Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 29, 1962
NUMBER 30, PAGE 5,12c

Shades Of Denominationalism

Hoyt H. Houchen

We have proposed to brethren here in Abilene that they meet us upon the issues of congregational cooperation and benevolence. Our letter to the Highland elders and their reply, containing their reasons (?) for not meeting us were published in a former issue of the Gospel Guardian. A few days ago, a preacher here in Abilene informed this writer that we are too small a group for him and those who stand with him to be concerned about. We are told that whenever we become large enough and disturb them enough, they might consider debating us.

When brethren engage in the practice of the denominations, we are not surprised in the least that they will also employ the tactics of the denominations. In the past, denominational preachers have offered the above excuse for not meeting gospel preachers in debate. It is the manifestation of a bigoted attitude and it is beneath the standard of Christians. Jesus was humble and there was never anyone whom he believed to be too insignificant to encounter in discussion. Can we conceive of Paul's refusing to debate because his opposition was too small? We have said all along that the "Big things in a big way" is one of the attitudes that is responsible for division among the Lord's people.

We are able to see history repeating itself again. When mechanical instruments of music in worship were dividing congregations all over the country, their advocates were challenged and several debates resulted, but after several encounters, the innovationists decided that it would not be to their advantage and so debates became fewer and today it is difficult to find a preacher who will affirm the use of mechanical instruments of music in debate. When the proponents of mechanical instruments of music in worship soon learned that they had no scripture for their practice, they began to regard the opposers as a small minority group to be ignored. This was their easiest way out.

After the Herald of Truth was introduced among churches of Christ, a few debates were held in various sections of the nation. We know of at least two debates that were held in cities where those who are in favor of the Herald of Truth and other unscriptural practices are in the minority. When brethren believe that they have the truth, they should not be ashamed to defend it. It is when men learn that they do not have scripture to justify their actions that they decide that they do not believe in debating. Many of the brethren who will not debate us on the issues in the church never hesitated in the past to meet denominational preachers because they knew that they had the truth and they therefore had no reason to be afraid. But our position has not changed. We are still willing to meet the foes of the truth whether they be the denominations or our own erring brethren. We are even made to wonder how long it will be before the advocates of the church support of benevolent societies and the sponsoring church will refuse to meet the denominations. When brethren cannot justify a practice by the scriptures, they are in common with the denominations. How can brethren afford to debate the denominations when they have become like them? Even their advertisements have the semblance of the denominations. Emphasis in their publicity is given to world travelers, nationally known educators, and specialists while at the same time they claim to be accenting Christ.

Paul predicted that there would be a falling away. He wrote in 1 Tim. 4:1, "But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." He also wrote in 2 Tim. 4:3, "For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts."

Brethren departed from the truth when they introduced the missionary society. The brethren who opposed it were ridiculed and they were told that they were in the minority, that they did not believe in cooperation, and that they were opposing progress. The brethren who were in the minority then did not have the spacious and fabulous buildings in which to meet but they were worshipping God in spirit and in truth, humbly serving him in the meeting places which they could afford.

When brethren become high and mighty and ridicule their brethren who are smaller numerically, it is time for them to consider the Midianites who outnumbered Gideon (Judges 7), the words of Jesus in Matt. 7:13,14, and what Peter wrote in 2 Peter 2:2. We hope and pray that the time will never come when those of us who are contending for a "thus saith the Lord" will ever have the haughty spirit that we are too big to engage in a forthright discussion, publicly or privately, with representatives of those with whom we differ.

The Lord knowing our hearts, it is love for our brethren that compels us to warn them of their error and to plead with them to return to the truth before it is too late. We all need to possess the humility of Jesus. (See Phil. 2:5-8) When our brethren ridicule us by declaring that they might meet us in discussion whenever we become big enough to disturb them, they are not evincing the humility of Jesus who came to this earth, lived as a peasant among men, and did not have so much as a place to lay his head. They do not give evidence of the humility of the one who suffered and died that we may have eternal life. These brethren may ridicule us but we are thankful for the faithful, loyal brethren in Abilene and elsewhere who are standing for the truth and who as yet have not "bowed their knees to Baal." We do observe, however, that we have disturbed our "big" brethren in Abilene enough that the preacher who ridiculed us has requested some of our radio sermons on the issues. We also note with interest that the Highland church here in Abilene recently provided for some classes on the benevolent and congregational cooperation issues during their campaign "Accent Christ." At least we have disturbed them to that extent. We must believe, however, that these brethren are actually more disturbed than some may realize. Anyway, we shall continue to challenge them for book, chapter, and verse for the things that we believe to be unscriptural. Where is the scripture that authorizes churches of Christ to contribute funds out of their treasuries for the support of any human institution, whether it be a college, a hospital, a benevolent society, a P.T.A., or a civic club? When we stand before God in the last day, we are not going to be judged by our opinions or by our sentiments, but by the word of God. May we remember this as we live day by day upon this earth. Truth has nothing to fear!

— 2958 Grape, Abilene, Texas