Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 6, 1970
NUMBER 12, PAGE 41-42

Questions And Answers

Send All Questions To: Eugene Britnell, P.O. Box 3012, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203

From Oneonta, Alabama:

(Note: The following letter was addressed to brother Tant. He wrote a personal reply and then sent the letter to me with the suggestion that it would be profitable material for this column. E. B.)

"A good friend of mine and I were discussing recently the nature of the present division within the Church of Christ, and possible ways to heal and mend the tear. Since both of us have many associations with brethren of both sides, we are aware of the prominent attitudes held by each, and we have concluded that errors exist on both sides in all situations about which we know the details. And we are sure that neither side is happy with a divided brotherhood.

"We have wondered about the possibilities of a 'compromise' such as has been used in one area. And this is: Each person gives to the general fund that is collected each Sunday which is used to pay the preacher, do mission work, pay utilities, etc. In the Sunday school classes, another collection is taken, from which is sent to an orphan home a very small amount, flowers are paid for, and other acts of benevolence are taken care of. Of course, there is no requirement for the latter. It is a matter of the free will. If others wish to give to orphans in other ways, they do so as they wish.

"In the interest of peace and unity, how would this work out? Would it be accepted?

"Both of us agree that no amount of hate can unite us. It must be done through brotherly love. In spite of some possible objections, we do not feel that the above proposal denies the Lordship and Rulership of Jesus.

"We feel one of the saddest facts known to us about brethren who support orphan homes, etc., is that they are not looking for alternatives which would both heal the division and do the work of benevolence, etc. And so, if the above proposal is accepted, we could call upon all these to seek for this alternative or others.

"To be briefer and to state our question in concise terms, why can we not assemble together and work together, but at the same time, allow each of us to act as he sees fit, particularly as stated in the above example?"

The Bible says, "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" (Romans 14:19). In the language of another passage, this simply means that we should "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). The apostle also said, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (I Cor. 1:10) Our desire for the peace which is described in the first two verses, must not cause us to violate that which is involved in the last verse. It does not allow unity in diversity, as some seem to believe; at least, not the unity of the Spirit or that which belongs in the realm of faith.

I certainly encourage any reasonable and scriptural efforts toward unity and peace in a congregation. I realize that there is a realm of opinion, and I endorse the slogan of the restoration era, "in matters of opinion, liberty" as a safe criterion. I also understand that it is difficult to set a standard which is applicable to all congregations and situations.

I question all intra-congregation organizations and works on the same basis that I oppose inter-congregational organizations. In many churches today, classes have their own projects, officers and treasuries. I find no scriptural authority for such. Some people deny that the church can have a treasury, and others feel that it can have many. It is my understanding that the members of a congregation may contribute into and maintain a common treasury (e.g. I Cor. 16:2). This treasury is under the oversight of the elders, as is the church and its work. Any work of the church may be supported from this treasury.

But what about these other treasuries within a congregation? Are they under the oversight of the elders? If classes and groups may function apart from the church and the elders, just how much of the work of the church could they take over? And if these projects do not come within the purview of the church and its work, why are they connected with the church in any way?

The practice which we are discussing is the same as the "box-in-the-vestibule" practice. While I appreciate the sincerity of those who have proposed this as a possible solution to the problem in many congregations, I doubt that it is. In the first place, I have never understood why those who desire to support a certain work cannot do so directly without involving the church in any sense — vestibule and all. This reminds me of the annual problem which many have with the United Fund. The ardent supporters of the U. F. seem to feel that your contribution to some worthy work, made directly by you, is not as effective as it would be if given through the Fund. But why not? If I desire to contribute to the Heart Fund, I can do so directly and without contributing into a fund out of which some objectionable works are financed. We do not ask the U. F. to set up another fund or treasury into which those of us who cannot support doctrinal error may contribute. We just leave them alone and contribute directly. Likewise, why should we expect the church to furnish the means, or become involved in any sense, in our support of works which some in the church oppose? If I want to support some college or benevolent work — or anything else — I can do so directly without offending anyone or involving the church or any other Christian in any way. And if it is not a work of the church, or some in the congregation feel that it isn't, that is exactly what I should do!

It is my conviction that the "box-in-the-vestibule" or any separate treasury which is kept before the church is an obvious sign of division, and a perpetual source of agitation and strife. Imagine, if you can, a separate coh lection box in the building with First Corinthians 1:10 written out on it!

I'm sure that error (in doctrine and/or attitude) exists on both sides, and I do not oppose "looking for alternatives which would heal the division." However, I don't believe that such can be found in compromise: this is only "symptomatic relief" (as the drug makers would express it) of the problem.

To all who would ENDEAVOR to keep the "unity of the Spirit," the solution seems so simple. Let the church be the church and do the work of the church. If a brother cannot prove by the Bible (and to the satisfaction of those who contribute into the church treasury) that what he desires to support is a work of the church, then let him support it directly. And the church is not obligated to placate him by providing the means whereby he can remind others constantly of his convictions and disagreement.