Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 15, 1954
NUMBER 48, PAGE 4-5a

Can We Avoid Division?


Elsewhere in this issue we publish a letter recently received by Brother James W. Adams from the hand of the venerable W. W. Otey. It is published here because of the respect we have for the sound judgment and penetrating insight with which Brother Otey views the problems facing the church today, and because the fear he expresses is one which we have found increasing among thoughtful brethren these last few years.

We share completely the warm regard Brother Otey has for the writings of James W. Adams. There are few if any among us who write with the clean-cut, incisive, analytical ability, the brotherly spirit, and the Christian dignity so characteristic of all the writings of our Associate Editor. That our respect for his work is shared by others is evident from the unprecedented number of requests we have received for back copies of those issues of the Gospel Guardian which contained Adams' articles on the "Herald of Truth." Our supply of available copies has long since been exhausted, but requests for them continue to come almost daily.

We particularly call attention to Brother Otey's observations on the probable course to he expected from present controversies and problems facing the church. He says, "Unless these movements, just a little bit off the straight path, are abandoned, or unless those who are warning against such movements yield to the pressure, only separation can result." We have heard the same ominous words from an increasing number of gospel preachers and elders these last few years. We think no one can view the present situation with any sort of understanding at all without a sense of uneasiness and foreboding. There are attitudes present in the church, forces now at work which will, if not checked, almost inevitably divide the body of Christ.

But we say once again what we have said so often before! IT NEED NOT BE SO! If all of us will exercise patience, tolerance, and good will, we can meet these problems, overcome them, and be all the stronger for so doing. But we will NOT conquer them by an attitude of suspicion, mistrust, arrogant charge and counter-charge, attack and counter-attack. A few short-sighted brethren have already begun to brand as a "faction" those thousands of faithful Christians who oppose the Herald of Truth arrangement, the institutional orphan homes, and the church support of Christian colleges. These three things right at the moment seem to be the center of the controversy. The problems will not be settled by the hot- headed bandying back and forth of such terms as "factionist," "blatherskite," "carping critic," etc., etc. In view of the terrible implications of this present controversy one reveals himself either without understanding or without regard for the body of Christ even to think in such terms, much less to use them with such obvious relish and irresponsible delight.

We would earnestly urge all those brethren who are so warmly defending the present institutional trend among the churches to give most prayerful study to the question, "What is wrong with the Missionary Society?" We believe herein lies our greatest hope of salvation. For if our brethren will truly study that question, then one of two results may well solve the matter so far as the churches of Christ are concerned:

1. They will come to the conclusion that nothing is wrong with the Missionary Societies save their abuses; and will follow the course of Ralph Wilburn, James A. Warren, and others into full affiliation with the Christian Church. or 2. They will see that the basic fallacy of the Missionary Society — the thing that makes it wrong — inheres in every one of the arrangements now being promoted among the churches, and which are causing so much unrest. And, being honest men, they will abandon these questionable and dangerous practices.

Meanwhile, let all of those who have already thought the problem through, and who are already aware of the scriptural objections to the Missionary Society, give themselves as never before to the task of pushing forward the work of Christ in every rightful way. Brother David Lipscomb used to contend that the very existence of a Missionary Society was an indication that the churches were not working as they should. For where the church is truly working, the advocates of the Society can gain no following and no support.

We think perhaps the same might be true in the present issues. When a church is faithfully performing her duty in caring for orphan children who are her responsibility, there is little opportunity for her to become enmeshed in the institutional octopus; where a congregation is extending herself to the utmost in preaching the gospel, she is not likely to listen to some super "brotherhood" plan for world-wide radio evangelism.

By the exercise of patience, by an earnest study on the part of all of us, by brotherly discussions, and by hard work, we believe the division which is so feared can be avoided. Are there enough of us, on both sides of these questions, who love the Lord enough to try?

— F. Y. T.