RUBEL SHELLY'S TEACHING ON FELLOWSHIP: AN ANALYSIS OF I JUST WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN GARY W. SUMMERS
[The following article was originaly published in Christian Fellowship, edited by Michael Hatcher, for the Twenty-Third Annual Bellview Lectures held June 13-17, 1998, pages 457-472.]
When a man wants to seduce a woman, he is not usually so obvious as to ask her outright for her sexual favors. He makes a great show of affection and concern for her. He protests his great love for her and assures her of his honorable and noble motives. In a short period of time, if he is skillful, he may thus achieve his goal if he is subtle rather than direct. What she would have refused to do in a single step she may consent to incrementally.
When a false teacher wants to seduce the church, he does not stand up and shout, "Hang doctrine! Let's fellowship all who call themselves Christians." He makes a great show of affection for the bride of Christ. He says that his conscience will just not allow him to be sectarian any more, and he appeals to noble principles. But in a few years' time, like any seducer, he has obtained (incrementally) what he was always after--the apostasy (seduction) of the church.
Those who may know the character of the fleshly seducer will warn the young woman, but she thinks some jealous girls made up stories to embarrass him. Nobody knows this man the way she does. She really understands him. He is tender and kind and would never do anything to hurt her. Those who are warned about the spiritual seducer are similarly rebuffed. "It's just a matter of some 'small' preachers being jealous of his 'great' abilities. He cares about the lost, and he would never do anything to hurt the church."
The ravished woman has no recourse. She has no one to blame for her predicament; she refused to heed the warnings. Her virtue is gone, and so is Mr. Wonderful. There is nothing to be done but to live with the consequences of her actions. Seduced brethren are not quite as smart as this unfortunate woman: most of them have yet to figure out that they have been robbed of anything significant. In fact, in some instances they were only too happy to cooperate with the bandit.
The goal of this chapter is to analyze Rubel Shelly's 1984 views of fellowship as expressed in his book, I Just Want To Be a Christian. The principles taught therein shall be analyzed and then compared to the transcription of a speech he made twelve years later. Some may think that it is unfair and judgmental to equate this formerly sound brother to a seducer and to affirm that his current unscriptural positions were in view all along, but seldom does a person travel anywhere without a map to guide him.
THE SEDUCTION OF THE RESTORATION APPEAL
Much of Shelly's 1984 book consists of quoting restoration leaders of the past. All would agree that much of what these courageous men wrote was Biblically sound. It is also true, however, that they were finding their way out of denominations and denominational doctrine. We have the benefit of an additional 75 to 175 years over them. Certainly, we do not mean to imply that we are so much smarter than they were; it is not a matter of intelligence but of light. Alexander Campbell and others held some views that few, if any, would affirm today. On certain subjects Campbell's understanding evolved. With respect to the purpose for baptism, it also devolved.
The point is that these great men of the past cannot serve as our authority any more than the writings of current brethren could serve as the basis of doctrine 50 or 100 years from now. The question must always be, "What do the Scriptures teach?" Shelly cites many restorationists to demonstrate that his 1984 teachings are nothing new--but only what faithful brethren have always said. The fallacy is that he expects the reader to assume that the quotations he uses from these men are the views about which they were doctrinally correct, but the possibility also exists that he is citing from them teachings about which they were still in error. Shelly's ideas, just as everyone else's, must be evaluated, not in the light of the restoration leaders, but in the light of the Word of God.
THE SEDUCTION OF THE FALSE CONCLUSION
In Greek mythology the Sirens enticed sailors with their sweet songs. The seamen became so entranced that they failed to do anything else--even eat; they died of starvation. Shelly is a master singer when he sets forth an argument, but the reader will starve on his conclusions. Consider the following paragraph, with which all would agree.
The marvelous spirit of unity and oneness we need in local bodies results from a common love for Jesus Christ. There may be deeply held convictions among people in those churches which are not identical on every point, but love for Christ generates tolerance. The essence of tolerance is not that people do not have convictions but that they have convictions that are held within the context of a tremendous love for Jesus. That love is so great that it will not allow those particular opinions or ideas to be made tests of fellowship. 1
How many congregations could have profited over the years from such a Scriptural concept? Love for Christ and one another must take precedence over the opinions of men. How wonderful, if instead of biting and devouring one another, brethren would say, "I recognize that the strong conviction that I hold is nevertheless an opinion, and I yield it for the sake of unity"? How much stronger the Lord's church would be! But now that we have heard the sweet song, Shelly would starve us with his conclusion; these words follow immediately those cited above:
Nothing that does not have to do with the saving of a person's soul should be allowed to pass as a test of fellowship between brothers in Christ. 2
At one level the reader may still agree--since the statement is just ambiguous enough to include both truth and error. It is correct if one understands that true worship and right doctrine are crucial to salvation, and therefore to fellowship--but false if one casts worship and doctrine behind his back. Shelly eventually sets forth a position (which will be examined in the next section), but he continues to intersperse snippets of truth along the way to lend credibility to his thesis.
One of those is this sentence: "Perhaps we have been guilty of too much all-or-nothing thinking on the topic of fellowship." 3 How often have brethren been willing to "write off" one another. At the Freed-Hardeman Forum on John 3:16 and the phrase only begotten, while Noel Merideth and Robert R. Taylor (who argued for its retention) were making clear that this disagreement was not a fellowship issue, some in the audience were saying, "Why not?" This writer also agrees with Meredith and Taylor but was distressed that some were willing to make fellowship an all-or-nothing proposition based on the way monogenes was translated in some versions. Surely Shelly is correct when he emphasizes love and unity over opinions or matters that are not crucial to salvation.
THE 7% SEDUCTION
When Sherlock Holmes became bored due to a lack of any perplexing mysteries to solve, he would resort to his cocaine habit and use a 7% solution. We have no way of knowing how bored Dr. Shelly is, or if he gets high on error, but presenting only 93% of the truth is deceptive. In addition to making Scriptural observations periodically, he sets forth his ideas of the basis for unity, and he is right--as far as he goes. But he eliminates some criteria that the Scriptures include. Here is his position in his own words.
My suggestion is that only such items as pertain directly to the seven ones of Ephesians 4:4-6 are of such a nature as to qualify as issues of faith (i.e., doctrinal tests of fellowship). If one denies one or more of these necessary items of Christian doctrine, he becomes subject to rebuke immediately and, if he cannot be brought to repentance, disfellowship. The only item I would add to the list of seven things in Ephesians 4 is one which is surely assumed by appealing to this or other biblical text for authority in religion: the all-sufficiency of the Word of God. 4
Shelly then provides his analysis of three of these concepts. Passing over one Spirit, one body, and one hope, he gives a brief statement about the "one Lord" (with which all would agree). Then he very hurriedly covers the next "one" with one sentence, albeit a long one.
One who denies any element of the one faith (i.e., the gospel message of redemption through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ) has turned back from the truth and are (sic) walking in the footsteps of those whom John rebukes in his three epistles. 5
He assumes that the one faith applies only to salvation; who said so? Why would not the one faith refer to the entire body of New Testament doctrine, as it does in other passages of Scripture? Paul encouraged brethren to "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Phi. 1:27). Jude exhorted brethren to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The one who fails to provide for his family has denied "the faith" (1 Tim. 5:8). Later in this same Ephesians 4 Paul describes coming to "unity of the faith" (v. 13).
Do all of these passages refer merely to "the gospel message of redemption through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ"? To ask the question is to answer it. Although "the faith" includes God's plan of salvation (Acts 13:8-12), it also includes the totality of New Testament doctrine (Jude 3). To all those who desire to downplay and denigrate doctrine, the question should be asked, "Why do you think God filled the New Testament with it?"
Shelly does not comment much on baptism in this section of the book, but he does raise a question which prefigures his later attempts to broaden the borders of fellowship: "How many truths about baptism must one understand before he is a proper candidate to receive it?" 6 Of course, such is a "loaded" question; the implication is that no one needs to know all there is to know about baptism; therefore, he need not know much at all.
Without doing so overtly, Shelly adds another item to the list of things over which we may withdraw fellowship: kindness. Yes, even if one is trying to teach the truth, if he does it divisively rather than in kindness, "he is subject to rebuke and disfellowship." 7 He cites Titus 3:10-11 (from the NIV) and then pretends this verse was written to those who style themselves "defenders of the faith." It is obvious to anyone who has read the preceding verse and has even a cursory knowledge of the overall context of the book that the application is to those who were contentious about non-salvation matters, not those dedicated to teaching truth.
Concerning Titus 3:10, The Pulpit Commentary states: "The heretic is one who forsakes the truth held by the Church, and chooses some doctrine of his own devising (hairesis)." 8 He might also elevate an opinion to the status of doctrine, magnify some minor point of doctrine (something not well substantiated) into a bone of contention, or try to form a party, but no major commentator would try to ascribe the word heretic to a man upholding the truth. Shelly (to suggest such a horrendous misapplication) must be anticipating the need to defend himself against those he knows will oppose him.
So while brother Shelly would withdraw from those advancing truth, if they were divisive about it (how can truth not be divided from error?), he could live with the false doctrine of premillennialism. Several pages worth of high-sounding sentiments come suddenly to a halt (for some of us) with Shelly's first example of what should NOT be an issue of fellowship. Up to this point we may or may not agree with what Shelly has written, but much he has said sounded good. The reader has wondered periodically, "How does Shelly apply some of these principles?" Now he gives us an opportunity to see what he has been getting at.
Suppose someone's eschatology entails the view that Christ will reign on earth for 1,000 years at his return. I think he is wrong in his opinion-doctrine. But so long as he does not deny the place of the church as Christ's spiritual body and teaches that all will be held accountable at the second coming and the Judgment, is it necessary for him to be severed from the fellowship of the body? The answer lies in the attitude with which he bears his belief. If it becomes a divisive hobby with him, he should be marked and disfellowshipped--but, again, not for his belief but for his divisive manner with his belief. 9
Our first objection is the linking of the words opinion and doctrine. Jesus distinguishes between the two. He taught that when men substituted the ideas or traditions of men (opinions) for the teachings (doctrine) of God, it made their worship vain. "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Mat. 15:9). What is the purpose in making these two separate concepts one--if not to demote doctrine to the status of mere opinion?
Shelly creates a false dichotomy. Either the hypothetical fellow keeps his doctrine to himself, or he becomes divisive concerning it. There is a third option. He may wish to set forth his case in Bible classes when the subject comes up, as it will in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 17 and 21, John 6:15, and John 18:36. And then what of the other books in the New Testament? What about 1 Thessalonians 4, 2 Thessalonians 2, and other assorted verses? Dare anyone teach the book of Revelation in this person's presence? And what about Old Testament prophecies? The doctrine of premillennialism affects one's view and interpretation of a vast number of Scriptures. Anyone who remains silent as passage after passage is discussed must not believe very strongly in the doctrine in the first place. At any rate, past divisions over premillennialism did not occur because its adherents were silent.
THE SEVEN ONES (PLUS TWO OR THREE)
What about Shelly's claims that fellowship can only be withdrawn on the basis of the seven ones of Ephesians 4, plus denying the all-sufficiency of the Word, plus being a divisive person (even with the truth)? Actually, Shelly adds another category to the list--moral offenses.
One forfeits the fellowship of the church by teaching or receiving a false doctrine which denies one of the essential elements of Christian doctrine or by living in an ungodly manner and refusing to repent of his sin. 10
While all would agree that we should withdraw from brethren who refuse to repent of immoral actions (as per 1 Corinthians 5), this moral principle is nowhere to be found among the seven ones of Ephesians 4. Now Shelly has increased the seven bases of fellowship/withdrawal of fellowship to ten. How long will it be before he thinks of yet another?
Most brethren will agree with the ten points he has enumerated, but one thing many would include he has omitted: doctrine. Not only has fellowship on the basis of doctrine been left out of the list (doctrine beyond the seven ones); Shelly has fought at every opportunity against the idea that doctrine is a basis of fellowship.
1. First, he anticipates the use of 2 John 9-11 and tries to neutralize the passage by applying it only to false teachers who deny the deity of Jesus (90). 11
2. Next, the reader will recall, he links doctrine and opinion, which the Scriptures do not do (94). 12
3. Then he states unequivocally of 1 Corinthians 1:10 that "it is a nonsensical interpretation of the verse to understand it to mean that one must be in perfect agreement on every detail of Christian faith and practice before he can share in the fellowship of the body" (97). 13 He fails, however, to provide a sensible interpretation of this verse for us.
IS DOCTRINE CRUCIAL?
The passage in 2 John 9-11 cannot be limited to those denying the deity of Christ any more than preaching "another" gospel must be restricted to Judaizing teachers. Broadly-stated principles transcend their immediate context and have other applications. Do we really want to argue that there is only one false gospel, instead of several? Do we really think denying the Deity of Christ is the only way to transgress and fail to abide in the doctrine of Christ? 14
Jesus warned of false prophets who sport sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15). Paul told the elders at Ephesus that men would arise from their own number who would speak perverse things in order to draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:30). To the Romans he wrote with emphasis: "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them" (16:17).
Paul himself did precisely what he instructed these brethren to do. In some of his letters Paul calls false teachers by name: "And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some" (2 Tim. 2 :17-18). Now, brother Shelly, which of the ten things you enumerated, does this teaching violate? Does it deny the one Spirit, the one body, the one hope, the one Lord, the one faith, the one baptism, the one God? Does it deny the all-sufficiency of the Word? Is it divisive? Is it immoral? Primarily, it denies the truth--the New Testament doctrine concerning the resurrection. By implication it might deny the hope that Christians have, but that would only be the case if the teaching altogether denied the Christian's reward. So do we mark these men? Paul did, and we certainly hope for his sake that he was not divisive (by Shelly's standard) in opposing these men with the truth!
Paul further speaks of false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13-15) and of imposters that sent brethren letters as if from him (2 The. 2:2). Peter writes at length about false teachers (2 Pet. 2), and Jude was diverted from whatever spiritual points he first intended to make to the brethren; rather, it became needful for him to exhort them to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). Yet despite all of these Scriptures, which brother Shelly knows well (he once correctly used them), he cannot now include false doctrine as a fellowship issue. This exclusion invariably constitutes a warning that false doctrine will follow; otherwise why exclude such a crucial fellowship issue?
IS BAPTISM CRUCIAL?
There are two ways to make fellowship more inclusive. One way is to eliminate the importance of sound doctrine; the other is to tamper with the entrance requirements into the kingdom. Shelly's assault on doctrine has been noted above; next he attacks baptism for the remission of sins. Earlier in this book Shelly made some strong, firm statements about Christians and fellowship.
First. . .let it be stressed again that there can be no spiritual fellowship between those in Christ and those outside his body. The reason is obvious: There is no brotherhood between the two classes of men. Those outside of Christ are still in their sins and are not God's children by virtue of spiritual rebirth. 15
One becomes a Christian only through his or her faith in Christ, repentance from all known sin, and baptism in Jesus' name. There is no other way to become a part of the fellowship of the saints. For those in the body of Christ to extend spiritual brotherhood to anyone who has not yet become a child of God is for them to fail to acknowledge the divine principle of inclusion. 16
The reason is simple enough: denominational doctrines of baptism with which I am familiar reject one or more biblical truths about the subject. Baptist doctrine, for example, explicitly affirms that baptism is not essential to salvation and is instead an ordinance by means of which already saved persons join the Baptist denomination. 17
At first glance the statements cited above seem pretty accurate, but the discerning eye will notice that for the remission of sins is not attached to "baptism in Jesus' name." Such is no accident. After seemingly struggling to the top of the mountain to establish the Biblical position, Shelly immediately begins coasting back down. Actually, he never made it all the way to the summit, unless Joplin is counted. At that "unity summit" Shelly's group also left for the remission of sins off his definition of who is a Christian.
Some may have been surprised by that omission, but Shelly insists that the phrase is non-essential. He argues that to require the penitent soul to be baptized for the remission of sins makes "a scriptural reason for baptism into the scriptural reason for it." Worse yet, he charges that such insistence turns baptism "into a partisan fetish." 18 Imagine, being accused of such things for teaching what Peter did!
Shelly proposes that a person will be saved if he knows that he is a lost sinner, that Christ is the only Savior, and that he must obey Him in sincere faith. 19 The question the reader might ask is, "Exactly what Scripture teaches this doctrine?" Beginning with John, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins was taught (Mark 1:4). The first time the gospel is preached on the day of Pentecost this divine purpose for baptism is also given (Acts 2:38). The people to whom John, Jesus, and the apostles preached all knew the purpose for baptism. There is not one Scripture, however, in which someone is taught, "Be baptized to obey Jesus." 20
Now why does Shelly desire to make the purpose of baptism irrelevant, if not to broaden the borders of the kingdom? And why, if someone later learned the appropriate purpose for baptism, would it be a problem for him or her to become immersed Scripturally, as so many have? The only discernible advantage is that with this system Shelly can call them "brethren," fellowship them, and speak in their assemblies.
Shelly also takes issue with knowing the purpose for baptism because it "places the responsibility for making baptism effective upon the person being baptized instead of God, thus making baptism an act of works-righteousness." 21 Hogwash! Baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Pet. 3:21), and the responsibility for making baptism effective does rest upon the person being baptized. Perhaps Shelly has forgotten that God is a rewarder of those "who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). Jesus has died on the cross, and God has preserved His word for us. There must be a spark of desire on our part to seek salvation. There must be a love of truth (2 The. 2:10). All need to "obey from the heart that form of doctrine" (Rom. 6:17). Shelly would have us believe that it is sooooo difficult to understand the purpose for baptism. If it were, many members of the body would not be brethren!
Shelly astounds us all by advocating: "We obey commands rather than purposes." 22 Is it this author's imagination, or does that statement sound legalistic? Imagine this conversation: "Why are you being baptized?" "There's a command." "But why is it commanded?" "I don't know and don't care." "But there must be a reason for doing it." "I'm just being obedient. If I obey God, He will be happy." "So you have no idea why you should be baptized?" "No. I don't need a reason." "Okay, Okay. What's the sword for?" "I have to cut off my right hand."
Not only is Shelly's position legalistic; it is foolish, to say the least. It defies the rules of Bible study that we all use--just to create a special case by which to increase membership in the Lord's church. His reasoning must be rejected; let us abide by the truth.
THE DECEPTION COMES TO FRUITION
Twelve years elapsed from the time that Just Want To Be a Christian was written and the occasion upon which Shelly gave a speech to the Spiritual Renewal Conference in Florence, Alabama on April 19, 1996. During those years he appeared at the Joplin Unity Summit and some of its successors, workshops, forums, and several denominational gatherings. He also has become editor of a publication called Wineskins (more will be stated about that later).
The last hundred pages of his book contained several articles and documents from some of the Restoration thinkers. Although not everything they said was accurate, much of their writing contained noble ideas. Has Shelly remained with those men and their ideas since 1984? Does he still agree with his own ideas that he set forth in that book? Let us see.
Shelly's topic at Florence was "God Calls for the Unity of His Body." In his book Shelly railed against sectarianism. The last hundred pages contains many articles opposed to sectarianism--among us or anyone else. Consider one sample of Shelly's writing.
If we want our religious neighbors to consider the plea for the restoration of New Testament Christianity and to come out of denominationalism into a non-sectarian fellowship, we are going to have to demonstrate that we are such a body of believers ourselves. 23
The above quotation makes it clear that non-sectarian Christianity is to be desired. First, we must be certain that we are genuinely non-sectarian, and then we can appropriately encourage others to leave their denominations. However, the new and improved (he must think) Rubel Shelly is no longer taking that approach. He thinks these people will only be satisfied by staying in their denominations. The following is from his Florence speech.
We will not lose our separate denominational identities, we will not give up our particular heritages and histories, we will not have to give up our distinctive practices with regard to our different organizational structures, worship, and so on. I see no need for that (page 4 of the manuscript).
I don't believe God ever called us to institutional unity, because for institutional unity to happen, we'd have to disregard the fact that our personalities, our wirings, our backgrounds are so diverse, and pretend they're all the same (7).
Churches, it's time for us to bury those dead fracases of the past, and to weep and in repentance to resolve that we will never again be party to the kind of sorry spectacle that we've shown the world when we would fragment and divide the body of Christ and make a mockery of Jesus' prayer that we be one (12).
Shelly has reinvented himself again. All the liberals who are still applauding the 1984 Shelly are "out of sync." According to the 1996 model, we need denominations because we are all different. Notice that in the second paragraph above Shelly addressed "churches." He is no longer advocating that people leave their denominations; instead, all should be united--by ignoring doctrine. How shameful that we have had the "desire to lock horns at the drop of a doctrine" (1).
Brethren, why have we not realized these "new truths" before? Why, Jesus or Paul would never have locked horns over a doctrine, would they (please excuse the sarcasm)? Surely it was not Jesus who said, "Beware of the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharisees" (Matt. 16:11-12), was it? Our Lord would not have accused a scribe or Pharisee of making his convert "twice as much a son of hell" as himself (Mat. 23:15), would he? Paul absolutely could not have told Timothy, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you" (1 Tim. 4:16), knowing how divisive doctrine can be, could he?
Shelly has discovered nothing new. His current doctrine is anything but original; many have observed the ways it parallels Ketcherside, Garret, Scott, Hook, and others. What it does not parallel is the New Testament. Unity is important; it may be that members of the body of Christ have not valued it as much as we should. But truth is also important; without a love of it, no one can be saved (2 The. 2:10). Truth involves doctrine. No one can get rid of one without destroying the other. Shelly and those who agree with him would not say they care nothing for truth, but when they denigrate doctrine, such is the result.
What about Shelly's statements about baptism? Remember his emphatic "there can be no spiritual fellowship between those in Christ and those outside his body"? Remember "For those in the body of Christ to extend spiritual brotherhood to anyone who has not yet become a child of God is for them to fail to acknowledge the divine principle of inclusion"? Remember his insistence that one can only become a Christian through "baptism in Jesus' name"?
Shelly has now fellowshipped the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, the Disciples of Christ, Pentecostals, and the Methodists, none of which is known for stressing baptism by immersion. Either Shelly is now accepting sprinkling for baptism, or baptism has become to him just another irrelevancy. Once he started downhill to accept the Baptists as brethren, he just could not bring himself to stop until he included all as brethren.
Just as Shelly has capitulated regarding doctrine, the nature of the church, and God's plan of salvation, one can not help wondering if he has also given up on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The magazine, Wineskins, of which he is editor, published an article written by Andre Resner entitled "Christmas at Matthew's House." The following excerpts are taken from that article. Resner thinks the "immaculate conception" refers to Jesus rather than to Mary, as the Catholics (who invented the doctrine) teach. The second quote below attempts to portray Ruth as sexually promiscuous. The final quotes refer to Mary.
For Matthew it begins in sexual scandal and it ends in political power plays. Before he can tell the scandal of Mary's "immaculate conception," he has to subtly remind us of other scandalous women. 24
And Ruth. . ."dear, sweet Ruth." Well, just what was she doing out there at the threshing floor at Boaz' feet? And why did he want her to stay there all night, yet leave before daylight, and not let anybody see her? Hmmm. 25
It's a sort of "Here we go again, folks. . ." Another sexually questionable woman. And what about Joseph's faith in the face of Mary's story? For it was he, who after a single dream, went ahead and married her. A dream that was real, yes, but still a dream. Could it have been a message from God? Or, could it have been his own imagination, his wanting to believe her so much that his subconscious produced a nocturnal justification for marrying her, even in the face of such an outlandish excuse? 26
How dare someone impugn either Ruth, whom everyone knew was a virtuous woman (Ruth 3:11), or Mary, who was a virgin at the time of Jesus' birth? Resner's treatment of these two women is nothing short of blasphemy, and if we were living under the Old Testament system, the author would be happy to throw the first stone!
But what of Rubel Shelly, who published the article, and (so far as is known) has never repudiated it? In I Just Want To Be a Christian he said there must be unity on the seven ones of Ephesians 4, one of which is "one Lord." Does Shelly not think that castigating the virgin birth of Jesus and insinuating that His father was someone other than the Holy Spirit would remove Him from being the Son of God? Stripped of His deity, how could Jesus possibly have been all of the things He claimed to be? The very foundation of the church is His Sonship (Matt. 16:13-18)!
How sad for one to evolve to such a high degree of spirituality (and education) that he no longer stands for any Biblical or Scriptural doctrine--not even the virgin birth and deity of Jesus. But, hey, just think of all the folks we can have unity with.
THE DECEPTION CONTINUES
Having given up all doctrine, Shelly would appear to have nowhere else to go, but he has already begun loosening his grip on morality. In his Florence speech he ridicules those who would dispute whether or not one should keep Bud Light in the refrigerator (10-11). He boasts about having "been to church fellowships where big pitchers of beer and bottles of wine are all down the table" (11). [Click to See His treating wine-drinking as a second order truth 10 times. kls]
From drinking it is a small step (probably a staggering one) to the gaming tables. After all, what harm can there be in a little gambling? Does the Bible specifically forbid it? Next fornication might become permissible, then adultery (but only in certain circumstances, of course), and homosexuality. With doctrine dead and buried, morality is the only realm left to target, and think of how many we can get into the kingdom with Bingo games, beer parties, and the sexual freedom that so many people crave. As some of those who built the gymnasiums grow older, look for those facilities to be made into taverns with game rooms.
Are these descriptions merely the work of an overwought imagination? 2 Peter 2 indicates that some have traveled this road before. They have, by promising liberty, made those who had escaped from moral pollutions slaves of corruption all over again. Could it happen again? Yes, and the perfect leader is someone who can change his doctrine with every new decade. Who knows what will happen in a new century?
1 Rubel Shelly, I Just Want To Be a Christian (Nashville, TN: 20th Century Christian, 1984), p. 83. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
2 Ibid. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
3 Ibid. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
4 Ibid., p. 91. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
5 Ibid. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
6 Ibid., p. 92. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
7 Ibid., pp. 93-94. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
8 A.C. Hervey, "Titus," The Pulpit Commentary, ed. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), 21:4:46.
9 Shelly, p. 94. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
10 Ibid., p. 96. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
11 Ibid., p. 90. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
12 Ibid., p. 94. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
13 Ibid., p. 97. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
14 For a full discussion of interpretations of this verse, see the author's chapter entitled "Is Open Division in the Church Over Liberalism Inevitable?" Studies in Matthew, ed. Dub McClish (Denton, TX: Valid Pub., Inc., 1995), pp. 647-673.
15 Shelly, p. 88. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
16 Ibid., p. 89. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
17 Ibid., p. 102. rubel shelly, I just want to be a Christian,
19 Ibid., pp. 104-105.
20 For a fuller treatment of this subject, see the author's chapter, "What Must One Know About Baptism for It To Be Valid?" Studies in Romans, ed. Dub McClish (Denton, TX: Valid Pub., Inc., 1996), pp. 595-623.
21 Shelly, p. 104.
22 Ibid., p. 106.
23 Ibid., p. 80.
24 Andre Resner, "Christmas at Matthew's House," Wineskins (Nov. 1992), p. 5.
25 Ibid., p. 6.
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "RUBEL SHELLY'S TEACHING ON FELLOWSHIP: AN ANALYSIS OF I JUST WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN."