By Larry Ray Hafley
Under the title above, Leon Cole, Florence, Alabama, wrote:
“What began as a legitimate protest to including the colleges in the budgets of the churches, questionable projects promoted by a traveling elder or preacher who often would benefit financially if it were adopted, and an effort to make the church a glorified welfare agency, or to ‘glamorize the church’ by watering down the gospel, degenerated into the formation of a sect.
“This sect was led by some preachers who sought to have the preeminence, and it was not long till a creed was formulated. The basic tenets were: One church may not help another in a cooperative work under any circumstances; Galatians 6:10 and James 1:27 are limited to individuals, and benevolence by the church is to saints only; church property is sacramental, and eating on the premises is forbidden, some even declare weddings and funerals should be excluded from the church buildings.
“Very little space needs to be given in refuting these inconsistent and erroneous contentions. According to the teaching of this sect, if a family where the parents are members of the church are destitute, the church could not contribute from its treasury to that family if there were children too young to be members unless the parents would refuse to let the children eat. Galatians 6:10 does apply to the church for at verse 11 it is said, “ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.” Then in Galatians 1:2,2 Paul wrote to the ‘churches of Galatia,’ therefore, Paul told the churches of Galatia to do good unto all men. If we cannot eat on church premises neither could food be eliminated on church premises. As Brother Foy Wallace says, ‘according to this notion rural churches must return to the old fashioned ‘out-houses’ and urban churches have a problem to solve! (First Century Christian, July, 1976, p. 7).
Brother Cole opposes (1) “including the colleges in the budgets of the churches;” (2) certain “questionable projects;” (3) efforts “to make the church a glorified welfare agency;” (4) glamorizing the church “by watering down the gospel.” We are in complete agreement with our brother on these points. We oppose the same things. However, Brother Cole laments the degeneration of these “legitimate” protests “into the formation of a sect.” If “a sect” such as he has described has indeed evolved, we stand with him in revulsion and abhorrence against it.
Our brother says, “This sect was led by some preachers who sought to have the preeminence.” Who are these men? How does he know this was their attitude? Can he read and search the hearts? One would think that the Diotrephes disposition would more likely tend to reside in those who sought to “glamorize” and capitalize on the church. Further, if these men truly sought preeminence, they sought it with the wrong crowd. Their political astuteness leaves much to be desired. The popular path a century ago was to advocate missionary societies. The surest way to be flushed into “brotherhood oblivion” was to withstand them. Today, those who contend against benevolent societies achieve the same obscurity.
Tenets Of The Creed
Brother Cole catalogs four tenets of the creed of this “sect.”
(1) “One church may not help another in a cooperative work under any circumstances.” The tenet is certainly unscriptural. New Testament churches did cooperate under some circumstances (Acts 11:27-30; Rom. 15:25-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8 & 9). Those who say “one church may not help another (church) . . . under any circumstances” are surely wrong. Will our brother cite the local church or name the gospel preacher who believes that church cooperation “under any circumstances” is forbidden? He knows some of this persuasion, or so he intimates. We call upon him to tell us who they are.
(2) “Galatians 6:10 and James 1:27 are limited to individuals.” We agree with the “sect” that these texts are directed to the individual rather than to the congregation. Still, there is no justification for benevolent societies if the verses were directed to churches. If James 1:27 (“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”) is to the local church, it does not authorize the church to contribute funds to a benevolent organization. It would simply instruct the church, not the benevolent society, to do the work. If Galatians 6:10 (“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”) instructs the local church to do good unto all men, it does not authorize the church to contribute funds to a benevolent organization so that the benevolent organization may do the work. If Galatians 6:10 allows the church to donate money to benevolent societies, does it not also authorize donations to Baptist owned and operated benevolent societies? After all, the good is to be done “unto all men.” So, if it applies to the local church’s making a contribution to a benevolent organization, why not make it to a Baptist benevolent society as well as to one operated by those “of the household of faith?”
(3) “Benevolence by the church is to saints only.” If “by the church” refers to the local congregation in its collective sense, then we agree with the sect’s tenet on this point. No passage in the New Testament would “make the church a glorified welfare agency.” The passages which deal with congregational benevolence involve assistance to saints. Let Brother Cole find an exception.
(4) “Church property is sacramental and eating on the premises is forbidden.” We reject the sect’s view. The church is sacred, for they are God’s people, but church property is not sacramental-“that which is used in or connected with the administration of a sacrament” (Webster). The vital issue is the work of the church. The church may provide the facilities to perform work assigned to it. Has the church been charged to provide social meals, entertainment and refreshment? If so, it may provide kitchens, dining rooms,, and playgrounds. These items are scriptural provisions if they are to carry out the
function of the church. Does Brother Cole know of a passage which authorizes the church to provide common, social meals, refreshment, and entertainment? One wonders if the general dining use of church facilities is limited to “saints only.” After all, the church, according to our brother, must do the same for all men, so why not open up the non-sacramental church facilities for social purposes to every one? Or does church property suddenly become “sacramental” if an innocent little group of orphaned Cub Scouts wants to use the building once a week?
Considering Cole’s Comments
(1) “According to the teachings of this sect, if a family where the parents are members of the church are destitute the church could not contribute from its treasury if there were children too young to be members unless the parents would refuse to let the children eat.”
Brother Cole could not have presented a more prejudicial, baseless misrepresentation, if he had been speaking of brethren known to me; but, alas, he was speaking of an unidentified “sect.” If this sect believes as he has represented them, we stand with our brother against them. Surely, in the general relief of the destitute saints in Acts 11:27-30 and Rom 15:25-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; and 2 Cor. 8 & 9, there were parents with children who were not Christians. Parental duty is to provide for their children. When the parents cannot do this, they are in need, in want, and relief is sent to them.
But let us feed Brother Cole out of his own spoon. “According to the teachings of Brother Cole, if a benevolent society where the operators are Baptists and the housekeepers are Baptists are destitute, the church could not make a donation from its treasury to that benevolent organization of poor, helpless, starving Baptists, unless, of course, they refused to let the children eat.” Or could it, Brother Cole?
(2) “Galatians 6:10 does apply to the church, for at verse 11 it is said, ‘ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.’ Then in Galatians 1:1, 2, Paul wrote to the ‘churches of Galatia,’ therefore, Paul told the churches of Galatia to do good unto all men.”
If Brother Cole’s analysis will work to prove that verse 10 is addressed to the church, then it ought to work to prove the same thing with respect to verse 12. “As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” (Gal. 6:12). Using Brother Cole’s reasoning from Galatians 1:1, 2 and 6:11, we should conclude that some were trying to circumcise the local church in its collective capacity! Is that true, Brother Cole? Were the Judaizaers in Galatia seeking to have individuals or local churches circumcized-which? If “you” in verse 11 is the congregation, the “you” in verse 12 is the congregation. But individuals were being bound with circumcision, not churches (Gal. 5:1-4; 6:12). The local church is not under consideration in Galatians 6:10-12, unless one can circumcise it.
(3) “If we cannot eat on church premises, neither could food be eliminated on church premises.”
Food might be eaten on church premises just as incidentally as it is eliminated, or will our brother say that the church may plan and provide facilities for the church to come together for general toilet use as they do for eating purposes? Answering a brother according to his folly is hardly worth the effort.
“Colleges In The Budgets Of The Churches”
Brother Cole believes that it is a “legitimate protest” when one is “anti” or against including “colleges in the budgets of the churches.” Brother Cole, KB. Hardeman and Batsell Barrett Baxter have publicly stated that benevolent societies in the budgets of the churches is no different in principle to “including the colleges in the budgets of the churches.” Those brethren contend that contributions from churches “stand or fall” together. The right to contribute to one is the right to contribute to the other. Evidently Brother Cole does not so believe. He knows something Brethren Baxter and Hardeman do not know. What is the difference? Where did those brethren miss the point, Brother Cole?
Truth Magazine XXI: 23, pp. 363-365
June 9, 1977