A "Great Preacher" Prejudices The "Questions And Issues Of The Day"
Introduction (Second In A Series)
One of the favorite tricks of the sophist is to prejudice an issue by misrepresenting the nature and scope of the controversy. This is usually done by assuming, without proof, the truth of some highly controverted point and representing the opposition as foolishly and obstinately contending for that which is self-evidently false. Dr. Batsell Barrett Baxter both in his recent sermons at Hillsboro Church and in the published "Booklet," with an impressive air of piety and objectivity, introduces his study of the "questions and issues of the day in the light of the Scriptures" ( ?) with a studied effort to impress his auditors and readers with the fallacy that the entire controversy is a useless and senseless wrangle over the question of whose purely human judgment shall prevail in the realm of methods and incidentals.
Should this be granted to be true, there would be no controversy. This is the very point at issue, and must be proved, not assumed, by our learned brother. We categorically deny that the "questions and issues of the day" concern either methods or incidentals. In this article, it shall be our painful duty to expose the "Great Preacher" in his unwarranted assumptions and studied misrepresentations of ( 1) the issues and (2) his opposition. We shall also, in this and subsequent articles, be following the devious course of his misadventures in the field of Biblical interpretation and his animadversions relative to those of us who demand a "thus saith the Lord" for religious practice, or, as he puts it, "book, chapter, and verse."
The Issues Prejudiced With The Cox Article
Dr. Baxter begins his "Booklet with a rather lengthy excerpt from the writings of Brother John D. Cox of Florence, Alabama (recent occupant of the Gospel Advocate confessional box). ("Booklet-pages 3-5.) This citation was not used by the "Great Preacher" in his original sermons. It seems evident, therefore, that he felt his efforts to prejudice the issues were somewhat weak in the sermons, hence bolstered them in the published "Booklet with the Cox material. Brother Cox, in the material in question, seeks to prove that current issues concern "methods and incidentals" of rendering obedience to the generic commands of Scripture. He equates the term "pattern" with the term "example" and seeks to make it appear that brethren who oppose churches contributing to institutional orphan homes demand a detailed example from the Scriptures to establish scriptural authority or a "pattern." In the development of his thesis, Brother Cox endeavors to identify the controversy over our benevolent societies with the questions relating to: (1) teaching the Bible in classes; (2) using individual containers on the Lord's table; (3) employing located preachers, paying them fixed salaries, and furnishing them houses in which to live; (4) utilizing human literature in Bible teaching. He argues that, since we do not have detailed examples of these practices in the New Testament, yet employ them, churches may, on the same basis, support from their treasuries institutional orphan homes.
Dr. Baxter calls this an "excellent article that fits well into" his introduction to a study of the "questions and issues of the day." The fact is (and Dr. Baxter and John D. Cox know it) no representative, conservative preacher among churches of Christ demands a detailed example from the Scriptures of everything we do in religion. This is not what is meant by the demand for "scriptural authority," nor is it what is meant when a "New Testament pattern" for religious practice is demanded. Reams of paper have been consumed by conservative brethren in setting forth their views concerning what constitutes "scriptural authority" or a "New Testament pattern." Neither Baxter nor Cox could possibly be ignorant of the true position of conservative brethren on this subject. Again and again it has been emphasized that the sum total of the teaching of the New Testament on any given subject constitutes the "scriptural authority" or "pattern" for the belief and practice of Christians and churches of Christ in that realm. In this connection, it has been repeatedly emphasized that the New Testament teaches by (1) precept, (2) approved example, and (3) necessary implication (or inference). Also, it has been just as often emphasized that New Testament authority may be generic or specific, explicit or implicit,
Conservative brethren have taught in the past, teach now, and will continue to teach with one voice that Christians and churches must have either precept, approved example, or necessary implication from the New Testament for all they believe and practice in religion — that the New Testament must, generically or specifically, explicitly or implicitly, authorize all. On this basis they deny there is divine authority, a Scripture "pattern." for: (I) church support of institutional orphan homes, homes for the aged, hospitals, etc.; (2) centralized-control-and-oversight arrangements such as the Herald of Truth and Campaigns for Christ; (3) church support of so-called "Christian colleges;" (4) church sponsored recreational and other purely secular and social activities.
The Issues Are Not Over "Methods" And "Incidentals"
Dr. Baxter's effort to reduce the controversy to a legalistic hassle concerning methods and incidentals to be employed in rendering obedience to the generic commands of Scripture is a puerile dodge; he begs the question at issue. The "Great Preacher's" position makes the divine church of the living God dependent upon purely human institutions for functioning efficacy, hence indicts its all-sufficiency. His position in the realm of "church cooperation" perverts the character and function both of New Testament elderships and New Testament congregations. This we are prepared to prove, and will prove as we progress in this review.
It is our position that all methods are incidentals, Dr. J. D. Thomas in his book, "We Be Brethren," has much to say about "required methods and optional methods," It is our judgement that such designations but confuse, not enlighten. We are little interested in a war of words, mere semantics, but we believe there is a principle of some importance involved here. If a thing is "required," it is an integral part of the divine commandment, and it is not (cannot be) a "method" of performing the commandment.
Too, Baxter, Thomas, and practically all others who have spoken and written in defense of church support of human institutions and sponsoring church arrangements confuse methods and organizations. A method is one thing and an organization is another. Organizations, themselves, use methods. It is our contention that God has authorized the organization through which a New Testament church is to function in the performance of its divine mission, hence that this organization inheres in every command, generic or specific, which God has directed to such congregations. Any method consistent with all the principles of divine truth may be utilized by this divine organization in the performance of its divine obligations. However, that it may scripturally subordinate itself to any human organization or even to another New Testament congregation in performance of its divinely authorized mission, we vehemently deny and protest. For such there is no scriptural authority either generic or specific. This is the issue — the "Great Preacher" to the contrary notwithstanding!
The Issue Is Not "Cooperation" Per Se
The "Great Preacher" further seeks to prejudice the issues by implying that conservative brethren oppose "church cooperation" per se and introduces numerous examples of such cooperation from the New Testament as though we were either ignorant of these examples or unwilling to accept them. Every scriptural example of "church cooperation" cited by Dr. Baxter is known to us all, accepted by us all, and appealed to by us all repeatedly in our preaching and writing. Let it he observed, however, that no example from the New Testament offered by our learned brother in any sense (generically or specifically) justifies the practices and organizations for which he contends. We accept the examples, but we utterly repudiate the unfounded inferences which Dr. Baxter draws from them.
The question is not, "May churches of Christ cooperate?" The question is, "May churches of Christ cooperate through human organizations, sponsoring churches, and brotherhood elderships? as Baxter and his colleagues contend." The "Great Preacher" will not (he dare not) take the position that there is a generic command for Christians and churches to "cooperate" and that they are at liberty, without limitation to employ any type of cooperation which "the wisdom and discretion of the elders" may suggest. If our learned brother should take such a position he would be forced to swallow the missionary society which he repudiates, hook, line and sinker. Baxter equivocates and misrepresents when he attempts to make cooperation per se the issue...
The Issues Are Not Over The Subjects Of Benevolence
The "Great Preacher" also seeks to prejudice the issues, as do most of the "liberal" brethren, by turning attention away from unscriptural human organizations which have provoked the current controversy with its consequent strife and division to a subordinate issue; namely, the scriptural subjects of church benevolence. Our troubles today, and Dr. Baxter knows it, have not risen from differences over "whom the churches may relieve." He knows as well as we that current issues arose over the "building and maintenance by the churches of human institutions" through which they function to perform their divine mission. We do not deny that liberal and conservative brethren differ widely as to New Testament teaching concerning the proper subjects of church benevolence, but we do deny that such is the basis of our differences and division, "brotherhoodwise."
In our next article, we shall be discussing the "Great Preacher's" rule for determining when "a New Testament example is binding," and his arguments on "scriptural church cooperation." Since he is a featured speaker for the Herald of Truth radio and television cooperative, Dr. Baxter is involved in the necessity of defending all of the arrangements for the centralization of work and resources of professed churches of Christ of our day. In his laborious effort to do so, he produces not a single new thing, but it is intriguing no end to follow his logical contortions as he endeavors to pursue the snake-like course laid out for him by his illustrious (2) predecessors on the "primrose path" of apostasy.
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