Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 6, 1953
NUMBER 13, PAGE 1,11-13

"The Mother Of Invention"

James W. Adams, Beaumont, Texas

Someone has said, "Necessity is the mother of invention." The truthfulness of this observation is unquestionably vindicated in recent articles in the papers of the brethren. We have known for years that many of the erroneous doctrines of Christendom were born of necessity, but it amazes us that brethren who are supposed to be sincerely dedicated to the principles of "speaking where the Bible speaks and remaining, silent where the Bible is silent" permit necessity to shape their conceptions of Bible truth. Among Roman Catholics, the doctrine of original sin necessitated the dogma of the "immaculate conception." Among the Calvinists, the doctrine of hereditary total depravity necessitated the theory of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon dying infants. Among our brethren, the sponsoring church method of missionary work has mothered a whole family of illegitimate misadventures in the field of exegesis. Rather than admit a complete lack of scriptural authority for what they are doing, certain brethren allow their imaginations to run wild until their own illogical and completely unsupported inferences become to them Bible truth. No better illustration of this can be found than in Brother G. C. Brewer's recent article, "The 'Direct' and 'Indirect' Method of Supporting Missionaries" (Gospel Advocate, July 16, 1953).

"Figment Of A Factionist"

As usual, Brother Brewer cannot discuss a controverted point with some of his brethren without venom, prejudice, and stigmata literally dripping from his pen. Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." It is to be hoped that the brother's heart is not as bitter as his words. It is affirmed that the whole controversy concerning "Centralized Control and Oversight" is over a. figment of the imagination of a factionist. To the contrary, Brother Brewer is either blind or "wilfully ignorant" of the practices of his brethren whom he defends if the statements of his article are meant to be taken seriously. Sometimes it is easier to stick out one's tongue and call names than to cross swords on an issue.

Sincerity Of The Missionaries.

I join Brother Brewer in his sentiments concerning the sincerity of Brother Cannon and others who preach the gospel in virgin fields both at home and abroad. I and other Gospel Guardian writers would be quick to resent any imputation of insincerity to them. To me, every man is sincere until he proves himself to be otherwise. In this connection, it is probably proper to remark that were the method of support left to the average missionary he would unquestionably choose the method which he knows to be based, upon approved example of the scriptures, the "direct method." It is just as proper to remark that were it not for men like Brother Brewer and others who are jealous for the control and oversight of the larger churches in this field of endeavor, the controversy would have resolved itself long ago. To prove his charge that the controversy is the figment of a factionist's imagination, Brother Brewer tells of a man who sent Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas a check. It seems that the check was returned with a letter of explanation by Brother Brewer himself. It is alleged that the man then reported that Broadway church was receiving funds because he had sent them a check. Far be it from me to call in question the word of Brother Brewer, but in order that all things may be clear to all interested persons, I am calling on him to name the man and produce the evidence. Having done this, it will then be necessary for him to show that this was done with the knowledge and consent of those whom he styles "factionists" or that they knew the truth about the matter and carried the gentleman's report anyway. I think that others abhor hypocrisy as well as Brother Brewer and would be as quick to expose it. Brother Brewer's story brings to mind some correspondence I once read. Two prominent preachers were carrying on a private correspondence in which they regaled one another with the defects of another preacher who was the editor of the paper for which both were staff writers. At the same time, each was carrying, on a correspondence with the editor in which he was telling the editor how well qualified he was for the job and what a wonderful success he was making of it. Hypocrisy is repulsive in any Christian much less a preacher. Let Brother Brewer name his man. If he will not, we shall simply brand his story "false."

Elders Overseeing Elders

Brother Cannon asked some questions by letter which Brother Brewer answers in his article. The first was "Do elders of one church have a right to oversee in any way the work of another church? Please give a scripture reference." Brother Brewer answered as follows:

"It is not right for the elders of one church to oversee the work of another congregation in any way that interferes with the autonomy of either congregation or that displaces the elders of the congregation whose work is being directed by foreign elders. That any such thing is being done anywhere, I doubt. If it is being done, I have no information on the point."

It is implied in the answer to this question that elders of one church can oversee the work of another church and its elders if such oversight does not interfere with the autonomy of either church. It would be interesting to hear Brother Brewer say just how such could be. The only authority an elder has for doing anything as an elder in the church is that which the New Testament gives him. Oversight of the "flock over which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers" is one of the functions of elders. The Gk. is episkopos. Thayer defines it to mean: "An overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent." The elder's oversight is confined to the flock over which and in which he is an overseer. No group of elders can scripturally oversee the work of another group of elders in any sense. I challenge Brother Brewer to prove that they can, and it is hoped that he will not forget the "scripture reference" as he did in Brother Cannon's case. Lest I forget, there are those who are trying to do this very thing whether Brother Brewer knows it or not. That one group of elders could oversee the work of another group of elders without interfering with their autonomy is an impossibility. The very meaning of the word "episkopos" precludes the possibility of such being done.

Issue Misrepresented

Much is said in the article under review concerning "the book, chapter, and verse principle." The issue over cooperation in evangelism is placed on a par with passing the hat," "singing an invitation hymn," and "giving thanks for the contribution." That these illustrations misrepresent the issue is certain. Brother Brewer makes the following observation:

"You state that you have been taught always to look for book, chapter, and verse for our teaching and practices in the Lord's work. So have I always been taught this, and I have myself stood on the platform and preached and debated, both orally and in writing, for fifty years. Yet I have never seen any principle that has been worse abused, perverted, and misused than this principle. In matters of faith this law holds good, and for this I contend with all my soul. The authority of God must be back of all that we do in His service, but when the thing that we are doing is unquestionably authorized by the scriptures, then the method of doing the thing, if not described and commanded, must be left to our own choice. This, you admit, and yet you say that the method of cooperation is clearly described, which is not correct."

No fault is found with Brother Brewer's clear statement of the principle of demanding a thus saith the Lord."

I am inclined to agree with him also with reference to the principles being abused in many cases. Too, it is agreed that if God authorizes the doing of a thing and no method is revealed, we may choose the method which seems best to us, however, I would qualify the statement by saying, "Provided, the method violates no principle elsewhere revealed in God's Word. Brother Brewer errs when he says that no method for cooperation in evangelizing is revealed. The "direct method" is revealed. In Thessalonica, the Philippians "sent once and again to Paul's necessity." Even Brother Brewer does not deny that this was direct, from the Philippian church to Paul. Brother Brewer also overlooks the fact that the sponsoring church method of cooperation antagonizes the New Testament principle of the equality of congregations. When one or more churches operate through another church to fulfill their responsibilities to a third church, person, or field to which all are equally related, they thus become subservient to the church through which they function and violate the principle of equality.

"Amusing But Confusing"

Brother Brewer engages to show that Brother Cannon is wrong in supposing that Acts 11:29,30 does justify cooperation but does not justify one church operating through another church in a field to which both are equally related. His logic is "amusin' but confusin'." I'm amused (the reader probably is too) and he's confused. Note his argument:

"(1) The church at Antioch sent a contribution to Judea, or to the saints who were in distress in Judea. (Acts 11:29,30)

"(2) There were a number of churches in Judea. (Galatians 1:22)

"(3) Yet the money that Paul was collecting is expressly said to be from Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16:5; Romans 15:31; Acts 24:11; 21:18,19)"

Statements (1) and (2) are correct. Statement (3) is just as false in its implication as it can be. One wonders if Brother Brewer had his thinking cap on when he wrote it. Surely he knows that the collection of (3) was an entirely different collection than that of (1) separated by the breadth of several years. Paul and Barnabas took the collection of Acts 11:29,30 to Judea in about A.D. 43 and the other collection was taken to Jerusalem in about A.D. 58, fourteen years later. This being true, Brother Brewer's argument is completely amusing. Brother Brewer wants to assume that the contribution for the saints in Judea was taken to and disbursed by the Jerusalem church among the churches of Judea. The sponsoring church method which he champions makes necessary such a state of affairs, so he sees it whether it is there or not. The trouble is that an assumption or inference is not enough as he well knows to establish the scriptural character of a practice. The principle of equality argues that no such thing as Brother Brewer imagines was done. In the absence of proof to the contrary, Brother Brewer is up a tree, so he invents his fallacious augment based on a palpable inaccuracy.

Exegetical Inferences

Brother Brewer also introduces Philippians 4:15,16 and 2 Corinthians 11:8,9; to seek to prove that the church at Philippi might have been a sponsoring church. He is not sure for his entire argument is liberally sprinkled with "probably," "possible," "could have been," "could it be possible," etc. His argument is this:

(1) "When I departed from Macedonia" (Philippians 4:15,16) means while Paul was at Corinth.

(2) "Robbed other churches" (2 Corinthians 11:8,9) means that more than one church sent Paul help.

(3) "No church communicated with me concerning giving and receiving but ye only" means that the churches of Macedonia sent through the church at Philippi which was Paul's sponsor.

Brother Brewer's reasoning on these scriptures is a demonstration of the truth of the statement that "necessity is the mother of invention." It caps the climax in the realm of inference and conjecture. Let us examine it point by point:

(1) Does "when I departed from Macedonia" mean while Paul was at Corinth? The evidence would indicate otherwise. Scholars differ. Some say that it does. Others translate the statement "when I was departing from Macedonia." Still others, notably MacKnight, translate the statement, "When I departed into Macedonia." Take the expression just as it is translated in our common version though, and it is clear that it did not refer to the help that was brought from Macedonia by Silas and Timothy. (Acts 18:5) "When I departed" would not, could not, refer to something that happened six or eight months to a year later. "When" means "at the time," hence the contribution was at the time Paul departed not six months afterwards. If MacKnight is right in translating the Gk., "Apo" by "into," then Brother Brewer is wrong. The contribution to which reference is made in Philippians 4:15, 16 is that which was made at Thessalonica. If it should be translated, "When I was departing," Brother Brewer is still wrong. If the common version and others are right in translating it, "When I departed" or "When I left," Brother Brewer is still wrong about its having reference to the help given six months later at Corinth.

(2) The help given to Paul at Corinth evidently came from several of the churches of Macedonia, Thessalonica, Berea, and Philippi. Timothy had been to those places immediately prior to coming to Corinth. (1 Thessalonians 3:1-6) Thessalonica had sounded out the word in Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:8) Paul did say that he had "robbed other churches." (2 Corinthians 11:8,9) Paul and Silas did bring help from Macedonia. (Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 11:8,9)

(3) To infer, however, that these churches sent through the church at Philippi is wholly unwarranted, is purely an assumption for which there is not one iota of proof, hence is invented simply out of the necessity to bolster a human scheme of church cooperation. I believe Paul meant what he said when he said, "No church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only." (Philippians 4:15) At that time, Philippi was the only one. Later others helped.

Sending Or Spending

Once again a play is made on the "sending" idea, or "handling." Brother Brewer tries to make it appear that sponsoring churches are handling or sending money in the sense that it would be handled by a bank or postal service. Brother Brewer has been charged with being many things but never with being naive. He knows better than this. He says that Lubbock (Broadway) and Memphis (Union Avenue) operate on this basis. This is not true. Each place has received thousands of dollars in undesignated funds at their solicitation (earnest and persistent solicitation) which they have not only sent but spent. They have exercised the responsibility for these funds and they have been spent under their oversight and control. Brother Brewer knows this is true, so why should he employ such reasoning and confuse an honest enquirer like Brother Cannon? Neither Broadway nor Union Avenue can successfully deny their practice. I doubt that they will try. In this connection, Brother Brewer falls back for succor on Paul and his companions who carried funds to Jerusalem. Yet, he well knows that they served only to carry the money from the contributors to Jerusalem. No banks or postal service were then available for this purpose. If Brother Brewer believes that these men, who were members of different congregations, constituted an official board selected by the churches for the purpose of administering cooperative benevolence and that church is a precedent for cooperative evangelism today, he accepts the missionary society principle and should strike hands with the Digressives. This is the very argument that J. W. McGarvey used to justify the Missionary Society before the Atlanta Convention. Banks and postal service make a "sending agency" unnecessary, and a "spending agency" is unscriptural, so WHY THE SPONSORING CHURCH?

A New Board In The Church

Brother Brewer says that elders cannot oversee a foreign work. Brother Sherrod (elder, Broadway church, Lubbock) says they can (Gospel Guardian, June 4). Brother Brewer says that they can serve as an "appeal board," whatever that is. If he means that they can serve in an advisory capacity, why anyone or any group of elders could do that whether they "sponsor or not."

"Church Not An Organized Entity"

Brother Brewer is mortally afraid of someone's making a denomination of the church, yet his attitude toward institutionalism is the quickest route to that undesirable destination. He tries to cloud the issue by bringing up the "authority of elders" as though he believes they have none, and yet, is trying to prove that their "authority" extends far beyond the "flock over which they have been made overseers." Such inconsistency is appalling. He says that the church is not an "organized entity," yet declares that the local congregation is a "local body, independent in its work and worship of any other group." He says it is not organized in a "legal, mechanical, or denominational sense." All of this is said to try to show that congregational bounds may be overstepped in cooperative endeavor. This is but the digressive plea for the "universal church responsibility" that is basic to their Missionary Society. The local church is a body, hence an organic entity. It is, as Brother Brewer says, "Independent in its work and worship." It has equal rights and responsibility commensurate with its ability with all congregations in the fields of general benevolence and evangelism. It cannot scripturally operate through another church in any field to which both are equally related. It can contribute to a church but not through a church. These principles make our modern sponsoring church a just object of suspicion, concern, and opposition.

If Brother Joe Cannon is sincere, and I take it that he is, he will have no difficulty in seeing how completely Brother Brewer has failed to sustain the position he champions. Surely a cause is worthy of better defense than such a conglomeration of probabilities and possibilities as those set forth in Brother Brewer's exegetical inferences.