Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 1, 1968
NUMBER 13, PAGE 3b,6

This Evil Charge: Partyism

William E. Wallace

Satan is at work to dampen the spirits of enthusiasts for Christ; to dim the enlightenment of sticklers for soundness; to quench the fires of fervency for right. The devil has many devices at his disposal. He has a storehouse of wiles. He is shrewd. He is cunning.

Satan has struck within us with the cry of "partyism." He has afflicted some with the idea that if they love the church like Christ loved it they are guilty of partyism. He has contaminated some with the idea that to be intensely loyal to the church is to relegate Christ to a secondary position. A few who have ceased to be led by the Spirit are now led by the devil to assert that we ought to preach Christ but not the church, as if we could do one without the other, or do with one without the other.

This evil charge of partyism is parallel to some things in the political world. If a man is possessed with an old-fashioned patriotism for his country he is accused of being a nationalist. If he professes a genuine appreciation for the state in which he resides he is apt to be accused of being a "states righter." If he contends for conformity to the Constitution of The United States of America he is considered as extreme "right winger." If he demands constitutional freedom in buying and selling, in religion, and in social associations he is labeled a bigot, or a racist.

So with the world, so in the church. We can understand why adversaries like Tertullus (Acts 24:2-5) would classify the church as a party or sect. The attitude of the Jews in Rome in referring to the church as a sect (Acts 28:22) is understandable. Apostates or folks who "went out from us, but they were not of us" (I John 2:19) can be expected to sing a song of contempt for us to the tune of partyism. We have become accustomed to hearing "partyism" music from the fringe area — from those who dance around the edge of brotherhood circles, sometimes stepping outside into denominational associations, sometimes stepping inside in apparent fellowship with churches of Christ. In this category we would list those like Leroy Garrett, Carl Ketcherside, Robert Meyers. When we hear of the work of these men, and those like them, when we read from them or hear them, we naturally expect the partyism motif to be held up against us.

But the song of partyism seems strange when it comes from the lips of these we have known to be sound, and who are generally understood to be respected in the brotherhood which is rightfully identified with the one you read about in I Peter 2:17. It would appear that some among us would challenge our love of the brotherhood as being partyism. If we express in our zeal a love for the body of Christ or an affection for the brotherhood of sound Christians we subject ourselves to the cry of "partyism." It occurs to me that those who cry "partyism" have been possessed with a disease and they think everyone else has it.

This cry of partyism is not new. We have already mentioned the charge or attitude which confronted Paul. We call to witness also the voice of history where the faithful few in a Roman Catholic world were considered an intolerable sect. Recall also the situation in the last half of the nineteenth century when those who rejected the missionary society and instrumental music were burdened with such labels as the anti-society party, or anti-instrument party. At the turn of the 20th century the "party" was relatively small, yet it stood in identification with the church you read about in the New Testament. The fight of our fathers against those innovations which created The Christian Church and The Disciples of Christ groups was considered to be prompted by a party spirit. The "party" was considered to be an alignment with papers and personnel which were prominent in the opposition. The church of Christ as we know it today owes its existence to the so-called "partyism" of what was considered an "opposition party."

Of course the "partyism" was really and actually a genuine contention for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). And so it is today. The perpetuation of the church as a sizeable body in and through the previous generation depended on the contention of our fathers. Now it depends on us. A few who have succumbed to the wiles of the devil have begun criticizing the idea of preaching the church, or carrying the church to the world (spreading the borders of the kingdom). They advise preaching Christ without the church as if we could separate the Saviour from the body which is his, for which he died, and which he loves. These fellows would have written the New Testament much differently than it appears if they had been chosen for the task.

We all realize that there is much among us calculated to bring consternation. But there is nothing wrong with God's system. And the church is His system. There is much in the papers which ought not to be in them. There are some policies, attitudes and functions in publishing houses schools and other private enterprises to which criticism is due to be directed. Further, it is certainly true that some may be more loyal to a charismatic leader, a paper, a school, or a human institution then they are to either Christ or the church. But loyalty to the fight against the institutional and sponsoring church errors of the day is not a matter of partyism. Our opposition to the adulterating influences of unscriptural church function is not partyism. Our fight is not one over pseudo-issues and does not arise from a party spirit. We expect such charges from liberals and compromisers. We resent such charges from those who are supposed to be with us in carrying of the torch of New Testament Christianity through this generation to another.

The devil has gotten into some men I know, and has cooled their fervor for things right He found a weakness in these individuals somewhere and moved in. I think these brethren are strong enough to kick the devil out of the house and get back in the swim, of the great fight for right. As for me and my house, we resolve to continue to fight against the liberalism of our day and we'll try to remember what Paul said: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." (I Cor. 11:12).