By Donald P Ames
It is a bit sad today to watch various liberal brethren get all upset and concerned about what is happening to the’ church today. In their efforts to “save the church,” they have begun new journals and’ increased the furor of the battle regularly. They have laid aside the old blankets of “Love covers all” and “Where there is no pattern,” and almost sound like the olden days when the Gospel Guardian stood on the forefront fighting the. good fight of faith. They have made an about-face, and are now demanding a return to the word of God and authority for various practices being introduced by the ultra-liberals. Some have even gotten so “nasty” they have had the audacity to actually call names of people being marked as false teachers.
As these young ultra-liberals continue following the liberalistic teachings of Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside in opening the doors of fellowship ever wider and further from the truth, we hear the present “conservative liberals” attempting to draw a line to stop such activities. They object to such publications as Mission, and even to the Firm Foundation (now pushing the doctrine that examples are not binding at all), and have even begun publishing new books that have a ring more conservative than formerly.
But, the sad part of it all is that they still cannot see it is the doctrines they themselves began nearly thirty years ago that has laid the foundation of their problems today. They cannot understand why the word of God no longer concerns these ultra-liberals, when they themselves raised them on a diet of “We do many things for which we have no authority.” And even more saddening, they still fail to see their own inconsistencies and failure to abide by the Word of God while expecting others to give heed to it.
Now, just to make sure some of my brethren who are moving in the other direction do not misunderstand my reasoning from here on, let me pause and make this clarification: I find nothing in the Word of God that justifies the objections presently being raised against such private organizations as Florida College, the Cogdill Foundation, or even in individually supported orphan home! When the Willis-Jenkins Debate is printed, I believe the printed discussion, along with the others now being conducted in Searching The Scriptures and Gospel Anchor will go far in laying this error to rest again-as it was during the days of Garrett and Ketcherside’s original errors.
But, I fear many of those in the liberal camp have never yet comprehended completely what the battle for the past thirty years has involved. They are looking at the end results of some of their own projects (such as the error and self-perpetuation of the Herald of Truth), wringing their hands and crying, “How did this ever come about?” Yet, they are continuing to defend the error that gave birth to this very apostasy!
In the August 1975 issue of Contending For The Faith, which is “sponsored by and under the oversight” of the Shaded Mountain elders in Birmingham (and yet also charges $2 per year for subscriptions!), Ira Rice opens a back-door hint for closer fellowship with the “antis” in his fight against “liberalism.” Note his comments: “I get a large charge out of brethren who consider his paper `liberal,’ as you mentioned the brother there who throws it into the trash. It is anything but that! . . . I admit that I feel far closer to those who oppose intercongregational cooperation than I do toward the liberals” (p. 16). Well, this is one writer who is not taken in by such an approach, and shall continue to brand Ira Rice as liberal, and back it up with his own comments. In fact, in the very same issue, Brother Rice forever laid any doubts any might have had to rest, and confirmed that he has not understood what the arguments against institutionalism for the past century have even involved.
Note the following by Ira Rice in the same issue: “If the so-called Christian colleges were teaching only Bible and Bible-related subjects, then I would not know of any reasons congregations as well as individuals could not pillar and ground the truth thus taught.” In other words, an organization set up and operated by individuals as a private organization separate and apart from the church, for the express purpose of teaching the Bible, could be church-supported. This is precisely the same position held by Dale Larson, president of York College in York, Nebraska. In a personal letter to me, dated December 9, 1971, he reaffirmed this: “The Board of Directors affirmed from the beginning that there would be nothing unscriptural with congregational money going directly and exclusively to the teaching of the Bible. You know this has been my personal position.” In addition, almost monthly, other congregations across the nation have mailed out pleas for other churches to help them send students to both public and private schools (mostly foreign-there is still too, much opposition to church-supported schools in America for them to openly face the music at home).
Such reasoning as just illustrated opens the floodgates for the church to support any human institution that happens to be doing a work similar to the work the church is doing. Certainly there is no consistent position they could take that would allow them to condemn the Missionary Society as originally set up in 1849 and still maintain the previously mentioned positions. It is my firm conviction we have become guilty of condemning a thing by name only (“surely you would not think I would condone such a thing as a Missionary Society”) and have absolutely no concept whatsoever about the nature, organization, and function of such an organization. Consequently, following nothing but a “traditional” position, we have swallowed the whole camel before we ever knew it was even in the tent!
But, again returning to the same issue of his paper, Brother Rice continues, “On the other hand, take orphan homes. God told us all-individuals and congregations alike-to take care of orphans. Any home where orphans are taken care of ,thus becomes an orphans’ home. Since the command (by necessary implication) is generic, then we are left free as to how to carry it out. To bind one way of doing this is to bind where the Lord has loosed.” First of all, let me begin by challenging him for the authority for such a bold assumption! He has stated a broad generalization of orphan care, let us see if he can find the scriptures that support it. Secondly, since he himself has stated “any home” (I wonder if that includes the antis’ too), and since he has argued the “how” is not binding (when will we get him to understand it is not the “how” but the “who” we are trying to get them to face?), the Baptist orphan homes evidently can now begin looking for more contributions from the churches of Christ-surely he would not become “anti”‘ and begin “binding” which homes the churches could care for!
It never ceases to amaze me how some brethren can see some things so clearly and yet be so blind on other things which are an exact parallel. If the church can support organizations separate and apart from the church-be it an orphan home, school, “Bible” school, or a Missionary Society-it can support them all. The scripture that justifies the one justifies the other as well. No, these liberal brethren have not changed their stripe, they. have just found another animal that has a stronger stink!
To paraphrase the words of Christ in Matt. 13 and adapt them to a modern-day setting, we could say, “Hearing ye shall hear, but only what you want to; and seeing ye shall see, but only those things that do not affect your pet projects: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should awaken and realize that their various human institutions and schemes are unauthorized by the word of God also, and thus be forced to give them up and be converted and return to the simplicity of the New Testament again.”
No, to stand with such a position against rank “liberalism” is about like joining hands with the Baptists because we both agree the Methodists are wrong on sprinkling. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord-in His way and in His plan! But, O that our liberal brethren could wake up and learn the lesson of history the past century has wrought, as well as the simplicity of the New Testament pattern and the safety God designed within it.
Truth Magazine XXI: 1, pp. 12-13
January 6, 1977