John Came to Town with His Social Gospel!
Earl E. Robertson
From many sources within the institutional churches the cry is being heard that modernism is invading them at full speed. They not only know that modernism is with them, but they know how it got there! One recently said, "I am also disturbed beyond measure at the 'let-up' in scriptural proof for what is preached today over the radio and from the pulpit both locally and nationally. (Jacob McClinton, The Contender, Vol. 10, No. 17, Youngstown, Ohio). To help identify this modernistic problem they are experiencing, one only has to learn what preaching is done "nationally." In an editorial, B. C. Goodpasture, editor of the Gospel Advocate, says in the February 15, 1968 issue: "When one berates the timely and frequent appeal to the Holy Scriptures, he betrays a woeful lack of knowledge of, and respect for, the 'living oracles.' If he is not a modernist, he is speaking the language and serving the purpose of the modernist." That same week one of their daring young Dr. Princes from Houston, Texas wrote: ' 'Preaching the Word' ought not to be confused with quoting Scripture." So, this is the very attitude which has prevailed and is prevailing among the churches which subscribed to the theory that churches of Christ may do work through human institutions. There is no Bible for this contention, and consequently, the time came when their practices far outweighed their "appeal to the Holy Scriptures."
These men look upon God's church as a human denomination. They apparently know not from whence it came, nor its function while here. The Social Gospel is rampant in the liberal churches. Gary Freeman wrote: "When the church refuses to lift its voice against all forms of injustice and inhumanity, when the church refuses to indict outrages against human dignity, it is already in the ninth circle of Hell." (Bulletin, Church of Christ, Morgantown, W. Va., Feb. 12, 1967) These brethren are persuaded that the church should clear slums, erect housing additions, demonstrate for higher wages, etc. But the real mission of the church is the mission Jesus had: "Seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). The lost are those separated from God by sin (Isa. 59:1, 2; John 1:29}. Whether one has little or much of this world's goods have nothing to do with whether he is a saint or a sinner. These brethren need to read Philippians 4 discerningly.
The Dayton Decency Rally
Brother John Allen Chalk came to Dayton, Ohio the latter part of May, 1969 for a "Decency Rally." This "Rally" was sponsored by the Centerville, Ohio church. The Centerville church is a rather new one with some fifty members. It had saved some $20,000.00 for a building fund, which money was used for the "Decency Rally." Hara Arena was used for the "Rally" and much advertising was done, including a motorcade through the city. An advertising agency in Detroit "pumped" the public for a great turnout of people. They expected 8,000 to attend but about one-half this number attended. Pat Boone, Ivory James and Dr. Bill Banowsky were others on the program. They called this "Rally" for which Centerville church spent $20,000.00 a "combination musical entertainment and serious discussion."
A very popular one-hour TV program, M. C'd. by Phil Donahue (a Roman Catholic), had Chalk on as guest on Friday, May 23. He began his sayings by affirming that very soon there would be "no church buildings." He thinks that a few here and there will meet in homes and "relate Christ." He said he would be for selling the church buildings, and when Donahue asked what should be done with the money, brother Chalk said -- reparation! It was then that he said: consider the little Centerville church, meeting in a dwelling, have saved $20,000.00 to build a church building. Why, he said that Cen-terville already has perhaps a dozen church buildings (Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc.), so why build more! He said they could take this money and relate to this community. He spoke of Jesus' work in selecting the apostles to preach the gospel in this language: "he took eleven drop-outs." He said the older preachers have perpetuated the institutional church concept, but that the younger are not accepting it.
Brother Chalk was questioned by people in the studio and by others via telephone. One frustrated Catholic lady called him and expressed her feelings concerning the hypocrisy in the churches -- specifically the Roman Catholic Church. Brother Chalk insisted that "she go down to the store and get a TEV." The TEV -- Today's English Version is not a "version" but rather a perversion. Check the TEV on Acts 20:7. It reads, "On Saturday evening we gathered together for the fellowship meal." In the KJV and ARV the passage reads: "And upon the first day of the week . . ." The phrase en de miai ton sabbaton is plural, and Robertson says it "was used for the week (sabbath to sabbath). For the first time here we have services mentioned on the first day of the week . . ." (Word Pictures In New Testament, Vol. 3, pp. 338, 339). This Greek idiom signified "the first day after the sabbath", says Vine, and lists Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2. (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 3, pg. 138, Vol. 4, pg. 206) Why did brother Chalk have to specify the TEV to this woman? In the language of brother Goodpasture, we ask was he "serving the purpose of the modernist?" The woman might follow the TEV and be religious, but the question is: With the TEV would she have the truth? Since Acts 20:7 is the only passage telling the time for the Lord's Supper, should she follow the TEV would she know when to eat the Lord's Supper?
I was not greatly surprised, however, when I heard him on TV, because I knew some of his thinking beforehand. In a speech in Canada, brother Chalk had earlier said, "I've come to be convinced, the more I thought about it, that there are two sources of truth for the Christian. And, certainly you would expect me to believe that everything that I know about God, and say that everything that I hold in my convictions about God, and about his will for man, I originally have learned and am learning from his word, the Bible. 'Seeing that his divine power hath given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness' (2 Peter 1:3). But I have also, more and more, come to the conviction and to believe very strongly that there is a corroborative sense in which truth is learned. There is a secondary source if you want to say, or maybe a confirmation of, the truth that the Bible teaches." (Emphasis mine, EER)
Truth is from God. Jesus said, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17L God revealed his word to man through Holy Spirit-filled men (2 Cor. 4:7; I Cor. 2: 10-13; Eph. 3:1-5). The battle is thus pitched: has the Lord now revealed all of his truth to man, or is he yet revealing it to man? Brother Chalk says there is another source of truth besides the Bible. What other "source" of truth does brother Chalk have than the Bible? The apostles are all now dead, but their word remains (Matt. 19:27, 28). What corroboratory evidence does brother Chalk have by which he learns God's truth? His contention is nothing more than subtlety saying the Spirit works separate from and independently of the word of God! He says there are two sources of truth: (1) the Bible is the "original" source, and (2) there is a "secondary source." The above cited passages affirm their origin with God. When God caused the apostles to speak, he was "working with them, and confirming the word with signs following" (Mark 16: 20; cf. Heb. 2:4). The "confirming truth" of the "secondary source" must come from the Spirit of God, too. But he argues that it did not come from the Bible---the inspired words. So, we ask again: What is the source, if not the Spirit working separate from and independently of the word of God?
When one accepts the Bible as the word of God he recognizes no other source of truth. What can man use but the sacred Scriptures to determine what truth is? (See Acts 17: 11.1 The "man of God" recognizes no place to legislate law for churches of Christ, either; whether said legislation pertains to a "church sponsored Decency Rally" or "Improving Race Relations In The Church of Christ" (See June 1968 issue of North American Christian for a picture of the men who did just such a thing in Atlanta, Ga.) The very fact that brother Chalk and many others are giving their time to the Social Gospel is proof that they have a "secondary source" of truth!
The Spirit and The Word
Frequently the older preachers of the gospel of Christ are misused by quotes. It is well for us to re-read some of the statements made by men like Alexander Campbell on the subject of the Spirit and the word. Their word can be accepted only as they "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11). Campbell said: "The whole world with whom the Spirit of God strives in the written word now as it once did in the mouths of the prophets and apostles, have no excuse for their infidelity or unregeneracy -- and those who have put on the Lord Jesus are invited to abound in all the joys, consolations, and purifying influences of this Holy Spirit. Such is the operative system of supernatural truth--the scope of the practical principles of the Bible." (The Christian Baptist, Vol. 5, pg. 228) Again, "The Spirit of God works upon the human mind as well as dwells in it. It dwells in the record which God has given of his Son, as the spirit dwells in the body of man---clothed with this record, it enlightens, convinces, and converts men. It is never once said to work in any other way upon the minds of men since it consummated the record. Even in convincing the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, in the age of miracles, it did this in words concerning Jesus. When men hearken to the word, they hear the spirit of God; when they will not hearken, they resist the Spirit of God." (Ibid. pp. 228-229)
Again, Campbell said: "Now we cannot separate the Spirit and word of God, and ascribe so much power to the one and so much to the other; for so did not the Apostles. Whatever the word does, the Spirit does; and whatever the Spirit does in the work of converting men, the word does." (Christian System, pg. 64). Further, Campbell said in his debate with N. L. Rice in 1843, "If, then, I prove that conversion, or sanctification, is effected by the Word of Truth at all, I prove that it is a moral change, and, consequently, accomplished, by the Holy Spirit, through the Word alone. (Campbell-Rice Debate, pg. 613) The proposition being debated was: "In conversion and sanctification, the Spirit of God operates on persons only through the Word." (Ibid., p. 611)
Dr. Thomas Armitage, the Baptist historian, after several visits with Campbell, wrote in 1893 in his History Of The Baptists, "After this Alexander began to call in question the scripturalness of certain Baptist views and usages, chiefly in relation to the personal agency of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, the consequent relation of a Christian experience before baptism and the effect of baptism itself. As nearly as the writer could express Mr. Campbell's views, after much conversation with him, he held: That no man can be born of God but by the word of truth as found in the Bible; that the Scriptures, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, the only agency of the Spirit which acts on the soul is exerted through the word of Scripture; that the act of regeneration is not completed until the soul obeys Christ in the act of baptism; and that, as baptism is Christ's appointed method of confessing him, the washing away of sin is connected with that act or evinced thereby." (History Of The Baptists, pp. 355, 356)
Yes, the Social Gospel is among the liberals, and it is there because of their attitude toward the authority of the Scriptures. The Social gospel saves no souls; it is a "this world" message. The gospel of Jesus Christ, the message revealed to us by the apostles through the Spirit, is the power of God to save the believer (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:21).
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 18, pp. 9-11
March 5, 1970