A Medley of Matters
There are many individual enterprises among us which exist for spiritual purposes such as schools, papers, etc.We think they have a right to exist when kept in their places, but time has proved this an almost impossible task. The brethren's so-called individual enterprises have played a leading role in almost every apostasy since the beginning of the church. To Alexander Campbell's school and various periodicals of his era must go the "credit" for the widespread division which occurred over the missionary society and instrumental music. Every Christian Church in the land today stands as a living monument to their efforts.
We do not hesitate to say that similar individual enterprises pose the greatest danger to the church today in our controversy, and general unrest. One cannot deny that the present tension among us has been caused, to a great degree, by papers and schools-editors and presidents.
Time has proved that the schools and papers have a great potential for good. Certain schools and papers of the past have been credited with holding the line against softness and digression. Their efforts and influences were on the right side, but it seems difficult, if not impossible, to keep them there. Today these same schools and papers use the names of their founders and bulwarks of yesteryear to promote and defend the very things they condemned. We think such observations show that the great danger of individual enterprises comes, not from the enterprises per se, but rather from the manner in which they are used.
When the services of schools and papers come into great demand among the brethren, and they get financially independent they begin to lose sight of their individual nature and develop the unscriptural idea that they own the church. They reduce it to a mere satellite that must orbit as they direct. One school man is well known for his statement that "the school can get along without the churches, but the churches can't get along without the schools." This is the idea.
As time goes on these institutions begin trying to control the thinking of the church. Like dictators they destroy freedom of thought and expression. Where they have the power they allow only their side of given issues to he heard. Christians and churches are found by the thousands that think disloyalty to their favorite school or paper is disloyalty to God. They subscribe on1y for their paper and recommend on1y their school, and any preacher who will do anything else is barred from their pulpit. If any preacher or congregation in their diocese dissents from their creed they'll use whatever means is available to them to move the preacher or interfere in the internal affairs of the congregation. Instances of this are too numerous for anyone to honestly think it is an idle tale.
Any time an individual enterprise can continue to exist even though it promotes unscriptural teachings and practices its influence is too great. Its death would be a blessing. No human institution (individual enterprise) can be devised that has the right to bind loyalty to it as a condition of faithfulness to Christ. It is fine to support schools and papers which stand for the truth, but let us all clearly understand that it is possible for one to live the Christian life, die and go to heaven without ever reading a paper, or attending a college operated by brethren.
Lest anyone should get the idea that these are the thoughts of some "anti" (as some brethren like to call them) I quote the following from the pen of bro. N.B. Hardeman, a man who has spent most of his life as president of one of the schools, and who has done no little writing for the papers. In an article in the Gospel Advocate April 3, 1958 entitled "Dangers facing the church as I see them" he said:
"Another danger lies in the fact that we are disposed to line up into groups. Some preachers have devout followers who will go with them through 'floods and flames' if they so lead. These followers have no independent thought or practice. They but echo the voice of some would-be reformer. Others will line up after some college and they will stand by it regardless of what is taught. They become mental slaves to its standards. About as many connected with colleges go wrong as from any other group.
"Others still, will follow after some religious paper and will support it no matter how ridiculous and inconsistent its policy and practice may be. The result of such will cause factions and hobbyists and encourage division among us."
If anyone living today is qualified to write concerning such matters it is bro. Hardeman. His words are timely, and appropriate in connection with this article. Consider them well.
Through the years the New Testament, church has consistently converted more people from the denominations than it lost to them. It looks like now, however, that this picture is rapidly changing. It appears that many congregations among us will form another denomination, or else join one already in existence.
The tomfoolery of modern denominationalism is helping many deceived people to see the truth, and thus to forsake error, but at the same time there are many among us who are so lacking in Spiritual discernment and Biblical knowledge that they are forsaking the truth and embracing the denominational nonsense they once opposed.
It would be difficult indeed to name just one thing the denominations teach or practice of which some of our brethren don't have a version. Choruses, kitchens, camps, campaigns, societies, boy scout troops, youth rallies, recreation rooms, hobby shops, etc., etc. Just about anything you could think of can be found in some congregations in almost every section. Bro. J.D. Tant's famous "Brethren, we're drifting" statement would not be appropriate now-we have already drifted!
Truth Magazine II:9, pp. 3, 12