By Connie W. Adams
Mark Twain, upon hearing that news was circulating about his death, wrote a notice which said, “The rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.” Every now and then someone connected with the institutional folks pronounces the death of what they call “the anti movement.” The most recent announcement of this appeared in The Spiritual Sword (October 1997) and was written by Alan E. Highers, the editor of that magazine. Since brother Highers has been the editor of that quarterly publication, it has contained a wealth of very good material on a variety of subjects. Its tone has been militantly conservative especially in relation to serious struggles now going on among the institutional churches. But every now and then, he or one of his writers, takes a swipe at the detested “antis.”
In this recent obituary, brother Highers says that Max Lucado did them all a favor by bolding stating his denominational views on sinners being saved by prayer, the non-essentiality of baptism, and the notion of joining the church of your choice. He says that has awakened many in the brotherhood to the dangers of liberalism and compromise. Then he likens that to a debate proposition which A.C. Grider signed in Meridian, Mississippi while engaged in a debate there with W.L. Totty on what were then simply called “the issues.” It was a prejudicial proposition. Brother Totty knew that and so did brother Grider. Brother Grider had been trying to get brother Totty to debate him in Indianapolis at Garfield Heights where Totty preached. Up to that point no progress had been made in that direction. During their debate in Meridian, brother Totty baited brother Grider with this proposition and said he would meet him at home in Indianapolis if he would sign it. Brother Grider did indeed shock brother Totty and a host of others by signing it. The result was that they did debate at Garfield Heights. The proposition read: “The Bible teaches that it is a sin for the church to take money from its treasury to buy food for hungry destitute children, and those who do so will go to hell.” In the actual debate, brother Grider showed that in benevolence the church is limited to providing for the needs of saints. He pointed out that should any saints have children for whom they were responsible, their needs would include whatever necessary to provide for their own responsibility.
Brother Highers said that the cause with which brother Grider was associated was already in decline but that with the signing of that proposition “his statement finished it off. The effect was not immediate; it took time for his statement to circulate; but wherever his statement became known, the influence of the movement failed. It has never been able to exert a significant presence since that time, and most members of the church today are not even aware that such a movement exists.”
The facts need to be kept straight in this matter. Ev- erybody knew at the time that it was a loaded, prejudicial proposition. A.C. Grider did not frame it. W.L. Totty did. Did brother Grider sign it? Yes he did. Was it wise? I doubt it. Brother Grider was of the old school which thought that propositions did not matter that much in a debate as long as the basic differences were aired. I do not share that view nor do many others. Honorable men ought not to attempt to put a debate opponent in such a position. It is about like a Baptist asking a gospel preacher to affirm that all deceased Baptists have gone to hell. None of us should knowingly seek to lead someone into signing prejudicial propositions which create an unlevel ground upon which to conduct a proper debate. Neither should we give advantage by sign- ing such statements.
But Brother Highers is sadly mistaken if he thinks opposition to sponsoring churches, church support of be- nevolent, edification, or evangelistic organizations is dead. He and his fellow-travelers have little association any more with those they consider the real “antis.” I say that because he and others with whom he associates are now being called “antis” by the more liberal element among them. One of the great sadnesses of the divisions which occurred in the 1950s and 60s is the loss of contact among those who once stood side by side in the battle for truth.
In full-time meeting work over the last 23 years, we have gone to every part of the nation. We have worked among congregations small and large, each of which would be dubbed “anti” by brother Highers and others. Brethren who were told years ago that if they did not disassociate them- selves from the “antis,” they would wind up with no place to preach, find their meeting schedules full for the next several years. It is not unheard of for some of these men to have a full schedule for the next five to eight years.
With increasing frequency we are finding people who have fled from institutional churches for a variety of un- scriptural practices and have associated themselves with congregations which brother Highers would consider “anti.” A couple of years back we worked in a meeting in Fresno, California where there were nine families which had all recently left an institutional church in the area be- cause of unscriptural practices which they could no longer tolerate. They were euphoric over getting to hear plain Bible preaching. We have found similar situations elsewhere.
Right here in Louisville the so-called “anti” churches outnumber the institutional churches two to one. This is the city where A.C. Grider preached a number of years and where he spent his last years. In 1962 liberal elements in the city brought Guy N. Woods here to meet A.C. Grider in debate. That was supposed to shut down the “antis” once and for all. What happened? Regardless of what has been told over the years about that debate, it was a watershed event in this area. As a result of it, many people got their eyes opened to the truth and the institutional movement in this city has gradually declined. The Taylor Blvd. congregation where Harold Hazelip was the preacher at the time of the Grider Woods debate, gradually dwindled to less than 100. At one time it was the largest congregation in Kentucky. They finally sold the building and merged with the church on Bardstown Road which also has dwindled to less than 100. Today, the largest institutional church in Louisville is the Okolona church which numbers about 500. According to their bulletin there were 347 present on November 2 at their second morning worship. They have their Bible study Sunday night and no preaching service. They have in the planning stages a multi-purpose building which will include a gymnasium.
There are today 25 congregations within a 25 mile radius of downtown Louisville which brother Highers would call “anti.” There are that many or more in the Indianapolis area where that proposition was debated which was supposed to “finish off” a movement. There are more than that number in Birmingham. Go to the Houston or Dallas areas and take a good look. The congregation in Louisville where we at- tend supports 15 men in the work of gospel preaching in various parts of this nation and in two other countries. One brother in this area has made 17 trips to India to preach and train native preachers. One is right now in Brazil. Another spent several years in Kenya. Another plans to spend time each year in the Philippines. My wife and I are to spend January working with brethren in South Africa. Our regret is that we will only be able to work with a very few of the congregations in that country.
Are There Problems?
Yes, you can be sure there are. Some of us are having to contend with some of the same issues which brother Highers and other writers for The Spiritual Sword are vigorously addressing. Have some churches withered and died? Absolutely. Are the “antis” less in number than the institutional folks? Certainly. That has been true from the beginning. And by the time the dust settles from present struggles among brother Highers’ peers they are going to be less in number by far than they were. In the final analysis it does not all come down to a head count but to the question as to who is faithful to the Lord and his word.
“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (1 John 1:7). “For we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23). “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God; he that abideth in the doctrine hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).
Like Abel, those committed to these Bible truths, be ing dead, yet speak!