Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 24, 1955
NUMBER 45, PAGE 2-3a

How Far Will He Go?

Bill Cavender, Nocona, Texas

In the Firm Foundation of January 4, 1955, it was announced by the Showalter children that Brother Reuel Lemmons of Cleburne, Texas, had been selected to succeed their deceased father as editor of the Firm Foundation. In the same issue there was a statement of policy by Brother Lemmons. In this statement he promised a "conservative, unequivocal, kind, and constructive editorial policy." He also said, "I will not necessarily be in accord with all that will appear in the pages of the Firm Foundation. My opinions will not be made a law for others. The paper should be an open forum for discussion of issues, but personalities and Wrangling we shall strive to keep out. Principles must always have precedence over persons."

I, personally, was very pleased to read these statements, because I believe that such a policy, when followed, would make for harmony and happiness in the body of Christ. All that anyone could ask for is that brethren who disagree over issues be allowed to be heard, and that both sides of issues be printed and discussed in a Christ-like fashion. The best way for issues to be settled is for honorable men to discuss them, guided by the Scriptures, and when this is done, our brethren usually come to a conclusion in these matters. The society issue, the instrument issue and the premillennial question were eventually crystallized and the brethren decided in favor of truth. Issues that now confront the church can be settled also by patience, prayer, and diligent study of the Scriptures and an application of them.

However, I wondered at the time that I read these statements if Brother Lemmons would really follow such a course as he indicated he would try to follow. I have heard him preach on several occasions, I have read his writings, and I have read of him in the papers over the years. I knew when he became editor of the Firm Foundation that he upheld the principles of church cooperation as now advocated by so many, that is, that one eldership may plan a program larger than it is able to support, solicit funds from other churches, and become the receiving, directing and disbursing agency through which the UNIVERSAL church might act. I also knew that his closest companions and friends are mostly those who are the promoters, planners and pushers of the brotherhood projects now in vogue among us. We should hope and pray that he will follow his intentions.

In the February 1, 1955, issue of the Firm Foundation, Brother Lemmons had an editorial entitled, ".. . . in Opinions, Liberty." I could hardly believe some of the statements made in this editorial. He says that there are three realms. They are: (1) Things specifically condemned in the Bible; (2) Things specifically commanded in the Bible; (3) A vast third field between the "forever wrong" and the "forever right" which we call the realm of the expedient. In this vast third realm, he locates using bread and fruit of the vine on the Lord's table, and he says that God' silence in this realm is the principle by which we condemn the use of instrumental music in our worship. This certainly is news to me, I have preached and thought that bread and fruit of the vine are used because they are the elements specifically authorized by Christ, and that since Christ said bread and fruit of the vine, that everything else is prohibited, would be unlawful, and a transgression of Christ's law. But Brother Lemmons teaches in his editorial that this lies in the realm of the expedient. I have thought that since the New Testament teaches us to sing, that this excludes the instrument, and therefore to use the instrument would be unlawful and a transgression of the Lord's will. But the instrument also, says Brother Lemmons, is in the realm of the expedient. There are these three possibilities: (1) that I, and many others who have read this editorial, have simply misunderstood what he says; (2) that Brother Lemmons' language does not accurately set forth what he really meant to say; (3) that he has now adopted the old digressive use of the realm of expediency in order to justify some of the unscriptural principles and brotherhood projects in force among us today. We all hope that number two above is the truth in the matter.

Last week, on February 21 and 22, Brother Lemmons spoke on the Abilene Christian College Lectureship. In the course of his talk he admitted that the "ideal situation" is for a church to send out a preacher, but in cases where one church alone was unable to do this, he advocated the popular idea of the overseeing and sponsoring church, that is, one church receiving and disbursing funds for several churches in the support of an evangelist in the field. Brother Lemmons would have been very unpopular had he advocated anything else among brethren who, for the most part, are greatly enraptured with the great projects of the universal church of Christ in our day. As he approached the climax of his talk, Brother Lemmon's made this profound, prejudice-provoking, and popularity-seeking statement: "The theory that two or more congregations cannot cooperate in preaching the gospel is silliness gone to seed." And then admidst the acclaims of partisan glee, he said, "I want that to soak in," and gave us a dramatic pause to give us all time to let it soak in.

Such statements as the above are made only to becloud the issue. He did not discuss the real issue at all, but simply erected a giant straw man which he then proceeded to wreck with his great statement given above. Brother Lemmons knows, if he will think, that he didn't answer those who oppose his pets. He could not produce from the writings of any reputable brother the idea that two or more churches cannot cooperate. Of course, they can cooperate. What Brother Lemmons needs to produce is the authority for one eldership becoming the agency through which many churches may operate in fulfilling the tasks that the Lord gave every church to do. This he did not do in his talk at Abilene, and neither do I think he will attempt to do so.

In a book of sermons by Brother Lemmons, copyrighted in 1950, he makes the following statements in a sermon entitled "God's Glorious Church," on page 151 of that book which is entitled "Abundant Living."

"New Testament churches were congregationally independent. There was no ecclesiastic organization higher than the local church. Each congregation had its own elders. These elders were to be the guardians and the examples of the flock. They were to be chosen from among the local group to lead and direct the local group. Elders of New Testament churches did not exercise regal authority over congregations, nor was the word of an elder law in the church. The elder, along with the rest of the congregation, was subject to the law of God. He, the same as they, bowed to the same authority, and walked in the same paths. The office of a New Testament elder was not a governmental office, nor was his function legislative. He was simply the shepherd. His duty was to guide, lead, and direct the local congregation of which he himself was a member."

I doubt that there is a preacher or elder in the brotherhood that would have any trouble agreeing with Reuel Lemmons, 1960 style. The above paragraph is scriptural and true. But in 1955 Brother Lemmons upholds practices among the brethren that are not in accordance with his 1950 utterances. For example, let's use the Herald of Truth set-up. Is the arrangement of the Herald of Truth (many, many churches working through the elders of the Highland Church in Abilene) an ecclesiastical organization higher than a local church? If not, what kind of alignment or arrangement of the churches could be possible that would form an ecclesiastical arrangement or organization higher than a local church? Would you tell us, Brother Lemmons? Also, you point out that the elders are to lead and direct the local congregation of which they are members. Do not the elders at Highland lead and direct more than just the local church in which they are members? Do they not bear the same relationship to every contributing church in the realm of radio and television preaching as they do to the Highland Church, since they themselves say that all decisions relative to that work must be made by them? Are they in any way overstepping their scriptural bounds by assuming to direct the work of many churches in these particular fields? How would Brother Lemmons answer these questions in the light of his statements in his sermon on "God's Glorious Church?"

It is my sincere hope and prayer that Brother Lemmons will not write in the Firm Foundation with such an air of finality. He spoke at Abilene as if he were handing down a papal decree, and that because of his statement, all argument should cease forever. We believe that argument will cease when good men can write and debate the issues before us. Brother Lemmons could not perform a greater service than to open the pages of a great paper to a fair and honorable discussion of these matters. Such would make for peace and joy in Israel, and bring about understanding and good will. We fervently pray that he will not assume papal control as one editor among us is trying to do, and "quarantine" with a yellow tag all who do not agree with him. Problems have been faced and met in the past by the Lord's people. Issues have been settled and false teaching has been brought to light. May Brother Lemmons be courageous enough and Christian enough to allow both sides of these issues to be discussed in his paper, if they are to be discussed at all.