Denominationalizing the Church

By O.C. Birdwell

You name it and probably it is sponsored by some church. The Apline Hills church of Christ in Mobile, Alabama published a “Monthly Report” from two men (Marvin F. Bryant and Robert Shank) whom they apparently sponsor as ministers to the ministers. They spend their time talking to denominational preachers about coming over to “us.” They arrange church sponsored luncheons, feed, preachers, and try to get them to preach for the “Church of Christ.”

This type action denominationalizes the church, making it appear to be only a part, although maybe a better part, of the overall body of Christ. Our religious friends have, through the years, affirmed that we are a denomination as are they. Now these liberal brethren, as well as some who may claim not to be so liberal, seem to admit it. That you understand why I say this, I present the following quotations from Robert Shank in a recent “Monthly Report” printed and circulated by the Mobile church.

“One of the important events of May for me was the privilege I had of lecturing at Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, on the question of apostasy. I spoke an hour before a large class of graduate students. One of the students asked about the significance of baptism and I had opportunity to share some things with them about the place and meaning of baptism in Christian experience.”

Baptism in Christian experience? He sounds like a Baptist to me! This statement by Shank reminds me of a story I heard about some Jesuit priests who, during the early days of our country, went to convert the Indians. They told about Jesus but had no converts. They then presented the Christ as a great Indian chief with many scalps by his wigwam. Multitudes of Indians flocked to the banner. This prompted an observant bystander to remark, “It seems that rather than the Jesuits converting the Indians to Christianity, the Indians have converted the Jesuits to paganism!” Likewise, from the language Shank uses about baptism, I conclude the Baptists had no problem accepting what he said on the subject.

But consider what he further says about the Baptist Seminary. “I believe the school is committed to an objective approach to the scriptures and sincerely concerned for the authority of the Bible and for a biblically oriented theology. Let us not assume that only in churches of Christ are men found who are committed to the authority of the Bible in matters of faith, for there are many such men in various denominations.”

Lest the reader make a mistake and think the above is my statement, I remind you again that it is from Robert Shank, preacher sponsored by the Alpine Hills church of Christ in Mobile. He says the Seminary is for “a biblically oriented theology” and many “are committed to the authority of the Bible in matters of faith.” Friend, if this is true there is nothing wrong with the Southern Baptist Seminary! Is what the Bible says on the establishment of the church, the name we are to wear, baptism unto remission of sins, the Lord’s Supper, worship to God, and church organization and work not related to matters of faith? Truth on these and many other Bible subjects is not taught by denominationalists, including the Baptist Seminary. Yet, Brother Shank says they are committed to the authority of the Bible in matters of faith. He believes, therefore, that baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and other things mentioned are not matters of faith.

Brother Shank goes on to say, “Let us thank God for all such men, and let us humbly seek the good of all, seeking always to grow in our own understanding of the faith once delivered to the saints and to encourage other men to do the same.” Grow in our understanding and encourage others to grow in their understanding. Is this what he says? I believe it is. And denominationalists have been saying this for years. The Bible says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). “By that same rule let us walk” (Phil. 3:16), and when we thus walk we will “speak the same thing” (1 Cor. 1:10).

I caution brethren to be on guard against any man, whether he be preacher, editor, or something else, who will be silent on any New Testament truth in order to court the favor of evangelical or liberal seminarians. They usually have something to promote other than the simple gospel and man’s acceptance of it. Such men, whether they be so called liberals or conservatives, are not worthy of support.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:1, p. 13
November 1, 1973