Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 11, 1961

"A Spiritual Break - Through" Or Breakdown?

Robert H. Farish, Lufkin, Texas

"A Spiritual Break-through" is the title of an article by brother Guy N. Woods, which appeared in the March 23rd issue of the Gospel Advocate. A far more appropriate title would be, "A Spiritual Break-down." The very thing (Herald of Truth) which brother Woods offers as an effectual door for a spiritual break-through is itself the fruit of a spiritual break-down. The fact of its existence is evidence that a spiritual wreck has been suffered. The design of brother Woods' article is to arouse interest in and more contributions for "Herald of Truth." He commends, "unreservedly the Herald of Truth radio and television programs conducted by the Highland church of Christ, Abilene, Texas, and supported by sister congregations throughout the land." Brother Woods attempts to plant the idea in the minds of his readers that the Herald of Truth is a "great door and effectual" through which the saints can send the gospel to the lost. But the Lord said, "whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching hath both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9) The Herald of Truth party "goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ" by disregarding the teaching which limits elders of the church in their oversight to the affairs of the church of which they are members. (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:25; 2 Pet. 5:2) A sober consideration of these facts causes one to conclude that a spiritual breakdown, rather than a spiritual break-through, has occurred.

"Diotrephes the forerunner of those in all ages 'who loveth to have the preeminence" is dragged into brother Woods article. Apparently, the design in this was to brand all who oppose Herald of Truth as modern day Diotrephes'. Brother Woods would have people to think that the desire for preeminence is the motive back of the opposition to Herald of Truth and that the words spoken against it are "wicked words!" This was the course elected by Ahab in his fight with Elijah. Ahab called Elijah the "troubler of Israel." Elijah denied the charge and turned it back to Ahab where it properly belonged.

The introduction of Diotrephes in connection with the sponsoring church controversy is a piece of brazen effrontery. Study John's description of Diotrephes and see whose actions the description fits. "I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not, Therefore, if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth, prating against us with wicked words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that would he forbiddeth and casteth them out of the church." (3 John 9, 10) Would Diotrephes' love for preeminence have kept him from allowing John to be heard if that which John wrote had been in praise of Diotrephes? Well hardly I Love of the preeminence will never cause the one who thinks of himself more highly than he ought to think, to suppress any words of praise of himself. Diotrephes loved "to have the preeminence among them;" this caused him to enact his "closed door" policy of refusing to allow the apostles to be heard. He also advocated and enforced a "quarantine" against brethren who wished to "receive the brethren." If Diotrephes had been a writer for a paper, would he have tried to stop the opposition to his ambitious plans by writing to the brethren urging them to not buy literature from the papers who refused Li bow to his idol? Christ said, "by their fruits ye shall know them." So where would be the most logical place to go to locate some twentieth century types of Diotrephes? Why certainly, to the place where the fruits of the spirit of Diotrephes are found!

Herald of Truth is not an open door through which the church has effected a spiritual break-through; it is the "Trojan horse" by which the denominational concept of brotherhood action slipped into the camp. "We are unable to view the future with that unalloyed optimism which seems so characteristic of some. That God's people will ultimately triumph, we have not the slightest doubt, yet we think we see on the horizon signs which augur ill for the cause of primitive New Testament Christianity. He is a poor observer of men and of things who cannot see slowly developing trends utterly subversive of the principles which thus far have motivated us. There is being made a determined and persistent effort to prepare the mind of the brotherhood for charges, revolutionary charges, which will work ruin for churches of Christ if permitted to succeed." (A. C. C. Lectures 1939) Is the above language from the heart of a twentieth century Diotrephes? Was brother Woods attempting to close a great door and effectual by these words? The above mentioned "slowly developing trends utterly subversive of the principles which thus far have motivated us" did not continue "slowly developing" after the war, but burst forth in a mighty flood of digression with the popular acceptance of the "put it under the elders" theory. That "determined and persistent effort to prepare the mind of the brotherhood for changes" has been successful far beyond the point which even an expert "observer of men and of things" could have dreamed in 1939. The effectiveness of those efforts to "prepare the mind of the brotherhood for changes" is demonstrated in brother Woods' case. Who, among all those who heard the sentiment quoted above fall from the lips of brother Woods in 1939, could then have imagined brother Woods cast in the role of defender of "sponsoring church" arrangements for brotherhood action?

The attitude of many toward the authority of the scriptures has experienced a radical change. This change of attitude allows them to "call evil good, and good evil" and to "put darkness for light, and light for darkness...." (Isa. 5:20) Brother Woods quoted with approval A. W. Fortune's analysis of the conditions which resulted in the division in the latter part of the 19th century. Fortune wrote: "There have been those who believed it is the spirit of the New Testament church that should be restored, and in our method of working the church must adapt itself to changing conditions. There have been those who regarded the New Testament church as a fixed pattern for all times, and our business is to hold rigidly to that pattern regardless of consequences." The last view was the view formerly held and contended for by brother Woods. But that his attitude has changed and can now be accurately identified with the attitude whose fruits were instrumental music in the worship, missionary societies, benevolent and educational organizations through which the church could perform a brotherhood work etc., is evident to any who is not a "poor observer of men and things."

Evidence in proof of brother Woods' changed attitude toward the divine pattern is observable in the "Spiritual Break-through" article. He makes the point that "Christianity itself was born in an era especially auspicious for its immediate and worldwide proclamation to all the people of the earth." Brother Woods reasons that as the advantages provided by that era were utilized by the church, "that it is the will of the Lord for us to utilize every effective means for the proclamation and propagation of the gospel." Pray tell me who opposes the church utilizing every effective method for the proclamation of the gospel??? The churches of Christ in the first century, moving in their congregational capacities alone, with the elders in each congregation attempting to oversee nothing but the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made them bishops, utilized "every effective method for the proclamation of the gospel." There is no need for the church to "adapt itself to changing conditions" by perverting the divine organization into a "sponsoring church." The commission was just as worldwide (universal) in the first century as it is today. The church then needed no sponsoring church to utilize "every method for the proclamation of the gospel" and neither does it need a "sponsoring church" such as Highland in Abilene to "conduct" the Herald of Truth in order for the church to utilize the "mediums" with which "this marvelous scientific age supplies us."

If brother Woods doesn't now believe that "in our method of working the church must adapt itself to changing conditions" why did he present the contrast between former conditions and modern conditions? He seems to think that present scientific advancements require Herald of Truth and thus Herald of Truth is justified on the basis of the need to utilize the modern scientific marvels. Does brother Woods know that hundreds of congregations all over the country were utilizing "these modern electronic marvels" and that on a daily schedule long before Herald of Truth sprang up to "take over?" These "modern electronic marvels" can be utilized most effectively by the divine organization functioning to the extent of its ability. Yes, there are changing conditions. These changing conditions are evidence of progress but the changes in the divine pattern are evidence of digression. These changes in the divine pattern could have been effected only by first "prepare(ing) the mind of the brotherhood for changes." The brother's attitude toward the authority of the scriptures has undergone a radical change since 1939.