To A Professor In Greek
(Editor's note: Brother Holt does not hold a Ph. D. degree with Greek as his major, and he is not a teacher in Abilene Christian college.)
A professor in Greek at A. C. C. has recently written a series of articles in the Gospel Advocate in which he attempts to prove that centralized control and oversight is in harmony with "the book." His articles have only added fuel to the fire of confusion that has blazed brightly across the pages of the "Old Reliable," for quite sometime. In the Lufkin debate, Brother E. R. Harper came out in open court and confessed that there was neither precept, example, or necessary inference anywhere in God's book that authorized the Herald of Truth. He, therefore, attempted to justify it by an eternal (infernal) principle. This confession was later embodied in an article which appeared in the "Old Reliable."
Now, in view of the articles from the Ph. D. at Abilene Christian, it appears that Brother Harper and his imprimatur grantors, the Highland elders, will either have to recant, or else take professor Roberts aside and expound unto him more fully the practical benefits of "eternal principles." For if Roberts' articles prove that Roy Lanier's beloved "anti-cooperation," brethren are just that, they no less prove that Brother Harper and the Highland elders sure fouled things up in Lufkin. I suppose that by the time the Abilene debate is concluded there will be many a patch on the old digressive and sectarian garment Brother Harper pitched into the Lufkin debate.
In recent issues of the "Old Reliable," Roy Lanier joins himself to the centralized control brethren and is travailing together with them in a vain attempt to bring forth some justification for the same. Brother Lanier avers that we don't even need what Harper says we don't have, and which Roberts struggles to prove we do have. In addition to all of this, Brethren Brewer and Cecil Wright have all along contended that these churches are not doing what Harper. Lanier and Roberts are seeking to justify them in doing. To sum up: (1) Harper says we have no scripture for the sponsoring church. (2) Roberts says, aided and abetted by "able commentators," that there is scripture for such and that "sponsoring church" cooperation is the only kind we do have Bible for. (3) Lanier says we don't need any pattern, and (4) Wright says. there are not any churches exercising such centralized control anyway.
In view of the foregoing I can easily see why the Brother up in Sulphur Springs, Texas felt obligated to write an article in which he confessed his confusion. I verily believe an article along this line needs to be written by the aforementioned brethren. And when I think of all the space which has been given such confusion by the editor of the Advocate, I think I have sufficient premises for concluding that the "Old Reliable" isn't!
When Charles Darwin wrote his evolutionary hypothesis, he holstered his lack of proof for his theory by such expressions as, "we may well suppose," "it may have been this way. etc " Brother J. W. Roberts failing to find any support for the sponsoring church in the word of God turns to sources just about as authentic, and begins to Surmise and suppose. Expressions such as, "many commentators have argued," "it may be," "the traditional view," "we have presumptive evidence," permeate his writings. If he had any proof he would not need to walk in the footsteps of Darwin or the sectarian commentators but would answer in the language of Jesus "it is written."
In commenting upon Acts 11:27-30, Brother Roberts states, "the accepted view of the trip of Barnabas and Paul on this relief mission has been that these preachers returned to Jerusalem and turned the money over to the elders of the Jerusalem church, who in turn distributed it to the churches in need, and this accomplished Barnabas and Paul returned from Jerusalem to Antioch as is stated by what is certainly the correct text in Acts 12:25."
Now even if this is the "accepted view," it is certainly not the New Testament view. It seems that Brother Roberts is trying very hard to get the Bible to fit the accepted view of some sectarian commentators rather than making his views conform to the Bible. For years we have preached that the sects interpret the Bible in the light of their creeds, and as a result we have confusion and division in the religious world. It is astonishing that one who has put himself forward as a "guide to the blind," one who opposes human creeds, has now started down the sectarian road that leads to the ditch by an attempt to interpret the Bible in the light of an "accepted view" of commentators. Brother Roberts, what is the "accepted view" of these commentators on baptism? "If a creed book contains more than the Bible, it is wrong because it contains more than the Bible. If it contains less, it is wrong because it contains less. If it contains the same thing it is the same thing," after this fashion did the pioneer preachers endeavor to restore New Testament christianity to a lost world. But now an Abilene professor would have us submit our faith to the conclusion of a bunch of sectarian commentators. Such endeavors reveal that there is one basic error underlying all of these movements — a lack of respect for the word of God.
The professor further states: "this traditional view is now doubted in some quarters ... brethren are actually being ridiculed for accepting the traditional view, and for endorsing a method of cooperation implied in the traditional view they are being questioned with respect to their loyalty to the New Testament." One of the charges Jesus made against the Pharisees was, "making void the commandment of God with your tradition." (Mark 7:13) Jesus did not go along with the traditions of men then, and I am sure He cares nothing about some "traditional view," now. Jesus did not think it wrong to "question" the loyalty of the Pharisees, to the law of God. Why then, should it be considered out of place to question those who make a "traditional view" a matter of faith and practice? Is it right to question the "traditional view" of the commentators on baptism, but wrong to question their traditional view on Acts 11:27-30? Why? Brother Roberts would sure ridicule those who held the "traditional view" on baptism. It would be interesting to have him tell us why he would ridicule those who hold the "traditional view" on baptism, yet praise those who hold the "traditional view," of Acts 11:27-30.
One thing about it, I can substantiate my position that there is no precept, example, or necessary inference for a sponsoring church in the New Testament, by an appeal to the Highland elders!
When it comes to Phil. 4:15-16, and 2 Cor. 11:8, Brother Roberts sure conjures up quite a theory. He hauls in commentators, takes an expedition among the Greek grammars, implies a few things, supposes a few more, and winds up with the Philippian church in the bookkeeping business. Since Paul, "robbed other churches taking wages from them," (2 Cor. 11:8) during which time, according to the professor, he was receiving aid from the Philippian church, why, forsooth, the other churches were sending to Philippi and Philippi was sending on to Paul, thus we have a sponsoring church! This is an example of the profound reasoning of our Abilene scholar who accused Brother McGarvey of reading something into the text. Brother Roberts proof texts for this theory are as follows: (1) Many commentators, (2) Greek grammars, (3) Roberts thinks so.
Brother Roberts says of this fellowship: "thus the fellowship which Philippi alone had with Paul was in keeping an account of receipts and disbursements with Paul." He then remarks that his beloved commentators have difficulty in explaining what this account of receipts and disbursements means. He sets forth what some commentators THINK, then what others THINK, and then he informs us what he THINKS is the true interpretation of these passages. The commentators find it difficult, but not the professor — he can see a sponsoring church in that thing without any difficulty at all! He states, "the answer which is most obvious in the light of 2 Cor. 11:8, is that Philippi received money from other churches and sent it on to Paul! Shades of a receiving church!" No, Brother Roberts, this answer is not obvious in the light of either Phil. 4:15-16, or 2 Cor. 41:8. It is obvious to you only because of the proof you use, which is what you think, and what commentators think. "Shades of a receiving church!" Why there is not enough authority in these passages for a receiving church to even cast a shadow. There is no "shade" for a receiving church here, but there is something mighty "shady" involved!
Paul, speaking of the contribution for Jerusalem said, "for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem." (Rom. 15:26) Brother Roberts mentions the fact that some conclude from this that the contribution was limited to the poor saints in Jerusalem, and since the gift was turned over to the church in Jerusalem then "this is an example of cooperation by direct sending." Yes, it certainly is, and all the brother needs to do to prove that we may follow an indirect method is to give us an example just as plain, or any example as far as that goes. When we follow the pattern here we are on solid ground. But how did these folks arrive at the conclusion that this was an example of direct sending? Did they hie off to the Greek? Did they bury themselves in commentators? No, they simply read the word of God and arrived at this inevitable conclusion.
It is obvious that Brother Roberts cannot accept what the translators say in this passage for were he to do so, his theory would lose support. He must escape the plain teaching of this passage, and so, he calls in question the word, "for." He takes his scalpel of Greek grammars and begins to dissect this little word. He reminds me of Baptist "doctors" who have attempted operations on the same word in Acts 2:38. Now Brother Roberts gets out on the "ice" with them and tries to cut a few figure eights, but the "ice" is too thin — I have about 160 translators as witnesses to that.
Brother Roberts informs us that he "doesn't think," (I am tempted to put a period after think) the expression, "for the saints at Jerusalem," means that at all. To him it just means that the gift was brought to Jerusalem and then distributed to other areas. He thinks the word, "for" properly (?) translated conveys this idea. He then says, "if this is the sense here the thought would be a contribution to be made and sent to Jerusalem." In this statement we see the strength (?) of the sponsoring church advocates; it lies in the word, "if." What has happened to that group of people who say, "we will speak where the Bible speaks, and remain SILENT where the Bible is silent?" In the language of a Texas statesman, "it is time for us to stop and ask, 'where are we at'."
But, there is more to come. The professor says, "there are other and independent considerations which MIGHT cause us to THINK that the contribution was meant for a wider area than simply the christians living in Jerusalem." (Emphasis mine J. L. H.) Well, no longer do we need to prove all things (1 Thess. 5:21) just gather enough evidence ( ?) which "might" cause us to "think" so. He then states that this famine, like the first, was not localized at Jerusalem and since the first contribution was wider in scope than Jerusalem, "there is presumptive evidence that the second was also." Now we have it. IF Brother Roberts has given the true sense of "for" in Rom. 15:26, and IF we will accept "presumptive evidence" as a matter of faith, then we can find a sponsoring church. At least it MIGHT cause some to THINK so. But if we can do no more than cast a question over the direct method, by all means let us do that!
The majority of people marry and have offspring. In Acts 16, we read of the baptism of two households. There is the same kind of evidence for infants in these households, hence, infant baptism, as there is for professors Roberts sponsoring church. The Methodists will surely appreciate our professor now, he is right with them on "presumptive evidence." Professor Roberts can retranslate 2 Cor. 5:8, and make it read, "we walk by presumptive evidence, and not by sight," then he would have perfect leeway to preach his theory, and also the "accepted views" of the commentators.