Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 27, 1956
NUMBER 21, PAGE 1,9b-10

Here And There With Guy N. Woods (II.)

James W. Adams, San Antonio, Texas

Woods' Theme Song

From the very first words Brother Woods penned on present issues relative to "centralized control and oversight" even until now, his theme song has been, "They have changed." Though solemnly assuring us that there is nothing wrong with changing and that such proves nothing with reference to the issues involved, still he sings his song. In Birmingham, as elsewhere, he labored to prove that issues surrounding the organized activities of the brethren in the care of orphans and the aged and in evangelism are something "new under the sun" among faithful brethren. Our present has to do with his contention along this line plus some ludicrous statements relative to such matters in his Birmingham speech.

Even if our brother could establish that great changes have been made, he is the last man in the brotherhood who should mention the matter. No man known to us has changed more radically in the past decade than the brother himself. In a previous article, "The Unconscious Metamorphosis of A Self-indicted Hobbyist" (Gospel Guardian, February 10, 1955), we pointed out some of these changes. However, this by no means exhausts the matter. Brother Woods continues to change. He cannot even agree with himself for three months at a time. A striking example of this is seen in his position on the "equality" of 2 Corinthians 8:14.

Woods On "Equality"

In his Birmingham speech, the brother was most emphatic in stating that the "equality" concerning which Paul spoke (2 Cor. 8:13,14) was a thing "future." He said that it meant, "Jerusalem may be able to help in the future." This, mind you, was June 10, 1956. Brother Woods is, I am reliably informed, the editor of the Adult Gospel Quarterly, published by the Gospel Advocate Company. Please note his comment on 2 Corinthians 8:13, 14 on page 53 of this quarterly for January, February, March 1956, lesson for March 11, 1956.

"Lest some in Corinth should feel that the apostle wished to impoverish them in order to enrich the saints in Jerusalem, he pointed out that it was not that others might be eased and the Corinthians distressed; the purpose of the contribution was to establish an equality in order that the abundance which the Corinthians then possessed might supply the need of the poor in Jerusalem, that all might have a sufficiency. This was not a communistic arrangement; it was not the apostle's design to establish a literal balancing of property. Rather, it was to enable the poverty-stricken Jewish Christians in Palestine to share in the abundance of the material possessions belonging to the Gentile Christians in Macedonia."

On March 11, 1956, according to Woods, "equality" meant a thing "future," "Jerusalem may be able to help in the future." Surely, Brother Woods but condemns himself When he presumes to offer criticisms on changing. Verily, "the legs of the lame are not equal." If Central Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in whose building Woods' speech was made and at whose invitation he came, uses Gospel Advocate literature, those using the Adult Quarterly were taught on March 1, 1956 that "equality" meant the relief of the needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem by the Corinthian saints. If another class used the Annual Lesson Commentary of the same company, which, we are told, is edited by Roy H. Lanier, they were no doubt taught, as Brother Lanier has contended in articles in the Gospel Advocate, that the "equality was between Corinth and the poor brethren of the Macedonian churches. Then, on the afternoon of June 10, 1956, these good brethren at Central were taught by Brother Woods that "equality" was a thing "future" — the anticipated reciprocal action of the Jerusalem church in helping Corinth if she was ever in need. If the elders, preacher, and members of Central Church in Birmingham take Gospel Advocate scribes seriously, they must be a confused group of people with reference to the meaning of 2 Corinthians 8:13, 14. Are such contradictions characteristic of Gospel Advocate literature?

A Look At The Past

Much labor has been expended and much controversy occasioned in an effort to line up this or that preacher of the past on one side or another of the present controversy. Among people who have become famous for their disregard for the authority of tradition, this is quite ridiculous. If the present controversy is resolved, it will not be occasioned by an appeal to the views of our revered dead. It must be resolved on the basis of what the Bible teaches. Mar statements of principles can be found in the writings of some worthy of days gone by that utterly repudiate present "brotherhood promotions" only to be vitiated by the discovery that on some occasion he acted inconsistently in giving approval to that which was a violation of the principles to which he subscribed. The individual not being present to explain his theory and practice becomes worthless as a witness.

Our appeal to these men of days gone by has been for the sole purpose of showing that present opposition to "centralized control and oversight" arrangements is not as Woods and others contend "something new under the sun." Rather, the issues involved have been perennial in their nature. They have been basic to the major apostasies of the churches of Christ through the ages.

A reprint of an article by M. C. Kurfees in a recent Gospel Advocate was no doubt designed to line-up Brother Kurfees. Actually, it did nothing of the kind. To the contrary, Brother Kurfees states a principle which if applied by our brethren of the Gospel Advocate to the species of "cooperation" which they champion — pooling of the resources of thousands of churches under a central eldership or board in benevolence and evangelism — would utterly annihilate it. Hear it:

"But the missionary society is not only 'separate from, or in addition to, the church' as an organization, but it transfers the authority and control which God placed in a board of supervisors and managers appointed by himself in each local church to a general board of supervisors and managers appointed by man. It thus changes God's order and sets it aside for man's order. If a college, a publishing company, an orphans' home, or a committee should be invested with such authority and control, it would be wrong for the same reason." (Gospel Advocate, August 2, 1956, p. 663.)

In a later article in this series, we shall engage to show (as we have already shown in previous articles) that present cooperative arrangements in benevolence and evangelism are characterized by "a general board of supervisors or managers" to which is transferred from the "supervisors and managers in each (emphasis mine, JWA) local church" the "authority and control." In the words of Brother Kurfees, "they are wrong for the same reason" that the missionary society is wrong.

The reprint of the Kurfees' article is interesting from another point of view. It denies Brother Woods' contention that present issues are new. Some querist had written a Gospel Advocate scribe concerning "orphans' homes, colleges, etc." Brother C. A. Norred quotes the Gospel Advocate scribe as answering:

"God has ordained the church for the conversion of the world, but has not ordained that it shall, as such, teach school or own orphans' homes. However, individual Christians as trustees have a right to charter orphans' homes and colleges." (Ibid, p. 662.)

Brother Norred took issue with this view and wrote M. C. Kurfees concerning the matter, hence the Kurfees' article. This exchange, occurring in 1920, shows that there was even then controversy over developing "institutionalism."

Opposition to present "cooperatives" for evangelism is based on the fact that New Testament "cooperation" was "direct" — from church to worker. Gospel Advocate champions of "Herald of Truth" and the "Lubbock and Memphis Plan" contend that such is "new." Among these, Guy N. Woods is chief. Since Brother Kurfees is currently popular with these brethren, let us note what he said in the Gospel Advocate in 1928 along this line. His articles were later printed in tract form. Our quotations are from the tract.

"Let it be noted, first of all, that, so far as ecclesiastical organization is concerned, the local church, as set forth in the New Testament, is not only complete and independent, but it is absolutely supreme in the matter of authority and control in all religious operations." (p. 15.)

... throughout the period of inspiration, the church, in the general sense of the term, never 'found expression in organization.' On such organization, the inspired record is as silent as it is on infant baptism; but this fact in no wise forbids the cooperation of the different local churches in carrying on the work of the Lord. Two or more churches may, and often should, cooperate with each other in helping the poor and in spreading the gospel over the earth; but in such a case, each church is supreme in the management of its own work. After Paul had been a missionary in Thessalonica, he said in his letter to the Philippian church: 'In the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only; for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again to my need.' (Phil. 4:15, 16.) He here clearly states the fact that the Philippian church was the only church which contributed to his support at that particular time; and he also just as clearly and necessarily implies the additional fact that other churches, if able and so disposed, could have helped in the work. This is a luminous and very instructing example. In the light of it, any church today has the right and, to the extent of its ability and opportunity, it is its duty, to sustain or help to sustain one or more missionaries for the spread of the gospel in the world; but in all such cases, there is direct (emphasis his) communication between the church and the missionaries, as distinctly shown in the case of Paul and the Philippian church, with not the slightest hint of any third party in the way of an intervening board of managers controlling and appropriating the funds of the different churches. According to the New Testament, each local church is to supervise and manage its own business, and there is not a solitary word about placing such supervision and control in the hands of a general organization." (p. 16, 17.)

(All quotations from: The Need of Continued Emphasis on the Restoration Movement, by M. C. Kurfees and published by Gospel Advocate Company, 1929.)

Not only does Brother Kurfees take the position that the "direct method" is the only scriptural form of church cooperation, but he also takes the position that Philippians 4:15, 16 is an example of it. Not long ago, the Gospel Advocate published a lengthy treatise by J. W. Roberts with editorial praise for his scholarship, in which, Brother Roberts tried to prove from the Greek and sectarian commentators that Philippi was a sponsoring church and that Philippians 4:15, 16 so teaches. The Gospel Guardians' contention that "direct support by contributing (cooperating) churches" is the only New Testament form of "cooperation" is not so new after all. In 1928, it appears that it was even the view of the Gospel Advocate. Did Brother Woods say that somebody had changed. Perhaps so!

Others Who Have Changed

Brother Kurfees received numerous commendations of his articles when they appeared in the Gospel Advocate, so, when he published his tract, he included some of them. Note who was then endorsing the idea that the "direct method was the only form of New Testament cooperation:

Prof. N. B. Hardeman, Freed-Hardeman College, Henderson, Tenn. — "I have read your articles in the Advocate of April l9, 26, and May 3. Without a single reservation, I want to endorse them thoroughly and congratulate you upon their presentation at this time. In my judgment, this is the type of teaching very badly needed at present. I heartily endorse all you said in their doctrinal, historical, and logical merits." (p. 41.) C. A. Norred, Minister, Union Avenue Church of Christ, Memphis, Tenn. — "Your articles on 'The Restoration of the Ancient Order, which recently appeared in the Gospel Advocate, are, in my humble judgment, of great value to the cause of truth. With directness and unanswerable logic, they restate that fundamentals and divinely imposed duty to stand uncompromisingly for the word of God ...." (p. 45.)

I. A. Douthitt, Evangelist, Sedalia, Ky. — "I have read your articles, which appeared in the Gospel Advocate of April 19 and 26, and of May 3, and I most certainly agree with what you say . . . . Doctrinally, they are in perfect harmony with the Bible and your conclusions are very logical... (p. 46, 47.)

These men now give their support to such arrangements as are characterized by the "sponsoring church." They no longer agree with Brother Kurfees that the "direct method" is the only New Testament way. Who has changed?

To show how universally this position was then occupied by our loyal brethren, note others who endorsed Kurfees articles:

"T. B. Larimore; A. G. Freed; J. N. Armstrong; E. A. Elam; F. B. Srygley; James A. Allen; W. S. Long; Price Billingsley; C. M. Pullias; Ira C. Moore; T. Q. Martin; Coleman Overby; Hall L. Calhoun; F. L. Rowe; C. A. Taylor; T. D. Willis; E. G. Creasy; Thaddeus S. Hutson; C. R. Nichol; J. F. Kurfees; Hugo Almond; H. M. Phillips; John T. Smithson; H. H. Adamson; Mrs. L. M. Butler; R. A. Craig; B. B. Goodman."

These endorsements involved directly or indirectly most of the colleges and papers of that day. Those of us who oppose "centralized control and oversight" do so on the basis of the very principles enunciated in the Kurfees' articles and endorsed by the host of great men whose names appear above. Brother Woods is wrong. This is certainly nothing new.