Making Faith a Matter of Judgment
Charles Aebi, editor of the Bible Herald, a journal published twice monthly at Parkersburg, W. Va., had a good deal to say in the April 15th issue on "Faith and Judgment." Much of the article I can wholeheartedly endorse. I concur with brother Aebi when he said, "Perhaps no problem has occurred more frequently than that of misunderstanding t h e difference between or between what is bound is bound by man. These faith and judgment by God and what are two distant realms, and it is as bad to violate one as the other." However, before he finishes the article, brother Aebi violates the very thing that he is writing against, viz., making faith a matter of judgment.
Organization and Method
Observe brother Aebi's following remarks. "And whether we all wish to face it or not, it is a fact that most of the highly disputed issues connected with benevolent work are matters of judgment. The Lord has instructed us to visit, relieve, and help needy widows, orphans, and others (James 1:27; Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Timothy 5:3-16). But he has not made it clear just how this is to be done." No one, to my knowledge, claims that the Lord has bound a specific method upon the church in the field of benevolence to the exclusion of all others. The "how" is a matter of judgment. But the Lord did specify the ORGANIZATION that is to do the benevolent work.
I Tim 5:16 names the church as the organization through which the work of the church is to be done. This is not a matter of judgment. Acts 6:1-4 is another clear passage to substantiate this fact. Orphanages and widowages are not methods through which churches may work, but rather they are human institutions that must employ methods to execute their work. If orphanages and widowages are methods, then you have methods using methods. Such is nonsense! This is where brother Aebi misses the point as he jumps from method to organization. There is an enormous difference between the two.
In another paragraph, brother Aebi wrote, "We are commanded to preach to every creature, to teach all nations, and to set forth the gospel in love (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 4:15). All these things are matters of faith; we have no alternative but to comply. But how shall we do this?" Using his type of reasoning here as he uses in church benevolence, the church could work through human societies in preaching the gospel. The Lord DID NOT specify a method of preaching the gospel to the world, so any kind of arrangement could be inaugurated. The Lord said "go," but he didn't say "how," therefore a traveling agency could be established by a group of brethren and the churches subsidize it. Where is the scripture for a traveling agency, preacher? You don't need any according to brother Aebi. Just holler "judgment."
If you want to establish a missionary society throughwhich churches may preach the gospel, you can find authority for it, by brother Aebi's reasoning, in the realm of judgment. This is one way the brethren tried to justify the American Christian Missionary Society when it was established in 1849 at Cincinnati, Ohio with Alexander Campbell as its first president. Instrumental music in worship was justified (?) the same way. Oh yes, the Christian Church is still trying to justify the society and instrumental music on the basis of "judgment." The "judgment argument" is a stock argument of all proponents of error when they cannot find what they are doing in the word of God.
But to be fair to brother Aebi) I must point out that he goes ahead and says on preaching the gospel, " . . . we must work within the framework of the scriptural organization of the church (i. e., without hierarchies, and without violating the autonomy or offices of the local congregations), there is a scriptural specification in these things." Why is it, you suppose, that he wants to put the reaching of the gospel within the framework of the church, but will not put the benevolent work of the church within the framework of the church? What principle permits him to go outside the structure of the church to operate in one work of the church, but obligates him to remain within the framework of the church in another work of the church? Should not every work of the church be within the framework of the church, under the oversight of the elders? Absolutely! This is God's way. This is walking IJY faith.
Excerpts From Fred E. Dennis
In the January 15th, 1964 issue of the Bible Herald, brother Fred E. Dennis wrote concerning the fatherless and widows, 'And furthermore we could do this great work (caring for widows and orphans, W. W.) without any extra organization or institution other than the local church with its elders, deacons, and members.... Brethren, I am trying to say that we have all the necessary 'institutions' right in our midst for doing what the Lord wants done." Speaking of the Jerusalem church, brother Dennis further wrote, "They called the church together and told them to look out seven men from among themselves whom they would appoint over the matter. It was a local condition and was met locally. There was no hustling around to build an 'institution.' God's institution had already been built; all it needed to do was to function, and these inspired apostles showed the brethren how to function." Those things that brother Dennis said are what I preach and what I believe. To occupy such a position isn't popular, but I stand before Jesus Christ (I Cor. 4:4), and it matters very little as to how I am judged by puny, mortal, sometimes prejudiced and sometimes ignorant, men (I Cor. 4:3).
Foy E. Wallace in 1931
Foy E. Wallace wrote in the Gospel Advocate, July 2, 1931, "If it were 'permissible to have a Bible college as an adjunct to the church in the work of education and an orphans' home in the work of benevolence,' we quite agree that it would also be 'permissible' to have a 'missionary society in the work of evangelization.' But the question assumes the point to be proved. Nothing is 'permissible' as an auxiliary of the church that is not Scriptural. And it is not Scriptural for the church to delegate its work, either missionary or benevolent, to boards and organizations other than the church." Brother Wallace spoke the truth then and it is the truth now. Brother Aebi and many others need to learn those things spoken by brother Wallace.
How far will brother Aebi and those who espouse his theory go in order to be consistent? He gave James 1: 2 7 and Matthew 25:31-46 as references to try to show that the church is to "visit, relieve, and help needy widows, orphans, and others." Let's ASSUME for the time being that the Scriptures he cited are applicable to the church as such, and that his position on James 1:2 7 (the church from its treasury may financially support institutional orphanages and widowages is correct. The church could therefore build, operate or subsidize various kinds of organizations through which to do the sundry facets of benevolent work. Notice the following chart.
Isn't it easy to see that brother Aebi's reasoning breaks down when his position is carried through to its ultimate consequences? Too, which one of the above works is the most important? From all of the hullabaloo by the institutional brethren, you would think that caring for orphans is the exclusive work in benevolence. Home after Home has been started and plea after plea has been made for church contributions to "our" orphanages.
To keep their religion from being lopsided, impure and defiled, they need to get busy and build more institutions to "expedite" these various obligations in the field of benevolence. Or is it that they are "anti" visiting the sick, "anti" feeding the hungry, etc.? Surely, though, they aren't "antics." By no means would they want to be "anti." I am certain that they wouldn't be "caught dead" being an "anti." So, maybe they are just inconsistent and won't admit it? Or is it that they just want something that the Bible does not authorize and they are going to have it or "bust?" Really, you know, the Lord didn't say "how" to visit the sick or "how" to clothe the naked or "how" to feed the hungry, so why not just do it up big and have a human society for every kind of benevolent work?
Examples and Specific Commands
Before we close this article, I want to notice briefly brother Aebi's loose remarks on examples. He wrote, "The determining factor as to whether a New Testament example is to be held as faith or merely as judgment is whether there is a specific command involved as the basis for the example." I wonder how brother Aebi came to the conclusion that the Lord's Supper is to be observed only on the first day of the week? Acts 20:7 is the only verse that shows the time and frequency of the Lord's Supper. There is no command included in the New Testament giving the time or frequency. Would brother Aebi take the position, as some other gospel preachers do, that Sunday observance of the Lord's Supper is a matter of judgment? It would be interesting to see him try to prove the time and frequency by commandment or principle in lieu of examples.
Brother Aebi's chief purpose of low-rating examples is to make room for all kinds of human arrangements in the work of the church. He knows that in the exclusive examples in the New Testament the churches sent directly to the preachers in the field (Phil. 4:15-16). There was no sponsoring church. Elders did not handle the money of several churches. Elders of one church did not oversee a work of many churches (I Pet. 5:2). There is no Bible whatsoever for the present day arrangements as the Herald of Truth under the Highland elders in Abilene, Texas or a confederation of churches in a City, county or state for "campaigns" or "crusades." The Bible has each church doing its own work under its elders and funds being sent to another church only when the receiving church was in need (Acts l l: 29-30, Rom. 15:25-26; 2 Cor. 8:14).
Here is the key as to why brother Aebi, and others like him, degrade Bible examples. They must do away with the examples in order to have their human projects. Bible examples won't allow churches working through human institutions, such as institutional orphanages, or churches pooling their money under one eldership to do a brotherhood work. What a shame it is that brethren, and gospel preachers especially, are losing their respect for the word of God.
In the last few years the Bible Herald has done much to soften and season the brethren through the Ohio Valley toward unscriptural projects. The Bible Herald is following right along in the steps of its big sister, the Gospel Advocate. There is hardly anything in the paper anymore that helps to stem the tide of digression.
You don't read of any fight being made toward the encroachment of the colleges upon the churches. They evidently don't want to "buck" the institutional combine. A firm stand isn't being taken against the recreational and entertainment craze in the church. The editor felt obligate! to halfway apologize for an excellent article in a recent issue of the Herald wherein the writer pointed out the danger of having college choruses to provide entertainment before gospel services.
The Bible Herald is charting the course that many of the Ohio Valley churches are going to pursue. Many preachers through the Valley have laid down their swords and have waved the white flag of truce. They are timid, cowardly and fainthearted. The great battle for truth and right is virtually left up to a comparatively small band of dedicated preachers and members who won't yield to pressure, intimidation or ostracism. May brethren awaken all over the great Ohio Valley and free themselves from the tentacles of digression before they are so ensnarled that freeing themselves becomes impossibility.
Truth Magazine IX: 10, pp. 8-11