Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 21, 1958

The Passing Of The Individual-Church Argument

Robert C. Welch, Birmingham, Alabama

Where has the argument gone that the church can do anything in religion which the individual can do? Where are all those UNCHANGING institutional brethren who were making that argument as late as two years ago? The argument died and was carefully "laid out" by undertaker Tom Warren with his total situation theory; and its funeral was preached by Guy N. Woods with his theory that only individuals can provide the care and the church can provide only the money. But where is all the family of UNCHANGEABLE preachers who clung so affectionately to their ailing doctrine in its life? Have they already put off their mourning garments, forgotten their ardent pledges of enduring love for the theory, and run off with another wild theory or two?

Only a few years ago one could hear brethren as they preached or lectured in churches on the mission of the church arguing that the church could do anything which the individual Christian could do. Also some of the schools had lectures during their special weeks where men defended the church support of human institutions on the grounds that what on individual could do the church could do. They argued that if an individual did it, in reality the church was doing it; because the church could not be distinguished from its members as individuals. There was an exchange of articles in the Gospel Guardian in which a debater argued that no man could refute it, and that he had always contended that the church could do anything of a religious nature that an individual could do.

Following Guy

All of that was done before Brother Guy N. Woods became their champion. They had been fought to a standstill on that and similarly faulty and unwieldy arguments. He refused to enter the fray with a broken sword; so he moved in 'with Warren's "total situation" argument first, boasting that it was the best he had seen. Neither would that sword hold its edge; it dulled, blunted and bent without bringing a stain of blood or tiring the defenders of the faith. Then he hurriedly cast it aside and grasped the theory that the church cannot do anything in the care of the needy but supply the money; that the actual care will have to be given by others. Blindly following his new champion, one of the men who so staunchly contended that the church can do anything which the individual can do, has said; "The church cannot of itself supply the needs of homeless children."

They seem not to realize that they are directly contradicting their former argument. And the old promoters of human institutions still are claiming that they have not changed. Some of them argue that if elders change they are morally obligated to resign; that is, when they turn from the theory of church supported institutions. Now that these preachers have changed, would it not be equally as obligatory that they resign?

The evidence indicates that they are not searching for what the Scriptures teach in odrer to do that; but that they are searching only for something with which to justify their institutions. They refused to give up their contention on the "individual is the church" theory when that was all they could do in defending their innovations. Immediately, however, when a new "argument" in behalf of their institutions was presented by Woods, they forsook the old theory, repudiating it for a contradictory idea. It will not suffice to say that Woods showed them the error of their former contention, he has had nothing to say about it, he merely introduced the new one. The only possible answer is that they knew it was wrong, but had nothing better; and were willing to hold a contention they knew to be wrong rather than give up their institutions.

The Advocate Confessional The Goodpasture confessional in the Gospel Advocate is constantly drumming up business. Every man who is pressured into avowing the Advocate position is given space to make a confession of his charge. He is then highly praised for his stand, and is always lauded for his great influence. It sounds like the "Ladies Birthday Almanac" testimonials. 0, so many are changing! So does the devil brag about the broad way. The person who is concerned about whether he is on the big or little side is not worth having, he is a detriment to the cause of truth.

The Advocate's present position is that those men were in error who said that the church can do anything the individual can do. It now holds that individuals or institutions composed of Christians must do the work of caring for the distressed and needy, and that the church cannot, that it only supplies the money. Therefore, those men who once held that theory need to make their confession of error on the confessional page so that they can have their sins absolved, and get praised for being on the popular (?) side.

They jumped from the frying pan into the fire. They once facetiously accused some of us of teaching that if a man who is not a church member were in an accident in front of the church building, the church could not help him. Now their argument is that even a church member in such a condition could not receive aid from the church except in money; the building could not be used as a temporary aid station, no brother could be asked to phone for a doctor and ambulance from the church phone, no sister could be asked to wash the bloody face, or moisten the feverish brow; all the church can do is supply the money; the bruised, broken and bleeding brother will have to take the money and in some way get help himself!

Neither the former nor the latter argument is scriptural; but of the two, they had a more wieldy one when they argued that the church can do anything which the individual can do.