Truth Between Extremes
Ralph D. Gentry
Christianity is a teaching religion. No one can become a Christian or live the Christian li f e without being taught (Jno. 6:44, 45; Acts 2:42). It is God's will that the church be a teaching institution (1 Tim. 3:15). The church is to systematically engage in a teaching program designed to fit the needs of all who can receive it (Matt. 28:19, 20; Tit. 2:3-5). How can the church best do the Lord 4uthorized it to teaching which the do?
In some denominations is to be found the Sunday School as a separate organization from the local church with separate treasuries, budgets, women officers, and members at large in the "Church Board of Education," While this is sometimes denied, the Sunday School is so constituted as to involve a separate institution and is an auxiliary to the church using it.
"An important step was taken in the organization of the 'American Sunday School Union' in Philadelphia on May 24, 1824. Local conventions were held earlier than that date; but from that time there was an institution at work, sending missionaries every- where, and organizing Sunday Schools of many denominations. Of this organization the state, national, and international Sunday School convention and associations were the outgrowth," (Hurlbut's Teacher-Training Lessons, pg. 132).
"Each church shall have a church school.. The term 'church school' means the total Christian educational program and organization in the local church for which the Board of Education is responsible Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and similar organizations and clubs may be included in the church school when their program is a part of the program of the church school and is under the direction of the church board of Education and the pastor. The church Board of Education may authorize other organizations in the church to sponsor such groups... In small churches the board may be composed of the pastor, the church-school superintendent, one teach er of children, one teacher of youth, one youth chosen by the youth of the church. one person representing the adult organization elected by it, a representative of the Woman's Society of Christian Service elected by it. Members at large, chosen for special fitness for leadership, may be added by the Quarterly Conference or the Annual Church Conference... The Church Board of Education shall have supervision of all the church school as defined in paragraph 182 and shall coordinate all the educational work of the local church. The board shall be auxiliary to the Annual Conference Board of Education. the Jurisdictional Board of Education, and the General Board of Education, and shall seek to maintain an effective church program of christian education in harmony with the standards set by those boards" (Discipline of the Methodist Church, 1948: Ch. VI, paragraphs 182, 183).:
The following articles are from: CONSTITUTION OF THE BIBLE SCHOOL (as compiled by Sunday Bible school of the Winnetka Bible Church, Winnetka, Illinois) and used by permission in "The Christian Educator's File".
"Article 1. Name. The name of this organization shall be: The Bible School of the Winnetka Bible Church.
Article 11. Purpose. The purpose of this organization shall be to teach the word of God
Article 111. Membership. Any person may become a member of this Bible School by declaring his or her desire to do so, and by attending three consecutive Sunday sessions of the school.
Article IV. Relationship to the Church. The Bible School of the Winnetka Bible
Church is recognized as an auxiliary body of the Winnetka Bible Church and is responsible to, and under the jurisdiction of the church through the Board of Deacons and the Church Council."
As will readily be observed by the student familiar with God's plan of church government and organization, the foregoing represents an extreme error in the teaching function of the church. Any so called "organizing" in which unscriptural offices of authority are created, constitutes an organization or institution different to and separate from the local church. Such is the system of denominational Sunday Schools.
In opposition to denominational Sunday Schools, some conscientious brethren have swung to the opposite extreme of having no organized Bible study classes and hardly any exercise of women's lawful duties in the church. They not only forbid what is wrong, but refuse to do that which is right. The anti-Sunday school brethren falsely identify all churches of Christ having Sunday morning and evening Bible study classes as parallel and identical with the denominational practice. Hence, "straw man" arguments are set up and knocked down in a fight against something that does not even exist, except in their imagination.
It is said, "The Bible is good enough for me and using Bible school literature is the same thing as subscribing to denominational creed books". These brethren are blissfully ignorant of their use of such uninspired helps as a songbook, lexicons, and sermon notes in the pulpit. The difference between using a creed book and literature is that the former is a human law designed to bind our conscience, whereas the latter has no such designs. Further, why is it right to listen to a man in oral teaching but wrong to read the same thing when committed to writing?
It is said such an arrangement of teaching in classes requires an organization independent of, and apart from, the church. It is insisted that those who teach the Bible in this fashion interfere with the autonomy of the church and accomplish a work the Lord designed to be done through the local church. If this were true, such would be sufficient argument against the practice. For it would then be another organization parallel to the Missionary Society, partly supported by the church in finances, and having representative control.
But to organize means: "To give organic structure to; to become systematized". The procedure used by most churches of Christ does not involve an unscriptural organization, but is only a systematic method of Bible study. This is not what the denominations have and should not be confused therewith and falsely represented as such, except in those cases where some churches of Christ are copying the sects. The class method of teaching does not in itself require an extra organization, functioning within the church, any more than a gospel meeting, a singing school or any other systematized work under the proper oversight. It is not another organization doing the work, but, rather the church to whom God gave the command, and is done through the divine framework God provided for such work.
Again, it is affirmed, "The class method is unscriptural because there is no New Testament passage describing such procedure." Contentious brethren demand chapter and verse where they have no right to demand such. Yes, we have been correctly taught to produce command and approved example for our practices. But what brethren obviously have not learned is that this requirement does not apply to the realm of liberty in which we are allowed to use our judgment as to the details of operation. Some brethren have not learned how to apply law without destroying liberty. The right to execute a command comes with the command and extends to the limits comprehended in said command. When the method of execution is that in which we are allowed to use our judgment with divine authority; the class method "per se" is nothing more or less than operation in such a field of liberty, being comprehended in the command to teach God's word to all (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28: 19, 20). The class method is a lawful expedient in that it does not add to or subtract from the command to teach or violate any principle contained in the command. However, there can be no scriptural arrangements for carrying out unscriptural commands. Hence, the field of liberty does not include such an "arrangement" (?) as building and maintaining an edification society to do the work of the Church which it is commanded to do within the boundaries of its own organization. If such were done, then it would be parallel to the denominational Sunday Schools.
The truth in between is an organized work or Bible study under the elders who are charged with the oversight of the local congregation (Acts 20:28). This method of teaching is in recognition of and in keeping with different classes which God has made (I Cor. 3:1-3; 3:11; Tit. 2:1ff; Heb. 5:1114), and proper use of God's material suitable to each class according to mental ability and spiritual development.
The true Lord's day or Wednesday night Bible school operates in harmony with women's God-given responsibilities (Rom. 16: 1; Tit. 2:3, 4), while recognizing her limitations or work in the church. Use of women in children's or ladies' classes does not violate 1 Tim. 2:12 in which women are forbidden to teach anywhere and anytime in such fashion as to have dominion or authority over the man. Paul said, "I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man..." Paul did not forbid her to teach period. Nor did he forbid her to teach the Bible. Neither did he specify the place of said teaching. The word "nor" is a conjunction connecting "teach" and "usurp authority", both of which are qualified by the expression "over the man". Hence, Paul's instructions were that she not teach over the man, that is, to exercise dominion in her teaching the main. This would also apply to her work in the church and prohibit her being placed in any position of authority over the man, including the teaching program of the church.
Truth Magazine VII: 9, pp. 5-7