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X. RESPONDING TO NEGATIVE INFORMATION

Who Should Gain Knowledge?

In his second article in the "Joy of Justice", titled "Evil Reports - How to Respond", David Gumlia lays out for us in succinct form how GCI expects its members to respond to "evil reports". This article is laid out as a companion article to Clark's, which we have just examined in chapter nine. Whereas Clark chose to use the word "slander" to interchange with "evil reports", Gumlia chooses to use the phrase "negative information". The two articles are placed together under one heading: "Evil Reports". Clark tells us how to identify them. Now Gumlia will tell us how to respond to them once we have detected them.

We have read much as we proceeded through these pages, which makes it almost impossible to ever hear anything which is slightly negative about someone, especially an elder or church leader. Gumlia now proposes two limited times when such information supposedly could be listened to by a third party:

"There are only two situations in which it would be right to listen to negative information about another believer. One would be if you are directly involved in helping reprove the person and correct his weakness or error (Galatians 6:1)."1
The verse he refers to says:

"Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself lest you too be tempted."
Here we have more of the same weak exegesis which characterised Gumlia's first article. Galatians 6:1 says nothing at all about hearing or listening. Nor does it say anything about when it is right to hear or listen. It only states that if a brother is caught in a trespass, the spiritual ones are to correct him. It also tells us in what spirit to do it. In says nothing about who may or may not listen to a report of the sin. In fact, it seems to imply that unspiritual ones may have actually gained knowledge of the sin, but only the spiritual are told to go to the offender. So then, some who have knowledge are, it seems, discouraged (or at least not encouraged) from being a part of the corrective process. This would sharply contrast with Gumlia's first rule, and with GCI teaching.

Unfortunately, Gumlia gives the impression that this verse gives us guidelines on when we are to listen and when we are to refuse to listen. He does not bother to quote the verse, he only lists the reference to support his point. This is a misuse of this passage, and an offense to his readers.

Fabrication

Gumlia then goes on to describe the second situation:

"The other situation would be in the case of someone who has been disciplined by the church. In this case, you would be right to accept those facts as confirmed by two or three witnesses and by the church (I Cor. 5:12-13)."2
First, we have note an apparent discrepancy between Gumlia and Hopler. Whereas Gumlia seems to require that the church investigate in order to confirm the charges, we recall that Hopler required the church to take action merely on the basis of the two witnesses, with no further investigation required.

In his use of I Corinthians 5:12-13, Gumlia repeats the same mistake which he made with Galatians 6:1. He implies that it says something which it does not say.

"For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves." I Corinthians 5:12-13
We find nothing in these verses at all about when we are to listen to negative information. Also, there is nothing here to list for us the "two situation" rule which Gumlia constructs. It is a fabrication, with some Bible references thrown in for support.

Gumlia at Odds With GCI

And what if the negative information comes to us in a context other than according to Gumlia's "two situation" rule? He tells us:

"In every other case, any negative information would either be gossip (if it is true) or slander (if it is untrue)."3
Once against Gumlia seems to be at odds with GCI teaching. He specifically stipulates that in order for negative information to be slander, it must be false. Apparently he has not read Martindale's article, "Slander". As we saw in that article, and at other points, GCI teaching does not abide by such a strict definition of the term.

However, Gumlia runs into difficulty on other points. Having failed to establish the validity of his "two situation" rule, he has no basis to claim that any violation of his rule constitutes slander or gossip. There are no biblical grounds to reprove someone who has violated a rule which is unbiblical.

The Spirit Violates the Rule

Another difficulty which Gumlia encounters has to do with his statement about gossip. To him, any true negative information spoken outside the confines of his "two situation" rule would be "gossip". As we saw in our discussion of Hopler's article, gossip may have two definitions, one biblical, the other, common English usage. How does Gumlia use the word? He does not say, but since his use of the word implies truth, that would preclude his using it in a biblical sense. As we have demonstrated earlier, the biblical word gossip has the meaning of one who secretly speaks falsehood to destroy another's reputation.

If we assume, however, that he is still using the word in the common usage of the English language, his statement still is not true. As we have shown in our examination of Hopler's piece, gossip, in the English sense, is idle or useless talk. We have numerous examples in Scripture of true information being disseminated in a manner which violates the "two situation" rule. Yet this information is not useless or idle talk. In fact, it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Some examples:

1. Peter's sin of hypocrisy is openly discussed with the Galatians during Peter's lifetime. The example does not conform to the rule. Yet the information served a constructive purpose, and therefore was not gossip, even in the English sense.

2. Peter's sin of denying the Lord is also repeatedly brought up by the Gospel writers during his lifetime. Again, the rule is violated.

3. The frailties, competitions, and unbelief of all the disciples were recorded by the Gospel writers. This also was done during their life times, and it violates the rule.

4. Demas' love for the world is mentioned to Timothy in II Timothy 4:10. To tell Timothy that Demas had left, it was not necessary to mention his love for the world, thus reflecting poorly on his character. This clearly violates Gumlia's rule.

5. Diotrephes' sin is also freely exposed. Church discipline had not as yet been administered, because it had been thwarted. John's open discussion of his sin violates the rule.

With all of these biblical examples, Gumlia's "two situation" rule is violated under the unction of the Divine Spirit. We could spend a good deal more time finding many similar examples throughout Scripture. It does not appear that the Lord views such violations of Gumlia's rule as being gossip in either the biblical or English sense.

The conclusion of this is simple: We have no biblical basis to reprove or discipline someone for speaking the truth about another person.

Six Steps to Injustice

As we just demonstrated, Gumlia has laid down for us a strict and unbiblical criteria for listening to negative information. According to him, any other context would be slander or gossip. Building on this foundation of sand, he then gives us a six step procedure to follow if we find ourselves being exposed to negative information. We shall briefly consider each of his points.

"1. Ask yourself, 'Why is he telling me this instead of the one he is speaking against?'
"2. Stop the conversation. Proverbs 27:12 says: 'A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naive proceed (into the conversation) and pay the penalty.'"4
Gumlia repeats the same error which Clark fell into in his article. He fails to tell us to investigate the accuracy of the charge, or to ask if there is some valid reason why we should be hearing the information. We are told to stop the conversation merely because it violates his unbiblical "two situation" rule. His unbiblical rule takes priority over truth. Once again, technique rules over truth.

"3. Humbly reprove the person who is bringing the report, since he has sinned against you with his speech (Matthew 18:15, Pr. 28:23)."5
Here we are told to reprove the person for sin. What is his sin? He has violated Gumlia's unbiblical "two situation" rule. It is the rule of man, not of God; therefore he has not sinned.

"4. Defend the accused. Proverbs 12:6 says: 'The wicked accuse, the godly defend' (Living Bible)."6
We have already discussed Gumlia's handling of this verse in our discussion of his previous article, in chapter eight. We saw there that the Living Bible's paraphrase is unfortunate, and that a regular translation renders the verse quite differently. What if the person accused has been wrong? What if we don't know all the facts? By defending someone under those circumstances, we could be falling into serious sin. Consider Proverbs 17:15:

"He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord."
Yet Gumlia instructs us to defend the accused person before we have all the facts, and without investigation. We could be defending a wicked person, and if so, we would be an abomination to the Lord.

"5. Instruct him to go directly to the person he has been negative about and talk to him about the problem (Matthew 18:15)."7
The problem with this instruction is that it ignores Galatians 6:1. The reader will recall that we found that in that verse only the spiritual are told to go. It also warns them to be careful, lest they also sin. The passage could seem to indicate that there are inherent dangers in the ministry of reproof, and that it would be wise to leave it for the more spiritual ones to carry out. If we tell a less spiritual one to go and reprove another, we may be directing him into a snare.

"6. See that he later gives a good report about the person. If he does not, or does not even go to the person and get things resolved, go to step two of Matthew 18...do not just let things go..."8
As with point number four, this prejudges the matter. He may not be able to come back with a good report without being unrighteous: "He who justifies the wicked..." (Proverbs 17:15). It is utter foolishness to always assume that he will be able to do so, or to require it.

Note also, that if he does not bring back a good report, then Gumlia tells us to go to the second step of Matthew 18 with him. However, in that case we would likely not have a witness to take with us. How then are we to proceed with the process of Matthew 18? Gumlia does not tell us.

Technique Over Truth

The important thing to Gumlia, once again, is not the truth or falsehood issue. It is not if the information, though negative, is helpful or constructive. His only concern is whether it follows the "right" process. This article graphically illustrates GCI's perverted insistence on regarding technique more than truth, and a greater concern for process than for justice. This is not the "joy of justice".

1 Gumlia, David, "Evil Reports - How to Respond", The Cause, p 19, June/July 1985.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.

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