Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 20, 1958
NUMBER 29, PAGE 8-9b

Is There A Solution?

James L. Denison, Boling, Texas

Surely it must be apparent to all those who have sought to inform themselves regarding conditions of the brotherhood, that there is division and discord, a lack of unity, prevailing today. Some think that unless the present attitudes of many brethren are radically altered, we are heading for another complete split! I am sure that all who have the church's welfare at heart would like to see this deplorable and sinful condition corrected.

Sometimes it becomes necessary for us to forego certain things which are in themselves all right, because of scruples of sincere brethren. Paul said, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." (Rom. 14:1.) Again in the 21st verse, "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." Also, Paul said, "But take heed, lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak . . . Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." (1 Cor. 8:9-13.) "Give none offence, neither to the Jews nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God." (1 Cor. 10:32.)

A few can doubtless remember when the "cups," "literature," and "Sunday School" issues were dividing the church. Brethren, who for many years had worked, worshipped, and fought the good fight together, became bitter enemies because of these things. Churches were sometimes split asunder. Just recently, a couple who lives near here were recalling the fact that their home congregation split twice over these issues, and as a result does not exist today.

I cannot help but believe that if the members of congregations which split over the above issues had shown a little more love, understanding, and consideration for each other and their beliefs, a workable and scriptural solution could have been reached without division.

Let me tell you the story of my home congregation, of which my father was elder for many years. When these issues were causing trouble, there were different views in that congregation.

When the "cup vs. cups" issue first entered the congregation, some opposed the individual communion cups. This congregation had, however, used two cups (glasses) for many years. Eventually those who opposed a multiplicity of cups came to see their inconsistency in opposing several cups when they had already by practice approved more than "one cup." Thus individual cups were bought, and are used to this day. BUT, had they in the beginning pushed the individual cups in over the scruples of these sincere brethren, it might have split the church and caused many souls to be lost.

When the "class" and "literature" issues came up, it was a much harder task to reach an agreement.

For many years some of the preachers who held our summer meeting had either before or at a specific time during the regular service, separated a group of the children and young people from the adults and taught them special subjects. I believe this was instrumental in helping the brethren see that "classes", otherwise known as "Sunday School" was not unscriptural, but profitable, especially for the children and young people of the congregation. Thus, it was not long until they agreed to the class arrangement of teaching. Again, had this been put in at first, in spite of sincere brethren's objections, a split may have occurred.

But the "literature" issue presented a different situation entirely. It took twenty some odd years for unity in thought and action to be reached on it. But because of a mutual love for Christ, the church, and each other, a workable and scriptural plan was put into operation. This plan, with a little modification later, kept the church together for over one-fifth of a century. At first those who opposed the literature permitted the ones who wanted it to have it, providing they paid for it themselves, and would not under any circumstance pay for it out of the church treasury. Also, there was a complete break between the class period and the regular worship. Then, during the regular worship, when we had no preacher (we only had a preacher once or twice a month), everyone studied directly from the Bible itself. Later, when the congregation began to have a preacher each Sunday, those who opposed the literature gathered in a separate class and studied directly from the Bible, while those who used the literature were having their classes with the literature. Then, during the regular worship service, all assembled and worshipped together. This dual class system continued until only recently. One Sunday when the non-literature group had no teacher, those who used the literature invited them into their class. The non-literature group came! From that day forward they had no more dual class system, but all have studied, worked, and worshipped together in peace and harmony.

One of the men who had stood in opposition to the "cups," "Sunday School" and "literature" is now, along with my father who upheld these things, respected and looked up to as a leader of the congregation.

Personally, I'm proud of the congregation. I'm proud that there was enough love and concern for each other's souls, that enough understanding and consideration prevailed to cause them never to force the other to either violate his conscience or to get out and thereby split the church!

I wish that more brethren of today would exhibit this same love, understanding, and consideration for each other's beliefs and souls in regard to the present issues facing the church; and try to carry on the Lord's work in such a way as to cause no one to either violate his conscience or to get out and thus have a split.

My personal convictions would be considered, I'm sure, as very conservative on the present "cooperative" issues. My plea to those who hold a more liberal position is:

(1) Please, do not introduce into a congregation which is not already involved in one, a "cooperative plan" that would wound the conscience of sincere brethren and perhaps split the congregation.

(2) Please, in those congregations where such a plan is already in operation, and is opposed by some of the brethren, try to create some type of workable solution and agreement which would permit both groups (those in favor of and those opposed to the "cooperative plans" that are disturbing and dividing the brotherhood) to work and worship together harmoniously without either violating their conscience. See Rom. 14:23, which says, "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."

(3) Please, do not stifle free and open discussion. Such discussion has always led to a better understanding of the questions at issue, and a knowledge of the truth regarding them. Certainly the early church did not stifle such discussion, but permitted both sides to be heard, (Acts 15.) Let us follow this New Testament and apostolic example.

Brethren, this is a plea for unity and love in the church of today. "Now I beseech you. brethren. by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren ... that there are contentions among you .. Is Christ divided? ..." ( 1Cor. 1:10-13.) "... see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." (1 Pet. 1:22.) "Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in sin, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth . . ." (1 Cor. 13:4-8).