Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 13, 1955
NUMBER 35, PAGE 8-9a

The Principle And Its Consequences -- No. 4

Jack L. Holt, Indianapolis, Indiana

In preceding article Brother Kurfees pointed out the dangers inherent in the movement to centralize the work of the churches. The articles stung the Standard, and exposed her and those like minded as leaders in a sectarian and denominational movement. The articles not only exposed the fallacious reasoning behind the departures then, but equally expose the erroneous thinking today. In the following article we could change the title, without thwarting the purpose of the article the slightest. I suggest this title: "The 'Brotherhood Radio Program' Principle Versus Local Church Independence." It is my hope that this article will be read and studied carefully, and I fervently pray that the scriptural teaching so well set forth therein will be indelibly impressed upon the heart of every reader.

The "Brotherhood Publishing House" Principle Versus Local Church Independence

M. C. Kurfees

"Thus far, in these articles, we have seen that the principle of general organization and centralization in religion is a matter of gradual growth and development .... It is a notable fact of history that every ecclesiasticism now in existence not only had a very small and unpretentious beginning, but started with every appearance of innocency and with the specious plea of meeting a vital and pressing want." (Remember this one, "Why can't the churches of Christ have their own radio program?")

"The purpose now is to show the utter antagonism between the principle represented in the 'brotherhood publishing house,' and that represented in the New Testament local church independence. These two principles are not only utterly antagonistic the one against the other, but they furnish a fine illustration of the radical difference between divine wisdom and human wisdom in ecclesiastical affairs. The local church such as that at Jerusalem, Antioch, Colossae, Philippi, Thessalonica, and other places is the only organization of God's people recognized in the New Testament for the spread of the gospel in the world, and consequently, we find that each one of these local institutions was provided with its own board of managers, and each one of them had charge of all kinds of work provided by the Lord.

"We do not wish to speak with unnecessary emphasis, but we here unhesitatingly affirm that, in the ecclesiastical arrangement recorded in the New Testament, each local church was as completely independent of every other local church as if it had been the only church in existence. Each church managed its own business, including mission work, and had no sort of organic connection with any other church for the simple reason, that the general body of Christ has no organization. (Italics, M.C.F.) None is provided for it in the New Testament. There is not the remotest intention in that holy volume that God eve: designed His people under Christ to form any kind o general organization, or to have any kind of general meeting of those in a province, district, county, state, or nation for any purpose whatever. Nor is there the slightest intimation of two or more churches, or their representatives, ever holding a meeting of any kind, except as one church might communicate with another through a messenger. But even in the case of messengers, there was no meeting of representatives of the churches in general to deliberate and counsel over ecclesiastical affairs, but simply the meeting of one church to hear a message of another. Indeed, there is not the shadow of an organization or association of churches in the New Testament by which two or more churches are arranged together for cooperation, either in mission work or in anything else, under the supervision and direction of a central board of managers.

"It is this point, as we have already seen in these articles, where we find the dividing line between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man, and where, in departing from the former man has always opened the way for sectism and sects. It is a significant fact that adherence to God's way of local church independence would not only preserve the "one body" required by the "unity of the Spirit" (Eph. 4:1-6), but it would completely forestall even the possibility of a "brotherhood publishing house," and everything else in the direction of centralized power. (This statement puts the axe at the root of the tree. With this blow down falls the towers of sectarian teaching that provides for brotherhood projects . . . JLH) The fact is, the only possible wrong that can ever occur under God's order is for an individual church to go wrong. This is not only possible now, but was possible in the days of the apostles, and actually occurred then right in the presence of inspired men, and it will always be possible. But the wisdom of God's order is seen in the fact that it reduces all possible wrong to a minimum. This is seen in the fact that when an individual church goes wrong, it does not necessarily involve any other church, except as the example of one church may influence another. But if it were organically tied up with other churches, and the general organization should go wrong, then all the churches in the compact would, of course, go together and would all be involved in the wrong.

"Furthermore, another advantage and point of wisdom in God's order is the fact that it leaves no room for restless and ambitious men, ('54 term, far-sighted) to do things on a large scale or with any great extent of authority, as they have always been able to do, and have done, in general organization and delegated bodies. They are confined within the narrow limits of a local church and have but limited advantages and opportunities to spread their mischievous opinions. Ever since the organization of a general society in 1849, this restless and ambitious spirit of innovation has been quietly at work among those who constitute the Restoration movement of the nineteenth century. It misses no opportunity to express itself in favor of a more compact and systematic general organization so as to be like 'other people,' as it is in the habit of expressing itself in recent years. (I repeat why can't we have brotherhood radio programs, colleges, orphan homes like 'other people.') This expression, 'other people,' means other denominations; (M.C.K.), for the new denomination which they have succeeded in establishing is now plainly seen and frankly acknowledged by those in their own ranks, and so the Christian Evangelist is called upon to deal with the following puzzling situation set forth by one of its contributors and sympathizers.

`However one thing puzzles me a bit — viz., the logic that will do away with sectarianism by adding one more to the bewildering number of sects already existing.'

On this, we may observe that the logic that would do away with sectarianism' is the New Testament doctrine of local church independence, and 'the logic that adds one more to the bewildering number of sects already existing,' is the extra-biblical doctrine of centralized power in religion. The Restoration movement started out with the former, but, unfortunately, embraced the latter; and one does not need to be a profound logician to see that this fact explains the whole situation and unravels the brother's puzzle."

After commenting on delegate conventions Brother Kurfees closes with this observation, "God's order as found in the independence and supremacy of the local churches, not only will not carry out the aims and ends of centralized power, but completely stops it."