Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 27, 1958
NUMBER 46, PAGE 3-5a

"Foolish Talk About A 'Major Division' "

Last week I made some observations based on part of an editorial written by Brother Reuel Lemmons in the Firm Foundation, January 7, 1958, under the heading Looking At The New Year. In this article I shall continue with other observations based on the remainder of that editorial, as well as some related matters.

Here are some interesting statements from Brother Lemmons in his editorial:

"We keep hearing, and seeing in print, foolish talk about a 'major division.' Brethren, the saints all still believe the same things. Most of the differences are imaginary. This great brotherhood of Christ is not about to have a doctrinal division . ..."

He tells us that the talk about a "major division" is foolish. Is the man blind to the facts? Like him, I have heard and seen much said about such a possibility. For the most part those who have talked and written about such a thing were keenly interested in trying to avoid any such possibility. But that a "major division" is a distinct and likely possibility seems to be without any question. It could be that Brother Lemmons thinks that it will only be a "minor division;" that is, the division will have a majority on one side and a minority on the other. Since he expects to be with the majority then to him it will not be a "major division."

The talk of a "major division" is not foolish and Lemmons should quit trying to ignore it and make light of such a possibility. Too many brethren on "all sides" of current issues recognize that such an occurrence seems very certain if the present trend of affairs continues. In fact, many think that a "major division" is already in the making and has even culminated in some quarters. "If the events of the past year are any indication," then I must confess that a "major division" seems certain.

Brother Lemmons speaks very definitely and assuringly when he says: "This great brotherhood of Christ is not about to have a doctrinal division." This prophecy should heal the troubled waters and allay all anxieties! Lemmons has spoken — and it sounds rather "ex cathedra" — there will not be any "major division" nor will "this great brotherhood....have a doctrinal division." Let all the brethren who wilt, introduce positions, which even Lemmons acknowledges are "extreme and unscriptural;" let them push and promote these innovations with vigor; let them anathematize all who refuse to accept their logical (?), syllogistical and philosophical arguments in defense thereof; and let them force everyone to either line up or get out — yes, let all of this continue unabated and with increasing vigor, but never worry, there will be no "doctrinal division" in this great brotherhood so opines this self-deceived editor! With such soothing oil does Editor Lemmons rub the aching and throbbing brow of a great brotherhood.

In trying to bolster his prediction that there is no "major division" shaping up, Lemmons tells his readers with seeming innocence and credulity that "the saints all still believe the same things!" Could he have been serious in this statement? Perhaps most of his readers did not take him seriously in making such an incredible statement. It is astounding that a man of his ability and position would expect his readers to believe such a thing in view of all the evidence to the contrary.

In his editorial of February 4, Lemmons discusses the "extreme and unscriptural" position of Brother Guy N. Woods and those who stand with him, relative to the 'orphan homes," and Lemmons points out that it "can verily easily destroy the church!" This was written only one month after writing that "the saints all still believe the same things." What does the man mean? Does he believe the position he condemns? If he will admit that those who hold the position he thus condemns are "saints," then unless he believes it, he is not one of "the saints," for he plainly says that "the saints all still believe the same thing!" Where does the man stand and what, if anything, does he really believe? He is the most uncertain editor that I have ever seen.

The Gospel Advocate Position

Brother Lemmons needs to wake up to the fact that the Gospel Advocate combine is a powerful force — one to be reckoned with, not because they have the truth on the current issues, but because they have so much power, influence, money, pressure-force and numerical strength. It may be that Lemmons fully recognizes this and it may account for his reluctance to cross swords openly and positively with them. He is certainly reticent about such. It appears that his newly-found colleague, Brother Roy Lanier, is also very reticent to engage the Gospel Advocate champion, Guy N. Woods, in a forthright discussion of their difference. Lanier came out with his articles telling us that he was in The Middle Of The Road, and that the Advocate position was wrong as well as the "Guardian position." Then Brother Woods came back with two articles in reply — taking Lanier "to the cleaners," and showing that he had "joined the Guardian boys." Brother Lanier retreated from the field of battle! His pen was stilled, except in private letter. Why? Can it be that he and Brother Lemmons are afraid of how powerful and crushing the Advocate forces can be in destroying one who dares to speak out in opposition to what they are feeding the people? Are they fearful that opposition to the Advocate position would, to use Brother Woods' enticing words, "curtail their usefulness to the Cause of Christ?" It does seem like it. Brother Lanier's hasty and complete departure from the controversy has been a distinct disappointment to all.

The Gospel Advocate represents one of three major positions on the "orphan home question." All who have their unreserved endorsement must accept their newly-espoused position which has been championed by Guy N. Woods. The pages of the GA are closed to any ideas or views contrary to this; and the fact that Brother Roy Lanier was forced off the roster of staff writers because he refused to "knuckle down" to the behests of those in control, is living proof of this fact. Their position in brief is that "the church is powerless to do anything else than make a cash contribution to some agency outside the church, which agency is then responsible for carrying for the needy," as Brother Lemmons so well stated it himself. (Editorial, Feb. 4.) In other words, the church cannot of itself, within its own framework or organization, actually do the work of caring for the needy. They have somehow and somewhere discovered just lately that this is the work of what they call "the home." "The home," which they defend, is built, owned and maintained by a corporation controlled by a Board of Directors. This "home" cannot be built, operated or maintained by a congregation of God's people under the oversight of the elders of that church. In fact, they charge that such a "home" under the oversight of the elders of a church is (to use their own words) "unscriptural, anti-scriptural and sinful." They are plain and positive in their condemnation of such a set-up. All the church or churches can do is to send financial support to some benevolent society which in turn operates and controls the work of caring for orphans and other needy.

This relatively new theory was seemingly born out of desperation in an attempt to find some solid defense for the benevolent societies. As far as I can learn, Brother G. C. Brewer was the one who was responsible for planting the "seed" that finally has sprung up into such a form. It seems that no one really took his idea very seriously while he lived. If there was ever any noteworthy effort made to defend the "orphan homes" on the basis of this position before Brother Brewer's last year, I have been unable to find out about it. Brother Woods did not use such a defense for the "homes" in his first debate with Brother Curtis Porter. He shifted to this ground for the second debate and since that time his thinking has crystallized around this idea. The whole line of argumentation is a clever and devious line of assumptions, assertions and superficial logic. There is almost no appeal to the scriptures for proof of any point involved in the scheme of reasoning. This defense was introduced and put forward with such boldness and steamroller tactics that it has more or less "bowled over" many people. It sounds good and on the surface seems to the justification for a practice which brethren had and intended to keep. I have seen several preachers swept into the GA camp by this new and appealing theory, along with the intimidation and threats of the GA combine. In fact, it seems to me that the majority of those who favor benevolent organizations have sought refuge behind this position; that is, the majority of those who profess to know and give any sort of justification for such. Some of these have thrown overboard completely the position held by Brethren Lemmons and Lather — the Firm Foundation position. They now denounce such a position as "unscriptural, anti-scriptural and sinful." I wonder if the significance of this has ever really registered with Brother Lemmons? Let it be kept in mind that the GA position has been denounced by Brother Lemmons as "extreme and unscriptural" and one that "can very easily destroy the church." Has this condemnation registered fully with Brother Woods and his cohorts?

Firm Foundation Position

The position of the Firm Foundation is that the church may build and maintain benevolent organizations, which in turn provide a "home" for the needy, but that such an organization must be under the supervision or oversight of the elders of some congregation; that is, the elders must constitute the Board of Directors over and in such an organization. This organization may then be used and supported by any and all other congregations in doing their respective benevolent work. The elders of one church, in this arrangement, serve as "brotherhood elders" as far as this particular work is concerned — many churches send money to them; send their needy to these elders to care for and give to these elders the oversight of the care of their needy. This has many churches working through one church. If this isn't "centralized control and oversight" vested by many churches in one church, there would be no way on earth to have such. This is the position that the GA, and those who hold their position, have denounced as "unscriptural, anti-scriptural and sinful."

How, in view of the above facts, can Brother Lemmons have the audacity to write that "the saints all still believe the same things?" How can he say that talk of a "major division" is foolish, when brethren occupy such irreconcilable positions and each charges that the other's position is sinful?

The two positions occupied by these two papers are diametrically opposed to each other. As long as they hold their respective positions in any positive way, they can never get together. One or the other must give up and give in, or else they will never be reconciled and will be forever alienated. The only other course open to them is to follow the practice of the denominations and "agree to disagree." Will they do this? It seems that this is the course that Lemmons prefers and he has made overture toward this end. But how can men of honor, conviction and love for the truth "agree to disagree" concerning each other's teaching and practice, when each believe: the other's to be "unscriptural, anti-scriptural and sinful?'

This is the predicament of these two segments of "this great brotherhood" which Brother Lemmons assures us "is not about to have a doctrinal division." The division — whatever kind it may be — is already heard.

Watchers On The Walls Of Zion

Brother Lemmons offers some splendid observation: later on in his editorial. Read these words carefully:

". . . . At the same time we will always have a great host of watchers on the walls of Zion. Brethren who see possibilities of apostasies are not all cranks. It is a dangerous sign when they are so considered.

"One danger that we fear greatly is the danger that brethren will begin to look upon every man who sounds a note of warning as a crank and a radical. No danger could be greater than that ...."

These words are true, sane and very appropriate at this hour. I appreciate his admission that "brethren who see possibilities of apostasies are not all cranks." It is well to recognize that there is no danger greater than that of regarding "every man who sounds a note of warning as a crank and a radical." Yet this danger is very apparent now for such a charge is hurled at every one who dares to question some of the popular practices among us or suggest the possibility of apostasy in any way. And a funny thing is that Reuel Lemmons has been in the forefront in hurling such a charge against those who have sounded warnings and called practices in question!

When The Fog Has Cleared Away

Brother Lemmons also tells us "that we are fast coming out of the fog as far as 'present issues' are concerned. And as we do we will find the great bulk of the brethren believing exactly what they have believed through the years." Later on he adds this: "But as long as they strive to be true to the book, as my brethren have striven to be true to the book, we will find most of them, when the fog has cleared, to be still in the middle of the right road, right where they have always been."

Here again this editor disparages all the controversy as simply a "fog" out of which we are fast emerging. He asserts with great confidence that "when the fog has cleared" most of the brethren, the "bulk of the brethren," will still be "in the middle of the right road, right where they have always been." Of course, he believes that he is "in the middle of the right road" and, therefore, will be with "the bulk of the brethren" when "the fog has cleared." He is in for a rude awakening if he is really deluded into believing this really represents matters as they staid. Does he think that Brother Woods and those who stand with him, are "in the middle of the right road?" They are certainly not in the same "road" that he is; either in the "middle" or even the side of that road! Brother Woods and the GA certainly do not and can not agree with this prediction. They tell us that they are in the right road relative to current issues and when the fog is cleared, the bulk of the brethren will be with them. While no one can be positive, I am inclined to agree that perhaps "the bulk of the brethren" will take the GA positive — if such gives them any consolation. It seems that those who hold the Firm Foundation are in the minority — even less in number than those who hold "the Guardian position" — which is the third of the major positions.

The thing that should be important, and it is the prime consideration to those who want to do the Lord's will, is not where "the bulk of the brethren" will be; and it is not whether we will all be right where we have always been; but what is the truth — what is scripturally right relative to the "current issues" and any other issue that arises. May God help us all to earnestly seek for this "position" and cleave to it and no other. Those in this position will be right and acceptable to the Lord, whether they constitute the majority or the minority. This is the important thing with us.

— C. A. H.