Reuel Lemmons: An Old Mossback???

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

In the May 11, 1971 issue of the Firm Foundation, Editor Reuel Lemmons wrote under the heading "The Mossbacked Church." In this article he said, "We have recently listened to the taped speeches of some of our youthful theologians who seem to take special delight in castigating the church. They seem to enjoy telling audiences how o*t of date we are, and how far behind the times our outmoded practices and preaching are. It seems to be popular to pick on the church, on the elders, on the local congregation or the Bible school. A few years ago we might have expected this sort of treatment from sectarians filled with prejudice. Today we are receiving an overdose of it from our 'friends.' "

For the last two or three years we have been witnessing a change of power among the liberal brethren. The older leaders who fought the battle for liberalism, and who set the trends for liberalism a decade or two ago, are now being relegated one-by-one to the theological junk heap. They are outmoded, mossbacked, irrelevant, and behind the times.

Actually what is happening is that the second generations of liberals are more liberal than their liberalistic fathers. The fathers are alarmed; the young liberals are dismayed that their teachers are willing to take a few steps down the road of liberalism, but they inconsistently refuse to go but so far. For twenty years Reuel Lemmons has been in the forefront of the advancing cause of liberalism. Now he is trying to play the part of an old-guard warrior. Men like him taught these "youthful theologians" what they know.

Yet Lemons says the "youthful theologians ... are screaming that we are answering the questions nobody is asking ....," which is to say that old mossbacks like Lemmons are "irrelevant." Lemmons says, "This is a good example of the sophistication of too much learning. Many of these boys do not know enough about the church to be critics of it ... we'd rather trust the church than the theologians."

Yet Lemmons has spent the greater part of his mature life as a preacher building up plans and arrangement which are foreign to the church about which you read in your New Testament. Lemmons declares, "There have always been those who wanted to restructure the church." And I might add, foremost among them has been Brother Reuel Lemmons!

When the sponsoring church concept was struggling to be born among, us, Brother Lemmons stood by to serve as mid-wife. When the Lubbock, Texas church popularized the sponsoring church concept during World War II in an effort to prepare to evangelize Germany, Brother Lemmons was one of the leading proponents of this "restructure" effort. Rather than each congregation being ruled by its own elders under Christ, Brother Lemmons and his cohorts foisted upon the churches the concept that scores, hundreds, and even thousands of churches could pool their resources and centralize the control of these resources under one diocesan-like eldership. In so doing, indeed they did restructure the church.

Now Brother Lemmons is upset because the "young theologians" also want to restructure the church. They want to "restructure" Lemmon's restructured church. And the restructionists who follow the "young theologians" will also want to restructure it again. And the "young theologians" as old men will be opposing the youthful restrue6mists of -their time who will be proposing "bigger and better" restructures for the church. They will continue to restructure the church until they restructure it into a full-fledged denomination.

Yet Lemmons naively says, "We will rescue some of them, and some of them will drift on out perhaps." Lemmons rescue them? Don't be funny. Brother Lemmons was one of those who cut the anchor ropes, and pushed their bark out to sea without the guiding compass of God's Word. How could he rescue a restructionist when he also is being tossed about in the raging sea of human wisdom and no-pauern-ism? They all need to reach out for the life-line of God's Word. It only can set their near-capsized, floundering ship aright.

But if you see any signs of Lemmons and his restructure gang returning to the purity and pattern of God's Word, you see something that I have not seen. Meanwhile Lemmons and the older restructionists will continue to flail the "young theologians" who want to restructure the church, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that the whole sordid mess is of their own doing. Lemmons and his cohorts have fathered a new generation of liberal children. Since the spiritual children are more liberal than their fathers, the fathers would like to disown their children. But the family traits are too obvious for that to be possible. The motley liberal family will become more motley still. Hang around a while longer. History is in the making: Rather history is repeating itself.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 37, pp. 3-4
July 29, 1971