September 20, 2017

Attitudes Toward Current Issues

By Robert F. Turner

The church of the Lord today faces grave issues. This, within itself, is not unusual, for almost
from the day of her establishment, 33 A.D., the church has been beset with problems from without
and within. Before the writing of the New Testament was f inished church problems had developed
to such an extent that when Paul predicted a "falling away" he wrote, "the mystery of iniquity doth
already work." (2 Thess. 2:7). The Ephesian church warned earlier by Paul (Acts 20) was told,
repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick
out of his place, except thou repent."


And, periodically, the day-by-day problems of the church become a general trend, affecting the
peace and hindering the work and growth of the kingdom. Strong, aggressive preaching may check
the digression and win majority strength so that the issue is solved-for the time at least. This was the
case with the Premillennial threat some twenty or twenty-five years ago. Sometimes, however, the
attitudes of the brethren are such that divine authority is abandoned, the preachers who seek to warn
are branded as "cranks" or "non-progressives", and the majority of the brethren move down the road
to apostasy. This was the case in the second and third centuries, when the Roman Catholic system
developed; and it was the case here in this country some seventy-five years ago, when the
"progressive" liberal brethren branded as "Anti" all who opposed the Missionary, Publication, and
Bible Societies, and the use of mccharical instruments of music in the worship. There is no reason to
believe that today's church is immune to digressive tendencies. We can apostatize, just as did our
fore-fathers.


It is foolish and dangerous to try to ignore our present-day problems. They are being discussed
from the lecture platforms of colleges operated by brethren, in the majority of religious journals
published by brethren, and in the congregations of every state in the union. And more important than
the discussions, are the dividing wedges that have brought on the discussions. There would be no
debates on doctrines and practices that did not exist. And if our brethren persist on holding -to certain
doctrines and practices, they should be happy to give the N. T. authority for such. For years we have
claimed to "Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent." That is still a good
rule, and we should welcome the opportunity to apply it to our present problems.


Neutrality is much better in theory than in practice-and in cases where matters of faith are
involved, neutrality may be as much a sin as the error. When neutrality condones error-"for the sake
of peace" is usually the excuse-it becomes a compromise with Satan. A Christian church preacher
once told me that we could worship together if I would just be neutral about the piano. He said he
would not say anything for it, and I should not say anything against it. Meantime, of course, the
pianist would go right on playing. It is surprising how many brethren today seem to take this attitude
toward present issues. They wish to support the objects of the issues with money from the church
treasury, yet insist that all should be neutral meaning, of course, none should object.


But if it is wrong to ignore, or compromise vital issues, it is also foolish and dangerous to panic
in this crisis. Some have rushed to "take sides" without knowing the points of issue, or bothering to
give them serious study. Some have made enough study to have some convictions, but have failed
to develop the virtue of patience in dealing with their brothers and sisters in the Lord. Paul told
Timothy to "Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." And many have become
so panic-filled as to throw overboard the very life-boats of N. T. Christianity. One well-known
preacher has publicly denied that N. T. approved examples are binding upon Christians. Some have
denied that the primary work of the church is spiritual-preaching the gospel to the saving of souls.
Some, panic stricken at the thoughts of preaching upon the current issues, have argued that lessons
concerning the church, her government, etc., are no part of the gospel. Repeated temper outbursts
are further indications of panic-sometimes brought on simply because it was imagined something was
going to be said, or read from the scriptures, which might have bearing on current issues. Panic has
caused brethren to forget the Bible principles which they former1y accepted and preached to their
sectarian neighbors: (a) The New Testament church is complete; needs no additional "aids" or
"societies" to do her work; (b) We must make all things according to the N. T. pattern; (c) Must not
go beyond that which is written; (d) Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good.


Finally, in any issues as wide-spread as the current ones there are some who will lose all sense of
proportion and propriety. They will "eat, drink, and sleep" the issues. Everything that is said is
construed as having to do with the issues. They read them between the lines of the church bulletin,
they hear them in the public prayer. They mix them into every conversation, and allow them to choose
their friends. They become such an obsession with them that it would surprise me not if they should
taste them in their coffee -sweet or bitter, depending on which "side" they take. Now anything
important enough to affect the whole church warrants attention; and in order to approach the subject
intelligently it is necessary to read and study carefully. It is natural that such a study leads to
conversation on the subject. We must remember, however, that there are many other important
demands upon our time if we are to serve God properly. The current issues may be the most
important matter in our work just now, but if we ignore or leave undone other demands of our Lord,
we will soon find ourselves with many additional issues. A church problem does not automatically
cancel our job of saving souls.


Our first step, in settling the current church problems is to settle ourselves. This is necessary-even
before defining the issues-for we can hope for little good to come from irresponsible statements,
personal attacks, sarcasm, or other types of carnal strife. Paul said, "The weapons of our warfare are
not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations,
and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity
every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Three things named here are necessary
for our triumph over the present problems: (1) knowledge of God's way, (2) our own will humbled
(captured), (3) to the extent that we will obey. Brethren, it is much better to be captive of divine
truth, and obedient to Jesus Christ as master, than to stubbornly pursue our own selfish course and
become captive and servants of Satan. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matt. 16:24).


The utmost humility is necessary to correct faults, and this humility is needed on the part of the
one who corrects, as well as on the part of the one in error. Gal. 6:1-2 reads, "Brethren, if a man be
overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering
thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." If
humility is needed when correcting a clear-cut case or error, how much more is it needed when
brethren are divided as to what constitutes error.


And we must pray. Pray without ceasing. Pray as we have never prayed before. Let our tears wet the
pillow at night. Find quiet moments through the day, and pour out our petition to God. "But if you
have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth." (Jas. 3:14). We
must remove all idols from our hearts, pray for our enemies, and those who despitefully use us, if our
prayers are to be heard. We must not use prayer as a weapon-to strike at our brethren through a
prayer to God. What a travesty of justice! But we must sincerely pray "Not my will, but Thine be
done."


In this attitude, we can then come together to study God's Word. We can be honest truth seekers;
and hungering and thirsting after righteousness, we shall be filled. (Matt. 5:6). We can search the
scriptures daily, and find the solution to the problems that threaten the peace of the church, and our
eternal welfare.


Truth Magazine I:9, pp. 2, 17-18, 21
June 1957

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