Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 26, 1951
NUMBER 50, PAGE 1,3b

The Right Of Opinion -- No. 2

W. W. Otey, Belle Plaine, Kansas

Brethren may reason themselves into the "weak faith" that "any good work may scripturally be supported from the Lord's treasury," as some are now contending. Teaching the Bible in a school is a good work. Therefore, it is argued, schools that teach some Bible should be supported from the Lord's treasury. But such a faith is not a gospel faith, because supporting a school is not authorized in the Bible either by command or by approved example. On the basis of the liberty taught in Romans 14, individual Christians certainly have the liberty to support good schools that teach some Bible. But they most certainly do not have a New Testament right or liberty to impose such upon others; and beyond all question have no grant from the word of the Lord to incorporate it into the church. Such a claim opens the door of the church undertaking the support from the Lord's treasury of any organization or enterprise that performs any good work. Why pious, good men fail to see this truth, and why ambitious men are not deterred from thrusting into the church the support of human institutions, is amazing.

For decades we have successfully established and undoubtedly defended the truth that the church cannot be scripturally connected with, or function through, any human organization. While individuals may aid in many good causes, the church moves alone in its congregational capacity. Shall we now make the church an adjunct to some human institution? Or shall we adopt some human institution as an adjunct to the church? Is the church of the Lord so weak and defective that we must supply it with a humanly formed crutch? A good man who has recently taken up a highly important work in publishing the gospel says, "I wonder if the Lord is not more concerned about our motive than about our method." Possibly that is what Nadab and Abihu thought when they offered strange fire. Perhaps that is what David thought when he put the ark of the covenant on a new cart instead of on the shoulders of the priests. There is not a line in the Bible that can be reasonably construed as meaning that God has not always been concerned about our method, or how we do things, as well as about what we do.

Modern "Trends"

Pious, zealous elders of a local congregation may reason themselves into a faith that they may plan a great enterprise, engage workers, send them into a field, solicit contributions from a large number of distant congregations, and they themselves take the sole management and control of the funds thus gathered. But such a "faith" is not produced by any direct command or approved example in the New Testament authorizing such a set-up. It is a plan for extending the kingdom of the Lord. The work is glorious beyond human comprehension. But it is a set-up that should be given the most serious consideration. If the scope of the work expands, how long can such an arrangement be kept in the control of the local congregation?

All great departures from the New Testament order of things have originated with good, pious men, who began an almost indistinct "trend" from the straight line of the gospel. This writer attended some local, weak movements called "Cooperation Meetings." He watched those almost imperceptible "trends" grow into an ironclad ecclesiasticism called "The United Society" of the Disciples' Church. Sixty years ago, when this writer first became acquainted with the "trends," few men were wise enough to foresee what would be the full maturity of such a small, insignificant divergence from the New Testament model. Having observed for more than sixty years the growth of apparently harmless "trends" till they became pronounced serious departures from the word of the Lord, I would respectfully but with all the earnestness of my soul, urge elders and brethren everywhere to seriously review the present "trend" toward centralized control of mission works. Is it not far safer for control of these mission funds to be on a basis that will conform to every principle of scripture truth? Will not such a course allay the fears and the apprehensions of a multitude of brethren?

I fear that many do not realize the full extent of the unrest among many of the most faithful and zealous members of the church today. If the present centralized arrangements (by which many churches turn over their funds to be managed and spent by one church in some foreign field) are strictly scriptural, and just such as have been generally believed to be in harmony with New Testament commands and approved examples—if this is true, as some are affirming, why then this sudden widespread and serious disturbance about the methods being employed? It would be interesting if someone would offer a reasonable explanation why such a sudden and great disturbance has shaken the church if nothing new has made its appearance. Will someone offer an explanation?

Brethren who claim great liberty to stress with tongue and pen, in season and out of season, their questionable matters, become extremely sensitive to any criticism, however mild and respectfully it may be offered. They seem to think they have every right to exploit their "weak faith," or opinion, it matters not how much disturbance may result. Shall they be permitted to enter congregations and stress their "weak faith" to the division of the church? The Holy Spirit did not leave that question unanswered. Continuing the same problem raised in Romans 14, Paul goes on in the sixteenth chapter to say, "Now, I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned; and turn away from them." No plainer command is found in all the New Testament than that which is here given. Elders who have been given the oversight of the flock, and who must give an account, should take heed to their responsibility.

We build according to the plain "pattern" the Lord has revealed in the New Testament, or else we start a seeming harmless "trend" that will in the end mature into another denomination. We have not only the word of the Lord to warn us, but we have the very recent apostasy of the Disciples' Church to show us just how dangerous a "trend' may be.