Now I Know the Difference
Foy W. Vinson
Recently I ran across the following in an article appearing in a certain periodical:
"It has always been a matter of amazement to us that people want to form human societies to do the work which God ordained the church should do. Do they think they are wiser, or better at planning than God? Such efforts always have reflected, and always will reflect, upon the wisdom of God. If such societies, either evangelical or benevolent, (emp. mine -- FWV) were either necessary or expedient, we believe God in his wisdom would have ordained them and their use.
"Any effort to take away from the church the work gave it to do, and to substitute for the church human societies to do the work of the church is a reflection upon the wisdom of God and upon the redemptive power of the blood of Christ. If human agencies can do either the works of evangelism or benevolence, (emp. mine--FWV) just as well as, to say nothing of better than, the church then Jesus shed his blood for a paltry thing indeed. He was sold a gold brick. It was the cry of misguided brethren a hundred years ago that the UCMS could do the work of evangelism better and more effectively than could the Lord's church. That was never so. It surely reflects no glory upon the only institution for which Christ died to intimate, much less to charge, that a human organization can do any work the church is commanded to do better than the church can do it.
"It has always been the restoration plea that we go back to tile Bible for every rule of faith and practice. When we ditch the Bible in favor of human wisdom on how to do the work God gave the church to do, and begin to replace the divine arrangement with human arrangements--however praiseworthy they may be--the inevitable course is that of apostasy. (emp. mine--FWV)
"If we have no lamp by which our feet are guided save the lamp of experience, then it possible predict, relatively early in the reformation struggle, that men now advocating the church doing its work through outside organizations - of any sort (emp. mine -- FWV)--will, for the most part, in the end, wind Up with the liberals. Some of our projects could swallow us."
Shades of Anti-ism!! Which hobby sheet did this appear in? ? Obviously the ravings and rantings of a dyed-in-the-wool "Anti" spouting off again on his favorite hobby!! This is probably the kind of reaction most brethren would have to the foregoing paragraphs. I am sure they would conclude that if it appeared in a "brotherhood publication," it was in either the "Gospel Guardian, the Preceptor or Truth Magazine, and that its author was one well enmeshed in the "camp" of the "Anti's." Well, brethren, this did appear in a "brotherhood publication," and it was not the Guardian, Preceptor or Truth Magazine, but the Firm Foundation!
And furthermore, the one who penned these words has not been tagged with the "Anti" label; rather he is the self-acclaimed champion of the "middle of the roaders," none other than the editor himself, Reuel Lemmons! I simply quoted from an editorial in the September 4th issue entitled, "The Missionary Society Swallowed the Church."
This is why I entitled my comments, "Now I Know the Difference." Not that I had not known the difference before, but this editorial from the Firm Foundation simply serves further to verify a previous conclusion. But someone asks, "the difference between what?" I'm talking about the difference between the one who calls himself a "middle of the roader" and the one who is slanderously labeled by others as an "Anti." When then is the difference? It most certainly is not in understanding and even in some instances teaching the truth concerning institutionalism (e. g. -- the editorial quoted above). Just reread the paragraphs cited. Could the issue have been set forth with any more perspicuity? I think not. The language reflects an understanding of the great principles at stake in the threat of institutionalism, whether in the area of evangelism or benevolence. So I reiterate, the difference is not in understanding or even in teaching the truth.
Where then lies the difference? I am forced to a conclusion, which is not pretty, but I believe inescapable. The difference is in the practice! The man labeled an "Anti" believes in the all-sufficiency of the church and endeavors to practice by opposing and refusing to have any part in the promotion or support of a human society created to do the work God gave to the church. The man who calls himself a "middle of the roader," such as Brother Lemmons, does not practice what he preaches. The pro-institutional brethren know that Brother Lemmons really doesn't mean what he says.
They let him "get away" with such writing because they know that he will still coddle their pet projects in spite of what he has said or written. For several years he was in teaching opposed benevolent institutions under a board, but in practice he has taken them under his wings. These very institutions are manifestly what he is speaking of when he says that, "such efforts always have reflected, and always will reflect, upon the wisdom of God." He warns that such projects could "swallow us" (which they have already done--FWV) and states concerning such that the "inevitable course is that of apostasy." Yet in spite of such declarations he uses the pages of his journal to promote that, which "reflects upon God's wisdom" and which is leading "inevitably to apostasy." And about the only time his ire really gets aroused is when he is taking issue with those who oppose in word and in deed the very thing he declares to be so sinful.
It appears then that the "radical" and "extreme" brethren (according to Brother Lemmons) upon whom he often vents his spleen are simply those brethren who practice what HE preaches! Consistency, thou art verily a jewel.
In conclusion, may I say to Brother Lemmons and to all who stand with him that I agree wholeheartedly with the views expressed in the above article. Now I appeal both to him and to you to stand for what you believe by bringing your practice into harmony with your teaching rather than allowing yourselves to be railroaded and intimidated by the pressure tactics of the "brotherhood promoters!" The projects and institutions ARE "swallowing us," Brother Lemons, and your influence is helping to bring this about because even though your teaching opposes such things, your practice condones and encourages them. And actions still speak louder than words. So I call upon you to eliminate this difference! Practice what you preach. Let them cal1 you an "Anti" too, but at least you will then have the assurance that you are pleasing the Lord not only in your doctrine, but in your life as well (I Timothy 4:16).
Truth Magazine VII: 5, pp. 14-15