Consistency and/or Truth - A Response
Under the title, "Consistency, Where Art Thou?" brother Brodie Crouch has responded to two articles written by me ("Revealed Religion" and "Individual or Collective Action" see TRUTH magazine, Vol. III, Nos. 4 and 5). Be sure to read his article carefully before reading this one by me. He has manifested a fine spirit and his willingness to investigate truth and to he bound by the authority of God's word is gratifying. It seems to me we can sum up brother Crouch's article thus: He charges (1) that I am inconsistent in opposing church contributions to orphan homes and not opposing trustees of church propert.y; (2) that I am inconsistent in arguing that the church treasury can only be used to help needy saints and to support gospel work and still use such funds to pay for a meeting house; (3) and that I am inconsistent in using verses of scripture that limit Christians to also limit the church while denying that scripture which authorizes Christians also authorizes the church.
Before I discuss those three items, let us remember that if I am proven inconsistent, it has not disproved my arguments. I ought to try to be consistent, for the truth we both try to follow is always consistent with itself. However, if I am proven inconsistent it has only been proved that I am at fault, and not that my arguments are faulty. For instance, if I argue that the Bible teaches us to love one another, and if I fail to heed that teaching, I am inconsistent but my argument is not false. Brother Crouch says, "It is true that Brother Diestelkamp does many things for which there is not the kind of authority he insists we must have . . ." But I have always contended that the individual and the collective church must bc authorized by (1) A direct statement or command in the N.T.; (2) An approved N.T. example: (3) or a necessary inference drawn from N.T. commands, statements or examples. That is the "kind" of authority for which I contend. This involves two principles: (1) That which is lawful must be done. (2) That which is unlawful, that is that which is not authorized by precept, example or necessary inference, is forbidden and must not be done. If it can be shown that I do many things not thus authorized my faults will have been pointed out (and I have many of them) but the principles of "revealed religion" will not have been nullified.
The church has no authority to contribute any of its funds to any human organization. I object to contributions from the treasury to Orphan Homes for the same reason I would object to such gifts from the treasury to TRUTH magazine, to a Hospital or to a School. If we will admit the necessity for a statement, command, example or necessary inference in the N.T. authorizing use of church funds, we will be unable to justify use of such funds for support of any human organization.
Trustees of church property are members of that church. If men from several churches were made trustees of the property of one church, and if the various churches contributed to the trustees for that one church, it would be a different story. Furthermore the trustees do not control the property, or at least they ought not, and if they do I would oppose them with vigor. Actually, when it is said that I "approve" the "corporate entity" (incorporation with trustees) it is stretching a point. I tolerate such, but have always opposed such unless it is absolutely necessary to meet requirements of the law. I wish it were never necessary to incorporate. However, incorporation does not produce "another organization" as long as that which is incorporated is just the church.
The reference to another writer's article is not clear to me, but I am convinced that though it was unintentional, it was a misuse of that writer's material. Let us notice what he did write, "The first step in social gospelism is the destruction of the idea that the New Testament is an all-sufficient standard of authority for all time." With that statement I fully concur. In fact the first and major step into any departure is, I believe, an intentional or an unintentional abandonment of the full authority of the N.T. However, no one contends that we must have an example for every action. No one thinks we have an example of the church owning property. Authority for such is derived from necessarv inference. The N.T. teaches that Christians came together on the First Day of the week to break bread, (Ac. 20:7) and the necessarv inference is that they came together for that purpose on the First Day of each week. That necessary inference is the only authority we have for such action today. Likewise, the N.T. teaches Christians to assemble (Heb. 10:25), and since assembling requires a place of assembly, the necessary inference authorizes the church to secure such. We are not actually told how the saints acquired a place every time they met. In fact we are only told of a few times (where they did meet) and we are told often where Paul preached, but we have no idea regarding the meeting place of the church in Samaria (Ac. 8), in Damascus (Ac. 9), in Antioch of Syria (Ac. 13), in Thessalonica (Ac. 17), in Corinth (Ac. 18), in Ephesus, Galatia, etc. Since there is no specific authority regarding the meeting place, and since the church is to support gospel work, the necessary inference is that the church can expedite that work by owning a building just as it can expedite that work by either owning, renting or borrowing a blackboard to facilitate the teacher's work, a communion set to facilitate the action of the Christian in showing forth Christ's death till he comes again, etc.
Thus I believe we have shown that there is authority for the church to own a meeting house. Actually, whether we have or not, it still remains true that there is no authority for the church to use its treasury to support any needy people of the world. Examine Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8 and 9; Ac. 11:29, 30, and any other verse that deals with the use of collected funds and notice that such were used for the relief of needy saints or else for gospel work.
It is said that I use passages that are directed to individuals to give instructions concerning the church. The passages I used and to which he refers are directed to individuals. However, when a Christian learns to "speak as the oracles of God (I Pet. 4:11 ); if the Christian is completely furnished unto every good work (2 Tim. 3 :17); if a person is given all that pertains to spiritual life (2 Pet. 1:3); when a Christian learns not to go beyond what is written (I Cor. 4:6 R.V.); and when he abides in Christ's teaching (2 Jn. 9), the collective action of the church of which he is a member cannot transgress those principles. For instance how could a man abide in the teaching of Christ and be a member of a church that used its funds to build a gymnasium? Or, could a man be said to be doing only that which is "furnished" by the scriptures if he is a member of a church that engages in a commercial business enterprise?
When the scripture sets a limit upon a Christian, the collective church certainly cannot violate that limitation. However, anything that authorizes a Christian does not authorize the church.
In Acts 18:3 and 20:34 we are told that Paul labored with his hands to support gospel preachers - he engaged in a business or industrial enterprise. Surely no one would suggest that this authorized the church to become involved in such enterprises. And so, as was argued in my article on "Individual Or Collective Action," under the broad, comprehensive terms of Paul's language the Christian is to "be ready unto every good work" (Titus 3:1); but since the commands, examples and necessary inferences of the N.T. give no such broad authority to the church, it must be limited by the revealed will of God to that which is authorized.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would guide the Apostles into all truth (Jn. 16:13). This would certainly include truth for individuals and for the church. If a statement or command from inspired men, an example approved by them or a necessarv inference drawn from such does not authorize a thing, we must conclude it is not of truth.
Brother Crouch says the real issue is, "May churches help individual Christians do a work that is authorized both for individual Christians and for the church to perform?" First let us remember that we must not assume, therefore we cannot simply assume that the church can help a Christian in every area of activity, even though that which he does is something which the church may do too. The only action the church can take is that which the N.T. authorizes, regardless of assumption. Therefore the church cannot help a group of Christians who form another organization to preach the gospel (a Missionary Society) nor another such group dedicated to edifying Christians (like the group that publishes 'I'RU'I'H magazine) nor a group that provides for care of fatherless children (like an Orphan Home organization). Certainly the church may, with authority contribute to a needy saint so that he may care for his family, but in so doing the church has simply done its own work. Likewise the church can support a preacher of the gospel, but in so doing the church does nothing but its own work.
The Lord's church is bound by the authority of God's word, not just because Christians are bound, but because Christ is Head of the church and exercises complete control over it. Any fuction that is not directed by the mind of Christ, as that mind is revealed in the N.T. is a malfunction. Let us recognize that the church will only function properly when the members who make it up have the proper understanding and respect for the authority of Christ. Furthermore, let us not think that the limitations of God's law will minimize the proper activities of God's people. Benevolence, edification and evangelism will be emphasized and even more zealously pursued when every Christian does his part and when the collective church, without human entanglements, but with the full vigor of a living body, activates itself altogether in harmony with the revealed will of Christ.
Truth Magazine III:6, pp. 15-17