Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 4, 1956
NUMBER 22, PAGE 4-5a

The Truth Between Extremes


Some weeks ago we published an article by Brother Peter Wilson, "If They Are Expedient, What Then?", in which it was pointed out that (1) the highest sanction and authority anybody has ever even attempted to claim for present day "promotions" (benevolent and evangelistic cooperatives) is that they are "expedients," and thus PERMISSIBLE; and (2) if the churches divide over these promotions it will be only because some brethren are infatuated with them to the point that they love their promotional schemes more than they love the unity of God's people.

We have received a number of letters, both commending and criticizing the article. The criticisms that have been made are pretty well summed up in an article by Brother Harvey Pearson, "From 'What Then' To The Ridiculous," appearing elsewhere in this issue. We suggest you read it carefully.

Obviously there is some merit in Brother Pearson's criticism. It would indeed be "ridiculous" to suggest that faithful churches abandon and "drop everything" to which any single person could be found who would offer an objection. As Brother Pearson says, "You can find sincere brethren opposed to almost anything." He mentions baptistries, radio preaching, athletic activities by preachers, individual communion cups, voting, etc., and asks "How far would this kind of policy take us if we begin to drop everything that some Christian sincerely believes to be wrong?"

Does it follow then that we are NEVER to regard the sincere and earnest conviction of some of the ablest and most godly members of a congregation? Are we to ride rough-shod over all protest and objection, regardless of the piety, sincerity, numbers, and Bible knowledge of the objectors? When men like Lipscomb, McGarvey, Benjamin Franklin, and later such men as Kurfees and the Srygleys pleaded with the instrumental music advocates to abandon their efforts to force the instrument into congregations over the tearful protests of their brethren, and pointed out that the law of "brotherly love" (if nothing else!) should cause a cessation of their agitation, did the organ party do right in ruthlessly ignoring their pleas? With only a minor change of wording here and there, (Brother Pearson's article, "From 'What Then' To The Ridiculous," would have been quite in harmony, both in spirit and in argumentation, with articles appearing in the "'Christian Standard" (champion publication of the organ group) back in the 1880's and 1890's.

Be it said to his credit that Isaac Errett, founder of the Christian Standard, showed a more charitable attitude than many of his associates when he wrote in his paper (1870):

"Our own course is clear. We shall advise our brethren everywhere, for the sake of peace and from a reverential regard to one of the noblest lessons of Christian brotherhood, to discard the use of instruments in the churches . . . Let a sacred regard to the rights of others, and an equally sacred regard to the conscience of others, possess us, and we shall master the difficulties of this question."

How tragic that Errett's counsel did not prevail!

Just think what would be the present status of the church of Christ in the world if love of the brethren had been stronger than love of the organ! The catastrophic fight that brought shame and humiliation to the great Restoration movement would have been avoided, and it is not only possible, but highly probable, that the church of Jesus Christ would this day outnumber both Catholicism and Protestantism combined on the American continent! She was well on her way to becoming the largest religious body in America in the 1850's. If she had maintained her unity, it can scarcely be questioned that she would have made tremendous gains from the divided, embittered sects of Protestantism following the Civil War; and by the display of brotherly love (which Errett advised) would have gained adherents by the millions.

As usual, in the matter of controversial issues, the truth lies between extremes. We agree with Brother Pearson that it would be "ridiculous" to "drop everything" that some ignorant, prejudiced, and untaught brother might be found objecting to. But will he agree with us that it is equally "ridiculous" to insist that the conscientious convictions of thousands of humble and faithful Christians, including some of the greatest veterans of the cross in all the land, should be ruthlessly ignored, regardless of circumstances? Is there no middle ground between the two extremes?

We verily think there is. And that is the very thing Peter Wilson's article was proposing — that in view of the wide-spread unrest among the churches, and the division which to many seems ever to loom ominously, the brethren pushing their "expedients" abandon them, and seek for peace and unity and good-will while these issues are being studied.

And how long should such a "study" period endure? Well, the Missionary Society question was discussed for fifty years or more before the division became irreversible; the music question not quite so long; the re-baptism question was generally solved to the satisfaction of most Christians after about thirty-five years; the civil government question is still being studied seventy-five years after it came into prominence, although there seems to have been a mutual "truce" in this field, and no division over it seems likely. Certainly the six or seven years that "benevolent and evangelistic cooperatives" have occupied much attention, with public debates on them only coming within the last two years, seems hardly enough time to devote to a question fraught with such heavy implications.

In the interest of unity, and with a sincere desire to promote peace among the churches, we have offered a "compromise" suggestion, which we here repeat: Let all who earnestly and conscientiously believe it their duty to support such things as the benevolent institutions, the evangelistic cooperatives (such as Herald of Truth) and the Christian colleges, do it as individuals; and let not the church treasury be used for such, no matter how fully persuaded an eldership may be that such projects are scriptural. We frankly acknowledge this is a "compromise"; we are perfectly willing to accept all the sarcasm, scorn, and vituperation that some of the extremists among our institutionally-minded brethren are pouring out on us by accepting it we can promote peace, brotherliness, and good-will among Christians. The men who write for this paper are earnestly and prayerfully working and praying to the end that unity, and not division, may prevail. We are willing to make any concession, any "compromise," any surrender that we can make in righteousness to affect that end.

This "compromise" has indeed already been accepted for a number of years and acted upon by many congregations so far as it pertains to church contributions to Christian Colleges. More than one congregation has elders who are unanimous in believing that church contributions to Christian colleges are scriptural; they believe the colleges should be supported. But for the sake of peace within the church, and to avoid offense to those who believe such church contributions unscriptural, they have refused to put the college in the church budget, but have themselves made individual contributions, and have urged others to do so.

Why can not the same spirit be shown in these other matters? If such action will be taken, then unity and good-will can prevail in this area equally as well. It is agreed by all of us that it would be "ridiculous" to let the uninformed and superstitious ignorance and prejudice of some babe in Christ or the immature and unrealistic opinionism of an untaught brother control the church. But it is equally "ridiculous" to think the way to peace and harmony lies in trampling underfoot the sincere and deep-rooted convictions of multiplied thousands of the most spiritually minded, the most well-informed Bible students, and most honored and faithful gospel preachers in the church! Between these two extremes lies the way of truth, good will, and peace. This is what Brother Wilson pleaded for; this is what all faithful Christians pray for.

— F. Y. T.