Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 22, 1963
NUMBER 16, PAGE 2,11a

Religious Pilfering

Jim Gabbard

In the past twenty years or so, we have seen many churches of Christ resort to the rotten practice of pilfering anything they happen to fancy. I do not mean to indict them of stealing tangible property known to belong to others; it's too easy to get caught in that sort of thing. But they have been stealing, nevertheless. This article will show two of the intangibles which they have purloined, both of them from the Christian Church, which in its turn, stole them from others.

First, many of our brethren have stolen liberalism from the "Disciples" and from quite a number of other sources, including the government and the denominations. They have used this liberalism in much the same way in which it was used by brethren back in the stampede of the 1840's and later, who were using it then to escape realism and the truth of God's Word. People who have a streak of meanness in them like to get away from God. Those brethren then were in the process of forming the present day Christian Churches.

In 1848, brother L L. Pinkerton "took the liberty" to introduce a melodeon into the worship of the church of Christ in Midway, Kentucky. Churches across the nation "took the liberty" to follow suit by bringing mechanical instruments into worship. Where did they get this liberty? Not from the word of God. They stole it!

During the same decade, brethren Pinkerton, A. Campbell, and many others "took the liberty" to introduce a national (or international) scheme for doing missionary work. They established the American Christian Missionary Society in the city of Cincinnati, without a shred of authority from God. Where did they get the "liberty" to do so? They took it — They stole the liberty!

Many of our brethren seem to have become a "little playful" back in the 1940's and 1950's. They, too, sought "escape" from the realities of God's word and followed the suit of those of a century earlier and began taking things which did not belong to them. In 1952, the Highland church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, along with many others, "took the liberty" of launching a national (or international) scheme for doing missionary work. They tried a little harder than earlier brethren to dress their scheme in the camouflage of scriptural phrases, but aside from names and slogans, they had (and have) in the Herald of Truth a close parallel of the Missionary Society. Where did they get the liberty to do so? They "took the liberty" exactly as the man who sneaked over to a neighbor's hen house during the night — he "took a chicken" from his neighbor's coop; the liberty and the chicken were pilfered.

Many glowing things have since been accomplished by these brethren with their ill-gotten liberty. They have built benevolent societies with signal speed across the nation; they have built recreational and social facilities of gigantic proportions; they have supported secular education to the tune of millions of dollars; they sponsor dozens of unscriptural arrangements.

In the second place, brethren began stealing another commodity about the same time. They needed arguments to defend their theft of liberalism and none could be found in the Bible. So to make it simple, they purloined the well worn arguments used by the brethren during the digression of the 1840's and subsequent years. These arguments were not in use any more, the Christian Churches having long since given up any defense of their practices, so our brethren stole them. Many members of the church remembered (and many others read) how well those old arguments had served to defend the robbers of by-gone days, and the temptation, it seems, was too much. They simply stole those old arguments and put them to work again.

Let's now notice some of the stolen arguments:

"There is no pattern." This is one which served with signal success then, and our brethren seem to have used is to equal success in recent years. It was a false argument then and is a false argument now, but far too many people do not know or care about that part. The argument sounds good, anyhow, and without some defense, they would get "stuck" with their stolen liberalism.

"God did not forbid it." There's a good one for you. God did not specifically declare that we could not use the instrument. God did not specifically declare that we could not turn our funds over to a benevolent society.

"God did not say how we are to do this...." This is another fine old argument. It is false and unscriptural as applied but a fine old argument, nevertheless. Brethren today are defending a "who" with this old "how" argument. They turn the work of the church over to a "who," a benevolent institution, and then invoke the old "how" argument. Brethren did it a hundred years ago with respect to the Missionary Society and brethren are doing it today with respect to the Benevolent Societies. Illegal? Yes, of course. But when brethren are stuck with stolen goods, as many are with their pilfered liberalism, they need a means of defending it. They may as well steal the defense (the arguments) as to steal the liberalism in the first place. They will go to hell for it all, of course, but they seem little concerned about that. They just steal another argument and say, "You are judging," and let it go at that. If they can boast of the good they are doing and the fun — oops, I mean fellowship, they are having, they seem to care very little about the final outcome. Maybe they can at least steal a peek into glory as they are turned away in the last great day.

— 523 West University Drive, Portales, N. M.