Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 1936
NUMBER 1, PAGE 19-21

Brother Boll's Proposition

(Editorial In Gospel Advocate By Foy E. Wallace Jr.. Replying To Boll's "Here's My Hand" And "A Doctrinal Manifesto," 1932)

In a recent issue of the Word and Work. Brother R. H. Boll extends his hand to us on a proposition regarding the teaching of certain prophetic theories which have been sponsored by that magazine. His proposition sets forth exactly the principles for which the Gospel Advocate has contended all the time, and we stand ready to complete the gesture toward unity so far as the editorial responsibility of the Gospel Advocate extends. "Here's My Hand."

Under this heading Brother Boll delivers his proposition to us as follows:

"If any are sincerely troubled with fears lest any false doctrines, theories, speculations, etc., may rise up to disturb the unity of the church. I would like for my part to go on record on my own behalf, and so far as my responsibility for the Word and Work extends, that nothing shall be taught on any prophetic theme except what can be read from the Bible. On the question of the kingdom, for instance, the Word and Work is willing to set forth and emphasize any and every statement found in God's book, in its own fair light and context, without addition, subtraction, or alteration, and without regard to any theories on the subject. On the Coming of Christ, on the Thousand Years, on the Throne of David: on all disputed and prophetic themes, in short. I am willing to let God alone speak. In all discussions and expositions of passages bearing on these matters I propose to regard carefully, even scrupulously, what the passage in question actually says: to draw no unwarranted conclusions or unnecessary inferences, to build up or defend no human theories, to avoid mere philosophical and syllogistic argumentation on Bible themes. I feel sure that all the friends and writers of the Word and Work will indorse such attitude. If the brethren who have pressed the other side of the controverted matters will bind themselves in like manner, harmony ought to be complete."

If Brother Boll will live up to this proposition, harmony will be complete. And if he had never pursued any other course than the one he now proposes, there never would have been anything except harmony on these questions. He proposes, "that nothing shall be taught on any prophetic theme except what can be read from the Bible." This proposition bars all "interpretations" and "views" of prophecy beyond what the Bible "actually says". We accept it. It is exactly what "the brethren who have pressed the other side of the controverted matters" believe. Brother Boll has, in fact, conceded that position to us by the admission that we have "pressed the other side of the controverted matters"— Since his side has been, by his own admissions, dealing with interpretations of prophecy which destroy harmony, "the other side," by his admission, has been against these interpretations, and stands, therefore, upon the exact proposition on which Brother Boll offers his hand. In view of this proposal, Brother Boll's references, in the same issue of his paper, to what the pioneers taught on these questions is untimely. He is not proposing to do or teach as they did, but to teach only what the Bible "actually says". Nearly every man who has ever had a peculiar position to defend has claimed "the pioneers" on his side. If we were at present devoted to the task of defending the teaching of the pioneers on the issues involved, it could be successfully done, at least, to the extent of proving that they did not hold the views advocated by Brother Boll. But that is not the proposition. Brother Boll has offered his hand on an agreement to teach only what the Bible "actually says" and only "what can be read from the Bible"— "without addition, subtraction, or alteration, and without regard to any theories on the subject". While this will require that Brother Boll repudiate some of his own books and withdraw them from the market, we hope that he will not recede from his proposition, which we wholeheartedly accept without modification.

"A Doctrinal Manifesto"

While waiting for us to accept or refuse his proposition Brother Boll issued another number of the Word and Work-containing "A Doctrinal Manifesto". Concerning this number he says: "Of all the issues [of his paper], our preaching brethren must have this one: we send it to them all." He further states that this is not the first time all the preachers have been treated to a free edition of his magazine. "Once before, for four consecutive months." he says, "we ventured by faith to send the Word and Work to an extra list of two thousand preachers." And between these "specials" we all know that he has been diligent in the propagation of his peculiar theories. Still, we have been supinely told that they have not pressed these theories and that we should not have opposed them. But even after extending us his hand on a proposition for unity our brother editor felt called upon for some reason to issue a "speculation special" in an effort to proselyte all the preachers. And worse still, in this issue he refers freely to those who differ from his views as "creedists," "creed-bound," "a self-constituted ecclesiasticism." and "a human sect which they call 'church of Christ." Aside from being extremely untimely, with his proposition pending acceptance or rejection, the language is hardly consistent with our brother's professions of piety and reverence, if not entirely incompatible with his own standard of integrity. Really, his proposition ought to be amended to include a retraction of these charges and an apology for his hard sayings; but if he will stand by the proposition on which he extends his hand, we will not require it of him.

But while we are waiting for his proposition to be confirmed, some strictures on our brother's "manifesto" are in order.

I. Our brother editor says: "In view of recent 'Utterances of some religious journals, some editorial, some otherwise, the editor of Word and Work feels impelled to state again and again his doctrinal position and church relationship."

This declaration is hardly true to the facts in the case. Brother Boll would leave the impression that "recent utterances' of others impel him to make a declaration of his doctrine. But all informed brethren know that he has been at it all the time. His own unyielding attitude toward the propagation of his objectionable doctrines has called forth all the opposition. The suspension of the discussion of these questions in the Gospel Advocate over a period of time was, it seems, construed as a surrender of the issues involved, and the effort to advance their theories was given impetus. Thus an undue advantage was taken of a gesture for unity. It was this attitude of the editor of Word and Work, with his increasing propaganda that called forth the "recent utterances" in the Gospel Advocate.

2. Our brother editor states further: Some editor and some writers are not wholly decided as to whether they should any longer continue in fellowship with some of the rest of us who do not share their views on prophecy."

This statement is a cunning but very ignoble effort to shift the responsibility of division and disfellowship. Brother Boll plays ventriloquist and makes it sound as if the voice of "views on prophecy" were coming from some other than his own direction. But his speculations are too notorious for this device to work. His name is virtually a synonym for theorizing. Any attempt to absolve his own guilt by adroit references to other prophetic views, as though it were just a matter of choosing between views held by others and his own, can only be classified as a shrewd maneuver. It is the editor of Word and Work, not "some editor and some other writers," who has been imposing "views of prophecy" upon the brethren. Who does not know that the church was not bothered with these questions until he himself formulated his system of prophetic teaching and attempted to foist it bodily upon the churches? Brother Boll admits this himself when he speaks of "the good old days" when there was no "trouble" over these issues. Let him be as the brethren were in those days and there will be no trouble now. Whatever "views of prophecy" the brethren before us had, they did not feature them. They held them only as opinions. Brother Boll does not do this. He asserts that his theories are plainly taught in the Bible, and it has been observed that eighty per cent of the space in his paper the last few years has been devoted to the agitation of these divisive questions.

"They Will Just Have To Put Us Out"

3. Our brother editor further deposes after this fashion: "If, then, those brethren insist that certain of us must subscribe to their views of prophecy (or else promise to keep silent on the subject), we must regretfully permit them to draw their line on us, and sorrowfully leave them to their human sect which they have formed and which they call 'church of Christ."

If by "those brethren" Brother Boll means the Gospel Advocate, we gladly inform him that we are not now, nor have we ever been, interested in getting anybody to subscribe to anybody's "views on prophecy". Contrariwise, we have earnestly sought to induce "those brethren" who are teaching "views on prophecy" to abandon their divisive work and "follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." This statement of Brother Boll's in itself amounts to a confession of heresy. It is a tacit admission that his views are so far out of line with the body "which they call 'church of Christ"' as to require much forbearance and toleration in order to fellowship him. Our much-exercised brother pays himself no compliment in holding himself in such an attitude before the churches. Hear him again: "If any of us must be rejected from fellowship on such grounds, I can see no other chance. They will just have to put us out. " Who does Brother Boll think can disfellowship him: -- The Gospel Advocate claims no such prerogative. Our understanding of what the New Testament teaches is that only the local church with the divine arrangement of elders and deacons can withdraw fellowship. We believe and teach this autonomy of the local church, and could not be so inconsistent as to contradict it by disfellowshiping Brother Boll or anybody else. The purpose of the Gospel Advocate is to advocate the gospel, not disfellowship people.

But what does all this mean, appearing in the next issue after an extended hand on a proposition for unity? Does it mean that he withdraws his proposition before it is accepted? Does he now mean to say, "Fellowship me, fellowship my theories"? Then who draws the line of fellowship? In his proposition Brother Boll proposes to "re-word carefully, even scrupulously, what the passage in question actually says; to draw no unwarranted conclusions or unnecessary inferences, to build up or defend no human theories," etc. Now he says he will "regretfully permit" somebody to "draw their line" on him before he will "promise to keep silent on the subject". We are unable to interpret these "recent utterances" of his in the light of the proposition he made in the preceding issue of his paper.

4. Regarding creeds, Brother Boll says that no line of fellowship should be drawn. "Over and above the fundamental statement of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the acceptance of the Scriptures as the word of God and only authority in faith and practice." He further avers: "I am standing absolutely and foursquare upon the word of God, all of it—and not any creed or theory of any man, either my own or any other, and that by that word and with it I am content to stand or fall—and that I am declaring the fundamental principle of the church of Christ."

His statement of the Scriptural creed is correct, and we promptly accept and avow it. But that he is "standing absolutely and foursquare" upon it we positively deny. He is standing absolutely on his own opinions and theories, all of them "over and above the fundamental statement of faith" which he has laid down as his creed. Brother Boll himself does not practice what he preaches concerning "drawing the line of fellowship" on this statement and nothing more. Hear him: "The Word and Work has repeatedly and with much care and detail shown that the charges of teaching 'Russellism ' and 'Adventism,' which have been brought against its editors and some other brethren, are wholly untrue: that the Word and Work and all its friends stand opposed to both these false cults and against every distinctive doctrine of both Russellism and Adventism."

Here Brother Boll finds himself drawing the line of fellowship "over and above" the fundamental statement of faith he avows. On what ground does he draw the line on the Russellites, Adventists, and Fundamentalist Baptists who hold views so similar to his own on prophetic subjects? They will all subscribe to his statement of faith. Yet he indignantly disclaims any part or lot with such "false cults" and "stands opposed to" and is "against every distinctive doctrine" of these people. We would like for him to itemize the difference between his "views of prophecy" and theirs, so we can all see it, and then explain to us where, how, and why he can draw his line on them without making a creed "over and above" the one upon which he predicates fellowship. "Happy is the man who condemneth not himself in the thing that he alloweth."

All the talk about an unwritten creed is for effect. It is not even new. It is an old tattered scarecrow. Every innovation has sought justification in this creed-bound cry. Thus came instrumental music; and all the talk about "the creed in the deed" when loyal brethren resorted to legal protection of property rights against the innovators. It is precisely this same spirit crying in these brethren, "Creed, creed!" when they encounter opposition to their efforts to foist a new system of prophetic doctrines upon churches of Christ. We shall not be weakened in our opposition to this or any other form of error by any such feint.

Where The Case Must Rest.

5. Here is the final deposition of Brother Boll's manifesto: "Here I must rest my case. I should be sorry to see a contingent in the professing church of Christ forget their principles and degenerate into a creed-bound sect. But for no fear or favor, nor for the sake of any specious plea for unity, can I subscribe to anybody's creed or join their sect. So make up your minds, brethren, how it shall be."

Does this mean that Brother Boll has made up his mind not to stand by his proposition? There seems to be quite a contrast between the statement of the previous issue. "Here's my hand," and the closing statement of the current issue. "Here I rest my case." He has not made a consistent witness in his "case". He failed to talk the same way under cross-examination. In one he made a proposition for unity: in the other he calls on the brethren to make up their minds to fellowship his theories or disfellowship him on his own proposition, and all but dares them to do the latter. Verily. Ephraim is joined to his idol! This "manifesto" is about to become a declaration of stubbornness and self-will. Indeed, it is a pitiful begging of the question, a bid for sympathy, and a mighty poor apology for the injury he has done the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Where does the case rest? Just here—on the proposition Brother Boll made upon which he extended his hand. We accept it. Will he stand by it? It is within his power to restore the unity in which he so ardently professes to believe. Think, for instance, what the difference would have been if he had followed up his first proposition with an issue of his paper dedicated to common ground, accompanied by his assurance that he would cease to advocate his divisive doctrines. Will he yet do this on his own proposition? If he will, "here's my hand"; if he will not, the responsibility for division and alienation must rest solely upon himself.