Church Support Of Schools

Ray Ferris
Kenosha, Wisconsin

In two prior articles we have noted some of the startling doctrine that comes from the book We Be Brethren, and now we notice the plea that is made therein for the church to support the secular schools that are operated by our brethren.

"It is the thesis of the present author that churches can scripturally make gifts to the support of Christian schools. It is not proposed to argue here the question as to its expediency in a given case or to imply that it ought to become a regular practice." P. 186

A numbers of years ago a great battle was waged over this very problem, and it seemed for a long time that the battle had been won and that we would not have church support of schools. However, even during the period of time when it seemed to many that this issue was dead it was in reality being practiced on a rather wide scale by many. We might say it had merely "gone underground." At the present time there are very few schools operated by our brethren that will not readily accept any contribution that is made from the treasury of a church. Many of them are, no doubt, ready to make an all out drive for church support, but there will need to be a softening-up process performed on brethren in many places. Statements such as the one above will be very effective in that process.

Notice that brother Thomas states that it is, by his "thesis", scriptural for the church to make such gifts to schools, but that he does not propose to "imply that it ought to become a regular practice." That is a rather strange position! Why not make a practice that is scriptural a regular practice? Could it be true that brother Thomas is not ready to argue for such a thing because he knows there are many of his brothers in the Lord who have swallowed the doctrines concerning the benevolent societies, missionary co-operatives, etc. who might have to be classified by him and others who hold his position as "antis," and "extreme legalists" in this matter if it is pushed too hard now." Hear him again.

"Just because an expedient method might be scriptural does not at all imply that it must or even should be put into practice. Here, again, Christianity is not a Legalism, with things either "all white" or "all black." There could be all kinds of good reasons why it might not be wise to begin at once a general practice among us of having churches make gifts to Christian schools." P. 186

Notice the implication that a "method" might he expedient but not scriptural. This misunderstanding is one of the fundamental problems of many of those who insist upon these schemes for substituting for the church, and making the church subservient to other institutions. Anything that seems to be wise to their finite minds is deemed to be "expedient" and is then advocated as the panacea for all failures unless there is an express statement in the Bible to condemn the practice in so many words. This is the wrong approach! First, we must find authority for our practices, and then human wisdom is involved in determining expediency, only in those areas of authorized practice.

Since "There could be all kinds of good reasons why it might not be, wise to begin at once (Empasis mine, REF) a general practice among us of having churches make gifts to Christian schools" it would seem likely that brother Thomas would list a few of them. However, the nearest that we can find in the wav of such "good reasons" is this:

"It is neither wise, right nor scriptural to commit one sin in order to correct another. It is a greater sin to "tear up" a church or a BROTHERHOOD in trying to correct some errors than it would be to go more slowly and let time and brotherly love and consideration help to work things out." P. 187

Notice again the implication-it is a sin for the churches not to make financial contributions to the schools! However, it is not wise, right nor scriptural to commit another sin to correct that sin. Through the years I have been taught, and have taught, that man can not justify classifying the sins of men into categories of little ones, big ones, great ones, greater ones, etc. Evidently this was a mistake, for brother Thomas now tells us of a "greater sin" than letting our brethren practice sin without trying to get them to change that practice. It woud be interesting to determine how "Time and brotherly love and consideration" would help to cause brethren to leave their sins unless they were taught the necessity of doing so from the pages of God's word.

Brother Thomas continues in this same vein on page 187.

"Expressing the view that gifts to Christian schools could be "scripturally" made is not, therefore, to be understood as implying in any way that it would be unscriptural not to adopt such a practice, or that a general program of this type should begin immediately."

It is absolutely amazing to see the change in attitude concerning this so-called expedient of supporting the schools and the others that have been discussed in his book. The one who opposes church support of orphan homes, certain types of "co-operation", etc. is quickly and freely classified as an "anti" an "extreme legalist" and other appelations of a like nature. But this issue becomes one that must be handled more cautiously lest we "tear up" churches or disrupt the "BROTHERHOOD." Why do you suppose there is such a difference in attitude? Again we ask, could it be because the majority of "the BROTHERHOOD" is just not ready "now" to begin "immediately" to accept this doctrine and so instead of doing this "at once" we will have to wait a little longer than "Saturday night" to get the job done? Mark it well my brother. This is all one pill you are being asked to swallow - benevolent societies, missionary societies, educational societies, medical societies, and every other kind that can be dreamed up as accomplishing something that is "good" unto all men. Part of the pill is being camouflaged with a good sugar coating until it is swallowed, but once it goes down, or even gets a good downward start, the full bitter nature will be seen. Why is it right to "tear up" a church or a "BROTHERHOOD" over church support of one so-called expediency but wrong to do so over the same church support of another one. Perhaps the answer goes back to the need for money. We must be sure we have the money and the numbers on the right side before we begin to rip! Then look out!

The full size of the "pill" brethren are going to be asked to swallow in the final analysis can be determined from this statement on page 162 of this publication. "Any Christian, and thus any church, is OBLIGATED to do ANY GOOD IT CAN FOR ANY PERSON IT CAN, when it has the opportunity (Galatians 6:10.)" (Emphasis not mine, REF.) For some time now brethren have foolishly used this passage to attempt to prove collective church action in the field of benevolence. However, most of them have thus far tried to draw an imaginary line to limit "good" in the passage to the field of benevolence. Brother Thomas has simply taken the foolish argument that has been made in trying to make it an activity of the church and carried it to its logical conclusion. The passage simply says (to the individual) "do good unto all." Notice that Paul does obligate the individual Christian in the passage as he has opportunity. Note also that he does not limit in any way the good that is to be done. Therefore, if this is church action the church is "OBLIGATED to do ANY GOOD IT CAN FOR ANY PERSON IT CAN, when it has the opportunity." Thus there is no good thing the church could not do, and by the arguments that have been presented in this book, THERE IS NO ORGANIZATION THAT IS DOING GOOD TOWARD ANY PERSON THAT THE CHURCH CAN NOT CONTRIBUTE TO IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH THAT WORK! Brethren, are we ready for that argument? No wonder Thomas says not now, not at once, not immediately, etc.

Notice now how adroitly this whole situation is tied on to the question of the church supporting other human organizations, and thus the conclusion drawn that opposition to church support of schools will diminish.

"When we realize that the church can give financial and other support to a human organization that is not the church, for the purpose of getting the church's work done - then opposition to Christian schools as such, will no doubt diminish" (192).

You see, when we have been softened up enough on the matter of churches supporting human organizations under the guise that it is only a "method" of doing the Lord's will, then we will see opposition to the support of schools diminish to to point that it may be made just as much of an issue as support of societies, the Herald of Truth, sponsoring churches, etc. is an issue now.

The Church In Business

On pages 202 and 203 of his book brother Thomas lists in six paragraphs a number of hypothetical situations wherein he thinks "all of us" would agree to the church operating some form of business. These "situations" range through these different kinds of business; a rental agency, a real estate development agency, oil speculation, farming, investment firm, and grocery store operation. After assuming that "All of us would say this is scriptural," he draws a conclusion in the following lines:

"The logical conclusion that follows from all of this is that it is wrong for a church to operate income-producing ventures purely for the sake of the income or for the venture itself; but, when such are operated as a wise way to further expedite God's commands to the best advantage, they are perfectly scriptural, just like any other expedient. As expedients they are scriptural; otherwise, they are not." P. 203 (Empasis mine, REF.)

This paragraph leaves room for any church to operate any type of a honorable business as long as the elders deem it a "Wise way to further expedite God's commands to the best advantage." Now how do you suppose we had the courage through all of these years to oppose such money-making schemes as the pie suppers, rummage sales, etc. that our religious neighbors have operated in an effort to raise money? As business ventures just for the sake of income they would have been wrong, but not as "wise ways to further expedite God's commands!" Notice especially the last sentence in the paragraph. This is a flat denial of the very principle of Bible authority, and yet this man wonders why some refer to this type of "reasoning" (?) as a trend toward modernism and liberalism. A thing is either authorized by the scriptures or it is not. No matter how "wise" all the men of the world may deem things to be this will not change them from that which is unscriptural to things which are scriptural. We repeat - in spiritual affairs there is nothing that is ever expedient unless it is first of all legal.

This same mistaken attitude toward what makes a thing scriptural is again stated in the next paragraph on the same job - 203.

"We should note here that IT IS THE JUDGMENT OF THE ELDERSHIP that is responsible for deciding whether a certain action is expedient, and thus scriptural! It is not the prerogative of some critic. If the elders decide it is expedient and therefore scriptural, it behooves the rest of us to accept their decision. We should never criticize a decision of judgment as unscriptural when there is no definite violation of a required, pattern teaching of God."

Notice that the thought is expressed twice that if the elders decide a thing is expedient that this therefore makes it scriptural. The scripture still says, "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" James 4:12. If every elder in the world should decide that a thing is scriptural it would not make it so. Every child of God must be a critic concerning the things of a spiritual nature. It is never in order for any Christian to accept the decision of an eldership when said decision is not founded upon the authority of God's infallible word.

Attitude Toward Others

In concluding this paper we notice a quotation from page 216 which gives a very positive affirmation concerning attitudes, or the "spirit", which should be characteristic of us when we refer to one another in times of controversy.

"In the spirit, then of brotherly love we should never use a term in misapplication derogatorily. If we do we will only betray the fact that we do not personally love the BROTHER whom we criticize, and we might incidentally betray our ignorance or even hatred if we call some BROTHER a Modernist when our readers know better."

There comes to my mind this question: What is brother Thomas betraying when he does his labeling and name calling: Is it just a betrayal of a lack of personal love when he calls a "BROTHER" an "anti", a "legalist", and even an "extreme legalist" when our readers know better? Or is it a betrayal of ignorance? Could it even be hatred? Here is a man who needs to be told, "Physician, heal thyself." When his attitude toward others has improved he may be in a position to instruct people concerning the proper spirit to manifest in addressing one who is a brother in Christ.

Truth Magazine IV:10, pp. 21-24
August 1960