Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 12, 1959
NUMBER 40, PAGE 8-9a

Common Ground

C. D. Crouch, Lumberton, Mississippi

During the last half of the nineteenth century when the division in the church of our Lord was developing, which finally resulted in the establishing the "Church of The Disciples", sometimes called the Christian Church, and sometimes called The Church of Christ, many hearts were made to ache, and much thought was given to efforts at a solution of the problems confronting all who were sincerely interested in the Cause of Christ.

"Common Ground" was sought upon which all on both sides of the controversy might be in agreement. And as a result of those efforts, some classic phrases were created, and some of them so indelibly stamped upon the hearts of disciples of Christ, they are in common use until now.

One of those classic phrases may have been expressed in some words in one community, and in slightly different words in another, but as I remember it in the main, it is as follows: "In matters of faith Unity; in matters of opinion, Liberty; in all things, Charity." In a recent article, in a religious paper, I note it has been drastically changed, as regards "matters of opinion": "In matters of opinion, liberality". Evidently, the author of that changed version, recently published, is obsessed with "liberalism", and apparently, he does not have the real meaning of: "In matters of opinion — LIBERTY". Man can be liberal with that which is his own. But, this modern idea of "liberalism" is an entirely different matter. People become so liberal in their dealing with the word of God, as though the word of God was their own private property. They become "liberal" in their "views" of things divine. So, liberal, in fact, that their attitude would indicate that they consider it unimportant to contend that God meant what He said, when he said many things for our learning.

But what about the expression: "In matters of opinion; Liberty"? Well, during the first half of the present century, I have noticed that many writers for the papers, among the "Disciples' have indicated that they have thought it means every one is free to "press his own opinions upon others. They have argued for instance, that since the Bible does not say, "thou shalt not have instrumental music in your worship", any opposition to it, is therefore a matter of opinion, just as much so, as insisting upon our using it is a matter of opinion. And, therefore, they have argued for its use, on the principle of "liberty of opinion".

That too, seems to be the idea that some have today of the meaning of "liberty of opinion". They argue that the Bible authorizes the church to care for orphans, but does not say "how". They forget that the "how" respecting organization is authorized — the church, is the organization demanded. But, they tell us, "that is your opinion, and since we have an opinion contrary to that, and since our opinion was expressed already, and therefore comes first, we are entitled to maintain our opinion over yours".

In truth, it has been said to me that the "Gospel Guardian is dividing the church over opinions". Well, maybe there is some truth in that, just like there is truth in the charge made by the digressives, that David Lipscomb and the Gospel Advocate divided the church over opinions. In what way did the Gospel Advocate divide the church over opinions? Well, some of the "promotin' brethren" in that day had an opinion that instrumental music in the worship would promote a greater interest. They introduced instrumental music into their worship. They pressed their opinion. The Advocate opposed its introduction, and its use. Thus the Advocate caused division in the church! No use to deny that in that sense David Lipscomb and the Advocate did cause division, and that over an opinion, too. That is a self-evident fact. Where instrumental music was introduced, and where there was no opposition to it, there was no division. Just so, it is today with reference to the Gospel Guardian's causing division over "opinions". Some brethren today, have an "opinion" that a "missionary society" organized "in the elders of a local church", such as the "Herald of Truth" missionary society, is all right, acceptable to God, and they are pressing that opinion. They also have an "opinion" that a "Benevolence Society" is also acceptable to God, and so they are pressing those opinions to the division of the church. The Guardian is opposing such opinions, and thereby "causing division" over opinions. But, whose opinions? Those who are pressing their opinions upon the brotherhood, of course.

Is there any common ground, upon which all might be one regarding these matters? There is no objection, that I have heard about, to the right of churches to support the preaching of the gospel. There is no objection to preaching the gospel over the radio. There is no objection to the church supporting certain orphans. No objection to orphans having a home, and no objection to a church's providing a home for its orphans. In truth, a number of brethren insist that the church should build and maintain a home for certain orphans, and among that number, are brethren connected with the Gospel Guardian. Also the Editor of Firm Foundation contends that this way is scriptural, and right. Recently, when the editor of Firm Foundation was interrogated as to what should be done with these "Homes" run by a benevolence society, such as Tennessee Orphan Home, Childhaven, et. al, he replied that they can be converted into "SERVICE INSTITUTIONS," and accept children and care for them, charging for their keep, and the churches can send children to the said "Service Institutions" and pay for their keep just like the churches can buy the service of Gospel Advocate Co. or the Firm Foundation Co.

Whereupon the Goodpasture Advocate's chief hatchet man, was placed on the front page of the Advocate with a long article, headed a "Meeting of Minds", in which, if there was and is any "meeting of minds" the Advocate committed itself to the position that as service institutions, (such as the G. A. and F. F.) as hotels, and motels, and nursing homes, rendering a service for which they make a charge, such homes for orphans that are under boards of Directors are scriptural". Since the G. A. has acknowledged, in the "Meeting of Minds" article, that the Editor of the F. F. is scriptural in its contention, there is "common ground" between them respecting that point. But, that is, and has been all along, the position taken by the Gospel Guardian! So, there is "common ground" for all of these papers, and the brethren who write for them. Why should there be division in the churches, then, since there is a position plainly stated, upon which all agree?? Gayle Oler has argued for years that BOLES HOME is such an institution; all that remains there is for them to set a price, and charge the churches that price for the service they render, and cease accepting donations from the churches. And if all the other HOMES that are operated by a "Board of Trustees," would also convert themselves into such "service institutions", and get away from the idea that churches are obligated to maintain such benevolence societies, there would be no objection to their operating that way. I have never heard of one objecting to the Firm Foundation's having a right to publish a paper, and to charge a definite price for said paper? I have not as yet heard of any one's objecting to a church putting the preacher engaged for a series of meetings, in a hotel, and paying the hotel for its service in furnishing said preacher a room, and meals. But, even so, that does not mean that the church has a right to send a contribution to the hotel. But, if the church has a right to send a preacher to a hotel, it also has a right to send an orphan which is destitute and its charge, to a home which is operated as a free enterprise concern, run as a non-profit concern, or as a business, like private schools, and pay for its keep. If the church then has right to send a contribution to such a home, then it also has a right to make donations to a hotel, or a motel.

But, "Ephraim is joined to his idols", and since that is true of these brethren who are promoting and pressing their opinions, I suspect it is useless to hope they may cease their divisive tactics. The church of our Lord will live. Multitudes will be lost, and hearts will continue to be broken. "God is in His holy temple let all the earth keep silence before Him."