A Review of "Bible Departments and Colleges"
James R. Cope
Temple Terrace, Florida
Authored by Ralph Williams and Published by
Red Bluff Church of Christ, Pasadena, Texas
What Is The Issue?
Those who oppose the right of Florida College, Incorporated, to exist repeatedly cry, "What passage authorizes it? What text gives a human institution the right to do the work of the church?"
We reply: there is no scripture authorizing any other institution, human or divine, to do any work of the church peculiar to the church! We affirm Florida College is a human institution. We deny it does work that is exclusively the work of the church! Those who affirm Florida College, Inc. does work peculiar to a local church are obligated either (1) to prove their assertion or (2) allow Florida College, though operated by Christians, to exist as any other business enterprise operated either by saints or sinners.
When the critics of the College, such as those we are reviewing, admit that brethren in Christ "have the freedom to join their talents, form corporations, and engage in any kind of business pursuits that are legal and ethical," if Florida College Incorporated, falls within this admission, the admission within itself logically prohibits their contention that the College does work peculiar to a local church. Unless, therefore, these same critics can show that the College does work peculiar to the church, they are morally obligated on the basis of their pet premise to cease their objections.
If scriptures are the basis for settling this issue, when the critics give the scriptural authority for their statement of "freedom to engage . . . in any kind of business pursuits that are legal and ethical," they must either (1) find the scripture allowing this freedom for corporate action, or (2) affirm that they need no scripture for such "business pursuits"! When they cite the scripture, Florida College, Inc., will qualify. If they say no scripture is needed, Florida College will still qualify. In these considerations the issue is drawn and here the battle must be fought.
The contention that certain kinds of human institutions displace a local church is not new; but, so far as I know, since almost 20 years ago Florida College, Inc. has not been a target until within the last few months. In this review I am defending no human institution except "Florida College, Incorporated." It has been attacked and I am replying.
Does Florida College Do the Work of Church?
To answer this question one must consider at least two other questions: (1) is there a work peculiar to a local church i.e., is there a work which members a local church are commanded to do together and simultaneously which no other collectivity of saints may do and obey God? (2) Does Florida College intentionally or unintentionally displaces a local church in any function peculiar to a local church?
Some Things No Local Church Does Scripturally
Local churches do not make laws. They obey laws. No local church may: (1) sell Bibles; (2) sell courses of study in the Biblical text; (3) sell comments on the Biblical text; (4) Legislate the specific morally right business affairs in which its members shall participate; (5) Legislate the specific moment and place that all saints shall pray, sing, observe the Lord's Supper, give their money and read or make comments on the Biblical text; (6) legislate the specific Biblical translation all sinners or saints shall use in determining God's mind and will for man; (7) Legislate the specific aids all sinners or saints shall use in their efforts to determine truth and error; (8) Legislate the specific methods all sinners or saints shall use in obeying God; (9) legislate the specific goods and/or services any saint or sinner shall purchase or use to "provide for them of his own house" (I Tim. 5:8) -- mentally, physically, socially, or spiritually; (10) legislate regarding the moral or spiritual right of brethren to form a cooperative for the specific purpose of selling goods and/or services to a saint who needs food, clothing, shelter, medicine, physical or mental care for himself or "them of his own house."
Does Florida College Do The Work of A Parent?
Florida College per se is not a parent and therefore cannot rightly be considered a parent in the basic meaning of the word "parent" or "progenitor." A parent is properly one who begets (father) or beers (mother) after its own kind. To Christians who are also parents God has committed certain responsibilities because they are parents and Christians and He has done so with emphasis. Fathers are specifically commanded regarding their own children: "Nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord" Eph. 6:4). Providing for one's own, "specially his own household" is so spiritual in its import that the apostle declares the saint who does not "has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5: 8).
God commands parents, not schools. "Nurturing" and "providing for" one's own are God given responsibilities of Christians in specific fleshly relationships. This is God's primary "social security system".
All "Provision" and all "nurture" must be "in the Lord" (Eph. 6:1-4) for this is the only obedience God requires or accepts. There is no other kind whether by parent or child! A parent has no liberty to provide anything for his child which God disapproves, i.e., not "in the Lord"! A child has no liberty to provide anything for his indigent parent which God disapproves, i.e., not "in the Lord"!
What Florida College is And Does
"Florida College, Incorporated" is an independent, non-profit, educational business legally controlled by twenty-one Christians. These men offer certain goods and services to certain people for stipulated prices. Some of these goods and services are food, 'medicine, clothing, and books (including Bibles and Bible commentaries), medical care, supervision of on-campus conduct, courses of study in the English, Greek and Hebrew Biblical text, various languages including Greek and Hebrew, along with other courses characteristic of a liberal arts college. The twenty-one men who legally own the property and control the policies of this business enterprise employ certain administrators, teachers, and staff who deal directly with persons who pay for or receive the goods and services. In addition, these same twenty-one men provide facilities where those on the campus may meet each day to sing together, to pray together, and to listen to readings of the Bible with comments. (Attendance, as in all classes, is required of every student and teacher but worship is not. That worship is wholly voluntary is made clear at the beginning of each session. A "pledge of allegiance" to the U.S. flag involves most of those who assemble but this is also voluntary.) Other daily assemblies wherein students do all the planning are held in dormitories or in the open air.
Bible and English are the only divisions of the College completely self-supporting. This is because all students enroll in and pay for a Bible course every day and most of them take English.
Those who control and operate Florida College believe that each Christian must determine whatever goods and services he needs in discharging his responsibility as a parent, a child, a husband or wife, a citizen of the civil states, an employer or employee "in the Lord." So far as I know first hand, 22 of the 25 years of Florida College history have been characterized by an honest endeavor to keep the school out of any local church program of work and worship, and to keep every local church's money and agents out of the school's business. The group of men who wear the legal name "Florida College Incorporated" performs no work peculiar any local church.
Some few years ago a couple of brethren in Texas formed a "two-man cooperative" and sought to involve me in a "church debate" over the right of Florida College to exist as presently operated. They had a church ready to deny if I could find one to affirm. Had I yielded to the challenge I would have violated the very principle by which Florida College has operated for more than 20 years. In spite of our determined efforts to keep the college free from any local church's program, some brethren, or so it appears, are determined to involve it in the program of some church of Christ or else convert it into a local church.
If Florida College, Inc. pleases some of its critics, it must do several things: (1) cease
selling courses of study in the English, Greek or Hebrew Biblical text; (2) cease collecting money from parents or their children and paying it to the men who instruct students in these courses; (3) cease providing facilities for those who want to worship on college property; (4) cease providing facilities for young men who voluntarily meet with some faculty member or other non-faculty speaker each week to discuss with him and among themselves various aspects of a preacher's life and work; and (5) cease inviting patrons and friends of the College to come to the campus for the annual "lectureship" where college teachers and guest speakers deliver either lessons from the Biblical text or present other informative and inspirational material.
Sincere But Inconsistent
These brethren who oppose Florida College's right to do these things are sincere but some of them are misinformed and others are inconsistent. There is no more effective procedure of spreading the completely revealed word of God to English speaking people than disseminating the text itself, yet, no translation of complete Biblical text has ever been produced by any local church of Christ. Every one of them has come from some non-member or cooperative of non-members which has given or sold the finished product either to a "publishing cooperative" of non-members or to some "cooperative business enterprise" owned and operated by members and non-members of a specific church of Christ. Not the first one of the opponents of Florida College owns, reads or preaches from an English Bible which he translated himself or was translated by and is being disseminated by the local church of which he is a member or for which he preaches.
To be consistent those who oppose the right of Florida College to sell the Bible text need either to translate and disseminate their own individual text and persuade their own local church to adopt it or else promote each local church into setting up its own scholarly "class" in Hebrew and Greek to produce an accurate text which that church will in turn distribute to saints and sinners. The reasoning that will eliminate Florida College's selling the Biblical text with or without human comments -- written as dispatched in the college bookstore and orally as dispatched in the college classroom -- will compel every church to cease purchasing Bibles and Bible commentaries from any publishing house owned by any cooperative -- Christians, sinners, or a combination of saints and sinners. By the same token each local church must produce its own translation under its own supervision. This inconsistency of our critics is crying for attention! When this inconsistency is removed each local church will then have the task of convincing all it seeks to convert that its translation is like Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation -- the "only accurate" one!
I have never been able to appreciate the logic that allows a cooperative of Christians to sell food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and study courses in English, history and science to a father for his child and some of these to a local church for a "widow indeed" while denying the same liberty to Florida College to sell this service Plus a Bible with human comments (thats basically what our Bible course of study is) to a parent in behalf of his Child. If a group of Christians can operate a hospital or nursing home and sell goods and services to a Christian to aid him in behalf of his indigent parent or child without displacing that individuals personal service to God, why cannot the same man purchase another service from the same or similar group of Christians to aid him in doing his duty of "providing for his own" and "nurturing" his own, without displacing that individual in his personal responsibility to God? This inconsistency is also demanding attention.
A Letter From Texas
On January 22, 1970, I received a polite response from Ralph Williams, a Pasadena, Texas preacher to an appeal made for support of Florida College. In part it said, "I . . . would like to help but conscience forbids as long as the college does the work of the church (I Tim. 3:15). Would you lose money or gain more by making a clear distinction between the college and the church by placing the Bible department under a local eldership? But even before the question is answered, the question ought to be raised about which would be unquestionably Scriptural. And that's not hard to answer, is it?"
I laid that note aside from routine mail with every intention of replying. Somehow it became involved in some shuffling of papers, later filed without my knowledge; I completely forgot it till I heard that the College was under fire in a recent church bulletin edited by Brother Williams. When I heard about this I remembered the letter I had forgotten and, with red face, began searching. To this brother I apologized by mail for my shortcoming.
In his bulletin Brother Williams says others have written me without reply but I am unaware of this unless he refers to the occasion regarding a debate in Texas to which I refer above is it. Even so, I replied to one of the two preachers who was apparently speaking for himself and the other involved. The two of them constituted a "human cooperative", or so it appeared to me, to chide me for not defending another "human cooperative". I was not persuaded that any good would come from their proposal.
"Gaining or losing support" cuts no ice either with the Board or President of Florida College when principle is involved. That was established 15 years ago when we refused to bow to the popular demand of these who advocated church support of any human institution. If we do not believe that the course we are pursuing is "unquestionably Scriptural" we are hypocrites and unworthy of anybody's confidence or support.
We simply do not agree with the reasoning of those who oppose Florida College for causing the Bible text to be taught to every student enrolled. We do not believe we violate I Tim. 3:15 or any other scripture or that Florida College is doing any work peculiar to any local church. That's how simple our convictions and position are.
Brother Williams's publicity of these matters has been spread far and wide through the March 7, 1971 issue of The Echo, weekly bulletin of the Red Bluff church, Pasadena, Texas. Alva White, Curtis J. Torno and William R. Coffee are the elders and Ralph Williams is the preacher. Brother Williams did the writing and the elders have endorsed his work. They are committed to the proposition that Florida College does not and cannot exist with Gods approval as it now operates and they have assumed the role of telling brethren outside their charge how they feel about it. The Red Bluff bishops also told brethren outside the flock among them their ideas of what local churches in the Tampa "vicinity" -- a thousand miles from their own flock -- might do for the Florida College students in the way of "daily Bible classes in their own facilities" and "advised" them "not to offer College credits for such study."
Brother Williams says that "several well known preachers seemed a little irritated when asked to justify such as arrangement" as Florida College and then says that the immediate reason for this 10-page bulletin publicity is "because different brethren in the greater Houston area are soliciting in behalf of F.C., and it therefore seems especially timely to ask whether this be a part of those sacred 'old paths.' "
Can it be that some of the "irritation" to which our brother refers is produced by the repeated charge by him and his elders that "Florida College is doing the work of the church" when this allegation is without foundation in fact? They have not previously shown that Florida College is performing one activity peculiar to the exclusive mission of a local church and in all their March 7 publicity they still did not do it. Those who get irritated are not responsible for their brethren's unwillingness to deal with what Florida College does instead of what they think and say it does! Their sincerity in making their allegations does not validate the charges nor is their sincerity a righteous substitute for facts. They are as wrong in what they say Florida College does as they are in error in identifying solicitation of individuals for the College as somehow identifiable with a perversion of the "old paths." Their implication of what is involved in the "old paths" is also wrong, dead wrong!
In spite of 22 years of my determined effort to keep Florida College free from local churches and local churches completely divorced from Florida College a local bishopric which opposes the right of the College to carry out its chartered purpose has now injected the College into its deliberations and has seen fit to tell a sizeable segment of brethren what they should not do about their children and with their money. Would not the Red Bluff brethren have resented Florida College, Inc., becoming as free with the use of the Red Bluff name and program of work as its elders have taken with the name and program of Florida College? Brother Williams, however, has manifested a fine spirit in his writing. I hope I may do as well in this review.
Assumption Without Proof
Since I Tim- 3:1-15, is the proof text that our brother uses to show that Florida College is displacing a local church as "the pillar and support of the truth" I feel that he needs to analyze the text itself before concluding Florida College is usurping any distinctively exclusive role in which the Bible casts a congregation of saints. If Paul here speaks of the "church universal" he cannot have "collective evangelism" in mind for this would demand universal organization! If the church local is in focus, Brother Williams "misses his mark" for Florida College sells Bible courses -- something o local church does not do! This being the case, any appeal I Tim. 3:15 to deny Florida College the right to cause the Bible to be taught for a charge is without foundation!
Until somebody shows that (1) the men who constitute the legal and official Florida
College, Incorporated, thereby constitute a spiritual structure identical with a local church, or (2) that this collectivity of businessmen who are Christians is doing something God has said no-collectivity of Christians and /or non-Christians except a local church may do, Florida College violates no demand of God. If it be argued that non-Christians or a directorate composed of Christians and non-Christians may offer services that Florida College offers, we inquire if we may make the organization and function right by placing a sinner on the board? Our critic says we would make the College right by placing all Bible teaching under an eldership!
Brother Williams declares:
"No question is being raised about the right of brethren to enter the field of higher education which is purely secular as a business enterprise. Certainly brethren have the freedom to join their talents, form corporations, and engage in any kind of business pursuits that are legal and ethical. In fact I personally like the idea of a school where science, business, and the arts would be taught by godly teachers. It would be most desirable to send our children where a wholesome academic and social environment existed - where atheism and skepticism didn't exist on the faculty and where young people might meet and mix with many others of their age who share deep convictions and true faith.
"The question rather is WHERE is the Scriptural right to collectively organize, pool talents and money, in order to teach the Word? Numerous passages authorize God's people to do this together (collectively) as local congregations. If the Lord has specified His organizational arrangement for teaching the Gospel, then would not another organization be similar to another kind of wood (instead of Noah 's "gopher") or another kind of music (instead of authorized singing)?"
I want to know: how can a collectivity of Christians enter into any "secular business enterprise" without being honor bound to purpose, work and pray that the ultimate result of their combined business efforts may be the spread of the word of God? How can such group of men demand honesty, purity of speech, sobriety, and chastity of its employees without teaching God's word to their employees? Are we now being told that we should demand these character qualities of employees without telling them that such character and conduct are demanded by God in His word? When a cooperative of Christians tells its employees or customers that they must not lie, steal, use profanity or get drunk on its premises, if this company is not teaching God's word, whose word is it teaching? Does it do wrong by telling them to do right?
A Concession of "Liberty"
The Red Bluff brethren affirm: "Certainly brethren have the freedom to join their talents, form corporations, and engage in any kind of business pursuits that are legal and ethical." I ask: What scripture gives them this "freedom"? Where do read of any cooperative business enterprise of Christians in New Testament times? By what scripture does our brother transfer "ethical" principles directed to an individual to a business corporation composed of saints? Is Florida College "illegal" or "unethical?" What passage is addressed to any "cooperative of saints" except a local church? Unless such scripture is available how may one determine that he has any "freedom" to join hearts and hands with others to do anything secular? When this text is cited, shall we then conclude there is divine authority for such a corporation to be formed but no authority for that same corporation to proclaim the scriptural authority for its own existence? That which proves too much proves nothing.
Brother Williams desires to send his children "where a wholesome academic and social environment" exists free from atheism and skepticism among teachers and where they could share with their schoolmates "deep convictions and true faith." But may a human corporation composed of Christians provide the environment free from atheism and skepticism which our brother endorses? Yes, he replies. And may it pay Godly teachers to instruct his and others' children in math, English and biology? "Certainly," he declares. But may this same human corporation pay teachers to quote at length (a class in) the Bible -- the source book of the principles which create the environment he wants and endorses? No, a thousand times no -- thats sinful! The corporation should keep skepticism and atheism out of the "wholesome academic and social environment" our-brother wants for his children, but he thinks God forbids the same corporation to employ teachers who quote His word his keep skepticism and atheism of this wholesome environment.
If the word of God is responsible for the creation of the "wholesomeness" of the environment, why may not the same word of God perpetuate the same "wholesomeness" through the same people who created the environment in the first place? If it is wrong for Florida College to support a biology teacher who teaches organic evolution, why is it also wrong for the same college to support a biology teacher who teaches the Bible account of creation only if the latter is "incidentally" done in a biology class? The theory of evolution is not an "incidental" in most biology classes! Brother Williams wants may the bill for his brethren teach his children everything except God's word! Does he know exactly how much science can be taught without teaching the Bible?
Brother Williams surrenders his whole contention. He endorses a collectivity organic in character which functions to preserve his children's faith in and faithfulness to God yet denies that active teaching of the word of God for a charge is any part of this preserving!
If Florida College displaced any local church it would be wrong in whatever area it deprived a local church of its uniqueness" God's plan. "Florida College, Inc." is not and cannot displace a local church of Christ for its conditions and purposes and actions differ from those of a local church! Even if "Florida College, Inc." employs a medical doctor and nurse to provide medical care for a price to a church's 16 widow indeed" or an individual's "widow" (I Tim. 5:16), Florida College does not thereby displace the local church or the individual in responsibility to God. If so, every local church and every Christian are prohibited by this fact from buying any goods, and/or services which may "aid" either a church or an individual in obeying any command of God. I insist that whatever interpretation the "brother physician" and the "sister nurse" place upon the specialized service which they render, t1lis does not imply that Florida College which sells the service displaces the Local church which purchases the service or changes the nature of a local church being God's "one and only" "relieving" agency whether it be called an institution, "medical college," "nursing school," or "hospital." The selling institution might well understand that some of its physicians and nurses would serve only "widows indeed" and that while they thus ministered professionally their service was "heartily, as unto the Lord," but this still does not mean the selling institution is doing what God told His church to do. A seller of specialized services may be called a "relieving society" and a local church may also be called a "relieving society." These facts, however, do not change the peculiar nature of either society. The distinctive nature of each is seen in their differing conditions of membership, differing purpose for existence and differing conditions upon which they relieve the indigent. God gives specific instructions for membership in, function of, and ultimate purpose to be accomplished by the divine collectivity, while human wisdom sets all the rules for membership, function, and purpose of the human collectively.
I labor this point in detail because it is here that every person I have ever heard opposes "Florida College, Inc." certain activities it categorically denies as part of its charter purpose or function.
Preacher Training, Worship, And Lectureships
Whatever "training of preachers" occurs outside purchased courses of study is incidental to the environment and gratuitous on the part of some individual teachers who meet periodically with the Sowers Club -- a group of the young men who want to discuss problems of preaching among themselves and learn from experienced men. (Our brother might enlighten us on the passage showing a local church must "train preachers".) "Worship services" on campus are the same way. Once-a-day general assembly attendance of both Christians and non-Christians is required of students as is class attendance, but worship is voluntary. The College also affords facilities for voluntary, wholly-student-conducted periods of singing, Praying and exhortation.
What is this voluntary assembly? It is not Florida College, Incorporated for this 21man "organization" or "collectivity" is not functioning, in the singing, praying or exhorting. Whatever it is it is composed of young Christians who select their own leaders in singing, praying and talking. Does brother Williams ever Pray and sing with others apart from the public church services announced in the Red Bluff bulletin? Do the Red Bluff elders ever worship apart from an assembly in a church's meeting house? Surely such assemblies are not Florida College, Inc.! Are they ready to affirm, these other assemblies are the Red Bluff church? If an assembly of youngsters for worship is not Florida College, Inc., how can brother Williams and his elders rightly say that Florida Collego "holds regular worship services"? If a group of Christians who are patients in a hospital assemble in one of their rooms to sing, pray and study the Bible together, would this argue that the hospital board was "holding regular worship services"? Does our brother think Florida College, Inc. should prohibit the students to use College property for their assemblies? Are he and his elders ready to apply the rule to themselves?
And the lectureship which our brother calls "gospel meetings" -- what about this? Perhaps this may best be identified as the "overflow" for the parents and friends who give money and time and effort to "Florida College Inc." It stimulates interest in the perpetuation of the work "Florida College. Inc." seeks to accomplish. The "lectureship"
is somewhat like the "Sowers Club." Those who discuss Bible subjects are invited by the College to use college facilities and "say their piece" to any who want to hear them. The College affords the facilities and makes announcement through its own publications and other publications of time, speakers, and subjects. Visitors also frequently drop into regularly scheduled classes during a recitation other than at lectureship. Some may feel we should disallow this. I am sure, however, that our brother could not fuss much about "incidentals" such as "leetureships" and "drop-in" Bible class visitors. I say this because on "essentials" and "incidentals" he says, "There is a considerable difference in incidentally comparing what the Bible says about something in a course of SECULAR study and in making the Bible the course of study." And I add: Florida College would exist and its basic program would be carried on without such "incidentals" as "'lectureships" and "drop-in Bible class" visitors! The logic allowing a biology teacher "incidental" usage of the Bible to refute evolution in a class that meets 168 hours in a year surely would not complain about 17 hours for Bible "lectures" out of 1600 hours in the same year and especially if "the series had "Public relations" overtones!
The question is: What makes Brother Williams's "incidental" right and Florida College's wrong?
The "Home" Observations
Our brother tries hard to deny that the "home" which teaches the Bible is another "institution" than a local church. In fact he says that "fathers and mothers who are Christians" are "the local church at work in its distributive sense" when they "teach their children." By this admission any organization of Christians other than a local church which operates to earn money constitutes the church in a "distributive sense"! From this reasoning the church is in every kind of business and the distinction he makes elsewhere between the church collectively functioning and the individual's functioning simply will not stand.
This rule also bears further study. I would have a hard time in my household for I am a member of one "local church" and my wife is a member of another. According to his thinking, as certain as each of us represents a "local church at work" we thereby establish "centralized congregational cooperation in child nurturing" through a cooperative which no local church controls completely. Frankly, it appears that our brother has established a "Child Nurturing Society" much like the organizational structure of the original American Missionary Society. Each church has its representatives who collectively nurture children!
Before he finishes with the "home" Brother Williams says, "To say that the home and the college are both 'institutions' is misleading." But he leaves that dangling also and declares, "If one still wants to think of mother-father-children as 'the home' having Bible instruction -- at least it's a Divine 'institution' whereas the Bible College is not." Now this is a contradiction! Earlier our brother says that 1 Tim. 3:15 and "other passages show the N.T. recognize but ONE divinely ordained arrangement for Gods people 'collectively' to carry on Gospel edification work." Now he allows TWO the "home" and the "local church"! If he will keep on our brother will "reason" the civil state into his "institutional" arrangement for Bible teaching and then he will have THREE divine arrangements for Bible teaching! At least Brother Williams gives up on a local church being an exclusive Bible teaching "institution" "if one still wants to think of mother-father-children as 'the home' having Bible instruction."
I agree with our brother that "the school is not an extension of the family relationship." Nevertheless the school is a service institution created to provide a family service. The school is a "relationship" per se but it sells a service to parents which service "aids" the parents to fulfill their duty to God and to their children just as any other service institution may do. This point must be kept constantly in view. Furthermore a school has no right to teach a child anything which his parent by God's word is forbidden to teach him.
Brother Williams says, "The source parents utilize in providing anything for their family must be lawful As a parent I might send my children to an informed brother to be taught some special Bible subjects; and even compensate him under Gal. 6:6. But that's a far cry from forming an organization, appointing a board and president, hiring a number of preachers, and asking brethren to purchase the services of this human institution by sending their children for Bible teaching." The brother is saying that Florida College is unlawful because of what he alleges in the above quotation. In context he feels that patrons of the school are as far off base as those "who buy discount food from a known thief" and purchase drugs at below wholesale from the underworld.'" This really tells us something about Brother William's appraisal of his brethren who operate and buy services from Florida College! He classifies college officials with "thieves" and the "underworld" and its patrons as partners in crime! He should be very careful about buying services from a denominational hospital! Dr. Torno should never practice in one and neither Brother Williams nor his elders should purchase religious books from denominationalists or other sinners! Yet elsewhere he says he has "no qualms" about doing this because he "disclaims the argument that publishing houses displace the church."
When we have strained out the extraneous matter from the brother's objections to Florida College in this context, here are the leftovers which he and his overseers oppose: "organization," "a board," a "president," preachers "hired" by the organization, the organization "asking brethren to pay the "human institution for teaching their children." Brother Williams is not opposed to asking a brother to teach his own children. He does not oppose "hiring" such a teacher. The difference then is not the thing taught, ("Bible subjects"), or paying for the teaching. The difference is in who sells the "Biblical Subjects" an individual Christian or an organization of Christians. Brother Williams, like others who think as he does, eventually comes back to the common objection - ORGANIZATION!
Apparently unwittingly he again yields the point with which he never forthrightly wrestles, i.e., that a fundamental difference between Florida College and a local church is the difference between membership in "Florida College, Inc." - the human organization selling a service - and the divine organization giving it! Until he shows that Florida College is different from other institutions selling Bible courses and other goods and services, Brother Williams will be opposing an institution which has no reason for arguing its scriptural right to exist and sell goods and services than Baker Book House! His hang-up is on who sells the service, not the service per se! We insist that until and unless can show that "Florida College, Inc." does what he claims to be exclusively the work of a local church he has no valid reason for opposing Florida Colleges right to exist and sell goods and services. If selling Bibles with human comments, written or oral, is a peculiarly "spiritual work," then Florida College performs a spiritual work; if selling Bibles with written or oral comments is not a peculiarly "spiritual work," then Florida College does not perform a spiritual work!
Brother Williams asks: "Since we have an obligation personally to save the lost, could we form and finance an independent Missionary Society to serve that need? If I need the Bible College to teach my children, don't I need a Missionary Society to reach my neighbor?" "One may be a left shoe and the other the right, but aren't they a pair?"
Regarding the shoe analogy we say: even though each may be worn on somebody's foot they are not both designed for the same person or purpose. I should think one might fit a saint in a peculiarly domestic situation (the parent-child relationship) whereas the other is another foot, not another shoe. The College serves a different role by selling a service to a parent. Our brother is "comparing" different kinds, as shoes and pants or apples and bananas, and herein is its basic fallacy. If the brother substituted a Bible Publishing Company for his Missionary Society my answer could be a qualified "yes" to both questions. He does not give any description of his "Missionary Society," so nobody knows its nature. (Don't forget his admission that he can "compensate" a brother to teach his children the Bible!) It may surprise my brother but he should know that I am not so wed to Florida College that I think all parents or children should use its services. In fact, there are many children who cannot qualify for enrollment and some who enroll are returned to their parents. Does the local church our brother serves turn down "whosoever will" enroll to be taught?
Though I have a "personal obligation to save the lost," I may purchase any goods or, services from a Goods-and-services Supply Society which I need in discharging any duty God has laid upon me. I can understand that brethren may see a need for Bible literature, form and finance a Bible Literature Publishing Company, and sell the literature to others. Each brother, however, has the same personal (individual) obligation to save the lost after helping form and finance the service company as he had before it existed.
Our brother says that "Brethren seem inconsistent in appealing to Eph. 6:4 and I Tim. 5:8 for support of the Bible College or department" when they "object to 'liberal' brethren seeing benevolent societies in James 1:27 and Gal. 6:10." Brother Williams assumes what he needs to prove, i.e., that Florida College, Inc. is parallel to the benevolent society he envisions. I deny that there is any passage needed to authorize any peculiar business organization which is not a church or does not perform the peculiar work of a local church.
"Glory In The Church"
Our brother inquires: "Is the Lord glorified or man and human wisdom through such an arrangement (Eph. 3:10-11, 21; Col. 1: 18)?" He refers, of course, to Florida College as "an arrangement." I reply: God is glorified in exactly the same manner he is glorified when a Christian does anything morally right, such as (1) joining with others in any commercial enterprise, e.g., incorporating to sell Bibles or to make tents, which per se is honorable or (2) entering into any honorable arrangement to accomplish any honorable end, e.g., the brother's paying a brother to teach his child reading, writing, arithmetic or Bible (Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 12:17).
A "Solution" - Whose?
Brother Williams and the Red Bluff bishops suggest that a solution, as they view the problem of Florida College causing the Bible to be taught, is "simply let the college be just a college and let the church be the church." They want the "Bible, department" removed yet they also want Christians to teach "secular subjects." They think Tampa churches should teach daily Bible classes in their own facilities divorced from college credits "thereby completely separating church and school and removing any improper motive for spiritual responsibilities." He adds correctly: "Of course brethren won't be interested in seeking a solution until they are convinced the present system is unscriptural."
Since I have known Florida College all we have done is "simply let the college be just a college and let the church be the church," This is why we do not solicit and do not accept church contributions. This is why we say that Florida College is neither owned nor controlled by any church and owns and controls no church. The only time the College finds itself identified in discussions regarding the church is when somebody does not like our refusing church identity or support or, like brother Williams and the Red Bluff elders, insist by assertion but without proof, that the College is doing work which God made exclusively the work of a local church.
We are left to guess what these brethren mean by "removing any improper motive for spiritual responsibilities." If they think it improper for somebody to sell the Biblical text with human comments they should quit buying human literature!
If the insinuations of our Red Bluff brethren that the College and some local church somewhere in Tampa or elsewhere has some kind of connection be true, why not just name the church involved? I will be the, first to wield the knife to sever the umbilical cord where it joins the College! The best evidence the can produce to show that Florida College sustains the same relationship to churches that the American Christian (or United Christian) Missionary Society sustained is to give the name and address of just one congregation that fits in their labyrinth of objections to Florida College. Until they can produce that church they have no point, much less a case in Scripture. For 22 years I have been calling for the bank-cleared check of just one alleged contribution to Florida College from a local church but, like so many other false charges, this one has also passed!
Furthermore, assuming their implications to be valid, who shall "meddle" in Tampa church affairs to bring about the arrangement they suggest. Florida College has never suggested how local churches manage their affairs and is not about to start! The Red Bluff elders and preacher live more than 1,000 miles from Tampa, Florida, and nobody has heard of "daily Bible classes' which the Red Bluff church has arranged "for college students" in "their own facilities" yet there are thousands of college students "in their own front door"! These brethren think "the present system is unscriptural." I don't! Let them and the church they serve practice what they preach! At least they will be consistent with what they say should be done.
The Publishing Company College Parallel
The space the Red Bluff brethren give to the Publishing House - Printing Company - argument as a parallel to the College in its work reflects the force of the parallel! The truth is that they do not answer it because it cannot be answered and, after all they write, the fact remains that they do not point out one single basic difference between Florida College and any other college which buys and sells Bibles with human comments. In fact, when they "disclaim the argument that publishing houses supplant the church" after granting that they can buy both Biblical text and "other works" from the Methodists' Abingdon Press, they surrender their contention against Florida College for it does what Abingdon Press does, i.e., sell the text plus the comment.
Our Red Bluff brethren insist that "the Bible dept. doesn't usually sell or distribute Bibles as does the publishing co.; rather it teaches and expounds upon God's Word to students." In reality, it would make no difference what department of the college sells the Bibles - Bible department, business department, science department, or the bookstore - since each department has a connection with the Business Office which is amenable to the President, who, in turn, is responsible to the "Florida College, Inc.', i.e., the 21 men who carry out the stated purposes of the legal institution which they constitute. Again we say: to talk about of the college rather than the college itself is to confuse the issue. If the 21 men who constitute "Florida College, Inc." can cause the Bible to be taught through its employees, certainly the same employees, in turn, could as well be incorporated themselves and perform the same function. It is true that the Bible department "doesn't usually sell or distribute Bibles" but it is also true that Florida College does sell and distribute Bibles through its bookstore. Brother Williams and his overseers allow man comments to be added by the publisher as long as these comments are in writing. To this extent therefore in every detail "Florida College, Inc." parallels the publishing house as regards the principle of buying and selling. Florida College's buying and selling the oral comments along with the Bible does not change the fact that the written comments are human as well as the oral! If Brother Williams isn't careful, he will disallow his own oral comments on Biblical text while allowing his written comments!
Does our brother think the only persons to whom Florida College sells Bibles are Christians? If so, he is mistaken. We would gladly sell "10,000 Bibles" to modernists, Communists or any other sinners who have the money to make the purchase! What in the name of reason does this have to do with the right or wrong of Florida College to sell Bibles? Would not the church for which our brother preaches give Bibles to modernists and Communists? Or is there a select kind of sinners he would supply with Bibles? He does not seriously think that Communists want to buy Bibles, does he?
Whether it be Florida College or its Bible Department it is still the 2 1 -man cooperative doing the selling of the Bible; but when this corporation "teaches and expounds upon God's Word to students," either the students or their parents pay for the "teaching and expounding." This is not true of persons to whom a local church "teaches and expounds upon God's Word," and we repeat herein lies a basic difference between the function of Florida College, Inc., and a local church.
Brother Williams observes that "printers and publishers are generally in business for profit" and that some of them "publish other works." He then asks, "Isn't their motive the same as most businesses - one of making money?" Then he comments, "Consequently I have no qualms about buying their product since I disclaim the argument that publishing houses supplant the church." In these observations the brother forever settles one point, viz., that "motive"' of somebody else has everything to do with whether or not he purchases their Products! I ask that brother Williams afford those he criticizes the same liberty he claims for himself. Florida College buys some Biblical text and many of its human comments from the same publisher from which he buys. What makes his purchases right and ours wrong? If he replies, "There is nothing wrong with our purchasing such," he then needs to answer the question" "Is it wrong for him to sell the Bible and comments he buys either for a profit or without profit? In either event, by what principle does Florida College violate the Red Bluff principle when it sells what it buys with or without profit? Brother Williams and the Red Bluff elders need to attend to their inconsistencies!
The brother talks about the American Bible Society circulating the Scriptures "without note or comment" and then observes that the "ABS in a sense lets the Bible teach itself and is not in the Bible teaching but Bible distributing field." He then observes that "the Society's motive is primarily non-profit." So what? All he has affirmed is that the American Bible Society sells and sometimes gives away Bibles. (Since he introduced the ABS it is not to his credit not to know it sells and gives away human comments.) Here is an organization none of whose directors our brother claims as his brother but from which he can buy Bibles. The men who constitute "Florida College, Inc." are his brethren but he cannot buy Bibles from them! Or did we miss our brother's point (?)?
Brother Williams further says, "It seems clear that PRINTING Bibles and, TEACHING the Bible ARE NOT the same thing. If an organization prints and sells them, it is in the printing business for profit. If an organization (church or college) purchases such Bibles for the PURPOSE of teaching and promoting the truth, then it is a BIBLE TEACHING SOCIETY." So what has our brother prove by claiming that the college is a BIBLE TEACHING SOCIETY? Elsewhere the brother calls the church "God's Bible College." I am sure that he would have no objections to my calling a local church "God's Bible Teaching Society." Is there something evil about this society? After all, the church is composed of social beings, is it not?
Certainly PRINTING Bibles and TEACHING the Bible is not the same thing" - they are different actions. Who says they are the same? The issue is not whether these two actions within themselves are identical but whether or not the same human institution which prints a Bible and sells that Bible may sell printed or spoken human comments on the same Bible. In the issue at hand, printing Bibles and teaching the Bible are not identical, but they are parallel as related to publishing houses and Florida College.
Our brother admits a local church can print the Bible but denies that church can sell it with God's approval. He agrees that a church may buy human comments on the Bible. The truth is that he not only sells his own human comments to the church to which he orally delivers them but he sells his written comments also, eg., the March 7, 1971, bulletin he wrote to and for the church which pays him consists of human comments almost completely! Does not the same church buy other uninspired comments for distribution to its own members and non-members? As certainly as our critical brother and Florida, College, Inc. sell human comments both are engaged in the same action. As surely as Florida College sells human comments and a local church gives away human comments they are not engaged in the same action! The comments -- the thing sold and given - may well be the same but the actions performed by the College and the church are not the same. And this is the issue! Does Florida College perform the same action a local, church performs? I deny that they do the same work because they do not perform the same action.
I have never heard anybody argue that printing Bibles is the same as teaching the Bible any more than the mere printing of abc's is teaching the alphabet. Brother Williams has no difficulty seeing the difference between "printing" and "teaching" as actions. Now let him and his bishops answer this question: is there a difference in principle between printing Bibles for the purpose of selling Bibles and printing Bibles for the purpose of giving them away? If not, why may not a local church do both? Honesty demands that this question be answered.
Our brother talks about "profit" and "nonprofit" and about "printing Bibles" and "teaching Bible" and he writes about the difference between "printing" and "teaching" but he does not deal with the issue! He needs to show that Florida College does something different in principle when it buys and sells the printed Biblical text with human comments as one aspect of its business operation and buys and sells the printed text with oral comments as another phase of its business operation. Until our brother meets this issue, he either does not see the issue or else he must establish the fact that this is not what Florida College does. Brother Williams' position demands that human comments are more important than inspired teaching yet 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 teaches that the scriptures teach!
Our brother says the publishing house and the church are entirely different because one is for profit and the other is strictly non-profit. Is our brother saying that if the publishing house were "non-profit" it would therefore be supplanting the church if it gives Bibles away? If Christians or non-Christians incorporate themselves to print and dispense Bibles without cost, would our brother oppose this organization because it supplants the church? Whether for profit or non-profit, does he not then logically affirm that the church must depend upon a human organization of some kind for knowledge of its own purpose, duty, and its very life? If so, does he not have a human organization doing an exclusive work of the church?
Brother William's delusion that Florida College does a work which "is spiritual in nature" and deals with a "spiritual value" haunts him. Yet he never defines what he means by "a spiritual value." Perhaps he can enlighten us by telling us whether or not a printed Bible unread is "a spiritual value" or is it just so much paper and ink? If it is not "a spiritual value," then could a local church give it away since local churches are authorized to be involved only in dealing with spiritual values? If the printed Bible per se is "a spiritual value," how could a corporation of Christians be justified in printing it since this would supplant a local church?
Our brother says, "The college or Bible department . . . is a mixture" of the "materialistic" and the "spiritual," that "it has its temporal and spiritual activities under one administration." But our brother does not tell the "spiritual activity" which Florida College "administers." It cannot be the College's selling Bibles for he says this is "materialistic" or "secular," not "spiritual." It cannot be selling human comments on the
Bible for he says, "I can send my children to an informed brother to be taught some special Bible subject(s) and even compensate him under Gal. 6:6."
Observe carefully the following paragraph. To "buy" something is to "pay" for it; to "pay for" is to "buy." "To "sell" something is to receive pay in exchange. Unless, therefore, our brother is performing a "spiritual" work when he "compensates" the man who teaches his children "special Bible subjects" and unless the brother is performing a "spiritual" work when he sells his "special Bible subjects" it necessarily follows that Florida College performs no "spiritual" work when it sells "some special Bible subjects." If this is not true we are then compelled to conclude that the very acts of "buying" and "selling" are "secular" or "spiritual" depending on who does the buying and selling! This then leads to the conclusion that every act of a Christian is "spiritual" and our brother denies this for he distinguishes between the "materialistic" and the "spiritual" activities even of Christians when he affirms "the right of brethren to enter the field of higher education which is purely secular as a business enterprise" while simultaneously affirming that Florida College is doing a spiritual work! Brother Williams and the Red Bluff elders just must face up to the consequences of their inconsistencies! Who does a thing does not change the basic nature of the doing itself, i.e., the action performed. Lying and stealing are evils regardless of who lies and steals. Telling the truth and paying debts are always good regardless of who does them.
If an organization (church, college or hospital) purchases Bibles it is a "BIBLE PURCHASING SOCIETY"! So what? If an organization (church, college or book house) operates a press and prints Bibles and distributes them it is a "Bible Publication and Distribution Society"! Again, so what? Let us consider our brother's reasoning. He grants that if a church gives away its Bibles it is scriptural because the church is non-profit and spiritual. It can add human comments and that's still scriptural. If, however, the College sells Bibles and/or comments that's sinful! Why? Let our brother answer: Because the church deals only with "spiritual values" while "the college is a mixture" whose "operations require fees and tuitions yet it also deals with a spiritual value" and that "spiritual value" is the living word of God! But he never tells his readers when, where or how Florida College ever does more with or to the Bible and the human comments upon it in the classroom than it does in its bookstore. The College sells its services and goods. The church does not sell its services or goods and, again, therein lies a fundamental difference!
After brother Williams and the Red Bluff elders have pointed out what they think is wrong with the College, what do we have? Their judgment - a human judgment as human as the human institution they oppose! These brethren still need to produce the argument which logically establishes a human institution to be sinful when it buys and sells printed copies of the word of God with human comments delivered orally. Until they do this Florida College stands immune to their allegations of displacing a local church. They admit a church may buy the printed word but they deny it may sell it and they are correct. Then instead of pointing out that is very distinction is one reason why Florida College may exist without displacing the church they simply leave the matter dangling.
Brother Williams starts out to meet an argument but fails to finish what he begins. He states the issue then talks about something else. When Florida College buys from Baker Book House The Minor Prophets with Homer Hailey's written comments and sells it to one student through the Business Office and then buys the same English text from Baker Book House and sells Homer Hailey's oral comments to another student through the same Business Office, in principle what spiritual activity or "value" does the College "administer" in the latter instance that it did not administer in the first? The College did not do what a local church does for a local church sells neither the Biblical text nor the comments! Homer Hailey was working "as unto the Lord" when he wrote his commentary for Baker Book House and he was working "as unto the Lord" when he spoke comments for Florida College. If not he did wrong for he is told to "work heartily, as unto the Lord" (Col. 3:23). Hailey is accountable to God for his comments and for his attitude toward God both when he writes them and when he speaks them.
Homer Hailey is no part of the legal entity called "Florida College, Incorporated," generally referred to as the "Board of Directors"; and this legal and official entity which existed before there was even a president, vice-president, dean or teacher is the "big, bad wolf " brother Williams and the Red Bluff elders oppose. Every employee of Florida College, Inc. is paid by this organization for services rendered in behalf of the organization unless the employee gives his services to the organization. The organization sells the services and/or goods produced by its employees as does any other human organization, incorporated or unincorporated, dealing in goods and/or services.
A Final Effort to Clarify The Issue
Our brother closes his treatise as follows:
"If the Lord allows more than ONE 'collective' arrangement, with pooled talents and funds under a common oversight (the local church), to proclaim His Word, we've not found the passage nor precept. We're aware of but one 'pillar and ground of the truth.' "
This is the same note on which our sincere brother began. It is the same note sounded by every person who opposes "Florida College, Incorporated" because of its organizational structure. Here I make one more earnest effort to get my brother and others to see their fallacy. Bear with me, please.
In reasoning, when one accepts a certain conclusion even though this conclusion may be erroneous, he necessarily accepts whatever falls within a logical classification of that conclusion. It is at this point that brother Williams makes an admission fatal to his contention that Florida College has no right to exist. When he says that brethren "have the freedom to join their talents, form corporations, and engage in any kind of business pursuits that are legal and ethical," he must rule out Florida College by showing either (1) that Florida College is not a "business pursuit," (2) that it is not "legal", or (3) that it is not "ethical." He has done none of these. In fact, he has not even made the attempt! Instead he leaves the only premise upon, which officials of the College justify its existence and operation and pursues the old, old premise that Florida College is a human institution doing the work of a local church. His whole case is based on erroneous assumptions which Florida College, Incorporated, flatly and categorically denies. Unless he has evidence which I do not have, Florida College falls within his own premise which allows brethren the freedom to act jointly in any legal and ethical business enterprise.
Throughout my tenure as chief executive officer of Florida College I have insisted that no church owns, controls, or contributes to Florida College, Inc. I have done my best to keep the College out of church affairs in spite of the determined effort of brethren such as those at Red Bluff to inject it into church affairs. Persons who know Florida College management best know the loss of friends and funds we experienced because we were determined to keep the school simply and only a "legal and ethical business enter rise." In fact, the price we paid for this conviction almost worked the College's demise. I do not believe there is a preacher in America who has worked with me and heard me preach who will affirm that I have ever faltered in my personal determination to keep the College free from churches in their work and worship and churches equally free from the College in its educational functions, none of which is peculiar to any New Testament church on earth!
The following contrasts reflect the simplicity of our distinctions between a local church and Florida College, Incorporated:
Either I have told the truth about the functions of Florida College, Inc., or I have not. If I have represented the facts correctly Florida College, Inc. is a self-perpetuating, legal and ethical educational business enterprise composed of and controlled by 21 Christians. These men collectively hold in trust tangible and intangible assets contributed by themselves and others and use these assets for the chartered purposes of Florida College, Incorporated. This business enterprise buys and sells goods and services. Some of its goods are food, clothing, medicine and the usual school supplies such as pencils, paper and books, including Bibles and printed Biblical study aids such as commentaries, atlases, and language texts and dictionaries. Some of its services are preparing and conveying food to its customers along with medical care and dormitory and general campus supervision. Its primary service is education in the arts, sciences and Bible. To this end it employs and pays teachers to act as its agents and from its customers-students and/or their parents -- it collects money which is used to pay the salaries of its teachers and other employees essential to pursuing its chartered purposes.
Florida College, Inc. is constituted by Christians; all teachers, administrators and most of the staff employed by these men are Christians; and 90 per cent of the students are Christians. These facts make a most unusual moral environment for conduct of the business enterprise legally identified as Florida College, Incorporated. Most businesses, schools or otherwise, simply do not have the great number of directors, employees and customers with common brotherhood "in Christ"! When the primary purpose of more than 95 per cent of the persons directly involved in any business enterprise is to be controlled by the will of God it is easy to understand why those who know not God as Father and His Son as Savior refer to the enterprise in the light of their own denominational nomenclature rather than as it is in truth. These facts do not change the reality of Florida College, Inc. being just what it is n educational business enterprise operated by Christians!
We conclude with the observation made throughout this review. Florida College, Inc. does nothing peculiar to the purpose, mission nor function of a local church of Christ or its conditions of membership the same as those of a local church. It does not therefore displace a local church in its purpose, membership or work.
Unhappily, we observe that, the foregoing being true, the elders of the Red Bluff Church of Christ, Pasadena, Texas, and its preacher have brought indictments against Florida College, Incorporated, which are without foundation in fact, have caused these indictments to be spread by their own collective initiative far and wide outside their own membership, and by their bringing these indictments in their official role as spokesmen of the Red Bluff Church of Christ, have made the right of a private business enterprise operated by other Christians which denies that it is controlled or related to any local church to become an issue between them and their brethren and conceivably, though regretfully if true, an issue in some local churches over which the Holy Spirit did not make them overseers or authorize them to feed.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 44, pp. 7-25