By Irvin Himmel
Editor Charles A. Holt has a ten-page article in the January issue of his Examiner on “Proof of Confusion: Our Corrupted Speech.” This tirade leads the reader through a maze of word games.
What Not To Preach
“Subjects Not Preached” is one of the sub-headings in Editor Holt’s long article. He declares that the apostles and early disciples never preached nor taught on such subjects as the following:
(1) The identity of the Church
(2) The Marks of the True Church
(3) How to Become a Member of the Church
(4) The Worship of the Church
(5) The Organization of the Church
(6) Why I Am a Member of the Church of Christ
(7) How to Grow a Church
(8) How to Start a Church (and they never “started a church”)
(9) Building a Strong Church
(10) The New Testament Church
(11) Church Membership
(12) Church Government
(13) The Authority of the Church
(14) The Mission of the Church
(15) What Church Membership Means
(16) Membership – Its Responsibilities
(17) Salvation and Church Membership
(18) The Undenominational Character of the Church
(19) The Scriptural Name of the Church
(20) Church Finances
(21) The Sufficiency of the Church of Christ
(22) The Autonomy of the Local Church
(23) The Church and the Christian Individual
According to Editor Holt, “To preach on these subjects, the preacher has to do it in piece-meal fashion, a part of a verse here and another verse there. It is to ‘ransack’ the Scriptures, often lifting passages out of context. The basic error is the assumption that such subjects are dealt with at all.”
Example of N.B. Hardeman
After all his castigations and rebukes for our corrupted speech, Holt comes to “The Simple Solution.” He recommends that we “‘preach the word’as it is given in the NT. ” Then he points to the examples of N.B. Hardeman and Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
“N.B. Hardeman was a great preacher in my book,” says Holt. “I thank God that I was able to sit at his feet and listen to him preach and teach the word.” He continues, “Brother Hardeman delivered the message as it is in the Book, simple, yet powerful.”
I, along with hundreds of others still living, sat at the feet of N.B. Hardeman. Frankly, I was never as enamored with Hardeman as were some, and I make no claim of having been one of his better students. But this one thing I know, and Editor Holt knows it too, N.B. Hardeman preached repeatedly on just such subjects as Holt lists as proof of our corrupted speech – subjects which Holt pronounces a “ransacking” of the Scriptures.
In volume 2 of his Tabernacle Sermons, Hardeman preached on subjects such as the following:
The Church – Its Identity
The Church – Its Work
The Church – Its Worship
Why I Am a Member of the Church of Christ
In volume 4 of his Tabernacle Sermons, he preached on subjects which Editor Holt lists as “Subjects Not Preached” by the apostles and early disciples, and of which he says, “The basic error is the assumption that such subjects are dealt with at all.” Hardeman had a lesson on “The Blood-Bought Institution of the New Testament” (note that word “institution”). He preached another sermon on “The Church, ” and in it he told his hearers how to become “members” (note the word which he used).
Hardeman On Organization
In volume 5 of his Tabernacle Sermons, Hardeman again preached on such forbidden subjects as:
The Identity of the Church
The Mission and Work of the Church
In discussing “Church Organization,” Hardeman said, “I am assuming, therefore, that you agree that in the New Testament the church was organized and that there were certain qualifications necessary for all officials.” After discussing deacons, he said, “Another class of officials is called elders, bishops, overseers, pastors, or shepherds and teachers. These various names all designate the same class of officers.” Hardeman did not hesitate to use such terms as “officials” and “officers” and to preach that “in the New Testament the church was organized.”
Editor Holt contends that elders have no “authority,” and nowhere does the New Testament tell us “that their word was final in matters of expediency and judgment” (Examiner, Mar., 1986, p. 10). Hardeman said, “The ultimate decision in all matters of expediency must be left, to the elders, but they are unwise if they do not learn what the wish of the congregation is and then they should respect its wishes” (Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. 5, p. 133).
Hardeman on the Restoration Movement
We are chided by Editor Holt for speaking of “Movements.” He lists a number of these and includes “The Restoration Movement. ” He comments, “You have heard about this one I am sure. Some preachers specialize as experts concerning this movement. They preach on it, write about it, and feature it as something of vital importance to Christians in their relationship to God” (Examiner, Jan., 1987, pp. 8,9).
What is the solution? We need men like N.B. Hardeman! Yet Hardeman preached on the “Aims and Purposes of the Restoration Movement.” Holt says Thomas and Alexander Campbell “never attempted to ‘restore’ the NT church . . . . Hardeman stated that Thomas and Alexander Campbell “decided to cut loose from everything having a human name or human creed and go back to Jerusalem, not for the purpose of trying to reform anything, but for the definite purpose of trying to restore the church of the New Testament” (Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. 5, p. 111).
It seems to me that Hardeman offers little comfort to the positions of Editor Holt, and if the solution to our confusion is to preach like Hardeman, Holt is the fellow who is the most confused of all!
The “Editor” (that word is not found in God’s word) voices opposition to our using the word “Christianity.” He says, “Christianity is not a Bible thing and it is not a Bible name. It is loose talk and gives a very confusing message.” Will he next throw out the word “Bible” on that same basis? It is not used in the Holy Scriptures, and many others books are described by it, such as the Fisherman’s Bible.
By the way, Hardeman freely used that word “Christianity” Which Holt finds objectionable. One of his well-known sermons was entitled, “Christianity – A New Religion” (Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. 5, pp. 71-79).
Hardeman on Examples
Editor Holt offers further proof of our confusion and impure speech that we teach approved examples to be authoritative. His rather pontifical ruling is, “An Apostolic example is never binding! Never! Nowhere in the NT is there the slightest evidence that one is binding” (Examiner, Jan., 1987, p. 14). He wants us to conclude that our preaching and writing about examples, when they are binding and when they are not, only creates confusion. If we only had preachers like N.B. Hardeman, we would solve this whole mess!
But N.B. Hardeman preached that “if you can find an example approved and inspired of God, that concrete example comes to us with all the power and force of divine authority. That is God’s way of teaching.” Hardeman reasoned, “How does God teach us? First, by a direct statement. Second, by approved example. Third, by a necessary inference.” Hardeman went on to explain why we should follow the example of partaking of the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week and why the example of the washing of feet is not to be followed (Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. 4, pp. 52-54). If Holt would study Hardeman’s sermon on “Teaching the Word of God,” he would learn why the Thursday night example of the Lord’s supper is rejected as authoritative for the practice of the church. That example, like the washing of feet, wag given before the church was organized; after the church was established, there is no example of partaking of the Lord’s supper on Thursday night.
If preaching the word as N.B. Hardeman preached it is indeed the solution to confusion, will Editor Holt use his Examiner to declare those great themes on which Hardeman could wax eloquent? If he does, his paper will change directions completely.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 6, pp. 172-173
March 19, 1987