Comments On "Anti-ism: Creed-Making"
(EDITOR'S NOTE: "Anti-ism: Creed-Making" by Bro. Thomas B. Warren, which appeared in the Sept. 26, 1957 issue of Gospel Advocate deals with "anti's" and "liberals." The following is not meant to be a critical review, but simply an addition of comments as to why a "liberalist" is so designated. Any further comments that Bro. Warren may wish to add will be welcomed by this editor for publication in this magazine.)
Under the caption "Anti-ism: Creed-Making" brother Thomas B. Warren discusses two, extremes which have long "plagued" the church. Liberalism, he tells us, is found in those who "flout the law of Christ." Certainly a man who attempts to by-pass, or completely ignore, t h e revealed will of God is liberal -- too liberal to sui t God. And although Bro. Warren mentioned both "Liberalism" and "Anti-ism," he used the space in the Gospel Advocate mostly, to provide examples and make concluding observations relative to "Anti-ism." At this point we shall extend the study of his examples of "liberalism" and make some observations.
(1) Instrumental Music in Worship: The mechanical instrument was introduced into the worship of the church only after it had first been introduced and accepted by the various denominations - Catholic first, protestant next. It was an expedient, not a matter of faith, to those who sought its use. Learned men who defended its use never denied the acceptability of just singing, without the instrument. Yet their "expedient," - matter of "opinion," was going to be forced upon the Lord's body regardless of how much division resulted. Now we know there is no law in the new testament which specifically says "Thou shalt not use instruments of music." But digressives have, for more than half a century, challenged us to produce such a passage from the pages of the Bible. We have not, and cannot, - It is not there! We say... "The Bible specifies that we are to sing and make melody 'in your heart' ." To this they may, in desperation, reply: "If the use of the vocal cords can be employed by the direction of the 'heart,' then the use of the piano may be employed as an outlet for the 'heart'." And on and on the controversy rages. The digressive considers myself, my readers, and Bro. Warren as an "anti," while we consider him (the digressive) a "liberal."
Why is the advocate of the mechanical instrument considered liberal? (a) He is not satisfied with the simplicity of God's design, and attempts to justify his innovation by the absence of a "thou shalt not." (b) He refuses to recognize the fullness of the authority of Christ, considering the absence of authority for what he wishes the same as absence of restrictions. Therefore, since the Bible has nothing to say about its use there is nothing to restrict its use. (This, of course, is a failure to recognize principles set forth in the Bible by which man may determine what is and what is not, a violation of the authority of Christ.) (c) He is liberal because he is willing to allow that which he freely admits is just an expedient" way to, become a source of division, hate, and d isgrace. Any man who feels that to press his "expedient" is more important than to, maintain the peace and unity of God's children - this man is afflicted with both liberalism and a poor sense of values.
(2) The Missionary Society: Like the use of instrumental music, the "society" contributed its part toward dividing the ranks of God's army. It was not a new thing. Denominational "conventions" and super-organizations had already appeared on the religious scene prior to the restoration movement in this country. They had Justified their "societies" on the basis of increased ability resulting from "centralization" and "co-operation." Members of the body of Christ from thirteen different congregations met in Wellsburg, Va. on Saturday, April 12, 1834 to organize a baby "society" which eventually grew into a full-grown missionary society. They stated one of their needs: "A systematic co-operation of the churches for the conversion of the world." (REPORT of the PROCEEDINGS bv A. Campbell and J. T. M'Vay, page 2) Certainly, no one denies the need for co-operation; but many deny the need for the establishment of another organization through which congregations may co-operate, and many deny the need of some one congregation becoming a "clearing house" for church action. Co-operation is one thing, but "systematic" co-operation demands a law, and since God has no "law" for congregations funneling their funds through another organization designed to do the work of the church, such a "law" must be attributed to man. Thus, the making of this "law" for "systematic co-operation" must never reach beyond the local congregation. The men who met in 1834 failed to recognize this. They made the following resolutions:
RESOLVED, That in order to remedy one of the things wanting in the churches, it is the duty of the congregations to cooperate in the selection of proper persons to proclaim the word, and to give them directions in their labors, and to exercise a supervision over them.
RESOLVED, That there shall be a fund raised by voluntary subscription or contribution, in each congregation, for the support of those who labor in the word and teaching, and that this fund shall be forwarded quarterly to a Treasurer, who shall apply it under the direction of a committee to be appointed for that purpose. (REPORT of the PROCEEDINGS, page 10)
From the hearts of such men with good desires came the monster which disturbed, divided, and disgraced the church for which the Son of God died.
It is, then, no wonder that we refer to those who "uphold" the society as liberal. They borrow a plan from the "nation around" them, they force it upon their brethren, and they willingly press it past the point of division.
Let us consider WHY a "society" man is a liberalist. (a) just as the promoter of the mechanical instrument is not satisfied with the simplicity of God's design of worship, even so the "society" man is not satisfied with the simplicity of God's plan for work and His design of organization. He asserts that the "how" has been left to man's judgement, when what he really means is that the organization through which we operate has been left to man's discretion. Also, the absence of a scripture which says, The Missionary Society is wrong," affords him with a feeling of "justification." He is liberal because he refuses to recognize the right, the propriety, of each congregation acting as its own "missionary society" to determine for itself who is, and who is not, qualified to preach the word. (c) He is liberal because, like the advocate of mechanical instruments, he is willing to force his "expedient" upon the church, even if he knows division will result. Perhaps there are other reasons why such a man would be properly considered liberal, but these are sufficient to "mark" him as such.
In conclusion let us observe: It is not always the "anti" who makes a creed. The "liberalist" demands the acceptance of his "expedient" as if it were God's law. Perhaps the significant difference is found in the fact that the "anti" though he may be wrong, makes a "creed" because he believes its observance is necessary to life eternal, while the "liberal" makes a "creed" of that which he readily admits is non-essential, an "expedient."
(EDITOR'S NOTE: the REPORT of the PROCEEDINGS of that meeting in 1834, which was prepared by J.T. M'Vay and A. Campbell, is a recent discovery of a West Virginia imprint collector, H.E. Matheny, of Akron, Ohio. TRUTH Magazine has received permission from Mr. Matheny to reprint the 12-page account of that meeting. This we will do shortly, and copies will be made available to our readers at low cost.)
Truth Magazine II:2, pp. 2-3