Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 30, 1959
NUMBER 12, PAGE 9a-10a

Half Way Ground And The Middle-Of-The-Road

Bryan Vinson, Longview, Texas

In the June 23rd. issue of the Firm Foundation brother Lemmons editorializes on a remark he has both heard and read from some brother to the effect that "We do many things for which we have no Bible authority, nor do we need any." He disagrees with this statement, though less vehemently in tone than in some of his editorial pronouncements, when alluding to those of us who are pleading for a "thus saith the Lord" in all we do and teach. He does, however, in this recent article identify himself with the position that we must have Bible authority for "The Bible is either our only rule of faith and practice, or else it may be disregarded altogether. If we need no Bible authority for doing a single thing, then we need no Bible authority for anything we may want to do." To this I heartily subscribe. Too, he further says: "THERE CAN BE NO HALFWAY GROUND."

This is a rather startling statement from one who within recent weeks has said: "We believe you will find him right in the middle of the road. We also believe that this road is the one the great bulk of brethren have travelled through the years, and in the middle of which we will find them when neither fringe any longer troubles the body of Christ." The context of this statement is his editorial comment on and commendation of brother Foy E. Wallace's three-page article in the same issue of the Firm Foundation. It appears, then, at one time he reveals an attachment to the middle of the road, and then later denies there is any half-way ground! Of course both are figurative terms, and suggest an in-between position as related to what he calls fringes or extremes. In this latest statement he poses but one of two positions that can be occupied, whereas in the former he identifies himself and brother Wallace as occupying a third position — a middle of the road position. I assume brother Wallace can and will speak for himself as touching this classification and identification of himself by brother Lemmons. Now, if there be no halfway ground, to occupy a middle of the road position is really to be in a "no-man's-land".

Someone has recently said that on each side of the road, beyond it, there is a ditch, thus suggesting the middle of the road is the only safe place to travel. But, since each side of the road proper is designed as a path in which to travel, and the difference is that, as so designed, they lead in opposite directions, the middle of the road would be no place for going anywhere. As a matter of fact we observe in the new four-lane highways a declivity separating the two avenues of travel, with provisions made for changing directions. Our highways otherwise have a line, which to straddle is a violation of the law — and sometimes this line is painted yellow. I am made to wonder if some of these self-avowed middle of the roaders are drawn to that position because of an affinity they feel for that color!

It must be, indeed, a broad road that has a middle wide enough for brother Lemmons and his company to travel, or lie down in! Just think: Goodpasture, Totty, Watson, Woods, Warren et. al. on one side of Lemmons and Wallace on the other, and the whole company in the middle of the road!! In every instance where events and circumstances required a decision to be made by a middle of the roader it has been observed that he was found to be liberal. If there is an exception, I have no knowledge of it.

In this statement so strongly commending the article by brother Wallace, and urging a reading of it, brother Lemmons says no one has ever questioned his soundness, though some have disagreed with his tactics. This, then, implies that Lemmons is familiar with the judgment of all, and that he with all others believes fully in brother Wallace's soundness. This is equal to brother Lemmons and all others believing what brother Wallace believes, for it is inconceivable that any person can regard another who differs with him on matters of revealed truth as being sound wherein he differs. Hence, for brother Lemmons to be sound he must be in accord with brother Wallace.

Furthermore, he affirms that brother Wallace, like himself, is not conscious of any change, not one iota, through the years on these issues. This, then, suggests that both are conscious of what they have taught through the years, and both being sound they must have taught the same thing! Certainly our editor would not have so written had he not been familiar with the position held by brother Wallace. A brief notice of what he (Wallace) has said at different times should clarify the question of soundness as evaluated by Lemmons:

"To justify the establishment of institutional orphanages for the church to sponsor as a means of doing their "pure and undefiled religion", reference is frequently made to Jas. 1:27 — "visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction". But the passage does not limit this visitation to the fatherless. It says, "fatherless and — and whom? Widows. For comparison: "He that believeth and — and what? Is baptized. The conjunction "and" conjoins two things, "the fatherless" and "the widows" Now, if Jas. 1:27 is a command for an institutional orphanage, it is no less a demand for an institutional widowage. Why is the latter part of the command never emphasized, much less obeyed, by those who insist that the first part of it is the precept for an institutional organization? The institutional idea is not in the language of James. (Emp. mine) The fact that Paul puts an age restriction on the widows, that none under sixty could be enrolled as permanent charges of the church, and that the New Testament specifies these benevolent interdictions, makes it evident that it is not the will of God for the church to be encumbered with the permanent programs of material benefactions, as are now being promoted with such assiduity, which undoubtedly diminish the temporal means to the spiritual ends of preaching the gospel. The duty of the church in almsgiving is therefore limited to relief emergencies. There is no passage in the New Testament that incorporates the institutional idea as an obligation of the church." (TORCH Vol. 1. No. 2, pages 15-17, 1950.)

Also, please note the following statements, which were identified by brother Wallace as basic facts:

1. No congregation has the preeminence.

2. No elders of a church are to be an ecumenical eldership (a board for the whole church).

3. No coordination of local churches functioning through one eldership.

4. No pressure of one church on another, or others.

5. No force in the church except of being and doing right.

6. No function of elders outside the church in which they are elders.

7. No action of one church is authoritative on other churches, for binding decisions; otherwise there would be authority other than the scriptures infallible.

8. Ne feudal authority can be vested in an eldership. Feudal: an overlordship of one state over other states — holding of reliefs, revenues, aids, properties or that which is another's.

9. No elders of one church can become the voice of the churches of Christ, assuming the prerogative to state doctrine for the whole church, power to commit the church to a statement of doctrine.

10. No eldership has authority to operate a human institution.

11. No organization of any kind in New Testament for inter-church work.

12. No eldership of a sponsoring church in the New Testament.

These statements, with an elaboration on them, were presented in a sermon two years ago by brother Wallace.

I copied them from his notes with his knowledge and consent.

Hence, these excerpts from his writing and preaching, one in 1950, and the latter in 1957, must be regarded as sound by brother Lemmons, inasmuch as he says no one has doubted his soundness, and that his position on these issues has been the same through the years. If so, then brother Lemmons is unsound in his teaching, for he certainly is on record as believing, first, that an orphan home under an eldership is scriptural, whereas brother Wallace affirms, in number 10 above, that there is no authority for an eldership to operate a human institution, and Tipton's is a human institution; and, second, brother Wallace denies there is any eldership of a sponsoring church in the New Testament, and such are Highland in Abilene, and Broadway in Lubbock. Has brother Lemmons taught that such is unscriptural?

Furthermore, he has, in his recent editorial aligned himself with the contention that there is but one of three ways to prove a practice to be scriptural — namely, (1) Direct Command; (2) Necessary inference; and (3) apostolic example. Failing thus to prove a questioned practice to be scriptural, he must either reject it or else agree with the brother that, "We do many things for which we have no Bible authority nor do we need any." Otherwise, he must really be in the middle of the road, a position where he travels in neither direction. Verily, our Savior taught: "He that is not for me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad". This eliminates the half-way ground and the middle of the road as touching all matters involving our duty to God, and the truth of the gospel. We hope our editor brother shall be able to eventually get his bearings, and be found to be sound in the faith, as embodied in the teaching of brother Wallace on these issues, and thus wield his influence and that of the Firm Foundation in behalf of the truth, indifferent to the influence, appeals and pressures of men.