By Joel Plunkett
In 1953, I transferred from Florida College to David Lipscomb College at a time when the institutional question was a hot topic. I remember some of the excuses that were used by brethren to justify the church supporting human institutions. Do you remember them? Well, they are on the market again and being used by a different group of people to justify ungodly marriages.
Let’s look at the list:
1. Do you remember? “You are making creeds that God did not make.” We could see that when book, chapter, or verse could not be found to support their belief, this was only an excuse. Have you heard this excuse today when one asks for an exception other than the one found in Matthew 19 for divorce and remarriage?
2. Do you remember? “Roy Cogdill and Yater Tant are nothing more that self appointed watch dogs for the church.” Some of us are grateful for them as well as many like them. If not for this type of brethren, we might be in a liberal church today. Some may question the spirit of watch dogs, but thanks be to God that someone cares about what is being taught to God’s people.
During the conflict over the institutional issues, some preachers took it upon themselves to visit young preachers and small congregations in Middle Tennessee. These preachers asked them to send at least $5.00 per month to the orphan homes so everyone would know where they stood. Have you heard that some are visiting young preachers and small churches to influence them against watch dogs?
Brethren, have you heard someone say, “Some brethren among us are self appointed watch dogs”? Who are they talking about? When you question an ungodly practice concerning divorce and remarriage, does that make you a watch dog? If that is the case, then we need more, not less, watch dogs.
3. Do you remember? “These watch dogs will write you up in their bulletins.” I remember one church in Nashville sponsoring a boy scout troop. They were afraid that they were going to be written up by some watch dogs. Unfortunately, they were not afraid that they might violate some Scripture.
Brethren, have you heard some preacher use the same lame excuse? I agree with brother Aude McKee’s viewpoint on the subject of someone writing up my position. If a person will listen to my position and then sincerely represent my position, then I have no room to complain. Should my conviction be unscriptural, then that is the price I must pay for taking an ungodly position.
4. Do you remember? “When brethren would not be honest about their position when questioned?” I remember some who had preached for over twenty years and were still studying the institutional question. I learned that some believed one thing and said they believed something else. Brethren, have you heard of preachers today that still have not made up their minds about Romans 14 or 1 Corinthians 7 as they relate to Matthew 19?
5. Do you remember? “Those so-called conservative brethren have un-Christlike attitudes.” Let me state that there were and always will be those on both sides of any issue who may have a bad attitude. Paul’s attitude was questioned by some in his day. Truth was never determined by one’s attitude, whether good or bad. Brethren, have you heard this statement used today against those who follow the teaching of Jesus on the subject of divorce and remarriage?
6. Do you remember? “Elders have the right to make the decisions about how the money is spent and those outside the local church violate church autonomy when they question this practice.” Brethren, have you heard this saying today when a church determines to keep a fornicator or one like that found in 1 Corinthians 5, give fellowship to a false teacher, or false doctrine? If someone questions them, they accuse that person of violating church autonomy.
7. Do you remember? “What a local church does is between them and their God.” Have you heard the same weak excuse used today in reference to ungodly marriages?
8. Do you remember? “We must attack the doctrine rather than the man.” Have you heard this bad excuse used by people again in the church? Brethren, if we stop false teachers, then false doctrine will die. I’m not sure what the Nicolaitans taught, but I am sure the Ephesians and the Lord hated their deeds. In Romans 16:17, Paul said, “mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned and avoid them.”
9. Do you remember? “God is not as concerned with details like he was in the Old Testament. He is not concerned who does the work or how it is done, but that his work is accomplished.” Have you heard that the God of New Testament would never break up a marriage as he did in the Old Testament? Is he not the same God yesterday, today, and forever?
10. Do you remember? “Our young people are too idealistic to be held by the old, traditional church.” Those who said that were right. The liberal church could not hold them. So today they are in the “Community church” or the Crossroads movement.
11. Have you heard, “We’ve lost a generation of young people and we’re not going to do it again”? I must disagree. The church has not lost them, but their parents who were busy making money and giving them things lost them. They were giving them things that they never had, rather than giving them what they did have. As a result, are not some of the conservative churches in Middle Tennessee are more liberal than some of the liberal churches in the 60s?
- When these churches invite preachers for gospel meetings, knowing that they do not teach the truth on marriage and divorce?
- When they conclude that divorce or immodest apparel will not be attacked from the pulpit?
- When they hire a preacher and restrict his teaching on the subject because he has taken an unscriptural stand, yet allow him to continue ministering to the congregation?
Brethren, would we hire an “institutional” preacher and tell him that he could not teach his position from the pulpit? Would we not know that he would teach it from his home or office?
12. Do you remember? “I’ve never heard him teach any false doctrine.” This pretext was often used in Nashville in the 60s. I am hearing it said again by people who should know better. Would a man not be guilty of murder simply because the jury didn’t see him commit the crime? Why would we refuse to accept the word of others when two or more witnesses are available?
13. Do you remember? “What we need is more brotherly love.” Are you hearing this once more today? We must remember that love for God and love for truth must come before our love for our brethren. Who would question the Lord’s love for Jerusalem and his people when one reads Matthew 23? Love causes one to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. It is with tears, prayer, and much concern that I write this article.
Am I just getting old, or is history repeating itself? It is past time that we as Joshua make up our minds who we are going to follow, God or our loose-minded brethren? Brethren, years ago I took a stand against some of the most lovable people I have ever known to stand with my God. In doing so, I stood with some very unlovable people with poor attitudes. The thrill of pleasing God has far exceeded the small price I had to pay.
8183 Old Charlotte Rd., Nashville, Tennessee 37209