Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 23, 1963
NUMBER 4, PAGE 4,13b

Fourteen Years Ago


A few days ago we were browsing a bit through some of the back issues of the Gospel Guardian, and came across an editorial of fourteen years ago which intrigued us by two things: (1) our naive assumption fourteen years ago that Lappin's extreme position on the "silence of the scriptures" would be immediately rejected by all members of the Lord's church, and (2) the rapid strides which have been made by our brethren within fourteen years toward a general acceptance of Lappin's position — while denying it with every breath!

But here is the editorial as it appeared in the Gospel Guardian of June 30, 1949:

"That the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) long ago abandoned the New Testament as authority for religious practices is a fact too well known to need argument. Once the first move was made away from the New Testament authority, departure after departure came as a matter of course, and became inevitable.

"It is no great surprise, therefore, to find S. S. Lappin, prominent Christian Church preacher, strongly arguing in a recent issue of Christian-Evangelist for an abandonment of the pattern of church government set forth in the New Testament, and for an adoption of what he calls 'the presbyterial system.' Lappin writes:

To my mind any expedient is scriptural which gets a scriptural job well done. Or, to say it in different words, we are justified in devising and making use of such means as may be needful to carry out the apostolic program.

So believing, I have long held that the presbyterial system is more effective, and therefore more scriptural, than our methodless procedure....

The group of congregations in a given and contiguous area in association of mutual good will and helpfulness is our next great obligation. It may be in counties, as in Southwest Missouri under guidance of a 'county pastor,' or it may be, as in a few instances I have noted, merely a loosely formed committee of 'friendly counselors' under oversight of the county-seat church or the otherwise most influential congregation in the group.

The rule of 'church boards' must be broken; but something better must be put in its place. Our 'church officers' must learn they are servants with a job, not bosses with authority.

True, we are a Bible people, but, where the Bible does not speak, we are entitled to do so. Christian-Evangelist, May 18, 1949

Home To Roost

"In words that even after these long, long years still have power to wring the heart, David Lipscomb, Moses E. Lard and others pleaded with their erring brethren not to drive a wedge into the body of Christ. They told them over and over again that any departure from the authority of the New Testament could only result in total apostasy and ruin. But to no avail. Isaac Errett and his cohorts would not be stayed. They were determined to have their missionary societies and human organizations.

"Today the Disciples' Church is rent from top to bottom in a bitter and terrible fight over these very societies. For the dire predictions of Lipscomb, Lard, et al., have come true to the very hilt. Modernism has come like an avenging fury to mock the efforts of Errett's followers. The evil seed now bears fruit. The chickens are roosting all over the place.

Lappin's Solution

"Now comes S. S. Lappin with a solution. Since they have abandoned the New Testament authority in matters of worship and doctrine, Lappin proposes that they go whole hog in the matter and work out a 'presbyterial system' of church government which can break the power of these nefarious 'church boards' and really expedite the apostolic program.

"Frankly, we see no reason for anyone's objecting to Lappin's proposal. We believe the Christian Church has the same right to work out a form of government suitable to her desires that any other denomination has. It is a human denomination with all the rights and privileges appertaining to any denomination of men.

'But the thing that sticks in our craw is Lappin's unctuous boast that, 'True we are a Bible people, but...' Now, really, is not that laying it on a bit thick? When a man deliberately and openly proposes a complete and total departure from the New Testament plan for church government, what kind of gall must he have to come out with, 'True we are a Bible people....'?

"And what is Lappin's justification for abandoning the New Testament plan and substituting his own 'presbyterial system'? Why, forsooth!. the New Testament is silent on the subject! And since his pet plan is not specifically forbidden he feels perfect liberty to promote it. Naturally.

Why Bring It Up?

"Are you wondering why we notice such matters in our editorial columns? Our justification is simply that our readers may have it once more impressed on their minds that once the authority of God's word is abandoned, there is no stopping place. Lappin's latest brain-storm is a current example.

"Lappin proposes a presbyterial form of government. One of his brethren may with equal propriety propose an episcopacy; still another may propose an hierarchy with central authority vested in one recognized head. All three of these unscriptural forms of church government are now functioning: Presbyterianism, Methodism, and Catholicism. It is purely a matter of human judgment as to which should be adopted once the New Testament plan is abandoned."

And Now — 1963

And what is the situation in 1963? Well, all over the land we see congregations working out ever greater and more marvelous "cooperative arrangements" under which Lappin's basic thesis ("where the Bible does not speak, we are entitled to do so") is being implemented in a dozen different ways. And the very brethren who are doing the "implementing" would be the first and loudest in their protestations of denial of Lappin's statement. Reminds us of brother H. Leo Boles' charge a score of years ago concerning the colleges' solicitation and acceptance of contributions from churches. Said he, "They all do it; and they all deny it."

We abhor Lappin's position on "the silence of the scriptures"; but we honor and admire his forthrightness and integrity in publicly proclaiming such when he honestly held it. Would that the same candor and good faith might be more in evidence among all who share his views.

— F. Y. T.