Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 9, 1956

An Open Letter To Brother Yater Tant

John F. Reese, Abilene, Texas

Dear Brother Tant:

In the November 1st issue of the Gospel Guardian, under the title "An Interesting Correspondence," I note that you have printed some correspondence between me and the elders of the Forest Hill church in Richmond, Virginia, and me and Brother Lyell one of the elders of the same congregation. Consistent with your practice I had no advance notice. Secular publications would label this "Yellow Journalism." I shall expect you to publish my reply because you advertise that you always print both sides.

If I have actually caused you, or anyone else, any real, honest concern as to my being willing to deliberately, willfully and ruthlessly go ahead with projects and promotions regardless of Bible authority, I do hereby apologize and ask both God and man for forgiveness. I believe that God will forgive my lack of using enough and the proper words to convey my honest feeling about Bible School.

I read in the Bible of many for whom God had sufficient grace to forgive, and I feel confident that He has sufficient for me. As to what my brethren will do, of course, I am unable to foretell.

I shall now attempt to explain what I meant by the expression "Your arrangement is not authorized in the Scriptures." I should have said, "Your arrangement, or pattern, that is, the division of the church into classes known as Bible classes or Sunday School as we so commonly refer to it, is nowhere in the Scriptures, referred to "as such," "specifically," "peculiarly," "particularly," and/or "exclusively."

In keeping with the "three ways" of establishing Bible authority, will you please fill in the blanks with the Scriptures (book, chapter and verse) that prescribes THE PATTERN, not A PATTERN for Bible School and classes therein, as practiced by churches of Christ today EXACTLY as in the days of the apostles.

1. The DIRECT COMMAND that sets up the pattern for Bible Schools and Classes therein is found in_______________

2. The APPROVED EXAMPLE (e.g., "Jesus a man APPROVED of God," Acts 2:22; and "This is my beloved Son," Matthew 3:17) which shows they had God's approval is____________

3. The NECESSARY Inference. NOT A PERMISSIBLE INFERENCE, but one FROM WHICH NO OTHER INFERENCE CAN POSSIBLY BE DRAWN, for Bible School and classes as practiced today and EXACTLY as practiced by the church in the days of the apostles is to be found in ____________________

If we understand Brother Shofner such schools and classes are NOW obligatory. That is after a certain period of time. What is this certain period of time? All elders need this information.

In the words of Brother Curtis Porter in his debate with Ervin Waters in Quincy, Illinois, in 1950, page 165, paragraph 2, quote "And now Brother Waters, I'll tell you what I'll do. If you will read me the passage tomorrow night that says anything about the Annual Boy's Meeting, I'll read ten passages that say they divided into Sunday School classes and taught simultaneously." There are 63 more pages in the book but NOT the ten passages of Scripture, setting forth THE pattern for Bible classes.

We do find on page 181 this statement: "This PRINCIPLE (Caps mine, J.F.R.) which I have just given you on the generic term (referring to teach, J.F.R.) is a PRINCIPLE (Caps mine, J.F.R.) involved in both the Old Testament and the New." Is it ETERNAL? Brother Harper used the term "Principle Eternal" at Lufkin in April 1955 and some thought this was revolutionary. Not so. Brother Porter says in both Old and New Testaments. Brother Porter's principle doubtless is based on God's word. In Matthew 24:35, Jesus said: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." That's long enough for me. Whatever amount of time Jesus referred to will be long enough to suit my need and I am sure also Brother Porter's for an Eternal Principle. Brother Porter knows what an ETERNAL PRINCIPLE is (See Porter-Tingley Debate, page 94, paragraph 3, line 10). Brother Tant, you really should read this book as well as his debate with Ervin Waters. It has always seemed a little strange why you use the same argument exactly in opposing cooperation between churches as practiced by Highland that Waters used in opposing Brother Porter on the Bible School issue. Stranger still does it seem that Brother Porter, your moderator in both debates with Brother Harper, would agree with you and disagree with Waters. No doubt one of you brethren can and will explain this. I would like to hear the answer now.

Another statement in your editorial (G.G., November 1) is "The practice must be authorized, else it is sinful." This reminds us of another editorial of yours in the Gospel Guardian not long ago. The date is really unimportant, unless, of course, you have repudiated it since. This was "A Solution To The Problem." It has been referred to in other quarters as "THE BOXES IN THE VESTIBULE SOLUTION." It was to this effect that those who had conscientious scruples against contributing to Highland to keep the Herald of Truth on the air should not be forced to do so. They should be allowed to contribute to the Lord on the first day of the week and into the regular contribution. On the other hand, those who wished to cooperate with Highland (or the Red Cross) could drop their contribution in boxes placed in the vestibule for such purposes. The number of boxes in the vestibule could only be determined finally by the number of different things about which various members disagreed. Although these contributions are unscriptural according to you, the elders could still pick up the contributions and FORWARD to the various places. Now Brother Tant, concerning the two debates you have had with Brother Harper along with the many sermons you have preached and editorials you have written, I need some help to understand where you got this idea from the Scriptures authorized by any of the three methods of establishing Bible authority for our practices. Where is it commanded? Where is the approved example? Where is the necessary inference?

It is a matter of record that you have placed your membership in Abilene in one of the best congregations in our city that practices the type of cooperation to which you are unalterably opposed. Did you know at that time that this congregation is helping us with contributions every month for use in preaching over the radio and television program? Did you know that they have done so from the very beginning? Does this good congregation which is doing such a fine work in every way in this community have boxes in the vestibule to receive the contributions of those who are in favor of contributing to Highland or other churches for this or other good works? Is it a violation of your conscience to give into the treasury of this good church on the first day of the week when you know that for sure a certain proportion of the contribution will be used to produce and present the Herald of Truth radio and television programs to the nation? Are you willing to deliberately, willfully, and ruthlessly go ahead and support such projects as this regardless of Bible authority? Or do you not contribute to this treasury at all?

Brother Tant, there is a congregation in Abilene that meets in the court house that does not contribute to any church, orphan home, or anything else for any purpose. It is completely devoid of all "Institutionalism." You could not possibly violate your conscience by worshipping with them. (Am enclosing ad stating their creed.) This would be the absolutely safe way if your reasoning and logic concerning cooperation as practiced by Highland and those helping her are correct. Just how much apostasy will your conscience permit?

What has become of the boxes in the vestibule solution? We have mentioned it in correspondence to some preachers of the same persuasion as yourself concerning Herald of Truth and so far, strange to say, in all their replies Not One has so much as mentioned this solution. Not withstanding the fact that I have asked them the direct question as to what they thought of it. It seems that the only thing I have been able to determine on which you brethren are agreed is that "Herald of Truth is Wrong." The reasons why, that are given, are as varied as there are preachers representing the opposition.

I now call attention to your booklet Herald of Truth is Wrong. Your Note on page 6 which reads: "The Missionary Society is wrong because it exists and functions without authority. It does not come within the scope of the New Testament pattern." On page 7, your Note reads: "Instrumental music in Christian worship is wrong because it is used without authority. It does not come within the scope of the New Testament pattern." On page 5 under Argument number 1, you state: "Herald of Truth is wrong because it exists by a type of church cooperation which is without scriptural authority." Now Brother Tant, you and your family, so I understand, have placed your membership in a congregation here in Abilene that is and has been for years engaged in the very thing that you state here "exists by a type of church cooperation which is without scriptural authority." Would it have been any worse had you placed membership in the First Christian Church which engages in the first two mentioned apostasies? Would you preach for pay where you have placed your membership? Do you intend to be in subjection or under the oversight of the elders of your home congregation? Can two walk together except they be agreed? Do you know what you are doing? Or is it like the time you acted as a forwarding agency to Brother Dick Smith in Germany? You know, about the check that was sent to you. If you will permit, I shall refresh your memory as to your remarks about this matter at the Lufkin debate. You said, "Well, I did not know what to do with it, the check was mutilated, I did not know if the man lived at Earth, Texas, or what to do with it. I was puzzled about the thing and finally turned it over and wrote on the back side of it, "Pay to the order of R. E. Smith and signed, Gospel Guardian by Yater Tant." My questions concerning this are:,

1. How could you fail to know what to do with it when you had been telling everybody for years NOT to do the very thing you did?

2. What did the mutilation have to do with the Scripturalness of the act?

3. What difference did it make where the cheek came from?

I recognize these are elementary questions, but I have never been to college. And while we are on the subject, will you please explain to me the reason for the use of the term "repudiate" so much. Not one time have I noted from the pulpit or in print where you or any of the opposing preachers have repented publicly of the sins you have committed in years gone by, by engaging in the things you now contend to be unscriptural or sinful. You preach repentance and the remission of sins to your congregation and practice repudiation when it comes to yourselves. Is there a different "PATTERN" when concerning forgiveness that applies to preachers only? Have we really and truly arrived at the point where we have what is known as the PROFESSIONAL CLERGY?

(To be concluded next week.)