Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 20, 1955

The Way To Settle The Issue

Marvine Kelley, Del Rio, Texas

I have followed with concern, the discussion between Brother E. R. Harper, prompted by the Elders at Abilene, and Brother Yater Tant, editor of the Gospel Guardian. My concern is due to my love for the New Testament church and the presentation of the Gospel in its purity and simplicity. I realize that many may be left in the lurch and quite confused over what has been said between these men. This being the case, I believe there is a Bible way to settle these differences, once for all, and still be Christians. Up to now, if what I have read be the writing of the preacher at Abilene, prompted by the elders there, I have learned that they both need to repent. It is quite obvious to even the casual Bible student that they have violated two of the greatest principles in the New Testament concerning its teaching. I believe that calling these principles to mind for the brethren may encourage them to reconstruct their manner of teaching.

In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter commands us to be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh for the hope that is in us. This verse sets aside two great principles that must govern all New Testament teaching. First of all, we cannot teach anything unless we have a conviction. This is certainly implied when he commands us to be ready to give an answer. The word ready speaks of preparation; meaning that some time has been spent confirming this truth before it is taught. If one is not ready to give an answer for his teaching, then he, to be scriptural in his teaching, should kindly explain he is studying the issue in question and not ready as yet to teach it because he cannot give the answers for such teaching. It is sad indeed that the preaching brethren have not learned this elementary fact. This passage was intended to keep us from teaching any fanciful hobby or unfounded doctrine. Many are led to say and do things they would not otherwise do if they stopped and considered these words of caution by Peter. Rather than search the Bible for the practice they want to follow to see if it is scriptural, they begin the practice and then try to confirm it by the Bible. This is just the reverse of Bible teaching. Some men are not big enough to admit their wrongs. This we will all admit, is the wrong attitude for anyone professing to be a Christian. If we were all disposed to see if the Bible authorized the practice we want to start before we start it, we would have fewer mistakes to correct.

Peter teaches another basic fact upon which Christian teaching must rest. ANYTHING WE ARE NOT WILLING TO HAVE CALLED IN QUESTION, WE SHOULD NOT TEACH. The man, and I care not who he is, that says something is so because he said it is so, is no more than trying to take the place of the Big Wheel in Rome. I do not care who you are, how long you have been preaching or how many degrees you have, if you are not willing to have your teaching called in question you are either wrong in fact or act. Being wrong in either, corrupts all of your teaching. The greatest charge we bring against the denominational world is that they are not willing to have us investigate their teaching. I have read many writings condemning them for this practice. The elders or Brother Harper will readily condemn all the denominational world for this reason. We all argue that they realize they are in the wrong; else they would invite our investigation. If we, brethren, condemn the denominational world for this practice, why or how can we feel that we are scriptural in practicing error. Why do the elders and Brother Harper not want to invite investigation to their Herald of Truth? If they are scriptural in this practice they should with open arms invite all who will to come to Abilene and listen to the REASON FOR THIS PRACTICE BASED ON SCRIPTURES. I am not interested in opinions and human reasons, nor is the brotherhood. I believe we can all bring this charge against the Abilene brethren, they have failed to follow the principle set up by Peter in being ready to give an answer.

There is yet a third principle I want to call to mind: Peter says this must be done in meekness and fear. This, to my understanding, does not mean to threaten, slur, strive and insult, but to be kind about the answers given. I read the article in the GG which accused Yater Tant of being stuck off with a 100 factious members in Lufkin. Whether he was or not (and I was there when the fellowship was restored) has no bearing on the Herald of Truth, and bespeaks of anything but MEEKNESS on the part of the brethren at Abilene. It seems that some take meekness to mean hatefulness. I do not care if Yater Tant was a Catholic Father with three nit-witted children at Podunk, that does not prove that the Herald of Truth is scriptural. It makes no difference to me whether E. R. Harper is preaching for the biggest congregation of earth, that still does not excuse him and the elders there for the attitude expressed in the Gospel Guardian.

If some one were to call in question the scripturalness of baptism I know the elders and Brother Harper would jump at the chance to prove by the Bible that baptism is scriptural and not by human reason but by the teaching of the Bible.

The way to settle the issue? Invite the brethren there to listen while you explain the reason for the hope that is in you, based on conviction that is found in the Bible, and in the spirit of meekness. This will always settle the issues, don't you think?