The Right Name

Mike Willis
Mooresville, Indiana

In another one of Carl Ketcherside's "in depth" studies, he writes regarding "The Right Name" (Mission Messenger, Vol. 35, No. 4, April, 1973). Brother Ketcherside attacks the sin of using only one name to designate the church in our advertising. He says, "I do not say that the church has no scriptural name. I say that it has a number of them, and that all are valid and bestowed by the Spirit through revelation. But it is not scriptural to fasten upon one of these while ignoring the others and elevating it to titular dignity" (Ibid., p. 50).

The crux of our learned brother's article is to prove that to preach that "Church of Christ" is the only name the church should wear is sinful. Just how long has it been since you have heard a preacher preach that? To my knowledge, I never recall having heard in all my life any preacher state that this is the only name that the church can wear. Even though Ketcherside dedicated a ten page article in a sixteen page journal to attack this problem, he confesses that the problem is not widespread. Here is what he said: "To be absolutely fair I must admit that most of our preachers always say that either 'church of Christ' or 'church of God' is scriptural . . . " (Ibid., p. 53). If that is not making an issue where there is no issue, how could a person do that?

After stating his point of attack, our brother carefully examines every argument used by preachers to prove the essentiality of the right name in order to show how ludicrous each argument is. He even goes so far as to say the following: "Is it not noteworthy that the expression 'the church of Christ' does not even appear in the scriptures?" (Ibid., p. 5U). I would suggest that the erudite editor of Mission Messenger read some of the publications put out by his brethren as well as the works of Trueblood, Nee, Barclay and Shaeffer. To begin with, the Porter-Bogard Debate might be helpful in showing the foolishness of saying that "churches of Christ" (plural) does not imply the existence of many individual congregations known as "church of Christ" (singular). The existence of the plural "churches of Christ" necessarily implies the existence of the singular "church of Christ." A person cannot have many of any item without having at least one of that item.

Ketcherside seems to delight in ridiculing the present system of designating our Lord's body as the church of Christ. For example, he says, ". . . if someone put up a sign 'Church of Jesus-Matthew 16:16' vacationers from Texas and Tennessee would whiz by it like a freight train passing a hobo. They wouldn't even halt if the sign read 'Church of Jesus Christ.' The name 'Jesus' doesn't have much impact upon 'Church of Christ Christians' . . ." (Ibid., p. 53). The whole thesis of Ketcherside's argument is summarized by him as follows:

"1. It is scriptural to designate the community of saints by any term employed by the Holy Spirit in the sacred writings.

A2. It is unscriptural to designate the community of saints by any term not employed by the Holy Spirit in the sacred writings.

"3. It is anti-scriptural to seize upon one term and make it the official designation of a community of saints, to the exclusion of all other terms used by the Holy Spirit in the sacred scriptures" (Ibid., pp. 57-58).

Since, by his own admission, most preachers teach and preach that any name in the scriptures which is applied to the church would be a scriptural name, the only thing to which Brother Ketcherside can be objecting is our use of only one name-Church of Christ-to be placed in front of the buildings in which we meet. So, he presented the following question to himself and then answered it to be sure that no one missed the point:

AAre you saying that our usage of the name Church of Christ in our advertising is sectarian?

" Let me commend you for your perception. That is exactly what I am saying" (Ibid., p. 58).

One solution suggested by the application of Ketcherside's logic is listing all of the names of the church on our signboards. Either, we could erect a sign with a place prepared to change the name every week lest we leave the impression that one name alone describes the church (just what impression we would leave if we did this might be worthy of investigation) or we could erect a sign like this:







Would this make us any less sectarian, Brother Ketcherside, if all of the Lord's churches erected a sign like this one? And by the way, I wonder just how many license plates from St. Louis, Missouri one would find in the parking lot if he did that, Brother Ketcherside.

Another question which Brother Ketcherside dodged was this:

AI am sometimes asked how members of 'The Church of Christ' who are traveling will find us. There are some of them that I do not want to find us. (Is that Christian love, Brother Ketcherside?) We have problems enough of our own without having more of them imported from Texas or somewhere else" (Ibid., p. 59).

That really answers the question asked! Many objections but no solution! A clever dodge but no solution! Solution, Solution, wherefore art thou?

So after reading and analyzing everything our brother has to say about the right name, we are made to see that though he objects to the naming of the church on our sign boards as we are presently doing it, he has nothing better to offer!

One point that seems to be critical to the entire discussion about the name of the church is this: Since we teach that any scriptural name is approved by God, does one become sectarian when he employs only one scriptural name, whichever it might be, to designate the people who assemble at a given place to worship? Or, we might state it differently like this: Must an individual or congregation name every scriptural name of the church when referring to it or can he designate it by any one scriptural name? Is not sectarianism a state of the mind instead of a state of the sign in front of the building? How many preachers do you know who have not in times past already condemned the sectarian use of "Church of Christ"?

Sectarianism is not manifested by accepting; a scriptural name; it is manifested by accepting a name because the party wears it, regardless of whether it is scriptural! or unscriptural. This brings us to a clearer definition of sectarianism. A sectarian is one who defends the party and not the truth. I deny that the stand I have taken has been taken because the party has always believed and practiced it.

One of Ketcherside's own definitions of sectarianism is this: "One need not advocate a doctrinal error to be sectarian. He may form a party around a truth lifted out of context and elevated to a superior position."

Is not Brother Ketcherside guilty of the very thing which he is opposing? Isn't he starting a "fellowship party" composed of men who have made a god out of fellowship? Practically every issue of Mission Messenger is written about one facet or the other of fellowship, regardless of what title may beg given to the article. In his attempt to avoid sectarianism, Brother Ketcherside has rallied brethren around his position of fellowship to form another sect in the church. This is paradoxical but true as is becoming more evident every week.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:17, pp. 10-11
February 28, 1974