By Richard Boone
This article is a byproduct of research on the institutional debates of the 1950’s which served as the basis for an article in the recent special issue of GOT, “Bible Authority: Problems Past and Present.” As I studied each debate and considered the argumentation, I was constantly reminded that there was a generation now on the scene which does not know about the division over institutional-ism because the division has been pretty well settled since 1960. In the last twenty years, there has not been as much teaching on these issues as there used to be. That can be dangerous. Without continued teaching on these matters we become ripe for another apostasy (Judg. 2:1-15). In light of this, I want to give a few quotations from those debates which I hope will redirect some of our attention and teaching towards these issues. There is much to be learned from these quotes and the materials which are listed for study.
Basis of convictions: “Brethren, in the moments remaining, can you see the proposition my friend agreed to affirm? Can you find where he has introduced scriptural proof tonight? He has called upon the Guardian, he has read from the Guardian, the Gospel Advocate, and referred to individuals in this audience, and other individuals living and dead. And he offers all of that as proof. He must think it germane. He must think he needs it to establish his proposition. It looks like he has more of a personal grudge, more of a personal animosity in his heart than he does a desire to establish the truthfulness of his proposition. Brother Totty, I hope tomorrow night when you come back that you will have some Scripture for this audience. Some of the word of God, and that you will get down to this issue. I hope that you will not be so interested in talking about Holt or what I may or may have not done; or Cox, or Tant or Campbell or anybody else. I hope you will debate the issue, the proposition to which you have signed your name” (Charles A. Holt, The Indianapolis Debate, p. 126).
Spreading the gospel: “As we close this discussion, it is going to be my earnest plea and my prayer that every person present here tonight will resolve in his heart that he will not be content to rest until he has arrived at the truth of God’s word, and is doing everything within his power to spread the gospel of Christ over all the earth. If that happens, the radio will not be limited. The Herald of Truth program being discontinued will not mean that radio preaching will cease. On the contrary, the gospel will be preached on far more stations than it is being preached on now. Millions of people will hear the gospel who are not hearing it now. The trouble with us is that we get too big ideas. We want to do big things and make a big show. An elder of a church in this state spoke to me not long ago about this. It is a big church, with a big budget of over $2,000.00 a Sunday, and a congregation of 1100 members. He said, `In six months we have baptized fourteen people here, most of them children.’ Here is a congregation in which people take great pride; it is a big church; they can have a big show but it is not getting the job done! Success comes by earnest, sincere, persistent work, quiet, and unassuming. It is not the Billy Graham sort of thing, sensational, and that shakes the world. It is simply doing God’s work in God’s way. That is that way the church spread in the first century. That is the way for the church to spread today. We do not need any half-million dollar `recreation centers’ for the Lord’s church. The Bible does not provide for such. Let us do God’s work in God’s way” (Yater Tant, The Harper-Tant Debate [Abilene], p. 178).
Historical parallels: Though it has been repeatedly denied, there are parallels between church supported benevolent organizations and the operation of the missionary society. Some of the finest material on these subjects can be found in two debates. In The Indianapolis Debate Charles A. Holt presented his material in charts and explanation (pp. 241-318). Furthermore, in The Porter-Woods Debate, Curtis Porter presented his “Deadly Parallel” material via chart and explanation (pp. 164-168,196-199,276-279). Both of these are worthy of close and careful study.
Establishing and applying Bible authority: There are many sources available for studying the proper establishment and application of biblical authority. However, none of them is any better than the speeches by Roy Cogdill on the first night of his debate with Guy N. Woods. The added benefit of studying them from this source is that one can see direct application to subjects under immediate discussion. I recommend them highly to anyone desiring to study this subject (The Cogdill-Woods Debate, pp. 11-25,43-58).
Fellow gospel preachers (especially those of us who are younger), let us be studying and teaching on institutional-ism lest another generation arises which knows not the truth relative to these matters. God forbid that we should contribute to an apostasy because of our failure to properly teach (cf. Ezek. 3:16-21)!
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 20, p. 21
October 20, 1994