The New Davidson Movement - Part 2
We are told that Boll has made "a statement!" That is not new. His statements have been many through the years, and all alike—namely, something about "stressing" the issue, and "agreements" one way or another, but none of them of any more consequence than a Hitler-Janes treaty—a mere scrap of paper stalling for advantage. The forthcoming statement purports to be a mild admission of "overstressing" the issue and a condescending assurance that the issue will be henceforth handled with care, which means hypocritical caution; discussed with diplomacy, which means downright deceit; and withal a "promise" not to "press" the issue too much. But teaching false doctrine at all is pressing it too much. Besides, it leaves R. H. Boll to judge how much he should "press" it, when and where, as in all former "agreements" that he has made the past thirty years, for which some brethren fell, but which meant nothing at all.
Keep in mind that Norman Davidson has said that he would not "ask or expect" Boll to quit teaching premillennialism and would "lose confidence in him" if he did. Then how much should he teach it? Let us see.
1. They have a paper pledged to the promotion of premillennialism.
2. They have a school sponsored and supported for the dissemination of premillennialism.
3. They have a will—the Janes will—probating $40,000 in "missionary money" for the propagation of premillennialism.
4. Both Boll and Jorgenson say that they will be true to that "trust."
'Therefore, they must "press" it $40,000 worth! Is that "overstressing" it, or "pressing" too much? A paper, a school and a will for forty thousand dollars worth of premillennialism! Then Norman Davidson as a front with $50,000 to spend traveling among the churches, "bypassing" preachers, circumventing the elders, and attacking all who "oppose" him as he promotes his premillennial crusade among the "rank and file" of "our brotherhood"! It is some "settlement" that ignores the preachers and disregards the elders of the churches.
Let the elders of the churches take notice. A premillennial invasion of the church has been announced, led by Norman Davidson. He may appear at any time demanding recognition and an appointment to speak. He should be unceremoniously refused and rejected.
The basis of the so-called settlement is a pro‑
posed "collective bargaining" between adherents
of truth and error. The "plan" suggested is for
both "sides" to teach and preach their "convictions" on premillennialism, but under certain "rules" on "how the subject shall be referred to in the pulpit" to avoid offense! So they propose to have the preachers preach by a set of manmade rules. But he does not believe in an "ecclesiasticism," nor a "hierarchy." He only wants a regimentation of preaching—a sort; of religious O.P.A. to put a "ceiling" on "pro and con" preaching on premillennialism! In other words, in order to restrict the preaching of error, by a compromise Norman would limit the preaching of the truth.
To the surprise of several of us, some who have committed themselves against premillennialism in general and Bollism in particular, fell for a proposal to draw up a statement to be signed by the editors and college presidents agreeing to put the millennial question on a par with Paul's argument on "eating meat." Let each one hold his "faith" to himself! So believing premillennialism would be like eating meat—it is all right, but for the sake of those who do not know any better than to believe it is wrong, don't teach it! The parallel works the wrong way. Premillennialism is a false doctrine and is in no sense on a' par with the question of the eating of meats.
It has been proposed that the presidents of the colleges accept premillennialists on the faculty on the condition that they agree not to teach the doctrine. The weakness of such a thing is apparent to anyone who knows the doctrine and is thinking with any depth. The very fact that a man believed premillennialism, though he did not teach it, would prevent his teaching certain vital and fundamental truth. Premillennialism denies the gospel. I am ready to affirm it with R. H. Boll or any representative they will put forward and indorse. No man can believe it and teach the fundamentals of the gospel. There fore, the proposition to permit premillennial teachers to remain on the faculty of the schools under an agreement not to teach the doctrine, is to accept a teacher who by reason of his belief of error cannot teach the truth.
Our information is that Brother Clay Pullias, president of David Lipscomb College, flatly refused to accept such a proposition and on the grounds stated—that no man who believes the premillennial theory can teach truth that must be taught, and no premillennialist therefore has the right to remain on the faculty of one of our schools. This is, what Norman calls a "rabid attitude." But we all rejoice, and I personally rejoice, that Brother Pullias, as president of David Lipscomb College, has taken that stand. He should be supported in it by all who stand for truth against error. His stand is a rebuke to the proposal to put the premillennial theory on par with the meat question if the proposal did come from one who thinks he is strongly opposed to premillennialism. It is a compromise of the issue and represents light thinking.
Another sample of "statements" submitted for the group of signatories selected to "settle the issue" for the church is to the effect that "both sides" agree to preach only what is "stated" in the "words" of the text. This suggestion appears also to have been made by a rather prominent man, known to oppose premillennialism—but it evidences shallow thinking nevertheless. Where is it "stated" in the "words" of the text that the church was established on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ? Nowhere. Yet we affirm the proposition in debate, and the Bible teaches it. Somebody has unwittingly submitted a statement that would keep him from preaching that the kingdom was established on Pentecost. The truth of a proposition does not depend on its being "stated" in the "words of the text." A proposition thus stated would not be debatable. The issue is—does the Bible teach the doctrine of premillennialism, We will not require him to find the "word" premillennialism in the "text." Just show us the passage that teaches it, and we will not only cease to oppose it, we will promptly embrace it, and begin at once to teach it.
It seems strange to me that the brethren who
are dilly-dallying with "statements" binding premillennial factionists to an agreement not to teach false doctrine are about to tie the hands of gospel preachers in the preaching of the truth. Entering into such agreements and signing such statements amounts to saying: Because we have made a rule that R. H. Boll cannot teach his error, we must therefore agree not to teach the truth!
There is a notable disunity, inconsistency, incongruity and ignorance running through the Davidson letters. He disclaims any desire for "leadership," but he talks in terms of "I" and "my" and "me" all the way through, capping it off with criticisms of anybody's "opposition to me." He speaks for God and asserts that he "absolutely knows" that God is "displeased"—not with R. H. Boll, but with those who oppose him. He feigns a sweet spirit, but true to form fails to conceal the rancor and bitterness they all possess to a man. The president of Freed-Hardeman College does not even "want" unity; the editor of the Gospel Advocate wants to be on the "popular side," seeks a "personal victory," and even Leon McQuiddy could not convince him that the "reason" the editor refused his request was not "fear" of becoming "unpopular."
He deplores the discord and fighting in the "Brotherhood," but threatens the editor of the Advocate with "a real fight" if he dares to oppose his scheme, while he boasts that he himself is not "afraid" and "cannot be hurt." As a sample of conflicting statements, he tells McQuiddy that he wanted Boll to agree to quit preaching his doctrine, but ,the statement he obtained from Boll was the "best" he could get out of 'him; but he told J. F. Kurfees that he did not "ask or expect" Boll to quit teaching the doctrine and that he would "lose confidence in him" if he did. Which time did Norman tell the truth about that matter?
He poses as the embodiment of all fairness, yet insists that an editor agree to publish before seeing it a statement involving important issues fraught with grave consequences. Why should he want an editor to agree to publish an article before seeing it? That alone is evidence enough that something is seriously wrong with the statement, the article, and the author and writer of them—and there would be something wrong with an editor who would do it. It is to the credit of the editor that he refused to do it, but it is no indication of sincerity in a man who would demand such a thing. The fact that he demands it is reason enough to refuse it.
As a sample of ignorance and misinformation, Norman refers to a supposed meeting in "the Gospel Advocate office" in 1925 in which "Foy Wallace was present" when "a complete agreement was agreed concerning the whole Boll matter," but because M. C. Kurfees opposed a "settlement" so "bitterly and violently" we all "gave up," I will personally take the witness stand on this point and say that if Norman Davidson does not know any more about "the whole Boll matter" than he does of that supposed meeting, he is too ignorant of the whole thing to be heard and ought to stop talking. No such meeting as he refers to was ever held in the "G. A." office or anywhere else "in which Foy Wallace was present." In 1925 I was yet a young preacher and had crossed the Mississippi but twice in my life. I became editor of the Gospel Advocate in 1930 (still a young man) but no such meeting as Davidson refers to was ever held and no such agreements were ever made by me or by anyone else in my presence. As for M. C. Kurfees, he was a great and good man, whom it was never my privilege to know or even see. I do know his brother, J. F. Kurfees, mighty well, and believe him to be one of God's noblemen today.
It is obvious that Norman Davidson does not know anything about premillennialism. He does not know anything about Bollism He does not know anything about the history of the things concerning which he proposes a settlement. He is simply a partisan admirer and follower of R. H. Boll and does not know what he is doing. It is no compliment to Boll and his party to put him out in the front to represent their case and plead their dying cause. If they must initiate such a crusade for vindication, they should get a better-informed man to lead it. Or do they think to capitalize on his innocence and use his $50,000?
Let us take a close-up look at two phases of this situation—the inherent character of the movement and both internal and external workings of the men who are promoting it.
The prophet Amos would not be in demand as a speaker in these Unity meetings of today. He once asked a simple but embarrassingly direct question, which if applied to modern unity movements would explode their meetings with atomic effects. I would not want to be involved in any movement or meeting where Amos and his question were not welcome, or would be ignored. The question is: "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" To try to walk together without agreement is neither a worthy nor a workable endeavor, and is utterly futile. We should not desire to walk with anybody who is not in agreement with God, and agreement with God automatically puts us into fellowship with all who are in agreement with him. Fellowship with men is not attained by campaigns and pressure; nor by putting up thousands of dollars to promote the effort; nor by mouthing puny and poetic peons on peace in so-called unity meetings. Fellowship with the only ones whose fellowship is worth seeking or accepting is on the basis of "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." No appeal to men for unity, direct or indirect, can be consistently made on any other ground, and only by an effort to effect such an agreement. The only means is the truth and the only method is teaching it.
Why concentrate efforts at fellowship on a man or a group of men who are teachers of error? Why expend fifty thousand dollars for the fellowship of one man who has always been a teacher of the worst sort of error? If it is suggested that to do so will bring peace to the church, we reply that such a compromise could not bring peace to the church. Do you ask, who said so?
I reply that God said so—through Amos. Agreement on the truth is the only basis of unity. Teaching the truth is the only way to effect it. But teaching the truth on issues is the last thing wanted in these unity meetings. That is true of this movement launched by Norman Davidson to induce the church to fellowship Boll with all of his evil doctrines. Does Boll want fellowship? Does Davidson want unity? Only as a means to an end. There is something else they want more—namely, to silence opposition to the teaching of R. H. Boll, or render impotent whatever teaching is done against him and his doctrines. That is the trouble with all of these unity meetings and movements. The method is wrong, and that usually means that the motive is wrong. Unity is not the motive of unity meetings! If unity were the motive, both scripture and common sense dictate that the X-ray of teaching should be turned on the issues that cause the disunity. Fifty thousand dollars worth of unity without agreement is a cheat. But obtain agreement and unity will be found wrapped in the same package. God's plan is right.
What has become of that unity movement with the Christian Church? It failed because it was not motivated by a desire for unity. It was a skin game on both sides by little unrepresentative, self appointed groups that promoted it. They were using unity as a smokescreen, behind which they were maneuvering for positions of advantage, from which they could steal members from the other side. The ones they could catch were not worth it; the ones worth catching would not swallow their hook. They were stalemated by their obviously wrong motives. They even watched each other. Thieves cannot make a living stealing from each other. They ought to get on an honest basis.
Norman Davidson is launching a giant fishing expedition. He has pledged fifty thousand dollars for expenses. I am sure that he will need all of it. The hook will be in plain sight, if and when he gets around to displaying his tackle, instead of merely talking about his plan and what it will cost. It appears that his bait will be the forthcoming statement of R. H. Boll, which he so much wanted the editor of the Gospel Advocate to agree to publish before seeing which is evidence enough that there is a trick in it. If not, why does he not want the editor to see if before he agrees to publish it?
But we have seen R. H. Boll bait on the hook before. He has promised this and that in time past, many times, but has always succeeded in riding out on a technical interpretation of his promises. I think it appropriate that only legal bait be used this time, and entirely right to demand it, and the truth is the only legal bait.
In his forthcoming statement, Boll will need no technicality, according to those who have seen it, for he does not promise anything. And Davidson says that if he did promise to quit teaching premillennialism he would lose confidence in him. Why should Boll promise anything? Parries this outfitter of this fishing expedition, sans bait. There is no reason at all, for several reasons.
(1) True fellowship does not rest upon human promises.
(2) If Boll promised anything—he would not keep it. He never has.
(3) If he promised, and kept it, the keeping it would involve suppressing his convictions. One must be honest, else neither God nor man can use him.
(4) If Boll promised to change his teaching, he could not keep his promise with or without the aid of conscience. He has reinterpreted practically the whole Bible to sustain his theory, including some of the plain passages, so that he has virtually disqualified himself for teaching the gospel in its purity and simplicity. He could stop teaching his speculations by not teaching at all; but he could not merely leave out his theory and preach the truth. He has woven whatever truth he does teach around his theory until the roots are crossed and mingled. For decades he has cemented his conceptions of God and religion together with the mortar of Judaism in the form of modern millennialism. His premillennial building cannot be remodeled. He would have to build from the ground up. Sad, indeed, but such is the penalty for the years he has spent in speculation and false doctrine.
It is idle to talk about fellowshipping Boll, if he will agree to hold his teaching as an "opinion." How can somebody hold anything as something which he believes it is not? It is not an opinion with him. If anybody wishes to be technical, and say that it could not be conviction, because faith comes by the word of God, let it be stated this way: If it is an opinion with him, he does not know it; and he will never find it out, no matter how many of us try to point it out to him. In so far as making him the proposition of holding his peculiar teachings as an opinion is concerned; or his ability to differentiate between faith and opinion, truth and error, and preach only the unadulterated gospel, after all these years, it is idle to talk about it.
Davidson says that he does not believe the Boll theory. It is logical to deduce from that, that he thinks the theory is false; and by the same token, those who teach that it is false are teaching the truth on the question. But he does not want Boll to quit teaching what he admits is false teaching. There are evidently a few things Davidson has overlooked or else never did know. He overlooks the question of Amos. Why seek a fellowship on a false doctrine and disagreement on such a doctrine? Davidson is himself already on record that it is a false doctrine. So, according to Davidson himself, we all know what the—truth is and who holds it, and he places himself in the awkward position of expecting those who are right to agree with the one who is wrong. He does not believe the Boll doctrine, yet he will spend fifty thousand dollars to get him fellow-shipped. Can you feature that? Evidently he does not think the doctrine is important. Then why not get his friend Boll to drop it? But he will "lose confidence" in him if he does, he says!
We believe that it is important and that it is our duty to combat erroneous teaching. Truth is important. Error destroys it. And some of us have the conviction that the truth is important enough to be preached, and that only those who do preach it should be supported and fellowshipped. How could any honest man dispose of his conviction while fellowshipping Boll in the preaching of false doctrine? Davidson is asking us to reverse ourselves on this whole question of premillennialism and what to do with it. If Boll should change his views he would not have to promise anything, and the whole thing would take care of itself promptly and to the joy of all. If Boll does not change his views, there is nothing that he can promise and nothing that Davidson or anybody else can do about fellowshipping him, without changing our convictions. Does Davidson think there can be convictions on the wrong side of a thing, but none on the right side? That convictions of those who are wrong should be respected but not those who are right? If he tries to argue that it is indifferent, he is simply wrong —badly wrong—as badly wrong as Boll himself. Premillennialism is not an indifferent question. It is not a mere harmless theory. It is not merely different "views on unfulfilled prophecy." Any man who talks in such terms immediately exposes his ignorance of premillennialism and all related issues. There is no error taught which has more completely vitiated the gospel of Christ than premillennialism. If there is such a thing as a harmless error, premillennialism and Bollism do not fall in that class.
It is a strange doctrine. It has been an issue through the years yet has never in all of its history built a single church or church house in its own name! The Cuckoo lays its eggs in nests built by other birds, and lets the other birds hatch them. Premillennialists are content to lay their eggs of speculation in nests built by others. But they raise more fuss and feathers about their status quo in those borrowed nests than any religious group on earth! The premillennialist has no church that he can call his own. But he manages to get a precarious foothold in every church.
In this sense he is an exception to the rule that birds of a feather flock together. True, he thinks more of his premillennialism than he does of the church of his adoption. He thinks more of his premillennialist friends in other churches than he does of his brethren in the church to which he clings. He often shows it when assailed; but at all other times he is busy feeling sorry for him- self, because he is mistreated, misunderstood, misrepresented, and disfellowshiped! The man who is always being misunderstood is, in truth, too well understood for his deceptions to work. They demand the fellowship of those whom they neither love nor trust. They plead for a fellow- ship in which they are misunderstood. The only reason they do not go out is because they do not have anywhere to go!
If all the premillennialists flocked together, their number would be imposing; although they are a minority where they are, they would compose a considerable brotherhood. But the tie that binds them in mutual admiration would not enable them to function as a unity. Those things upon which churches are built do not pertain to premillennialism nor compose their theory. Their doctrine creates disturbance within a church, but does not form the basis of a church. For that reason they have no church. They would not be able to agree upon how their church should receive members or function, if they had one. They could not agree upon church government, and so far as the basic issues of truth are concerned, they would have nothing to propagate.
A premillennialist is a hybrid. He could not propagate himself. Their doctrine is sterile; it cannot reproduce itself. They can never be anything more than a group within a church. They are therefore doomed by the very nature of their doctrine to eternally be a faction! A doctrine that necessarily produces a faction; that never did produce anything else, and in the nature of the case never can—cannot possibly be true! The doctrine of Christ built churches—churches of Christ—and multiplied them, and will do so now. Satan has built thousands of churches on error; but even the devil cannot build a church on premillennialism! He only uses the doctrine to divide and destroy churches that are already built.
Premillennialism, by virtue of its inherent nature, never has and never can produce anything but a faction. Because the doctrine has so little merit and so much complexity, the faction constitutes a minority in almost every religious group in the world; and since they cannot unite with other minorities to form a separate group, but are very zealous for promoting their peculiar theory, because their speculations are their own brain children, they are a troublesome minority. The more of his own wisdom a man injects into his faith, the harder he will fight for it, for men are sensitive about, and zealous for, their own ideas.
It is for this reason that Premillennialism makes martyrs. Some of us have possibly done R. H. Boll an injustice by referring to him as a self-made martyr. He likes the role and plays it so well, that we have overlooked the fact that premillennialism inevitably produces martyrs. Being so complex, premillennialism does not lend itself to rapid propagation by preaching. Other issues of a personal nature have to be promoted, with premillennialism riding in the back seat. It is a doctrine that has to be promoted by indirection and deception.
They make subtle distinctions in the use of terms that no dictionary ever contained. They attempt to convince you that they are not premillennialists with you looking them right in the eye, and holding unmistakable evidence of their devout loyalty to the doctrine. They can deny their faith and defend it in the same breath, and do it convincingly to some people. By their method of indirection they will equivocate a technicality when the plain truth would be the better strategy. I have met but few men who frankly say: "Yes; I am a premillennialist!" But I am always meeting guileless brethren who say of a known premillennialist: "He is not a premillennialist—he has said so himself!" It is a strange doctrine that makes cowards of its best friends! No wonder they want the stigma removed! But that is the stigma. If they cannot bear the stigma, they prove themselves unworthy.
One of the worst things about the doctrine is the ambiguity it generates. It makes cowards, martyrs, dodgers out of its followers. That is the only fruit the doctrine can bear. The seeds of cowardice inhere in the nature of the doctrine. In the very nature of it premillennialism is a sensuous, Judaistic, materialistic, fatalistic speculation, which exposes its adherents to the criticism of all who are really the spiritually minded. Premillennialism affords them no defense, no haven, no ultimate alternative. They cannot step out and build upon premillennialism. It affords no foundation upon which to erect the slightest type of structure. They are shut up to being the self-pitying martyrs their own indulgence in forbidden mysteries of their system makes of them.
It makes its votaries and its sympathizers, ridiculous. Here we have a man promoting fellowship with Boll, who says he does not believe his doctrine. What a strange anomaly! If he is willing to spend $50,000 to silence the tongues of those who believe what he himself claims to believes on this question, through friendship for a man who has made his own religious bed, how much would he be willing to spend that the mouths of these same preachers might be opened wide to preach the truth on this and all other items of truth, so that all others might know the truth and walk therein; that would automatically bring all into real fellowship with God with each other, the only true fellowship. Alas, my friend, thy much money hath made thee mad!
Splitting an atom may be a sensation as a phenomenon, but premillennialism is more phenomenal. It will split the personality of both its followers and sympathizers! Here is a man whose convictions are on one side and his money on the other side; and by his own testimony as to his belief, his money is on the wrong side! For many years, before I really knew what premillennialism was, I heard preachers discuss Boll. Oftentimes one who was asked what he thought of Boll, would reply: "I do not believe his doctrine, but I think he has been mistreated." I was a boy, and did not join in the discussion; but I afterward learned that there was something badly wrong with the man who was always being mistreated. Now I know what it is: He is a premillennial-made martyr; the victim of his own bad doctrine and wrong attitude toward the church.
Judged by the rule of Jesus, Davidson stands condemned. Since Davidson's money is on the Boll side; and since Jesus says that where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also; his heart is on the Boll side. Premillennialism not only splits congregations and personalities, it divides the hearts of those who sympathize with the victims of it.
They are not all liars who deny believing it, even if their actions and manifest sympathies do make their words sound ridiculous. Technically, many of them do not believe the doctrine. Few people do, because few people can. It is too complex, and there is no uniformity of brands. But many who deny vigorously that they believe it, are so steeped in the disease, and its consequences that the result is the same as if actual belief of the doctrine existed.
A few of them as individuals have gone out from us. But they do not find rest, wherever they go. Unless we press the fight against this error, they may return and bring many other spirits with them more evil than themselves; for the over-all weakness of premillennialism is that it provides no home for its adherents. Nature produced one bird without a nest-building instinct. The field of reckless speculation has presented the religious world with a self-made orphan, without the ability to provide himself a home, or to live at peace with anybody else.
The doctrine of R. H. Boll is his; not God's. The onus is his; not ours. He must bear his onus. There will always be a stray cat crying in our alley. There is only one thing worse than hearing him cry out there—that would be taking him in! If we take him in, he will take us in. Experience, observation, and an understanding of the nature of the doctrine blend their voices in chorus: Let them be what they have willed to be, a troublesome and outcast minority!
But there is one thing they could do for the welfare of all concerned, including their own comfort: They could be honest and ethical. They could prevent all the strife and turmoil and confusion by doing the decent thing of withdrawing quietly into groups to themselves. There they could live in quietness and tranquility with their pet doctrines and peculiar dogmas, and not be faced with the prospect of answering in the judgment for deception, confusion, and division of the body of Christ. So far as I am concerned, that is exactly what they will have to do, if they expect to enjoy peace.
Finally, let us look at the two Davidsons.
First, Clinton Davidson. Years ago he left Louisville in pursuit of a fortune. He joined a wealthy, digressive, modernist Christian Church.
After twenty years, having made his fortune through insurance and holding companies, he appears again on the scene to vindicate R. H. Boll.
Second, Norman Davidson. Years ago he left Nashville in pursuit of a fortune. During the years of his obscurity if he did anything for the church nobody heard of it. After twenty years of silence, having made his fortune, he appears on the scene again to vindicate R. H. Boll!
Their courses of action are identical. Clinton Davidson took vows and made pledges to the Lord that he would do so and so. He started out with threats to "destroy" certain preachers who were in his way, of whom I was first on his list. He said he had the money with which to do it. He started on me, and never got to the second man on the list!
Now Norman Davidson begins with vows and pledges to the Lord and starts with threats against certain preachers and he begins on me! My prediction is that he will not get to the second man on his list, last as long nor get even as far as Clinton. He had better stop where he is, apologize for the blunders and sins added up to his credit at this stage, get back to Chicago and make some vows to redeem his wife from the clutches of the premillennial Moody Institute, and save her soul and his own before it is too late. It is inexcusably inconsistent for him to say that he is not himself a premillennialist while he leaves his wife to one of the rankest sectarian institutes of premillennialism known today and pledges the Lord to vindicate the rankest premillennial factionist leader ever known or heard of among churches of Christ. He would far better make a vow to do what he can with what he has to save others from the error that allured and led his wife away, and to defend the church of the Lord against it.
As it stands, this new Davidson movement, like the old one, is simply another effort to create a favorable condition for Boll, Jorgenson, and their groups to teach the false doctrine of premillennialism in the church, a scheme to force Boll and his premillennialism on the churches of Christ. They went out from us because they were not of us, but the Davidsons take vows and make pledges to drag them back and force them on the church. With all of their own money plus the $40,000 will of Janes and Jorgenson, they can never do it. Overpass, underpass, or by-pass—they shall not pass!
—F. E. W. Jr.