October 18, 2017

“Let’s Not Fuss About the Issues”

By William B. Wright

What does the title of this essay mean? Generally the person making the statement means in regard to the term fuss: (1) one should not act in the manner of children when discussing these "issues"; (2) the issue itself is not worthy of discord; or (3) both. In regard to issues, he means: the discord among members of churches of Christ over support of colleges, social functions, kindergartens, recreation, etc., out of the church treasury and promotion of such as a church function. It is also reasonable to state that those who classify themselves as middle-of-the-roaders usually make such statements.

Let's Avoid the Issues

I believe the real meaning behind a statement such as the one cited is we should avoid the issues. It means, "Let us bury our heads in the sand and treat the issues as though they do not exist." It means that those who are opposed to church support of colleges, Boy Scout troops, social activities, recreation, and kindred items out of the church treasury should cease and desist from opposing such. It means that those who favor such and openly advocate the same should not be opposed in their error. It means that those who oppose teachers of such doctrine should smile and with Christian charity say, "Of course I don't agree with them in everything, but I don't want to start a fuss over it."

How Can It Be?

Recently I listened to a good sermon ably presented in which the following points were made at different times during its delivery: (1) we should point out unscriptural practices; (2) it is not enough to preach a positive gospel, we should also state the negative side of the issue; and (3) we should cease fussing over the issues and get on with the work of the church. Now I agree wholeheartedly with (1) and (2) above. With respect to (3), 1 believe that if brethren would get on with the work God gave each congregation to do and would work in the congregations where they have membership, fussing over "the issues" would stop because "the issues" would cease to exist. In fact, one of the real issues is that promoters of the "new gospel" go about over the country advancing their pet projects and do not stay at home promoting simple New Testament Christianity in their own areas.

Promoters, Go Home!

If the Highland elders in Abilene wish to have a radio and television program to the extent of their ability, they have the right to do so. They are merely using a modern means of communication to preach Christ. But when their radio preacher sends me a preprinted check (as he did) in the amount of $19.51 which all I have to do to activate it is to add the name of my bank, its address, my account number, and my signature, I say, "Promoter, go home!" (Of course he did give me the option of substituting my own personal check.)

When the president of a college speaks on a "lectureship" and uses the occasion to advocate church support of colleges, I say, "Promoter, go home! " If he would spend his time promoting simple New Testament Christianity in accordance with the pattern shown us, the issues would cease to exist. They exist because he promotes them, not because I oppose them.

Who Caused the Fuss?

We used to severely condemn our separated brethren of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) saying, "You caused the division because you introduced the organ, the missionary society, and the suppers." Why is the same charge not valid relative to "the issues" today? Who introduced church support of institutions and Boy Scout troops? Who introduced church fellowship halls? Who introduced fraternization with the sects? I did not. To my knowledge, none of those who write for this paper did. Then who is causing the fuss? Who is it that should stop fussing over the issues and get down to the business of working for the Lord? The answer is obvious.

What the Real Issue Is Not

I either through ignorance or willful misrepresentation, those who spend their time urging that we cease fussing over "the issues" usually try to cast the burden of guilt upon those who oppose the innovations. They often cloud the issue by charging the so-called conservative with being opposed to colleges, orphans, recreation, etc. This is absolutely FALSE. I do not oppose colleges, orphans, recreation, etc. I am not aware of "conservatives" that oppose such. What I am opposed to is mixing the church as defined in the New Testament with the creations of men,

Sometimes the charge is hurled that the only thing "they" can talk about is "the issues." It is often characteristic of individuals who become deeply concerned about a subject that they cannot talk very long without dragging in the topic with which they are obsessed, even if they have to do it by the back door. It was said of Woodrow Wilson, ". . . he was like a man obsessed. He could think of nothing but the Treaty and the League. He cared for nothing but to bring them through to victory." In years gone by some men were obsessed with the "kingdom and the church," others with forgiveness of sins" under the Mosaic covenant, and still others with the "one cup." Some men are obsessed with sin. But the obsession of an individual with an issue does not make the issue right or wrong any more than would his indifference to the issue if he were at the other extreme.

What the Real Issue Is

One hundred years ago Brother David Lipscomb wrote: "To operate through an institution of man's devising in preference to the church of God is, in our esteem, to exalt man as superior in wisdom and power to God. To call in question the efficiency of God's appointments, as the best . . . that can be ordained for the accomplishment of God's designs, is to call in question the wisdom or power of God." (Quoted in Earl I. West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 11, p. 59) This is exactly the matter over which the so-called "fuss" rages today. I do not wish to place myself in a position where I am seeking to improve on what the Lord hath ordained.

Why Not Discuss the Issue?

It may not be wise to discuss the issues at all times before all audiences which may be composed of new members and old, weak and strong, trained and untrained, etc. But it is more unwise to sweep: the issues under the rug and say they do not exist. They do exist! They should be discussed! Let each elder and preacher state his position and the reason for his stand. Let him in turn seek to learn from the study and experience of others by listening to them.

I noticed recently that Ohio Valley College included in its Spring Lectureship a panel discussion on finding solutions to church problems. If all points of view are fairly represented and honorable men discuss all problems in an honorable way, this approach is a good one.

The Issues Can Be Resolved!

If we will all accept the same, standard, the issues can be resolved. I am not interested in measuring an issue by a conservative standard, or by a middle-of-the-road standard, or by a liberal standard. Let us measure all issues by the Divine Standard.

Fifteen and twenty years ago there was disagreement on some things. But when the issues were discussed each man sought to measure it by the Divine Standard. Today we measure by the philosophy of the theological seminary where many of our "prominent brethren" have been trained. This will not do.

THE ISSUES WILL BE SOLVED WHEN WE RETURN TO THE DIVINE STANDARD.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 9, pp. 8-9
June 1968

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