[Some Missouri Baptists may be interested to read this response by Jeff White to David McAlpin's written objections that have been circulated throughout the convention and which McAlpin himself disseminated at the last Executive Board meeting. It was presented to the Ad-hoc Committe on Theological Review. I have edited it slightly.]
At the request of committee Chairman, Michael Knight, and for the official record of this committee, this is a written response to a 4 page paper presented by David McAlpin in the Ad-Hoc Theological Study Committee on March 15, 2007. It is my intention here to explain my actions, and correct several inaccuracies in McAlpin’s paper. While I have to mention names, it is not my intention to attack any person, but to address the issues. At the risk of being misunderstood, I think it is important to state upfront that I have no ill-feelings or malicious intent toward David McAlpin or Gary Smalley. I wish both of them and their respective ministries the very best. I have visited face-to-face with Smalley, and the meeting was polite, friendly, cordial, and pleasant. I would have no problem at all saying he seems like a very nice individual, who is ostensibly good. I also have no problem with any local autonomous church choosing to have him in to conduct a conference, because as I see it, that would be an issue between that church’s leadership and the Lord Jesus Christ. There are, however, several concerns I have with Smalley’s teachings, which in my opinion do not make him the best choice for use by the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). Some of these concerns I have expressed in previous committee meetings, which prompted McAlpin to write a paper containing statements about me that I disagree with.
INACCURACIES AND OBSERVATIONS:
To begin with, McAlpin’s paper’s title is misleading. At no time have I accused Gary Smalley or the Smalley Relationship Center of “heresy”. I have repeatedly stated that we “might be” (those are my exact words) dealing with doctrine which is unbiblical. At no point in time have I categorically stated that we are absolutely dealing with false doctrine or heresy. Giving the benefit of a doubt to ministries we partner with in the MBC, is precisely why I asked for other godly people to serve on a committee to look into these issues. I did not want to make the call by myself, but wanted input from others. Further, the motion I made which resulted in the Ad-Hoc Theological Study Committee coming into existence at the annual meeting of the MBC on November 1, 2006, never mentioned Smalley or his ministry by name. This was deliberately done to avoid slandering him in any way, and to give him the benefit of a doubt. Counting myself, I believe there are at least 4 of our 5 committee members who will state I have not slandered anyone or accused anyone of heresy that they know of. I have questioned the theological accuracy of various statements in books that have been published and put into the public domain by various individuals. But, I have slandered no one, nor have I attacked anyone’s sincerity, character, or morality. If someone publishes material and places it in the public domain, they should fully expect to have their material read, studied, discussed, reviewed, analyzed, critiqued, evaluated, and assessed, etc, by various people from time to time. This is all I have done. For McAlpin to say and/or put in writing that I have falsely accused someone of something, when I have not, is to falsely accuse and slander me.
McAlpin alleges he offered “repeated requests” for copies of web pages I had from Smalley’s website. Actually, as I remember it, only once at the end of the committee meeting on March 1, 2007 did McAlpin ask for those items. As has been noted by committee Chairman Michael Knight, the committee never officially asked for those items. In response to McAlpin’s request, I agreed I would try to get those items to him in the future as I was able. Our next meeting was only two weeks away on March 15, 2007 the day McAlpin presented his paper against me. During that two week interval, since my ministry at my church comes before my convention work, and since I was incredibly busy with some family and personal issues, that period was not long enough for me to get the materials to McAlpin. At that point it was a matter of me being too busy, not one of me being unwilling to cooperate.
My concerns with Smalley “possibly” being a Universalist were not based on Smalley’s Statement of Faith, which McAlpin discusses. Although it is interesting to note that in Smalley’s Statement of Faith, in article #14, Smalley does not say what the “everlasting separation from God” is he believes in or where it is at.
McAlpin insists I did not make known to the committee the book’s title with which I was concerned. This is incorrect. In the first meeting the committee had, I specified it was Chapter 2 of Smalley’s work, The DNA of Relationships. Again, other committee members, besides McAlpin, should be able to verify this.
In a footnote at the bottom of page 1, McAlpin says the Smalley “event was reported on at each Executive Board meeting from the inception”. To the best of my recollection, I believe this is inaccurate. McAlpin has not served on the Executive Board as far as I know, but I had served on it for 5 years prior to this situation. I never remember the specifics of the Smalley event being discussed in the plenary sessions of the Executive Board, let alone at “each” meeting. I’m sure it is likely the Smalley event was discussed in detail in the [Family Ministries Workgroup], but since I’ve never been a part of that workgroup, I cannot speak authoritatively to that. If the Smalley event was discussed in the plenary sessions of the Executive Board, it was rare and brief at best, or may have occurred on a rare occasion when I was absent.
On page 2, McAlpin states, “White admitted that both Smalley and his pastor affirmed strongly. . . the certainty of damnation for those who reject Christ”. This is not totally correct. In the meeting with Smalley, he was asked if he believed in a “literal, burning hell, where people who have rejected Christ spend eternity?” His response, after an awkward inordinate pause, was “Well, I believe whatever the Bible says about it.” That response hardly qualifies as a strong doctrinal affirmation in my opinion.
Again on page 2, McAlpin tries to explain Smalley’s statements in The DNA of Relationships (chapter 2) by using Acts 17:28-29. It should be noted that it is McAlpin using Acts 17, not Smalley. Smalley actually uses very little Scripture in most of his writings. From this, two things should be noted: first, if what Smalley means is that God is our Creator, then he should have simply said that and used a different analogy than that of the father/child relationship. This is especially true in light of the potential confusion this could cause an unbeliever reading Smalley’s book. The Bible is abundantly clear that before salvation we are of our “Father the Devil” (John 8:44), and are “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2) and “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), but not children of God. And, second of all, I don’t totally agree with McAlpin’s treatment of Acts 17:28-29. In that passage, which points out the utter absurdity of idolatry, all the Apostle Paul is doing is using the pantheistic Athenian philosophers’ own logic against them, which was expressed by the words of the pagan Greek poet Aratus. Paul is basically saying to them, that if they think they are “God’s offspring”, then that means God existed before them, and if God existed before them, then they cannot make a god after them in the form of an idol to worship and it be the true God. Paul stops short of taking this very limited analogy to the point of saying “God is their Father”.
Assuming Smalley is not a Universalist, which he may not be, does not automatically mean he is correct in all the rest of his teachings and should be used by the MBC. Over the course of his career, he has used in an affirming way psychological terms and concepts such as self-esteem, self-love, self-image, and right brain/left brain theory, etc. This mixing of psychological concepts with Bible verses when counseling others is in practice inconsistent with a sufficient view of Scripture. If Scripture is sufficient, then by definition, it does not need to be augmented. In an email from Smalley to me dated August 6, 2006 he writes, “I have also come to appreciate and respect the field of psychology as much as the field of cardiology and urology" (see the attached photocopy of this email). He goes on to say in that email he reveres Scripture more than psychology. All of us who are saved think it’s great he reveres the Bible. But, the difference between Smalley and the position I am advocating is this: I have no respect for psychology, since it is a man-made human philosophy and not a science, and I would not use any of it to counsel someone. I would use Scripture alone, since the Bible claims to be totally sufficient for counseling and for producing sanctification in the lives of God’s people (see Psalm 19:7-11; Luke 16:30-31; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). This is why I have repeatedly stated that Smalley is not the problem he is only a symptom of the problem. The real issue in the MBC is the sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture. The Bible indicates we are to “esteem one another”, not ourselves (see Philippians 2:3). And, that we are to “love one another”, not ourselves (see Luke 14:25-27; 2 Timothy 3:1-5). The Bible assumes we love ourselves automatically by nature, because we are born sinful and total depraved (see Matthew 22:35-40; Ephesians 5:29). We are never commanded in Scripture to love ourselves. But, we are commanded in Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” And, we are also commanded to “deny” ourselves (Luke 9:23).
On Page 3, McAlpin gives a list of people who endorse Smalley’s ministry, as if those individuals are infallible. They are not. It does not prove anything substantial for someone to affirm another’s ministry. It only matters if God and His Word affirm someone. There are many popular speakers today who can draw huge crowds, people like Joel Osteen, T. D. Jakes, and Joyce Myers, just to mention a few. But I would not want the MBC to invite these individuals to speak either, or to use or promote any of their materials. Furthermore, there are other people in the Christian community who have had issues with Smalley. For example, Martin and Deidre Bobgan, as well as Albert Dager have all stated their various concerns, so I am not alone.
On Page 4, McAlpin suggests I didn’t follow Matthew 18 in dealing with this issue. This is incorrect. I went to the person in charge of the MBC/Smalley event, Joe Ulveling. I was assured by him that Jim Austin and David Clippard knew what was going on, and that he would report everything back to them. The impression I got from Joe was that Austin and Clippard were supporting Joe’s position and he was representing them. In an email, Joe encouraged me to contact Smalley, which I did via email. I was later invited by Smalley to a sit down visit with him. That meeting included Smalley, his Pastor, Pastor Justin Nelson (who is my Co-Pastor), and me. Initially, I approached Don Hinkle about running an article in the Pathway which would present some of my concerns with Smalley. Hinkle wisely encouraged me to talk to Joe Ulveling instead. After much thought, I decided that was the more biblical approach to take.
McAlpin alleges that I called into question Smalley’s salvation, but this is also incorrect. I have called into question whether or not Smalley relies exclusively on Scripture to provide counseling to people, but not his conversion. It is interesting to note, however, that in Article #1 of Smalley’s Statement of Faith, which covers his beliefs concerning the Bible, he does not use the words “sufficient” or “sufficiency”. I have raised this question because his quoting of psychologists, and his use of therapeutic language in most of his books, far out numbers his quotes of respected Bible teachers or actual Scriptures. Sometimes the problem is not with what someone says it is with what they do not say.
Despite McAlpin’s recollection of our first committee meeting, at no time have I berated Clippard, though I have asked him pointed and tough questions at times. Everyone besides McAlpin on the Ad-Hoc Theological Study Committee, I believe, will testify to this.
McAlpin has falsely accused me repeatedly of slander and character assassination, simply because I’ve attempted to hold people accountable. In my opinion, McAlpin has actually made this situation with Smalley worse through his personal attacks on me, which I have had to respond to, and which will not allow our committee to move off of this subject and on to other important issues. He has even circulated his paper against me around the state of Missouri and at a recent MBC Executive Board meeting (even to some non-Executive Board individuals), thus creating more negative publicity for Smalley. At the top of the paper he recently circulated at the Baptist Building, he wrote in hand-print at the top, “Ad-Hoc Theological Study Committee”, which gave a misleading impression to people that his paper was from the committee, instead of personally from him. It seems as though McAlpin wants to circumvent the work of this committee, and present his case in the court of public opinion.
It has never been my intention for this committee to have an up-or-down vote on which of the para-church organizations we want to do business with. It has been my intention that this committee would look at the theology related to those ministries, and from that, come up with a policy statement which would serve as a guideline for our MBC staff to follow in the future. It is my desire that the MBC would be known as a state convention that is, above all else, committed to glorifying God through biblical and theological excellence. For this to happen, though, the standard of expectation must be raised to a new level from where it currently is. It is not enough for us to verbally affirm the inerrancy of the Bible; we must also practically affirm the sufficiency of it. This is precisely why this committee is needed. Unfortunately, it seems like McAlpin does not think so. It is perfectly fine for any committee member to disagree or offer a differing opinion, but it is not alright to try to undermine a convention process. From day one of our Ad-Hoc Theological Study Committee, rather than attacking the issues, McAlpin has tried to stop, subvert and sidetrack the entire work of this committee by attacks that are personal and political. One has to question who put him up to this, and also, whether it is ethically right for him to stay on a committee he obviously thinks does not have a need or right to exist. It would appear, in my opinion, McAlpin might not want to be a working part of this committee.