Cause of Troubles Now in the Church

Ronald Chaffin
Uhrichsville, Ohio

There appeared on the front page of the June 15, 1970 issue of Bible Herald an article entitled "Brotherly Trust" written by Harvey Ingram.

His article purports to be a story portraying the troubles in the Lord's church today and the reason for the same. It tells of four brothers who from infancy were taught love and affection for each other by their beloved father. Upon his death, each boy received a substantial sum of money a part of which, one brother suggested, each of the four should pool in a joint financial undertaking. But one brother refused to do so, from which our author concludes, that he did not "st his brethren with his money. These brothers would represent local churches. Brother Ingram says his story is hypothetical but that "there are similar situations today." There are a few statements in the article which need attention.

1. " . . . a joint financial undertaking, wherein all four of the brothers should pool a certain amount of his assets . . ." Remember, that these brothers would represent local churches. A question repeatedly asked, to no avail, for the last twenty years has been, "What verse of scripture authorizes local churches to pool their money in a joint financial undertaking?" But Brother Ingram comes along and assumes the very thing that he needs to prove. One reason we have division in the church today is because brethren give us their assumptions and not scripture. Rather than teaching a pooling of resources, the New Testament teaches that the local church is to work out of its own ability as Paul states in 2 Cor. 8: 11, not out of the ability of several churches or of the brotherhood. The pooling of funds suggests that several churches placed a part or all of their resources in a treasury common to all of them, out of which they carried on a given work. Book, chapter, and verse, please! Every example we have of work carried on by the New Testament church, even a work to which several local churches were related, is a work in which they always worked out of their own (each its own) treasuries.

2. ". . . in effect, he did not trust them with his money." This is said of the one brother who objected to the proposed joint financial undertaking. The title of Brother Ingram's article and later statements show that he thinks a lack of trust is the main reason as to why we object to the schemes dreamed up by some of the brethren. By so doing, he displays either his ignorance of, or inability to understand, what all the discussion and division is about, or what the real issue is. I was somewhat surprised that such an article would even be printed by Brother Inman. I thought be knew better than that.

It has never entered my mind nor, I believe, the mind of others who stand opposed to human arrangements in doing the work of the church, that the integrity of the brethren should be questioned in the handling of the money of the other churches. If so, it has been by far the exception and not the rule. It seems rather strange that after twenty years some would still be in the dark as to what we do object. But I guess there are a few left.

Brother Ingram, let me try to tell you in the simplest of terms as to what the question is: Is it scriptural for churches of Christ to build and sustain human organizations and arrangements through which to cooperate and accomplish the work of evangelism, edification and benevolence which God gave to the church? This is the question. So do not cloud the minds of people by suggesting that we question your integrity, caused, perhaps, by a tinge of jealousy because we did not first dream up the scheme.

3. "He (the one objecting-RDC) was going strictly by the letter of their father's teaching... 'I intend to go by dad's teaching exactly.' The other argued that this was the very opposite of the spirit of their father's instruction. . ." This quotation is significant because that in it Brother Ingram admits that those who oppose their schemes are going by the Word of God exactly. And since we are, and they do not stand with us, he as much as says that they (the promoters) are not going by our Father's teaching exactly. This we have known and have been pointing out for many years, but we are glad to see that they recognize it now, and hope they will soon turn from it.

Tell me, friends, where have we heard before such phrases as the "spirit and not the letter"? It used to come from denominational folk, but now it comes from brethren. But no surprise, because they are mimicking brethren of the last century who led in the apostasy. A. W. Fortune in his book "The Disciples in Kentucky" (quoted in a number of books about the Restoration Movement) characterized those brethren who went out from us to form the Christian Church as "those who believed the church should move on with the rest of the world and adapt the spirit of the New Testament to conditions that were ever changing." (p. 364) Isaac Errett in 1861 spoke of some in the various sects calling them "Christians indeed" because they had "the spirit of obedience." Robert Milligan and W. K. Pendleton among others expressed the same general attitude... a trend away from Bible teaching as well as earlier attitudes in the Restoration Movement. We are seeing today but a replay of attitudes of yesteryear. Notice this quote from Anchor, 11:2, p. 10, Summer 1970: "God intended for the man to be head of the woman EVEN, we maintain, in 'prayer cells' (especially if the spirit of the aforementioned passages is considered)." The passages were I Cor. 14:34, 35 and I Tim. 2:11-15. I agree with the point the writer is making, but I fail to see anything that the "spirit" says that the "letter" does not say.

Such an idea as the "Spirit" and not the "letter" is an open invitation for men to take liberties with the Word that are not granted by God. The first false preacher on earth, the devil, was not too particular about the "letter" of God's instruction. Tell me, how are we to know the "spirit" of the New Testament except by the "letter" of the New Testament?

Such things referred to in this article are the things which denominationalize the church, which in turn are causing much trouble in the church today.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 18, pp. 8-9
March 11, 1971