Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 28, 1967

Proven Guilty

James A. Allen, Nashville, Tennessee

Our good Brother Goodpasture from time to time has published articles from me, written some years ago, when I was editor of the Gospel Advocate, asking assistance for Fanning Orphan School, the Tennessee Orphan Home, David Lipscomb College, et al. In the Gospel Advocate of November 15, 1956, he republishes two such articles: one written by me in the Advocate of March 17, 1927, and the other, though unsigned, I think was probably written by Brother H. Leo Boles, in the Advocate of July 17, 1930. Brother Goodpasture thus proves that there was a time in my life when I supported these institutions.

As an humble and penitent defendant at the bar, I plead guilty to the crime of changing my mind on the scripturalness of all such institutions, originated and operated not "by faith," but by human wisdom, to take over some part of the work that God commits to the congregation. I would like very much to write a few articles for the Gospel Advocate, discussing this terrible and unfortunate issue of human institutions to take over some part of the work of the congregation. In this brief explanation (which Brother Goodpasture may, or may not, admit into the Gospel Advocate — it is being sent to him) I cannot touch even lightly on this growing evil.

It is obvious that Brother Goodpasture's effort is to try to justify himself in the face of the ever-widening belief in the brotherhood that the policy of the Gospel Advocate today is not what it formerly was. But he misses the point entirely in these republications. No one denies, or has ever denied, that some of the former editors of the Advocate have supported human institutions. But the point of policy (which Brother Goodpasture inadvertently overlooks) is that in former years every Bible subject was open to investigation and discussion; the Advocate gave its readers both sides of every question and left it up to them to decide what the Bible teaches.

Tolbert Fanning started the Advocate one hundred and one years ago to furnish a medium in which the brotherhood could fully discuss this very question of human institutions to take over the work of the divine institution. It was this full and open discussion carried on in the columns of the Gospel Advocate which contributed so largely to saving the majority of the churches in Tennessee from Northern digression. Brother Lipscomb went so far, in giving both sides, that he copied into the Advocate from Russell Errett in the Christian Standard a most bitter and vituperative denunciation of himself personally, to the effect that David Lipscomb was Russell's pet abomination of an editor. It may be said that a full discussion of the question did not necessitate Brother Lipscomb's publishing Errett's denunciation of him personally. Well, maybe not; but it illustrated the extent to which the former policy of the Gospel Advocate was to give both sides of every subject, and let thereaders reach their own decision. The Advocate formerly was not a mere propaganda sheet, or a house-organ for some pet project.

The only thing that can preserve the integrity of the churches, and develop them in mind and heart to successfully accomplish the work that God has committed to them, is full, free, and continuous investigation and discussion of every Bible subject. Just as a Bible-reading people who have the right of free assembly, free speech, and a free press, cannot be enslaved, so also the churches can never be carried into apostasy as long as their members conform to the divine requirement to "prove all things," and to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear." The effort to shut off investigation and discussion (as is becoming so prevalent in some circles today) can only result in the apostasy of those so engaged. They will depart from "the apostles teaching," and consequently will ever be unable to evangelize the world, or to properly care for the widow and the orphan and the poor, as was so amazingly and so successfully done by the New Testament congregations in apostolic times.

The question of whether or not the policy of the Gospel Advocate has been changed is a question concerning which many brethren today are deeply interested. It is a question of whether or not the Gospel Advocate of today is striving to give its readers a full and free discussion of every Bible subject, leaving them to decide from their own study what the Bible teaches, or whether it has adopted the policy of sectarian and denominational papers in giving its readers only slanted propaganda. A paper's decision on such matters can be judged only from the paper's course. If it knows that its pet projects cannot be successfully defended from the Scriptures in fair and honorable discussion, then it will pull down the iron curtain of censorship, and allow only one side of to be heard.