A Classic Demonstration of Ad Hominem

By Terry M. Hightower

“To Whom It May Concern”

A Florida School of Preaching article entitled “To Whom It May Concern” was published in the April 2009 volume of The Harvester, a paper that I was entrusted to edit for about two years when I was a full-time instructor there. Though no personal name is attached, I must assume this article was written by the Director on behalf of the Board of Directors, given the points made and its style of writing. It would have been much more admirable and courageous to have signed it, leaving no doubt as to its authorship, but I (and others) have found out of late that these two traits seem to be in short supply with some brethren who are part of (or aligned with) this school. Before reaching this point in its history, this institution has in the past done much good for the Lord’s church. I have known and loved the majority of these brethren for many years and will always remember their fellowship and the great opportunities afforded to me as a part-time instructor for eight years and especially the privilege and honor which was mine to work with them full-time from 1984-1986. While there are some names of Board members that are new to me, I note with fondness the names of brethren Jackie Stearsman, Brian Kenyon, Gene Burgett, Ted Wheeler, Gordon Methvin, J. H. Blackman, George (Kenny) French, Robert McAnally, Bill Norton, and Phillip Lancaster. I have shed literal tears over this matter. Once again, this article is being written by me with the attitude set out in my open letter in Defender back in September 2008: “So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).

Questions and Answers?

The generic article begins by saying:

Occasionally the Florida School of Preaching receives requests for information regarding the policy or position of the school on a given issue. The questions may come to a faculty member or a member of the Board of Directors.

Yes, and this is in accordance with the biblical principle of sanctifying in your hearts Christ as Lord by “being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Thus, the Bible does not uphold stonewalling (i.e., behaving in an obstructive, uncooperative manner, as by refusing to answer when questioned). However strangely, in e-mails written by myself and others (who also had earlier close connections with FSOP) wherein we simply asked for information regarding the policy or position of the school in regard to the Director of Apologetics Press in Montgomery, Alabama— namely, brother Dave Miller—instead of being given answers, we were met for the most part with silence. No matter how hard we tried, we were unable to get answers to three simple questions concerning where FSOP stood with regard to the given issues of: (1) elder re-evaluation and reaffirmation, (2) the Biblical doctrine of intent as it applied to marriage divorce and remarriage, and (3)if one’s support, defense, and fellow-ship of Mac Deaver in his teaching of a direct operation of the Spirit upon the heart of a saint constituted grounds for disfellowship.

All of these related centrally, of course, to Dave Miller. I did receive from bro. Jackie Stearsman (former director of FSOP) a forwarded statement written by bro. Miller which I had already seen and studied and knew to be not only inadequate, but actually contradictory to his previous verbalizations and practice in regard to Eldership R & R (as it has come to be called). [It is not merely a theoretical doctrine, but a damnable one that has caused Biblical elders to be “voted out” of congregations wherein they once served.] was made of the contrary evidence and proof to Jackie and others employed by FSOP. The mystery is how and why previously right thinking FSOP brethren are determined to stay with bro. Miller in his false positions, es-pecially my friends Jackie, Gene Burgett, and Brian Kenyon (present director of FSOP)! I have even made the offer that two or three of us would be willing to fly to Lakeland at our own expense to go over the facts of the matter—with or without Dave Miller’s presence. Documentation has been provided in the form of a CD directly to the South Florida eldership which owns the build-ing where the school meets, including a letter from the founding Director of FSOP in which the late bro. Carr agrees with us that Dave Miller is in error!

What’s Going on Here?

Could it just be, folks, that the reason the FSOP Board refuses to answer my three simple questions asked of them in my open letter (appear-ing in Defender of September 2008) is because either the school: (1) upholds false doctrine in regard to the three is-sues addressed and is in agreement with Miller, or (2) knows that while they are in disagreement with Miller with regard to these same issues—they are involved in a contradictory practical application of fellowshipping him and his sympathizers in spite of such disagreement? (Who can imagine B. C. Carr by word or practice declaring that Eldership R & R, MDR as to intent to marry, and the teaching of a Direct Operation of the Spirit as being non-Heaven/Hell issues?) Unless certain folks also repented of their error, I recognize that the school’s relationship with several well-known brethren would be forced to change— namely, FSOP’s relationship with every brother who signed the infamous Letter of Support for Apologetics Press.

Since 2005, I have almost been forced to conclude that Jesus was not the only one “who did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22), but that this number also includes such untouchable signees as Tom Holland, Winford Claiborne, Earl Edwards, William Woodson, and Jody Apple. Though the Board seems to have no real problem cutting me off (or anyone who dares question their positions), one wonders just what it would take, or if it is even in the realm of possibility, for them to censure any of these brethren (who have never been on the faculty and thus lack the emotional ties and background with the school that some of us possess). I realize also that the school’s relationship would be required to courageously change toward former graduates like Ryan Roark, who has chosen to have Dave Miller speak at his lectureship with brother Jackie Stears-man for the past two years, and which in 2008 included Jackie’s son—FSOP graduate David Stearsman—who works with Jody Apple in Pennsylvania.

Ad Hominem?

Common to all arguments that commit Fallacies of Relevance is that they are logically irrelevant to their conclusion. The phrase argumentum ad hominem translates literally as “arguments directed to the man.” “To the man” referring to the speaker or writer, instead of being directed to the point at issue. Its structure takes the form “P is false.” “Why is P false?” “Because he who asserts P is a certain kind of person.” In its Abusive form, the second person responds to the first person’s argument by verbally abusing that person. In a classic demonstration of this, the author of said article in The Harvester wrote:

One dismissed faculty member of years gone by addresses us through publications that we do not receive. However, others send it to us desiring that we see the great love and concern our former traveler has for us…. Men have been dismissed in the past from being faculty members whom the Board considered lacking in wisdom and unwilling to comply with the judgments of the Board and Director of the school. 

(If these good brethren will treat me in such fashion, I would certainly hate to be one asking questions as an outsider!)

One will notice that certain negative facts are left out of this pejorative presentation. First, given the fact that numerous previous attempts to receive “information regarding the policy or position of the school on a given issue” by means of the Director, Co-Director, and the Director of Public Relations involved the sounds of silence, just about the only avenue left for me or others (e.g., Dave Watson and Gene Hill) to pursue was by an Open Letter. As I remember it, a Defender bundle used to come to the school to be distributed to students, but now I suppose a lot of screening must go on in materials made available to them. [We would be happy to send a bundle to them again if they wish—MH.] Second, the fact of the school and South Florida Avenue church using me during the many years since my “dismissal” is conveniently ignored. Reference was perhaps made to my “motormouth,” but not once in being introduced at the FSOP lectureship was I ever referred to as a “dismissed faculty member of years gone by.” Third, the fact of my using brethren Jackie and Gene with their full fellowship during those same years as lectureship writers and speakers is also overlooked. One thing for sure, I deny being dismissed for being unwilling to comply with the Board and Director of the school, a fact that anyone who was then involved already knows. I did lack the wisdom to see that by upholding my own view of the indwelling of the Spirit when challenged and refuting differing views would lead to my dismissal.

Ad hominem (abusive) occurs whenever a person has given up attempting to persuade a person or an audience as to the logical or Biblical reasonableness of a position and is now resorting to mere personal attacks (cf. John 8:41; 9:34). As one logician says:

A person who can only make their case by attacking others probably doesn’t have much of a case to begin with. Something objectionable is identified [and in this case resurrected from the burial vault of time!—tmh] about a person and the arguer then goes on to conclude that, just because of this objectionable fact, what they say about a particular topic should be ignored. Instead of showing where a person has made an error in any of his statements, the “argument” simply at-tacks them for who they are, and claims dismissal of anything said without even considering it. But this objectionable fact is not related to the subject at hand.

It is a subtle attempt to under-mine the person viewed as the attacker. Abusive ad hominem attempts to make someone appear suspicious, ridiculous, or just inconsistent, whereby people will start focusing on that rather than anything else. Thus, the argument is based on the failings of the adversary rather than on the merits of the case, and is committed when one engages in a personal attack as a means of ignoring, discrediting, or blunting the force of another’s argumentation. Jackie, I know that you, Gene [Burgett], and Brian [Kenyon] know exactly what abusive ad hominem involves!

Did the reader see the shameful, subtle attack upon motives inherent in the facetious statement about other brethren who sent Defender “to us desiring that we see the great love and concern our former traveler has for us”? Also, notice this statement: “Those who are truly interested in the position of the school on a given issue may consult the school publication, The Harvester, for insight into such matters.” The Bible teaches that only God can look upon and absolutely know the motives of the human heart (1 Sam. 16:7; John 2:24-25). How does the author or anyone else on the Board know that I do not have a great love and concern for FSOP, or if I am “truly interested in the position of the school”?

If to question or to criticize the school is a betrayal of love and concern, even when it involves telling the faculty and Board the truth, please explain to me the principle of the watchman’s warning of Ezekiel 33:7-9. Fact is, if I am right about Apologetics Press and Dave Miller, then I am among the best friends FSOP has! One gets used to rank liberal brethren using similar abusive tactics and motive judgments, but he does not expect it from one’s long-time friends who have always desired Bible authority for what they preach and practice. So far as I know, the mo-tives of the Board derive from their love and concern for the school, just as do mine. So let us get on to the Bible and the facts wherein we differ, and dispense with couching the contender by means of abusive ad hominem statements. I have consulted The Harvester, but failed to find information there which set out the position of the school on either Elder-ship R & R or marriage intent as related to MDR. I did find one article by the Director opposing a Direct Operation of the Spirit as error, but this flies in the face of the school’s practice of presently koshering Dave Miller, who says that since brethren have differed on this is-sue, it, therefore, should not be made a test of fellowship.

Sowing Discord Among Brethren?

The FSOP article continued by saying that “It has been a principle of the school to avoid, as much as possible, the controversies that may arise from those whom the Board considers to be sowing discord among brethren.” I have noticed over the years that when one demonstrates their error, rank liberals are quick to use the old “you’re sowing discord” mantra of Proverbs 6:19. Some on the Board will no doubt remember that Milo Hadwin did exactly that when B. C. Carr, James Huggins, and I proved publicly his (and his brother’s) doctrine to be false in a face-to-face confrontation. The school could never be rightfully accused of witch-hunting, but when error reared its ugly head— be it Crossroadism/Bostonism, the Soul-Winning Workshop in Orlando, or other damnable falsehoods, FSOP stood tall in its opposition to such. I only hope the Board recognizes as do

I about myself, that its consideration and declaration that a brother is sowing discord with no evidence or proof amounts to nothing more than an empty Vatican papal bull and is in fact a form of bearing false witness (Luke 18:20). The true principle for which FSOP has stood is that all division is not wrong, and that the Bible demands some division (Rom. 16:17-18; Eph. 5:11). Without evidence, this whole approach amounts to nothing more than another exercise in an additional use of a Fallacy of Relevance in which the Board misuses its God-derived position by An Appeal to Authority which takes this form: “Source A says that P; Source A is authoritative; Therefore, P is true.” Abilene Christian University did much the same with its in-house investigation of a brother who accused them (rightfully as it turned out) of teaching evolution, and they also resorted to an ad hominem attack on their accuser. Presentation of Scripture coupled with the facts would be much better, then and now.

When Does FSOP Lose Confidence?

The article then goes on to affirm that some who have spoken and even taught classes for the school would not be used today because the Board does not have confidence in them. When did the Board lose confidence in this evil, old “dismissed faculty member”? Jackie, was it when you asked me to write chapters and speak at the annual lectureship? Was it when you asked me to write a front-page Harvester article as a tribute to the passing of Thomas B. Warren in 2000? Was it when just before I left Florida in 2004 you asked me about my willingness to preach your funeral? Gene, was it when I was asked to recommend logic books and materials for your classes? Was confidence lost when I repeatedly invited both of you to write and speak on lectureships that I directed? Brian, was it when you wrote in February of 2004:

Greetings my brother! Thank you very much for “filling in” while I was gone. The students thoroughly enjoyed the classes (and were amazed that you quit on time!). You are a blessing for us to have nearby. I will be singing the blues if and when you go back to the Lone Star State…. Again, I appreciate and love you, brother!?

I might ask Ted Wheeler at what point he lost confidence in me—was it sometime after I sent boxes of free lectureship books to you for distribution in Ghana? Speaking of these books, perhaps someone needs to remove from the school website’s “Textbooks and Materials” pages the listing of my two volumes on Rightly Dividing the Word lest anyone might get confused in this matter of your confidence in me.

It is surely a shameful thing to allege with regard to myself, David Watson, or Gene Hill that “When asked questions, we must make a judgment as to the purpose and objective of the questioner. The Lord did not answer every question asked Him…He considered the source and answered accordingly,” as if we were prevaricators and longtime opposers—even haters of the school. I have found that from merely asking some simple doctrinally oriented questions of the powers that be, one can morph from being a blessing into an ogre. It is at least possible that some questions are not answered, not because said questioner is serving no good and in fact may be causing harm, but because the questions cannot be answered with-out contradicting one’s practice (Mat. 21:24-25; Luke 11:19). It seems that you had complete confidence in me up until the point that I asked serious ques-tions about Dave Miller.

Reversal of Blame

What is happening here is not unlike the Old Testament cases of Potiphar’s wife and that of King Ahab. You will remember that the good captain’s wife explained to the men of the house what had transpired between Joseph and herself is exactly the reverse of how it really happened (Gen. 39:14-16). Joseph was to be blamed, not her! Similarly, Ahab tells Elijah: “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” (1 Kin. 18:17) to which Elijah rightfully responds by answering: “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals” (18:18). Instead of using FSOP’s evasive tactics (i.e., excuses), at a later put-up-or-shut-up meeting between himself and the false prophets followed by Ahab, Elijah proved who was the actual troubler of Israel. To merely repeat phrases such as “whom the Board considers…the judgments of the Board…the Board does not have confidence in them…those whom we do not trust or with whom we have lost confidence” is not only to set up the Board as if it is the final arbiter of truth but to invert reality as to whose confidence has rightfully been shaken. The question for those who know the Bible and can see the practice of the school is whether sound brethren can or ought to still have confidence in FSOP! Jackie, I can just imagine your response if Chuck Lucas and the Crossroads elders had responded to your written materials as you have done above! Just substitute “Chuck and the elders” in place of “the Board” above in order to see your error. It is true that the Board runs the school, not me, just as it is true that elders run the church. But we best remember that God is going to judge both the Board and elders by Christ’s Word (John 12:48).

Is It Really “Much Ado About Nothing”?

Perhaps the most upsetting statement in this entire article is: “We realize this is a judgment matter, and our judgment may not be that of another.” Do we have in this statement the Board’s real answer to the three questions asked of them? I flatly deny that Eldership R and R or either of the other two issues questioned are to Biblically end up as mere matters of judgment! I am certain many others in our brotherhood will agree with this assessment and until and unless this situation is cleared up by you, no attempted transfer of blame over onto myself (or Dave Watson or Gene Hill) will alleviate the troubled spot into which you have placed yourselves. Are you brethren so weak as to say and re-ally mean it, that “the Board will not be dominated by any individual or group of individuals whether near or from afar?” Can three easily answered Biblical questions “dominate” you? Buck up and face the real issue like men, instead of attempting a cheap campaign of character assassination. When you do this, I have great hope of a reconciliation based upon truth. Despite my differences with you, I will always love you for what you have meant to and done for me.

 

 

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