Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 25, 1969
NUMBER 21, PAGE 4-5a


Slogans And Catch - Words

This is an age of slogans, mottoes, catch-words and tricky phrases. Every group has them. Madison Avenue has made the advertising slogan a basic element in the American culture... ("things go better with Coke"; "smokers had rather fight than switch," "We try harder," etc.). Through the ages great wars have been fought, great religious crusades motivated and carried through, huge movements of civilization crystallized and formulated by slogans. Our older readers may well recall Woodrow Wilson's idealistic banner with which he brought the United States into the great World War I; we were going to "Make the world safe for democracy." And while none of us now living was a participant in it, our history books give a spine-tingling account of how our nation was stirred almost to the point of armed conflict with Britain by the ringing declaration of "Fifty-four forty, or fight!" (High school history students will get the connection; to the others, it really isn't important.)

Take a look at the following brave affirmations and see how they strike you: "We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world . . . the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried." "The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought necessary or requisite to salvation." "We speak where the Bible speaks; and remain silent where the Bible is silent."

They sound pretty good. The first quotation is from Pendleton's Manual for Baptist Churches, the second is from the Articles of Religion of the Episcopal Church (Article VI, which is repeated as Article V in the Methodist Discipline.) The third, of course, is from Thomas Campbell's famous "Declaration and Address," and is beyond question the most familiar catch-word of the entire Restoration Movement.

These are noble sentiments. But do they mean what they say? Well, they do to the people who use them. For each group will interpret the statement, or phrase or motto, to mean what he wants it to mean. There is the tendency to play games with words, to give new meanings to old terms, new slants to ancient mottoes, new significances to age-worn phrases. And it all adds up to: Men will believe, and do, and practice what they want to believe and practice . . . and will constantly re-interpret their mottoes so as to give justification to what they are doing.

All of which points up the imperative necessity for simple honesty in dealing with the Holy Scriptures. This is the word of God, given by a Heavenly Father, for the purpose of revealing (not concealing!) what he wants from the children of men. It requires no special "key", no set of "authorized interpreters", no super natural "illumination" to be understood. There are no tricks of semantics. It is a simple setting forth of divine truth, and is given that men may understand and obey the will of God.

We have lately been reading some reports of the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention held in New Orleans last July. Baptists will grow almost belligerent in denying that there is any such thing as "The Baptist Church"; there are only Baptist Churches (congregations). And no body of people has been more insistent on congregational autonomy and congregational independence than have the Baptists. But, alas! independence and autonomy are lovely words . . . and words only! . . . in the sad experience of many a Baptist church which has failed to follow the "recommendations" of its convention. All sorts of pressure are brought to bear to bring the reluctant congregation into line.

Churches of Christ these last few years have shown a remarkable agility in aping the pressure tactics of our Baptist friends, and the preachments on congregational independence and autonomy have almost appeared to be in inverse ratio to the practice of such noble concepts ... the louder the preaching, the less the practice. While giving great swelling words of commendation and approbation for "congregational autonomy" the promoters of gigantic brotherhood projects have been at times ruthless in their castigation of those congregations which opposed their pet schemes. They preach congregational independence, and practice pressure tactics against churches trying to exercise such independence. It reminds me of what Ira A. Douthitt once said about the Christian colleges soliciting and accepting contributions from the churches. Said Douthitt, "They all do it; and they all deny it!"

We think it might be a healthy thing if all of us would take time out to analyze our slogans. Do we really and truly accept them in their historic significance, or have we given new meanings to the words? The Missionary Society is a prime case in point. Churches of Christ (anti-Missionary Society Churches of Christ) these past twenty years have developed a considerable number of "things" which to practically all outside observers are indistinguishable from the Missionary Societies of a few decades back. And the more nearly our modern promotions have repeated the basic principles of the Societies, the more our preachers have inveighed against the evils of "the Missionary Society!!"

The name of the game is . . . name it something else.

— F. Y. T.