Reply to James Cope's Review

Ralph Williams
Pasadena, Texas

The proof copy of brother Cope's article was received by me Aug. I with a request from Brother Willis that I make reply and forward to James for his response. More time to study carefully brother Cope's lengthy remarks would have been preferred, but the Aug. 5th "special issue" date is only two days hence as I mail this reply to James. Truth magazine readers will no doubt understand over this delay when they're aware of the circumstances.

Brother Cope's article is greatly appreciated. Judging from the amount of mail we've received, there's considerable interest in this question across the country. Thus we're confident many other preachers and concerned brethren will likewise be grateful for his efforts. If anyone should be in a position and have the knowledge to defend "Bible Colleges and / or Bible Departments" we would say to brother Cope, "Thou art the man.

Our reply is to be short, so we'll concentrate upon the main issue and give attention to "side points" later as space allows.

The "Big Bad Wolf"

Such is Bro. Cope's label for the "organizational structure" which he recognizes is our primary objection. It would have been more exact had he used terminology as "the Bible Department" or "B.D. of F.C., Inc." throughout his article, instead of simply "F.C., Inc.". However MY previous article makes that clear and the discerning reader will not unjustly accuse us of opposing the whole of the school or "F.C., Inc." per se. If F.C. were strictly a Bible College (as some are) the distinction would be even clearer.

We ask our readers to observe the Scriptures used to justify this admittedly "human institution", a " 2 1 -man cooperative", "Board of Directors" which "controls the policies (and) employ certain administrators, teachers, and staff" If I counted accurately, only three passages are offered: Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 10: 3 1; Rom. 12: 17. Some of us will need a lot of help to see authorization for Bible Colleges/Bible departments in any of these verses! In fact, I wish to claim Col. 3:17 as part of my Scriptural challenge to bro. Cope. As a child of God he must comply with its demand. We are not solely responsible to show the error of that which we oppose. This verse obligates him to show where Christ authorizes such a set-up.

I realize bro. Cope believes he needs no Scripture for he, does not think the college is doing "any work of the church peculiar to the church!" (see his second paragraph in the beginning - sorry I don't have page numbers to refer to from the proofs). He states: "I deny that there is any passage needed to authorize any peculiar business organization which is not a church or does not perform the peculiar work of a local church." This pinpoints oar disagreement.

Our difference is over whether "F.C., Inc., Bible Dept." is doing a work peculiar to the church. He claims it doesn't -- we believe it does. The reader must decide for himself.

If the Bible department (gospel preachers and the courses of study) could be removed from "F.C., Inc." and placed within the framework of a local church under an eldership, does that not prove to that extent this college is doing a divine work which God has placed upon His church (collectively)? What does bro. Hailey do differently during a gospel meeting under a local eldership from what he does regularly in his classes under a 21-man Board of Directors at F.C? Do not these Bible Department brethren teach, expound upon and uphold the truth within a "human organization" under the "control" of its Board (both unknowns in the N.T.)?? I seek to do that same work in a Divine institution (a local church) under Divine directors (elders). Bro. Cope sees a difference in this work when under F.C., Inc. and when the same work is done under a local eldership. Some of us don't see it.

Bro. Cope speaks of "fatal admissions." I believe I found his. He states: "Who does a thing does not change the basic nature of the doing itself, i.e., the action performed" (paragraph 15 under "The Publishing Co. -- College Parallel"). And the uniqueness of this statement lies in the fact that it's preceded by his counsel that I and the Red Bluff elders face up to the consequence of our inconsistencies! Don't read on till you've seen how he undermines his main contention by this sentence. He labors throughout to persuade us the college may exist without any Scriptural foundation, for (1) its a human institution (2) and it does not do the 'work peculiar to a local church. Now analyze how he trips himself up: "Who (F.C., Inc. or a local church) does a thing (preach the word) does not change the basic nature of the doing itself, i.e. the action performed (the truth proclaimed /taught)." Then how can he argue the college isn't doing the churchs work??! He admits here the work is the same or the action performed is the same regardless of who does it. So if preaching the Gospel (collectively/organizationally) is the responsibility of congregations under elders (as well as Christians individually), then the Bible College/dept. is an unlawful Who. If God has specified the who (as far an organization: elders, deacons, members and common treasury) then it appears some

Brethren are presuming upon the Divine pattern (Heb. 8:5).

Selling The Truth

Bro. Cope several times points up a fact: "The College sells its services and goods. The church does not sell its . . ." Again  "a fundamental difference between Florida College and a local church is the difference between membership in 'Florida College, Inc.' - the human organization selling a service - and the divine organization giving it!" This is a difference we're all aware of. We know admission isn't charged when bro. Hailey preaches on the Revelation letter in a Gospel meeting, but when he does the same thing within the "human institution" one must purchase such instruction. Such may be a fundamental difference between God's organizational structure and man's, but I ask: "What does that prove about the Scripturalness of the Bible College /dept.?" Does bro. Cope wish to that argue that a missionary society, supported by individuals and separate from the churches, would be alright provided it charged the lost whom it taught.

1 Tim. 3: 15

The arguments on this verse under the heading, "Assumption without Proof" aren't valid as I see them. This is an important verse; it identifies v4gis divinely charged with being "the pillar and ground of the truth." It points to God's Church, viewed in its completeness (both individually in our relationship with God and collectively in our relationship with saints locally.) I believe Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22-23 are further examples of the "church" viewed in its completeness as here in I Tim. 3:15. Bro. Cope fights a straw man in speaking of "collective evangelism" and "universal organization," for surely everybody knows collective organization is only on a local level. Then he seems to discount, "the church local" by stating "Florida College sells Bible courses." I'm afraid he's missed the force of this verse. Even if F.C. Bible department gave away Bible instruction, his point doesn't meet what the verse says. Whether a "human institution" preached the Truth free, or with charges wouldnt do away with the fact it's a rival to t one and only "pillar and ground" God specified -- the Church. I understand this verse as an example of "Specific" authority (thus limiting in its nature.) It's like other specifics: the unleavened bread on the Lord's Table, singing, gopher wood, etc. Until someone is more convincing I'll continue to hold to I Tim. 3:15 as an irrefutable proof text which singles out the one institution God charges to proclaim and defend the Faith.

Under "The 'home' observations" bro. Cope calls attention to my apparent contradiction in calling the "home"' a Divine institution while maintaining the church is the only one allowed under I Tim. 3:15. 1 think my "Echo" article, points # 2 and # 3 will clarify the seeming discrepancy.

Other Points

Much time is spent on the publishing house vs. the teaching society entanglement.

It's not easy to unravel - that's why I also gave it extra space. I confess to an incomplete grasp of this particular question, and possible inconsistencies. Like many I've spoken this is a hazy area. But one thing I do know -- simply because I feel free (at this point) to buy a book from Baker Book House, I can't hastily conclude: ". . . therefore my brethren can Scripturally set up a Bible college/department." That's a long hop, skip and jump; and when you get there the question of authority still hasn't been settled. At this point our question deals with "Bible College/ department." When that's resolved, then our thinking may be sharpened where we can see more clearly the question of "brotherhood papers, publications, etc." Those which parallel Bible Colleges/departments as institutions involved in a spiritual work should meet the same Scriptural test.

In the first paragraph under "A Concession of Liberty", bro. Cope raises some difficult questions. But he saves us the trouble by answering them himself under "Lawful Liberty", the last paragraph. Also under this latter heading, par. 1, my "appraisal" of the F.C. brethren is suggested. I take this to be "tongue-in-cheek" humor rather than maliciousness. Nevertheless it offers a good lesson in being careful about our teaching illustrations and analogies.

His last paragraph under "What F.C. is and does" shows a mixing of the secular and spiritual (Rom. 14:17). He places a "cooperative of Christians'" selling food, clothing, etc. on equality with offering the "Bible with human comments" (which I take to mean teaching the truth). As he said of my "shoe analogy", I'm afraid he's mixing or comparing "different kinds, as shoes and pants or apples and bananas."

Under "A 'Solution' -- Whose?" par. 3, the "improper motive for spiritual responsibilities" I had in mind was grades, diploma, character awards etc. for doing what God has commanded already in view of His future reward. No "insinuations" were intended in par. 4, so Bro. Cope may rest easy.

Bro. Cope didn't answer whether he'd accent a Missionary Society because I didnt identify the kind I meant. I understand Bro. Cope would allow completely separate from the churches, which was solely supported by individuals. Is-that true or false bro. Cope! Why such a question? It's injected to show the logical consequences of bro. Cope's position. I'm corresponding with a conservative Gospel preacher now who takes such a position (which I believe is wrong).

There are other points, of lesser importance, I might cover, but bro. Willis said only five typed pages. With my conclusion I'll have used that allotment. Under "A Final Effort to Clarify the Issue", par. 3, three choices are presented, any of which will "rule out" F.C. Bible Dept. I select #2; i.e. it is not legal. Illegal before God and His Word on the basis of Col. 3:17. Neither precept, example, nor necessary inference has been sustained from the N.T. to justify the Bible teaching organization under question.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 44, pp. 26-28
September 16, 1971