THE CAUSE OF DIVISION.
It is a sad day when division manifests itself in the church of Christ. Especially is this true when we recognize that Christ has given us a perfect "rule" by which to walk. It must always be remembered, however, that the people who make up the church are "fallible" creatures and sometimes ignore the divine rule. There are two kinds of division.
There are cases where both sides in a conflict are wrong, and therefore displeasing before the eyes of the Lord. Then there are instances where a clash has occurred between "truth" and "error". In this situation the division is caused, not by brethren who contend for the "truth", but rather by brethren who seek to introduce something into the worship, work, or organization of the church which is not authorized by the New Testament. When brethren ignore the wisdom of God, and begin to advocate doctrines, plans, and projects for which there is neither command, approved example, nor necessary inference, they are asking for trouble in the church. When "loyal brethren" oppose their unscriptural practices, naturally, there is a tremendous clash. You should always remember in such cases, that the guilt lies with those who are unable to back their practices up with plain Bible teaching.
There is a great conflict raging within the body of Christ at this time. There is not a section of the country which has escaped this problem. There are some brethren who are "hiding their heads in the sand," and hoping that everyting will take care of itself. Such people are "spineless," and are worth nothing in troubled times. Many brethren are determined to continue with their "man-made" projects regardless of what happens, and without regard for the convictions of others. There are yet many other brethren who are saying, "Let us look to the Book of God." They are saying, "If we find authority for a practice, let us boost it; and if it is without Bible authority, let's condemn and oppose it with all of our might." The condition which prevails at the present is very much as it was in the latter part of the 19th century when the Christian Church people were going out from us. A.W. Fortune wrote an analysis of the conditions which caused that great division of yesteryear. He said: (1) "There have been those who believed it is the spirit of the New Testament church that should be restored, and in our method of working the church must adapt itself to changing conditions." (2) "There have been those who regarded the New Testament church as a fixed pattern for all times, and our business is to hold rigidly to that pattern regardless of consequences." Brethren who held to the attitude expressed in the first statement bore the fruits of instrumental music in the worship, missionary societies, benevolent and educational organizations through which the church could perform a brotherhood work.
The faithful brethren who espoused the second attitude, though few in number, are credited with having saved the church of that day from complete apostasy. It gives me great pleasure to go "on record" as holding the same conservative outlook as did my faithful brethren of yesteryear.
Within the past half-century, but especially the last fifteen years, promotional-minded brethren have introduced a number of things for which they have been "under fire" from those of us who believe them to be unscriptural. In this issue of the INFORMER it is our purpose to set forth as clearly and briefly as possible some of the unscriptural practices which are causing trouble in the church today. I beg you to give these things your careful consideration. Don't allow the "human sophistry, sarcastic remarks, and highly prejudicial statements" used by my opposition to cloud your reasoning. Think for yourself! It could very well save you from ultimate digression.
A SOURCE OF TROUBLE -- INSTITUTIONALISM.
"Institutionalism" is a word that is used to describe the practice of churches building, maintaining, and contributing to "human institutions" in order to accomplish a work which God has assigned to His people.
Institutions such as Boles Home, Tennessee Orphan Home, Childhaven Southern Christian Home, and Christian Home for the Aged all come under this classification. Church support for these Benevolent Societies is without Bible sanction. The Lord has given us an institution, and it is called the church of Christ. He has given that institution an organization in her local capacity alone consisting of elders and deacons, Phil. 1:1. The church of Christ is the "crowning glory" of God's undertakings and through it His wisdom is made known. Eph. 3:10. As brother W.W. Otey once wrote, "The church is the embodiment of God's love, wisdom, and power. It was made possible only by the offering up of Christ Jesus. In short, the church is God's last and greatest work for the redemption of fallen man. Measured by any possible standard, it is BEYOND COMPARISON. It is sad to contemplate that man has repeatedly tried to "improve" this great work of God by adding to its worship, substituting other organizations and institutions to do its work, carnalizing its government, and debasing and making earthly its holy mission! Let the church be the church, glorious and perfect from God's hand, and unmarred by human tamperings." When churches build and maintain a "Benevolent Society," they are guilty of establishing another "kind" of organization in the same way that brethren established another "kind" of music when they put the mechanical instrument into the worship during the previous digression. It is, likewise, true that the setting up of the United Christian Missionary Society of yesteryear was nothing less than the addition of another "kind" of organization to do the work of the church. It is indeed alarming to note the likeness between the "Benevolent Society" and the Missionary Society.
I am not saying that they "Benevolent Society" and the "Missionary Society" are one-hundred percent alike, but they are parallel in so many points that they must stand or fall together. When I mention the "Benevolent Society," I have reference to the organizations separate from the church which provide and supervise the means involved in benevolent work, and when I speak of the "Missionary Society," I mean the organization (stripped of any abuse) separate from the church to provide and supervise the means and methods of evangelism. Now, please notice the many points of similarity between the "Missionary Society" and the "Benevolent Society:"
6. Both are organizations larger than the local church, but smaller than the universal church.
7. Both have their own man-made constitution, laws and by-laws.
8. Both assume the oversight and responsibility of portions of the Lord's treasury.
9. Both appear before the world as official functioning organ of churches of Christ.
10. Both organizations claim to give greater efficiency in accomplishing the mission of the church.
11. Both claim to be doing something they say individual congregations cannot do by themselves.
12. Both cliam their authority to exist on the basis of expediency.
13. Both have to provide the means and methods involved in accomplishing their work.
14. Both are responsible for much confusion and division in the church.
15. Both are organizations which are travelling in the direction of activating the church universal.
16. Neither is under the oversight of nor amenable to any church or eldership.
It should now be obvious to all thinking people that the "Missionary Society" and the "Benevolent Society" are too much alike for comfort. It is also quite evident that most of the arguments brethren have used through the years to codemn the "Missionary Society" also condemn the modern "Benevolent Society." Most of the arguments used to justify the "Missionary Society" are now being used to justify the "Benevolent Society."
By W.R. Jones
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