By Tommy L. McClure
A Bit Of Humorous Sophistry
In November, 1903, J. Carroll Stark and Joe S. Warlick debated, at Henderson, Tennessee, the proposition: “The word of God authorizes the use of instrumental music for praise in the church of Jesus Christ.” Stark affirmed; Warlick denied. Stark and Warlick agreed to write their speeches, trying to retain certain features of the oral debate, and the result of theft efforts was a book of 198 pages published by McQuiddy Printing Company, Nashville, Tennessee bearing the date 1910.
Characteristic of liberals, innovationists, renegades, and spiritual rebels who are galled by admonitions to abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9-11), Stark labored to make it appear that Warlick and his brethren were the cause of the trouble and division relative to mechanical instruments of music. His general idea was: If you fellows would quit opposing what we are doing, we could be at peace, ignoring the fact that unity in error is not genuine peace in the first place, and is the only thing worse than division in the second place.
The tactic is by no means new.
1. Ahab used it when he met Elijah whom the Lord had sent to him. “And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, `Art thou he that troubleth Israel?’ And he answered, `I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou halt followed Baalim”‘ (1 Kings 18:17, 18).
2. The unbelieving Jews, by means of “certain lewd fellows of the baser sort,” set the city of Thessalonica “on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason,” but told the rulers that Paul and his company were guilty of having “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17: 1-8). They, not Paul, started the ruckus! Paul had simply preached the Lord’s death, resurrection, and Messiahship: but they, in their envy and unbelief and by the base men they mustered, created the uproar!
3. The Missionary Society advocates accused the op-position of being anti-missionary, anti-cooperation and the cause of division (see Otey-Briney Debate). But what church divided over the Missionary Society before the society was introduced? Not one! Who, then, was to blame for the division? That’s right those who introduced the thing!
4. Human benevolent promoters and advocates accused those who would not go along with their unauthorized projects of being “antis,” “orphan haters,” “church-busters,” “hard-hearted,” and “void of love.” My! What a bunch of low-down rascals we were, according to them! But, who were really the “church busters” on this matter? Again, I ask, what church divided over human benevolent organizations before somebody set up one? That pinpoints the raisers of the ruckus!
5. Herald of Truth and sponsoring church promoters tried to make it appear that we who opposed their unscriptural projects were anti-congregational cooperation and a bunch of jealous soreheads. But there was no trouble over these matters until some congregation “assumed” (remember that word?) the oversight of a work to which all congregations were equally related and tried to get their hands into the treasuries of all churches possible, using pressure tactics which would make the most unscrupulous politician blush with shame! They were the ruckus raisers!
Following is a sample of liberal sophistry, a bit humorous, and the humorous answer given by a valiant and gifted old “war horse” of days gone by. Since the Stark-Warlick Debate is now out of print, I think younger preachers should be given a chance to learn about the matter here quoted, and I gladly share with them the information.
Stark’s First Speech
When one worships God, the worship is between himself and God. When Daniel bowed himself in Babylon with his windows open and his face toward Jerusalem and offered prayer and supplication to Jehovah, was he responsible for the beating of the tom-tom by the Babylonians in or around his house, or for any of the excesses of the city? If I enter my closet to pray in secret to Him who heareth in secret, if a hen cackles, must I leave my devotions and go and club her off because the Scriptures say nothing about hens cackling? Surely our worship is not what it should be if we cannot worship with surroundings we have not chosen. If I am hymning my devotion to God and inside or outside some one is playing an instrument in praise to His name, must I stop my praise and go over and raise a fuss to stop his devotions? Am I responsible for his unlawful praise, if it is unlawful, or is he responsible for mine? Our worship is between us and our God; and what others may do in praise to God’s name is not a concern of ours, except to teach them what God has said, unless God has said nothing. Will God be more likely to accept my praise of song if I go over and raise a row with my brother because he does not praise God as I command him? If I stop my hymning out of pure dogmatism, will God vouchsafe acceptance to me, even though his praise is rejected? Who said: ‘Thou shalt not judge another’s conscience?’ Does he not stand or fall to his own Master? What am I, that I shall judge another man’s conscience? If I do not play, is it any of my business if another does? Can I not hymn my praise, though another acts unlawfully? If I stand there and am singing and one here is playing a harp, does that interfere with my worship of God? Not if I am worshiping as I should (15-16).
Brother Stark wants to know if, when praying in his closet, an old hen cackles outside, whether he should cease praying and go outside and compel the hen to quit cackling until he has finished his prayer. Of course not in that case. Neither does any one object to the organ playing on the outside when not in the worship. I now ask my brother whether he would continue his prayer if some one should go outside, get that old hen, bring her into his closet, and compel her to cackle while he worshiped, and thus compel him to cackle with her or else cease cackling entirely. He would, no doubt, leave his own closet in the possession to the two intruders. Does he say that he would object? But what could he do? Would not the man reply: “You will just submit or get out. You must not speak where God has not spoken; and I challenge you to show in all the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, where God has said, `Thou shalt not bring a cackling hen into the sanctuary of the saints;’ and, besides, does not David say: `Let everything that has breath praise the Lord?’ This chicken has breath; let it praise the Lord?” My brother, how do you like this argument? It is precisely like what you offer in favor of the organ. If there is any difference, it is better than you can find for your proposition (31-32).
There you have the “hen argument” made and answered! Want to know what I think at this point? I think Stark’s old “cackling hen” became Warlick’s old “clucking settin’ hen” and flogged Stark in the face till she brought blood! But, I want to know what you think!
Guardian of Truth XLI: 17 p. 22-23
September 4, 1997