By Larry Ray Hafley
In the conclusion of an article in the Gospel Advocate, February 27, 1975, in which he was rebuking classical modernism within institutional liberalism, Thomas B. Warren said, “A few years ago, we had to meet the unscriptural `anti’ doctrines, such as: (1) ‘It is sinful for a church to take funds from its treasury to buy a bottle of milk for a starving orphan child,’ (2) `It is sinful for one church to send a Bible to another church,’ (3) `It is sinful for a congregation to have more than one Bible class being taught at the same time, and so on.”
Brother Warren mimics the sectarian denominationalist who, upon hearing Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38 quoted relative to baptism and the remission of sin, cries, “Campbellism.” When all else fails, try a prejudicial epithet or an emotional innuendo. They work on the unthinking. This is what Brother Warren has done with schooled and skilled intent, or with purpose aforethought, if you prefer.
The Church Or A Human Organization?
The question of the church’s care of orphan children is not about “a bottle of milk for a starving orphan child.” The issue is, “Can a church make contributions from its treasury to a benevolent society which will take money from its treasury to `buy a bottle of milk for a starving orphan child?’ ” Assume a similar case in evangelism or missionary work. Has anyone ever inquired whether or not the church can use its funds from its treasury to preach the gospel to a spiritually starved sinner? No, the controversy is, “Can a church take funds from its treasury to build and maintain a missionary organization which in turn must use its treasury to finance the preaching?” Brother Warren knows this only too well. He would rightly resent one who would accuse him of being “anti” gospel preaching simply because he opposes societies and organizations which usurp and supplant the church. The parallel inference and insinuation in the field of benevolence is also justly and properly protested.
Congregational Cooperation Or Ecclesiastical Organization?
Brother Warren’s second example misses the heart of the “sponsoring church” contention. The difference is not the sending of Bibles from one church to another. More correctly, can one church plan, direct, and supervise the funds and function of another church -that is the question. Or, to use Brother Warren’s idea, is it scriptural for one church to serve as the Bible distribution agency of all the churches? No Christian is opposed to congregational cooperation as set forth in the Bible (Rom. 15:25-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8 & 9). However, it is well to ask whether Brother Warren would be “anti” or against a church which: (1) seeks and secures funds from other churches, (2) and solicits Bibles, (3) to serve as the transferring agent of all churches who want to send Bibles to other churches. That is more nearly similar to the argument involved in the study of congregational cooperation. (See Acts 14:23; 20:28; Titus 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:2).
Bible Classes Or Sunday School Societies
True, some sincere but misguided Christians repudiate a Bible class arrangement. Brother Warren lists this in the same category with the institutional and cooperation conflict. Do they belong in the same lump? Perhaps the separation could be seen more clearly by means of illustrative comparison. Churches may use Bible classes in their teaching program, but may they form Bible School organizations, separate and apart from the organization of the local church, which provides the class arrangement? Again, no, and it is probable that Brother Warren would concur. Thus, the discussion of the first two points are not synonymous’ ” `anti’ doctrines” as Brother Warren would have us believe.
The generation that does not know the issues described above is destined to repeat the apostasies of the past. Every age must learn the sufficiency of the church of God. Human institutional encroachments will blur and blight the glory of the local congregation if the completeness of the church is not understood and respected.
Truth Magazine, XX:5; p. 13
January 29, 1976