No Tapes, Please
Robert C. Welch
New Albany, Indiana
The debating society which will "represent the entire spectrum of the Restoration principle" met in January on the campus of ACC. This is the way it is described in an editorial in Firm Foundation, January 4, 1972. The editor of that journal thinks that it "is a good idea that the director of the Workshop has banned the use of tape recorders." This scribe is no worshipper of tape recorders -- he has no inclination to be recording every sermon he goes to hear. But the recording of speeches, sermons and debates is not wrong. There is something wrong with the attitude of the person who is afraid to have what he says placed on permanent record, especially if he is supposed to be teaching and defending the truth of God.
There is something questionable about a group discussing their differences on scriptural subjects but not wanting what is said made available to the public. It is true that tape recordings can be misused to misrepresent the speaker. That is also possible with the memory, or with any other type of note taking or recording. That, however, is the chance that any spokesman must take. Most people know that a tape can be edited to make the speaker say just the opposite of what he actually said. But he can be equally falsely quoted, if it be the desire of the hearer. Just what is the actual reason for not permitting the recording of the discussions? Could it be that either the hosts or the "representatives" are afraid that if what they say is quoted it will not be good for their reputation?
'Opportunities for discussion of religious differences are to be desired, whether between two or among five hundred. But we do not need any of these secret meetings, out of which comes the eventual individual interpretations of what has been accomplished, what the realms of, agreement and disagreement are, for us to accept. This comes too close to the councils which have made Rome famous. If it is good to go to Abilene and make and hear these speeches, then it is also good for those who do not go to have access to the same material. Using the editor's own words in praise of the value of these meetings, we would "not have it from the mouth of gossip, they have it from the lips of the man himself as to just what he believes on the issue."
What preacher wants his expositions on the Scriptures to be kept private or secret? Instead, he wants as many as possible to hear him. Of course, there are personal differences, errors, problems and business matters which demand private dealing. These things, however, are not of such nature. These matters have been made subjects of public teaching and practice for years, and these very men who are to speak have been prominently outspoken on these matters. It is alarming that the forum has been cloaked in semi-secrecy. It is disconcerting to know that brethren who have been known for their frankness and integrity will consent to go into such a meeting which, by plan and prearrangement, is not to be made completely open to the public. It is a little reassuring to think that at least these are not the ones who made the stipulation.
One of the items, apparently, which the editor wants cleared up, is the taint which some have given the Bible Department of ACC. He thinks this can be done in a gathering such as this Workshop. His editorial says; "We have heard a lot of left-handed criticism of ACC and its Bible Department in the last few years. We do not believe that criticism to be the truth." In the same issue of his paper, however, he has run an article by Glenn Wallace which is critical of that Bible Department. Perhaps this is but another example of his Jekyll-Hyde personality. He publishes criticism of the Department in one breath, and in the next, he criticizes the critics.
Another breathing from the same editorial says: "Nothing turns our stomachs more than petty little party spirited men whose only stock in trade is a newsletter, a paper or even a local church bulletin and a poison pen; and whose chief concern seems to be that of setting brother against brother." Of whom is he speaking? It could be the Wallace article referred to above. On the other hand, perhaps he teacheth himself, for in the same editorial he has this derogatory word to speak; "The anti-cooperation folly would never have wounded the body of Christ had it not been for preachers."
May the day be far from us when our difficulties and differences must be settled by representatives in unpublished Workshops, Forums, Debates or Councils. May our brethren never forget that Elijah's contest was not limited to a restricted audience, the results of which could not be published. May they not forget that Paul discussed a public error with the man before them all. May they not forget that one of the features of our growth and strength has been the willingness and ability to let what we teach and practice be placed in full light before the people.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 18, pp. 5-6