Here is an extract from a letter we received the other day from a faithful gospel preacher who is not generally regarded as "one of the Guardian boys." We are much interested in it because of the glimpse it gives us of the thinking of others relative to the fight we have been making for "the old paths":
Hope that much good will result from the debate (with Harper). It might be interesting to you to know that I was talking with a very well known preacher in the brotherhood a little while back, and he said he felt that 60 to 70 percent of the brotherhood would side against the institutional homes in case of a split. His reasoning was this: The church has always preached 'a safe way.' Caring for orphans, and doing missionary work is done the 'safe' way by the local congregation without the homes or super organizations.
And, by the way, he also suggested that a majority of the churches agreed with the Guardian, but disliked the personalities being discussed. Many think that the Guardian "picks" at people to start a fuss. Many hesitate to say much about the Guardian because they don't want to be branded as "Guardian men." It looks like the "other side" is using intimidation to get their way. Too bad that so many yield to such. But the worst part of it is that what is meant by the brand is not that you agree with the Guardian in principle, but rather in the spirit of being a "sniper," or "picker," or "fault-finder."
Our reaction to such a letter? A searching self-analysis, and a sincere effort to evaluate the criticism implied. The man who wrote the letter is not known as a "Guardian man," but he agrees fully, we believe, with the general objectives and goal we have in view. The "well known preacher" to whom he talked is not identified, and we have no way of knowing who he is; but apparently he too agrees with the general teaching and position of the Guardian. He recognizes the danger now threatening the church, and of course will work earnestly to counteract it. But he thinks the Guardian is regarded in the minds of many as a "fault-finder" and having a bad spirit. But is that criticism justified?
We are pretty certain that we have published some things we should not have published, have been too "quick on the trigger" in some instances, and have offered criticisms now and then that were too harsh. It is not always easy to be as calm, restrained, and gentle as one would desire when the most vital thing in one's life is being endangered! It is a problem of which we are constantly aware, and with which we do not cease to grapple.
But may we suggest an idea or two in extenuation?
(1) From time immemorial it has been humanity's practice to attack the critic rather than his criticism. When the prophets of old pointed out Israel's sins and backslidings, Israel often refused to consider whether the accusations were valid or not, but rather stoned the prophets. When Jesus criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees, their normal impulse was not to examine the criticism, but rather to destroy the critic. When Stephen preached to the Jews, they did not reply to his criticism, but rather turned and "gnashed on him" with their teeth.
The normal, human impulse has ever been thus. When the Gospel Guardian has pointed out departures from the truth on the part of certain congregations, individual preachers, gospel journals, school executives, orphan home promoters, that normal, human reaction has certainly been present in those thus criticized. It has been held in check, to an extent, by the influence of the gospel; but, even so, there can not but be resentment when some pet project or promotion is brought under fire.
(2) There has been a definite, well-planned, and continuing "propaganda campaign" to discredit the Guardian. This has been carefully conceived and carried out by those who have surveyed the whole picture, and have definitely and positively set themselves to lead the churches of Christ into what they consider a more wholesome, modern, and up-to-date activity in respect to the church's place in the modern community. They feel that the churches of Christ have been almost criminally negligent in the past in participating in community projects and activities — orphan homes, summer camps, recreational projects, educational plans and programs, Christian colleges, etc., etc.; and they are determined by carefully wrought out movements and campaigns to "enlarge" the church's sense of responsibility in these areas.
They recognize in the Gospel Guardian a rather powerful deterrent to these ambitious plans and projects. Hence, it becomes imperative that the Guardian be discredited in the eyes of the brethren! This is what is back of all the underground (and frequently above ground, too) "whispering campaign" against the Gospel Guardian — the efforts to brand us as "revived Sommerites," "fault-finders," "having a bad spirit," and such like. This is what was behind Brother Gatewood's sly trick to "get" something on us in the matter of the Dick Smith check; this is behind the effort of the Gospel Advocate writers to "spear-head" a "quarantine" against us.
When we combine all these elements: (1) our own mistakes, (2) the normal impulse to resent criticism, and (3) the deliberate and studied effort to create opposition and antagonism to us, we are really surprised that the feeling against us is as mild as it is!
But having said that, we want to add this: Involved as we are in a "fight to the death" against error and apostasy, it is our desire to remove every possible weapon from the hands of those who oppose. We shall not, therefore, take lightly the criticism in the letter, but on the contrary shall seek to exercise even greater diligence in freeing the paper from needlessly objectionable material; not expecting ever to make it palatable to those who are bent on promoting their projects among the churches, but still hoping to help honest and sincere brethren everywhere to realize the truth.
Have any of our readers any suggestions? We don't promise to follow a single one of them; but we do promise to give sincere and thoughtful consideration to all of them! We'd like to hear from you. What do you say? How can this journal be made more truly effective in the fight for truth and right?
— F. Y. T.