Bible Basics: Institutionalism: Right Or Wrong?

By Earl Robertson

The question has long plagued the people of God as to whether it is scriptural and right for churches of Christ to momentarily support human institutions or not. The conservative ones say no, the liberal ones say yes. What makes such a difference? Does the Bible authorize churches to support these human institutions? Or, does it make any difference whether the Bible gives authorization? Do we need’ Bible authority for churches to do such, anyway?

We hold that the Bible does not authorize churches of Christ to give support to David Lipscomb College to teach the Bible; yet, many churches are doing so. We contend they are doing so without Bible authority. Do they offer Bible to support them in such action? We are not aware of any! We are not alone in our contention. Guy N. Woods said in a speech at Abilene, Texas, “On the theory that the end justifies the means, brethren have not scrupled to form organizations in the church to do work the church itself was designed to do. All such organizations usurp the work of the church, and are unnecessary and sinful” (ACC Lectures, 1939, p. 53). He was then talking about organizations like Potter Orphan Home and School and David Lipscomb College. He declared them unnecessary and sinful! Woods further declared, “Religious secular organizations are always trying to encroach on the function of the New Testament church, interfere with its obligations, and attempt to discharge some of its functions. The church is the only organization authorized to discharge the responsibilities of the Lord’s people.When brethren form organizations independently of the church to do the work of the church, however worthy their aims and right their designs, they are engaged in that which is sinful” (Gospel Advocate Annual Lesson Commentary, 1946, p. 338).

Twice in those earlier years, the present Associate-Editor of the Gospel Advocate, said exactly what we teach: church support to such human institutions is not only unnecessary but without Bible authority and is therefore, sinful. Will the liberals of our day try to answer and defend their practice? Can they show the position set forth by Woods to now be wrong? Would either the College at Abilene or the Gospel Advocate in Nashville print and support these same writings again? Three to four decades have witnessed much doctrinal change! But the word of God has not changed at all.

Truth Magazine XXIV: 7, p. 124
February 14, 1980