Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 25, 1960
NUMBER 16, PAGE 7,11b

Must They Be So Essential?

Frank Driver, Sioux City, Iowa

We are called upon, in our day, to witness the shame and tragedy of divided churches all over the country and the world. Brethren in Christ who have been intimate friends for a generation are alienated; parents and children, brothers and sisters in the flesh have been set against one another. Rather than using our energies to the fullest measure in preaching the gospel and "doing good to all men," we find ourselves broken hearted, despondent, and perhaps even bitter over these personal experiences of adversity, but most of all for the ruin and destruction that has been brought about in the church of the living God.

But this is not all. The present generation, until now conditioned to an environment of unity and peace among brethren, and a general disposal to loyalty and love of the truth as an exclusive standard of faith and practice, is forced to view with breath taking amazement and confusion, the radically changing attitudes toward Bible authority, increasing confidence in other standards as parents, tradition, majority, etc., and the use of material attractions as fine buildings, entertainment and such like to entice the worldly minded, rather than convert him. Sectarian arguments to justify present practices are coming from the same lips that once answered them as they originated from our religious neighbors. Yes, indeed, we are seeing strange things today that have no precedent in our memory among the true people of God.

What is the cause of this condition which has torn churches and people apart? What brought about the agony and strife that loved ones in Christ feel toward one another? Why are so few left to now begin building again what so many have destroyed? We all know the answer — It is the innovation of secular institutions and cooperatives that were introduced under the guise of expedients, one-of-the-ways, and getting us better organized to do "our" duty in carrying out the great commission. Oh no, we won't infringe on your autonomy; your share is purely voluntary (but you'd better, or else ....). Yes, all this suffering, strife, and sorrow has come from the settled and fixed determination of some brethren to force their institutions and cooperative projects into every church that will grant them an opening. We know the Lord's work can be done and has always been done without these, but they are the ways, expedients, and means "we" have decided on, and the "brotherhood" MUST accept them. They are only methods, but their promoters have made them laws, the standard.

The cause of Christ suffers and lays waste today, because so very few brethren of leadership and influence have learned the lesson of the apostle Paul that a thing that is right in itself must be laid aside if it is not expedient, if it offends brethren or threatens unity. Instead, they will bind that on others for which they received no commandment. (Acts 15:24).

A brother in Christ, very dear to me, told me seven years ago that he would not work with any brother who was opposed to the Herald of Truth. As the years have passed, there has developed an increasing pattern of making these things a test of loyalty and soundness, of fellowship. Some time ago, a brother moved here and attended service. His first question was concerning our position regarding the Herald of Truth and Orphan Homes. He never came back, though he was visited privately and encouraged to do so, and extended our fellowship. Just in the last few weeks, two young men came into service who were living in a nearby town for the summer. Likewise, their first question had to do with these things. And likewise, they never came back. Even if the church support of orphan homes and colleges and church federation could be established by the scriptures as aids or expedients, it would be most tragic that such would be so uniformly made a test of fellowship. And it is unspeakably more tragic since they can't be so established.

Denominations have their conventions, synods, and councils, and "we" have "our" lectureships, preacher and elder meetings, kickoff dinners for the millions for the billions, and general meetings of elders from many churches making decisions that are just as official and authoritative as the action of elders in a local church. Whether intentional or not, college lectureships have long had the effect of fusing its notions, right or wrong, with its institutional environment, into the minds of those present to take home and carry over into the churches. So there is a type and degree of pressure and control that cannot be denied. Then particularly in the millions for the billions meetings, "it was decided" thus and so. Now who did the deciding and what authority did they have? Any area wide action involving many churches exercises a kind of pressure that threatens local autonomy. The proof — let one church in the area say "no," and see what happens!

Since methods and expedients have been made into laws, and fellowship ceases to continue with those who disagree, the reality of division is upon us. The last digression required forty or fifty years to mature into division and disfellowship; today it is with us in less than fifteen years. It is well established now beyond question that there is nothing institutionally minded brethren hate and despise with more impassionate contempt than opposition to their institutions and projects. A brother or sister may dance, drink, live in adultery or hob-nob with sectarians, and enjoy fellowship in the church, and at the worst, toleration in brotherly love; but let him be found on the opposite side of current issues in the church, and he is "out" at once — he will not be tolerated, no not for an hour!

The crisis of division in the emerging of a new sect has already been passed by many; it is yet to be experienced by others. Many years will come and go before all churches generally will be identified on one side or the other. Additional related innovations will hasten the day. Faithful Christians must study God's word diligently and earnestly for the truth as pertains to these things that we may know in our hearts where we stand, and not be carried one way or the other by the influence of brethren we love. We must also have the courage to stand fast for the cause of truth we love, for we will be tried. And in the years ahead when the history of the present digression is written, we with our children will read with sorrow and wonder that such could ever happen to God's people over that which all agree is non-essential. May God help us to see the folly of trusting in human wisdom, and preferring it to the divine.