Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 23, 1961
NUMBER 41, PAGE 7,10b-11a

Cool, Cool Waters For A Hot Editor

Robert F. Turner, San Antonio, Texas

(Editor's note: In the January 5 issue of Gospel Guardian we ran an article by brother Mardell Lynch of Hobbs, New Mexico. The article was unChristian in attitude and puerile in argument, but we thought it might serve as a fair sample to our readers of the activities and teachings of brethren who are promoting the present innovations in the church. Brother Robert Turner had answered the Lynch lament, but we had not seen his reply when we sent the article in. We publish herewith brother Turner's rejoinder to Lynch — and add this note: Brother Lynch is now completely silent on the matter, and apparently plans to remain so. One of his recent bulletins explains his behavior in these words: "When in doubt, say nothing. Your enemy can answer everything you can possibly say; can retaliate against everything you can possibly do. Except one thing, that is silence." We rejoice at this sign of progress on brother Lynch's part. As his former article shows, he was neither "in doubt" nor "in silence" last fall. But since reading brother Turner's reply, and listening to a few radio sermons from brother Paul Foutz, brother Lynch is now obviously doubtful as to his position and "silent" as to its defense,)

Bulletins from various churches come to my desk every week, and as time permits, are always read with interest. The Hobbs Herald, Vol. 1, No. 37, (for October 10) arrived recently, containing such gems as "Hunt for good points in the other fellow; remember he has to do the same in your case." Also, "Happiness goes out from the heart before it comes in." These lines were on the first sheet.

But for the second sheet the editor evidently took a deep breath, and sneezed off his halo. He had read the tract "Are You An Anti?" and although, in his opinion, it contained no new arguments whatsoever, and compared with heated discussions he had read elsewhere, it was like "a tub of ice water," this little article seemed to arouse something other than happiness in the editor's heart. The fire burns deeply that cannot be calmed by a tub of ice water.

And what, in particular, has stirred the spirit of the Hobbs editor? Did I refer to him and his followers as a "Boo-Hoo brigade," "Keepers of Orthodoxy," "cantankerous folk;" or describe them as being in the "objective case and kickative mood," having "more bile than benevolence?" Oh, No! These words came from the meek and gentle pen of the Hobbs editor. The chief purpose of my little booklet was to clarify the issue that greatly disturbs the church today — that of a gradual change in her organizational structure — and to PLEAD (unashamedly) for brethren to put aside prejudicial name-calling, and give unbiased and fair consideration to the scriptures involved in the issue. Needless to say, my efforts failed here.

The Hobbs editor made no effort to examine the true issues before us. He ignored what I had to say on the subject, and satisfied himself with a display of bluster-muscles. My plea for Christians to act like Christians was dismissed as "whinning," "complaining," and a lack of courage. I am sure he must think this is so. Apparently we have entirely different concepts of strength — and I fear his conception did not come from 2 Corinthians 10:3-f. Perhaps the editor would like to demonstrate his real courage by meeting the real issue in a public discussion. Hmmmm??

The editor says I have no arguments, and then seeks to discredit them by trying to show that others have been inconsistent; and by contending, in principle, that brotherhood practices are the basis for right and truth. If the editor will take another dunk in the ice water perhaps he can quiet himself long enough to consider a few basic facts concerning the church and our problems today.

The church of Christ exists in God's Word, the "seed" that is unchanging. (Lu. 8:11; 1 Pet. 1:22-25) Her characteristics are here described; and party practices, majority or otherwise, can not change these truths. But the people who make up the church — the human element — are not so fixed. They may be faithful for a time, then drift, and finally lose all right to be called Christian. (Acts 20:29-f; Rev. 2:1-f) A "party" of people constitute a loyal church to the extent — and only to the extent — that its members conform to the divine plan.

One identifying mark of the Lord's people, with respect to their collective activities, is their organizational structure — the independent local congregation. Practically every gospel preacher, elder, teacher, and bulletin editor — Including the Hobbs editor, if he is now sufficiently cool to respond — will agree that the organizational structure of [independent local congrega] tion. Scriptural proof of congregational independence is found in those passages which prove (1) collective efforts of N. T. Christians were on a local congregational level; (2) oversight of such collective efforts was on a local level; (3) the treasury of such collective efforts was on the local level; and (4) therefore, "church action" was on a local level. Now before these points are brusquely cast aside, I suggest he try proving congregational independence without them. Try it on a Catholic, or an Episcopalian, or any others who deny this form of church organizational structure.

Students of church history know that the great apostasy, resulting in the Catholic church, began with minor (?) enlargements of this structure, and the accompanying changes in oversight. The Metropolitan system in its infancy was little more than a "sponsoring church" plan in many respects. But it grew!!

The digressive movement of the last century, resulting in the Christian church, was closely related to changes in organizational structure. Some brethren wished to pool resources from many churches in a common treasury, and appoint a "board" of brethren to use this money in a "great missionary effort." Later the same principle was used to form a benevolent society, for "greater benevolent work." When the scope of collective action is made greater than that of the local church, in one field of endeavor or in many, there must be, inevitably, an increase in the scope of oversight for that effort. Thus, bit by bit, the organizational structure of the church is changed.

The Hobbs editor completely missed the analogy of the missionary society to present problems. Perhaps his feverish eyes could not see such statements as: "This is one means by which churches form a working unit larger than a single local church, and there is no divine authority for such organizational structure among Christians." I would neither put a box in the vestibule, nor buy services to encourage this organizational error in evangelistic or benevolent work. This is not opposition to preaching the gospel or caring for dependent children. Let these benevolent societies loose their hold on churches, and remove their hands from the church treasuries, and I would advocate their support on the same basis that individuals may support any other welfare institution. Let each church care for her own God-given obligations, benevolent and otherwise, to the extent of her ability, and the problem of "brotherhood organizations" will vanish.

Our problem today, in addition to general worldliness in the church, is the result of brethren wanting to engage in collective activities on something other than the congregational level. (Pages 4-5, of the tract.) Now such changes are slowly developed — usually promoted with the best intentions by brethren who are unaware that they court apostasy. For this reason the question of fellowship must be handled with the greatest patience and love for one-another. To be sure, in times like these many are inconsistent with their past practices. This is of importance only to those with a perverted sense of the place for consistency. Every Christian should be inconsistent with some things practiced prior to conversion. As he learns the truth he should change his practices to conform to the truth. If he lives consistent with his knowledge of truth he will continue to change his practices — assuming he grows in grace and knowledge. (Cf. Rom. 14:5) Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds...."

The pioneer preacher Benjamin Franklin and others like him supported the missionary society in its early days, later they "changed." Let us thank God that they were more concerned with being consistent with truth, than with past records. When some men become aware of the dangerous trends or practices in their own lives, or in the church, they seek to make corrections. Others flex their bluster-muscles and quote brotherhood practices for their authority: There are men, and men.

Now some may examine past practices, and see no unusual dangers nor definite trends toward organizational error — some may be too close to the forest to see the trees — but the editor is far amiss in saying that until 1950 all accepted such inter-congregational practices as are now questioned. Proof quotations from H. Leo Boles (1932), F. B. Srygley (1931), W. E. Brightwell (1934), F. W. Simth (1928), and even Guy N. Woods (1946) would fill many times this space. In 1939 brother B. C. Goodpasture endorsed an article by Foy E. Wallace, Jr., stating:

"For one church to help another bear its own burdens, therefore, has scriptural precedent. But for one church to solicit funds from other churches for general distribution in other fields or places, thus becoming the treasury of these churches, is quite a different question. Such procedure makes a sort of SOCIETY out of the elders of a local church, and for such there is no Scriptural precedent or example." (Reprinted in Gospel Advocate, Sept. 28, 1939)

The obvious solution for the disgraceful condition of today is renewed faith in God. Individually and severally we must turn to His Word for the pattern of sound doctrine, and rely completely in its sufficiency. God is a majority — the only majority that really counts. We must settle ourselves before we can hope to settle others. We must fill our hearts with the cool water of God's truth, and overcome these hot-flashes, and cries of "Anti!" every-time someone questions our practices. We must humble ourselves, and pray without ceasing. We must strive, with all the power of our being, to be ready to meet our Lord in judgment. May God help us all.