scripture, as his personal Lord and Savior?

DR. DENNY:  May I answer the question now?

ANNOUNCER:  Yes, and thank you for calling.

DR. DENNY:  Number one:  the answer to that is yes, I do believe in the infallible Word of God. Number two:  Uh, not being a trained theologian, uh, I do not know about the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Uh, I wish I could do this, could believe one way or the other, but I don’t know how to answer that question, sir. On the third one:  I have had an experience of salvation with the Lord Jesus Christ and I believe that He is my Savior and my best friend and look forward to meeting Him.

ANNOUNCER:  We have another call waiting…and we’ll try to get this next call in…  Good afternoon, Point of View, you’re on the air, and I’m going to give you about 30 seconds to ask your question so that Dr. Denny has time to respond before we go off.

UNKOWN LADY:  Well, I have a document here called ‘Soviet Justice – Showplace – Prisons versus Real Slave Labor Camps’ and this is from the Committee on Un-American Activities from the United States Government, and I believe you can trust a Communist to be a Communist. And when you are associating with them and cloaking yourself with these Communists, I don’t know how you feel that this is the right thing to do. And IF CHRIST DID NOT RISE BODILY THEN WE HAVE NO FAITH AND OUR FAITH IS DEAD. Thank you.

ANNOUNCER:  Thank you. Dr Denny? Any comments?

DR. DENNY:  No, I just respect the lady’s statement there, and I simply said that I don’t know. It’s not a case of not believing. It’s just a matter of I do not know about the bodily resurrection. I think only the future will reveal that and I would respect anybody’s opinion on that, sir.

ANNOUNCER:  (Closes the broadcast, thanking Dr. Denny for his appearance on the program.)

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Dr. Denny’s answers pose some interesting questions. How difficult is it to answer this question:  ‘Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ as described in the Scriptures?’? Since his answer to the first question about his belief in the total inspiration of Scripture was in the affirmative, and since question #1 is probably a more difficult question, why does he not know about the bodily resurrection of Christ, as described in the Scriptures? In actuality, his denial (or ignorance, or both) of the Scriptural account of the bodily resurrection of Christ (Question #2) contradicts his affirmation of Question #1. If he believes that the Word is God-breathed and totally infallible, how can he not accept the Biblical account of the resurrection of Jesus? It is a simple question requiring a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. He wasn’t asked to give a scientific explanation of the resurrection. He was only asked about his belief in its reality – as described in the Scriptures. So, he has denied the Scriptures that he claimed to believe and uphold.

Saying that ‘not knowing’ and ‘wishing he could believe’ does not equate to ‘not disbelieving’. His answer is simply and plainly one of unbelief.

Furthermore, if someone says he has had an experience of salvation with the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet he is unable to believe what the Scriptures clearly teach - that He has risen from the dead - is that a valid experience of salvation? And could that experience be with the Jesus of the Bible? Solemn questions indeed arise.

It is possible that Dr. Denny had been thoroughly trained to answer mundane questions often posed by religious media and reporters, but he obviously was caught off guard by questions that target more penetrating and fundamental doctrinal issues. If he had been coached by Bichkof and Zitkof, he obviously missed some serious areas of doctrine in his repertoire.

It is possible also that Dr. Denny was simply not a Bible student. Perhaps he had never read the many accounts of the physical/bodily resurrection of Jesus recorded by New Testament authors. At any rate, as a ‘trained lawyer’ he should have discovered that the evidence is incontrovertible - the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is an undeniable fact. One marvels at how such a person, so ignorant of the most fundamental doctrine of Christianity, could become the leader of an organization of two million Christians

One cannot teach what one does not know, and one cannot lead the church who does not have the faith of the Church. No one can judge Dr. Denny’s true spiritual condition. That is not our purpose. But unbelief here is a problem, not of the intellect, but of the will. One who professes faith in the infallibility of Scripture yet cannot bring himself to accept what that infallible Word says is trapped in his own inconsistency and his choice to disbelieve leads to a serious spiritual dilemma. And there are many such Dr. Dennys in very important positions of leadership throughout Christendom – churches, missions, schools, and universities. And because of such the church has become weak and impotent, with few notable exceptions, in the face of our archenemy who seeks to create doubt, deny truth, and destroy faith.

It is no wonder that Satan in these latter days is tightening his stranglehold on the Church as he seeks to diminish its power and influence in the world. One very effective means to accomplish this is by denying that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. The authority of Christ is predicated on His resurrection as a fact of history. And the power of that resurrection, God’s great power on display, is available to all true believers whose hearts have been enlightened to the knowledge of its surpassing greatness:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Eph 1:18 (NAS)

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The convention was thrown into disarray as members were surprised and bewildered by Dr. Denny’s weak appearance on the program, especially his denial of the Biblical account of Jesus’ resurrection. But his surrogates calmed the uproar by assuring them he had been misunderstood - a common, but useful political strategy. Nevertheless Dr. Denny’s position was tainted and his tenure as General Secretary of the BWA ended shortly thereafter. A leader more adept at handling doctrinal scrutiny would be needed for future growth of the BWA.

Today the Baptist World Alliance boasts of 42 million members in 177,000 churches in 121 countries. 60 percent of the BWA is associated with the World Council of Churches. We can be confident that the Devil is more determined today than when the BWA membership was limited to 2 million.

How do men of heretical theology arise to such prominence? Are they not thoroughly vetted by trustworthy elders or brethren of the church?  Or are they just cunning enough to steal their way into the hearts of the faithful through subtlety and subterfuge?

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” 2 Pe 2:1-3(NAS)

The call for vigilance is more compelling today than ever. Under the Mosaic law the enticement to apostasy was a capital crime(Dt 13:1-5)- most certainly because the corrupting influence of false teaching is incalculable, interminable, and always progressive. Paul warns Timothy to “examine everything carefully”1Th 5:20(NAS)/”prove all things”(KJV), “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”Rom 12:9(NAS)  

The exhortation of John the Apostle seems more urgent and relevant to us now than in any time in our recent history:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” 1 Jo 4:1-3(NAS)

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Ed Cardwell is my friend and long-time co-worker in the ministry of Christian school education. He spent several years as principal while I was head administrator. He was an excellent and very popular Bible and foreign language teacher. We were of one mind, and it was very natural to work together since we thought so much alike.

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