Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 27, 1968

An Invitation To Affirm A Negative

Fred A. Shewmaker

In an article printed in the May 23, 1968 Gospel Guardian brother Cecil B. Douthitt very forcefully showed the problems involved in the "box in the vestibule" proposal. I sincerely appreciate the fact that brother Tant published the article and did so, on the front page. But at the same time I was sadly disappointed at brother Tant's reply.

Brother Tant has in effect invited those of us who oppose the "box in the vestibule" to affirm the negative position which we hold. He extented the invitation in the form of two questions. "Conceding freely and with full agreement that the plan is NOT IDEAL, we still ask, is it unscriptural? Does it violate any teaching of Christ or the apostles?" (emph. his) It would be much better if brother Tant would forthrightly affirm his affirmative position instead of trying to draw the negative into an affirmation. All that he needs to do to establish the "box in the vestibule" is to show that it is scriptural, that it is approved by the teachings of Christ or the apostles.

Advocates of every idea contrary to sound doctrine invariably ask the same questions. "What is wrong with it?" "Where does it say not to do it?" Brethren have just as invariably pointed out that this question is the wrong approach to the problem. We ask, "What is right about it?" "Where does it say to do it?" Now that should get us going on to the expressway via the on ramp instead of the off ramp.

Brother Tant envisions brethren who oppose the support of human institutions, sponsoring churches, and recreational activities from the treasury of the church as being able to "sincerely and truly act in good faith" when they agree to put the "box in the vestibule." That is quite a vision! How can we act in faith to do a thing which is not authorized in "the faith once for all delivered unto the saints?" Brother Tant, my opposition to the "box in the vestibule" is on the same ground as my opposition to making contributions from the treasury of the church to human institutions, sponsoring churches, and recreational activities.

There are only two reasons for me to oppose anything as a religious practice. 1. If it is specifically forbidden by the word of God. 2. If it is neither specifically nor generically authorized by the word of God.

Now we can get right down to the point at issue in this discussion of the "box in the vestibule." 1. It is not specifically forbidden. I do not oppose it on that basis. 2. It is not specifically authorized. Brother Tant does not advocate it on that basis. 3. Therefore brother Tant undoubtedly feels that it is generically authorized. What he needs to do is to explain to us his readers how it is that the word of God generically authorizes the "box in the vestibule." Frankly, I suggest that if he cannot or will not do that he should quit advocating its use.

We have challenged the religious world to examine our teaching and practice. We have ever promised to show from Holy Scripture that our practice is authorized or we will cease to practice that which we do not find authorized and count the one who pointed out our mistake an honored friend.

Where is the authority for the "box in the vestibule?" That is all we need and we will either buy one, build one, or get some brother or sister to donate one and then put it to use. But if an addressed envelope, as brother Tant suggested, it would be very little more difficult to reduce the size of the contribution by six cents, stamp the envelope, and drop it into the red, white, and blue box on the street. Brother Tant has reduced his "box in the vestibule" proposal to the fantastic problem of to stamp or not to stamp an envelope.

The discussion that has arisen over the "box in the vestibule" has brought to my mind another question. Can the individual child of God lend financial support to institutions, arrangements, and activities which solicit and/or accept the involvement of the local church in that which she is not authorized by the word of God to be involved? Would the individual who makes such a contribution be guilty of sin or not?

Those institutions, arrangements, and activities which involve the church in unauthorized action are doing evil. I do not believe that we as individuals may support evil doers. (III John 11) Neither do I believe that we can bid "God speed" to those individuals who support the evil doers. (II John 9-11) It is certain that we cannot do so by faith.

Would to God that brethren would quit advocating practices which have as their only supports the two broken reeds: "What is wrong with it?" And, where does it say not to do it?"

In writing this I have tried to make each point as clear and sharp as it is possible for me to do. I have taken pains to do this because I have a sincere love for brother Tant. On this issue I believe he is "grasping for a straw in the wind." Love demands that we do all within our power to call him back to reality. Let us not abandon the fight for truth and right!

Brother Tant entitled his article "Is Peace Possible?" YES! peace is possible. But it is possible only on the basis of the age old battle cry BOOK, CHAPTER, AND VERSE! We can strike hands there. We can be equally yoked THERE. We can face the sun of earthly life in pleasant anticipation of the eternal day — THERE!!

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