"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VIII No.V Pg.2-5
June 1946

The Gnat In The Cup

Cled E. Wallace

In a late issue of the Firm Foundation, Brother N. B. Hardeman definitely supports the idea that churches may spend their money, or "The Lord's money" in direct support of such human institutions as colleges in which the Bible and a lot of other things are taught. He uses up more than a page of the Firm Foundation with his picture in the middle of it trying to explain that his position in 1947 does not contradict his position in 1938. And even if it does he has "never sought to be consistent just for the sake of being so." It is a good picture with that famous Hardeman smile which is contagious and has an engaging charm about it. I admit that I have always liked to see Brother Hardeman smile and even his picture is not hard to look at. It is better than the article. If he had confined himself to a "postcard" he would have involved himself in fewer difficulties. The article does not sound like Brother Hardeman when he is right and sure of himself. It reads too much like Boswell, in the Boswell-Hardeman debate. I'm not going to answer the picture. It is all right, smile and all, except possibly a few years out of date, but under the circumstances I think it proper and right to make some observations concerning the contents of the article.

In 1938 Brother Hardeman said:

"I am truly sorry that we cannot get together on matters relating to our schools. I certainly do not endorse the putting of our schools on the church budget. I would oppose having Freed-Hardeman so placed. Such has ever been my sentiment."

Now a man has a right to change his position on any question if he has a cause to believe he was wrong but he should frankly say so and give his reasons. I concur heartily in this statement: "I have always rejoiced in the discovery of any truth and have gladly accepted it regardless of what I may have thought or said in years gone by." I think that is a fine attitude. So I am in search of "any truth." Brother Hardeman has discovered lately that accounts for a change that everybody has noticed and many of his own preacher boys are shocked and disappointed over. This discovery of new truth or old truth hitherto unobserved should be contained in the long article but is it? I have been unable to discover one thing in it that all of us, including Brother Hardeman, did not know ten years ago. Brethren were building meeting houses, preachers' homes, paying traveling expenses for preachers and putting them up in hotels when Brother Hardeman "certainly" did not endorse the putting of our schools on the church budget." Some sort of a change has come over him and the size of the change and the reason for it is the "truth" I am trying to discover. Since he has not made the matter very clear in a long article I'd like to see him try it on a "postal card."

I'm sure that this warning was not directed at those who are trying to do what Brother Hardeman did not endorse and so positively opposed in 1938 "If we are not careful, we will be straining opt gnats and swallowing camels." I suppose that was directed at the Bible Banner and able brethren in other papers who have recently echoed his own protest of 1938. I may need a small dose of Brother Showalter's optimism but what I see in the cup doesn't look like a gnat to me. It is too big for even a wiggle tail. It is at least as big as a tadpole and whatever it is; it doesn't belong there and should be removed. It will not take anything as fine as a strainer to snare him. As to the camel I'm not ready yet to admit that those of us who think like Brother Hardman did in 1938 are neglecting the weightier matters of the law. We are not conceding the opposition any monopoly on justice, mercy and faith. Such a use of the Savior's superb bit of irony does not alarm us in the least. The digressives wore that threadbare on us years ago. We cannot be brushed off in such arbitrary fashion.

Besides, Brother Hardeman himself is not sure the thing in the cup is a gnat. He apparently has not yet made up his mind to swallow it but is just rolling it around under his tongue to see if he can discover some truth in the way the thing tastes. He appears to have some doubts as to just how it would set on his stomach.

"It has been said that some of our schools are trying to get control of the churches and thus bind the schools upon them, thereby making the churches subsidiary to the schools. I deeply deplore this trend. I am conscious of the dangerous influence schools can exert. I know also the powerful influence they can have for good. Almost every departure from the ancient order has begun in our schools. Such is an impressive warning, but it does not necessarily mean that they must or will go astray."

That thing, whatever it is, is too big for a gnat, Brother Hardeman. Better back up and hitch on to your statement of 1938. You were right then and a postal card would contain the statement. A page in the Firm Foundation doesn't serve to make you clear now. It will really be too much to expect that all the schools will fail to exert some of that dangerous influence you are talking about. Some of them have already "gone and done it." Even you can see "trends" to deplore which do not belong to the gnat family.

Now let us suppose that a school starts off on a dangerous "trend." Where would it begin? Naturally, it would seek an unscriptural tie-up with the churches. Where would it start? In the church budget of course. A man with enough vision to identify a gnat can see that. Our idea is to keep the "trends" strained out and we will have no camels to swallow.

It is my opinion that the schools have made an expensive mistake in bringing up this issue. It is costing them both money and goodwill. It is making and arousing fear and suspicion among the brethren. Of course we will be blamed with the whole thing. I have a long letter from Brother Earnest Beam charging us with responsibility for an immeasurable amount of party strife and dubbing us as sectarian. It did not surprise or disappoint me. I expected it. Those who introduced premillennialism are responsible for no strife. We opposed it and the responsibility is ours. Those who introduced the organ and societies to corrupt the worship and control the churches caused no trouble at all. We who opposed these things are wholly responsible. We are partisans. And now we are straining at gnats and swallowing camels because we are opposing some "trends" that are clearly a departure from the "policy" universally followed by the schools until recently! If we are stopped it will have to be by something more substantial than the digressives have worn threadbare for half a century.

Another thing! I do not like the flavor of the word "policy" that is being so widely used by the school men. It looks as though Brother Hardeman made that statement in 1938 with tongue in cheek so to speak. No, I am not impugning his motives. I am thinking of his latest statement. He explains that he had a mental reservation, that his opposition was on the ground of expediency. No principle of vital importance was involved at all. Now, whether he so intended it or not, that statement in such a setting was deceiving. I thought and the brethren thought he was opposed to schools in the budgets of the churches on the ground of principle. Schools are human institutions and the separate character and independence of the churches should not be endangered by so closely relating them to the schools. But it turns out that Brother Hardeman did not mean that at all. It is this sort of thing which is making so many brethren suspicious and costing the schools in confidence and financial support. In such matters a "policy" based on expediency, to be changed when administrators think it expedient, is not the kind of "policy" to build up confidence. There ought not to be any trick clauses in a "policy" either expressed or unexpressed. If Brother Hardeman's opposition to placing the school in church budgets was a question of expediency such as whether to buy or not buy a railroad ticket or pay a hotel bill for a preacher, he should have said so when he made the statement. No one could even dream from the statement he made that he had such a thing in mind.

We are told that "several of the things for which churches spend the Lord's money could well be omitted. They were borrowed from the denominations around us. There is no authority for such." So what? Let the churches go ahead and do something else there is no authority for? That sort of conclusion was not justified by the textbook on logic I studied when I was in school. Let such churches be properly rebuked and taught better.

But what can a church spend money for?

"So far as I know, there are only two things for which a church has direct authority to spend its money. One is to preach the gospel, and the other is to care for the needy. All other expenditures are matters of judgment and of expediency."

"it seems that most anything can be done with the Lord's money except to make a donation to a school in which the Bible is taught. If we are not careful, we will be straining out gnats and swallowing camels."

The "most anything that can be done with the Lord's money" includes supporting a human organization of carpenters for building a meeting house, a preacher's home, buying literature, maps etc., paying a railroad for a ticket to travel, a hotel for a place to stay etc. "There is no direct authority" for such. So what? Churches can make their treasuries available for the support of a human institution without any authority at all! Does this sound like Hardeman logic when he is right and sure of himself? Frankly, I'm not at all lonesome in my disappointment. It isn't Brother Hardeman's age. And I hope that this teetery way of handling a public issue does not become a habit with him.

What kind of authority does a church have to build a meeting house or pay a hotel bill? If a preacher reaches a distant field, he has to "Go" doesn't he? Seems as though I have seen that word somewhere in the Bible. When he gets there he has to have a place to stay doesn't he? It might be a matter of expediency whether he stayed in a hotel or slept on a park bench. A church has to have a place to meet, seats to sit on etc. I can even cite scripture for it. Expediency might have something to do with the size of the house, its location, costs etc, but a thing cannot be expedient unless it is lawful. A man can walk or ride to get to a place, expediency might have something to do with it, but if it were not lawful to "go" it would and could not be expedient to either walk or ride there. What Brother Hardeman says about meeting houses, railroads and hotels and what Alexander Campbell says about "scribes, papermakers, printers, bookbinders and vendors of the oracles of God" and "all other matters that are purely discretionary" have nothing whatever to do with this issue of whether the schools shall not fasten themselves on to the churches for support.

I read an article from Russell Errett in the Christian Standard some years ago in which he sought to show that there was as much authority for instrumental music in worship as there was for "a church house." His article was shorter and he made out at least as good a case with that line as Brother Hardeman does. He hit on something quite as unique as Brother Hardeman's railroad and hotel illustrations designed to establish a church's right to make "donations" to Bible schools, of course allowing that it is "expedient." Said Brother Errett:

A Parallel Case

Taking up further the difficulty that some brethren have with the use of the instrument in worship, it is important to notice that what Jesus said to the woman of Samaria about places of worship is quite definitely a parallel to the words of Paul about singing upon which our friends so much depend. We refer, of course, to Eph. 5:19.

Jesus said to the woman, "The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." Paul said, "Singing and making melody in your hearts." If it is true that making melody in the heart excludes making melody on the instrument why is it not equally true that "worship in spirit and in truth" excludes worship in a particular building?

In one case the emphasis is upon the spiritual action and any accompanying physical action goes unmentioned; in the other case the same situation obtains.

As a matter of fact the evidence in the conversation with the woman of Samaria is stronger than that in Paul's letter to Ephesus, for Jesus specifically refers to the houses of worship at Jerusalem and Gerizim--and with disapprobation.

We are not, of course, opposing either church houses or instruments. We are simply trying to show how one Scripture passage is to be interpreted in the light of the other. Why should brethren be counted renegades if they read Paul as they read Jesus?"

At that time the editor of the Bible Banner dealt with this bit of sophistry as it deserved. Brother Errett missed the point of both passages entirely. It is a little hard to argue with a brother who thinks that if a church pays a hotel bill or buys a ticket for legitimate passage that it is "donating" to the hotel or the railroad. If it buys Bibles it is "donating" to Thomas Nelson and Sons or some other corporation. If it buys a stove from a hardware company, it is "donating" to the hardware company. If it buys groceries from a grocery store to feed the hungry it is "donating" to a grocery store. If it buys books or maps it is "donating" to a publishing concern. If it puts a boy or girl in school and pays his way or helps him with his expenses, it is "donating" to the college. Therefore it can go ahead and put the college, the railroad, the hotel, the publishing house or what have you, in its budget. Such lack of discrimination is not to be expected from a college president.

We are told that "numbers of brethren would like to see an article from some one specifying in detail a list of things for which a church can spend the Lord's money, and also give a list of things forbidden." So! Wouldn't it be nice to tell us off into something like that and get us off the main issue. Nothing doing. The brethren can pretty well take care of the details of church work if they once get it into their heads that it is the business of the church to preach the gospel and look after the poor as Brother Hardeman says it is. Whatever they need in the way of Bibles, houses, transportation and the like in taking care of this business they will likely think of and provide without feeling that the logic of the situation obligates them to make "donations" to some human institution; that is, unless somebody like Brother Hardeman runs around in circles before them until they get dizzy and confused. Brethren generally have been pretty well taught in discrimination concerning essentials and incidentals. It might confuse a few of them and make them forge the main issue if somebody with Brother Hardeman's smile and reputation puts on a juggling act with everything from railroads to Sunday school maps, and then calls for an itemized account of legitimate church spending. It is my opinion that he would have better served both the school and the church had he left his views as expressed in 1938 on a postcard and just sent his picture to the paper. We could then have endorsed his views and smiled back at his picture and everybody would have been happy. As it is he has passed too many amendments to his original constitution.

As I anticipated when this scrap started, the proponents of church support for the schools have sought to inject the orphan's home issue into it. The idea seems to be that if the churches are already doing as bad as they want them to, there should be no objection to them going ahead and adding something else just as bad to a budget all of which Brother Hardeman admits is badly needed for what the church is directly commanded to do. They seem to think they have a perfect parallel, which they haven't. We are not going to leave a hot trail for a cold one, but it will not be amiss to make a suggestion or two for the curious or the crafty to ruminate on.

The orphan's home has never raised any serious issues. There is no need to make it so under present circumstances. Everybody knows and admits, as far as I know that an orphan's home is a poor substitute for a real home and that some churches do not very well resist the temptation to evade their real duty toward orphans by making token contributions to an institution. If we have just got to have some institutionalism mixed up in the work, homes for orphans and old people seem to be the most innocuous kind we can have. I do not recall any responsible brethren deploring trends toward orphans' home control of the churches and of the dangerous influence they can exert. They do not boast of saving the church from utter poverty in the way of preachers and church leaders and ask where the church would be today if it had not been for the orphans' homes.

So we shall just stick to the school question and try to help forestall the growth of those dangerous trends Brother Hardeman and others so deeply deplore. The school administrations themselves have it within their power to execute a "policy" based on principle which will make nearly everybody happy, secure them better support and leaves us with nothing much to criticize, and believe it or not we'd like that too.