Making Sense of a "Senti-Torial"

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Perhaps some of our readers have never attempted to make sense of a "Senti-torial." If not, then you do not know what a difficult chore that can be. Perhaps you do not even know what a "Senti-torial" is. There is a religious journal published by some of our brethren called SENTINEL OF TRUTH. The editorials in this paper, which is edited by Brother Harold Spurlock of Kilgore, Texas, are called "Senti-torials." SENTINEL OF TRUTH is the paper formerly edited by Brother Charles Holt.

In the September, 1969 issue Brother Spurlock wrote an article entitled "Church-Preachers and Concepts." Repeatedly he speaks of "church-preachers" and "church' teachers." He castigates what he calls "organized-Christianity." I suppose that he champions "disorganized Christianity." Actually the point Brother Spurlock attempts to prove is that there is no local church organization. He maintains that the church is nothing more than an assembly.

His September, 1969 article might better have been entitled "Non-sensical No-patternism." Brother Spurlock told of hearing some gospel preachers on the radio who actually used Heb. 8:5 to try to prove that we should "make all things according to the pattern." My question is: What is wrong with making things according to the divine pattern? Brother Spurlock ridicules this brother whom he heard for maintaining that we should follow "the pattern in the New Testament concerning 'work,' 'worship,' 'organization,' and 'name'..." Again I ask, what is so wrong in following in New Testament pattern? Can Brother Spurlock show us a better way?

Athens Clay Pullias and a host of other liberals have been trying to get us to accept this "no-pattern" doctrine. I regret to see men like Brother Spurlock and those associated with him, men who once preached "build all things according to the pattern," forsake the right way and go after the nebulous idol of "no-patternism."

Spurlock's Questions

Brother Spurlock asked some questions. He said, "if Christ built the church a long time ago, what are men doing building it today? A simpleton can answer a question like that; its answer requires no profundity. Indeed, Jesus did "build" his church (Matt. 16:18), and it is the pattern of the church as he built it that we must follow today.

Further Brother Spurlock asked, "If God (the Lord) pitched the true tabernacle (which true tabernacle the scriptures plainly declare had nothing to do with building) why are men today trying to build the true tabernacle? Jesus did not personally make a tour and establish congregations in every city, but gospel preachers like Paul did. Paul declared, "I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" (1 Cor. 3:6). Paul also said in the same context, "According to the grace of God which was given unto me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let each man take heed how he buildeth thereon" (I Cor. 3:10). And as we "build," the Hebrew writer advises that we must "build according to the pattern."

Of course, if one may disregard the divine pattern, he then could build any way he sees fit. The motley hue of denominationalism would then soon be surpassed by the distortions within the church of God.

Brother Spurlock is quite emphatic in his denial of there being any pattern. He asks, "where is the pattern of which he spake? I have read the scriptures through several times and have yet to find that pattern of which he spake." The apostle Peter on one occasion said, "For this they willfully forget. (2 Pet. 3:5). I will not here charge Brother Spurlock with willfully forgetting. But as he read the New Testament through several times he did so with very little profit, if indeed he did not learn that God wants what He has commanded done in the way that He commanded it.

I wonder if Brother Spurlock would now deny that there is a "pattern" to be followed in becoming a Christian. I think Brother Leroy Garrett and Brother Carl Ketcherside are well down the road of denying the essentiality of conformity to God's plan (pattern) of salvation. Brother Spurlock may even lead the way in the "no-pattern digression."

It is true that God's complete will is not found in just one verse. For example, we long have preached that one must consider the sum of God's teaching on conversion in order to know His complete will on conversion. Similarly, the pattern for the church is not all found in one verse, or in one chapter, or in one book. However, one can take the entirety of God's word, and he has the sum (total) of God's will. The total will of God constitutes the pattern in conversion, and the pattern for the church. Will Brother Spurlock deny it?

Brother Spurlock speaks disparagingly of "men (who) go about the country building according to the pattern left by the Lord..." I presume this constitutes a tacit admission on his part that as he goes about the country his spiritual building is not done "according to the pattern left by the Lord." I would be ashamed and afraid so to indict myself.

His Condescension

As a brother learns too much that is not so, he often becomes condescending in his attitude toward the rest of us who continue to "build according to the pattern." Brother Spurlock said that after hearing these preachers preach about the "pattern," "my heart reached out to them with sympathy and yearning. I know they felt they were really teaching the truth." But Brother Spurlock has new spiritual enlightenment, and he now thinks you can build any way you want to---regardless of what the Lord said about the "pattern."

Not very long ago I wrote a little article about some of the theological rubbish being expelled by the SENTINEL OF TRUTH. It must have stirred the benevolent and sympathetic editor of SENTINEL--in the wrong way. He caustically replied: "The great prophet of TRUTH MAGAZINE has spoken. Let all the earth keep silent before him. Let all the world bow to his genius. Selah! Pause! Meditate upon his jewels of wisdom! Reflect soberly and ponder carefully! (SENTINEL OF TRUTH, June, 1968). He really sounds like his heart is reaching out to me "with sympathy and yearning," I surely hope I never get him mad at me!

The Climax

In Brother Spurlock's September, 1969 issue he reveals the ponderous new revelation, "The truth of the matter is that God's assembly, the ekklesia, (the church) did not originate in nor come down out of heaven, on the day of Pentecost or any other day." That is real interesting. If God's assembly (ekklesia, the church) did not originate on Pentecost or any other day, then it does not now exist! Yet the Bible tells us that gospel preachers in the first century preached about this church (Acts 8:12, 13; Acts 20: 25), and that those who obeyed their preaching were added to it (Acts 2:47; Col. 1: 13). But how could that be, if the church did not begin "on the day of Pentecost, or any other day." Jesus' promise "I will build my church" is either unfulfilled or false.

Indeed, I am glad I did not write the September, 1969 "Senti-torial." It will take a lot of explanations to make any sense out of it, and if words mean anything at all, much of what Brother Spurlock said is simple religious error. Now there is no telling what he is apt to call me after he reads this article!


November 20, 1969