Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 7, 1961
NUMBER 31, PAGE 2,10

From A Preacher's Note-Book

James W. Adams, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Amiable Creature

We hear much among brethren these days about the "middle of the road." However, try as we may, we have not been able to find out precisely what it is. It seems to be something neither hot nor cold, neither conservative nor liberal, neither right nor left, neither for nor against, a characterless, soothing, bland antidote for all the ills of a distressed "brotherhood." It will not endorse liberality, but at the same time, does nothing to oppose it. It deplores conservatism, but will not embrace liberality. It reminds us of our boyhood days at the "ole swimmin' hole" in the early spring. The timid boy would get up to his knees in the icy water and stand, shivering, teeth chattering, and flesh turning blue, afraid to get out lest the other boys regard him "chicken," and daring not to take the icy plunge. Recently, we ran across the following bit of verse. We think it aptly describes our "middle-of-the roader."

"The worst and best are both inclined

To snap like vixens at the truth;

But, 0, beware the middle mind

That purrs and never shows a tooth!"

— Elinor Hoyt Wylie The amiability of this "middle-of-the-road" creature is not necessarily virtuous. Cowardice and absence of conviction often produce this spineless nonentity.

Help Wanted

I am not looking for a job, but I never can resist looking through the "Help Wanted" column in my daily newspaper. This may be a reflex action resulting from the fact that my youth was spent during the hard years of the great depression of the "thirties." Perhaps the readers of the Gospel Visitor are similarly afflicted, hence will be sure to read this article.

However, the title to this article is not simply to attract attention. It is with complete sincerity that this "help wanted" notice is placed. There is a great need for the kind of help under consideration. Some months past I noticed the following item in Nuggets (Jan., 1961). Rereading it this morning, it occurred to me that here was the answer to a problem with which every faithful preacher of the gospel has had to deal. Here is the story:

A kind-hearted motorist saw a man struggling to change a tire alongside the highway. There was a dirt smear across his red face where he had wiped off the sweat with dirty hands. His tie was undone, his shirt collar askew, and obviously he had also wiped his hands on his once-white shirt. Close to him stood a slight woman, immaculately neat, and arguing angrily.

"Look, friend," said the kind-hearted motorist, "I've changed a lot of tires. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"There sure is," replied the man with the tire tool. "My wife is an expert, too. If you will just do all the arguing with her about how this tire ought to be changed, I can concentrate on the dirty work and get the job done."

Every faithful preacher of the gospel in his efforts to fight sin and error within and without the church has met those immaculately garbed people with clean hands who have never disturbed their raiment or dirtied their hands in the thankless task of battling sin and error, yet, who know exactly how the job ought to be done and are ever vocal in letting their views be known. We badly need a group of experts in the church to argue with these folks, thus keeping them engaged and out of the way, while those who are interested in destroying sin and error can turn their undivided attention to getting the "dirty job" done. Moses had these folks to deal with in the affair concerning Kortah, Dathan, and Abiram. (Num. 16) They thought Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were wrong, but criticized Moses for the way he did the job of cleaning up the situation. They "murmured .... saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord." (Num. 16:41) The only difference in then and now was that God came to Moses' assistance then. God sent a plague on the murmurers and destroyed fourteen thousand and seven hundred of them. Now, we simply tolerate them and try to do the job God wants done at the sometime. Indeed, we could use some experts to argue with them while the work is done!


In this day of "super-promotionalism" among those who profess to be Christians, the air is literally filled with all kinds of "catch-phrases" having no foundation whatever in a "thus saith the Lord." Whenever some fertile brain of a promoter gives birth to an innovation, a phrase is generally coined and attached to it as a door-opener to the hearts and practice of the brethren. The phrase generally employs Bible language, however erroneously, to give credence to the idea and to lend acceptance to the practice. For instance: The social gospel is called "practical Christianity;" worldly entertainment is called "fellowship;" the sponsoring church is called "cooperation;" cooperative benevolent societies supported by churches are called "homes." Brother J. W. McGarvey wrote the following article in 1896. It was published first in the "Christian Standard" and later- incorporated in the book, "Biblical Criticism." The article follows:

"To fall in with every catch-phrase which goes whirling through the air betrays a want of thought. It is too common among preachers and newspaper writers. We hear a great deal lately of 'Applied Christianity.' Have those who have caught up this phrase paused to think what it implies? If they have, then they are convicted of having in mind a Christianity which is not applied. There may be theories about Christianity which are not applied, but they are as far from Christianity as a theory about farming is from farming. Drop the phrase, and repudiate its implication.

"Another of these catch-phrases is, 'The Christ Spirit.' What does this mean? I suppose it is intended to mean the Spirit of Christ. This last expression occurs twice in the Scriptures (Rom. 8:9; I Pet. 1:11), but in both instances, as the context plainly shows, it means the Spirit of God. If this is what is meant by the phrase why not say so, instead of adopting an expression which is both unscriptural and ungrammatical? President Loos has of late very effectually rebuked the use of the noun disciple as an adjective in the phrase, Disciple Church; it is a blunder of the same kind to use the official title Christ as an adjective in the phrase, Christ Spirit. Keep your heads level, brethren, and don't be dazzled by every fad in thought and expression which happens to be floating about. It is a wholesome rule to call Bible things by Bible names: there is a volume of wisdom in it."

Brethren, in our day, would do well to read and heed the advice of brother McGarvey.


Brother J. D. Tant used to say, "Brethren, we are drifting!" I recall when some smart young preacher wrote in answer to one of brother Tant's articles of warning, "If we're drifting, we're drifting in a mighty desirable direction." How foolish! There is only one direction that one can "drift" and that is down stream. It takes strength and courage to fight the current. Anyone can drift. The following words from Henri Fredric Amiel via Nuggets, January, 1960, are thought-provoking: "He who floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions — such a man is a mere article of the world's furniture — a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being — an echo, not a voice. The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings, as the barometer is the obedient servant of the air at rest, and the weathercock the humble servant of the air in motion." Some brethren serve only to register the pressures and activities of what they call in sectarian terminology "our brotherhood." They remind me of a homely jingle I used to hear (which would only have meaning to one familiar with farm life): "I'm floating down the stream of time like a bob-tailed chicken on a watermelon rind."

Special Privilege

In business and politics the problem of "special privilege" is well known. It is also well known in the field of religion. Some of the most prominent false doctrines are based upon the principle; for instance, the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints. Calvinists teach that once an individual comes under the blood of Jesus Christ by reason of his faith in Christ, he can never be lost. He may lie, steal, kill, commit adultery, deny God, and refuse to repent and die in this state, yet he will be eternally saved. Hence, according to this doctrine, the born-again child of God has "special privileges" — to sin with impunity. Of course, the Bible teaches no such doctrine. Paul, writing to Christians — blood-bought children of God, said, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Gal. 6:7, 8)

In the controversy over current issues (so-called "cooperation" and "institutionalism") the liberal element among the churches constantly claims special privileges, and conservative brethren on many occasions have been the unwitting dupes of such chicanery. The liberal element claims for itself the privilege of promoting all of its ideas and schemes while absolving itself of any blame for controversy and division that arise because of them. They everywhere deny to conservative brethren the right to raise their voices in opposition to these matters without having laid upon them the charge of being "troublemakers" and "church-dividers." Many times conservative brethren agree for the "issues" not to be discussed in a congregation, yet allow the liberals to continue to promote their projects which are the occasion of the issues. This is "special privilege" at its worst. When conservative brethren agree to such a "compromise" they but abdicate to the liberals.

Churches of Christ could have unity immediately with Christian Churches on this basis. In the early days of the controversy over the missionary society and the organ in the worship, this "special privilege" doctrine was freely urged by our "digressive" brethren. Some swallowed the bait — among them T. B. Larimore of sainted memory. He lived, however, to see and regret his course. He refused to speak on the issues that were dividing the churches, and in so doing, nullified his tremendous influence and handed the advantage and the churches over to the liberals. In his later years, he acknowledged with regret his mistake. If gospel preachers today would agree to refrain from opposition to such practices as are involved in the missionary society, instrumental music, and such like which are practiced by Christian Churches, immediate union could be accomplished between Christian Churches and churches of Christ.

Let the liberal brethren cease their promotions which are the occasion of the controversy and the conservative brethren may then be in a position to cease "discussion of issues," for there will be no "issues." What rule of ethics or scripture gives the liberal the right to promote his questionable practices and forbids the conservative from raising his voice against them?

Another example of "special privilege" thinking is to be found among our "liberal" brethren who write. They feel that they have a right to be heard in publications of the "conservative" brethren in answer to every expose of their writing and practices, yet they resolutely close the door to conservative brethren in every publication or medium which they control. Surely, "the legs of the lame are not equal." We ran across the following pithy observation in Nuggets, April, 1959: "Special privilege is hard to dislodge. Those who carve the chicken never give themselves the neck."