Consistency, Where Art Thou? (2)
In last month's issue of TRUTH MAGAZINE I pointed out some inconsistencies in the position Bro. Leslie Diestelkamp takes regarding a dual standard of scriptural authority for individual Christians and the collective church. Bro. Diestelkamp replied to my article in the same issue. I appreciate his willingness to discuss these matters on a constructive and impersonal basis, and in offering a few further observations shall endeavor to deal fairly with the basic issues involved. Certainly I do not relish controversy for its own sake, and hold no personal feelings to, justify such discussion. The following points are worthy of consideration:
1. Bro. Diestelkamp says that if I prove him inconsistent it will not show his "arguments to be faulty." Actually this is the only thing that it could prove. Truth is not inconsistent with truth. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, I made no claim that he was inconsistent in practicing what he teaches. Any inconsistency involved is in the rules which he gives for determining of scriptural authority and his method of applying those rules to the Book itself. It could be no other place since he is most consistent in practicing what he believes. Bro. Diestelkamp simply maintains certain things are authorized by the "revealed religion" of Christ, while objecting to other things which stand on the same footing and must stand or fall with those he defends.
2. Bro. Diestelkamp has left no room for human judgment in defining the area covered by scriptural authority. He says:
" (1) That which is lawful must be done. (2) That which is unlawful . . . is forbidden and must not be done."
I accept this definition with the understanding that all incidentals and expense necessary to carry out the thing authorized are also authorized and are included in point No. (1) as he lists them. This is true of things authorized to be carried out by either the church, the individual, or both. He agrees to this for he justifies expense money in carrying out "gospel work."
However, it will be noted that in his definition of the area of scriptural authority he has left just two fields-that which is authorized, and that which is forbidden, or unlawful. Now he says that "which authorizes a Christian does not authorize the church." Yet he says: "When the scripture sets a limit upon a Christian, the collective church certainly cannot violate that limitation." Now if the fields of authority and limitation are divided as he divides them, with authority ending where limitation begins, and limitation ending where authorization begins, how can the area of limitation for the Christian and the church be the same, and yet the area of authorization differ? If the church and an individual Christian each had one hundred dollars, each spent twenty-five and each deposited twenty-five in some bank, could it be said that the church had fifty dollars left but the Christian had sixty-five? This would be no more absurd than saying that the Christian has a larger area of scriptural authorization left than the church after an identical field of limitation is closed off for each.
Bro. Diestelkamp's error is in his confusing those things which the individual does as a parent, as a member of Adam's race (such as eating), and as a breadwinner (providing food, and education for his dependents) with the things we do, because we are Christians, and which God requires of those who become Christians.
3. In justifying the presence of the incorporation of the church with a board of trustees Bro. Diestelkamp in reality admits my point. The incorporated entity (the legal one) exists apart from the spiritual one, and the trustees are the only head recognized by the law unless they install some officers such as president, vice president, etc. The attempt is made to offset this by claiming that it does not control the church. That is not the issue: It exists to do something that is a part of the work of the church, and is created by the church to do that work. In the practical sense it is not another organization, but from the viewpoint which insists that the orphan home board is "another organization" apart from the home this legal corporation must be seen as apart from the church. Even Bro. Roy Cogdill, in the Woods-Cogdill debate, was forced to define the legal corporation as apart from the spiritual one. (Woods Cogdill Debate, p. 43, 44.)
Bro. Diestelkamp admits my point by saying:
"actually when it is said that I 'approve' the 'corporate entity' (incorporation with trustees) it is stretching a point. I tolerate such, but have always opposed such unless it is absolutely necessary to meet requirements of the law."
If the presence of the board of trustees did not represent "another organization" from the standpoint of Bro. Diestelkamp's definition of that term he would not merely "tolerate such." Does he claim that a committee can be appointed within the church only when the law requires it? I oppose that which I believe to be wrong even if the law does require it, Acts 5:29. It is not my privilege to oppose my brethren in the use of expedients that are in themselves right even when the law does not make it "absolutely necessary."
4. It was stated that I unintentionally misused another writer's statement. I stated that "another writer says that the idea 'where there is no pattern' is equal to, 'the first step in social gospelism'." Bro. Diestelkamp quoted the first part of the statement to which I referred, making mention of "the first step in social gospelism." He did not take notice that four sentences further on the writer gave an example of what he meant. He said:
"For instance, the president of one of the colleges among us has circulated a tract entitled, "Where there is no pattern." -TRUTH MAGAZINE, Jan. 1959, p 81
If this be not a case of saying that the idea of "where there is no pattern" is equal to taking that first step into social gospelism, I fail to get any meaning from it. Since Bro. Diestelkamp says there is no pattern showing how the meeting place of the saints is to be provided he has taken that step if the statement be true.
5. One of my main objectives in writing the preceding article was to show that Bro. Diestelkamp is inconsistent in establishing his double standard of authority for churches and individual Christians. I could not have stated my point better than he has:
"Likewise the N. T. teaches Christians to assemble (Heb. 10:25), and since assembling requires a place of assembly, the necessary inference authorizes the church to secure such." (emphasis mine,
Allow me to borrow his words:
"Likewise the N. T. teaches Christians to do good to all men, (Gal. 6:10), and since doing good requires some means of doing good, the necessary inference authorizes the church to secure such."
Bro. Diestelkamp cannot evade the fact that here is an identically parallel situation. Two duties required of Christians who make up the entire church, expressed in passages addressed to all Christians, and the carrying out of either of them requires certain incidentals. According to Bro. Diestelkamp one of them contains "necessary inference" to authorize the church collectively to act, while in the other case he insists the church can never act.
Bro. Diestelkamp errs in saying that necessary inference enters into the matter in either case. The only question is whether the church may do what is shown by apostolic authority to be the duty of all Christians. Even in the case of the meeting house it is a case of whether the church collectively may provide what is shown by apostolic example to have been provided by individual Christians in N.T. times. Bro. Diestelkamp admits the command was given to individuals. His double standard will not allow him to shift the. weight of responsibility for providing the place to meet from the individual to the church, unless that which is the duty of all such individuals is admitted to be the duty of the church.
Bro. Diestelkamp says we do not know how the meeting place was provided in Damascus or Samaria. But let us remember, neither are we told on what day they observed the Lord's Supper or by what method they baptized in those places-unless what we know of those practices in other places applied there too. All the meeting houses we do have as examples were either public places of meeting, or private property.
6. In discussion of the question which I raised as the real issue, Bro. Diestelkamp has referred to orphan homes, the Missionary Society, and TRUTH MAGAZINE, INC. as though these all must stand on the same footing. This may have been an oversight, but it clouds the issue. If Bro. Diestelkamp will agree that he would ask Christians to contribute to the Missionary Society as they are asked to contribute to TRUTH MAGAZINE, (inside cover, Feb. issue) then he may let his statement stand. Unless he will, the Missionary Society has no place at all in the matters we are discussing, and he should not imply that those who support the orphan homes are defending such a Society.
Bro. Diestelkamp says that "we cannot simply assume that the church can help a Christian in every area of activity, even though that which he does is something which the church may do too." Let us examine this point.
Since it is universally agreed that the church may help the individual in some of the areas of common responsibility (as in supplying the preacher's personal needs, Phil. 4:16), let us just assume that his statement is true and see where it leads us.
It will mean that the church can help the individual in no area except where we have a direct command or specific example in the New Testament. There can be no necessary inference here save in incidentals connected with things covered in command or example. Since we are considering the matter of the church assisting the individual, there can be no necessary inference. For anything we might try to place in this category could possibly have been supplied by the individual. According to Bro. Diestelkamp, therefore, in matters involving the help of the individual by the church we are limited to command and example for authority. But look where this leads:
This will mean that all cases of churches assisting preachers to obtain their travel funds, moving expenses, and the tools they use in preaching the word are not authorized. We have no specific example, we have no direct or indirect command, and in every case we must admit that the individual may have supplied these things himself as Paul provided his house in Rome, Acts 28:30. These are not necessarily inferred in the declaration that "those who preach the gospel shall live of the gospel," nor in Paul's reference to his "necessity" or "wages." Those (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:16; Cor. 9:4) refer to the preacher's personal needs. So, Bro. Diestelkamp, unless we can conclude that the church may help the individual in all areas where both are authorized and have a common responsibility, then you must limit such help to all areas covered by example and command. But no further.
To many brethren such hair-splitting as must be done to discuss such issues is deplorable. But so long as brethren try to maintain a double standard for the church and individual Christians it will be necessary to do it in order to set forth the truth.
Again I commend Bro. Diestelkamp for his fine attitude in discussing these points.
Truth Magazine III:7, pp. 4-7