Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 24, 1964
NUMBER 20, PAGE 4,13a

Free Discussion


We are happy this week to present two articles on "Institutionalism" by Brother Harry W. Pickup, Jr. and Brother J. D. Hall, Jr. In keeping with our well established and well known policy of presenting "both sides" of questions about which sincere brethren differ, these two articles are given space. We hope next week to present their further exchange on "Church Responsibility vs. Individual Responsibility." For the benefit of those who may not know the relationship of these two men, Brother Hall is Brother Pickup's father-in-law. Their dialogue, in which each vigorously contends for what he believes to be the truth, sets a model which others might well emulate in the spirit and attitude of the disputants. These are questions about which they have talked face to face on many occasions in each other's homes — conversations which have served to strengthen their respect (and affection) for each other, while at the same time clarifying and pin-pointing the difference between them.

What a tragedy it is that such exchanges as this have been so largely excluded from most religious journals through these past two decades! Thoughtful students of church history are pretty well convinced that much of the present controversy and bitterness among the disciples could have been avoided had papers like the Gospel Advocate and the Firm Foundation adhered more firmly to the policies of Lipscomb and McGary. The latter of these two journals has indeed in a fashion presented "both sides," but this presentation has usually been in the form of editorials from the same writer — leaving intelligent readers with a frustrating sense of confusion and bewilderment as they try to unravel and make sense of the "double-talk" which strongly advocates one position in a paragraph, and then strongly advocates the opposite position in the next paragraph, or the next issue of the paper. (In all fairness to our brother editor, we suspect that he is blissfully unaware of this schizoid dichotomy. A cynical man would be much more subtle in his presentation of contradictory teachings.)

The Gospel Advocate, however, has been completely consistent and undeviating in its policy of presenting only ONE side of these present controversial issues, quoting articles or excerpts from brethren of the opposing view only for the sake of rebuttal; and, naturally, selecting those articles and excerpts which will lend themselves most easily to a response favorable to the Advocate's position. Such is a tragic departure from the policy of the fair-minded Lipscomb. He not only published, but often solicited articles from brethren who held views opposite his own — e.g. J. D. Tant on the "re-baptism question" and G. G. Taylor on the "civil government question." And because brethren were able through the years to discuss their differences, and to avoid any intensive one-sided propaganda effort, division over these questions was avoided.

The wisdom of this free discussion, open forum policy has been vindicated through the years in many areas. The political arena gives continuing support to the idea that as long as nations can "talk-out" their differences around a conference table they stand a good chance of avoiding war; but when communication between them is broken off their differences tend to multiply. The Gospel Guardian through the years has sought to provide this "open forum" for the discussion of brotherhood problems and differences. To the extent of its coverage we feel it has served a healthy purpose. We have given unlimited space to brethren to set forth views which this editor regarded as false and unscriptural. (Within the space of only a few months we carried some fourteen articles from Brother E. R. Harper in defense of Herald of Truth a few years ago.) Had other journals among us been as willing to carry articles opposing the promotional evangelistic and benevolence cooperatives, we doubt not that a far healthier and more united condition would now prevail among the churches.

Many favorable indications suggest to us at this time that the Gospel Guardian is on the threshold of a greatly expanded and more effective influence among conservative brethren and churches. Our volume of mail implies a growing awareness among brethren of the dangers now confronting faithful congregations. The very extremes to which our institutional brethren have gone, the apparent "no stopping place" mania which has seized the "no-pattern" advocates, the pressure for new gadgets, gimmicks, and sensationalisms is giving pause to a great many who have thus far kept silent about the burgeoning institutionalism among us.

It is a time for careful study and thought. The souls of multitudes are at stake; the continued healthy growth of the Lord's church is involved. We are grateful that in such a time and in such a crisis the Gospel Guardian is able to provide a medium for a brotherly exchange such as that we carry between Brethren Pickup and Hall. We could hope that other such friendly studies could be given wide dissemination. And, naturally, we encourage all friends and subscribers of this journal to help us gain as wide an audience as we possibly can. Tell your friends about the journal, ask them to subscribe. Call the attention of the elders where you worship to the many fine articles carried each week, and ask them to investigate the "congregational subscription" rates by which the entire local church may be provided the opportunity for study. The future belongs to the conservatives — not to the extremists and liberal radical elements among us. Help us to reach honest-minded brethren with these discussions!

— F. Y. T.