What Is an Anti?

By Morris W. R. Bailey

As the problems of church cooperation that confront a troubled brotherhood are being discussed today, it is regrettable that we often see and hear those who favor certain enterprises resort to name calling and the hurling of imputations which, in effect, amount to a misrepresentation of the views and beliefs of brethren who oppose the above movements. How often we have known some brother to be charged with not believing in preaching the gospel to the lost, and with having so little compassion for the poor that he would allow widows and orphans to starve before he would lift a finger to help them, when the fact of the matter is that what he really opposed was centralized arrangements for preaching the gospel such as is seen in the Herald of Truth setup, and benevolent societies that have been built by churches to do the work of the church in benevolence.

One of the names that has found its way into the discussion of present issues is that of “anti.” By some brethren, it is used with the same connotations and with about the same attitude as the name “Campbellite” has been used by sectarians. In years past when religious debates were more common than they are today sectarian preachers seemed to think that if they could shout “Campbellite” loud enough and often enough it would establish the fact that one is saved by faith alone, or that the Christian, once saved, cannot be lost. Today it seems that there are some brethren who think that if they shout “anti” loud enough and often enough they can establish without any scriptural proof that churches have the right to pool their funds in a sponsoring church for the work of evangelism, and that they can build human institutions that are separate and apart from the church to do the church’s benevolent work.

Some months ago the Gospel Advocate carried the life story of a prominent preacher, and one who shares the views of the Advocate with regard to current issues. He also writes quite regularly for that journal. In the course of an interview this preacher was asked

what he considered were the four greatest dangers facing the church today. His reply, in substance, was 1. Modernism and liberalism. 2. Anti-ism. 3. Materialistic and surface religion. 4. The tendency toward factions and divisions in the church, contrary to our Lord’s prayer for unity.

It will be noticed that this preacher stated that one of the great dangers that face the church is modernism. I do not suppose that anyone would be disposed to deny this. But we note that another danger that he said faces the church is something that he calls “anti-ism.” It appears too, that in his estimation of things, this thing called “anti-ism,” whatever it is, is just as evil as modernism, and that to be “anti” is just as bad as being a modernist who rejects the virgin birth of Christ, and the doctrine of the atonement. According to our brother, anti-ism” then is some terrible heresy that threatens the church and which must be destroyed like all false doctrine, and “antis” are terrible people who must be dealt with like false prophets. We suppose that is why when some churches that advertise for a preacher in some of the papers published by brethren state in the advertisement that no “anti” need apply. No doubt, too, this is the reason why, when some preachers advertise in those papers for a position in some church they make it clear that they are not “anti.” And who would want to be an “anti” if “anti-ism” is one of the four greatest dangers facing the church today?

But what is an “Anti?” In its broad sense the word anti means “against” or “opposed to.” So far as the dictionary is concerned it is not used as a complete word, but is used as a prefix, the application of which is limited and qualified by the use of a suffix. To illustrate, we have the word antifreeze. This is a liquid that we add to the water in the radiator of our car that makes it opposed to, or against freezing. We have the word antidote, which means something that is opposed to poisoning and which is given to someone who has swallowed poison to counteract its effects. It will be seen that even here, that which is anti or against one thing can also have a positive function and be for something else. The antifreeze that we use in our car, while opposed to freezing keeps the motor of the car cool and thus acts positively.

In view of the above, it is obvious that when brethren speak of “antis” and “anti-ism” they use the terms loosely, to say the least. Of course we understand that when they speak of some one as being an “anti” they mean that he is against, or opposed to something. But such a loose use of the word does not tell us what he is against or what he opposes. Does he oppose some specific doctrine or practice? If that is the case, then the precise thing that he opposes should be stated so that his position will not be misunderstood or misrepresented. No one has any right to misrepresent even those whom they consider to be in error. We have brethren who are anti-located-preacher. But it would be a misrepresentation to say that they are anti-preacher.

When brethren speak of and write of those whom they call “antis” do they mean that those whom they thus label were born in the objective case and the “kickative” mood and opposed to everything? That is what the term “anti,” without any qualifying suffix would imply. Then by the same token, when a preacher states in his application for a position with some church that he is not “anti,” does he mean that he is not against anything, – that there is nothing that he opposes? And when a church states in its advertisement for a preacher that no anti need apply do they mean that they are looking for a man who is not against anything, – who is not even opposed to sin and false teaching? Certainly it must be obvious that it works both ways and that whatever is comprehended in the term “anti” would have its opposite in the man who says he is not “anti.”

What about these brethren who want it to be known that they are not “anti?” What about these churches who make it so dear that they will not hire any preacher who is an “anti?” Are they not against, or opposed to anything? One thing seems very obvious from their writings and their preaching and that is that they are decidedly “anti-anti-ism.” Yes, they oppose those whom they call antis. So from that standpoint, at least, it is difficult to see how they can escape the stigma of being themselves called “anti.”

But are they not anti other things as well as being `’anti-antis?” Things have reached sad state in the church of the Lord when men cease to oppose things that they know to be wrong. From the standpoint of being opposed to some things, Jesus Christ and the apostles were antis of the deepest dye. Jesus said “Beware of false prophets” (Matt.

7:15). Thus Jesus was anti-false prophets and their false teachings. When brethren and churches today disclaim and decry anti-ism do they mean that they no longer oppose false doctrine7

The church at Corinth had a little problem with anti-ism on its hands. A flagrant case of sin of the worst kind had reared its ugly head in the church. A man was living in adulterous relationship with his father’s wife, –a sin that was not even known among the gentiles. Sadder still was the fact that the church had done nothing about the matter. Paul wrote to them and in scathing tones said, “And ye are puffed up, and did not rather mourn, that he that had done this deed might be taken away from you” ( 1 Cor. 5:2). Here was a church that was not “anti,” at least not anti-sin. In verses four and five of the same chapter Paul commanded the church to withdraw from that man. In the last verse of the chapter he said, “Put away the wicked man from among yourselves.” Yes, it seems that Paul gave that church some trouble with his being anti-sin, insomuch that we later find that he had made enemies there. So when some preacher disclaims being “anti” or when a church advertises for a preacher who is not anti do they mean that they are not anti-sin? Do they oppose sin any more? Is this the reason that we find so much worldliness in s o m e churches? Is this the reason that it is just not popular to preach against sin in some churches, – they don’t want preachers who are “anti ? “

But we are told that when men speak of anti-ism as being one of the great dangers that face the church today, and when men disclaim being anti they have in mind brethren who oppose certain practices in the brotherhood today. So then these “anti” brethren are not opposed to everything as the label would suggest, but it may turn out that they are “for” many things as well.

These brethren that are called “antis” are “for” colleges operated by Christians where young people may receive their education in a Christian environment, under Christian teachers and where the Bible is taught daily, even though they oppose such colleges being in the budget of churches.

These brethren are “for” the church caring for those who are its responsibility and the individual Christian caring for those who are his or her responsibility, notwithstanding the “anti” label that has been hung on them. Many of these brethren have adopted unfortunate children into their homes. They believe that the local church under the oversight of its elders is fully able to discharge its benevolent responsibilities. For this reason they oppose as unscriptural any benevolent society that stands between the church and its benevolent work, just as they oppose a missionary society that stands between the church and its evangelistic work.

Brethren who have been stigmatized as “antis” are “for” preaching the gospel to the lost. Gospel papers carry the reports of their activities. Each week sees scores of people added to the Lord’s church through the labors of these men. One good brother has recently returned from Nigeria having spent there two years preaching the story of the cross. Hundreds obeyed the gospel as a result of his work. These brethren are “for” the scriptural way of supporting preachers, wherein the money is sent directly by the supporting church to the preacher. For that reason they are opposed to sponsoring church arrangements in which one church assumes the responsibility for a work to which all the other churches are equally related, and in which funds are sent by the contributing churches to the sponsoring church which makes all the decisions relative to that particular work, thus in effect becoming a sort of a missionary society.

What is an “anti?” Obviously he is one who is opposed to something. Who are the “antis?” In the light of the foregoing observations it will be seen that from some standpoint every Christian must admit that he is an “anti” or else admit that he is a failure as a Christian. No Christian can be pleasing unto God if he does not oppose some things.

So in the final analysis it is obvious that “anti-ism” is not the big threat to the church that some would imagine, and churches are engaged in a hopeless quest when they are looking for a man who is not an “anti.” He may be “anti-anti-ism” if nothing else.

Truth Magazine VI: 5, pp. 10-12
February 1962