By Larry Ray Hafley
Elsewhere in this issue, see Ben Vick, Jr.’s article, “We Are Going to Have to Defend the Truth Among Our Own Brethren (II)”.
Brother Vick’s central point sticks the institutional position in its vital areas. Brother Vick’s argument pricks the bubble of societies which purpose to “rob the church of her work.” He is to be commended for his expressed attitude and his manifest courage in attacking liberal bastions. However, do not expect that his article will be met with a similar reasoned response from his “own brethren.” Do not think that his “own brethren” will summarily dismantle their “unauthorized” organizations. They will not. Brother Vick had better prepare for stone-cold silence from some, emotional epithets from others and for malicious misrepresentation.
This review will not seek to take a negative, repelling tact, designed to further alienate and isolate brother Vick. Rather, it shall strive to: (1) Help our brother to see his inconsistency; (2) Assist him in understanding that the principles and pattern of truth which he advocates he also violates. To do this will require direct, pointed argument, such as brother Vick himself employs against his “own brethren.”
Remember, too, that brother Vick’s institutional concepts are, at least in part, responsible for the societies which he opposes. It is impossible to have “a little” liberalism, for a little liberalism liberalizes the whole lump. Brother Vick does not accept this. He does not perceive it, conceive it or believe it, but it is true nonetheless. In the 1950s, brethren of brother Vick’s persuasion were nearly unanimous in the position for which he contends, but a gradual leavening has occurred in the intervening years. The institutional leaven has affected a lump, infected a generation and effected an apostasy. The lump is now a mountain, a towering precipice of crystallized societies of every stripe, scope and size. Brother Vick’s leaven helped make it all possible. Compare the corollary history of the nineteenth century digression.
WCBC and Herald of Truth
World Christian Broadcasting Corporation (WCBC) is the first missionary society that comes under fire from brother Ben. See his comments. Ben, if WCBC was under an eldership, after the model of Herald of Truth, would it be scriptural? If I could show that Herald of Truth has its own directors, that checks can be made payable to Herald of Truth and are deductible for income tax purposes, would you say that Herald of Truth is an unscriptural missionary society? Further, suppose I could show that Herald of Truth has “its own ‘voice’ for raising money.” Ben, would you oppose it, then?
Would WCBC, “Way of the Cross” and “a number of ‘organizations’ which are ‘under’ different elderships” be scriptural if they were truly controlled by sponsoring churches?
Brother Vick says, “The sponsoring church is simply the church at work; and other congregations are having fellowship in the endeavor.” Which “church,” brother Vick, is “at work”? Is it the “sponsoring church?” Are the “other congregations” “at work,” too, or are they simply “having fellowship in the endeavor?” If it is the work of all the participating churches, who or what determines who shall have “the oversight thereof?” If it is the work of all the churches, the sponsoring church is overseeing at least a part of the work of all the other churches. If it is not the work of the contributing churches which “are having fellowship in the endeavor, ” why do they participate at all? Surely, it will not surprise brother Vick to learn that nineteenth century advocates of the missionary society argued that “the missionary society is simply the church at work and congregations are having fellowship in the endeavor.”
“If It Can Be Done In Benevolence”
Brother Vick asks, “If it can be done in benevolence (2 Cor. 8 and 9; Rom. 15:26-27), then why not in evangelism, since both go hand in hand (Gal. 2:9-10)?” What brother Vick does not recognize is that what was “done in benevolence” is not what he is doing “in evangelism.”
Even brother Vick does not believe his own rule which asks, “If it can be done in benevolence (2 Cor. 8 and 9; Rom. 15:26-27), then why not in evangelism, since both go hand in hand (Gal. 2:9-10)?” Though they “go hand in hand , ” he does not believe that what “can be done in benevolence” may also be done “in evangelism,” for he believes an organization which is “separate and apart from the church” can be funded by churches “in benevolence,” but that societies “separate and apart from the church” have no right to exist” “in evangelism.” So, according to brother Vick, what goes “hand in hand” cannot always hold hands.
Brother Vick does not believe that the benevolence of 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 was limited to the “poor saints.” Could the church, therefore, send money to a Catholic “orphan home,” since, according to brother Ben, “orphan homes do the work of a home, not the church”? Using elements of his own rule, we inquire, if it can be done in benevolence among poor saints (i.e., churches contributing to societies operated by brethren), then why not in benevolence among Catholics (i.e., churches contributing to societies operated by Catholics), “since both go hand in hand?”
Man, Monkeys and Societies
Brother Vick anticipates the parallel of benevolent societies and missionary societies with his man-monkey comparison. If the “errorists” brother Bick assails (Joe D. Schubert, M. Norvell Young, Tim E. Matheny, Jerry Humphries, Allen Isbell, etc.) want an easy answer to brother Vick, they may simply feed him from his own spoon. Vick says the organizations he cites and indicts are “nothing more than missionary societies.” If I were the above named “errorists,” I would reply, “Just to say our works are like the missionary society does not make them such any more than to call a man a monkey makes him a monkey. A man may swing from trees and eat bananas, but that does not make him a monkey.” It is likely that Ben would not consider that much of a response. Neither do we.
A man and a monkey are alike in that they may swing from trees and eat bananas. True, that comparison neither makes a monkey a man, nor a man a monkey. No one says it does. However, they -are still similar in those respects. Likewise, comparing a benevolent society (“orphan home”) and a missionary society does not make a benevolent society a missionary society nor a missionary society a benevolent society. Again, no one says it does. However, they are still similar in those aspects. No one argues that a man is a monkey because he eats bananas and swings from a tree. No one argues that a benevolent society is a missionary society, but the parallels still exist. Both are human organizations. Both seek to do the work God assigned to the church. Both are unauthorized by the Scriptures.
Churches are authorized to “relieve” certain needy ones (1 Tim. 5:16). Churches are authorized to preach the gospel (1 Thess. 1:8). In evangelism, the church is not a means or method of preaching the gospel. It is an organization, created by God, that must use means or methods to preach the gospel. It is an organization, created by men, that must use means or methods to preach the gospel. In benevolence, the church is not a means or method of relieving the needy. It is an organization, created by God, that must use means or methods of relieving the needy. A benevolent society is not a means or method of relieving the needy. It is an organization, created by men, that must use means or methods to relieve the needy.
To paraphrase brother Vick, “Why cannot we be simply gospel preachers and members of the Lord’s church and spread the gospel, relieve the needy and edify the saints? Why do some brethren (like brother Vick) think they must have some organization separate from the church through which to do the work of the church? Was Paul a member of some organization such as Schultz-Lewis, Childhaven and Herald Of Truth or World Radio? Why cannot brethren be content with the Lord’s organization?” Why, indeed?
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 23, pp. 721, 722
December 7, 1989