The Berean Inquirer

"Confronting Theology & Practice With
the Lordship of Jesus Christ"

Acts 17:10-11    1st Thess. 5:19-22

Updated: 06 JUN 02

What's Wrong With Gene Edwards?

Introduction to a Series of articles
Regarding the Erroneous Doctrines
and Unscriptural Practices of a
20th Century False Apostle

A Few Biographical Words About Gene Edwards

As of the date of this publication (7/19/98) Gene Edwards is a man of about 65 to 66 years of age. About 35 years ago he began operating outside the parameters of his Southern Baptist foundations (although he still persists in calling himself a baptist). Gene Edwards is primarily concerned with establishing what he considers to be first century style churches around the country and elsewhere in the world. Consequently, Gene Edwards has attracted many who have become socially or psychologically dissatisfied with traditional style churches, as well as a those who have become thoughtfully dissatisfied because they have come to see that traditional style churches are a far cry from what Christ and His apostles ever intended.

Is the House Church Wrong?

It has been a common conclusion that because I disagree with so much of Gene Edwards' theology and church practices, that I must believe in the institutional church and in a heirarchical and/or domineering type church leadership. Nothing could be further from the truth! Indeed, since 1991, the number of times I've darkened the doors of an institutional church could probably be counted on one hand. My wife and I have consistently participated in home assemblies for over ten years, and nearly all of that time with no recognized elders.

I am convinced that the institutional practices of the traditionalistic churches, especially their heirarchical and domineering leadership styles, undermines the lordship of Christ over the gathered saints and their meetings. Further, I believe that, as a rule, when the assembly jointly owns property (e.g., church buildings, busses, schools), Satan has a ready tool at hand by which he can wreak all manner of destruction in the local assembly (e.g., division, moral compromise with the world, pride in the group, and almost certainly institutionalism).

Nevertheless, in the body of Christ we cannot forge alliances with others simply because they share our revulsion with certain forms of evil. The old Arab saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" simply does not hold in the assembly of those committed to doing the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our only friends are those who are likewise committed to obeying Him who died for us. Thus, my criticisms of Gene Edwards are not intended to sustain the traditional, unscriptural church systems, but to stand for the Lordship of Christ over the assemblies of the saints.

Are Criticisms of Gene Edwards Appropriate?

Before going on with this introduction, caveat is in order. As the pages in this series are for the specific purpose of highlighting what are ostensibly some very serious errors in Gene Edwards' theology and practice of the church, some may think these articles are too negative. Others will argue that I should first confront Gene Edwards privately about my concerns, before articulating them publicly. Still others will no doubt suggest that it is wrong to rebuke or criticize brethren in any format in which an unbeliever could observe it. And then there will be those who, believing Gene Edwards to be an apostle, will argue that it is wrong to contend with the Lord's appointed. I would like to respond to each of these concerns in order.

Those who think I am too negative should consider this: if you are not deeply familiar with Gene Edwards' teachings and practices pertaining to the churches it is understandable that you may feel that my criticism of his doctrines is overly harsh. But, as a friend of mine — a former pastor in a cultishly rigid denomination — has observed, "Someone who was totally ignorant of the religion and hypocrisy of the Pharisees might read one of Jesus' rebukes of them, knowing nothing else, and think, 'My, how unsparingly critical and condemning of these men He is!'; while another man, being intimately familiar with their ways, could read the same rebuke, and say to himself, 'My, how did He restrain His tongue in dealing with those vipers?!'"

However, if you are one of Gene Edwards' disciples, or an ardent fan of his, though you may be deeply familiar with his ecclesiology, then — as with many of those who have only a slight acquaintance with Gene Edwards' doctrines — you also may find these articles excoriatingly critical. That is, perhaps, unfortunate, but sadly it is not something I can prevent. Regardless, it is not my intention to wound the many dear saints who place their faith in Gene Edwards' leadership, nor is it my goal to be personal in my criticisms; rather, my desire is to warn all who would listen about Gene Edwards' spiritual deviance, and to uphold Jesus Christ as Lord in His assemblies — for only as the congregation yields to His will, as it is revealed in the New Testament, can it truly be said that He is the focus of our meetings.

To those who think that I should confront Gene Edwards privately about my concerns before publishing them for all to read, it must be asked, On what basis do you insist on this? There is no evidence that our Lord privately confronted the Pharisees with their false doctrines and unscriptural practices; All of His criticisms appear to have been made publicly, and not all of them to His adversaries' faces, even. Likewise, did Peter go to Ananias and Sapphira, privately, before confronting them before witnesses? (Acts 5:1-11) There certainly is no evidence of that. Nor did Paul privately share his concerns with Peter, that this member of the Twelve had become guilty of impugning the church of Christ, before rebuking him publicly (Gal. 2:11). Of course, in this latter case, some would suggest that the "face to face" rebuke was actually done as a private matter; but if it was, Paul made no bones about subsequently airing it for all to read, and he said absolutely nothing about Peter's response to his rebuke, besides!

For those who feel that any criticisms that are made of Gene Edwards in any format in which unbelievers might easily observe, again, the question must be asked, Where do you get such a notion? What authority is there for such an idea? Our Lord ministered under the Old Covenant, yet he was publicly critical of the religious leaders of His day; He spoke against the priests, the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Sadducees. He went into the temple, in full view of the Roman guard, and drove the money-makers out with a whip! (Hmm. Talk about harsh.) Furthermore, it is apparent from the New Testament that it was not entirely unusual for unbelievers to be present among the saints, even in the meetings of the church (1 Cor. 14:23); so, really, the idea of a format that is public to the church but not available to unbelievers isn't feasible.

Indeed, the assembly — the true assembly, not the organizations we call churches — is not hurt by the exposure of scoundrels and charlatans in her midst, let alone by the public criticism of false teaching that goes on in the name of the Lord. If she were, the gates of hell would have prevailed the moment Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church! If anything, it is the assembly's ability to be forthright about her problems and failings that is appealing to honest inquirers. It is false religion that hides its dirty laundry; sincere faith in Christ is not afraid to be open and vulnerable.

For those who think that Gene Edwards is an apostle, and that, as such, he should not be accused or criticized, and who would suggest that I am acting presumptuously to contend with the Lord's appointed man, I challenge both his apostleship and the notion that apostleship makes a man above accountability for what he teaches and how he leads. It has already been observed, how Paul rebuked Peter; yet, it may be argued that Paul was an apostle, too, and that therefore it was not presumptuous of him to do this. Still, there is no sure standard or canon that says apostles may not be criticized or rebuked by non-apostles.

Paul's instruction, regardless of who is teaching, is that we should "examine everything carefully" (1 Thess. 5:21). In the same vein, John tells us to "test the spirits, to see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1). How is this to be done? Well, in his Acts of the Apostles, Luke commends the Jews at Berea for being neither cynical nor naive regarding Paul's Gospel; for, although they received his words "with great joy," they also began "examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were [really] so" (Acts 17:11). Thus, it appears that the only safe way to know the truth is not to depend on a man's alleged apostleship, but to test the spirits and depend on the Word of God.

Having explained to you the nature of these articles, then, and why I have not yielded to some of the popular sentiments against this kind of writing, let me continue with my introduction to Gene Edwards and his teachings and practices concerning the function of the church.

Radical Revolutionary, House Church Leader,
Author, Church Planter, and Conference Speaker

In view of the increasing dissatisfaction that many have had with traditional churches since the late 1960s, Gene Edwards began to give seminars promoting his own special version of the early church, including his own version of the house church. Edwards has also "planted" several home churches in the United States and in one or two European countries. Since the early 1970s, Gene Edwards has written around twenty books about the church and its organization and leadership, with special emphasis on his view that the modern church needs New Testament-like apostles. Unfortunately, Gene Edwards' "cure" is as bad as the symptoms he pretends to treat.

Gene Edwards' Books on Ecclesiology (Apostles or Church Planters, Elders, Ministry, Gifts, Functioning, Home Church or House Church) Include:

Revolution: The Story of The Early Church by Gene Edwards

Revolution: The Story of The Early Church is a historical deconstruction of the first seventeen years of the life of the Christian church. There are some good things in this book, but so much of Gene Edwards' telling of the story is nothing more than an articulation of mere speculations as facts.

Climb the Highest Mountain by Gene Edwards

This book contains some good ideas, but one suspects that much of Climb the Highest Mountain was written in the vain hope of precluding any attempt to hold Gene Edwards accountable for his unfaithfulness to the Word of God. The book discusses Gene Edwards' ideas about the standard for being a true revolutionary in the body of Christ.

Overlooked Christianity by Gene Edwards

A book that Gene Edwards' publishing company, SeedSowers, likes to tout as "radical," and as "a book that shakes the foundations of the evangelical mind-set." In large part Overlooked Christianity seems to be little more than a book that tinkers with Roland Allen's classic (and now out of print) work, Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or ours.

When the Church Was Led Only By Laymen by Gene Edwards

When the Church Was Led Only By Laymen is a book that would have been more aptly titled, When the Church Was Chasing its Tail or When the Church Was Immature. It suggests that the reason Paul left new churches without elders for a period of time before appointing them was on two grounds: 1. He wanted the church to learn, experientially, that the church belonged to the brothers and sisters; 2. He wanted the church to develop its own cultural expression of the bride of Christ. When the Church Was Led Only By Laymen fails to take into account that Derby received elders immediately before Paul departed that city after the church there had been planted (as, probably, did the last churches on Paul's other missionary trips). It does not appear that the apostle's delay in appointing elders was caused by anything more than the fact that no one in his fledgling churches had matured sufficiently enough to be recognized as elders until, apparently, he was ready to return from Derby.

Also, Edwards eisogetes (i.e., reads into) Paul's resistance of the Judaizers so as to propose the fatuous notion that Paul was particularly looking to incorporate aspects of pagan culture into his churches. But the apostle's point does not appear to have been especially to build various Gentile "cultural expressions" of the church, so much as to convert Gentiles to total devotion to Christ; anything that vied for his converts' attention and loyalty detracted from his Lord's effectual rule in their hearts. For Paul, the Law of Moses was just a stop-gap measure which, in Christ, became defunct (Gal. 3:19). Thus, for the apostle, to be devoted to the Law was to be distracted from Christ. Indeed, Paul even suggested that being joined to Christ as respects justification, while at the same time being joined to Moses (i.e., the Law) in the matter of sanctification, indicated that the saint should be called a spiritual adulteress (Rom. 7:1-6).

How to Meet Under the Headship of Christ by Gene Edwards

Another book that is misappropriately titled; How to Meet Under the Headship of Christ have been called, How to Meet Under the Eagis of Gene Edwards This is a book that does little more than discourage Christians who are keenly interested in meeting under the headship of Christ. Incredibly dry, annoyingly redundant, and little to do with the headship of Jesus Christ; the author has merely built for himself a $12.00 per copy platform to advance the notion that no matter how much you want to meet under the headship of Christ, it can't be done without an authentic apostle of New Testament proportions. (And where are you going to find one of those? Better get thee to one of Gene Edwards' churches.) Why the author bothered writing this book is beyond me, as, judging from the reader response to this web site, devotees of his literature are interested in the Lordship of Christ only as a catch-phrase.

Beyond Radical by Gene Edwards

One of the better books Edwards has written, although not unflawed. Beyond Radical goes into the many practices of the modern churches, to show that they came into the church some time after the churches of the New Testament age. While criticizing such things as the special clothes worn by pastors in many churches, it does not explain the supposed legitimacy of Edwards' own innovations (e.g., creating an office of authority, to be held by a woman, for the purpose of telling the men in the assembly to shut up when the office bearer feels they've shared enough).

Rethinking Elders by Gene Edwards

This book should have been titled, Rethinking Elders Without Using Your Brain. To give my impression of Rethinking Elders, I will adapt SeedSowers' own description of the book (as found in the Fall 1998 catalog, The Seedsowers), thus giving a more truthful description:

The first radical departure from scriptural teachings on the subject of elders since the early church fathers! Using an approach to Scripture that essentially ignores the particulars of what the Scriptures actually say, Edwards gives to us an godless view of eldership. Walk with the author through the first century, not paying close attention to specific statements of Scripture about elders, but to the author's agenda-driven deconstruction of the first century story. Eldership, as it is in the mind of a 20th century false-apostle, emerges bastardized and effete into full view. Especially for Christians who have a gripe with elders. Discerning men may not like this book. Everyone else is going to love it. If you — or a friend of yours — have ever been in an abusive elder/laity movement . . . READ THIS PANDERING BOOK! If you want a way to read the Scriptures which will give you an innocuous New Testament, then you want to read this book.

A Vision For "the Bride"

Gene Edwards gives the impression that his desire is to restore to the saints the New Testament way of doing church. But, while recapturing the ideal of the church as it is presented in the New Testament is worthy of our greatest efforts, it does not appear that this is Gene Edwards' true goal. Indeed, Gene Edwards' focus seems to be neither on Christ, nor on Christ's desires for the churches — what he calls "the bride" — but on his (i.e., Gene Edwards') own personal "vision for the bride." What he appears to envision, is a "bride" or church who knows her Lord in an intimate, spiritually orgasmic way, without having much of an understanding of His mind and will (in much the same way a woman knows a man with whom she goes to bed only hours after having just met him). Thus it is that this section of The Berean Inquirer is devoted to exposing Gene Edwards' clever philosophy and unscriptural practices.

There currently are three essays available on this subject (see the links below), but please be sure to continue to check back at this page for additional articles covering other aspects of Gene Edwards' theology and practice. (Scroll down for links to the articles.)

Essay #1.: Rethinking Edwards
Essay #2.: Is Gene Edwards a True Apostle?

The following is complete except for some minor editing:

Essay #3.: Here's Why Gene Edwards and SeedSowers Publishing
Do Not Understand the New Testament, and Why
You Should Not Buy The First Century Diaries

Elsewhere in the Berean Inquirer:

Table of Contents (Home for The Berean Inquirer)

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