Larry Siegle on the Bellview Lectureship Speakers and Their Claims
Larry Siegle is a long time friend. He has always been and is, a person of the highest character. As we have reported earlier, the Bellview ch of Christ in Saufley, Florida, recently completed a lectureship with the theme of Refuting Realized Eschatology. Larry has know many of the speakers for years, and has interacted with them. Below is Larry’s response to the speakers and their claims at the recent seminar. Let me urge that you read Larry’s thoughtful response carefully.
The Bellview Lectures: The Art of Misrepresentation
The 40th annual Bellview Church of Christ lecture series was held, June 12-16, 2015, in Pensacola, Florida. The subject chosen was, “Refuting Realized Eschatology” with presentation from 16 featured speakers. This series represents a significant historical departure from the approach taken by the vast majority of the “brotherhood” for more than four decades, especially since Max R. King released The Spirit of Prophecy in 1971. It has become quite apparent to many that the ‘ignore and isolate’ tactics within Churches of Christ toward those teaching Covenant Eschatology have be wholly ineffective in preventing the truth from reaching the hearts and minds of those interested in examining the evidence for themselves.
The apostle Paul, writing to the Thessalonians gave the exhortation to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thess. 5:17). The truth can only be ascertained when the evidence is examined carefully, and the ‘totality of circumstances’ is given its due consideration. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness” (II Tim. 2:15, 16). Unfortunately, Michael Hatcher, the leadership of the Bellview Church of Christ, and those participating in the 2015 lectures rather than providing an honest evaluation of the evidence, instead chose the pathway of distortion, thus perpetuating the exegetical fraud that has come to define this small and insignificant cross-section of brethren within the Churches of Christ. The substance of the presentations were a masterful misrepresentation of the facts of what Covenant Eschatology is, and what is taught by those who understand it.
The recent Bellview Lectures that were devoted to “Refuting Realized Eschatology” are posted online and I invested hours listening to the speakers with an open heart and mind this week, and late into the night. Some of those who participated on the program are men with whom I have interacted over the decades or read various articles written by them. In the late 80’s and early 90’s the Bellview congregation was in full fellowship and supported MSOP (Memphis School of Preaching) and men such as Terry Hightower, Harrell Davidson, and H. Daniel Denham were considered “defenders of the truth” and respected by students and faculty alike. In fact, Dub McClish was present at the time when I first met with Curtis Cates as a prospective student in the summer of 1989.
Therefore, my observations here are with a pure motivation of heart and I have no personal animosity toward any of these men. The “faction” that is NOW represented by this small group of men came as a result of their own “issues” that began in the pages of Contending For The Faith magazine in 2005-2006 over several matters related to control of The Gospel Journal magazine, problems with Dave Miller with respect to his view on the “Reappointment/Reevaluation of Elders, “Apologetics Press” (the Bert Thompson scandal), Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, and Mac Deaver and the approach taken by his family on the work and operation of the Holy Spirit.
Division occurred, battle lines were drawn, congregations were divided and fellowship was severed between the CFTF “faction” (that included some former students at MSOP), and a host of congregations whose loyalties were questioned. These are not rumors or gossip and are fully documented online in the pages of CFTF archives. Thus, the speakers who stood on the platform at Bellview Church of Christ are a cross-section among those “defenders of the faith” who felt it necessary to elevate certain matters to the level of “salvation-issues” much the same as had been the case with the “non-institutional” “one cup” “no Bible class” etc groups had done in the past.
IF those brethren who delivered the lectures on “Realized Eschatology” were even CLOSE to accurate in their presentation of what it is that Covenant Eschatology teaches, I would be among the FIRST to repent and to renounce the viewpoint and do everything in my power to expose what was deemed “damnable heresy” “false doctrine” a “doctrine of devils” — even likened by Jess Whitlock to “rat poison”. The lectures were long on rhetoric and short on Bible with regard to providing exegetical refutation of what myself and others have been teaching for 30 years or longer.
Scare tactics were used by these men to induce fear into the hearts and minds of those congregations represented to warn them that the “Kingites are coming!” In fact, Jess Whitlock is now seen as an “expert” on Covenant Eschatology and was flown out to hold an emergency seminar at a local congregation where two families who believe in fulfillment had become members. Apparently neither the minister or the eldership there were equipped to answer the arguments and so a “hired gun” had to be brought in to ‘save the church’ from the wiles of those who teach the truth about “all things written” (Luke 21:22) having been fulfilled in 70 CE.
Bruce Stulting presented a lecture on “The Prophecy of Joel” in which he first affirmed that the prophecy was fulfilled COMPLETELY on Pentecost, and that judgment occurred on Pentecost as a “day of the Lord” but who later applied the same passages to 70 CE and ALSO to the “end of time”. Therefore, the “this is that” argument has now been enlarged to mean “this is that” (Pentecost) and “that” (70 CE) and “that” (“end of time”). I have NEVER witnessed a more contrived and confusing interpretation and application of Joel 2:28-32 or of Acts 2:17-21. According to Stulting, the “last days” are the “Christian Dispensation” in its entirety, a fact that carries with it certain implications about the the work of the Holy Spirit foretold to occur DURING the “last days”–implications that neither he or the others speaking on the lectures would ever accept as the logical conclusion to their arguments.
No mention was ever made of men such as Guy N. Woods or Franklin Camp who HELD the “last days” were in relationship to Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The speakers insisted on the “late date” of the book of Revelation, and but continually QUOTED from Foy E. Wallace Jr. at length when it served their own purposes. No mention was made of the fact that Wallace championed the “early date” and application of the book of Revelation in his commentary.
It is POSSIBLE to good men to have honest disagreements as to the meaning and application of certain passages. However, honesty and integrity are of the utmost importance when standing up to represent what is believed and taught by others. IF these brethren actually understood and were willing to examine the evidence of what it is that those of us who teach Covenant Eschatology are saying, then I would be happy to acknowledge that they have arrived at conclusions different from my own. But the continual misrepresentation of the facts and the assassination of the character of such men as Don K. Preston is deception. Those who attended the lectureship and who listened to each of the speakers will go away just as perplexed and confused as when they first arrived.
I was embarrassed by what I heard and witnessed during the lectureship. These men are trying very hard to emulate the past defenders of truth, but pale in comparison. Guy N. Woods was a respected and able debater in his time yet never sacrificed the dignity of God’s Word to engage in the sorts of theatrics and antics that was evidenced by those who engaged in the Bellview Lectures.
These are my own personal observations of what I felt as I sat with Bible open and pen and paper in front of me, waiting for someone to make a reasonable argument against Covenant Eschatology. My Bible remained closed and the paper blank. Lots of clouds and thunder, but not a drop of rain. We need to pray for these men that some opportunity will open for some of us to reason with them about their mistaken notions of what it is that we who affirm the truth, believe and teach.
For those of us who have been teaching the principles of Fulfillment for decades, perhaps this most recent series of lectures represents an opportunity for discussion and dialog with those who want to examine the evidence for themselves. Truth has nothing to fear from honest examination.
(As the reader can see, the Bellview Lectures revealed the utter desperation as well as the deplorable conduct of men claiming to be defenders of the faith.- DKP)