Thank you very kindly for your letter which came today. Your written communication is the first I’d received since I discontinued meetings over 2 months ago (with the exception of a card from Carol and Melissa). I consider you folks among my dearest friends.
My decision to discontinue meetings came about over a long period of time. It is the result of a war that has raged in my heart for several years. It has to do (primarily) with a burning question: Must a worker plant the gospel seed in order for life, and ultimately salvation, to be achieved?
During the past 16 years of practice in Tonasket I have come to know many people quite well. Not only seeing them year after year as patients but out in the community, and hearing of their various activities as well. I consider this to be an advantage of a small town—many people have become “friends”. A few of these folks have strong Christian values and faithfully confess Christ before the community. There was a time when I naively felt that these individuals would eventually “profess” (as I knew it to be) and really be saved.
Fourteen months ago, one of these special Christian folks, a 75-year-old man, whom I loved dearly, died. But he hadn’t “professed” yet! Suddenly the burden was more than I could bear—was he in hell? Lost forever? Bud was a gentle God fearing, Bible reading, praying man who bore the fruits of the Spirit but he had never professed through a worker. Could I deny the power of God to save by insisting in my mind that the mediation of a mortal (worker) was necessary for this man’s salvation?
The above questions led to an intensive scriptural search which has proven to me beyond all possible doubt that salvation in no way depends on mediation by any individual. I am further convinced that anyone teaching such a doctrine is heretical.
My study was followed by asking several workers my burning question. In fairness I spoke only to those having been in the work 25 or more years. Two of those, in the work the longest, affirmed what I’d been taught during my 30 years professing; that yes, the seed must be planted by a worker. One went so far as to assure me that Bud could not be a saved man. One worker didn’t have a definite answer and another hadn’t been sure until recently herself when she had asked a visiting brother from the Midwest. He had referred her to Romans 1:19 & 20 which tells us that God speaks directly through creation leaving all without excuse. She went on to say that God speaks in three ways: through creation, through his written word and through life experience and that any of these can bring a person to a relationship with God. One of the workers said other evangelists, etc., bring people to a “certain level” of Christianity but the workers bring them to a “higher level”. I read nothing in my Bible about “levels” of Christianity—either we are Christians or we aren’t.
There are two points of extreme concern regarding the above. One is that professing workers must agree on major points of Christian doctrine. Deep, systematic, thorough doctrinal studies are long overdue—including questions and answers and discussion. The second is that if the workers insist that they must plant the seed they are setting themselves up as mediators when in reality Jesus is our ONLY mediator—1 Timothy 2:5; also the power of God to save through a number of mediums is denied. Phil. 1:15-18 has been very confirming where Paul speaks of some teaching Christ through “envy and strife” but he rejoiced anyway simply because Christ was being preached. This scripture convicts me that the message is far more important than the messenger.
In addition, it was of interest to me that of five married individuals I spoke to (all have “professed” 25-30 years) each one believes that there are individuals outside the fellowship who are saved.
I could never express to you the depth of pain and disappointment I have personally experienced in my struggle to satisfactorily answer this question for myself. During the past two years I have often prayed that God would take my life to spare me having to deal with this issue—and more so as the time neared when I could no longer support or identify with this “exclusive” doctrine and had to tell Glenda that I would no longer be attending meetings. The thought that we may never worship together as a family again grips me like a vise.
Through all of this God has given me incredible strength. I crave to read his word and be in His presence like never before. I greatly appreciate Christian radio and Christian books. The burden has been lifted that my shoulders were never meant to bare – and I am fully confident that Bud, and many others, are saved and I no longer must anguish over getting my terminally ill patients to “profess” through a worker before they die.
This comes with sincere Christian love to each who reads it. Many of you will feel I am “lost” or “dead” yet I feel more alive in Christ than at any previous time. There is incredible joy in having the barrier between myself and other Christians in the community removed. There is some wonderful Christian fellowship available to us if only we will allow ourselves to take advantage of it. I pray this might be the reality of each one.
As a final note I would suggest that there are many out there who are professing in “the truth” who do not believe the seed must be planted by a worker and who do not believe that all those you work with, go to school with, etc., are bound for eternal damnation. Because of fear we tend to cling to that which is comfortable and do not create waves in spite of what we may see as inconsistency. This leads to loss of joy, frustration and a terrific burden. Is it worth it?
May God bless you richly,[By Dr. Gregg Harvey, a chiropractor in Tonkasket, Washington]
January 6, 1992
P.S. Obviously my definition of Christian discipleship has dramatically changed. I have had to ask myself “What does it really mean to be Christlike?” My old definition no longer seems adequate. Jesus suffered, denied himself, was a friend to sinners and sought to save a suffering, dying humanity. So I ask myself what have I done for the suffering side of humanity? How much have I denied myself or given of my personal ease and pleasure to bless the community where I live or imitate the life of the Savior? Am I to go on doing as tradition has selfishly led me with little rounds of pleasures and entertainments never knowing the pain of things that cost?
All this has nothing to do with willingness. By far the path of least resistance for me now would be to return to meetings. It grieves me deeply that I can no longer accept the “exclusive” doctrine.