Articles On "The Marriage Question"
Beginning this week we are printing several articles on "the marriage question" by brother Lloyd Moyer and brother Gene Frost. We recently published a series of six articles by brother Frost on the general subject, "Marriage — As God Would Have It." The two articles by brother Moyer (this week and next) were originally written as a tract, and were not intended or written in any sense as a response to anything in the Frost articles; but were designed only as a serious presentation of brother Moyer's own personal convictions on this very important subject. Immediately following these two articles from brother Moyer we will, however, have a series of three articles by brother Frost which are a review of brother Moyer's tract.
For a long while we have been reluctant to open the pages of the Guardian to a full scale discussion of this subject, knowing how tense and emotion-packed discussions of this theme often become. We do believe that every Bible question on which brethren differ ought to be discussed, however; and we are convinced now, after talking with many brethren on both sides, or all sides, of this question that we can have a profitable worthwhile study of Bible teaching on this subject, and can largely avoid the tensions and estrangements of which we have been apprehensive.
To do that, certain things are essential. For one thing, there must be a basic understanding that brethren who differ on this are honest, completely sincere, and that each one is fully convinced that he is teaching that which the Bible enjoins. With charity and goodwill among all, the discussion can be carried on in a spirit of deep humility and brotherliness, with an absolute avoidance of any kind of charge, or insinuation that anybody has a "personal axe to grind," or is in any degree at all insincere in what he is advocating. And there should be the understanding in advance of all such study that brethren are brethren, in full fellowship with one another in the Lord, and that they will remain such — even though the end of the discussion finds them as far apart as they were when it began.
Let us all realize that "the marriage question" does NOT effect the organization, work, or worship of the congregation at all. And there is no action by any congregation that forces a man to violate his conscience. If brethren can understand that this is a "personal question" (like the matter of carnal warfare, the head covering for a Christian woman, whether or not a Christian has the right to vote, etc.) the discussion can be truly profitable and helpful; but if any one seeks to force his views on the congregation, and insists that there must be congregational action taken, then we have indeed opened up Pandora's box of troubles.
We suggest that all who wish to write on this question should first read the entire presentation of the subject by brethren Frost and Moyer (beginning with brother Frost's six articles in the April and May issues of the Gospel Guardian), and then see whether or not you have something new to offer — some truth of scripture, or some logical argument, which either Frost or Moyer failed to explore. In other words, if you have something additional which you believe will be helpful, then let us have it. But there is no particular merit in endless repetition of material which has already been presented, unless, of course, we are seeking for congregational action rather than individual study and resolution of the problem.
We recently ran across an article by brother Luther Blackmon which has been re-published in a number of church bulletins, and which we believe sets forth the wise and Christian approach to questions which do not involve the work or worship of the church. It leaves every Christian free to teach exactly what he believes to be the will of God, and to teach it with all the fervor and force of which he is capable — and then leave the application of the things taught to the individual and his conscience rather than to demand congregational action. If someone charges that "this means the church will sanction adultery," we respond, "It no more means the church sanctions adultery on the marriage question than it means the church sanctions murder on the question of carnal warfare." In both realms there is the realization that sincere and honest brethren differ, and there is the willingness to let each Christian settle the matter in his own heart before God — realizing that each must answer in that final day for himself alone. As a matter of simple fact, this has been the practice of nearly all congregations for many, many years. We know of none which has canvassed the membership in an effort to ferret out every case of a second marriage, dig into the circumstances and history of such, and then take congregational action either to withdraw from the one thus involved or to exonerate him from all blame. It has been left to the conscience of each individual.
But here is brother Blackmon's article:
There Is A Difference
"Ever since I have been paying attention to what my brethren do and teach, I have noted that there are certain scriptural subjects on which we disagree, but, which have never caused any big trouble. I refer to such subjects as "the Christian and carnal warfare" & the question of whether or not a Christian woman must cover her head when she is in the assembly. There have been isolated cases where these things have caused congregations to split, but not many, and certainly they never posed a threat to the whole church.
"But such things as missionary societies, instrumental music in worship, and more lately church support of benevolent institutions and pooling of funds from many churches under the eldership of one church, have been the occasion of two major divisions. Why is it that we can disagree about head-coverings and carnal warfare for 100 years, but when these other things are brought in there is always division?
"The answer is quite simple. One is personal. The other affects the whole church. If a woman believes that to worship in the assembly without covering her head is to sin, then she may, and should wear a covering. She will certainly not be condemned for such. But her wearing a covering is a personal thing. It does not necessarily affect anyone else; it does not affect the work, organization, or worship of the church.
When a Christian man believes that his obligation to his country allows him to go to war, whether he is right or wrong, his doing so does not necessarily affect the other members of the church. It is a personal matter. Don't get the idea that I think there are certain scriptural subjects on which brethren may take the opposite positions and both be right. That isn't the point. I am saying that in these two things, and perhaps others, one may do what he believes to be right (and whether right or wrong) his action does not necessarily affect the other members of the church. His action does not cause others to violate their consciences.
"But when a number of the brethren insist that the church must support human institutions out of the treasury, they force others in the congregation many times, to violate their consciences. They force them to contribute to things which they believe to be unscriptural. The same is true where there is a brotherhood operation through the eldership of one church. The Bible clearly limits the oversight of elders (bishops) to one congregation. (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4)
"If one feels duty bound to send funds to some brotherhood program, he could do it, if he would, without forcing others to compromise their conviction. But when such programs and institutions are supported from the treasury of the church, then those who believe it to be unscriptural have no choice but to go where they can work and worship scripturally. Of course, they will be branded as factionists and troublemakers. But that won't cut much ice in the day of judgment."
— F. Y. T.