Consistency, Where Art Thou?
In the January issue of TRUTH MAGAZINE Brother Leslie Diestelkamp had an article entitled "Revealed Religion." This is followed in the February number of another under the caption "Individual Or Collective Action." There is much that is good in both articles, and it is not my purpose to try to reply to either in full. I do think that Brother Diestelkamp should be consistent in his determining when revealed authority is present in the scriptures.
Ours should be an honest, sincere effort to know the truth of God. We should be willing to be bound by the authority of God's word, and we should be willing to defend by the scriptures our religious practices. There is no other authority, and we should demand a "revealed religion."
Brother Diestelkamp says that it is not "uncommon to find brethren who contend that we 'do many things for which there is no authority in the Bible'." Perhaps this writer has not been around, but I have never heard a gospel preacher make such a claim. It is true that Brother Diestelkamp does many things for which there is not the kind of authority he insists we must have before churches may contribute to the needs of non-Christians, and to orphan homes operating in the realm of individual benevolence.
Loud cries are heard when churches send contributions to an orphan home under the direction of Christian men. It is claimed that it is "another organization." It is not the incorporation which is objected to, but rather the fact that it is an organization other than the church. Yet Brother Diestelkamp will approve that corporate entity, the "board of trustees" which is selected from within the church to purchase the church property, hold the church property, and eventually sell the church property for the church. It is not the church, it is a corporate unit which functions at the direction of the church, and is "another organization" in the same sense in which the board which is connected with the home may be said to be another organization. Yet Brother Diestelkamp accepts the board of trustees as in expedient in the "revealed religion" for which we both insist.
We may say further, that those who object to contributions being sent from the church treasury to orphan homes often point to the fact that the home is one thing, and the board over it an entirely different thing. We wonder if Brother Diestelkamp should make a purchase from a Sears Roebuck store whether he would send the payment to the store or to the board. We know that all profits which accrue from the Sears store will become the property of the board and stockholders. But there is no profit involved in the orphan homes. All churches I ever knew to support an orphan home sent the money to the home and not to the board. Where a board existed it was merely a group of sacrificing Christian men trying to operate a home for children in the realm of individual benevolence. The question is: may churches help individual Christians do a work that is authorized both for individual Christians and the church to perform? This is the real issue.
I was especially impressed with Brother Diestelkamp's defense of the church-owned meeting house. But let's not evade the issue. Brother Diestelkamp still has not produced an example, command, or necessary inference according to his standards to authorize the church to purchase a meeting house from its treasury. He makes a distinction between what the church may do, and what the individual may do in religious practice. He does say that the Bible does not specify how the meeting place is to be provided, while four pages further over in the same issue of TRUTH another writer says that the idea "where there is no pattern" is equal to "the first step in social gospelism." Is Brother Diestelkamp taking that step, or is the second statement untrue?
Brother Diestelkamp will not deny that we have examples showing that the apostolic church met in public places of gathering, Acts 2 and 3, that they met in places owned by individuals such as the school of Tyrannus, Acts 19:9, and in private homes, Acts 12:12; I Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15. Paul paid for his own "hired dwelling" where he taught the gospel in Rome, Acts 28:30, 31. Now will Brother Diestellcamp say we do not have examples showing that individuals provided the place of meeting In all Biblical cases where we are sure that it was not a place of public gathering? Will he start assuming on Acts 20:7 and conclude that it was church-owned ? Will he assume that they paid for use of the Jewish temple? No, for neither he nor I want a religion based on assumption. And since he has stated in the February issue of TRUTH that "the only work that the church can do, collectively is accomplished by the conversion of the church treasury into services rendered" and he has limited these to two classes: (I) helping the needy saints, and (2) preaching the gospel by supporting the preacher, he has left no room for a church-owned meeting house. By Brother Diestelkamp's pattern, the example of 2 Cor. 11:8 limits the sending of funds used in preaching the word to the "direct method" of sending to the preacher. It forbids sending to another church so that church can support its own preacher. But if this "example" excludes sending to the preacher through the treasury of another church, then Brother Diestelkamp must admit that the "examples" of individuals providing the place for the church to assemble excludes doing that work through any collective treasury at all. Since the board of trustees required by Illinois law functions only in the holding of church property (purchased collectively from the treasury, or otherwise obtained and deeded to the church collectively) and the transfer of such property, then according to Brother Diestelkamp's standard of "revealed religion" the collective owning of church property is unscriptural and all need for the expedient of a board of trustees is repudiated. Yet he accepts both the church owned property and the board of trustees.
Yes, we must have a divinely "revealed religion." It must conform in all details to the New Testament pattern where the New Testament sets a pattern. It must not be founded upon assumptions, nor upon human tradition and customs some would bind upon us. But in urging that we must "be able to prove what is acceptable unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:10)," Brother Diestelkamp has used a passage that is given to individuals, so he still has not proved that the church collectively must abide by the word. Eph. 3:8 addressed these brethren as "children of light," and the same verse points out that they "were once darkness." The church collectively was not once "darkness," so Brother Diestelkamp has to admit the passage is given to individuals.
The "revealed religion" of Christ must be a CONSISTENT religion, for truth is not inconsistent with truth. Brother Diestelkamp cannot consistently oppose churches contributing money to an individual effort to do benevolence because it is under a board, and then accept a "board" within the church to hold property for the church, and to act on direction of the church in doing work of the church. He cannot consistently approve church-owned property bought from the treasury of the church and object to churches helping needy non-Christians from the treasury on the grounds that Gal. 6:10 applies to individuals only. Remember that meeting house. In New Testament times individuals supplied all of the meeting places of the church of which we have record save those which were places of public gathering among the Jews, unless we start assuming on Acts 20:7.
Now let's consider how Brother Diestelkamp applies passages which were given to individuals when he sets out to give the pattern for the "lawful program" of a sound church. Writing in the GOSPEL GUARDIAN, June 28, 1956, he says:
"A sound church program, then, must be a lawful program. That which we do must be included in the 'oracles of God.' (I Peter 4:11.) If it is good, then it is revealed to us in the New Testament, for Paul said that the scriptures furnish us unto every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17.)
Peter also said that we have been furnished with all that pertains unto life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3.) Let the program of the church consist of that which is scripturally revealed. Let us learn 'not to go beyond what is written,' (I Cor. 4:6 R.V.) Only by thus abiding in the 'doctrine of Christ' (2 John 9) can we be sure that our activities are authorized by the God of heaven and fully pleasing to him."
Here Brother Diestelkamp, in a printed Harding College lecture, is giving instruction concerning the program of the church, not the programs of individual Christians. But he cites I Peter 4:11, which says "if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." He cites 2 Tim. 3:16, 17, which is given that "the man of God" may be complete. He cites 2 Peter 1 :3, which is spoken to individuals, and the word "us" is found twice in the verse. He cites I Cor. 4:6, Revised Version, which again is given to individuals, Paul using himself and Apollos as examples that "in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written." He cites 2 John 9 which is so individual in its context that the instruction is directed to "whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the doctrine" or teaching of Christ. Yet Brother Diestelkamp objects so loudly when someone insists that all of these and Galatians 6:10 can be applied to the program of the church.
In conclusion let me say that I agree with Brother Diestelkamp that it is not necessary to find a church-owned meeting house in the scriptures to find authority for it to exist. Let him be consistent and recognize that the contributions to individual efforts to do the Lord's work found in the scriptures just as surely authorize that same thing today. If godly men are preaching the gospel, or doing benevolence which Christians and the church are authorized to perform the church may assist them to do it. I agree with Brother Diestelkamp that I Cor. 4:6, 2 John 9, Eph. 5:10, 1 Peter 4:11, 2 Peter 1 :3 and 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 all apply to the program of a sound church because the church and its program are a part of the "revealed religion" in which we are interested. But Brother Diestelkamp, Galatians 6:10 is not one bit more directed to the individual than are all of these you have used.
I rather anticipate that Brother Diestelkamp will try to show that the church program involves individual activity in order to show how the above scriptures may be applied. That is all right with this writer, provided he either gives up his inconsistency or limits that program to things not purchased from the church treasury. According to his premises, if they involve the church treasury these passages cannot be applied.
Truth Magazine III:6, pp. 12-14