Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 6, 1956
NUMBER 31, PAGE 1,6-7b

Normal Action Versus Emergency Action

Robert H. Farish, Lexington, Kentucky

There is in current circulation an argument to justify the "sponsoring church" which has cropped up in different places ever since the controversy over "Herald of Truth" began. In an article which appeared in the September 4, 1952 issue of Gospel Guardian, Brother O. P. Baird expressed the argument this way: "It will not help Brother Farish's position to say that was a famine and an emergency unless he is prepared to say that in emergencies we may act on anti-scriptural principles." To which I replied, "No, Brother Baird, we can never act on anti-scriptural principles. But in emergency and exceptional situations we can act on principles which have been given for emergency and exceptional situations." This same argument is being circulated in some quarters today. One brother has suggested that if it is wrong for congregations to send to other congregations in normal circumstances, it is wrong in emergency circumstances. He illustrated by pointing out that adultery is wrong under any circumstances, that no emergency or exceptional circumstances would make adultery right.

It is amazing that men who have attained a high place in educational circles could be guilty of such confused thinking as this reveals. Viewing the spectacle of confusion and contradiction which is being presented by some of the "wise and understanding" among us causes us to better appreciate and understand the language of Christ — "I thank thee, 0 Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." The "syllogism infatuation" among us has rendered many slow of understanding. This places a heavy burden upon those who have escaped the virus of "neo-orthodoxy," (the "new" no pattern orthodoxy) and are still able to understand plain truths simply stated. The "babes" have a big job! They must not become impatient with the obstinate dullness of understanding which afflicts the "wise of this world." They must be "gentle toward all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves: if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will." (2 Tim. 2 :24-26.)

With a view to helping those who are in such confusion we will attempt to explain these things in the simplest way possible for us. The first thing with which we will deal is, "Do the scriptures authorize a church in emergency circumstances to act differently from its actions in normal circumstances?" If yes — is the action in emergency situations anti-scriptural? I am well aware that the two questions considered together are absurd. Certainly the scriptures do not "authorize" "anti scriptural principles"! The action authorized by the scriptures for emergency situations is scriptural action for those situations; likewise, action authorized for normal situations is scriptural action for those situations. To resolve the problem, we will observe some actions of the church when it was under the personal direction of the apostles. If we find some actions in one set of circumstances which are not to be found when those circumstances are changed, we will have to accept one of two conclusions: (1) that the churches acted on anti-scriptural principle, or (2) action in emergency can be different from action normally without being anti-scriptural. We had better be careful or we will find ourselves criticizing the apostles of the Lord!

Elders In Every Church

It is scriptural for every church to have elders. (Acts 14:23.) Is any one prepared to charge that, if it is wrong for churches to be without elders, when there are men qualified for elders, it is also wrong for a church to be without elders when it has no qualified men for the office? In apostolic times churches existed for varying lengths of time before elders were appointed. (Acts 14:23.) Were these churches acting on "anti-scriptural principles" in their period of existence when they were without elders? I think that no one is prepared to take such a position.

Having All Things Common

The first day of the week collection was an item of worship from the beginning of the church. (Acts 2:42.) The time for the collection and the detailed directions for its observance are given in the record. (1 Cor. 16:1, 2; 2 Cor. 8 and 9.) Like the Lord's Supper, the fact of its observance is recorded at the beginning of the history of the church, while the detailed directions are given in other places in the record. The instructions for the collection require that each one lay by in store "as he may prosper." But the church in Jerusalem "had all things common." Now is any one prepared to say that churches in all circumstances must "have all things common"? How do we defend this case against the charge of acting on "anti-scriptural principle"? When we see that this church operated according to the will of God in emergency situations, and that the will of God in such situations is not the will of God for normal situations, we will see how the churches in emergencies could send to churches in distress without acting on "anti-scriptural principles."

Providing For One's Own

It is the will of God that the individual Christian "provide for his own? (1 Tim. 5:8.) But what about an emergency situation in which the individual Christian is incapacitated to provide for his own? Will anyone suggest that it is anti-scriptural for other Christians or the church to help the individual discharge his obligation by supplying what he lacks, when he is unable to provide for his own? Yet, surely no one would seriously contend that the duty to help in an emergency must prevail in normal circumstances. Let us raise the little problem in connection with this case — is it right to help the individual when he is in need but wrong to render such help when he is not in need?

When Christ said, "give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away," did he mean that without any other considerations, we were to give to everyone that asks us? Are we to consider nothing but the fact that we have been "asked"? Now if the one "asking" is in real need and we help him but refuse to help a person who is not in need, is our conduct contradictory? Did we act on anti-scriptural principles in either case?

Adultery Is Wrong In Any Circumstances

Now for the illustration suggested in the beginning of this paper viz., adultery is wrong in any circumstances — hence, if it is wrong for congregations to send to other congregations in one set of circumstances, it is wrong in all circumstances. Suppose we word the illustration correctly: Sexual relationship outside the marriage bond is wrong; therefore (according to the reasoning of some) the act is wrong under any and all circumstances. Now how about those who have been arguing this way stepping up and saving the institution of marriage!

During the early days of the "Restoration Movement" here in the Blue Grass country, Barton Stone had quite a long and hard controversy with some people who were called "Shakers." These people had a rather ingenuous system of reasoning by which they concluded that marriage was wrong. "They urged the people to confess their sins to them, especially the sin of matrimony, and to forsake them all immediately — husbands must forsake their wives, and wives their husbands." (Life of Barton W. Stone.) Perhaps Stone would have had more difficulty had the Shakers had the assistance of some modern logicians.

The scriptures teach that under certain circumstances "it is good for a man not to touch a woman." (1 Cor. 7:1.) Now let us apply the reasoning of some of our "syllogism happy" brethren to this matter. If "it is good for a man not to touch a woman" in these abnormal circumstances, "it is good for a man not to touch a woman" in normal circumstances. Marriage is ruled out! Don't tell me that my brethren cannot see the absurdity of such reasoning.

The will of God is that the husband "render unto the wife her due" and that the wife render unto the husband his due. When the act contemplated in this context is performed outside the assigned province it is adultery. Adultery is wrong under any circumstances.

The will of God is that churches which are free from want send to churches which are in want. (Acts 11:27; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2; 2 Cor. S and 9.) When the act contemplated in this context is performed outside the assigned province, it is "centralized control." Centralized control is wrong under any circumstances.