Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 26, 1956
NUMBER 37, PAGE 1,12c-13a

"Round And Round The Mulberry Bush" Or Thomas B. Warren's "Monkey Business" (II.)

James W. Adams, Beaumont, Texas

Brother N. B. Hardeman used to say to us in his Bible classes at Freed-Hardeman College, "Boys, we here at Freed-Hardeman College can state on a post card what we believe about any matter affecting the peace and unity of the church and have room enough left to ask about Susie and the babies." Any practice among the churches of Christ that must depend for its authority upon the circuitous type of argument characteristic of Brother Thomas B. Warren's recent articles in the Gospel Advocate (Dec. 15, 5955 and Dec. 29, 1955) on the subject of "Cooperation Between New Testament Churches" should be viewed with suspicion. Brother Warren makes numerous revolutions of the "mulberry bush" without really ever telling us what he is after. Since the present controversy among the brethren is over such "brotherhood" projects as "The Herald of Truth," "The Lubbock Plan," and "Brotherhood Benevolent Organizations and Enterprises," one would suppose that this is what our brother has in mind. If so, why did he not frame a proposition that includes such? Could it have been fear? Surely not! No, our brother thinks he has found a crack in the back wall of the issue through which he can unobtrusively slip and get "our brotherhood" promotions into the realm of the permissible. Does Brother Warren really think that those who oppose such promotions are so naive as to permit such?

Warren's Argument In A Nutshell

Richard Whately wisely remarks, "A fallacy which when stated barely, in a few sentences, would not deceive a child, may deceive half the world, if diluted in a quarto volume." (Elements of Logic, p. 141.) Brother Warren seems particularly anxious that those who review his articles follow minutely his meandering trail of foolishness step by step. In fact, he insists that it be done. An experienced debater such as he should have learned long ago that he cannot dictate to a respondent how he shall reply to the argument of the proposition. Divested of its superfluous verbiage and reduced to its simplest form, our brother's argument is this:

Major Premise: Any work over which a church assumes oversight, without regard to its inability to sustain such a work, becomes the exclusive work of that congregation.

Minor Premise: Churches of Christ may help a needy, sister congregation perform a work which is exclusively her own work. (Churches of Macedonia, Achaia, and possibly Asia Minor contributed to the relief of Jerusalem's needy saints; the church at. Antioch in Syria sent funds to the elders for relief of the poor saints in Judea.)

Conclusion: Therefore, it is scriptural for a plurality of churches (every church on earth if it so desires) to send funds to a single church to enable her to sustain a program of world-wide evangelism over which she has assumed the oversight.

As has already been stated, Brother Warren has, before numerous, reputable witnesses, admitted that one church can scripturally assume oversight of all the "mission work" on earth and that all the churches can scripturally enable her to sustain the work by providing the funds. He recognizes the fact that his circuitous reasoning sums itself up in this amazing proposition, yet he affects to see in the missionary society that which contravenes divine law and poses a tremendous threat to the autonomy and all-sufficiency of the church of God. Will wonders never cease? Those of us who oppose the "centralized control and oversight" of present "brotherhood" promotions unhesitatingly deny the major premise of the syllogism set forth above. It is not true, and Brother Warren does not even begin to start to prove such, as any thinking person can see, in his five and one-half pages in recent Gospel Advocates. He assumes that it is true and offers no proof save a hypothetical possibility of his own creation. As already mentioned, his hypothetical illustration has to do with a church which, in all good faith, buys a lot in a "mission field" and finds itself unable to pay for it. Our brother supposes that this lot sustains a peculiar relation to the congregation having bought it, or contracted to buy it. He assumes that other churches may help her out of her difficulty by giving her funds to pay for the lot, and concludes (by implication) that this is the same thing as "the Herald of Truth" and other "brotherhood promotions." The discerning reader can perceive our brother's studied effort to avoid affirming the scripturalness of a "brotherhood" promotion by trying to slip a borderline possibility across the line separating truth and error.

In reviewing Brother Warren's effort, we will not allow him to tell us how we shall do the job. We shall do it in our own way and submit it to the consideration of brethren generally in the columns of the Gospel Guardian. As far as the course of the churches in these matters is concerned, the brethren are the judge and the jury. As far as the destiny of our own soul is concerned, the Lord whom we serve is both judge and jury. Whether or not we have satisfactorily dealt with Brother Warren's argument does not depend on what he may think except as his own soul may be involved in the matter, hence we could hardly be expected to conform to what he may think is the proper manner of dealing with his arguments. Brother Warren's entire argument depends on the truth or falsity of the major premise of the syllogism which constitutes what we choose to style, his "argument in a nutshell." If he fails to establish this point, we trust that he will recognize (we are sure the reader will) that the reviewer of his material is obligated neither by the laws of logic nor of Christian courtesy to deal extensively and minutely with the multiplied particulars of his devious reasoning. However, let us note:

Warren's Syllogism

When one comes to consider the argumentative portion of our brother's articles, he immediately recognizes the fact that Brother Warren is an adroit juggler of terms. His effort's only strength lies in the fact that it is potentially confusing to a mind unaccustomed to detecting fallacy and sophistry. The reader will note how he flits from "field" to "work" without changing gears. He hops from "assume" to "undertake" and slips evasively into "oversee." In one element of his proposition or "constituent element" of his inductive proof (?), he will use one term. In the next, he will use another concealing the fact that they are not actually used in the same extent of meaning. Examples of this will be pointed out as we proceed.

Brother Warren's Syllogism Is As Follows:

Major Premise: All total situations the constituent elements of which are scriptural are total situations which are scriptural.

Minor Premise: The total situation described in the above proposition is a total situation, the constituent elements of which are scriptural.

Conclusion: The total situation described in the above proposition is a total situation which is scriptural.

The major premise of our brother's syllogism, at first glance, appears to be correct, but looking more closely, it becomes evident that it is true only if properly qualified.

It is not true as it is used by our brother. He demands that each "constituent element" be considered separately without regard to its relationship to the other elements. His major premise is true only if properly qualified. The constituent elements of a total situation prove nothing regarding the total situation unless their relationship to each other and to the total situation is considered. Brother Warren uses the conditions of salvation to illustrate his point. He argues that (though he does not mention each) that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are the constituent elements. It is his contention that if one establishes the necessity of each of these independently, he has established the "plan of salvation." This is not true. Before one can establish the conditions of salvation obligatory upon man, he must not only establish the necessity of the items named but also the order in which they come and their relationship to each other. Baptism must be preceded by and based upon faith in Christ. Reverse the order as in the case of the paedo-baptists or alter the motivation from faith in Christ to some other and the validity of baptism is destroyed. The conditions of salvation cannot be dealt with separately. The constituent elements do not prove the total situation.

Further illustrating the erroneous character of Brother Warren's contention, we suggest that one might go to a junkyard, an auto cemetery, and purchase all of the constituent parts of a 1955 Cadillac automobile, but he would not have a Cadillac automobile unless the parts were joined together and properly related to one another. In the alphabet and the punctuation marks, one has all of the constituent elements of every gem that literary genius has produced, or ever will produce. An elementary school child may know perfectly the alphabet and the punctuation marks, but at the same time be completely ignorant of William Cullen Bryant's "Thanatopsis," the dramas of William Shakespeare, or Alexander Pope's "Essay On Man." We doubt not that Brother Warren possesses an accurate knowledge of the English alphabet and the punctuation marks, but we have never seen anything from his pen to suggest that he might be capable of producing a poem comparable to Gray's "Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard," Longfellow's "The Day Is Done," or Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar." Why not, Brother Warren, you possess all of the constituent elements of every masterpiece of English literature that unborn genius will ever produce? Is it not your argument that the constituent elements individually established prove the total situation? Why then, since you know the alphabet and the punctuation marks, are you not a great poet?

Refutation Of Argument

Any true argument can be reduced to a syllogism. A syllogism consists of a major premise, minor premise, and conclusion. An argument can be overthrown in three fundamental ways (in addition there are many other logical fallacies): (1) The major premise can be shown to be false; (2) the minor premise can be proved to be untrue; (3) it can be shown that the conclusion is not fairly inferred or deduced from the premises. We have just shown that Brother Warren's major premise of his syllogism, as he defines and uses it, is not true, hence that his argument is unsound. No more need be said, but we are by no means through. Look for us again next week.