Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 31, 1950


Cled E. Wallace

The Bogey Man Of Sommerism

The following is an editorial, I beg pardon, an "Editor's note," appearing in the Gospel Advocate of August 10.

The foregoing appeared in the American Christian Review of June, 1950, page 11. We might not recognize a "late convert" to "Sommerism," but the editor of the Review ought to recognize a "Sommerite" when he sees him. This quotation should give pause to every thoughtful reader. Are we to hoist our sails and steer for the port of "Sommerism"? Are we disposed to become "late converts" and "Johnnies Come Lately" to an "ism" which has troubled Israel for more than half a century?

But maybe the editor of The Review is a bit premature in extending the "glad hand" to these "late converts."

Of course, if these "Johnnies Come Lately" are not "late converts" to "Sommerism," they should be able to show a clear-cut distinction between their position and that of the editor of The Review, and expose the editor of The Review for his ill-timed pronouncement. If, on the other hand, they are genuine, but "late converts" to "Sommerism", they should not be surprised to find themselves dubbed "Johnnies Come Lately."

"The foregoing" the Advocate copied from The Review, was an adroit but cautious effort to compliment us and welcome us into their camp. The Advocate considers this very damning evidence against us. We will just stick to the scriptures and let both The Advocate and The Review go to their opposite extremes on this college business. We decline either by compliments or threats to be fenced into a partisan set-up led either by The Advocate or The Review. We understand now what brother Brewer meant when he threatened to drive us deeper "into the kingdom of crankdom." Brother Goodpasture thickens the plot by an attempt to hand us over as a gift to the "Sommerites." We can' understand the

embarrassment to both The Advocate and The Review, occasioned by our stubborn determination to stick with the scriptures, but we see no way out, unless they get tired of wandering around on the right and the left, and come in and join us. "While the lamp holds out to burn, the vilest sinner may return."

Up to date The Advocate has made a pretty sorry show in its defense of "centralized oversight and control" in missionary work, and evidently it thinks it can do better by reviving the college issue. It has been evident for some time that they ought to either do better, or change the subject. The editor has changed the subject, but I have noted no improvement in his manners. He

shouts "Sommerism" with the same design and for the same effect that a Baptist shouts "Campbellism." His only appeal is to prejudice. It reveals the weakness of his position. It is time to let brother Brewer take over and write some more on the traditional practices of the brethren. If the Gospel Advocate and the Firm Foundation cannot give it a satisfactory circulation, the Union Avenue Church in Memphis has facilities to make it wider. The Sommerites will git you if you don't watch out!

The embittered and "sarcastic" editor of The Advocate thinks we "should be able to show a clear-cut distinction between their position and that of the editor of The Review, and expose the editor of The Review for his ill-timed pronouncement," if we do not want to find ourselves dubbed "Johnnies Come Lately." I am not responsible for the "ill-timed pronouncement" of the editor of The Review, but feel inclined to grant the favor. Since the present editor of The Advocate probably would not take my word for it, I will adopt an article taken from the editorial page of the Gospel Advocate, written before the present editor took over and radically changed the policy of the paper. The editor at that time inserted an article from brother C. R. Nichol, which had earlier appeared in the Firm Foundation. Herewith, I hand you the article as it appeared in the Gospel Advocate, March 24, 1932, eighteen years ago. Was brother Nichol a "Johnny Come Lately?"

It is difficult for one to oppose the way in which some people try to do some work and not be put down as opposed to the work. I very heartily endorse the work of preaching the gospel in fields where congregations of the church of Christ do not exist, but I am opposed to the formation of a human missionary society to do such work. In the Firm Foundation, November 24, 1931, I said: "In the days of the apostles there were no human societies formed through which Christians worked to forward the work of the Master. There was none needed then, and they are not needed now. Let the institution the Lord built, the church, function as she should, and there will be done the work the Lord commanded. Just what is the matter with the thinking of a man, or body of men, when they think, with their human wisdom, they can form a society which can do better work, more efficient work, than the church of the Lord?" I am opposed to these human missionary societies, but I endorse the work they propose—preaching the gospel. Each year I have a part in missionary work, helping to preach the gospel in places where the church does not exist, and assisting weak congregations that are not able to finance the needed work in their places.

It is clearly within the right of an individual to start a school in which he teaches the Bible along with other subjects, and he has the right to demand that those who matriculate in his school recite at least one lesson in the Bible each day. One individual, or group of individuals, may operate such a school, and teach the Bible in connection with the subjects required by all colleges that become members of the college association of our country. Physical development is necessary; every one should strive to have a well-rounded body to be the home and instrument of a consecrated spirit. Recreation is also necessary to the best work of men; but it is not in keeping with the purpose of the church of Christ—the Lord did not build his church to develop men and women physically. It is not within the right of the church to take its money and spend it, or place it in the hands of men who will spend it, in maintaining athletics in a college, or teaching the branches called "science" in the college curriculum. The impression being made by some, and entertained by some, that Christian colleges are the property of the church of Christ throughout the world, or of a local congregation, is a mistake. There is no such college controlled by the church of Christ, or by any local congregation of Christians. No one congregation can name any tangible assets it has in a Christian college. Christian colleges are controlled by a board of regents, or board of directors; and though they are Christians, they are selected from different sections of the country, and in their activities in connection with the college, the board is not the church, nor can it act for the church. By New Testament authority there can be no such centralization of power in the church, or work of the church, as is proposed by the Christian college. Numbers of brethren throughout the country think it out of harmony with righteousness for an individual, or group of brethren, to start a school, and then when they find they are involved, financially, to declare the college belongs to the brethren, and they must save it!

Numbers of congregations last year did not adequately support the preacher who assisted them in meetings—at least, congregations said they did not; and some congregations are not now employing a man to preach for them regularly, and numbers of them that have a man laboring with them "full time" have reduced the salary. The work of preaching the gospel is of first importance—it is absolutely necessary to the salvation of the world. Lack of finances is hampering the work of the church along this line. At best, I do not think we give as much of our money to the work of the church as we should (in this I may be wrong); but most members give to the church work, and give regularly. If a congregation gives a sum of money to a Christian college with the thought that it is doing church work, you will certainly find the contributions for local gospel work and missionary work cut down.

It is my persuasion that if Christian colleges will make their appeals for help to individuals—and they have a right to do that—their troubles will soon be over, and local congregations will not suffer.

If I am correctly informed, brother J. P. Sewell, while serving as president of Abilene Christian College, refused to accept a contribution made by a congregation of Christians at its hour of worship—a contribution sent from the church treasury.

Two years of the hardest work of my life I was connected with a Christian college, and I am as heartily in sympathy with, and in favor of, the work of such schools as I was then; but I am unable to place the work of running or supporting such a school as the work of the church of Christ. The church was not brought into existence for such work, nor does such work come within the realm of the activity of the church. It is a work, a good work, that individuals may engage in. It is not the work of the church.

I advise both The Advocate and The Review not to try to pen brother Nichol and the "Sommerites" together. If they want to try it, I will enjoy the fracas. If brother Brewer wants to help them, he had better put on some old clothes he is willing to discard after the fight is over, and he needn't bother to comb his hair before he starts. It so happens that my father's picture appears on the same page of the same issue of The Advocate with brother Nichol's article. They were life-long friends. He occupied the same position all his life, was a friend of the schools, and incidentally read and approved the articles I wrote on this question during the late fight. Nobody ever accused him of being a "Sommerite" that I ever heard of. The then editor of The Advocate made this comment on the Nichol article:

Brethren Hinds and Nichol are agreed and have set forth the only position scripturally defensible or consistent with the opposition that has been maintained against societies, organizations, and numerous other infringements upon the local church. If brethren everywhere could be made to see these distinctions and thus differentiate, it would not only save embarrassment to the church, but also be of profit to the schools.

In contrast to this very reasonable and scriptural attitude, it is reported that the present president of David Lipscomb College, declared that he would not have a man on his faculty that opposed churches making contributions to colleges. A nationally known colored preacher has been addressing huge mass meetings in Texas in support of a fund raising campaign for a colored school. He is reported to have ridiculed the idea that a church cannot give money to a school. His point seems to have been that the school is the church at work, and the church is doing its own work when it is financing a school. I do not blame the colored brother. He didn't know any better.

Finally, brother John T. Hinds, the editor of the Gospel Advocate, immediately preceding brother Goodpasture, advocated the same position regarding churches and schools that brother Nichol did in his article. I suppose that means that the Gospel Advocate is "A Johnny Come Lately" out of "Sommerism." The present editor of The Advocate seems to be so confused, it may be that he doesn't know where he is or where he came from.