Yes, it is true. I wrote articles for Contending for the Faith, edited by Ira Y. Rice, Jr., in the late 1970s.
Ira would stay in our home, it seemed, at least once a year. He would either hold a meeting or at least speak on a Sunday evening or Wednesday evening when he visited. Sometimes he was raising money for Far East missions as he encouraged missions and evangelism, and at other times he was warning the church about the inroads of liberalism within the brotherhood. I rememberd him fondly because he would always leave a dollar in my shoes when he visited.
Ira published my first book A Teenager Speaks on Spiritual Gifts (1977). That is a story I will tell on another occasion perhaps but here I will only say that on one of his visits my father showed him the manuscript. I had written it for my Bible study group at the High School when I was 14-15. Ira asked if he could publish it–and what was a sixteen year old to say? Well, yes, of course!
My relationship continued with Ira in the late 1970s. I invited him to hold a meeting with the NE Philadelphia Church of Christ (Philadelphia, PA) in Fall of 1978 (I think that was the date). We spent quite a bit of time together those few days, and I remember he warned me about attending Westminster Theological Seminary. I attended Westminster from 1977-1979 when I was 20-21 years old.
As I think back my camaraderie with Rice was a mixture of naivete, influence-seeking, and shared convictions at many levels. I was naive about the politics of the church. I sought a measure of influence and power within the “brotherhood”–and Rice was a clear power broker as well as a family friend. And I did share some basic theological viewpoints with him. The two articles below certainly make that clear.
Ultimately as my perspectives changed–though they changed rather slowly–we parted ways. When I began teaching at Harding University Graduate School of Religion in 1991, our fellowship was fully broken as he regarded the Graduate School as a troubler in Israel. One would only need to scan issues of Contending for the Faith to see his animosity toward the institution because he believed it was a threat to the church as he understood it.
Ira was passionate. He promoted missions in many local churches across the country. He advocated the desegregation of our educational institutions when it was anathema to many, rebuked Foy E. Wallace, Jr.’s racism (Rice was the young preacher who slept in the same bed with R. N. Hogan), and he wanted concrete congregational unity between white and black churches. In terms of racial progress, he was one of the few on the progressive edge. This is one of the dimensions that he admired about where my father preached for years in Alexandria, Virginia–it was a congregation of Koreans, African-Americans, Hispanics and Anglo-Saxons.
Ira certainly had his faults and sins as we all do. I cannot nor will I judge the man but neither will I sanction all that he did or said. I may disagree with him theologically and with some of his strategies, but I can still appreciate the righteousness of some of his causes.
The two articles below indicate that at one time, however, I shared some of his most cherished convictions: (1) the authority of elders and (2) the sanctification of the believer by the Spirit through the word alone.
“The Lordship of Elders,” Contending for the Faith 10.3 (March 1979) 9-10.
I originally submitted this piece to the Firm Foundation as a response to an editorial by Reuel Lemmons but he declined to publish it because there had been too many articles on the subject at the time. So, Ira published it. The article is negative in tone and intends to demonstrate that 1 Peter 5:1-3 does not undermine the idea that elders have “positional” (official) authority, that is, they have ultimate authority to make decisions about expedients for a congregation. The stress on “positional authority” is an idea that lingers from my book on women’s role in 1978 where it is argued that men have “positional authority” over women (I’m inwardly cringing as I type). Nevertheless, there are still some good exegetical points in the piece–“lording it over” is a form of tyranny. Unfortunately, I did not have the wisdom or experience to see that tyranny is often expressed under the guise of “positional authority” over expedients.
“The Doctrine of Sanctification,” Contending for the Faith 9.11 (November 1978) 1, 3-6.
This is an unusally lengthy piece for Contending for the Faith. It was partly the result of a research paper at Westminster Theological Seminary but I turned it toward specific issues among Churches of Christ. After surveying Calvinists, Wesleyan and Pentecostal versions of sanctification, I offer my own “biblical” version. My understanding of sanctification, however, only involves the mediate work of the Holy Spirit through the word. I deny the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, deny the “enabling” work of the Spirit in the life of the believer, and deny any direct work of the Spirit on the heart of the believer. Rather, since sanctification is through the word, the indwelling of the Spirit is also through the word.
As I read it again, I was struck with how much my “logic” jumps from one thought to another, from one text to another. I draw conclusions from and string texts together in ways that are quite troubling to me now. My hermeneutical models and practices were still quite emeshed in traditional proof-texting.
Also, I now recognize that my analysis of Wesleyanism in particular was quite superficial and at times just plain wrong (e.g., indwelling Spirit only comes through second work of grace in perfectionism….NOT!). What I did have right, I think, is how the Pentecostal Holiness movement substituted the experience of Holy Spirit Baptism for Wesley’s Holy Spirit experience that enabled his version of Christian perfection. While some of the historical details are correct, the conclusions I draw and the projections I place upon Calvinists, Wesleyans and Pentecostals are prejudiced by my objective in the piece.
There is more to come from the 1970s. I just have to find the time to digitize them. And I know all my friends are waiting impatiently for them.