Willis-Carrell Discussion--First Negative

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

1. It is refreshing again to find a liberal preacher who will affirm his practice "is in harmony with New Testament teaching." Such liberal preachers have become few and far between in recent years. Brother Carrell has been in Japan for several years and apparently has not yet learned that liberal brethren here know now it is not good for their cause for them to attempt to find New Testament authority for their practice, since they rather obviously have none. Most of the liberals seem to be determined to have what they want, whether scriptural authority can be found for it or not. So we are glad Brother Carrell is committed to presenting scriptural authority for his preaching and practice.

2. Keep in mind what Brother Carrell's obligation is. He is in the affirmative in this debate. It is his responsibility to present Bible authority for sponsoring church programs, such as the Herald of Truth. It is my obligation, in this discussion, to review, analyze and to criticize what he presents as scriptural authority. The Herald of Truth operation is typical of the sponsoring church type of congregational cooperation. Approximately 2,000 churches and 10,000 individuals are to send $2,239,250.00 annually to the Highland church in Abilene, Texas that the Highland elders might put on a radio and TV program for the brotherhood. Brother Carrell believes this to be scriptural. I believe, instead, that each church ought to handle its own resources and do its own work (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2).

3. The only way that scriptural authority can be presented for anything is to cite for it a command, an approved apostolic example, or a necessary inference. This authority may be either general or specific. So you look carefully through Brother Carrell's article to see what passage he cited, if any, that authorizes 2,000 churches to pool their resources and to centralize the control of these pooled resources in the hands of a sponsoring eldership.

4. Brother Carrell assumed in p.1 that the Herald of Truth does not entail a "departure from the faith" or a "rejection of sound doctrine." But it does, unless he can cite scriptural authority for it. The Christian Church does not think missionary societies and instrumental music necessitate a "departure from the faith" or a "rejecting of sound doctrine," but they do, their protests notwithstanding. And so does sponsoring churchism involve a "departure from the faith" and a "rejection of sound doctrine."

5. Brother Carrell would have you believe that whether you support the Herald of Truth or not is "optional." This is what they preack; their practice is considerably different. Would Brother Carrell and the Fairlawn church permit a man who objects to the Herald of Truth to preach there? Would they even call on him to lead a prayer? These brethren bind that which they admit is only their opinion. The liberal brethren have made the acceptance of that which they call an "optional expedient" mandatory.

6. Brother Carrell, in p. 2, says he is not defending the judgment of the elders of the Highland church. These brethren sometimes talk about the "total situation" of the Herald of Truth. The mismanagement and sinful waste of the Lord's money are a part of the "total situation" Brother Carrell is defending. More than 11 cents out of every dollar that has ever been sent to Highland has been used to beg more money. $770,000, or enough money to support a gospel preacher 128 years, has been spent by them to beg more money. I do not blame Brother Carrell for being unwilling to defend their judgment. Do you? However, Brother Carrell, do not try to tell us this is an expedient way to preach the gospel unless you are willing to defend the practices involved in your so called expediency.

Bible Interpretation

7. In the first 7 paragraphs Brother Carrell discusses general and specific authority. However, he chooses to use Brother J. D. Thomas' "wavy lines," "optional expedient" and "excluded specific" terminology that is about as clear as a sea of mud to most brethren. What Brother Carrell needs to do is to show us how he proves it is an "optional expedient" for 2,000 churches to function through one eldership. He has merely assumed what he must prove in this discussion.

8. But since Brother Carrell freely uses Brother Thomas' book, WE BE BRETHREN, a book on Bible Interpretation, let us see how far he will follow Brother Thomas' principles. If Thomas could so clearly set forth his rules of Bible interpretation, he should know how to apply these rules. How many of the things Brother Thomas calls "optional expedients" will you accept?

9. Brother Thomas says church purchased "lemonade" is an "optional expedient" (p. 200). He says that "outfitting a church 'kitchen' is an optional expedient" (p. 200). He says that "fellowship meals," "coffee and doughnuts," or "social gatherings" sponsored by and paid for by the church are "optional expedients." Are you brethren with Brother Carrell ready for this? If not, you had better get ready for it, for this is where Carrell's and Thomas' argument leads. Brother Thomas argues that a church-sponsored Boy Scout Troop "could be an excellent expedient opportunity . . ." (p. 213). Will you accept this "optional expedient," Brother Carrell?

10. Brother Thomas further states: "It is the thesis of the present author that churches can scripturally make gifts to the support of Christian schools . . . . The aim here is to apply the principles set forth in this volume to the relation of churches and schools so far as the scripturalness of financial contributions is concerned" (pp. 186, 187). Are you ready for this "optional expedient," Brother Carrell? Are you brethren connected with Brother Carrell ready for the church support of colleges? The man from whom Brother Carrell got his principal argument says that church support of colleges is an "optional expedient" just like Carrell argued that the Herald of Truth is an "optional expedient." How far are you ready to follow Brother Thomas in defense of institutionalism?

11. Brother Batsell Barrett Baxter, the chief speaker on the Herald of Truth program, has said: "Some who are agreed that the church can contribute to an orphans' home are not convinced that the church can contribute to a Christian school. It is difficult to see a significant difference so far as principle is concerned. THE ORPHANS' HOME AND THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL MUST' STAND OR FALL TOGETHER." (QUESTIONS AND ISSUES OF THE DAY, p. 29). Is the main "Star" on the Herald of Truth a false teacher, Brother Carrell? Brother Baxter and Brother Thomas, from whom you got your argument, say the principles you use also will justify the church support of colleges. Do you believe the principles will permit the church support of colleges? If not, show us where Brother Thomas misapplied his "optional expedient" argument when he applied it to colleges.

12. God did specify the independence and autonomy of churches when he organized each congregation separately with its own elders and deacons (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:5). The elders of each congregation should "tend the flock of God" which is among them (1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28), and thus should oversee the members, resources, discipline and work of just one church. This specification of God excludes every combination of churches, whether this combination be in a human institution (whether benevolent or evangelistic), a one-man-missionary society, or a sponsoring church. These all become, to use Brother Thomas' terminology, "excluded specifics." Each church must do its own work, and by no stretch of one's imagination can one conclude it is the work of the Highland church to gather, direct, and spend the funds of 2,000 churches. And this precisely is the objectionable feature of the sponsoring church system.

13. Brother Carrell argues in paragraphs 8-12 that my cardinal error is that I make an "optional expedient" an "excluded specific." Brother Carrell has "proved" that the operation of 2,000 churches through one eldership is an "optional expedient" in the easiest possible way - he has told you that it is so, and you are supposed to accept it! He has assumed it, We now demand that he prove it to be so. He has not done it, nor can he do so. You watch him carefully while he tries to prove it.

14. Instead, Brother Carrell takes an "excluded specific" (as he would call it) and tries, like the sectarians, to make it an "optional expedient." The denominationalists tell us that instrumental music and sprinkling are "optional expedients." How do they prove this? They do so in the same way that Brother Carrell proves that the sponsoring church is an "optional expedient." They merely assert it to be so, again, and again, and AGAIN! This he also has done. These sectarians (and now Brother Carrell) then charge us with making an "optional expedient" (i. e. instrumental music, sprinkling, and sponsoring churches) an "excluded specific" when the truth of the matter is that they have taken an "excluded specific" and tried to make it an "optional expedient" merely by calling it such. Instrumental music, sprinkling, sponsoring churches, and human institutions supported by the church are not in the same class as baptisteries, table cloths, blackboards and tracts, Brother Carrell talks about the "broadmindedness" of the sectarians, but in this regard he is as "broadminded" as they.

15. In p. 12 Brother Carrell demands that I show the passage which "expressly limits the church with regard to cooperating in such a work or in the handling of its funds." The Christian Church preacher demands that we cite the passage that "expressly" forbids the use of the piano. Brother Carrell should remember that he is in the affirmative in this discussion. He is obligated to present authority for 2,000 churches to work through one eldership. Either general or specific authority will do, Brother Carrell.

16. However, I think even Brother Carrell will say that the Bible limits the ways that churches may cooperate in a work or in the handling of their funds. Wouldn't you, Brother Carrell? The Christian Church cooperates in works and handles its funds through a missionary society. Would this be wrong? If so, then God must have limited the church in how it may cooperate in a given work and in how it may handle its funds. If there is no divine order, there can be no disorder of any kind.


17. We come now to the crux of the "proof" presented by Brother Carrell for 2,000 churches to work through one church. His argument is that examples are not binding. He says "no example is itself binding." For years brethren have taught, and correctly so, that man's spiritual obligations are taught by command, example, and necessary inference. Brother Carrell has now set himself to revolutionize your thinking in this regard. His argument, simply stated, is that there is no binding power in examples.

18. Remember, Brother Carrell is to present scriptural authority for 2,000 churches to work through one eldership. How does be "Prove" this? His major effort is to show that apostolic examples do not bind. Now what has he done? He has hurt himself rather than helped. There are but three ways to prove anything to be scriptural, including his proposition. He now has thrown out examples. He now is limited to command and necessary inference. Upon which will he rely for Bible authority for 2,000 churches to work through one eldership? Neither will help him, for he has a defenseless proposition.

19. Brethren should wonder why a brother would be so set to destroy apostolic examples. Reflective brethren already know. The apostolic examples in the New Testament are in diametric opposition to Brother Carrell's proposition, and he knows it. So he is determined to throw out all apostolic examples. Martin Luther found that James 2:24 contradicted his doctrine of salvation by "faith only." So he denied the inspiration of James 2:24. Those who deny the essentiality of baptism frequently do so by denying the inspiration of Mark 16:16. Now Brother Carrell must avoid the teaching of New Testament examples, and his method of doing so is to deny the binding power of all examples. If he is not careful the baby is going to go down the drain with the bath water.

20. There are only two examples in the New Testament of churches sending money to other churches. In the first instance, Acts 11:27-30, the brethren in Antioch sent "relief" unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea. On another occasion (2 Cor. 8,-9: Rom. 15:25-31: 1 Cor. 16:1-4) the churches in Galatia. Macedonia and Achaia sent to the poor saints in Jerusalem because they were in "want." Brother Carrell would have you believe that I teach that a "rich" church sent to a poor church. This is not what 1 teach. Instead, I teach that churches with ability to give sent to relieve the wants of poor saints. The giving churches had enough to send to those who were in "want." Brother Carrell knows that this is not the case when churches send to Highland in Abilene.

21. Highland church is the third largest Church in the world, with more than 1700 members. Its local congregational budget in 1966 was $427,691.00, which entailed a weekly contribution of $8,228.00. By no stretch of one's imagination could this be called a needy church. Yet the two instances of church to church sending in the Bible both involved receiving churches that were needy. Since Brother Carrell knows that Highland does not fit these approved apostolic examples, he feels very strongly the necessity to throw out all examples.

22. We might also point out that the two instances in the Bible where churches received funds from other churches both involved benevolence. Yet Brother Carrell would take this and try to establish a plan for brotherhood evangelism. Furthermore, be cited passages showing individual responsibility (Gal. 6:6, 10) as authority for congregational action. Yet he is going to set us all straight on Bible interpretation!

Binding Examples

23. Brother Carrell thinks that I face a terrific problem. How does one know when an apostolic example is binding and when it is not? I would be ashamed, Brother Carrell, to admit that I have been preaching as long as you have been, and have chided sectarians as many times as you must have for not following the apostolic example regarding the Lord's Supper, now to say that you do not know how to tell when one example is binding and another is not. The solution of Brother Carrell's admitted deficit of knowledge regarding examples is not easily supplied in an article of this length. It is like someone asking you to tell them how to interpret the Bible in two minutes!

24. It is plainly taught in the scripture that some examples are binding, Brother Carrell to the contrary notwithstanding. Paul said: "The things which you both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do" (Phil. 4:9). See also I Cor. 11:1 and Phil. 3:17 on this point. The statement, "these things do," binds us to follow apostolic example. We even have a direct command that says to follow apostolic examples! But Brother Carrell still tries to figure out a way to get around following the examples set in Acts 11:27-30 and 2 Cor. 8 and 9.

25. Brother Carrell, let me suggest that you study any one of several good books on Bible interpretation and you can learn how to tell when an apostolic example is binding. Such books suggest "the law of unity," "the law of uniformity ...the law of universal application," "the law of materiality," "the law of competence," "the law of limited application," and "the law of exclusion." Some other suggested rules to consider are that examples are not, binding when the examples are disapproved (Gal. 2:11-14), or when the example related to the Old Testament (such as keeping the Passover), or when the matters were incidentals, or temporary, or a social custom. But some examples are binding, and you had better find out which ones are, Brother Carrell.

26. In fact, Brother Carrell does not even believe all commands are binding. For example, he does not believe the command to "do" what was heard and seen in Paul is binding (Phil. 4:9). Brother Carrell, stipulate the rules by which you determine whether a command is binding or not. I have done so for you on examples; now would you please do the same on commands, since you obviously do not believe that all New Testament commands are binding. You blatantly throw out the command that says to follow apostolic example.

The Lord's Supper

27. Brother Carrell's position on examples made him quite obviously uncomfortable when he came to talk about the Lord's Supper. He pretends to be able to show that we are bound to take the Lord's Supper on the first day of every week, and that he can show us this without the example of Acts 20:7. Please show us just how you do this, Brother Carrell. Acts 20:7 is an approved apostolic example. Since you throw out examples, give us the benefit of your wisdom on how to know we must take the Lord's Supper on every first day of the week.

Others of your liberal brethren have sought to do this and they all have failed. But perhaps you can succeed. We shall see. Do not let the baby go down the drain with the bath water.

28. Notice that regarding the Lord's Supper Brother Carrell said "we come to a slightly different case" (p. 18). Further he said, "Admittedly this case is unique" (p. 19). "Unique" means one of a kind. Yet he said that "this case, perhaps in a few others, lead (s) us to infer a command." If Acts 20:7 is "admittedly unique," there are not a "few other" cases like it. Please tell us what these "few others" are, or was this statement merely an escape hatch. Also Brother Carrell, please cite the rules by which you learned that Acts 20:7 is "different" and "unique." There must be some rules of Bible interpretation by which you learned this. Please list these rules. Also please give us the rules of Bible interpretation by which you learned that the example of Acts 20:7 is backed by an "implied" or "inferred" command (p. 19), but also learned that the examples of Acts 11:27-30 and 2 Cor. 8 and 9 are not backed by similar "implied" and "inferred" commands. You have a good bit of work to do in your second paper.

29. The fact is the "difference" and the "uniqueness" of Acts 20:7 is that you want to follow this apostolic example, and to badger sectarians also to follow it, but you do not want to follow the examples on congregational cooperation. In this regard Acts 20:7 indeed is "different" and "unique" with you. You simply have followed the pattern of blatant modernists who throw out the Bible examples as to how churches are to be governed and how they are to worship. You have not yet gone quite as far as they have, but you have laid down the premises that will send you well on your way.

30. Now to your questions: Question 1 I do not believe that responsibility is established only by command or necessary inference. Apostolic examples (such as Acts 11: 22 and Phil. 4:10-18) are sufficient to show me that the church is responsible to preach the gospel. Too, a direct statement says that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). Question 2 - The specification that each church is to have its own elders and deacons, and thus is to be independent, equal and autonomous (See Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4) precludes the elders of one church overseeing the work of even two churches. Certainly they cannot oversee the work of 2,000 churches as you have rather carelessly set your hand to defend in this discussion. Question 3 - I do not consider all examples binding and have shown the rules by which one tells when an approved example is binding and when it is not. Please notice that I have posed several questions in the above text for your consideration. Please give these questions attention in your next paper.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 10, pp. 7-11
July 1967