“Much Ado About Nothing”

By Roy E. Cogdill

A long time ago there was a play written and given the same title of this article. About it I have often wondered, and frequently the thought has come to me that people in general are pretty much disposed to make much ado about things of little consequence, while neglecting and overlooking things of paramount value.

We see this demonstrated in general life, but nowhere is it more clearly evidenced than in religious activity. Denominationalists at large have the pharisaical fault of placing the emphasis on trifles and neglecting “the weightier matters of the law.” Sometimes even some of us become guilty of such misconduct. This is being particularly demonstrated in a certain religious body just now, and it has caught the attention and recognition of some who have refused to yield certain other points which are, it seems to me, no more incontrovertible than this one.

The movement among the Disciples of Christ, or the “Christian Churches,” sometimes called our “digressive brethren,” to celebrate Pentecost, is the current demonstration of which I am speaking.

Since their digression from the “old paths,” they have gone farther and farther from those things which were preached on the first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection. One departure has truly called for another until today they have become a denomination among denominations. They are observing the Lord’s Supper on week days; they are accepting sprinkling for baptism; they are fellowshipping “theologians” among them who do not believe in the virgin birth of Christ; they are becoming so entwined in denominational organizations that their own members will agree that the church makes no difference, anyhow; they are doing anything that other denominations are doing, and think it is all right.

I know that a few of them still preach faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins as the primary conditions of salvation, but very few will refuse to compromise even that at the expense of popularity. They do it by going into “union meetings,” holding them, and inviting, urging, and praying for people to join other churches. In all of these respects and many more they have departed from Pentecost and now differ from the true church of God.

Instead of patting them on the back for what little truth they do preach, I believe they should have their hearts pricked about much truth that they are willing to either compromise or will not preach at all. For one, I have never been able to win a man to the truth by showing him where he was right instead of pointing out his error. In spite of these many practices that make them more like a denomination and less like the church of the New Testament, they are constantly preaching that there is no difference between the two bodies. They can better hold their own members by doing this, and at the same time sidetrack many of the weak-willed members of the body of Christ into digression. Many honest people in sectarian bodies have heard that there is no difference, and, when disposed to seek the truth, can sometimes easily be persuaded to accept a substitute. Instead of emphasizing the points of agreement and similarity between the digression and the New Testament teaching, it is my earnest conviction that we should emphasize to them and everybody else the points of difference. I believe it will mean a more successful effort toward winning them from their digression and preventing others from getting mixed up in the deception; that is, if those who oppose digression are sure of their ground in believing that they have the truth, otherwise it might pay them to investigate their own position.

Their movement is an “on-to-Pentecost” movement, when what they need to inaugurate is a “back-to-Pentecost” movement. I should be glad to join with them in helping them get back to Pentecost and the truth they deserted, as well as to lay aside the error they have adopted; but to cooperate with them in anything as long as they hold these errors and compromise these truths would, to me, be wrong. I cannot even take a favorable attitude toward them without being afraid of encouraging them in their error (2 John 9-11). Much less could I join with them in another departure from the truth, and this I believe their Pentecostal movement to be. I am of the opinion that it would be wrong to attach any significance whatever to Pentecost today. I could have no part in urging a single Christian to be present on that day at the assembly of the saints any more than any other Lord’s day. Pentecost as a day of religious significance has the same authority as Christmas and Easter-Catholic. They have observed it for years as “Whitsunday.” I think we will do well to “hands off.”

I will know that anything granted will be capitalized by the “digressives.” On a recent Lord’s day, in our city, the pastor of the Central Christian Church preached on this movement, and he announced in his sermon that the editor of a certain religious weekly among the churches of Christ had appeared before the evangelistic conference of his church in Dallas and that the churches of Christ were joining with the Christian Churches in this Pentecostal movement. In his own words: “The two religious bodies have set as their goal on Pentecost, June 8, 1930, two million communicants at the Lord’s table.” That this is untrue, and that the editor of the paper mentioned intended to leave no such impression either by his attendance at the meeting or by what he said, is all unquestionable. But I am wondering if it would not be wiser and safer to stay out of anything where we are likely to leave such an impression.

But for fear that I be guilty of making “much ado about nothing, ” I am through. At any rate, I would like to hear from others on this question. What attitude shall we take? (This article originally appeared in the Gospel Advocate, LXII [20 Feb. 1930]:171.)

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 17, p. 517
September 6, 1984