Authority, Order and Motivation
About ten years ago (July 1996) Robert Harrison, one of the chief spokesmen for RAG, Inc. on the east coast, published a study with the poignant title Authority, Order and Motivation. From his concluding prayer on the last page we can readily discern what motivated this treatise: 1) Their assemblies were experiencing problems with unity and peace. 2) The devil was spreading his wiles among the flock, which the saints didn’t “understand” and couldn’t “effectively” handle. 3) Leadership was timid in not “dealing with contentions in an orderly and timely manner.”4) And they, especially “the young in faith,” must learn to rest “under God-ordained authority during conflicts.” Reflecting back to what happened ten to twenty years earlier (1976-1986), Mr. Harrison said, “Each of us, who had the opportunity [sic!] to live through those experiences, should spend time reflecting on what lessons we should have learned.”
It is not coincidental that those years saw the rise to power of Jack Langford in Texas and Robert Grove in Virginia. That’s when “the leaven of the Pharisees” began rearing its ugly head. This new generation of “leaders” thought they could manage the church better than their predecessors and began the move toward centralization of control. And ominous things began to happen. That is the era Mr. Harrison was referring to, and now storm clouds were looming on the horizon once again. But the lesson this man “should have learned” has somehow tragically eluded him. “Insubordinate behavior,” he maintains, is one of the fruits of the devil, and the “essence of disobedience is the denial of the order imposed on us by just authority. The just authority,” he says, “is God Himself and those duly appointed by Him to order our life.” In such words the agenda has been announced, the indoctrination has begun, the mind-conditioning of “the young in faith” has been put into motion, and Robert D. Harrison, Jr. has verbalized and fully endorsed once again use of the same “Agent Orange” that wrought so much devastation years ago.
Harrison advocates the same brand of toxic impurity as always but he introduces it in a more subtle, cunning manner. In a magnificent display of pseudo-scholarship (requiring a smattering of mental-acuteness to understand) he expounds the necessity of recognizing, obeying and submitting to God’s “delegated authority” in directing “the lives of His people.” Sound familiar? Yes. But our wily friend doesn’t couch it in familiar language and he mixes in just enough Scripture to give his arguments an aura of spirituality. Not having attended any of “the Harrison meetings” as he toured the country and spread his gospel of “orderly following,” I can’t speak with authority on the general reaction of those in attendance on the west coast, but I do know of a few who had mixed-reactions and others who took what they heard with a few grains of salt. For one family in particular it was the “last straw!” In a widely circulated letter last year another said that “a witch doctor wrote ‘Orderly Following’ to keep the natives in submission.” It seems, however, with the exception of a few dissenting voices, the majority of RAG’s followers prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves and at least give the appearance of being obedient to Harrison’s dictates. So, without any further introduction, let’s examine a few of his more culpable arguments.
A Toxic Faith !
Hold it a minute! Before we get too involved in the details of this paper—trivial though they may be—I must admit that I am approaching this task with a certain loathing. It’s not something I want to do; I would rather just ignore it. Why do I feel that way? In answer one must only make a cursory reading of the document to understand. Harrison writes as if he comes from a completely different Christian culture, a delusional world which has drifted far from reality. One can easily detect the disintegration of a real faith into a harmful belief system. Speaking frankly, it’s an extremely difficult one to respond to without using expletives or resorting to expressions other than meaningful. But it’s a dangerous document; it’s toxic and it must be exposed!
Last night the bold, red letters of a book on the shelf caught my eye. It read: TOXIC FAITH. On the back cover were emblazoned the words: “Toxic faith is a destructive and dangerous relationship with a religion that allows the religion, not the relationship with God, to control a person’s life.” This morning I want to quote the first three paragraphs of the second chapter, titled: What Is Toxic Faith and Religious Addiction?:
Toxic faith is a destructive and dangerous relationship with a religion, not the relationship with God, to control a person’s life….It is a defective faith with an incomplete or tainted view of God. It is abusive and manipulative and can become addictive. It becomes so central to the person’s life that family and friends become insignificant compared to the need to uphold the false beliefs. Those with toxic faith use it to avoid reality and responsibility. It often results in a perfectionist existence; people are driven to perform and work in an attempt to earn their way to heaven or at least to gain favor with God. Like other addictions, its persistent use to alter moods produces adverse consequences, but the addicted continue to pursue the addiction.
Toxic faith has nothing to do with God. It has everything to do with men and women who want to concoct a god or faith that serves self rather than honors God. In short, toxic faith is an excuse. It is an excuse for an abusive husband to mistreat his wife because he believes God would want her to submit to him as if he was God. It is an excuse to put off dealing with the pain in life. It is an excuse to wait for God to do what He wants you to do. It provides a distraction through compulsive “churchaholism” or religious ritual.
Toxic faith is also a counterfeit for the spiritual growth that can occur through a genuine relationship with God. The toxic faithful find a replacement for God. How they look becomes more important than who God is. Acts of religion replace steps of growth. A façade is substituted for a heart longing to know God. The façade forms a barrier between the believer and God, leaving the believer to survive with a destructive addiction to religion.
Harrison is intoxicated with the need to control people, to exercise unchallenged authority. That is the simple, unvarnished premise of his paper. He may be accurately described as the ultimate team player, in this case the one who manipulates, plots, and plans to aid and abet the chief leader, Robert Grove, in power and position. They work as a unit; they operate as one. He is not the passive follower. He feeds Robert’s ego, is loyal and supportive of him in every way. He is the most dangerous kind of follower because he is just as driven and misguided. And because he is close to Robert, people trust him.
Harrison’s influence on Mr. Grove is most apparent in the power-point presentation Preserving and Protecting the Heritage which Robert also toured the country with in 2002. This was also a propaganda message designed to puff up the current “faithful ministers” serving RAG, Inc., enhancing their collective authority in the process.
You will detect as you follow his reasoning (if you have the fortitude to do so!) that he places their leaders at a level above all others in the church. They have a special anointing, a special understanding of God’s word and are ahead of others in spiritual growth. Lest the toxic faithful be not fully convinced, Harrison assures them that God “chooses those that He has prepared and equipped to be in authority because He has been in control of their walk due to their submission to His ways.” Even the most extreme Calvinist might gasp at that one! Harrison labels those men in leadership, who, he says, have been “duly appointed by [God] to order our life,” as just authorities. Please note this! Not once in God’s word are those in leadership in the body of Christ described in such a way! The word just (Greek: dikaios) is most often translated righteous, and is descriptive of all who are related to God by belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. The only religious authorities described as righteous or just by Jesus Christ were the Pharisees. They were authorities because they had “seated themselves in the chair of Moses” but they only appeared righteous (dikaios) outwardly. (Matt. 23:2, 27-28). Luke records a parable (apropos here) about the Pharisee and the Publican where the words righteous and just are both used. It should be noted that both the KJV and NIV translations of Hebrews 13:17 have serious flaws. The six words “them that have the rule over” in the KJV translate the single Greek word hegeomai which simply means “to lead or go before.” In the NIV the words “to their authority” do not appear in any Greek text; they were supplied merely as an interpretive judgment of the translators.
Self-Denial = Orderly Following
AO&M (also known as Orderly Following) is divided into two parts, basically principles and examples. In part one he identifies principles having to do with authority, order and motivation. In part two these principles are applied to “actual assembly experiences.” The cardinal principle he wishes to establish is that God has imposed on us in the church just authorities to order our lives and to whom we must subjugate ourselves! The second principle he wishes to instill in his readers is that there are motivating factors within each believer that are “anti-authority in nature.” It follows that any resistance to this divinely imposed delegated authority over our lives must be Satanic in origin. The culprit that enables the deceiver to have his way is self-exaltation, which Harrison breaks down into self-righteousness and self-will. The former is the essence of deception, he implies, while the latter is “conscious and deliberate disregard for the will of the LORD.” Both of these motivations are contrary to “the factor of self-denial,” which is to be “understood to be a walk in which we put the Lord first in our life ahead of ourselves.” He spends several pages talking about making good decisions, seeking counsel, checking motivation and developing humility, all of which may be good advice if you can understand what he is saying. As we shall see, though, when translated this really means humbling ourselves as the necessary prerequisite for recognizing and submitting to authoritative church overlords!
Harrison says, “We must recognize God’s authority first as LORD of the life of a Christian. Then, and only then, will it be clear that He also has ordained authority in others.” Even the unregenerate recognize that authority exists in nearly every aspect of their lives and that they must be submissive to it or suffer the consequences. But Harrison’s sophistic approach is to condition the minds of young Christians that leaders in the church are to be obeyed and submitted to just like civil authorities, employers or slave masters. He says: “They are to be obeyed because that is pleasing to [God], not because the individual merits it. This is very important to understand and truly believe.” But suppose a Christian has reservations about subjugating himself to a certain leader and believes that God would not want him to violate his own conscience. Harrison retorts that this is “merely ‘leaning unto our own understanding’…which is explicitly rejected in the Scriptures.” He also says that “believing our heart is deceitful.”
Harrisonhas now denied the believer—who may not be as versed or skilled in God’s word as others—the God-given protection and refuge of the testimony of a convicting conscience and a sincere heart. In summary, anyone who rejects Harrison’s concept of authority in the church has a “seared conscience,” a “deceived heart” and has “wrested God’s word to their own destruction.” Furthermore, “they act in denial of God’s order for our lives,” he charges, and “become castaway from usefulness to the assembly.” Familiar words, indeed, to many of us, but typical of a cult leader’s mentality.
In his quest to label all dissenters as disorderly,
Harrisondoes what all authoritarian legalists are prone to do: undermine the Biblical principles of grace and liberty. Equating those words with “the current flood in our society of ‘rights-seeking’ individuals,” he says:
Christians are equally susceptible to these siren calls because our old man is always wanting to have the final say in our lives. “Rights” seeking is the essence of a sectarian spirit. The license to do whatever one chooses and still be regarded as spiritual. The message from a sectarian heart is usually laced with “grace” and “liberty in Christ” phrases that promote “I” can do whatever “God” directs me to. And you have no right to judge me or condemn my “liberty”. “Rights” seeking here is manifested by insubordinate behavior. This is manifestly different from making appeals to a higher authority while maintaining orderly behavior.
I suppose the apostle Paul was “susceptible to these siren calls,” catering to his “old man” and manifesting his “sectarian spirit” when he promoted his “rights” in the letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9, NIV or NAS):
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?....If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
Paul went on, however, to express the principle of abnegation that he was practicing: “But I have not used any of these rights….I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast.” That principle is the right to relinquish or give up certain rights if one chooses. But when things got desperate for Paul in Jerusalem, he chose to exercise his “rights” as a Roman citizen.
To support his statement, Harrison quotes 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20; 7:23 and Romans 6:18, 22, not because these passages may be remotely related to the subject, but merely because a few words in them sound good. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and Romans 6:18, 22 have to do with sexual immorality, sins against our bodies. Surely that’s not Harrison’s concern in this document. Paul states clearly that “All other sins a man commits are outside his body.” The other reference (1 Cor. 7:23) should be an enigma to Harrison. Even if it is germane to the subject, it is certainly detrimental to his thesis. He even highlights the second clause as it appears in the KJV: “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” As the footnote in the NIV Study Bible says: “Christians in all stations of life should realize that their ultimate allegiance is not to men but to Christ, who bought them with his blood.”
But note especially Harrison’s jab at those who express appreciation for God’s grace and the freedom they have in Christ: “The message from a sectarian heart is usually heavily laced with ‘grace’ and ‘liberty in Christ’ phrases that promote ‘I’ can do whatever ‘God’ directs me to. And you have no right to judge me or condemn my ‘liberty.’” His use of the terms “sectarian spirit” and “sectarian heart” must be directed at those Christians outside the confines of his camp since he and his followers claim to be impervious to such Adamic tendencies. More telling is the fact that the Biblical concepts of grace and liberty are unfamiliar truths to most of RAG’s followers. As long as legalism and authoritarian leaders hold sway over their lives, they will hunger and thirst for these two precious gifts from God. Harrison’s blindness is amazing! Without grace Christianity is nothing. Without liberty a Christian remains in bondage to sin, unable to live as God pleases.
A few more words about grace and liberty are needful here before we go on. Grace is an inseparable part of the Christian life. It vitally affects us in every way. We were saved by Grace (Eph. 2:8). Our Lord and Savior is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) and we abide in Him. We are not under law, but have been placed under grace (Rom. 6;14). “The grace of God that brings salvation….teaches us.” (Titus 2:11-12) But Harrison is more concerned by the fact that grace can be abused (Rom. 6:15), so he puts his followers back under law. Paul, however, chose to teach the truth about the glorious benefits of grace (Rom.6:16-23).
Liberty is the exact opposite of bondage. It is a position of freedom from restraint. The difference between faith and works or liberty and bondage is the heart of the gospel. Our Lord said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free….If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:32,36) Paul was so adamant about this liberty that he told the Galatians: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1) He was incensed when some false brothers came among the believers in Antioch to spy on the freedom they had in Christ Jesus and tried to bring them into bondage. “We did not give in to them for a moment,” he said, “so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.”(Gal. 2:4,5)
And, Mr. Harrison, neither will we give in to you for a moment when you scoff at our liberty in the Lord Jesus Christ! You are afraid of liberty, dear sir, because you look upon it as license to do as one pleases. Rather, it places the child of God in the position of being able to do as God pleases, a freedom we did not have as unregenerate persons. You, contrary to our Heavenly Father, consider grace and freedom too risky. The fear of their abuse is what causes you to refrain from emphasizing them in the lives of your followers. As a result you emphasize works, performance lists for people to live up to, leaving no room for gray areas. Thus the judgmental attitudes toward those who may not agree with them. Years ago many of us—whom you use as examples in Section Two of your study—saw the bewitching process taking place in the assemblies we were part of, and we chose not to give in for a moment. Is that what you call “disorderly behavior”?
“Recognizing Delegated Authority”
“Our duty,” Harrison says, “Is to obey those that God has placed in positions of authority over His people.” He lists government officials, employers, husbands over wives, parents over children and leadership in the church. To that list we could add slaves, of whom there are many in the world. He makes no attempt, however, to distinguish between authority administered in society in general (government, employers, family) and the nature of authority in the body of Christ. In fact, he merely assumes the primary meaning of the word authority, without taking into consideration its various contextual meanings which include the unofficial power and respect due to one’s personal influence because of their proven character and ability. For a clear perspective on authority and the function of leadership in the church we must depend on God’s word, not modern English dictionaries. We tend to import pre-formed meanings and connotations into our reading of the Bible. There is another alarming fact about Mr. Harrison’s twenty two page presentation: he quotes at length and makes reference to over seventy Bible passages, but not once does he attempt to expound a single one! Most readers, intimidated by such profusion of “proof texts,” merely assume their relevance.
In support of his statement that “our duty is to obey those that God has placed in positions of authority”, he references several passages (Eph. , 6:1;
13:1-7; Titus 3:1 and Eph. 6:5-6) to cover the marriage relationship, the home, human government and employment. In regard to church leadership he lists Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Th. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 3:4-5 and Heb.13:7,17. As pointed out above Harrison inexcusably equates authority exercised by Christian leaders with that wielded by government powers and secular employers. It follows that in his entire treatise any reference to Matthew 20:25-28 is conspicuous by its absence. It would not be unfair for me to surmise that this passage attacks many of his ingrained presumptions and mistaken notions about leadership in the body of Christ. Our understanding of the authority “delegated” to leaders in the church, as depicted in the above listed Scriptures, must be guided and moderated by our Lord’s words here. He states clearly and succinctly that the authority given to a leader in the body of Christ is that of a servant: Rom.
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
“Not So With You!”
In a letter dated May 29, 1985, Robert Grove objected to my use of Mathew 20:25, claiming it was “not specifically written for this church age today,” that “this is a far cry from the question of submission or obedience to God ordained leadership in this age,” and that it “has nothing to do with leadership in the church.” In the same breath he added: “It is an exhortation that all of us can apply to ourselves as to the attitude we should have of serving one another, not wanting to promote ourselves.” Need we wonder why Mr. Harrison didn’t bother referring to Christ’s words on the subject of authority spoken to his apostles? What is it about this passage (found also in Mk. 10:42-45 & Lk. 22:25-30) that one of these men seemed determined to suppress and the other seems intent upon ignoring?
The Robert twins are always quick to utilize 2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 15:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:11 when they want to make an application from scriptures in the Old Testament. Must I remind them that the words of Christ recorded in the gospel accounts were spoken under the Old Testament dispensation and therefore also qualify for the purpose of application (Gal. 4:4,5). On the day of Pentecost Peter may have thought they were about to enter into the kingdom age, but after thirty years or more, nearing the end of his service, he surely realized that he had been functioning in the “church age”. In writing to all the believers in Asia Minor, he appealed to the elders among them, as a fellow elder in the body of Christ, reiterating the words of Christ: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers…not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” Etched on Peter’s mind were the metaphors the Lord used about being a shepherd of God’s flock and feeding the sheep (John 10 & 21:15-17) and His warning about how the rulers and high officials of the Gentiles exercised authority. Peter knew that for a servant to attempt to use such a command authority calls forth one of the Lord’s most powerful rebukes: “NOT SO WITH YOU.”
Read the Lord’s words again in Matthew 20. The passage states it clearly: the secular ruler is “over” those he leads. But the servant is “among” them. Here diakonos does not mean “minister” (KJV) as in modern church use. One of the ironies of language is that a word like “minister,” which in its roots refers to a helper, has become a badge of honor and power in religion and even politics. Compare Robert A. Grove Ministries, Inc. Can you imagine a servant in the body of Christ incorporating his own service? But Christ doesn’t allow the full force of His teaching to be lost. In v.27 He repeats it with the stronger word “slave” or “bond-servant” (doulos), which the apostles dutifully adopted (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 9:19; 2 Cor. 4:5; Phil. 1:1; Ja. 1:1; 1 Pet. 2:16; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1).
Secular rulers “lord it over” and “exercise authority” over others. This is a command-type of authority, which tells others what to do and demands conformity of behavior. But we cannot imagine a servant entering a household where he is assigned and issuing commands. Example, not command, is the primary mode through which the servant leads. The servant shows rather than tells. Servants must rely on an inner response in those they influence. Without the power to coerce behavior, they must seek the free choice of the ones they lead. The one style achieves behavioral conformity; the other style achieves heart commitment. The most striking and significant element in the Lord’s words, however, that separate the “secular ruler” from the “servant-leader” style of leadership is His simple statement: “Not so with you.” It’s the servant style of leadership that ultimately brings victory in Christ’s church. Only a change of heart and behavior, never a change of behavior alone, will mark the victory God seeks to win in the lives of His people.
The “PDSSC Ministry”
We must turn our attention back to the four passages Harrison listed to support the need to obey those whom God has placed in positions of authority in the church. But allow me to digress briefly. Mind you, please do not be so accommodating as to take Harrison’s words at face value. As another has implied, you can twist [words] to fit your agenda. The two “Roberts,” like Humpty Dumpty, are masters at that. I merely warn you now, but as we shall see later, these two men essentially teach that only leaders in their little “viable representation of Christ’s body” have God-given authority. Robert Grove’s power-point presentation titled Preserving and Protecting the Heritage was no doubt spawned by this study of Harrison’s. The lineage is too obvious. In it Robert focused on the topic “Faithful Ministry,” which he claimed was in serious jeopardy. The problem? “SELF-DECEPTION,” he says. “We [meaning: his followers] have a desperately wicked heart that Satan uses to convince us not to do what we know would be pleasing to God” [that is: obey leadership!]. In short, they were walking down the path of self-deception, while “at the same time believing that they are right with the Lord.”
The cure? “This is why we need FAITHFUL MINISTRY,” Robert says. God “uses his Holy Spirit through ministry (admonish, rebuke, exhort, warn, command, sharpness) to help us with our old nature.” Not once in his repertoire of 81 slides does he hint that the Holy Spirit functions in any other way than through their current leadership! “Faithful ministry,” slide number 8 says, “is: a) Sound words. b) True to the scriptures. c) Wounds when necessary [and when unnecessary I might add!]. d) Reproves & rebukes. e) Uses sharpness. f) Not afraid to exercise their authority. Allows no one to despise them.” When “defined by God’s word,” however, he insists it is “pointed, direct, specific, strong, convincing.” His last slide features some sort of reformed Slovakian acronym: PDSSC MINISTRY! How did Robert come up with all these commanding verbs and forceful modifiers that characterize “faithful ministry” as he perceives it? He selected 18 passages from the epistles and merely underlined the words and phrases that suited his agenda, ignoring everything else. Then he projected a slide that read “Are you uncomfortable? Did you experience any discomfort or uneasiness as we went through those verses and definitions?” He then made it clear that such were the “thoughts and attitudes by those who departed from God and us 18+ years ago.”
Those of us who “departed from God” and the group back then were “uncomfortable” and uneasy with the PDSSC style of leadership Robert says. We charged them with being “too controlling, dictatorial, overlords, rulers,” he said. “We are the heads of our homes and leadership takes too much on themselves,” he charged us with crying. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own heart,” we begged. “Obey leadership right or wrong,” we accused them of demanding. “Have you ever thought or heard this?” he asked: “Ministry should minister the finest, the best, then allow the Holy Spirit to work.” His answer: “How does this compare with verses we looked at (charge, rebuke, exhort, sharpness, convince)?” Well, at least we now know that Robert has an accurate recollection of our appeals, which affected him like water off a duck’s back. But Jim Maurer reacted differently. Robert quotes him as saying: “The continual attack of being called overlords, dictators, heavy handed, the ‘leadership group’ took a toll on our thinking. It took several years for us to realize that we weren’t wrong. Their influence effected [sic] us.” It apparently took several years for Grove’s and Harrison’s persuasive powers to recondition Jim’s mind! How would they accomplish that? Well, partly by spreading slanderous tales such as “by looking at the spiritual decline & shameful results in the families of men who have embraced all or part of the [above contentions].”
Some of the headings on Robert’s closing slides read like this: NOT GUILTY! ACTION NEEDED! WHAT CAN BE DONE? I quote at length from the latter (with a few inserts for added clarity):
Submit to and obey the current leadership we now have. [or else!] “Orderly following.” [or “disorderly discharge”]
Encourage those taking lead now to be MORE pointed, MORE direct, MORE specific, MORE strong, MORE convincing—as the Holy Spirit would lead them in resisting the increase of evil and seducing spirits! [Rehoboam’s attitude recycled! Read 1 Kings 12:3-15]
Defend the one LEADING! [defend those who have robbed you of your freedom!] Stand beside, in front of, in back of and on the other side when they take the fiery darts of the wicked one! [and just hope that they reciprocate!]
If we haven’t defended leadership in the past and we see this now—whether young, middle aged or older—now would be a good time to acknowledge this. [publicly, of course, so we can make it a matter of record!]
By acknowledging these failures, we [Robert means “you”] will be right with God [Robert means “leadership”] and helping to preserve and protect the heritage. [Robert means “the leadership”]
“Serving Our Own Belly”
Section Two of Harrison’s manifesto is devoted to an analysis of some of the “deceptive arguments” that “many brethren” in “the distant past” used to produce “discord and division.” Support for these “very persuasive” arguments clearly “requires a wresting of the scriptures,” he says, adding that “those who do wrest the scriptures, do it to their own destruction.” Harrison, of course, has in mind those of us who dissented from the ecclesiastical authoritarianism and legalism that was permeating assembly life in the early eighties. To dauntingly impress his disciples (many of whom were just “babes” then) he paints a sordid picture of our demeanor by referring to such verses as 2 Peter 3:16, James 1:8, Romans 16:18 and 2 Timothy 3:13.
We can be fairly certain what in Paul’s epistles Peter considered hard to understand. He was referring to “these things” that he had just covered in verses 1 through 14 (cf. v.14), which the prophets, the Lord and Savior, the apostles and Paul had also spoken about. Mr. Grove was capable of hurling some pretty hostile epithets—he claimed that we had left God, and even singled out a few to be cast into the sea with millstones about their necks—but Harrison doesn’t hesitate to classify us among the lustful mockers of verse 3 and the ignorant and unstable of verse 16. It matters not, apparently, that those men Peter was referring to were twisting and misconstruing, distorting and misinterpreting to their own utter destruction the subject matter of predictive prophecy. The unlearned or untaught (Gr. Amathes) means here a non-Christian. It is a rare word meaning literally “not a learner,” and is the opposite of “disciple” (Gr. Mathetes), a learner or pupil. In the N.T. mathetes means more than a mere pupil or learner. It is the designation given to those who believed on Christ (John 8:31). Compare 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2:14. Harrison doesn’t venture into verse 17, but these same men are called lawless and wicked by Peter.
Harrison continues with his sordid portrayal of those of us who refused to accept the barnyard propaganda Jack “Snowball,” John “Squealer” and Robert “Napoleon”—with the platoon of puppies he was secretly training to be vicious “guard dogs”—were spewing out in the mid eighties. I make no apologies for the seeming disrespectful allusions to Robert, Jack and John. Nor am I trying to be funny. Nor do I want to speak evil of them. But I must remind myself and you that we are dealing here with the pernicious teaching of professed leaders that gets progressively worse. Cult leaders notoriously denigrate dissenters to protect their turf and strike fear into the hearts of their followers and we can expect the same from RAG, Inc.
To the epithets unlearned or untaught, he adds the double minded and unstable of James 1:8, the very familiar servants…of their own belly of Romans and the evil men and imposters, deceiving and being deceived of 2 Timothy . With the possible exception of the passage in James all these verses deal with enemies of the gospel, not Christian brethren, and for that reason Harrison’s argumentation is gross misrepresentation. Even the man with “two souls” in James is “unstable in ALL his ways,” a characteristic not true of most of the men and women who stood together in 1985 and 1986. Not a single individual among us was “marked” for immorality (or even the nebulous sin of “worldliness”) during that time of “house cleaning!”
Those “slaves…of their own appetites” who use “smooth and flattering speech” to “deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” are also described in Philippians ,19. Paul said that he often spoke of them, “and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction.” He referred to them in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 22 as “false apostles, deceitful workers…Hebrews.” In Galatians he described them as “the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus to bring us into bondage.” That Paul would be moved to weep because of them is poignantly explained in Romans 9:1-5.
Christians can certainly be deceived, and I suppose there are a few who after having peddled their own false doctrine so long, would eventually become ensnared by it personally. But one would be hard pressed to prove that the evil men and impostors of 2 Timothy 3:13 refer to believers. Verse 13 appears in a context that describes the evils characterizing unbelievers in the last days, men who have been “rejected as regards the faith” (v.8). It cannot be said with certainty that the word poneeros (evil, wicked) is ever used to describe a child of God. A Christian may commit evil acts but when such “fruit” characterizes a person’s life, we must assume it comes from a bad tree. Paul was careful in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 to refer to that wicked man as a “so-called brother,”(NASB) or one who calls himself a “brother” but whose life is dominated by sin. The term is used many times to describe Satan and his evil spirits.
“Determine Motivation”—Not What Words “Accurately Portray”
The Holy Spirit admonishes us to “prove all things”. This requires prudence which demands looking at fruit to determine motivation rather than listening to words only, which, at best, can only accurately portray intent. We must “…examine ourselves…whether we be in the faith…prove yourselves.” Do I know what is motivating me? This should be at least a frequent question that we ask ourselves.
Mr. Harrison offered this advice in closing his brief dissertation on the corrupting influence of “Serving Our Own Belly.” We can glean some pertinent information from this statement, but I must confess to needing help in understanding it fully. He is about to introduce four “deceptive arguments that were used of Satan to divide Christians.” From what he says here and what we discover from his analysis of the arguments, we can ascertain that our animal farm revolutionaries of former years were more interested in determining motivation rather than listening to our words, “which, at best,” Harrison says, “can only accurately portray intent.” Need we wonder any longer why our words back then failed to portray TRUTH? Need we wonder why our arguments, though “appearing very persuasive” to those men, nevertheless were treated as “deceptive”?
Harrison claims that prudence “demands looking at fruit to determine motivation.” Yet, the ten pages of argumentation that follow are devoid of any evidence derived from fruit inspection! Not one slice of one apple is produced, let alone examined, to provide evidence of deception or dishonest intent. In spite of this Harrison charges our “carnal minds” with arguing for “the free exercise of stubbornness.” The real issue, of course, was the unbiblical concept of “delegated authority” that this new generation of barnyard managers was trying to impose on everyone. Obviously, it has never dawned on those men—certainly not on Mr. Harrison—what really was motivating us. I wonder yet, did any of them ever query their own hearts as to the soundness of their own motivations?
“Unauthorized Exceptions from Carnal Minds”
The four topics Harrison has chosen to address are each presented with a number of variations, some of which appear to be random statements he found somewhere or straw men he merely invented. He does not attempt to deal with all the variants and no documentation is provided to legitimize the sources he has alluded to. He characterizes as false all four of the key propositions when, in fact, the last two are just as false as his responses. Frankly, it’s not always certain who he is arguing with and what he is arguing about. One thing is certain, however, Robert D. Harrison, Jr. is motivated by and bows before an altar with the inscription “TO THE DELEGATED AUTHORITY.” What he worships in ignorance, we will now expose as the false god it is.
Argument No.1: “Man-following is contrary to following Christ.”
Some versions of this affirmation he rightly lists as: “We are to follow Christ and only Christ,” or “Cursed is the man that trusts in man and makes flesh his arm.” Other variants that he claims came from us need to be qualified before endorsing: “Giving another mortal a position of authority in our life is a fundamental denial of Christ’s leadership and our reliance on Him and Him only,” and “Following men is merely a mindless activity that prohibits the free exercise of our liberty in Christ.” He must have inadvertently slipped in the following statement because it is a trademark cliché of RAG, Inc.: “People in sectarianism are following mere hirelings of man-made organizations.” And since he also agreed that “Recognizing another person as being in a permanent and unquestionable position of authority over us is considered wrong,” it puzzles me that he simply just didn’t concur. Instead he charges that “it is a strawman at best and a deliberate misrepresentation at worst.”
Now mind you, the subject is man following—not authority. Yet Mr. Harrison begins his rebuttal with the assertion that the “real contention is a matter of rejecting…the authority that God has ordained in the church.” As if that isn’t clear enough, he emphatically declares that the “real issue is that submission to God-ordained authority in the church maintains order and prohibits the free exercise of stubbornness.” Then follows his only reference to “following” in five pages of argumentation: “If we are following those that God ordains for us to follow, then we are following God’s lead in our life by recognizing His order.” Two questions immediately come to mind: Who has God ordained for us to follow? And is submitting to authority the same as following? Ordain is a strong word, conveying the thought of passing a law, ordering, enacting, commanding and to decree or appoint. But
Harrisonmysteriously failed to produce any scriptural proof for this ordained following he speaks of. In fact he simply ignored Argument No.1 as set forth above. But we shall take a different tack and expound on it for his benefit and that of our readers.
1. The word follow (Gr. Akoloutheo) appears 77 times in the gospels, and with one exception is always used of following Christ: in Mark 14:13 the Lord sent two of his disciples into the city to meet a man who would lead them to the place where they would eat the Passover. The word is used 11 more times in the N. T., only once in the sense of discipleship or allegiance to a man, and that person was the Lamb of God (Rev. 14:4). In its derivative forms (with the prefixes ek, epi, kata, para, sun) the word appears 15 times, 5 times with reference to men or women following Christ in one way or another. In Acts a demon-possessed maid follows Paul in Philippi for several days. Other instances involve the metaphorical following of fables, lascivious doings, the way of Balaam and even good works and doctrine. It is used of sins following after guilty men, of signs following the preaching of the gospel and of “them that believe.” And it is used of tracing (understanding) the course of facts or history. But not once are these words used in the sense of following Christian leaders or submitting to their authority, not even ordinary men or the apostles!
Mark 9:38-41 provides an interesting sidelight here. John reported to the Lord that they saw someone casting out demons in the Lord’s name, and that they tried to hinder him because he was not following them. The Lord made it emphatically clear that they were not to hinder him because “he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup to drink because of you name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Another passage to consider is John 10:4-5. The sheep follow Christ because they know his voice. A “stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” There seems to be at least a hint in these passages that authoritative “leaders” have no right to demand we follow them. Of course, true servants of Christ try to be examples not dictators!
2. Another word (Gr. Mineomai), to mimic or imitate, is frequently translated “follow our example” or “imitate” and occasionally “copy”. The word appears in 2 Th. 3:7, 9; Heb.13:7 and 3 John 11. The NEB uses copy, imitate, follow the example and imitate respectively; the NIV renders it follow our example, follow, imitate and imitate; the NASB has follow our example twice (with footnotes Lit., imitate us) and imitate twice; the NKJV reads follow, follow, follow and imitate, where the KJV renders it follow consistently. Each context makes it clear that the word obviously means to follow the good examples or faith men set, either by word or deed, not the men themselves. And discrimination is to be exercised as implied by John: “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.” The word is always used in a continuous tense, suggesting a constant habit or practice, something possible when you hear or read good reports about someone you do not know personally at all.
3. Its noun form, an imitator (Gr. Mimetes), is found at 1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Eph. 5:1; 1 Th. 1:6; 2:14; Heb. 6:12; 1 Pet. 3:13. A derivative of the verb (Gr. Summimetes) denotes a fellow-imitator (Phil. 3:17). The noun is most often translated imitators although the KJV persists in using followers. Again, in every context the meaning is clear: be imitators of the good examples others have set forth. Of special note are Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians:
You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. (1:6-8)
And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your countrymen, even as they did from the Jews. (2:13-14)
Is “mindless following” or “submission to authoritative men” evident in these verses? I submit that Argument No.1 stands in spite of Mr. Harrison’s attempted ploy to the contrary!
Harrison’s answers, comments and notes.
Avoiding any reference to “following”, Harrison focuses his attention on the subject of authority as if they’re one and the same. He is especially concerned that “those in authority today are under unbridled siege as never before in the history of the world.” He says they “are despised more and more openly as time rolls closer to the end of this age.” He quotes 2 Peter 2:10, noting that the word translated government in the KJV is also rendered “AUTHORITY” in the NKJV. (And in most other Bible versions, I might add.) The word is kuriotes, meaning “dominion, civil power, lordship, magistracy,” used in the N.T. of one who possesses dominion. It is the feminine noun from the masculine kurios, “lord, mighty one, powerful,” which is also the N.T. Greek equivalent of the O.T. Hebrew “Jehovah.” Besides 2 Peter Kuriotes is found only in Eph. 1:21, Col. 1:16 and Jude 8. Angelic majesties and dominions are included in all these contexts, pretty heady company for those claiming authority in RAG, Inc. Does Harrison have in mind leaders in this “viable representation of the Church which is Christ’s Body”? You bet he does! “Carnal Christians,” he says, are being influenced by this siege and are likewise becoming more aggressive in their posture toward God-ordained authority.”
At this point Harrison inserts a lengthy parenthetical comment. In doing so he manifests the extreme bigotry that characterizes the cultic sect he’s identified with. He displays incredible ignorance of what constitutes “god-ordained authority.” And he demonstrates a totally warped comprehension of the biblical revelation concerning the body of Christ. “A saint that is in a sect is not under any authority there that God recognizes,” he asserts. Since RAG, Inc. claims that their little collection of bodies is “the only viable representation of Christ’s church on earth today” (as far as they know, of course), then it must be concluded that the vast majority of Christians are yoked up with non-viable, “life-less man-made religion.” It remains therefore that the only “spiritual authority” that “God recognizes” is vested in the leadership of assemblies administered by RAG Ministries, Inc. According to Harrison “God does not authorize or put in place those in authority in religious organizations that men are making.” The absurdity of this contention doesn’t deserve the dignity of refutation, but we will expound on some of the terminology used by Harrison next.
I have dealt previously with
Harrison’s concept of “authority” in the section captioned “Recognizing Delegated Authority” and in the paragraphs immediately following. Our concern here is his bogus attempt to disqualify all other pastors, teachers and gifted leaders in the body of Christ as illegitimate usurpers. He capitalizes the words church and body as if they are part of proper names or associations, and he confuses truths concerning the universal body of Christ with local Christian assemblies. Consider this quote from Harrison’s pen: “I have heard it said among us that we are not fundamentally different than the Baptists except in a few doctrinal areas…That is a fundamental lie in my mind and understanding. God ordained THE Church in which all true born again Christians are members. God recognizes no other churches. God only has one Church. How could it be made any clearer. Carnal minds do not see clearly what God makes simple to the spiritual mind.” It behooves us to pause here for awhile to help our confused adversary see more clearly who is thinking carnally and who thinks spiritually!
Harrison possibly was referring to a statement attributed to Ron and Bill Blain on August 13, 1985, and spread abroad by Jack Langford. The actual statement was much more explicit (and accurate): “Our assemblies are more sectarian in attitude than the Baptist and other groups.” A few days later, in an open letter to Ron Blain, our brother Berl Chisum wrote: “Leaders in denominational churches lead people to build denominations. We believe Robert, Jack, etc. lead people to build what Christ is building—the church which is His body and lives which are consistent with membership therein.” Poor Berl was unwittingly providing fodder for novice leaders like Robert Harrison. There are obvious problems with Chisum’s statement. The problems with Harrison’s are more subtle and divisive. Christ said, “On this rock I will build my church.” It wasn’t someone else’s church to which he was just making additions. “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”(NKJV) And it is declared that “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” Furthermore, God knew and ordained before the creation of the world not only the church in general but also each person who would be in it. Such infallibility and omniscience is not Jack’s or Robert’s forte. One may have planted and another watered, but God caused the growth. We are “God’s building,” not some puny man’s! (1 Cor. 3:7-9)
Harrison comments that we should “properly discriminate what God is doing from what man is doing.” Yes, and the best place to start is to recognize that man can only build organizations, not a living organism. Next, he asserts that “God does not authorize or put in place those in authority in religious organizations that men are making.” Since the subject under discussion is the church which is Christ’s body, the essence of Christianity, we can rule out all other religions as man made with the exception of Judaism which had (has) a divine purpose. The universal body of Christ, which includes all believers from its inception to its catching away, is Christ’s exclusive work. Local churches (called-out assemblies of professing Christians) are the work of Christ’s disciples on earth. The former has in it only saved people; the latter, unfortunately, contains both “wheat and tares”, “wolves”, “false brethren”, “unbelievers”, and “certain men who crept in”. This is where RAG, Inc. fails to discriminate biblically. In their tract How to Find The Right Church and in this study presently under discussion they exercise, I believe, deliberate confusion! As Wayne Airy and I pointed out in our critique of Robert Grove’s devious study, they marshal scriptures descriptive only of the one true church that Christ is building and apply them indiscriminately to their little man-made sect.
Harrison’s devilish attempt to make it appear that their bodies only are favored by God, and that all other Christian churches, because they are sectarian and have no God-ordained pastors, teachers or leaders with God-given authority, is the brainchild of a pure cultic mentality. “God only has one church” he says. Yet, of the 115 or so references to church or churches in the N.T. 100 of them refer to local assemblies. Do Mr. Harrison and Mr. Grove attempt to rightly discriminate in explaining that anomaly in their thinking? Were there God-ordained pastors, teachers and leaders in all those N.T. churches (note: plural)? Were there also wolves, false teachers and unbelievers in many of them? Did Paul and the other apostles expend much time and effort refuting them, exposing them and warning saints about them? Did sectarian attitudes and divisive spirits manifest themselves in most of those churches? Did authoritative overlords, the likes of Diotrephes who “unjustly accused brethren with wicked words” and “put them out of the church,” ply their trade in those early local churches? How could that be? Tell us Mr. Harrison. “Except for a few doctrinal areas” what really makes your local assemblies “fundamentally different than the Baptists”? We have been talking about the early church in the first 30 years of its existence. The situation hasn’t improved. Yes, there are Christian assemblies out there that have been contaminated for one reason or another. A Christian today has to carefully choose who to affiliate with in their particular locality. That’s precisely why a few of us are actively engaged in steering people away from RAG, Inc. gatherings—they’ve been proven dangerous to ones spiritual health!
“God Installs and God Removes”
I feel I’m leaving the last subject to soon, but we must move on through
Harrison’s Argument No.1. As usual, however, the author’s inclination is to introduce confusion where it is important that clarity prevail. (I often wonder where the proof-readers are in RAG, Inc. I remember when everything put into print was carefully critiqued by someone. Not so anymore. Another indicator of the descent into culthood. But Harrisonneed not worry about being removed from his place by “those under his authority”; God will do that if and when He “deems it appropriate.”) “God,” he says, “puts those [who are] in authority over us in place and evaluates their performance…God puts them in and takes them out.” Then Harrisonadds the clincher: “Those under authority do not have the privilege to install or remove. They only have the privilege to recognize either what God has done and is doing or that an individual has misunderstood what God wishes to do with them.” Harrisonis not in a “man-made ‘hire and fire’ mechanism” and he has an escape clause in his contract with God. If a problem arises, he just claims he “misunderstood” God’s purpose for him. It’s hard to believe, but the RAGites apparently buy the junk this man dispenses. More confirmation that we’re dealing with a cult!
“Those under authority are commanded by God to expect fruit consistent with the calling one in authority professes to have. If proof (fruit) is not forthcoming, then no confidence should be had in the ‘calling’.” Rare wise words from
Harrison, but what recourse do large numbers of brethren have when such confidence is not forthcoming? The implied response: “Just keep quiet, grin and bear it, because God will take care of it in due time.” Another good recipe for making culthood palatable. His propensity to mix authority in the area of human government with that in the body of Christ stresses our comprehension. Exactly what he means when he sandwiches the following between Dan. 4:32-37; Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 9:27 and 2 Sam.23:1-3, is unclear: “In this area of authority over men, unbelief in what the scriptures teach brings fear and anxiety to many. Only those God knows He controls and are trustworthy are allowed by Him to continue ruling over His people.” Whatever Harrisonhad in mind, the last sentence is not true in either case. And he doesn’t hesitate to make a general application of Jude 1:16 to Christian men who function under the “hire and fire mechanisms of sectarianism.”
While it is true that God exercises His sovereignty over both secular leaders and church leaders when He wills, it is also true that He gives men in the secular realm and in His church considerable freedom to govern themselves. Concerning the church our Lord has laid down some basic guidelines as to how we should function, but these guides have been variously interpreted as is evident in Christendom today. The concept of church government advocated by RAG, Inc., however, is a strange mixture of claiming one method and practicing another. While they profess to follow “the divinely ordered” rules for church government, they in essence adopt and practice the “man-made mechanisms” of the most extreme forms of sectarianism. They teach that the apostles were the foundation of the church, but they practice apostolic authority today. They believe in eldership rule in the local assemblies, but they have “leaders” who exercise authority over the elders and the congregation. They claim autonomy for each local assembly, but they have regional “bishops” and even one prime “bishop” who is the most influential and powerful of all. This leads inevitably to coercive authority and one creed (like-mindedness on everything) for them all. The final step in the evolution of RAG, Inc. has already arrived, although it hasn’t been officially pronounced, i.e. the infallibility of the head bishop when speaking ex cathedra.
“Snare of Disbelief in God’s Role”
Who in professing Christendom does not believe in “the Lord’s divine preparation, selection and guidance” of those whom He gave as gifts to the church?
Harrison, however, doesn’t believe that God gave such leadership gifts to the whole church. Like all extreme sects, he believes God has so blessed only his representation of the body.
“God’s Selection Criteria”
God “chooses those He has prepared and equipped to be in authority because He has been in control of their walk due to their submission to His ways.” It’s easy to become paranoid as you labor through
Harrison’s document. You find so many statements that are in error, that have double meanings, or are just plain nonsensical. You soon become suspicious of every sentence, thinking that there just has to be something wrong with it. So it is here. I’ll let the reader wrestle with this one as I move on to the next sentence. “Satan also prepares those that he currently has control over to try to usurp authority when the chaos of a storm causes fear, uncertainty and anxiety in people.” What could this man possibly have in mind? Is he rehearsing what went on over 20 years ago? Is this the perception those men had of things back then? Or is this the picture they’re painting to strike fear into the hearts of the younger generation they exercise lordship over now? Is he admitting that Satan is perhaps busy in their midst preparing another generation of Korahs, Dathans and Abirams? Are there really some in their midst who have doubts “that Christ IS the Head of His Body”? Harrisonends this paragraph with the hint of despair in his voice: “Hopefully, we can see how perilous these times can be in the lives of saints.”
“No Partiality With God”
“It is undeniably clear in the scriptures that God chooses to direct the lives of those that are His through the agency of men in positions of authority. It is only through the efforts of deceived souls that the scriptures are wrested to imply that this is not the case. These two opposing positions cannot be reconciled.” So says Harrison, and he doubts that even a “carnal “ Christian would undertake the reconciling of “these two opposing positions.” I have news for him: a spiritual Christian would not make such an unscriptural statement! I realize, of course, that I run the risk of being called a “deceived” soul and accused of wresting the scriptures when I “imply that this is not the case.” The first thought that comes to mind is a statement
Harrisonmade earlier: “A saint that is in a sect is not under any authority there that God recognizes.” Since the vast majority of saints are in sects or denominations according to RAG, Inc., we must conclude that they are without godly direction in their lives. And, as Harrisoncontends, “they can only do “what comes naturally, not walking in the Spirit.” He has some major reconciling to do to escape the obvious inference that Christ has been inept at building and managing His church!
The next thought that comes to mind—but by far the most important—is
Harrison’s failure to recognize the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Is it only by the authoritative directive of mere men that God’s people are enabled to “walk in the Spirit?” The tendency to become man-centered instead of God-centered is common to all authoritarian leaders, and they like nothing more than to make God’s children dependent on them for direction. This leads ultimately to a supplanting of the Lordship and Headship of Jesus Christ and a complete curb or restraint on the work of and the dependency on the Holy Spirit. The big fallacy of believing that God’s final appeal is to delegate authority to men for the maintenance of life in the church is that such an idea is completely out of harmony with the very basis of life in the Spirit. Such an organization with only men at the helm can deal only on the basis of law. It has jurisdiction only over the outward acts of a man, not over his inner thoughts and motives. Christ is the head of His body, a living organism. God dwells in the midst of his people. The Holy Spirit lives in each individual believer. Their rule reaches down into our spirit and soul which is the source of all our actions or behavior. Where this rule of the Spirit is denied, sin and corruption is the inescapable result. furnishes a great lesson from church history. Rome
“…God chooses to direct the lives of those that are His through the agency of men in positions of authority.” This statement appears harmless at first glance, but (as we have seen) Mr. Harrison puts that responsibility exclusively into the hands of men. It is only through these men, he implies, that one can “have God’s protection and blessing” and “feel the Lord’s presence and guidance.” He even says: “Neither will the weak have the benefit of previous experience that gives the hope [of Romans 5] that those older in the faith will have.” In Romans 5, however, Christians—even weak ones—“rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” because they, themselves, have been “justified through faith” and “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Furthermore, hope does not come as the beneficial result of the “experience” of other men, but we “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” And it is “because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” that this “hope does not disappoint us.”
What place do men have in the body of Christ? What is their commission? What is their authority? On this subject books have been written, but I’ll try to briefly summarize their place and authority. First, Christ is Lord; He has not delegated that authority. Second, Christ is Head of His body; He has not delegated that responsibility. Third, every believer, whether carnal or spiritual, is indwelled by the Holy Spirit; that provision has not been assigned to someone else. Nor have the teaching, leading, character producing, witnessing or intercessory ministries of the Holy Spirit been allotted to another. Next, every saint has direct access to God through Jesus Christ and needs no other mediator. And lastly, the grace of God has not been rescinded in favor of the dictates or rules of men. Whatever roles human leadership may play in the church, it must not intrude into the divine realms named above. God has provided evangelists, pastors and teachers as special gifts to the church “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…to a mature man.” But a body of believers will grow and mature only to the degree that “every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part.” (Eph. 4:11-16;
12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-31) Rom.
The apostles were modeled by Christ to function as servants (Mk. ; Mt. 23: 8-12; Jn. 13:12-17; Mt. 20:25-28). They, as foundational leaders, passed this prerequisite on to elders, pastors, teachers and evangelists in the local churches. While Christian leaders do have authority, it is very different from secular authority. By it they must never seek to bend others to their will, but to bring them to a place of voluntary responsiveness to the Lord Jesus. They reject power and position as a basis for authority. The sole claim to any authority by a godly leader is that the Lord speaks to others through him, both through his life and his teaching. This kind of authority is truly supernatural. It is only because Christ lives and is powerful in the lives of His people that the voices of His servants are heard. It is the Holy Spirit that causes believers to open themselves to being persuaded. With this confidence, leaders in the body of Christ are free to set aside all the trappings of power and secular authority, and to live humbly among their brothers and sisters in Christ. As servants. Nothing more.
“Timing of Divine Wisdom”
“When will those in authority, that no longer should be as God determines it, be removed by the Lord? How does this process work?” With these questions
Harrisonintroduces a most engaging and provocative subject. And we eagerly read on in anticipation of his answer. It never comes. Instead, we are told that “We must yield to the scriptures for qualification and disqualification criteria. Then we must allow the Lord to manifest these to us in His time. We dare not take matters in our own hands, unless, we forget the admonition that ‘sin lieth at the door.’” Harrisonfollows with this ominous warning: “When those in authority are having problems, it is a time to exercise extreme caution. The Deceiver is close by seeking whom he may devour.”
There is evident confusion in
Harrison’s thinking here, unless it is not without purpose. His agenda, of course, is to shield and protect the authoritative institution they have erected and maintain an “orderly” following. The sheep in this particular corral will not likely complain about leadership or seriously question their incorporated “ministries” when such protests or inquiries will be immediately suspect as Satanic delusions or motivated by “sin”. “Since God installed our leaders and endowed them with authority,” the reasoning goes, “God will remove them when He determines it.” What’s fascinating about this scenario is that “sin lieth at the door” of both leadership and the sheep! The sheep themselves contribute their own sins to the creation of authoritarian ministries. They are quick to foist blame upon their harsh taskmasters. But petty dictators cannot reign without the consent of their craven lackeys and servile subjects. Let me pass on the thoughts of another who states it much more eloquently than I can:
Idol Worship, Fear of Man and Unbelief
Sinful flesh is not content with the reality of the one true God. It wants to fashion an idol in place of the invisible God who is spirit. There is always the temptation to act like the Jews of Saul's time who wanted a human leader they could see, rather than the unseen God (cf. 1 Samuel 8). But God shares His glory with no man, not even “called men” who are promoted to demi-god status by their adoring flock. Such flocks too often find for themselves a man who likes to lord it over the flock. Thus a sinfully symbiotic relationship is complete with an abusive authority figure coupled to his idol-worshipping minions (Jeremiah -31).
Too many sheep are more gripped by the desire to please a man or more fearful of displeasing a man than they are of pleasing or displeasing Almighty God (cf. Prov. 29:25; John -44). They spend their time dancing around their idol, expending their energies catering to his every whim and seeking to avoid his wrath. Men pleasers have little stomach for potential conflict. They would never dare ask their exalted leader a question, no matter how respectfully. They would never ask for the biblical basis for a decision made by the leadership, even when that decision seems to fly in the face of clear Scriptural teaching. Such men-pleasers crave the smile of a man's countenance more than the smile of God and they will not speak the truth in love (Eph. ).
Too many sheep do not believe that God still guides His people today through the means of prayerful meditation upon the Word of God and the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is easier for the flesh to suspend the use of spiritual faculties and scriptural means of guidance for the short-cut of asking the leader to determine God's will and make the decisions all the time. It is not surprising that sheep who put men on pedestals, who cravenly serve men and who do not believe that God still guides will fall prey to abusive shepherds. It is only by the grace of God that it doesn't happen more than it does. (Even good men know the temptation to become surrogate “gods” for their people and must stoutly resist the temptation to always answer questions of guidance and decision making.) Perhaps, some of the time, authoritarian shepherds are God's chastening rods on the backs of idol-worshipping, men-pleasing, unbelieving sheep who will not have God to be their God but who substitute a mere creature in His place (cf. Is. 2:22; Ps. 33:13-19).
Removing Those in Authority?
Harrison’s answer to the question: “how does this process work?” (about the removal of those in authority who are having problems) wasn’t directly forthcoming. But he has made it emphatically clear that those “under authority” have no part in the process. “If proof (fruit) is not forthcoming,” he said, “then no confidence should be had in the ‘calling.’” That leaves one—or all—with no choice but to grin and bare it (see also sub-section “God Installs and God Removes”). So why the call for ultra “vigilance and diligence” and “extreme caution”? Is there a hint of anarchy in the air? It seems, however, that there is more than an adequate backlog of case histories during the era of Jack Langford and Robert Grove from which information can be readily gleaned. Both of those men were often quite busily engaged in building cases so that the Lord, I suppose, could render intelligent judgments at the proper time.
And whatever happened with the Lord’s instructions to “tell it to the church”? I know that Jack and Robert believed that “whatever [the church] shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” And Paul, if I’m not mistaken, rebuked the church at
for not assembling and judging an immoral man. He didn’t single out only leaders to perform the task but made it the responsibility of all the saints. And if Corinth Harrisonthinks Paul excluded leaders from being judged by the church, I invite him to examine Paul’s second inspired letter to the Corinthians ( -20). In there apparently were men whom the Corinthians had accepted as leaders. These men were enslaving the congregation with their professed authority, disguising themselves “as apostles of Christ” and “servants of righteousness.” Paul rebuked those saints, saying, “You think yourselves so wise for putting up with fools gladly! You put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if he devours you, if he takes advantage of you, if he exalts himself, if he hits you in the face.” The Corinthians foolishly tolerated it! It doesn’t sound like Paul was praising these Christians for maintaining “prayerful carefulness, while walking in the fear of God, and not taking matters in their own hands.” Corinth
Talk about déjà vu. The above account has a familiar ring to it. I feel as if I was there at one time. Another reason authoritative, legalistic leaders should not be left alone to judge church matters like the above is broached by the apostle Paul in the same context. Paul’s adversaries within the Corinthian church were of the Pharisaical mentality. They loved to commend themselves and boast. “But,” Paul says, “when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” ( ) In other words, they allowed for no standard of comparison higher than themselves. They considered themselves to be the inner circle. They were the elite ones. According to them, no one could stand by them and be seen in a favorable light, especially by God! It should be obvious that if RAG’s only standard is himself and his incorporated party members, then they are always right in their own eyes! One commentary on this passage says, “It is the bane of all cliques and coteries to ignore all excellence out of their own party.”
[We are finally approaching the end of
Harrison’s pontifical treatise, but not rapidly enough. I’ve attempted to be thorough in this critique of his work, but so much more could be said. Hopefully, what has been said will stimulate some honest souls in that group to begin asking questions, to begin demanding biblical answers—first of themselves and then of those who rule over them. I want to believe that that is not expecting too much. I have been told by several recent captives of that group (and some who still are!) that there are very few biblically literate people there, that there is little incentive among the younger generation to study God’s word. One told me that from his youth he was caught up in the game of religious “politics,” and that he became quite good at it! I believe that to be an accurate portrayal of the religious leaders in present day RAG Ministries, Inc.]
Argument No. 2: “We can follow another man ONLY when that man is following Christ.”
As a reminder Harrison, in arguments 1 through 4, claims to be presenting the excuses or rationale of those who departed from RAG’s association over 20 years ago. He then proceeds to answer those arguments. This argument, as
Harrisonpresents it, is merely a variation of the first. But he puts a unique twist on it, trying the person rather than the validity of the argument. “The claim,” he says, “is that Christ would not want us to follow anyone in doing what is contrary to Christ.” And he adds that, “1 Cor. 11:1 is usually offered as scriptural support”—as if that verse just fortuitously happened to be there! Most Christians would consider that a sound principle to follow. Even Peter vouched for it (1 Pet. -25), and it is reiterated frequently in the epistles. But Harrisonhas reservations, as is indicated in his supplying emphasis on the word “only” in the quote above and his calling the statement a “claim,” as if it’s something that could be called into question. Which is exactly what he does!
“That is certainly a compelling rationale,” he says. (A certain character of craftiness is becoming evident in
Harrison’s tone, and we can begin to recognize the wisdom of the Serpent.) “In fact,” he continues, “it is an accurate reflection of how we allow or disallow God to influence us.” Getting bolder, he asserts, “this is just a pretense…just another ‘cloak’ for rebellion.” And wouldn’t you know it: “The issue is submission to authority,” he pontificates, as if we would not have guessed. You see, Harrisonsurmises that we are contending that we need only individually follow those that we happen to agree with at any moment and not on another, regardless of their position. “The positions of authority that God ordains are thus rendered meaningless,” he moans. Now it really gets interesting.
“The truth is we are responsible for recognizing those placed in authority over us by God and obeying them as the scriptures command,” he insists. If they are wrong and need to be removed, God will see to that in His own time and way,
Harrisonexpects us to believe. In the meantime we are not to become disorderly, but are to “submit to” and “obediently do what the one in authority directs us to do.” “When we do it, we are right in God’s sight,” he assures us. He quotes James 4:17, saying, “Sin in others never justifies sin for us.” In case that doesn’t fully persuade us, in his next breath (I can’t believe this!) he points to the example of “Joab seeing to the murder of Uriah for David’s sake” and tells us to consider that account. According to Mr. Harrison, who has the imprimatur of Mr. Grove, Joab was “right” in carrying out the murder request of King David! Anyone who reads the history of Joab knows that he was vengeful, deceitful and treacherous. His principles did not prevent him from serving David’s vices as well as his virtues. He may have served David faithfully, but he was not always devoted to David’s best interests. David charged Solomon to not let Joab’s gray hair go down to Sheol in peace.” God wasn’t pleased with Joab either, as He returned Joab’s blood on his own head in the tent of the Lord. (1 Kings 2:5,6, 28-33)
“Sincere Conscientious Objections”
The brand of man-following
Harrisonis propagating warrants more attention. He says, “Sin in others never justifies sin for us.” This is directed at the follower who is not inclined to obey what a dubious leader directs him to do and openly objects to it. Yet Harrison offers up Joab as an example to follow, telling us that if we know to submit and obediently do what we are directed to do, then “we are right in God’s sight” and the one in authority “is responsible before God.” The reasoning here is not only blatantly spurious, it is outrageously stupid! How could Joab be sinless when he obviously knew David was directing him to commit murder? Did David’s sin justify sin for Joab? Harrisonthinks like a well-seasoned Pharisee, but as a “blind guide” leading innocent—but dumb—sheep he has much to answer for. To him obedience to delegated authority takes precedence over “justice and mercy and faithfulness.”
Harrisonsenses a potential dilemma. He asks, “What if we cannot do as directed?” According to him if Joab’s conscience troubled him, he could have sincerely objected or appealed. And he concedes that “a spiritual Christian can actually [sic!] find themselves in such a state.” He admits there is “such a thing as a sincere conscientious objection,” but he quickly adds that “feigned objections” are recognizable by “disorderly conduct.” What constitutes disorderly conduct or carnality among conscientious objectors according to Harrison? Short of “undermining” and “trying to overthrow the authority” he isn’t specific. Based on experience many of us could say, “merely objecting or appealing!” Objecting too vigorously or appealing too passionately would definitely draw scornful looks from passive followers and sharp public rebuke from the authorities. But his answer to that question is clearly implied in his summary statement. After objections and appeals have been considered, and decisions rendered, those who still “cannot, in good conscience, comply” should simply be quiet, pray and “commit the keeping of their souls to Christ.” Harrisonthen has the audacity to offer 1 Pet. 2:19-25 as consolation, a passage referring to those who have been treated harshly by human institutions such as kings, governors and slave masters! “A spiritual person can do this!” he pontificates, “A carnal person will not stand for this.”
The Appeal Process
In the church, however, the apostle Paul has a contrary recommendation. In a passage we have already referred to (2 Cor. 11:12-20) he chides the Corinthian saints for foolishly putting up with those authoritative leaders who enslaves them, devours them, takes advantage of them, even hits them in the face and then exalts themselves! (Compare 11:4.) In the church a spiritual person should not stand for such harsh treatment, while a carnal person will tolerate it! Another passage is applicable here also, but RAG, Inc. authorities will bulk at this use of it because they customarily apply it to objecting followers. Paul is appealing to those in the church at
when he says, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” These are options that sincere conscientious objectors have. Thank God! Rome
Back to the appeal process.
Harrisoncites examples from Scripture: Daniel, the 3 Hebrew children, Paul, the house of Chloe. The only appeal Daniel made, besides his daily petitions to the Lord, was for a change of diet. The 3 Hebrews didn’t make an appeal, they took a stand! Paul’s appeals to the recognized Jewish authorities were adamantly denied, so he appealed to the Roman Caesar for due process. It’s not known what Chloe’s appeal was, if any; that household merely complained to Paul that the brethren were always quarreling about who they preferred to follow. So much for Harrison’s appeal examples. But appealers beware, there is a caveat! RAG’s ace in the hole. “But appeals…to be honored of God, must be made to those that God has commended and have been recognized as having authority in the body of Christ. (See 1 Cor. 5:11-6:8) Appeal cannot be honored by God when directed to those who are not in positions of authority or responsibility in the church. We know who are the wise among us. We know who are commended of the Lord among us.”
That statute may be found somewhere in RAG’s incorporation papers. It’s certainly not found in the Bible. Interesting that Paul thought the matter of the immoral man at
was for the whole assembly to decide (5:4,12; 6:1-3,4). Even Christ said: “Tell it to the church!” That statute also explains why our appeals 20 years ago were rejected just like Paul’s before the religious leaders of his day. Our appeals fell on deaf ears. As “sincere conscientious objectors,” who could not “obediently comply,” our only choice was to take a stand like the 3 Hebrew men in Daniel. It is a fact, not often mentioned, that the vast majority of us back then were “marked” as “disorderly” by “the wise” for refusing to honor their wholesale rending apart of Christ’s body. Corinth
“Remember, the [sic!] purpose of authority in the church is to direct the movement of saints, judge issues to maintain order and restore peace in areas where contentions have arisen.” – Robert D. Harrison, Jr., Authority, Order and Motivation, page 16
Harrisonmust have extracted this from some “man-made”sect’s administrative handbook, which probably used supplementary material from an occupying army’s operational manual. It certainly doesn’t seem to be the type of “authority” the “only viable representation of Christ’s church on earth” would need. Which brings up a point I should clarify. By necessity this response to Harrisonhas been primarily negative. My purpose has been to expose how false his doctrine is ( I should use the word sham since it suggests an intent to deceive). However, in calling attention to the wrong way there is always the need to show the right way. I just want to assure this audience that there is a better, right and Biblical way for an assembly of Christians to function than that prescribed by Mr. Harrison and practiced by RAG, Inc. There just isn’t time and space in this forum to adequately cover the subject in its positive (and spiritually fruitful) aspect. Perhaps (with more contribution from others) that would be a good topic to tackle in the future.
I must append to the above post this reference to Ephesians 4:11-16, which satisfactorily contradicts
Harrison’s claim as to the purpose of authority in the church. Notice in verses 11-13 “the purpose” for these gifts to the church: 1) Equipping of the saints. 2) Work of service. 3) Building up of the body. 4) Attaining the unity of the faith. 5) Knowledge of the Son of God. 6) Maturing to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Then notice in verses 14-16 the expected results which I quote in full: “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
The apostles and prophets, being foundational, laid down the guidelines for us to follow. The Lord has provided specially qualified gifts to guide and equip us (pastors, teachers, evangelists), but He expects every joint to supply and each individual part to contribute for growth to take place. This is not talking about one little assembly or sectarian group, but the whole body of Christ! To separate yourself from association with all other Christians can only lead to stunted growth or none at all. And to consider only a small select group of men as only having the proper credentials to equip you, eventually guarantees a cancerous condition or victimization by trickery, craftiness and deceitful scheming. Have those followers in RAG, Inc., for instance, weighed what
Harrison, et al. have taught them with what other gifts in the body of Christ have taught? From all appearances it’s highly doubtful.
Five pages of
Harrison’s A, O & M document remain to be examined. Much of the remaining material belabors what has already been discussed or is simply not deserving of our attention. In order to hurry the conclusion of this effort to provide a thorough critique of his authoritarian doctrine, I’ll just highlight a few items of interest.
Argument No. 3 “Without a God-appointed King on earth, the proper order is everyman doing what is right in his own eyes.”
Harrisonclaims that “Scriptural references to Judges (e.g. 17:6; ) are offered as support for this contention.” No Bible believing Christian or group of Christians I know of has ever made such a claim. This is simply a strawman erected by Harrisonto give himself an opportunity to express his slant on religious/political matters. It should be no surprise that he agrees with that the “Reformation” was “mere anarchy” and that this country’s religious freedom was founded on the “same faulty premise” that it is okay for “every man to do that which is right in his own eyes.” Rome
Argument No. 4 “We must lean to our own understanding; we all do, because we can only work with what we know.”
This statement does not at all accurately summarize his following presentation, of which he says in his answer: “the truth is, most of the previous statements are correct…unless we wrest them to support a carnal walk.” You’ll have to read his first two paragraphs yourself, then thump your head a couple times to make sure it’s in a discerning mode.
He has something to say to “Those that are young in the faith, [who] need to take the time…to come to an understanding of the truth.” What “truth” he has in mind, he doesn’t tell us, but we can readily guess. “It is a simple and easy thing to understand very early on,”
Harrisonsays, “that God wants to provide help to the ‘weak’ by those that are ‘strong.’” Who are the “strong” we might ask? We can easily identify them, he says, because they “are strong and ahead of us in our spiritual growth.” And “We are admonished to ‘know them’ and to esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake (1 Th. -13). No where in God’s word are leaders (servants!) in the body of Christ distinguished as a class from those they minister to by the terms “strong” and “weak”. It is truly amazing, therefore, how adroitly Harrisonborrows terminology (the weak and the strong) from Romans 14 and 15 and applies it to those “young in the faith”, whom he identifies as “weak”, and delegated authoritative leaders, whom he labels the “strong”. I would think that the young men of 1 John pose a quandary to Harrison.
After a few words of warning to “those older in the faith” who have begun to ignore some “simple truths” and are entertaining inflammatory ideas of “freedom”, he renews his campaign against the “wiles of the Devil”, namely, “self-deception.” Here
Harrisonwaxes eloquent, appealing with all his soul to those who are struggling with “desperately wicked hearts,” the “inability to withstand self-deception,” a “stubborn spirit or contentious attitude.” How important it is, he implores them all, to acknowledge “the truth” and avoid the “quick slide to destruction for potentially the rest of our earthly life.” Again, despite a barrage of Scripture references and quotations, we don’t know what “truth” he’s referring to. In fact, after all is said and done, one wonders if those hapless souls can even distinguish between “truth” and the “wiles of the Devil.”
Harrison’s closing prayer, however, makes it clear by its emphasis wherein their hope lies:
“My prayer: That this study brings glory to Christ and His doctrine by… helping those saints in authority be courageous in dealing with contentions in an orderly and timely manner [and] protecting saints, especially those young in the faith, from the wiles of the Devil by resting under God-ordained authority during conflicts…”