Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 7, 1954
NUMBER 22, PAGE 4-5b

Here We Go Again!


One by one the old questions over which the Digressives divided the Lord's church in the last century keep cropping up in new forms and new guises. Our forefathers fought with their backs to the wall, bitterly contesting every thrust and parry made by the proponents of error. Instrumental music was the great and most obvious point at issue. The Missionary Societies, women preachers, and methods of raising money were also questions where irreconcilable differences were in evidence.

Then the battle was won; the Digressives definitely withdrew themselves from us, and organized their own liberal denomination. All the faithful drew a sigh of relief — albeit a tearful one — when the final break was accomplished. It was felt that the strife and controversy would now end; the remnant of the faithful, fearfully reduced in numbers though they were, would begin anew to build up the kingdom of God. At the turn of the century there were probably less than 300 faithful gospel preachers in all the nation, and less than a dozen in all the foreign missions fields of the world.

For about forty years the churches painfully struggled upward from the deep trough of depression and weakness into which the digression had brought them. In spite of grievous internal problems (premillennialism, for one) a steady and consistent growth was made. The period of debate and discussion became increasingly a thing of the past. The great issues of an earlier year were rarely discussed, preached on, or even studied. A new generation came up in the church to whom these old questions and problems were not important, and concerning which they were wholly (almost) untaught.

Within the last ten or twelve years we have seen these ancient ghosts come to life with terrifying vigor and menace. Instrumental music, the most hotly contested of the earlier issues, is probably the least menacing of the new; for through the years there has perhaps been more teaching on that one subject than on the other points of division. On the Missionary Societies there has been practically no teaching; and as a result we have seen an appalling ignorance, even among gospel preachers, bring the congregations into cooperative plans and projects which were fully in line with the Society concept, and totally opposed to the New Testament teachings along that line. So dense has been the ignorance of these principles that some of the leading advocates of present cooperative schemes dare not write on so simple a subject as "What Is Wrong With the Missionary Society?" For well they know they cannot truly condemn the Societies without destroying the foundations of their own schemes.

Women preachers? Well, some months ago we saw where one of our preaching sisters was conducting her own weekly program over one of the Dallas TV stations. She was preaching a series of expository sermons on one of Paul's letters; and some who have heard her tell us that her husband (who is also a preacher) isn't even in the same league with her when it comes to expository preaching!

And now comes still another throw-back to the errors of yester-year. In the Firm Foundation of August 10, Brother G. H. P. Showalter, venerable editor of that journal, gives a lengthy editorial defending the brethren who are leaving their properties and businesses to the church "to be held in perpetuity and administered by the elders of the church," the proceeds and profits from such businesses and investments to be used for the work of the church. This editorial was in response to an article by Brother Jack Hardcastle, appearing the week before, which had pointed out the sinfulness of the church engaging in business for profit. Dissenting from this point of view, Brother Showalter wrote:

" 'Business' is a good word in the New Testament, and it sometimes refers to the affairs of the church, 'must be about my Father's business'; 'we may appoint over this business'; 'assist her in what business'; 'not slothful in business'; `study to do your own business' (Luke 2:49; Acts 6:3; Romans 12:11; 16:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:11)

When property, either in money, lands, or chattels, is made over as a gift to a church, it becomes the property of the church to USE (emphasis mine — F.Y.T.) in some way. It surely is not sinful for brethren to use their own earnings or increase from their own property for the Lord's cause, and neither is it sinful for the church to USE (emphasis mine — F.Y.T.) property that increases in their hands for the Lord's good work."

Please note that Brother Showalter is not talking merely of the "unearned increment" — the increase in value due to a community being built up around a plot of ground, inflationary trends, etc. — but he is discussing the USE of property. The point in Brother Hardcastle's article to which he is replying is relative to certain brethren giving farms, apartment houses, or other BUSINESSES to the church to be "held in perpetuity and administered by the elders" for the benefit of the church. Brother Hardcastle contended that 'such was wrong; Brother Showalter (if we understand his editorial) contends that it is not wrong.

So here we go again! For seventy-five years gospel preachers have preached against the Digressives for their "money-raising schemes" such as pie suppers, ice cream socials, church bazaars, etc. What were these ventures but simple "business projects," in which members donated certain things to the church to be USED by the church for increase in profit or gain?

Now if some wealthy brother had simply donated a RESTAURANT to a church instead of the apple pie given by his wife, we would expect the Firm Foundation to voice approval. The pie is wrong; but the restaurant is right! If some sister donated a cotton frock to be sold in a church bazaar, that would be wrong; but if her husband left his whole cotton plantation to be administered by the elders, and the baled cotton sold on the open market, that would be right!

Missionary Societies . . . . Benevolence Societies ... Women Preachers . . . . and now commercial money-raising schemes. What next? And how long will complacent brethren continue to drift along with such obvious trends toward apostasy?

— F. Y. T.