By Larry Ray Hafley
“Send all questions to the writer of this column. “
From Tennessee: “Should we deal with such questions as women commenting in class, having a television in the home, the covering, wearing pants suits, and dress codes in the same way that we must deal with such issues as instruments of music in worship, church sponsored recreation and institutionalism?”
The question is general if not vague, its ramifications deep and intense, and its solution difficult, if not illusive. 1f one does not recognize that much, he does not understand the multi-faceted problems inherent in the query, and he will feel irritation more than sympathy toward the response.
In certain areas, there is acceptable relativity. God allows time for growth in matters that are relative. Elders are to be blameless and not soon angry-period. But who will say that there are not hues and shades in such qualifications? Some are “grade A” blameless, while others may be “grade C” blameless. “Grade C” but still blameless. No elder should be soon to anger, but some anger sooner than others. Another example: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers” implies a time when one is not expected to be a teacher. This will vary from person to person. It is a relative matter in which there will be some diversity. But again, Peter lists some “graces” that we are to “add” to our faith (2 Pet. 1:5-7). We are in different degrees of virtue and self control. Your level is not mine, but as we strive, strain and struggle for growth, we are both accepted of God. These are relative areas, areas of diversity which God recognizes.
There are direct pattern areas where no relativity is acceptable to God. The conditions of pardon are clear. One must comply and be saved by grace or be damned. The organization of the church is precise, “elders in every church.” That is not a relative matter. The work and worship of the church is, in the main, exact. Saints are to sing, not play. The church is to preach, teach, relieve certain needy ones, not to eat, drink and raise up to play. Those are not issues of relativity.
One may determine that a television set hinders him from Bible study or that it presents enticements and inducements that he cannot endure. So, he will not have one in the house. Indeed, he should not, but if another can enjoy television, and if he is not adversely affected by it, then he has a perfect right to one. It is an individual matter. It does not affect the worship of those two brethren as they sit on the same pew. However, if one brother demands a piano in worship or insists upon a congregational contribution to a benevolent society, that involves both brethren. Hence, the issue cannot be dealt with the same manner.
In controversy surrounding the work, worship and organization of the church, lines are drawn very readily since these topics touch each member in their collective relationship. A sermon on modesty in dress should cause all saints to dress modestly. Should one woman decide not to wear pants suits, that is a proper personal judgment. Should another lady “let out” the hems in her dresses but maintain modest pants suits, that is her prerogative. Both may worship together. Both are modest. If one lady insists upon a piano in congregational worship, the other lady cannot deal with that issue in the same light as modesty. That should be obvious.
Two sisters sit side by side. One has on an artificial covering while the other does not. One comments in class while the other does not. These ladies attend a congregation that has church sponsored recreation, sends a fifth Sunday contribution to a benevolent society, and sends an annual sum to David Lipscomb College. You see how one may accept their individual convictions but be unable to endorse their membership and fellowship in an institutional church.
A deciding factor is attitude. Attitude toward truth and toward one another manifests one’s disposition toward God and His divine authority (cf. 1 Jn. 4:20). When the truth is preached, attitudes toward it determine fellowship. Preach the truth on every Bible subject. Cry aloud and spare not. Stand in the faith once delivered; encourage others to do the same. Generally, the problem of fellowship will settle itself when this is done.
Truth Magazine XXII: 38, p. 610
September 28, 1978