Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 20, 1957

The Crucial Test

F. Y. T.

Early in the nineteenth century there developed in this nation what has become known to history as "The Restoration Movement." Motivated by the sincere and prayerful determination of God-fearing people in many denominations to break loose from the ties of sectarianism and denominationalism, and to "restore" the church as it was in the first century, the movement for the first fifty years of its existence met with huge success. Multiplied thousands of faithful and earnest people "came out" of the denominational morass to be simple Christians — that and nothing more.

Then Came The Big Test .... 1849.

It was soon revealed that the fundamental truths of the Christian religion had been but dimly perceived, and were loosely held indeed, by a great many of those who were outwardly numbered in "the Restoration movement." The tragic battle over the Missionary Society and instrumental music in the worship disclosed that a considerable number of those who were counted among "us", had simply switched denominations, and had never either understood or believed the simple truths of the gospel of Christ.

A hundred years have gone by since that first major cleavage began. And today the church of Christ stands once more on the brink of a major development in her history. She will either come out of this tense hour stronger, more united, and more powerful than ever — or she will face another long, long period of division, bitterness, and broken congregations, with cancelled meetings, "quarantines," law-suits, disrupted fellowship, and all the dark and tragic evils of such a situation.

The Test Is Here

There is probably very little that can be said now which will influence the general picture one way or the other. Whether the church divides or remains united, whether she weathers the storm or bows before the fury of prejudice and factionalism, will perhaps be determined not by what is said now but by the quality of her teaching and convictions during the past thirty to fifty years.

Have gospel preachers really driven home the conviction that the church is "all sufficient" for all her work, whether evangelism, benevolence, or edification? If so, then brethren will not buy the modern teaching that the church is NOT "all sufficient" in the field of benevolence. Do Christians generally believe that UNITY is more to be desired in God's sight than some particular "method" or "expedient" or "way of doing" the work of the church? If so, then the bitter struggle to bind one particular "way", "method" or "expedient" on the churches will fail, and congregations will be left free to care for their own needy according to their own desires, without all the "pressure and promotion" and the constant bombardment of 'propaganda" which has been so common in late years.

If the churches generally find themselves unable to meet the test, and can NOT calmly and humbly work out their local problems so as to preserve UNITY, then, indeed, division and strife are inevitable. In some cities the failure is already evident. But as a nation-wide thing it has not yet come. It may not come. No one can tell at this moment what the future may hold.

Plyler's Articles

We believe the articles (last week and this) by Brother A. M. Plyler of Jasper, Alabama, state the case pretty clearly. And to recapitulate his points, here is the gist of the present situation:

1. Everybody agrees that the church has some obligation to relieve and provide for certain widows and orphans. Nobody, so far as we know, has ever contended that it is the church's obligation to care for every widow and every orphan in the world.

2. Everybody agrees that "institutional" orphan homes (such as Boles Home, Childhaven, Tennessee Orphan Home, Southern Christian Home, etc.) have a perfect right to exist, and to care for needy, neglected, destitute children, widows, old people, or sick or crippled.

3. Everybody agrees that if some congregation has an orphan. or widow, or aged person, who is her responsibility, and desires to put such a person into a properly operated hospital, home for aged, or orphan home, she has the right to do so — paying the bill for such a person's care. Furthermore, if that congregation is not able to pay the full amount, other congregations can send to her to enable her to discharge her obligation.

Then where is the problem? The problem is whether or not it is scripturally right for churches to surrender their funds to such institutions to administer for the poor and needy in their behalf. Thousands of Christians say "NO", contending that each congregation is "all sufficient" in God's sight to do her benevolence, and that the "board of directors" brings another organization into the picture to do the work of the churn?

A Possible Solution

We most earnestly wish to second the suggestion made by Brother Plyler: that the institutions themselves take the lead by publicly declaring that they will not accept church contributions! Some of the Christian colleges have done this (and they did it when many on their boards thought it was perfectly all right for churches to contribute to them, too!); and so far as we know not a one of them has suffered because of such a policy.

Chart Goes Here??? (I Do Not Know Where The Line Came From, Below Cr)

Why should churches divide over this when here is a short, simple, easy to follow plan by which:

1. The institutional orphan homes could continue to function at full capacity, receiving the full, generous and loyal support of every individual Christian in the nation who wants to support them?

2. All occasion for strife, division, discord, and alienation could be swiftly and completely eliminated.

Full Fellowship Could Exist?

Now where is there a Board of Directors of an orphan-home who love the church of our Lord enough that they are willing to make this move in order to promote peace and good-will? So far as the Gospel Guardian editor is concerned, he would gladly pledge his support and endorsement to such a home, and there are probably many thousands of others who would do likewise. That does not mean that we approve of "institutional" care for children. We are still convinced that for any normal child the best institution of earth is a poor and miserable substitute for a Christian home. But we do believe there are some children who need institutional care and attention, and that there is a place in our modern society for such institutions.

But that place is not that of usurping the benevolent work of the church — using the church's funds to do it!