Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 9, 1970
NUMBER 48, PAGE 4-5b

The Gathering Storm


This is the title which Winston Churchill, great leader of Britain and the free world in the terrible conflict with Nazi Germany, gave to one volume of his series of books concerning that war. It tells of the events preceding and leading up to the final confrontation, pointing out how each development in the unfolding tragedy lead inexorably to the next; until finally the world was engulfed in the bloody nightmare.

We have no wish to plagiarize the mighty Winston, even in the title for an editorial, but we can think of no heading which would more aptly describe what we think we see looming up in the immediate future of the Churches of Christ — at least among those fifteen or twenty thousand congregations now loosely described as "in the main stream" of the anti-organ, anti-missionary society, pro-benevolent society, pro-Herald of Truth cooperative (shades of Carl Ketcherside!) group of churches. There are probably some two or three thousand congregations of Christians to whom not all the descriptive phrases above would apply. For they are not only anti-organ and anti-missionary society, they are also anti-benevolent society, and anti-Herald of Truth cooperative.

Well, anyhow, to get back to what we wanted to write about — it is the editorial by Lewis G. Hale which appears elsewhere in this issue. Read Brother Hale's article carefully and let its implications sink in. He is commenting on a speech made by Brother Wesley Reagan at the Oklahoma Christian College's annual lectureship last January. The direction Brother Reagan sees for "Organized Religion in the '70's" is clearly and unmistakably toward some sort of ecumenical rapprochement or coming together in fraternal and cordial relationship of the "liberals" (he calls them Renewalists) in the Churches of Christ and the liberals in denominational bodies with a widening of the breach between these "Renewalists" in the Churches of Christ and those more conservatively minded.

This accords precisely with the evaluation we have been giving to the general picture for the last three or four years. And we believe that most perceptive students of the contemporary scene will agree that trends of enormous significance (especially for the Churches of Christ) are growing evident with every passing year. Make no mistake about it! The storm clouds are looming ever blacker and more turbulent as the tempo of events quickens. The Reagan speech is but one tiny straw in a developing tornado; the tongue-speaking, miracle-working, immediate Holy Spirit guidance phenomena are part of the same milieu. So also the Pat Boone-Oral Roberts fraternization. Far from backing off from such associations an increasing number of preachers (and others) in the Churches of Christ are going to be looking for similar opportunities to narrow the gap between themselves and like-minded denominational people. And the narrowing gap will ALWAYS represent a degree of compromise on the part of Christians. Any time truth and error seek to meet "in the middle of the road" or on half-way ground, truth must suffer.

It is far too early, of course, to hazard any kind of educated guess as to the final percentages which will be seen in the ultimate division. But it is pretty clear that the surge of liberalism is gaining momentum. Men like Wesley Reagan, Pat Boone, Carl Ketcherside, Norvell Young, together with the influence of journals like the Christian Chronicle, Mission Magazine, Mission Messenger The Restoration Review, and the softened doctrinal stance of most of the "institutions" (colleges, orphan homes, campus ministries, etc.) which tend to mould the thinking of younger people will beyond all peradventure of doubt weigh heavily on the side of liberalism. Opposed to this, of course, will be a great number of men who are conservative in their thinking, but who have effectively disarmed themselves for any meaningful fight against liberalism by their acceptance and defense of much of the liberal program. They are good and sincere men (men like Eldred Stevens, Glenn Wallace, Melvin Wise, Waymon Miller, Frank Dunn, Lewis G. Hale, etc.) who have simply been unable to see that their acceptance of such things as the institutional benevolence society (the orphan homes) and the centralized evangelistic cooperative (Herald of Truth) have forever robbed them of any meaningful argument against the missionary society and other inter-congregational promotions and projects. While they were rationalizing about "the home restored" and "if the constituent elements are scriptural, the total situation is scriptural," and lamenting how "the antis are tearing up the church," the hard-core liberals were quietly making steady and undeviating progress in their plan to bring about a "new" Church of Christ — a denomination among sister denominations. Even to this present day there are still some who have a knee-jerk response of antagonism to any mention of the Gospel Guardian! They do not realize that the liberals in their own ranks pose a far greater threat to them than any danger coming from their more conservative brethren.

Sometime in mid-summer the Gospel Guardian plans a special issue dealing with the whole problem of "fellowship?' At that time we plan to deal more at length with our ideas as to what may be expected to come up within the next ten years or so. But "the gathering storm" is not about to go away. It is only a tiny "cloud out of the sea, as small as a man's hand" as this decade begins; but before the 70's are ended, we believe that tiny cloud will have swelled into a roaring tornado. It will be interesting — and tragic — to watch.

— F. Y. T.