Observations On "The College And The Church"
In times past, certain practices of the colleges operated by my brethren in Christ have been the subjects of open criticism on my part in the papers published by my brethren in Christ. I have always opposed the support of such colleges from the treasuries of the churches and have been quite vocal in such opposition. It, therefore, may come as a surprise to some of my uninformed critics, who have accused me of being opposed to so-called "Christian education," to find me writing in defense of the colleges. This, contrary to the unfounded accusations of my critics, represents no change on my part. I have never been opposed to such colleges per se. Their scriptural right to exist and function has never been a question with me. I have regarded and do regard certain practices of some of them at variance with Bible teaching. To such practices I have always been opposed and continue to be opposed.
There is, however, a practice which is quite prevalent in some quarters that I deeply deplore. The practice which reference is made is that of making the colleges "scapegoats" upon which is indiscriminately laid all of the sins of the brethren and churches. It is my conviction that any sort of a private enterprise which bears any kind of relationship to the churches, "directly or indirectly," or in any sense influences the churches, "directly or indirectly," should be carefully scrutinized for unscriptural ties with the churches or pernicious influences upon the churches. None should regard itself as being above criticism or censure if it transcends the legitimate bounds of truth and/or propriety. However, let criticism and censure be justified both as to (1) fact and to (2) law. If an individual has a legitimate criticism, let him make it. Let him not, however, hide his opposition to the existence of such a college on any basis or its operation in any manner behind a facade of innuendo and manufactured ills. If brethren believe that it is unscriptural for a college in which the Bible is taught to exist, let them say so and accompany their affirmation with the scriptural premises from which they have reached their conclusion. A campaign of sniping from the underbrush ill becomes those who profess to be willing to test all religious matters in the crucible of honorable discussion.
In a recent issue of the Gospel Guardian, September 7, 1961, News and Views, edited by brother Charles A. Holt, there was published an article from the pen of brother Wilson M. Coon of Phoenix, Arizona, entitled, "The College and the Church," upon which I should like to make some observations. Both brother Holt and brother Coon are personal acquaintances and friends of this writer. It is my feeling that neither is opposed to the existence of such colleges as are the subject of this discussion. At least, I have never seen from the pen of either anything to indicate that such is so. Yet, such articles as the one under review and others of recent months like unto it are quite as deadly, as far as the colleges are concerned, as an open attack on their scriptural right to exist. The fact of the matter is that such attacks are more harmful since they purport to emanate from those who are "the friends" of the schools. I regard the attack upon the colleges in general and Florida Christian College in particular contained in this article as being unjustified. I agree with brother Coon that what brethren find reprehensible in "ACC" should not be condoned in "FCC" and nothing said in my defense of FCC should be regarded as suggesting such an attitude.
Brother Coon's first paragraph implies a conclusion on his part that is utterly untenable; namely, that any human institution which bears any relation to or in any sense influences "the church" or performs a service for "the church" is tied to "the church" and is, therefore, wrong. He says:
"Is there such an institution, known as a college, operated by the brethren, which is separated from the church? Is there a single one in existence that does not attempt to place preachers; either directly, or indirectly? Is there a single one in operation that does not claim to be doing a service for' the church? Why does the traveling man for the college always consult the churches and preachers for his prospects for the schools? Why does he not consult the school and its teachers for such information? Why do they wear the name Christian?
"The fact remains that not a single college is completely separated from the church. All of them, including FCC (Florida Christian (?) College) would, in one way or another, suffer if they dared to cut loose from the church; and the brethren know it."
It would please this writer to know just what brother Coon means when he uses the term, "church." Is he talking about those who sustain a "saved relationship" to God (the church universal) or is he talking about some local church? These are the two senses in which the word is used in the New Testament. If he means the "saved relationship," certainly the college is related to "the church." Its founders were members of the church. Its board of directors is made up of members of the church. Its faculty are members of the church. Its student body is ordinarily from 80% to 90% members of the church. On the other hand, if brother Coon means that there is an organic tie existing between Florida Christian College and some organic body which he calls "the church," he is dead wrong. It was not founded by churches. It is neither operated nor controlled by churches. It is not supported from the treasuries of churches. Between it and churches as such there is no tie whatsoever.
A religious paper or publishing house specializing in the distribution of religious books similarly organized would bear the same relationship to "the church," in the sense of these who sustain a saved relationship to God, as would a college. Both influence "the church" and "would in one way or another suffer if they dared to cut loose from the church" if one means by 'the church," the saved relationship. Such papers and publishing houses are begun by members of "the church," operated "directly or indirectly," in the interest of the growth and progress of "the church," and 90% of their clients are probably members of "the church."
When "traveling men" for such publishing houses go into strange communities in the interest of the products or services of those papers or houses, they do not contact the Chamber of Commerce nor the Retail Merchants Association, but the preachers and brethren of the congregations as do the college representatives. Why some brethren even do so when they are attempting to sell Dickson Bibles, chinchillas, or even Nutrilite! Does this practice tie these activities to the churches?
It is charged that the schools "place preachers; either directly or indirectly." This is not strictly true. The men connected with the schools are often contacted by churches in need of preachers with reference to their getting in touch with preachers available for such work. This is also true of the men who operate publishing houses, publish papers, edit papers, and write for them. Roy Cogdill, Yater Tant, James Adams, and Charles Holt are quite often thus contacted and as often recommend men to the inquiring churches. Does brother Coon ever do so? If so, does this tie him to the churches and make him a one man preacher placement society? Are the recommendations of Cogdill, Tant, Adams, Holt, and Coon good for the churches and scripturally given while those of James Cope, Homer Hailey, and Clinton Hamilton, by virtue of their connection with Florida Christian College, bad for the churches and
unscripturally given? Verily, "the legs of the lame are not equal!"
Another paragraph of brother Coon's article upon which I should like to make some observations follows:
"Brethren have played around with Abilene, hoping to see the School converted, until it was too late to convert it or even separate it from the church. Brethren are now playing around with FCC. The President of that school knows full well that they have no right to wear the name Christian, but they have failed to come to the front and make corrections. They are now doing what the Herald of Truth is doing, dramatizing the gospel of Christ, a thing that some brethren have protested with heated arguments. Is it any worse for brethren in Abilene to play the part of Jesus, Paul and the devil than for brethren in Florida to do the same.
".... Men would have to be blind or dishonest to protest the name ACC and favor FCC."
This writer endorses FCC and the work it is trying to do. This is not to say that mistakes may not be made from time to time by the men operating the school — they would not be men if they never made mistakes. Neither do I endorse everything which FCC may do, right or wrong, and I know of no one who does including the men connected with the school. I endorse the Gospel Guardian, but I do not endorse everything that may appear in its columns, right or wrong. I do not regard my relationship to FCC as "playing around" with the school, whatever that may mean. Its critics will have to find better grounds than they have thus far advanced to cause me to withdraw my endorsement and support of the school.
As to the name, "Christian," it is true that the term is only used in the New Testament to describe a follower of Christ, a disciple. If I were establishing a college, I would not affix the name, "Christian," to it. Yet, I must at the same time recognize the fact that sound, devoted brethren have done so who feel that they have compelling reasons and ample justification. Their attitude is this: "The college is operated by Christians; its faculty members are Christians; perhaps 80% to 90% of its student body are Christians; it is subsidized by the contributions of Christians for the most part; it professes to be operated, in all its departments, in harmony with the principles which were taught by Christ; hence, we are justified in calling it Christian." Some brethren argue that the term "Christian" is never used in the New Testament as an adjective, but always as a noun. This is also true of the word, "church," but we note that brother Coon speaks of "church support" using the term as an adjective. We commonly speak of "church houses, church members, church services" etc.
While I believe that to affix the name, "Christian," to a college is to speak out of harmony with the plea to "call Bible things by Bible names," it seems extreme to me to regard such as being adequate grounds for the relegation of an institution so called to the realm of things unscriptural and unsound. Brother Coon's criticism of brother James Cope, President of Florida Christian College, ignores the fact that the school is operated by a Board of Directors who, in the final analysis, would determine whether or not a school changes its name rather than the President of the institution. It has never come to the attention of this writer that anyone has condemned ACC for the use of the name, "Christian," in its title, and, at the same time, approved the term in the title of FCC. If brother Coon knows of such a person, we should like to have his name.
The comment from brother Coon concerning the dramatizing of the gospel by FCC is based on misinformation. The school gave a play entitled, "The Life of Paul." This was not a religious service, but a school play for which admission was charged. It was in no sense comparable to what is being done by the Herald of Truth. I should like to ask brother Coon if he thinks it would be sinful for a college to dramatize the life of Alexander Campbell or of David Lipscomb. The Apostle Paul was not divine. He was a man, and at one time in life, a great sinner. It seems to me that it would be no more sinful to dramatize the life of an apostolic saint than to dramatize the life of a modern saint such as Campbell or Lipscomb. If it is, I should like for brother Coon to point out to me wherein the difference lies.
This has been written with the kindest of feelings for brother Coon and in recognition of his sincere interest in the soundness of the churches and brethren which caused him to write the article from which we have quoted and to which we have taken exception, but, at the same time, it has been written in the interest of fairness to the schools in general and Florida Christian College in particular. It is our purpose to have some more to say on the question of the college and the church in the not too distant future.