Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 2, 1958
NUMBER 22, PAGE 4-5b

Brother Thomas' New Book


On the back page this week we carry an announcement of the new book, "We Be Brethren" by Brother J. D. Thomas of the faculty of Abilene Christian College. We have not seen the book, hence can speak little as to its value; but we welcome any effort by brethren to deal seriously and objectively with the problems now facing the church. The very title of Brother Thomas' book suggests that he is trying to approach the problem as one between "brethren" and not enemies. This is a welcome and wholesome departure from much that we have seen in recent years. There has been altogether too much effort to argue these matters on a prejudicial rather than an objective plane. The ill-advised and un-Christian "quarantine campaign" of recent years set off a chain reaction of name-calling that has contributed little to a scriptural solution. The air has been filled with cries of "anti", "Sommerite," "anti-orphan home", "anti-church cooperation," "hobbyist," and "digressive," "modernist," "factionist," etc., which have produced more heat and resentment than they have calm and intelligent discussion of Bible teaching. Nobody has been exclusively to blame, and few, if any, have been entirely guiltless in this unhappy development.

Three years ago when this writer had two public discussions with Brother E. R. Harper on the "congregational cooperation" issue, we took occasion to commend Brother J. W. Roberts of the faculty of Abilene Christian College for his willingness to seek Bible authority for the "sponsoring church" type of centralized cooperative activity. Our readers will recall that Brother Roberts made a serious effort to find a "sponsoring church" in the Greek text of Philippians 4; and also wrote several articles trying to prove that the elders of the Jerusalem church acted as a "sponsoring eldership" in receiving funds from Antioch and then taking the oversight for administering this relief to all the other churches in Judaea. His articles, however far astray in exegesis, were still an honest attempt to establish Bible authority for the practice he was defending, and were a welcome relief from the "principle eternal," "total situation" "constituent elements," "Music Hall meeting," "Hyman auditorium meetings," "Blytheville radio program," "I give you a dollar bill" argumentation which had hitherto been used to justify the centralized combines.

From the "Table of Contents" of Brother Thomas' book, we judge that he, too, is seeking a dignified, intelligent, and scriptural justification for present practices. Such an effort should meet with hearty approval by all fair-minded brethren. His book should be read, carefully studied, and seriously pondered by all who love the truth and desire to please God. The Gospel Guardian does not share the thinking of those who feel that the best and proper way to meet an opposing idea is to follow the Roman Catholic plan of an "Index Librorum Prohibitorum" (a list of books which Catholics are forbidden by their clergy to read or examine), and try to prevent brethren, as much as possible, from contact with any opposing or contrary teaching. This policy has been pursued by the Gospel Advocate, and we are firmly convinced that it has contributed more than any other single factor to the serious predicament in which the church now finds herself.

Brother Thomas, we suppose, is seeking to justify such present practices as the Herald of Truth type of cooperative church work, various types of orphan homes, certain recreational and social activities of the church, and perhaps some cultural and sociological projects not even yet undertaken by any of the churches. But, judging by the "Table of Contents" of his book, he is seeking to justify these matters by the Scriptures. He honestly and sincerely feels that many brethren have made a serious error in the realm of Biblical interpretation; and that if they had a proper understanding of the rules of Biblical interpretation, their opposition to many present day practices would cease.

This is the kind of book we welcome. It will give brethren who oppose benevolent institutions and cooperative combines something solid and positive and objective with which to deal. It will not try to argue the question on the basis of childish name-calling and efforts to "quarantine" and ostracize those of an opposing persuasion; but will seriously come to grips with the basic matter of Bible teaching. Does the Bible actually authorize such combinations of congregations as we find in the Herald of Truth? Does the Bible condemn such? Or is authority even necessary? How can we determine what are matters of indifference and what are matters of vital importance?

All of these questions, and many others, will be discussed by Brother Thomas. It goes without saying that many brethren will take sharp issue with some of his premises, and some of his conclusions. For the subject matter of his book has been before Christians from the days of Peter and Paul ("our beloved Brother Paul also...wrote unto you .... some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsteadfast wrest . . .") and through the centuries untold thousands of brilliant and scholarly men have given the best years of their lives to developing and understanding the proper use and application of the Bible text. But however sharply one may differ from Brother Thomas' positions, we can all take hope from the fact that he seeks scriptural ground on which to base his defense of current practices. That is a promising and sanguine attitude. Let every reader of this paper rejoice in such. We hope you will read the book, study it carefully, and then determine your course by the teaching of God's word. We doubt not that many brethren will be making comments or reviews of the book, or portions of it, from time to time in the pages of this journal. We would like very much to see this matter of "Biblical interpretation" become a major theme at an Abilene Christian College lectureship, with Brother Thomas' book "We Be Brethren" and Brother Roy Cogdill's book "Walking By Faith" carefully reviewed and commented on by able and sincere brethren. Since it is apparent to all of us that a major cleavage is in the making within the brotherhood, why should not intelligent people make a titanic effort to avert it by an honest, objective, and fair-minded study of all pertinent factors connected with the problem?

Brother Thomas' book can be ordered either from the Biblical Research Press, 774 E. N. 15th Street, Abilene, Texas, or from the Gospel Guardian, Box 980, Lufkin, Texas. The price is $4.00.