Is the Herald of Truth Expedient?
The most frequently used argument in defense of the Herald of Truth, or of any other innovation, is that it is merely an expedient. In the previous digression that resulted in the formation of the Christian Church denomination "expediency" was also their main defense for the injection of human societies and mechanical instruments of music. Earl West said: "The summum bonum of all arguments in defense of the Society by its advocates was to be found in the word, expediency. All discussions of the question eventually backed up to this word and settled there." (SEARCH FOR THE ANCIENT ORDER, Vol. 2, P. 107).
Since so much credence has been put in the "expediency" argument in defense of the Herald of Truth, it behooves us to look more closely at the argument and its application to the Herald of Truth arrangement.
The word "expedient" occurs a number of times in the Bible. The two most frequently cited passages in an effort to justify the Herald of Truth as an expediency are 1 Cor. 6:12 and 1 Cor. 10:23. These passages read respectively: "All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient," and "All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient."
The English word "expedient" is defined by WEBSTER'S NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY to mean "apt and suitable to the end in view .... practical and efficient." The word "expedient" in 1 Cor. 6:12 and 1 Cor. 10:23 is translated from a form of the Greek word "sumphero." Thayer's LEXICON defines this word to mean "to bear or bring together, to bear together or at the same time; to carry with others, to collect or contribute in order to help, hence to help, be profitable, be expedient" (p. 597).
The idea conveyed by "sumphero" is to help along, to aid in the accomplishment of the end in view, in a profitable, practical, efficient way.
The question before us in this article is, "Is the Herald of Truth an expedient?" Before the question can be answered properly, we must look more carefully at the context of the passages cited by the defenders of this centralized arrangement as their proof texts.
The apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. 6: 12 and 1 Cor. 10: 23, was speaking specifically about the matter of eating meat. In the wider context of I Corinthians, chapters 8, 9 and 10, Paul is discussing the subject of Christian liberty. He argues that he had a right to receive wages from those to whom he preached the gospel (I Cor. 9:14). He had a right to lead about a wife who is a believer (I Cor. 9: 5). And he had a right to eat meat sacrificed to idols under certain conditions.
All of these things referred to by Paul in this context were things that were unquestionably right in themselves. Scriptures could be cited authorizing a Christian to be paid for preaching, to marry, and to eat meat. But under some conditions, these things that were otherwise right in themselves, could not be done. Unless one's participation in these legitimate, but not obligatory, practices would edify (I Cor. 10:23), and would not cause a brother to stumble (I Cor. 8:9-13), one must forego this liberty.
The Bible doctrine of expediency caused people to leave off the doing of some things they had a right to do in order that brethren might not offend and that they might be edified, while the modern-daN usage of the doctrine of expediency introduces unauthorized things that do not edify the church, that destroy the peace of the church, and that cause brethren to offend.
Paul states that "all things are lawful; but not all things are expedient." He does not imply that fornication and drunkenness are lawful. He is talking in this context about lawful things. He teaches that "of lawful things, not all are expedient." Nothing therefore can ever be said to be expedient that is not first shown to be lawful.
Usage of This Argument
The defenders of the Herald of Truth sponsoring church type of cooperation can find no law authorizing their practice. They can find no instance in their Bibles of where one eldership became a receiving, supervising and disbursing board for the brotherhood. Finding no law to authorize their practice, they simply pronounce it to be an "expedient." Before it properly can be called an expedient, it first must be shown to be lawful. This law cannot be found, simply because there is no divine authority for one eldership to become the board through which 1600 churches pool their 7 resources and centralize the control of these resources as is done by the Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas in the production of the Herald of Truth.
The Herald of Truth can never be expedient because it is unlawful! But using the word expedient in the context in which our liberal brethren use it, we still ask 'Is the Herald of Truth expedient?" Temporarily forgetting that the Herald of Truth is unlawful, let us inquire as to whether it is "profitable," "practical" and "efficient."
Herald of Truth Not "Expedient"
Even if the Herald of Truth could be shown to be lawful, it still could not be shown to be expedient. Let us notice some things wrong with it from this standpoint:
1. The Herald of Truth is inexpedient and wrong because it sets the wrong example before the churches. Christians are to be an example one to the other (I Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17; I Tim. 4:12; 2 Thess. 3:9). But congregations also ought to be a good example to other congregations (2 Cor. 9:2, I Thess. 1:7,8). The Highland church is not a good example for other churches to emulate.
a. Highland church is a perpetual beggar. It is the second largest church of Christ in the world, consisting of 1706 members. Its weekly contributions are about $5,000.00. Its own annual income from the contributions of its members is about $250,000.00 Yet ever since it became the sponsor of the Herald of Truth (two other churches sponsored it before it was asked by the inventors of the Herald of Truth to do so), it has been a perpetual beggar. They begged for $1,932,000 in 1964, and are begging for more than $2,000,000 for 1965. Should one of the richest churches in the brotherhood be a perpetual beggar?
b. Highland church seeks to control the resources of others. If every church in the brotherhood followed this example set by the Highland church, chaos would result. Suppose a begging campaign comparable to Highland's was carried on by every church in the brotherhood. It would become quite ridiculous, would it not?c. Highland church obligates herselj beyond her ability to pay. Highland Avenue signs a contract annually two hundred times greater than it intends itself to pay. Suppose every church in the brotherhood did likewise. The financial reputation of the body of Christ would be disgraced. Christians are taught to "live within their income." Suppose a member of the Highland church were year after year after year to obligate himself two hundred times greater than his ability to pay, and then carried on a continual begging program to pay these debts. Would not the elders of that church reprimand him? Should not these elders, then, in like manner be reprimanded?
2. The Herald of Truth is inexpedient and wrong because the evil resulting has exceeded even the good claimed for it. Wildly exaggerated claims have been made for the accomplishments of the Herald of Truth. If every such exaggerated claim were admitted and granted, the evil resulting therefrom would have exceeded the good. Contemplate what has happened to the Lord's body since the introduction of this human invention. Contemplate the conditions within the church in 1952 and compare that with the divided and dividing state of 1965. Much of this division is directly attributable to the Herald of Truth.
Literally hundreds of congregations have been divided because of the Herald of Truth. At Mansfield, Ohio, recently the Herald of Truth was voted into the budget of that congregation over the protest and against the conscience of more than one third of those attending the business meeting. Those who believe the Herald of Truth to be an unscriptural arrangement are left but two alternatives: (1) Stay and violate their conscience; (2) Leave the congregation. Yet Brother Don Cooper, the preacher at Mansfield, and one of several hundred of those preachers recently summoned to the convention in Abilene, would say that the Herald of Truth is an "expedient." Will it result in the building up or edifying of the Mansfield church, or in the tearing down of that congregation? The Mansfield scene has been multiplied by hundreds and possibly by thousands since the Herald of Truth was introduced in 1952.
3. The Herald of Truth is inexpedient and wrong because the results are not sufficient to justify the cash outlay. Since 1953 I have worked with the Irvington church in Indianapolis, Indiana; Vivion Rd. in Kansas City, Missouri; and Brown St. in Akron, Ohio. These are all sizable cities. If I remember correctly, the Herald of Truth has sent to these churches a total of four cards with the names of "prospects" (?) on them. Each of these persons has been contacted. Not one of them would even talk with us. Some of them simply wanted some booklet that was offered free, but did not want to talk with anyone. Perhaps the experience of others has been different. But if Indianapolis, Kansas City and Akron are representative cities, the Herald of Truth is an absolute waste of money.
Since we are talking about expediency, one might contrast these with the results of local programs. Radio preaching in some instances is quite effective. In others it is a virtual waste of money. Perhaps a dozen have been converted in the mentioned cities that we know about directly through the result of local programs. If the Herald of Truth has had one thing to do with the conversion of any person in Indianapolis, Kansas City, or Akron since 1953, it has escaped my attention.
4. The Herald of Truth is inexpedient and wrong because the money could be more wisely spent in other works. These "high finance" brethren speak of tremendous sums of money as though they were nothing. The dollar apparently means less when it is someone else's dollar one is spending. When for each fifty cents contributed by Highland to the Herald of Truth, someone else contributes $100, these fabulous sums of money seem of less consequence.
In a letter dated March 27, 1964 they speak of the cost of making films and prints for 52 programs as being "only $473,734.70." Sounds like a real bargain, doesn't it? Only $473,734.70! You see what spending someone else's money does to one's sense of values. In a letter dated April 17, 1964 they want "just 23,650 (persons), less than 11 percent of the 2/ million reported in the last census, (who) will agree to give one dollar a week . . ." They only want 23,650 people, in this particular request, who will give only $52 a year! They don't really want much, do they? After all, they are only asking for the money of 11%of the members of the church, at this time! In a letter dated December 1, 1959, they ask for 2,435 congregations each to agree to send them $12.50 a week. That only totals $1,582,750 a year! They never ask for much at a time, do they? In another letter they state "Almost one in ten congregations is helping to support this evangelistic effort. Won't you help make it two?" They say that they now have 1/10 of all the churches in the world giving them money. They now want that raised to 2/10. Do you think they later would want any more than 2/10? Would 2/10 stop their letter writing, begging campaign? We might add that i f they can succeed in getting 10/10 of the churches to function through the Highland elders they will have succeeded in duplicating the Catholic church, and in record time too!
Do you realize that the $1,932,000 budgeted for the Herald of Truth in 1964 would pay 386 preachers $5,000 a year? Do you think a program consisting of about fifteen minutes of singing and announcements and about a fifteen minute play starring Dr. Batsell Barrett Baxter will accomplish more good than 386 gospel preachers would who were working in needy places full-time?
They proudly report that only 3.3 % is spent for "Administration." If each church would spend its own money 0.0/ would be spent for "Administration." That 3.3% sounds infinitesimal, doesn't it? That sounds a lot better than to state that $63,756 were spent for "Administration." That "Administration" cost alone would have paid about 13 gospel preachers.
And they only spent 4.7% of your money for "Support Solicitation!'' That is unbelievable, isn't it? That simply means that $5 out of every $100 sent to them was spent to beg more money! Highland does not even furnish enough money to cover the amount it spends to beg other money. This is quite a machine and it takes a tidy sum of money to oil the machinery. They report that the gospel can be preached to 417 people with every dollar you send. But one dollar out of twenty goes to beg more money. Only $90,804 was spent last year to beg money! That sum would have paid eighteen gospel preachers. About thirty preachers could have been paid on the money spent on "Administration" and "Support Solicitation." And they want to call this money-wasting scheme an "exped- iency!" Take another look at the definition of the word "expedient" in the beginning of this article. Who can say, with these definitions in mind, that the Herald of Truth is an "expedient?" (These figures are computed from percentages on the 1962 budget from the HERALD OF TRUTH NEWSLETTER, Oct. 1962, and applied to the 1964 budget. No such breakdown of the 1964 budget has been received yet). Their annual financial report for 1960 states that $91.170.41 was spent for accounting and reports to contributors and brotherhood." After all, that's only the price of an extra nice meetinghouse! It's only money they are spending--your money. "Administrative" costs on the
$590,709.84 1960 budget was only $19,062.69 -- a mere pittance with these "big operators." And we might add, incidentally, that according to one computation 43.8% of this $590,709.84 was actually spent directly on preaching. It takes a long report to tell where the rest of it went.
5. The Herald of Truth inexpedient and wrong because it causes brethren to exaggerate (a nicer word than LIE!) Examples are replete of the kind of exaggerations to which I refer. The August, 1964 Herald of Truth News Letter was headlined: "ONE 1' 'OGRAM CAN REACH MORE PEOPLE than Paul in his entire Ministry." Who can believe it? James Walter Nichols, one of the co-founders of the Herald of Truth, and Editor of the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE said: "We can reach more souls for Christ in one week (on the Herald of Truth--CW) than all the preachers combined can reach in sixty-five years." (GOSPEL ADVOCATE, March 31, 1960, p. 205). If these are not exaggerations, we wish someone would tell us what to call them.
In the Herald of Truth News Letter for September, 1964, page 3, there occurs an outright lie: "Brother _______ writes that in response to a request from a good man and his wife in his area, they have enrolled them in a Bible correspondence course. He called upon them and taught them more fully and baptized them into the Lord Jesus Christ on August 22nd. Brethren, this is just one of literally hundreds of thousands of cases happening weekly across our nation." This statement implies that at least 200,000 persons per week (or 400,000 since there were two conversions in this "case") are being converted by the Herald of Truth. This means there are 20,800,000 converted a year through the Herald of Truth -- ten times as many members of the church as they say there are now. And that is just an outright lie. If it is not, they are misrepresenting the facts to the brotherhood, because their other statements surely do not agree with this one.
Brother E. R. Harper, the last time we heard him, claimed 25,000 people had been converted through the Herald of Truth. That was a few years back, but according to the latest blown-up statistics, it would take no more than one day to convert 25,000, since "literally hundreds of thousands of cases (are) happening weekly across our nation." James Walter Nichols reported in the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE, September 11, 1964: "By the best estimates this program has had a part in the conversion or restoration of upward of 250,000 souls." The same month the Highland church reported that "Literally hundreds of thousands of cases" were occurring weekly. It does seem that someone in Abilene should have provided Brother Nichols with more Up to date figures. He says 250,000 in twelve years; Harper says 25,000 in seven years, and Highland church says at least 200,000 a week. Somebody is lying!
Not only do they misrepresent the number of conversions, they misrepresent the listening audience. They continually insinuate that they have a 100,000,000 listening audience. On this assumption they arrive at the figure that they can preach the gospel to 417 persons for $1. They assume that every person in every family within listening range listens to every program. And everybody knows this is not true.
The famous Kennedy-Nixon debates were seen or heard by 65-72 million people. Did 30 million more watch the Herald of Truth the Sunday before? Seventy million heard Kennedy's speech on the Cuban crisis. Were 30 million more listening the preceding Sunday to the Herald of Truth? Probably 45 million watched the World Series. Did more than twice that many watch the Herald of Truth the preceding Sunday? Or do you suppose these brethren might be guilty of exaggeration and misrepresentation by insinuation? The fact is that any program with 30 million listeners has an exceedingly good audience, and the Herald of Truth has never even approached that.
Many members of the church have never even seen it once. Millions never heard of it. Yet these brethren imply that more than half the people in the nation hear or watch it each week. It's doubtful if one member of the church out of a hundred watches it. Do a little personal survey among the brethren and see for yourself. If when you get done you are not satisfied, start down the street and ask your neighbors how many of them heard it the preceding Lord's Day. And if half of the people in your city listened, please write me and tell me so.
Attachment to any program that will cause good, reputable brethren (including elders, and preachers) to so obviously distort the facts is not good, and cannot be called an "expedient." It's tearing down the moral fiber and spiritual condition of those directly connected with it.
The Herald of Truth is not lawful, and therefore can never be termed an "expedient." And when brethren so speak of it, they simply advertise their ignorance of the Bible teaching on expediency. But even if the combine were to be shown to be scriptural, these and other facts would show it yet to be not expedient, but exceedingly inexpedient and detrimental to the well-being of the churches of Christ. It is neither "profitable," "practical" nor "efficient." It is both illegal and inexpedient.
Truth Magazine IX, 5: pp. 2-6