By William B. Wright
Larry Ray Haffley
One of the real problems these days in churches of Christ, such as those in the upper Ohio Valley region, is persuading Christians to take a clear-cut stand against digression. I often hear people who feel something is wrong express themselves in private conversation as being opposed to some of what is being practiced, but to persuade them to move boldly against error is quite another thing. Among the comments I hear from dissatisfied brethren who have membership in middle-of-the-road/ liberal churches of Christ are these:
(1) “I dont agree with everything that is done, but I dont want to create division in the church.”
(2) “We dont support anything wrong, but we do use preachers that think church support of colleges and some other things are alright.”
(3) “I havent heard a real gospel sermon here since I dont know when, but my children have their roots down here so I cant leave.”
(4) “Im opposed to what they are doing, but you cant fight city hall.”
(5) “If they ever put a kitchen in the meeting house, Ill leave!”
And, on and on they go. “Resolute to be irresolute. All powerful to be impotent. Adamant for drift.” Trying to make their conscience believe they are against what they support with their presence and their gifts. They seem to be hoping, like Micawber in David Copperfield, that something will turn up.
How Long Will You “Hold Still” For It?
The question arises, how long should one “hold still” for things he believes to be wrong, hoping that something will turn up? How long should one “hold still” for weak preaching that will not profit in the matter of saving ones soul and in the process subject ones family to teaching that only deadens their spiritual senses? Is it really true that one can not fight city hall? These are truly serious and momentous questions!
To put the issue in bold relief, let us look at it this way. How long will you “hold still” if a mechanical instrument of music is installed and used in the worship? You answer, “I will leave immediately!” Fine. But suppose it is installed only for weddings and funerals … at first? Will you leave? Further suppose that about two years later it is used to accompany the congregation in practicing singing on Saturday night. Will you leave then? Then, say, eighteen months later, it is used during the regular Sunday morning service. Will you leave? Remember, you have had three and one-half years to get accustomed to it being there. The chances are very good that if you wont leave now and voice your opposition to doubtful practices, you wont leave after three and one-half years of being conditioned to the presence and use of a mechanical instrument of music inside the church building. (Let me ask an incidental question-incidental only as far as this essay is concerned. What precept, approved example, or necessary inference would authorize a church of Christ to provide a mechanical instrument of music for weddings and funerals?)
Conditioning Individuals to Accept Error
Lets try that same line of reasoning (the progressive conditioning of individuals in churches of Christ to accept innovations into the work and worship of congregations) on the college question. Suppose the first stage is simply to have a meeting in the church building concerning raising funds to support the college (but from private sources, not the church treasury). Then suppose, as the next stage, the elders select an individual to coordinate the fund raising, but just as a friendly gesture and not in their capacity as elders. Then suppose it is reported as the gift from the Blank church of Christ, but we really know it is only what individuals have done. But why worry; it is only an accidental mis-statement. We all know the facts about it-or do we? Then, after three and one-half years some gifted advocate of financial support of the college out of the church treasury (Batsell Barrett Baxter, for example) is permitted to address the church on this subject. The elders then “buy” his line of reasoning “hook, line, and sinker” and put David Lipscomb College in the congregational budget. Will you leave? Probably not if you are still hanging on in a church that now practices things you doubt to be right!
Be honest with yourself. Try any doubtful practice you wish. Visualize three or four years of conditioning and its effect on your powers of resistance. See what I mean! These things are not presented to us all at once. They are presented to us a little at a time, line upon line, precept upon precept, as we are taught the doctrines and commandments of men.
Why Cant You Fight City Hall?
Next, let us have a look at the idea, “You cant fight city hall.” Who says you cant? Dont you ask and expect people who are in other forms of religious error-such as churches practicing sprinkling, wearing the wrong name, and applying the title “reverend” to preachers — to come out from that connection? Then why cant you do the same thing? If the preacher and elders advocate the use of church funds to entertain and to maintain a fellowship hall (which is without Biblical authority), why cant you and why dont you come out from among them and be separate and touch not the unclean thing? (Read 2 Cor. 6:14-18) What is so different about error in a church of Christ as opposed to error in some other church? Isnt error, error? Does error receive sanctification because it is practiced under the name “church of Christ” by people who have been baptized (immersed) for the remission of sins? And did not Paul state: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which be received of us.” (2 Thess. 3:6) If you alone wish to stand for truth and all the rest are disorderly, are you under any less obligation to withdraw yourself? By what scriptural principle must you bow to a majority in the wrong? Suppose the majority wanted to commit murder twice each week. Would you “hold still” for it because it was done under the name “church of Christ” by people who were baptized for the remission of sins and were in the majority?
When you go to the judgment bar of God, do you think it will be adequate to say to our Lord, “I didnt want to rock the boat”?, or, “I wasnt responsible because the elders did it”?, or, “What could I do about it?” The Bible I read tells us that just a profession of Christianity is not enough (Matt. 7:21-23), that we ought not to go beyond the things written (I Cor. 4:6), and when we speak, we are to speak as the oracles of God (I Pet. 4: 11).
But you may say, “Its hard to just get up and go.” It certainly is! I had to do it myself. But who said we would have a bed of roses in Christs church? Who said everything would be smooth? Have you ever read or heard of any group of Christians who were standing for truth as it is in Christ who did not encounter troubles and opposition?
“I Havent Made Up My Mind!”
You may say, “I havent quite made up my mind on these issues yet.” Really! Come now! You do not know about:
(1) Precept, approved example, and necessary inference as the basis for establishing scriptural authority?
(2) Church support of human institution being without scriptural approval?
(3) Fellowship halls and entertainment under church auspices being beyond the bounds of sensible scriptural interpretation?
(4) One large church handling the funds 01 2,000 churches to do a work not its own being an innovation into the work of Christs church?
On what basis in scripture (precept, approved example, or necessary inference) do you justify the use of church funds to support colleges, entertainment, etc., as many churches of Christ are doing? The answer is, you dont! These are doctrines and commandments of men. Let your preacher who contends that we are a bunch of legalistic “antis” sign some propositions and engage in honorable discussion of these issues before all interested hearers. The truth has nothing to fear from investigation, you know. Ask him to cease and desist from telling only one side of the story and deluding good people into believing we are binding our opinions on others. Thats fair, isnt it? We are willing to have anything we teach subjected to open public examination in the light of the scriptures. Are your elders and your preacher willing to do the same?
Then, Do Something About It!
“I dont agree,” you say, “with what is going on where I have membership”? Then, do something about it! Dont just sit there and wait for death, judgment, and Hell!
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 49, pp. 6-8
October 19, 1972