More Startling Statements
In our last article as we quoted from the book We Be Brethren, we noted some startling statements therein concerning the matter of interpretation, expediency, legalism, and attitudes toward others. In this paper we plan to notice some thoughts that are presented on the matter of organizations; proposed Biblical parallels to the organization of the orphan homes, schools, etc. operated by our brethren; and some miscellaneous material in the last portion.
As the writer of We Be Brethren refers to the thinking of some brethren who point to a parallel between some of the organizations our brethren are operating and the Missionary Society concept which some of us rejected long ago, he says:
The exact point of this "parallelism to the Missionary Society" is that these "societies" are supposed also to violate and contradict the principle of the autonomy of the local church. It is admitted by all of us that the Missionary Society is guilty here, and this is really the one and only thing wrong with it-however, that is sufficient to make it sinful and wrong. But the real need, in order for their claim to stand, is for these BRETHREN to show how that a sponsoring church, or an orphan home, or any group involved in the practice of these methods, dominates or controls any church, or is in any organic relationship to them where it has dominating or controlling authority or power of coercion of any type over them. Unless this is shown, clearly and unquestionably, the case fails, and the methods under consideration then classify as optional expedients and are certainly scriptural. Pages 137-138.
Notice that it is stated that "the one and only thing that is wrong with "the Missionary Society is its "domination and control" of the church, or churches, with which it has some "organic relationship"! Thus it would necessarily follow that an arrangement just exactly like one of the orphan homes or schools brethren are now operating - that is, with its body politic of directors and officers - but which did not "dominate and control" the churches, and was not organically related to the churches, would be perfectly satisfactory for the churches to work through in preaching the gospel! Our brother has confused autonomy with an organic relationship which dominates and controls. The thoughts are not necessarily identical at all. There are also other points beside the matter of autonomy involved in the parallels between the 11issionary Society and the schemes brethren have now devised through which the church is supposed to work.
On pages 141-141 we find further indication of what brother Thomas says is wrong with the Missionary Society.
The Missionary Society is a human organization that could serve as an optional expedient to the generic pattern "Go, Preach;" but inasmuch as it involves "control" over the churches that comprise its membership, its use would demand the violation of local church autonomy. loc. cit.
This statement is a manifestation of a lack of knowledge concerning most of the societies that have existed, or else a deliberate misrepresentation of them! We will have full-fledged and admitted Missionary Societies among these brethren unless something is done quickly to change some thinking among them, for their opposition to them is an opposition to a situation that has almost never existed. We continue with more from the same paragraph,
What we mean by "control" is that the Missionary Society is an organization whose board "legislates," or passes rules that they expect to be binding upon the member churches, and where the member churches expect to be so bound. The society chooses for, directs, assesses contributions, and legislates; all of which are binding and obligatory upon the member churches. The will of the church is subservient to the will of the society; both the churches and the society understand that this is to be the arrangement, and therefore the member churches have surrendered their autonomy-they no longer have self-government or the right of self-government. The Society dominates the churches, can coerce them and can bring authoritative, organic pressure upon them if they do not live up to the demands which the Society makes of them. The churches are expected to do all of their mission work through the Society and to do none of their own planning. When they join the Society they surrender fully all rights of any kind toward planning their own mission work and toward exercising any control of any kind over it in its administration. loc. cit.
There has never been a greater misrepresentation of most Missionary Societies to be placed on the printed page than the foregoing words. It is not for me to say what motivated it, but it would be most enlightening to see brother Thomas show what is wrong with the societies used by most of the conservative Christian Churches in the land. The above words would not even begin to touch their plan. It is my firm conviction that large numbers of my brethren could not successfully show anything wrong with the societies of the conservative Christian Church for in so doing they would condemn themselves; that they will make no attempt to show these societies wrong, but rather will deal only with the abuses and extremes of the very liberal Christian Church ; and that the time will soon come when some of them will be willing to call some of their activities what they really are -- Missionary Societies.
We turn our attention now to some scripture references and quotations that supposedly illustrate the arrangements and organizations that are in use today.
3. In II Corinthians 8:18, 19 we have record of a human institution or organization . . . that was composed of members of different churches and organized specifically to do a work of the church:
And we have sent together with him the brother whose praise in the gospel is spread through all the churches; and not only so, but who was also appointed by the churches to travel with us in the matter of this grace, which is ministered by us to the glory of the Lord, and to show our readiness:
Note further that this organization served several congregations in one and the same action! Yet again, at least one member of the organization was elected or chosen to his office by the voice of the several churches (plural) involved! Page 153.
We have often heard the accusation that men read between the lines in order to arrive at some of the conclusions they do, but it takes a lot of "reading between the lines" to get anything out of that passage that is within a hundred miles of a forty-second cousin to what it is supposed to illustrate! Do, you suppose this brother who was "elected" had the office of president of the board, or was he the superintendent of the organization? I wonder if he won the "election" by a clear-cut majority, or if it was a close race and he perhaps had just a plurality of the votes. Do you suppose the churches "elected" him by every member casting a vote directly for his favorite candidate for "office", or did they rather choose an "electoral college" by voting for representatives from each church who then "elected" this man??? Brethren someone is at sea and still drifting!
On pages 155 and 156 we read these comments concerning Acts 15 :22-16:4 as another effort is made to use the Bible to illustrate the organizations brethren are advocating now:
This passage also raises acute problems for those who insist that one church's business is limited to the confines of its own borders. What we have here is that, the church at Jerusalem - the apostles and the elders, with the whole church decided to send a human organization a group of people who were not the church but who were going to do the work of the church, to do a teaching job -to Antioch and then on to Syria and Cilicia (v. 23). Note that there is one congregation which decides to do teaching in other congregations without asking their permission! * * * This scriptural example then sets forth the following points; a. One church can decide that other churches need certain teaching and can provide it. b. One church can use a human organization which is not the church to do its work among other churches. c. The human organization can make decisions on its own, within the policies outlined by the church that uses it. d. Another church can employ and use the same human organization at the same time the first congregation's assignment is being carried out.
There is a false implication in this quotation that some are trying to establish territorial boundaries or borders for the activities of a congregation. To tear down that "straw man" is not to touch the issue. Now if brethren could just get the Holy Spirit through the apostles He. inspired to decide to endorse the organizations they want to use today, I for one will cease all opposition to them! Since this so-called organization brother Thomas found ( ?) in this passage is one that is "Outside the Local Church" (see the heading of this section, p. 150), and is an organization for preaching the word and will of the Lord, is it not a full-fledged Missionary Society by his "interpretation"? Brethren, you had better read that passage again and then read the comments of brother Thomas again. just a few short years ago one would not have believed that the latter came from a brother in Christ. Now nothing our brethren say surprises us any more.
Now one more effort from the scriptures this time from Acts thirteen and fourteen found on page 154 of We Be Brethren.
5. On the first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-14:23 "Paul and his company" (Acts 13:13) were doing the work of the church. They were sent by the Antioch church (Acts 13:3) and the Holy Spirit, and at the end of the journey they reported all the details to the Antioch church (Acts 14:26, 27). This organization, with Paul as it (sic) head, obviously made some decisions of its own, among which was the appointing of elders in some of the churches (Acts 14:23). We wonder how much "centralized control" the Antioch church was exercising here in letting their agents "meddle" in the affairs of the Asian churches?
No, my brother in Christ, you are not imagining things -- that is exactly what is found on the page. Now if we are going to use this as evidence to support the organizations we have today, do we not have to uphold the right for Missionary Societies to exist? lf not, why not? Furthermore, according to the "Interpretation" here given this "organization" has the authority to appoint elders in churches! This idea is one step beyond "centralized control" as usually presented, and begins to show more clearly the extent to which some will go.
We now notice some miscellaneous quotations that do not readily classify themselves under the several headings of these papers, but which ought to be considered by brethren.
The fact of getting money to a preacher is important, but how many hands it goes through in getting to him or whose hands they are, are purely incidental and in no sense binding. This case is another where men have been making laws for God! Page 74.
Now I suppose that if "how many hands" and "whose hands they are" are things that are "purely incidental" we could surely send it through the Red Cross and the Salvation Army before we sent it to the Pope of Rome and asked him please to deliver it to the preacher we had in mind. There would be just all kinds of room for not just one, but several, Missionary Societies in a statement like that one. Could it be that brother Thomas would step in here and "make laws for God" before some of these were practiced? Hear him again:
But elders can delegate responsibility and authority without surrendering control. They delegate it regularly to their own preacher and to their Bible School teachers and to many others. Page 146.
This statement strikes at the very heart of our difficulties. Men are trying to "pass the buck" for the responsibilities God has given and they call it "delegating" responsibility and authority. They still expect to retain control, but it cannot be done. If you give me the authority you had then you do not have it; I now have it. However, the lawgiver in these matters is not any man or group of men, including any eldership. It is Jesus Christ. The elders of a church are not in the business of authorizing other churches, and institutions other than the church, to act in capacities where God has not. Likewise, one man or church can never he responsible for what God expects another man or church to do. The word responsibility indicates ability to give response to a charge or obligation. If God obligates a man or church to give a response in any matter, no power under heaven can delegate that responsibility to someone else. Remember there is not responsibility where there is no ability.
For our final quotation for this paper we will notice an example given on pages 150 and 151 that supposedly illustrates the organizations that brethren are objecting to in the current controversy in the church.
1. Some years ago in the BROTHERHOOD there was a well-known preacher-singer team that held meetings all over the country. If a congregation wanted to employ the preacher for a meeting, but not the singer, the preacher would refuse, stating that they worked only as a team (or organization!). These men thus formed a human organization, for doing the work of the church, and they were paid out of the church treasury.
But this preacher-singer, "gospel -preaching," human organization is an exact parallel to the orphan home of today!
If this team was "an exact parallel to the orphan home of today" they must have asked for and received regular contributions from churches, decided where and how they would operate, to what extent they would be used by the churches, what particular churches they will try to help, etc., for the orphans' homes of today do these things. I'm sure many of us did not know of any such scheme devised and operated by any preacher-singer team in the Lord's church. To be an exact parallel these fellows could have persuaded any number of other preachers and singers to join them, form themselves into a body politic with elected officers, and then asked the churches to make their contributions to The Preacher-Singer Association, and the Association (Society) would take over from there. That would be parallel to what is done by many brethren today. Are we ready for it?
Next month, the Lord willing, we will note a few more miscellaneous ideas, but will plan to devote most of the space to church support of schools. Reader, will you investigate these matters carefully and prayerfully? We pray You will.
Truth Magazine IV:10, 222-225