David Lipscomb on “Newspaper Wrangles”

By O.C. Birdwell, Jr.

Religious journals have long been used as an excellent means to get before the reading public different positions that are taken on numerous biblical and religious subjects. Since there are obvious differences on many subjects there needs to be a discussion of those differences in the light of Bible teaching. Most public debates, both oral and written, have been conducted in order to investigate these differences and establish truth. In past years many brethren were fearful of a position until it was tested in public discussion. If it was tested in such discussion and found to be untrue it was immediately rejected. Open and honorable religious discussion was regarded as the best way to establish truth. Religious journals were used as the most practical media for such discussion.

Many need to be re-educated to the purpose and need for religious discussion and debate. Too often, in our day, there is objection to even a small amount of friendly disagreement in a Bible class. Some refuse to take a religious paper lest there be what they call “a fuss” found somewhere on its pages. A number, including some preachers, have become so sensitive to any disagreement that if one thing they say is called in question, they will immediately impugn the motive of the one who questions, and in turn will attack his character, misrepresent what he says, and try to destroy his reputation.

In the Gospel Advocate (June 5, 1879), under the heading “Church Difficulty at Bowling Green, ” brother David Lipscomb had the following to say. What he said then is just as relevant today as it was when it was written over 100 years ago.

The expression “newspaper wrangle” in reference to the effort of brethren to teach truth and correct error through the papers savors neither of the courtesy of the well-bred gentlemen, nor the gentleness and kindness of the Christian. What is termed the “newspaper wrangle” has been the most efficient means of delivering the masses from the bondage of error, and developing the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, of all other instrumentalities within the last century. Indeed written and published exposure of error and defense of truth have been the means from the apostolic day down, above all others used by men earnest for the truth, for infusing truth, and eradicating error among the people.

A man who sneers at it advertises his own incompetency to appreciate the truth’s most honored instrument of defense and offense. He casts no obloquy upon what all sensible men know has established its character. Errorists of every hue, conscious of the weakness of error yet wedded to it, greatly oppose A newspaper wrangles.”

Brother Lipscomb did not, nor do we, make any defense of an ugly and unkind spirit on the part of anyone in the discussion of differences. Effort should not be made to bind personal opinion and human tradition on others. Let us not be contentious for our own will and way while contending for the truth. The fact that some are not honorable in discussion should not be an argument against all discussion. I fear for any people when open and honorable investigation, objection, and even rejection is suppressed. History shows that such people have all gone into apostasy.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 24, p. 743
December 18, 1986