Impressions, as distinct from clearly stated facts, are notoriously difficult to deal with as regards comment or reply; particularly when a person is told that he "means" something he has not stated. Yet it is usually not quite fair to blame people for such impressions, because the bulk of those who claim to be teachers of God's Word either cannot or will not always state plainly and unequivocally what they mean. Usually this applies only to subjects which the teacher knows to be controversial, but some make a cult of obscurity. Consequently, those who actually do mean precisely what they say are sometimes misunderstood by readers who are so accustomed to the other sort of writer that they cannot readily follow a plain statement, but are constrained to search for something else which, they suppose, lies behind it. So used are they to obscurity that it is for them the normal, and they regard it as equivalent to profundity. Yet a shallow pool can be, and very often is, opaque with mud; while in the Tropics the sea can be crystal clear to great depths. Clarity and purity go together. A clear writer is more likely to be sound than an obscure one. He who has something to say will generally say it plainly; he who has not will cover his poverty with a cloud of verbiage. In fact, confusion and error are different aspects of the same evil.
Shortly after our October, 1962, issue was published, I was taken to task for my remark on pp. 218, 219: "Even Mr. Welch has to use 'Roman stones' for his 'Ephesian temple', though Romans is one of the despised earlier epistles of an outworn dispensation." (To forestall any misunderstanding, I must add that this idea of Romans is utterly mistaken). My correspondent's remark was: "I am completely at a loss to know where you get your understanding of Mr. Welch's attitude to the earlier epistles of Paul. Of course he requires the Roman stones for the Ephesian temple, and he has plainly said so."
To this I replied with three quotations from Mr. Welch's book, "Dispensational Truth." These are (1) "I, as a saved Gentile, have no more to do with the Abrahamic covenant and the kingdom unalterably promised to Israel, than I have to do with the law of Moses and with circumcision. The great dispensational boundary is marked by the Holy Spirit" (p. 178). (2)"The Scriptures written for us and about us, which teach us our standing, our duties, our hopes, our dispensational position, are those written after the people of Israel were set aside" (p. 197). (3)"When the kingdom became in abeyance, everything connected therewith necessarily went with it" (p. 261). As Mr. Welch places his "great dispensational boundary" at Acts 28:28, it follows that, for him, nothing written before that point can have been "written for us and about us"; consequently, for him, all Paul's earlier epistles "became in abeyance."
Much as this deduction from Mr. Welch's own words is disliked by some, nobody has yet challenged its logic. Instead, my correspondent told me: "the difficulty is in your imposing your understanding of what he teaches, on what he really does teach." But those three quotations are his own words, not my understanding of them! Realising, no doubt, that this contention would not hold water, my correspondent then pointed out to me that Paul "uses Hebrew stones for his Christ-believers, temple." But, even if this were so, Paul did not proclaim that everything connected with the Hebrew Scriptures had become in abeyance.
Nevertheless, I must admit that in one respect I was at fault for not resolving one ambiguity in this; so I must now make it clear that what I call "the Hebrew Scriptures" are so described by me because (with a small exception) they were written in Hebrew. But they do not deal exclusively with Hebrew matters. The word "Hebrew" occurs in them only thirty-one times, the first being Gen. 14:13. Young's Concordance defines it as "Patronymic of Abraham and his offspring." The Hebrew tongue is referred to only nine times, all in the Greek Scriptures. From this, there emerges the fact that the assertion that Paul "uses Hebrew stones, etc.," was not strictly true. Paul did use the Hebrew Scriptures, and he quoted matters connected with Abraham the Hebrew and his offspring for our information; but he built no doctrine for us and about us on any matter connected with Abraham the Hebrew or his offspring. The outstanding truth set out in the earlier chapters of Romans and in Galatians was based on God's dealings with Abraham in uncircumcision, that is to say, in fact, Abraham the Gentile. Those were the "stones" which Paul used for doctrine for us and about us. The remainder of the Hebrew Scriptures is written for our learning, but not "for us and about us."
I am not suggesting that Mr. Welch does not regard Paul's earlier epistles as written for our learning, too. But I do declare positively that the three assertions of his that I have quoted above can only mean that in his view those epistles were not written for us and about us. Indeed, he as good as says so when he places his "dispensational boundary" at Acts 28:28, after those epistles were written.
Certainly, Mr. Welch has an indisputable right to teach what he believes about Acts 28:28. My only personal criticism of him is that he fails to carry it to its logical conclusion or to defend his views against my criticism of them.
When we reflect, we must perceive that nobody has any moral right to teach doctrine which he is not prepared to defend against honest criticism.
Nevertheless, Mr. Welch is wholly wrong in using "Roman Stones" at all, whether for his "Ephesian Temple" or anything else. The ancients, and sometimes people in the East nowadays, used stones from ruins tor their own building operations; but Romans is not a ruin; and he has no right whatever to treat it as if it were. It is an utterly unjustifiable thing, some might even go so far as to say a blasphemous thing, to treat any of Scripture in such a way. At best, it displays the same sort of disrespect for God's Word as do the exponents of modern critical notions. We simply cannot afford to aid them thus.
As a rule, I dislike personal criticisms of people, and try to avoid them; but this does not mean that we should refrain from criticizing statements made in print. When a man prints any statement, he has thereby made it public and so has forfeited any right to complain if his statement is publicly attacked by others; always provided that the attack is conducted fairly.
To be fair and decent, such criticism must conform to two requirements. It must criticize only what is printed, not what the critic supposes it means. It must be absolutely open and honest, quoting faithfully the words criticized and, in general, stating clearly where the quotation is to be found and, by whom it was written. For some reason which I have never been able to fathom, many of our readers bitterly resent the latter. Yet, surely, the person who publishes anything and yet wants to shelter under furtive anonymity cannot in any circumstances be regarded as behaving in a way a Christian ought, neither should his friends countenance such behaviour. To put it bluntly, if he fears publicity, he should avoid it; and if his friends fear publicity, they should dissuade him from seeking publicity.
Sad though this business is, it is only one example of the state of mind that has infected almost all Christians and is the basis of all schisms and sects. It is altogether deplorable that any Christian should regard Romans as merely a ruin from which doctrinal "stones" can be carted away at will. Nobody could ever have thought of such an idea if we, collectively, had greater regard and deeper reverence for TRUTH. This matter has been so much on my mind for so long a time that I have been preparing a set of papers on Truth, its relation to Faith, and our proper attitude to both. Whether I shall publish it in book form, or serialize it, has not yet been decided. Meanwhile I would welcome the ideas of readers on this point and on any matter which they think should be discussed in the papers.
R.B.W. Last updated 27.2.2006