By Ron Halbrook
Goodpasture Gave The Brethren A Shellacking For Putting The Church Into Entertainment
Benton Cordell Goodpasture (9 April 1895 – 18 Feb. 1977) edited the Gospel Advocate from 1939 until his death. Always something of a moderate in temper and style, he became the epitome of the “preacher-manager-institutional promoter,” as Ed Harrell noted (They Being Dead Yet Speak: Florida College Annual Lectures, 1981, p. 252). But B.C. Goodpasture was always of a somewhat conservative bent – in fact, hard core conservative on such basic themes as the verbal inspiration of the Bible, the historicity of miracles recorded in Scripture, and the Deity of Jesus Christ. He never waded into a controversy of any kind and actually gave the appearance of waiting to see how things might develop, calculating the odds rather than taking the initiative in an aggressive way against error.
During the 1950s Goodpasture exerted a tremendous influence, mostly in quiet and indirect ways, to secure the practice of churches making donations to human benevolent institutions. A study of the premillennial fight during the 1930s-40s will verify Harrell’s observation, “Foy Wallace scorched heretics; Goodpasture warned them that they would lose their position in the brotherhood” (ibid., p. 250). Similarly, during the 1950s E.R. Harper and Guy N. Woods declared war on brethren who opposed church sponsored institutionalism while the dignified Advocate editor simply declared a quarantine against them. His typical editorials had no exposition of Bible texts but appealed to tradition and the mood of the times as they served his purpose.
The mood of the 1940s was more open to controversy, but still it was not like Goodpasture to scorch and shellac his brethren as he did in “Newcomers Get A Shellacking” (editorial, Gospel Advocate LXXXVI [20 July 20 1944]:474). He was genuinely rankled over brethren drifting into church sponsored recreation, though he did not cry out so strongly in later years when the need was even greater. The article helps to measure some of the discomfort transitional men like Goodpasture must have felt later, and it is a healthy reminder to us all on the church’s mission. It ought to be reprinted on the Advocate’s front page by another transitional figure – Guy N. Woods, the present editor – but he cannot afford to do that since so many of the churches with which he associates are neck deep in recreational activities! They are joined to their idols and woe be the man who protests.
“Newcomers Get A Shellacking”
The foregoing headline was employed by a Western newspaper to describe what happened to a church of Christ in one of our middle Western states. It seems that this church did not enjoy anything like “beginners’ luck” in its new adventure in the world of sports. It lost – it was “shellacked.” It was not in the act of defending the truth against error when it was “shellacked.” It was not preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ when defeat came. It was not ministering to the worthy poor when it was “whitewashed.” It was striving for the mastery in an athletic contest at the time it was “blanked.” Here is the way the “sport editor” saw it:
“The Presbyterians blanked the church of Christ – 6 to 0 – in a church league softball game yesterday evening at the Municipal Stadium, while in a non-league game the First Baptists defeated the Dewey All-Stars on the Garfield grounds – 7 to 5.
“The First Methodists and First Christians, who were rained out Monday evening are scheduled to play off their game this evening at 6:45 at the stadium. “The scores by innings of yesterday’s game:
“Church of Christ 000 000 0–0 3 3
Presbyterians 201 300 x–6 8 0″
If this church had been defending the truth against the “points” of Calvinism instead of playing “in a church league (whatever that is) softball game,” it would not likely have been “shellacked.” Is “church league” ball playing an item on this church’s program”? What about the equipment of the players and their expenses? Are they taken care of in the church budget? Has the church, as such, “gone in” for athletics?
We have read in the New Testament that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15); that the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to preach the gospel in the regions where it had not been heard; and that certain Gentile churches sent to the relief of the poor saints in Jerusalem; but we do not recall any example of a congregation, as such, playing in or out of a “church league” game. Imagine such reports as these from the first century: “The church of God at Corinth shellacked in Isthmian game; the devotees of Venus proved too much for Christians.” “Charioteers of Zeus `plaster’ church of Christ in fierce chariot race at Antioch.” “Local Pharisees `whitewash’ `the sect of the Nazarenes’ in Roman league game.”
Admittedly, under proper circumstances, a member of the church, as such, might participate in some innocent game; but for the church, as such, to “go in for athletics” is another matter. To say the very least of it, it cheapens the church and imperils its influence to be mentioned either as “shellacking” or as being “shellacked,” whether in a “church league” or in a non-church league game. There is such a thing as taking the name of the Lord in vain. Is there no such thing as perverting the mission and using lightly the name of the church? The local notoriety this ball-playing church is getting out of its “shellacking” will not be an asset to it in doing the work of a New Testament church. It will be a positive handicap.
“Let not then your good be evil spoken of.” (Rom. 14:16). “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.” (I Cor. 15:58). No congregation will be “shellacked” while “abounding in the work of the Lord.”
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 2, pp. 47-48
January 20, 1983