I Must Respectfully Decline
Ernest A. Finley
Deer Park, Texas
As an alumnus of Freed-Hardeman College, I regularly receive "Freed-Hardeman Alumnograms." This periodical is edited by Brother W. A. Bradfield.
The January, 1970 issue makes a request of me which I must decline. I must also sincerely appeal to brother Bradfield and to those who are in position of responsibility in this institution to refrain from endeavoring to induce brethren to reach into the treasuries of the Lord's churches and divert resources which should be used solely in the accomplishment of the church's own work.
The appeal which was directed to me comes under the heading "AN OUTSTANDING EXAMPLE WORTH IMITATING." It comes in the form of a later written by brother R. Wayne Estes, a 7 member of the Advisory Committee of Freed-Hardeman College, which he sent to his home congregation. Then the article appeals to me, "Will you please prepare a similar letter to present to the elders where you work and worship? Brother Estes' letter was addressed to "The Elders, Church of Christ, Savannah, Tennessee." The letter is too long for me to publish it in full. Be assured that my taking excerpts from it is not motivated by a desire to misrepresent its content. The intent of the letter is far too obvious for misrepresentation to be necessary, if I were so inclined. The letter says, in part:
Within a few weeks you will begin plans for a budget for the calendar year 1970. I have a suggestion that I desire to make-- subject, of course, to your decision and wishes. This suggestion has to do with Freed-Hardeman College"
"We include in our budget support for men teaching the Truth in many areas. I would like to respectfully suggest that we include in our 1970 budget regular monthly contributions to help defray the cost of teaching the Bible at Freed-Hardeman College."
"The college administration has indicated that it will welcome such contributions. Similar widespread help from many congregations will have a dramatic effect in strengthening the financial .position of the college." . . .
"Respectfully submitted, R. Wayne Estes"
I do not question the fact that contributions from churches to Freed-Hardeman College "will have a dramatic effect in strengthening the financial position of the college." But I am also certain that such contributions will leave the Lord's church with fewer dollars to spend in the accomplishment of its own work. This statement is so self evident as to require no argumentation. Such action is indefensible in the light of God's Word.
Brother Estes blandly passes over the fact that he is urging the church to make contribution to a human institution as he writes: "We include in our budget support for men teaching the Truth in many areas." Presuming (without knowing of a certainty) that the support referred to in this statement is given to preachers purportedly, at least, engaged in preaching the gospel in the Lord's church, we wonder if brother Estes thinks his brethren so naive as to fail to notice that he has switched gears as he speaks of the work which his brethren have been doing and the work which he is proposing that they do. Surely, even he knows that there is a difference between the Lord's church an~ Freed-Hardeman College (or even the Freed-, Hardeman Bible department), although he gives us good reason to wonder. The line of reasoning he follows here would just as reasonably justify the churches contributing to a missionary society.
The "policy" of Freed-Hardeman College in years past has been not to receive contributions from churches -- or so I have been led to believe. However, it is evident that their practice has not been based on principle-just "policy." They obviously now feel that the brotherhood is ready to begin the church's subsidizing of human educational institutions. Brother Estes states: "The college administration has indicated that it will welcome such contributions." So the influence which has for some time been at work among us to bring about such contributions is now full blown! Many brethren, having satisfied themselves (but not by God's Word) that the church may contribute to human institutions (as in the case of benevolent societies of human origin) are now ready to urge the church to turn its resources, however much of it they can get, over to human educational institutions. But, frankly, this comes as no surprise. Freed-Hardeman does not stand alone in this position. Batsell Baxter Jr., head of the Bible department at David Lipscomb College, openly defends the practice of churches contributing to colleges. So does J.D. Thomas, head of the Bible Department at Abilene Christian College (in his book, "We Be Brethren"). Their positions are well known, yet the schools retain them in their positions as heads of Bible Departments in their respective schools.
Why do I oppose churches contributing to human educational institutions?
1. It is wrong because there is no scripture which justifies such use of church resources. There is no New Testament example of anything remotely akin to such, no command for such, no necessary inference to justify such. The matter really need be carried no further than this. It is something that cannot be done if one is to walk by faith (2 Cot. 5:7). It constitutes presumptuous action since it is wholly unauthorized. Presumptuous action is serious (Lev. 10:11).
2. Among other things, Freed-Hardeman is a service-selling human educational institution. There is absolutely no scriptural justification for the churches contributing to any service-selling institution.
3. I am opposed to churches contributing to human educational institutions because the only organization to which a congregation contributed in apostolic days was another congregation and that only when the receiving congregation was in need or distress. Such contributions terminated just as soon as the distress terminated.
4. Consistency demands that I, having opposed the church's contributing to a missionary society also opposes churches contributing to human educational institutions and all other human institutions of whatever kind or sort or purpose. If the church's contributing to one of these is wrong, the other is wrong also.
5. I am opposed to churches contributing to human educational institutions because such practice will serve to further divide the body of Christ. Such practice does not fall into the realm of opinion or judgment. It is a matter o/ faith. However, those who insist upon such practice say that it is simply a matter of opinion or judgment. Would they, therefore, divide the body of Christ in order to practice that which they suggest is not imperative but instead just a matter of opinion?
6. I am opposed to churches contributing to human educational institutions because such action makes a seminary of an institution which has in time past been only a service-selling institution.
7. Such action violates the New Testament pattern of church work and finances with the churches expending their resources in something other than their, own work.
No, brother Bradfield, I must decline your suggestion that I write a similar letter to that of brother Estes to the elders where I work and worship. I can only urge them to do that which the Lord has authorized. The Lord has not authorized the churches to contribute to human institutions of any sort. I cannot urge them to sin against Christ and His precious body.
I do not number myself among those who deny that an educational institution has the right to include Bible and Bible-related courses in its curriculum. As a parent, I am certain that I have the right to purchase or provide Bible instruction for my children from an educational institution, a human, service-selling, institution. When I purchase religious instruction from such an institution I feel that I am in part relieving myself of my responsibility to give my children a thorough grounding in Divine Truth. I recognize that not only is the church responsible for helping all men to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, but that I also as a parent have a like responsibility toward members of my family. When I purchase such instruction as they receive in certain schools among us, I feel that I am myself providing for them that which I have an obligation to provide.
I do not intend to imply that I think a parent who does not send his children to one of "our" schools is guilty of falling to provide for his children's spiritual welfare. I do not think for a moment that the Lord's church would immediately or eventually collapse if all "our" colleges which teach Bible should close their doors. But I do insist that such colleges have the right to teach Bible and I also insist that I have the right to purchase their service in instructing my child. I know that some of "our" schools are providing a wholesome environment for our children to further their education. I know that some of "our" schools are giving our children teaching that is in harmony with the divine Word.
But the letter which we are considering indicates that not all schools among us giving our children instruction which will stand the test of investigation in the light of divine Truth. But neither are some churches teaching and working in harmony with God's revealed Will. So this does not prove that human, service-selling institutions, educational institutions which teach the Bible, or profess so to do, do not have a right to exist.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 25, pp. 9-11
April 30, 1970