Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 1, 1960
NUMBER 30, PAGE 4,14b

As Others See Us


It is a truly healthful and helpful thing to get a look at ourselves now and then "as others see us." Readers of the Gospel Guardian this week will get a chance to do that very thing, at least to catch one small glimpse, in the article we reprint from the Minnesota Bible College News, entitled, "Our Religious Neighbors."

Our brethren some years ago became inebriated with the catchy slogan "Nothing succeeds like success," and have been huffing and puffing, blowing and bragging, shrieking and screeching with an ever increasing crescendo trying to convince the world that "The church of Christ is the fastest growing religious body in the nation." Some of the least stable of the propagandists undoubtedly have been reading their own stuff and actually have begun to believe it! One has but to go back through several past years of the Christian Chronicle, for instance, and add up the "tremendous growth" reports to realize that the "Church of Christ" now must number not the meager 800,000 (which the editor of that sheet in one of his calmer and more lucid moments estimated), nor the "2,000,000 members" claimed by Dr. Goodpasture and the Gospel Advocate, but at least five or six million members — with vast multitudes crowding the baptisteries every week to swell the total.

And now read the article from Russell E. Boatman, and get an outsider's impression of how things are among us. Personally, we think Harvey Childress and the brethren who have been working with him in Minnesota have made a pretty good showing. We see no reason at all for discouragement or gloom over the progress that has been made.

But the thing which really interested us in Boatman's article was this:

"We suspect that the unwarranted prohibition against the use of musical instruments by a people so keenly alert to the advantages to be gained through the employment of virtually every other contrivance and invention will continue to be a harrier to he fellowship of our two struggling movements and the greatest barrier he and his fellow workers encounter in their efforts to free other men of their man made laws and doctrines."

We see considerable merit in Boatman's appraisal of the situation. So far as he is concerned, instrumental music is the ONLY significant difference he can find between the Churches of Christ and the conservative Christian Churches in Minnesota. Certainly, there would be no real barrier in the two groups coming to an agreement on the question of the Missionary Societies. Already, their general practice has much in common. The conservative Christian Churches have long since repudiated the United Christian Missionary Society, and, indeed, at this late hour probably would not go nearly so far as Dr. J. D. Thomas, for instance, in defending the basic structure of such an organization as scriptural. The "cooperative arrangements" among Churches of Christ are generally recognized by the Christian Churches as but another form of their "living link" Missionary Societies....and, in truth, a form more liberal than many of them might be willing to accept.

Five years ago Dr. A. T. DeGroot of Texas Christian University wrote a series of articles explaining the spirit which had developed within the Disciples of Christ over the question of liberalism. Some four hundred thousand members of the Disciples of Christ rebelled against the UCMS, and broke fellowship with the International Convention. DeGroot, remaining with the liberal group, dubbed this split-off as "Church of Christ Number Two." He called the non-instrument people (us) the "Church of Christ Number One." He was seeking to point out to "Church of Christ Number Two" that they could never hope for union with "Church of Christ Number One" unless they would be willing to surrender their instrumental music. He declared:

"The Church of Christ Number One will offer no welcoming hand unless the Church of Christ Number Two will forswear instrumental music. They might not be obligated to renounce missionary societies, for Church of Christ Number One is developing the first forms of these very rapidly — one of which spends over $1,000,000.00 annually on broadcasting sermons. But fellowship with Church of Christ Number One would not mean unity, for that body is actually in many disfellowshipped fragments. In April, 1955, one Church of Christ (Number One) minister debated another at Lufkin, Texas, on the subject of missionary societies which have emerged in Church of Christ Number One."

Now, that was more than five years ago. And certainly DeGroot's statement that the "first forms" of missionary societies were developing "very rapidly" has been borne out. Witness the latest development in the "Gospel Press Foundation" of Dallas, Texas, a chartered organization for gospel preaching, soliciting and accepting church contributions to carry on its work. Others, most certainly, are in the making. DeGroot, five years ago, recognized these emergent movements as "missionary societies" in the embryonic stage — "first forms" he calls them. It was surely only the most prejudicial kind of blindness which even at that time prevented some of our own brethren from a similar recognition.

What of the future? Well, we think DeGroot is a little bit too positive in his allegation that the instrumental music question will present a permanent barrier. For it is our considered judgment that this obstacle will be overcome, this barrier will be hurdled in time. Indeed, why should it not be? Brethren who defend benevolent societies quite frankly and boldly defend their organizations with the statement that "we do many things for which we have no Bible;" and if that be their attitude, it is certain sooner or later to permeate their thinking on the music question. A new generation is coming up, a generation which has not been rooted and grounded in the idea that "we must have Bible authority for all we do," but on the contrary has been taught that "there is no pattern." When this generation comes into positions of leadership and influence, we anticipate a full-fledged effort to bring the Conservative Christian Churches and the Liberal Churches of Christ into complete fellowship with each other — with the question of instrumental music probably being left to the decision of each congregation. Ten more years, in our judgment, will see the coalition take place.

— F. Y. T.