College Bible Departments and Publishing Companies
Ernest A. Finley
Is it right for a human organization to disseminate written comments on the scriptures (as per the publishing company), but wrong for a human organization to disseminate comments in a Bible class (as per the Bible department in a college)? What is the difference between receiving instruction through the eye and receiving instruction through the ear if the instruction in either case be disseminated by human enterprises identical in structure?
Is there not a parallel between a publishing company and college with a Bible department? Are they not both human enterprises? Are they not both chartered by the state? Do they not both have a board of directors? Do they not both a have a president? Are they not both departmentally organized (in some instances at least)? Do they not both make arrangement for Bible teaching to be done by individuals? Do they not both disseminate Bible teaching?
If no human organization may disseminate Bible instruction, may one purchase commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, and such like, which have been published by a human organization? If not, must one destroy these if he has some of them in possession or may he sell them and recover the money which he unscripturally invested? Must we have a big book-burning such as they had at Ephesus (Acts 19:19)? Or could one give these books to some brother who would not violate his conscience in owning them?
If it is suggested that it is right for publishing companies to disseminate Bible instruction since there is a profit-making motive here, does it follow that a human organization may disseminate Bible instruction providing a profit is made? If a college Bible department were to arrange its finances so that could make a profit from its labors, which one college Bible department I know of does, would it be permissable for such a department to exist? Would a group of men have the right to form a publishing company which is devoted to the dissemination of Bible teaching (in the form of commentaries, study series, books, tracts, booklets, etc.) if there were not a profit-making motive-rather simply a recognition of a need for sound Bible literature? Would a non-profit publishing company which disseminates Bible instruction have a right to exist? If human organizations which disseminate religious instruction, but do not have a "profit-making motive" do not have a right to disseminate religious instruction, do brethren opposed to such act consistently when they purchase religious material from them? Did the Religious Book Discount House (from which a number of brethren opposed to the college Bible department bought books) have a profit-making motive? Did not their brochures indicate that this was not their motive? Did not the fact that they went broke selling too low indicate the sincerity of their assertion regarding profit making? Is there virtue in a "profit-making motive" in a human enterprise, but sin in a desire to make sound Bible instruction available to people at no profit? Whence came the idea that if a group of men forming a human enterprise to disseminate religious instruction have a profit-making motive they are right, but if another group of men forming a human enterprise to disseminate religious instruction are otherwise motivated, they are all wrong? Are they not both human enterprises? Are they not both disseminating religious instruction for a price?
Does one's receiving (purchasing) Bible instruction from a college Bible department indicate that he does not believe in the sufficiency of the church for accomplishing its mission? If so, does one's purchasing Bible instruction from a publishing company indicate that one does not believe in the sufficiency of the church for accomplishing its mission? Has it ever occurred to opponents of the college Bible department that both the publishing company and the college Bible department function in entirely different fields from the church? Are not both the publishing company and the college human enterprises? Do not they both make arrangement for one to receive religious instruction and both receive remuneration for making this arrangement? Is the church a human enterprise? Is it in the service-selling business? Is the church functioning in the same realm as the publishing company and the college Bible department? Does one, then, who purchases religious instruction from the publishing company or the college Bible department; reflect on the sufficiency of the church? :Are these human enterprises usurping the function of the church or competing with the church when they do not even function in the same field as the church?
What is the difference, on the one hand, between purchasing a correspondence course from - a college Bible department, studying this literature to 'acquire Biblical knowledge (except for the "credit" which is given), and, on the other hand, purchasing a commentary from a publishing company (a human organization), written by the same instructor that prepared the material for the correspondence course sold by the college, and studying this literature to acquire Biblical knowledge? If no "credit" were given by the college, would the activities then be parallel and would the correspondence course be acceptable?
When a body or collectivity teaches, does it not in reality simply make arrangements for that teaching to be done by individuals? When a preacher stands in the pulpit and delivers a sermon, has not the local congregation made arrangement for this man to teach the Bible? If the church decides to publish his sermon in the form of a tract or booklet, has not the local congregation made arrangement for this preacher to instruct those who read this tract? But is not the church teaching in either case? If a publishing company should decide to publish this sermon in the form of a tract or booklet, has not the publishing company made arrangement for the preacher to instruct those who read this tract or booklet? If this evangelist should, as a teacher in a college Bible department, present this same sermon (probably called a lecture) in a Bible class, has not the college made arrangement for this preacher (or teacher) to instruct those who hear his lecture? However, is there not a difference between that which is done by the church as it teaches the Bible and that which is done by the publishing company and the college Bible department? Are not the latter two functioning in an entirely different area as human enterprises? Are they not doing something which the church cannot do in selling Bible instruction? But, is not the function of the college parallel to that of the publishing company in this consideration?
Does suggesting that publishing companies (such as Baker Publishing company) are not disseminating Bible teaching, just printing and selling books, destroy the alleged parallel between the publishing company and the Bible department in the college? Does not this argument evidence the fact that one fails to recognize what is involved when a publishing company publishes a book? When a book is published by a publishing company, is not the publishing company making arrangement for the buyer to be instructed by the author of the book? Is not the author sometime recompensed by the publishing company for having prepared the instruction material? Is it not technically correct to say that the publishing company does not do the teaching--rather the individual, the author, is doing the teaching? Yet, is there not a sense in which the publishing company is teaching in that it made arrangement for the teaching? If not-would it, then, be correct to say that the college or Bible department is not, after all, doing any teaching-it is simply selling lectures? In fact, are not both the college Bible department and the publishing company making arrangement for one to be instructed? Are they not, in that sense of the term, both teaching?
Is there a valid distinction between the college Bible department and the. publishing company on the alleged ground that the college oversees and supports the instructors in Bible but the publishing company does not oversee .and support those whose works they publish? Concerning the matter of "support," are not some writers regularly supported by publishing companies just as colleges regularly support teachers in their Bible department? Are not royalties often paid to authors by publishing companies for work these authors have -done? Concerning the matter of "oversight," does not the board of a publishing company routinely exercise judgment regarding material which it is to publish under its own name? Are not both the author and his work under scrutiny in such judgments? Is there not a very real sense in which the board of the publishing company is doing the same thing the board of directors of a college does in evaluating a teacher and his teaching? May not either organization dismiss a teacher from its staff whose teaching does not harmonize with truth? Is it not true that a man's soundness and his aptness in teaching constitute the ground upon which he is accepted and his services utilized by either the publishing company or the college Bible department (among conservative brethren, at least)?
If an eldership assigns a teacher the responsibility of producing literature to be used in a Bible class, is not that teacher, in so far as the assigned work is concerned, under the oversight of those elders? If the board of a publishing company assigns a teacher the responsibility of producing literature to be used in Bible class work, is not that teacher under the oversight of the board of that publishing company? Does the board of a publishing company exercise no oversight of the work it does, the teaching it disseminates? Is not the same sort of scrutiny and judgment exercised by the board of a college in reference to a teacher which it employs in a Bible department? Why contend, in effect, that the church is autonomous, the college board is autonomous, but the publishing company is not autonomous? Why contend that no "oversight" is exercised by the publishing company? Is it not an arbitrary effort to make a distinction where there is in reality no difference?
Is not the college doing exactly the same thing in each of the following when it employs a teacher to (1) lecture to students in a Bible class, (2) tapes or records his lectures and sells them through its book store, or (3) prints his lectures and sells them through its book store? Is not the college in each case simply making arrangement for the student to be instructed? Is not this what a publishing company is doing when it publishes a periodical, running articles by different authors? Is not the publishing company simply making arrangement for you to be instructed by the different authors? Do you who argue that it is wrong for a college to conduct a lectureship in which it arranges for men to teach the Bible think it is wrong to buy a copy of those lectures from the college book store? Is not the college making arrangement for one's instruction in either case? Is one wrong but the other right?
Is not the Christian to seek to grow in knowledge of God's Will (2 Pet. 3:18)? Is not the publishing company simply a "means" or "expedient tool" toward this end? If this be right, may we not also accept the fact that a college Bible department may also function as a "means" or "expedient tool" toward the end of one's growth in knowledge of God's Will, since the two organizations are parallel in organizational arrangement and function? May not either enterprise expedite my effort to provide instruction in Bible truth for myself or my children?
If it is wrong for the Bible to be taught in a Bible department in a college, since a Bible department is a human organization or arrangement, then must one who is teaching in any human organization or any department of .a human organization, while teaching in that department, avoid all reference to any truth revealed in God's Word? Did Paul violate this principle when he taught Bible in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9)? When does it become right for a man teaching in a department of a human organization to teach the Bible, or any part of it, and when does it become wrong? Is it right for a man to teach the Bible in a department of a human educational organization if his doing it is incidental to the major purpose of that department but wrong for a man to teach the Bible in another department of a human organization if his doing it is the major purpose of that department?
May a teacher in a Bible department in a college teach what is revealed in the Bible concerning the origin of the universe? If not, may a teacher in a Science department in a college teach what is revealed concerning the origin of the universe? Could a Science teacher include this as a regular part of his teaching program making it an understood part of the curriculum, not something just done incidentally? Are we being asked to believe that it is right to pay a public educational institution to teach one's child science, knowing that the instructor will likely teach him evolution, a false belief concerning the origin of the universe or at least the creatures on the earth, but wrong for one to pay a human institution to teach his child, in a Bible department, the truth concerning the origin of the universe and all things therein as revealed in the Bible?
Would it be wrong to study Greek grammar in the Language department of a college? How many verses from the Greek New Testament could be included in a test in the translation of Greek before a principle would be violated? Could the Greek teacher show the correct translation without violating some Biblical principle? Could the class read and translate the Greek New Testament text? Must the study of Greek grammar be kept purely in the secular field if taught by a human organization?
What about the field of Sociology? May biblical principles regulating men in their behavior be set forth in such a class or course? Would the department such biblical principles are taught in be in violation of God's Will? Could a lesson on "Marriage and the Home," biblically oriented, be scripturally included anywhere in the curriculum of the college? Or must such be scrupulously avoided?
Is it imperative that I provide for the needs of my child both physically and spiritually? (1 Tim. 5:8; Eph. 6:4)? If I purchase hospital care for my child, who is providing for him? Myself? Or the hospital? If I purchase Bible instruction for my child from a college, who is providing this instruction for him? Myself? Or the college? If I am providing the hospital care (and relieving myself of my responsibility) in purchasing the care, why am I not providing the 'Bible instruction (and relieving myself of my responsibility, in part, at least) in purchasing the Bible instruction?
Where is the consistency between denying that a human organization may disseminate Bible instruction or teaching and then filling one's library with books and periodicals containing Biblical instruction purchased from publishing companies which in every sense of the word are human organizations? Indeed, are they not, for all practical purposes, educational institutions? Do publishing companies err in paying men a stipend for preparing Bible instruction for periodicals circulated by publishing companies? May these publishing companies disseminate Bible instruction in this way without violating a Biblical principle? Brethren, i it not time that we began to face the full implication of our position on these issues?
Truth Magazine, XVIII:16, pp. 7-9