Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 19, 1956
NUMBER 49, PAGE 10-11,14b

"Parallel Sophistry"

Wm. E. Wallace, Akron, Ohio

The Use Of Parallels Has Always Been A Standard Procedure In Argumentation. The Strength Of A Parallel In An Argument Depends On The Importance Of The Similarities, And The Unimportance Of The Differences. Paralleling The Missionary Society To Certain Brotherhood Projects Is An Effective Approach Because The Similarities Are So Obvious And Important They Cannot Be Overlooked Or Neglected.

Brother R. C. Oliver Of Parkersburg, West Virginia Lambasts What He Labels "Parallel Sophistry" In His Light Of March 1956. Light Is A Pocket- Size 16 Page Monthly Which First Appeared In The Mails January 1, 1955. Prior To This, Announcements Were Made By Brother Oliver Of His Intention To Begin Publication. The Motives Behind Publication Of Light Were Said To Be, "On Religious Issues That Perplex, And On Personal Problems That Try The Soul, The Honest Heart Cries Out: 'Let There Be Light!' And It Is Your Editor's Purpose, In The Publication Of Light, To Give You Light. A Second Motive Is That I Might Have A Permanently Established System Of Communication, Through Which I May Keep In Contact With My Thousands Of Friends Throughout The Nation, And Throughout The World." Light Has Been Taking Pot-Shots All Along.

Brother Oliver Wants His "Thousands Of Friends" To Know That Those Who See A Parallel Between The Colleges, Benevolent Institutions, Herald Of Truth And The Missionary Society Are Either "Dishonest, Naive Or Weak- Minded" If They Hold On To This "Subtle Fallacy" After It Has Been Pointed Out. Brother Oliver Defines Sophistry, Locates It In The Parallels Brethren Are Making Between Herald Of Truth, Church Supported Institutions And The Missionary Society. He Represents Himself As Exposing The Brethren Who Make Such Parallels.

Brother Oliver Gives Webster's Definition Of A Sophism: "An Argument, Esp. A Formal One, Intended To Deceive; Also, An Argument Embodying A Subtle Fallacy, But Not Intended As A Deception." Brother Oliver Is Guilty In His Article Of The Very Thing He Seeks To Condemn. Whether He Is Naively Guilty, If There Be Such A Thing, Dishonestly Guilty, Or The Other Alternative, Is Not For Me To Judge, But Since He Has Taken It On Himself To Do Some Iconoclastic "Exposing," I Suspect We Had Better Indulge In A Little Swordcraft With Him.

When Brother Oliver Makes This Charge Against His Brethren He Fails To Make Necessary Distinctions In His Charges. When Does The College Become A Parallel To The Missionary Society? When Does The Orphan Home Become A Parallel To The Missionary Society? Why Is The Herald Of Truth Parallel To The Missionary Society? Brethren Outside The Ketcherside-Garrett- Sommer Camps Do Not Argue That The College Is Parallel To The Missionary Society In Its Mere Existence Separate And Apart From Ties With Congregational Treasuries. The Same Goes For The Orphan And Old Folks Home. But Many, Yea A Host Of Brethren, Know That When The Church Does Its Work Through The College Or Through The Benevolent Homes, There Is A Parallel Between Those Institutions And The Missionary Society Too Obvious To Overlook. Brother Oliver Argues You Have To Have Perfect Identity To Have A Parallel. He Is Woefully In Need Of A Lesson In Logic And He Needs To Check On Definitions. Since Brother Oliver Likes Webster's Definition Of Sophistry, He Ought To Like Webster's Definition Of Parallel. Used As An Adjective It Has A Meaning, "With Like Direction Or Tendency." Used As A Noun It Has A Meaning "Conformity In Many Particulars Or In All Essential Points; Similarity." Note That Word "Similarity." Now Brethren Who Are Opposing The Herald Of Truth Set-Up Do Not Argue That The Herald Of Truth Is Identical In Every Respect, Nor Even In All Essential Points To The Missionary Society. But We Maintain That It Conforms To The Nature Of The Missionary Society In Many Particulars Of Sufficient Quantity To Warrant Being Classified As Parallel To The Missionary Society. And, When The Colleges Or Benevolent Institutions Are Put Into The Budgets Of The Churches, It Is Maintained That The Situation Thus Involved Is Sufficiently Similar To The Missionary Society To Allow The Charge That They Are Parallel. A Horse And A Mule May Not Be Identical, But They Are Both Animals And Are Parallel In Many Essential Characteristics Of The Animal Kingdom. The Herald Of Truth And The Christian Missionary Society Are Not Perfectly Identical, But They Are Based On The Same Principle And Are Parallel In Objectionable Features. They Are Both Based On The Objectionable Principle Of The Necessity Of Combined Universal Church Action Through A Single Agency. Centralization Of Decision And Planning, Pooling Of Resources And Such Like Make The Herald Of Truth And Missionary Society Parallel. The Herald Of Truth Is Not The Christian Missionary Society, But It Is Indeed A Missionary Society — A Society Made Up Of Around 1000 Contributing Churches, With The One Church Constituting The Central Board Of Authority. It Would Seem That The Trouble With Brother Oliver Is, He Is Smarting Under The Force Of This Parallel And He Cannot Escape Its Pressure So He Resorts To Subterfuge.

Now Brother Oliver "Humbly" Challenges "Any Man To Affirm That Any One Of These Named Projects (Institutions, Herald Of Truth) Is Identical With The Society In All Of Its Essential Characteristics, Particularly In Its Control Of The Churches." His "Humble" Challenge Is A Little Like The Seventh Day Adventist Challenge To Any Man To Mark The Passage That Says The Sabbath Was Changed From Saturday To Sunday. His, Challenge Is Not Identical To The Seventh Day Adventist Challenge But It Contains Just Enough Subtlety To Be Parallel To It. Gospel Preachers Know The Adventist Challenge Is So Stated "That Contrary Evidence Is Automatically Precluded, So Arguments Against It Can Not Be Used." We Do Not Argue That The Sabbath Was Changed To Sunday. Logicians Sometimes Call This Sort Of Thing "Poisoning The Wells." Brother Oliver's Challenge, As It Is Worded, Cannot Be Accepted Because It Does Not Represent The Position Of Those Who Are Opposing The Innovations.

The Missionary Society Is An Organization Set Up Through Which The Churches Operate. When The Churches Work Through The Colleges Or Benevolent Institutions, Then Those Institutions Become Societies. There Is The Essential Characteristic Manifested. Those Institutions May Not Have All The Essential Characteristics Of The Christian Missionary Society, But When They Tie The Congregations To Their Work, There Are Enough Essential Characteristics Involved To Substantiate The Parallel. Even The Various State Missionary Societies Of The Christian Church Are Not All Alike In All The Essential Characteristics, Yet They Are Parallel, Are They Not?

As To Herald Of Truth, An Essential Characteristic Involved Is That Of Churches Sending To The Source Of Authority So That Source Can Carry On A Regional, Nationwide Or Worldwide Work. There Is Your Essential Characteristic Once Again, And To Use The Words Of Brother Oliver, "Only A Dishonest, Naive Or Weak-Minded Man Will Hold On To A 'Subtle Fallacy' After It Has Been Pointed Out To Hint"

Brother Oliver Says That The Absence Of One Essential Mark Will Destroy Identity. To Illustrate His Point He Made A Diagram Of A Good Wife And A Bad Wife Who Were Alike In That They Were Born In The Usa, Were Both White, Were Well Educated, Attractive, Married At 20, And Had Identical Names, But One Is Subject To Her Husband And The Other Defies And Usurps Authority Over Her Husband. Brother Oliver Says, "Now, Would It Not Be The Height Of Folly For One To Argue That Because These Two Women Are Alike In All But One Point That They Are Therefore Identical!" Yes, But It Is Quite Accurate To Say That The Two Women Are Identical In Name, Color, And Place Of Birth! There Are Many Parallels In Their Personal Qualities And Circumstances, And This Is The Sort Of Thing Upon Which We Base Our Missionary Society — Herald Of Truth Parallels. The Two Societies Are Parallel In Objectionable Features. They Are Alike In Enough Of The Objectionable Features To Substantiate A Parallel. They Are Not Identical, Yet Comparable; They Are Comparable And Parallel In Their Kindred Features, And The Two Projects Are Parallel Because They Are Similar.

Brother Oliver Says The Missionary Society Is Created For The Purpose Of Exercising Control Over The Churches, And If It Fails To Do This, It Fails In Its Purpose. He States That This Is Different From The College Because If The College Exercised Control Over The Churches It Would Be A Violation, And Not A Fulfillment, Of Its Purposes. The Advocates Of The Missionary Society Deny That The Society Exercises Control Over The Churches — They Assert That It Only Preaches The Gospel For The Churches. Now If You Put The College In The Budget Of The Churches, The College Might Deny Controlling The Churches And Would Assert They Only Educate Workers For The Church. There Is A Big Parallel Or Two Here — Too Big For Brother Oliver Honestly To Miss It.

Sophism. Brother Oliver Charges Sophistry Because We Parallel The Missionary Society And Herald Of Truth. But If There Was Ever Any Subtle Reasoning, R. C. Oliver Is Guilty Of It When He Ignores The Nature Of Our Parallel Arguments, Misrepresents Where We Put The Identity, And Fails To Give Consideration To Our Argument As To When The Educational And Benevolent Institutions Become Parallel To The Missionary Societies. Moats And Beams!

In the September 1955 issue of Light R. C. Oliver answered the following question: "Do you think it would be scriptural for Highland Church in Abilene to send a preacher into every state of the union, and receive funds from other churches with which to support these preachers"? Hear his answer: "Certainly it would scriptural for the Highland Avenue Church, or for any other church for that matter, to send a preacher into every state of the union. And, if they chose to do so, it would also be scriptural for other churches to help them inthis work . . . So far as principle is concerned, I can see little or no difference between sending the voice and sending the man;" This statement clearly indicates the trend of Brother Oliver's thinking. Brother R. C. Oliver of the North End Church in Parkersburg, West Virginia would have Highland Church sending the man instead of voices! A thousand congregations can send funds to Highland which in return can send out hundreds of preachers! Not only does Brother Oliver believe this to be scriptural, he says in conclusion, "Whenever possible, we ought to send both!" We ought! This rank position will not be accepted by many who think the Herald of Truth right, but in time they will have to give up the Herald of Truth or take their stand with R. C. Oliver. Brother Oliver says he is "not affirming that such would be practical," because of the "tradition of the fathers." "Nevertheless," he continues, "the man doesn't live who can show that such would be a violation of scriptural principles!" In his rashness Brother Oliver is either careless or unaware of the scriptural principle of congregational autonomy and independent action. Brother Oliver seems to have no respect for the silence of the scriptures nor for approved example. When he finds what he advocates authorized by scripture, then his bold approach will not seem quite so frail. His articles of critique are conspicuous in their absence of scripture reference.

Some more Oliver sophistry. In the June 1955 Light the new editor says, "Tradition says that several congregations of our Lord's church cannot cooperate together in helping another congregation do a work which the latter congregation cannot do alone, that is, except in the case of an emergency, and should they do so, the receiving congregation then becomes comparable to the pope of Rome." Now I wonder where he learned of this tradition? This charge is not mere sophistry, it is subterfuge. Brethren are not opposing cooperation, they are opposing a certain kind of cooperation and it is not the kind described in Brother Oliver's statement. Rather, iris the kind of cooperation unauthorized in the scriptures, the kind which led to the Roman Catholic hierarchy nearly a score of centuries ago and to the digressive church a century ago.

On another page of Light, June 1955, he says, "And even though each (congregation) recognizes its independence, yet whenever any one congregation is faced with some Christian work, whether benevolent or evangelistic, which it cannot do alone, then all of like precious faith will join together in helping that one do a work which it otherwise could not do alone, and yet at no time is-the local autonomy of either of those contributing, or the one receiving, destroyed." He says, "One Bible example of such cooperation is recorded in I Corinthians 16:1-4 . . . and a current example is where several churches, following that same New Testament principle, have co-operated in helping the Highland Church of Christ, in Abilene, Texas conduct a national radio program, 'The Herald of Truth,' which the Highland Church could not do alone."

Observe that Brother Oliver makes a parallel here between the situation in I Corinthians 16:1-4 and the Herald of Truth set-up. But his parallel will not conform to the requirements of a parallel he set forth in his article in the March, 1956 Light. Let's see what we have:

I Cor. 16 Herald of Truth
1. Churches commanded to contribute on Lord's Day for the needy saints in Jerusalem. 1. Churches asked to send funds to Highland Church, for radio work to benefit weak and strong churches.
2. "That there be no gatherings when I come." 2. That a nationwide work can be expedited, congregations surrender funds to Highland.
3. Messengers will "bring liberality to Jerusalem." 3. Highland Church will send out the gospel all over the nation.

Now Brother Oliver wants two things to be perfectly identical before they can be called parallel. He has a lot of work to do to get I Corinthians 16 and Herald of Truth perfectly identical. Oliver, thou art a jewel!

In the words of Gayle Oler in an article reprinted in Light of January, 1956 with the commendation of editor Oliver, I say, "A truly ignorant man can work himself up into a feverish frenzy about 'what's going on in our brotherhood' and in a bombastic article or two can unburden himself of enough righteous indignation to supply a whole synagogue of Pharisees."

Brother Oliver enjoins that whoever might be "advocating that there is a true parallel between The Christian Missionary Society and these various other works ... is in truth and in fact a false teacher, whether he is conscious of the fact or not, and as such he should be exposed!" In view of the beam in the eye of Brother Oliver regarding sophistry it would be well for the brethren in the Ohio Valley to put him under surveillance.