As noted in the first posting, this is an imaginary meeting, and not real. But, it is what I imagine my meeting with brother Pyles would be like were it to happen this March.
During lunch we chatted about personal things.
Stephen (after prayer) (we both had note pads to take notes)
Well, Sonny, what do you think about my statement that the Hardshell church lacks the chief mark of the church in lacking love?
Well, again, I think what you say about the lack of love among us, at least historically, is to some extent true. But, is it not true of other denominational groups of Christians? The Old Baptists have shown me nothing but the greatest of love. Some churches do lose their first love and become lukewarm in love for Christ and his people, but some churches do not lose this. I believe there is more love now in the Old Baptist church than at any other time. The early church had its Judas, its Demas, and other such persons members of the church, but they were still the church. The church at Galatia had numerous errors but were still the church, at least till they were confirmed in their heresies and were either excluded by the pure party or the pure party separated themselves from such. Further, I think you are judging the whole denomination based upon how a few treated you and your dad.
That is a good defense of my charge against the Hardshells about love. I of course do not make this judgment because of the presence of some Judas and Demas types among you, but because the lack of Christian love in your social group is inordinately great. But, at this time, this is my judgment call. I gave the reasons for such a judgment and, as I said, I think I can, and have done already to a great degree in my writings, prove this. Yes, other church groups have divisions, and their Judas and Demas types, but the schismatic nature of the Hardshells is, in my opinion as an historian, substantial and abnormal, and easily shown. But, perhaps we have both expressed ourselves on this point enough for now and perhaps go on to other things? Perhaps you will consider discussing this subject in depth at a later time?
Okay. God is our judge and we should discover his viewpoint in our individual cases any way. As far as debating these topics, I will have to prayerfully think it over.
I agree. Let me then respond to a couple things you mentioned earlier and to which I did not immediately respond. The first relates to my judgment about the Hardshells being a cult, which really is not totally unconnected with them lacking the love of Christ. The second relates to my relentless writings against the Hardshells and why I do not stop it and go on to something else. The third relates to my conduct among the Hardshells being the cause of my so called wandering from the path. The fourth relates to the origin of Satan controversy.
First, let me begin with the latter. First, I totally disagree with your view on this subject. I believe, like dad, that Satan, whose name was originally Lucifer, was one of the angels of God, even one of the highest, possibly even an archangel as Michael, and that the place of his abode as an angel, was in what the bible calls the third heaven. I believe that he sinned with other angels and fell therefrom. Further, I believe that this is taught in Scripture and has always been the leading view of the church. I know the Hardshells have historically had troubles over this issue and I have researched the question as an historian, looking for the time when the agitation over this question first began, and to follow the subsequent disputes about it. Now, it is not my intention for us to argue this question now as this would be impractical. It would take too much of our precious time together now, which should be spent discussing other more important issues. But, I think the issue should be fully debated in the future and so I ask you to also prayerfully consider debating this subject with me in the future and that it be published over the Internet.
Again, I will prayerfully consider it and also see what the brethren think of the idea. But, as you know, I do not believe that you or your dad's view on the origin and fall of Satan should have been made a test of fellowship as was done by some. I disagree with you and your dad's view, but I don't think it is a test of orthodoxy. Many did not come to your dad's defense, not because they thought he should be declared in disorder for his view, but because they thought he was getting what he deserved with his popish and argumentative spirit. Also, how your dad handled this controversy did not help his case.
I knew you felt this way and that your thinking was that of a large segment of the Hardshells in regard to this "origin of Satan controversy" or "devil doctrine controversy." I do not want to judge each Hardshell elder who had anything to do with this controversy other than what I have already said, either in my blog writings or in my book on the Hardshell cult. As you said earlier about our judgments regarding the absence or presence of love, God is our judge. To our own Lord we stand or fall. However, I do want to say this. Just as the lack I love that I observed among the Hardshells first started me on the road of actually leaving the Hardshells, so this controversy over what the bible taught about the Devil and his origin also helped me in making that departure. I was becoming alarmed at the kind of bible hermeneutics that I was seeing among the Hardshells. I saw it in Cayce's Editorials, I saw it in other Hardshell writings. They were gross spiritualizers, a thing I have also heard you warn Hardshells against, as well as did Sylvester Hassell. I see that all their errors result from bad rules of bible interpretation, and oftentimes, sadly, this itself is a result of simply not believing what the bible says, which leads to the twisting of the meaning of biblical words and sentences to make the verse say what they want it to say.
You know, this "devil doctrine" controversy and schism should be called what it is, a "scandal" in the sense used by the new testament writers. The history of the Hardshell denomination is nothing but one of scandals, and such springs from a lack of love, either for God, his truth, or his people. Many Hardshell cult leaders have used religious politicking and the art of scandalizing in their fights for local supremacy.
Again, like Jason Brown told you, a lot of what you say is true. But, you go overboard and paint with a broad brush. What you say about bad rules of interpretation, scandals, and lack of love, is true with many groups other than Primitive Baptists. We never claimed to be perfect. We confess our faults and weaknesses. But, the Primitive Baptists are the only ones today who properly interpret the scriptures consistently, especially about the doctrines of grace, Our forefathers were a mixed group, as you know, and it took time for the church to purify herself, which I think, she has done, so that she is purer in doctrine and practice than ever before.
Again, I suppose it all involves degree. I dare say that even the most honest and sincere student of the word will sometimes fail in his interpretation of certain portions of scripture. The only one who was without error in the doctrine of God was the Lord Jesus Christ. So, that being said, to what degree do we, either as a church or individual, practice perverting or misinterpreting the word of God? It is the same as the question that we just discussed. How much of the love of Christ is operative or seen in my life? So, my judgment is that the Hardshells are extremely lacking in both the love of Christ and proper rules of bible interpretation and exegesis. So, let me go on.
In regard to my charge that the "Primitive Baptist" church is a cult, you responded by saying that you agree that there are cult qualities that have sometimes characterized the Hardshells, but deny that they can in fact be a cult because you have no recognized cult leader or group of leaders, and because no one is forced to enter the group or to stay in it. However, these traits are not necessarily essential to the definition of a religious cult, depending of course upon how we define "cult leader(s)" and "forced."
I believe that the Hardshell church has always had its cult figures and leaders (standard bearers, we might say). Further, I believe that the Hardshell Baptists have used "force" to keep members in line and from leaving the group, such as brainwashing, threatening, shunning, etc.
You know as well as I do, brother Sonny, although you might not say so publicly, that many divisions among the Hardshells have been over feuding preachers fighting for the supremacy. If you think that dad was guilty of this to the degree that it justified his ill treatment by many, was he not simply following in the Hardshell tradition in this regards? I write in my book about Elders John Robbins and C.M. Mills, who I think clearly show them to be supremacy seekers, or little popes in their region of influence. You knew them. They were cult leaders. Even W.J. Berry, who you also know about, testified of these things being the case with the Hardshells historically.
Who can doubt that Cayce was a cult leader? Even you and Elder Bradley have become such. I am not saying that you openly sought it like the ones I am talking about, but you are such nonetheless.
Again Stephen you paint with too wide a brush being too harsh in your criticisms. We have had our Diotrephes like people But, that does not prove that we are not the true church of Christ by the presence of these things. You cannot judge the whole by the few. God will take care of these kinds of troublemakers in the church, whether we do it or not. They will sooner or later eat the fruit of their own ways.
As regards our preachers being guilty of over spiriualizing or allegorizing the scriptures, many of them are guilty of this and I battle this whenever I can like Hassell.
Now let me respond to your questions about my prolonged writings against the Hardshells and why I do not stop my apologetic writings against them and your accusation that I write out of anger against the Hardshells, being disgruntled, and that this is the only reason I do it.
Jason Brown asked sarcastically "Did Brother Garrett, while among the Primitive Baptists, approach these issues with humility and patience? Or was he as much as a firebrand then as he appears to be on his blog now? As a young Elder among the PB's in the early 80's, did Elder Stephen Garrett intreat the older Elders with the same respect he would his father, as the Scripture commands?"
Sonny, I must confess, that when I first read this from brother Jason that I immediately thought that this sounds like Sonny Pyles. I thought, is Jason repeating the substance of Sonny's view of my situation with the Hardshells. Only you know for sure brother Sonny. But, it really does not matter. Jason got this view of me from somewhere. He was no eyewitness to it so got it hearsay. But, from what source or sources?
Now, Sonny, you know in truth that though this may be true to some extent, for I am fallible, especially in those youthful years, yet you also personally witnessed to me, during our years of fellowship and correspondence together in the late seventies and early eighties, during those very times when I was supposedly a firebrand, proud, and impatient, etc.? Did you not say such things to me personally by way of commendation that contradicts this story?
What Jason says is pretty much my view of your situation, but it was not my estimation alone but that of many others. Of course I spoke well of you. You did not have all bad qualities. You were always cerebral and intellectual, and studied the scriptures diligently, and you did exercise some good common sense at times, as well as patience, in much of your tribulations while with us. I am not excusing the guilt of anyone who sought to do you no good. All I am saying is that things might have turned out better for you, as far as your future with us was concerned, had you had those qualities mentioned by Jason.
Well, brother, I am glad that I was not coddled by the Hardshells. I might be with them to this day. But, thankfully, my years of praying for the Lord to show me the truth, no matter what it cost me with my standing in the Hardshell cult, was rewarded by God providentially weaning me away from the cult. He did this, as I said, by first showing me how they lacked that Christian love that characterizes the church of Christ, or faithful disciples, and by showing me how they were dishonest with the holy scriptures in perverting them without the least degree of guilt in doing so. So, my difficulties with the Hardshells were used by God to detach me emotionally from this cult group. And, I look back on it all with tears of joy and thanksgiving. I am so much happier now. I am more careful with how I handle the word of God after years of being with those who had little respect for it by their interpretations.
You Sonny, like Lasserre, have been coddled by the Hardshells. They put you both forward as examples of the state of their ministry, proudly saying "see there, our preachers are superior to seminary preachers." See how they became great preachers without a theological education! It is no wonder that you all are careful not to preach anything that will hurt your superior standing among the cult fellowship.
Again, Stephen, that is a lot to respond to. Can we take a short break and resume?
Yes, surely. Let us take a walk around the yard, if you like, seeing the weather is pleasant, and then sit on the porch and have some refreshments. What time is brother ## coming to pick you up?
In a couple hours.