Pressing the Battle
P. J. Casebolt
Paden City, West Virginia
History is simply a giant collection of reruns, and looking back, we read with suspense of the many battles that were lost because someone failed to press the advantage just when the foe was reeling. Poor judgment, inaccurate intelligence reports, faulty communication, and outright cowardice have robbed armies and navies of certain victory which awaited them around the next bend of the road, over the hill, across the river, or just beyond the horizon. It is too late to change history, but it is never too late to profit from it.
When Joshua was ready to lead the Israelites in their conquest for the land of Canaan, he was told four times in the first chapter of the book bearing his name that victory was certain if he would "be strong and of a good courage" (John 1:6, 7, 9, 18). Failure on the part of Israel to do this forty years before had caused an unnecessary and costly delay (Num. 14:26-39). It is my conviction that our generation has an opportunity now to press the battle and win some victories of lasting consequences. Failure to do so will be viewed by future generations as they read from the honest hand of history.
The nations of the world, including our own, are experiencing chaos and crises unparalleled in our time. Those not directly involved in the fighting, rioting, and rebellions, are uneasy and tense. We may not be able to persuade the world that it should stop all this nonsense and accept Jesus as the "Prince of Peace," but we might take advantage of the situation to turn some hearts to the Lord and become citizens in a "kingdom which cannot be moved."
The Catholic Church is having its problems, both of an internal and external nature.
Concessions are being made to appease the Catholic membership and her priests. Catholic priests are leaving the Catholic Church in great numbers, and much concern is manifested over the decline in numbers of those preparing for the priesthood. When any system is spread throughout the world and of human origin with earthly headquarters, that system is going to be affected by political upheavals. Catholicism boasts of her numbers and her far-reaching influence, but these factors can be a liability. Catholic involvement in the Viet Nam conflict and her constant conflicts with Communism are prominent examples. Surely we are not deceived by any of her "concessions" or "unity" overtures, but we need to press the battle while she is busy with her own problems.
Many denominations are rapidly losing their identity. A system that was once defended is now being attacked by its own leaders who recognize that it is not the answer to man's needs. A prominent denominational leader recently accused churches, including his church, of being drunk on numbers, magnificent buildings, and the peace of Sunday morning attendance. Some are admitting that denominationalism is sinful, and that the Lord requires unity, while some of my brethren are trying to justify it, copy it, compromise with it, and join it. There has never been a more appropriate time in our generation to press the battle against this inefficient, confusing, ungodly system by leading people out of it into the church of the living God.
The "Christian Church"
This group is the product of an apostasy that took place in the Lord's church during the last century. For a long time it halted between the true church from whence it went out, and the extremes of denominationalism, while many of us, and the Lord, knew it had become a denomination, it was only recently that they admitted it themselves. They are now voting on whether or not to "become" a denomination, that is. This is conclusive evidence to the most naive defenders of that digressive body that it has gone farther than any of its original promoters thought that it would. This is not the time to walk away from the just warfare we have waged against this deceptive system which was not content with the "simplicity of the gospel," but rather a time to press the battle, expose its leaders, stop the mouths of its defenders, and possibly pull some out of the fire while they can be reached.
For the past several years, facts and figures have shown that conservative religious groups are outgrowing the liberals. From 1906 to 1956, the church of Christ jumped from tenth place to second place in the rate of growth statistics. In 1956, the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) were in tenth place (Akron Beacon journal, 9-17-1960). This happened in spite of the fact that the liberal promoters of the Christian Church declared they would go off and leave their "anti" conservative brethren! Of course, the Lord's church had experienced rapid growth before, in the first century, and again in the 19th century, and both times because of a conservative attitude toward the "simplicity of the gospel" (2 Cor. 11: 1-4). Some of our brethren who launched the liberalism among us, who aided and abetted it at every turn, and who never once discouraged or reproved it, are now alarmed that is has gotten out of hand and are shouting for somebody to do something. , All right, I'll do something besides what I've been doing all along, and urge every other soldier worthy of the name to do likewise, and that is
"Press the Battle"
While conditions in the world reach the boiling point, while Catholicism is suffering setbacks, while denominationalism is floundering with little to offer, while the Christian Church has lost all identity as a "peculiar people," and while brethren in the church of Christ who have been branded as "antis" are enjoying their most advantageous position since the liberal movement began, what are we doing about it? Well, I know what some are doing. They are urging the Lord's church to lose its peculiar identity by blending with denominationalism, and are building one-way bridges to "commune" with them. They will not return. Instead of following up our advantage over the digressive Christian Church, some are becoming more and more like it, and some preachers are joining it!
And now, I fear that some brethren, who have fought valiantly against every violation of the New Testament authority, may be induced to stop just when victory is in sight. No, I am not advocating that we ignore any genuine overture on the part of anyone to discuss differences that separate us. But I do affirm that we should not stop fighting for an hour while such discussion is going on. If we were justified in opposing worldliness, Catholicism, Protestantism, the Christian Church, and liberalism among our own number in the first place, then we are justified in continuing our opposition to these. If we are justified in ceasing our opposition, then we should never have begun it in the first place.
I am greatly encouraged by the turn of events which I have noticed recently, especially in the Ohio Valley. More individuals and congregations are taking a stand against the modernism that has begun corrupting the doctrine, worship, organization, and mission of the church. Don't misunderstand efforts to promote these divisive practices have not ceased, but on the contrary, have increased. But, unwittingly and unintentionally, they have done more to turn brethren against them than anything or anyone else. Brethren can just stomach so much, and many are now recognizing what some have been saying all along, that "we are drifting," - but at ninety miles an hour! The more digression is pressed, the more people are getting their eyes opened.
Pressing the battle is going to be hard on those who precipitated the battle by introducing their golden calves, and it is going to expose more of these self-styled "middle-of-the-roaders" for their duplicity and timidity. But if we wait until it is too late, our efforts will be in vain, and history will tell on us.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 12, pp. 3-4