Brother Hardeman' s Position, Past and Present

Bryan Vinson, Sr.
Longview, Texas

Brother N. B. Hardeman has through many years enjoyed a prominence in the churches of Christ by reason of his position as "the prince of Preachers," and as the head of one of "our" colleges which has been unexcelled. I cherish fond memories of hearing him preach a number of times, and have always appreciated the accomplishments of Brother Hardeman as an orator, educator, and gospel preacher. Only recently he wrote a letter to Brother J. W. Akin, who has since passed away, in which he stated that the church was dividing, but that he was determined not to permit this to affect his personal friendships. Hence, to whatever degree he regards me favorably I trust this notice of his recent interview and subsequent article in the Gospel Advocate will have no ill-effect on his regard to me. The most tragic, and seemingly irreparable, injury wrought by these differences is the personal animosity which has developed between brethren. It is hardly conceivable that one could demonstrate greater arrogance and display more egotism than is revealed in a resentment toward another because he differs from him as touching what he believes. Who am I, or who is Brother Hardernan, or anyone else as touching our importance that makes it a crime to differ from us? It isn't who differs from another brother that is necessarily wrong, but he who differs from the Word of God.

In the interview which Brother Hardeman granted to the Vice-President of the Gospel Press Missionary Society and the Secretary of the "second Alexander Campbell"-B. C. Goodpasture, he made some rather interesting admissions. Especially is this true in the light of the general tenor of his remarks and the attitude they reveal. In reply to the question: "In your judgment what are the four greatest dangers facing the church today?," he said: "First, a lack of Bible knowledge and a light regard for what it says. Second, a tendency to make the church a social club for entertainment. Third, a disposition to compromise the truth and to discourage its preaching. Fourth, a love for the praise of men more than the praise of God, lest they be put out of the club or some social organization." This is quite an indictment against the churches today by one who is so fondly regarded by them-that is, those on the march and so energetically devoted to the social activities against which he here declaims.

The first criticism he voices is, of course, the basic cause of the other points he mentions as meriting his criticism. But farther in this interview he laments the fact that this state of Bible ignorance includes the elders along with the rest of the members. Yet he puts all these matters, in dispute in the category of human judgment and as matters of expediency to be decided and determined by these ignorant elders. Perhaps herein lies the explanation for the rapid spread and growth among the congregations of all these promotional operations he so glibly defends. It is no mere coincidence that the growth of these operations and institutions has been in inverse ratio to the state of knowledge which he here notes and laments. Progress in truth is never experienced as knowledge decreases, but rather a departure from the truth is inevitable as a knowledge of the truth diminishes. Since Brother Hardernan looks with such Patriarchal favor and sanctifies with his voiced approbation these developments among us as herein noted, it does lead one to wonder why he doesn't interpret such as an index of greater knowledge and spirituality. But he doesn't. Further, he goes on record as viewing unfavorably the development of social activities and interests in the church. Of course these broad-minded and generous-spirited brethren will but smile and charge this discordant note in his effusions to his age. "Why, Brother Hardeman is getting old and we cannot expect him to keep in step in our on the march course in all matters. He belongs to another day -- why he isn't even interested in going to the moon; in fact, he doubts whether anyone will ever go there. We must recognize the fact that he is eighty-six years of age, and excuse him for his old fogy notions about social and entertainment activities in the church. We cannot expect him at his age to be interested in our young folks, and appreciate the efforts we are making to hold their interest in the church. At his age he might even be critical of some of the growing liberties among the young folks, even looking with disdain on dancing." At any rate the editor of the Advocate was agreeable to allowing such criticisms to be embodied in the remarks attributed to him so long as he would unlimber his big guns against the anti's. Also, Brother Hardeman has observed a disposition on the part of some brethren to "compromise the truth." We wonder who those brethren are? Are they among the anti's, or was he thinking of some whom he feels a far greater affinity for than those contemptible anti's? I dare say every preacher he had in mind when he made that statement, and the brethren whom he thinks discourage the fearless and faithful preaching of the truth, are in the liberal camp. If he has watched the silly, sickening amateurish acting-yes, play-acting-of the Herald of Truth current dramas, why he might possibly have had a fleeting recollection of some of that when he made that observation.

His fourth point in answer to the question posed deals with the matter of motives attaching to the action or course of men. Here, too, we are made to wonder where he is looking when he sees those who prefer the praise of men to that of God. Certainly not among the anti's-for they aren't enjoying the praise of men-not even that of Brother Hardeman; hence, he evidently has reference to those who are basking in the limelight. He might possibly have the editor of the Gospel Advocate in mind inasmuch as no one ever allowed so many pages of the paper he controls to be devoted to extolling his virtues and excellencies as has he. No one could ever conclude that Brother Goodpasture entertains any other feeling than of great delight and gratification in being the object of praise copiously and recurrently voiced in the Advocate. Of course all such is highly edifying to the saints and enlightening to the sinners in a claimed advocacy of the gospel of Christ on the hearts and affections of men.

Brother Hardeman is quoted as saying that-"I don't believe a church in Memphis, (Tenn.) knows as much Bible nor is as much devoted to the cause, as the church was fifty years ago." What an appalling admission! Aren't the churches in Memphis supporting the Herald of Truth and the orphan homes which have sprung up so numerously within the last fifteen years? If so, doesn't such reflect a greater "devotion to the cause" than was exemplified by the churches fifty years, ago when no such programs and cooperative arrangements as he now defends were in vogue? We would almost be led to thinking Brother Hardeman doesn't regard these present practices he is defending as being any evidence of real devotion to the cause of Christ. He should have been a little more cautious how he expressed himself, lest someone be suspicions he is at heart an anti himself. He says the church is weaker than it has been in years, spiritually, and the only way for it to become stronger is to go back to the Old Paths. What are those paths, Brother Hardeman? They cannot be such as embodies the Gospel Press, the Herald of Truth and the twenty-four orphan homes he mentions, for we are "in those paths" now; hence, the old paths are different to these new paths he is defending in one breath, and appealing for a return to the old paths in the next!

Some very sensible observations are made by Brother Hardeman in this two-installment interview, among which we note his reference to the graduating speech he heard once to the effect that young men should not get "too smart too soon." He then asks and answers the question: "Why, who is dividing the church now and causing all the confusion? The older men? No, it is the younger men. And they know little about it and don't have a general conception of the church." This is the finest admission as touching the responsibility for division which has come from the camp of the liberals. Of course at his age Brother Hardeman may think several of us are young men by way of comparison therewith, but if so he should note that many of us are as old as was he when he engaged in the Tabernacle meetings at Nashville, and certainly he didn't think he was too young then to know whereof he spoke. Of course we all know that two young men gave birth to the Herald of Truth, and through their promotional efforts it was sold to the churches. This creature of theirs has been the principal cause of division among the churches, and hence these young men are rightfully identified as those whom he referred to in the above statement.

He identifies these things he classifies as disturbances as matters of judgment and properly questions of expediency, and yet he confesses division is resulting therefrom. In a succeeding issue I wish to examine this position of his in this present situation and appraise it in the light of former pronouncements by him. But in conclusion here, be it observed that he catalogs, in his article of "Disturbances In The Church," of October 27, 1960, in the Advocate, a number of things which he asserts are without scriptural teaching on them, but that the absence of such teaching doesn't lead him to be opposed thereto. He mentions meeting houses, located preachers, how many dollars one should contribute, kind of bread on the Lord's Table, a baptistry, and at what age and whom our children should marry. These, and some others he enumerates, he says are matters of expediency, matters of common sense and judgment that the seniors (elders) of the church should make. In other words, if we mistake not his meaning, he thinks in all these the judgment to be exercised in deciding all such rests with the elders. We reserve to the future a more particular examination of this position here advanced, but wish to call attention to his confusion in and mixing things which are not in the same category. The idea of listing the matter of how old our children should be, and whom they should marry as coming within the oversight of elders is too absurd for words. The state lays claim to jurisdiction on the question of age, and no one but the parties involved have any legitimate voice in the choice of a companion, save where the State has legislated against miscegenation. The idea that elders have any voice in such smacks of close kinship and sympathy with the arrogant claims of the Roman Priesthood. I trust he really didn't mean that which he said on this point. However such thinking isn't out of line with some views entertained regarding the powers and rights of elders among us today. If elders can by assuming the oversight of a work, or an institution, transmute it into a scriptural work or thing when otherwise it would not be, then we should be very fearful of challenging their authority and rights in any respect.

Truth Magazine, V:5, pp. 10-12
February 1961