By Jarrod Jacobs
Recently, I received a tract entitled, “When Mindsets Collide” by Elmer Morgan. (A copy of this tract can be obtained by writing: Resource Group, Rockwall church of Christ, P.O. Box 653, Rockwall, TX, 75087.) While I have never met this man, I understand him to be a member of the Lord’s church by some of the things that he has written. I have no personal animosity toward him, but I feel that the error he is teaching must be exposed before any more are influenced by him.
Before we begin, let me suggest that the very title, “When Mindsets Collide,” produces a contradiction in the context of this tract. The author teaches that colliding mindsets can work in unison. This is simply not true. When mindsets collide on matters of faith, one or more of the “mindsets” is wrong! The Bible teaches us to “be of one mind” (2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 2:2). Those that are not of one mind are said to be “carnal, and walk as men” (1 Cor. 3:3). Therefore, when we see mindsets colliding, we need to beware! This is not the time to seek compromises or con-cessions!
Differing on “Personal Views”
The plea that is made throughout the four-column tract is doctrinal unity in diversity. Mr. Morgan turns to the 1st and 2nd Corinthian letters to support his false claims. As a text for his tract, Mr. Morgan uses the J.B. Phillips translation of 2 Corinthians 8:24. It says, “So do let them, and all the churches see how genuine is your love and justify all the nice things we have said about you.”
In the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of his tract, Mr. Morgan categorizes the sins of the Corinthians:
We are made aware of the following irregularities among others.
1. The existence of parties, or denominations within the congregation.
2. The presence of an aggravated case of immorality.
3. Lawsuits between brethren prosecuted in pagan courts.
4. Difference in attitude toward eating of meat.
5. Defiance of custom by the women with resulting reproach.
6. Disorderly conduct at the Agape, or love feast.
7. Rivalry in the use of the gifts of the Spirit.
8. A denial of the resurrection by some of the members.
It is such a congregation which the apostle urges to “justify all the nice things we have said about you.” Contrast this with the modern attitude of certain preachers and editors toward the congregations of brethren which differ with their personal views about such things as cups, classes, colleges, orphan homes, instrumental music, and a host of other things too numerous to mention. The “faithful” are urged to “come out from among them,” and those who remain are assailed as heretics and apostates. They are assaulted in the religious press, attacked on radio, and blasted from the pulpit. They are treated as outcasts.
Please make note of the fact the Mr. Morgan believes differences on the subject of cups, classes, colleges, orphan homes and instrumental music in the worship, which have plagued us since the 1800s, are simply “personal views.” He contends that the respect many have for the silence of the Scripture is just a personal thing. He may deny that charge, but he teaches that very thing!
Overcoming Our Bad Attitude
Mr. Morgan says in the fourth paragraph, “It will not do for those who seek to justify their uncharitable attitude to contend that Corinth had cleaned house thoroughly be-fore Paul wrote the second letter.” He shows this by citing 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 (KJV), which says,
For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
When reading these things, let us not forget that 2 Corinthians, chapters two and seven, reveals that the Corinthians did some extensive “cleaning” before Paul wrote his second letter. Paul makes mention of it in 2 Corinthians 7:8-12. 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 clearly shows us that the fornicator was punished and was readmitted into fellowship only when he had conformed to the doctrine! When that man was willing to repent of his sin with his father’s wife, the church was instructed to welcome him back. Sounds like these Corinthians “cleaned house” from top to bottom on this matter!
Let us also ask what kind of “charitable attitude” Mr. Morgan possesses in criticizing others? He contends that people who stand against instrumental music in the worship and a “host of other things too numerous to mention” have an “uncharitable attitude.” How do you know this? Can you read the hearts of men? I do not believe a charitable attitude was shown in his tract. Mr. Morgan gives the impression that unless you are willing to agree with him, you are wanting to create a party or a faction in the church. Is that a very charitable attitude to have?
Mr. Morgan then asks in the fifth paragraph, “How can we explain the difference between the attitude of the people toward Corinth and that of many brethren toward congregations in this day? The answer lies in the following considerations.”
Consideration Number One
The sixth paragraph states, “Paul could distinguish between the gospel by which we are begotten and which establishes our spiritual relationship in Christ Jesus, and the apostolic doctrine in which we must grow and mature (1 Cor. 4:15).” Did you catch that? He is promoting unity in the “gospel” while allowing a multitude of differences on “doctrine”! His “proof-text” is 1 Corinthians 4:15 which says, “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” Paul never promoted unity in the “gospel” with diversity in “doctrine”! For Paul to teach this in this verse, he would have to say, “For though ye have ten thousand instructors teaching you ten thousand doctrines in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” Is that what Paul said? No, because the Bible does not contain two separate revelations labeled “gospel” and “doctrine.”
His paragraph is reminiscent of the Ketcherside doctrine. Carl Ketcherside said,
Paul knew the difference between the seed from which life came and the daily bread upon which the children fed. He knew the difference between gospel and doctrine, and between faith and knowledge. He knew that the gospel brought us into being while the doctrine was essential to our growth and well-being and he did not make a test of fellowship out of spiritual digestion (Another Gospel, Twisted Scriptures, Mission Messenger, Pub., 1965, p.4, 7-9, via Truth Magazine, Aug. 21, 1975).
In truth, we find the definitions for “gospel” and “doctrine” strikingly similar. The word “gospel” means: “In the New Testament it denotes the good tidings of the Kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension . . . Apart from these references and those in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and Rev. 14:6, the noun is confined to Paul’s epistles. The Apostle uses it of two associated yet distinct things, (a) of the basic facts of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ … (b) of the interpretation of these facts . . . in (a) the Gospel is viewed historically, in (b) doctrinally, with reference to the interpretation of the facts, as is sometimes indicated by the context.” In Galatians 2:14, “the truth of the gospel” denotes, not the true gospel, but the true teaching of it in contrast to perversions of it” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 507-508).
The word “doctrine” means, “denotes teaching, either (a) that which is taught . . . or (b) the act of teaching, instruction” (Vine’s, 333-334). According to Vine, the gospel is what is taught! In other words, it is impossible to separate the gospel from the doctrine. “Doctrine” means teaching, and the “gospel” is what is taught! What Mr. Morgan states in his first point is an impossibility! It is impossible for Paul (or anyone else) to separate the gospel from the doctrine!
In I Corinthians 4:15, Paul was rebuking these Christians for following teachers who sought to destroy their confidence in apostolic teaching. He had planted the seed, and now they were his sons in Christ (Luke 8:11; 1 Cor. 3:6). He was trying to get them to understand the spiritual relationship they enjoyed. Please understand, it was not a relationship that was enjoyed “in spite of certain things,” but it was enjoyed as a result of their unity in the truth (1 Cor. 1:10)!
I find it very interesting that when Paul wrote, doctrinal unity in diversity was never the motivation. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 says:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
Notice that Paul tells Timothy to “preach the word.” The “word” means, “the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God” (The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, 381). Paul is telling Timothy to preach doctrine! In fact, Paul equates “the doctrine” of verse 2 with “sound doctrine” in 2 Timothy 4:3. Verse four then says that preaching the word is preaching “the truth” as opposed to “fables.” No, friend, there is absolutely no difference between the gospel and the doctrine!
Consideration Number Two
In the seventh paragraph, Mr. Morgan says Paul “could differentiate between the fellowship into which we are called and endorsement of the opinions and conduct of those within that fellowship (1 Cor. 1:9).” I believe that Mr. Morgan is partially correct here, but he is mixing truth with error. Certainly, Paul knew some things would be opinions of other Christians. He knew that he could fellowship them and be right for doing so. This is the focal point of Romans 14:1-15:7! Christians may differ in opinions as long as they stay in the realm where “all things are pure.” In this realm, we are not to judge one another (Rom. 14:3, 6, 14, 20). It is whenever we put matters of faith in the realm of Romans 14 that the problem comes, which is one of the mistakes Mr. Morgan makes.
Please keep in mind that the apostle who wrote, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” went on to say,
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment…. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name (1 Cor. 1:9-10, 12-15).
Does this sound like the writings of one who differentiated between the fellowship, and the endorsement of these people’s “opinions and conduct” on matters of divine rev-elation? In other words, would Paul simply accept the Corinthians despite their misuse of the Scriptures and wearing men’s names?
Consideration Number Three
The eighth paragraph says Paul, “knew the difference between knowledge which can never be made the foundation of unity and love which must always be the basis of it (1 Cor. 8:2, 3).” While we understand that human wisdom alone will profit nothing, let us also realize that love will not cover persistent sins! It is true that unity is made possible through love, but we need to understand that the love Paul and Christ speak of is the kind that cannot stand idly by and watch sin get a toe-hold. Love, as mentioned in the Bible, looks out for the best interests of others. Love will not do something that will hurt another (physically or spiritually). Please read line’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (702-704) for a more in-depth explanation of love. The love suggested here has no relation at all to true Bible love!
True Bible love will promote unity. True love looks out for one another and is described in 1 Corinthians 13. This love will have great and lasting effects on the unity of the church. The problem is that man refuses to love his brother like he should, which gives rise to men like Mr. Morgan who prefer a pseudo-love in order to “bring us all together.” How sad it is to know that there will be some who will be taken in by this doctrine.
Consideration Number Four
In the ninth paragraph, we read that Paul “knew the difference between the faith in Christ Jesus which saves and justifies and the constant growth toward maturity of one within that faith (1 Cor. 1:30; 3:13).” Mr. Morgan fails to see that when people persist in sin and error, they are not growing within the faith, but are departing from it! Was Paul silent as these people were “growing”? Did Paul simply allow them to grow without any type of rebuke? Parents are said to hate their children if they never correct them (Prov. 13:24). Did Paul never say anything to correct some erring brethren? The answer is obvious.
What kind of preacher would not say anything to a group of people that were weak Christians and steeped in denominationalism? Does Mr. Morgan suggest that I stand by and let people “go their own way” because they have simply proclaimed a love for the Lord but are not following his commands to show their love (John 14:15)? Let us ask Mr. Morgan a few questions: Do I have “an uncharitable attitude” when I try to teach my brethren that instrumental music in worship is a sin? Am I not as wise as Paul when I tell my brother with all love and kindness that the number of containers we use in the Lord’s supper does not matter? Who is the one acting like Paul when I open my Bible to show an erring brother the sin in a church-supported orphan home, while Mr. Morgan remains silent? Who has the spirit of Christ?
Dividing the Brethren
Mr. Morgan continues in the tenth paragraph saying,
If our modern brethren had lived in the days of Paul they would have divided the congregation at Corinth which he sought to unite. They would have urged brethren to separate whom he taught to love one another. The philosophy of maintaining purity of doctrine by separation from brethren would have shivered the Corinthian congregation to bits as it has the restoration movement in our day.
The letters to Corinth stand as a stern denunciation of our false concepts of fellowship.
To my knowledge, I have never willfully tried to separate anyone from the body of Christ. In fact, my work as a preacher of the gospel is to try to bring people to the cross, not push them away! However, Jesus and the gospel are often divisive (2 Cor. 2:14-16).
As we think about Mr. Morgan’s comments, let us think about Paul’s writing in the first Corinthian letter. At this time, one sin that stood out was the sin of the fornicator (1 Cor. 5). In studying this account, what did Paul say? Did he not tell them to “purge out the old leaven” (1 Cor. 5:7)? If I did not know any better, I would say Paul was trying to “divide the congregation at Corinth.” Yes, Paul was all for unity, but how did Paul unite these brethren? Paul urged for unity through obedience to God’s word (1 Cor. 1:10)! Was Paul trying to “create a party” through his teachings? Certainly not!
Remember, he said that modern-day brethren would be urging the Corinthians to separate over these differences. In my personal experience and studies on apostasy, inevitably the people who “separate” are those teaching the error (1 John 2:19; Jude 17-19). In every case of apostasy in the Lord’s church, those in error drove the wedge. Those in error urged others to “separate.” Has Mr. Morgan ever been called an “anti”? Has he ever been called an “orphan hater”? This did not come from me, this came from those who wanted to teach and practice error! The brethren we try to love with a brotherly love in showing them the truth are the ones trying to prejudice others and “separate” themselves!
Surely, Mr. Morgan will not deny what Jesus said: Truth sometimes results in separation because some people love, seek, and obey the truth while others reject it (Matt.10:34-36). People who do not truly love the truth demand compromise with their sin and error. When those who love the truth refuse to compromise with sin and error, separation is inevitable in one way or another (1 John 2:19; Rom. 16:17-18). Mr. Morgan makes fun of telling brethren to “come out from among them,” but Paul himself wrote that this is necessary at times (2 Cor. 6:14-17). Is Mr. Morgan making fun of Paul?
The eleventh paragraph talks of “rival factions.” Mr. Morgan says,
Think of the sin of dividing brethren into rival factions over cups, classes, television programs, orphan homes, the pre-millennial interpretation, instrumental music, and the motley host of things which have been allowed such tremendous emphasis in our age, and compare these with the problems in doctrine and practice faced by the apostle in Corinth. We are victims of the party spirit which breathes hatred and bitterness under the guise of loyalty. We must become partakers of the Holy Spirit so that the fruit of “love, joy and peace” may abide in our hearts.
I must commend Mr. Morgan for being consistent. He does not stop at simply orphan homes and those types of things. He even thinks we ought to have doctrinal unity in diversity over instrumental music and the premillennial interpretation! Some brethren today want simply to say this unity-in-diversity applies only to the subject of divorce and remarriage. They say they will not budge past that point. At least this brother is consistent. He is going to be all wrong! I am sure he will say that we may differ on matters such as the marriage-divorce-remarriage question as well. It probably goes under the category of “a motley host of things.”
Friends, we need to realize that the things which are written in this tract take away from the gospel of our Lord! Please show me the passage where Paul tells the Corinthians (or anyone for that matter) to be unified in the gospel, but differences in doctrine are acceptable! I would have loved to have been present when Paul and John talked. John taught, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11). If Mr. Morgan is right, Paul should have taught, “He that abideth not in the gospel of Christ hath not God, but he that abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath both the Father and the Son.” You can see the folly in Mr. Morgan’s statements.
This Has Nothing To Do With One’s
The twelfth paragraph of his tract begins by talking about whether or not the divine purpose was to create a faction or a party. Mr. Morgan then goes on to say, “This has nothing to do with one’s personal conviction as to the right or wrong of any of these things. It does have much to do with whether or not we create a sect or promote a party to defend or oppose them. It may be a case of mistaken judgment about the right or wrong of these things, but it is a sin to formulate a sect.”
If this is not a play for the abuse of Romans 14, I do not know what is. The list of “sins dividing brethren into rival factions” has nothing to do with our personal conviction? What “personal conviction” motivated our brother to write this tract? This appeal is a shift in the argument. He is wanting to shift from the error that has divided brethren to simply talking about the sins of forming a party or a faction. He put his emphasis in the wrong place. What we need to find out is why these divisions exist. Once the cause is determined, all sides must stand for the truth. When this occurs, all factions, parties, and sects will disappear! The division that has occurred among brethren has everything to do with personal convictions about right and wrong this is where it started!
Too Many Babies
The last paragraph of his tract states,
Our real trouble is that we have too many babies throwing things at other babies. It is plainly said that, “All the time that there is jealousy and squabbling among you , you show what you are you are living just like men of the world” (1 Cor. 3:3). We need to grow up in all things in Christ. It is no sin to have been a baby but it is a sin to remain one. We have been quarrelling over spiritual toys long enough. It is time that we quit crawling and start walking. Let the restoration movement outgrow its rompers! The world will not be led to Christ by fretful infants but by faithful servants. Let us cease to be bickering babies, let us be mature men!
While I do not deny that there are squabbles and fights among brethren that ought not be, let us not forget how he is applying these things. Mr. Morgan would have you think that any time someone stands for the truth in opposition to departures from the doctrine of Christ, he is simply a “baby … quarreling over our spiritual toys.” All the respected and beloved brethren who stood firm against such heresies as the premillennial movement, instrumental music in worship, church-supported institutions, and the like were nothing but babies. Those brave men who stood on Christ the solid rock and proclaimed the oracles of God with all boldness were simply crying over spilled milk! Why couldn’t they be more “loving” and realize that this was just going to cause “factions, parties, and sects” in the church?
Wait a minute! I believe our brother has been caught “red-handed.” While we thought he was trying to promote unity in writing this tract, he has been throwing his toys just as hard and as far as the rest of us! He forgot to apply this to himself, you see. Mr. Morgan, in standing against those who create parties, was standing for his own party! The unity-in-diversity party! Yes, Mr. Morgan has spent several paragraphs explaining what is wrong with the church, and at the same time telling us what we need to do to fix it. If that is not throwing spiritual toys like those “babies” of days gone by, I do not know what is! Every time he speaks of the sin of sects, and the fallacies in factions, you rest assured, he is throwing his toys. Mr. Morgan lives by a strange rule! When he rebukes what he regards as sin and error among us, he is simply pleading for unity, but when we do it, we are simply throwing our toys. Come now, let us be mature men!
The only true unity that we can hope for is the unity that comes from the Bible. Paul was very deliberate when he laid the platform for unity by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. He said, “There is one body (unity in relationship), and one Spirit (unity in revelation), even as ye are called in one hope of your calling (unity in aim or purpose), one Lord (unity in authority), one faith (unity in doctrine), one baptism (unity in entrance requirements), one God and Father of all (unity in the object of worship), who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6). Paul exhorted the brethren to “speak the same thing,” and be of the “same mind” time and again (1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 1:27; 2:2; etc.). Following this pattern in love will produce true Bible unity every time! Standing fast in the one gospel that will save us is the prescription for true unity (Rom. 1:16-17). It will never come any other way! Please, study these things seriously.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 18, p. 18-22
September 19, 1996