Consistency and/or Truth - A Second Response
In this issue we have a second article by brother Brodie Crouch in which he again replies to some things I have written, especially to articles by me entitled "Revealed Religion" (January TRUTH magazine), "Individual and Collective Action" (February magazine) and to my response in the March issue to his first reply. Readers are urged to read the previous articles if they have not done so, and to read his article in this issue before reading this. Freedom of expression is a policy of this magazine, and is only limited by reasonable use of space and by necessity that articles be free from bitterness. It is gratifying to notice the splendid spirit of brother Crouch's articles, and I trust these exchanges may provoke all of us to a more diligent study of God's word, and that our friendship and fellowship may be strengthened. I shall number my paragraphs just to match the ones to which I at n responding from his article.
1. What Does Inconsistency Prove Wrong?
It is said that if I am proven inconsistent my arguments are proven faulty because truth is consistent. But this involves two considerations: (1) Inconsistency in application of a principle does not disprove the principle. (2) The advocacy of two inconsistent doctrines does not prove a particular one of them wrong. Certainly two inconsistent ideas cannot both be true, but it remains to be proved which is trite and which is false. Brother Crouch proceeds, it seems to me, on the assumption that if he can prove my opposition to use of church funds for support of non-Christians inconsistent with my defense of the use of such funds for buying meeting houses, that the opposition just mentioned is wrong and the defense is right. A more objective study would be possible if we each try to justify, by the scriptures, that which we defend, without judging it by other doctrines. Remember, if I am proven inconsistent, it may be possible that the fault is in the doctrine which we both believe instead of the one about which we disagree.
2. Human Judgment and Authority
It is true that I do not believe human judgment defines an area of scriptural authority. Indeed I do believe there are just two fields - that which is authorized and that which is unlawful. In the realm of expediency, anything must be lawful before it can possibly be expedient. For instance, singing bass or tenor is a choice dependent upon human judgment, but either are lawful. Human judgment does not permit us to choose whether we will sing, or sing and play, though, for the latter is not lawful. However, if something is specified, it is not simply expedient, but rather it is necessary. Therefore, breaking bread on the first day of each week is a necessity, not an expedient. Supporting gospel preaching is also a necessity for the faithful church (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Cor. 11 :8), but supporting human institutions and/or non-Christians is not lawful for the church and thus could not possibly be expedient.
No, I do not confuse my duty as a parent with my duty as a Christian. Paul's instruction to "bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord" is not just to people because they are parents, but to parents because they are Christians.
With regard to authority and limitation for individuals and for the church, consider the following: (1) Any limitation imposed upon a Christian also limits the church, for if the church engages in that which is forbidden the Christian, said Christian cannot function as a part of the church and still observe the limitation. The faithful Christian surely is a partner in every action of the church, and if the Christian should not "go beyond what is written" (I Cor. 4:6--R.V.), the church of which he is a part should likewise observe this restriction. (2) But authority for the Christian is not authorization for the church. For instance, the Christian is authorized to engage in gainful employment (business or industry, etc.) but that does not authorize the church to operate a business, a factory or a farm.
3. The Incorporated Church
No, I do not admit brother Crouch's point. Rather I contend that the incorporated entity does not exist apart from the spiritual one. Of course the trustees are not the church, but neither are the teachers, elders, etc., yet none of them exist apart from it. In the case of the orphan home under a board of directors, it is certain that such board is not the home (house, facilities, etc.), but on the other hand, neither the home nor the board exist apart from each other. The board owns, operates and controls the home. The board is the organization, the employees render the services and the buildings, etc. are the facillties. In the case of an incorporated church the trustees do not own, operate nor control the church, nor even its servants or its facilities. The trustees actually only render a service as stewards of the property. They do not constitute another organization through which the church functions, but the board of an orphan home does.
I oppose incorporating a church unless it is necessary to meet legal requirements because I believe it is usually inexpedient. Brother Crouch says it is not his privilege to oppose brethren in the use of expedients that are in themselves right. I believe it is his privilege. Even though he believes church buildings are alright" I suspect he would oppose erecting a million-dollar building for Evanston church even if the money were readily available. Yes, we do have a right to oppose inexpedients, but of course we do not have a right to press such opposition so as to divide the church.
4. The reference to the other writer's work is still not clear. That other writer was lamenting attitudes that suggest there is no pattern. Our pattern for gospel work is derived from precepts, examples or necessary inference. For instance, the "pattern" provides for much water for baptizing, therefore a baptistry is authorized by necessary inference. Human judgment determines whether it be in a river, lake or man-made tank. Likewise, the pattern authorizes assembling, and thus provides for a place of assembly, whether it be in the shade of a tree, in a rented hall or in a owned house.
5. Hebrews 10:25 and Galatians 6:10
It is said that I have a double standard in suggesting that a necessary inference from Heb. 10:25 authorizes a church to provide a meeting house while denying that Gal. 6:10 authorizes the church to secure the means by which Christians do good to all men. Now consider: (1) In the words brother Crouch says he borrowed from me he agrees that Gal. 5:10 teaches Christians. We are agreed it is not addressed to the church. (2) But the parallels he drew are not identical as he suggests. Heb. 10:25 does address individuals, but when they assemble, the assembly is the church. Perhaps I Cor. 14:23 ("If the whole church be come together . . .") should also be considered to substantiate this point. At any rate, some common meeting place is a necessity, before it can be said that Christians have become an assembly anywhere. Assembling (in accord with Heb. 10:25) cannot be accomplished without unified action. This is not true regarding Gal. 6:10 - that is it is not true that there must be unified action in ord er for Christians to do good unto all men. My obedience to this latter command demands nothing at all of any other child of God. Therefore I conclude that the church (assembly) can provide for its place of assembly. But, since my action regarding Gal. 6:10 is not the action of the whole church, the church is not authorized to engage in that which is assigned to individuals. (3) Let it be remembered that I have in no sense agreed that church-owned meeting houses are unscriptural, but if such should be proven, it would not justify use of church funds for support of non-Christians. The New Testament teaches Christians to help everybody, and also teaches the church to use its funds to support needy saints (Ac. 11:29, 30; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2) and to support gospel work (2 Cor. 11:8 ; Phil. 4:16).
6. Missionary Societies, Orphan Homes, etc.
I did not in any sense imply that those who support orphan homes defend a Missionary Society. I might add, kindly, that it should not be implied that those of us who oppose support of Orphan Homes from church funds are opposed to supporting orphan homes as such.
There is a sense in which an orphan home, a missionary society and TRUTH magazine do "stand on the same footing." Any time two or more brethren combine their efforts to help orphans, to teach the word or to edify saints, such is a "society." As such they can be helped by even other Christians. If any such group attempts to become an organization through which the church functions, it is wrong (that is what is wrong with the Missionary Society as we know it). The church just doesn't have a scriptural right to contribute to any society. Brother Crouch and I could give $25.00 per month each, combining our funds and support a native preacher in some foreign land. I do not believe we could, with authority, call upon a church to contribute to us so that we could support that preacher. Likewise, two or more brethren could combine some of their funds to help unfortunate people of the world. There are two reasons why the church could not contribute to such a project: (1) Those people of the world are not the responsibility of the church; (2) and the church cannot, with authority, donate funds to any organization except another church which is in need.
An effort was made to separate the "personal needs" of a preacher from other needs, but I can think of nothing that would be a more personal need than travel funds, moving expenses, etc., if such travel or move is necessarv to the work he is to do. Necessary inference does enter into this matter, for the specific precepts and examples that authorizes the church to support preachers (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Cor. 11 :8), necessarily infers that his personal necessities shall be thus provided. In fact that is exactly what the church is to provide.
I regret that some may consider such discussions as these as deplorable hair-splitting. For centuries the advocates of sprinkling havc so considered the arguments made for immersion. Those who oppose mechanical instruments of music in worship to God have long been considered as cranks and radicals. Likewise today some of us who contend earnestly for that which we sincerely believe to be the teaching of God's word relative to use of church funds are considered as hair-splitters.
Frankly, the difference between truth and error may be just as fine as that, and if half a hair must be split off from the other half in order to detect truth, so let it be. As long as I am honestly contending for that which I believe to be the truth, I shall not lose sleep because someone considers it hair-splitting. Naaman could have branded Elisha as a hair-splitter, and Nadab and Abihu had every right to cry out in their dying breath that God was splitting hairs. But truth must prevail! It alone can make us free. It alone can enable us to produce in this generation a pure church. Truth alone can direct us into a truly "revealed religion." Also, truth, narrow is it is, if followed carefully and faithfully, will cause the church to involve itself in nothing unauthorized, but will keep it so busy in authorized action that it will have no excess of time, talent or money to be used in unauthorized pursuits. Let us say with David, "O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day. . . . Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way" (Ps. 119: 97, 104). Then let us hear Paul who says, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
Truth Magazine III:7; pp. 8-10