Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 18, 1961

Neither Anti Or Digressive

Herschel E. Patton, Lufkin, Texas

The March 23, 1961 issue of the Gospel Advocate was a special issue on behalf of the Herald of Truth. On the first page, brother G. K. Wallace put in his "pitch" for the Herald of Truth, declaring it is "neither anti nor digressive." It will be readily admitted that the sponsors and sympathizers of Herald of Truth are not "anti" many things, though they be very anti "anti," but our brother makes a very poor effort at proving it is not digressive. Brother Wallace seeks to answer objection to the Herald of Truth by trying to make it appear that the objection is simply to "means" of preaching the gospel. He says, "it is not digressive to preach the gospel over radio." Such a statement is simply a "cover-up" in an effort to hide the real issue. Everyone acquainted with the present controversy knows that objection is not, and has not been, filed against a person or church using such means as radio, television, the printed page, the human mouth, etc., to proclaim the gospel. Objection has been filed against the Herald of Truth because it involves (1) elders of a local church functioning for numerous congregations, (2) a tying of numerous congregations together in a work to which each is equally related, (3) church or churches sending to other church or churches not in need, etc, — all of which is without scriptural authority.

The "just a means" argument is the excuse offered for all human organizations through which churches seek to do their work. The Missionary Society advocates declare that the Missionary Society is just a means for preaching the gospel. The Baptists say in explaining their need for and in justification of their Convention — "The state convention is the means through which the local churches pool their resources to finance a larger work than is possible by an individual congregation or association," (Nashville Tennessean 11-13-60) This is the same claim being made for Herald of Truth.

Brother Wallace seems to indicate by his statement "The only organization connected with the Herald of Truth is the church which Jesus Christ built"' (G. A. 3-23-61, p. 1) that if Herald of Truth was another organization rather than just a radio program under the direction of the Highland church, there might be room for objection. Our brother, at one time, felt very strongly about this. He wrote in the Nov. 17, 1949. Gospel Advocate, P. 726, concerning orphan homes, "If it is a work of the church, we wonder why the church cannot do this work witout forming an organization to take over the work of the elders. The Children's home in Wichita, Kan., is operated by the Riverside church of Christ. We have no organization except the church. He contended with brother Gus Nichols very vociferously on this very point several years ago at one of the Freed-Hardeman College lecture; which many gospel preachers remember. His recent defense of the Herald of Truth on the ground that "the only organization connected with Herald of Truth is the church which Jesus Christ built" indicates brother Wallace still believes another organization would make it wrong. But, does he? Just a month or so ago (2-9-61, Gospel Advocate, p. 89) our brother wrote concerning this previous article: "If what I said caused any person or church to withhold support from homes unlike the one managed by a board of directors made up of a local eldership, I offer my apology and beg their forgiveness. It was my opinion that a home operated by a local congregation was the best procedure. However, this is a matter of judgment and not of Scripture. Whether the board of trustees or the directors of the home is made up of brethren from several places or brethren from one place, is a matter of choice, but in either case they are legal entities and form an organization other than the body of Christ.

Since brother Wallace no longer fears an organization, not the church, through which churches do their work, why plead for the Herald of Truth on the ground that "the only organization connected with the Herald of Truth is the church which Jesus Christ built?" Would not brother Wallace still claim that Herald of Truth is just a MEANS for carrying out the great commission and in the same category with song books, baptistry, etc., if it should become divorced from the Highland church and function as a chartered, non-profit organization under a board of directors?

This is the sort of thing we have in "Gospel Press." A few weeks ago, brother Paul Hunton, Vice-president of Gospel Press, was interviewed on Jude Collin's Noon Show on WLAC-TV in Nashville, Tenn. concerning Gosper Press. On this program brother Hunton said "it is a MEANS (emphasis mine H.P.) used by churches of Christ to preach the gospel"... "Our purpose is to carry out the great commission." So, here we have an organization under a board of directors, acting as a MEANS for churches to use in carrying out the great commission.

Brother Wallace thinks such cannot be compared to the Missionary Society because "a church has to JOIN the missionary society" "by sending delegates there to represent them and then having the delegates accepted by the association and seated in the Convention to represent the people who sent them." (3-23-61, Gospel Advocate, p. 1) Would brother Wallace accept the Missionary Society if they would drop the "delegates to the convention" aspect of it and just operate as an organization under a board of directors, selected from among the churches at various places — without representation on the part of all contributing churches? Is the matter of delegates meeting in a convention, or representation, the only thing wrong with the Missionary Society? Just what is the difference in representatives from participating churches meeting together and making decisions relative to preaching the gospel and in a permanent board made up of men from various churches meeting and making decisions? On what ground would one endorse the one and oppose the other?

Nowhere in the whole special issue of the Gospel Advocate on the Herald of Truth is an effort made to scripturally justify this project, except to make the false claim, "it is just a means," and no answer is given to the real objections made to it. Perhaps, soon, there will be an issue pleading for "Gospel Press." And, if churches become confused over WHO to help as they read these pleas for numerous orphan homes, colleges, Herald of Truth, Gospel Press, Million for the Billion, Fogerty Tent Meeting, Hospitals, etc., or if one or two of these "means" (?) seem to get fat while others are in need, maybe we could form a "Convention" like the Baptists have to "serve as the collecting and distributing agent for the local church funds" where "the financing of the work is carried on through a co-operative budgeting process, known as the Co-Operative Program. This eliminates the older method of direct appeal to local churches for each program of work. The older method often led to rivalry for support. These programs which made stronger appeals often received more support, while other important programs suffered." (11-13-60, Nashville Tennessean, p. 5-H) Of course, if some should object to delegates from the churches meeting in a Convention, the whole thing could be put under a permanent board, or an energetic eldership somewhere!

Brethren, our Lord's church is doing exactly what Guy N. Woods was talking about at the Abilene Christian College lectures in 1939 when he said: "The ship of Zion has floundered more than once on the sandbar of institutionalism. The tendency to organize is a characteristic of the age. On the theory that the end justifies the means, brethren have not scrupled to form organizations in the church to do the work the church itself was designed to do. All such organizations usurp the work of the church, and are unnecessary and sinful." (A.C.C. Lectures, 1939, p. 53) Brother W. E. Brightwell's prophecy has proven to be true — "The next religious war will be fought around the issue of institutionalism....The church, speaking in a general sense, has lived too high, built too much machinery, trusted too much to human wisdom and human organization...." (Gospel Advocate, 1934)

It seems that we have now reached the day when these human schemes are palmed off on an unsuspecting and untaught brotherhood simply by having a number of prominent men write their endorsement of the projects in a prominent paper. No effort is made to produce scriptural authority for the projects, except utter the false cry "just a method," and no answer is made to the real issue involved. "Take heed, that no man deceive you." (Matt. 24: 4)