Years ago, a man from a neighboring church
came to the city where I was located, walked into my office and immediately
said, "OK, what is your position on the marriage question?" I said,
"...whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries
another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits
adultery." His response? "Yeah, the traditional party line!"
I said, "Wait a minute. All I did was quote
I've just repeated the words of Christ!" He said, "Well, but is that all the
truth?" Almost as he said that, he heard what he had said! "I mean ... I
mean, I know Jesus taught the truth ..." His words had already betrayed him.
Rather than submit to the clear teaching of Jesus he had chosen to hurl an
accusation that impugned my beliefs. But what did he mean by the phrase
"traditional party line?" Behind this charge may be at least one of four
1. I don't like what you
teach, wont accept it so I'll distract you from discussing the Bible by
making this charge. This was
certainly the case with the man above. If I spent time defending myself and
why I believed what I believed that was time not spent discussing what
means. Clever tactic, yes? If I have close friends or relatives who want to
marry, naturally I don't like to hear someone teach something that would
question that union. And without any doubt, if I am contemplating a
relationship, and you tell me I shouldn't, I wont like that. But instead of
just saying, "I don't like what you are teaching," it is much easier (and
sometimes more effective) to charge "Well, you are just repeating the
traditional party line."
2. There are many others
who have taught this for many years.
So what? The fact that a teaching has been held for years does not
necessarily prove it is wrong. Being traditional is not always bad. 2
Thessalonians urges us to hold the traditions of the apostles. There are
thousands of brethren who have taught the necessity of repentance and
baptism for many generations. This says nothing about the validity of
repentance and baptism. The number of preachers and/or writers who have
taught a proposition does not minimize its validity, or prove it. Likewise,
the number of years something has been taught neither diminishes its
truthfulness, nor makes it true.
3. You haven't really
studied, and you don't really have your own convictions; you have blindly
accepted the word of others. I would
guess this is what is behind the "traditional party line" charge most of
time. The charge then is a way of saying that I can read your heart and know
your motives. It also says that I know that you are not sincere, nor a truth
seeker. The only person qualified to make such a charge is the one who is
able not only to know what we teach, but why we teach it. If you are able to
know (have real evidence) that someone has put himself under the dominion of
others; if you are certain that a man prefers "popular brotherhood thought"
(whatever that is) to personal Bible study, then perhaps you are equipped to
make this charge.
4. I don't have any real
arguments or response to what you are teaching.
Here is the real problem the man described above had. He had nothing to say
in response to Matthew 19:9, knew what he was doing
was wrong, but wanted to do it anyway. So, he threw charges around to try to
save face. When I tell people my belief that the only man (with a living
mate) free to remarry is the one who has put away his spouse for fornication
I want them show me the error of my position (if it is error). Don't make
mindless charges - come to the scriptures and teach me the truth. Help me to
see where I've been deceived or made a mistake in my study. Lead me through
the passages that pertain to this. Give me something substantial instead of
just charging me as a slave to human opinion or party pressure. Often,
though, when a disputant makes the charge of "traditional party line," he is
reacting in frustration over his or her lack of substantial biblical
I am not prepared to ignore a real danger
here. There is a temptation to preach what others are preaching; there is
the sin of listening to men and ignoring God; and there is such a thing as a
Pharisaic, party-spirit mentality. But when you teach what the Lord said in
or anywhere else, because you believe in the Lord and want to stand where He
stands, don't be intimidated by the charge of submitting to the "party
line." And the fact that 95% of the preachers you know and respect teach the
same thing is never a reason to throw it out. What do you think?
My good friend Harold Turner wrote about
this a few years ago in a journal. His conclusion fits well here:
"Personally, I don't give two hoots about traditional or nontraditional in
the whole thing, and would like to make an appeal to anyone who might be
feeling the pressure of the nontraditional use of the word traditional these
days. Don't be too quick to apologize for preaching and teaching that which
has characteristically been taught, for there is at least an outside chance
that the reason that bit of teaching is traditional is because it is so."