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The manner in which the radical fundamentalist mocks Love is another reason that complicates the discernment of “right” choices, where Love’s absoluteness is twisted into strange unrecognizable contortions. Love is too precious to allow it to be frequently strangled of ethical force.
We have to negotiate the twisting of the radical fundamentalist. You can hear them screech “speaking the Truth in Love,” that becomes more of a freak show for the common Christian soldier. We are not talking about standing one’s ground against the immoral or taking an ethical stand or prohibiting biting language all together. Tough Love—we all feel the need from time to time.
The age-old classic example is how radical fundamentalists debilitates the beautiful and powerful phrase of Ephesians 4:15 “Speaking the Truth in Love” into a callous and thoughtless platitude, a rough and childish justification to judge harshly because he is supposedly telling the Truth. Love is making them tell the Truth! But Love never seems to motivate much to explain the Truth of their judgment over the claim of the Truth. Almost 100% of the time, when I have heard Ephesians 4:15, it is quoted out of context and with the purpose to enforce conformity rather than the phrase’s actual intent to win over into unity under the umbrella of Love. Fundamentalists use the phrase almost blasphemously, slapping the context and nearly mocking one of the most positively focused and most teleologically rich books in the N.T.
Ephesians 4:15, “Speaking the Truth in Love,” almost sits squarely in the middle of a small chapter of 32 verses. At the beginning of chapter 4, Paul is a “prisoner of the Lord” beseeching the readers to walk worthy with “all lowliness and meekness” pleading with the Ephesians to strive for unity and to respect diversity “Till we all come in the unity of the faith … unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (vv. 1-13). Straightaway from there, we ought to grow out of being “children, tossed to and fro … by the sleight of men,” and then through “speaking the Truth in love” move into the theme of the entire chapter which follows this beautiful transitional phrase “speaking the Truth in Love” in order to “grow up unto Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (v. 15). And the rest of chapter 4 and most of chapter 5 are instructions on how to “grow up unto Him in all things.”
The fundamentalist’s callous use of the beautiful transitional phrase “speaking the Truth in Love” invokes again many of our arguments throughout this book with respect to our biblical allegiance to Love and Truth themselves. The radical Christian fundamentalists use “speaking the Truth in Love” to hate and judge. Not just to the absolute of Truth, but the repeated N.T. obligations to the absolute of Love and the teleological concerns so inherent in Love are offended. Blaspheme ensues. In a backward kind of way, the manner in which fundamentalists twist Ephesians 4:15 is another attempt to deify “Truth” over the manner and method in which Truth is supposed to be used as Paul intended in Ephesians 4 itself.
Listen to the next fundamentalist who uses Ephesians 4:15. Almost without exception the use of 4:15 is to divide rather than unify. The fundamentalist defends the Truth like a medieval knight of the Round Table of Belligerence. The context of the passage is missed or ignored. And off rides the fundamentalist who would have done better by the kingdom of God if they had simply attacked a windmill.
In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul is practically begging for unity, and the small phrase “speaking the Truth in Love” was intended to qualify what preceded and what followed in the chapter. The phrase was intended to qualify the integrity of the response to the cunning craftiness and “sleight of men” of those who attempt to deceive children in verse 4:14 and then to qualify the integrity of Love, in which Love is the road to adulthood. So then, “speaking the Truth in Love” is not the theme, not meant to be a brazen fundamentalist trumpet of division. Rather, the phrase is the method of transition from childhood into adulthood, where adultness is defined as grown up “unto Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (KJV).
I suppose the beautiful phrase of Ephesians 4:15 could have been used by Paul in many places in many of his letters. The real irony is that Paul uses the phrase where he does, smack in the middle of a sweet, sweet chapter that begs for unity and pleads for respect for diversity. The sad and blasphemous irony is that the fundamentalist belligerently yanks the small phrase out of context as a trumpet to divide.
By the way, “speaking the Truth in Love” was the catch phrase for the lead editor’s comments of the first publications for the new Southern Baptist of Texas Convention (SBTC) in their early publications as they sought to attract churches away from the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). The SBTC repeatedly used the beautiful transitional phrase leading to unity to disrupt unity in the BGCT. The SBTC continuously accused the BGCT of not being as supportive of the SBC leadership as the SBTC thought they should have, even though the BGCT continued to give ten times the money to the SBC while the SBTC continued disrupting. For information’s sake, the BGCT has simply been a servant of its churches first, while continuing to facilitate the giving of millions to the SBC while the complaints of the SBTC raged forward. Less and less about the BGCT is said by the SBTC as it gained some independent identity.
The radical fundamentalist pretends to be a common soldier, and—sincerely, I am sure—believes he is a help. Yet unlike the Apostle Paul, the radical fundamentalist pulls verses like 4:15 out of context, twisting the meaning of Love in order to support their attitude rather than attempt to conform their attitude to the biblical text. While not complete, the eight principles above in Chart 38 support a breadth of respect outside the ability of most radical fundamentalists.
We have seen something of the complexity inherent and pervasive in biblical ethics. Ephesians 4:15 indicates Love as a modality for Truth and a kind of super-principle through which all of biblical ethics must flow. Love is more than a principle and includes the feelings of the heart. Speaking the Truth in Love does not merely mean holding the ethical line against an immoral adversary with kind and deliberate words; speaking the Truth in Love places a premium on Love as the mode of expression, the means to unity, and as the filter through which the words of Truth may be chosen.