Edited By: Brian A. Yeager
Volume V Issue XX February 13th, 2005
Is Your Conscience
Your Guide in Spiritual Matters?
(An Answer to Paul R. Blake's Article: "What are the Limits of Fellowship?")
By: Brian A. Yeager
Let your conscience be your guide, this is the call we are hearing from false teachers today. They want you to do what feels right and what makes your heart feel relieved of guilt. They are putting the conscience of man in place of the word of God to make decisions in matters of faith. There are many spineless Christians today who, instead of standing forthright for the truth, seek out ways to compromise.
Preachers often find ways to have unity in diversity instead of unity in truth. That spineless mentality is shown in how they reach to compromise instead of standing to defend the truth. It is sad what some will say to have fellowship with those teaching false doctrine in place of the truth. For example, one false teacher (Paul R. Blake) attempted to answer the question of fellowship on the current controversy of the “Second Putting Away”, by saying: “Therefore for me, fellowship decisions in each individual case will be informed by my conscience. And so it must be for you as well.” (“What are the Limits of Fellowship?”; Bulletin -Tomlinson Run church of Christ, Georgetown, PA; Nov. 21, 2004). Thus, you have a man who is wise in his own eyes justifying error by leaning upon his own conscience.
Is Trusting Thy Conscience Wise?
There are many men and woman among the church today who think they are wise. Solomon wrote: “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7). However, true wisdom is not of man, but of God. When Paul wrote the Corinthian brethren he was clear to declare that he did not speak from his wisdom so that their faith would stand in the Lord instead of the wisdom of men (I Corinthians 2:1-5). Men often think they have the best answers. Men think they can solve all kinds of problems. Thus, they trust their conscience to guide. I have to part with the wisdom of many men in this regard. I share in the words of wisdom that Jeremiah penned: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
The conscience of a man may be clear from things and still be wrong. The Jews were confident in allowing the blood of Christ to be on them and their children (Matthew 27:25). Their confidence did not remove the fact that they were murders (Acts 2:36). Things are not always the way they appear. One brother might think one way while another may concur with another way. Solomon deals with what seems right by saying: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).
The proof text of the unity in diversity movement shows that our conscience is not an effective guide. Paul wrote: “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs” (Romans 14:12). The conscience will not lead us to unity with brethren or the Lord. There is one system of faith (Ephesians 4:5), and that is not what you believe or what I believe. The system of faith from which we all should have unity is the word of God that fully equips us unto all good works (II Timothy 3:16-17). When the vegetarian decides to teach his restricted belief of his own conscience he is in error (I Timothy 4:1-4). Yet, many false teachers of our day disagree with the Lord. They believe that matters of conscience can be taught, even to the point of one saying the other is in error, and fellowship still maintained.
The Conscience Causes Error to Be Taught, What Then?
In the earlier referenced article by Paul R. Blake, he wrote: “A brother who believes that sisters must wear veils, that Christians may not serve in the armed forces, that the Holy Spirit bodily indwells the saint, or that local churches may not use the building for funerals and weddings, believes that brethren who disagree with him have erred on these issues. But he also understands that these brethren appeal to the same scriptures as he, that their doctrines do not lead to greater error (as have the instrument and the institution), and that they are willing to engage in honest Bible study on the issue.” Paul Blake and others like him are essentially affirming that you can fellowship brethren that you believe are teaching error. That is what he said. The issues that he uses for examples are other articles all together. However, what he is doing on the local setting, is writing an article defending his fellowship with a local false teacher named David Brewer. He is also defending, in that same article, the idea of fellowship with those who err on the “Second Putting Away” doctrine. This of course helps us in seeing why he is writing, what he has written.
Brewer teaches the literal, aside from the word of God, indwelling of the Holy Spirit (http://www.wordsoftruth.net/wordsoftruthbull08_08_2004.html). Likewise, he has been public in his teaching of the conscientious objector view and his binding of women wearing artificial coverings when worshipping God. Brewer takes his personal conscience and teaches his views to others. The Scriptures declare that he is in error (Matthew 15:1-9 and I Timothy 4:1-4). Since he has transgressed the teachings of Christ he is not in fellowship with God (II John 9). Thus, faithful Christians should not be in fellowship with him (II John 10-11). His doctrines are false, thus he must be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17-18).
Blake justifies his fellowship with erring brethren by abusing Romans 14 and then writing a doctrine of principles that you find NO WHERE within God’s word. He says: “Division is not inevitable when the following conditions exist: 1) when all brethren involved appeal to the same fundamental truths or laws given by Christ, 2) when all brethren involved appeal to positive, Biblically stated authority and not the “silence of scripture,” 3) when the different views held by brethren breed no looseness on other moral or doctrinal issues, and 4) when all brethren involved in the issue encourage open study and discussion of issues.” His first condition allows fellowship with liberals and even Baptists. The liberals teach general benevolence by twisting Galatians 6:10. The Baptists say that baptism is because of the remission of sins instead of FOR the remission of sins by twisting Acts 2:38. His second point essentially nullifies the importance of not speaking where God has not spoken (Deuteronomy 12:32; 29:29 and I Peter 4:11). His third point says as long as it does not lead to further error. First off, he denies that error eats like cancer (II Timothy 2:16-18). Secondly, any and all error breaches fellowship with God and the faithful (I John 1:7 and II John 9-11). Lastly, he says as long as we continue to have an attitude of study error is okay. WHAT? The Pharisees and Sadducees continued to discuss their false positions (Matthew 9:11; 12:1ff., Matthew 16:1ff., etc.), but the Lord did not excuse their errors. Blake is allowing time and audience to one who binds where God has not bound with his modified Ketcherside doctrine.
Brethren, like Paul R. Blake, who say that binding is not a great sin like loosing are simply ignorant of the word of God. One might challenge and say surely he does not believe as you charge. Ah, but in fact he does. I quote again from the earlier referenced article: “What does one do about fellowship with brethren who have taken more liberty in practice of the faith than what God has granted in scripture? There is no difficulty in having fellowship with brethren who restrict themselves more than God does. One is not permitted to judge a brother who will not eat meat (Romans 14:1-13). However, can one say to brethren who from his perspective have loosed where God has bound that they are in error (Romans 16:17-18)?” God shows us that error either to the right or the left is wrong (Deuteronomy 5:32 and Joshua 1:8-9).
Men may very well decide to allow their conscience to guide them in matters of faith. As for me, I know the word of God will be the standard by which I am judged (John 12:48). When men look to their conscience instead of God’s word, it is typically for a reason. Those men know that the word of God will convict their conscience of error if they look far enough into it. Men like Bill Cavender, Ron Halbrook, Weldon Warnock, and others are currently being accepted into fellowship by brethren who believe they are teaching error on divorce and remarriage. They use logic like that of Paul Blake’s. Read their works and see, they have no Scriptures to back up their errors. They can only twist and pervert Romans 14 which never allows fellowship with any false teacher! In fact, that text restricts teaching one’s conscience (Romans 14:3).
Preachers today should be focusing on teaching about the need to speak the same thing so that there would be no divisions within the body of Christ (I Corinthians 1:10). We should be teaching that we have to be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2:2). These things are the exact opposites of unity in diversity. We should be asking brethren “how long halt ye between two opinions” (I Kings 18:21)? Instead of insisting upon foolish discussions and allowing false teachers to go unmarked, we should reject these men if they will not hear sound rebuking (Titus 3:9-11). Amos posed a rhetorical question that solves the controversy on fellowship: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed” (Amos 3:3)? Some brethren have ignored Amos, Paul, Peter, and the author of the New Testament, Jesus Christ! Why? They lean on their own conscience, thus rejecting the word of God.