By Mike Willis
Two recent articles have crossed my desk which suggest means of unity which involve no, repentance. I would like to discuss both of them very briefly. There is no spirit of animosity toward the authors personally, although I am utterly committed to destroy their damnable doctrines.
“Thus Concludeth The Brotherhood”
Andy Lawrence wrote an article under the above title in Firm Foundation (September 12, 1978). In this, Brother Lawrence tried to distinguish the truth of God’s word from our conclusions drawn from the truth of God’s word. There is no doubt that these are sometimes different; my conclusions drawn from the word of God are sometimes not what the word of God teaches. However, what is incorrect is the idea that one can know what the word of God teaches without drawing conclusions from God’s word.
Brother Lawrence brought up this subject to discuss the subject of unity. He said that our problems which have divided us stem from making our conclusions about the Scriptures equal with what the Scriptures teach. He wrote,
Conclusions drawn from the Bible may enlighten all of us greatly. They may combine many biblical truths into syllogisms which for all practical purposes are infallible. But the intrusion of the human mind into the sanctity of inspired doctrine must eliminate “humanly drawn conclusions” from being equated with “divinely drawn lines” of fellowship. Otherwise scholars, and otherwise men, stand between the common man and God.
If the Lord didn’t state it then, even if my brilliant conclusions are as true as if he did, it is wrong for me to use my personally drawn convictions as a standard of fellowship with another Christian. After all, maturity may later shift position; and who hasn’t had that experience?
He made specific application of this matter to the church support of benevolent homes. If his position will work on this subject, it will work as well on instrumental music in worship, church support of missionary societies, etc. If it works with the Christian Church people, it should work with all denominationals. My conclusions that baptism is “immersion” might, after all, just be a “conclusion drawn from the Scriptures” rather than the “Scriptures” themselves. Furthermore, my conclusions about the “oneness of the church” should not be equated with the divine revelation that appears in God’s word.
Please tell me, which conclusions drawn from the Scriptures can be made essential for salvation and fellowship? Should my conclusions about who Christ is, what He has done for me to save my soul, what conditions are necessary for salvation, etc. (let us not forget that wise men are also divided an-those~issues) be essential conclusions for all men to make? If so, do I not place “scholars and wise men” between the common man and God?
There is no conviction that I hold based on my study of God’s word that does not have to run through my mind before it becomes a part of my convictions. That is just the method we have of arriving at truth. God revealed His word in the Bible. We read the Bible, allowing it to pass through our minds. When we believe the Bible, we reach conclusions based on it. Those conclusions are binding upon men because they are inherent in the word of God. My conclusions are right or wrong, depending upon the method in which I handle the Scriptures. There are no unique conclusions drawn from the Bible; they all come in the same manner. My convictions about Jesus come in exactly the same manner as my convictions about baptism and instrumental music. Furthermore, Brother Lawrence, my conclusions about church support of human institutions, church supported recreation, etc. come in exactly the same way as did the former convictions. If we are to throw out things which we conclude from the Bible as being essential for fellowship, we can fellowship any man, from the atheist to the infidel to the antinomians in the church who have introduced their innovations in the work and worship of the church. Some solutions to our divisions sound good on paper but will not work. Brother Lawrence’s solution to our divisions does not even sound good on paper. It ultimately leads to universalism in our fellowship.
Notice some of the things revealed to us in ways other than direct statements of the Scriptures which cannot be made the basis of fellowship because of Brother Lawrence’s conclusions:
1. Frequency of partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
2. Autonomy of the local church.
3. The day of worship for the New Testament church.
4. That Bible baptism is water baptism.
5. The nature and permanence of the office of the deacon.
6. The right of evangelists to locate with a given church.
7. Proper congregational cooperation.
According to Brother Lawrence’s premises, these matters cannot be made matters of fellowship because they are based on conclusions drawn from the Scriptures rather than from what the Scriptures teach expressly. Are you ready to accept this?
Really, what Brother Lawrence and several others are trying to devise is a means of having fellowship without anyone repenting. Someone was sinful in this recent division of the church over church support of human institutions. Consequently, someone is going to have to repent of his sins. If the liberal element of the church was wrong in introducing these innovations, they must repent of their sin of introducing these innovations and remove them before they can be forgiven and our breaches be healed once again. If the conservatives were wrong in binding over and above what God has bound, they are going to have to repent of this sin and quit doing it in order for the fellowship to be restored. Trying to pretend that both sides can be right is a rather naive approach to our problems.
“Men And Brethren, What Shall We Do?”
This was the title of a recent article in Contending For The Faith (August, 1978) by Ira Y. Rice, Jr. Brother Rice related his thoughts while in his attendance at the debate between Carroll R. Sutton and Ray Hawk. In this, he said,
Both sides, it seemed to me, went out of their way to show a spirit of kindness and courtesy to each other. Although there was never any question as to “which side” I personally was on, yet, as I sat there, I kept repeating to myself over and over what a tragedy it is that both sides which agree on practically everything else should thus be divided over an issue such as this when we desperately need to be united in common cause against the real “liberalism” plaguing those of us who are on either side of this issue.
Notice that Brother Rice does not consider his brand of liberalism to be dangerous. Rather, he thinks that we should ignore his form of liberalism in order to have unity. The truth of the matter is that his brand of liberalism is the daddy of the thing which he calls “real liberalism.” He helped father the Frankenstein monster which Contending For The Faith was designed to destroy! To pull off the leaves of a plant will do no good unless one goes deeper and pulls out the roots as well. Rice is trying to break off the leaves without touching the roots. If his axe were really on the roots, he would be opposed to the form of liberalism which produced the Herald of Truth and church support of human institutions in the first place.
But, let us continue to listen to Brother Rice,
As dead set against the Anti-Cooperation persuasion as I have been since its inception almost a third of a century ago, I never thought I should see the day when I’d actually feel closer to them than toward many with whom I have stood shoulder to shoulder for all these years.
Yet, when I see possibly the majority of our so-called Christian college administrations as well as the editors of some of our supposed-to-be gospel papers headed pell-mell after Liberalism, I think the time has come to call a halt and take a new look.
Anti-Cooperation, in my book, is still wrong. Yet, if those espousing such could quit making it a test of fellowship, Christian forbearance might make it possible for us to work together once again. At least they still honor the Bible as the inspired word of God–which is more than can be said of most now rushing after Liberalism.
Brother Rice is in an unenviable predicament. The liberalism which he helped to father some twenty-five years ago has grown up on him and he does not like what he sees. He wants just a little bit of liberalism! He cannot stand the entire group of liberalism’s beliefs.
Brethren warned through the years of the fight against liberalism – the introduction of the sponsoring church arrangement and church support of human institutions – that this was just allowing the camel to get his nose in the tent. When his nose was in the tent; he would want his head, then his shoulders, etc. until he got his whole body in the tent. That has happened. But Brother Rice does not like it. Neither does W.L. Totty, Guy N. Woods, Garland Elkins, Thomas B. Warren, James D. Bales nor a number of others. They just want a little bit of liberalism.
History will place these men in exactly the same position as some of the more conservative Christian Church preachers who wanted the mechancial instruments of music and the church supported missionary societies but did not want to accept all of the things which the Disciples of Christ have introduced. They will simply spend the rest of their lives trying to kill the Frankenstein monster which they sired twenty-five years ago.
Brother Rice’s form of unity with the “AntiCooperation” brethren is simple. He simply suggests that we quit preaching that the things which they are doing are sinful and we can be united. Brother Rice, practice what you preach! Why not quit preaching that instrumental music is sinful and you can be united with the independent Christian Churches? Furthermore, if you will quit preaching that the charismatic movement is wrong, that Calvinism is wrong, and that the church of Christ is not a denomination, you could probably be received back into the good graces of the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas as well as the various church supported universities which you have been criticizing. If your form of unity is worth a dime, why not show us how well it works by practicing it yourself? What you are asking of us is not unity but capitulation! Frankly, I am not interested in that.
You brethren who introduced the sponsoring church arrangement were guilty of sin because you destroyed the Bible pattern of congregational government. You brethren who introduced church support of benevolent societies and church support of colleges were guilty of sin because of perverting the mission of the New Testment church. You brethren who involved the church in all forms of church sponsored recreational activities were guilty of sin because you perverted the mission of the New Testament church. You are simply reaping the fruits of your apostasy at this stage of history. We cannot compromise our convictions by ceasing to preach what the bible says on these subjects. We can have unity only if you repent of your sins and return to obedience to the Bible in these specific matters.
There are a whole host of brethren in Brother Rice’s predicament. They are sick of the liberalism which they see in the churches which they are attending. Some of them are working diligently to stop it. They cannot stop it, although they may slow it down for a while. However, they will not go back to the point at which they departed from the word of God and restore the New Testament patterns of congregational cooperation and of the mission of the church. Human pride will not allow them to do that.
We hurt for these brethren. Our hearts bleed for them however, from our perspective, this seems to be their plight and future. Brethren, again we plead with you to repent and be converted to the right ways of the Lord. This is the only way to have peace with God and to heal the breaches in the Lord’s church.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 12, pp. 195-197
March 22, 1979