Brother Foy E. Wallace -- Then And Now (No 2)
The second statement attributed to Brother Wallace by Brother Warren is to the effect that when elders serve as directors of orphan homes, they perform their functions as directors and not elders. Well, if this be true, Brother Wallace should have disabused the minds of both the former and present editors of the Firm Foundation, Brethren Showalter and Lemmons. For in his article in Torch. Brother Wallace states that:
"the astute editor of the Firm Foundation (Showalter) is on record that even a home for orphans must be under the elders of the local church to be scripturally supported by the church."
This was written in connection with his (Wallace's) strictures against the schools being in the budget of churches. It should be obvious that when men are selected or appointed to serve in any capacity by reason of constituting or being elders of a particular congregation, such a function is essentially related to and to be regarded as within the scriptural duties of such men as elders. On this Brother Wallace wrote:
"A new fallacy has now become prevalent, that the only thing necessary to make a thing scriptural is to put it under the eldership of some church no matter where the church is. So institutions and organizations with their boards, wholly outside the church, are being put under the eldership of some sponsorial church, boards and all. According to that idea all that is necessary to make a missionary society scriptural is to put the society under the sponsorship of some eldership!"
In view of this statement of 1950 by Brother Wallace, I am wondering if he has now come to think that in such situations and undertakings as he then described, such an eldership serves in this overseership as directors and not as elders, and, therefore, such arrangements are scriptural?
The third point of expressed persuasion reported by Brother Warren for Brother Wallace bears on the matter of general benevolence, as incorporated within the meaning of Galatians 6:10. The fact that Brother Wallace evinced disgust (according to Brother Warren) with those who think otherwise leads me to suggest it would he more fitting that he change his disgust for a feeling of concern for and a becoming anxiety to instruct those so misguided. Among those are some for whom Brother Wallace has entertained a high regard in the past, both for their integrity and their intelligence, and thus he should regard them as amenable to his instruction. What his views heretofore have been on Galatians 6:10, I do not know, and they may well be now what they have been before. However, the quotation already made concerning benevolence from his writing in Torch to the effect that "The duty of alms giving is therefore limited to relief emergencies," surely diminishes the disgust to some degree which he entertains toward those who hold a restricted view concerning benevolent activities of the church.
The fourth point involves the issues identified with the cooperation of congregations in such fashion as is manifested in the Herald of Truth project. Brother Wallace is reported as not opposing the principle involved in this form of inter-church cooperation. That is what Brother Warren says of him now. But here is what Brother Wallace said for himself. Under the head of "The Cooperation Question" he wrote:
"The definition of 'cooperation' and 'cooperative' in my dictionary is 'working together for common ends; concurrence.' Business firms can concur in matters of civic obligation and work together for the same ends without surrendering their identity to one firm and all others working through it. Nor is it essential to cooperation for all the churches to send their missionary money to the elders of one church to do their work for them. The references that have been made to 'cooperative' gospel meetings held and to be held in some of our cities do not parallel the missionary programs of these brotherhood elderships. If the eldership of a church in a Texas city should siphon funds from churches everywhere to sponsor a 'cooperative' meeting in Oklahoma City — that would be a start on drawing a parallel. There is a width of difference between local cooperation and centralized brotherhood elderships, but even so, in any local effort where more than one church is involved there are certain principles that should be observed. It has not been denied, so far as I know, that contributions can be made to a church to assist in a work being done where it is and where its elders are elders.
"But every article of late with even an attempt to deal with this issue has referred to the case of Antioch in Acts 11:27-30 as a solid example of what is being done. Even a casual reading of the case will reveal loose thinking and careless writing in evidence in some of the papers. The passage reads: 'Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea; which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.' The first thing to observe is that the disciples in Antioch sent the relief to the elders where the brethren dwelt in Judea. One writer said the Antioch disciples sent the money to the church in Judea — no, that is not what it says. As well talk about the disciples in Tennessee sending something to the church in Texas. There were churches in Judea: 'the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus' (1 Thess. 2:14). The passage in Acts states that the disciples in Antioch sent relief to the brethren which dwelt in Judea, and sent it to the elders, obviously where the brethren that needed the relief dwelt. There is not so much as an intimation in this passage that the money was sent to the elders at Jerusalem for all Judea. This passage does not even mention Jerusalem nor elders at Jerusalem. It merely states that relief was sent to the brethren 'that dwelt in Judea,' and that it was sent to the 'elders' by Barnabas and Saul. What elders? The elders in 'Judea.' Where in 'Judea'? The elders where the brethren dwelt. So the passage certainly does specify what elders and where. Acts 11:29-30 is not a case in point for what some brethren are promoting in the way of a general eldership as a board of benevolence and missions for all the churches.
"Comes now a writer of some note who thinks he has proved that Paul delivered all the funds to the elders of the Jerusalem church, who acted as elders for all the other churches in the administration of funds. His method is this: Paul went from where he was to Jerusalem; then Paul returned to where he was from Jerusalem; therefore Paul went nowhere except Jerusalem! But the facts are that Paul was in Judea on this trip many months, and McGarvey points out that he toured Judea, going among the churches rendering this personal service in connection with this emergency, going in and out of Jerusalem all of this period of time. It is certainly a thin premise and a slim conclusion upon which to predicate an argument, to say that Paul went to Jerusalem, stopped in Jerusalem and stayed in Jerusalem, when the text itself says that the relief was for 'the brethren that dwelt in Judea' (not Jerusalem) and was sent to 'the elders' where they dwelt.
"It is doubtful if the brethren who are arguing this matter have considered the consequences of their contention. If their argument is true, the elders of the Jerusalem church were ecumenical in character — that is, a general or universal eldership for the whole church. Are they ready to accept such a conclusion? If so, then instead of local elders now, let us have a general eldership in each state, subject to an ecumenical eldership somewhere else, and settle all our disputes! There were elders in every city (Titus 1:5) and in every church (Acts 14:23) including the churches of Judea (Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14), and it is an assertion unwarranted and unsupported that disciples in various parts of the world, including Antioch sent their funds to a diocesan eldership in Jerusalem for all Judea, or anywhere else.
"What the advocates of brotherhood eldership need, but cannot show, is one or both of two things: First, where the church in Antioch solicited the churches all over the world to send their money for Judea to the elders at Antioch — so they in turn could sponsor the relief work in far-away Judea. That would be a solid example. Second, where the churches at Antioch, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Galatia and Corinth contributed their funds to the eldership of one church, a concentration of funds in a centralized eldership, to be used in distant places where they were not elders, That also would be a solid example.
"But the facts are that when the disciples in other parts of the world, such as Antioch, sent relief to the brethren in Judea, they sent it to the elders of the church where the brethren dwelt that needed the relief — and that is exactly what is stated in Acts 11:29-30.
"Besides all of this, the passage says that relief was sent to the 'brethren' in Judea; and Paul's itinerary was for the 'saints' in Jerusalem. There is no precept for nor example of the church undertaking to feed the world. (Emphasis mine, because of the third (3) point attributed to Brother Wallace by Brother Warren bearing on the scope of Galatians 6:10. B.V.)
"The practice that many brethren are now advocating calls for a diocesan eldership. Bulky accounts, solicited from all the churches of the nation, are deposited in their local treasuries, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. These churches have in effect become banking institutions, with huge payrolls, involving many jobs, and promotional projects all the way from grade schools to medical centers, with all that such projects involve, in equipment, laboratories, doctors and nurses and school teachers, all under the oversight of a local eldership in another part of the world! Truly we need to learn all over again what the work of the church is, and how to scripturally do it.
"There is yet another phase to this discussion. What about small churches that desire to have part in 'missionary work' but are unable to support a preacher alone or a program of their own? The answer to this supposed difficulty applies to the preaching of the gospel at home as well as abroad, there can be no difference in the principle involved. Let us make the application. There are scores of small churches in the State of Arkansas that cannot support an evangelist to preach the gospel in their county. So the eldership of a church in Oklahoma City (another state) proposes that all of these Arkansas churches send their limited contributions to the elders of the Oklahoma church, who in turn select and oversee an evangelist to do the preaching in Arkansas for all these small churches in that state. That is an example of what is being done by some missionary sponsoring churches among us!
"Still another application. The State of Texas needs evangelizing. There are scores of small churches that cannot support a full time evangelist. So the elders of one church in Dallas, or Fort Worth, propose to all the churches to concentrate their funds in the one eldership which in turn will oversee a 'state evangelist.' This is another example of what is being done in principle by those sponsoring missionary churches with their centralized elderships!
"The deductions set forth in the foregoing examples are the exact arguments used by the digressives years ago to justify their 'state evangelists.' The only difference is they appointed a board of missions out of several churches, and we have a self-appointed board of missions in the eldership of one church. In either case it destroys the autonomy of the local church in doing its work, and develops elders of a local church into diocesan bishops. When we criticize these deviations from New Testament principles in the organization and work of the church it does not mean we oppose the work. All of the effort to foment feelings and plant prejudice against men who plead for adherence to 'the stipulated conditions of the New Testament' by charges that we are anti-foreign missionary, anti-Christian education, and anti-cooperation will not prevail in the end. Many sober minded brethren are already seeing the light on these issues, and many others will as we shall continue to set forth these principles. It is the same battle over the same issues that had to be fought fifty years ago. (Emp. mine, B.V.)
"If elders of a local church can function in a general administration of the affairs of many churches in one thing, what bars them from doing so in all things, benevolence, missions, discipline? That being the case, Presbyterians, Methodists and Catholics can all justify their ecclesiastical forms of church government, and we will have surrendered the whole ground on the organization of the church of Christ."
I deemed it both prudent and proper to quote thus extensively from the pen of Brother Wallace so that you who read this will have a sufficiently full and clear presentation of his views as expressed by himself. This was written, of course, before the Herald of Truth program blossomed forth as an occasion of strife and controversy among brethren. But that it falls within the classification of such things as provoked these strictures by Brother Wallace is indisputable. I have heard him mention by name the Herald of Truth as an instance of the violation of the principles he has in the above quotation espoused. On this fourth point, therefore, he has changed, and changed radically — if so be that Brother Wallace has correctly understood and represented his convictions at this present time.
No purpose would presently be served, and no disposition possesses me, to engage in any argument as touching the merits or demerits of either his past or present position. He was competent to express his own views then, and I am confident he is able to set forth fully and clearly his present persuasions. No reason on earth could justify or require him then to have written as he wrote that which he regarded to be truth as touching the subject matter embodied, that does not presently exist impelling him to present his changed position and the basis upon which he supports this change. He did not have nor want another then to speak for him, and I do not believe he should delegate or permit another to speak for him now. He is still of age; he can speak for himself. He owes it to God whom he serves, to the Truth to which his life has been devoted, and to the brethren who have and do love him to address himself to a full expression of his newly found convictions. These brethren, regardless of their convictions on these points before us, are entitled to have the advantage of his learning. If they presently hold these views, such from Brother Wallace should strengthen and nurture their faith therein. If those of us who still believe that which he formerly taught to be the truth can hear his own statement of what and why he believes as Brother Warren says he does, his fine power of reasoning, brought to bear on the great learning he is recognized to have of the scriptures, should be capable of recovering us from the errors into which we have fallen — and, at least partly, as a result of his past teaching.
The number of brethren who have been privileged to utilize the pages of the Gospel Advocate to announce their change lends confidence to the thought he would encounter no difficulty in finding full usage of its pages to fully set forth his change and the reasons therefore. He has, in recent years, enjoyed access to the pages of the Firm Foundation, and it is altogether reasonable to believe he can obtain adequate space there to publish his views. These periodicals would give far more coverage than the two papers through which others have tendered their reported interviews with him. Also, I cannot but believe that the Truth Magazine, The Preceptor, and The Gospel Guardian would all extend him this courtesy. These five papers, holding different views on these issues, would give a great spread to his treatment of this, and their diversity would forbid any "paper label" being put on him.
If there is a man living among us today whose voice can carry greater weight toward resolving the differences among us than his, I do not know who he is. I have always considered with great and grave regard all he has written, and no one would welcome the opportunity to be further instructed by him than would I. I do not understand how he can forego meeting this responsibility and rendering this service to the cause of Christ. Brethren are divided on these questions, and wherever the Truth resides on them, it needs to be discovered by all of the Lord's disciples. The eternal destiny of souls is involved, including Brother Wallace's own, The peace and unity of God's family are dependent on a proper resolvement of these problems. My most sincere appeal to this brother whom I have long loved is to respond to this request out of regard for all that is suspended on one's love and knowledge of the truth, and obedience thereto.
— P. O. Box 764, Longview, Texas