Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 18, 1968
NUMBER 11, PAGE 4-5a

Let's Shoot The Stars Again

F. Y. T.

"And when neither sun nor stars shone upon us for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was now taken away." Students of the Bible will recognize the quotation as coming from the story of Paul's turbulent voyage to Rome. Blotting out of both sun and stars left the ancient sea-faring men helpless insofar as navigation was concerned. It was customary after one of these storms (the one described by Luke lasted for fourteen days) to bring out compass and sextant and "shoot the stars" — that is, take a sighting on one of the fixed stars, and by careful calculation, determine the precise location of the ship.

We think the time has come to "shoot the stars" once again in the murky skies of doctrinal dissent and division which have engulfed the Lord's church these past few years. The "ship of Zion" has been tossed to and fro, driven before the gales, twisted and buffeted by violent winds of controversy and strife. It is hardly to be wondered at that thousands of simple Christians may have become confused and bewildered by it all. Particularly is this true when the most skilful and elaborate devices have been used at times to create a FALSE picture, and to portray the whole battle as simply arising over "opinions of men," or worse still, over somebody's "ambition for leadership."

We have been amazed, for example, to find out how many honest and sincere Christians have actually been led to believe that certain other Christians are "opposed to orphan children being cared for," and firmly believe that division exists among God's people because there are some "who don't believe in church cooperation." It is astounding (and tragic) to find these grotesque ideas actually being held and taught by many intelligent, cultured, and dedicated gospel preachers! A new generation has come along since the controversy began to gather steam in the late 1940's over the problem of church support for secular colleges — specifically for Abilene Christian College. When that thrust was blunted, the battle-ground shifted rapidly to the orphan home issue, then to Herald of Truth, and from that into the social gospel with its emphasis on "this world" projects.

It was in May, 1956, that the Gospel Guardian came out with its first great "Special Issue" setting forth clearly the causes for the developing division, and pointing out some of the consequences that might be expected if the "sponsoring church" and "social gospel" concepts were not eliminated. It is a sad fact, but too obvious now to be gainsaid by anyone, that we were far too conservative in our predictions. The frightening things we thought might develop in twenty to fifty years came upon us in less than a decade! And even the strongest supporter of "Herald of Truth" a dozen years ago would have heatedly denied that his project would EVER reach the place it now holds among the churches.

Several thoughtful brethren have suggested to us that it might be wise and timely to re state the case — to go over once again the background of the present controversy, the TRUE issues involved, and point out precisely and specifically WHAT is objected to, and WHY it is opposed. So many millions of words have been written and spoken these last twenty years on the points at issue, so many misconceptions have been generated over false issues, surely it is high time to "shoot the stars" again, and learn exactly where we are.

As a beginning in that direction we print this week the first in a series of two articles by Brother Robert H. Farish entitled, "WHEN IS A NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLE BINDING?" This is one of the points at issue; this is one of the focal areas of conflict. The battle has raged over this — and a whole lot of it has been but noise and confusion! The significance of this contention has lain in the fact that the only "examples" we have in the New Testament of congregations co-operating with one another in any circumstance involving money going from one church to another showed the receiving church as an object of charity — a church "in need". And once the "need" had been met and thus "equality" established, there were no continuing contributions. The sponsoring church brethren have readily admitted this, but have strongly contended that "this example is not binding", and "there is no pattern" for church cooperation. The churches are to cooperate simply because the task is too great for any single one of them, but the mechanics of the co-operation, the machinery for it, the "HOW" is not given. Therefore, any plan or arrangement which does not violate the autonomy of any local church is right and permissible. So goes the argument.

Brother Farish's excellent articles will do much to put this question back in proper perspective. Read them carefully and prayerfully. Incidentally, the two articles are in tract form; they make a highly profitable and readable tract for widespread distribution. The price is fifteen cents each; $12.50 one hundred.