Hints On Good Behavior
Journalistic Rules And Ethics
At times some good men are inclined to be rather arbitrary in developing and binding rules on disputants in a controversy. Even some of the generally accepted rules are not inspired and occasions may arise when they need not be slavishly followed. Some efforts are being made in these latter days to bind on writers some rules that are not generally accepted, ought not to be, and will not be. I refuse to be bound by them and will ignore them. They are too suffocating to be fair and do not give me room enough to swing and deliver the punch that I think is sometimes needed. They afford too many hiding places for the advocates of error. The copyrighted Christian Leader, now deceased, was a case in point. A wall of defense was erected against critics. It was unlawful to single out a paragraph in any article and make an attack upon it. The whole article must be published and that only by the permission of the editor. As far as I know such a rule was hitherto unheard of in all our journalistic history. Our editors and writers have been too bold and sure of themselves to feel the need of such protection in the past. We certainly do not need any such shelter as that. If anybody wants to take a crack at anything we write, in whole or in part, he is welcome to have at it. Brother Armstrong complains at Brother Lewis because an article of his was chopped up in paragraphs and replied to piecemeal. He thinks it was very unfair. In fact he does "not read the Bible Banner" because he is "forced to class it as bad literature because there is so much in it that is unfair, untrue, and divisive." That is one man's opinion. Others no doubt feel the same way. Many refused to read the Gospel Advocate and the Firm Foundation in the days of Lipscomb, Harding and McGary for the same "because." They had some pitched battles in those days and they did not always take time to read the rules. Some today are so rule-conscious that they spend more time shouting "foul" than they do in fighting.
Now, writers and speakers can be, and often are, unfair in dealing with those they criticize. Unfairness cannot be defended. Even the most unworthy opponents should not be misrepresented. Fairness does not always require that a man's position be stated in his own words. Any statement of his position that is true to facts is fair. A man is under no obligation to reprint a whole book, a tract or an article to review it. He can make use of a paragraph, a sentence or a phrase and offer any criticisms he may deem just. He is unfair only when his use of them misrepresents the position the author actually advocated. This is almost too obvious to be discussed. An unfair critic can take a sentence here and there and juggle them in a way that makes the author say the very opposite of what he intended. This is sheer dishonesty and criticism ceases to exist, for cheap chicanery has taken its place. Sectarian preachers and teachers often abuse the scriptures in this way. A quotation can be taken out of its connection in the Bible and construed in a way to pervert the meaning of the author. Calvinists have greatly erred here, as have others. That does not mean that a teacher cannot quote and use texts without reproducing the whole book from which they are taken. We recognize this principle in teaching the Bible. Why cannot it be recognized in dealing with the writings of men we feel duty-bound to criticize? John W. McGarvey and F. D. Srygley were two of the fairest and sharpest critics I have ever followed. One wrote for the Christian Standard, the other for the Gospel Advocate. They quoted freely from written sources without reproducing all that the authors had to say and made devastating, remarks about these quotations, but I was never under the impression that they misrepresented anybody. Much of their work along this line has been preserved in book form. I have one such volume from each in my library and value them highly. I was brought up on that sort of thing and do not at this late date propose to be enclosed in a strait-jacket of new and senseless rules made by men who seem to be afraid of the consequences of what they say and write. I am still somewhat inclined, or more so, to quote what I please and say what I please about it. This is still a fairly free country.
Two Good Reasons
Paul gave Timothy some specific instructions about "how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God." There are at least two good reasons why we should learn and follow these instructions. In the first place, the church is "the pillar and ground of the truth." The truth is God's weapon against sin. With it God proposes to free men from the bondage of sin and prepare them for heaven. "Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed him, If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31, 32) "I rejoice greatly that I have found certain of thy children walking in truth, even as we received commandment from the Father." (2 John 4) The church upholds and supports the truth. Each member of the body has his own responsibility in this work. When one is guilty of misbehavior in the house of God, he is retarding the divine program and throwing his influence on the wrong side of this fight the church is engaged in. That is the reason Paul charged the brethren to "walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called." (Eph. 4:4) "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ: that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel." (Phil. 1:27) A member of the body is insulting Christ the head of the body, doing despite to the Spirit of grace, and becomes a stumbling-block and a nuisance when he acts up in a way that interferes with the progress of the church in the divine program which the Lord has assigned it. It is a serious business. The reason for the existence of the church is to "show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (I Pet. 2:9, 10)
Another reason why members of the church should learn to behave themselves in a proper manner is that they are "a holy temple in the Lord" and "are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit." (Eph. 2:21, 22) The dwelling-place of God must be holy and free from corruption. When a church becomes a tabernacle of sin, then God withdraws from it. He will not live in such a place. "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify, it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph. 5:25-27) The temple of God is being polluted by some who are "serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another." (Titus 3:3) Such things ought not so to be. Then again, we have disturbers who "teach a different doctrine" and dote about hobbies and extreme views that create "envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings" and the like. In the name of loyalty, although they may be "puffed up, knowing nothing," they defile the temple and drive God out of his own proper dwelling-place. The Lord is an avenger in such matters. Christians are house-keepers for the Lord and should do a good job of it. We also have with us the nasty little mess-makers who "learn also to be idle, going about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." (I Tim. 5:13) The temple of God should not be defaced by such vandalism.
All would do well to heed these divine hints on good behavior. "But the end of the charge, is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned." (I Tim. 1:5) "Rut we exhort you, brethren, that' ye abound more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands, even as we charged you; that ye may walk becomingly toward them that are without, and may have need of nothing." (I Thess. 4:10-12) "Faithful is the saying, and concerning these things I desire that thou affirm confidently, to the end that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men: but shun foolish questionings and genealogies, and strifes, and fightings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain." (Titus 3:8, 9) This sort of behavior promotes fellowship, keeps the fires of holy zeal ablaze, maintains the order of the Lord's house, and gives great momentum to the entire program which the church was established to carry on.
Our "Wrong Way Corrigan"
A now famous Irishman nosed his antiquated crate toward the west coast, got turned around on purpose, crossed the Atlantic and wound up in London. Everybody
knows about "Wrong Way Corrigan." We have our Wrong Way Witty. The accepted and hitherto successful way of dealing with digression has been to fight it. Brother Witty is terribly, if not painfully, interested in unity and proposes to reverse the whole procedure. He is carrying an umbrella of appeasement instead of the sword of the Spirit. He is making buddies of the innovators and is blushing for shame at the rest of us who will not turn around and go along with them. According to me and the best light I have, he is a wrong way blusher. He actually published the fact that he is "ashamed" of all of us who will not throw in with his unity meetings with the digressives. A roll call of those of us who are not with him and those who are would reveal the fact that his feeling of shame for us is not a very huge exhibition of modesty. If he has expressed any shame for DeForest-Murch's digression and premillennialism I have not seen it in print. Murch is his chief buddy in this business, and if Murch has any notion of soft-pedaling his premillennialism or giving up his instruments and other digressive ways, it has escaped my attention and don't think I'm not looking to see what I can see. Brother Witty has not printed any blushes over Don Carlos Janes, R. H. Boll, E. L. Jorgenson or any of the extreme developments that have come out of their section of Louisville. I am under the impression that no extra blood will surge upward to redden his countenance over the fact that the Highland church Louisville called S. S. Lappin, a digressive preacher, to do the preaching in a meeting. of course Im in no position to speak for everybody Brother Witty is ashamed of, but personally, I'm not very deeply distressed over the fact that he is ashamed of me, when I survey the crowd whose fellowship he welcomes and whose waywardness he condones. I admit that I do not blush easily, and I am not ashamed to wonder out loud if Brother Witty would not exchange some meetings with Lappin, Murch or some other of his digressive "unity" buddies, if the time were a little riper and he were not afraid to. We dare him ; to do it and promise that when he does, we will give him something else to be ashamed of.
There is another angle to this business that should not be overlooked. According to the Christian Standard this fight with digression is about seventy-five years old and
the Standard ought to know as it was there when it started. The digressives never did win anything by argument for their appeal was to sight and sense and not to faith. They were strong on strategy. "By their smooth and fair speech, they beguiled the hearts of the innocent." The old heroes of faith who stemmed the tide of innovation that swept in on the churches did not do so with an appeasement policy such as Brother Witty advocates. Had they done so, there would have been unity all right, but what a unity! There were some fence-sitters back there pulling strings from both directions, like Brother Witty is doing now, but they all went digressive in time and some are now wondering where Brother Witty is going in time. Maybe I ought not to say so, since Brother Witty blushes so easily, but it's the truth, he sounds like a blushing Charlie McCarthy to me. Digressive strategy is again at work.