Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 20, 1955
NUMBER 36, PAGE 1,5b

The Principle And Its Consequences -- No. 5

Jack Holt, Indianapolis, Indiana

It has been our purpose in preceding articles to point out the fact that serious consequences may follow whenever we adopt and act upon the principle that the church universal is to function. Acting upon this principle brethren have established brotherhood institutions, and have outlined programs that require the funds of many churches. These brethren become very indignant when we endeavor to point out the dangers inherent in this concept, and when we endeavor to further illustrate the dangers therein by pointing out the consequences that may follow the acceptance and practice of the principle. These brethren especially detest being charged with the consequences. In this they resemble the Baptists in their position on Total Depravity. They want the doctrine, but they refuse to accept its consequences.

We have quoted extensively from the writings of Brother M. C. Kurfees, as he noted and commented upon the same dangers. Brother Kurfees proved that it was this centralization tendency which led to the forming of the Missionary Society. He then showed that the brotherhood publishing house was one of the consequences that naturally followed the acceptance of centralization. Having established the unscripturalness of all such arrangements Brother Kurfees then wrote a series of articles, in which he thoroughly exposes the basic fallacy of this principle, and shows it to be subversive of the divine order.

The "Brotherhood Publishing House" And Other Forms Of Centralization

M. C. Kurfees

. . . History has been constantly repeating itself in the matter of ecclesiastical development for the last two thousand years. In fact the history of ancient Israel, with its various apostasies and reformation presents a picture in many respects very much like the varying fortunes which have marked the history of the church of God from the beginning.

Brother Kurfees then directs our attention to the fact that the ACMS and FCMS minus their money basis of membership and control are about as innocent forms of general organization and centralization as it is possible to have in religion. In his judgment it was the apparent innocency of this arrangement which prevented many good men from seeing the danger they posed. He then states the purpose of his article. "To point out the centralization tendencies and principle in the societies." Please note this point. In this article Brother Kurfees is not interested in condemning delegate conventions, life memberships, etc., but only in showing the dangers inherent in the principle which brought forth the society, viz., the principle of centralization. He thus lays the axe at the root of the tree. The principle is wrong, hence, the society is wrong. And in view of this I remark, if the principle is wrong, not only is the Missionary Society wrong, but every organization founded upon this principle is wrong. Hence, we can declare without fear that no one can show where the society is wrong, free from its abuses without at the same time condemning every centralized project among churches today. If one is right in principle, so is the other, and abuses would not alter the principle.

"No matter what may be said in favor of such societies, nor how specious and plausible the case may be made to appear for them, they all involve this objectionable and fatal principle, which stands in direct opposition to the New Testament principle of local church independence. Moreover, it is an incontestable fact that the first Christians, although under the direct leadership of inspired men living then in their midst, did not have them. Nor is this all. To state the case fully at this point, we are here confronted with three incontestable facts: (1) The identically same reasons in principle which are pleaded in favor of such societies existed then. (2) The first Christians could have had such societies. (3) They did not have them. (The same reasoning applies to certain methods of church cooperation, orphan homes, etc.)

"Now this series of facts certainly presents a situation worthy of the serious consideration of thoughtful men. The first Christians could have had such societies: the same reasons pleaded in favor of them now existed then; and yet they did not have them. In view of such a situation, every thoughtful mind is compelled to ask: Why did they not have them? (Italics M.C.F.) And in view of the fact that all such general organization involves the principle of centralization, which is necessarily subversive of the divine order of local church independence, (Italics M.C.K.) this fact is a sufficient answer to the question. They did not have such organizations because they are utterly incompatible with the order authorized and established by the Lord.

"Man's order takes the control of the work of the churches out of the hands of the board of managers in each local church in which God has placed it and transfers it to a central board empowered with full authority to control and direct the work and the workers. This is a complete revolution in ecclesiastical affairs, and virtually sets aside God. The reply is sometimes made that a church still has the right to control its own affairs and its own actions, even to the extent of withdrawal from the society (Herald of Truth, J.L.H.) if it so desires. Certainly a church still has the right to withdraw from the society and to have nothing to do with it if it wants to but that is not the question. The point is, when a church enters into such an arrangement, it thereby surrenders the control of its work and turns it over to a central board of managers, where it remains as long as the church remains in that arrangement. The church then has no voice in choosing men for the work, and hence, has none in the serious matter as to whom it will support. This is now all done by the general board in which all power for such action has been centered ....

"The same principle of centralization is involved both in Romanism and in every Protestant ecclesiasticism now in existence, and also in all such ecclesiastical compacts as the church federation movement, the Young Men's Christian Association, and the interdenominational Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, the only difference for the most part, being a mere difference in the form of organization. Let it be distinctly understood, and never forgotten, that there is not only no such general organization in the New Testament, but no general organization of any kind whatever. Divine wisdom found no place for it, but established a system of local church organization and supremacy between which and all other general organization there is an irreconcilable conflict. Either the one or the other must be set aside. They cannot stand together."

After commenting upon the fact that brethren who favored centralization in general organization, now see the wrong of it in some forms of its manifestation, namely the Christian Standard, Brother Kurfees again states the position of the Gospel Advocate — that is in 1910 "The position for which the Gospel Advocate contends is the entire independence and supremacy of the local churches, and that each local church, with its divinely appointed board of overseers and managers, is a fully equipped missionary society with a divine message to spread the gospel in the world and to do every other kind of work required by the Lord. This position is plainly revealed on the pages of the New Testament, and any departure from it opens the way for all kinds of apostasy. We should be glad if our brethren of the Christian Standard (and '54 style Advocate) could see their way to oppose the principle of centralization with its `official domination' not only as manifested in 'federation' and the 'brotherhood publishing house,' but in all of its various manifestations in the multitude of general religious organizations now in existence, and to stand fully and unreservedly for the ancient order in deed and in truth."