That Museum Mentality

By Connie W. Adams

Some of us have been accused of having a “museum mentality” about the church, we just want to “dust off the displays and make sure nothing disturbs the scene.” That put me to thinking. I remember a speech delivered by James P. Miller at the 1951 Florida Christian College lectures on “An Unchanging Kingdom in a Changing World.” While it was acknowledged that social customs and technology change (transportation, communication methods, medical procedures, etc.), it was also pointed out that the kingdom of God has features about it which cannot be changed without inviting the displeasure of God.

In the years since, I freely admit to having preached on that subject with the same emphasis. In 1974, when I edited and published Searching The Scriptures, we did a special issue of the paper using that title as a theme. It was well received and we had to do a second printing to satisfy all the orders for it. To the best of my knowledge, nobody accused us of having a “museum mentality.”

An Archaeological Dig

The editor who has issued this charge, Floyd Chappelear, says that some of us think “the Restoration work has been done” but that he is among those who believe “it is an archaeological dig which must go on continually.” Those connected with the Restoration Movement in this country and abroad, were not right about everything. But they were right about one thing: their plea was valid. It was a call to go back to the Bible and speak as the oracles of God. From the Bible alone can we learn what to do to be saved. It teaches that God’s grace provided a plan of action by which the sinner appropriates the grace, mercy, and love of God. The sinner must hear the word of God (Rom. 10:17), believe it (Mark 16:16), repent of his sins (Acts 17:30), confess his faith (Rom. 10:10) and be baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38). Has the spade of this editor dug up anything else? Or would he seek to preserve this truth, perhaps “dust off the display and make sure nothing disturbs the scene”?

From the New Testament we learn of the nature of the kingdom. It is spiritual (John. 18:36; 1 Pet. 2:5). Its organization is on a congregational level with elders in every church (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:2-3). Its work is (1) evangelism (1 Thess. 1:8; Phil 4:15-16; 1 Tim. 3:15); (2) edification (Eph. 4:16); and (3) relief of needy saints (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 1 Tim. 5:16). Public worship consists of: (1) singing (Eph. 5:19); (2) praying (Acts 2:42); (3) teaching/preaching (Acts 2:42; 20:7); (4) breaking bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7); and (5) laying by in store on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Has the editor dug up something different from this? Would he contend that these ought to be preserved? If so, does he have a “museum mentality”?

Grow in Grace and Knowledge

Of course, we must all continue to study, learn, and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). To accomplish that we must search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). The word of God is an inexhaustible treasure which can never be depleted. In that sense we must continue to dig into its riches.

Bad Names

Those whose spirits lag, or feel stifled by the “same old things” have found some bad names to call those who think in terms of a divine pattern, or the need for scriptural authority. Some have called us “legalists,” “Pharisees,” “keepers of orthodoxy,” “watchdogs,” and other terms meant to belittle. If “museum mentality” is not a blood brother to these bad eggs, it is at least a first cousin.

I am as ready as the next fellow to adapt modern expedients to the scriptural work the Lord has given us to do in his kingdom, but I will give the last drop of blood I have to see that nothing disturbs the scene when it comes to what the Bible teaches we are to believe, teach, and practice. I will oppose and expose those who seek to change it, water it down or compromise it. If that makes me a museum keeper, then so be it. Jude just called it con-tending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The saints are custodians of that faith and they are under obligation to him who delivered it to see to it that “nothing disturbs the scene.”

Guardian of Truth XLI: 11 p. 3-4
June 5, 1997