Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 15, 1954

Concerning Public Discussions: Controversy, Results. Etc.

Robert A. Waller, Artesia, New Mexico

Many, today, are disturbed by controversy of any sort. It is repulsive to them, and they are very critical of any who take part.

While we may sympathize with them, we ask, is that attitude correct? Should we all agree to drop everything controversial? Some think that it is all right to disagree with those opt of the church, but that brethren should not join in controversy, and especially, publish it in the papers for all to read. If that is right many mistakes were made by the apostles and others in New Testament days for they engaged in controversy, and accounts of that controversy are recorded.

There are several vital principles involved in this question that I think we need to consider. Several months ago when the orphan home question was being discussed I visited with a preaching brother and this question was being discussed. He suggested to me that instead of discussing the question as Brother Holt and Brother Oler were doing "in the papers" that they should get together and settle their differences in private. In reply I asked him what the effect would be if these brethren could get together and come to complete agreement? Would their conclusions and agreement be binding on the brotherhood? Could they bind their agreement on the churches and say, This is our creed concerning orphan homes. He saw the point immediately and replied, "No."

The point involved is this. As far as matters of faith are concerned, each individual is free to make up his own mind from his study of the scripture. And the elders of each congregation are to determine the activities of that congregation. In order to do this brethren need to be informed and to be informed one needs to have the advantage of all the thinking he can on any given subject.

If Brother Oler ad Brother Holt could agree that would settle the question for them and for nobody else. And the brotherhood would not have the benefit of their thinking that was brought out by the discussion.

In like manner, if Brother James Bales and Brother Roy Cogdill had gotten together and settled the cooperation question between themselves, who would have been bound by their decision? Would any person other than them? Certainly not. Would any congregation have been bound by their agreement? Certainly not. And the brotherhood would not have received the benefits we did from their discussion.

Likewise, if Brother Glenn Wallace and Brother James Adams could get together with Brother Logan Buchanan and others concerned, and reach agreement concerning The Herald of Truth, who would be bound by their decision? Would you or I be bound by it? Would the congregations where we worship? Certainly not. Therefore, if you and I are to make up our minds on these questions and if the elders of the various churches are to think clearly along these lines, is it not helpful for these brethren mentioned and others to discuss freely, these things? Surely, brethren are to conduct themselves as brethren, and remain as free from personalities as possible, but even, when they fail to do this it does not offset the value of free, open discussion.

Several months ago I was talking with a preacher who had been preaching in Kentucky and had been invited to preach in one of the isolated mountain areas. The church, where he was invited to speak had been, about a hundred years before, a Primitive Baptist Church. Gradually, as a result of study and discussion, without outside help they had learned the errors of Baptist doctrine and had abandoned them. About twenty five years before they had discontinued the use of the name Baptist and had called themselves Christians and the church, the church of Christ. At that time they lacked regular observance of the Lord's Supper. He had been invited to preach by a family who had learned the truth on that point, but had not been able to convince the others. As they went to the church building on Sunday morning he noticed that family was taking with them the elements of the Lord's Supper and he asked them if they were going to partake of it that morning. Their reply was, "That depends on you."

At the close of that sermon there was a silence, then someone spoke up and asked, "What are we going to do about it?" After another silence another mountaineer spoke up, "I'm fer it." Several others gave assent and they began, then, regular observance of the Lord's Supper.

After the communion service the one in charge asked if anyone had anything to say. Several spoke upon various themes causing the service to continue for another hour or more. On the way home the preacher asked them about the practice of letting anyone speak who cared to. He questioned the practice. Their reply was that if they had not practiced free discussion they would probably have never learned the truth and they wanted free discussion to continue so that they could consider all sides to every question and thus continue to know the truth.

These mountaineers had more wisdom than many of us. Coming out of error as a result of their own study and effort, they appreciated the value of discussion more than we who were reared in the church.

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" in the spiritual realm, also. There must be brethren, who, when they question a practice will voice their objections and there must be papers that will publish their thinking or apostasy will be certain.