Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 19, 1956
NUMBER 36, PAGE 4-5a

Keep The Issue Clear

W. W. Otey, Winfield, Kansas

It is not whether the gospel must be preached. It is not whether the orphans and widows shall be cared for. It is not whether two or more churches can cooperate in doing what God wants done. The only question of disagreement is the institution through which such work shall be done. Shall the work be done by the church? Or shall humanly-formed institutions supplant the church of the Lord? Shall two or more congregations cooperate as the New Testament plainly teaches? Or shall churches turn their money over to a church which assumes the right to collect funds, employ men, distribute the funds from many churches as a self-constituted central control agency, performing every essential function of a missionary society?

Is the church as God gave it a sufficient organization through which to do all that God wants done? From the point of view of some of our brethren it would seem either that God failed to establish an institution (the church) through which can be done all He wanted done, or else these brethren think they can provide a better institution than the church. Which is it? Is the church sufficient? Or is it capable of being improved upon by the addition of humanly-formed institutions?

Protestants believed they could improve the plan that God revealed. They formed creeds to improve God's plan. When they lost confidence in the word of the Lord as a sufficient guide and rule of life, they started on the road that led to Modernism — the denial of the virgin birth of Jesus and of the inspiration of the Bible.

The leaders in the Christian Church did not believe that the church of the Lord was sufficient to perform every good work that God wanted done. They evidently believed they could perform the work better by adding missionary and benevolent organizations. They formed numerous institutions through which they performed their work of caring for orphans, providing for widows, and preaching the gospel. The first result was division in the church of the Lord. Now they have the United Christian Missionary Society, an ecclesiasticism, as admitted by themselves, to be a denomination. Their work of preaching the gospel and caring for the needy is centralized under the one authority. It is governed by a constitution and by-laws which can be revised each year by majority vote. The authority is vested in a Board of 120 members, sixty of whom must be women. All questions before the Board must be decided by majority vote. (Our congregations which vote in elders, and vote on other matters, will do well to consider where majority voting will eventually lead.) They have "open membership," admitting into their full fellowship those who have been sprinkled, and those who have not even made that pretense of obeying the Lord's command of baptism.

Today many of "us" are well along the same road. Except instrumental music in the worship, Memphis, Lubbock, and the Herald of Truth federation closely resemble missionary societies as they were when this writer came on the scene some 67 years ago. While not yet formally organized they perform every essential function that such societies performed for about the first forty years of their history. In "our" benevolent work "we" are further along the road than digressives were when I first knew them. Many are asking: Will history repeat itself? History is already repeating itself.

It seems that almost all preachers who are less than fifty years old have the idea that instrumental music in the worship was about all that caused the apostasy and division. Instrumental music did indeed corrupt the worship. But it did not, and never could have produced an ecclesiastical denomination. Institutions not mentioned in the word of the Lord constituted by far the greater error. These institutions corrupted the whole organic form of the church, and finally brought forth a full grown denomination. I wonder if our brethren who are making such strong efforts to enlist all the church in the present movement have ever taken a serious view of the history of the church for the last few generations, and see how closely events of our day are paralleling the actions of that former apostasy.

What Of The Future?

There are a host of strong men today, most of them young, who are as determined never to surrender to the attempt to improve God's plan as were the little company of men of faith in yester-year who refused to accept the flag of truce or surrender when digressionism swept the nation. There are many times as many now who are set for the defense of the New Testament as there were when that former apostasy engulfed us. And many more are beginning to see the danger ahead and are taking their stand for the truth. They will stand, let come what may. The faith, zeal, and courage of these men has not been excelled, perhaps, in the memory of any living man.

This is not a personal conflict between men. It is a battle between two irreconcilable ideas. Has God given us "all things that pertain to life and godliness"? Does it matter HOW we do things? Have we the license to form institutions that please us through which to do the work God wants us to do? Are we "complete in Christ who is the head of all things" in his spiritual body, the church? Who is to set the bounds as to how many and how far we may go on the road of forming institutions? Are such institutions better than the church as it is presented in the New Testament? Does any well informed person believe (yes, truly believe) that the institutions now disturbing the peace and threatening the unity of the church of the Lord have their pattern set forth in the New Testament? Will the advocates of such things cease to stress and press these things? Will the host of men of faith and courage surrender? Mark my words: It must be one or the other. If neither, you have the answer of what must happen in the future.

My sincere judgment is that our brethren who are pressing such things think that the present set-up is so near the New Testament pattern that such arrangements are permissible, and that they can control the situation and hold the line now reached. Have these brethren carefully read the history of the past apostasy? The Christian Standard stalwarts, numbering such able men as J. A. Lord, Isaac Errett, J. W. McGarvey, the Sweeneys, J. B. Briney, and a host of others of great ability and influence, did not doubt in the least that they could hold the line where they thought it was safe. They were men of the first rank in stature. How sadly they deceived themselves! When the little error grew to such proportions as the United Christian Missionary Society, these men turned against it and opposed the fruits of their own sowing till their death. The Christian Standard is still opposing the UCMS with all its power. Too late. Can it be that some young men who are going all out for such things now among us will live to see the mature results of their promotions, and will spend the last years trying to undo the work of their young manhood? Young men, exalt the church of our Lord as the greatest work of God in either creation or revelation. You will never live long enough either to regret or to try to undo your work if such is your attitude and action now.

It is being argued by some that "we" have engaged in such institutions for a number of years. "Why raise objections now?" they ask. If former practice proves a thing scriptural, then every error of Rome and the denominations is right; they can all be defended on the ground that good men have practiced such for many years. Have brethren forgotten (or did they ever know) that no effective opposition was waged against the innovations of the last apostasy until those things had been practiced for forty years? Failure to oppose such things for a number of years did not prove them to be authorized by the word of the Lord. Even Benjamin Franklin worked with the societies for a number of years before being convinced that they were wrong. When he saw their unscripturalness, it was too late for him to have much influence against them. There was, perhaps, more excuse for men then to be involved in such errors than for us. We have not only the word of the Lord (which they had) but we have also their sad example of apostasy. If we now condemn the Christian Church, let us realize that Paul's words should challenge our thought, and cause us to pause in our action. "Wherefore thou art without excuse, 0 man, whosoever thou art that judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things." (Rom. 2:1.)