Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity

The Neutrality Policy

Robert C. Welch, Nacogdoches, Texas

The policy of neutrality involves great danger. One danger is evidenced in the fact that neutral territory lies in the path of opposing forces. Most of all it is dangerous because it either ignores or minimizes the principle of truth and right. Neutrality involves a certain amount of compromise, indefiniteness, and change for policy's sake more than for conviction as to what is right. Webster's unabridged says of it: "But Neutral emphasizes the idea of vagueness or indefiniteness, as of that which is neither one thing nor the other." Neutral nations are seldom, if ever, world leaders; they are followers. In comparison, there is just as grave danger, and more, in holding to the policy of neutrality on spiritual matters.

Reuel Lemmons, as editor of the Firm Foundation, is perhaps the outstanding figure among neutralists. There are many who are trying to follow a neutral policy with reference to issues and differences in "institutionalism," "centralized control" and "liberalism" which are permeating the churches of the Lord today. A study of this policy is essential in order that its followers may see the folly and insecurity of their course. Because brother Lemmons has this outstanding position and has had perhaps more to say, and better said, than others in this policy, he is due for close scrutiny. An analysis of his editorials will reveal just how vague and uncertain are his positions. It will reveal that basically the position is taken for policy's sake more than for the sake of conviction. It will reveal that there is a certain fear of going against any sizable number in the church, or that it is a desire for universal popularity. It will show that his neutral policy is a course of following rather than of aggressive leadership.

The Middle Of The Road

"We like it in the middle of the road," is the title of an editorial in the Firm Foundation, July 5, 1960. It is true that in this editorial our champion of the neutral position states that he believes that this is where the truth lies; but every line of the article implies that he conclude this to be so because it is not one of the extreme positions, and that any extreme position is of necessity wrong. He asserts, nevertheless, that if he thought the truth to lie with one of the "extremes" he would stand with them. Just observe, though, some of the expressions in the article to see that there is a certain fear of contradicting the majority running through the article:

"He thinks that because we refuse to become a part of what Foy Wallace used to call the 'lunatic fringe' on either side of the truth we have no position. He is mistaken.....And we believe that main body of the army is still marching, and will continue to march, straight ahead.... Someone will get hurt, and hurt bad, before brethren come to their senses.... We thank God we can still use the same old ones (sermon outlines)....Some mighty smart men have gone over these grounds for hundreds of years. It is not reasonable to believe that a modern Moses can arise in this generation to lead a people out of a wilderness who have had much experience in studying the unvarnished text as our people have.... Extremes are always recognized for what they are — extremes. A segment of shallow thinkers, and non-thinkers will always follow them. ... No, thank you, we do not want to become inebriated with any of these modern 'issues' or extremes."

Notice that he has appealed to his traditional teaching in his old outlines; and that he thinks that what he teaches must be right because for years men have studied these matters and he agrees with them, here, however, we notice the distinct development of the "Jekyll and Hyde" psychosis. He knows not which course to take. If he appeals to tradition he may miss some support; so, in another editorial (March 3, 1959) he decries custom and tradition and accuses some brethren, whom he calls extreme conservatives, of this error. He says:

"Hide-bound conservatism is afraid always to venture beyond what custom and tradition has held through the ages to be orthodox. Some illustrious teacher of the past is quoted as a sort of standard of authority, and any who dare to express another view are considered as blasphemers."

In this fashion brother Lemmons has indicted himself for being a "hide-bound conservative;" for in the other editorial he definitely cited as authority what the "teachers of the past" have said. He should know, however, that the opposite comes nearer the fact; that is, that the brethren of liberal and institutional trend are the ones who are appealing to traditional practices and the following of the general religious customs

The Underlying Cause

This neutral position is taken because of a definite underlying mental compulsion. He dares not cast aside his conscientious desire to accept the truth. At the same time he has an overpowering aversion to any position which excludes him from bosom companionship of a large segment of his people. He has, therefore, done some rationalizing in order to harmonize his desire for neutrality and his conscientious desire for truth. He has decided that truth must lie with the neutral position on any question:

"The middle of the road is still the safe position. Line drawing on either side of any question is repulsive — and just as repulsive on one side as upon the other." (Editorial in Firm Foundation, March 3, 1959)

No mere deduction is needed to establish the enthronement of neutrality in his mind. He has so stated it in his own words. Whatever and however strong may be his desire for truth, his desire for, and his confidence in neutrality it stronger. Hence, the point which was stated in the beginning is established; that is, that it is for policy's sake more than for conviction as to what is right. In this instance, his conviction is based upon his neutrality or his repulsion to line drawing on any question.