Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 19, 1968
NUMBER 20, PAGE 4-5c-6a

Three Stages Of Strategy


Hoyt H. Houchen

The devil has always employed the use of strategy to perpetrate his work. Cunningly, he has been able to deceive man into thinking that what he proposes to him is for his good. The subtle serpent in Gen. 3 approached Eve upon the proposition that if she would eat of the tree in the midst of the garden, contrary to God's decree, she would not die, but her eyes would be opened and she would be as God, "knowing good and evil." Satan's devices are many and we need to be reminded of them and warned. Apprehension on the part of Paul was expressed when he wrote to his brethren at Corinth, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ." (II Cor. 11:3).

Repeatedly, we have stated that history repeats itself. Better evaluation can be made and a more perspective view can be had of present day issues when we look objectively to the past.

Controversies arose over the missionary society and mechanical instruments of music in worship during the middle of the last century. Private and written discussions were engaged in at first, such proponents of the society as W. K. Pendleton, Isaac Errett, and J. H. Garrison voicing their sentiments; on the other hand, brethren such as Benjamin Franklin, David Lipscomb, and Tolbert Fanning were heard in their opposition to the society. Strong articles appeared in the Gospel Advocate in 1867 by Lipscomb. He contended that the society was substitute for the church and "to operate through an institution of man's devising in preference to the church of God is, in our esteem, to exalt man as of superior wisdom and power of God." (Gospel Advocate, Feb. 7, 1867) p. 115. The pages of the Advocate were open for controversy. Lipscomb engaged in written discussions with Thomas Munnell, once corresponding secretary for the American Christian Missionary Society. The proposition of societies to do the work of the church was debated. The same was true of the music question. W. W. Otey met J. B. Briney on "Instrumental Music" and "The Societies" in Louisville, Kentucky, Sept. 14-18, 1908. The first stage of the strategy upon the part of those who had digressed from the truth was to defend their practices in debate.

Within a few years advocates of the societies and mechanical instruments of music in worship were not so disposed to engage in polemics. It was obvious to them that this realm would not serve their best interests, so controversies were not so numerous. Unable to justify their innovations with scripture, they withdrew from the arena of dispute. "Anti" brethren, those opposed to their human implements of God's work and worship were relegated as those who did not believe in progress and that if ignored, ostracized, and boycotted, in due time they would "die out." This writer and scores of other preachers have been subjected to this kind of treatment in several places. During the six years that we were at Abilene, Texas we were able to have only one forum discussion on present day issues that divide us and that one gave complete satisfaction. We could not get another one. We were able to have one or two private discussions. In both the public and private discussions, we did not engage in bitterness but manifested a kind spirit to which tapes and witnesses will testify. It has always been apparent that when errorists could not defend their doctrines and practices, they have chosen not to debate, they do not believe in it. Being void of scripture and therefore defenseless the clich that "a muley cow does not believe in hooking" is well illustrated. Stage two in the strategy of the innovationists has been to look away and wishfully think that the little disturbing remnant will "die on the vine."

As in the past there has not been accomplished what the brethren in error had supposed and for which they had hoped. Congregations engaging in pure worship and work began to grow as brethren intensified their efforts to save souls and establish congregations after the New Testament order. Within recent years congregations have been established all over the nation and at present there are not enough preachers to work with these faithful churches. About two decades ago, during the forward march of those who employ the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, they paused to take a second look at the "anti" folks and the growth of these brethren was so shocking that measures were taken to talk things over with them. Several of us recall the so-called Witty-Murch "Unity" movement which was concocted in Detroit less than twenty years ago. Obvious to all the Christian Church had no intention to surrender instrumental music in worship. It turned out to be nothing less than an effort to soften the attitude of those who opposed their practices. They had everything to gain and nothing to lose by this effort. Stage three in the strategy of those who have replaced what God has authorized with their own inventions is to meet around the "peace" table.

This article is not written for the purpose of discouraging any sincere effort to discuss differences among our brethren or anyone else. This we have tried to make clear, in that this scribe and scores of others have attempted to bring about such discussions. Any gospel preacher should be anxious and willing to enter into public or private discussions upon issues that divide. Lines of communication should be kept open, but a word of caution is in order. Unity did not result with the Christian Church and the reason that it did not is because the Christian Church was unwilling to give up its practices for which there is no scriptural authority. Announcing their meetings and ceasing to fairly brand them for what they are will not achieve unity with that group or any other group that engages in activities for which there is no "thus saith the Lord." It was not the brethren who opposed the societies and mechanical instruments of music who were bitter and who had to change their attitude in order to accomplish unity; it was a question as to whether the digressives would give up their unscriptural practices. That was the issue and that is the issue now. We believe that we stand upon the ground of truth, having book, chapter, and verse, for what we are doing and if those who have departed from the New Testament pattern are interested in unity, then let them produce the scripture for what they are doing. They have been unable to produce the scripture and until they do, we shall remain divided. It is that simple.

Human devices have made their encroachments upon spiritual Zion and they have corrupted God's simple arrangement for preaching the gospel and caring for the needy. The social gospel, sponsoring church and benevolent institution idols have become dearer to some than their brethren for whom Christ died. They will bow down before the shrine of these idols before they will give them up and return to God's way. Yes, may we ever keep lines of communication open, but let us also be cautious that we do not allow ourselves to be emotionally swayed and give over so much as an inch of the truth upon which we stand and for which we have fought so hard.

— 3701 E. 29th Street, Odessa, Texas