Physician Heal Thyself!

Joe Neil Clayton
Long Beach, California

In a recent issue of the Far East Newsletter, Bro. Ira Y. Rice, Jr. agonizes over the question of returning to the U. S. from his post in Singapore to keep the "cause of truth" from going "down the drain." As the author of two volumes entitled "Axe on the Root," and with "enough material now for volumes 3, 4, and 5," he has appointed himself saviour of the church from Ralph Sweet and others who are sowing the "seeds of error and doubt."

We all admit that brethren need to be saved from the errors of such men, who verily subvert the faith of many with their theological liberalism, but we wonder if a better saviour might not be found. When surgery of a most delicate and important type is needed, the best surgeon for the job must be sought. I have some doubts that Ira Y. Rice, Jr. is the man for the job.

Inserted in the mailing which I received were two items, which, when put together, strengthen my doubt. One of these items is a tract, entitled "The Four Fold Function of the Church." In this tract, Ira says, "According to God's word (the "rule"), the function of the church is fourfold: 1) The evangelization of the WORLD; 2) The edification of the CHURCH; 3) The doing of good unto ALL MEN; and 4) The glorification of GOD." He proceeds to develop the theme, and in reference to point No. 3, he quotes six passages in support, none of which has anything to do with collective action on the part of the church!

The other item referred to above was a note which Ira urged us to put into our bulletin. It states that "Sister Audean Baldwin teaching at Four Seas College of Bible and Missions, here in Singapore, has come up with a capital idea." He explains that Singapore is a Rest and Recreation (R & R) area for military personnel in Southeast Asia, and the Sister's idea is to have "stateside" brethren send contributions, "so when your sons and daughters come to see us, we may have the wherewith to take them out to eat and show them around Singapore." This sounds a little like a "Church of Christ USO." Checks for the work, Ira says, should be "payable to Church of Christ," and he signs his note "In the greatest cause."

Now, the question we would naturally ask is, "Under which of the four functions of the church would this work fall?" Is it evangelization? No, he makes clear that this is for Christians to enjoy, not ALL MEN! Is it edification (perhaps falling under the rule "feed the church of the Lord," Acts 20: 28)? Well, I do not believe that even Ira looks at it from this view point. Does it come under the heading "doing good unto ALL MEN?" I think not, again, since he mentions that only Christians are invited. If he intended for this to be a work to all men, he could have told the U. S. military authorities that the Singapore church would attempt to entertain all of the R & R personnel in Singapore! Finally, is this effort for the "glorification of God?" Or, is it merely "meats for the belly?"

Thus, a capital idea, which involves the church is an unscriptural action, is suggested by the "saviour" of the church from "error." We say, "Physician, heal thyself I" Are there four functions for the church, or five? Which direction is apostasy to be pursued, through the halls of ivy or through the kitchen? I doubt very much if it matters in the end. When men begin to take an "elastic" (is this a better term than "liberal") view of the teaching of the Bible, they can stretch it to cover any action they desire to practice. We should have as much concern for correction of the "kitchen apostates" as for the "Ultra-liberals."

March 1969