The Complaint about Ecclesiasticism

By Larry Ray Hafley

In another era, in another context, the words below were penned by Brother G. C. Brewer. Though the frame of reference differs the thoughts are as true as they are timeless:

“Those who read the religious papers have, no doubt, observed that much is being said today about `a dictatorship’ or `an ecclesiasticism’ being formed by some preachers and members of the simple churches of Christ. It is charged that preachers and papers, and perhaps schools, have entered into an agreement to enforce a creed upon the disciples of Christ. The complaint is that certain men are disfellowshipped, not because of heresy, but because they displease the men who are arrogating to themselves this pontifical authority. It is to be regretted that some good men who are not disloyal on any point of New Testament teaching are joining with those who are making this complaint against the assumption of power by preachers or papers . . .

“If there is such a tendency among the preachers or the papers or the schools, it is, indeed, to be not only reprehended, but also unsparingly rebuked and condemned. But I am wondering if brethren are careful enough to make a distinction between the spirit that contends ‘earnestly for the faith’ and an arrogant spirit that would contend viciously for place and power. Certainly those who contend for the faith sometimes find themselves classed and condemned along with men who are contending for selfish and dictatorial powers . . .” (G. C. Brewer, Gospel Advocate, February 20, 1947, p. 154).

Another quote states, “Webster’s third definition _ of `pontifical’ reads thusly, `having the pomp, dignity or dogmatism of a pontiff: often used to imply arrogance or haughtiness.’ Such a spirit doubtless ruled Diotrephes, and those it rules it ruins.

“A pontifical attitude may be both audible and visible . . . . Harsh and censorious judgments are as sinful as arrogance and haughtiness.

“. . . Some will admit that a certain doctrine is false. They will cite it, but they will not fight it, and they brand anyone who will as a dogmatic dictator . . . . Is a man to be likened unto a pompous pontiff because he is instant and urgent in season and out of season to reprove, rebuke, and exhort?

” . . . There is no defense or excuse to be given for those who exalt themselves. There is nothing more repulsive or repugnant than the `look at me-I know it all’ attitude. But let us not allow our sympathy for error or our friendship for its proclaimers lead us to an unfair, uncharitable, and sinful condemnation of one who is standing on the firing line where we ought to be” (Larry Ray Hafley, Searching The Scriptures, 1972).

Politics is a game self-professed non-politicians can play right well. There is no more self-contradictory person than a sectarian who opposes sectarianism. His twin brother is the fellow who politically structures a personal power base to combat imagined and genuine personal, political power bases. It is somewhat like a filthy rat calling his enemy in the community of rats, “a dirty rat.” My apologies to all you “dirty rats.”

Truth Magazine XIX: 50, pp. 797-798
October 30, 1975