Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 19, 1951
NUMBER 49, PAGE 4-5b

Voice Of The Turtle


"For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell." (Song of Solomon 2:11-13)

After a rather cold and stormy winter, there are definite signs that spring is in the air. The wintry skies have given way to blue; the cold blasts have diminished in violence. The clouds that have hovered over the landscape are being gradually dissipated and driven away, and the clear warm light of the sun is beginning to shine through.

Lest someone mistake this for a weather report, let us hasten to say that we are talking about the issues before the church, and not the state of the elements. For well over a year now the Gospel Guardian has been engaged in a relentless campaign to warn and caution against certain trends and tendencies within the church —drifts which to us have appeared dangerous and ominous. Our warnings precipitated a veritable deluge of discussion, argumentation, assertion, explanation, accusation and denial, charge and counter-charge, with an entirely too generous admixture of vituperation (which latter we are happy to report we were the recipients of rather than the dishers out of).

Clearing Skies

But at long last, just as the sunshine of spring follows the clouds of winter, the light is breaking through and the skies are clearing. The issue is becoming apparent to a growing multitude of thinking brethren; thousands who have been confused are now beginning to realize what the shouting (and the shooting) has been all about.

We certainly aren't inclined to contend that the Guardian has been entirely without fault in the matter of confusion and uncertainty which has plagued the brethren these past months. Probably in spite of our best efforts we have done a very poor job of setting forth in clear-cut and simple language what the issue truly is. We've done our best always to speak with simplicity and clarity, and to sharpen and define just exactly "what it is all about;" but, even so, we've probably fallen far short of what other and abler hands might have done.

But, if we may do so without appearing captious, we would like to say in self defense that some of the other (and older) brethren and journals seem to us to have contributed very, very little toward a clarification of the issues. Their greatest contribution has been to promote confusion rather than clarification. Until, for instance, we produced uncontrovertible, undeniable, documented proof from their own statements and reports issued by some of the "centralized control" congregations, the Firm Foundation was much inclined to pooh-pooh the whole matter, and dismiss it airily with a wave of the hand, denying that there was any such thing in existence, or in prospect, as "centralized control." The editor of that good journal wrote several editorials trying to set forth "what it is all about," which served no useful purpose that we could see other than to demonstrate rather clearly that he didn't know. But, even so, the articles and editorials that were published did have some effect in confusing the minds of some brethren and generally beclouding the issue.

Then other journals, notably the Gospel Advocate, labored under the wildly mistaken delusion that the Guardian was warning against "congregational cooperation," and went to work with vim and fury to show how right and how scriptural it is for congregations to "cooperate" with one another. There were some rather pointed remarks about "self-righteous snobs," "factionists," "carping critics,'' etc., aimed in our direction. So far as we know, nobody has ever dreamed of denying or even questioning that it is right for churches to cooperate. Certainly we have never taken such an absurd position. Nor do we think that in even our most careless statements we have ever written a word that could honestly be so taken.

Not This — But This

Little by little, through all the words and wanderings about, the real issue has come into focus. Increasingly it is the case that thinking brethren understand that the Guardian has not "opposed a good work such as caring for orphan children, preaching the gospel abroad, or providing children with a Christian education." (See Overflow) Only the willfully ignorant or the malicious would so charge. The thing that is crystal-clear now is that the Guardian has been warning against certain methods being used in these good works—methods which were dragging the church irresistibly into an unscriptural INSTITUTIONALISM—i.e. the "e;caring of orphan children" through some charitable organization separate and apart from the church; "preaching the gospel abroad" through two or three national "Boards of Elders" overseeing the work of hundreds of churches rather than through the elderships of the churches supporting the work; "providing children with a Christian education" by tying schools and colleges into the church and making these institutions adjuncts to the church rather than to the home. These methods have been opposed; the work has not been opposed.

Yes, the voice of the turtle is being heard in our land; the clouds of doubt, misunderstanding, and suspicion are being blown away. Brethren are increasingly able to discuss the issue now free from the fog and dust which have hitherto beclouded it. If honest differences there are to be, we can at least define the area of difference; we can discuss these differences as brethren in Christ, bringing to bear all the light, scripture, wisdom, learning, and logic at our command. Earnest and brotherly discussions of the real issue can bring good and only good. Discussions of false issues, and un-Christian discussions of true issues can bring only harm.

— F. Y. T.