Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 8, 1970
NUMBER 22, PAGE 4-5a

Bitter Fruits Of Digression


We carry an article this week by Brother Arnold Hardin under the caption, "Bitter Fruits of Digression." We thought the article would be of interest to our readers, and would serve to give a bit more information as to the battle that is shaping up among those churches and brethren with whom we were so close in years gone by.

We have talked with many these past years, and have reflected on the probable course our pro-Herald of Truth, pro-benevolent institutions, pro-centralized cooperative churches would take. One thing should be kept in mind by all. When the controversy over institutionalism was at its hottest, there was the feeling on the part of many that, "we would be fine if we could just get rid of the antis." Well, that was exactly what they did. In every congregation in the nation where they were strong enough to do it the promoting brethren introduced their projects and programs and plans, forcing conscientious brethren of the opposition either to stifle and trample upon their conscience — or else to leave that congregation and begin worshiping elsewhere. And we have no doubt a general sigh of relief went up in church after church when the division finally came.

But what the promoting brethren did not realize, and what they are only now beginning dimly to comprehend in the full enormity of the disaster they have invited, was that when they drove out the "antis" they inevitably removed the restraint of the Bible-loving conservatives, and left the congregation under the influence and domination of the more "liberal" and far out radical and extremists — the innovators who were willing to try anything the denominations practiced, and who longed for the church to take its place as a "sister church" among the churches. The 'bitter fruit' of such action is becoming more apparent with every passing day. Brother Hardin's article gives some of the examples of it.

There is one point in Brother Hardin's article, however, where we must differ from him. We do not share his feeling that the battle with liberalism is going to last a long, long time. It will be sharp and "gory," to be sure, and it will bring heartache and disillusionment to many who are, and have been from the beginning, in the forefront of the "anti-anti" forces. But liberalism is too strong, too solidly entrenched, too formidable. The schools, the papers, and institutions the great promotional projects are under the control generally (not all of them, and perhaps none of them totally) of men who have not been "rooted and grounded" in the faith, and who generally have a denominational concept of the Lord's church. Brethren Rice, Bales, Glenn Wallace, Roy Hearn, and other conservatives are fighting a losing battle. Thomas B. Warren might have been a potent influence for conservatism, but he so completely compromised himself when he came up with the bizarre and hermaphroditic defense of centralized cooperatives — (you remember? "sum total, constituent elements, total situation" nonsense) — that he has fairly well emasculated himself so far as fighting liberalism is concerned. Guy N. Woods is dismissed by the "in" brethren as an anachronism out of the last century. Reuel Lemmons would like to be thought conservative, but, to be perfectly honest, this editor shares the judgment of many thoughtful brethren (in all camps) that it would be difficult to find in our day any single voice in the land which more aptly fits James' description of a "sweet and bitter" fountain than the editorial page of the venerable Firm Foundation.

The battle will be bloody — but short. And when the smoke of battle has cleared away, the forces of liberalism will be in control of the vast majority of churches, colleges, papers, and institutions. Usually an editor will say, "we may not live to see this, but . . ." Barring a premature demise, this editor fully expects to see the thing here predicted. How could it be otherwise? The late W. W. Otey, a veteran of the previous great battle with liberalistic forces, warned that "once begun, an apostate movement never turns back." This one will be no exception.

As Brother Hardin says, "Thank God, thousands of us are no part of this weird and confused eating and tearing of our own flesh." But all of us have friends who are dear to us, and those who are close by reason of blood and lifelong association, who are going to be caught up in the agony of the developing debacle. They will now face the hurricane of hate and hostility which in previous years swept the "antis" out of the institutional churches. They will be swept out as we were swept out. To say that the tragedy is in no small part of their own making really doesn't help much now. "I told you so," is not a very good way to help a desperate and despairing man. We think it is time for all men who love and respect the word of God to seek greater areas of agreement and helpfulness. And there are many thousands left among the institutional churches who do love God's word, and who do want to respect and honor it. They misunderstand it, to be sure; that is why they are still a part of the institutional churches. But, as we say, that situation is headed toward a rapid disentanglement. Through no will or action of their own, these brethren are going to find themselves "on the outside, looking in."

It is a time for sympathy, for compassion — and for earnest and prayerful efforts on the part of all conservatives (whether "anti" or "institutional") to seek for ways in which the breach between us can be narrowed.

— F. Y. T.