By Roy E. Cogdill
One of the very evident indications of a sectarian attitude and a movement upon the part of liberal churches of Christ today toward denominationalism is a change of message or emphasis in preaching. This is evident as the changes in organization and methods that we have been writing about. All of it is very definite evidence of a difference in attitude toward the Word of God.
The difference in the preaching that is heard now and that of just a few years ago is evident in the fact that there is very little actual preaching of the Bible. Fundamental doctrines have been laid aside. Denominational error is no longer condemned. Religious bodies are rarely ever criticized for what they do or say and even when they are, the name and identity must not be made known. The plain, positive preaching of a distinctive New Testament message is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Unity upon the basis of love, toward fellowship, that will allow anything but opposition to what we want to do is the order of the day. Nice, eloquent speeches full of “sweet little nothings” that will emotionally stir up the people and bring responses to the invitation are the demand. “Hell Fire and Damnation” preaching is out of order, for so many do not believe in it any longer. Just a very few of the “ancient landmarks” are adhered to in the preaching that is being done now. How long has it been, my brother, since you heard the preacher to whom you listen, condemn the popular sins of the day: dancing, drinking, gambling, etc.? How long has it been since you heard your preacher condemn denominational and sectarian organizations? How long since you heard the sectarian methods of money raising condemned by the teaching of the Word of God? Liberal preachers today are giving only lip service, and sometimes not too much of that, to such fundamental themes as “one faith, one baptism, and one body.” Such themes as “Divine Authority” are forgotten. Instead we are being told on every hand that we need no authority! The undenominational character of the church is no longer emphasized and the old slogans, scriptural in principle whether in word or not, are no longer pressed upon the attention and consciences of the people of God: “We speak where the Bible speaks and we are silent where the Bible is silent;” “We call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways.” Of course, if we are not going to practice them, we should quit preaching them!
In the slackening of opposition to denominational doctrines, organizations, and to the very spirit and core of sectarian religion, there is very strong evidence of our drift toward this same end. Protistan denominationalism is impotent in its opposition to Roman Catholicism today and has been all along because its heritage is largely Catholic in origin. There are too many of the “relics of Rome” in all of the protestant bodies for them to militantly and successfully oppose Catholicism. They are non-protestant. Even so many of the preachers and congregations among the, so-called, “churches of Christ” today are disarmed before they start opposing denominational error, because they have adopted too many of the things that originate therein.
Very few of the denominational bodies around us are giving any more emphasis to “social gospel” preaching and activity than many of the brethren. A few years ago, preachers like Foy E. Wallace, Jr., were crying out from one end of this country tip the other against the demand for a “new and social gospel.” In clear and ringing tones that still resound in the hearts of many of us who were inspired by him and others then, all error in and out of the church was condemned and the “perversion” of the Gospel of Christ into a “Social Gospel” was anathematized with all of the power and eloquence of the prophets of old when they cried out against the departures and unfaithfulness of Israel in the long ago. What a pitiful spectacle he is now, as he becomes the agent and tool of the liberal element among the churches and condones and endorses and seeks to build up that which he once destroyed. A recent paper from a “benevolent society,” called an “Old Folks Home,” stated that he had investigated its organization and its operation and endorsed it in every detail and that they were free to use his name and influence for their promotions in whatever way tyey wished. Now whatever name and influence he may have among brethren today will not mean much to those who remember him in days gone by. A sell-out is too evident! Will he try to defend and justify such a change in attitude by the Word of God? No, he, along with the rest, knows that there is no scriptural justification for such a change in attitude toward God’s Word. With faces set toward Rome, they march on and choose to ignore those along the way who cry out against their unfaithfulness and their unbelief and warn them that “men-pleasers cannot be servants of Christ.” Those who once rose up to defend what they preached and practiced, choose to withdraw from the field of battle and try to make themselves secure in the valley of compromise. They may fatten for awhile but eventually the “anathemas” of the Lord, which once they sounded out, will sweep them out of their “refuge of lies” and leave their pitiful plight exposed to God’s righteous judgment. We find no delight in their condemnation, but grief. We would save them if we could, and we still love them, but when bitter resentment is the only response to every appeal that can be made, there is nought left to do but grieve and pray that they may see the error of their way.
Sometimes we have indications that some of our readers think that we have gone off on some tangent and are beside ourselves when we constantly call the attention of brethren to the “degressive” departures being made by liberal brethren all over the land. Many of the things being done are so far out in “right field” that even liberals themselves cannot believe it. Such projects as “Cows For Korea,” “World-Wide Radio,” “World’s Fair Evangelism,” “Campaigns For Christ,” and many, many more that could be listed are but impressive evidence of what have been writing about: “Denominationalizing The Church.” A dozen different kinds of missionary societies, as well as benevolent and educational societies, some of them under a single eldership-but missionary societies none the less-and some of them even set up as separate organizations, whose very existence is designed to do the work that the Lord committed to His organization, the church, make the departures of so many professed “churches of Christ” very real even though they may to many sound unbelievable. Many of the “middle-of-the-roaders” would be completely astounded by a list of such projects and organizations, but they need to be, so they can see what they have committed themselves to; and committed themselves they have, for there is no “halfway” ground. The attitude of “liberalism” is a package deal-if one is right they are all right. To try to find little things to object to and eliminate about the whole program is to “strain out the gnat and swallow a camel.”
Truth Magazine XIX: 56, pp. 888-889
December 11, 1975