By Mike Willis
Reproduced on the opposite page is an article by Roy H. Lanier, Jr. entitled “The ‘Para-Church’: Is It God’s?” The article is a well-written article, emphasizing the need for the church not to become a fund-raising organization for human institutions. The article appeared in the March 1989 issue of the Gospel Advocate.
I met brother Lanier for the first time at the Nashville meeting in December 1988. He is a likeable brother and, so far as I know, an honorable man and gentleman. He has treated me with kindness in every association we have had. He understands that brethren can differ without having personal animosity, so I am confident that these comments will be understood to be those from a concerned brother, not full of enmity and malice.
Brother Lanier is a part of the new “anti’s,” those conservative liberals who are disgusted at the liberalism they are witnessing among their brethren. He is more nearly identified with the Spiritual Sword brethren than with any other identifiable group among the liberals.
Nevertheless, brother Lanier was among the liberals when the issues divided brethren twenty to thirty years ago. He was more nearly identified with the old Firm Foundation liberals (who believed that orphan homes had to be under elderships to be scriptural; those under a board of directors were unscriptural) than with their Gospel Advocate cousins (who believed that homes under elderships were sinful; they had to be under a board of directors). He was part of that generation who wanted church supported orphan homes (only if they were organized under elderships) and small fellowship halls. He did not accept church support of colleges, medical missions, day care centers’, schools, camps, nor gyms.
Although the Gospel Advocate published brother Lanier’s article, they are not within a million miles of conceding that he is right in arguing “that today’s generation of churches has carelessly crossed some vital boundaries” of truth by making donations to “extra-organisms” (orphanages, schools, medical units, etc.). By publishing this article the Advocate seems to be throwing him a sop to keep him contented and working with them, instead of breaking fellowship with them. Remember that Editor Kearley teaches, in contrast to Lanier, that churches “may assist with child care centers, Christian schools, Christian camps, and other expedient means,” i.e. what Lanier calls “extra-organisms” (Gospel Advocate [November 1988], p. 5).
Brother Lanier might write strongly against the church making contributions to human institutions (colleges, orphan homes, medical missions, missionary societies, etc.), but do not be deceived. It is doubtful that brother Lanier will ever say that those who practice such things are guilty of sin, separated from God, and should not be fellowshipped.
In the paper which he submitted for the Nashville meeting, brother Lanier argued the same position which is reproduced in the article on the opposite page. After distinguishing the differences between those brethren who believe orphan homes should be under a board of directors and those who say they should be under elders, he wrote,
This is not the position of this paper (i.e., that orphan homes can be under a board of directors, mw), but neither is it a position that requires a break in fellowship. Such arguments are so technical and so dependent upon human reasoning, conclusions, and inferences, that it behooves Christians not to divide the Body of Christ over such conclusions.
Can you imagine David Lipscomb writing a “para-church” article regarding the missionary society in the following words?
This is not the position of this paper (i.e. that missionary societies can be under a board of directors, mw), but neither is it a position that requires a break in fellowship. Such arguments are so technical and so dependent upon human reasoning, conclusions, and inferences, that it behooves Christians not to divide the Body of Christ over such conclusions.
Neither would brother Lanier have written these words regarding the missionary societies of the Christian Church!
I cannot understand brother Lanier putting church support of human institutions (benevolent societies) in the category of sin and then calling on brethren not to allow to sin to break their fellowship one with another. If this isl matter of sin, it falls into the category of 2 John 9-11 and not in the category of Romans 14. If it falls into the category of Romans 14, it is judgment and not sin.
Brother Lanier Can See Clearly
Brother Lanier does not have trouble seeing that one cannot tolerate the practice of sin or those who teach false doctrine when the issue is instrumental music. The Independent Christian Church brethren, such as Don DeWelt, do not insist that churches of Christ start using instruments of music in order for fellowship to exist. They do not insist that we cease believing that using instruments of music in worship is sinful. They are content that we continue practicing what we practice and preaching what we believe, so long as we extend the right hands of fellowship to those in the Christian Church who use instruments of music in worship. Brother Lanier can see that will not work on the issue of mechanical instruments of music in worship. Why can’t he see that this will not work on the subject of church support of human institutions?
More of the Same
Brother Lanier is not the only person affected with this mistaken view. There are those among us who believe the same as he does, but on different issues. They will acknowledge that what a brother is teaching is false doctrine and then continue to call on him for prayer, invite him for lectureships, and treat him as a faithful brother. Such an approach amounts to a policy of accommodation and compromise with false doctrine. This is not the Bible approach to digression and apostasy over matter such as church support of “extra-organisms,” the social gospel agenda, instrumental music in worship, premillennialism, or divorce and remarriage.
Can you image the apostle Paul doing the same with some Judaizing brother in the first century? Can you picture him
saying, “I do not agree with what brother Judaizer has written on justification, but he has such a thorough understanding of the Old Testament history and law that we are going to – invite him for our annual lectureship at Antioch this spring”? Can you image him introducing Hymenaeus saying, “Brethren, I want you to know that I disagree with what brother Hymenaeus has written on the resurrection, for he says that the resurrection has passed already, but we have invited him to preach on love to us here at Ephesus”? Here is what he did write:
This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare: holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:18-20).
But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker; of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some (2 Tim. 2:17-18).
These words are from the pen of the same apostle who wrote Romans 14. Romans 14 does not apply to matters which fall into a category of sin rather than judgment. Romans 14 is limited to things that are “clean” (Rom. 14:14),,areas in which God receives the man (Rom. 14:3). Until one can show that God receives a man practicing sin, defending it as righteous conduct and encouraging others to join him in participating in it, he should not apply Romans 14 to that matter.
How to Treat False Teachers
The Scriptures tell us how to treat false teachers. Here are some of its demands:
1. They should be marked and avoided. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause division and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17).
2. They should not be associated with. “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).
3. They should be cast out of the church. In the allegory of Hagar and Sarah, Paul cited the example of Abraham’s casting out Ishmael to exhort that the Judaizers be cast out of the church (Gal. 4:21-30). This was necessary because “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9).
4. They should be rebuked. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather rebuke them” (Eph. 5:11). Paul told Titus to “rebuke sharply” the Cretian false prophets (Tit. 1:13). (Some seem more interested in rebuking those who rebuke false teachers than in rebuking a false teacher.)
5. Deliver them to Satan. Paul delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan that they might learn not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:20).
6. Do not eat with them or bid them God speed. “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. . . . If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 Jn. 9-11).
7. Stop their mouths. “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Tit. 1:10-11).
8. Reject them. “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject” (Tit. 3:10).
The Lord rebuked the church at Thyatira for following the course which brother Lanier is following regarding church support of human institutions. The Lord wrote:
Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not (Rev. 2:20-21).
The Lord gave Jezebel a time to repent before making war against her. When she refused to repent, he came against her in judgment (2:22-23). The church at Thyatira sinned in tolerating Jezebel and her false teaching.
I recognize that a period of study, as we presently are in on the divorce and remarriage issue, will be necessary on any issue which confronts the Lord’s people. The breaking of fellowship is not the first step to be taken when a walk toward apostasy begins, but the last. Some of us might think that step should be taken at a different time than others, and each must give the other room to exercise his best judgment. However, the Scriptures are clear that false doctrine and false teachers cannot be tolerated among the saints. He who tolerates false doctrine and extends fellowship to false teachers does so in violation of the word of God.
Furthermore, experience has shown us that toleration of false doctrine and false teaching will not work. Men such as brother Lanier have held their position on church support of human institutions for many years. They have continued to invite those who disagreed with them to meetings and recognized them as faithful brethren, making no distinction between those who believe and practice one thing and those who believe and practice another. Remember J.W. McGarvey’s lamentable and pitiful parallel position regarding the instrument. Brother McGarvey opposed the instrument and condemned it as sin; yet he continued to invite those who disagreed to meetings, recognized them as faithful brethren, making no distinction between those who believed and practiced one thing and those who believed and practiced another. Likewise, brother Lanier continues to tolerate church support of human institutions while they have continued to expand. The Laniers have not stopped the spread of institutionalism among their number, despite their occasional “para-church” articles, just as McGarvey did not top instrumental music despite his occasional articles ag dst instruments of music in worship. The position of calling a practice sin but fellowshipping those who practice the sin did not work. It never will work. I hope we do not have to learn this lesson again from experience on the divorce and remarriage issue.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 11, pp. 322, 341-342
June 1, 1989