By Ron Halbrook
Promote and Protest “An Appeal to the Stomach”
Woods has been known through the years for opposing church sponsored recreation, but inconsistent with that principle, he has argued that the local church should promote social meals in the name of “fellowship and brotherliness” (Gospel Advocate, 4 Mar. 1976, pp. 149-50). By the same token, why shouldn’t the church provide a fully equipped gymnasium to provide for “fellowship and brotherliness” seven days a week? In 1977 an Arkansas church billed Woods as coming to contrast “the pure gospel” with “apostasy in general,” including “Church Softball Leagues” (G.A., 19 May 1977, p. 315). Can Woods not see that the church has as much reason to induce “fellowship and brotherliness” through softball games and gyms as through social meals?
But as late as 1977, Woods opposed the church honoring Christians for their diligence by giving them a spaghetti supper. “Is it not sad that it takes an appeal to the stomach to induce people to serve Christ, who no longer feel the compulsion of love?” (G.A., 4 Aug. 1977, p. 485). We might ask whether the church must induce people to spiritual “fellowship and brotherliness” by “an appeal to the stomach” or by an appeal to any other carnal desire on any occasion for any reason I Woods is blind to the inconsistency of both permitting and protesting church sponsored social activities. He plants the acorn and protests the growing tree.
In the conversation of 1 March 1980, Woods emphatically claimed that he still believes it is unscriptural for churches to provide from the treasury recreational facilities and programs to the general membership of the church, such as gymnasiums. The church might incidentally supply such things in providing for the needy, he added. All this was confirmed in his 8 April 1981 letter. We reminded him that this was not consistent with his endorsement of Ira North and the Madison, Tennessee church with its elaborate recreational program and million-dollar gym. Woods professed to know nothing about any such program or gym.
Believing that Woods had at least some conviction against church sponsored recreation, many brethren were shocked when he agreed to be Associate Editor with Ira North (1922-84) as Editor of the Gospel Advocate. The new team greeted the world in the 5 January 1978 issue. Woods found it “an unmixed joy” to work with North and pronounced him as completely dedicated to “New Testament Christianity in its purest form” as Woods himself “in every instance” (G.A., 4 Jan. 1979, p. 2). In preparing for Woods to become Editor and North Editor Emeritus, each man recognized a common “love for the truth” in the other with only a difference of style in speaking it (G.A., 19 Nov. 1981, pp. 674-75, 691). Woods’ first editorial appeared in the 7 January 1982 issue.
Did Woods never know of North’s and Madison’s heavy involvement in church sponsored recreation, or has Woods further compromised his convictions and violated his principles? The Madison Marcher of 7 February 1979 announced that Woods would speak every Wednesday evening during March. The next column of print talked about activities in the Family Life Center-the common euphemism for a gym. The next two pages carried a full spread headlined, “Family Life Center-A Great Boon to Madison Young People.” Large photographs show the Norths jogging in the gym, game tables, weight lifting equipment, a devotional, and a basketball game with teenage boys and girls together in shorts-some of the activities going on “seven days and seven nights a week.”
In case Woods did not get the Marcher, I sent him various issues which detailed in announcements and pictures such activities as classes on cardiac pulmonary resuscitation, slimnastics, ceramics, macrame, bowling, basketball, basketball officiating, and jogging. Also included were junior high and golden age banquets, softball teams, parties, dinners, trips, costume contests, and movies such as Walt Disney’s “The Jungle Book.” This recreational craze, ranging from social meals to gyms, has spread by leaps and bounds in recent years. If such obvious and outrageous perversions of the church for which Jesus died can go forward without fearing opposition in the Gospel Advocate, then indeed the cancer of compromise has eaten deeply into the vitals of faith. Guy Woods has been sitting in the editorial chair for five and a half years in Nashville, in the very shadow of a church with one of the most elaborate and outrageous recreational programs in the country, yet has failed to cry out against such idolatry. Indeed, North is pronounced sound “in every instance.”
Compromise Leads to Defeat
In an age of apostasy, the course of compromise and inconsistency is often followed by men who think they are maneuvering into a position to counterbalance and restrain the more radical trends of liberalism. But when they fail to make the applications of truth which their professed principles demand, they simply permit Satan to maneuver them into tolerating more and more error. The churches and human institutions such men attempt to save by posturing and maneuvering slide gradually into deeper apostasy.
Such was the experience of some for-a-while very popular men 100 years ago – J.W. McGarvey (1829-1911), Moses Lard (1818-80), Robert Graham (Ik2-1902), W.H. Hopson (1823-88), I.B. Grubbs (1833-1912), J.B. Briney (1839-19-27), and others. These middle-of-the-roads were blind to their inconsistencies-preaching principles of truth while tolerating, excusing and practicing violations of those principles. Often they took hard blows from men committed 100 percent to apostasy and from men equally committed against it. There is a large group caught up in the web of maneuver, compromise, and inconsistency today-Guy Woods, Ira Rice, Johnny Ramsey, Thomas Warren, Garland Elkins, Clifton Inman, Bill Jackson, Jerry Moffitt, Franklin Camp, Gary Workman, and others. As the apostasy runs off and leaves them, they must posture and maneuver more and more, or else be left in the dust.
To the chagrin of his own friends, Guy Woods yoked himself with Ira North. Now comes another shifting of the ground beneath Woods’ feet. Neil W. Anderson, President and Publisher of the Gospel Advocate Co., has reorganized the paper without consulting Woods at all (G.A., 6 June 1985, p. 323). That means that Woods is out as Editor, but will be allowed to handle the “Question and Answer” page. Woods tells us in advance the views to be stated in that column may not be shared by “others associated with the Gospel Advocate” and fails to say one word commending the new Editor.
F. Furman Kearley began as Editor on 18 July. Who is he? After teaching in several Bible departments in colleges run by the brethren, most recently at Abilene Christian University, he moved to the small west Texas town of Monahans to preach. During a unity meeting of Christian Church preachers and our liberal brethren at Joplin, Missouri (7-9 Aug. 1984), Kearley made the following comments along with the ultra-liberal Wayne Kilpatrick of Birmingham, Alabama:
FURMAN KEARLEY: This is an aspect of the isolation, is, a lack of knowledge of our histories. If we could start in our congregations doing some more study of the Restoration history outside of our own branch and looking at the distinctions between the conservative, instrumental and the Christian Church.
WAYNE KILPATRICK: I wonder, too, if bringing Christian Church preachers into our class like this might not be a good thing. Let them come in and tell their history in a class situation.
FURMAN KEARLEY: Yes, that’s right.
WAYNE KILPATRICK: I think you can ease from the class to the pulpit.
FURMAN KEARLEY: Right, and you can get by with. . .
WAYNE KILPATARICK: . . . the class . . .
FURMAN KEARLEY: . . . telling history . . .
WAYNE KILPATRICK: Yeah.
FURMAN KEARLEY: . . . whereas if they’re telling doctrine . . . (chuckle)
WAYNE KILPATRICK: And while they’re telling history let them tell about doctrine . . .
FURMAN KEARLEY: Yeah.
WAYNE KILPATRICK: . . . to make us know that, “Hey we believe alike on so much of this.” So that may be a beginning point – through the classroom. (Transcribed from a tape and published in Ira Rice’s Contending for the Faith, June 1985, p. 4.)
Woods spoke out strongly against the Joplin unity meeting precisely because it largely represented the sentiments of men such as Kearley and Kilpatrick (G.A., 4 Oct. 1984, pp. 578-80). Now Woods finds himself in the harness with Kearley, trying to hold on to a forum where he can speak. Once again he puts his convictions in a nutcracker-how much must he swallow and excuse, how much can he afford to say without risking another demotion?
To Overcome: Remember and Resolve
Yes, brethren, we live during a period of history that is full of lessons which reflect and underscore the truth of the Bible. Remember Israel’s profession of respect for God’s authority in the praise offered on the shore of the Red Sea, in the promise before Moses at Sinai, and in the response to Joshua. Remember Saul’s profession of loyalty to the truth and his blindness to compromise and inconsistency. Remember the stinging indictment by the Holy Spirit, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself” Remember Campbell’s unwitting regression from the high ground, “In their church capacity alone they moved. ” We cannot forget classic statements of fundamental truths made by McGarvey and Lard, nor forget the error they were practicing when they made those fine statements.
Let us remember the grand principles so eloquently enunciated by brother Woods. his caution of the ruinous effects of “the tendency toward institutionalism;” his warning against the pseudo-logic of “those who affect to see grave danger in Missionary Societies, but scruple not to form a similar organization for the purpose of caring for orphans and teaching young men to be gospel preachers;” his reminder that the local church is all-sufficient without “boards and conclaves unknown to the New Testament”; and his protest of “an appeal to the stomach to induce people to serve Christ.” But with sadness, remember too his inconsistency in defending church sponsored institutionalism and social gatherings, and how his blindness to compromise yoked him with Brewer, then North, and now Kearley.
Let there be no bitterness, rancor, or self-righteous arrogance as we meditate upon these lessons, but a sense of tragedy of it all and of our own frailty and proneness to err from the principles we profess. At the same time, there ought to be a sense of righteous indignation in us when men preach the truth but refuse to apply and practice it. The principles are right if we can put our finger on the verse. But that is not enough. Let us resolve to correct our course when we fall into practices which are inconsistent with the truth, rather than changing our principles or closing our eyes to the violation. Let us constantly and prayerfully review both our faith and our practice, with a determination to do what is right no matter what the costs or consequences may be. “Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6: 1).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 20, pp. 618-619
October 17, 1985