Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 24, 1955
NUMBER 41, PAGE 8-10a

"The Old Reliable"

Charles R. Holt, Franklin, Tennessee

Under the above caption Brother J. M. Powell writes in the GOSPEL ADVOCATE about the "One Hundred Years of Faithful Service" rendered by that paper. The GA is celebrating her one hundredth birthday this year and is doing so with a big "splash." Everyone who can is trying to get in on the "bandwagon" of praising and building up the GA. They are making a desperate effort to reach a subscription goal of 50,000 during this year. It will likely be reached. The GA is a powerful paper and her influence is felt throughout many states, especially here in Tennessee. It has been received and read by many ever since they can remember. With many it has come to be looked upon as the "official" paper — the official organ and voice — of the churches of Christ. With such people, what emanates from the GA is the "law and the gospel." It is about like the pope speaking "Ex cathedra" — by virtue of his office; and when he does, such is supposed to be an infallible decree that must be accepted by all subjects without question. The GA has almost such power over thousands of loyal and devoted subjects.

It is only reasonable to expect that a paper like the GA should have power and influence. This is right and proper. The only thing about it is that such power and influence may be abused and misused. Such needs to be constantly guarded lest that power and influence be the means of great harm and lead thousands of innocent and unsuspecting people into error. There is no paper that is not subject to such a possibility — whether large or small. The GA is edited, published and written by FALLIBLE MEN — just like every other paper is. They have no monopoly on the truth and neither do they have any monopoly on the LOVE for the truth. It may be true as many fear that the GA has all but reached the place where she has an iron-clad hold upon many people; almost a monopoly upon the literature and books used by the brethren; and that because of her power and influence most preachers are afraid to cross swords with any of the GA family. No one who wants to be popular with the masses wants the "anathema" of the GA hanging over his head. In the hands of those who now guide the GA, the influence and power of that paper will be used to destroy any who may be at variance with her, or oppose her unwritten creed!

There is absolutely no question but that the GA has been a wonderful blessing to the cause of Christ. Just think what might have been the harvest of digression if she had not lived! Perhaps the GA has been the best paper published among our brethren since the era of digression. I honor and respect the good accomplished through this medium and thank God for the great men who have been connected therewith. Some of those who could truly be called "Giants In the Faith," have had a part in making the GA what she came to be. Such men as David Lipscomb, E. G. Sewell, E. A. Elam, H. Leo Boles, Foy E. Wallace, the Srygleys, J. C. McQuiddy, Tolbert Fanning, M. C. Kurfees, and a whole host of others. Indeed during the days of these men — GIANTS OF THE FAITH — the GA could properly be called "The Old Reliable." That the GA is still entitled to that compliment and honor is subject to question by hundreds of well-informed men throughout the brotherhood. Many think the paper is not very "reliable" as far as truth and honorare concerned. We have witnessed instances many times that prove she is today lacking in reliability — both as to her stand for truth and against error, and as respects her treatment of brethren. Perhaps power, influence, the successful publishing business and money have all come in for their place in helping to make the GA what she is today. Within the last generation changes have taken place within the policy and teaching of "The Old Reliable." Changes that are evident to all who stop and study, even though such changes are denied by the "inner circle" of the GA.

Brother Powell says, "It is a remarkable fact that for one century the Advocate has not deviated the slightest from its original purpose. It stands now where it stood when the first issue came from the press." This is an assertion that Brother Powell and others connected with the GA would have us accept without any question. Perhaps Brother Powell has deceived himself into believing such is true. One who thinks that the present editor is following the same sort of policy in conducting the paper as was followed by David Lipscomb has very poor perception, does not know the facts, or else refuses to accept the truth. During its earlier days the GA maintained an open-forum sort of policy. Any honorable brother could express himself freely therein on any subject. When brethren differed over any subject they could and did discuss it openly through the columns of that journal. No one had to accept any "unwritten creed" as subscribed to by the editors, or ride on anyone's "bandwagon" to be heard in that paper — THEN! They treated each other with brotherly regard for the most part and even though the battle waxed warm, there was no "marking and quarantining" that took place. Lipscomb and those like him were not always ready to brand those who differed with them by such terms as "Hobbyists" and "factionists." They were too BIG for such SMALL actions!

Brother Powell says further: "Through the years the Advocate has stood for New Testament Christianity without yielding an inch of ground. It has advocated only those things which are right and true." This is a bold and brazen claim. It sounds as if Brother Powell thinks the GA has never been wrong in anything — that it is an infallible paper! Indeed there are- some who so regard it. Brother Powell needs to learn that this is not true even though his brother-in law is the editor! A man is foolish to give unqualified endorsement to everything any paper advocates — even one of his own.

In spite of her long and useful service the GA is not the "official organ" of the churches of Christ, regardless of the fact that those who are presently operating her act like they think so. Let it be remembered also that the "headquarters" of the churches of Christ is not the GA office, even though the course of many a church is shaped there. In fact, "headquarters" is not even in Nashville at all! This fact may come as a rude shock to some, but it is true nevertheless.

Furthermore, Brother Powell asserts that the GA "has been unalterably opposed to innovations of all kinds." This would certainly be true of the earlier days of the paper, but it is not true of her today. In fact, the GA is in the fore-front in helping present-day innovations to enter the Churches and gain a "strangle-hold." Brother Powell made another assertion of like import. Said he, "It has fought every 'ism' in the church and out of the church." The GA is a ring-leader in helping to sell the churches on perhaps the most threatening "ism" of our day — INSTITUTIONALISM !

The claim is also made that the GA "has been unwavering in its opposition to factions and hobbies whenever they threaten to disrupt the unity of the Lord's church." It is too bad that Brother Powell did not specify and name some of these factions and hobbies, as well as those responsible for such. Of course, in the conception of the GA everyone is a "factionist" and a "hobbyist" who differs from her "unwritten creed."

The GA is presently trying to head up a movement to mark and quarantine every gospel preacher who does not subscribe to her views and accept her "infallible" decrees! Only recently have such sentiments appeared on the editorial page of that journal. In time — when her advisors and policy-makers think the "time is ripe" and they can get away with it — we can expect the GA to seek the right to OFFICIALLY set forth a listing of preachers that should be "marked and avoided." Of course, it will be "OFFICIAL" and the devoted subjects will accept it and abide by it. About like the Catholic Church MARKS one who deserts her fold. These preachers will be "quarantined," as one UNSIGNED GA disciple expressed it, because they are what the GA by virtue of her "office" — power and influence — will call "trouble-makers," "hobbyists" and "factionists."

In an underhanded sort of way this quarantining has already been in operation. Not long ago, for example, Brother J. M. Powell called the little church at Harrodsburg, Kentucky (where the Fourth Avenue Church here in Franklin has been helping by sending $25 per month), and threatened them if they allowed Brother Roy Cogdill to come there for any further meetings, they would stop sending the $25 each month! The Twelfth Street Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, also helps in the Harrodsburg work and they sent Brother Cogdill to help the church in a meeting. It would be very interesting to hear Brother Powell say just why Brother Cogdill should thus be marked, and then PROVE he is right! Never fear, however, Brother Powell has neither the moral fortitude nor honor to try and do so!

Next Brother Powell gives us this: "The purpose of the Advocate is to build up and strengthen, not to destroy and weaken. It has never been the policy of the Advocate to vilify, excoriate and verbally abuse a person as so often happens in some of 'our' religious (?) journals." That gives us an idea of Brother Powell's sweet spirit (?) and shows us the hatred he has for the Gospel Guardian. While the Guardian is not named, need anyone ask whether he included the Guardian?

In his statement Brother Powell does not say what the GA purposes to "build up and strengthen." In years gone by its purpose was to "build up and strengthen" the cause of truth and that only. Today, however, it is different. The GA of our day has "spread her wings" and must "build up and strengthen" many things; in fact, so many that the cause of truth is almost lost sight of entirely. Of prime consideration is the GA herself. She must "build up and strengthen" her own power and influence; her hold upon her subjects; her position of repute among the brethren by constant propaganda such as Brother Powell's article; and last but by no means least, constant consideration must be given to "build up and strengthen" the very lucrative business in which the GA is involved — the publishing business! Then the GA has to help "build up and strengthen" other things, especially as these other things can and will help her. There is David Lipscomb College, which school has an interest in the GA. Then the GA has to help "build up and strengthen" all the other colleges — except a "small one down in Florida," which belongs to the "hobbyists" class! In addition there are all the orphan home institutions, the Homes for the Aged, all the brotherhood projects of evangelism and benevolence, and all the high-powered, sectarian schemes "hatched up" by some of our "Doctors" for winning popularity and place for "our sect"! Truly she has a tremendous task.

The purpose of the Advocate, so Brother Powell says, "is not to destroy or weaken." Again he leaves us in the "dark" as to what they are not to destroy or weaken. Surely they "purpose" to "destroy and weaken" something if it is nothing but the Gospel Guardian! Imagine Brother Lipscomb saying, "It is not our purpose to destroy or weaken." He and those with him sought not only to weaken but to utterly destroy the missionary society of their day, and all other innovations and errors. They sought to do this with logic and truth, not name-calling and quarantining!

Like the Pharisee of old who thanked God that he was better than others, "not as other men . . . . or even this publican," Brother Powell brags on the GA this way: "It has never been the policy of the Advocate to vilify, excoriate and verbally abuse a person as so often happens in some of 'our' religious ( ?) journals." That the present-day GA DOES "vilify, excoriate and verbally abuse a person" whenever she gets ready can be easily demonstrated by specific cases. An outstanding case of such, and one that should not be hard for Brother Powell to remember, is his using the GA to "vilify, excoriate and verbally abuse" Brother Kenneth Fielder. He well knew that Brother Fielder would be given absolutely no chance for reply in that journal. Brother Roy Cogdill was treated even more unfairly by the editor of the GA not many months ago. Other instances can be given.

Brother Powell gives forth with another assertion that is so manifestly false it is almost amusing. He says, "Through the years the pages of the Advocate have been open for a full, free and honorable discussion of the various issues which confront the brotherhood." How the GA of today does like to try to maintain respectability on the laurels of former days! The pages of "The Old Reliable" in days gone by were "open for a full, free and honorable discussion of issues," and all men "rose up and called her blessed" for it! Such is readily ascertained by merely scanning the pages of yester-year. Oh, that such were true today! How different the condition of the church might be. One of the main criticisms of the GA is that her pages are NOT open today for a "FULL, FREE AND HONORABLE DISCUSSION OF THE VARIOUS ISSUES WHICH CONFRONT THE BROTHERHOOD." One must be aligned with the GA and following the course she has accepted to find any space on her pages. Many able and honorable men have tried and failed. Why? Simply because the GA no longer has her pages open to "full, free and honorable discussion." I challenge Brother Powell to demonstrate that I am wrong in this charge by prevailing upon his brother-in-law editor to allow just one "full, free and honorable discussion of the various issues" involved in institutionalism to be carried in that journal.

Will he do it?

The only kind of "full, free and honorable" (?) discussion of such matters as is ever seen in that paper is where one of the Advocate writers presents both sides! They will erect a "straw man" and proceed to demolish it. Then they claim: "We do carry both sides." Yes, with them giving "both sides" in their own words. A classic example of giving both sides of an issue is seen in Brother Guy N. Woods' recent series on orphan homes. Brother Woods, now a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of GA policy, in keeping with that policy and in harmony with the restrictions, much prefers to make the arguments for the "opposition" and then answer them. In this way the GA can always be sure of victory and sure that the GA disciples read only what they deem wise. Brother Woods went through his series to completely demolish the arguments he put into the mouth of his opponents, and as expected, came out of the conflict in great triumph!

Such are the usual tactics employed by denominational papers. Quite often one of the chief writers gets irritated by the continual harping of the "Campbellites," and is finally forced to break the "silent barrier" and say something. He marches into the arena to take them on fully confident of victory and with an air of papal certainty. He proceeds to take the "Campbellites" apart. He answers all of their arguments! Like Brother Woods did, this advocate of error makes the arguments FOR the "Campbellites" and then answers them. In this way the denominational champion always wins and the gallery applauds madly! The opposition is thus silenced! And like the GA every one of these papers would claim that they are fair and honorable, and that they never misrepresent the opponent! After all, did they not let the opposition speak in the form of the "straw man" erected in each case?? The method of dealing with the opposition is one and the same in both cases.

I suggest, therefore, in view of Brother Powell's great and good claim that the "pages of the Advocate have been open for a full, free and honorable discussion of the various issues which confront the brotherhood," that they just have such a discussion. Indeed it would be most refreshing. However, rather than allow Brother Woods to present "both sides," let one of us who differs present "the other side." Then Brother Woods can answer the real arguments and not some "straw man." How about it? Here now is the time to really test the Advocate's claim as voiced by Brother Powell. Surely they will hack up their claim. Surely the GA will demonstrate in this manner, as the paper did many times in days of yore, that her pages are open "for a full, free and honorable discussion of various issues." Let us fervently hope and pray for the resurrection of this spirit and attitude that once was found in this journal.

Should Brother Powell care to reply to this article, it is hoped that he will not seek the refuge of the GA pages. He knows that there I would not be allowed one word. He is welcome to reply to this as he likes and it will be carried in the paper carrying this article. We believe this is only honorable and fair, and we REALLY believe in the pages being open to a "full, free and honorable discussion." Truth has nothing to fear there from.