Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 27, 1970
NUMBER 16, PAGE 4-5a

What Did You Say?


There is an old, old problem in the field of logic that goes like this: A hunter went into the forest looking for a squirrel. He spied a likely target on the side of an oak tree, and raised his gun to fire. But just before his finger pressed the trigger, the squirrel became aware of his presence, and darted around the trunk of the tree. Cautiously the hunter eased his way around to the side of the tree, again being in position to draw a bead on the wily rodent. But once again the bushy-tailed creature became alarmed, and moved a few inches further around the tree, putting the trunk once again between himself and the hunter. This maneuver went on for several minutes, until finally the hunter had completely encircled the tree, and came once again to the place where he had started. Now, the question: Did the hunter ever go around the squirrel, or did he not?

Obviously the answer hinges on a definition of the verb "go around." He did not go around the squirrel if one is talking about his being "on every side" of the animal, for he was not at any time at the creature's back. But just as clearly he did "go around" the animal if one is thinking in reference to his encompassing or encircling the entire organism. The argument posed is not one of fact, but is a discussion as to the terms used to describe that fact.

All of which calls to memory an expression of a witty old Dutchman under whom we once studied, Dr. John M. Vander Meulen -- the same eloquent man who so impressed us with his sermon on "He Feedeth His Flock Among the Lilies" to which we made reference a few weeks ago. Describing a certain preacher who wandered far afield in complicated and involved technical hairsplitting arguments, the good professor said, "he can metaphysicate, but can't tangibilitate!" Probably all of us at times find ourselves involved in hazy, imprecise, and ambiguous language; we tend to get philosophical when we ought to get practical, theoretical when we ought to be pragmatic.

We think this is happening among sonic of our brethren as they search for some way, some plan, scheme, method, arrangement, process, or procedure by which they can tap the church treasuries in support of the secular schools. Obviously, (in spite of Brother Batsell Barrett Baxter's courageous, forthright, and honest appeal for such) there is little chance that the churches are yet ready to make substantial and continuing contributions from their normal Sunday collections to the support of the colleges. That would be too bald and open a departure from the long established and accepted course. But somehow, in some fashion, brethren feel they must find a way to get around this. So they begin to "metaphysicate" — and appear to be utterly blind (or are they, really?) to the inevitable consequences of their involved logic and tortuous reasoning. A discussion has been in progress in the Firm Foundation for some weeks past as to whether or not congregations can make contributions (to the colleges) "to support a young gospel preacher while he is studying to prepare himself for preaching."

Brother Lemmons, editor of that journal, sees no difference in a church's supporting such a man while he goes to school and supporting a man "between Sundays" while he is studying what to preach the next Lord's day. Actually, we think a rather good case might be made out for a church's helping a young man financially while he prepared himself to preach the gospel. But the issue is not quite that simple. When we begin to "tangibilitate" (rather than simply metaphysicate) on that subject we begin to get into some extremely difficult and perplexing questions. Such as: If a church can help this young man by sending contributions to him, why can she not pay the salary of the professor who teaches him the Bible? and Bible geography? and English grammar? and public speaking? and church history? and sight-singing? And since every gospel preacher ought to be trained in some sort of occupation by which he can earn a living if circumstances seem to require it (like Paul's making tents, for example) why should not the congregation support this young man while he learns book-keeping, or forestry, or auto mechanics? And, obviously, she could pay the salaries of the men who might be teaching these trades or skills. Then there will be the buildings and class-room facilities necessary for such teaching. Why can not the church help in defraying the costs of such?

Is it all simply a matter of judgment and discretion? Or, are there valid and well defined principles which establish lines of authority here?

That "college in the church budget" squirrel has been circling that oak tree of expediency for a good many years now. We think it is time the brethren drew a bead on him and settle the question — on the basis of pragmatism if they are absolutely unable to agree as to the teachings of Scripture. And when they begin to get practical, and make logical application of their premises, the end result will be regular contributions from the church treasury into the college treasury. To metaphysicate may make for interesting and argumentative reading; but when the metaphysics starts to be translated into tangible actions, church contributions become inevitable. At least, this editor thinks so!

— F. Y. T.